AirAsia gets green light for Chinese subsidiary

By General News

AirAsia Berhad has moved closer to setting up an aviation company in China.

AirAsia Investment Limited has received approval for the business licence from the local government of the People’s Republic of China and incorporated a wholly-owned subsidiary called AirAsia (Guangzhou) Aviation Services Limited Company.

In an announcement to Malaysia’s Bursa stock exchange, the company said the main objective of establishing the subsidiary is to have an aviation and commercial services company in China. AirAsia (Guangzhou) has an expected issue share capital of US$1,000,000.

The incorporation of the subsidiary is not expected to have any immediate effect on the issued and paid-up share capital or substantial shareholders’ shareholding in AirAsia, and it is also not subject to the approval of shareholders of the company and any other regulatory authorities in Malaysia. The formalisation of the incorporation of the subsidiary was completed on 26 December 2017.

Last summer a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between AirAsia Berhad, the China Everbright Group and Henan Government Working Group to set up a JV to be known as AirAsia (China) to establish a low-fare aviation business based in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province in central China.

easyJet celebrates first domestic flight in Germany

By General News

easyJet has celebrated its inaugural flight from Tegel Airport in Berlin and its first domestic flight in Germany.

The airline has announced 19 new routes from Tegel Airport, including four domestic routes between the capital and Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart up to eight times a day, and in the coming months, flights are to launch to 15 international destinations, including flights up to five times a day to cities like Vienna and Zurich and regular connections to leisure spots like Mallorca.

Combined with the airline’s existing operation at Berlin Schönefeld, easyJet will fly 18 million passengers to and from Germany once the Tegel operation is fully established to 116 destinations, basing 37 aircraft and employing up to 1,700 people across the country.

Thomas Haagensen, country director for Switzerland, Germany and Austria, said easyJet is excited to be growing in Germany, the Berlin Schönefeld base was established in 2004 and over 50 million passengers have flown with the airline since.

Haagensen said: “easyJet has been the number one carrier bringing Europeans to Berlin and Brandenburg, supporting Berlin’s flourishing tourism industry and bringing more Europeans to Berlin than any other airline – including the Lufthansa Group. Our new flights from Tegel will be particularly attractive for business passengers, offering early morning departures to enable day trips to key destinations in Germany and the wider DACH region.

“We look forward to combining all our Berlin operations into Brandenburg airport when the airport opens in October 2020. When we do so it will be easyJet’s second largest base, twice the size of any other easyJet base and will provide the platform for further easyJet investment.”

Professor Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, chairman of the board of Berlin Brandenburg airport GmbH said the expansion makes Tegel Airport and Schönefeld Airport the most important location for the airline outside of the UK, adding: “The decision made by easyJet shows how important the region is for the European aviation industry also in the future, and demonstrates the importance of the airports as drivers of growth in Berlin and Brandenburg.”

easyJet also said it was looking forward to “welcoming hundreds of new people to the EasyJet family from Air Berlin.”

The airline has been recruiting to support its expansion in Germany and has begun training new cabin crew and pilots. Around 40 cabin crew members began their training in December and an additional 330 have passed the selection process, meanwhile the first 30 pilots will start their training in January and February, with 255 more pilots still in the selection process.

The airline will also transfer former Air Berlin aircraft to the easyJet fleet over the next few months and in order to support the flying schedule from Tegel during this period easyJet will wet lease additional aircraft to operate flights alongside easyJet planes.

The airline plans to announce additional new routes from Tegel for the summer season starting 25 March 2018.

Chorus hits right note with Ethiopian for Q400s

By General News

Aircraft lessor Chorus Aviation Capital (CAC) has completed the delivery of a pair of new Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft on long-term lease to Ethiopian Airlines Group.

The subsidiary of Chorus Aviation Inc. first announced the transaction in November last year. Ethiopian now has 24 Q400s in operation or on order, the largest Q400 fleet in Africa.

CAC was only established a year ago by Chorus as a new regional aircraft lessor for jet and turboprops in the 70- to 135-seat range. “We have built and grown Chorus Aviation Capital into a significant global business with a strong customer base, attractive aircraft assets and long-term contracted leases,” said its president, Steven Ridolfi. “We are gaining momentum in this growing and dynamic market, and look forward to the continued success of this new and exciting business.”

In its first year CAC completed the acquisition of 21 aircraft with an average age of less than three years, and long-term leases with regional airlines in eight countries. It manages a fleet of five aircraft types (CRJ1000s, E190s, E195s, Q400s and ATR 72s).

“In a short period of time, we have established a strong market position in the regional aircraft leasing sector,” added Joe Randell, president and CEO of Halifax, Nova Scotia-based parent company Chorus. “Together with the 41 regional aircraft under lease in the CPA, Chorus has grown its portfolio of leased aircraft to 62 airplanes worth approximately CDN$1.2 billion.”


Embraer and Widerøe seal E190-E2 pool deal

By General News

Embraer has sealed a deal with Norwegian regional airline Widerøe for a Flight Hour Pool Programme for the carrier’s E190-E2 fleet.

The Brazilian airframe manufacturer says this is the first contract of its kind signed for the E2 series, for which Widerøe will be the launch customer for the E190-E2 when its first aircraft of this type takes off in April.

The agreement covers more than 300 key rotable components for the airline’s E190-E2 fleet. It has committed for up to 15 E190-E2s, although only three are firm orders at this point, the others being purchase options. If all 12 are exercised, the total order of 15 would be worth up to US$873 million at list price.

Widerøe is configuring the E190-E2s in a single-class layout with 114 seats. Its CEO, Stein Nilsen, said: “Embraer started to support us the very day we signed the contract, and that support has continued to develop, in partnership with our team, to ensure the smoothest possible entry in service for this fine aircraft that will revolutionise our offering to our customers. Our peers, other airlines and operators, enthusiastically endorse the Embraer Pool Programme, and this was fundamental in our decision to join the programme; it’s the smart choice.”

Johann Bordais, president and CEO at Embraer Service and Support, commented: “This contract reminds me of the first Pool we signed for the E-Jets current generation, 14 years ago. It was for just one aircraft and proved to be the first of many others. Widerøe is once again showing their confidence in Embraer, its products and level of support; something that embeds our responsibility and commitment with the airline even deeper.”

Embraer’s Flight Hour Pool Programme currently supports more than 40 airlines worldwide. The company says it is designed to allow airlines to minimise their upfront investment on expensive repairable inventories and resources, and to take advantage of Embraer’s technical expertise and component repair service provider network, resulting in significant savings on repair and inventory carrying costs.

The first flight (LN-WEA) using the E190-E2 is currently scheduled for 24 April between Bergen Airport Flesland and Tromsø Airport Langnes in Norway, before flying again two days later between Bergen and Bodø.


Brussels Airlines partners with FLYdocs for EoL services

By General News

FLYdocs has secured Brussels Airlines as its latest client for end of lease (EoL) services. A team of aircraft records specialists from FLYdocs’ will build and audit digital records for 10 end of term aircraft and facilitate the on-time return to their respective lessors.

The data scanning and electronic migration for the initial fleet of three A319 and seven A330 Airbus aircraft, which are due to be returned between October 2018 and October 2019, has already been completed. This involved an onsite team scanning over 3.3 million original documents, the digital data then goes through proprietary processes to extract maximum utility in order to build and audit a complete aircraft documentation.

FLYdocs reported that to date, documentation builds for six of the 10 aircraft are complete.

“We’ve enjoyed the collaborative approach to this programme, and have found the reporting functionality within the FLYdocs platform of particular value,” said Jan De Meyer, technical representative and records manager at Brussels Airlines. “We can instantly see a project status, identify queries and delegate team members to respond to them all within the system.”

FLYdocs CEO, Adrian Ryan welcomed Brussels Airlines and commented: “There is no denying the business case for digital lease returns, and therefore no reason for any airline today to be incurring the risks, costs and potential late return penalties of paper-based operations.”

Brussels Airlines initially signed up with FLYdocs for a phase-out programme, however they have since contracted FLYdocs to manage the phase-in of two A340 aircraft due for delivery in early 2018.

Rex increases weekday flights between Orange and Sydney

By General News

Australian domestic carrier, Regional Express (Rex) has announced an increase in the number of weekday flights between Orange and Sydney from four return services to five, from 29 January 2018.

The increase will see a total of 58 weekly services between Orange and Sydney which represents almost 18,000 additional seats a year.

Warrick Lodge, Rex general manager network strategy and sales said the decision to offer additional services was “not without its risk” as there are currently 55,000 annual passengers for the 100,000 annual seats that will be available.

Rex will begin negotiations with Orange City Council to enter into a partnership agreement, which Lodge believes would ensure the additional services are sustainable and that fares could become lower while ensuring the revenue to Council is maintained.

“This partnership framework has been demonstrated to be highly successful in the dozens of collaborations Rex has with the various local councils,” said Lodge, adding: “A good case in point is the partnership with Parkes Shire Council where the partnership framework is delivering $99 fares between Parkes and Sydney to the benefit of the Parkes community and surrounding region. Rex is also working with Parkes Shire Council to deliver additional flights for the upcoming Elvis Festival which illustrates what can be achieved in the spirit of true partnership”

Facing the pilot shortage

Warrick Lodge said: “The increased services, as well as the allocation of scarce Sydney Airport slots that go with it, represent a significant commitment by Rex to the Orange community, especially at a time when the whole of Australia is facing a massive pilot shortage.”

Last week, Peter Dutton, minister of home affairs announced that visa regulations would be relaxed to allow foreign pilots into Australia on two-year work visas.

While Rex welcomed the initiative as a positive step, they did not believe it would be enough to attract experienced commercial pilots, given the world-wide industry shortage.

Rex’s chief operating officer Neville Howell said: “No experienced commercial pilot is prepared to relocate themselves and their families to Australia, with the expectation of having to relocate again after only two years. Even with the possibility of a further two-year extension, the program will not be attractive given that Australian pilot salaries are not internationally competitive. Only the pathway towards Permanent Residency could be potentially attractive to those seeking a work-life balance, however, this pathway is closed under the current regulations.”

He added that the tighter regulations enacted in April “caused havoc on Australian airlines” with many carriers, including Rex, experiencing a doubling of cancellation rates in the past six months due to the pilot shortage.

Howell continued: “Rex is the only airline in Australia that has its own pilot academy and we have invested over $35 million to ensure our own pipeline of pilots to meet our crewing needs. Even then, we still had to supplement this with recruitment drives over the years in the UK, South Africa and USA. Rex speaks with good authority when we say that the need for good experienced pilots cannot be met locally.”

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.”