Editor’s Comment: As easy as catching a bus…but

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It could be just a trend but if you’re a frequent flyer it might be just what you need. The Go Travel Pass launched by Canadian LCC Flair could well be a bargain for Canadians who need to city-hop for work, or students seeking to get home at the end of term.

But is it too good to be true? Passes start at just CAN$499 plus taxes and fees, for which a passenger can fly as often as they want, anywhere between 13 February to 13 May – but here’s the catch – You can’t travel on Friday and Sunday and there are “blackout dates”.

Excluding any extra fees, two trips across the nation on the unlimited pass would more than pay for itself. But the extra fees can add up for the passenger with a Go Travel Pass.

The biggest way to keep your spending down, as on any LCC or regional airline flight, is to abandon extras at check-in. The flights may be cheap, but the add-ons can come thick and fast and be expensive. Extra bags, seat selection, internet access, changing your booking, even buying water onboard can see that golden air ticket price soon lose its shine.

But there’s an upside? Budget airlines may not operate out of major airports (which makes connecting flights difficult to arrange) and the back-of-the-seat entertainment may be missing, but LCCs and regional airliners force competitors to match their prices. So, a cheap and efficient flight without a meal and without Tetris on the seatback screen is something I can live with.

Despite my initial scepticism, let’s hope that some form of frequent flyer pass makes its way to Europe soon, so LCCs and regional airlines will finally be viewed as buses with wings and bring support to the industry.

Green Africa

Green Africa Airways signs for 50 A220s

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Green Africa

Airbus has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nigeria’s Lagos-based Green Africa Airways for 50 A220-300 aircraft – one of the top orders for the A220 programme and the largest ever from the African continent.

This purchase will allow the airline to reach new destinations and unlock routes that were previously unavailable. The aircraft will integrate well into the African airport network due to its low capacity, flexibility and high efficiency. 

Founder and CEO of Green Africa Airways, Babawande Afolabi, commented, “Together with Airbus, we are incredibly proud to announce the largest order ever for the A220 from the African continent. The Green Africa story is a story of entrepreneurial boldness, strategic foresight and an unwavering commitment to using the power of air travel to create a better future.”

Green Africa put the brakes on the launch of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft as they were unable to be delivered due to the ongoing crisis. Although the status of the Boeing order is unconfirmed, the commitment to the A220 is a significant step forwards for the airline. 

The airline aims to develop its place in the African aviation marketplace by building a strong network and becoming a vital LCC.

“We are excited about the Green Africa project, its legitimate ambition and is professionalism, evidenced by their most discerning choice for their operating assets,” said Christian Scherer, CCO of Airbus, before adding, “We look forward to our partnership with Green Africa and to accompany their development with the most efficient aircraft in its class.”

Airbus to increase A320 production

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Airbus has revealed plans increase the production of its A320 series from 60 aircraft per month to 67. The aircraft manufacturer is stabilising the output of the A330 to just 40 aircraft this year and will keep the production rate of the A350s to between nine and 10 aircraft per month. The Airbus stated that this is due to “overall customer demand for widebody aircraft.”

At the company’s 2019 earnings meeting, CEO Guillaume Faury revealed that a “lot” of the A330 deliveries last year involved aircraft that were produced in 2018 but delivered late due to issues with the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine. The airframer’s lower widebody output, Faury said, reflects Airbus’s “understanding of the capacity of the market and of the backlog.” The manufacturer wants to have a “level of production reflecting demand moving forward,” he said, pointing out that “also, our main competitor is bringing rates down.” Boeing in October last year announced it would decrease the output of the 787 from 14 to 12 per month in 2020 and last month warned this could be cut further to 10 a month early in 2021 due to the “current environment” and “near-term market outlook.”

With a backlog of 6,068 A320-family aircraft, representing eight years’ production at current rates, Airbus will need to increase the output beyond the 63 a month planned for the end of 2021. “We re-assessed the capacity of our supply chain last year, and we see a clear path to further increase the monthly production rate by one or two [a month] in 2022 and again by one or two in 2023,” Faury said.

Faury stated that Airbus was making progress with problems connected with the industrialisation and production acceleration of the Airbus Cabin Flex (ACF) version of the A321neo in Hamburg and the production shift from A320 to A321s. A321s models now account for nearly 50% of the A320-family backlog. “I do feel more comfortable on these challenges for 2020,” he said, though he admitted that delivery delays—of up six months on contractual commitments with customers—are not yet over. “We are the victim of the success of our product and the complexity of the ramp-up,” he asserted. Airbus last year delivered almost 100 more ACF versions of the A321 than it did in 2018.

Airbus intends to deliver 880 commercial jet deliveries this year, up 2% on the 863 examples in 2019 – a company record and an 8% increase on 2018 deliveries.

Vietjet marks important milestone with new routes to India

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Vietnamese airline, Vietjet, announced the introduction of five direct routes to India, in a move that will link some of the two countries largest cities together. 

Flights from Da Nang to New Delhi, and Hanoi to Mumbai, will commence from 14 May 2020 with the routes from Ho Chi Minh City to Mumbai planned to begin operating on 15 May 2020. Vietjet currently operates the HCMC/Hanoi – New Delhi services and plans to add more routes to alternative destinations in the future. 

“Vietjet’s direct flight opening records a milestone not only for the development of the airline but also marking the traditional bilateral relations between Vietnam and India,” said VP of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, adding that the routes will continue contributing to the partnership between the two countries,“I am confident that Vietjet will continue to be the leading airline in exploring and commencing direct services to other potential markets in the future.”

The flights will offer a VIP SkyBoss service, including lounge access, priority services and a selection of fresh hot meals in-flight.

The trade between Vietnam and India has increased annually at a rate of 12.81% since 2018. Honorable Minister of Civil Aviation in India, Hardeep Singh Puri commented on the potential economic growth of both countries due to the direct air connectivity of Vietjet. 

The connection to India will lead to passengers gaining access further across Southeast and East Asia with Vietjet’s domestic and international network, the airline suggested.  

Myanmar Airways International CDB Aviation

Myanmar Airways International to add E190 pair

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CDB Aviation has announced a lease agreement with Myanmar Airways International (MAI) for a pair of Embraer E190 aircraft to aid the expansion of the airline’s market.

The Embraer jet duo are set to be introduced to the airline’s all-Airbus fleet this summer and MAI plans to debut the jets on flights within its domestic market, and some international routes, as early as August 2020. According to the airline, the flights will supplement operations by sister carrier Air KBZ on domestic and regional routes.

“We are delighted to be handing over the two E190s to our newest APAC customer MAI, marking the introduction of first-generation Embraer jets on the carrier’s expanding route network,” commented Peter Goodman, CDB Aviation Chief Marketing Officer. “This jet duo will fit well within MAI’s expanding operations, facilitating their planned development of Myanmar’s market.”

Kyaw Han, Chief Operating Officer of MAI said the airline is “thrilled” to operate the E190s, adding that the jets will ensure the airline “remains at the forefront of the aviation industry in Myanmar, with a modern fleet.”

The new aircraft will support the airline’s operations across its domestic and regional network to destinations in South East Asia.

Bombardier quits commercial aviation

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Airbus and the Canadian government of Quebec are now the two partners that hold sole ownership of the A220 airline programme after Bombardier transferred its final assets in Airbus Canada Limited Partnership (Airbus Canada). This marks Bombardier’s exit from the commercial aviation sector.

The Airbus group now owns a 75% stake in the A220 joint venture. The Quebec government is increasing its hold to 25% with any cash consideration being made.

A revised addition to the agreement is that Airbus now has an option to redeem Quebec’s holding in Airbus Canada in 2026, which is three years later than previously stated. Airbus’s Quebec-based subsidiary Stelia Aerospace has acquired work package capabilities for the A220 and A330 programmes from Bombardier’s operation in Saint Laurent, Quebec.

As from the end of January orders for the A220 stood at 685 units. Airbus said this represented a 64% increase since it became involved in the programme.

“I would like to sincerely thank Bombardier for the strong collaboration during our partnership,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. “We are committed to this fantastic aircraft program and we are aligned with the government of Quebec in our ambition to bring long-term visibility to the Quebec and Canadian aerospace industry.”

Airbus will pay Bombardier $591 million, net of adjustments, for the Canadian group’s holding in Airbus Canada. Of this amount, $531 million was paid at closing and a further $60 million will be due by the end of 2021. The agreement also covers the cancellation of Bombardier warrants owned by Airbus, as well as releasing Bombardier from its future funding capital requirement to Airbus Canada.


AEGEAN Airlines welcomes first Airbus A320neo aircraft

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Greece-based AEGEAN Airlines has taken a delivery of its first Airbus A320neo aircraft, powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF engines.

GTF engines will provide the airline with the ability to reach further destinations which will benefit both passengers and Greek tourism, AEGEAN suggested. The engine has also demonstrated a reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions by 50% and fuel burn decreased by 16%, creating a more environmentally beneficial aircraft. 

The airline received the first aircraft in December 2019, part of an order for a minimum of 46 aircraft expected to be received by 2025. Until July 2020, AEGEAN is set to receive a total of six new aircraft reaching a fleet of 65 aircraft, adding 1.5 million seats to the network through the purchase. 

Along with the presentation of the new aircraft, AEGEAN revealed its new livery and branding which draws inspiration from the Greek landscape, architecture and heritage. Dimitris Gerogiannis, CEO of AEGEAN said, “The new livery represents a new AEGEAN and a platform to expand and refresh services for a better customer experience.”

The airline currently flies to 155 destinations in 44 countries. AEGEAN plans to use the A320neos on short to medium-haul flights from their base in Athens. The aircraft will commence service from 14 February across Europe, with the hope that more destinations will be within reach as more aircraft arrive. 

BA’s new route to Newquay

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British Airways has revealed a new summer domestic route to Newquay. Due to start this summer the airline will operate flights from London Heathrow to Newquay for approximately two months. The 210 mile route is one of the shortest for BA and will be served by an Airbus A319.

The airline will operate the service from London to Newquay five days per week starting on 2 July. Flights will last until 7 August, which is just over two months. It’s viewed as an attempt to increase tourism in the Cornish destination. It will be the airline’s first new domestic route since the carrier launched flights to Inverness in 2016. British Airways said that return fares will start for as little as £90 in the economy cabin and £250 in the business cabin.

Speaking of the new route, Neil Chernoff, British Airways’ Director of Network and Alliances said: “We know that customers enjoy exploring the UK as much as they do going further afield, and Newquay has so much to offer, especially in the summer months.”

Trujet launch Bidar route

Trujet adds Bidar to its network

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India regional airline Trujet expands its network with the addition to Bidar as an accessible destination on 7 February 2020.

Supporting the Regional Connectivity Scheme, 65% of Trujet’s flights are to regional airports. In four years, 24 destinations have been added to its network, creating routes to various Tiers within the country. Director of Turbo Megha Airways Pvt Ltd, Mr K V Pradeep, said, “We can truly claim to have answered, and continue to answer, the nation’s call to spread socio-economic growth to India.”

By making Bidar the 24th stop in Trujet’s network, the airline provides easier and quicker connections for both locals and tourists. “We reached Bidar in just one hour 40 minutes, instead of 12 hours travel by bus,” said the chief minister of Karnataka, Mr Yeddyurappa.


PNG Air purchases ATR 42-600S Aircraft

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Papua New Guinean airline (PNG) has ordered three ATR 42-600S Aircraft from ATR which will be the short take-off and landing version (STOL), ensuring the capability of taking-off and landing on runways as short as 800m in length.

The airline currently operates seven ATR 72-600s and will use the three new STOL aircraft to replace its current fleet of ageing STOL turboprops.

“Since incorporating the ATR 72-600 into our fleet PNG Air has gone from strength to strength,” said Paul Abbot, Chief Executive Officer of PNG Air. He added that the ATR 72-600 burns 40% less fuel and emits 40% less CO2 than a similar sized regional jet, further commenting, “the maintenance costs and commonality were hugely attractive.”

ATR highlighted that many current generations of STOL aircraft are reaching the end of their lifecycles, so it is “vital” to replace them in order to secure the connections they operate. With this order, PNG Air has ensured their passengers have continued accessibility to the communities that they reach.

“Without a viable STOL replacement PNG Air’s passengers would face significant challenges to their way of life,” commented ATR Chief Executive Office, Stefano Bortoli, adding, “As a successful airline PNG Air have shown that they understand the importance of these links to their passengers and the communities that they serve.”