Category Archives: Major News

Avianca Brasil Joins Star Alliance

By: Roberto Leiro / Published July 22, 2015

Sao Paulo-based carrier Avianca Brasil has officially become the newest member of the Star Alliance today, in a move that seeks to fill the void left by TAM Airlines after leaving the alliance in March 2014 following its merge with LAN Airlines, a oneworld member.

In a ceremony that took place in Guarulhos Internacional Airport, Mark Schwab, CEO Star Alliance assured “Adding Avianca Brasil to our network is an important step in enhancing our customer proposition in Latin America. Brazil is the most important aviation market on the continent and we are pleased that from today onwards, we can once again offer domestic connections in Brazil.”

Currently, Avianca Brasil is the fastest growing airline in the country. From 2010 to 2014 it increased its market share from 2.6% to 8.4%. Until May of 2015 the airline continued this trend, reaching a cumulative market share of 9%.

Avianca Brasil operates a sound fleet of 50 aircraft. (Photo Credits: Magnus Manske)

Avianca Brasil operates a sound fleet of 50 aircraft. (Photo Credits: Magnus Manske, Wikimedia Commons)

In November 2010 the alliance accepted the group Avianca Holdings to join the network as a member. However, Avianca Brasil was not included at that time. According to Jose Efromovich, President and CEO of Avianca Brazil, the integration took approximately two years in which the airline’s IT platform was revamped among further adjustments in programs and procedures up to the standards of the alliance. “We are proud to be part of the most experienced airline alliance and are pleased to put Brazil back on the Star Alliance map” he commented.

In total 13 member carriers (Air Canada, Air China, Avianca, Avianca Brasil, Copa Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, SWISS, TAP, Turkish Airlines and United) now serve Brazil, which further strengthens Star Alliance’s position as the alliance with the most airlines in this market. Avianca Brasil adds 15 new destinations in Brazil to the existing 12 which the Star Alliance member carriers already served, bringing the total to 27.

In addition to Avianca’s Brasil membership, Star Alliance seeks to add low-cost carrier Azul Linhas Aereas to its network. The airline, the third largest in Brazil, was elected in 2015 for the fifth time in a row by Skytrax as the best low cost carrier in Latin America. Last June, United Airlines bought a 5% stake in the airline, which may open the road to a future integration in the alliance.

To have two large players in the same region under the same alliance is not new for Star Alliance. In Latin America, the alliance is represented by Panama-based Copa Airlines and Avianca, the flag carrier of Colombia.


5k7s85PpRoberto Leiro is the Executive Editor at AirwaysNews.com. An aviation passionate since early childhood, Roberto started with other fellow enthusiasts Venezuela’s first aviation photography / news organization svzm.aero. Follow him on twitter @rleiro and reach him via e-mail at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com.


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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Airbus Kicks Off A350 XWB Americas Tour

By: Roberto Leiro / Published July 7, 2015

After one year of having completed its Route Proving Round-The-World Tour, the Airbus A350-900 XWB has begun a tour in the Americas, as the next generation airliner has entered into service with Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines this year.

RELATED: Qatar Airways Takes Delivery of World’s First Airbus A350 XWB

RELATED: Vietnam Airlines Takes Delivery of its First Airbus A350 XWB

During this tour, aircraft MSN002 will be presented to its customers in Brazil, TAM and Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, with visits to Sao Paulo and Viracopos, respectively. Back in August 2014, LATAM Airlines Group placed an order for 27 aircraft with a value estimated in $7 billion.

The airline expects to take delivery of its first two A350 in December, and plans to have an initial domestic operation from Guarulhos (Sao Paulo) to Manaus, for a late deployment to Miami in March 2016 and Madrid one month later.

A350_XWB_TAM_02 (1)

Caption: At the present time, the first A350 for TAM Airlines has entered in the final assembly line in Tolouse, thus becoming the fourth operator of the type. (Photo Coutesy: Airbus S.A.S.)

Azul Linhas Aéreas is also another A350 customer in the region, with a firm order for four A350-900 placed in April last year. The airline, one of the leading domestic carriers in Brazil, has started international service to the United States, and it is expected to operate seven Airbus A330 aircraft by the end of this year, all of them retrofitted with new cabins and IFE system.

RELATED: Azul Orders Widebody Jets, to Fly to US in 2015

After Brazil, the A350-900 XWB will be visiting Colombia and the United States, where the EAA has confirmed its presence on EAA AirVenture opening day with an aerial demonstration during the afternoon air show. This is not the first time in which Airbus presents one of its airliners in this event. Back in 2009, the Airbus A380 featured a presentation showing off its handling qualities, maneuverability and performance.

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

Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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ANALYSIS: DOJ Overreaches with Investigation Into Airline “Collusion”

By: Vinay Bhaskara / Published July 6. 2015

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it was investigating US airlines for collusion Wednesday afternoon, building a striking parallel to current efforts by major US carriers to restrict access to the U.S. market for Middle Eastern airlines and European low-cost carrier (LCC) Norwegian Air Shuttle. The DOJ has subpoenaed several major U.S. airlines as part of its investigation into “possible unlawful coordination” to limit capacity and boost airfares. News of the DOJ investigation comes roughly two weeks after Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to the DOJ asking them to probe possible collusion amongst US airlines.

RELATED: DOJ Subpoenas Airlines over Alleged Collusion The DOJ has broad latitude in proving collusion.

According to the DOJ website:

Most criminal antitrust prosecutions involve price fixing, bid rigging, or market division or allocation schemes. Each of these forms of collusion may be prosecuted criminally if they occurred, at least in part, within the past five years. Proving such a crime does not require us to show that the conspirators entered into a formal written or express agreement. Price fixing, bid rigging, and other collusive agreements can be established either by direct evidence, such as the testimony of a participant, or by circumstantial evidence, such as suspicious bid patterns, travel and expense reports, telephone records, and business diary entries.

The DOJ’s investigation is the most far-reaching probe by the U.S. government into the behavior of U.S. airlines in a long while, perhaps ever. Still, the investigation has a high burden of proof. In order to prove that U.S. airlines actually colluded, the DOJ must not only prove that the actions of the U.S. airlines reduced competition, but also that these illegally communicated with each other in order to achieve this state of reduced competition.

This second requirement would appear to be the biggest weakness in the DOJ’s case. It appears that the DOJ is (at least partly) relying on public statements made by airline executives at various conferences, as well as the more common practice of providing capacity guidance to investors and the media to prove its case. This seems like weak evidence at best. There’s always the possibility that the DOJ has some sort of whistleblower at one of the U.S. majors, but it seems unlikely given how many resources and employees U.S. carriers devote to regulatory compliance that they’d slip up.

Airlines are certainly a convenient political target given the broadly unfavorable consumer views of U.S. carriers (excluding Southwest and JetBlue?), and the veritable smorgasbord of negative stories from a media primed to view everything involving businesses almost exclusively through the lens of the consumer, without considering the other stakeholders involved (more on this later). Given that context, one almost wonders if the DOJ is looking to score cheap political points by extorting a few million dollars per airline to make this issue go away quickly. Airline stocks are certainly being punished enough such that executives have a pretty strong incentive to do exactly that.

The other plausible outcome from this case is a consent decree (basically a diktat from a federal agency saying “stop this practice or else…”) that would require airlines to stop issuing specific numbers for capacity guidance, or even to stop making public statements about capacity altogether. But airlines primarily issue those statements for the benefit of their owners (i.e. shareholders). They’re not required by SEC regulations, but they are pretty standard practice worldwide because they allow an airline’s owners the ability to react in real time to an airline’s plans and force adjustments that they deem necessary, which is a pretty fundamental shareholder’s right. Moreover, even if the DOJ bans capacity guidance, airlines will just shift to providing PRASM guidance, which will send enough of a message regarding capacity that shareholders will be able to pressure airlines into doing what they want anyway. The DOJ also technically has the ability to break up the US majors, but that’s not a realistic outcome.

Contextualizing the Problem

The argument for the anti-competitive market situation largely rests on two data points: capacity discipline by U.S. airlines and sharply rising airfares. To start with the latter, the rise in airfares is a common talking point. For example, in a CNN report on the probe yesterday, a pundit noted that “Fares have skyrocketed…. according to government data, airfares have increased 16.4% since 2010.” But this data is misleading if not outright disingenuous. First and foremost, using 2010 as a base doesn’t make sense given that 2010 was still in the midst of recovery from the global financial crisis in late 2008-2009. A better design would begin in 2008, which has the added benefit of preceding enough of the mergers such that you start with a fundamentally more competitive industry than today. Then you have to talk about the use of base fares, which are affected by a variety of factors, most importantly stage length. You would expect airfares to rise as stage length rises, and given the 6.6% rise in stage length for U.S. airlines from 2008-2015, that immediately wipes away part of the rise. Luckily, airlines have metrics that account for length of flight, namely PRASM and yield.

While PRASM is the more widely reported metric, PRASM is also affected by load factors and the balance between capacity and demand, so a better metric is adjusted yields, which reflect the average price a passenger is paying for a seat-mile on an aircraft. So just how monstrous is the rise in airfares per this metric? Between 2008-2015, they went up 6.6%, a whopping 1.08% per year. Meanwhile, stage-length adjusted cost per available seat mile (CASM) rose 5.4%. 1.2 percentage points more than costs is what fares have risen since 2008. The inclusion of ancillary revenue like checked baggage fees and change fees complicates the picture, but even so, out of pocket travel costs don’t end up coming out much higher than CPI inflation over the period, at 9.9%.

Capacity moves have been driven by Wall Street

On the capacity side, the DOJ can at least point to plenty of evidence of US carriers making statements about capacity discipline and de-hubbing airports like Memphis or Cincinnati that weren’t a fit post-merger. And on an aggregate, level, the US airlines, particularly the legacies, but also Southwest and the rest have embraced capacity discipline, with post-recession capacity growth under the rate of growth of GDP (the economy) whereas in the past, capacity usually grew at 1.5 – 2x the rate of GDP. But is the cause of this really coordinated action derived from illegal communication? Or should we apply Occam’s Razor and look for the simplest answer?

Like most publicly traded companies, U.S. airlines are in many respects beholden to their shareholders (i.e. their owners). And while Wall Street is oft maligned in industry circles for driving too much short term thinking (occasionally in this space), by and large Wall Street analysts and ratings agencies are a pretty good proxy for most shareholders, who tend to lack a sophisticated understanding of the industry and its vagaries. And Wall Street, for very food reasons, has decided that it likes capacity discipline; and that by extension it will reward it, and punish a lack of discipline. One need look no further than the recent response to Southwest’s share price when the Dallas-based carrier announced that its capacity growth for 2015 would come in around 8% instead of 7% as it had previously guided. Southwest’s share price was hammered (along with that of much of the industry) and it was forced to walk back those plans.

While this might seem to be an overreaction, airline investors have a very good reason to value capacity discipline. It is only in the last five to six years, as investors have pushed airlines to engage in capacity discipline, that they have finally got something resembling a reasonable return for the first time in more than a decade. And unlike the late 1990s, these returns are not contingent on an incredibly positive macro environment in the U.S. and the world. And when a firm’s owners want something, it usually happens (look no further than the ousting of Dave Barger in favor of Robin Hayes at JetBlue). Has this changed the behavior of U.S. airlines in aggregate? Yes. Is it collusion? No.

A situation of the DOJ’s own creation

The real dramatic irony is that the present state of competition in the US airline industry is pretty much the fault of the DOJ itself. If fares are rising and capacity is being constrained, the DOJ has no one to blame but itself. Through a mix of antitrust immunity/joint ventures, mergers, and slot swaps, the DOJ has allowed many of the more anti-competitive situations in the U.S. to develop. There are only three major airline groups across the Atlantic? The DOJ signed off on that. Six legacies merged into three? The DOJ signed off on that too. Delta and American now have fortress hubs at New York La Guardia and Washington Reagan respectively? The DOJ okayed that one as well. We are unquestionably living in an air travel oligopoly. But it’s a bit rich for the DOJ to bluster about the resultant situation today when it signed off on every one of the steps that created it.

And the federal government’s various agencies have the ability to rectify this situation pretty quickly. The US3 campaigns against Norwegian and the Middle East Big 3 can be overruled pretty quickly. Why not go further and sign Open Skies agreements with any country that’s willing? And to solve the issue of domestic competition, why not ease rules on foreign ownership and offer unlimited cabotage? The federal government has plenty of tools to increase competition in the US airline market. None of them involve a politically convenient “investigation” based on exaggerated charges.

The most important philosophical question is which stakeholders matter 

The current U.S. airline market is not the best it has ever been for consumers. It’s still better than everything before deregulation and most of the 80s and 90s, but except for high yield and business travelers, the early 2000s were probably the golden age for purchasers of air travel in terms of convenience and low fares. And the reduction in competition through consolidation and capacity discipline absolutely plays a role on that. But is the consumer’s interest the only thing to consider?

Airlines have three primary stakeholders: consumers, employees (including executives), and shareholders, as well as several other minor ones (like airports, airframers, suppliers, etc.). But when the media and broader public think about airline issues, they solely focus on the consumer’s needs and perspective. But shareholders can’t be ignored, if only because they own the airline. Ultimately, an airline, like any for-profit business, is beholden to its shareholders, and largely required to comply with their wishes and act for their benefit. There are very good reasons for this. The original rationale for the shareholder system was to allow the pooling of capital to create large companies while spreading risk. There is no way that the massive, complex, and risky airline networks that exist today would be able to function without the money of the shareholders.

But there’s a funny thing about shareholders: they like getting a return on their money. And by 2007/2008, airlines had burned investors one too many times (Southwest notwithstanding). There was no way that airlines could continue to act in the irrational and aggressive manner they adopted between 2000-2008, if they wanted to continue to access the myriad benefits (such as capital) provided by shareholders. So they decided to buckle down and get serious about delivering returns. In the process, fares went up and planes got fuller. But we have a very good reason to want shareholders, not in the least because they provide the capital for new entrants/growth agents (like Spirit Airlines) who are ultimately the most effective form of competition. Especially given the higher barriers to entry created by additional FAA and DOT rules and regulations, investors who can pool large sums of capital are critical for the US airline industry to develop new entrant activity moving forward. Investors have just begun to trust airlines again. Do we really want to take action against the capacity discipline that has allowed that trust to regrow?

Employees haven’t done anywhere near as well as investors have, but they are also better off than they were in the dregs of the 2000s. Pilot groups have probably gotten the best deals (helped by the pilot shortage), but across the board, employees have begun to share in the profitability of their employers through increased wages, profit sharing, or both. And so amongst the three stakeholders, consumers might be slightly worse off, but investors and employees are way better off. Arguably consumers have gotten the best deal from commercial aviation over the past 30 years, enjoying lower than realistic fares while being cross subsidized by employees and investors taking a hammering. The tables have turned, and we’ve hit a more stable equilibrium. But is that something that the broader populace can accept?

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Editor‘s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly Newsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

DISCLAIMER – The Author is long/short on several US airlines, including AAL, DAL, SAVE, ALK, JBLU, and ALGT, as well as several global airlines. 

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Free Checked Bags Come to an End on JetBlue

By Roberto Leiro / Published July 1, 2015

No More Free Checked Bags on JetBlue. As of June 30, the airline introduced new fare options when booking tickets online, which include charges to checked bags, unless passengers pay for its premium fares.

RELATED: JetBlue May Begin Charging Passengers For First Checked Bag Next Year

jetblue-jfk-t5-curb_10535Passengers purchasing Blue fare—JetBlue’s base fare—will now be charged $20 for the first checked bag when purchased during web check-in or at a kiosk, or $25 at the check-in counter, and a $35 fee for a second checked bag.

For JetBlue’s “Blue Plus” fares, one checked bag fee is included in the fare while the second checked bag fee is $35l. Blue Flex and Mint fares include two checked bags.

JetBlue will not charge the first bag fee for its flights to or from Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Colombia and Mexico. However, the $35 second bag fee and a $100 charge for any additional piece is in place, regardless of the fare.

The airline company, which claims to have the most legroom in coach of any U.S. airline, assured that its perks, including free snacks, soda and TV will remain in place.

BagsFlyFree_2According to the Department of Transportation, baggage fees brought almost $865 million for the U.S. airline industry during the first quarter. Delta Air Lines leads the list after collecting $198 million, while JetBlue reaped almost 22 million, standing in the 9th position.

After JetBlue’s move to start charging for bags, Southwest Airlines remains now as the sole major U.S. airline not tacking on checked bag fees… yet.

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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ANALYSIS: United Buys a Stake in Azul

by Vinay Bhaskara / Published June 26, 2015

Azul's flagship Airbus A330-200 aircraft / Image Courtesy of Alexf.

Azul’s flagship Airbus A330-200 aircraft / Image Courtesy of Alexf.

United Airlines is making an aggressive play for the Brazilian market. The Chicago-based carrier will be purchasing a 5% stake in Azul Brazilian Airlines, the Sao Paulo based low cost carrier that is Brazil’s third largest airline after oneworld alliance member LATAM Airlines Group (South America’s largest airline) and low cost carrier Gol. United will spend $100 million for its minority ownership stake, valuing Azul at $2 billion. The two airlines will also deepen ties through code sharing in both the US/Caribbean and Brazil, optimization of schedules in Brazil, and reciprocal frequent flyer program earnings and benefits.

Initial Network Synergies might be Sub-Optimal Due to mismatch

United is by far the most Sao Paulo-centric of the three US legacy carriers in its Brazilian long haul network, with daily service from Houston, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, and Washington Dulles. It also serves Houston – Rio de Janeiro nonstop to feed into Houston based oil traffic. By comparison, Delta has double daily service from Atlanta to Sao Paulo (daily to Detroit/New York JFK), as well as daily Atlanta service to Rio and Brasilia. Delta will also be adding nonstop service from Orlando to Sao Paulo and Brasilia.  And American Airlines is of course in a different hemisphere, with service to 10 different Brazilian destinations thanks to its hub at Miami.

Azul for its part, primarily offers nonstop service from its hub at Viracopos International Airport in Campinas, about an hour north of Sao Paulo, where it operates nearly 170 peak-day departures to 48 domestic destinations. It will also operate 12 flights per week to Fort Lauderdale and 14 to Orlando this winter, leveraging its recently delivered fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft. In addition, Azul will offer daily nonstop service from Belo Horizonte (its second largest hub with ~80 daily departures) and Sao Paulo Guarulhos (GRU – Sao Paulo and Brazil’s primary international gateway) to Orlando. And while it has not yet announced schedules or frequencies, Azul also plans to add nonstop service from Viracopos (VCP) to New York JFK later this year.

This represents a fundamental network mismatch. United’s Brazil operations are concentrated on GRU, and while Azul does have roughly 50 daily departures to 16 domestic destinations at GRU (it’s fourth largest base by capacity), connectivity for United’s four arriving flights (between 10:40 and 11:40 am) isn’t quite as expansive. In terms of feasible connections (i.e. more than 1.5 hours connecting time [which is cutting it close] and fewer than 4-5 hours), United customers at present will have convenient connections to Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Cascavel, Curitiba, Goiania, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro (Santos Dumont), Salvador, and Vitoria. Feed for United’s northbound flights from GRU (Which all depart after 11:00 pm) is more expansive, adding Campo Grande (barely), Maringa, Navegantes, and Recife to the aforementioned destinations. But there are still enormous gaps, with suboptimal or nonexistent connectivity to Recife (unidirectional), Fortaleza, Belem, Florianopolis, Natal, and Foz de Iguacu amongst major Brazilian origin centers for US demand.

Theoretically Azul could re-time some of its GRU flights or add destinations, but given the scarcity of slots at GRU, an en-masse re-timing and/or the addition of new destinations could be difficult. When compared to Gol (who Delta code shares with and owns 3% of) with 109 daily departures to 31 domestic destinations (and 13 daily departures to 8 South American ones) or TAM (closely tied with American) with 90 daily departures to 25 domestic destinations (and 26 to 10 South American ones), Azul is clearly suboptimal for feed at GRU. Theoretically, United could add service to VCP. Campinas is an important and growing economic center in its own right, and the Sao Paulo metropolitan area increasingly resembles Tokyo, New York, or the Pearl River Delta in that is getting so spread out that multiple airports are more than justified by demand dispersal. Still, VCP is far less preferred by premium travelers than GRU or Congonhas in Central Sao Paulo, and that will work against United. Nonstops from VCP to Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles are absolutely out of the question. Houston and Newark would have a better shot at success, but so far the only US airport that has proven its ability to sustain a US airline flight to VCP is Miami for American Airlines.

At Rio de Janeiro’s Galaeo airport, Azul is a nonentity, with just 10 daily departures, mostly to VCP. Once again Gol (69 daily departures/23 domestic destinations) and TAM (46 departures/16 destinations) provide far better connectivity. United can of course layer Azul’s connectivity with that of its Star Alliance partner Avianca Brasil (a subsidiary of Colombia-based Avianca) in Rio (16 departures/9 destinations) and Sao Paulo (36 departures/14 destinations), but even so, United will be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to feed.

Image courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Image courtesy of JDL Multimedia

On the US side, United isn’t doing much for Azul either. Azul’s US operations are currently concentrated in South Florida, and both Fort Lauderdale and Orlando are spokes for United, with little connectivity beyond United’s hubs. And of course United is exiting the New York JFK market entirely, so they’re not much help there. One immediate fix would be for Azul to alter its New York plans to focus on United’s hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, where United offers a massive amount of connectivity (roughly 430 daily departures and close to 150 destinations). Newark might not be as preferred for New York travelers as JFK, but the feed should more than offset that.

JV Seems Imminent, Star Alliance Less So

The US-Brazil market will be liberalized through an Open Skies agreement beginning in October of this year, which would enable US and Brazilian carriers to secure antitrust immunity (ATI) for joint venture (JV) partnerships. Assuming alignment along current partnerships, United and Azul would be prime JV candidates, as would Delta/Gol and American/TAM, which would solve the network misalignment problems by allowing better coordination, planning, and marketing through a profit-sharing agreement. Service from United’s hubs to VCP would also be a lot more viable under a JV.

Whether Azul would join United in Star Alliance is less immediately clear. Azul founder David Neelman’s recent acquisition of Portuguese Star Alliance carrier TAP (who operates a massive long haul operation from Lisbon to Brazil and will open 10 new US routes as per Neelman’s announced plans) would point towards deepening ties for Azul and Star Alliance. The counter is that Star Alliance already has a major Brazilian presence in Avianca Brasil (admittedly a distant fourth in market share), and the history of two airlines from the same country co-existing in an alliance is mixed. It remains to be seen whether Azul will formally tie itself to Star Alliance, but United’s investment is unquestionably a step forward for the global alliance in the all-important Brazilian market.

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Contact the author at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

 

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JetBlue Mint Arrives at Boston, Adds Nashville

By Roberto Leiro / Published June 23, 2015

After several months of speculation in the industry,  JetBlue has announced today the launch of its praised Mint premium service to Boston, intended to enhance coast-to-coast service, as part of its long-term commitment to serve both business and leisure travelers to Logan International Airport where it is the dominant carrier.

Mint service will take off between Boston and San Francisco beginning in March 2016, with up to three daily round trips. Bookings will be available as of July 8. Mint service to Los Angeles will follow suit in fall 2016, with up to three daily round trips as well. The delays in introducing service are largely attributed to last week’s announcement of upping Mint frequencies from JFK to LAX and SFO as well as the arrival of further Mint configured A321 aircraft to its fleet.

RELATED: JetBlue Mint Preview

jb-a321-highres-200-fc-cabin-seating-render-0199“Customers traveling between New York and the West Coast can’t get enough of Mint, and we can’t wait for Boston customers to experience it,” said Robin Hayes, president and CEO, JetBlue. “We saw the opportunity to bring humanity back to premium coast-to-coast travel, traditionally offered at high prices and with mediocre service.”

ANALYSIS: The Economics of JetBlue Mint

Boston has been a destination which has undergone massive reductions in service, as legacy carriers dwindled their presence in Logan during the last years. This service upgrade of JetBlue in both product and frequencies not only seizes a opportunity to catch a market where JetBlue has a 50/50 mix of business and leisure travelers, but also fills the gap at a substantially lower price than its competitors.

jb-photo-inflight-mint-11Since its launch one year ago, JetBlue raised the bar in air travel with Mint, which offers private suits, tapas-style dining, custom amenity kits, a comprehensive in-flight entertainment system including satellite TV, radio and Fly-Fi broadband Internet.

A Mint with a Caribbean Twist

Besides the Mint coast-to-coast service to Boston announced today, JetBlue will also offer Mint seasonal service to the Caribbean  in March 2016 with a weekly Saturday round trip between Boston and Barbados—a premium holiday destination.

Additionally, JetBlue will offer Mint seasonal service to the Caribbean beginning in March 2016 with a weekly Saturday roundtrip between Boston and Barbados, one of the airline’s most luxurious leisure destinations. – See more at: http://otp.investis.com/clients/us/jetblue_airways/usn/usnews-story.aspx?cid=981&newsid=29753#sthash.0UglUoxy.dpuf
Additionally, JetBlue will offer Mint seasonal service to the Caribbean beginning in March 2016 with a weekly Saturday roundtrip between Boston and Barbados, one of the airline’s most luxurious leisure destinations. – See more at: http://otp.investis.com/clients/us/jetblue_airways/usn/usnews-story.aspx?cid=981&newsid=29753#sthash.0UglUoxy.dpuf

RELATED: JetBlue to Bring Mint to the Islands for Winter 2015-2016

Nashville to become the 60th destination from Logan

JetBlue also announced its intention to serve Nashville International Airport from Boston, thus becoming the 60th non-stop destination of the airline from Logan. Two daily frequencies operated by Airbus A320 aircraft as of spring 2016. The airline also announced that ticket sales will begin during this summer.

FLIGHT REVIEW: JetBlue Mint “Suite” Inaugural

RELATED: JetBlue Reveals New Fare Structure, Offers Mint Update

“We came to town in 2004 with the renegade idea that we could bring humanity back to air travel for customers under-served and overcharged by other carriers,” commented Hayes. “Boston welcomed our unique approach with open arms, and we quickly grew together. We may be the top airline in Boston today, but we aren’t even close to finishing our growth” he said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Mint Inaugural Service

Editor‘s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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First Major Airbus A320 Family Aircraft Components Arrive to Mobile Assembly Line

By: Roberto Leiro / Published June 22, 2015

After a three-week journey from the Finkenwerder Airbus plant in Germany, the First major Airbus A320 family aircraft components have arrived to the Port of Mobile, Alabama, and transported to the manufacturer’s new U.S. premises.

Aircraft components are loaded onto special sea transport frames for its transportation from Germany to the U.S. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Aircraft components are loaded onto special sea transport frames for its transportation from Germany to the United States. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Five different Airbus A321 sections under manufacturer serial number (MSN) 6512—to be delivered to JetBlue Airlines once pieced together—were cleared from U.S. customs and loaded onto heavy-duty trailers for its transportation to the U.S. Airbus assembly plant last Sunday.

This major milestone in the U.S. Airbus production plant program was witnessed by thousands of onlookers, who according to Alabama Today, lined up a few miles amid a Mardi Gras-style parade to celebrate the event.

“Since July 2012, Airbus and the city of Mobile have been anticipating the day when aircraft production would begin Mobile. The vision was there.With the arrival of these assemblies, and this special first convoy, we hope everyone can see that without doubt that the vision has become reality,” said Ulrich Weber-Vice President-Airbus Final Assembly Line, Mobile.

Klaus Fischer, Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility - Logistics Project Leader (right) "hand off"  the parts from the logistics function to the production function.  Accepting the task is Dr. Ulrich Weber (left), Vice President, Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Klaus Fischer, Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility – Logistics Project Leader (right) “hand off” the parts from the logistics function to the production function. Accepting the task is Dr. Ulrich Weber (left), Vice President, Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

On the other hand, and according to Alabama Today, Alabama State Port Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Lyons called Sunday’s festivities “a big step toward the manufacture of airplanes in Alabama” and the region “becoming a premier aircraft manufacturing” hub, but he emphasized that the real work is only beginning.

Airbus Mobile Assembly Plant pose with the first part received. The first aircraft to be rolled out from the plant will be an Airbus A321 to JetBlue. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Airbus Mobile Assembly Plant pose with the first part received. The first aircraft to be rolled out from the plant will be an Airbus A321 to JetBlue. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

“More sets of airplanes coming in will become an ongoing process, where the movement we’re seeing today is routine,” Lyons said, adding as much as anything valued at about $150 million can be considered routine.

The front section of MSN 6512 arrives to Brookley. Once assembled, the first A320 family aircraft will be delivered to JetBlue. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

The front section of MSN 6512 arrives to Brookley. Once assembled, the first A320 family aircraft will be delivered to JetBlue. (Photo Credits: Airbus)

Additional to these major aircraft components, 4,000 parts general cargo are loaded into sea containers at the Hamburg hub, transported then by truck to Bremerhaven and from there by container ship to Mobile under the logistics of DHL Global Forwarding.

In the course of this project, DHL will transport a total of 80,000 tons of freight volume for the assembly of aircraft in the U.S.A., comprising general cargo and major aircraft components including rear fuselage, forward fuselage, wings, and the vertical as well as horizontal tail plane.

Though aircraft production will actually begin in the next couple of weeks on the A321 destined for JetBlue, Airbus will officially open the U.S. Manufacturing Facility in September with a ceremonial ribbon cutting event. Construction on some of the buildings on the campus will continue through the rest of the year. There are currently 160 Airbus employees at the facility, with others in training with Airbus in Europe, and hiring is ongoing. First aircraft delivery is scheduled in 2016.

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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IATA Annual General Assembly Kicks off in Miami

By Roberto Leiro and Seth Miller / Published June 5, 2015

Tony Tyler. Images Courtesy of IATA

Tony Tyler. Images Courtesy of IATA

MIAMI — Aviation leaders from all continents have gathered in Miami this week for the Annual General Assembly of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a major industry forum that brings together the leaders of the main airlines and their business partners, in order to charter the future of air travel.

“Miami will be the capital of the global air transport industry as its most senior leaders gather to discuss critical issues such as safety, security, sustainability, meeting passenger demands and revitalizing the air cargo sector,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

RELATED: AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: IATA’s Tony Tyler

Open Skies controversy put aside?

While the controversy arisen by U.S. airlines and some U.S.-based associations regarding the alleged financial help provided to Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways (GC3), the issue is absent from the agenda so far.

During a press conference held in Washington D.C. last May, Mr. Akbar Al Baker, Group Chief Executive Officer for Qatar Airways, assured that he would not bring up the subject during the AGM, but also admitted that other GC3 carriers might.

“IATA stands for Air Transportation, IATA stands for free access to markets, IATA stands for protecting their members from unnecessary accusations from any—not only from airlines but from any industry—so, it is not acceptable to me that IATA is sitting on the fence,” he said. “This is a matter I will raise between me and the general director of IATA.”

RELATED: Qatar’s CEO Speaks On Open Skies In Washington D.C.

Major challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean

With 8 percent of the world’s population and only 5 percent of the aviation market, the Latin America region is a prime target for growth in the industry. Recognizing the potential financial windfall, both for the industry and the region in general, a special session — Opportunities and Challenges in Latin America — focused on growth and stability in the region during a special briefing on the eve of the IATA AGM. And, while some of the session focused on prior success and the accomplishments of carriers in the area much of it was dedicated towards addressing what is seen as woeful deficiencies in infrastructure and the regulatory climate.

Peter Cerda, IATA’s Regional Vice President, addressed the lack of adequate infrastructure and excessive taxation and protectionist measures from local governments that are hampering the growth of the industry in the region.

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Peter Cerda (left) and Jason Sinclair (right) address to the media in a Special Briefing about aviation in Latin America. (Photo Credits: IATA)

“It is important for the region’s governments to understand that the real value of aviation is the global connectivity it provides and the growth and development it stimulates. Aviation is highly susceptible to increases in taxation, onerous regulation, and the inconsistent application of rules and regulations,” said Cerda. “However, when governments adhere to global standards and work in partnership with the aviation industry, the positive economic repercussions aviation brings are easily attainable. The efforts by air carriers to create a dynamic and thriving aviation industry will only be realized if governments work to ensure excessive taxes and regulations don’t stunt its excellent growth prospects.”

IATAAGM MExico

Mexican air industry leaders and Tony Tyler, IATA CEO, subscribe the MOU of technical assistance ahead the construction of the new Mexico City Airport.

One of the largest specific efforts on this front comes in the form of a new Mexico City international airport, slated to open in 2020, being built to relieve the currently overloaded Benito Juárez facility. Also announced during the session was the signing of an MOU between IATA and both the old and new airport authorities, under which IATA will provide technical and operational assistance in the construction and transition process. This includes helping with slot management at the current airport in an effort to keep things operating smoothly until the new, larger airport opens at the end of the decade. It will also include transitional guidance for moving operations to the new facility as well.

This is not the first time IATA has become deeply involved in specific tasks related to improving the aviation infrastructure in the region. After much concern and more than a few dire warnings, the organization and Brazil’s aviation authorities managed to run a reasonably reliable operation last year during the World Cup, a level of progress many thought impossible. And those improvements have held over to the current operations today improving the ranking of Brazil’s aviation market in the global community, although it still has a long way to go.

Cerda also talked about the case of Venezuela and the repatriation of funds from international carriers serving the country. “We hadn’t had any relevant progress in the negotiations so far and, to be honest, we don’t believe we will see any advances in the coming two years,” he admitted.

RELATED: Foreign Airlines Serving Venezuela Await a Solution

Cover Image by Roberto Leiro

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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ANALYSIS: Spirit Enters L.A.-Oakland/San Francisco Market

By Jack Harty / Published May 27, 2015

Spirit Airlines will launch new service between Los Angeles and Oakland on November 12, 2015; this will make it the fifth airline to enter the L.A. and San Francisco Metropolitan area market.

spirit1-jpg

Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Spirit will operate two daily nonstop flights–a morning and evening flight–in each direction. Flights to Oakland will depart LAX at 6:00 AM and 7:50 PM, and the flights to LAX will depart Oakland at 7:55 AM and 9:45 PM. The flights are blocked at about 1 hour and 15 minutes in each direction.

There is some good news for frequent fliers; Spirit will be operating a Airbus A319 between the two cities. This means that there will be 10 Big Front Seats instead of just four on its Airbus A320s. Though, the equipment is always subject to change.

One of the Busiest Air Travel Markets

The Ultra-Low-Cost-Carrier is about to enter one of the world’s busiest air travel markets. According to data by the U.S. DOT, there was an average of 20,423 passengers traveling between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Metropolitan area every day in 2014.

It is also worthwhile to note that the data also states that Southwest was the largest carrier in the market with holding about 63-65% of the market share throughout

2014 Quarter

Average Number of Passengers Per Day (L.A. to SFO Metropolitian Area)

Largest Carrier In Market

First Quarter

19,623

Southwest had 62% of the market share

Second Quarter

21,187

Southwest had 64% of the market share

Third Quarter

19,987

Southwest had 63% of the market share

Fourth Quarter

20,892

Southwest had 64% of the market share

LAX-SFO

American, Delta, Southwest, and United all operate several flights a day between LAX and San Francisco, and each airline puts up a strong fight.

Back in September 2013, Delta launched its Delta Shuttle service between the two cities, making  it the first ever west-coast shuttle service, and earlier this year, the airline announced that it would start flying the 717 on eight of its 15 daily flights next month.

Airline

Number of Daily Flights LAX-SFO On November 12

Aircraft

Frequency

American and American Eagle

9

Mix of B737-800 and E175

Every other hour

Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection (Delta Shuttle service)

15

Mix of 717 and E175

Hourly

Southwest

10

737-300/700

About every other hour

United

15

A319 and A320

Hourly

LAX-OAK

Delta Connection and Southwest currently operate between Los Angeles and Oakland with Spirit becoming the third airline to fly between the two cities this November.

Airline

Number of Daily Flights LAX-OAK On November 12

Aircraft

Frequency

Delta Connection

7

CRJ-900

Every other hour

Southwest

14

737-300/700

About hourly

Spirit

2

A319

One morning and one evening flight

Spirit’s Fare War Could Help

Will Spirit be able to survive the tough competition? Time will tell, but Spirit will definitely put up a strong fight when it comes to air fares. As of now, the new flights are ranging from $53-$73 one way.

U.S. DOT data below shows the average one way fare between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Metropolitan Area market by quarter in 2014.

2014 Quarter Average One Way Fare
First Quarter $127.00
Second Quarter $137.00
Third Quarter $140.00
Fourth Quarter $140.00

The first one way fares Spirit is offering on the market are already half or more than half of the average one way fares on the market in 2014. While yes, Spirit is known for charging many fees from seat assignments in advanced to carry-ons to a glass of water, the average one-way price could still be lower on Spirit than other airlines.

Now, we ask: will the Spirit Effect help lower the average one way fares when we re-visit the data when it becomes available?

EXTRA: Has “The Spirit Effect” Replaced the “Southwest Effect?”

Beyond An Air Fare War

Beyond air fares, the airline has been busy growing at in both Los Angeles and Oakland. The airline has noted in the past that it helps the airline tremendously when people are familiar with how Spirit operates.

“Spirit is becoming an increasingly more popular travel choice for value conscious travelers in the West,” said Mark Kopczak, Spirit Airlines’ Vice President of Network Planning. “Spirit’s friendly service combined with our low Bare Fares™ with Frill Control™ makes flying between Los Angeles and the Bay area more affordable than ever.”

With this new service, Spirit will operate nonstop flights to 13 destinations from Los Angeles, including Atlanta (starting 8/20/15), Baltimore/Washington, DC (starting 7/9/15), Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Kansas City (starting 7/9/15), Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Oakland/San Francisco Bay area (starting 11/12/15). From Oakland, Spirit will operate nonstop to five destinations, including Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston (seasonal), Las Vegas, and Los Angeles (starting 11/12/15).

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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The Wings of Man Unfolds its Wings: Eastern Airlines Returned Thursday with Flights To Cuba

By Chris Sloan / May 28, 2015

EASTERN_737-800_N276EA_MIA_1214AJ_JP_ EASTERN_737-800_N276EA_MIA_1214AM_JP_ EASTERN_737-800_N276EA_MIA_1214BK_JP_

Inaugural Flight Update: May 28, 2015

Photos by: Joe Pries Aviation Photography unless otherwise noted

With no announcement or fanfare, Eastern Airlines and HavanaAir quietly moved their inaugural revenue flights, MIA-HAV-HAV flight to today. Flight 3145, departed from Miami at 2:26pm EST according to FlightAware. Return flight 3146  arrived back in Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport at 5:05pm. There was very little hoopla or press presence at the airport upon boarding. Most people in the boarding area and check-in didn’t even notice anything special. Of most importance to Eastern and its new client, the first flight went out full and on-time.  Onboard, the occasion was similarly downplayed with soft drinks and plantains being served on the 42 minute flights. The inaugural flights did conduct a special fly by and received a traditional water cannon salute.

The launch, originally scheduled for yesterday then pushed to Sunday, has been a moving target due to undisclosed reasons but sources cited finishing paperwork up with the Cuban authorities and TSA as reasons for the slight delay.

Eastern will operate 2 flights to Havana and 1 to Camaguey tomorrow. Moving forward, Havana will be served twice daily with Santa Clara and Camaguey receiving weekly service. The previously announced Veteran’s Honor Flight will operate Saturday MIA-DCA-MIA. The Miami Herald reports that Eastern has secured another charter agreement with “a major airline” to provide lift between the New York and undisclosed destinations in the Caribbean upon arrival of its 2nd 737-800 next month. Scheduled service is due to commence within “12 months” according to Ed Wegel the airline’s CEO.

The airline still looms very large in Miami. The South Florida city was the headquarters for the original Eastern from 1975 until the 1991 shutdown, and at one time was the largest private employer in Miami-Dade County. Miami was Eastern’s 2nd largest hub, and the center of its famed Latin American operations, behind Atlanta. Despite the very low key soft launch’ after 24 years, 4 months, and 8 days, the iconic “Wings of Man” returned to the skies.

Eastern's first Boeing 737-800 "The Spirit of Eddie Rickenbacker" prepares to pushback for the inaugural flight to Havana. Image Courtesy: Miami-Dade Department of Aviation

Eastern’s first Boeing 737-800 “The Spirit of Eddie Rickenbacker” prepares to pushback for the inaugural flight to Havana.
Image Courtesy: Miami-Dade Department of Aviation

 

EAL inaugural flight crew poses at MIA gate prior to departure to Havana.  Image Courtesy: Miami-Dade Department of Aviation

EAL inaugural flight crew poses at MIA gate prior to departure to Havana.
Image Courtesy: Miami-Dade Department of Aviation

IMG_3034

EAL’s inaugural flight departs Miami. Images Courtesy: Eastern Airlines

IMG_3029

EAL is back on the board at MIA Images Courtesy: Eastern Airlines

EAL HAV-MIA

EXTRA: Eastern Air Lines Returns Home to Miami

EXTRA: Flashback Friday; The History of Eastern Air Lines

EXTRA: Q&A with Eastern Air Lines CEO Ed Wegel

Update: May 27, 2015: 

Yesterday, Eastern tweeted out “After 24 years, 4 months and 7 days, Eastern resumes revenue flight operations tomorrow. MIA-HAV-MIA. Time to re-earn our wings…”  Eastern aficionados will have to wait just a few more days for “The Wings of Man” to unfold its wings once again. Tour operator HavanaAir who is contracting with EAL says the inaugural revenue producing flights to Cuba originally scheduled to begin operating today, May 27th will likely happen by Sunday May 31st. Eastern will fly 65 flights per month for HavanaAir with twice daily service to Havana and weekly service to Camaguey and Santa Clara Cuba utilizing “The Spirit of Eddie Rickenbacker”, Eastern’s 145 seat Boeing 737-800. The new EAL operated schedules have been posted on the HavanaAir website.  HavanaAir has been successfully offering charter flights to Cuba for sometime, operated by Swift Flight 737-400s, and reports that demand for the service has been high.

The Military Veteran’s Honor Flight from Miami to Washington D.C and back scheduled for this Saturday morning around 6:30AM EST looks to be Eastern’s first sortie with passengers aboard. Eastern and the Miami Airport are planning an arrival event for Saturday evening to honor the iconic airline and deserving 60 “living legends” onboard the Honor Flight. Those flights will be numbered appropriately 1941 and 1945 to honor the years the U.S. was involved in WWII. We will have a team onhand for the festivities.

Water-canon-salute

Original Story: May 22, 2015

This Friday morning, the fourth floor of the original Eastern Airlines operations building in Miami which is the headquarters for the new Eastern is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. While many Americans are already leaving work early in advance of the long Memorial Day weekend, the Eastern team is hunkered down, preparing to inaugurate passenger service next week. Despite a hectic schedule, Eastern CEO Edward J. Wegel took time out of his busy schedule to give AirwaysNews an update on the status of the airline and their announcement of their first passenger service.

Proving Runs and Certification

IMG_2939

Signs from the new and old EAL

From mid-April until May 4, the airline was busy completing proving runs that are required by the FAA in order to get its Part 121 Air Carrier Operating Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  which it was awarded last week. The airline conducted proving runs to various airports including: Colorado Springs, Columbus (the birthplace of Eddie Rickenbacker), Dallas Love Field, Islip, San Antonio, San Juan, and Santo Domingo.

The airline was also granted foreign charter authority by the U.S. DOT last week. 

Flight Crew Classes and Graduates

IMG_29380

EAL flight attendant uniforms in the headquarters

The first pilot class was made up of nine, and they graduated back in February. Meanwhile, the second class is made up of ten pilots, and they will be in the sims next week; the second class is on track to graduate by June 15.

The first class of flight attendants graduated back in February, and the second class of forty graduated on May 13 when the airline received its Part 121 from the FAA. One of the new hire flight attendants is an original Eastern Air Lines FA.

Fleet 

Eastern’s second 737-800 is due to arrive on property my mid-to-late June. Its third and fourth 737-800s will be brand new from a leasing company.

By September, Eastern plans to receive its fifth airplane which will be a 737-700. The airline plans to use this aircraft for sports charters beginning with “The Florida Panthers” NHL team.

IMG_2936

MRJ model in the headquarters

The ten 737MAX aircraft it has purchase rights for will begin being delivered by the end of 2022.

“We have twenty MRJ’s on order which are due to arrive in 2019. It has the low seat mile costs of a 737-800 in a ninety seat aircraft. We can put them into secondary markets and places like Bahamas and Jamaica for nonstop lift from secondary markets. I wish I had them today,” Wegel says.

Some aircraft will be all economy while others will be mixed cabins as it will depend on the charter customers requirements.

EAL to Inaugurate Flying Next Week

Eastern has signed an agreement to support HavanaAir’s charter operations to Cuba in and out of Miami, by Wednesday of next week.

Eastern will operate twice daily service to Havana and weekly service to Camaguey and Santa Clara. Additionally, Eastern will support HavanaAir’s existing operations to Cuba with some 65 flights monthly.The-Spirit-of-Eddie-Rickenbacker

A Boeing 737-800 (Next Generation) aircraft with 16 First Class seats and 129 Coach seats in the main cabin on all flights to Cuba.

“We are very pleased to partner with Eastern Air Lines.  Eastern earned iconic status in the U.S. airline industry for decades and we are both honored and privileged to partner with their highly experienced management.  Our partnership with Eastern will provide an entirely new level of service to Cuba with their Next Generation Boeing aircraft and their commitment to excellent customer service.” said Mark Elias, President and COO of HavanaAir Charters.

“We are excited to partner with HavanaAir Charters. Eastern was formerly the largest provider of air seats in the Cuba market, and with this agreement, Eastern will once again provide more seats to Cuba than any other U.S. carrier.  Cuba is and always will be a very important market for Eastern as we grow our airline and we look forward to proving service from additional U.S. gateways along with our home airport of Miami International”, said Wegel in a press release.

The two airlines plan to also launch service from other U.S. gateways within 60 days.

Next Saturday, the airline will fly sixty American Military veterants on a special Honor flight from Miami to Washington DCA airport.

Looking Into the Future

When Wegel was asked where he sees Eastern one year from now, he replied: “We will always have a charter division, but we will begin to move into schedule operations in 12 months. This will happen once we conclude another round of equity raising.”IMG_2937

Wegel declined to disclose further details on scheduled operations such where Eastern may serve or the business model they will adopt; however, he did say that “We are not an LCC. We have the benefits of a legacy airline brand with new entrant costs.”IMG_2940

EXTRA: Eastern Air Lines Returns Home to Miami

EXTRA: Flashback Friday; The History of Eastern Air Lines

EXTRA: Q&A with Eastern Air Lines CEO Ed Wegel

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American’s 787 Dream Takes Flight With Passengers

By Chris Sloan / Photos by author unless otherwise stated  / Published May 7, 2015IMG_1996

CHICAGO, IL - At 9:23 AM local, American’s inaugural Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner flight, AA 2320 operated by the second of five 787s delivered so far to AA, gracefully touched down at Chicago O’Hare to a large round of applause. Although short, the 1 hour and 52 minute  flight aboard N801AN was filled with lots of fun with many enthusiasts and frequent American Airlines fliers on-board. With that, American became the sixth carrier in the Americas to operate the 787. To say the absolute least, AA2320 was nowhere near a normal flight, but who would expect a normal flight with so many enthusiasts on-board American’s newest family member?

The Order and First Delivery

American Airlines placed an order for 42 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and options for 58 in October 2008. At the time, it became the second U.S. airline to place an order for the Dreamliner, following Continental (now United). The first airplane was expected to join the fleet in about four years, but unfortunately, the delivery would be pushed back several years as the Dreamliner suffered major design and production delays.

After American placed its order, Boeing made some changes; the airline originally only ordered the 787-9 variant, but for unknown reasons, Boeing opted to make some of American’s initial deliveries be the 787-8 Dreamliner which is the smallest 787 variant. Once this was firmed up, American would have 21 787-8s and 21 787-9s on order, but the All Things 787 Blog reports that American has 16 787-8s and 26 787-9s on order. AA is not replacing the 767 with the 787s on a 1:1 basis, but will retire thirteen 767s this year.

Photo by JDL Multimedia

Photo by JDL Multimedia

American’s first Boeing 787 made its first appearance when it rolled out of the paint shop in late October, and it was supposed to be delivered in mid to late November. However, the delivery date would be pushed back again and again until the first quarter of 2015. The delivery delays were due to a delay with delivery of the airline’s all-new business class seats designed by Zodiac Aerospace.

EXTRA: American’s 787 Makes First Appearance

EXTRA: Boeing, Airbus Show the Whip to Laggardly Seatmaker Zodiac

The first American 787 took to the skies on January 6, 2015, and it conducted several flight tests, before being delivered to American.

Photo by Brandon Farris

Photo by Brandon Farris

EXTRA: American’s First 787 Takes Flght

On January 23, 2015, Boeing handed over the keys to American’s first 787, and it was flown down to its main maintenance base and hub, Dallas/Ft. Worth. Once it arrived, American quickly began work on getting the aircraft ready for its first flight which would occur in May. Since the Dreamliner was a brand new aircraft to the fleet, the airline wanted to ensure that it could catch any issues and familiarize many employees with the new type to hopefully prevent any issues once it enters into service.

So far, American has taken delivery of five 787s with a total of 13 planned for this year, and it plans for eight to be delivered in 2016. Five were deferred to 2017-18 as American seeks to control capacity in international long-haul markets due to macro-economic conditions. 

Proving Flights

An American Airlines rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

An American Airlines rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

Since taking delivery of its first Dreamliner on January 23, 2015, American has been flying its new Dreamliners on proving and training flights to help familiarize flight crews and airport ground staff with the new type before entering into revenue service.

The proving and training activities have occurred as close as Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, Texas to as far as London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita. Whenever an airline introduces a brand new aircraft, there is always a lot of work to be done, and American wanted to ensure that it did a thorough job, especially when other airlines such as United had issues when it started flying their brand new 787s.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

About the time that tickets for the first 787 flights went on sale, American started flying the Dreamliner around south and west Texas for a few weeks. Many local media outlets in Texas reported on the training flights as large aircraft are usually a rare sight in these parts of Texas. Although these training flights were primarily for pilot training, American flew its 787 to other cities around Texas such as Houston to help prepare staff incase the aircraft ever needs to divert. Case in point, Waco received nearly 50 touch and go’s in one single morning.

Later on into the proving program, American deployed its 787s to Chicago and London to simulate real flights to help both the flight crews and airport ground staff. The airline also completed a proving run to Narita for polar validation. The fleet also completed 50 hours of validation flights for the FAA proving compliant operation to the FAA such as ETOPS.IMG_1993

Since January 23, American pilots have flown over 2,000 hours of training flights and completed over 1,000 landings. Now, the pilots do not just jump into the cockpit; a typical 777 pilot went through 15 hours of distance training, four days of ground school, six days of sim time, and 15-25 hours in the airplane. Many of the 200 qualified 787 pilots have had the added benefit of flying the training flights with real metal but no passengers before the type entered service. Once AA pilots transfer their type ratings over to the 787, they only fly on that particular type.

The First Flights

An American 787-8 rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

An American 787-8 rests on the Boeing ramp at its Everett, WA factory. Photo Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Special to Airways News

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, American announced that it would fly its 787s out of its Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport hub to Chicago O’Hare, along with Beijing and Buenos Aires. American would only fly domestic flights from May 7, until it started flying the aircraft to Beijing on June 2, which launched the same day of the 787 using a 777-200, and Buenos Aires on June 4.

At the time of the route announcements, American revealed what the 787 cabin would look like, but it only released a handful of images and kept the doors to its 787s shut tight.

In late-April, American announced that it would also fly the 787 internationally out of Chicago to Tokyo Narita beginning in August, setting the stage for a possible 787 crew base at ORD.

Official Unveiling and The Interior

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Photo by Mike Slattery

About a week before the inaugural flight, American held a small launch event where it invited a handful of people from the media and its employees out to one of its hangars at Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport to officially unveiled its brand new aircraft.

At the launch event, American explained that its 787 will bring customers a “state-of-the-art international travel” experience in both Business Class and the Main Cabin. From international Wi-Fi to American’s signature Business Suites, there is definitely something that will impress everyone who boards the newest addition to the fleet. Unlike many carriers, American chose to do something special in introducing a new Business cabin product to their 787 which differs somewhat from that on the 777-300s and newly configured 777-200s and 767-300s.

American’s 787s have 28 Zodiac manufactured seats in 2 business class cabins; the seats are in a 1-2-1 seat configuration to allow every seat to have aisle access. Each of the 28 seats transform into a fully lie-flat 77-inch bed that provides customers with infinite adjustability, and the seat also offers what American says is “a unique ‘z-shaped’ lounge position for increased comfort.”  The J cabin seats are arranged in a front and rear facing configuration, not unlike British Airways Club World cabin. Every seat boasts a 16-inch touchscreen monitor with up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections. The IFE is the Panasonic eX2 platform while connectivity is powered by the Panasonic eX2 Connect Ku-band system. Plus, every seat will have dual universal power outlets and USB ports. Customers will be able to enjoy the entertainment with Bose noise canceling headsets. If passengers get hungry during the flight, there is a walk-up bar that will be stocked with a selection of snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. American introduced a walk-up bar originally when it took delivery of the American 777-300ER in January 2013.

The 787 boasts 198 seats in the Main Cabin in a very tight 3-3-3 configuration, as has become commonplace in the 787. 56 of the seats in the Main Cabin are Main Cabin Extra seats which offer up to five more inches of legroom when compared to the regular Main Cabin seats. Although, the economy seats are a bit tight as in nine abreast configured 787s; the standard seats have a seat pitch of approximately 31 inches, and all Main Cabin seats are approximately 17-18 inches in width. Main Cabin Extra adds another 4 inches of pitch. Each seat in the Main Cabin is equipped with a power outlet, USB port, and personal in-seat entertainment system which boasts up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections.

EXTRA: Photos from American’s 787 Launch Event

On-Board the Inaugural Flight

Boarding started just before 7AM local, and it was a big congested as the gate area was filled with inaugural passengers and employees who came out to send off the 787 on its maiden passenger voyage. Fern Fernandez, EVP of AA’s worldwide marketing said “We are excited to be the first airline to bring the 787 to DFW….Later today we will launch the first route this aircraft is optimized for, DFW-Beijing.”IMG_1989

At 7:30 AM local, the Dreamliner lined up with runway 17 and began a whisper quiet, 40 second take off roll. However, the quietness was quickly broken up by cheers and applause as AA2320 soared into the sky. The flight took off with a weight of 356,000 pounds–46,000 pounds of those pounds was the fuel on-board, and we reached V1 at a quick 146 miles per hour.

The aircraft quickly climbed to 39,000 feet, and the pilots, Captain Charlie Savage (the Lead Air Check Airman with 150 type rates), Captain Bill Elder (the manager for American’s 787 Flight Training Program) had their work cut out for them as they had to deviate around quite a bit of weather.

However, the flight deck crew did an exceptional job keeping the ride smooth which allowed them to keep the seatbelt sign off for most of the flight so the passengers in the back were able to explore the aircraft. The crew were miraculously able to pull off a full service with the aisles in virtual party gridlock.

Captains Savage and Elder, greeting the assembled passengers, explained how ecstatic they were to be crew members to fly the inaugural flight, and throughout the flight. It was obvious that all of the flight crew members were excited to be part of the historic flight. In fact, the crew came together and pitched in to give every passenger a special commemorative coin.

Once we reached our cruising altitude, I started checking out my Business Class seat. I was in one of the forward facing seats which has a unique three point seat belt. The mini suite was nice and intimate with the seat being very firm. There is a visor that separated me from my seatmate, but it was locked into position.

The USB and power outlets are quite helpful and nice, and they are located right at shoulder level which is helpful as it does not require reaching around like on United’s 787 BusinessFirst seats.

The seat controls are on a small digital display which is conveniently located at eye level as well. An ergonomic feature of the seat controls is that you can adjust lighting and privacy indicators. The only obvious glitches in the flight were the connectivity and business class seats. The maddeningly slow T-Mobile KU satellite based system made modem dial up seem sprightly. The visors separating business class passengers were locked and able to retract. All in all, small minor issues on a very short flight designed precisely for working out the bugs.


IMG_1987The standup bar was not stocked on a short flight, but it will sure be a welcome when the airline puts the 787 on the DFW-Asia routes next month. The bar is not the showstopper that exists on AA’s 773 and reconfigured 772 fleets but is functional nevertheless.

All to quick, we began a quick descent into Chicago and gracefully touched down at 9:23 AM local to the mandatory applause.

After we landed, we did a quick victory lap around O’Hare so the media could take a few photos of the aircraft before we arrived into the gate.

Many employees greeted us when as we disembarked, and ground employees sprung into action to get the aircraft ready to head back to Dallas/Ft. Worth.

AA’s 787 launch was an upbeat experience that gives further credence to the carrier’s “NewAmerican” claim of service upgrades and fleet renewal. Beyond the obvious well known benefits of the 787, this inaugural flight stood out for the unbridled enthusiasm of the passengers and crew.

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American Airlines provided roundtrip accommodations on-board the inaugural 787 flight. However, our opinions remain our own.

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SkyWest Flies Final EMB-120 Flight

By Jack Harty / Published May 6, 2015

On Tuesday, SkyWest flew its final EMB-120 Brasilia revenue flight which was United/SkyWest 5165 from Santa Maria, California to Los Angeles; N567SW, which has flown the friendly skies since mid-1998, was the lucky aircraft to operate the final flight. A thread on Airliners.net reports that there was not much fanfare by SkyWest, but some of the flight crews recognized the final day of operations.

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

Photo courtesy of SkyWest

Embraer began development of the EMB-120 Araguaia in 1974 as the successor the the EMB-110; this aircraft became the first transport category airliner for the manufacturer, but the manufacturer changed the name to Brasilia and completed a full re-design before the official launch in 1979. The EMB-120 took to the skies for the first time in July 1983 with the first one being introduced into service two years later in October 1985.

Several EMB-120 variants were developed over the years to help carry cargo and fly farther and faster, but production ended in 2001. Although, Embraer has been known to build a few one-offs as several government militaries operate the EMB-120.

SkyWest—once the largest EMB-120 operator—announced its plan to retire by June 2015 them from the fleet last November; this would mean that it would eventually operate an all jet fleet. The reasons for the retirement are in response to increased costs and additional challenges with flight and duty rules implemented last year. SkyWest has been operating the EMB-120 since early 1987, and at one time, it had close to eight dozen in its fleet.

If you missed your chance to fly on an EMB-120, have no fear; Great Lakes still operates several.

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Contact the editor at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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PHOTOS: Inside American Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner

By Jack Harty and Photos by Mike Slattery / Published April 29, 2015

FT. WORTH, Texas - American Airlines opened up the doors to one of its brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners to the public and its employees for the first time Wednesday morning at a special launch event which was held just a little over a week before the inaugural passenger flight. Up until the launch event, American has been mostly quiet about the 787 and only released a few teaser images of the interior.IMG_8205

Since taking delivery of its first Dreamliner on January 23, 2015, three other Dreamliners have joined the fleet, and over the last three months, American has been flying proving and training flights with them to help familiarize flight crews and airport ground staff with the new type before entering into revenue service.

Initially American was expecting the 787 to enter into service by the end of 2014, but delays with delivery of the airline’s all-new business class seats designed by Zodiac Aerospace pushed back the arrival to the Dallas based company to the first quarter of 2015.

EXTRA: Boeing, Airbus Show the Whip to Laggardly Seatmaker Zodiac

This testing period is crucial for the airline as it wants to ensure that it does not have any operational difficulties with the Dreamliner once it enters service.

Initial Flights

American’s 787 is set to make its maiden passenger voyage on May 7 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago O’Hare. American will take the new aircraft international on June 2 between Dallas/Fort Worth and Beijing and between Dallas/Fort Worth Buenos Aires on June 4. Ironically, American’s first 787 passenger flight happens to coincide with the one-year anniversary of American retiring the Boeing 767-200 from its fleet.IMG_0252

The 787 will bring customers a “state-of-the-art international travel” experience in both Business Class and the Main Cabin. From international Wi-Fi to American’s signature Business Suites, there is definitely something that will impress everyone who boards the newest addition to the fleet.

Business Class

American’s 787s have 28 seats in the business class cabin; the seats are in a 1-2-1 seat configuration to allow every seat to have aisle access. Each of the 28 seats transform into a fully lie-flat 77-inch bed that provides customers with infinite adjustability, and the seat also offers what American says is “a unique ‘z-shaped’ lounge position for increased comfort.”IMG_0258

Every seat has a 16-inch touchscreen monitor with up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections. Plus, every seat will have dual universal Airchive power outlets and USB ports. Customers will be able to enjoy the entertainment with Bose noise canceling headsets.

If passengers get hungry during the flight, there is a walk-up bar that will be stocked with a selection of snacks and refreshments. American introduced a walk-up bar originally when it took delivery of the American 777-300ER in January 2013.

Main Cabin

The 787 will boast 198 seats in the Main Cabin in a 3-3-3 configuration. 

56 of the seats in the Main Cabin are Main Cabin Extra seats which offer up to five more inches of legroom when compared to the regular Main Cabin seats. Although, the economy seats are a bit tight at nine abreast; the standard seats have a seat pitch of approximately 31 inches, and all Main Cabin seats are approximately 17-18 inches in width. 

Each seat in the Main Cabin is equipped with a Airchive power outlet, USB port, and personal in-seat entertainment system which boasts up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs, and more than 350 audio selections.

Other Unique 787 Features

Regardless of what cabin you are seated in, there are many other features beyond the seat that will make traveling on American’s 787 a much different experience than one of its other aircraft. The 787 has a higher ceiling which helps the aircraft feel more spacious, electro chromatic dimmable windows that are one of the largest in the industry, larger and improved overhead bins, and an improved cabin air system to help passengers feel more comfortable.

EXTRA: The Eagle Rises Again: Onboard American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Inaugural Flight

EXTRA: AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

EXTRA: American Airlines’ 2015 Fleet Plan

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Mike Slattery contributed to this story from American’s media event in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Jack Harty contributed to this story from Houston.

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Lufthansa Receives Final A380 Delivery; Last 747-8I Soon to Follow

By Airways News Staff / Published April 18, 2015

Earlier this month, Lufthansa took delivery of the final Airbus A380 aircraft it had on order, and it will take delivery of the final Boeing 747-8I it has on order soon.

Airbus A380

Lufthansa placed an order for 15 A380s with options for 10 more in December 2001, and it became the second European airline to operate the superjumbo when it took delivery of its first A380 on May 19, 2010.FRA-RAMP-14-AIRBUS-A380-CITY-OF-BRUSSELS-2-1024x683

About a year later, Lufthansa agreed to order two more which would bring Lufthansa’s A380 fleet to 17 once they were all delivered.

But in October 2013, Lufthansa cancelled three of its A380 orders which meant ultimately that the carrier would have a fleet of 14; one less than originally planned.

Each of the 14 carry a special name, following tradition. The first two were named Frankfurt am Main and München, and the remaining 12 are named after Star Alliance hub cities such as Tokyo.

Currently, Lufthansa is outfitting its A380s with new business class seats and a Premium Economy cabin.

EXTRA: In-Flight Review of Lufthansa’s A380 Business Class Product

PHOTOS: Inside Lufthansa’s A380

Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

747-8-LH-JDL-1

Photo courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Lufthansa will soon take delivery of the final Boeing 747-8I aircraft it has on order.

The airline has a very long and rich history when it comes to operating the Boeing 747. While Boeing has produced more than 1,500 747s for customers around the world, Lufthansa has operated more than 75 since the 1970s. 

Lufthansa became the second international airline to fly the aircraft, but it was the first European carrier to fly scheduled services with the 747. Originally, Lufthansa intended to operate it as a military aircraft, but the airline would use it primarily for passenger and cargo services. Over the years, the jumbo jet has become an iconic aircraft at Lufthansa, and it was even a host for several major world premières in succession, including the first film shown on board a jumbo jet.

LHretro-4

Photo by JDL Multimedia

In April 1972, Lufthansa was the launch customer of the cargo version (also known as the “Smiling 747″) which allows airlines to load even bulkier goods.

“A step towards the 1990s’”is how Lufthansa CEO Heinz Ruhnau described the purchase agreement signed on 23 June 1986 for an initial order of six enhanced Boeing 747 aircraft.

It was the first airline to order the “Dash 400” (Boeing 747-400), and Lufthansa helped develop the new aircraft by providing hundreds of suggestions for improvements and more than 20,000 engineer hours.

However, the carrier continued to work with Boeing to develop a new 747 model, the Boeing 747-8I, and it became the launch customer of the Boeing 747-8I. It placed an order for 20 in December 2006.

Lufthansa took delivery of its first -8I in early 2012, and it inaugurated passenger flights between Frankfurt and Washington D.C. in June 2012. Since the first delivery, 18 747-8Is have joined the fleet, and when the final one joins, Lufthansa will have 19 in the fleet.

Earlier this year, Lufthansa unveiled a special retro painted aircraft with the carrier’s colors from 1968 as part of the airlines’ 60th anniversary celebrations.

EXTRA: Boeing’s 747 Celebrates 1,500th Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain

EXTRA: Boeing Delivers 50th Boeing 747-8

EXTRA: On-Board the Inaugural Boeing 747-8I Flight

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Inaugural

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Reveals Retro Livery on Boeing 747-8I

The Future

Will Lufthansa order more Airbus A380s or Boeing 747-8Is? That remains unknown, but it does seem highly unlikely that Lufthansa will place a re-order, especially Lufthansa reduced the number it would actually take delivery of.

Currently, Lufthansa has 19 aircraft on-order (excluding the last 747-8I that has yet to be delivered) and options for 91 more.

  • 30 A320-200 CEOs on order
  • 60 A320neos on order +75 options between CEO and NEO
  • 40 A321neos on order
  • 25 A350-900s on order +15 options
  • 34 Boeing 777-9X aircraft on +7 options

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Southwest Unveils New Aircraft Seats for 737-800 and 737 MAX

By Airways News Staff  / Published April 14, 2015

Seat_5

Photo courtesy of Southwest

Southwest Airlines has teamed up with B/E Aerospace and Boeing to roll out a brand new seat on future Boeing 737-800 deliveries and 737 MAX aircraft. The new seats were unveiled Tuesday at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, and they will take to the skies for the first time on a flight sometime in mid-2016.

Southwest says its new seats will be about an inch wider than its current seats. They will also boast an adjustable headrest and increased legroom, as well as more personal stowage, while decreasing the overall weight of the product.

“The new aircraft seats are the widest economy seats available in the single-aisle 737 market, and offer a unique design that gives our Customers what they asked for: more space,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “Serving as the launch customer for this seat is just one of several upcoming milestones related to our bold, new look launched in September of last year, and is specifically aimed at enhancing our Customer Experience.”

“The new, lighter seat allows us to continue to improve our fuel efficiency,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “This seat selection is just one more reason we are enthusiastic about our fleet modernization plans.”

The new seats will be upholstered with eLeather, a composition leather made of natural leather fibers. eLeather, which made its debut on Southwest aircraft in 2012 when the EVOLVE interior was unveiled, is manufactured using eco-friendly technology including state-of-the-art techniques which closed-loop recycles 95 percent of the processed water.

The EVOLVE interior is not going away; it will still be on older 737 aircraft, until new 737-800 deliveries and the 737 MAX arrive in the fleet. Unfortunately, EVOLVE was received a lot of criticism as there was not a lot of padding, but this worked out well for Southwest as it would be able to add a few extra seats on all of its aircraft.

SWA_Aft

737 MAX cabin with the new seats // Photo courtesy of Southwest

“Working closely with Southwest Airlines, we determined what the customer wanted, and our talented designers and engineers responded to that need,” said Mark Vaughan, B/E Aerospace’s Vice President, Sales & Marketing. “We’re proud to have partnered with Southwest since 1971 to create innovative products that customers will enjoy for years to come.”

So far, no word on the impact the extra seat width will have on the aisle. Plus, the 737′s cabin is about seven inches narrower than the Airbus A320 family which has a greater average cabin seat width.

Monday night, Southwest tweeted out a photo out hinting that a big announcement about seats would be made. Since there was a B/E Aerospace logo on the seat covers, many rumors about possible IFE and PowerPorts started swirling, but as of now, Southwest continues to remain quiet about any potential plans for USB/PowerPorts being added to the seats.

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The “Cactus” Call Sign Retires as American Receives SOC

By Airways News Staff / Published April 7, 2015

LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, April 9, 2015 at 7:00 AM ET

American and US Airways received their Single Operating Certificate from the FAA Wednesday morning, and the “Cactus” call sign officially become part of the history books when “Cactus 774″ lands Wednesday morning.

1 American Airlines Day of SOC Bular

Capt. Ed Bular, senior vice president takes the final day off the countdown calendar. Photo courtesy of American Airlines.

For the most part, it was business as usual, but ATC and flight crews changed their call signs and announcements to reflect that US Airways is now American.

Many customers who flew on the final day that “Cactus” was heard over ATC said that several US Airways flight crews took a moment to reflect on the significant change that would take place overnight.

The last scheduled US Airways flight to use the “Cactus” call sign was  “Cactus 774″ which arrived in Philadelphia from London Heathrow around 11:15 AM ET, Wednesday, April 8.

A Single Operating Certificate–also known as a SOC–is a document issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the regulatory process of combining the two subsidiary air carrier certificates under one certificate has been completed. In this particular case, this means that the American and US Airways certificates will officially be combined in the eyes of the FAA, but the merger process is still a bit far from being completed.

3 American SOC group photo

Doug Parker, Chairman and CEO, Scott Kirby, President, John Duncan, Director of Flight Standards, FAA, Capt. Ed Bular, Senior Vice President Integration Operations Robert Isom, Chief Operating Officer // Photo courtesy of American Airlines

It’s taken a little over a year and a team of more than 700 to help train more than 110,000 employees, vet and publish more than 115,000 pages on policies and procedures, complete more than 1,700 Safety Risk Assessments (SRAs), and review 465 manuals. And guess what? Everything was completed on schedule, and the airline is not behind at all.

“Achieving a single operating certificate is an important step toward becoming a fully integrated airline and the effort to reach today’s milestone touched nearly every area of our company,” said Robert Isom, American’s Chief Operating Officer. “For a project of this scope, many entities and people must come together and see it through to completion, but one person must ultimately oversee it in its entirety. With that, our appreciation for the leadership of Captain and Senior Vice President, Integration Operations Ed Bular, who oversaw this massive project, along with the CAVOK Group under the leadership of Vice President Jim Ballough, cannot be overstated. Likewise, our frontline employees and the union leaders who represent them are to be enthusiastically applauded for their role in learning and implementing new policies and procedures and adhering to those as we move forward under one certificate.  

2 American Airlines SOC Isom

Robert Isom, COO shows off the Single Operating Certificate Photo courtesy of American Airlines

“The FAA’s Joint Transition Team, led by Skip Whitrock, helped guide us through a rigorous process designed to ensure that our airline is built on a solid foundation of regulatory compliance. We are extremely appreciative of the valuable direction that Skip, Division Managers Nick Reyes and Larry Fieldsand all at the FAA have provided us over the past year.

“Lastly, as a global airline, this work spanned many regions. We thank the Department of Transportation and regulatory authorities in more than 50 countries who worked alongside us to ensure this critical project remained on track.”

Now, US Airways pilots will begin communicating with air traffic control with the “American” acall sign. The “Cactus” call sign became US Airways’ when it was acquired by America West when the two received their SOC in October 2008. Also, US Airways safety cards will be going away and be replaced with new American ones before morning.

American and US Airways customers will continue to shop for flights, check flight status, and obtain seat assignments on each carrier’s respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system which is expected to occur during the fourth quarter of this year.

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Cover photo courtesy of American Airlines.

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Virgin America says “Aloha” to Hawaii

By Roberto Leiro / Published April 7, 2015

Virgin America (VX) has announced plans to add Hawaii to its route map, by offering one daily round-trip flight to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG) from its main hub located in San Francisco (SFO). Operations to HNL will commence on November 2, while flights to OGG will begin on December 3, all of them already available for booking as of today.VX-LAX-hub

“As one of the most popular leisure destinations among Bay Area travelers, we are pleased to announce our new nonstop service to Hawaii,” said Virgin America President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cush. “This marks the next phase of growth for our airline, as we take delivery of new Airbus aircraft and expand our Elevate program with more world-class rewards destinations.  With a loyal following of Bay Area-based business travelers who have long requested our expansion to the islands, we couldn’t be more pleased to offer our ‘work-hard/play-hard’ frequent flyers the opportunity to fly in style to the ultimate getaway.  We look forward to bringing a new kind of flight service to the market and to building lasting community ties with the state of Hawaii.”

Virgin America plans to operate these routes with the new Airbus A320 it will receive later this year, but it is unclear if these will be the ceo (current engine option) or neo (new engine option) aircraft. In any case, the airline is currently working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to receive the “ETOPS” extended operations certification that is required to fly twin-engine aircraft on long-range over-water routes.

While Hawaii may represent a tremendous growth opportunity for VX, the carrier will have to compete with Delta (DL), Hawaiian (HA), and United (UA). Virgin America will also indirectly compete with Alaska Airlines (AS) and Hawaiian, as both carriers offer also services to HNL and OGG from Oakland (OAK) and San Jose (SJC).

Since its launch in 2007, Virgin America has been expanding its network, which currently includes over 20 cities in the United States and Mexico. The new Hawaii markets will add the 22nd and 23rd destinations served by the airline.

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American/US Airways to Receive Single Operating Certificate Soon

By Jack Harty / Published March 23, 2015

MR6A2041

Photo by Brandon Farris

Sources tell Airways News that the FAA will issue American Airlines and US Airways a Single Operating Certificate (SOC) sometime early next month which will mark a significant milestone in the merger process.

A Single Operating Certificate–also known as a SOC–is a document issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the regulatory process of combining the two subsidiary air carrier certificates under one certificate has been completed. In this particular case, this means that the American and US Airways certificates will officially be combined in the eyes of the FAA, but the merger process is still a bit far from being completed.

American and US Airways customers will still continue to shop for flights, check flight status, and obtain seat assignments on each carrier’s respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system.

Hundreds of employees from both companies have been working together to obtain a SOC and merge the two companies, since announcing the merger on February 14, 2013

In November 2011, United Airlines was issued its SOC by the FAA, and over 13 months, employees from both Continental and United had to “streamline more than 440 operational manuals, programs and procedures down to approximately 260 manuals for the new United — a process that involved roughly 2,000 changes.”

The Cactus Call Sign to Disappear

For the most part, passengers will not notice any changes. However, all US Airways flights will switch from the “Cactus” call sign to the “American” call sign since American and US Airways will be viewed as together in the eyes of the FAA. 

Passengers may notice that US Airways flight crews will now start referring to them as American flights since US Airways will now use the American call sign.

When United and Continental received its SOC on November 2011, Continental flight crews started referring to the flights as United flights, and even after receiving the SOC a few days later, there were still quite a few Continental’s.

EXTRA: AirwaysNews High Flyer Interview: American Airlines CEO Doug Parker

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