Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Interview: Sergey Emdin, Pulkovo Airport DG

Full article in JPG format: page 32-33 & page 34

As the gateway to Russia's cultural capital, it is perhaps no surprise that Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg consistently posts double-digit growth in annual passenger numbers. Footfall at the airport grew by 16.1% last year to 11.2 million, and director general Sergey Emdin says he is confident that figure will reach 12.5 million in 2013.

But rapid year-on-year growth has placed renewed pressure on the hub to expand its facilities and improve passenger experience. Mindful of this, operator Northern Capital Gateway consortium – comprising Fraport (35.5%), VTB Bank (57.5%) and Copelouzos Group (7%) – has since April 2010 overseen a $1.2 billion modernisation project. The 30-year public-private partnership focusses on construction of a new international terminal, expansion of the apron areas, and development of a hotel and business centre...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Interview: Kyle Haywood, Fastjet South Africa CEO

Fastjet to launch in South Africa with wet-leased 737

Fastjet will enter the domestic South African market on 30 May with a Boeing 737-300 wet-leased from Star Air Cargo, division chief executive Kyle Haywood says, though no final decision has been taken about the future fleet.

The 1994-build aircraft (MSN 27346) is subject to a rolling six-month lease. It was formerly operated by defunct South African carrier Velvet Sky, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

I'll have what I ordered

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From this month Air Baltic, the Latvian flag-carrier, is allowing its passengers to choose from up to 20 meal items when booking their tickets. Pre-selecting an on-board meal is nothing new—American Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways are among the carriers extending that privilege to premium customers—but Air Baltic's approach is novel. Passengers drag-and-drop their preferred main course, salad, drink and dessert onto a digital airline tray. Their selection is then relayed to LSG SkyChefs, the in-flight caterer, which customises the actual tray as necessary before loading it onto the plane at Riga airport...

Iraq walking on air

Full article in PDF format: page 18-22 & cover

The resolution of a 23-year-old dispute between Iraq and Kuwait has opened the door for both countries to concentrate on reviving their ailing flag carriers. But while Kuwait's parliament is bogged down with political apathy towards its loss-making airline, Iraq is seizing the day with ambitious aircraft orders and diplomatic overtures across the Arab world and beyond.

Iraqi Airways director general Captain Saad Al-Khafaji struck a sanguine note as he outlined the role his carrier will play in bringing Iraq back to the international fold, speaking shortly after flights to London resumed in March. Though he made no attempt to downplay the difficulties Iraq has faced – both under Saddam Hussein, and in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion – he was overwhelmingly optimistic about the benefits that a well-funded, well-connected flag carrier can bring to its home nation.

"This is the new Iraq. We have a new political situation – democracy is ruling Iraq now," he told Arabian Aerospace. "We want to do our best to communicate with other countries, not with guns, but with brains. And we cannot communicate with other countries unless we meet, so Iraqi Airways is building bridges between the world and Iraq...

Calling the slots

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The European Parliament’s endorsement of secondary slot trading last December appeared, on the surface, to sanction the long-standing practice of selling, leasing and swapping runway rights at the continent’s over-stretched aviation hubs.

Although proposed legislation is unlikely to progress during Ireland's presidency of the EU, which ends in June, this delay stems from a largely unrelated debate in Brussels. The European Commission had drawn up slot trading proposals as part of a wider package of measures governing airport reform. The European Parliament reached a consensus on slot trading and aircraft noise mitigation, but it came unstuck over the issue of how best to liberalise ground handling services.

Notwithstanding the slow pace of reform, Morgan Foulkes, deputy director general of Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, says that legislation enshrining slot trading will be a welcome boost to the continent's over-stretched airports...

Pragmatism at DWC

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Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai will open its doors to passengers in October, when Saudi Arabia's Nas Air and eastern Europe-based Wizz Air begin low-cost operations. The gateway began accepting cargo flights back in June 2010, but the commencement of passenger services marks the most significant milestone to date on its path to becoming the world's largest airport.

The emirate's existing hub, Dubai International Airport (DXB), is undergoing a $7.8 billion expansion project of its own, lifting annual passenger capacity from 75 million today to 90 million by 2018. But Al Maktoum Airport, also known as Dubai World Central (DWC), will eventually dwarf its forbearer with capacity of 160 million passengers...

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

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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

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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...