First A321neo ACF rolled out

By General News

Ground testing will get underway on the first A321neo ACF (Airbus Cabin Flex) after it was rolled out of the company’s Hamburg facility in Germany.

The European manufacturer said it had completed assembly of the aircraft, powered by CFM International’s Leap-1A engines, and that it would undergo tests prior to its scheduled first flight “in the coming weeks.” First delivery of an A321neo ACF to an as-yet-unnamed customer is scheduled for mid-year.

The ACF version can accommodate up to 240 passengers compared to the previous A321 variant thanks to modifications to the fuselage that enable more flexible cabin configurations. The most visible modifications are a new rear section and a modified passenger door configuration. The door located forward of the wing has been removed and new overwing emergency exits in the centre section introduced.

The A321neo ACF, which will first be offered as an option to operators, will become standard for all A321neos around 2020, says Airbus.

The A321neo ACF is the base for the longer range A321LR variant, which has an increased MTOW (Maximum Take Off Weight) of 97 tonnes and a third underfloor fuel tank that allows its range to be increased to 4,000nm. The first delivery of an A321LR is targeted for the fourth quarter of 2018.


Southwest ups MAX 8 orders

By General News

Southwest Airlines has delayed a number of Boeing 737 MAX 7 orders but substantially increased its orders for larger B737 MAX 8s through 2019 and 2020.

The large US regional carrier said it was increasing its fleet investment to support future growth opportunities and modernise its all-Boeing 737 fleet “at favourable economics”.

A total of 40 MAX 8 options were converted to 15 firm orders in 2019 and 25 firm orders in 2020, a deal valued at approximately US$4.5 billion at list price. A total of 23 MAX 7 firm orders from 2019 through 2021 were deferred, however, with 12 now firm orders for 2023 and 11 firm orders for 2024.

Southwest added that it’s 2018 available seat mile growth plans remain unchanged.

The larger MAX 8s can take up to 189 seats compared to the MAX 7’s 172, although Southwest debuted the MAX 8 last year in a 175-seat configuration. It has previously also said it will fly the MAX 7 with 143 passengers.


New Chinese owner for Magnetic MRO

By General News

Magnetic MRO’s major shareholder, BaltCap, along with other minority shareholders are selling 100% of the shares in the Estonian organisation to China’s Guangzhou Hangxin Aviation Technology for €43 million (equity value).

An indicative closing date is planned for the end of March following the fulfillment of all regulatory requirements.

“We are pleased to welcome Hangxin as our shareholder at a time when we are focused on expanding our global presence,” said CEO of Magnetic MRO, Risto Mäeots. He added: “Magnetic MRO management has been actively looking for opportunities to expand into Asia, the highest growth market in aviation. Hangxin, with its existing geographical presence and service portfolio, is complementary to Magnetic MRO, creating substantial synergies and new business opportunities.”

Lv Haibo, vice president of Hangxin, said the company welcomed Magnetic MRO, adding: “We fully support the existing strategy and executive management team, and will support Magnetic MRO’s focus on continuing to deliver value to its existing customers, and expanding its global MRO presence.”

Magnetic MRO has grown substantially over the past five years, with employee numbers increasing from 160 to over 440. In a statement the organisation said sales had increased “exponentially” from 2010-2017 and were expected to grow at a similar rate over the coming years.


Norwegian launches low-fare Milan-Los Angeles link

By General News

Norwegian is to launch direct long-haul low-fare flights from Italy’s Milan Malpensa Airport in the north of the country to Los Angeles from 16 June.

The hub serves a number of low-fare airlines including easyJet and Wizz Air. Norwegian will use the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to connect the two cities for the first time in 16 years.

The four flights a week on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday will allow passengers to reach Los Angeles in around 12 hours, without any stopovers, starting from €239.90 each way.

“2017 has been a year of exponential growth for Norwegian in Europe and the United States,” said Norwegian CEO, Bjorn Kjos, adding that in 2018, “We will continue our long-haul expansion by offering passengers easy and affordable connections between the US and some of Europe’s most exciting cities.”

LARA editor to chair at World Low Cost Airlines Congress

By General News

Mark Thomas, editor of the LARA media portfolio, will chair the Routes and Regions session at the upcoming World Low Cost Airlines Congress in Singapore.

The Congress, part of Terrapinn’s Aviation Festival Asia event, is scheduled to take place on 27-28 February 2018 at Singapore’s Suntec Convention Centre. The Routes and Regions session, highlighted by event organisers as the most popular track of the entire show, will explore strategies for growth and new business development in Asian markets, focussing on Japan, South Korea and south-east Asia.

Now in its 14th year, the World Low Cost Airlines Congress continues to attract the C-Level executives of low cost carriers from across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. Visitors come together to discuss the latest strategies for developing new routes, finding new customers and exploring new sources of revenue. In 2018, the Congress is expected to attract an audience of up to 800 airline executives.

As editor of the market-leading publication covering low-fare and regional aviation, Mark is ideally situated to provide an informed, impartial overview of proceedings. The event will be Mark Thomas’ first chairperson role since joining LARA in February 2017, but he previously amassed a wealth of events experience in the oil and gas industry, representing leading energy publisher Hart Energy.

“I am delighted to support the Aviation Festival Asia event and am looking forward to delving into topics affecting global aviation’s fastest-growing regional and low-fare market. This is an exciting step forward for LARA as we look to dramatically increase our presence at major events like this over the next 12 months, and I thank Terrapinn for this opportunity.”

Mark Thomas, LARA editor

Two-day conference passes to attend the event start from $1,395. For more information on the event, visit the event website.

Routes and Regions schedule – Wednesday 28 February 2018

14:00 Panel: South-East Asia outlook: How to reaccelerate the network growth
14:40 Traffic growth strategies for Japanese LCCs: A case study of Vanilla Air
15:00 South Korea market: Creating viable business strategies in a crowded and competitive market
15:20 Panel: Northeast Asia outlook: How to thrive in an increasingly complex, competitive and interconnected market

FlyViking to suspend operations

By General News

Norwegian regional airline FlyViking AS will suspend operations this month, less than a year after taking to the air.

The airline, a wholly owned subsidiary of Viking Air Norway AS, plans to stop flying by 12 January, it stated, although it will then establish a new limited company that will be initially responsible for trying to maintain its Ørland-Oslo route.

A combination of “lacking financial results”, “major technical challenges” and issues regarding ticket bookings contributed to the decision. Chairman Ola Olsen stated it was “not economically viable to move on with the equipment we have today. Further, a controlled winding up within a reasonable time will allow us to suspend operations in FlyViking AS, while neither customers, suppliers, employees or hired personnel will be injured.”

The airline says it plans to continue with the Ørland-Oslo route using another regional airline, unnamed at this time, which will commercially work with the new company probably via a lease arrangement.

As late as December, FlyViking collected NOK 10 million in fresh capital in an issue that valued the company at NOK 150 million.

The airline has been using three Dash 8-100 aircraft on its routes in northern Norway out of its base at Tromsø Airport to Hammerfest and Bodø but has reportedly experienced more technical challenges than expected, which resulted in some flight cancellations.

The owners of the company will also now assess whether it is possible to create profitable air routes with other aircraft types, and in another segment. This work will start immediately, it said.


IAG buys Niki to integrate into Vueling

By General News

Insolvent Austrian airline Niki is being bought by the IAG Group for €20 million, with the company planning to run it as a new subsidiary of its Spanish budget carrier Vueling.

Around 740 former Niki staff will be retained, with the purchased assets including approximately 15 Airbus A320 aircraft, as well as highly valued airport slots in locations including Vienna, Munich, Dusseldorf, Zurich and Palma. The deal remains subject to approval by European authorities.

IAG, which also owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, will also provide additional liquidity to the former Air Berlin subsidiary of up to €16.5 million.

Willie Walsh, IAG’s chief executive, said in a statement: “Niki was the most financially viable part of Air Berlin and its focus on leisure travel means it’s a great fit with Vueling. This deal will enable Vueling to increase its presence in Austria, Germany and Switzerland and provide the region’s consumers with more choice of low-cost air travel.”

IAG became the only remaining bidder late last week after other contenders dropped out. Those included original Niki founder and former Formula One racing champion Niki Lauda, as well as Thomas Cook and Tui.

All had entered the race after Germany’s Lufthansa pulled out of a potential acquisition of Niki’s assets as part of its larger Air Berlin purchase following pressure from the European Union’s competition authorities. Niki, founded in 2003, stopped flying on 14 December after Lufthansa dropped its plans to acquire it.