Category Archives: Airplanes and Airports

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.


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.”


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. Dron is an 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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Best of Airways: Istanbul Ataturk Airport

By: Matteo Legnani / Published: February 8, 2016

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Airways magazine.

At Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (IST), excavators work day and night to make space for a new apron with 24 additional parking stands. The Turkish capital airport has a desperate need of places to put airplanes after they land and before they take off again. The existing 128 parking positions, 38 connected to the terminals through boarding bridges, will soon be insufficient for an airport growing at a pace of 10-15% per year in passenger traffic.

Istanbul airport2When the existing international terminal opened back in January 2000, it was built to accommodate 20 million passengers per year. And, with IST recording the previous years was less than 10 million travelers then, the new building seemed more than enough to cope with future growth. What DHMI (Devlet Hava Meydanlari isletmesi—the State General Directorate of Airports Authority) did not calculate at the end of the Nineties, was the imminent boom of resident-carrier Turkish Airlines (TK).

Turkish airlines4

Traditionally known for its poor service, frequent delays and aging aircraft, at the dawn of the new millennium, the Turkish flag carrier was about to transform itself into one of the leading airlines of the world, directly competing with the much-celebrated Gulf countries’ carriers in terms of fleet, worldwide network, connecting passengers and onboard service. In 2004, TK had a fleet of 73 aircraft serving a total of 102 destinations. Ten years later, in November 2014, it had become a “monster airline,” operating 266 airplanes over a network of 258 destinations, 220 of which were outside Turkey. The numbers recorded by Ataturk in the last decade reflect those of Turkish Airlines. In 2004, the airport registered 15,600,601 passengers, with a growth of 29% over the previous year, beginning a rush that has not stopped since. Five years later, in 2009, the figure was doubled with 29,757,384 travelers. In 2013, IST set a new record, registering 51,297,790 passengers (13.8% over 2012), ranking eighteenth in the world and fifth in Europe just behind Amsterdam. At the end of 2015, with over 60 million passengers, putting the Turkish capital airport just behind London LHR, Paris CDG and Frankfurt among the leading European hubs.

Origins and Development

With approximately 1,400 daily movements on average through 2014, all the infrastructures (runways, apron and terminals) are working well beyond their maximum capacity. This situation that was not predicted over sixty years ago, when the airport was inaugurated on August 7, 1953, on a plateau in the suburb of Yesilköy, situated 16 miles (24 km) southwest of the city center. The location, where Westinghouse International Company and IG White Engineering Corporation worked for four years starting in 1949, allowed little space for expansion because of the conformation of the land. Things were worsened by the overwhelming growth of Istanbul during the 1960s and 1970, when the city (today the largest in Europe with around 17 million inhabitants) surrounded the airport on three sides, the fourth side being the Mediterranean Sea.

The initial aerodrome consisted of a 10,000 square foot terminal building with a single runway oriented 06/24 (now 05/23) and 8,456 feet long. At the end of the Sixties, with wide-body aircraft appearing at the horizon of commercial aviation, DHMI decided to build a second runway 9,843 feet long. Completed in 1972, its 18/36 (now 17/35) orientation permitted independent operations, with landings generally on Runway 06 (now 05) and takeoffs from 18 (now 17). The north-south runway was duplicated at the end of the 1970s, the two assuming the present designation of 17L/35R and 17R/35L. The third runway was part of a master plan developed from 1971. The project by architect Hayati Tabanlioglu included Turkish Airlines maintenance hangars, a cargo center, a new ATC tower, aircraft fuel facilities and, most of all, a new 678,150 square foot terminal. It opened its doors on October 29, 1983, and was situated in the “V” shaped area formed by the runways. Still known as Yesilkoy, the almost-entirely-new airport was dedicated in 1985, to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.

At the end of the Nineties, the decision by DHMI to build a new international terminal came together with the privatization of the airport. The consortium made by Tepe Group, Akfen Group and Vienna Airport (hence the acronym “TAV”) won the tender by promising to start airport operations within three years, 8 months and 20 days, and by investing a total of 390 million for a 20 million ppa-terminal and a 7,076-vehicle, multi-story car park (one of the largest in Europe). Today the TAV conglomerate also manages Ankara Esenboğa, Izmir Adnan Menderes and Gazipasa–Alanya airports in Turkey, Tbilisi and Batumi airports in Georgia, Monastir and Enfidha–Hammamet airports in Tunisia, Skopje and Ohrid airports in Macedonia, Madinah Airport in Saudi Arabia and Zagreb airport in Croatia. The area was conceded by DHMI to TAV on February 17, 1998, and, less than two years later, on January 10, 2000, the new terminal started operations. Initial agreement was for a period of five years, but, in 2001, TAV negotiated an amendment to extend the agreement in return for an extension to the international terminal. The $91million (€72 million) project, that included a 30 percent increase of floor surface with three new boarding bridges was concluded in May 2004, giving the terminal an annual capacity of 25.5 million passengers per year, while the concession agreement was extended for another 15.5 years at an amount of $4 billion. In December 2002, the M1 underground line station was inaugurated in the basement of the international terminal, opening a 40-minute-long journey to the city center, situated 15 miles (24km) to the northeast.

Inside Ataturk

Today, IST features a 3,766,792 square foot terminal area handling approximately 1,400 flights and 140,000 passengers per day plus 107,000 pieces of luggage. The 679,924 square foot copper-roofed domestic building sports 96 check-in counters, 12 boarding bridges plus 9 bus gates on the departures floor and 5 baggage carousels on arrivals, while the 3,086,867 square foot international building has a total of 224 check-in counters divided into seven “islands,” 100 passport control counters and 110 security gates, plus 26 boarding bridges and 17 bus gates on departures level with 11 carousels on arrivals.

Istanbul airport3The 2000-vintage international terminal has been judged by the Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers, “One of the Fifty Architectural Wonders of Turkey.” It also gained many accolades; the most recent being named “2013 Airport of the Year” at the Air Transport News Awards ceremony and “Europe’s Best Airport” in the 40-50 million ppa category at the 2013 Skytrax World Airports Awards. Passengers and their luggage have to pass x-ray machines at the entrance before proceeding to the impressive check-in area with its high-vaulted, steel-glass roof. Two different passport and security control areas separate departing passengers in two flows, avoiding long queues even at peak times. Thereafter, travelers find themselves in front of the 81,657 square foot shopping mall, with its 28 stores and three different duty-free areas offering a total of over 100 brands and 50,000 products. A shop in its own class is the Old Bazaar, built to resemble a souk and offering traditional Turkish products (wines, cheese, sweets, and hand-crafted goods). TAV estimates that a total of 482 tons of lokum (traditional jelly sweets) are sold at the airport stores each month.

Dining opportunities include the ever-present fast foods such as Burger King, Sbarro, and Starbucks situated in a food court. It also features restaurants like The Greenport and Kitchenette, offering international cuisine plus the English-style pub, Efes Beerport, where visitors enjoy salads, sandwiches and the renowned Turkish beer, Efes; Cakes and Bakes bakery;cafeterias like Caffè Nero, Cafè-Inn, and Zero Cafè. The kiosks of Simit Sarayi, offers traditional Turkish pastries and desserts. At arrivals (ground) floor, eating opportunities are limited, but compulsive shoppers will find three more duty-free stores. Leaving behind the chaos of the shopping area, passengers finally reach the relative quiet of the boarding concourse, which is probably the most beautiful part of the terminal, with its ample seating and the enormous windows that let in plenty of natural light offering exceptional views of the ramp action.

First Class Terminal

Justifying the prizes gained through the years, IST has a wide variety of treats for high-profile travelers: a total of nine lounges are available for premium passengers. Situated on two floors, Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge is the largest with a surface of 63,510 ft² (5,900 m²). Refurbished at the beginning of 2014, it offers a wide variety of food and beverages, shower rooms, computers and printers, conference rooms, a library, a massage room, a mosque, a playroom for children, billiards and a golf simulator. Skyteam carriers and Emirates have their VIP rooms in the eastern part of the boarding concourse, where their aircraft regularly dock. Millennium Lounge is open to First and Business Class travelers of a number of airlines including Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Iberia, Royal Jordanian, Iran Air, Air Algérie and Royal Air Maroc. Other lounges, like Akbank Wings, TTnet Platin, Comfort Lounge and HSBC Lounge are reserved for clients of banks and internet companies holding gold or platinum credit cards or high-rate contracts. Last, Primeclass Lounge is used by British Airways passengers and those who acquire Primeclass CIP service—for $153 (€124) on departure, or $142 (€114) on arrival,  the service guarantees greeting by a hostess and a porter at the international terminal departures (or arrivals) floor, exclusive security check point, check-in transactions (or baggage retrieval) in the company of a hostess, fast-track passport control, assistance and privileged payment point at duty-free, and transportation to the flight gate (or from the flight gate to the passport controls counters) in special terminal vehicles. For $75 (€60) more, Turkish airlines passengers can have a personalized vehicle take them to the terminal when their aircraft parks at the apron.

During the last ten years, IST has become one of the largest connecting airports in Europe, with 25% of travelers continuing their journey beyond the Turkish capital. After landing, some of them spend less than an hour at Ataturk before boarding another plane, while others have to wait for hours or spend the entire night on the ground. After the dinner hour, it is common to see single passengers or entire families sleeping on the gate seats or even on the floor while waiting for their morning-after flight. But many (more fortunate) others prefer to take a nap or spend the night at the TAV Airport Hotel, located right in the international terminal building. The 128-room, four-star facility has two different entrances: passengers who need a room for a few hours access it directly through the entrance situated in the boarding area of the terminal; those staying for the night have to clear customs, exit the terminal and reach the main entrance of the hotel with a complimentary shuttle bus. Aviation enthusiasts transiting in IST cannot miss a drink at the bar or a meal at the restaurant of the hotel, located at ground floor, only a window separates patrons from the apron, granting a privileged view of the action on the ramp.

Airlines and Destinations

For decades, Turkey was a country that people had to leave (mainly for Germany) in search of an occupation and a better life. But, more recently, the country boasts one of the fastest-developing economies of the world with the Gross National Product having grown from $196 billion in 2001, to $820 billion in 2013, thus attracting migrants from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and former USSR provinces. Not surprisingly, almost half the carriers (28 of 64) that currently serve IST year-round come from these areas: Adria Airways (from Ljubljana), Aeroflot (Moscow), Air Astana (Almaty, Astana, Atyrau, Aktau), Air Bishkek (Bishkek), Air Moldova (Chisinău), Air Serbia (Belgrade), Ariana Afghan Airlines (Kabul), Azerbaijan Airlines (Baku), B&H Airlines (Sarajevo), Belavia (Minsk), Caspian Airlines (Tehran), Dniproavia (Dnipropetrovsk), Iran Air (Tehran Tabriz), Iraqi Airways (Baghdad, Basra, Erbil), Lot Polish (Warsaw), Mahan Air (Isfahan, Tehran), Meraj Airlines (Tehran, Mashad), Middle East Airlines (Beirut), Qeshm Airlines (Tehran), Somon Air (Dushanbe), Tajik Air (Dushanbe), Tarom (Bucarest), Transaero (Moscow), Turkmenistan Airlines (Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi), Ukraine International Airlines (Kiev), Uzbekistan Airlines (Tashkent), Yakutia Airlines (Krasnodar) and Zagros Airlines (Tehran, Erbil).

Long-range operators include Air Canada (B767-300 to Toronto), Asiana Airlines (B777-200 to Seoul Incheon), Korean Air (B777-200 to Seoul Incheon), Malaysia Airlines (B777-200 to Kuala Lumpur), and Singapore Airlines (B777-200 to Singapore). In the summer of 2014, Delta Airlines had a B767-300 daily service to JFK (a service that still has to be confirmed for 2015), while United Airlines codeshares with Star Alliance companion Turkish Airlines on all the TK services to the US, including New York (JFK), Boston, Washington, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (starting April 2015). With approximately 70% of total traffic, the Turkish flag carrier is absolutely the dominant carrier at IST, from where it flies to 220 international plus 38 domestic destinations. Between the end of 2014, and the beginning of 2015, it added Bamako, Conakry and San Francisco. New routes expected to be operational within 2016, include Bogota, Caracas, Havana, Mexico City, and Manila.

Coping with Growth

To cope with the overwhelming growth of traffic volume, DHMI and TAV are working without rest. In February 2010, Runway 05/23 was closed four months to allow complete resurfacing and construction of two more taxiway exits (for a total of five) enabling landing aircraft to clear the runway quicker and allowing a 10% increase in hourly movements from 40 to 45. Also, the ILS category was raised to CAT III. A plan to build a second runway parallel to 05/23 has often been discussed, but finally DHMI chose to use the area to build a new apron inaugurated on November 13, 2014, with 26 additional aircraft parking. The work going on between the terminal area and the same runway will add 24 more parking positions, for a total of 152 ready within the first half of 2015. TAV, on its own side, announced on November 17, 2014 a new agreement with DHMI to expand the terminal area 290,635 square feet, adding eight more boarding bridges, using the space on the eastern side of the building occupied by a former cargo area. A new luggage facility and early baggage storage facility will be realized for the increasing transit passengers of Turkish Airlines, and a new check-in “island” will be built inside the terminal. Outside, the car park will be expanded 182,990 square feet. The investment will be around $93 million (€81 million) with works planned to be completed in 16 months. All revenues resulting from the commercial areas and advertisement areas within the agreement will belong to TAV. The revenues gained from the new car park will be shared with DHMI. “Ataturk airport has become one of the most important of the world and TAV has had a significant share in this achievement, beside DHMI and Turkish Airlines. In the next six years, we will continue our investments without compromising service quality and passenger comfort,” said TAV Airport’s President and CEO, Sani Sener, at the presentation of the agreement.

Farewell Ataturk

TAV has the right to manage Ataturk Airport until 2021, and will be its last operator, since IST is set to close forever when the Istanbul New Airport becomes operational by the end of 2017. On August 13, 2012, the Turkish government approved the location of an entirely new airport in Istanbul to be built in the district of Arnavutköy, north of the European side of the city and near the Black Sea.

Istanbul airport4The construction area extends for a total of 824,434,876 square feet (76,590,000 m²), the majority being State-owned forestland and old, open-coal mines. On May 3, 2013, the Turkish joint-venture consortium of Cengiz-Mapa-Limak-Kolin-Kalyon (that founded SPV-İGA Havalimanı İsletmesi A.S. on October, 7), won the tender for Istanbul’s new airport, and is obliged to pay the government $27.69 billion (€22.15 billion) for a 25-year lease starting in 2017. The foundation stone was laid by then-current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Completion of the construction’s first stage (of five) is set for 2017, with a main terminal capable of 90 million passenger per year, indoor parking with 25,000 vehicles capacity, three independent runways, approximately 43,000,000 square feet of apron and one ATC tower. A second terminal will be built when Terminal 1 reaches 80 million passengers, and a satellite terminal will follow to meet further demand. At final stage, the $12.75 billion (€10,2 billion) project will include six runways, three terminal buildings with 181 boarding bridges for a total floor area of 16,000,000 square feet and a 150,000,000 passenger capacity. The challenge to the European and Gulf Countries hubs is open. Modern Turkey has the ambition and the financial resources to compete, thus perpetuating the role of Istanbul as a bridge between East and West.

Editor’s note: What are the benefits of subscribing to our weekly newsletter? You’ll get a summary of our top stories of the week, along with our exclusive Weekend Reads column and a Photo of the Week from the extensive AirwaysNews archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. 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, 2015

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!

Contact the editor at

Contact the photographer at

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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. Dron is an 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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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, 2015

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, 2015

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


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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.


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

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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

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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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Best of Airways: Scoot, Low-Cost / Long-Haul

By: Andreas Spaeth / Published November 27. 2015

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Airways magazine in its April 2015 issue.

China Airlines Flyaway Photos Jessica Oliver rms276872 cns2014nef

Scoot, owned by Singapore Airlines, is trying to redefine cheap flying on long-haul routes from its home base to Asia and Australia.

There is a long queue inside Gate E3 at Singapore Changi Airport. But it is not made up of people waiting to board Scoot flight TZ 206 to Taipei and Seoul. The air bridge is almost empty. Instead, people line up in front of the only gate-side water fountain, patiently filling empty bottles they brought along with drinking water. A scene seldom seen before in long-haul travel from Changi Airport, dominated by full service carriers like Singapore Airlines (SIA). On board the Boeing 777-200ER, registered 9V-OTE, painted in bright yellow, things are different. Even in the front rows, called “Scoot Biz”, offering what other airlines would call premium economy service. There is a pre-take off drinks service – consisting of a single miniature plastic can of drinking water. If a thirsty passenger asks for a second one, the flight attendant in black and yellow uniform regrets: “We just have one serving per passenger, but you can buy drinks after take off.” By now, the queue around the water fountain in the terminal begins to make perfect sense. Welcome to Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost long-haul offspring.

It started operations on June 4, 2012, currently operates six Boeing 777-200ERs taken over from SIA and will shortly switch to an all-new Boeing 787 fleet. Since launched, the airline has carried almost 3.5 million passengers until late 2014, the aim is to move around two million customers annually with ticket prices up to 40 percent cheaper than full service airlines. In the industry, Scoot seems to establish itself as a blue print of how to achieve a sustainable business model for low cost long-haul operations, a segment with a checkered history. “Scoot is an interesting concept”, says for example Lufthansa’s CCO Jens Bischof, setting up his own low cost long-haul offspring called Eurowings, based at Cologne/Bonn. It will start with three leased Airbus A330-200s from October 2015, operating initially to Florida, the Indian Ocean and Southern Africa. “We have thoroughly reviewed what we can learn from Scoot, that’s important if you want to start up a carrier based on such a formula”, Bischof tells Airways. “But you need to have staying power and lot of money.”

The money in Scoot’s case comes from Singapore Airlines, the legendary premium carrier facing tougher times to maintain its full service-high fare model in an increasingly price-sensitive marketplace. “It is not that one model replaces the other”, insists Mak Swee Wah, EVP Commercial of Singapore Airlines in talking to Airways at the airline’s headquarters near Changi Airport. “But the full service model is growing a bit more slowly now. One reason is the emerging new middle class in many Asian countries, being able to afford flying.” But Mak insists that Scoot “has to carve it’s own niche, they have to run independently of SIA and make their own decisions.”  With much denser seating than on the parent airline and a significantly lower product level, he doesn’t think cannibalization will be an issue. “Of course we want them to grow”, stresses Mak. To facilitate that, SIA has handed over its full initial batch of 20 Boeing 787s on order to Scoot, which was to receive their first 787-9 in late 2014 and the first 787-8 coming in mid-2015. Ultimately, Scoot will operate a fleet of ten 787-8s and ten 787-9s, with all 777-200ERs being retired. “We knew we had to replace the older 777s after we had set up Scoot, but we opted to initiate service with them because we wanted an early start-up”, recalls Mak. SIA itself will instead take their own batch of A350s starting by late 2015/early 2016 and then from 2018 onwards also Boeing 787-10s.

The man behind Scoot works hidden in the corner of a no-frills office floor somewhere behind the counters of Terminal 2 at Changi Airport in Singapore, home of Scoot. Campbell Wilson, 42, is an easy-going New Zealander who had worked for SIA since 1996. The office walls at Scoot’s headquarters are painted in bright green, and Wilson reveals to Airways that green was a strong contender in choosing a colour scheme for Scoot. “We drew a map of which airline is associated with which colour, red and blue are very common”, he realized. Green is not, that’s why it was in the race, as was yellow. “We finally chose yellow in a car park from samples”, he recalls. And Wilson also claims the copyright to the company’s name, although other airline industry insiders doubt his story. “The name was cheap, I came up with it while I was on holiday in New Zealand”, says Wilson. “It’s short and sharp, memorable and has a connotation of movement, often used in a light-hearted way to talk about moving quickly”, explains the CEO, who describes his airline’s culture as “fun-friendly, not too serious, typical nature of a start-up”. He also tells the story of how the uniforms came into being, a unique creation with yellow only on one side, the remainder being black. “I looked at the washing line at home and saw the scheme of my wife’s uniform, she is a travel agent, and that inspired me”, he shares. “Our brand has more impact than we thought in the beginning”, enthuses Campbell Wilson. Scoot even invented its own term for its attitude, called “Scootitude”. Wilson describes that as “being engaging, fuss-free, reliable, contemporary, friendly, different.”

Sounds all great in theory, in reality, on flight TZ 206 from Singapore to Taipei, the cabin crew has only very short appearances in the cabin. After take off, they come round and ask passengers in “ScootBiz” what their preferred drink is with their (included and mostly pre-selected) meal. There are four hot dishes to choose from – Creamy Pasta with Sausage, Hearty Beef Stew, Soy Sauce Chicken Rice or Thai Red Curry with brown rice. Bought individually in the back of the cabin each dish costs 12 Singapore Dollars (about US$9). Soft drinks are S$4, beer S$8 and wine S$9. One meal and one drink of any kind plus a bar of Toblerone chocolate is included with the “ScootBiz” fare. All this can also be ordered on board, unlike for example Norwegian Air Shuttle, insisting on their Boeing 787 long-haul flights that passengers pre-order any hot meal. Airways tried the Thai Red Curry with rice. In all honesty, the way the meals are served, covered by an airtight plastic foil hard to remove, is not exactly appetizing.

Scoot3The food quality itself is OK, but not more, just good enough not to fly hungry. Anybody craving a meal roughly equaling what SIA serves its Economy passengers has to pre-order from a “Premium Selection” for S$21.99 (about US$17), giving a choice of five different options, including a salad, ice cream and a drink. On flight TZ 206, apparently hardly anybody had made this choice. Besides serving and removing meals and drinks, the cabin crew is hardly seen in the aisles during the four-hour flight.

Campbell Wilson admits difficulties at first to communicate to so-far spoiled Asian passengers what low-cost flying is all about: “The expectation of us was big in the beginning, people expected free meals and free-flowing drinks, there was a big misunderstanding from the customer side of what low cost offerings means.” And the CEO stresses: “We don’t pretend to be SIA just 50 percent cheaper, as was originally the expectation of Singaporeans.”

Scoot_BIZThe cabin of Scoot’s Boeing 777 fleet is equipped with 32 leather seats in “ScootBiz”, featuring 22” width and 38” pitch, and 370 economy seats with pitch ranging from 31” to 35”. The seats with more legroom are sold for a premium, being called “STRETCH”. Their existence is purely due to the cabin architecture of the 777, while in the 787 fleet, there will just be “ScootBiz” and Economy offerings.

Scoot_econTheir total seat count is 335 in the 787-8 and 375 in the 787-9, 35 of which are in the “premium” cabin with dedicated Premium Economy seats by manufacturer Timco. “Our 787-8 will therefore carry more passengers than SIA’s 787-10s”, reveals Scoot’s CEO. “The 15-year-old 777s are very cheap, and they are perfect for some routes”, says Campbell Wilson, “but they are too big for developing markets”. On the other hand, “it doesn’t make sense due to crew efficiency and in order not to duplicate things to keep any 777s beyond March 2016, when we will have an all 787-fleet of initially ten aircraft”. The 787s will feature in-seat power outlets and will be WiFi-enabled.

Scoot’s first route was Singapore to Sydney, started on June 4, 2012, as were the Gold Coast and Bangkok flights, with just two aircraft initially. “Sydney and also Perth have a large market segment for low cost travel that SIA’s product doesn’t really cater for”, says Campbell Wilson. “Our presence allowed the SIA group to catch more of the market.” And what a market – before Scoot took on the route, there was actually an annual decline in passengers of 0.4 percent. “There were seven daily flights before by SIA, British Airways and Qantas, and their loads declined”, recalls Wilson. But in the purest low-cost airline manner, all changed when Scoot appeared on the scene. “In the first six months after we started, there was an overall passenger plus to Sydney of 30 percent, we feel we attract new market segments”, says the Scoot CEO. And that despite the fact that Scoot’s Sydney flights leave Changi at the ungodly hour of 2.45am during the summer schedule, 1.45am in winter. “The rationale behind this is also to send passengers towards SIA, one of many considerations”, admits Wilson, calling it a “crap departure time” himself but pointing out the “good arrival time”, at 12.45pm or an hour later, respectively.

Currently, Scoot is serving three destinations in Australia (Sydney, Gold Coast and Perth), four in China (Qingdao, Shenyang, Tianjin and Nanjing) as well five Asian regional hubs – Tokyo Narita, Seoul, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Taipei. The latter three already had a strong presence of low cost carriers before Scoot. “On Singapore to Bangkok, there are over 30 flights a day with seven or eight carriers flying, even Ethiopian Airlines”, explains Wilson, “90 carriers have fifth freedom rights on the route, SAS used to fly it with traffic rights.” Still Scoot offers one daily flight to Bangkok’s low cost-dominated Don Mueang airport, again differentiating itself from SIA, which flies to Suvarnabhumi. Taipei serves as an intermediate stop on flights from Singapore to both Tokyo and Seoul, with full traffic rights, also to minimize the commercial risk of these routes and again, differentiate it from SIA’s nonstop offerings. “This way we have three countries to fill the flights rather than just two”, Wilson points out. “It’s a risk to fly beyond where people know your brand, but shorter flights spread the economic risk better”, he argues. With such intricate scheduling, Scoot’s fleet achieves a utilization of up to a peak 15.5 hours daily, despite not flying routes longer than the eight hours to Sydney.

Overall, Singapore has been proven receptive for low cost flying. “There were just four percent of Changi’s passengers traveling low cost in 2004”, explains Campbell Wilson. “Today it’s over a third, a fertile ground for Scoot, but with just over 30 percent low cost share now, there is still some way to go. The potential must be over 50 percent in Asia as you have to swim between many cities if you don’t fly, there is no land infrastructure.” For the time being, Wilson wants to focus on destinations within a radius from five to nine flight hours out of Singapore, particularly Korea, China and India. “A potential exists to do truly long-haul because our new aircraft can do it, but the attraction is not necessarily there, as trip costs are much higher.

Such economic considerations make markets closer to home currently more interesting than Europe”, states Wilson, “but we never say ‘no’”. With the 787s coming and a doubling of the current fleet size, the CEO plans to increase existing frequencies by a third, complemented by new destinations. Scoot, currently employing 583 staff for its six aircraft, enjoys an 81 percent load factor on average, which is paramount. “Because being a wide-body low cost carrier is night and day different from being a narrow-body LCC”, stresses Wilson, “as wide-bodies have a hell of a lot of seats to sell.” Scoot is not profitable yet, admits Campbell Wilson, “it’s a long-run business with a high cost of starting up, you need patience and deep pockets.”

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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

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Who Will Win When Iran Opens up?

By: Alan Dron in London / Published November 6, 2015

Just how big a bonanza may be awaiting airliner manufacturers if international sanctions against Iran are finally lifted?

If Iran complies with the various conditions demanded by the ‘E3+3’ group (UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and US) and the European Union to ensure its nuclear ambitions are tamed, then those sanctions may be lifted in a few months’ time.

That prospect has airliner salesmen salivating, because Iran has a civil fleet largely made up of increasingly decrepit aircraft that need to be replaced. The country has an estimated population of 82 million and a civil air fleet of around 200 aircraft with an average age of 26 years. One lessor, Ireland-based Avolon, reckons that 400 new aircraft may be needed in the next few years.

But, just how many of those orders will end up with Airbus and Boeing? The two main airframers, riding a huge wave of orders, have virtually no available slots on their final assembly lines until 2020. And, according to Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Ray Conner, talking to journalists in Seattle recently, it may be some time before western manufacturers even get an opportunity to head to Tehran clutching order forms.

“We’re still waiting for the go-ahead [from the US government] to even have those kind of discussions to get in to visit the country,” he said. According to Avolon’s president and CCO, John Higgins, speaking at his company’s Q2 results presentation last month, this means that at least the first stage of any re-fleeting in Iran will fall to lessors, both for new and used aircraft.

An added potential problem for Boeing is the failure by the US Congress to re-authorize the ExIm Bank, which plays an important role in foreign sales by financing foreign buyers’ purchases and guaranteeing loans. The ExIm Bank’s authorization may, of course, be reinstated. But for the moment, it is not allowed to take on any new business.

UK-based chief analyst at Strategic Aero Research, Saj Ahmad, who has considerable experience in the Middle East, believes the Iranian situation is not yet clear, but some factors deserve attention. Firstly, the long waiting times for new Airbus and Boeing products means that manufacturers such as Embraer, Bombardier and Sukhoi may step in to fill much of the gap. Iran’s size means that many city pairs are too far apart for comfortable car travel, which makes regional airliners an ideal ‘fit’ – Fokker 100s and Avro RJs still provide many internal services. He also believes that many Iranian carriers could be happy to lease 10-year-old examples of the Boeing 777 or Airbus A330 for long-haul routes. Those still have relatively low flight cycles, give good economy and can be picked up relatively cheaply.

On the regional front, Ahmad believes that second-hand Embraer regional jets may find a niche. With the Brazilian manufacturer just two years away from introducing its E2 range of jets, Iranian carriers are unlikely to want to spend money on new current model E-Jets, he believes. Perhaps the company with most to gain, however, is Sukhoi with its SSJ100 Superjet. Iran’s longstanding political and economic links with Russia make it a natural partner. And the Superjet, says Ahmad, has shown itself in service to be a thoroughly solid performer. Russian banks and lessors, moreover, are likely to be keen to cut attractive deals to sell the aircraft. “If I was an advisor to Iran, I would push them in that direction,” he comments.

Apart from Iran’s need for new aircraft, however, Ahmad says that the country will first have to pump money in to renewing its airport infrastructure, “which leaves a lot to be desired.” If the country does open up, not only will Iranian airlines want to fly outbound, but many more carriers – especially regional operators from the Persian Gulf region – will want to fly in. And airports may struggle to cope. Interestingly, in mid-September, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization announced just such a move, proposing the construction of five new airports and upgrades to the terminals at 27 of the nation’s 51 civil airports. Dron is an 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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Cathay Pacific Unveils New Livery

By: Benjamin Bearup / Images courtesy: Cathay Pacific / Published: November 1, 2015

Cathay Pacific unveiled a new livery Sunday morning during a ceremony in Hong Kong. The long rumored change comes months after the airline unveiled a new refreshed logo that is incorporated in the new livery. Replacing the current Landor designed Cathay Pacific look that was unveiled in 1994. The new, or some would say refreshed CX livery maintains the same if not exceeds the conservative nature as its predecessor. In sharp contrast, the airline has had a history of flamboyant themed schemes particularly in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


Behind the new livery are several key changes.  Notably gone from the new livery is the color red. Cathay Pacific emphasizes a new simplified color palette that includes the colors green, grey, and white.The fuselage of the aircraft received a minor tweak with the classic gray band now running down the entire fuselage. The tail of the aircraft received major changes with the famous Cathay Pacific brushwing logo playing a more prominent role.

RELATED: Cathay Pacific Unveils Refreshed Branding

FLE_7ER_C059Y15_E0At the livery unveil event in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Ivan Chu said “Today represents the beginning of a new era for Cathay Pacific. We are very happy and proud to unveil our new aircraft livery which represents our journey into the future and also celebrates the many great things we have achieved over the past seven decades as the home carrier of Hong Kong.”

Mr. Chu went on to add that “The livery is a vital part of our brand image – a symbol of the company’s values displayed on our most important physical asset. The livery represents Cathay Pacific in and out of Hong Kong and every time our aircraft take off or touch down in our network of destinations around the world.”

CXlogo EvolutionFirst worn by a 777-300ER, the new livery will eventually be worn by all Cathay Pacific aircraft in their fleet. Cathay estimates it will take a total of five years for 150 aircraft in its growing fleet to get the new livery. The first A350-900 for Cathay Pacific will roll out in the new livery later this week in Toulouse and will be the first new fleet type to sport the livery. Cathay Pacific currently has a fleet of over 120 aircraft anchored by 53 777-300ER aircraft. In the coming years, Cathay Pacific will take delivery of 48 A350 family aircraft and 21 777-9 aircraft.

The Cathay Pacific 1994 era  Landor logo photographed at Hong Kong in 2011. Image by: Chris Sloan

The Cathay Pacific 1994 era Landor logo photographed at Hong Kong in 2011.
Image by: Chris Sloan





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Boeing Opens New Seattle Delivery Center

Photos and Story By: Brandon Farris / Published October 27, 2015

As Boeing continues to increase the production rate of the 737 program, eventually to 52 aircraft a month, the manufacturer needed to upgrade and expand its Seattle delivery center to accommodate the increase of demand for deliveries of the world’s most popular single-aisle aircraft which it did making the new delivery center a first class facility for its customers and employees.

RELATED: Boeing 737 Production Line Goes to 42 per Month

RELATED: Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory As They Take It To “The MAX” (Part One) / (Part Two)

Similar to the new Everett delivery center, the Seattle delivery center upgrade looks amazing following the 15 month project to upgrade the delivery center. The Seattle delivery center has three delivery positions with jetways for simultaneous deliveries to take place.

The event was attended by local county government officials and Boeing personnel for the christening of the new delivery center including Senior Vice President and General Manager Pat Shanahan, King County executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Vice President of Field Operations and delivery for Boeing’s 737 program Erik Nelson.

The new expanded facility gives 90,000 feet of space for Boeing, its customers and Boeing support organizations to prep aircraft and work in. At the center of the building is the main showcase room where the ribbon cutting ceremony was taking place with great views of the flight line and view for its customers to see their planes sitting at the gate ready to fly home and enter service.

016_2780On this day a United 737-900ER was in the south most gate getting prepared for its delivery flight to SeaTac Airport where the carrier prepares its 737’s and 787’s for service when they are delivered from Boeing and Paine Field. Having an aircraft at one of the gates really gave you an idea of what it would look like as 737’s get parked and have the covered jetway attached while getting its final prep word done for its delivery flight. United became the first airline to take delivery of an aircraft following the ribbon cutting re-opening ceremony.

016_2683The building, which is a reflection of Boeing, is equipped with everything you’d see at every local airport, from TSA like security checkpoint with classic metal detectors instead of body scanners to everyday offices for some 737 delivery executives that looks over the gates and flight line along with meeting rooms for the airlines to go over documentation and other things they need to prior to flying away and finally a delivery and departure lounge at the gates with leather couches for Boeing’s customers to relax in and enjoy the view before they depart home with their new aircraft.

As Boeing increases its 737 rate production from 42 per month in 2015, to 47 per month in 2017 and finally 52 per month in 2018 in the last publically announced planned rate increase the new delivery center, similar to the new one in Everett, will be welcome with open arms from Boeings current customers as they take delivery of the all new 737MAX and as other future variants of the 737, even possibly the replacement come into existence to be delivered and Boeing continues to receive more orders and new  customers for the world’s most popular narrow body aircraft.

RELATED: A Look Inside the New Boeing Delivery Center

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