Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The big subsidies debate

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No-one disputes that the meteoric rise of Emirates Airline, Dubai’s state-owned flag-carrier, has changed the face of civil aviation. Having started life in 1985 with just two aircraft, the Gulf carrier has ballooned in size to become the world’s largest international airline by seating capacity. Its rapid growth has gone hand-in-hand with the broader economic development of Dubai, whose government sees aviation as a strategic priority.

Geographical advantage undoubtedly lies at the heart of Emirates’ success – Dubai sits at the cross-roads of East and West, making it an ideal stopover for intercontinental travel – but has this blessing been harnessed fairly by a commercial entity, or leveraged maliciously by a deep-pocketed government...

Interview: Skúli Mogensen, WOW Air CEO

Full article in PDF format: page 22-25 & cover

When Iceland’s WOW Air began flying between Europe and North America this March, it was staking its claim on a market that has confounded no-frills operators for decades.

Laker Airways is the name that typically crops up in discussions about the mythical low-cost, long-haul business model. The airline operated out of London Gatwick Airport until its demise in 1982. But it was in fact another Icelandic carrier, Loftleiðir, that first opened up affordable transatlantic flying to the masses – albeit with the annoyance of a stopover in Reykjavik.

Loftleiðir was dubbed the ‘Hippie Express’ throughout the 1960s, proving popular with American students who were visiting Europe on a shoestring budget...

Floriculture keeps its cool

Full article in JPG format: page 36/37 & page 38/39

On an average day at the Aalsmeer flower auction in the Netherlands – long considered the flower capital of the world – some 20 million stems will change hands. During peak holiday periods trading in the country, which handles around 52% of global volume, is even more frantic.

The week running up to Valentine’s Day 2015 saw an estimated 200m red roses and tulips, 100m assorted other varieties and 20m pot plants exported by truck and air from Amsterdam. Many of those flowers had just arrived from Nairobi, which despatched 45 aircraft freighters to the Dutch capital that week alone.

It wasn’t always this way. While few exporters emerged from the global economic downturn unscathed, shippers of price-elastic, discretionary goods bound for Europe were particularly hard hit...

Monday, 30 March 2015

A human response to a human tragedy

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It has been less than a week since the catastrophic loss of Germanwings Flight 9525 and its precious cargo of 144 passengers and six crew. In that short time investigators have pointed the finger of blame squarely at Andreas Lubitz, the 27-year-old first officer who appears to have locked his captain out of the flight deck and deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps. Though incomprehensible, his gruesome deed is not without precedent for commercial pilots. Fear of falling victim to such asymmetric evil will, inevitably, plague the minds of the 9m passengers who take to the skies each day. It will take time to soothe their concerns. But one Germanwings pilot has already started the healing process, unburdening his heart with emotional, pre-flight speeches to passengers...

Friday, 6 March 2015

Gulf carriers feeling the heat

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Allegations of unfair competition are nothing new for the Gulf's carriers. The region’s big three airlines—Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways—have long been accused of receiving government subsidies by their rivals in Europe and America. But supporting evidence has been in short supply. That apparently changed yesterday, when a group of airlines disclosed details of “obvious and massive” Gulf-carrier subsidies totalling $42bn since 2004. The findings have been submitted to the American government in a 55-page dossier urging a re-think of Washington’s open-skies treaty with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Iraqi aviation under fire

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The apparent targeting of an aircraft operated by Flydubai, the short-haul affiliate of Emirates Airline, during a routine landing at Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) has rightly rattled nerves in the Gulf aviation sector, coming just six months after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in eastern Ukraine.

Although there are few direct parallels between the incidents – one involved a sophisticated surface-to-air missile; the other rudimentary small-arms fire – threats to airspace security are never taken lightly by governments. This applies doubly so in Iraq, where the Islamic State (IS) boasts in its armoury a variety of anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired MANPADS (man-portable air-defence systems), including the Russian-made SA-16 and SA-18, and the Chinese-made FN-6. Shootdowns of government aircraft have been documented on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border.

The burning question for travellers is whether or not such weapons pose a credible threat to civilian aircraft at BIAP. Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly yes...

Freight of expectation

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page 27 & page 28/29

After several years in the doldrums, the air cargo industry ended 2014 on a “positive note” according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It estimates that global freight demand grew 4.5% during the year, buoyed by above-average 5.4% growth in the Asia Pacific region.

While talk of a cyclical upturn may be premature, there is no shortage of optimism among cargo operators, freight forwarders and logistics professionals about the year ahead.

But IATA and others are quick to point out that higher volumes are just one piece of the puzzle. According to WorldACD, an air cargo market data specialist, average yields declined another 1.45% in 2014. That continued the seemingly unending spiral downwards since the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, decimating profit margins and casting gloomy skies over an otherwise encouraging set of results for the industry...

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Interview: Nico Bezuidenhout, South African Airways Acting CEO

SAA secures R1bn savings under 90-day plan

South African Airways has secured savings of more than R1 billion ($85 million) under its 90-day action plan, acting chief executive Nico Bezuidenhout tells Flightglobal, putting the flag carrier on track for a targeted cost reduction of R1.25 billion by the end of March.

Bezuidenhout has been managing a broader turnaround strategy at the airline since November 2014, when incumbent boss Monwabisi Kalawe was suspended.

Outlining the progress made to date under the 90-day plan, the acting chief says the “biggest bulk” of the savings has come from grounding SAA’s heavily loss-making routes to Beijing and Mumbai.

Booking flights with bitcoin

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Most stories about bitcoin, a digital currency loved and loathed in equal measure, focus on the future potential of the technology, rather than its present-day usefulness. This story is no different. Earlier this month, UATP, a payment network for airlines, announced it was teaming up with Bitnet, a bitcoin processing platform, to offer 260 of the world’s largest carriers the option of accepting the currency for flight bookings. UATP merchants provide 95% of global airline capacity, counting among their ranks mainstream brands such as British Airways, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. The company also works with 130,000 travel agencies, plus big rail operators such as Amtrak. None of these partners, it must be stressed, has said it will add a ‘Pay With Bitcoin’ button to its website. But the potential to do so is now there. And that is more than enough to get the bitcoin faithful excited by the development...

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Interview: Rob Hyslop, Polar Air Cargo Worldwide COO

​Polar sees opportunities as it adds sixth 747-8F

Polar Air Cargo Worldwide will deploy a sixth Boeing 747-8F in March ahead of plans to add one or two new scheduled destinations in 2015.

The upcoming 747-8F will be operated under an ACMI agreement with parent company Atlas Air. Its capacity will primarily be used by Polar’s minority shareholder DHL Express, although space will also be marketed to general cargo forwarders.

Polar’s pre-existing fleet of five 747-8Fs, seven 747-400Fs and two 767-300ERFs will remain in service, bringing the overall fleet size to 15.