Friday, 30 December 2016

Egyptian claim of explosive traces on MS804 met with deep skepticism

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Under normal circumstances, news that traces of explosives have been found after a major air disaster would send the safety-obsessed aviation industry into a headspin. That was what happened in October 2015, when security was tightened across the globe after it became apparent that Metrojet Flight 9268 had been downed by a bomb in Egypt.

Yet, just one year on, purported evidence of TNT traces on the victims of EgyptAir flight MS804 – which crashed en route from Paris to Cairo in May – has been met with deafening silence by the industry and angry dismissals by relatives of the victims.

Top of their concerns is the knowledge that Egypt has manipulated air crash investigations in the past. In 2002, the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA) rejected the findings of the more experienced US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after parallel investigations into EgyptAir Flight 990, which had crashed into the Atlantic Ocean three years previously...

Friday, 23 December 2016

A domestic flight in Libya turns into a European hijacking crisis

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News that a domestic flight operated by Afriqiyah Airways, a state-owned Libyan airline, has been hijacked and flown to Europe should shock and appal an industry that has, since 9/11, spared no expense to end the scourge of such horrors. Events are still unfolding, but it is clear that two men claiming to have grenades forced the aircraft, an Airbus A320, to bypass its intended destination of Tripoli and fly on to Malta, the tiny Mediterranean island nation situated between Libya and Italy. Few details have emerged about the motives or demands of the hijackers. But, at the time of writing, all passengers and some crew had been released, signalling a peaceful end to the crisis...

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Flying while Muslim

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Delta Air Lines found itself at the centre of a social-media storm when Adam Saleh, a YouTube personality who posts about life as a Muslim American, was removed from one of its flights for—apparently—no greater crime than speaking Arabic. Mr Saleh is not the first passenger of Middle Eastern descent to allege discriminatory treatment by airline staff and passengers. But, true to his profession, he may be the first to have recorded an encounter in real time (see link). At the time of writing, nine hours after disembarkation, his video had been retweeted an incredible 556,000 times on Twitter...

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Turkey losing the power of flight

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Until recently, the worst thing about transiting through Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport was the heaving throng of passengers crammed into its over-stretched terminals and under-staffed security lines. It was also the best thing. Witnessed from the sanctuary of a barstool with time on your side, the endless haze of Nigerians, Swedes and Pakistanis dancing around one another creates the most sublime of spectacles. It is a modernist dream that quickly becomes a nightmare, of course, when you join the scrum yourself. Yet the appeal of the global hub endures for all but the most battle-worn and hardened of business travellers...

Iraqi Airways taps German expertise in bid to overturn EU blacklisting

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The Iraqi Transport Ministry has signed a long-term agreement with Lufthansa Consulting, the consultancy division of Germany’s flag-carrier, in an effort to restructure Iraqi Airways after its ignominious blacklisting from European airspace.

Lufthansa Consulting announced the “long-term strategic advisory and implementation project” last week, pledging to make Iraqi Airways a “leading carrier in the Middle East” while also improving oversight capabilities at the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA), the country’s aviation regulator.

The European Commission banned Iraqi Airways from entering its airspace in December 2015, after Brussels identified “unaddressed safety concerns” about both the airline and its regulator...

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Trump presidency spells bad news for fast-expanding Gulf carriers

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Having pledged to build a wall on the Mexican border, repeal Obamacare, tear up the Iran nuclear deal, and “bomb the hell out of ISIS”, Donald Trump is unlikely to treat civil aviation as an urgent priority when he becomes the 45th US President next year.

However, presuming the Republican’s protectionist rhetoric was not mere bluster, there is little doubt that a Trump administration will soon take aim at the Middle East’s three super-connector airlines.

Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have been in the crosshairs of US aviation groups since January 2015, when lobbyists presented Barack Obama’s administration with evidence of state subsidies totalling $42 billion...

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Green skies ahead?

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Depending on whom you listen to, the carbon offsetting deal struck at the 39th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October was either an “historic” act of environmental altruism by the aviation industry, or a shameful attempt to “evade responsibility” for the damage caused by flying.

Dubbed the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), the accord will see countries responsible for the majority of cross-border emissions offsetting their pollution above a predetermined level. States will achieve this by investing in United Nations-approved projects that remove greenhouse gases from the environment, or otherwise mitigate global warming. If fully enacted alongside the Paris Agreement – another UN-brokered deal that covers domestic flying – CORSIA should deliver the industry’s all-important goal of carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards.

The need for airlines to play their part in tackling climate change is disputed by almost no-one...

Interview: Abdelhamid Addou, Royal Air Maroc CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 19-21 & cover

When King Mohammed VI appointed Abdelhamid Addou as chairman and chief executive of Royal Air Maroc in February, he fired the starting gun for a new era of growth at the flag-carrier after five tough years of restructuring.

The exact nature of that growth has not yet been finalised – management are promising to unveil a new vision in early 2017 – but, as Casablanca prepares to host the 49th annual meeting of the Arab Air Carriers’ Organisation in November, it is clear that Morocco’s flag-carrier is once again in the ascendance.

“The idea today is based on the new health of the company,” Addou told Arabian Aerospace during an interview at Casablanca’s old Anfa Airport, where the flag-carrier is headquartered...

Somalia's image problem

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News that Somalia’s presidential and legislative elections have been postponed until November came as no surprise to critics of the country’s fledgling government. Twenty five years after the outbreak of civil war, Somalia remains one of the most lawless and unregulated places on the planet. Holding elections in the fractured country was always going to be a messy affair, even with clan elders casting votes on behalf of their communities.

The shaky progress so far made towards normalisation of the political and economic landscape was underscored in a recent article by The Economist, entitled “Most-failed state”, which painted a depressing picture of a nation unable to find its feet and succumbing to an ever-deteriorating security climate.

Yet while the shadow cast by Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, looms large over daily life in the country, Somalis at home and abroad are beginning to challenge the nihilistic narrative that dominates media coverage of their struggle. Angered by what they saw as one-sided, sensationalist reporting in The Economist, Twitter users jumped on the hashtag #CorrectingTheEconomist to highlight Somalia’s slow but steady progress in recent years...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Freight expectations for Somali cargo sector

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While impressive strides have been taken to rehabilitate and grow its economy, Somalia will be heavily dependent on imports for many years to come. That makes cargo a lifeline for the country, bringing humanitarian aid, perishable food and reconstruction materials into the Horn of Africa from around the world.

Kenya’s Astral Aviation is by far the largest player in the Somali air cargo market, having launched scheduled once-weekly flights from Nairobi to Mogadishu in 2012 with a Boeing McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 freighter capable of carrying 15 tonnes. A second frequency was added last year, and chief executive Sanjeev Gadhia expects a third flight to begin in November alongside a new scheduled link to Hargeisa...

Monday, 10 October 2016

Airlines pledge to cough up for cross-border flight pollution

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Civil aviation accounts for perhaps only 2% of man-made carbon emissions today. Add in other pollutants, such as nitrous oxide, and its contribution to climate change might be twice that figure. That may not seem much, but the sector is expanding rapidly. Since the 1970s, global air traffic has doubled in size about every 15 years. Rising prosperity in developing countries and massive backlogs of aircraft orders mean that the industry's contrails will continue growing for decades. Without regulation, the world’s airlines will quickly choke its skies...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Interview: Jérôme Maillet Congo Airways Deputy CEO

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Last December, an Airbus A310 freighter ploughed into houses after overshooting the runway at Mbuji-Mayi Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Eight people lost their lives. The disaster came barely four months after loose tarmac slabs on the same runway damaged the stabiliser of a departing Boeing 737-300 passenger jet.

Unfortunately for regular travellers in Africa’s second largest country, incidents such as these are hardly uncommon. The Aviation Safety Network has recorded 24 aircraft crashes in DRC since the turn of the decade, resulting in 167 fatalities. The grim track-record has earned the country a spot in Annex A of the European Union’s aviation blacklist, meaning that all locally-registered airlines are banned from entering EU airspace.

It is precisely because of this worrying background that Air France Consulting agreed to help the Congolese government set up a new flag-carrier – one that would abide by European standards and start mending the country’s tainted reputation for air safety...

Interview: Karam Chand, Royal Brunei Airlines CEO

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Royal Brunei Airlines, the flag-carrier of the tiny sultanate of Brunei, is cautiously returning to growth after completing a five-year restructuring plan led by former chief executive Dermot Mannion.

The new roadmap will see Royal Brunei launch services to the Indian subcontinent, while also expanding in North Asia and potentially up-gauging its short-haul fleet.

It will be implemented by Karam Chand, the airline’s new chief executive, who took over from Mannion in March after serving as chief commercial and planning officer for four years. Speaking to Routes News during the IATA AGM in Dublin, Chand credited his predecessor with putting the flag-carrier on a new, more sustainable path...

Monday, 12 September 2016

Air Djibouti cargo strategy on hold amid logistics security concerns

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Air Djibouti is temporarily shifting its focus to passenger operations until air cargo facilities in the Horn of Africa nation are improved, commercial director Ian Patrick tells Loadstar.

The state-owned flag-carrier had launched services in August 2015 with a Fokker 27 freighter, kick-starting the government’s plan to develop a combined sea and air logistics hub. Djibouti is located by the strategically important Bab al-Mandab shipping lane that connects the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden.

Flights were grounded between November 2015 and August 2016 following the withdrawal of the Fokker, but have now resumed with a Boeing 737-400 passenger jet wet-leased from VVB Aviation Malta. The next three aircraft will also be passenger jets, Patrick confirmed...

Friday, 19 August 2016

British Airways: To fly, to scrooge

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Back in the 1990s, British Airways, the nation’s flag-carrier, proclaimed itself to be “The World’s Favourite Airline” in a long-running and hugely successful advertising campaign. Watching its iconic TV commercials from sofas across the country, many Brits—a pint-sized, starry-eyed Gulliver among them—swelled with pride at what was, at the time, a genuinely treasured national asset. Were British Airways to run the same campaign today, it would probably stir a mixture of derision abroad and embarrassment at home...

Monday, 1 August 2016

Iran Air's dealmaker

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While everyone expected that the lifting of nuclear sanctions against Iran would unleash a flurry of deal-making, the scale of the ambitions laid out by flag-carrier Iran Air in January took many observers by surprise.

Within a fortnight of the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – an international agreement that lifts sweeping embargoes against the country – Transport Minister Abbas Akhoundi had announced a heads-of-agreement between Iran Air and Airbus for 118 aircraft. A parallel deal with ATR covered up to 40 turboprops for the flag-carrier.

In June, yet another memorandum to buy 80 aircraft from Boeing brought Iran Air’s provisional orderbook to a jaw-dropping 238 planes – nearly ten times the number it deploys today...

Interview: Saeed Kalhori, Kish Air Deputy Managing Director

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Kish Island – pronounced "quiche" – has been a focal point for Iranian aviation since the 1970s, when Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, transformed the desolate Gulf island into a luxury casino and vacation resort.

Its small airport was specifically designed to handle the supersonic Concorde, which whisked foreign dignitaries in from Paris under a wet-lease agreement with Iran Air.

Much like the flag-carrier's own order for Concordes, however, the debauchery came to an end with the 1979 Islamic Revolution that deposed the Shah and introduced more conservative values across the country. Kish now adheres to the same religious codes that govern the rest of Iran – alcohol is forbidden; hijabs are mandatory for females.

The island forged a new path in the 1980s by becoming one of Iran's free-trade zones. Governing body the Kish Free Zone Organisation (KFZO) now woos overseas investors with the promise of visa-free travel; 15-year tax exemptions; and no restrictions on foreign ownership.

Its overarching plan is to transform Kish into "the next Dubai" – an oasis for business and high-end tourism in the Persian Gulf...

Interview: Mahmoud Shekarabi, Qeshm Air CEO

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Qeshm Island, like its smaller but better-known neighbour Kish Island, doesn't feature in the travel bucket-lists of many international tourists.

Of the 397,000 people who flew to the island in the Strait of Hormuz last year, three quarters were Iranian nationals.

Qeshm's Dayrestan Airport ranks as only the 13th largest gateway in Iran by aircraft movements, despite being the main entry point for one of the country's much-touted free-trade zones. No foreign carriers fly there on a regular basis.

"Our customers are Iranian tourists mostly," confirmed Mahmoud Shekarabi, chief executive of Qeshm Air, the airline that provides two-thirds of seating capacity at the island. "Due to the sanctions there were some problems for businessmen to fly here [in the past].

"But I believe there's going to be changes. Before, there was tourism and just maybe some students. Now it's going to be businessmen, students, tourists, families...

Meraj shrugs off sanctions

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The lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran may be a watershed moment for the country's civil aviation sector, but not all domestic operators are seeing immediate benefits.

Meraj Airlines, along with Mahan Air and Caspian Airlines, continues to be shackled by terrorism-related sanctions – a handicap that stems from its alleged support for Iranian military activity in Syria.

The company was founded in 2010 and partly functions as a scheduled passenger airline, deploying three Airbus A320s and two A300-600s from Tehran, Mashhad and Kish.

But it also operates VIP flights on behalf of the Iranian Government with a mixed fleet of A320-family jets, A340s, Boeing 737-200s, 707-300s and Falcon 50s. It is this facilitating role for the Government that has aroused the concern of the US Treasury, which accuses Meraj of ferrying "illicit cargo, including weapons" to the Syrian regime...

Nile Air follows the flow

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Egypt’s Nile Air is shrugging off difficulties in its home market and pressing on with a rapid expansion programme that has already seen its fleet triple in size over the past two years.

The privately-owned carrier has added five international destinations from its Cairo base so far in 2016: Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen in Turkey, Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Basra in Iraq, and Jizan and Abha in Saudi Arabia.

It has also entered the domestic Egyptian market by launching flights from Cairo to Hurghada and Sharm-el Sheikh, as well as connecting the latter resort with Riyadh and Tabuk in Saudi Arabia. Together with frequency hikes across the existing network, the airline’s capacity is up by 72% over the past six months alone.

“Our plan is stable growth year-on-year,” chief executive Ahmed Aly told Arabian Aerospace during an interview at the IATA AGM in Dublin...

Turkish Airlines stays the course

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The triple suicide bombing of Istanbul Ataturk Airport in June was a grim but predictable escalation of the security crisis in Turkey – a country fighting terrorism on two fronts while also grappling with political upheaval at home and a burgeoning refugee disaster.

That the airport made an attractive target for suspected Daesh militants should come as no surprise. The Syria-based jihadists had already struck tourists twice in Istanbul this year, sending suicide bombers to kill mostly German and Israeli holidaymakers at two of the city’s most popular attractions in January and March.

Dozens more Turkish citizens have been killed in attacks across the country as Daesh and Kurdish militant groups seek to destabilise the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For flag-carrier Turkish Airlines, which has transformed Ataturk Airport into one of the world’s largest intercontinental hubs, the violence threatens to derail years of phenomenal growth matched only by the Persian Gulf carriers...

Turkish Airlines returns to Mogadishu

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Turkish Airlines resumed flying to Mogadishu in May after a three-month hiatus caused by the bombing of Daallo Airlines Flight 159 – an attack that, according to officials, was likely aimed at Turkey’s flag-carrier.

The on-board explosion on 2 February killed only the suspected suicide bomber as Flight 159 had not reached cruising altitude and therefore did not have a fully pressurised cabin. Although Somali-owned Daallo was targeted in the attack, the assailant had purchased a Turkish Airlines ticket and only switched planes due to a flight cancellation.

Speaking to The Somalia Investor at a meeting of airline executives in Dublin in June, Temel Kotil, chief executive of Turkish Airlines, declined to comment on the circumstances of the bombing but promised to redouble his flag-carrier’s commitment to Mogadishu...

Friday, 8 July 2016

Royal Brunei downplays Sharia label in bid to attract westerners

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Royal Brunei Airlines is not marketing itself as a “halal airline,” its chief executive tells Al Arabiya, as the flag-carrier wants to appeal to a mixture of both Muslim and non-Muslim customers.

“We would not describe ourselves as a Sharia-compliant airline or otherwise,” Karam Chand insists. “We don’t see it that way. Royal Brunei just reflects the Muslim ethos of Brunei. The food is in the halal tradition, and in the whole country that’s the way it is done. In our ASEAN network a lot of our customers are Muslim, so it’s a natural fit...

Friday, 1 July 2016

Interview: Arif Wibowo, Garuda Indonesia CEO

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page 40/41 & page 42

Garuda Indonesia opened a new chapter in its history in December 2014, when Arif Wibowo took over the reins from Emirsyah Satar following the completion of his five-year Quantum Leap programme.

To say that Satar had big shoes to fill does little justice to the scale of his legacy – transforming Garuda from a little-know flag-carrier with a patchy safety reputation into one of only eight SkyTrax 5-star airlines on the planet.

As well as overhauling Garuda’s on-board product and brand, Satar led a successful IPO in 2011 that de-fanged government interference and boosted transparency at the flag-carrier. The strong commercial foundation he built soon became a springboard for international growth, narrowing the gap between Garuda and its larger rivals in Southeast Asia.

Yet for Wibowo, who formerly headed up low-cost subsidiary Citilink, Quantum Leap has created challenges as well as opportunities – exposing Garuda to the same supply-side risks that are decimating fortunes elsewhere in Asia...

Interview: Peter Hill, TAAG Angola CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 24/25 & cover

In December 2011, shortly before he stepped down as chief executive of Oman Air, I asked Peter Hill if he was hanging up his coat for the last time in the aviation business.

“I think so,” sighed the industry veteran, who started his career at British Overseas Airways Corporation before spearheading the Gulf aviation boom as a founding member of Dubai’s Emirates Airline, and latterly steering the flag-carriers of Sri Lanka and Oman. “Fifty years in the business is long enough for anybody.”

So he thought at the time.

Within six months of retiring, Hill began receiving phone calls about “small projects” here and there in the travel industry. His willingness to take the commissions soon caught the attention of friend and former colleague Tim Clark, the president of Emirates...

Interview: Jean Paul Nana Sandjo, Camair-Co CEO

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Camair-Co launched operations in 2011 as a successor to Cameroon Airlines, the central African country's historic flag-carrier, which was dogged by financial losses and safety shortcomings during its 37-year history.

Following a pattern that has been repeated by governments across the continent, Cameroon liquidated its old flag-carrier in 2008 before starting again with a clean slate and a new brand. President Paul Biya, who has been in office since 1982, resurrected the parastatal with start-up capital of 100 million CFA francs ($170,000).

Whereas Air France had helped launch the first flag-carrier, Germany's Lufthansa stepped in to provide technical and consultancy assistance to Camair-Co.

To date, however, there is little to suggest that the new company is facing any less turbulence than its forbearer...

Interview: Joao Pereira da Silva, TACV CEO

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On paper, Cape Verde would seem to be the ideal place to invest a national carrier.

The volcanic archipelago consists of ten islands located 570km off the west African coast, making air travel the only viable means of getting from one part of the country to another.

Cape Verde's picturesque beaches also serve as a magnet for foreign tourists – half a million of whom visit the island nation each year, typically taking a short flight from western Europe. Travel and tourism currently accounts for 15% of GDP and should grow its share to nearly 19% by 2025, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Throw in the fact that most Cape Verdeans live abroad – guaranteeing a steady flow of VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) traffic – and it is hard to imagine TACV Cabo Verde Airlines, the country's flag-carrier, performing badly...

Interview: Nathalie Stubler, Transavia France CEO

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Even by the standards of France's pugnacious trade unions, the mobbing of senior Air France executives near Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in October 2015 was an appalling incident.

News channels around the globe broadcast images of two senior managers scrambling over fences – their shirts literally torn off their backs by enraged workers who had come to protest against plans for 2,900 redundancies at the flag-carrier. Five Air France employees and two police officers were wounded in the clashes.

Though unprecedented for their violence, the ugly scenes were just the latest in a string of tense face-offs at the French flag-carrier...

Ryanair all grown up

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Ryanair is now in the third year of its 'Always Getting Better' programme – a corporate makeover designed to rehabilitate its toxic reputation for customer service.

It was back in September 2013 that chief executive Michael O'Leary finally acknowledged the need for change at Europe's most uncompromising low-cost carrier (LCC). His commitment to no longer "unnecessarily piss people off" came after Ryanair suffered its first profit warning in a decade, prompting angry shareholders to revolt against the airline's harsh treatment of passengers.

"I have seen people crying at boarding gates," one shareholder complained at the time. "There is simply something wrong there that needs to be addressed...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Brexit: Flying into the unknown

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Despite predicting that a Brexit vote would not “have a material impact on our business”, International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, has seen its stock price plummet by one-third since Friday. Shares in easyJet, the London-based low-cost carrier that relies heavily on open skies across Europe, have crashed just as dramatically. Even airlines at the heart of the European project are suffering: Lufthansa, Germany’s flag-carrier, is worth 17% less than it was before the referendum. Traders seem convinced that Britain’s divorce from Europe is bad news for the entire industry, whether due to the gloomy economic outlook, currency volatility, resurgent travel restrictions or the prospect of a full-blown break-up of the European Union...

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Interview: Safwat Mosallam, EgyptAir CEO

EgyptAir close to placing large narrowbody order: CEO

EgyptAir could order a "considerable" number of narrowbodies within days, chief executive Safwat Mosallam says, standing by its fleet renewal plans despite plummeting demand for tourism in the North African country.

"It's an ongoing process. Maybe in a few days there could be a good announcement," Mosallam told Arabian Aerospace on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Dublin. "Until we finish negotiations we cannot announce."

EgyptAir originally planned to order up to 70 aircraft in 2016, but re-assessed its needs following the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in Sinai last October.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Interview: Suleiman Obeidat, Royal Jordanian Airlines CEO

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European airlines are bracing themselves for a disappointing summer as the threat of terrorism looms large across the continent.

The industry’s jitters are well-founded. Even if airlines manage to keep their planes safe from bombs – something that cannot be taken for granted following recent attacks on Metrojet, Daallo Airlines and perhaps EgyptAir – Europe’s safe-haven status has been dented by a string of atrocities in France and Belgium.

Tourists and business travellers are responding by deferring or cancelling trips to the continent.

With British Airways, Air France, Ryanair and EasyJet all warning of a terror-related downturn, lessons can be learned from one of the Middle East’s most resilient carriers, Royal Jordanian Airlines, which returned to profit last year despite being on the doorstep of several geopolitical crises...

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Guesswork masquerading as analysis blights EgyptAir crash coverage

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Media organizations and aviation analysts have been quick to point the finger of blame at terrorists for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804, which disappeared in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday with 66 souls aboard.

Egypt’s transport minister, Russia’s spy chief and both presumptive candidates for this year’s US presidential election have also concluded that an act of terror is the most likely explanation for the disaster.

The rush to judgment by so many prominent voices – though uncharacteristic in the aftermath of a plane crash – is perhaps understandable in the prevailing security climate. It may also be that Egyptian, Russian and American officials have access to classified intelligence that bolsters the otherwise circumstantial evidence.

Nonetheless, to the extent that media outlets are regurgitating and developing the terrorism narrative, it is clear that conjecture now dominates the global coverage...

Monday, 16 May 2016

Not-so-open skies for Norwegian

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America's House of Representatives is considering a bill, HR5090, that aims to block further expansion by Norwegian Air Shuttle, the only low-cost carrier flying direct between Europe and America. Four lawmakers introduced the bill last month after the Department of Transportation (DoT) tentatively agreed to let Norwegian scale up its transatlantic operation. They accuse it of unfair commercial advantages, echoing concerns voiced by several airlines and trade unions.

Low-cost carriers like Norwegian place operational efficiency and cost-competitiveness at the heart of their business models...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Friend or foe? American Airlines partner British Airways deepens ties with Qatar

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British Airways (BA) has announced plans to serve Qatar’s capital Doha with a nonstop daily service from October, removing its existing stopover in Bahrain.

The move comes less than a month after Qatar Airways disclosed that it has increased its stake in International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of BA, from 9.99% to 12%. Both airlines are members of the Oneworld alliance and have reciprocal codeshare agreements at their hubs.

By itself, the steady expansion of ties between the flag-carriers of Britain and Qatar is not remarkable. For fellow Oneworld member American Airlines, however, it may have uncomfortable ramifications...

Friday, 6 May 2016

Low cost, high stakes Eurowings

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Lufthansa is already Europe's largest group of airlines, counting the flag-carriers of Germany, Switzerland and Austria among its portfolio of subsidiaries. It may be about to get even bigger. Impressed with the results of consolidation in North America—now the world’s most profitable aviation market—Lufthansa’s chief executive, Carsten Spohr, is shopping for more airlines. Efforts to lift the group’s shareholding in Brussels Airlines to 100% were disrupted by terrorist attacks in its home city in March, but remain on-track. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), the shared flag-carrier of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and Condor, the German leisure carrier, are also now rumoured to be in its sights...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Flyadeal marks one step forward, two steps back for Saudi aviation

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Saudia made good on plans to establish a low-cost carrier last month when it unveiled the branding and tentative launch date for new subsidiary Flyadeal.

The flag-carrier believes that entering the low-cost market will help it pare back losses on its all-important domestic network. Low-cost carriers put cost-discipline at the heart of their business models, removing complimentary perks from ticket prices and maximizing operational efficiency.

That contrasts with the business model of traditional full-service carriers like Saudia, which focus on high-yielding customers by offering premium products and building slack into their schedules.

But while a dual-brand strategy could lift the state-owned carrier’s fortunes, some analysts are beginning to doubt the kingdom’s longstanding commitment to private-sector reforms...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Somalia's home-grown success story

Full article in JPG format: page 14/15, page 16/17 & cover

In terms of overall scale, Somalia is undeniably a minnow in the global aviation market. About 420 scheduled flights take off from the country each month, compared with more than 8,900 in neighbouring Kenya – East Africa's most developed aviation market.

Somalia also has unique challenges on the security front. Though no longer considered "the most dangerous city in the world" by the United Nations, its capital city Mogadishu remains a battlefield for the ongoing struggle between African Union forces and Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation. Shootings, kidnappings and bombings are a daily occurrence.

Yet it is precisely because of these difficulties that civil aviation in Somalia – though modest in size – has become a lifeline for the country...

Qatar's American dream

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In June, Qatar Airways will begin operating nonstop daily flights from its mega-hub in Doha to Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia. The wide-body Boeing 777s that have been earmarked for the route will touch down in the home base of Delta Air Lines – an acrimonious rival that has spent the past year intensely lobbying Washington to block further expansion by Gulf carriers on its home turf.

Atlanta is the third US route launch for Qatar Airways in 2016, following the commencement of flights to Los Angeles and Boston. Frequencies on its New York service also rose to twice-daily in April. With the latest addition, Qatar Airways will fly 3,400 seats to ten cities in America each and every day...

Interview: Mohamad El-Hout, Middle East Airlines Chairman

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In the decade following Lebanon's civil war, flag-carrier Middle East Airlines (MEA) failed to post one single annual profit.

When net losses peaked at $87 million in 1997, the country's exasperated Central Bank gave Mohamad El-Hout, its chief of financial asset development, the unenviable task of finding a manager to rehabilitate the airline.

Apparently unimpressed with the candidates he proposed, it then handed El-Hout the still-less enviable task of fixing MEA himself.

By anyone's standards, the unwitting chairman has performed phenomenally well. MEA has been profitable in each of the 13 years following his 2001 restructuring programme – a slash-and-burn overhaul that grounded lossmaking routes and shrunk the workforce by about 40% despite strong union opposition...

Iran Aseman follows the straight and narrow

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Though hardly known outside of the Islamic Republic, Iran Aseman Airlines is the largest domestic operator in Iran and potentially one of the prime beneficiaries of the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.

The airline was established in 1980 and is headed by Hossein Alaei, the former navy chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Despite this apparent military link Aseman has escaped terrorism-related sanctions imposed by the US, which leaves it free to engage with western suppliers now that the broader nuclear embargo is over.

"Aseman has never been on any [terrorism] blacklist since the [Iranian] Revolution of 1979," stressed Mohammad Gorji, the airline's vice-president of executive affairs and fleet development. "We have always been following the rules and regulations...

Iran comes in from the cold

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One of the world's biggest pariah states came in from the cold on 16 January 2016, when the lifting of nuclear sanctions against Iran ushered in a new era of cooperation with the international community.

For the Islamic Republic's long-suffering civil aviation sector, reintegration will be nothing short of transformative.

More than three decades of sanctions have left Iran's airlines in a sorry state. Rigid enforcement action by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a wing of the US Treasury, pushed flag-carrier Iran Air and its 15 domestic rivals into the black market when buying and repairing aircraft.

The sector's ingenuity and perseverance outwitted the best efforts of a US Government that viewed every Iranian plane as a military threat, but success came at a price...

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ryanair's secret connections

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Three years ago, taking just one flight with Ryanair was enough to send a shiver down the spine of many a European business traveller. The prospect of back-to-back flights with the airline–planning your own connections with no insurance against delays–was positively harrowing. A lot can change in three years.

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive, has told The Irish Independent that the low-cost carrier, Europe's largest, will soon begin trialling airside transfers at London Stansted and Barcelona El Prat. The move marks a departure from Ryanair's point-to-point business model, bringing it closer into line with the hub-and-spoke operations of traditional network carriers...

Monday, 18 April 2016

Norwegian Air poses no threat to 'Open And Fair' skies – unlike Etihad and Qatar Airways

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The Partnership for Open and Fair Skies, a lobby group representing three major U.S. airlines and other industry groups, chose its name well when it entered the scene last year.

By incorporating a variant of the term “open-skies” into its brand, the Partnership explicitly affirmed its support for aero-political deregulation – the removal of bilateral traffic rights and the expansion of cross-border competition between airlines.

To do anything less would be foolhardy given the overwhelming body of evidence that open-skies accords – of which America has signed more than 100 – create vast economic benefits.

Yet, interposing this widely-acclaimed term, the lobbyists snuck in the most subjective and malleable of conditions: “fair”...

Friday, 15 April 2016

Somali skies darken

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Anywhere else in the world, the bombing of an international passenger flight would attract round-the-clock media coverage and a global manhunt for the perpetrators.

In Somalia, however, more than two decades of brutal civil war have desensitised both the domestic population and the outside world to mass-casualty atrocities. Amid a seemingly endless cycle of indiscriminate violence in the country, even the deadliest terror attacks fail to hold the attention of the press.

So it was in January, when upwards of 100 Kenyan troops stationed in Somalia were killed in an attack on their army base by Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terror group.

And so it was again on 2nd February, when a suicide bomber evaded security screening at Mogadishu Airport and exploded his device aboard Daallo Airlines Flight 159 to Djibouti...

Iran cleared for take-off

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To describe the mood of the Iranian aviation industry as "upbeat" this year would be something of an understatement.

After a decades-long embargo that blocked Iran from forging ties with the rest of the world, the Islamic Republic flung opens its doors on 16 January 2016 – Implementation Day for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions. Its reintegration culminated years of diplomatic wrangling between Iran and the P5+1 group of international negotiators.

As the first global conference held in Tehran for nearly 40 years, CAPA's Iran Aviation Summit was considered a litmus test for overseas interest in the Middle East's second largest economy.

It did not disappoint...

Why American Airlines is wrong to predict long-term profits for the industry

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“What passes for optimism is most often the effect of an intellectual error.”

So wrote Raymond Aron, the French philosopher, whose 1955 book The Opium of the Intellectuals criticized the blind optimism displayed by many of his countrymen about Marxism.

In my chirpier moments I might take issue with so bleak an assertion. But experience quickly restores one’s cynicism: bull markets always overshoot; politicians always disappoint; and the airline industry always crashes to the ground after a period of historic outperformance...

Grounded Rayani Air put halal credentials ahead of business basics

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Less than four months after launching operations, Rayani Air, the Malaysian airline that pitches itself as fully Shariah-compliant, has been grounded.

Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation confirmed on Monday that the company’s Air Operator’s Certificate has temporarily been revoked while it is subjected to “a full administration and safety audit.”

Although founder Ravi Alagendrran is vowing to restore operations as soon as possible, few start-up carriers are given a second chance once their brand has been tainted by suspensions. Jitters about further flight cancellations will typically derail any prospect of a re-launch...

Friday, 1 April 2016

Interview: Abderahmane Berthé, Air Burkina CEO

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Recent years have not been kind to Celestair, the grouping of small African flag-carriers established by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), an international agency based in Geneva.

The alliance, in truth, no longer really exists. Two of its official members have ceased operations since the turn of the decade – Air Mali in 2012 and Air Uganda in 2014 – while AKFED sold its shareholding in a third affiliate, Air Côte d'Ivoire, in 2013.

But the last member of Celestair soldiers on defiantly. Though small in size and almost unknown outside of its Ouagadougou base, Air Burkina, the flag-carrier of Burkina Faso, is holding its own in the notoriously difficult West African market...

Interview: Ben Dahwa, Air Botswana CEO

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The board of directors at Air Botswana was dissolved in November, when Transport Minister Tshenolo Mabeo pledged to reboot the flag-carrier with a "clean slate" after years of losses.

It was not the news that Ben Dahwa, the airline's general manager, had been waiting for. The former engineer was in the final stages of securing funding from the Government for his five-year turnaround plan, drawn up with help from ICF Consultants.

Dahwa had no illusions about the difficulties facing Air Botswana – a minnow in the African aviation market with a history of corrupt management and inefficient operations.

"Please do not write us off. We are intending to greatly improve," he told journalists four months before his dismissal, acknowledging the parastatal's poor reputation but promising change for the better...