Thursday, 1 November 2012

Saudia privatisation

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When Saudi Arabia's Supreme Economic Council approved the plan to privatise flag carrier Saudia in 2006, no-one was expecting an overnight transformation of the 61-year-old flag carrier.

It had already taken six years to bring the roadmap before government, with His Royal Highness Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz having inaugurated the first privatisation studies in 2000. The actual process of dividing Saudia into six private businesses – catering, cargo, ground handling, maintenance, training and the core airline unit – was destined to take many more years.

But notwithstanding several missed deadlines, steady progress has been made by the carrier. Its cargo, catering and ground handling units have all been part-privatised, while the maintenance and training units are due to join their ranks by the second quarter of 2013...

Kuwaiting time

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Kuwait's decision to suspend the privatisation process for its national carrier came as little surprise last year, with muted interest among bidders and more pressing concerns in the emirate's fractured parliamentary system.

But the subsequent grounding of three Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) aircraft in July – following an emergency landing by one of its Airbus A300s in Medina – underscores how time could be running out for the airline's ageing fleet.

Kuwait's most recent attempt to resurrect the privatisation bill came unstuck in June, when draft legislation provisionally approved by the Cabinet was swept aside with the rest of parliament. The Constitutional Court's move to invalidate February's election – which had seen significant gains by opposition Islamist parties – forces the emirate to once again go through the motions for new legislation...

Swimming with the big fish

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page 28/29 & page 30

When RAK Airways re-launched in 2010 – having been grounded after just two years of operations – many in the aviation industry were sceptical of its pledge to carve a niche between the full-service and low-cost carrier sectors.

The saturated Gulf aviation market had already seen years of double-digit growth, with Dubai's Emirates Airlines and Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways transforming the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into the world's pre-eminent intercontinental hub. On the lower end of the market, Sharjah-based Air Arabia and FlyDubai were fast hoovering up point-to-point traffic across the region.

But in the northernmost emirate of Ras Al Khaimah – where annual air passenger numbers of 328,000 pale in comparison to Dubai's 51 million – RAK Airways chief executive John Brayford is proving the naysayers wrong, charting an expansion strategy that complements rather than competes with his dominant neighbours to the south...

Air Baltic sets out on recovery road

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Rumours that the EU may instruct Latvia's Air Baltic to pay back up to €80 million ($104 million) in state aid are understandably of concern to chief executive Martin Gauss - not least given his memories of heading up Hungary's Malev, which went to the wall over €280 million of EU debt.

But Gauss has form for turning around European carriers - having sold DBA, formerly Deutsche BA, to Air Berlin in 2006 - and his 'ReShape' plan at Air Baltic is already beginning to show signs of progress.

The former Boeing 737 pilot took up his position in Riga in November 2011. His appointment followed a bitter dispute between the Latvian government and previous chief executive Bertolt Flick, whose offshore investment vehicle subsequently sold its 47.2% stake in Air Baltic back to the state...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Interview: Christine Ourmières, CityJet CEO

No job cuts at CityJet despite Transform 2015 exclusion

Air France subsidiary CityJet has moved to reassure Paris-based employees that exclusion from its parent company's Transform 2015 restructuring plan will not result in layoffs.

CityJet's French employees have been lobbying for inclusion in Transform 2015 because the plan - which encompasses fellow subsidiaries Regional and Britair - guarantees that there will be no forced redundancies in 2012 or 2013.

Insisting Transform 2015 is "not the best fit" for CityJet, chief executive Christine Ourmières says the subsidiary's own restructuring programme has protected jobs.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Interview: Klemen Bostjancic, Adria Airways CEO

Adria Airways shelves fleet renewal amid funding delay

Adria Airways has abandoned plans to overhaul its fleet as negotiations continue over a delayed €9 million ($11.8 million) loan that chief executive Klemen Bostjancic says will be necessary for the airline to continue flying this winter.

The revolving credit facility was due to arrive in late September and would have been the first instalment of a €50 million cash injection pledged by Slovenia's government in August 2011 in response to a two-and-a-half-year turnaround plan.

Local media reports on 16 October 2012 quoted Bostjancic as saying that the flag carrier would be grounded unless the outstanding loan from Nova Ljubljanska Banka and UniCredit Banka materialises.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Interview: Martin Gauss, Air Baltic CEO

ReShape results will spur Air Baltic investors: Gauss

Demonstrable success under the 'ReShape' restructuring plan will be the driving force behind Air Baltic's search for a strategic partner, chief executive Martin Gauss tells Flightglobal, with management looking to make the case for investment through quantifiable results.

Insisting that talks with prospective Gulf and Chinese partners remain at the early stages and may not require due-diligence for "a while", Gauss candidly adds: "I don't expect a quick win on this one, but you never know."

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Interview: John Brayford, RAK Airways CEO

RAK Airways sees CFM-powered A320s in short supply

RAK Airways will issue a request for proposal (RFP) for CFM-powered Airbus A320s this week, chief executive John Brayford tells Flightglobal, with previous searches having identified just one aircraft "in any way suitable" for its upcoming fleet expansion.

The Ras al Khaimah-based carrier operates two CFM-powered A320s and has announced plans to lease a third aircraft in early March 2013, followed by a fourth unit in late summer.

According to Brayford, however, preliminary studies for the third unit indicated that "there are very few relatively new CFM-powered A320s on the market". He says scarce availability has prompted the airline to bring forward its search for the fourth unit.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Loose connections at Heathrow

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News that Patrick McLoughlin, the UK's new transport secretary, has postponed his decision over Heathrow's third runway until after the next General Election, in 2015, has prompted a collective groan across the aviation industry and the wider business community.

"How many more reviews do we actually need," asked Laurie Price, former aviation adviser to the select transport committee between 1997 and 2005, in his opening remarks at a conference in London last week.

Previous attempts to reach a consensus on airport expansion have included the 1971 Roskill Commission and the 2003 Future of Air Transport White Paper. These, however, have often appeared to kick decision-making into the long-grass, sparing successive governments the headache of long-term infrastructure projects that risk angering the electorate, while delivering scant benefit to their political backers...

Kuwait Airways privatisation up in the air

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page 18/19 & page 20

In July, an Airbus A300 operated by Kuwait Airways made an emergency landing in Medina, Saudi Arabia, after what appears to have been a potentially catastrophic double engine failure. Camera-phone footage of the incident shows passengers clinging onto their armrests and nervously reciting the Shahada, as the only functioning engine sputters in the background.

Far from an isolated incident, this latest in a string of security scares renewed concerns about whether the airline’s ageing jets should remain in the skies while Kuwait’s parliament drags its feet over sorely-needed restructuring – originally promised in a 2008 privatisation bill...