Category Archives: Airplanes and Airports

ANALYSIS: Virgin America Adds Utilization Flying in Las Vegas and New York

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published October 1st, 2014

Virgin America currently operates a fleet of 10 Airbus A319-100s and 43 A320-200s. They cancelled 20 A320 orders due to 3Q 2012 loss. The airline was the original A320 neo launch customer, but they deferred delivery on their 30 A320 neos from 2016 until 2020, slowing their expansion. Image Courtesy: Virgin America

Image Credit – Virgin America

Virgin America is adding point-to-point (p2p) utilization flying in the Northeast this winter, adding seasonal nonstop service from New York JFK to Fort Lauderdale and Boston to Las Vegas. The San Francisco based leisure airline will also boost its offering on seasonal nonstop service between New York JFK and Las Vegas. New York JFK – Fort Lauderdale will be served daily, Boston – Las Vegas will be served four times per week, and New York JFK – Las Vegas will be boosted from daily service to nine flights per week. Both Las Vegas flights will be operated by Airbus A320 aircraft seating 146 passengers in a three-class configuration ( 8F / 12Y+ / 126Y ), while the New York JFK – Fort Lauderdale flight will be operated by an A320 seating 149 passengers in a similar three-class configuration ( 8F / 12Y+ / 129Y ). Flight schedules for the new services and their operational dates are as follow:

12/18/14 – 4/28/15
VX 501 ~~ JFK – FLL ~~ D: 0800 A: 1105 ~~ Daily
VX 500 ~~ FLL – JFK ~~ D: 0915 A: 1155 ~~ Daily

1/8/15 – 4/28/15
VX 913 ~~ BOS – LAS ~~ D: 1030 A: 1340 ~~ 1567
VX 910 ~~ LAS – BOS ~~ D: 1450 A: 2240 ~~ 567
VX 262 ~~ LAS – BOS ~~ D: 1535 A: 2325 ~~ 4

1/5/15 – 4/28/15
VX 253 ~~ JFK – LAS ~~ D: 1135 A: 1425 ~~ 34
VX 258 ~~ LAS – JFK ~~ D: 1510 A: 2300 ~~ 1
VX 258 ~~ LAS – JFK ~~ D: 1535 A: 2325 ~~ 3

The primary rationale behind these additions is clearly aircraft utilization. During the winter, air traffic demand between Virgin America’s hubs at Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) and the Northeast declines, and the airline needs a place to fly its fleet of 53 Airbus A320 family aircraft ( 10 A319s, 43 A320s ). Meanwhile, winter demand to Las Vegas is more stable, and for South Florida, the winter is actually the peak O&D season. LAX/SFO – JFK/BOS are more expensive to operate than JFK – FLL, and JFK/BOS – LAS because the flights from California are longer and those airports are more expensive to operate from. Furthermore, New York JFK, like many slot-controlled airports around the world has a “use it or lose it” provision. Under prevailing rules,  airlines have to utilize a certain percentage of their slot portfolio in order to preserve control over their slots (which are otherwise forfeited). Thus the eighteen new weekly flights (and existing daily services to Las Vegas and Palm Springs) from New York JFK allow Virgin America to keep control of its slots at JFK that are used during the summer season to operate more than 12 daily flights to LAX and SFO.

Virgin America Utilization Flying CompetitionVirgin America will face ample competition on these routes. The table to the left shows flight schedules for the New York – South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach), New York – Las Vegas, and Boston – Las Vegas city pairs for Thursday, February 19th (the peak day for daily departures in each market). The New York – South Florida market has an astounding 113 daily departures, while New York – Las Vegas, and Boston – Las Vegas are a lot more modest. There is competition from several airlines on most routes, but the majority of the competition comes from legacy, full service airlines like Delta, United, and American, who have higher costs than Virgin America. There is limited ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) competition in South Florida from Frontier Airlines on Miami – New York La Guardia and Spirit Airlines on Fort Lauderdale – New York La Guardia, but for passengers looking for a more upscale option, Virgin America is well positioned with only JetBlue competing head-to-head in its segment of the market. The same is true of the flights to Las Vegas.

And Virgin America will be drawing on markets with high O&D demand. The air travel market between New York City and South Florida generates an enormous 10,504 passengers per day each way (PDEW), with an average one-way fare of $206.08 and an average yield of 18.4 cents. Even though the route is lower yielding, Virgin America should have zero trouble filling its single daily flight in America’s second largest air travel market. JFK – Las Vegas is similarly low risk. Even up against 15 competing daily flights (excluding its own), Virgin America can tap into an O&D market of 1,695 passengers PDEW with a respectable average one-way fare of $319.08 and an average yield of 14.0 cents. Boston – Las Vegas would appear to make less sense. The market is much smaller at 632.5 passengers PDEW, and the average one-way fare and yield are low at $270.65 and 11.4 cents respectively. Virgin America will likely lose money on this route (the other two are likely to at least break even), but less money than if it had to operate a longer haul route from Boston.

While the new routes outside of Virgin America’s core operations at Los Angeles and San Francisco are welcome additions to the network, they do not signal any sort of substantial shift towards a more point-to-point (p2p) network model for the carrier. Even including the yet-to-commence nonstop service from Dallas Love Field to New York La Guardia and Washington Reagan, just six (16.2%) of Virgin America’s 37 nonstop city pairs do not involve Los Angeles or San Francisco, and less than 5% of its capacity (measured in available seat miles) meets the same criteria.

Beyond simple aircraft utilization there is another benefit for Virgin America. After years of financial misfortune, Virgin America’s investors appear to be pushing the airline towards an initial public offering (IPO). The present investing environment for airlines is reasonably positive, but in recent months, performance of airline stocks has lagged a little bit due to concerns over revenue growth (Delta and America were most noticeably affected with ~15% declines in valuation over the past month). This is a signal that airline investors are focused on top-line growth as a key area of evaluation. For Virgin America, the winter would normally be a time of poor revenue generation and growth, but with this additional utilization flying, Virgin America has a low risk way to boost its revenue without diluting its margins to a substantial degree. This revenue boost, while temporary, could make Virgin America’s financials more attractive for potential investors in an IPO.


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Spirit Airlines Adds Two New Routes at Chicago O’Hare

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published October 1st, 2014

Spirit Airlines' new livery. Photo courtesy Spirit Airlines.

Spirit Airlines’ new livery. Photo courtesy Spirit Airlines.

Spirit Airlines is expanding its Chicago O’Hare focus city with new nonstop service to San Diego and Philadelphia. Flights to both cities will commence April 16, 2015 using 145-seat Airbus A319 aircraft. The announcement of service to Philadelphia comes just one day after rival ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines announced nonstop service between O’Hare and Philadelphia to begin in “spring 2015.” Both cities will be served with one flight per day and have flight schedules as follow:

NK 260 ~~ ORD – PHL ~~ D: 2045 A: 2345 ~~ Daily
NK 261 ~~ PHL – ORD ~~ D: 0610 A: 0725 ~~ Daily

NK 563 ~~ ORD – SAN ~~ D: 1044 A: 1259 ~~ Daily
NK 564 ~~ SAN – ORD ~~ D: 1350 A: 1940 ~~ Daily

Spirit will face indirect competition from Southwest, who serves both cities from its hub at Chicago Midway, and Frontier, who offers nonstop service between Midway and Trenton. At O’Hare, Spirit will face competition from Frontier Airlines (as mentioned), as well as from legacy carriers American Airlines and United Airlines.

O’Hare is one of Spirit’s largest focus cities, with nonstop service to 23 destinations (5 seasonal). Both routes have strong origin and destination (O&D) demand, but can also be viewed as a pre-emptive strike against Frontier, who is launching a major expansion of its operations in Chicago. By next spring, Frontier will offer nonstop service to 11 destinations at Chicago O’Hare, and there are still six months for the Denver-based ULCC to announce additional service. Given the increase in fares by both the legacies and Southwest Airlines in the Chicago metropolitan area, Frontier and Spirit can likely co-exist in many large markets. But it is increasingly clear that Frontier’s network strategy under the umbrella of Indigo Partners will brush directly up against that of Spirit Airlines.


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Frontier Airlines to Launch Service to Miami

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 30th, 2014

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit - Ben Bearup / Airways News

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit – Ben Bearup / Airways News

Frontier Airlines is adding service to Miami, Florida, with nonstop flights to Philadelphia, New York La Guardia, and Denver beginning December 20, 2014. The ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) will also add nonstop service to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on March 2, 2015. In total, the four destinations will be served with 38 flights per week, with frequencies as follow:

  • Philadelphia - 1 Flight / Day
  • New York La Guardia - 2 Flights / Day
  • Denver – 10 Flights / Week
  • Chicago O’Hare – 1 Flight / Day

Aircraft and schedules for the new flights have not yet been released.

Frontier Airlines’ launch of service to Miami comes on the heels of expansion in major markets such as Cleveland, Cincinnati, Houston, Phoenix, and Washington Dulles. Frontier also announced a major expansion from Philadelphia Tuesday, funding the growth with major reductions in frequency on routes from its largest operation at Denver.

Year over year, Frontier is reducing frequency from Denver to Nashville, Cozumel, Dallas Fort Worth, Des Moines, Detroit, Fargo, Spokane (eliminated), Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York La Guardia (eliminated), Chicago Midway (eliminated), Minneapolis St. Paul, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Portland, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, ad St. Louis. Airways News estimates that Frontier will reduce frequency at Denver by close to 220 weekly departures, downsizing capacity by more than 25%.

In concert with expansion at Miami, Frontier will eliminate its nonstop flight between Denver and Fort Lauderdale, though it will preserve nonstop service to five other destinations from Fort Lauderdale. Frontier’s expansion at Miami also pre-empts in small part, a potential expansion by rival ULCC Spirit Airlines. Spirit currently does not serve Miami, but has its largest focus city at Fort Lauderdale. Airways News reported last year that Spirit is weighing incentives from Miami International Airport to move its entire focus city to Miami. Spirit and Frontier have increasingly brushed up against each other in their quest for profitable opportunities, and Miami looks to be no different.


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Bombardier Q400 Program Head Discusses Cargo Combi; Q400X

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 30th, 2014

Image Courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Image Courtesy of JDL Multimedia

We sat down with Simon Roberts, Vice President and General Manager of Turboprops and Toronto Operations for Bombardier at the Farnborough Airshow in July, discussing the Q400 Cargo Combi, its potential for regional jet replacement, and the Q400X. We also discussed the state of the Q400 program in our program analysis published on September 29, 2014, though the program analysis covers several different themes.

Airways News: So today you launched the Q400 Cargo Combi

Simon Roberts: So the Cargo Combi, it’s the ideal balance of passenger comfort, up to 50 passengers, and also very large payload capacity. What that allows really is an airline to optimize their revenue both in terms of payload and freight and also passengers. Today at the event, one of the panelists from South Africa shared his desire to actually see a Q300 be replaced, which is a reality after he received his briefing on the Cargo Combi. What he realizes now is basically you have that flexibility within one aircraft. So where the routes are thin in terms of passenger traffic you can now have the opportunity [to serve them], particularly to regions where you do require central services difficult to access by conventional means of transportation. In the near future we will be able to announce to launch customers. We are at very advanced stages of negotiations and in the very near future we will be able to make those announcements.

Airways News: So in the African aviation market, passenger demand is still a little volatile, but cargo demand, especially because of the lack of adequate surface transport options, is very high. Do you think that Africa will be the core market for the Cargo Combi?

Simon Roberts: I wouldn’t say necessary Africa as a region will be the core market but I think regions that need to find that sweet spot, that optimum balance between payload and passengers, are exactly where the Cargo Combi will play a critical role. We have flexibility as well in terms of configuration so we can adapt to certain specifications: the size of the payload and also the passenger configuration as well. So again I think it demonstrates the flexibility of the Q400. This is another example of the versatility of the design of the aircraft. Customers have the ability now to operate 86-seats, 50-seats with a Cargo Combi configuration, and other variations. The Q400 is becoming the perfect companion to single aisle. Additionally, you also see now greater flexibility to use dual class configurations with business class; a premium service for your premium customers. We have sold over 50 Q400s with business class configurations.

Airways News Does this Q400 Combi offer a Q300 replacement? Can it replace the Q300?

It offers more than that. It offers obviously the cargo capacity, and obviously the passenger capacity around 50 passengers. So again, I think it’s the perfect balance to meet the needs of your business model, not to compromise your business model because of the limitations of the aircraft. And I think that’s what we are demonstrating consistently with the Q400 now. The Q400 offers four times the flexibility of rival aircraft: single class, duel class, Cargo Combi, and extra capacity of 86 seats.

Airways News: In terms of larger Combi aircraft, particularly with the 747-400 Combi which was a reasonably popular aircraft in the market, regulatory changes in the United States and Europe that made it harder for sort of airlines to change where they place the quick conversion between passenger capacity and cargo payload they had. There were some regulatory changes around that that culled the market for Combis. Is the Q400 going to be affected by the same regulatory constraints?

Simon Roberts: This meets class C requirements for payload and freights and transportation so of course during development, that was at the forefront of the requirements for the Combi. So it meets all regulations and it’s the only in-production Cargo Combi. The performance of the Q400 allows it to get into regions, allows it to land on gravel runway, it’s hot and high superior performance, it’s economics, it’s superior fuel efficiency. Obviously when you combine all of them together it brings a lot of flexibility but it also brings a lot of value to a customer that’s trying to balance it’s business model and I think we have the perfect solution to meet all of those demands. And today we also announced the launch of a fuel efficiency manual. A fuel efficiency manual is basically 16 tools and techniques that an airline can use to improve their fuel consumption and by definition increase their profitability. So this has been a collaborative project we’ve done with a number of customers one in particular who spoke today is Flybe. Over the last 2-3 years we’ve seen a 13% reduction in their fuel costs through these initiatives.

Airways News: 13%?

Simon Roberts: Yeah, it’s a significant saving and I think it’s instrumental to the competitive advantage that the Q400 provides whether that’s in Europe or any other region.

Airways News: 13% will allow you to more closely match the ATR 72 on a trip cost basis?

Exactly and we’re already dependent on the configuration, we’re not only meeting but we’re now surpassing trip cost and seat mile cost and fuel cost. So if you actually take the 86-seat configuration, we actually have a 17% cost advantage per seat and a 7% fuel burn advantage over the ATR 72. That’s at the heart of the Q400; fuel efficiency. The Q400 is the only turbo-prop that airlines have the option to fly slow or fast, and a number of airlines are starting to enjoy that adaptability now. Where speed isn’t the primary requirement because of the network design and the business model, they’re able to not use the full speed but enjoy the benefit of a low fuel consumption

Airways News: So you guys have basically just done what ATR is still waffling about with a 90-seat turbo-prop. So I want to change tack a little bit and discuss how turboprops can play a role in the future of regional capacity provision in the US. The combination of pilot shortage, aging 50-seat fleets, and other factors have colluded to make regional jet economics in the US rather unprofitable. The Q400 in particular with its high speed offers decent potential for regional jet replacement. So does the Q400 have an opportunity to serve as a regional replacement because with its lower fuel costs, an airline could pay the higher pilot wages and still maximize the economics of their present regional fleet? Is that something you see an opportunity in?

Simon Roberts: Absolutely. I think if we look to Canada, if you look at Porter, Jazz, or WestJet all now fully utilize the Q400 either exclusively within their fleet or complementary within their fleet alongside single aisle jet aircraft. You’re actually seeing them now enjoy the economics you just described. You also see them now access markets that help generate growth in feed to the mainline business. I think to specifically answer the question, I would look to Horizon Air. Alaska Airlines in the last 12 months has seen continued growth to the [Q400] fleet with Horizon Air. We’ve now seen the Q400 Next Gen actually enter into the state of Alaska. Obviously there are additional opportunities to Alaska Airlines in terms of how they utilize the aircraft. I think answering your question, there are many examples in Europe, Canada, and now there is a very good example with Horizon Air of airlines that enjoy the benefits that you describe in terms of costs, as well as speed and passenger comfort.

Airways News? Can you give any color as to what the distance is where the slower speed of the Q400 and the lower costs start to converge with regional jets?

Simon Roberts It’s a difficult question to answer, you really have to look at the cost structure from customer to customer. From airline to airline it’s a different number, but there’s certainly an optimum point, and what we enjoy is actually working with the airlines and finding what that point is for them. That’s really about looking at the design of the network and looking at their overall cost structure. But I think as I described, the single most one or one of the significant advantages of the Q400 is the ability to adjust speeds on different routes. So I think there is no single answer to your question. It’s adaptable to the business needs and that’s the value proposition the Q400 offers – you don’t adapt your business model to the product, the product can be adapted to your business model.

Airways News: Can you comment on a potential Q400X with higher speed engines, perhaps using the GE CPX30 derivative?

Simon Roberts: I think what we’ve been able to do with the extra capacity is really further exploit the design point of the aircraft and we’re very confident of the future development capability of the aircraft. It’s a very young platform, and I think what we’ve seen in the 86-seat variant is, that by listening to our customers and the demands of the market, we’ve been able to adapt the product to meet the needs of the customer and we will continue to do that. I think at the moment our focus is around the actual capacity but I think today, you leave this event knowing the Q400 has four times the flexibility: single class, dual class, Cargo Combi, and the extra capacity. And no other turboprop can offer that flexibility. As part of our strategic planning, we always look to the future market and product requirements, so we’ll assess that situation as the market dictates.


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PEOPLExpress Temporarily Suspends Operations

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - PEOPLExpress

Image Credit – PEOPLExpress

PEOPLExpress will be suspending service until October 16, 2014, impacting the travel plans of thousands of customers around the United States and particularly in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. PEOPLExpress, based in Newport News, Virginia, has been struggling with operational reliability for nearly a week after one of its aircraft was struck by a service vendor’s truck. The suspension of operations may prove to be a terminal blow for the fledgling ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC).

PEOPLExpress currently leases a pair of Boeing 737-400 aircraft from Vision Air, a charter airline whose previous attempt at running scheduled operations from Destin, Florida had failed. PEOPLExpress had been in the works since early 2012, but struggled with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process, eventually launching operations on June 30, 2014 using FAA Part 121 certification.

However, with one half of its fleet out of commission, PEOPLExpress can not continue to fly all seven of its routes, and has been forced to shut down. Normally, small airlines in such dire straits will opt to wet-lease an aircraft (and even crews) to maintain service on most of their network. In failing to do, PEOPLExpress may have blundered, as the goodwill it won from bringing low-cost service to a smaller community will be outstripped by the negative effect of thousands of irate customers – many of whom will likely never fly PEOPLExpress again. The only reasonable explanation for PEOPLExpress decision is that the airline lacks sufficient funds to wet-lease the required aircraft, which does not bode well for its long or even short term prospects.


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American Airlines Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Miami Hub

By Luis Linares / Published September 26th, 2014

AA - 763 - MIA - LFL

American Boeing 767-323ER landing at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In September 1989, American Airlines made a bold decision to transform its small operation in Miami into a major hub and international gateway. At the time, Eastern Airlines and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) were the main carriers at Miami International Airport (MIA), especially when it came to connecting South Florida to Latin America and the Caribbean. Eastern had taken over the Latin American operations of bankrupt Braniff in 1982. However, Eastern and Pan Am both collapsed in January and December 1991 respectively.  American bought Eastern’s Latin American routes in 1989, while United bought those of Pan Am in 1991.  American was founded in 1926, but had not served MIA until it started a modest presence there in 1979. Finally, financial troubles contributed to United closing its MIA to Latin American service in 2002, leaving American alone at the top.

Extra: Historic images and memorabilia from Miami International Airport


Timetables showing evolution of MIA hub – Braniff 1982, Eastern 1989, and American 1990:  Images from Airways News Collection

American’s Operations at MIA

As American celebrates the 25th anniversary of its MIA expansion, the airline boasts 339 flights per day that connect MIA to 123 destinations around the world — more than 100 of them not served by any other domestic carrier at the airport.  This makes American the top US airline serving Latin America, with more flights than any other carrier.  In addition to service to cities in the U.S. and Latin America, American also serves Europe with flights to Barcelona, London, Madrid, and Paris and Canada with flights to Montreal and Toronto. American’s service today is larger than the combined service of Eastern and Pan Am at their peak of operations at MIA.  Before taking over for Eastern, American had a modest operation consisting of only 19 flights per day at MIA.

EA 752 - MIA - Jose Lauzardo AA - 752 - MIA - LFL
Boeing 757s then & now at MIA – Eastern Boeing 757-225:  Photo by Jose Lauzardo and American Boeing 757-223:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In an airport press release this week, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio Gonzales congratulated American on its milestone.  Mayor Gimenez said, “American Airlines is without a doubt one of the community partners that has had the greatest impact on our local economy.  AA is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the flights at our top economic engine, a vast route network drawing leisure, and business travelers to our region from around the globe, and more than 11,000 employees in its Miami hub operations — they have truly helped build Miami into a world-class city like none other. On behalf of the residents of Miami-Dade Country, it’s my pleasure to congratulate our partners at American on the 25th anniversary of their Miami hub.  Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our community.”  Aviation Director Gonzales remarked, “I proudly congratulate American Airlines on its 25th anniversary of establishing Miami International Airport as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Since its decision in 1989 to build a gateway to the Americas at MIA, American has expanded from 19 daily flights to more than 340 this year — an all-time record.  The partnership between American and MIA has truly been a match made in heaven – service between MIA and 121 destinations around the world and more than 27 million annual passengers, all served by MIA’s award-winning North Terminal.  As MIA closes in on another record-setting year for passenger traffic and American continues their expansion at MIA with new routes like Cap-Haitien, and Campinas, Brazil in the coming months, I offer my deepest congratulations and thanks to the American Airlines Miami hub team for 25 groundbreaking years and more to come.”

AA 722 - MIA - CS

American Boeing 727-223 in 1999:  Photo by Chris Sloan / Aircways News

The North Terminal (Concourse D)

Today, American operates from MIA’s state-of-the art North Terminal (AKA: Concourse D).  In 1989, this area consisted of three “finger” terminals designated as Concourses B, C, and D.  MIA added Concourse A in 1998.  As American’s presence grew, so did the need for significant expansion and modernization of its facilities.  The transformation of Concourses A to D into the North Terminal began in 1998 and was supposed to be completed in 2005, but the project faced many delays because of cost overruns. Furthermore, the Miami-Dade Country Aviation Department took over the project from American Airlines during a tense time that involved major legal action between the county and the airline stemming from the delays and higher costs that resulted in a five-year delay.  By August 2010, all gates and extensions to the building were finished.  A new international arrivals facility opened August 2012, and three more gates opened in August 2013.  The official completion of the North Terminal project was in February 2014 with the opening of the baggage handling system’s international-to-domestic transfer.

Extra: Extensive Photo Gallery of Miami International Airport and the AA Hub.


Evolution of MIA Terminal – 1990, 2005, and 2014:  Images from Airways News collection

North Terminal Construction - MIA - CS Concourse E - MIA - CS
North Terminal under construction in 2002 and American using Concourse E gates in 2003:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

The result is a 3.6 million square foot linear facility that absorbed Concourses A and D, while B and C were demolished. The new terminal, designed by Corgan Associates, Anthony C. Baker Architects and Panners, Perez & Perez, and Leo A. Daly, measures 1.2 miles in length and consists of 45 gates designated D1 to D12, D12 to D17, D19 to D25, D29 to D33, D37 to D40, D42 to D51, D53, D55, and D60.  The facility handles 20 million passengers annually. American has two Admirals Clubs, one by D15 and the other by D30. American Eagle uses the ground-level gates D53, D55, and D60 located on the westernmost side of the terminal.  A people mover known as “Skytrain” opened in September 2010 to facilitate the movement of passengers from one end of the terminal to the other, and it has four stops at gates D17, D24, D29, and D46.  Despite the enormous size of the North Terminal, American’s operations still overflow to the older Concourse E, which can be reached from the North Terminal via a connecting walkway.

MIA North Terminal Interior MIA Skytrain
Concourse interior and Skytrain entrance at North Terminal:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

King at MIA

AA Tails - MIA - LFL

American classic and new tails at North Terminal:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

American emerged from bankruptcy with a new look and merged with US Airways in early 2013 to form American Airlines CEO Doug Parker reintroduced the “banking” of American’s hubs in August 2013, starting with MIA.  Prior to the merger, the old management used the” rolling” system, which had been established after the 9/11 attacks, for its hub operations in order to minimize costs during this financially difficult period.  The re-banking of movements means many flights will land within a narrow time period, and take-off within a similar narrow time window.  The goal is to maximize connections, as well as increase revenue.  The only risk that comes with banking MIA is the heavy afternoon thunderstorms during the summer months.  Regardless, American’s dominant position at MIA is very likely to remain unchallenged, especially with no competitor present to match the scope of Latin American operations.

AA - 738 OC - MIA - LFL AA - 738 NC - MIA - LFL
American Boeing 737-823 in classic and new look at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

AA - 77W - MIA - LFL

Boeing 777-323ER viewed from Skytrain:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News


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Bombardier Commercial Aircraft President Talks CSeries; CRJ Improvements

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 26th, 2014

Image Credit - Bombardier

Image Credit – Bombardier

We sat down with the president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, Mike Arcamone, at the Farnborough Airshow to discuss everything from the status of CSeries program to the improvements of the CRJ-900 Next Gen.

Airways News: So you’ve announced a few orders for the CSeries and unfortunately there was a little snag in the CSeries program a few months ago. But in terms of customer potential, there were a few orders here [at Farnborough]. You have upwards of 500 commitments now, but only in the range of about 250 firm orders. What sort of progress are you making in terms of converting those commitments into firm orders? And will that process accelerate as you enter into service?

Mike Arcamone: We’re very confident. Actually we’ve maintained all along that our goal is 20 customers and 300 firm orders. We’ve reached 20 customers at the show. We have 513 commitments, which include the 210 firm orders. Between now and August, September, as the months go on, we will translate those letters of intent. Some are already more advanced than others towards becoming firm orders. So I’m confident that we’ll obtain the 300 firm orders way before entering the service.

Airways News: In terms of the CSeries’ positioning in the market, vis-a-vis in particular, your biggest competitor in the regional market, they are touting the fact that their E195E2 offers expanding seating, and they’re saying its competitive with the CS100. How would you assess the competitive balance between the C series and E2? Are they chasing different markets or the same market, in particular the CS100 versus the E2? Where does that competitive balance lie?

Mike Aracamone: Well I liked your opening remarks. They’re chasing us. We’re leading with a brand new aircraft. The aircrafts’ structure, avionics, engines, composite wings, it’s all-new. The interior is all-new. We lead with the interior. We have made progress in terms of luggage space, and the whole interior cabin is very friendly to customers. The angle that the bins open, the access of the galleys for flight attendants, the fact that you can move around, wider seats…. The wall of the aircraft, the way it sands, the egg shape so it’s more comfortable. When you put that all together, there’s not another product that comes close to CSeries and it’ll be entering into service next year. By the second half of next year, we’ll have our aircraft entering into service. We have a real product that customers can purchase and will have in their hands. Compared to something that doesn’t exist, what are they going to do? So we’re leading and they’re chasing.

Airways News: And what is the balance in terms of operating economics

Mike Arcamone: Our aircraft is light. We maintain our fuel burn advantage and the position that we’re in right now. In terms of operating costs, we still retain the advantage. We look at the seating capacity gap between the CS100 and the E2, and if customers want to go up to the CS300, we offer extra capacity. So if you can fill 160 seats, with an aircraft that already gives you 12-15% better operating costs, you’re ahead by a lot. You put 160 passengers and with the fuel burn savings and the seat-mile costs improve tremendously, it’s tremendous. And so I’m not afraid of what they might come up with because they’ll still have to figure out how to catch up [with the CSeries] and how to beat it. And we are distancing ourselves with this type of performance.

Airways News: Could you speak a little to the potential of the Q400 as a replacement for regional jet aircraft for the U.S. and around the world? And Mark has heard this question.

Mike Arcamone: Well, first what we’ve done with our current product, which is already used by companies like Horizon that have over 50 [Q400s], West Jet, who actually recently purchased and has continued acquiring Q400s, Air Canada Jazz, Porter that runs on Toronto Island that runs a fleet of Q400 aircraft. It [the Q400] is a great, great regional aircraft if you want it. We’ve listened to our customers and our customers have said, “can you put more seats on the aircraft” and so we’ve launched the E6 seats. So again, why? Because there are areas of the world where passengers want to go from point to point. Within certain regions, we’ve had our customers ask for fewer passenger seats, and more cargo space. So we’ve been responding continuously with a very flexible setup that yes can go up to 86 in the jet areas, but can also vary cargo capacity. The Q400 performs very well: short runways, fast take off, where you can land – you don’t need a runway. So definitely we see growth and as a matter of fact, I think a lot of operators are starting to realize it’s quiet. We do a lot of demonstrations for our customers. We demonstrate how quiet it is. How quiet the turbo prop is… How smooth it is. So the fear of flying in a turbo prop is offset, and airlines can have the speed the Q400 offers, and the ability of a low speed light jet. So definitely in certain markets it can probably replace the low end of jets, absolutely.

Airways News: On Day 1 at this air show, you announced a host of aerodynamic improvements to the CRJ 900. And today’s CRJ series is already about 5.5 percent better than the initial CRJ 900. How much more potential is there for incremental improvements to build on the CRJ 900’s superior economic performance to the E170 and E175, and how much incremental opportunity do you have to push the performance of today’s CRJ 900 so it can compete with the E175-E2?

Mike Arcamone: We have declared that by 2020, within 5-6 years, we’ll be at double digits.

Airways News: Is that double digits from today or from the beginning?

Mike Arcamone: From entry into service. We’re at 5.5%, but we’re going into double digits. So we’ve done half. And there are changes coming, physical changes on the CRJ that will give it the double-digit advantage. We have started to define what thse will be. We will want to look at it as a module as well so we can go back and offer it to our existing customers and customers of our previous generations. But we’re looking at double digits within 5/6 years.


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American to Start Service from Dallas to Beijing in 2015

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 25, 2015

American Airlines 777-200ER. Image credit - Ian Petchenik / Airways News

American Airlines 777-200ER. Image credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

American Airlines announced plans to offer non-stop service from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Beijing (PEK) beginning in summer 2015. The route, which is subject to Department of Transportation approval, will be operated by a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft.

“By adding this new Beijing service, American will achieve a significant milestone in the development of its Asian network by offering nonstop service from Dallas/Fort Worth to five key markets in Asia –BeijingHong KongSeoulShanghai and Tokyo,” said Andrew Nocella, American’s chief marketing officer.

The announcement comes days after the close of World Routes, during which DFW vice president of air service development, Luis Perez, mentioned that Beijing was the airport’s largest gap in Asia.

Beijing-DFW will be American’s 11th Asia route, following recent additions of Shanghai and Hong Kong. American also began flying to Seoul, South Korea last year. The airline currently only offers non-stop service to Beijing from Chicago. Including Beijing, American will offer 5 routes to Asia from DFW, including its long-standing Tokyo flight.

American’s addition of DFW-Beijing has been the subject of speculation since prior to its launch of service to Shanghai and Hong Kong. American had long considered service to Beijing, and had previously applied for permission to serve the route. The previous application by American was rejected by the DOT in favor of United’s application for service from Washington D.C. to the Chinese capital. American expects to have no trouble securing permission now.

American is currently in the process of refitting all of its 777-200ER aircraft—which it plans to use on DFW-PEK—with flat business seats, new AVOD in all cabins, and international wifi.

“The trans-Pacific market is critical for business across the state of Texas and this new service is a direct conduit to open new opportunities for trade and tourism in our region,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. “This new route represents a huge opportunity for significant economic impact for our region by connecting DFW directly to Beijing.”

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Airports Share Service Stories at World Routes Summit

By Benet Wilson / Published September 24th, 2014

The 2014 World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago drew more than 3000 attendees, 300 airlines, 800 airports, 200 tourism authorities and hosted 10,000 meetings between Sept. 21-23. Airports interviewed at the event said that it’s a great venue to tell their stories to airline representatives and continue to make pitches for new and expanded air service.

Ville Haapasaari is the senior Vice President for Finland’s Finavia and airport director at the Helsinki Airport. In a chat at the fresh juice bar his company used lure attendees, he said World Routes was a good platform to conduct meetings with airlines. “We catch up with our existing customers, but visit with a lot of newcomers too,” he said.

Haapasaari boasted of Helsinki’s great location as a Northern European hub that offers a great route to Asia. “We started Japan Airlines service last July to Tokyo. It took a few years of discussions that started at Routes a few years ago,” he said. “That led to the service, which has been doing really well.”

Helsinki is medium-sized airport, serving 15 million passengers a year, said Haapasaari. “Everything is under one roof and compact, which allows for smooth operations,” he said. “We offer the same things most airports offer, but we’re also building an Arctic bar where passengers will be able to feel the wind and snow, giving them the look and feel of Finland.”

Cheryl Marcell is the deputy director of business development for Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. “Most airlines know about Silicon Valley, but many don’t know that our airport is in the middle of it, surrounded by one of the strongest business markets in the country,” she said. “But we are also a community that can support leisure travel, because we have the higher income levels that support that.”

San Jose knows that it needs information like what aircraft are coming into an airline’s fleet, their ranges and what future routes might be possible, said Marcell. “We know that air service development is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said. “When we meet with airlines, we give them updates and intangibles they may not know. For example, a year ago, the new 49ers football stadium didn’t exist. It is now two miles from the airport.”

The airport’s service from ANA to Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a great example of a successful pitch that started at a past Routes meeting, said Marrcell. “ANA had existing service out of San Francisco when they added a flight here,” she said. “Our service had grown and San Francisco’s hasn’t degraded.”

Customs announces major expansion of pre-clearance program

If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, pre-clearance locations outside the United States will more than double starting within the next two years, said Kevin McAleenan, the agency’s acting deputy director at the World Routes Strategy Summit in Chicago, Wednesday.

“Pre-clearance expansion offers opportunities from a commercial and passenger experience perspective,” said McAleenan. “It’s part of the U.S. government’s effort focus more on a return on investment from programs.”

Pre-clearance facilities, in operation since 1952, are currently located at 15 locations in Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland and Abu Dhabi. CBP is processing about 18 percent of passengers through pre-clearance, said McAleenan.

“CBP’s pre-clearance operations are an important step in the U.S. government’s effort to prevent terrorism from coming to our borders.” said McAleenan. “Where we can identify foreign airports willing to partner with us, additional preclearance agreements will further protect the safety and security of our citizens while also streamlining legitimate travel and commerce.”

The plan is for CBP to start a process to evaluate and prioritize an initial set of potential pre-clearance locations, said McAleenan. “Foreign airport authorities that are interested in initiating the process to establish preclearance operations at their location are encouraged to submit a letter detailing their interest to CBP,” he said.

McAleenan said his agency would then work with foreign airport authorities, host governments, and domestic and foreign air carriers to look at expansion opportunities.

Facilities in Dublin and Abu Dhabi have been successful, said McAleenan. “We want to be able to pre-clear one third of travelers by 2024,” he said. “We’ve seen 22 percent growth in pre-clearance in the past five years, and we’re doing it with the same budget and staffing.”

Pre-clearance offers a better passenger experience because there’s no waiting after a flight arrives, said McAleenen. “And this could help airlines with quicker turn times and reduced repositioning of aircraft, opening the possibility to operate additional destinations,” he said. “We also see significant security benefits from expanded pre-clearance locations.

“We’ve already had requests from two dozen airports for a a pre-clearance facility, said McAleenan. “We already have efforts in place to transform our business to be paperless, seamless and passenger driven,” he said. “This has been done through programs like passport kiosks and the expansion of [the] Global Entry [trusted traveler program].”

Pre-clearance facilities allow CBP to be proactive against threats, said McAleenan. “We can address security threats before a plane takes off, and we can do this without asking an airport to change the way they do business,” he said.

Airports and airlines can get built-in efficiencies with pre-clearance facilities, said McAleenan. “For example, when an Emirates A380 lands with 517 passengers aboard, they all get off and approach CBP lines at the same time,” he said. “In a pre-clearance world, they can arrive at different times, allowing for a continuous and more efficient flow.”

This workswith efforts like a pilot program at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that is testing the Mobile Passport Control (MPC), which allows eligible travelers to submit passport information and the customs declaration form from a smartphone or tablet, said McAleenan.

“We also continue to grow the Global Entry, program said McAleenan. “We already have 10 foreign partners, and we want to expand and increase the number of countries involved in the program,” he said.

The timeline for airport authorities interested in having a pre-clearance facility is: letters to CBP on adding the program are due by the end of November, said McAleenan. CBP will also do site reviews, study pre-clearance models and prioritize airports it deems are ready for formal negotiations, also in December; and final negotiations will begin in January 2015. A guide has also been released for interested airports.


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Aloha Air Cargo Announces Los Angeles Service

By Benjamin Bearup / Published September 23rd, 2014

Image Credit - Aloha Air Cargo

Image Credit – Aloha Air Cargo

Aloha Air Cargo will begin nonstop cargo service between Honolulu and Los Angeles beginning October 23.  Aloha Air Cargo says that the new service will, “be geared toward freight forwarders, consolidators, passenger carrier partners, and businesses looking to sync up with Aloha’s existing inter island network, for seamless movement of through cargo shipments to the Neighboring Hawaiian Islands.”

Aloha will utilize a Boeing 767-300F cargo aircraft that the airline will take delivery of in the coming weeks. The new route will be operated five times per week and will arrive in Honolulu at the strategic time of 5:00 am, enabling cargo connections through Aloha’s inter island route system, which serves Lihu’e, Kahului, Kona, and Hilo. Aloha is betting on this new route to drastically increase customer options and increase freight volumes between the United States and Hawaii. Flight schedules for the new route are as follow:

HNL – LAX ~~ D: 1430 A: 2245 ~~ 12345

LAX – HNL ~~ D: 0200 A: 0500 ~~ 23456

Currently, Aloha Air Cargo operates a small fleet of six aircraft, including two Boeing 737-200C aircraft capable of carrying 30,000 pounds of cargo, two Boeing 737-300F aircraft capable of carrying 42,900 pounds of freight, and two Saab 340’s capable of carrying 7,700 pounds of freight. The new 767-300F will have a capacity of 125,000 pounds, which will greatly increase Alohas overall cargo capacity. Currently one 737-200C, and one 737-300F are stored and out of service. Aloha will initially wet-lease the aircraft.

The new route will face competition from cargo giants Federal Express (FedEx) and UPS who both operate similar service from Honolulu to Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport respectively (both routes operate five times per week). Additional competition will be provided by Kalitta Air who operates varying service from Honolulu International to Los Angeles utilizing the 747-200 and from regional giant Hawaiian Airlines who utilizes the cargo holds of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Aloha Air Cargo is the survivor and successor of Aloha Airlines, which was Hawaii’s second airline for decades. Aloha was at one time, the largest air carrier in Hawaii, and it became a common site at airports along the west coast of the United States, and throughout Hawaii’s largest airports. Over the years, Aloha obtained an impressive fleet of over 20 737 family aircraft including several Boeing 737NG models with ETOPS certification that allowed Aloha to fly long distance routes. After more than 60 years of commercial service, Aloha Airlines announced that it would file for bankruptcy and would suspend all flight operations in March of 2008, citing rising fuel expenses and intense interisland competition with Hawaiian Airlines, and go! Airlines (a subsidiary of regional giant Mesa Airlines). Shortly after ceasing passenger operations, Aloha Airlines sold off its largely successful cargo division. After several unsuccessful negotiations and under the pressure of Hawaii governor Linda Lingle and Senator Daniel Inouye, Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources purchased Aloha’s cargo division for $10.5 million.


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ANALYSIS: Delta Makes Seattle – Tokyo Haneda Seasonal

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 22nd, 2014

Image Credit - JDL Multimedia

Image Credit – JDL Multimedia

Delta Air Lines is making its nonstop service between Seattle and Tokyo Haneda seasonal, removing service on the route between October 1, 2014 and March 29, 2015. Delta had planned to serve the route daily with a Boeing 767-300ER, but suspended the service due to poor advance bookings and the general weakness of US carrier services to Tokyo Haneda. Delta’s current flight schedules for service to Tokyo Haneda are as follow:

DL 581 ~~ SEA – HND ~~ D: 1822 A: 2235+1 ~~ Daily
DL 580 ~~ HND – SEA ~~ D: 0015 A: 1624-1 ~~ Daily

Source: DOT

Source: DOT

Delta initially served Tokyo Haneda from Detroit and Los Angeles when granted two slots back in 2010, but moved its Detroit service to Seattle in 2013, adding to its growing portfolio of international destinations at Seattle. However, as with other flights between the United States and Tokyo Haneda, the route has suffered from poor demand. The table to the left displays load factors for the months of October 2013 through March 2014, and the figures are not pretty. October and November were particularly abysmal, and while December outbound and January inbound loads were predictably boosted by the holiday season, traffic once again declined in February and March.

The demand challenges for US airlines are driven primarily by Japan’s Ministry of Transport (MoT), who allocated awkward and ungainly nighttime slots for services to and from the United States. These late night flight timings are unattractive for origin and destination (O&D) customers, because by the time they clear immigration, the trains from Haneda into Tokyo shut down by midnight, and the cost of taxis is prohibitive. Admittedly, Delta partly brought these challenges onto itself by operating a flight that arrives at Haneda at 10:35 pm. But its only alternative is to operate a late-night departure from Seattle (at roughly midnight) that arrives in Tokyo in the morning (at roughly am), leave the aircraft on the ground in Tokyo all day, and then operate a late night departure, which reduces aircraft utilization. The only US carrier that has found success operating to Haneda is Hawaiian Airlines, whose home base in Honolulu is better-located to serve Haneda during the nighttime window. Delta also applied to move its Los Angeles – Haneda services to Honolulu, and Honolulu, Guam, and perhaps Kona appear to be the only airports that could support service to Haneda in the United States.

While Delta will likely maintain service to Tokyo Haneda after March in order to maintain its control over the potentially valuable slots, that strategy will only pay off if Japan and the US come to an agreement that allows US carriers to operate daytime flights at Haneda during a review process this October. But for the moment, service to Tokyo Haneda from US carriers will continue to suffer.


Slider image courtesy of JDL Multimedia

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2013 World Airport Traffic Report: Passenger Traffic Up, Cargo Inches Higher

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 19th, 2014

Image Credit - Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Airports Council International released its 2013 World Airport Traffic Report this week, showing passenger traffic up 4.6% from 2012, while air cargo traffic increased a slight 0.9%. The report, which includes data from almost 2000 airports in 160 countries, found increases in passenger traffic across all six regions included.

Overall air traffic volume in 2013 was 6.3 billion passengers. Asia-Pacific airports saw the largest passenger volume at 2.06 billion passengers, growth of 8.7% over 2012 figures, the highest of any region. The Middle East region saw only 278 million passengers, but a 7% increase over 2012. African airports saw the lowest increase in passenger traffic, registering 0.5% growth.

“With many major economies remaining in a fragile state, 2013 can best be characterized as a year of unstable recovery for the global economy,” said Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI World. “Despite this challenging operating climate, worldwide traffic surpassed the 6 billion passenger mark in 2013. This represents an enormous feat for the airport industry as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of commercial aviation in 2014.”

As expected, airports in emerging markets saw stronger growth compared to airports in advanced markets, growing at 8.7% vs 1.8% in 2013, capturing a total market share of 42%.

Image Credit - Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) retained the title of busiest airport in the world in 2013, transiting 94.4 million passengers, a decrease of 1.1% from 2012. Beijing’s Capital International Airport (PEK) remained the second busiest in the world handling 83.7 million passengers. Beijing’s growth of 2.2% year-over-year from 2012 is understandable given it is capacity constrained at this point. The second airport being constructed in China’s capital, due for completion in 2018, will relieve some of those constraints.

London Heathrow (LHR) was the world’s busiest international airport with traffic of 67.3 million passengers, up 3.2% over 2012. Dubai (DXB) was second in international passenger traffic at 65.9 million. International traffic there was up 15.3% over 2012, showcasing the continued growth of the Middle East airport as a world transit hub. Dubai moved from 10th busiest in the world to 7th in 2013.

Air Cargo transport increased only slightly, up 0.9% over 2012. Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East saw improvement, while North America, Latin American-Caribbean, and Africa saw slight declines. Hong Kong (HKG), Memphis (MEM), and Shanghai (PVG) maintained their 1, 2, 3 rating, with Hong Kong and Memphis each handling over 4 million tons of cargo.

While growth was anemic last year, the cargo market is “displaying an overall growth rate of 3.7% for the first half of 2014 compared with a net decline for the same period the previous year,” said Dr. Rafael Echevarne, Director of Economics and Programme Development, ACI World.


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Flashback Friday: Fort Lauderdale Spotting in the Early 90s

By Luis Linares / Published September 19, 2014 / Photos by author

FLL Spotting Area - LFL

View from FLL plane spotting area in early 1990s

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is one of the few airports that offers a dedicated location for plane spotters.  This area is located next to the holding point of runway 10L, and there are no parking costs to worry about when visiting this great location. Today, the area also offers a loudspeaker for spotters to listen to air traffic control tower communications with traffic.  In light of this week’s opening of the extended runway 10R, let’s go back to the early 1990s to see some of the traffic visible from the viewing park.

Snowbird Season

Friendly Canadian tourists, affectionately known as “snowbirds”, are a common sight in Florida during the winter months, though Air Canada flies to FLL year-round.  In the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for the airline to add more flights and use larger aircraft in the winter, and one of the main attractions was when their 747 visited.  Canadian charter carriers relied heavily on the winter months in Florida for their bread and butter and Canada 3000 was one of the largest charter airlines in the world during its operation. The company, which did not survive the post-September 11 airline chaos, was one of Air Canada’s main competitors during the winter vacation season in South Florida.

ACA 747 - FLL - LFL CMM 757 - FLL - LFL
Air Canada Boeing 747-200 and Canada 3000 Boeing 757-200

Delta stronghold

Before the days of JetBlue and Spirit, Delta Air Lines was the largest operator at FLL.  Delta’s flew widebody Lockheed L-1011s and Boeing 767s, especially to and from Atlanta and New York.  This was also still a time when many of the airline’s Boeing 727s were still in operation, and another frequent Delta visitor to FLL in the 90s was the Boeing 757, which today is still a common sight at the airport.  Today, Delta is the fourth largest operator at FLL, behind , JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit, and it operates from Terminal 2.

DAL 722 - FLL - LFL DAL L1011 - FLL - LFL
Tri-jets: Delta Boeing 727-200 and Lockheed L1011 TriStar

Defunct U.S. Airlines 

In the early 1990s, now defunct U.S. carriers, such as Newark-based Kiwi International Airlines, Indianapolis-based American Trans Air (later ATA), Carnival Airlines, and the famous Trans World Airlines (TWA) visited FLL. Kiwi was created by former Eastern and Pan Am pilots and managers and operated from 1992 to until its bankruptcy in 1999.  Its demise was caused by various factors, including undercapitalization, bad press on the safety of low cost airlines in light of the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996, and a maintenance dispute with the FAA despite the airlines perfect safety record. ATA was North America’s largest charter airline, founded in 1973, and it lasted until 2008, when it lost a contract to transport military members. Carnival Air Lines was an attempt by the parent cruise line to provide charter services from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It started flights in 1988 and ceased operations after a failed merger with a reincarnated version of Pan Am in 1998. The iconic TWA was a frequent visitor from New York JFK and Saint Louis.  However, TWA experienced three bankruptcies starting in 1992, and American Airlines eventually bought and merged with TWA at the end of 2001.

KIA 722 - FLL - LFL AMT 722 - FLL - LFL CAA 734 - FLL - LFL TWA 721 - FLL - LFLKiwi International Airlines Boeing 727-200, American Trans Air Boeing 727-200, Carnival Airlines Boeing 737-400, and Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 727-100 at FLL

Past Fleets and Liveries

Finally, more than 20 years ago, many of the airlines still in operation today had aircraft and colors that are now history.  US Airways was known as US Air at the time and had inherited a number of Boeing 737-300/400 aircraft after its merger with Piedmont Airlines. On the charter side, Miami-based Miami Air International was only a couple of years into its operation.  It started with a fleet of Boeing 727s, and today it operates a combination of Boeing 737-400/800 planes.

USA 734 - FLL - LFL BSK 722 - FLL - LFL
US Air Boeing 737-400 and Miami Air International Boeing 727-200


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Fort Lauderdale Airport Debuts New Runway

By Vinay Bhaskara, Ian Petchenik, and Chris Sloan/ Published September 18th, 2014

Fort Lauderdale Airport’s new, $826 million runway opened today with JetBlue’s Flight 1028 the first to touch down. The new runway 10R/28L sits on the south of the airport and runs parallel to Fort Lauderdale’s existing 9000 foot runway. The runway, part of a $2.3 billion capital improvement program at the airport, took three years and three months to complete, but was decades in the making. It is 8000 feet long and 150 feet wide, and will allow Fort Lauderdale to operate simultaneous landings and departures, expanding capacity at the airport to up to 425,000 flights annually, up from 260,000 at present. Until now, Fort Lauderdale had been limited to a single main air carrier runway, much like San Diego and London’s Gatwick Airport.

The elevated eastern end of Fort Lauderdale's runway: Image Credit - Fort Lauderdale Airport

The elevated eastern end of Fort Lauderdale’s runway: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

The new runway’s design is unusual, as the eastern end of the runway is elevated to allow traffic on highway US 1 and a freight railway line to pass underneath aircraft on take off. The eastern end of the runway was elevated by 52 feet using 11 million tons of dirt and has a slope of 1.3 degrees. 10R/28L is one of just three runways in the United States with a slope of 1.3 degrees or more. To facilitate traffic flow, the airport constructed six runway structures, each of which is 810 feet long and six taxiway structures that are 440 feet long. These structures are smaller-scale versions of the runway construction at Madeira Airport in Portugal, whose elevated runway opened in 2002.

The new runway is only part of a $2.3 billion capital improvement project. Broward County, operator of the airport, is also currently renovating three of its terminals and completely reconstructing Terminal 4. Construction in all of the terminals is slated to be completed by 2017. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 are getting a much needed $300 million facelift and Terminal 1, which houses Southwest Airlines is getting an additional $150 million for the construction of a five international gates in a new Concourse A. The main terminal complex dates to the 1980s and is certainly showing its age.

Concourse A

Southwest’s New International Concourse A at Terminal 1: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

Southwest is expected to use Fort Lauderdale as a growing hub for its increased international operations when the new gates come online. Southwest is today the second largest airline at Fort Lauderdale by market share, and it is locked in a tight competition with JetBlue to grow market share in Fort Lauderdale and use it as a base to serve Latin American destinations. Although the county is paying for the construction via grants and passenger facility charges, Southwest is managing all construction in Terminal 1.

Terminal 4, FLL’s international terminal, is being completely rebuilt because of its position on the airfield. Terminal 4’s Concourse H is situated in an area needed for the south runway airfield improvements. The $450 million terminal’s reconstruction is being completed in two stages, with the West phase scheduled to open in 2015 and the East scheduled for completion in 2017. 14 additional gates are planned, for a total of 24 in the terminal.

Fort Lauderdale's New Terminal 4: Image Credit - Fort Lauderdale Airport

Fort Lauderdale’s New Terminal 4: Image Credit – Fort Lauderdale Airport

Work in the terminals will also bring vast improvements to the airport passenger experience. A connector bridge is being built between Terminals 3 and 4 to allow for easier passenger connections between international and domestic flights. Arriving passengers will only need to clear security once. Passengers will also have a new corridor connecting the gates directly to the customs area, reducing passenger walk times after they deplane.

A common complaint about FLL is the lack of airside concessions, a problem being addressed in all terminals. Terminals 1, 2, and 3 will see reconfigured and new concessions as well as new retail space. Ticketing and security screening areas will also see a major overhaul, streamlining the process.

In-line baggage handling systems, which allow for explosives detection while the baggage is moving on the conveyor belt, are also being installed. In-line baggage systems have been installed in Terminals 1 and 2. Terminal 3 is slated to receive the upgrade baggage system by next year, while Terminal 4 will open with the system installed.

Fort Lauderdale, which handled a record 23.5 million passengers in 2013, is an increasing hotspot for competition between network carriers JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, ultra-low cost carriers (ULCC) Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, and regional carrier Silver Airways. JetBlue has served Fort Lauderdale continuously since it began operations in 2000, and is today the largest airline at Fort Lauderdale by market share, edging ahead of Southwest, but both carriers aim to nearly double their footprint at Fort Lauderdale with the new runway, and turn Fort Lauderdale into the second Latin American gateway in South Florida.

JetBlue 1028 is the first to land on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Magero.

JetBlue 1028 is the first to land on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Mageropoulos/Florida Aviation Photography.


JetBlue 1018 receives a water cannon salute upon arrival on the new runway. Photo courtesy John Mageropoulos/Florida Aviation Photography

Accordingly, the first commercial flight to christen the new runway was JetBlue Flight 1028, a so-called “flight-to-nowhere” that took off from the north runway and landed on the new south runway. The flight number, 1028, was chosen in accordance with the compass heading of the new runway. Flight 1028 departed 10/28 north at 9:28 am. The Airbus A320 flew east and then west over Everglades climbing to 7,000 feet. Over the everglades, the seat belt sign was turned off for 5 minutes before turning back east and descending into Fort Lauderdale. No inflight snacks were offered, and the FlyFi was turned off, due to the maximum altitude of 7,000 feet. After 25 minutes in the air, JetBlue 1028 became the first flight to land at 9:53 am local time. The pilots made sure to land with extra force in order to christen the runway with its first skid marks. After Flight 1028, the runway will formally be opened for normal commercial flights Thursday afternoon. The first regularly scheduled flight to use the new runway was also a JetBlue flight. Flight 506 to Newark, New Jersey departed at 2:40pm local time. Check out our photos of JetBlue’s flight below.

Image Credit - Chris Sloan / Airways News

Image Credit – Chris Sloan / Airways News











































Photo courtesy Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.




NOTE: Airways News will publish an in-depth analysis of the Fort Lauderdale market soon
Chris Sloan in Fort Lauderdale also contributed to this story
Gallery images courtesy of Chris Sloan / Airways News
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Norwegian Adds Service in Orlando

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 18th, 2014

Image Credit - Norwegian Air Shuttle

Image Credit – Norwegian Air Shuttle

Norwegian Air Shuttle is adding two flights per week from Europe to Orlando, with new nonstop service from Copenhagen and London Gatwick. Norwegian will launch service from Copenhagen on March 30, 2015, with London Gatwick flights beginning April 4, 2015. Both flights will be operated by Boeing 787-8 aircraft seating 291 passengers in a two-class configuration ( 32Y+ / 259Y ). Flight schedules for the new route are as follow:

DY 7055 ~~ CPH – MCO ~~ D: 1715 A: 2100 ~~ 1
DY 7056 ~~ MCO – CPH ~~ D: 2300 A: 1410+1 ~~ 1

DY 7057 ~~ LGW – MCO ~~ D: 1550 A: 2000 ~~ 6
DY 7058 ~~ MCO – LGW ~~ D: 2200 A: 1115+1 ~~ 6

After launching service last year, Norwegian has steadily grown its US operations. The carrier now offers 41 flights per week on sixteen city pairs between the United States and Scandinavia (as well as London Gatwick), and would likely offer more if not for the controversy surrounding its Norwegian Air International (NAI) scheme. However, these flights appear to be operated by Norwegian Long Haul, the more benign long haul subsidiary based in Norway, so they should not be held up by the legal challenges holding NAI back.

Norwegian’s London Gatwick operation is fast-growing, with the carrier currently scheduled to operate 74 flights per week to 32 destinations. While Norwegian will have a monopoly on nonstop service to Orlando from Copenhagen (and on its existing service to Oslo), at London Gatwick it will have to contend with competition from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Thomas Cook, Thomson Airways, and Monarch Airways (who serve Orlando Sanford as a scheduled charter).


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American Airlines Customer Service Agents Vote to Unionize

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 17th, 2014

An American Airlines 737. Image Credit - Ian Petchenik / Airways News

An American Airlines 737. Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

In a vote completed yesterday, customer service agents for American Airlines and US Airways voted in favor of union representation by a wide margin. The vote, announced by the National Mediation Board, was 86% in favor, with 9,640 votes out of 11, 187 voting yes.

The customer service agents, which include ticket-counter workers, gate agents, and reservations agents, will be represented by the Communication Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. US Airways customer service agents have been members of the CWA since 2000, and former America West agents voted to join the Teamsters in 2004. This is the first time agents from the legacy American Airlines have voted for union representation. Those workers will now be represented by CWA.

A vote held in January 2013 resulted in a narrow loss for union organizers as it fell 150 votes short of the required majority. Organizers, however, vowed to try again, and this week succeeded. Leading up to the 2013 vote, American worked to stop the union from organizing. This time around, they did not attempt to influence the vote.

In a written statement, American Airlines spokesperson Paul Flaningan called the matter of union representation “settled” and said, “We have enjoyed a productive relationship with the CWA-IBT as well as our other unions and look forward to continuing our work together.” 

The vote caps a nearly 20 year long fight by American Airlines agents for union membership. Union organizers are particularly happy as three-quarters of the union members reside in the southern United States, an area notoriously difficult for unions. Negotiations between American and the newly unionized employees are expected to begin this fall.

“We’re the front line employees who interact with our customers every day, and we are looking forward to a positive relationship with management to make this merger ‘work’ for all of us,” said Richard Shaughnessy, an American agent at Miami International Airport. “We are anxious to get to the bargaining table.”

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ANALYSIS: Piedmont to Receive Regional Jets

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 16th, 2014

Image Credit - Chris Sloan / Airways News

Image Credit – Chris Sloan / Airways News

Pilots at Piedmont Airlines, a regional provider for the new American Airlines, voted yes on a new contract by a margin of 77% to 23%, paving the way for Piedmont to receive regional jets in the coming years. Piedmont’s yes vote marks an important step forward in the new American’s plans to refine and up-gauge its regional feed.

Piedmont is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines Group (AAG), operating short-haul feeder services at the pre-merger US Airways hubs of Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Washington Reagan. It operates a fleet of 43 Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop aircraft (32 Q100s, and 11 Q300s), with an average fleet age of 24.9 years, serving 47 destinations across the United States.

The new contract for Piedmont pilots is expected to offer similar economics to the one that was consistently rejected by pilots at Envoy Air, another wholly owned regional subsidiary of AAG. While Piedmont management stated that the carrier will continue to operate its turboprop fleet for sometime, the new contract raises questions as to potential replacement of the Dash 8s.

A somewhat one-to-one solution would come in the form of the ATR 42-500, a 50-seat aircraft, which would represent a one-to-one replacement for the Q300s and an increase in seating capacity of just 13 seats over the Q100s. However, the ATR 42 and ATR 72-600 offer the exact same trip cost, which has limited the market for the smaller ATR 42. The ATR 72-600 would represent a major up-gauge over the Q100s, nearly doubling them in capacity, while offering a 40% capacity increase over the Q300 at better trip costs (depending on the cost of capital). The faster Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 is likely to expensive for Piedmont’s needs.

Of the ATR options, the ATR 72 might be the better fit, as it allows American to consolidate Piedmont’s operations in manner similar to Delta’s strategy in reducing its fleet of 50-seat regional jets. In Delta’s case, it used larger 76-seat regional jets and mainline Boeing 717 aircraft to replace E145 and CRJ-200 flights on a one-to-one capacity basis, and AAG could use a similar strategy. Piedmont operates 206 flights per day with the Q100 and 90 with the Q300, but could conceivably operate just 160 combined flights with the ATR 72 as a replacement. Given that some of the markets served with the smaller props are unlikely to be profitable with the new American’s higher costs, Piedmont could conceivably re-fleet for just 150 ATR 72 flights per day. Even with the ATR’s longer turn time, that flying program could be operated with 25-27 ATR 72s and would have the added benefit of freeing up  at least 100 of Piedmont’s 340 pilots for new aircraft.

Indeed, the success of plans to add regional jets to Piedmont’s fleet will hinge on the regional airline’s ability to add new pilots. Envoy’s gambit was predicated on the idea that the looming pilot shortage would preclude American from finding adequate alternatives for placing 60 Embraer E175 aircraft. However, American placed 20 aircraft with Compass Airlines, and now has the option of placing additional aircraft with Piedmont. In fact, E175s are the most likely candidate for Piedmont. The CRJ-900s are off the table, and Envoy’s CRJ-700s will be moved to PSA. While Envoy has a fleet of 118 50-seat regional jets, it is unlikely that Piedmont would be able to fly even a substantial portion of those aircraft if it replaces its turboprops. In terms of E175s, if Piedmont opts for replacement turboprops as noted above, it will have to hire 250-300 additional pilots to fly all 40 E175s, which might be a tall order. But flying 20-25 of the E175s is certainly possible, and we see that as the most likely scenario. There is also another scenario where American eliminates Piedmont’s entire turboprop fleet, freeing up 340 pilots to operate 50-seat regional jets or E175s. Either way, interesting times lie ahead for Piedmont and American Airlines Group


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ANALYSIS: Air Canada (Rouge) to Resume Service to Osaka Kansai

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published September 16th, 2014

Image Credit - CNW Group / Air Canada Rouge

Image Credit – CNW Group / Air Canada Rouge

Air Canada will resume service between Vancouver and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport on low cost arm Rouge, with seasonal nonstop service beginning May 1, 2015. The route will be served five times per week using Rouge’s Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, which seats 264 or 280 passengers in a two-class configuration [ ( 18Y+ / 256Y ) or ( 24Y+ / 256Y ) ]. Flight schedules for the first Rouge long haul service from Vancouver are as follow:

AC 1927 ~~ YVR – KIX ~~ D: 1205 A: 1455+1 ~~ 12357
AC 1928 ~~ KIX – YVR ~~ D: 1625 A: 0955 ~~ 12346

Air Canada served Osaka-Kansai year-round with mainline aircraft for many years from Vancouver, its trans-Pacific hub. However, the route was plagued by low yields and the same economic factors that dragged down the performance of other long haul routes from Osaka, causing Air Canada to terminate service in late-2008 at the depth of the late-2000s global financial crisis.

However, nearly 40% of Vancouver’s population is of Asian descent, so visiting family and relative (VFR) and tourist demand remained robust. After five years of economic recovery in Japan and Canada, Air Canada is banking on that demand (as well as connecting traffic from across North America) to make the new route profitable at Rouge’s lower costs.

Related: ANALYSIS: Japan Airlines to Launch Osaka – Los Angeles

Osaka Kansai will become the first Asian destination for the divisive Rouge, which will operate eleven trans-Atlantic routes from Toronto and Montreal in the summer alongside the Osaka service. The low-cost wing will also offer a slew of North American services from Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, and Toronto, using its fleet of Airbus A319 aircraft.

Rouge's Vancouver route network - Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper -  copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Rouge’s Vancouver route network in North America – Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Air Canada’s Rouge operation has been controversial, with the carrier claiming that its lower costs allow Air Canada to maintain an expansive route network while boosting profitability. Customer response has been more negative, with critics decrying poor service, reduced seat pitch, and the sudden replacement of mainline Air Canada service with Rouge on several routes. While Rouge in theory offers Air Canada the ability to compete more effectively with nimbler Asian rivals and low cost carriers (LCCs) such WestJet and Air Transat, the carrier also faces the the threat of brand dilution, which has hampered Qantas Airways (in conjunction with its low cost arm Jetstar). Thus it is unclear whether Air Canada’s push to grow Rouge will pan out.


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