EasyJet forms partnership with Etihad Airways

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easyJet has formed a partnership with Etihad Airways through the easyJet worldwide website, connecting the airlines’ networks and opening new travel possibilities for travel between Europe, Africa, the Azores and the UAE.

Rachel Smith, easyJet’s Head of Commercial Partnerships said: “We’re excited to announce our partnership with Etihad Airways, which opens up Abu Dhabi as a destination to our passengers and more of Europe to Etihad. Through smart self-connections and strategic partnerships, we continue to extend the reach of the worldwide by easyJet network offering more value and more routes to more customers.”

The partnership follows the rollout of easyJet’s programme with flight comparison search engine, Dohop, which powers the easyJet worldwide website connecting its European network with long-haul flights. For Etihad this has been achieved using the New Distribution Capability platform providing technical capability for new partnerships previously not possible. The partnership with easyJet and Dohop is Etihad’s first use of this technology.

Ali Saleh, Etihad Airways Vice President Alliances and Partnerships, said: “This new collaboration between two great brands is a logical leap forward for both our companies. easyJet is a perfect launch partner for us in Europe, allowing us to reliably increase the breadth of our continental reach to and from Abu Dhabi, as we enhance ways of connecting directly with more airlines and travel partners around the world.

“The ability to provide end-to-end booking capabilities through our NDC platform will provide customers with ‘one stop’ solutions for seamless travel with partners, whether legacy or low-cost, through Etihad’s global gateways.”

Allegiant announces its largest service expansion

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Low-fare leisure carrier Allegiant has announced its largest ever service expansion, driven primarily by routes connecting underserved cities to popular destinations.

The airline has announced 44 new nonstop routes, including 14 routes to three new cities: Chicago, Boston and Houston. Most of the routes are non-competitive, with no other airline providing service between those airports.

“There is a lot of leisure demand for cities that are regional destinations, and this route expansion will address some of that need,” said Drew Wells, Allegiant vice president of planning and revenue. “Also, this growth is about Allegiant being true to our mission as a company. We’re increasing the number of low-cost, affordable travel options for people who may otherwise be priced out of air travel.”

New seasonal routes to Boston Logan International Airport include services from Grand Rapids, Michigan (Gerald R. Ford Airport) from 7 May; Asheville, North Carolina (Asheville Regional Airport) and Knoxville, Tennessee (McGhee Tyson Airport) from 8 May, as well as Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, Florida on 14 May.

The new seasonal routes from William P. Hobby Airport include services from Knoxville, Tennessee beginning 21 May; Asheville, North Carolina from 22 May; Savannah, Georgia (Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport) from 28 May and Destin/Fort Walton Beach, Florida from 5 June.

Chicago Midway International Airport will gain six new seasonal routes meanwhile, with the first (to Allentown, Pennsylvania) beginning 14 May.

United Airlines orders Airbus A321XLRs

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United Airlines has announced an order for 50 Airbus A321XLR to replace its fleet of aging Boeing 757s. This announcement is a significant blow to Boeing’s proposed twin-aisle NMA, a project which the aircraft manufacturer has mentioned little since the 737 MAX crisis.

The airline has stated that it has not ruled out an NMA order for when Boeing is likely to have the aircraft ready, but the XLR deal certainly supports Airbus’s argument that its aircraft can serve many, if not most of the market’s Boeing’s new NMA would serve.

United expects to take its first A321XLR in 2024 and start flying between Europe and North America with the new narrowbodies the following year, which is around the same time Boeing originally targeted operations of the NMA to begin.

United is now the second airline to choose the longest-range version of the A32neo family.During the summer American Airlines placed an order for 20 XLRs and converted delivery positions on 30 A321neos to the new jet.

Aeroflot Superjet Captain Charged

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Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet pilot Denis Evdokimov has been formally charged by the Investigative Committee of Russia (RIC) over his actions in the May 5 crash of Sukhoi SSJ100 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. The authorities accuse the captain of infringement of flight procedures and manuals, resulting in excessive vertical speeds during final approach and too high an AoA at touchdown and the initial portion of the ground run. This caused the aircraft to bounce as it decelerated along the airport’s main runway. The investigation, led by Ivan Sibul, concluded the pilot’s lack of professionalism led to the airplane catching fire, resulting in the loss of the US$23 million aircraft and the death of 41 passengers.

In November the RIC called Evdokimov to its offices in order to read the charges to him, which names him as the only person guilty of causing suffering to the other 77 people on board, including copilot Maxim Kuznestsov. Evdokimov refuses to acknowledge his guilt. During lightning strikes, the Superjet developed several technical malfunctions with its avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls, which caused a switch to direct control mode. The pilot said the aircraft became unstable in flight and difficult to control and did not respond to side-stick movements. As for the fire inside the fuselage, Evdokimov said that the flames erupted after the cabin crew opened the Superjet’s doors for evacuation.

In response to the new developments, Moscow’s media highlighted the rather short period in which the RIC compiled their case and the resulting judgment. Similar cases have taken years, not months to reach such a stage. Reports also note that the RIC invited the pilot to read the charges against him ahead of the official publication of final crash report by the Interstate Aviation Committee. This document has yet to be released.

Norwegian Air Shuttle to sell its Argentine subsidiary

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Norwegian Air Shuttle intends to sell its Argentine subsidiary Norwegian Air Argentina to JetSMART Airlines, as it struggles to resolve its financial situation.

The South American ULCC is taking over 100% shares of Norwegian Air Argentina and assuming its operations from now. The change of ownership will not impact the Argentinian airline’s passengers, the Norwegian airline has stated.

The integration of the two South American airlines is expected to take several months, during which Norwegian Air Argentina’s Boeing fleet will be replaced by Airbus aircraft. Norwegian will take three Boeing 737s back to Europe, while their place will be taken by JetSMART’s Airbus A320s. The airline’s brand name will also change.

Norwegian Air Shuttle is working on a strategic transformation, which is focused on bringing the carrier from “growth to profitability.” In the past few months the airline has sold off several of its aircraft, company shares and routes.

Rumours that the airline would stop its operations began when it was discovered Norwegian Air Argentina only displayed flights until March 28, 2020, on its system.

Editor’s Comment: I can see trouble ahead…

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LARA editor Glenn Sands provides a summary of the latest happenings across the low-fare airline and regional aviation industry.

Barely a week goes by without Boeing’s 737 MAX series hitting the headlines. As the global grounding of the fleet continues to take its toll on regional airline operations, it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel, in terms of getting the type back into service, by the end of 2019, has been turned out once again.

A recent announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it’s removed Boeing’s ability to issue its own airworthiness certificates for the MAX, and a statement by an FAA representative that: “The FAA would take all the time it needs,” to review the current procedures, means it’s now unlikely the jet will be back in service by the New Year.

Adding to Boeing’s woes, the manufacturer will be unable to deliver any new MAX aircraft to some of its biggest clients in the numbers it anticipated. This is due to a recent discovery of a design fault with the over-wing exit on its MAX 8, the 787-8-200. These aircraft were due to enter service with Ryanair earlier this year, in substantial numbers, following an order for a 135 of the type placed back in 2014. The original plan called for the first batch to arrive in time for Ryanair’s 2019 summer season. Now, according to a leaked memo sent to Ryanair’s pilots by the low-fare giant’s chief operating officer, Neal McMahon, the carrier will have to revise its fleet plans once again. Only 10 MAX aircraft are expected to arrive in time for the 2020 summer period.

Given the costs involved of purchasing commercial aircraft, you can’t help but admire the loyalty of many LCCs by sticking with Boeing, and its efforts to resolve the numerous issues with the MAX series. I just hope that after one summer of upheaval within the regional airline industry, the operators are able to financially weather yet another summer storm ahead.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the LARA e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

ATP Flight School open new Denver training center

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ATP Flight School has opened a second training centre in the Denver area at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in an effort to help solve the airline pilot shortage and provide students in the region with access to pilot training.

The opening of the new facility makes ATP’s Airline Career Pilot Program more accessible in the Denver region and means students in Boulder can benefit from full financing for career training, airline tuition reimbursement from 12 airline partners, cadet programmes providing a direct pathway to major airlines and ATP’s offer of a guaranteed flight instructor job to meet airline hiring minimums.

The new training centre is ATP’s second in the area, with another at the Centennial Airport. ATP’s dedicated Denver maintenance facility will maintain Boulder’s fleet of Cessna 172 aircraft while minimising training delays. The factory-new aircraft are part of a 100-aircraft fleet order to help students prepare for their careers, using the latest Garmin Q1000 NXi avionics to develop proficiency with the electronic flight decks they’ll operate in their airline careers.

“ATP is committed to providing aspiring airline pilots with the most efficient path to not only meet their goals but go further in their careers with more opportunity,” said Michael Arnold, ATP’s director of marketing. “We are proud to be able to offer students in the region with access to quality, airline-oriented flight training.”

ATP suggest the Boulder facility will also help Denver-based airlines to meet the demand for quality pilots. Students will operate using standardised airline-oriented procedures, while ATP’s exclusive CFI Academy in Denver provides a structured curriculum for professional development.

Aeroflot to take five more Sukhoi Superjets

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A meeting in late November chaired by Evgeny Ditrich, a member of the Board of Directors at Aeroflot, revealed that the airline intends to acquire five more Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft. This is part of an exercise to assist its overstretched regional fleet of aircraft. Five Superjet 100s will be leased.

Although the airline said it can postpone the order if it chooses, Aeroflot would like to have the five aircraft in service by the end of December.

Aeroflot has been operating the Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100 since mid-2011 and has 49 currently in service.

Despite a promising start and a handful of big names in the aerospace taking part in the programme, the Sukhoi airliner soon started running into problems.

A crash of a Superjet 100 in Indonesia on May 9, 2012, which left 45 people dead, begun turning public opinion against the jet which continues to this day.

Being the Russian flag carrier, Aeroflot was required to order the Superjet aircraft for its fleet. But other airlines that have been considering the jet started looking for more suitable foreign alternatives.

Although Aeroflot appears committed to the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the leasing of five new aircraft is regarded by many observers as no more than a simple move to fill gaps within its regional fleet as opposed to placing a substantial order for the jet.