Sunday, February 23, 2020
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United quietly follows JetBlue on higher checked baggage fees

United checked baggage

United Airlines has followed JetBlue and is increasing some checked baggage fees but it is not something either airline has been keen to crow about.

We were unable to easily find on United’s somewhat confusing website a statement informing passengers about the increase in airport checked baggage charges but presumably, there is one.

However, there was an online tool confirming — once you’d entered a hypothetical origin, destination and date — that the first bag would be $US35 and a second $US45.

READ: US airlines see a fall in overall complaints.

“Checked baggage allowance may vary depending on cabin, status level, military status, itinerary and date of purchase,’’ the airline warned on its changed bag rules and optional services page.

United currently charges $US30 for the first bag checked and paid for at the airport and $US40 for the second.

The new charges, according to a United statement posted by The Points Guy, apply to “certain flights” (we put in San Francisco-New York in April) and are effective for travel from March 6.

“The changes do not apply to customers who booked their trips before February 21, 2020, and will not apply to customers who prepay online before check-in,’’ the statement said.

“As always, MileagePlus Premier customers and those who purchase tickets with an eligible MileagePlus credit card will continue to receive complimentary checked luggage.”

JetBlue also did not shout from the rooftops when it in January boosted its baggage fees to the same level.

It hits passengers on Blue Basic, Blue and Blue Extra fares with the $35/$45 fees if they check their bags at the airport or within 24 hours of departure.

Those who pay more than 24 hours before departure get $US5 off the first two bags.

It’s advisable not to take a third bag on either airline: it will cost you $US150 on JetBlue and up to $US200 on United.

The two airlines now boast the highest airport bag fees in the US but it’s likely only a matter of time before other airlines follow them.

Ancillary revenues, particularly loyalty programs,  have become an important aspect of airline economics.

IdeaWorksCompany and CarTrawler do an estimate of what they call “a la carte revenue”, which covers fees paid for goods and services such as checked baggage, assigned seats, buy-on-board meals, early boarding and inflight entertainment.

The latest analysis showed that this type of revenue had more than doubled for the airlines covered worldwide from $U36.7 billion in 2015 to $US75.6 billion in 2019.

Airlines in the US accounted for $US14.8 billion of this but were still behind the Asia-Pacific ($US21.1 billion) and Europe/Russia ($US31.5 billion).




Boeing’s 777X test program accelerates

CREDIT: Woody's Aeroimages

Boeing’s 777X flight test program is accelerating with 21 flights conducted as of February 19th.

The longest flight was on February 9th that lasted just over six hours. Total flight time thus far is 61 hours 19 minutes.

All flights, except for the first flight, have been conducted from either Boeing Field just south of Seattle or Spokane, WA.

SEE stunning pictures of misty landings at Heathrow.

The fights have been captured by many photographers including the ones in this story; Woody’s Aeroimages@JoeScibelli@Peytonloumar and @dgorun. 

Credit above photo by @JoeScibelli

Credit: Daniel Gorun @dgorun
Highlights to come will be the first flight of the second 777X, N779XX and the roll out from the paint hangar of the first Emirates and Lufthansa 777X aircraft.

Qatar Airways freighters take supplies to battle Coronavirus

qatar airways

Five Qatar Airways cargo freighters departed to China yesterday with approximately 300 tonnes of medical supplies donated by the airline to support Coronavirus relief efforts.

The five flights departed one after the other bound for Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as part of Qatar Airways’ voluntary offer of free air cargo transportation for medical relief aid organized by Chinese Embassies and Consulates worldwide to fight the coronavirus emergency.

The convoy of five aircraft was made up of two Boeing 747F and three Boeing 777F aircraft and carried approximately 300 tonnes of medical supplies free-of-charge to the three cities.

READ: Airlines face major losses over Coronavirus 

Qatar Airways Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker, said: “When this crisis began, we knew we had to contribute to support our friends in China. As one of the leading air cargo carriers in the world, we are in a unique position where we are able to provide immediate humanitarian support through the provision of aircraft and donating medical supplies as well as coordinating logistical arrangements.

“By working with the Chinese Embassy in Qatar we hope our combined efforts can help limit the spread of this virus, ease the burden on local medical personnel and provide relief to the impacted communities in China.”

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in the State of Qatar, H.E. Mr. Zhou Jian, who attended the convoy’s departure along with Qatar Airways’ GCEO, said: “At this critical moment when Chinese people nationwide are fighting against the Coronavirus, Qatar Airways has opened a “Green Channel” for donating and transporting medical supplies to China. This is a channel of love, friendship, solidarity and hope. We are deeply grateful for that.

“The kindness of Qatar fully reflects the fraternal friendship the Qatari government and the people of Qatar have for the Chinese people. It is also a symbol of Qatar’s internationalism, and a symbol of solidarity among the international community to stand together in the face of difficulties. On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people. I would like to extend our most sincere thanks to the brotherly Qatari people.”

Yesterday’s convoy follows an earlier batch of critical medical relief aid transported by Qatar Airways Cargo to Shanghai on 2 February 2020.

The shipment included 100,000 medical-grade N95 respiratory masks and 2,700 medical-grade disposable latex gloves, providing essential protection to healthcare professionals working around the clock at hospitals in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the virus. The airline is planning to transport additional donations in the coming weeks.

The ‘Green Channel’ initiative for complimentary air transportation was announced jointly by Qatar Airways and the Chinese Embassy in Qatar on February 7 2020. Qatar Airways is the first international airline to volunteer emergency relief flight delivery.


US airlines see a fall in overall complaints.

Us airlines
Photo: O'Hare International Airport.

Overall complaints about service on US airlines fell slightly in 2019 but there were more grievances about discrimination and the treatment of disabled passengers.

The Department of Transportation revealed it received 15,332 complaints about airline service in 2019, down 1.4 percent.

READ: Asia-Pacific airlines face massive $US28-billion loss from COVID-19

The drop came despite an increase in the number of passengers being bumped from flights and mishandled baggage rate of 5.85 per 1000 checked bags.

The bumping rate rose to 0.24 per 10,000 passengers in 2019 compared to 0.14 per 10,000 passengers in 2018.

Also up was the incident rate involving animals, including 11 deaths and eight injuries among the 404,556 animals transported.

The number of disability complaints over the year rose by 9.7 percent to 905, all of which were investigated

There were 106 discrimination complaints, up 9.3 percent, that included 66 about race, 13 about national origin and eight about color.

“All complaints alleging discrimination are investigated to determine if there has been a violation(s) of the passenger’s civil rights,’’ the DoT said.

In the important area of on-time performance, Hawaiian Airlines passengers again enjoyed the US airline industry’s best punctuality in 2019 as the carrier took the top spot for the 16th consecutive year.

Hawaiian beat the US industry average by 6.1 percentage points to see its fights average an 87.7 percent on-time rate.

This was well ahead of runner-up Delta Air Lines’ 83.59  percent punctuality rate and Alaska Airline’s result of 81.39 percent.

Overall, US carriers posted an on-time arrival rate of 79 percent, a smidgeon lower than the 2018 result of 79.2 percent.

Half of the 10 airlines included in the report were below average with Frontier Airlines (73.1 percent) and JetBlue (73.5 percent) the worst.

Graphic: US DoT

Welcoming his airline’s result, Hawaiian chief executive Peter Ingram said the airline’s ore than 7,400 employees realized the importance of on-time arrivals to both leisure and business passengers.

“We recently observed our 90th anniversary and this ‘Sweet 16’ is definitely another achievement worth celebrating,” he said.

Hawaiian also posted the lowest cancelation rate of just 0.4 percent, well below the full-year average of 1.9 percent.

That was up slightly on the previous year with American Airlines (2.5 percent), Southwest Airlines (2.5 percent) and United Airlines (2.4 percent) posting the highest rates.

Asia-Pacific airlines face massive $US28 billion revenue loss from COVID-19

airlinesd coronavirus
Photo: China News Service/Wikimedia Commons

A first estimate of the impact on Asia-Pacific airlines of COVID-19 forecasts 2020 passenger demand will be slashed by 9 percent compared to 2019 as the region’s carriers see revenue plummet by $US27.8 billion in “a very tough year”.

This will see the impact significantly outstrip the 2003 SARS epidemic, which saw a 5.1 percent fall in revenue passenger kilometres at Asia-Pacific carriers.

The assessment by the International Air Transport Association means a potential 13 percent full-year loss of passenger demand for carriers in the Asia-Pacific region compared to its original forecast of 4.8 percent growth.

READ: Qantas cuts capacity as coronavirus delivers hit of up to $A150m.

Chinese airlines will be the worst affected by the startling loss of revenue with a fall of $US12.8 billion in the domestic market alone.

Carriers outside Asia-Pacific will fare better with a forecast revenue loss due to COVID-19 of $US1.5 billion, assuming the loss of demand is limited to markets linked to China.

IATA said this would bring total global lost revenue to $US29.3 billion, 5 percent down on its December forecast, and represented a 4.7 percent hit to global demand.

The organization In December forecast global demand growth of 4.1 percent for the year but now expects it to contract by 0.6 percent.

The estimate is based on a scenario where COVID-19 has a similar V-shaped impact on demand as SARS., with a six-month period with a sharp decline followed by an equally quick recovery.

It also assumes the public health emergency remains centered in China and warns the impact will be bigger if spreads more widely to other Asia-Pacific markets.

IATA said it was premature to say what the revenue loss would mean to global profitability because of uncertainties about how the disease will spread.

It noted governments would use fiscal and monetary policy to try to offset the adverse economic impacts and there could be some relief for airlines from lower fuel prices.

IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said times were changing for airlines and stopping the spread of the virus was the top priority.

“Airlines are following the guidance of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health authorities to keep passengers safe, the world connected, and the virus contained,’’ he said.

De Juniac said airlines were making difficult decisions to cut capacity and, in some cases, routes.

“Lower fuel costs will help offset some of the lost revenue,’’ he said. “This will be a very tough year for airlines.”

IATA called on governments to follow International health regulations so there was an effective global approach to controlling the outbreak.

They also needed to take leadership in shoring up economies and pointed to $S112 million in financial relief provided by the Singapore government to airlines.

“We have learned a lot from previous outbreaks,’’ de Juniac said. “And that is reflected in the IHR. Governments need to follow it consistently.”

It also observed that the World Health Organisation had not called for restrictions on travel or trade and passengers should be reassured that aircraft cabin air is filtered and planes were cleaned in line with global standards.

Stunning pictures of misty landings at Heathrow Airport.

Stunning pictures have been taken of aircraft with condensation flowing off the wings as they approach Heathrow airport in the early hours of the morning.

The pictures were taken by aviation enthusiast and photographer @Cedarjet201 using a Nikon D850 with 200-500mm lens.

READ: Former Australian Prime Minister says MH370 was murder-suicide. 

The photo above was an early morning misty approach by a British Aiways 747 while the one below is a British Airways Boeing 777 about to land runway 27R.

CREDIT: @Cedarjet201

The photo below was captured the same morning of a Japan Airlines (JAL) Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner Flight JL41 from Tokyo.


And this stunning photo captures an Air India 787.


And here are two more British Airways 747s.


Qantas Sunrise threat prompts overseas pilot interest

Qantas boss Alan Joyce with CFO Vanessa Hudson. Photo: Steve Creedy

There appears to be no shortage of people prepared to fly the Qantas ultra-long-haul Project Sunrise routes if a deal with the airline’s existing pilots cannot be reached.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday that he had received a letter in the last 24 hours from an Australian China Southern captain who had been laid off and said he could get hundreds of expatriate pilots from China and Asia to operate Sunrise flights.

The captain had volunteered to set up a company to recruit them, he said.

Read Qantas to cut capacity as coronavirus delivers a hit of up to $A150m.

Qantas International chief executive  Tino La Spina sent a note to pilots last week warning it would engage outside pilots for its ambitious plans to fly from Australia’s east coast to London and New York using Airbus A350s if they did not agree to a deal that delivered productivity gains sought by the airline.

The carrier is facing a March 31 deadline from Airbus for production slots for the A350s and has been told the manufacturer is unable to extend.

Joyce reiterated that the preference was still to cut a deal with the Australian and International Pilots Association that would see existing staff do the job.

He said he believed Project Sunrise was critical to the success of the business and gave Qantas a unique proposition that no other airline in the world could offer.

“We’ve seen with Perth-London and early stages of Brisbane-Chicago that ultra-long-haul flying does work for us, given the product and given the focus that we’ve had,’’ he said.

“And we are very focussed on making sure we can deliver on sunrise.

“What hasn’t changed is that we’ve said the business case has to work.”

The Qantas boss said efficiencies from pilots and the approval by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of a new fatigue risk management system were important parts of the business case.

He said good progress was being made with CASA and the head of the Qantas negotiating team had told pilots last week there had been more progress since the airline announced it would proceed with Sunrise,  and that it had an alternative plan, than in the previous seven months.

He said the “number one, number two and number three choice” was to do a deal with the pilots and that was what management was focussed on.

“But this is too critical for us to walk away from it and we will be doing it,’’ he said, adding that a recommendation would be put to the board in March.

Asked how confident he was that would get a deal with the pilots, Joyce said he was optimistic there would be progress.


Qantas to cut capacity as coronavirus delivers hit of up to $A150m

Photo: Steve Creedy.

Qantas will reduce capacity by the equivalent of 18 planes in the second half of the financial year due to the coronavirus and expects the crisis to wipe up to $A150m from its full-year earnings.

The airline yesterday posted an underlying first-half profit of $A771 million, down just $A4 million, but signaled tougher times ahead as it reduces flights to cope with a fall in demand.

It said Group international capacity was expected to be down 3.8 percent in the second half and domestic capacity would fall 2.3 percent.

The net profit impact of the coronavirus of $A100m to $A150m will be softened by lower fuel prices but flights to New Zealand and Asia will be cut and there will be a reduction in domestic capacity.

The airline said it would temporarily cut Qantas International Asian capacity by 16 percent and group flying between Australia and New Zealand by about 5 percent.

The Jetstar Group will cut its capacity to Asia by 14 percent until at least the end of May.

Group domestic capacity is expected to be reduced by 2 percent, with about half the cancellations between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“There are obviously some challenges facing us in the second half – but we’re confident that we can manage the impact, as we have in the past,’’ Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said.

The Sydney-Shanghai route will remain suspended until the end of May — possibly longer — and flights to Hong Kong from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are being reduced.

Sydney-Hong Kong will reduce from 14 return flights a week to seven, while Brisbane-Hong Kong falls from seven weekly to four. Melbourne-Hong will go from a daily service to five flights per week.

Melbourne-Singapore flights will be operated by a smaller Boeing 787 instead of an A380 superjumbo, cutting about 250 seats per flight.

Qantas will cut flights across the Tasman by 6 percent with cancellations on Sydney-Auckland, Melbourne-Auckland and Brisbane-Christchurch. Jetstar will reduce its Tasman flying by 5 percent.

The airline said it would contact affected customers and offer alternatives,

It said there would be no change to other key parts of the Qantas network, such as the US and UK.

The cuts are the equivalent of grounding 18 aircraft across Qantas and Jetstar until the end of May and affect about 700 full-time jobs.

“To avoid job losses, we’ll be using leave balances across our workforce of 30,000 and freezing recruitment to help ride this out,” Joyce said.

“We’ll also take advantage of having some aircraft on the ground by bringing forward planned maintenance.”

It ‘s not clear how long the coronavirus impact will last but the airline has the flexibility to respond further if it needs to.

Chief financial officer Vanessa Hudson said the airline could extend the capacity cuts through to the end of the financial year if the weakness continued or deepen the cuts if demand weakened.

It is moving to stimulate demand by launching double status credits for all Qantas operated flights booked between February 20 and 25 as well as launching sales on Jetstar.

The airline is well placed to handle the downturn from a financial perspective and Joyce said it would be ready for an expected rebound when it ended.

The SARS virus resulted in pent-up demand and Joyce said the same was expected of the latest outbreak.

He said the airline was using paid leave and bringing forward maintenance so it could fly the entire fleet when the market did recover.

“This is an evolving situation that we’re monitoring closely,” he said. “We know demand into Asia will rebound. And we’ll be ready to ramp back up when it does.

“These past few months have been extraordinarily difficult for the tourism industry and we’ve tried to minimize our capacity reductions as much as possible.”

The airline’s underlying profit came in the face of headwinds that included $A51 million in higher foreign exchange costs, a $A68 million impact on international freight from unrest in Hong Kong.

A $A55 million increase in domestic airport overheads due to terminal sales combined with demand weakness to produce a $A47 million reduction in underlying earnings to bring the group domestic figure to $A645 million.

But international earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) rose by $A4 million to $A162 million.

Loyalty continued ts earnings growth with another record profit, recording a 12 percent rise in EBIT to $A196 million.





Aussie aviation firm has electric dream of factory first

Electric aircraft
The Alpha Trainer. Image: Pipistrel.

An Adelaide company hopes to be the first to produce commercial electric aircraft in Australia after signing a deal with Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel.

Eyre to There Aviation will initially import 15 assembled Pipistrel Alpha Electro aircraft but says the plan is to set up a manufacturing facility in Adelaide to produce up to 100 aircraft annually.

Pipistrel’s electric aircraft first flew in Australia in Perth in 2018 after being granted a special Certificate of Airworthiness by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The certification means it can be used for pilot training and the South Australian company has a market of more than 250 registered flight schools in mind.

It says electric aircraft are ideally suited to the roughly 25 percent of flight training involving beginner-level circuit training and flying close to an airfield.

Eyre to There managing director Barrie Rogers said Australia had an opportunity to be a world leader.

Image: Pipistrel.

“Electric aircraft are cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, are significantly quieter than conventional aircraft and don’t rely on fossil fuels,’’ he said.  “And they are ideally suited for short-range flight training activities.”

A problem that had previously hindered the development of electric aircraft, according to Rogers, was the battery weight.

“We believe we’re now at the stage where technological advances have reduced the battery weight to a point where electric aircraft are now commercially viable in Australia,’’ he said.

“Electric aircraft don’t yet have the range of other aircraft, but they’re perfect for short flights such as flight training and particularly circuit training, which is a core activity in obtaining a private pilot licence. “

The two-seater trainer has a maximum take-off weight of 550kg, weighing 368kg empty, and a maximum climb rate of more than 1000 feet per minute.

It can fly for an hour, with a 30-minute reserve, and has an energy cost of $A1.40 an hour.

Total running costs —  including battery replacement, maintenance and overhaul — come in at $A26.70 per hour.


Reshaped Air Seychelles mulls A321XLR and Perth route

Reshaped Air Seychelles is considering the Airbus A321XLR and a Perth route.

Air Seychelles is one of the smaller intercontinental airlines around, based in Mahé, the main island of the Indian Ocean archipelago comprising 115 islands and islets.

It has had some recent turbulence with its 40 per cent shareholder Etihad pulling out.

“We increasingly do our own thing, with taking over revenue management from Etihad mid-year being the last big switch,” CEO Remco Althuis, a Dutchman seconded to Mahé by Etihad in 2017, told Airlineratings during a recent interview.

READ: Qantas A350 will be a real dream machine.

The restructuring started in late 2017 and the airline has scaled down the size of its fleet and seat capacity.

Air Seychelles had tried several times to make long-haul flights economically sustainable by leasing two Airbus A330s from Etihad, but these proved to be unviable.

“It’s very difficult to create enough demand for the A330s, they pose too big a risk especially being dependent on the very seasonal tourist market and given we operate them mostly on ten-hour sectors to Europe.

For an A330 you need utilization of 16 hours every day,” said Althuis. Premature termination of the A330 leasing contracts was “very expensive”, they now serve with Fiji Airways.

But Air Seychelles has quickly adapted to its new situation. In August last year Africa’s first Airbus A320neo (new engine option) was delivered from Hamburg to Mahé, with the second one, also leased, due in March.

“We need at least two narrowbodies,” stated Althuis, and that’s what he got now. The second A320neo will immediately replace an elderly A320ceo and that gives Air Seychelles a head start.

“We love the A320neo, it’s amazingly efficient for us as it burns 20 per cent less fuel and carries 52 per cent more customers,” enthused Althuis. The doubling of passenger capacity is due to the fact that Air Seychelles faced severe weight penalties on most of its A320ceo routes like Johannesburg or Mumbai due to the demanding environment it operates in.

“The neo is so much lighter (and more powerful) than its predecessors in the fleet, we probably have the lightest neo in the world,” assumed the CEO.

CEO Remco Althuis

A point in case is the IFE. On their old A320, just the screen at every seat weighed one kilogram, not even counting cables and other hardware. On the neo, all that remains is a server for onboard-streaming weighing just four kilos.

While the old A320ceo carried 136 passengers if all seats were sold, the A320neo transports 168 customers and has no weight penalties on most routes with more powerful engines.

The exception is a new niche market Air Seychelles opened in November, enabled by the A320neo.

It flies once weekly, soon going up to twice weekly, to Tel Aviv from Mahé. As the stage length is 6 hours, 20 minutes northbound, a total of 48 seats have to be blocked from being sold, meaning all middle seats remain free. This is due to the required routing, which has to avoid Saudi Arabian and Sudanese airspace, while encountering altitude restrictions to 29,000 feet (8840 meters) elsewhere when 38,000 feet would be desirable.

Nevertheless, the route proves to be a success since first flight – as affluent Israelis have a penchant for luxury travel and can’t transfer in the Persian Gulf. And they provide valuable feed to all three other transfer destinations offered, besides the Seychelles themselves.

Israelis love to go to Mauritius, but many connect to either South Africa or India. With an El Al code-sharing in place, even connections from Europe via Tel Aviv are possible.

Remco Althuis becomes fired up when talk is turning to the A321XLR: “The XLR would be a fabulous tool to scale up. We could do destinations in a ten-hour circle around the Seychelles.”

He is quick to dream of cities from Moscow to Bangkok to Rome or Cairo joining the network. “But realistically we would go southbound only with it, that would be Perth and Cape Town,” he reckoned.

“We could possibly swap an XLR for a neo or maybe add one more aircraft to the fleet – but first we have to deliver on our turnaround plan,” Althuis said.

He admitted the airline hasn’t been profitable for some time. “The business is not generating cash yet, but that should be achieved within a year. Once the second A320neo is in service, we should start to generate positive cash flow.” Seems that the “neo” literally means a “new” age has begun at Air Seychelles.


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