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The red roo turns back to black

Qantas is on track to record the most dramatic turnaround in aviation history after the airline today, announced an underlying profit of $367 million, for the six months to December 31 – a stark contrast to the $2.84 billion loss for the financial year ending June 30 2014. 

In more good news, analysts predict that the best is yet to come, with a full year profit topping $1 billion as the full impact of lower fuel costs hit the bottom line.

The result which vindicates the polices of Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, has been driven by the Transformation Restructuring Program, an end to the domestic price and capacity war, and lower fuel prices.

While the lower fuel prices means greater profit for Qantas, analysts say that their full year profit predictions assume half the gain will be passed onto passengers in lower fares.

The stunning reversal of fortune is expected to lead to a return to dividends for shareholders and an order for up to 30 Boeing 787 Dream liners to re-equip and expand the international fleet.

      Suggested Read: Our review of Qantas’s new Domestic Business Class

Qantas said that the main contributors to the profit were: The transformation program $374 million; $208 million reduce depreciation; $162 million increased revenue per ASK; $59 million from the removal of the carbon tax and $33 million lower fuel prices.

Unit costs were down 4.8 per cent and revenue was up $2.1 per cent to $8.1 billion.

The Group is now targeting $675 million of transformation benefits in financial year 2015, up from the previous target of $600 million. 

Combined with the $204 million in benefits realised in financial year 2014, this will result in total benefits of at least $875 million by 30 June 2015.

All operating segments of the Qantas Group were profitable in the half, at an Underlying Earnings Before Interest and Tax level.

All business units returned to the black including the international division.

Leading the profit charge were: Domestic with underlying EBIT of $227 million; Qantas International $59 million; Jetstar $81 million; Frequent Flyer program $160 million and Qantas Freight $54 million

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the result showed that the Group was executing the right plan with discipline and speed.

“The decisive factor in our best half-year result for four years was our complete focus on the Qantas Transformation program,” Mr Joyce said.

“It’s clear that without the impact of transformation, we would not be announcing a profit today.”

“Our people have worked hard and made a huge contribution to bring about the change we need.   They deserve great credit for this result.”

“What sets this transformation apart is that we are reducing costs permanently while at the same time delivering Qantas’ best ever fleet, product and service.”

“We are meeting or exceeding all our targets as we build a sustainable future for Qantas with an emphasis on growing long-term shareholder value.”

“Our financial position is significantly stronger because of the actions we’ve taken, and we are giving Qantas a solid foundation for growth in earnings.”

Virgin on track to escape the red with a $10.2 million profit before tax

Virgin Australia today announced a first half Underlying Profit Before Tax of $10.2 million dollars but reported an overall Statutory Loss After Tax of $47.8 million. These results, whilst still putting the airline in the red, are a vast improvement on the $74.3 million loss reported in the first half of Financial Year 2014. 

Virgin Australia Group Chief Executive Officer, John Borghetti said: “Virgin Australia Group’s results for the first half of the 2015 financial year reflect a significant improvement in financial performance.  Total revenue and income increased 6.0 per cent to $2,377.5 million which includes $75.5 million of revenue from Tigerair Australia.”

              See the Full Financial Report

Domestic Segment EBIT (a non statutory measure) recorded a profit of $103.8 million for the half year ended 31 December 2014 compared to a profit of $25.9 million in the prior corresponding period. International Segment EBIT was a loss of $49.5 million compared to a loss of $31.9 million in the prior corresponding period.

Borgetti believes the improvement in results is driven primarily by the group’s continued progress in driving yield growth in the domestic market and the disciplined execution of the companies five-year, $1 billion cost reduction program.  He also continues that the group saw a benefit of approximately $3 million from the decline in oil prices in comparison to the first half of the 2014 financial year.

It’s no secret that Virgin are looking to take some of the domestic market share Qantas currently holds for Corporate and Government travel. Despite today announcing a three month delay on the roll out of their impressive new domestic business class on the A330,  Borghetti states “The Group remains on track to reach its target of 30% of Virgin Australia domestic revenue from the corporate and government segment by 30 June 2017.”  

Like competitor Qantas, Virgin too, has felt the impact of competition in the international market. “The performance of the international business has been impacted by increased competitive pressure in key international markets. Virgin Australia Group will be implementing a series of initiatives to improve the performance of this business such as retiming flights to Bali, upgrading its long-haul business class product and adding business class to its trans-Tasman flights,” said Borghetti.

AirlineRatings.com spoke with the airlines CEO who said:  “We are pleased with the momentum that we have built during the first half and there will be many more positives to come for customers as we roll out our new Business Class suites, expand our lounge network and enhance our services in the air and on the ground and we are very grateful for the enormous support we’re getting from our customers.”

With Qantas forecasting a profit of between $300m and $350m for its first half to be announced next week, it shows that as long as competition and capacity growth is practical and sesnible there is room for both carriers to be succesful in the market.

                                      Virgin Australia Group Financial Summary

  • Underlying Profit Before Tax2 of $10.2 million, an improvement on a loss of $45.4 million in H1 FY14
  • Statutory Loss After Tax of $47.8 million, an improvement on a loss of $74.3 million in H1 FY14
  • Positive Group Yield3 and Domestic Yield growth on H1 FY14
  • Underlying CASK4 reduction of 3.2% including fuel and foreign exchange on H1 FY14, with Virgin
  • Australia CASK reducing by 3.6% excluding Tigerair Australia and fuel
  • Total cash position of $1.1 billion, up from $783.8 million at 30 June 2014, unrestricted cash position of $838.8 million, up from $541.0 million at 30 June 2014

See the full Financial Results report here

Is the A350 better than the 787? We board the inaugural flight

15 January 2015 QR67 DOHA – FRANKFURT

To be a part of the A350’s inaugural passenger flight (flown by Qatar Airways) is an opportunity I will always feel very lucky and priviledged to have been able to do.  

Innovations in passenger comfort take your flying experience and well-being to a new level in the Airbus A350.  Passengers can sit back and relax into spacious seats, take in the view from panoramic windows with electromechanical shades that go from fully transparent to opaque in Business Class, and feel the difference of a wider cabin.

The A350 XWB is one of the lightest aircraft of its type, made from advanced composite materials and powered by two new-generation Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. This also makes it kinder to the earth, with 25% lower CO2 emissions than with current generation aircraft in its category.

It is air travel that is truly ahead of the curve. Introducing the Qatar Airways A350 XWB.

THE FLIGHT

The doors closed and we pushed back pretty much ontime. “This flight is bound for Frankfurt”.
Literally every passenger in the window seat was photographing and videoing the historical airborne moment.

Flying out over a clear, almost haze free sky of Doha in the morning.

Whilst hard to believe, the A350 is actually more quiet than the 787 Dreamliner. 

After take-off, I went up to Business Class to join a few lucky enthusiasts there. The ambience was perfect, a wide cabin with no overhead bins in the middle and luxurious all aisle seating.

There is a self service bar in the middle separating two section of Business Class. The first section located door 1 to door 2 has 6 rows with 24 seats. A smaller second section immediately after door 2 adds another 12 seats (3 rows) makes it total 36 seats. The same seat can be found on Qatar Airways A380 and B787.  The Business seat is as comfortable as a First Class seat with all seats having aisle access. 

Breakfast is served with choice of Omelette or chocolate/banana pancakes in Economy Class.
Despite the dark brown look, the pancakes were delicious. Others complainted the omelette was too plain.


An almost full economy class. The overhead bins are curved like the Boeing Signature cabin design providing much better headroom than previous Airbus models. 

The economy seat itself is wider and has more legroom than average. Qatar is the first airline to fully integrate the in-flight entertainment box into the frame of the seat so it no longer takes up floor space.



The In Flight Entertainment screens footage from a high definition camera mounted on the aircraft tail.  On board WiFi is also avaiallable for purchase

CONCLUSION
I was truly impressed and wowed by the A350. It is, as promised, wider, and technological and innovative advancements make flying this aircraft a real pleasure.   Qatar successfully created a great onboard ambience other airline simply couldn’t match. My flight with Qatar on the  A350 was a real winner. 

 

 

TransAsia pilots shut down wrong engine

Pilot error is almost certainly the cause of the crash of the TransAsia Flight GE235 an ATR72 that killed 35 on Tuesday February 4 in Taiwan.

The Cockpit Voice Recorder has revealed that the pilots shut down the wrong engine after suffering an engine failure just 37 seconds after take-off.

At 37 seconds into the flight a Master Warning activated related to the failure of the right engine but just a few seconds later the left hand engine was throttled back.

The crew then tried to restart the good engine but initially with success. It appears that it did finally restart but it was too late.

Fifty eight passengers and crew were aboard flight GE235 when it crashed into the Keelung river at 10.56am local time and only 15 survived. Flight GE235 took off at 10.52am local time from Taipei Songshan Airport and was headed to Kinmen Airport on the outskirts of Taiwan.

Terrifying footage from a car dash cam shows the aircraft hitting a road bridge before ploughing into the river.

In July 2014 another incident involving a TransAsia ATR-72 caused the death of 48 people when it crashed amid stormy weather in Taiwan’s Penghu archipelago.

In the previous 20 years the airline has suffered six crashes of which four involved fatalities.

Privately owned TransAsia was formed in 1951 and mainly flies domestic services but has recently expended to some international destinations

Thomas Wang, executive director of Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council, said it was unclear why the left engine had been turned off.

Mr Wang added it was too early to draw firm conclusions but told the BBC that the pilots had followed normal procedure. “It’s only the third day so we can’t say too much,” he told the BBC. “We haven’t ruled anything out.”

The BBC is reporting that Taiwan’s aviation regulator has ordered thorough engine and fuel system checks on the remaining 22 ATR-manufactured aircraft currently in active service on the island.

 

Another TransAsia Airways ATR-72 has crashed in a Taiwan river

Transasia ATR-72 has crashed landed in a Taipai river making it the second crash for the airline in just eight months.

Fifty eight passengers and crew were aboard flight GE235 when it crashed into the Keelung river at 10.56am local time.  

While reports are mixed, it seems there are at least 15 injured but rescued passengers, 12 passengers still  missing and 31 that have been pronounced dead. 

The planes black box has already been retrieved meaning investigators can start work on figuring out how this tragedy occured.

The AFP reported flight GE235 had just taken off at 10.52am localtime from Taipei Songshan Airport and was headed to Kinmen Airport on the outskirts of Taiwan when the pilots declared a “Mayday” telling air traffic controllers they had suffered an engine flameout.

Terrifying footage from a dashcam (see below) shows the aircraft hitting a road bridge before ploughing into the river.  

It is understood that one or both engines lost power,”mayday mayday, engine malfunction’ the pilot told air traffic controllers.

The ATR72, like all commercial planes, is designed to take-off and fly with the loss of an engine. The pilots turned the plane to the right to avoid hitting buildings, before it hit the road bridge crashing into the KeelungRiver.

In July 2014 another incident involving a TransAsia ATR-72  caused the death of 48 people when it crashed amid stormy weather in Taiwan’s Penghu archipelago.In the previous 20 years the airline has suffered six crashes of which four involved fatalities. 

Privately owned TransAsia was formed in 1951 and mainly flies domestic services but has recently expended to some international destinations

AirAsia X vows to continue its expansion

Low-cost long-haul carrier, AirAsia X, has vowed to continue its expansion into Indonesia, despite botching the launch of its first service from Australia to Bali at the end of last year.

The airline began notifying passengers of the service’s cancellation on Christmas Day – the day before the four-times-weekly A330 Melbourne-Denpasar service was to begin.

A new division of AirAsia X, AirAsia Extra, has been formed to launch services from Indonesia to Asia-Pacific destinations – first from Bali and then from Jakarta.

The venture had Indonesian government permission to operate the new Melbourne-Bali services, but it simply hoped that Australia would also rubber-stamp them in time for its proposed launch date.

However, Air Asia Extra is using a completely new airline licence, its so-called air operator’s certificate, and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has previously warned new airlines that their approvals can take six months or more.

There are also unofficial reports that the crash of Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 on December 28 – two days after the notional launch of AirAsia X flights from Melbourne to Bali – with the loss of 162 lives is weighing on the minds of Australian air safety inspectors.

Internally, AirAsia X is in turmoil after losing more than $A100 million last year – nearly half of it on routes between the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and Australian destinations.

As AirAsia X began cutting back Australian services to stem losses, the seven-year-old airline’s founding chief executive Azran Osman Rani was sacked at the weekend.

But new chief executive, Dendy Kurniawan, has reaffirmed the carrier’s strategy of building long-haul hubs in markets where its affiliate AirAsia’s subsidiaries have a domestic presence such as Indonesia (AirAsia Indonesia) and Thailand (Thai AirAsia).

Even though the airline has had to indefinitely suspend the launch of Melbourne-Denpasar while CASA conducts its evaluation, Kurniawan, in answer to questions submitted by AirlineRatings.com, says the service will proceed.

“Indonesia AirAsia X is still working closely with relevant authorities to get the required approvals in place,” he says.
“The delay in receiving approval was unexpected. AirAsia has a good relationship with the relevant authorities and will continue to lodge applications as the group has done in the past.” Kurniawan says the airline is “very aware of and apologetic for the inconvenience this has caused guests”.

“AirAsia has successfully been flying between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur since late 2008,” he says. “Melbourne has been one of AirAsia X’s strongest performing routes in Australia and we’ve worked hard to build a good following. “We certainly aim to continue to provide a great affordable option between Australia and Asia and hope to resolve the Denpasar-Melbourne route as soon as possible.”

CASA declines to provide details about AirAsia Extra’s case and won’t comment on reports that the crash of QZ8501 is material to its investigation.

“CASA still needs to complete its assessment of safety and regulatory information relevant to that application and cannot make a decision about the matter until we have done so,” a spokesman says.

“Indonesia AirAsia Extra (IAAX) is part of the AirAsia group, but it is not the same airline that operated the aircraft that crashed, QZ8501.”
While it waits for its CASA permission, IAAX has begun a single weekly A330 service between Denpasar and Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, in preparation for the launch of four weekly flights from March 29 and says it will soon launch services from Jakarta.

“Indonesia AirAsia X is currently in the final stages of preparing for a new route out of Jakarta and we expect to proceed shortly and will continue to look for other opportunities,” Kurniawan says.

Meanwhile, the airline continues to develop its hub at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport. “Thai AirAsia X has been considering Australia closely whilst its initial focus has been on North Asia and existing AirAsia ports there,” Kurniawan says.

QZ8501; Captain not in his seat

The captain of Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 that crashed into the Java Sea on December 28 killing all 162 aboard was out of his seat, preoccupied with computer problems, when his plane was swept up by a massive thunderstorm related updraft before stalling and plummeting out of control.

According to sources privy to the investigation Captain Iriyanto was trying to disconnect the plane’s critical dual Flight Augmentation Computers through the circuit breakers which are located behind and above the pilots requiring the non-flying pilot to exit his seat.

Disconnecting the FAC removed a host of features including the critical the cockpit speed warnings and protections. It also makes the A320 “harder to fly” according to an A320 Check and Training Captain.

“It is highly likely that the French co-pilot, Remi Plesel, who was flying the A320 was preoccupied with the computer problems and not paying attention to the radar and missed the severity of the weather ahead,” said the A320 pilot.

Indonesia AirAsia had apparently been having problems with the FAC. According to a report in the Singapore Straits Times there were 9 writes ups in the plane’s technical log for issues with the FAC in 2014 alone.

The co-pilot had 2247 hours of experience, while the captain was a 20,537 hour veteran.

These types of crashes are termed in the industry “light bulb crashes” referring to the fact a simple malfunction that distracts all the crew can lead to the loss of the entire plane.

More details have also emerged of the terrifying ride that the passengers and crew on the flight from Surabaya to Singapore endured before impacting the sea.

When the A320 flew into the thunderstorm related updraft it initially soared at up to 6000ft per minute before stalling and then turning to the left and spiralling down at up to 24,000ft a minute.

While initially it was thought the G Forces would have render passengers unconscious pilot experts say they “would have been conscious through the ordeal until impact.”

Ertata Lananggalih, an investigator with Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee, told media that the “pilots were conscious when the manoeuvres happened.”

Indonesia is not publically releasing the preliminary report into the crash although all countries involved have received the document.
Authorities have now recovered 72 bodies but have been unable to lift the A320s main cabin off the sea bed.

On-board review and video of Etihad’s First Class Apartment

Etihad revolutionizes First Class with the First Class Apartment. Much more than a seat, this is a product everyone has been talking about since its release. Join me to sample the “Reimagined” First Class offering of Etihad onboard their A380 between London and Abu Dhabi. 

                                        See Sam’s video of his experience on-board

17 January 2015 EY012 London to Abu Dhabi
The departure time is 9:15am so I started the day early by taking the courtesy limo transfer from Renaissance London Heathrow hotel to Terminal 4 at 6:30am. Check in was a breeze and fast track security check was available to all premium class passengers. I proceed straight to Etihad’s Premium Lounge near Gate 10.

The lounge is consistent with other Etihad own premium lounge. But it is not as good as Emirates and Qatar Airways lounge in terms of food offering. The free spa offering  at the Six Senses Spa hwoever is very welcomed.

Welcome Onboard
At 8:30 boarding was called. I was among the first to board the upper deck of the A380. A Flight Attendant (FA) took me to my seat, 4A, and it is just WOW from there!
The space was enormous and it has a unique layout in every apartment! Once on board we received a welcome drink and hot towel, welcome letter from the cabin manager and Arabic date. Arabic coffee was also available pre take off.

Within each apartment is a stocked mini fridge, dressing mirror and the password to access the on board Wi-Fi for free. 

Cabin Tour
We departed on time out of Rwy27L of Heathrow. A drink and snack was offered immediately after takeoff but I grabbed my camera ready to explore more of the cabin.

Etihad’s A380 has 4 class configuration, Residence (A class above First Class), Apartments (First Class), Business Studio (Business Class) and Economy class. Seating capacity R2 F9 C70 Y415 = total 496 passengers. Today we have 8/9 guests in First Class but the Residence is unoccupied.

Some of the First Class Apartments are rearward facing, these are window apartment 3A, 3K, aisle apartment 1H, 5C, 5H. You can see a seat map of Etihad’s A380 here.

Onboard Fine Dining
The on board chef, Chef Thomas, came around to take the food orders. Guests can dine at anytime and order anything they want during the flight. It is also not necessary to have course by course meals.

I took a more traditional way of dining by having a 5 course meal an hour after takeoff. The set up was excellent, like a fine restaurant.

Firstly an Amuse Bouche: Shrimp with Japanese seaweed followed by the first course of Mozzarella with tomato,  (this is still a weak point on the menu, hopefully the locally UAE Farmed Caviar will be introduced soon). Second course was cream of pea soup and for the main a rib eye steak cooked medium. Dessert consisted of a trio of desserts including bread and butter pudding, caramel cream and a chocolate brownie with Ice cream.

E-BOX entertainment
Etihad’s A380 features the latest version of E-box entertainment which is much more powerful, richer in content and easy to use. It has same drop down app like a Samsung phone. I didn’t watch a movie but played around the many different in-flight map modes.

Bed Turn down
After a large meal, of course it is nap time. Cabin crew offer a turn down service.

Arrival
I slept soundly for two and half hours and when I woke up, we’ve just started descend into Abu Dhabi.
I have my afternoon tea and cake before landing in my private cabin.

With a smooth touch down on Rwy31R, the Etihad A380 arrived home once again and my first experience with the First Class Apartment came to a sweet end. Unlike anything I have done in the past, this one raised the bar by far and I was very impressed with Etihad’s new aspired in-flight service and offering and of course new aircraft. They have came a very long way since I started flying with them and living in Abu Dhabi.

Want more?
A Complete Etihad Photo Report can be enjoyed here. 

United rolls out new premium cabin North American menu

In the never-ending pursuit for the favor of its favored flyers United Airlines is rolling out a new menu for its North American United First and United Business passengers, folks for whom a bag of peanuts just doesn’t cut it.

Starting February 1 look for new eats up front on flights of at least 800 miles, or as short as 2-hours, 20-minutes. It’s part of a multi-million effort the airline is undertaking to upgrade food service and make more elegant eats available to more customers.

The new menu has been created by a team of United chefs in the airlines’ hub cities. Entrees range from saucy to substantial. Consider, there’s:

– Cage-free scrambled eggs fixed up skillet style, with pepper-jack cheese, sautéed pepper mix, sliced New Mexico sausage, potato gratin and fire-roasted pepper sauce;
– Lobster macaroni and cheese with baked bread crumb topping and a side of broccoli rabe;
– Chicken and sausage jambalaya with white rice and green onions.

Breakfast anyone? On meal flights of less than four hours order French toast soufflé or steel-cut oatmeal. Both come with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt. How about dinner? New options include tandoori chicken with basmati rice and paneer. Food like that replaces what United labels its “current premium sandwich options.”

What you get is, in part, determined by how far you fly. On transcontinental and Hawaii flights expect heartier entrees from now on, things like tamale-stuffed chicken wrapped in acorn husk with creamy corn sauce with roasted red and yellow tomatoes and yucca sticks. The main course is followed up by sorbet after lunch or ice cream following dinner.

United says passengers want fresh, flavorful choices. Contends Lynda Coffman, the airline’s vice president of food services, what’s about to take wing will be “restaurant-quality cuisine.”

Crosswind landings at Birmingham Airport

Performing a crosswind landing is just one of the many things pilots have to contend with in the UK winter. This footage posted by flying enthusiast flugsnug, shows the challenge pilots face when trying to land in strong crosswinds (winds blowing across the runway)  at Birmingham airport.

Located 5.5 miles from Birmingham city centre, it’s not uncommon to see pilots perform several landing attempts into the airport. Known to have problems with strong crosswinds, especially during winter,  on some occasions pilots have been forced to land elsewhere

The aircraft featured in this video are Dash 8’s and ATR72 from both Flybe and Aer Lingus but these crosswinds affect larger jets too like the A320 – check out the footage here. 

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