Monday, 3 February 2014

Post Tiger economy

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In February 2009, during the final throes of Sri Lanka’s 25-year-long civil war, Tamil Tiger rebels packed two light aircraft with explosives and flew them towards Colombo. The pilots planned to execute kamikaze attacks on the capital. Mercifully, they were shot down. But in the process one plane slammed into a high-rise government building, killing two people and injuring 50. Thus ended one of the most dramatic episodes of the war. Today, five years after the guns were silenced, Sri Lanka is staking its hopes for peace and prosperity on a more benign form of aviation: commercial flights delivering holidaymakers...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

RAK down but not out

Full article in JPG format:
page 24/25 & page 26

It is virtually a foregone conclusion that 2014 will be another bumper year for civil aviation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai’s Emirates Airline and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways are on-track for yet more double-digit traffic growth, while Sharjah’s Air Arabia and FlyDubai continue adding new short-haul markets to their respective hubs.

In the northern emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, however, the New Year heralded an altogether less favourable development. On 1 January 2014, for the second time in its eight-year history, flag carrier RAK Airways announced that it was suspending operations indefinitely. Management promised to “re-evaluate the best options” for the government-owned airline, but they stopped short of making a firm commitment that flights would resume...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Comparative advantage

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If you frequently shop for flights online, you will almost certainly be familiar with flight comparison websites like Skyscanner and Kayak. These so-called metasearch engines invite you to key in your desired travel itinerary, before pulling data from other websites—mostly airlines, travel agents and rival search engines—and aggregating the results into a list of available airfares. You can then orbit to the cheapest ticket and click through to the booking website. It’s not rocket science, and with a little flexibility you can usually find a bargain. But metasearch engines are not perfect. They are only as powerful as the data that feed into them, and some airlines refuse to cooperate...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Interview: Abdel Aziz Fadel, Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister

Full article in PDF format: page 15-17 & cover

The decision by Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office to relax its travel advice for Egypt could not have come too soon for the North African country, whose leaders are desperate to consign the political upheaval of recent years to history.

Announcing the move on 8 November – two days before Cairo hosted the inaugural Egyptian Development & Strategies of Civil Aviation (EDSCA) conference – Britain said the Red Sea resorts of Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada were once again safe for holidaymakers. A fortnight later it added Cairo and the Great Pyramid of Giza to the list of approved destinations, easing the stranglehold on a tourism sector that contributes 12% of Egypt's GDP...

Air smiles at Ethiopian

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Articles about African aviation almost always pay heed to two inescapable truths. The first is the continent's undisputed economic potential, stemming from its vast natural resources and youthful, aspirational workforce. The second, less encouragingly, is the near-insurmountable challenges that prevent airlines from unlocking this potential.

Most politicians concede that civil aviation will play a key role in igniting and sustaining pan-African prosperity. In practice, however, a toxic mixture of bureaucracy, corruption and protectionism keeps much of the industry grounded. African governments still regard flying as a middle-class luxury deserving of heavy taxation. They are also in no hurry to liberalise regulations and bilateral restrictions that protect the status quo for privileged operators.

But there are some exceptions to the rule. State-owned Ethiopian Airlines has grown its turnover by 700% since 2005, and it plans to expand another fivefold by 2025...

Comair on the flight side of the law

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The decision by FastJet to postpone its domestic launch in South Africa – originally slated for July last year – has given Comair breathing space to consolidate its network and prepare for the arrival of four aircraft in 2015.

Chief executive Erik Venter remains sceptical that the low-cost model can been rolled out across Africa, so he is resisting the urge to deploy low-cost unit Kulula in neighbouring countries.

But Comair will have to keep on its toes in the fast evolving competitive landscape. Flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) has just embarked on a long-term turnaround plan – likely to involve elevating the role of low-cost subsidiary Mango – while FastJet has already become a regular fixture in the country, following the launch of its Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg route in October...

Friday, 3 January 2014

South Africa ready for take-off, again

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This should be a good year for South African passengers, according to Business Day, a local newspaper. Following the failure of 1time Airline in 2012, four new low-cost carriers—FastJet, Skywise, FlySafair and a resurrected version of 1time—are poised to enter the market and inject some competition. At present state-owned South African Airways (SAA) and privately owned Comair are the only noteworthy scheduled passenger operators. But Business Day’s outlook may be rose-tinted. Two of the four new entrants have already faced legal challenges. And SAA has made scant progress with a turnaround plan. Until its balance sheet is in better shape, the South African authorities are unlikely to liberalise the sector any further...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Saudi Arabia's accelerated aims

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page 20/21 & page 22

Efforts to boost competition in Saudi Arabia’s duopolistic civil aviation sector are at long last gaining momentum, with both of the kingdom’s upcoming airlines promising to launch services in 2014. But silence by civil aviation authority GACA on the issue of regulatory reform leaves lingering questions about the sector’s long-term prospects.

GACA had originally opened up its skies in December 2006, granting two new carriers – Nas Air and Sama – the right to operate domestic services alongside flag carrier Saudia...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Personalisation: Making a difference

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page 48/49 & page 50

“The shape of things to come”, proclaimed Imperial Airways, the colonial precursor to British Airways, in a 1936 advertisement for Short Empire Flying Boats. Its notice featured an artist’s impression of stately travellers boarding one of the revolutionary aircraft, which were due to enter service the following year.

Imperial’s four-engine, double-decker Flying Boats had sleeping accommodation for 16 passengers, with cabin interiors comprising three large saloons, one kitchen and one ever-essential smoking room. On day-time flights, its capacity stretched to 24.

Having handled just 8,012 passengers in 1936/37, the airline’s idealistic vision of the future may have seemed reasonable at the time. Fast forward seven decades, however, to an age when 3 billion travelers take to the skies each year, and its prophecy of airborne luxury is hard to reconcile with modern-day reality...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

In the driving seat

Full article in JPG format:
page 20/21 & page 22

As if any proof were needed that the Gulf’s airlines have become the driving force behind global civil aviation, last month’s Dubai Air Show reaffirmed their dominance in spectacular fashion. Collectively, Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways placed orders for $150 billion of aircraft. Emirates was the biggest spender, splashing out on 150 next-generation Boeing 777Xs – due to enter service around the end of the decade – as well as another 50 double-decker Airbus A380s.

In fairness, many of the aircraft will eventually be deployed as replacement units, allowing older, less fuel-efficient models to be withdrawn from service. The 777X promises to burn 20% less fuel than the current-generation 777, notching up a major cost saving for its operators. But the continuance of year-on-year mega orders in the Gulf underscores how Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are slowly becoming the centrepiece of global aviation...