Monday, 21 December 2015

Don't blame Kuwait Airways for discrimination against Israelis

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Kuwait Airways has suspended flights between New York’s JFK Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) took umbrage at its longstanding policy of turning away Israeli passport-holders. The flag-carrier will still fly nonstop between New York and Kuwait – and will continue refusing Israelis on that service – but it has been forced to abandon connecting flights via the U.K. capital. The decision amounts to a legal victory for Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen who filed a discrimination complaint with the DoT in 2013 after being refused a ticket for the New York-London route...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Heathrow third runway: How democracy is killing the world's busiest hub

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Have you spotted the problem with my headline? London’s Heathrow Airport is no longer the world’s busiest hub for international traffic. Dubai International Airport (DXB) stole that title last year, handling 70 million passengers compared with Heathrow’s 68 million. DXB will eventually be replaced by an even larger Gulf mega-hub, Dubai South, with an annual capacity of 250 million people. Further East, China will have constructed 58 new airports by the end of the decade. Even North Korea opened a new one this year. In totalitarian societies, it seems, airport infrastructure projects are all the rage...

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Interview: József Váradi, Wizz Air CEO

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József Váradi, the founder and chief executive of Wizz Air, coined a new term for the aviation industry at last year's World Travel Market in London: "lazy low-cost".

His neologism drew a line between two types of low-cost carriers (LCCs): on the one hand, true LCCs that have an obsessive focus on cost-cutting and ancillary surcharges; on the other, "lazy" LCCs that allow legacy expenses to creep into their business models.

"Only Wizz and Ryanair are [true] low-cost," he told delegates at the industry conference. "The likes of EasyJet and Norwegian [Air Shuttle], we would call them 'lazy low-cost'."

Fast forward to this summer's World Low Cost Airlines Congress in London, and Váradi took to the stage in a more nuanced environment for the fast-paced LCC sector...

Made in the USA... by Airbus

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At some point in the middle of 2016, for the first time in history, an Airbus aircraft will roll off the production line on American soil.

JetBlue Airways is lined up to receive the first of the US-made jets, followed later in the year by American Airlines. Both carriers have ordered A321s, though Airbus's new $600 million facility in Mobile, Alabama – which opened amid much fanfare on 14 September – will also produce A319s and A320s. Its output is due to reach four aircraft per month by late 2017...

Friday, 4 December 2015

The Yamoussoukro Indecision

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Airline passengers in the West are spoiled. For all our complaining about poor customer service and stingy legroom—grumbles that Gulliver is only too happy to partake in—we live in the golden age of affordable, accessible flying. If Ireland's Ryanair wants to launch an obscure route between Latvia and Slovenia, it is free to do so. The need to schmooze foreign officials and navigate a forest of red tape has been systematically eroded by decades of pan-European liberalisation. In this fully deregulated environment, passengers reap the spoils with cheap airfares. Not so elsewhere in the world. Especially not so in Africa...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Metrojet disaster reverberates worldwide

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Whatever doubts remained about the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula were extinguished last month, when Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), told President Vladimir Putin in a televised meeting: "We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act." A grim-faced Putin responded by pledging to "find and punish the perpetrators" of the atrocity, which killed 224 mostly Russian passengers and crew on 31 October.

Moscow had initially played down the possibility of a terrorism link, raising fears in the West that Putin might cover up the cause of the crash to deflect criticism of his military campaign in Syria. But as the body of evidence pointing to Islamic State (IS) involvement grew daily – comprising audio from the cockpit voice recorder, traces of explosives on the wreckage, intercepts of terrorist chatter, and claims of responsibility by IS – Russia shifted its narrative.

The Egyptian government now stands alone in denying evidence of an intentional act...

Interview: Edgardo Badiali, Libyan Wings CEO

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Libya witnessed a surge in commercial flights two years ago as expatriates and oil workers flocked to Tripoli, eager to contribute to – and profit from – the post-revolution recovery. With Muammar Gaddafi out of the way, hopes were high that the country would transition to a prosperous, peaceful democracy. Flag-carriers Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Airways picked up most of the surging traffic, competing with foreign airlines such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways.

Passenger demand was so buoyant that, in November 2013, a group of local investors unveiled Libyan Wings, a start-up airline that planned to launch domestic, regional and intercontinental flights. The company paid deposits for three widebody Airbus A350s and four smaller A320neos...

Interview: Mohamed Guled, Somali Airlines CEO

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Somali Airlines seemed poised to make a triumphant return to the skies in November 2013, when a Boeing 737-400 painted in the flag-carrier's distinctive blue livery was photographed in the Hungarian capital Budapest. Somali government officials confirmed at the time that the national carrier, which ceased operations in 1991, was about to make a comeback.

Despite the encouraging signs, however, weeks gradually turned into months and the aircraft failed to make its much-anticipated debut in Mogadishu. It was subsequently purchased by Spain's Swiftair and converted into a freighter, dashing any hopes of the flag-carrier's imminent re-birth.

While the false-start was disheartening, Somali aviation experts continue to talk of resurrecting their cherished national icon. Mohamed Mohamud Guled, the airline's longstanding President and Chief Executive, is the man overseeing these efforts...

Somalia works to reclaim control of its skies

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The collapse of Somalia's central government in 1991 left the State unable to provide even the most basic services, so it should come as no surprise that the complex task of airspace management has long been handled by outsiders.

Controlling the safe movement of aircraft into, out of and over a country's skies is not merely a domestic affair. Events such as the July 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine underscore how foreigners can be gravely affected by sub-standard domestic protocols. Somalia, in particular, with its precarious security climate and long history of airborne catastrophes, is considered a high-risk country by commercial airlines.

Little wonder that since 1993 the United Nations (UN) has had overall responsibility for the country's skies...

Africa's cargo queen

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) put a smile on the faces of airline executives around the world this summer, when it forecast a record-breaking net profit of $29.3 billion for the industry in 2015.

A combination of robust economic growth, rising business confidence, and falling fuel prices has delivered a bumper year for airlines – even with uncertainty in cargo markets dampening the mood.

Yet when IATA's profit forecast is broken down by region, the disparities are stark. The industry group estimates that African carriers will scrape by with a collective net profit of just $100 million this year. Indeed, simply staying in the black may prove to be an achievement, with four of the continent's largest carriers – Kenya Airways, South African Airways, EgyptAir and Tunisair – haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate.

All the more remarkable, then, that Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's single biggest carrier by traffic and fleet size, managed to achieve a net profit of $175 million for the 2014/15 fiscal year...