Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cecil the lion: Airlines lighten their load

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Walter Palmer probably hollered with excitement when he pulled the trigger that killed Cecil, a 13-year-old Zimbabwean lion. A dentist from Minnesota, Dr Palmer is one the estimated 15,000 American tourists who visit Africa on hunting safaris each year. Their numbers may dwindle in 2016. Cecil, it turns out, was an illegal kill. His execution prompted a groundswell of revulsion around the globe, forcing Dr Palmer into hiding and reigniting the debate over trophy hunting. If social media voices are anything to go by, people don't much like the thought of rich whites travelling to Africa to kill things—licence or not. America's airlines, which have facilitated the trade for decades by allowing hunters to ship their trophies home, are taking note...

BA's throwaway runway

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Gulliver had to do a double take on Friday after reading that Willie Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, the group that owns British Airways, now opposes expanding Heathrow Airport in London. "We did not ask for it and we do not want it," he said of the hub's proposed third runway (see map), which was endorsed by the Airports Commission this summer. Funny that, given that Mr Walsh last year told the Independent: "The case was already being made before I joined BA in 2005, but a lot of my time [as chief executive of the airline] was spent arguing for a third runway...

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Clear skies ahead for Iranian aviation

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"This is the end of 'Death to America'," gushed one Tehran-based analyst as he joined the throngs of Iranians celebrating in the streets of their capital city. Following 20 months of negotiations, and 36 years of diplomatic acrimony, Iran and six global powers put their differences behind them on the 14 July with the announcement of a landmark nuclear agreement. Though the talks centred on curtailing Iran's uranium-enrichment programme, their success promised so much more: a geopolitical re-birth for an international pariah state; a social awakening for 77 million Iranians; a commercial revolution for their $420-billion economy.

Jubilation on the Iranian street was tempered by more cautious reactions in the business community...

Jordan deal holds few fears for Air Arabia

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Air Arabia moved a step closer to regional domination in May, when Queen Alia International Airport in Amman became the low-cost group's fifth base of operations.

Group chief executive Adel Ali admits that 2015 is a risky time to launch a subsidiary in Jordan, which borders Syria to the north and Iraq to the east. Tourism flows to the country have been depressed ever since the Arab Spring uprisings, and there is little prospect of a sustained recovery while the so-called Islamic State (IS) lays siege to much of the Levant.

Yet with geopolitical unrest never far from the headlines in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Ali is less concerned about Air Arabia Jordan's near-term challenges than its future prospects...

Interview: Paul Gregorowitsch, Oman Air CEO

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In the deteriorating war of words between America and the Gulf countries over bilateral traffic rights, it is easy to forget that European capitals have long imposed ceilings on the number of flights that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways can operate to their airports.

The restrictions are not solely targeted at the 'big three' Gulf carriers. Even mid-sized operators such as Oman Air – which no-one seriously accuses of capacity dumping – have had their wings clipped on the continent.

Oman's flag-carrier currently serves Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport four-time weekly from its home base of Muscat. Repeated attempts to make the route a daily service have been rebuffed on the French side, prompting chief executive Paul Gregorowitsch to say he feels "discriminated against" by closed-skies policies.

Europe, he argues, has adopted a misguided approach to civil aviation that rewards legacy incumbents while handicapping emerging players from the Gulf...

Interview: Mohamed Bouderbala, Air Algerie CEO

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Air Algerie is hoping to draw a line in the sand with the appointment of new chief executive Mohamed Bouderbala. Martin Rivers and Vincent Chappard look at the challenges facing Algeria's flag-carrier.

Mohamed Bouderbala takes to the helm of Air Algerie following a tumultuous period at the state-owned flag-carrier, which suffered its worst ever disaster in 2014 and is coming under increasing pressure at home to improve its service levels and reliability...

A watchful eye in the sky

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The official launch of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) in October 2009 put Europe at the cutting edge of satellite-augmentation technology, which improves the accuracy of Global Positioning System (GPS) data used by airlines around the world.

EGNOS is one of four Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems (SBASs) that uses supplementary ground stations and transponders to sharpen existing satellite signals, reducing the margin of error from 17 metres on standard GPS receivers to about three metres. The other three SBASs are WAAS in America, MSAS in Japan and GAGAN in India.

For airlines in these regions, augmented GPS signals translate to more accurate flight-paths that reduce fuel burn and associated costs; enhanced access to airports with operational constraints; and – above all – improved safety throughout flight...

More tributaries for Nile Air

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Egypt’s Nile Air will add Iraq and Sudan to its growing network this summer as it makes good on a pledge to double its fleet size to four Airbus A320s.

The Al Tayyar Travel Group affiliate took delivery of a leased A320 from Aviation Capital Group in April, and at the time of writing was poised to receive a fourth unit from AerCap.

It has also resolved an outstanding purchase agreement with Airbus, opting to replace a stalled order for nine A321s with two A320s. That owned pair will be delivered in the first half of 2018...

Old rivals become brothers in arms

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Airspace over Somalia has been considered a no-go area by most foreign airlines for two decades, but progress on the security and political fronts is now prompting a surge in commercial flights.

Flydubai, the short-haul affiliate of Emirates Airline, became the latest international carrier to add Somalia to its network in March, when it launched a four-times weekly service to Hargeisa, the capital of the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland. Ethiopian Airlines and Turkish Airlines launched services to Somaliland and Mogadishu respectively in 2012, gradually upping capacity with higher frequencies and larger planes as demand snowballed. Qatar Airways is among the major carriers now evaluating a route launch.

As a litmus test for Somalia’s economic prospects, improved connectivity can only be good news for the country and its citizens. Yet it could be a double-edged sword for local airlines that flourished by braving the skies when foreign operators were nowhere to be seen...