Friday, 19 April 2013

Interview: Martin Gauss, Air Baltic CEO

Air Baltic confirms preliminary talks with Japanese carriers

Latvia's government sent a delegation to Japan in April to discuss possible investment in flag carrier Air Baltic, chief executive Martin Gauss tells Flightglobal.

Talks were held between Latvian officials and Japan's two largest carriers - Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) - though Gauss stresses that they were "preliminary discussions" and no decisions have been taken.

State-owned Air Baltic last year said early-stage talks had also been held with unspecified parties in the Persian Gulf and China.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Gambia's dream team

Full article in PDF format: page 26-29 & cover

Since launching regional and intercontinental services in October 2012, Gambia Bird, west Africa's newest flag carrier, has encountered more than its fair share of obstacles. The airline's inability to gain traffic rights to Lagos remains the largest setback, forcing a rethink of early plans for a high-frequency service to the Nigerian metropolis. The prospect, however remote, of Islamist rebellions spreading from Mali across the wider Sahel region is another cause for concern, rattling some European travellers.

But for Gambia Bird's management team – comprising chief executive officer Thomas Wazinski, chief commercial officer Karsten Balke, and chief administration officer Malleh Sallah – the dream of unifying and expanding west Africa's fragmented air infrastructure is inching ever closer to reality...

Fast and furious

Full article in PDF format

Despite launching operations on-time and with load factors approaching 80%, African low-cost start-up FastJet has flown into myriad legal difficulties since taking to the skies in November 2012. The Stelios Haji-Ioannou-backed carrier not only disputes bills from one of its leasing companies and the Tanzanian government, but it is now embroiled in a complex ownership and branding battle with Five Forty Aviation, the parent company of its Fly540 affiliate.

The strength of the respective legal arguments by FastJet and Five Forty Aviation will be determined in court, but it is clear that the dispute stems from the founding contract signed between the two parties last year. Both sides effectively claim ownership of the Fly540 brand, while rejecting liability for Fly540's historic debts...

An inconvenient truth

Full article in JPG format

Having spent more than 200,000 man hours investigating battery fires on its grounded fleet of 787 Dreamliners, US airframe manufacturer Boeing is confident that a series of re-designs will allow the aircraft to resume flying within weeks. A three-layered approach to combatting the safety scare has delivered a "comprehensive set of solutions" that will ensure battery failures never endanger the safe operation of 787 flights, Boeing insisted in March.

But its proposed measures must first be approved by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The regulator has to date only rubber-stamped Boeing's certification plan – a "first step in the process to evaluate the 787’s return" that is contingent on "extensive testing and analysis". Even if the aircraft does return to the skies promptly, Boeing's admission that it "may never get to a single root cause" of the recent battery fires will rattle nerves among some passengers...

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Baghdad International Airport: After the war

Full article on

Security at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) has come a long way since November 2003, when a cargo plane operated by DHL, a courier company, was struck by a surface-to-air missile shortly after take-off. No one was injured, despite the plane being forced into an emergency landing without hydraulic control and with its left wing on fire. In the following two months a couple of aircraft—this time military jets—were struck by missiles during take-off. Mercifully, both landed safely.

Nerve-jangling corkscrew manoeuvres which were once necessary to avert such incidents at BIAP are now a distant memory. Judging by the number of scheduled carriers that operate from the airport, confidence (and presumably passenger demand) is coming back...

Friday, 22 March 2013

On-board deliveries

Full article on

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...