Sunday, February 23, 2020
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Boeing tightens procedures after foreign objects found in stored MAX aircraft

Boeing MAX
A parked MAX. Photo: Woody's Aeroimages/Twitter

Boeing is tightening procedures on its 737 production line after foreign objects were discovered in the fuel tanks of several stored 737 MAX aircraft.

The discovery, first reported by Leeham News, prompted a memo from 737 program general manager Mark Jenks to workers describing the situation as unacceptable.

Foreign Object Debris, or FOD, refers to parts, tools or other objects left in the aircraft during the production process.

Boeing has had a problem with this at its 787 facility in South Carolina and with its KC-46A tanker, the latter prompting the US Air Force to twice suspend deliveries.

READ: Boeing moves to distribute second $US50m from MAX fund.

Jenks said one FOD “escape” was one too many.

“With your help and focus, we will eliminate FOD from our production system,’’ he said, adding meetings had already been held in the 737 production facility in Renton, Washington, to discuss new procedures.

These include new instructions and checklists for those working in fuel cell areas and additional verifications in the tank closure process to ensure there is no FOD in fuel tanks.

New signage will be also added to the appropriate work areas reminding workers about appropriate procedures.

Boeing has suspended 737 MAX production but more than 400 undelivered aircraft are stored at various locations.

The global MAX fleet was grounded after two fatal crashes which killed 346 people were linked to problems with flight control software known as MCAS.

Boeing is inspecting the stored planes ahead of a decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators to allow the aircraft to fly again.

When that will happen remains unclear and is dependent on FAA flights to test changes to MCAS and a process to ratify new training requirements.

There had been speculation the FAA test flights would take place in the next few weeks but US carriers have since removed the MAX from their schedules until at least August.

One of the three US airlines operating the MAX, United Airlines, has dropped the MAX from its schedule until September 4.

US reports said the FOD find was not expected to impact the return to service.


Airlines and postal services aim for faster delivery

Photo: Wikicommons

Rain, shine or snow, the mail must get through and a new agreement between airlines and postal services is aimed at ensuring that’s exactly what happens.

A memorandum of understanding between the International Air Transport Association and The International Postal Corporation comes at a time e-commerce is seeing an explosion in the number of packages being sent around the world.

The agreement is designed to help the postal services and airlines cope with the expansion and provide faster and more reliable mail deliveries that are also safe, secure and accessible.

READ: Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines see virus impact through May.

“International e-commerce is growing at around 20 percent per year, leading to rapidly changing market conditions for airlines and posts,’’ IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said.

“Ensuring customers get their packages on time while safety and security in postal air transport is maintained is the main priority for posts and air transport operators alike.

“Cooperation across the supply chain is a must and our MoU with IPC is an important step toward strengthening our activity in this area.”

IATA and the IPC will work together on seven areas, including improving the security, handover, carriage, delivery and settlement of airmail between postal operators and air carriers.

They will also seek to develop and maintain industry standards, align existing services as well as find technology-based standards and solutions for tracking airmail packages and letters.

“Both of our sectors can win from a reinforced cooperation in terms of competitiveness and quality of service,’’ IPC chief executive Holger Winklbauer.

“Ultimately, this agreement will benefit consumers through more reliable and faster delivery of cross-border mail and packets transported by air.”

MH370: Former Aussie PM says Malaysia had early belief in murder-suicide theory

MH370 abbott Pm search
The Hugin autonomous underwater vehicles used to search for MH370. Photo: Ocean Infinity.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has renewed calls for another search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 after revealing an early belief by people high in the Malaysian government that the plane’s disappearance was the result of a pilot murder-suicide.

“My understanding, my very clear understanding, from the very top levels of the Malaysian Government is that from very, very early on here they thought it was murder-suicide by the pilot,’’ Abbott. who was Prime minister at the time of the crash, told Sky News.

“I’m not going to say who said what to whom, but let me reiterate — I want to be absolutely crystal clear — it was understood at the highest levels that was almost certainly murder-suicide by the pilot. Mass murder-suicide by the pilot.”

READ:  Malaysia hoses down MH370 search suggestion.

The comments throw further doubt on widely criticized claims made during the release of a final report on the disappearance that Captain Zaharie Ahmed Shah was unlikely to have been responsible for the disappearance.

Flight MH370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and has become one of aviation’s biggest mysteries.

The Malaysians were keen to avoid dissent from other countries involved in the investigation and in the final report said only that they could not rule out that the plane was flown by one of the pilots or by an unknown third party.

However, chief investigator Kok Soo Chon went further on the issue during a press conference.

“We have examined the pilot, the first officer. We were quite satisfied with the background, with the training, with the mental health, mental state,’’ he said. “We are not of the opinion that it could have been an event committed by the pilot.”

No-one actually knows what happened on MH370 but the theory seen as most likely, including by Australian search officials, was that Zaharie seized control of the plane.

He is thought have sent his co-pilot out of the cockpit on some pretext and then depressurized the plane to kill the passengers and crew before setting a course for the Southern Indian Ocean.

Whether he was still alive at the end of the flight is disputed but, either way, it plunged into the sea somewhere near a seventh arc defined by satellite handshakes.

The former Aussie PM stopped short of saying there had been a cover-up by the Malaysians.

“That’s not my assumption at all,’ he said. “And I’ve read all these stories that the Malaysians allegedly didn’t want the murder-suicide theory pursued because they were embarrassed about one of their pilots doing this.

“I have no reason to accept that.”

Abbott joined a growing chorus of voices calling for the search to resume later this year.

There is a push for the Malaysian Government to again engage hi-tech search firm Ocean Infinity on a “no find, no fee” basis.

Ocean Infinity conducted the second unsuccessful search for MH370 using a fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles and has said it is willing to try again.

Independent experts have since refined what little data there was from the flight to look at three scenarios and produce a best estimate of the point of impact as 34.2342°S and 93.7875°E.

READ: New search area for MH370 from world experts.

The experts assign the highest priority to a scenario that assumes no pilot inputs after fuel exhaustion and look at impacts beyond the two previous search areas.

They also take into account claims by pilots and others that the ditching may have been controlled and define a lower priority search area of 166,000 sq. km.

Another theory from a vocal group of pilots who support the controlled ditching theory is that the wreckage is in a triangle south of 39°S, although other analyses suggest this is too far south.

“If it is a fact that the furthest reaches were not explored because of assumptions of a pilot who was no longer at the controls, I would say let’s ditch that assumption,’’ Abbott said.

“Let’s assume that it was murder-suicide by the pilot and if there is any part of that ocean that could have been reached on that basis that has not yet been explored let’s get out and explore it.”




Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines see virus impact through May

Air New Zealand
Photo: Steve Creedy.

Air New Zealand says it remains committed to its Hong Kong and Shanghai services but it expects the impact on customer demand of the coronavirus outbreak to extend as far ahead as May.

The comment comes as Singapore Airlines released a swathe of flight cancelations that also extended through to May.

The Air NZ plan at this stage is to resume flights to Shanghai from March 30 but operate a return flight every second day, instead of daily, through to April 30.

The Kiwi carrier’s Hong Kong services, which are currently being operated by Cathay Pacific, would resume on Air New Zealand aircraft from March 29 but will be reduced from daily to four return services a week from April 21 to May 31.

READ: Virus sees china drop from third-biggest international market to 25th

The resumption of the flights still depends on international travel restrictions being lifted and the airline said the health and safety of crew and customers would be paramount.

The re-entry into Shanghai, in particular, would be subject to guidance from the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Air New Zealand medical team.

Air New Zealand Chief Revenue Officer Cam Wallace says the airline remains committed to its Shanghai and Hong Kong services despite the impact of the coronavirus.

“We have this week conveyed to officials in China our intention to resume services from April subject to the current travel restrictions being lifted and the appropriate medical advice from the New Zealand Ministry of Health and our own Medical Team,’’ he said.

“We are grateful for officials’ understanding of our temporary suspension of Shanghai services.

“Clearly, the coronavirus has had an impact on bookings into Shanghai and Hong Kong, and our schedule for April and May will reflect this with a lower flight frequency.”

The carrier said customers affected by the changes would be contacted directly by the airline or their travel agent and urged people to check the travel alerts section of the website before calling its contact center.

Singapore Airlines also reduced capacity between its home base and a slew of destinations in April and May due to weak demand stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

The hundreds of Singapore Airlines and SilkAir cancelations are spread across the group’s  network and include services to the US, Europe, Australia and other parts of Asia.

The airline said the reductions were temporary and it would continue to monitor the situation.

Details of the affected flights are HERE.

It advised affected customers to contact its reservations center if they had booked directly or talk to their travel agent.

“As we are expecting large volumes of calls, we seek your patience and understanding that our customer service agents may take longer than usual to respond to you,” it said.

Despite the capacity cuts, SIA says it is well-positioned to weather the challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Singaporean airline group delivered strong third-quarter results on Monday with a record revenue of $S4.47 billion and a 15.7 percent increase in operating profit to $S449 million ($US322.6m).

The group net profit for the quarter was up almost 11 percent to $S315m on the back of its successful transformation program.

The mainline airline had already significantly reduced flying to China and low-cost offshoot Scoot has suspended all flights there until March 28.

“Amidst this challenging environment, the SIA Group will continue to be proactive and nimble in making appropriate network adjustments and managing costs tightly,” SIA said in its outlook.

“Ensuring the safety and well-being of our passengers and staff is always our highest priority. We have set up a high-level task force to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation and promptly roll out measures to minimize the risks to our passengers and staff.

“For instance, we have stepped up the cleaning and disinfection of our aircraft cabins, modified our in-flight service to improve safety for passengers and crew, and stopped layovers on flights to China.”

Meanwhile, Thai Airways International has increased screening for COVID-19 on flights from Cambodia after a passenger on a cruise ship that docked there tested positive for the disease.

The airline said the Thai government had ordered increased screening for all passengers on the Westerdam cruise ship who were entering Thailand.

The increased passenger screening procedures on flights from Phnom-Penh to Bangkok would be in force until February 29, it said.


Malaysia Airlines expands flexible fare options, inks deal with LATAM

mlaysia airlines flexible fares

Malaysia Airlines passengers traveling to destinations in South-East Asia and South Asia will get a wider choice of economy fare options from February 18.

Flexible options previously available only on domestic Malaysian routes are being introduced more widely to give passengers the choice of Lite, Basic or Flexible fares.

Lite comes basically with the seat 7kg of cabin baggage and a complimentary meal. There is no checked baggage, seat selection, Enrich Miles upgrades, child discounts or booking flexibility.

READ: Qantas Sunrise Project A350 to be a “real dream machine”.

Basic adds the ability to upgrade and checked baggage allowance of 20kg as well as a 10 percent child discount.

Tickets can be rebooked with a change fee and fare difference but there are no refunds, flexibility to travel earlier on day of travel or seat selection included.

Flex fares come with all the bells and whistles, including a 30kg checked baggage allowance and a 15 percent child discount.

Rebooking can be done for the fare difference only and refunds are allowed with a fee.

“ I believe the fares we introduce today will create a more personalized and enjoyable booking experience coupled with unrivaled Malaysian Hospitality onboard, to create truly seamless, intuitive and stress-free travels to be enjoyed by our loyal passengers,” said Malaysia chief executive Captain Izham Ismail.

The changes come as Malaysia recently signed a codeshare deal with LATAM ahead of the South American group’s move to leave the oneworld alliance.

The deal means Malaysia Airlines customers will be able to connect to Santiago, Chile, via Auckland in New Zealand or Australia’s Sydney and Melbourne on LATAM aircraft carrying its “MH” code.

Ismail said the deal would help build the Malaysian carrier’s footprint in South America.

“This codeshare creates yet another way for international travelers to Fly Malaysia and experience the amazing culture and abundant nature that Malaysia has to offer,’’ he said.

LATAM will leave oneworld on May 1, 2020 — five months earlier than expected —  in the wake of a 2019 deal which saw US giant Delta Air Lines buy a 20 percent stake in the group.

Oneworld benefits for LATAM customers will be offered on the alliance’s flights up to and including April 30, excluding benefits from new member Royal Air Maroc after it joins April 1.

Boeing moves to distribute second $US50m from MAX fund

Boeing MAX fund
Ethiopian 737 MAX engine. Image: CNBC

Charities nominated by victims’ families are set to benefit from the distribution of the remaining $US50 million from a fund set up in the wake of the fatal 737 Max accidents.

The manufacturer set up the $US100 million fund in 2019 to support communities and families affected by the Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashes.

The two crashes together killed 346 people and led to the global grounding of the MAX fleet in March 2019.

The aircraft still have not returned to the skies almost a year after the grounding and Boeing has halted production of the MAX.

The company in January put the total cost of the crashes at almost $US19 billion as it recorded its first annual loss in two decades.

READ: Boeing’s Max loss but future bright says CEO.

The fund is independent of the legal action being brought against the company by family members.

The first $US50million was allocated to provide the families with immediate financial assistance and administered in conjunction with Washington lawyers Ken Feinberg and Camille Biros.

Feinberg and Biros have again been enlisted to distribute the second tranche, the Boeing Community Investment Fund, and will begin working with families, governments and other interested parties to identify eligible charitable organizations.

“Following months of extensive discussions with victims’ families, government officials, community leaders and others, we determined the best path forward – both for those who lost loved ones and the communities affected by these accidents – is to empower the families to decide how to allocate these funds,” said Boeing executive vice president of government operations Tim Keating, who oversees the company’s charitable activities.

“Through this donation, it is our hope the families will be able to honor their loved ones in a manner that is both personal and meaningful to them while also creating a lasting legacy in their communities around the world.”

Keating said work was continuing on the US$50 million Boeing Financial Assistance Fund and the lawyers had made “tremendous progress” with the effort.

“Given their success and the trust they have built with the families, we have now asked Ken and Camille to oversee the important work of connecting families with the charitable organizations they deem most meaningful,’’ he said.

Boeing began settling lawsuits with families of the Lion Air crash last year and Reuters reported each of the families involved in the agreements would receive at least $US1.2 million.

Others suing the company include pilots and shareholders and Boeing is also subject to compensation claims from airlines and suppliers.

Virus sees China drop from third-biggest international market to 25th

China virus
China sees international capacity continue to fall.

China has slipped from the world’s third-biggest international aviation market to 25th as international capacity has continued to fall due to the coronavirus crisis.

A new analysis by routes expert OAG says the latest data from the week starting February 17 showed a further fall in international capacity of 270,000 seats.

OAG said this bought the overall capacity reduction since January 20 to about 1.7 million seats, a reduction of about 80 percent, and left China’s international market ranking just behind Portugal and slightly ahead of Vietnam.

READ: Cathay cuts capacity by 40 percent as virus hits home.

The OAG analysis found Japan, Thailand and Taipei were the biggest losers week over week with scheduled seats from Japan down 36 percent compared to a week earlier.

China’s domestic network had also been hit hard.

“Whilst the adjustments in international capacity are of interest and probably receive a greater share of attention, the domestic Chinese market will see some 10.4 million fewer seats operated than the week of the 20th January,’’ OAG’s John Grant said in his blog.

“Placing that in context, for every one international seat lost some six domestic seats have been removed from the market.

“And taking just one example, China Eastern Airlines will operate over 1.9 million fewer seats than five weeks ago; somewhere close to 271,000 fewer seats a day.”

Grant identified China Eastern and China Southern as the most heavily affected by the virus from an international perspective, with both airlines reducing capacity by more than 200,000 seats a week.

“Placing that in context, China Southern now operates some 800 more international seats a week than Air Astana and China Eastern (is) just ahead of Tunis Air in a global ranking in 113th place,’’ he said.

Although there was an expectation domestic capacity would bounce back, Grant said this more accurately reflected the daily management of the situation by locally-based airlines and OAG expected further capacity cuts this week.

A more pragmatic approach by overseas airlines had seen them take Chinese services out of their services until March.

“No event that we remember has had such a devasting effect on capacity as Coronavirus,’’ he said, noting this highlighted the importance of the Chinese market to aviation.

“Ultimately the market will recover we know that, but in the short term the damage to some airlines and the long-term impact on their growth may linger beyond the virus.”

Cathay cuts capacity by 40 percent as virus hits home

january cathay capacity
Photo: Cathay Pacific

The coronavirus scare has prompted the Cathay Pacific Group to cut overall passenger flight capacity in February and March by 40 percent and the airline expects April will also be down.

The hit comes as the airline appeared to be recovering slightly from the political tensions that had rocked its home base with passenger performance in January initially only slightly behind 2019.

Inbound passenger traffic to Hong Kong in January was still down 40 percent but this was an improvement on the 46 percent declines in November and December.

See magnificent photos of the Milky Way from a 747 cockpit.

Outbound traffic was up 1 percent, largely due to the Chinese New Year, and lower-yield transit traffic was 7 percent higher than the same time last year.

Overall January passenger numbers for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon were down 3.8 percent compared to January 2019 while the load factor fell 1.3 percentage points to 84.7 percent.

“We started off 2020 fairly positively, seeing satisfactory passenger traffic volume through the first three weeks of the year,’’ Cathay Pacific Group chief customer and commercial officer Ronald lam said.

“This was particularly evident with our long-haul routes, which showed improved load factors and yield over 2019.

“However, our performance deteriorated rapidly in the last week of January as the novel coronavirus situation became more severe, and it continues to weaken significantly. We saw significant cancellation of bookings within a short period of time.”

Freight, which is particularly important to Cathay, was down by 8.9 percent in January compared to the previous year.

The group saw solid demand for the first three weeks of January but plummeted as manufacturing came to halt in mainland China during the Chinese New Year holiday.

The delay in resuming Chinese manufacturing significantly affected both the Hong Kong and mainland China markets but demand remained buoyant across the rest of the network.

Not surprisingly, Cathay is predicting a significant hit to its first-half results.

“The first half of 2020 was already expected to be extremely challenging financially,’’ Lam said.

“As a result of this additional significant drop in demand for flights and consequential capacity reduction caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the financial results for the first half of 2020 will be significantly down on the same period last year.”

He added: “We have an incredible brand with a reputation and track record of premium service and commitment to our customers that differentiates us from our competitors.

“These qualities and values remain at the heart of everything we do and are what will help us come back stronger when we emerge from this current crisis.”

Cathay has  temporarily shut three of its Hong Kong lounges becasue of the downturn.

Jetstar cancels 48 flights as politicians call for more talks

Jetstar pay dispute
Photo: Steve Creedy

Almost 25 percent of Jetstar domestic flights will be canceled Wednesday as a result of industrial action but most affected passengers have already been re-accommodated or offered a refund.

The airline has canceled 48 of the roughly 200 domestic flights it operates daily.

No international flights are affected and the airline says domestic passengers whose flights were canceled were switched over the weekend to Qantas or alternate Jetstar services.

Watch an amazing video of an Etihad A380 crosswind landing at Heathrow.

“To minimize the impact of the TWU’s stop-work action, we have developed a contingency plan that protects our customers’ travel, with most customers on impacted flights set to travel within a few hours of their original departure time and all customers getting to their destinations same day,’’ a spokesman said.

“To achieve this we have consolidated some services and moved other customers to Qantas flights where necessary.”

Members of the Transport Workers’ Union are planning 24-hour rolling stoppages on Wednesday in response to a move by Jetstar management to put a deal about pay and conditions directly to workers.

More than 250 workers will be involved in the action at Sydney, Melbourne, Avalon, Brisbane, Cairns and Adelaide airports.

Jetstar if offering a package that includes a 3 percent annual pay increase, a year’s worth of back pay for each employee as well as a range of other benefits related to rosters.

But the union says the dispute is a battle about underemployment and that the company broke off talks after rejecting claims that included a minimum 30-hour working week and rosters that do not constantly change.

It says the ground workers are the lowest paid in the Qantas Group and many are guaranteed just  20 hours of work a week.

The dispute has attracted the attention of Canberra with senior politicians from both major parties urging the sides to resume talks.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter weighed into the dispute on Friday, arguing this was not the right time for the union to be taking action as the tourism industry reels from the aftermath of the bushfires and the coronavirus outbreak.

“That is ultimately bad for workers because any escalation in industrial action will only cause further harm to the image of Australia as an international tourist destination and will also impact on the confidence of domestic travelers as they consider local travel plans,” he said

Opposition Industrial Relations spokesman Tony Burke entered the debate Monday with another call for the parties to resume talks.

Burke met ground staff at Sydney Airport and echoed the union’s claim that the dispute was a battle against underemployment.

He said many workers were struggling to make ends meet.

“These are good, loyal workers – but they have been put in a situation where they have no choice but to stand up for themselves,” he said.

“No one wants disruptive industrial action. That’s why Jetstar must return to the bargaining table.”

Renewed environmental focus in $US1 billion Delta commitment.

Delta environment
Photo: Chris Rank/ Rank Studios

Every emission on the ground or in the air will come under the microscope as part of a $US1 billion commitment by Delta Air Lines to become the world’s first carbon-neutral airline.

Starting March 1, 2020, Delta will begin a 10-year journey to mitigate all emissions in its global business.

The announcement came as Barron’s named Delta the most sustainable airline in an analysis of the biggest 1000 US companies by market value.

Watch amazing A380 crosswind landing at Heathrow

The ranking recognized achievements such as the airline’s decision to cap emissions at 2012 levels, despite 20 percent growth, and a reduction in emissions since 2005 of 9 percent.

The renewed Delta environmental push will include efforts across the company to reduce the use of jet fuel, increase efficiency, advance clean air technologies and reduce waste.

Delta says areas of focus will include an ambitious fleet renewal program, improved flight operations, weight reduction and the increased development and use of sustainable aviation fuels.

The company will invest in “innovative projects and technology” to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

These will include carbon removal opportunities through forestry, wetland restoration, grassland conservation, marine and soil capture as well as other negative emissions technologies.

It will also build partnerships with its employees, suppliers, partners and industry colleagues to address the issue.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian conceded in the company’s announcement that there was no single solution for environmental sustainability.

“We are digging deep into the issues, examining every corner of our business, engaging experts, building coalitions, fostering partnerships and driving innovation,” he said.

“We are on a journey, and though we don’t have all the answers today, we know that our scale, along with investments of time, talent and resources will bring meaningful impact to the planet and ensure the sustainability of our business for decades to come.”

One problem for all airlines is the industry’s dependence on jet fuel. While there are projects looking at electric aircraft for short-range flights, long-haul services will continue to use jet fuel for the foreseeable future.

Bastian acknowledged this on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”  when he said the airline would continue to use jet fuel  “as far as the eye can see”.

“We’ll be investing in technologies to reduce the impact of jet fuel but I don’t ever see a future where we’re eliminating jet fuel from our footprint,’’ he said.

Part of the Delta push will be an investment in sustainable aviation fuels. The technology has been available for years but there have been problems ramping up to meaningful production levels.

To help it achieve a target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020, the international aviation industry is introducing a global carbon offset scheme, known as CORSIA

The International Air Transport Association estimates CORSIA will generate $US40 billion in climate change funding and offset around 2.5 billion tonnes of CO2 between 2021 and 2035.

Yet it is still seen as an interim measure.

The Delta CEO said carbon offsets were “doing a bit to save the planet” but the airline needed to be investing in the technologies of tomorrow.

This included reafforestation and putting serious capital behind sustainable aviation fuels.

“Carbon offsets are not the solution, there are not enough to go around’’ he said. “We need to be investing in projects that make a difference.

“Carbon offsets have a lot of efficacy issues and quite honestly, in some places they do more harm they actually do good. Or (they) pay people not to do harm.

“That’s not really helping our planet.”

Bastian predicted more companies would invest in a cleaner future and he hoped that Delta’s competitors would join it in the battle.


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