Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Virgin Australia says it will be Australia’s most loved airline

Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia has lured some high-profile executives to form a team that boss Jane Hrdlicka says will be hard to beat and will make the airline Australia’s most loved.

Leading the pack is David Marr, Woolworth’s chief operating officer, who joins Virgin Australia as its chief financial officer next month.

Mr Marr has spent the last nine years with Woolworths including six years as its CFO before being appointed COO in August 2019.

Prior to Woolworths, Mr Marr held senior executive roles at Tesco in the UK, API and the Foster’s Group.

Yesterday Mr Marr said he is “excited to be joining Virgin Australia and being part of the turnaround of one of Australia’s great brands.”

The airline has also been able to lure Alistair Hartley, director of strategy at International Airlines Group (British Airways) to take up the position of chief transformation officer.

READ: Qatar Airways A350 is the ultimate Airbus aircarft

Mr Hartley has two decades of experience in strategy in the aviation sector, including four years as head of operations strategy and crew logistics at Virgin Atlantic Airways (UK) and five years with Jetstar Airways, including as head of strategy and executive manager network, planning and strategy.

Last month, Virgin Australia announced the appointment of former top Qantas executive and COO Paul Jones as chief customer and digital officer.

Virgin Australia has also lured Nick Rohrlach, CEO of Jetstar Japan top head up the Velocity frequent flyer program, Lisa Burquest from The a2 Milk Company as chief people officer and former Qantas and Etihad Airways executive Moksha Watts as chief corporate affairs officer.

“This is a tough team to beat and each new member is a world-class leader with a proven track record and deep experience in aviation or consumer-focused businesses, Ms Hrdlicka said.

“These people deeply understand our market, and they know our customers.”

“Virgin Australia has signalled a return to its mid-market heartland, targeting value-conscious corporate travellers, small and medium businesses, premium leisure travellers, and holidaymakers who are after a great value airfare and better service.

“Our new executive team will be at the forefront of helping our team members to deliver that strategy. All the new appointees have a demonstrated commitment to staff, customers and the community and are a perfect fit with the Virgin Australia culture, I have come to know intimately over the past few months.

“Today’s announcement underscores our commitment to being Australia’s most loved and best value airline for business and leisure travellers, and to build a strong company that will endure for the long term,” Ms Hrdlicka said

Superb video and pictures of travel in the 1950s by DC-6B

DC-6B

Airlineratings.com brings you a superb video and pictures of air travel in the 1950s by Douglas DC-6B.

This aircraft was the most successful four-engine piston engine airliner, evidence by the fact that many still haul cargo in remote parts of the world such as Alaska.

At its peak, in the 1950s, two out of three passengers travelled by DC-6B.

Red Bull has restored one to better than factory condition and it can be seen at airshows throughout Europe. See the superb Red Bull DC-6B video here.

Here are some historic photos of the DC-6B from AirlineRatings.com archives.

DC-6B
Ansett-ANA DC-6B at Perth Western Australia. Credit Merv Prime
First DC-6B for ANA. Colorized by Benoit Vienne from the Boeing Historical Archives.
ANA DC-6B. Boeing Historical Archives
ANA DC-6B. Boeing Historical Archives
DC-6B cabin. Boeing Historical Archives
DC-6B cabin. Boeing Historical Archives
DC-6B cabin. Boeing Historical Archives
Lounge on the DC-6B. Boeing Historical Archives
Lounge on the DC-6B. Boeing Historical Archives
DC-6B cabin. Boeing Historical Archives

 

Emirates suspends flight to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane

Emirates

Emirates is suspending flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane until further notice, citing “operational reasons”.

The last flight from Brisbane to Dubai, EK431, took off Sunday with flights from Sydney and Melbourne to follow in the next few days.

The final flight to Sydney arrives tomorrow and departs for Dubai on Tuesday (EK414/415), while Melbourne’s last flight arrives Tuesday and departs Wednesday (EK408/409).

READ: Unruly passengers face $US35,000 fine, jail in crackdown.

Flights to Perth were not mentioned in the announcement.

“Customers holding tickets with final destinations Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin after the completion of the above flights,’’ the airline said on its website.

“Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. Affected customers should contact their travel agent or Emirates contact center for rebooking options.”

The Australian government is scrambling to redistribute the Emirates capacity to other airlines operating in the region and has announced another 20 repatriation flights between January 31 and March 31.

The repatriation flights are over and above the existing caps on returning International travelers,  according to acting Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham.

The Emirates move comes after Australia added pre-flight COVID testing and temporarily reduced international arrival caps into the country.

The government reduced caps on international arrivals by 50 percent in NSW, Western Australia and Queensland until February 15.

It also tightened restrictions on flight crews and quarantine workers while making masks mandatory on all flights and in airports.

International aircrew will be required to take a COVID-19 test in Australia every seven days or on arrival, as determined by state health authorities.

They will also need to quarantine in dedicated facilities between international flights or for 14 days and will not be able to reposition for an ongoing international service unless via a crew-only flight.

Thousands of Australians remain stuck overseas and reducing the flight caps has made it more difficult for them to return home.

Emirates earlier in the week suspended all flights to South Africa, the source of a virulent new strain of the coronavirus, again blaming operational reasons.

Data successfully downloaded from Sriwijaya black box

sriwijaya black box
The recovered black box. Photo: detikcom via Twiiter.

Indonesian investigators say data successfully downloaded from the flight data recorder of a crashed Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737 confirms both engines were running when the plane hit the water.

The recorder was recovered by divers on January 12 and Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Board said the data on it was in good condition.

The download, which Reuters said covered 330 parameters,  means investigators will be able to examine aspects such as flight surface configurations, heading speed and engine power in the final minutes before the plane slammed into the sea.

READ: Qatar Airways chief dismisses predictions airfares will soar.

The search continues for the cockpit voice recorder which could add context by revealing any comments by the pilots prior to the crash.

Investigators should issue a preliminary report within 30 days of the crash but this is usually a factual account of events rather than an analysis of a probable cause or causes.

Officials believe the plane was still intact when it hit the sea on January 9 because of the spread of the wreckage and the fact the aircraft was transmitting information as it plummeted. They say this rules out a mid-air explosion.

Flight SJ182 was not on its assigned heading but the pilots did not respond to queries from air traffic control about the change. Why this was so will be among the questions investigators will be hoping information on the black boxes will answer.

The aging Sriwijaya plane was about 11 nautical miles north of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta  International Airport on a flight between Jakarta and Pontianak in Borneo when contact was lost.

It was under the control of experienced pilots and officials revealed Tuesday it had been grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic and passed an inspection to return it to service on December 14.

It made its first flight about five days after the inspection without passengers and returned to service shortly afterward.

Searchers have retrieved body parts and wreckage, including part of an engine, some of which have already been taken to Jakarta.

Flight tracking and specialist air crash sites have already revealed some information about the flight, the departure of which had been delayed by heavy rain.

SEE: AR’s Geoffery Thomas talking about the crash on the BBC and ABC

The Aviation Herald reported the aircraft had departed Soekarno International Airport at 2:36 pm local time, climbed through 1700 feet and was cleared to 29,000 feet.

“Departure control subsequently noticed that the aircraft was not on its assigned heading of 075 degrees, but tracking northwesterly and queried the crew about the heading at 14:40L, but received no reply, within second(s) the aircraft disappeared from radar,” it said.

 

Air Canada joins WestJet in slashing capacity

Air Canada COVID

Air Canada has joined WestJet in cutting flights and jobs because of increased travel restrictions, announcing a 25 percent reduction in first-quarter capacity.

About 1700 Air Canada employees will be affected by the system-wide cuts as well as more than 200 at express carriers.

The cuts will see the airline operate just 20 percent of the capacity it flew in the first quarter of 2019.

The Canadian airlines are responding to moves by their government to introduce pre-flight COVID testing from January 7 and tighten quarantine requirements.

READ: US joins countries requiring pre-flight COVID testing.

Air Canada chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said the restrictions and other measures had produced an immediate impact on short -term bookings.

This had prompted the airline to make the “difficult but necessary” decision to further adjust its schedule and rationalize transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and reduce cash burn.

“We regret the impact these difficult decisions will have on our employees who have worked very hard during the pandemic looking after our customers, as well as on the affected communities,’’ Guillemette said.

“While this is not the news we were hoping to announce this early into the year, we are nonetheless encouraged that Health Canada has already approved two vaccines and that the Government of Canada expects the vast majority of eligible Canadians to be vaccinated by September.

“We look forward to seeing our business start to return to normal and to bringing back some of our more than 20,000 employees currently on furlough and layoff.”

WestJet had earlier blamed government travel advisories and restrictions for a decision to slash its schedule by 30 percent and cut the equivalent of 1000 jobs.

The airline announced it would remove the capacity in February and March, resulting in an 80 percent year-on-year reduction. International capacity will be down by 93 percent.

The move will see 230 weekly departures eliminated, including 160 domestic departures, and jobs reduced by a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leave and reduced hours.

WestJet chief executive Ed Sims said his airline had also seen significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations after the Canadian government announced the new restrictions.

 

Optimistic Delta chief offers ray of hope for US airlines

Delta COVID
Photo: Chris Rank/ Rank Studios

Delta Air Lines has injected a ray of hope into the US airline industry with predictions of a sustained improvement in this year’s second half after ending a horror 2020 with a pre-tax loss of $US9 billion.

The airline still expects to burn $US10 to $15 million in cash per day in the first quarter of 2021 with revenues down 35 to 40 percent.

But it predicts this will be followed by an “inflection point” in the northern spring as vaccine distribution continues, travel restrictions ease and consumer confidence grows.

READ: Unruly passengers face $US35,000 fine, jail in FAA crackdown.

Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said the change would hopefully result in cash burn “reaching breakeven or better by the second quarter”.

“And as the year progresses, we expect demand will start to accelerate as vaccinations become more widespread and the virus is in a contained state, and customers gain greater confidence to make future travel commitments,’’ Bastian said on the airline’s financial results conference call.

“This should enable a sustained recovery to begin in the second half of 2021, with a return to profitability this summer.”

The Delta boss pointed to consumer behavior that indicated pent-up demand.

“Shopping visits across Delta’s digital channels are significantly outpacing the passenger volumes we’re carrying,’’ he said.

“In our most recent corporate survey, 40 percent of respondents expect full recovery by 2022.

“Our partners at American Express are also seeing encouraging signs, whether it’s cardholders holding on to their points in anticipation of redeeming them for air travel, for a recent survey that suggested approximately 70 percent of respondents expect to take a trip in 2021 after not traveling in 2020.

“Although it will take time, customers want to travel again when they feel it’s safe. They feel they’ve had a year of their life taken from them, and they’re starting to get ready to reclaim.”

Bastian said Delta remained focused on keeping its culture intact and it employees engaged while continuing to prioritize customers with a focus on health and safety.

“Customers have shown they are willing to pay more for the quality of our network, product, and our service,’’ he said.

“The gains we have achieved in customer satisfaction position us well to drive sustainable revenue growth in the future.”

Innovation would also be a key as the airline tackled challenges such as carbon neutrality, keeping costs competitive and debt repayment.

“Given the changes we’ve made over the last year, our goal is to sustain our non-fuel unit cost at or below 2019 levels by the December quarter of this year, and roughly 75 percent of 2019 capacity levels, displaying continued agility in managing our cost,’’ Bastian said.

 

Disruptive Norwegian Air exits long-haul travel

Norwegian
The interior of a Norwegian Dreamliner.

The low-cost carrier that disrupted the trans-Atlantic market, Norwegian Air, is axing its long-haul operations and withdrawing to its home turf.

Norwegian’s expansion across the Atlantic and bargain-basement fares prompted airlines to launch competing and mostly unsuccessful low-cost carriers as well as introduce cut-price basic economy seats into the market.

At its zenith, the Nordic carrier boasted more than 50 non-stop routes between the US and Europe.

READ: Qatar chief dismisses predictions airfares will soar.

It was already struggling financially before the pandemic and its glory days as a long-haul market disruptor are now over as the COVID pandemic continues to cast a pall of uncertainty over international demand.

The company’s board on Thursday outlined a simplified business structure that will see it exit its Boeing 787 fleet, which has been grounded since March, and focus on its core Nordic market and key European destinations.

It did not, it said, expect to see customer demand in the long-haul sector to recover in the near future.

The plan will see it bring in insolvency experts for its operations in Italy, France, the UK and the US.  Media reports suggest about 1100 staff are affected at the airline’s London Gatwick operations alone.

Norwegian’s strategy is to serve the core markets with about 50 narrow-body aircraft in 2021 and to increase the fleet to 70 aircraft in 2020.

“Our short-haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model,” said Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram.

The carrier also hopes to significantly reduce its debt to around  2 billion Norwegian Krona ($US240m) and to raise 4-5 billion krona through a combination of a rights issue to current shareholders, a private placement and hybrid instruments.

It says it has received “concrete interest’ in the private placement.

“By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe,” Schram said, adding that the company hoped to “safeguard as many jobs as possible”.

The airline said customers with bookings affected by the changes would be contacted directly.

 

Qantas says COVID outbreaks set it back three months

Qantas
Qantas boss Alan Joyce. Photo: Steve Creedy

Domestic border restrictions between Australian states have forced Qantas to revise estimates of how quickly it will get its network up and running.

The airline had originally estimated it would hit 80 percent of capacity by March but Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told the Reuters Next conference he now expected this to be delayed by three months.

Joyce said there had been massive pent-up demand before a recent outbreak of COVID clusters that had prompted a huge increase in frequency on interstate markets and significant growth in passenger volumes.

He said the Qantas had been confident would return to more than 80 percent of capacity by March and even 100 percent for low-cost offshoot Jetstar’s domestic operations.

READ: More airlines could fail as forward bookings stall.

“It was a very rapid recovery,’’ he said. “This latest outbreak has probably set us back three months.

“So our forecast now is that for the third quarter for us in the financial year, which is January to March, we’ll be at 60 percent of pre-COVID domestic capacity ….  and for the final quarter of the financial year, which ends at June 30, we’ll be back to 80 percent.”

Joyce also conceded that the airline’s guess that international travel will restart from July onwards could change.

The airline has started selling tickets from July, a move that prompted the Australian government to warn that the opening of borders was a government decision.

“It could be a bit later, it could be around then,’’ he said. “We just have the capacity to manage that schedule depending on what the government decision is going to be at the time.

“But it’s likely within the next year, from all of the indications that we have with the roll-out of vaccines worldwide, that there will be an opening of the international borders.”

Joyce said border openings may be in stages and could initially involve countries that were more advanced in rolling out the vaccine.

But given how Australia was positioned, the airline had confidence borders would open “at least some time in 2021 and hopefully in the middle of 2021.”

 

 

 

Qatar Airways chief dismisses predictions airfares will soar

qatar
Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker. Photo: Steve Creedy.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has dismissed predictions airfares will soar in a post-COVID world where passengers compete for fewer seats on a reduced global airline network.

While Al Baker agrees there will be fewer airlines operating after the pandemic,  he disagreed that airlines would start charging people “an arm and a leg” because there was reduced capacity.

“I don’t think that will be the case,’’ he told a CAPA Centre for Aviation online conference.

“Eventually, the airlines will start growing again but in the short and medium-term, yes, there will be a reduction in the number of aeroplanes and the network.

“But also keep in mind that (fewer) people will want to travel in that period of time.”

READ: More airlines could fail as forward bookings stall.

Qatar has moved further into the global spotlight by continuing to operate during the pandemic and becoming a major passenger and cargo operator.

Al Baker has tipped a recovery to pre-pandemic levels by 2024 but cautioned this was only realistic under current circumstances.

“If a new variant of COVID comes out which is … difficult to treat or the spread was more aggressive than what it was then, yes, we would be in trouble and this may extend beyond 2024,’’ he said.

The Qatar boss is also confident business travel will eventually return to pre-COVID levels.

He acknowledged that there would not be much business traffic initially but said this was “only for the time being”.

“I am certain that the business traffic will start growing once the pandemic is brought under control,’’ he said, adding that people to whom he spoke felt they could conduct business better face-to-face rather than through technology.

He said it was important for people to know that airlines had passed through epidemics which also suggested business travel would be affected but this did not happen.

“I think the same will happen,’’ he said, adding that the reduced capacity of other premium carriers led Qatar to believe people would still fill its premium seats in the not-too-distant future.

Al Baker said high net worth passengers would continue to fly in premium cabins and pointed to the uptake on Qatar services to the Maldives, the Seychelles and Zanzibar.

Qatar would also continue to serve all the routes it started as a result of the blockade by neighboring states now the blockade was now lifting.

“We will continue because that is our growth strategy so we are not going to walk away from routes we are already operating,’’ he said.

“Post-COVID we will look at which routes we will reintroduce earlier than the others but we are not going withdraw from routes permanently.”

Asked about recent comments about the efficiency of the Airbus A380 compared to the A350,  he revealed Qatar would only bring back half its fleet of 10 superjumbos and criticized the 380 as “one of the worst” planes flying around today when it came to emissions.

“This is why we have decided we will not operate them for the foreseeable future,’’ he said. “And even when we operate them, we will only operate half of the numbers we have.”

The airline had already announced it planned to retire its A380s by 2024.

 

 

 

 

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Unruly passengers face $US35,000 fine, jail in FAA crackdown

FAA
Image: EASA

Problems on US aircraft have prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take a zero-tolerance approach to unruly passengers with a fine of up to $US35,000 and possible jail time.

The FAA on Wednesday signed an order introducing a stricter policy against unruly airline passengers that will remain in effect until March 30 “in the wake of recent troubling incidents”.

“Flying is the safest mode of transportation and I signed this order to keep it that way,” FAA administrator Steve Dickson said.

READ: US joins countries requiring pre-flight COVID testing.

The agency said it had seen a disturbing increase in airline passengers who have disrupted flights with threatening or violent behavior stemming from a refusal to wear masks and from recent violence at the US capital.

It has taken more than 1300 enforcement actions against unruly passengers in the last 10 years, including recent cases where passengers allegedly interfered with or assaulted flight attendants who instructed them to wear masks.

The upgraded policy means that people disrupting US flights will no longer receive a warning or counseling about their anti-social behavior.

Instead, the agency will pursue legal action against any passenger who “assaults, threatens, intimidates or interferes with airline crew members”.

“Passengers who interfere with, physically assault, or threaten to physically assault aircraft crew or anyone else on an aircraft face stiff penalties, including fines of up to $US35,000 and imprisonment,” it said

“This dangerous behavior can distract, disrupt, and threaten crewmembers’ safety functions.”

Airlines can also take action against passengers by putting them on “no-fly” lists and Alaska  Airlines recently banned 14 rowdy passengers flying to Seattle from  Washington DC after the assault on Capitol Hill.

READ: Alaska bans 14 after rowdy behavior on Washington flight.

Unions representing flight attendants had warned the mob mentality of some passengers was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of other passengers and crew members.

 

 

 

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