Editor’s Comment: Precaution or a hint of panic?

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The coronavirus is dominating the newswires with a succession of air passengers returning home, developing symptoms a short time later and potentially unintentionally infecting those around them.

During the early days of the crisis, it was inevitable that air travel would accidentally aid in the spread of the disease. But now many regional and LCCs, much like their larger legacy counterparts, are taking a stand to try and stem the spread of coronavirus. British Airways, Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have adjusted their flight schedules to a number of Italian destinations that have been hit worst by the virus.

At present, Italy has the third-highest number of cases of the coronavirus at 528. So it’s not surprising that governments and European airlines have become more concerned about the outbreak in Italy.

WizzAir announced that it has decided to reduce the number of scheduled flights to the region by up to 60%, but it has ruled out cancelling all flights to the country.

Wizz Air says the cancellations will run from 11 March through to 2 April due to a drop in demand for flights to Italy. The announcement came shortly after the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned against all but essential travel to 10 small towns in northern Italy.

Wizz Air told aviation website, simpleflying.com, that “passengers with bookings affected by this change will be automatically informed and accommodated on the alternative route at the earliest possible date, but at least 14 days prior to the original date of the flight.”

Whether further cancellations and other airlines follow suit will be seen over the next few weeks.

AirAsia X establishes coronavirus countermeasures

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AirAsia X has cut a significant number of routes and reduced its fleet size. The airline has placed on hold delivery of 78 Airbus A330neos as part of an effort to reduce costs to counter the effect of the coronavirus.

According to the carrier’s latest financial statement, plans include delaying its A330-900 deliveries, selling two A330-300s, and the early return of a further five aircraft to lessors. The aircraft sales could reach a market price of US$100 million while the airline expects new lessor agreements to slash its lease rates by 30%. The airline did not elaborate on the duration of the A330-900 delivery deferrals but did add that it was working on additional short-term wet-lease agreements while renegotiating the company’s lease maintenance reserves. AirAsia X operates a fleet of 24 A330-900s, revised its deals with Airbus in August 2019 to take 78 A330-900s and 30 long-range A321XLR narrowbodies rather than 100 A330neos.

AirAsia X plans to focus on a dual-fleet strategy and replace its current fleet of 377-seat A330 service on medium-haul thin routes using the 236-seat A321. It will also use the A321s on routes within a six-hour radius from its Kuala Lumpur hub. Further, plans call for slashing a number of non-profitable routes including Tianjin and Lanzhou in China, and Jaipur in India. The airline said it had already terminated more than 600 flights from March and will undergo an aggressive capacity-management programme for the first half of 2020 to mitigate challenges posed by the coronavirus.

“The Company expects major headwinds for the first half of 2020 amidst the outbreak of novel coronavirus, on top of the persisting global economic slowdown as well as irrational competition within the local aviation industry,” said AirAsia X Group CEO Nadda Buranasiri. “A downtrend has been observed on passenger bookings in the forward months, as all tourism-related businesses face the impact of the virus outbreak.”

Green Africa adds it all up

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Nigeria’s Lagos-based low-fare airline, Green Africa Airlines, has ordered an additional three A220-300s from leasing company, GTLK Europe. These are expected to be delivered by August 2020. 

This agreement is on top of a previous order earlier this year with Airbus for fifty of the aircraft. Green Africa will use this fleet to launch commercial flights later this year. The airline selected this aircraft for its operational characteristics, financial performance and environmental benefits. It is expected to improve passenger satisfaction and comfort.

Babawande Afolabi, Founder and CEO of Green Africa has responded to the recent fleet developments as “a marque strategic partnership with Airbus for 50 firm A220-300s; and now a secured inaugural fleet with GTLK Europe that will help bridge the gap between now and when our Airbus order book starts delivering next year.”

“We are delighted to be able to provide Green Africa with its very first aircraft which will equip Green Africa with the capacity it needs for launch in 2020,” stated GTLK Europe Chief Executive Officer, Roman Lyadov. He believes that the aircraft will benefit Green Africa “to deliver on its mission to provide safe, reliable and affordable air travel to customers in Nigeria and across the broader African continent.”

Nordic Aviation Capital opts for overhead bin extension

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Nordic Aviation Capital has been named the launch customer for De Havilland’s Classic Overhead Bin Extension Solution for the Dash 8-400 aircraft, expected to be seen later in 2020.

This solution will feature larger baggage volume to accommodate standard roll-aboard bags. The implementation of the bin extension is expected to reduce the need for gate check service, making the airport experience more efficient and enjoyable for the customer.

Developed in response to the growing customer demand for more baggage space and the expansion in carry-on luggage sizes, the solution is expected to increase passenger satisfaction. De Havilland told LARA, “the key difference is a 100% increase on capacity for standard bag sizes due to the alteration.”

“The Classic Overhead Bin Extension will allow those boarding and departing the aircraft to store and access their belongings with ease, improving overall gate-time efficiency for passengers and airlines,” said Tom Curley, Chief Operating Officer. 

This agreement named De Havilland Canada as the exclusive supplier of all future Dash 8-400 aircraft classic bin extension modifications for Nordic’s fleet. The modified bins will feature more baggage volume, a larger foot opening and a new door with NextGen latches. Each bin will now accommodate two standard 22” bags per bin section. 

The alterations will be reworking the old components of the current structure. De Havilland stated to LARA that completely replacing the overhead bins on the Dash 8-400 would mean that “very little of the existing structure can be reused so it would be disposed of”. Therefore, in a bid to be more environmentally conscious, the new solution will be using the previous parts.

“We are excited to have an environmentally friendly solution that manages the need for increased capacity in overhead bins,” commented Todd Young, Chief Operating Officer of De Havilland Canada. 

Southwest Airlines announce new destination

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Southwest Airlines has announced its service to Steamboat Springs, Colorado through Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN), planning to launch daily flights at the end of 2020.

“Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, or just enjoy a winter wonderland, Steamboat Springs has something for everyone, and now you’ll be able to reach the region on Southwest with a short, easy flight from Denver,” said Adam Decaire, Southwest’s VP of Network Planning. 

Denver International Airport operates 214 daily departures for Southwest Airlines but it is still expected to see plenty of competition. Bigger airlines such as United, Delta, American and Alaska already offer nonstop flights to Steamboat Springs from Denver too, as well as multiple alternative airports. 

The airline is planning to release schedules and fares for Steamboat Springs in the coming months.

Helvetic Airways E190

flyBAIR forms partnership with Helvetic Airways

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Start-up Swiss company, flyBAIR, has formed a co-operation agreement with regional carrier Helvetic Airways ahead of its summer launch.

A subsidiary of Bern Airport, flyBAIR plans to launch in May 2020, offering flights from Bern to holiday destinations; Jerez, Crete, Kos, Mallorca, Menorca, Olbia, Preveza and Rhodes – as well as from Sion to Mallorca.

flybairHelvetic Airways will carry out flyBAIR’s planned flight connections from Bern and Sion using an Embraer E190 aircraft, with Urs Ryf, delegate of the flyBAIR board of directors, commenting, “With Helvetic Airways we have found a partner that represents the Swiss values that also identify flyBAIR.”

Originally German Airways and Lions Air were set to operate the flights but could not keep the existing contract. Ryf explained that in Helvetic Airways flyBAIR has found a partner “Who knows regional airports very well,” and knows the Swiss market.

Tobias Pogorevc, CEO of Helvetic Airways, added: “As a regional airline of European importance, Helvetic Airways contributes to and supports the sustainable development of Bern Airport regional project flyBAIR.”

The airline has been partially crowdfunded, attracting a total of 1,398 shareholders to support the “virtual airline”. Flughafen Bern AG holds 15.3% of the share capital as the largest shareholder of the regional company. Through its operating model, flyBAIR will be responsible for marketing services, working with partners operating the flights.

Bern Airport has faced a challenging few years following the bankruptcy of SkyWork Airlines and the subsequent loss of scheduled flights.

On the reveal of the flyBAIR project in 2019, André Lüthi, Board of Directors of the new airline called it a “Berner project for Berners” adding, “Now we all have a unique chance to show that we have sensible and ecologically justifiable public traffic in Bern: as a tourist region, as a federal capital with a hub connection to the world.”

Since entering the market in December 2019, the airline has seen solid interest from the Swiss population, with José González, CEO of flyBAIR commenting: “The number of bookings that we have received since the Bern Holiday Fair is over expectations. We were very well received by the regional market.”

Belavia orders Embraer E2

Belavia signs with AerCap for three E195-E2s

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Belavia – Belarusian Airlines has signed a lease agreement with AerCap for the lease of three new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft.

The first aircraft is expected to be delivered in December 2020, with the remaining two aircraft delivering in March and April 2021.

The E195-E2 will seat 125 passengers in a two-class configuration, with nine seats in business class and 116 in economy.

“Belavia has successfully updated the air fleet over several years. We got three Embraer-195 and one Embraer-175 in 2019, in spring 2020 we are expecting to get one more Embraer-175, and on December of the current year our fleet will be replenished with absolutely new Embraer E195-E2,” said Anatoly Gusarov, CEO of JSC Belavia. “Belavia passengers first of all admire Embraer-175 for their comfort. For the airline such fleet replenishment gives the possibility to improve the level of service and contribute to further reduction of airfare via efficiency of airliners of this type.”

The airline planes to use the aircraft on routes to London, Barcelona, Astana, Munich, Paris, Sochi and Amsterdam.

Belavia added that the additions to its fleet would allow the airline to increase the frequency of scheduled flights to existing destinations, as well as open new routes, positioning Minsk as a hub for transit.

The aircraft are from AerCap’s order book with Embraer, with President and Chief Commercial Officer of the leasing company, Philip Scruggs, commenting, “With the introduction of Embraer’s most advanced aircraft, Belavia will enjoy improved operating costs and versatility.”

TAROM take delivery of first ATR 72-600

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Romanian carrier, TAROM, took delivery of its first ATR 72-600 aircraft with another eight expected by the end of 2020. 

This is the first of nine aircraft, featuring a new livery, as a part of a leasing contract with regional aircraft lessor NAC. TAROM has used ATR 42-500 and 72-500 to compete with low cost carriers and it is expected that this new aircraft will lower operating costs and improve performance.

This fleet upgrade will result in an additional 330,000 seats per year at the same cost, improving short haul connectivity in Romania. With the new aircraft, TAROM stated that it will be “supporting the development of local and isolated communities.” The ATR 72-600 burns 40% less fuel and emits 40% less CO2 than similar-sized regional jets, the manufacturer suggest.

TAROM Chief Executive Officer George Barbu said, “We are looking forward to starting operations with our brand new ATR 72-600, the only aircraft on the regional market to meet our ambitious targets in terms of efficiency, modern technology and environmental performance. We are going to be able to develop new routes and increase frequency and seat availability, whilst offering the highest levels of comfort and technology.”

The airline has partnered with ATR for 20 years. Stefano Bortoli, Chief Executive Officer of ATR commented, “Renewed confidence from a loyal customer is the best possible endorsement for an aircraft manufacturer. Especially when the decision is made after a vigorous evaluation of the existing solutions on the market – we know that our product is working for our customers. All regions deserve the same opportunity to be part of a connected world and ATR aircraft show unrivalled performance in connecting people and businesses responsibly.”

AJW Group prepares to teardown Airbus A319 aircraft

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A specialist in aircraft spares, AJW Group, has purchased an Airbus A319 aircraft for teardown. 

The teardown will mean that the A319 components can recertified at AJW Group’s maintenance hub in Montreal and other vendors. The parts that pass will be stored in the strategic hubs around the world and exchanged or sold to support airlines with an extensive portfolio of A320 family aircraft. 

The global fleet of Airbus A320 has seen an increase in demand in recent months so these teardown projects allow AJW Group to bolster its inventory and become “the ‘go-to’ source for A320 material for the next decade.”

Ian Main, Chief Financial Officer of AJW Group said, “At AJW Group we have an extensive inventory of Airbus spare parts located in strategic hubs across the world. This teardown is the first in a series of airframe and engine tear-downs this year as part of our commitment to ensure that our valued-customer’s operations are supported through access to our pool of high-quality components.”

Quadrant New Simulator

Quadrant Pilot announces new APS MCC Course

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Quadrant New Simulator

Quadrant Pilot Training announced an enhanced Airline Pilot Standard Multi Crew Coorporation Course at its training centre near London Gatwick Airport, UK.

The course is aimed to help pilots achieve the highest standards required by Commercial Air Transport Operators. It will be offered on either Airbus A320 or Boeing B737 NG Full Flight Simulators. It will include four days of ground school and 40 hours in the simulators. For holders of Integrated Airline Transport Pilot Licence, the simulator phase is reduced to 35 hours. Quadrant Systems combines industry knowledge, course content and training specialists to deliver the training,

“The benefits of using our Level D Full Flight Simulators cannot be overstated as it provides the same training environment experienced by Pilots undergoing Type Rating Training,” said Nick Bendall, Managing Director, Quadrant Systems, adding that the course also enables “a seamless and easy transition for pilots progressing onto Type Specific Training.”