Category Archives: Airplanes and Airports

Turkish Airlines Begins Service to Atlanta

By: Benjamin Bearup / Published: May 16, 2016

Turkish Airlines began service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Monday by flying in the carrier’s signature Boeing 777-300ER featuring a special Batman v. Superman livery.

RELATED: Turkish Airlines’ “Batman v. Superman” Plane Takes Flight

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At the arrival, the first Turkish Airlines 777 was welcomed by the customary water cannon salute. (Credits: Author)

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Atlanta’s Concourse F, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed joined Turkish Airlines CMO Ahmet Olmustur, and Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kılıç in welcoming the airport’s eighth foreign carrier.

At the ceremony, Kasim Reed welcomed Turkish by stating “We are pleased to welcome Turkish Airlines as the newest carrier to Atlanta, solidifying the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport not only as the world’s busiest airport, but also the gateway to the world.” Kasim added that “The new route will open business and tourism opportunities to a vast array of global destinations and further advance Atlanta’s tourism industry.”

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The ribbon-cutting ceremony led by Atlanta Major Kasim Reed. (Credits: Author)

Olmustur praised the new route stating “This significant launch reinforces Turkish Airlines as a global leader in aviation with an internationally known brand helping passengers widen their world.” Olmuster also highlighted the significance of Atlanta as the airlinewill now connect travelers through “the world’s most traveled airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.”

Announced on June 15th, 2015, Atlanta is the 9th city in the United States—and the newest in North America after Miami, which received service last October—for the growing carrier.

Timing for the Atlanta flight is consistent with most Turkish flights to the United States, and is suitable for connecting to much of Europe and Asia through its Istanbul hub. The flight departs Istanbul at 14:05 and arrives in Atlanta at 19:05. Leaving Atlanta, the flight departs at 22:45 and arrives in Istanbul at 16:40, all local times.

The estimated flight time is between 11 and 12 hours each way. Turkish will fly the Boeing 777-300ER on the Istanbul – Atlanta route. The largest aircraft in its fleet, the 777-300ER seats 349 seats in a two-class configuration (49 in Business and 300 in Economy). Turkish currently has 29 777-300ER aircraft in its fleet.  The airline has also said the Atlanta route will decrease from daily to 5X weekly, starting October 30th, for the winter season at least.

Turkish will likely be the second passenger airline to take advantage of the city’s Air Service Incentive Program (ASIP). Launched in 2014, the five-year program is designed to entice foreign carriers into starting service to Atlanta by offering them subsidies including a 12-month landing fee waiver, and contribution of marketing funds. So far, the airline has yet to sign a contract with the city for the Air Service Incentive Program but negotiations are currently ongoing.

In December 2014, Atlanta Airport Assistant General Manager for Commercial Development Vivica Brown told Airways “We’re focusing on this because we know that growth in international markets is exponentially higher than domestic market.” Brown added “So we thought it would be a great idea one, to incentivize airlines to start international destinations at Hartsfield, and two, to diversify our current destinations to fast-growing economies like Asia, India and the Middle East.”

RELATED: Atlanta Airport Targets International Service With New Program

Passengers were greeted to snacks and drinks courtesy of Turkish. (Credits: Author)

Passengers were greeted to snacks and drinks courtesy of Turkish. (Credits: Author)

In October of 2014, Virgin Atlantic became the first carrier to utilize the Air Service Incentive Program by launching service to London-Heathrow. At a ceremony welcoming Virgin Atlantic to the market, Atlanta Airport General Manager Miguel Southwell spoke to Airways about the program. “If your preference is to fly a U.S. airline, we have a U.S. airline. If your preference is to fly a British carrier with an outstanding reputation, then you have that choice,” he said.

Turkish stands to pose a challenge to Delta Air Lines and partners Air France/KLM on transatlantic routes out of Atlanta, along with Qatar Airways, which is set to begin its Doha service on June 1st, and also to be served with a Boeing 777-300E. Both carriers will provide a combined 608 daily seats to the Atlanta market.

Delta has been critical of Turkish Airlines and the Middle East carriers and their expansion in the U.S. market. Last February, Delta opted to suspend its daily Dubai flight that would have competed directly with Turkish and Qatar.

RELATED: Gulf Carriers Adjust Capacity on North American Routes: Are “Subsidy” Allegations Miscalculated?

RELATED: Qatar Airways to Fly its Airbus A380 in Inaugural Service to Atlanta


IMG_2799Benjamin Bearup has had a love for aviation since he was born. A local from Atlanta, Georgia, Ben is accustomed to life around the World’s Busiest Airport. In his spare time, Benjamin enjoys plane spotting, traveling, tweeting, and writing. You can follow him on Twitter @TheAviationBeat, or email at benjamin.bearup@airwaysnews.com.


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ATR Touts Enhanced TurboProp Option in U.S. Tour

By: Benét J. Wilson in Washington D.C. / Published: May 9, 2016

European Airframer ATR kicked off a North American demonstration tour to show how its 50- to 78-seat ATR turboprop family aircraft can be an option for airlines looking for lower operating costs and eco-efficient operations.

In remarks here May 6, ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac noted that more than 400 regional routes have been cancelled across the United States since 2006. “As of today, some 2,000 regional aircraft operate in the U.S., mainly regional jets,” he stated. “Over 30 percent of the routes operated by regional jets in the US are below 300 miles, a range where the operating costs and fuel efficiency of the newest generation ATR -600s are unrivalled.”

ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac. (Credits: ATR)

ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac. (Credits: ATR)

The last large U.S. turboprop order was Minneapolis-based Mesaba Aviation’s 50 orders and 22 options for the Saab 340B+ in March 1996. But de Castelbajac thinks that ATR can gain market share despite only having FedEx as a U.S. customer.

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Regional aviation in the U.S. is made up of more than 2,000 aircraft that fly more than 10,000 flights a day, said de Castelbajac. “The average capacity is 61 seats, with 92 percent of regional flights are performed by regional jets,” he said. “And more than 30 percent of those flights of 100 to 300 miles are flown by regional jets.”

There are currently 300 turboprops flying in the U.S. with an average age of 21 years, said de Castelbajac. “More than 400 regional routes have been canceled since 2006,” he said. “And regional jets don’t have the economics to fly shorter turoprop routes because they’re uneconomical. We want to restore air connectivity, and we feel we have the right aircraft.”

The ATR 72-600 at Washington Dulles International Airport. (Credits: Benét J. Wilson)

The ATR 72-600 at Washington Dulles International Airport. (Credits: Benét J. Wilson)

“If I’m conservative, there’s a turboprop replacement market of 250 if you’re not replacing regional jets,” said de Castelbajac. “But with Regional Jets replacements, that potential jumps to 500. I can’t say that ATR’s market share will be less. It won’t be 90 percent like Asia, but 70 to 75 percent in North America is achievable once people get to fly on it and see the economics.”

The list price for the ATR-72-600 is $26.8 million, while its competitor, the Bombardier Q400 lists for $32 million, said de Castelbajac. “We offer a family of two aircraft —a 50 seater and a 68 to 78 seater.  It’s almost the same aircraft, with more than 90 percent of common spares parts, along with the same cockpit, crew, engines and propellers,” he said.

 

ATR passenger cabin. (Credits: ATR)

ATR passenger cabin. (Credits: ATR)

The ATR-72-600 is optimized for the U.S. market, said de Castelbajac. The turboprop includes a redesigned interior cabin, the widest cross-section in the turboprop segment, more personal space for passengers, larger overhead bins and the ability to offer seating in three classes, including a three-abreast first class section.

The first class seat used on the ATR. (Credits: Benét J. Wilson)

The first class seat used on the ATR. (Credits: Benét J. Wilson)

ATRs have traditionally had a rear boarding door. “But we will now do a front door to accommodate air bridges,” said de Castelbajac. “We have flexible solutions for U.S. operators, including single and dual-class seating for the  ATR 42 and single and triple class for ATR 72.”

ATR operators (Credits: ATR)

ATR operators (Credits: ATR)

ATR has had more than 1,500 firm orders, with 200 operators in 100 countries, and is especially strong in Europe and Asia. The tour started May 2 in Toronto, with stops in Chicago, White Plains, new York, Hyannis, Massachusetts, Washington D.C., Dallas, Seattle and Cincinnati. The aircraft will also be featured on static display at the annual Regional Airline Association convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 8-10.


BW}Benét J. Wilson is an experienced freelance aviation / travel writer. She has been in the business for more than 20 years, having her works published in several printed and digital publications including USA Today, Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and AIN. Wilson is the Air Travel Expert for About.com and is working on her private pilot’s certificate.


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Meeting the New Star Wars BB-8 ANA Jet

By: Staff / Published: March 29, 2016

All Nippon Airways has rolled out the last of three special Star Wars aircraft last March 27. The aircraft, featuring the BB-8 character from the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is a Boeing 777-300ER (registration JA789A/MSN 40687/LN 878), which has now joined the force with its other two movie-themed aircraft.

RELATED: ANA Star Wars Dreamliner Makes Its Revenue Service Debut

RELATED: Boeing, ANA Unveil the First Themed Star Wars Dreamliner

RELATED: May the Force Be With ANA New Star Wars Planes

The aircraft debuted in its international service yesterday, when the airliner departed from Tokyo Haneda to Los Angeles as NH106, marking the start of the aircraft’s international service, linking Tokyo and the different destinations served by the airline in the United States – Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Houston.


Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Gatwick Fights On For Second Runway

By: Alan Dron in London / Published: March 4, 2016

For decades, London’s Gatwick Airport, situated some 28 miles south of the UK’s capital, has played second fiddle to Heathrow.

Traditionally, the image of Gatwick was as a ‘bucket-and-spade’ airport, a jumping-off point for families heading abroad on summer holidays. Heathrow, by contrast, just 15 miles west of central London, was the business executive’s departure and arrival point of choice.
Even today, several scheduled long-haul carriers only use Gatwick because runway-constrained Heathrow simply does not have the available slots to accommodate them.

Gatwick has done much to improve its standards in recent years, notably since it was bought in 2009 from BAA – formerly the owner of London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted – by a group of international investment funds, of which the largest is US-based Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).

The new owners have pumped in £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) of investment since taking over, with another £1 billion planned for the next five years. Now, it makes much of the fact that it hosts flights to 47 of Europe’s busiest business destinations and that 20% of its passengers are travelling for work reasons.

Some 40 million passengers used Gatwick in 2015, a figure that is anticipated to keep growing. For some years, it has claimed the record for being the world’s busiest single-runway airport.

However, the significant phrase in that last sentence is ‘single-runway’. More capacity is needed and Gatwick would dearly like to have a second strip of concrete.

The airport’s current design capacity with that single runway is 45 million and Gatwick is constantly rejigging its internal layout to improve passenger flow. One recent development, for example, gave the airport the world’s largest self-service bag-drop zone. But these developments are really at the margin. A second runway – depending on the configuration chosen – could boost capacity to as much as 87 million.

Gatwick’s owners fought long and hard to convince the Davies Commission – the official body set up by the UK government in 2012 to decide on the best location for a new runway for the crowded southeast of England – of its merits but that body last summer came down decisively in favor of a third runway at Heathrow, saying it would bring the greatest benefits for UK Inc.

However, with the UK government yet again dithering over making a decision, and having called for another environmental study into the subject – despite the Davies Commission having taken that into account in its deliberations – Gatwick is continuing to push its case.
It argues that it will be impossible for Heathrow to have a third runway without breaching European Union pollution standards and notes that, unlike Heathrow, it already has enough land in which it can create a new runway without demolishing a nearby village. (Although, in the densely-packed southeast of England, even the less-traumatic Gatwick option would mean diverting a major road and a river.)

And, in an obvious ‘sweetener’ to government, Gatwick says it will take care of the environmental costs itself, whereas at Heathrow the multi-billion pound environmental bill would be borne by the taxpayers.

There is another reason why Gatwick feels this is its moment. A 40-year pact with the county council in whose territory it lies not to push for a second runway runs out in 2019.
Given this opportunity, plus the length of time required for any major airport project to wend its way through the UK’s labyrinthine planning procedures, Gatwick has just launched an exercise to appoint framework consultants to assist in the future development of the airport. That includes a possible new runway, 1km south of the existing one.

Ryanair, Europe’s largest and most successful low-cost carrier (LCC) and a rapidly-growing player at Gatwick, would certainly like to see a new runway there. In mid-February, Ryanair’s rumbustious CEO Michael O’Leary said that he would favor a second runway at both Gatwick and Ryanair’s stronghold of London Stansted, an LCC-heavy airport northeast of London, as well as a third strip at Heathrow.

That way, he said, the three airports could compete with each other and let the market decide which it favored.

However, most Brits interested in the country’s future economic health and weary of the interminable vacillation of successive governments, just want someone to take a decision and start building a new runway. Somewhere. Anywhere. But soon.


mail.google.comAlan Dron is an AirwaysNews.com contributor with a vast experience as a writer in daily newspapers in the UK and Middle East for 15 years. After moving into corporate publishing, Dron has been an independent writer during the last decade, specializing in several areas including aviation, notably with specialist publications such as Flight International, Arabian Aerospace and African Aerospace.


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International Consortium to Buy London City Airport

By: Staff / Published: February 26, 2016

A Consortium comprised of Ontario Teachers, Borealis and Aimco pension funds from Canada and Kuwait’s Wren House have announced today a purchasing agreement to acquire Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), main owner and operator of London City Airport.

british-airways-jfk-lcy-wing-turn-around-runway-17-_32649The Consortium already owns Belfast International Airport, Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels and Copenhagen Airports. As part of this new investment, the group intends to “develop existing and new airline relationships and routes, improving the airport’s customer service, and generating opportunities for new and existing employees.”

GIP acquired its 75% interest in London City Airport through two successive transactions in 2006 and 2008. Since then, the airport located at the London Borough of Newham, has successfully grown traffic numbers from 2 million passengers in 2005 to 4.3 million in 2015, a rise of 18% compared to 2014.

Growing Pains

But with success comes problems. The airport is currently fighting over a proposed City Airport Development Program (CADP), which would allow the extension of the terminal and ramp to provide additional capacity. According to the plan, this would allow the increase of air traffic movements from 70,000 flights a year to 120,000 by 2023.

RELATED: Testing Times for London City

“London City Airport is a premium infrastructure company, operating in a very attractive market. We look forward to working closely with the airport’s strong management team to achieve the business’s full long-term potential” a spokesperson for the Consortium said.

RELATED: Long Haul on a Short Plane: An Analysis and Trip Report of British Airways JFK-LCY Service [Part One] / [Part Two] / [Part Three] / [Part Four]


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Testing Times for London City

By Alan Dron in London / Published: February 9, 2016

Like the airliners that take off from its short runway, London City Airport (LCY) has been climbing steeply in recent years. But a combination of factors suggests the airport is running into turbulence. Its expansion plans have been blocked, its largest operator is threatening to reduce, or even withdraw, its services and a new flightpath plan is arousing the ire of nearby suburbs.

Built on abandoned wharves in London’s old dock area east of the city center in the 1980s, the airport has benefited hugely from being adjacent to the new Docklands financial district, which has boomed over the same period.

Financiers and executives are just a 15-minute taxi ride away from the compact terminal’s front door. And, in a throwback to the golden days of 1960s aviation, executives with only carry-on items can theoretically be walking across the apron to their flight just 15 minutes later. (If you need to check baggage, the airport recommends a 30-minute minimum.) It’s a very slick operation.

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The airport operates with a single runway – 27/09 – that is 4327ft (1319m) long by 100ft (30m) wide. This limits usage to regional jets and turboprops, which have to make a steep, 5.5⁰ approach from the west to clear the Docklands’ district’s high-rise buildings. Bombardier Q400s, Embraer E-Jets and Avro RJs are the usual inhabitants of the apron, soon to be joined by Sukhoi Superjets when Ireland’s CityJet starts to take delivery of 15 this spring. Destinations are primarily short-haul western European, although British Airways (BA) operates a twice-daily, all-business class Airbus A318 from LCY to New York JFK.

RELATED: Long Haul on a Short Plane: An Analysis and Trip Report of British Airways JFK-LCY Service [Part One] / [Part Two] / [Part Three] / [Part Four]

A record 4.3 million passengers passed through LCY last year, a rise of 18% compared to 2014. But with success comes problems. The airport needs to expand. Soon.

Under the City Airport Development Programme (CADP), LCY proposed extending the terminal and adding aircraft stands to provide much-needed additional capacity. It already had permission to increase the number of annual movements from the current 70,000-plus to 120,000 by 2023.

In February 2015, the London Borough of Newham, within which LCY is located, approved the CADP. The following month, however, London mayor Boris Johnson, blocked the proposal on noise grounds.

Johnson is a long-running opponent of airport developments near the capital. He has been vehemently opposed to plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, west of the city, instead touting his preferred option of a giant new airport built at a location on the Thames Estuary, well to the east of the capital.

This would be seriously expensive, take at least a decade to construct and was ruled out last year by a commission set up by the UK government to give an unbiased appraisal of how runway capacity in southeast England should be expanded. (It opted for a third runway at Heathrow.)

LCY is appealing against the mayor’s refusal and a public inquiry, chaired by a government planning inspector, is due to start in March.

In the midst of this, LCY’s majority owners, US-based Global Infrastructure Partners, last summer put the airport up for sale for a reported £2 billion ($2.9 billion) price tag.
This has alarmed LCY’s largest user, BA, which believes that a new owner will have to raise landing charges to recoup its investment. In a warning shot across the bows of any prospective buyer, BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, said 3 February that it would pull some or all of its flights if charges rose.

“Any potential new owner for London City should be left in no doubt that British Airways can move flights elsewhere if it ramps up airport charges to fund its investment,” it said. “BA’s customers will not swallow increased fares to fund unrealistic returns for a monopoly airport supplier.”

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BA’s CityFlyer division operates 13 Embraer E190s and six E170s from LCY. BA mainline handles the LCY-JFK service.

New owners might question whether BA would really pull the plug on an airport whose passengers include an unusually high proportion of last-minute bookers who pay top rate for the privilege. However, as trade unions have discovered to their cost in the past, bluffing in a poker game with IAG’s no-nonsense CEO Willie Walsh is a high-risk strategy.
Meanwhile, unrest has also arisen from new, nationally-mandated area navigation (RNAV) regulations, which will have the effect of funnelling aircraft departing LCY into a tight corridor to improve efficiency. Anti-noise campaigners say this will create ‘noise ghettos’ for those underneath it.

Ironically, complaints are coming not from the airport’s immediate surroundings, probably because some 85% of the airport’s 2000 employees come from Newham, one of London’s poorest boroughs. Instead, mutterings have arisen from suburbs a few miles from the airport, over which climbing aircraft will pass at an altitude of a few thousand feet.

LCY can probably overcome this problem. Whether it can do the same with Mayor Johnson’s refusal to allow expansion lies in the hands of the government inspector.


mail.google.comAlan Dron is an AirwaysNews.com contributor with a vast experience as a writer in daily newspapers in the UK and Middle East for 15 years. After moving into corporate publishing, Dron has been an independent writer during the last decade, specializing in several areas including aviation, notably with specialist publications such as Flight International, Arabian Aerospace and African Aerospace.


Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Images: First Alaska Airlines 737-900ER In New Branding

Still no site of this scheme in the sun in Seattle, even on a dull overcast sky it still looks sharp!

Still no sight of this scheme in the sun in Seattle. Even on a dull overcast sky the new Alaska Airlines scheme still looks sharp!

Photos and Story By: Brandon Farris / Published: February 05, 2016

On a typical, gloomy wet afternoon in Seattle, the first new re-branded Alaska Airlines 737-990ER (N494AS, MSN 41729/LN 5768) took to the skies for the first time this week.

The aircraft rolled out of the Boeing paint hangar earlier in the week at Boeing Field adorned in the new livery.

300_4965With Alaska Airlines having just unveiled the new scheme just ten days prior, this 737-990ER was shrouded in some secrecy on the Boeing Renton flight line prior to its first flight on Wednesday January 27th. It rolled out of the final assembly line with a white rudder and its winglets masked by some sort of plastic wrap to help mask its identity prior to the Alaska unveiling event last Monday. With the flight line in full view of photographers from a viewing park, this was done so as not to spoil the debut of the new livery.

This 737 will be the 150th in the fleet barring Alaska retiring a 737-400 or 737-700 prior to the delivery of N494AS.  It will be the 36th 737-900ER and 48th 737-900 overall after they took delivery of N493AS on Friday just after the MAX completed its first flight, that one was still in the interim scheme.

Alaska Airlines was the launch customer for the initial batch of 737-900s but after not achieving the expected range they switched to the 737-800 for the majority of the fleet before going back to the 737-900ER after if had proven its legs. Alaska still has another 29 737-900ER’s on order along with 20 737 MAX 8s and 17 737 MAX 9s.


Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Contact the photographer at brandon.farris12@gmail.com

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Gulf Air Takes Center Stage at Bahrain Air Show

By: Alan Dron in London / Published: February 2, 2016

Bahrain International Air Show feels much like its Dubai counterpart did when it started out some 30 years ago – informal and relaxed.

Unlike most major shows where access to company chalets means running a gauntlet of granite-faced security men, it’s still possible – at least for journalists – to waft into a building at the Sakhir air base and have a sporting chance of sitting down with a senior executive, even a CEO.

Gulf Air 787-8 Over Bahrain Harbor Artwork K64263

The big announcement at the January 21-23 event was local carrier Gulf Air’s re-fleeting plans. The airline telegraphed this by publicizing a meeting with Airbus last September, but combined its European order with one for Boeing. The US component came in the form of an adjustment in Gulf Air’s longstanding order for ’12 to 16’ Boeing 787s. (The number was dependent on the airline’s financial position.) The carrier switched its order from the previously-announced 787-8 to one for 16 larger 787-9s.

Gulf Air at present operates six A330s for its long-haul sectors to London, Manila and Bangkok. “The last thing we want to do is operate two wide-body types,” acting CEO Maher Salman Al Musallam said immediately before the show opened. (Al Musallam tendered his resignation just days after the show finished.)

“Is the -8 the correct answer for Gulf Air? No. I need a high-density aircraft to go to Manila and Bangkok. The -8 is fine for flying to London, but not to Bangkok and Manila because of the number of passengers.” Ten will be delivered from 2018-20, with a second batch pencilled in for 2023-24 – although the latter may be cancelled or remarketed if Gulf Air feels it no longer requires them.

A320neo_Gulf_AirThe move to the 787 meant that Gulf Air’s existing order for six replacement Airbus A330-300s was dropped. The European manufacturer instead picked up 17 A321neos and 12 A320neos, although 10 of these were confirmations of an earlier deal. Nine of the A321neos will be standard versions, while eight will be extended-range variants capable of flying to Western Europe. Intriguingly, Al Musallam raised doubts as to whether Gulf Air will proceed with plans to buy 10 Bombardier CSeries CS100s. Talks with the Canadian manufacturer are due imminently, with a decision likely by around March.

Gulf Air is apparently tired of waiting for the delayed regional jet and Al Musallam said he had doubts whether an airline of Gulf Air’s size – it currently has a 28-strong fleet of six A330-200s and 22 A320-family members – should have a third distinct type in its inventory. Cancellation would be a blow for the Canadian aircraft, for which orders remain stubbornly reluctant to materialize.

Elsewhere at the show Kuwait Airways’ new CEO, Abdullah Al Sharhan, insisted that the airline was emerging from two decades of non-investment.

Its ancient fleet – it has just put five Airbus A300-600 and five A310-300s up for sale for which, remarkably, there have been several bidders – is being rapidly modernized, with new leased A320 and A330s steadily arriving.

A330-200 MSN1626 KUWAIT AIRWAYS DETAILSOne of the new A330s was in the static display. The symbolism behind its appearance was significant. “We want to show everyone that this is the new Kuwait Airways,” said Al Sharhan. It is understood that the standard of cabin services is also being improved. Al Sharhan wants to win back customers who have drifted away to Kuwaiti hybrid carrier Jazeera Airways or other Gulf carriers. At present, the national airline carries just 20% of passengers using Kuwait International Airport and is seeking to double that figure.

RELATED: Kuwait Airways: Mirages, Mis-steps and the Middle East’s Longest Privatization

It is also looking at its route structure. It has recently scrapped its long-running fifth-freedom service between New York JFK and London Heathrow. This followed an incident in which an Israeli passport-holder wishing to travel from New York was refused a ticket. The US Department of Transport said this broke US law. Kuwait Airways said that Kuwaiti law forbade it from carrying Israeli passport-holders or residents. The London-New York service has now been replaced by Kuwait-London and Kuwait-New York sectors.

RELATED: U.S. Department of Transport: Kuwait Airways Discriminates Against Israeli Citizens

Al Sharhan said it was now looking at its four other fifth-freedom routes (Rome-Paris, Frankfurt-Geneva, Bangkok-Manila and Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta), with replacement direct services being considered.

Saudi hybrid carrier flynas said it was talking to Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier to more than double its fleet to around 60 aircraft, with the US and European carriers the more likely candidates.

CEO Paul Byrne said it remained difficult to make money, given Saudi government fare caps for domestic flights and subsidized fuel provided to national flag-carrier Saudia. However, he could detect signs that Saudi regulator, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, was changing: “It’s no longer the political wing of Saudia, it’s becoming more of a regulator.” A more business-friendly attitude was apparent and he could detect a gradual loosening of regulation.

Competition in Saudi Arabia will increase when two new carriers, Saudi Arabia-based SaudiGulf Airlines and Qatar Airways subsidiary Al Maha Airways, eventually receive Air Operator’s Certificates. The AOC process has been protracted. Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker – normally never short of something to say – broke the habit of a lifetime by declining to comment on the matter.


mail.google.comAlan Dron is an AirwaysNews.com contributor with a vast experience as a writer in daily newspapers in the UK and Middle East for 15 years. After moving into corporate publishing, Dron has been an independent writer during the last decade, specializing in several areas including aviation, notably with specialist publications such as Flight International, Arabian Aerospace and African Aerospace.


Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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Image Gallery and Personal Reflections From Boeing 737-8 MAX First Flight

The new Boeing 737-8 MAX fights a crosswind approach into Boeing Field to complete its first flight.

The new Boeing 737-8 MAX fights a crosswind approach into Boeing Field to complete its first flight.

Photos and Story By: Brandon Farris / Published: January 31, 2016

On Friday the Boeing 737-8 MAX took to the skies for the very first time beginning a year long flight test campaign that is expected to wrap up in the first quarter of 2017.

The MAX is Boeing’s response to Airbus and its NEO which just had its first delivery to Lufthansa earlier this month in the form of the A320. Boeing was able to get MAX off the ground ahead of schedule by three days as it wasn’t expected to actually fly until Monday February 1st which is a good sign as the manufacturer actually gets a head start on its test campaign.

N8701Q is the first of four Boeing 737-8 MAX test airplanes and will eventually be delivered to the launch customer Southwest Airlines in November of 2017. This photo review displays all angles from the departure from Renton, a couple of inflight photos from Boeing and then on to the arrival and post flight press conference at Boeing Field.

Renton Departure

The morning begins at 5:45am to my buzzing alarm, an excitement begins to settle in as my brain quickly clicks to realize the fact that the Boeing 737-8 MAX is about to take to the skies on its first flight While it was not scheduled until 10am, media had to meet at 7:45am and Seattle traffic on a Friday morning soggy commute is not a reason you want to miss your date with history.

As expected the traffic was in full force and we arrives into Renton on a raining morning at about 7:15am to wait for the bus to the Renton Airport. As we wait with other members of the media, Boeing sent out an email alert that the first flight had been moved up to 9:30am to depart ahead of the winds and squally weather that could prevent the first MAX to take to begin its first mission. We arrived airside at about 8:20am. Between the rain, slight wind we were still able to feel a palpable buzz in the air.

As thousands of employees make their way to designated viewing areas along the runway, even in the pouring rain, nearly every single one of them is walking with a smile on their face as they understand what an important step this is for the carrier in the narrowbody market. To your everyday average traveler, the Boeing 737-8 MAX looks just like any other 737 that has been gracing the skies for the past 49 years seen around the globe as nearly 9000 in total have been delivered to hundreds of airlines.

CEO Ray Conner awaits in the rain.

CEO Ray Conner awaits in the rain.

As the rain continued to pour a “Thank You Team” with a 737 tail banner lifted above the crowd to a cheer as the clock continues to get closer to showtime. Finally, at 9:40am. Boeing MAX 1, IA001, N8701Q, dubbed the “Spirit of Renton” began to taxi out of the East Side stall four and takes a left turn down taxiway Bravo for the end of runway 34.

Thank You Team banner

Thank You Team banner

At 9:45, Boeing MAX 1 lined up on 34 as it waits for the T33 chase plane to set up for the departure. Aas the T33 made its run down the west side of the field, the Spirit of Renton released the brakes and began its roll down 34 for a max power take off. Using about 2/3rds of the runway, the first Boeing 737-8 MAX rotated gracefully into the Seattle sunshine and lifted off at 9:46am to begin its two and a half hour first flight to monstrous applause and roars from the crowd that was even louder then the departure as the new CFM Leap-1B engines quietly propelled the aircraft skyward. Those who have helped build the 737 into the workhorse that the aircraft has turned into for some airlines as they watch the latest edition of it take to the skies after nearly 50 years of sweat and blood that have been sacrificed for the type.

Following the take off, all the media hopped back onto the bus to head back for our cars. From there it was a mad rush down to Boeing Field as you had to get there quickly just in case the aircraft has an issue and needs to return early.

As luck would have it the flight would continue to go to plan and we arrive to the latest news that it was still about an hour and a half out. In the interim, we were given a quick look at the new Seattle Delivery Center where most 737s are handed off to customers.

Senior VP Pat Shanahan gives the camera a smile after the MAX lifts off for the first time.

Boeing Senior VP Pat Shanahan gives the camera a smile after the MAX lifts off for the first time.

While we were driving over Boeing shared these two great images with the media from inflight and showed the Boeing 737-8 MAX with its gear up at a cruising altitude between FL 150 and 250 above the inclement weather below.

Seattle Arrival

Most of the media were tracking the flight on many different resources from Flightaware to Flightradar24 and watched what the airplane was doing. After much anticipation, at about 12:15pm we received word that it’s time to head back out to the runway to capture the first landing of the Boeing 737-8 MAX. Everyone kept an eye to the skies and their viewfinders as The Spirit of Renton edged ever to so close to Boeing Field in an attempt to be the first to spot in and alert everyone to where it was in the approach process.

Around 12:45pm she broke into view on top of the Port of Seattle cranes and began her final approach path down for 13R, crabbing most of the way down as Captain Ed Wilson (pilot-in-command) and Captain Craig Bomben fight a strong crosswind on the approach. As they shoot the top of the runway numbers one final strong tap on the rudder straightened the MAX out for the center line. They gracefully floated down about 1500 feet down the runway before finally making contact back with the ground and threw the CFM Leap-1B engines into reverse thrust and bring the aircraft to a quick halt.

After exiting the runway, the Spirit of Renton taxied down taxiway Bravo to the Boeing Seattle South Gate where it was marshalled to a stop, the Leaps were shutdown, and MAX was towed into the Boeing ramp to the awaiting journalist, VIPs, staff, and executives.

After N8701Q blocked in, where the press conference was going to be held, ground agents pull up the staircase and opened the main cabin door. Captain Wilson and Captain Bomben emerged from the cabin with a triumphant but understated thumbs up as they deplane. Greeting them is Boeing CEO Ray Conner and their families with copious smiles to go around.

 

From there the press conference is held with the two pilots and one of the 737 bosses who take questions from the media about the flight and program, then the time comes for pictures with members of the 737 team and the pilots infront the MAX before the pilots are dragged away to a post flight briefing to discuss with the engineers how the flight went and bring up anything significant that happened.

Overall the Boeing 737-8 MAX is one sharp looking aircraft in comparison to the NG 737s now being delivered. While the Split-Scimitar was a visual and more importantly fuel burn upgrade to the current 737s in comparison, the new winglet on the MAX become the centerpiece. The chevrons on the back of the CFM Leap-1B engines, echoing  the 787 and 747-8, are very eye appealing. The 737 MAX overall will surely be a welcome addition to the skies.

RELATED: The First Boeing 737 MAX Takes to the Skies

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EXCLUSIVE GALLERY: Boeing 737 MAX Taxi Tests Complete

016_3856All Photos By: Brandon Farris / Published: January 29, 2016

The Boeing 737 MAX completed its last major hurdle as it prepares for its first flight today. Our photographer Brandon Farris was on hand to capture this gallery of the historic first taxi ever for the 737 MAX, N8701Q, that will eventually be delivered to Southwest Airlines.

RELATED: The Boeing 737 MAX Makes First Flight

 


Editor’s noteOur readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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JetBlue Unveils a New Experience for Customers at Fort Lauderdale

By: Cody Diamond / Published: January 28, 2016

In December 2015, JetBlue Airways (B6) unveiled its new interactive customer experience in Terminal 3 at the Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (FLL). The airline, which is FLL’s largest carrier, operated a peak of 96 daily flights during the busy December holiday season.

The new check-in experience for passengers includes a full international area and a large, open check-in area for all flights, both with JetBlue branding. Previously, the check-in area was hard to find, and space restricted.

IMG_1404JetBlue is the first carrier to introduce a check-in environment where the passenger is as involved as they wish to be. There are added self-serve kiosks from the original configuration, or, for those wishing to check luggage and interact with a crew member, full-service open counters.

The scales that weigh bags at the open counters have space for the customer to step behind them and view the screen with the crew member to view all fares or baggage fees as the employee sees them. This arrangement allows a seamless, yet personal touch to service. Where other carriers have “heads down” employees constantly facing a screen, allowing the customer to view the screen with the employee makes them feel less isolated and more informed, as Jason Annunziata, JetBlue’s project director at FLL explained.IMG_1403To further involve the customer, JetBlue crewmembers are scattered throughout the check in area with iPads to check passengers in remotely from the counters or kiosks. These iPads also display JetBlue’s most current flight information from the System Operations Center (SOC), and will show delays and loads, and even the aircraft ship number for those Avgeeks.

IMG_1406

The new terminal check-in area was largely done behind the original one. The offices located at the back were removed, and then once the new area was constructed, the original wall was removed, unveiling the new full-service counters. This was all done in just a few months from July to November.

Terminal 4, which serves JetBlue’s international arrivals, and the only terminal to have a Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility, will be joined with Terminal 3 via a walkway next year. For now, customers with connections between terminals have to clear security once more, but the airline expects to offer a seamless connection between both terminals shortly.

Also, in the near future, Terminals 3 and 4 will offer mode dining options. JetBlue, as well as other carriers are looking forward to an exciting time of growth as construction nears its completion.


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ANALYSIS: Kenya Airways May Launch Service to the US

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published January 15, 2016

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airways News 2014

Kenya Airways may launch service to the United States as early as May of this year. According to a report from South African newspaper Business Day, the SkyTeam member is keen to launch direct (potentially one stop) service to the United States from its core hub at Nairobi in order to boost tourism and business ties with the United States. The new service would be contingent on Kenya passing a safety audit from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That audit should be completed by March of 2015, and Kenya Airways would ramp up to add service soon after.

The financial viability of this route for Kenya Airways is questionable

Kenya Airways is one of the larger carriers in Africa without nonstop service to the US, but like its fellow African flag carrier South African Airways, it is saddled with debt. Earlier in this decade, Kenya Airways had grand plans to follow in the footsteps of Ethiopian Airlines and become a global African airline. To support that plan, the airline rapidly grew its fleet, adding Boeing 777-300ERs and the Boeing 787 in succession. But the 777-300ERs and even 777-200ERs in its fleet proved to be too large for the route network, especially after tourist demand collapsed in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks since 2011.

Kenya Airways is now in dire financial straits despite the boon of lower fuel prices, saddled with debt and selling off its fleet of 777 variants. Far from achieving its dream of becoming a major global player, Kenya Airways has instead converged upon a strategy focused on serving its immediate backyard (Sub-Saharan and North Africa) as well as Europe, with a fleet where the largest aircraft is the ultra-efficient 787-8. The Kenyan government may even have to step in to recapitalize the airline, and that alone should be a decent signal that launching a new route to the United States probably isn’t the smartest move.

That being said, if Kenya Airways does plan to follow through with a new flight to the US, the method that would make the most sense would be to extend one of its existing services to Europe (emulating Ethiopian) using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The destinations that make the most sense are either Washington or New York. In particular Washington D.C. is home to a plurality of the ~95,000 Kenyan Americans and has the added benefit of travel related to government work as well as top NGOs.

Kenya Airways’ only three European destinations are Amsterdam, London and Paris, and given slot constraints, Paris Charles de Gaulle or Amsterdam would be the obvious choice for a stopover point. Less likely would be launching a new route, perhaps restarting service to Frankfurt or Rome for this new direct route to the US. But wherever Kenya Airways elects to stop over, it will likely not be enough to prevent the financial impact of this ill-fated route to cascade in Nairobi.

Featured and slider image courtesy of JDL multimedia


VinayVinay Bhaskara covers finance, operations and regulatory matters surrounding the U.S. and international airline industry. Bhaskara has been quoted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post, The LA Times, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider and Skift. You can contact him at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com.


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ANALYSIS: A350 Challenges Are Transitory

By: Vinay Bhaskara / Published: January 14, 2016

A350-Test-Flight-13The delivery of the first Airbus A350 (an A350-900) to Singapore Airlines has been delayed, according to a report in Australian Business Traveler. The aircraft was scheduled to be delivered this month, but initial delivery was delayed due to issues with the interiors (seats and toilets) provided by component manufacturer Zodiac Aerospace.

Singapore Airlines told Australian Business Traveler that delivery of the aircraft is now projected for the first quarter of 2016, with the entry into service (EIS) targeted for March or early April. Singapore Airlines is the largest customer for the A350-900 (second largest for the A350 overall) with 67 aircraft on order and in October of 2015 became the launch customer for the A350-900ULR. This ultra long haul (ULH) plane will be used by Singapore Airlines to restart nonstop flights from Singapore to the US.

An uneven 2015 builds into challenging early 2016

After ending 2014 on a tear, peaking in November when it won a key head-to-head battle with Boeing over 747-400 replacement for Delta, the A350 program had a more topsy-turvy experience in 2015. The year did start with a bang when the A350 had its first revenue flight with Qatar Airways. But, despite record sales for Airbus overall, the A350 actually lost 3 net orders in 2015, as opposed the 71 won by the Boeing 787 family. Some of the lack of sales momentum is certainly driven by the fact that the A350 is sold out till 2021 (lessor slots sold out until 2019).

The decline in fuel prices has reduced the impetus for carriers to replace current generation widebody fleets, and carriers with urgent replacement needs simply can’t turn to the A350 if they need frames before 2019. This factor has certainly driven incremental orders to the Airbus A330-900neo and Boeing 777-300ER, which could help explain these aircraft’s relative sales momentum in 2015. However, Leeham News also posited in a commentary published yesterday that Airbus appeared to shift its sales focus in 2015 away from the A350 to the A380 (which only managed a paltry 3 sales of white tail aircraft to ANA).

And in spite of winning a new A350-1000 customer in early 2016, the new year hasn’t eased the pressure on Airbus’ next generation widebody. Zodiac Aerospace is a real problem for the A350, as Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier and lead salesman John Leahy both admitted in the carrier’s annual order/delivery results press conference Tuesday. Zodiac’s struggles to deliver its parts on time and on spec have hampered A350 production (as Zodiac is a single source supplier for the seats/toilets of the A350). Zodiac’s screw ups in 2015 prevented Airbus from meeting its annual delivery target of 15 aircraft, and threaten to do the same to the target of 50 deliveries in 2016 if Zodiac doesn’t get its act together.

Between constant issues with Zodiac and poor sales momentum, the A350 isn’t in a great position at the start of 2016. But it is important to separate the signal from the noise. The A350 is still an ultra-efficient aircraft that Airbus has launched into service with strong dispatch reliability (targeting 98.5% in 2016) and excellent technical quality thanks to its judicious approach to program development. There are also still hundreds of Boeing 777s and Airbus A330/A340s that don’t have replacement orders on tap yet (for example Saudia’s fleet of 23 Boeing 777-200ERs), so longer run sales prospects are bright. We also believe that Airbus will clear the issues with Zodiac in the first half of this year, clearing the path for a smooth ramp up of production in the back half of the year.


VinayVinay Bhaskara covers finance, operations and regulatory matters surrounding the U.S. and international airline industry. Bhaskara has been quoted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post, The LA Times, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider and Skift. You can contact him at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com.


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Air France Retires the Boeing 747-400 – Who’s Next?

By: Benjamin Bearup / Published: January 13, 2016

Air France says au revoir to the Queen of the Skies as the carrier retires its final Boeing 747-400 this week. After more than four and a half decades of flying with Air France, the Boeing 747 flew out of Air France’s fleet and into retirement on January 11th as flight 439 touched down at Paris Charles de Gaulle from Mexico City.

Photo courtesy of Air France

Photo courtesy of Air France

While officially retired from revenue service, Air France’s last 747 will operate two remembrance flights to honor the historic aircraft above the skies of France and several Paris landmarks on Thursday, January 14th. On the flights, passengers will be served complementary Business Class lunches and Champagne while enjoying commentary about France, its heritage, its history, and its legendary landmarks including Mont Blanc, Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Mont St. Michel. The honor flights will take off from Paris Charles de Gaulle at 9am and 11:30am with the unique flight numbers of AF744 and AF747. Upon completing the honor flights, guests will be invited to share a drink as a final tribute at the foot of the aircraft.

AFR744MEX-2While the honor flights are restricted to executives, Air France employees, and respected customers, members of the general public will also be given the opportunity to visit the Queen of the Skies before she heads to the desert. Partnering with the Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget, Air France is inviting members of the public to reserve a tour of the 747 on January 16th and 17th by reserving an appointment. The free tour will allow visitors to tour the ramp with 747 mechanics, vie business and economy class, and visit the upper deck and cockpit with an Air France pilot.

The Boeing 747 entered service with Air France on June 3rd, 1970 with a flight from Paris to New York.  In the 747’s cabin, Air France created a culture of service innovation. The introduction of a chief purser enabled the coordination of service and attention paid to customers in an aircraft which could carry up to 500 passengers. Inflight cuisine was of great importance, with menus designed by great French chefs: Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre and Pierre Troisgros, who forged exclusive partnerships with Air France. And the cabin interior was designed by Pierre Gautier-Delaye, who paid particular attention to the comfort of the seat cushions and seatbacks.

Air_France_747_60747117681970-air-france-747-launch-brochure_8849Within a few short years the 747 became the flagship of the Air France fleet, primarily operating long haul flights to North America and Asia. Air France took delivery of its first 747-100 in 1970 and received its first 747-200F in 1974. The carrier would later add the 747-200B in 1977, the 747-300 and 747-400 in 1991, and two variations of the 747-400F in 2002 and 2009. In total, Air France operated 52 747 aircraft across seven variants, flying every type of 747 except the 747SP and the 747-8.

EXTRA FROM THE ARCHIVE: Air France Boeing 747 Launch Brochure – 1971

air-france-boeing-747-100-cutaway-at-france-museum-of-air-and-space-2010_14776Facing rising fuel prices and sluggish revenues, Air France began to remove the 747-400 from the fleet in 2012. The 747s were steadily replaced with a mix of Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A380-800s. The last 747F already left the Air France Cargo fleet in 2014, while the crews of last five 747-400s in service have been redeployed on the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A320. And since no Air France 747-400s will be available for long run display, the 747-100 on display at the Air & Space Museum at Le Bourget will be the sole witness of the Golden Jumbo era at the French carrier.

PHOTO GALLERY: Inside The Air France Boeing 747-100 at Le Bourget

The steady sunset of the 747-400

Air France joins Air Canada, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Singapore Airlines in retiring the 747-400 in recent years. Up until 2014, high fuel prices drove many carriers to retire the fuel inefficient 747-400, which has now largely been replaced largely by the 777-300ER.

Despite Air France’s retirement of the 747, Europe remains home to several of the largest 747 operators in the world. With 41 aircraft operating high capacity routes out of London Heathrow, British Airways appears to be in no hurry to retire its remaining 747 fleet. In fact, in September 2015 British Airways announced it will retrofit 18 747-400’s with new interiors and update in-flight entertainment options. Other European operators of the 747 include KLM with 24, CargoLux with 22, Virgin Atlantic with 10, and Lufthansa with 32.

While airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa, Air China, and others will continue the legacy of the 747, others will soon be retiring their fleets. In North America, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines both plan to retire their 747 fleets shortly. Delta began the retirement process last year, ordering 25 A350-900s as a replacement, and will say goodbye to its final 747 in 2017. United Airlines, with a fleet of 22 747’s, has begun the slow process of retiring its 747s as well. The airline will retire 2-3 747 aircraft annually until the A350-1000 enters the fleet in 2018.

RELATED: Then and Now – 45 Years of Boeing 747 Passenger Experience

Upon arrival in Paris on the 11th, the final 747 flight taxied in front of Air France Headquarters where hundreds of employees waved farewell. A final water salute was given as the jumbo made one final turn in front of emotional employees. As the final chapter of the Air France 747 comes to a close, we are one step closer to seeing the end of the 747-400 in passenger service altogether.


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ANALYSIS: Emirates Brings A380 to Washington Dulles

by Staff / Published January 12, 2016

Emirates A380 - Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2013

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airways News 2013

Emirates will become the third carrier to fly the Airbus A380 to Washington Dulles from February 1, 2016, joining Air France and British Airways in operating the superjumbo to the nation’s capital. The current daily Boeing 777-300ER service will be up-gauged to a 3-class Airbus A380 seating 489 ( 14F/76 J/399Y ) or 517 ( 14F/76 J/427Y ), utilizing the same schedule as the current flights (see below).

Flight Schedule

EK 231 // DXB-IAD // D: 0220 A: 0815 // Daily
EK 232 // IAD-DXB // D: 1015 A: 0800+1 // Daily

Stepping up at Dulles in the wake of United’s departure

Emirates’ increase in service comes just one month after American legacy carrier United Airlines announced the cancellation of its own daily service between Washington D.C. and Dubai by January 25, 2016. United had launched the nonstop service to Dubai with a Boeing 777-200ER into the teeth of a recession back in 2008 and initially found great success thanks to US government contracts for shuttling troops to and from the Middle East. However, after President Obama followed through with plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, United’s fortunes on the route steadily declined.

By 2014 (three years into the withdrawal), government contract demand to the Middle East had dwindled, forcing United to compete for unaligned passengers with all of the Middle East Big 3 (MEB3). Emirates and Etihad had joined Qatar Airways in DC by launching service in 2013, and United found itself increasingly at a disadvantage competing for origin and destination passengers heading to the Middle East that weren’t bound to United by a corporate contract.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was the awarding of a US General Services Administration (GSA) contract for travel to the Middle East to JetBlue instead of United for 2016. JetBlue doesn’t even serve the Middle East (or offer much service at Washington Dulles for that matter), but would instead service those passengers via its code share partner Emirates. While the total number of passengers affected by the contract is small (15,000 annually or ~28 per day in each direction), it was apparently a tipping point for United.

Conversely for Emirates, the new flows via JetBlue will be a nice initial boost towards its prospects of filling an extra 150 seats in the new A380. Since Emirates Additionally all three Middle Eastern carriers, as well as Turkish Airlines (which offers daily service from Istanbul to Dulles) will benefit from United’s departure from this route by gaining incremental demand for their own flights. Passengers will also get a nice boost in service, as Emirates’ A380s feature a comfortable 1-2-1 configuration in business class instead of the cramped, below industry standard 2-3-2 product offered on the Boeing 777-300ER. And (luckily for them?) Washington Dulles has strong demand for paid first class, so Emirates decided against bringing its 615-seat A380 to the route.

RELATED: The Emirates Premium Experience Part I
RELATED: The Emirates Premium Experience Part II
RELATED: The Emirates Premium Experience Part III

Emirates up to nine daily A380 flights to United States

With the new route, Emirates will now offer nine daily A380 flights to the United States at its peak across seven different routes (six destinations). New York JFK (one of the oldest A380 destinations in Emirates’ network) continues to see three daily nonstop A380 flights to Dubai as well as an additional daily A380 flight on the fifth freedom route via Milan Malpensa to Dubai. Houston and San Francisco each see daily A380 service, as does Los Angeles at present. Los Angeles will also get an additional, second daily A380 flight beginning July 1st.

Emirates’ A380 network across the United States is certainly impressive, but chances are there are additional destinations on tap for Emirates’ superjumbo. Boston and Seattle both see double daily services on Boeing 777 aircraft and are thus prime candidates for an up-gauge while Chicago O’Hare also has the O&D demand to sustain the superjumbo

Featured Image and Slider Image Courtesy of JDL Multimedia


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The R2-D2 ANA Jet Transports Star Wars Movie Cast Between Premieres in USA and UK

By: Staff / Published: December 16, 2015

The force is strong with ANA. This week the Japanese carrier shuttled the cast and crew of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” between the movie’s world premieres in the United States and United Kingdom.

ANA’s custom R2-D2 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner flew stars Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, the director of The Force Awakens J.J. Abrams, and producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy on a chartered flight from Los Angeles to London. The flight number NH1977 to honor the first Star Wars film released in 1977.

“ANA is proud to be part of the global celebration for Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” said Osamu Shinobe, President and CEO of ANA. This year, All Nippon Airways and Disney announced a partnership to paint three aircraft as a promotion of the coming movies of the Saga.

RELATED: Boeing, ANA Unveil the First Themed Star Wars Dreamliner

Through the Star Wars™ Project, All Nippon Airways expects to raise awareness of its brand internationally, besides connecting Star Wars fans around the world. “As we fly passengers to Japan and across the world, we aim to provide our guests with the magic and joy that these films spark. As the first aircraft to be decorated with Star Wars livery, there was no question that the R2-D2™ ANA JET was chosen to fly between the U.S. and U.K. premieres of Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Shinobe said.

The cast of the movie hit the red carpet for the film’s global premiere in Hollywood, where they signed a scale model of the forthcoming BB-8 ANA jet, a Boeing 777-300ER to debut in March 2016, mainly on routes between North America and Japan.

RELATED: May the Force Be With ANA New Star Wars Planes


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Etihad’s Airbus A380 Debuts in New York

By: Staff / Published: November 24, 2015

Etihad Airways has celebrated yesterday the arrival of its Airbus A380 service to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK), replacing one of the two daily flights to Abu Dhabi served by a Boeing 777-300ER, and offering the airline’s latest cabin products, including its acclaimed three-room suite The Residence by Etihad, available for $32,000 one way between New York and Abu Dhabi.

“The arrival of our A380 service at JFK International Airport is an important milestone for Etihad Airways as we respond to increased demand from our guests traveling between New York and Abu Dhabi and it represents the significant growth our airline has undergone in just 12 years of operation,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ President and Chief Executive Offer.Etihad Airways A380 JFK Flags

“The revolutionary products found on board Etihad Airways’ fleet of A380s completely reimagine commercial aviation standards and we are proud to bring them to our guests traveling between the U.S. to Abu Dhabi and beyond.”

The daily Airbus A380 service will now depart Abu Dhabi International Airport daily at 03:20, arriving in New York at 09:10. The return service will then depart JFK Airport at 14:20, arriving back in the UAE capital at 12:15 the following day.

Besides The Residence suite available, Etihad’s A380s offer nine First Class Suites, 70 Business Class seats and 415 Economy Class seats. The Residence by Etihad is exclusive to Etihad Airways’ fleet of A380s, which currently serve London’s Heathrow, Sydney and now New York’s JFK, with service to Mumbai and Melbourne scheduled to begin May 1, 2016 and June 1, 2016, respectively. The airline’s A380 fleet will grow to include a total of 10 double deckers.

RELATED: Etihad’s “The Residence” Reviewed By First Passenger


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ANALYSIS: Porter Airlines Future is Uncertain Without Toronto City Runway Extension

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published November 17, 2015

Early November, the newly elected Liberal Canadian government reiterated its commitment to not allow jet aircraft at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport. The downtown airport, located on the Toronto Islands directly south of downtown Toronto, is the home base and largest hub for regional carrier Porter Airlines, which is Canada’s third largest carrier (a distant third behind Air Canada and WestJet. The move by local denizens of Canada’s now-majority party threatens an order for up to 30 (12 firm + 18 option) CS100 airframes from troubled Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier.

C-GKQD_Dash_DH.8-400_Porter_(7637272300)Porter Airlines, founded in 2006, has built its business model around the convenience offered by Billy Bishop Airport, located just a few minutes away from Toronto’s Central Business District. Between 2006 and 2011, Porter was a growth engine, building rapidly up to a fleet of 26 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 aircraft. But due to constraints at its home base (including slot caps), and a lack of suitable destinations within the Q400’s performance window, Porter has been basically stagnant since that point. The order for the CS100 was aimed at allowing Porter to resume growth and broaden its geographic reach, while also giving it the flexibility to expand using its Q400s throughout Eastern Canada. However, the CS100 requires 4,800 feet of runway for operations, necessitating the proposed 400 meter extension of the runway at Billy Bishop to more than 5,300 feet.

Understanding Porter’s network and the need for the CS100s

As it has been since its inception, today Porter Airlines is heavily focused on its hub at Toronto City, where it offers close an average of 75 flights per day, offering service to 15 destinations (10 in Canada) year round, as well as 5 seasonal ones (1 in Canada). The table below provides an overview of Porter’s operations at Billy Bishop, and as it indicates, Porter’s routes largely fall into three buckets: high frequency services to key business destinations in large markets, low frequency (but still more than daily) flights to regional destinations, and sporadic service to vacation destinations seasonally.

Porter Toronto City Hub

Beyond Toronto City, there isn’t much to Porter’s network, and what little there is focuses on the eastern half of Canada. Within the network, Halifax is a distant second in terms of importance. It offers nonstop service to 4 destinations (interestingly not to Toronto City however), including 31 weekly flights to Ottawa and twice daily flights to Montreal. Halifax is also the only gateway to Newfoundland in Porter’s network, including nonstop service to Stephenville, with seasonal flights once per week in the summer, and St. Johns with 18 flights per week year round. Beyond the Halifax “focus city” (sharply stretching the definition), Porter offers winter seasonal service between Mont Treblant and Newark a couple of times per week, as well as to Montreal a couple of times weekly. Finally, Porter offers daily service between North Bay and Timmins (two regional destinations), and daily service from Ottawa to Moncton. And with no Q400s on order, Porter’s does not appear poised for further growth of this type.

originalIn order to escape the limitations of its current business model, Porter decided to move into a different sandbox by placing the order for the CS100 and planning the runway extension. The smaller CSeries variant, which would seat 100-110 passengers in Porter’s configuration, would allow service to longer-distance destinations like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and the like. This would allow Porter to expand into new, lucrative markets and increase its relevance to Toronto based frequent flyers that require service to the Western United States and/or Western Canada. In order to fund this expansion, Porter sold its terminal at Billy Bishop for $750 million, a massive increase over the $50 million it was valued at back in 2011. This cash is planned to finance 20-25 of the CS100s without forcing Porter to take on additional debt (nearing $350 million at press time).

Even without access to jets, the runway extension is still of critical importance to Porter. Right now, Porter has configured its Q400s with 74 seats instead of 78 because the current runway is on the edge of the performance window for the Q400. With a runway extension, they could fly the Q400 on longer distance routes from Billy Bishop, including nonstop to Newfoundland and Halifax as well as the entire eastern half of US including St. Louis, Minneapolis, and others.

Porter needs to grow into an IPO

Financially, according to our sources, Porter has hovered around break even or slightly above that point for the last four years, since crossing into the black back in 2011. However, these profits haven’t yet been sufficient to pay back Porter’s initial investors, including Borealis Infrastructure, the investment arm of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS). Those initial investors put $125 million into the company back in 2006, and to date the dividends from the paltry profits recorded haven’t come close to generating a viable return for the initial investors.

In order to generate a viable return, Porter needs to hold an initial public offering (IPO) for the company, paying back initial investors with some of the proceeds. But Porter has previously tried an IPO (in 2010), withdrawing its plans when the initial demand was tepid. And Porter isn’t well positioned for an IPO, at least without the CS100s. Investors in an IPO tend to look for one of two things – high and sustainable profit margins, or sharp revenue and customer growth. Right now Porter offers neither of those things, and it probably cannot without a runway extension and/or the right to operate jet aircraft at Billy Bishop.

Options for growth are unclear without a runway extension and jets – but it isn’t over yet

The only other possibility, and an unattractive one at that, is for Porter to expand in the Eastern half of Canada beyond Toronto. This would necessitate either replicating its Billy Bishop strategy at other key business destinations like Montreal or Ottawa, offering more point to point regional service (such as between North Bay and Timmins), or a mix of those two options.

WJEncoreBut Porter’s competitive situation in the eastern half of the country is certain to be squeezed by its much larger rivals, Air Canada Express and WestJet Encore. Air Canada is the current operator on most of these routes, using the same Q400s that Porter flies on regional services from Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax.Meanwhile, WestJet’s regional arm Encore has been highly successful flying regional routes in Western Canada and still has 23 Q400s on order (with 22 already in its fleet). Encore is certain to expand to Eastern Canada, which would handicap Porter’s opportunities for growth given the cost delta between the two carriers.

The one silver lining is that there is a chance that more slots will open up at Toronto City. Air Canada Express has operated 15 flights per day from Billy Bishop for the last 3 years, all to Montreal, competing on what is Porter’s most lucrative route. But as it seeks to strip cost from its business, Air Canada is evaluating withdrawing from Toronto City, where its loss-leader service mostly serves as a thorn in Porter’s side. Assuming WestJet doesn’t step in to fill the void, this would give Porter 15 additional daily slots to play with, which it could use to serve more tier 2 business destinations in the Eastern US like Pittsburgh. Additionally, because its schedule is overloaded on weekdays (most destinations have far fewer flights on weekends), Porter still has some room to play around with Saturday or Sunday only service to vacation destinations with slack in its current fleet.

But none of this is ideal, which is why it’s critical for Porter to win the right to operate the CS100s at Billy Bishop. And despite the immediately bleak prospects, Porter still has some long run cards to play. For example, while opposition to the new flights is high amongst residents of the Islands and Toronto’s waterfront, the overall Toronto metro area is in favor of jets at Billy Bishop. Moreover, Porter has made its CSeries order contingent on winning the right to operate jets at Billy Bishop, and Bombardier is a powerful figure in Canadian politics (look no further than its recent financial backing by the Quebec government). Porter’s cause still has political support, and if it can mobilize its constituents (passengers, particularly business travelers, who value the convenience of Billy Bishop) a little better, then it may still win out in the long run. But for the moment, the status of runway expansion and jets at Billy Bishop is close to dead on arrival. Accordingly, Porter Airlines’ future hangs in the balance.


VinayVinay Bhaskara covers finance, operations and regulatory matters surrounding the U.S. and international airline industry. Bhaskara has been quoted in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and South China Morning Post, The LA Times, and his work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider and Skift. You can contact him at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com.


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