Friday, 22 March 2013

On-board deliveries

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As anyone who has been stuck on airport Tarmac for any length of time will attest, runway delays are not fun. “South Park”, a satirical television show, hit the nail on the head when it likened the whole process to purgatory—"like a terrifying limbo"—because it is just that. You can't get off the plane, you can't even use the loos, and in many cases the pilot can't give any information about the expected length of the delay. What he can supply, however, as passengers aboard a Delta Air Lines flight on March 18th discovered, is pizza...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Gulf Air restructuring strong on rhetoric, weak on detail

Gulf Air's decision to withdraw another six aircraft from service - four Airbus A330s and two A319s - has brought the Bahraini flag carrier to its targeted fleet size of 26 aircraft. Further changes are assured, with management setting out a requirement for up to 16 Boeing 787s and 24 A320s. But continuous board changes and lukewarm political support mean that few concrete details have emerged about the airline's restructuring plan.

One certainty is that both the fleet and the route network will continue to shrink, as Gulf Air cedes market share to its dominant neighbours in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The airline completed its retirement of two Embraer 190s in January, having previously placed four A340s and two A321s in storage. The fleet now comprises 16 A320s, six A330s and four A321s.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Interview: Saad Al-Khafaji, Iraqi Airways DG

Iraqi Airways route expansion to focus on Europe, China

Iraqi Airways director general Saad Al-Khafaji has outlined details of the flag carrier's upcoming network expansion, which has been made possible by its reconciliation with Kuwait Airways.

Flights to Frankfurt will get underway in about a fortnight, he says, while Copenhagen and Amsterdam are being targeted shortly after. In Asia, the airline has its sights set on Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Bangkok.

Washington and New York could also be added soon, says Al-Khafaji. He credits the US embassy in Baghdad with "helping to speed up the process" of launching flights to America.

Friday, 1 March 2013

West Africa via Banjul

Full article in JPG format: page 41 & page 42

Air connectivity in West Africa has been in dire straits ever since Air Afrique, the transnational carrier part-owned by Air France, filed for bankruptcy in 2002. While numerous small airlines have sprung up across the sub-region, their modest fleets have only succeeded in creating a patchwork of overlapping services – lacking the scale and cohesiveness needed to bind together West Africa's economic hubs. On routes such as Conakry, Guinea to Accra, Ghana (1,000 miles), detours of 6,000 miles via Paris are commonplace.

For travellers in the sub-region, the root causes are depressingly familiar. Weak infrastructure, high airport taxes and dubious management strategies have all played a part in slowing progress in the aviation sector. Nor are foreign airlines in any rush to change the status quo. The four main European carriers serving Africa – Brussels Airlines, British Airways, Air France and KLM – all enjoy high demand among West Africans due to limited competition from regional players...

Interview: Richard Nuttall, Bahrain Air CEO

Full article in JPG format:
page 49 & page 50/51

The collapse of Bahrain Air in February was yet another grim milestone in the kingdom’s faltering efforts to reform its civil aviation sector. With flag carrier Gulf Air having narrowly averted its own closure last autumn, doubts are growing about the long-term contribution that Bahrain can make to a regional sector now dominated by mega-hubs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.

Bahrain Air, a low-cost carrier servicing routes across the Middle East and South Asia, filed for voluntary liquidation on 12 February. Announcing its closure after just five years in business, the airline heaped criticism on Bahraini transport minister Kamal Ahmed, whom it accused of having a conflict of interest due to his parallel role on the board of Gulf Air. It also reiterated criticism of the government’s alleged failure to provide compensation for difficulties encountered during the Arab Spring...

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ryanair's business class

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Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive officer, recently announced that 22% of the low-cost carrier's passengers are corporate travellers. Ryanair is Europe's biggest airline, carrying 79.6m people last year, so it may not be surprising that certain routes attract a high volume of corporate traffic. But for one in five customers across its entire network to be travelling on business is a noteworthy statistic...

Monday, 11 February 2013

IAG's baggage

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Ground staff and cabin crew at Iberia, Spain's flag carrier, have announced 15 days of strikes this February and March. The walkouts are in response to attempts by International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of Iberia and British Airways (BA), to push through swingeing cuts at the loss-making carrier. Willie Walsh, IAG's chief executive, originally called for 4,500 job cuts plus salary reductions of up to 35% in November. He moderated this slightly last month, suggesting that 3,147 job losses and 23% pay cuts would do the trick. Trade unions rejected the proposal...

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Aerotoxic syndrome

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Concerns about air quality on planes are nothing new, but a recent lawsuit is reigniting a debate over whether it could potentially be harmful. British Airways (BA) has defended its safety protocols after a posthumous court case was filed on behalf of one of two former pilots who claimed they were poisoned by toxic cabin fumes.

The BA pilots, Karen Lysakowska and Richard Westgate, believed they had fallen victim to “aerotoxic syndrome” towards the end of their lives. They accused BA of breaching health and safety guidelines for monitoring cabin air quality...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Interview: Fernando Pinto, TAP Portugal CEO

Synergy still front-runner for TAP privatisation: Pinto

TAP Portugal chief executive Fernando Pinto says he is confident that Synergy Group, the parent of Avianca-Taca, will resubmit its bid for the Portuguese flag carrier when the privatisation process resumes. But he adds that British Airways parent IAG "might" also rekindle its interest now the Eurozone crisis has abated.

The Portuguese government rejected Synergy's bid in December 2012, citing concerns about financial guarantees. The Brazilian conglomerate had been the sole bidder, after IAG and Lufthansa withdrew their early expressions of interest.

Pinto says that in principle the government had accepted Synergy's offer - comprising a down payment of €35 million ($47.5 million) plus a €315 million investment - but that "fine details on the actual paperwork" had ultimately scuppered the deal. "It was a matter of timing, and a matter of having the correct paperwork," he explains.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Etihad's calculated gamble

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The appointment of Wolfgang Prock-Schauer to the role of chief executive at airberlin last month, though unexpected, was by no means a complete surprise. His predecessor, Hartmut Mehdorn, 70, had been hired on an interim basis in September 2011 – shortly before Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways acquired 29 per cent of the German carrier, becoming its largest stakeholder – and local media reports consistently painted a picture of strained relations with the new Gulf investor.

Even so, Prock-Schauer’s rapid ascension to the top job is yet another sign of seismic changes at airberlin since Etihad chief executive James Hogan invested in the troubled carrier...