Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Europe’s airline shares dive as market gets nervous. BA, Air France, Lufthansa all lose over 5%

As European and global markets headed downwards on 29-Jun-2010, airline shares led the way, in most cases showing falls of the magnitude of twice the indices’ losses. There was little to distinguish the reasons for the falls, other than the economically sensitive nature of the industry.

When it comes to airline deregulation, the U.S. hasn't gone far enough

Anyone who has tried to book a summer airplane trip recently has probably had a bit of a shock. Gone are the days of flying cross-country for $400 or less now you're talking $500 or even $600. Bing Travel reports that domestic fares are up an average of 22 percent over last summer.

But according to a new American Enterprise Institute report by Mark Milke, a Canadian researcher, this state of affairs isn't entirely inevitable. His research finds inspiration in a place that AEI, with its free-market leanings, rarely regards wistfully: Europe.

"Every jurisdiction can have an ideological bias," Milke says, "and Europe, you can say, is sometimes anti-market, and anti-competition." But when it comes to air travel, he points out, the European Union has taken deregulation much further than the United States.

Since 1997, the European Union has allowed European airlines to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere within the union. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., only American airlines can fly domestic routes. Air France can fly you from Los Angeles or New York to France, but it cannot take you from Los Angeles to New York.

The result of Europe's move, Milke says, has been more routes, more competitors and lower fares. According to E.U. figures, the number of European routes with more than two competitors increased more than 300 percent between 1992 and 2008, in part because deregulation allowed low-cost carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair to prosper.

Milke added up the price of five short-hop regional flights (Los Angeles-San Francisco, New York-Boston, Chicago-Detroit, Denver-Las Vegas and Miami-Orlando), covering about 3,200 miles in all, and found that they would run a combined $723. But a comparable 3,338-mile itinerary consisting of five in-country flights in Europe (London-Edinburgh, Paris-Nice, Milan-Rome, Dusseldorf-Berlin, Barcelona-Madrid) ran only about $380, including much higher taxes.

Why did Europe take such a free-market route? Well, Milke speculates, "if the point of the European project is to drop barriers and make people travel more freely and feel more European and get to know each other, it kind of makes sense."

But is there any chance of bringing EasyJet here? Milke sees room for hope in — once again — unlikely quarters: a "protectionist-minded" president and Congress.

"Back in the 1970s, it was a left-leaning president from the Democratic Party who first began to deregulate the airline industry," he writes. "There is no reason why, over two decades later, another left-leaning president, Barack Obama, cannot finish the work Jimmy Carter began."

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Airport construction boom shows confidence is still strong in aviation industry

While the aviation industry may still be emerging out of the global economic downturn, with many carriers still suffering from reduced passenger bookings, it seems such money worries are not affecting some of the world's biggest airports.

Indeed, one of the biggest construction projects the world has ever seen, the building of the Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, is well on track.

The multi-billion pound airport, which will eventually boast five runways and be capable of welcoming as many as 160 million domestic and international passengers a year, has now welcomed its first test flight.

However, though the flight from Hong Kong only served to mark the opening of Al Maktoum as an air cargo hub, this latest development indicates that the economic crisis has not derailed the project, with initial projections that the airport will be the largest and busiest in the world by 2030 looking highly realistic.

It is anticipated that the first passenger flights will start arriving next March and Dubai's aviation industry chief Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum has already outlined his plans to transform the emirate into the global "pre-eminent centre" for air travel, with the existing Dubai International already having established itself as a major hub for long-haul travellers.

Meanwhile, again highlighting the rise and rise of the Asian aviation sector, work is now being carried out on revamping Taipei's Songshan Airport in Taiwan.

From being little more than a small-scale regional airport just a few years ago, Taiwan president Ma Ying-Jeou has outlined his vision of turning it into one corner of the "Golden Triangle of Business" within north-east Asia, the Asia Times has reported, offering daily international flights both to Seoul and Tokyo, as well as to Shanghai and Beijing.

As well as improving facilities for airlines, work is currently being carried out on improving customer services at Taipei, including revamping the luggage reclaim system and further improving links to the heart of the sprawling metropolis.

At the same time, and proof that it's not just the Asian aviation industry that is keen to invest in the future, the new owners of Gatwick Airport have announced their plans to drop the 'London' prefix as part of a £1.5 billion brand revamp.

According to chief executive Stewart Wingate, while much of the money is to be spent on cosmetic changes such as a new logo, more concrete adjustments are also set to be made, not least the modernisation of check-in facilities and a new shuttle bus service between the terminals as the airport moves away from its reputation as being an unloved relic of the 1970s.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Air France has been awarded top prize* in the Transport category for customer relations management by BearingPoint and TNS Sofres.

This prize was awarded by 4,000 customers who graded the airline on more than ten aspects of customer service including product and service developments, innovation, quality of contact, transparency, availability of information and the frequent flyer product.

"Over the past few years, Air France has been focusing its efforts on two separate and complementary goals: promoting a closer relationship with its customers through intensive training initiatives with staff and the use of new technologies making it possible to offer more innovative, automated services, while maintaining constant contact with our customers, wherever possible” stated Christian Boireau, Executive Vice President, Commercial France, Air France KLM.

Air France is committed to quality, certification and innovation. Customer satisfaction is assessed in over 500,000 questionnaires distributed on board our aircraft, a panel of 12,000 correspondents in permanent contact with web users and regular surveys about specific subjects of interest. Moreover, every year, over 1,000 mystery customers audit our entire range of services. These measures form part of a strategic sustainable development approach in which the Group is leader in its sector.

*Survey carried out by BearingPoint and TNS Sofres in April 2010 with a sample of 4,000 customers and users of more than 175 companies and organizations, representing the French population, in 11 sectors: insurance, automobile, bank, specialized distribution, service companies, landline and internet access, mobile telephony, tourism and transport.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

U.S., EU to Cooperate on Aviation R&D

The European Union and the U.S. have sealed a preliminary agreement to cooperate on civil aviation research and development, the EU said Friday.

Under the deal, the EU and the U.S. will communicate on safety, security, performance, aircraft design and alternative fuels. They will also work together to modernize their air traffic management systems, with a view toward eventual standardization of these systems in both airspaces.

The preliminary deal must be approved by Europe's national governments and the European Parliament. Commission officials hope the agreement could come into force early next year.

Authorities from both sides of the Atlantic have been working for years to develop satellite-based navigation equipment that will enable pilots to fly more direct routes and provide controllers with advanced tools to safely handle many more planes in the same airspace.

Until now, the formal U.S. and EU efforts have been separate, though companies and government officials from both sides of the Atlantic have shared concepts. Industry officials have worried that the world's two biggest aviation markets could end up developing incompatible solutions, and airline executives have warned that they couldn't afford to install multiple systems to fly in different parts of the world.

The deal will allow direct cooperation between technical experts working on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen system and the EU's Sesar Joint Undertaking.

The goal of NextGen and Sesar is to increase the capacity and safety of air-travel networks while cutting flight times and congestion. Using computerized guidance systems linked via satellites, aircraft will keep a safe distance from each other in the air, navigate around storms and even keep track of runway hazards. Planes will also be able to fly closer to each other on shorter, more fuel-efficient routes, which should cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

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EADS In Algae-Based Aviation Biofuel Venture In Brazil

European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. NV (EAD.FR) said Thursday it is considering an evaluation project to make algae-based aviation biofuel in Brazil in collaboration with local company BioCombustibles del Chubut.

It said that if the technical and economic evaluation is conclusive, it could lead to the development of a full-scale biofuel production plant in Brazil.

EADS' helicopter division Eurocopter is part of the cooperation agreement.

EADS demonstrated an algae biofuel-powered aircraft at the Berlin Air Show earlier this month.

Wi-Fi E-Mail Solution for business jets

EMS Aviation, a division of aerospace connectivity leader EMS Technologies, Inc. (ELMG 15.45, +0.18, +1.18%)  , announced today that it is accepting orders for its Forte AirMail solution, an FAA-certified system that provides Wi-Fi e-mail capability in-flight. The system is ready for delivery immediately.

The EMS Forte AirMail system is an Iridium-based system that enables pilots and passengers to send and receive e-mail at any altitude using various Wi-Fi devices, including the BlackBerry(R) and iPhone(R) smart-phones, and Wi-Fi-enabled personal digital assistants. Unlike some airborne e-mail systems, the Forte AirMail system offers all the advantages of worldwide coverage. It is also certified for Wi-Fi operations on these aircraft:

-- Bombardier Challenger CL-600/CL-601/CL-604

-- Bombardier Global Express (not the XRS or 5000)

-- Bombardier CRJ 850

-- Dassault Falcon 50, 50EX, 900, 900EX, 2000, 2000EX

-- Gulfstream G-V and G-VSP

"More and more customers are asking, 'Why should I leave my e-mail behind when I fly?' and now they don't have to," said Nim Evatt, vice president and general manager of EMS Aviation. "EMS's Forte AirMail solution is ideal for those who don't need a full-blown Satcom system but wish to continue doing business via e-mail. It offers e-mail connectivity more affordably than other systems available on the market today."

How the Forte AirMail System Works

A Forte AirMail Wi-Fi access point installed in the aircraft cabin transfers e-mail via the Iridium transceiver and antenna system installed for cockpit use. The access point provides connectivity throughout the cabin, allowing multiple users to simultaneously access e-mail. The system is available worldwide through EMS Aviation's dealers. Pricing is available by calling 1-877-821-8429.

In addition, Forte AirMail system users can add in-flight phone capabilities to their aircraft with the Forte phone system. It offers high-quality voice communication, with a variety of dialing options, including compact wireless handsets, integrated cockpit headset dialers and standard corded handsets featuring superior noise cancellation and audio clarity. All Forte systems support e-mail and phone capabilities from ramp parking to cruising altitudes.

About EMS Aviation

EMS Aviation, a division of EMS Technologies, Inc. (ELMG 15.45, +0.18, +1.18%)  , is a leading supplier of connectivity and in-cabin infrastructure equipment for a broad range of commercial and military aircraft. EMS Aviation enables reliable worldwide Internet connectivity and in-flight entertainment, satellite-based messaging and tracking, rugged data management and storage, and data record and replay. The division, comprising the former EMS SATCOM, Formation and Sky Connect business units, is a leader in Inmarsat, Iridium, Ku-band and air-to-ground mobile connectivity solutions, with proven commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) systems. Visit for more information.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

United and Continental Grilled on Merger in House

Top executives of United Airlines and Continental Airlines sparred with irritated lawmakers on Wednesday over their merger plan, drawing a threat for closer industry regulation if the deal is approved.

United's Glenn Tilton and his counterpart at Continental, Jeff Smisek, received a frosty reception at House of Representatives Transportation and Judiciary committee hearings, and faced the sharpest public questioning yet on their proposal to create the world's biggest airline.

"United and Continental are repeating a strategic move that many airlines before them have made that has brought sustained success to none," said Representative James Oberstar, who as Transportation Committee chairman is influential on aviation matters.

Oberstar, who says the United/Continental deal will harm competition and raise fares, said he would explore legislation to stiffen regulation if the deal is approved. Oberstar voted for airline deregulation 30 years ago, but said he did not envision an industry of mergers and mega-carriers.

"When I cast my vote, I expected the antitrust laws to be vigorously enforced, as did others," said Oberstar, whose home-state airline, Northwest, merged with Delta Air Lines in 2008. He also opposed that deal.

If the deal is approved by antitrust officials at the Justice Department, United/Continental operating as new United would join Delta and American Airlines, a unit of AMR Corp , as the three largest domestic U.S. carriers. They would hold a combined 35 percent share of the market and new United would command about half of that.

Tilton and Smisek told the aviation and judiciary panels that the merger was necessary to compete effectively with American, Delta, Germany's Lufthansa , and Air France/KLM .

"This is a brutally competitive industry. It is today and will be after this merger," Smisek said.

Congress cannot block the merger but can pressure regulators and influence public opinion. The U.S. has approved two big mergers and several alliances since 2005.

The Senate Commerce Committee will review the United/Continental proposal at a hearing on Thursday.

While pilots expressed support for the merger on Wednesday, the loudest complaints from lawmakers generally came from those whose states or districts may be negatively impacted.

These included Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Judiciary member Ted Poe of Texas, who praised Continental for its service but was less impressed with United. Poe told Tilton that he would rather travel by stagecoach than fly his airline.

Continental, which is headquartered in Houston, will shift its executive operation to Chicago, where United is based.

At the transportation committee hearing, Kucinich appeared as a witness and said he would investigate Continental's marketing alliance with United.

Kucinich, who chairs the domestic policy subcommittee, questioned why Continental would tell regulators in 2009 it did not want to merge with United and then do so a year later.

Kucinich represents Cleveland, a Continental hub that some say could lose jobs and service. Tilton and Smisek say they plan to grow the airline, not cut jobs or pare flights.

Northwest and Delta also forged an alliance before their merger. Continental decided not to merge with United two years ago over concerns about United's finances, which have since improved. United has also addressed service issues.

Tilton and Smisek also tangled with Transportation Committee members John Garamendi and John Boccieri over safety, including outsourcing of some United maintenance to China.

Smisek was grilled on pilot training following the February 2009 crash of a plane operated by Continental regional partner Colgan Air near Buffalo that killed 49 people. Family members of some of the victims of Flight 3407 attended the hearing.

Smisek called the crash tragic and regrettable, and said Continental was not aware that the pilots of the plane were undertrained, as U.S. crash investigators concluded.

Smisek said individual airlines should ensure safe operations, but training oversight industrywide is the responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration.

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EADS vows to keep self financing drone project

The CEO of EADS' defense and security division said Wednesday that the European company will keep financing its drone project until cash-strapped governments are able to commit.

EADS will keep ploughing its own funds into the project because to fall behind in this technology would mean being excluded from large parts of the defense industry, Stefan Zoller told The Associated Press.

The unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV business is currently dominated by the U.S. and Israel.

"The Talarion is the solution to stay in military airborne systems," he said in an interview at the Eurosatory defense trade fair outside Paris.

"You give that up you would loose the industry thereafter. Once you loose airborne military systems, what will be the consequences for sensors, avionics, for ground stations, for data links and so on? That's why I say we are at a crossroads."

Zoller had threatened to put the Talarion unmanned aerial vehicle program on hold if Germany, France and Spain didn't place firm orders by summer, when EADS will make a preliminary design review.

But he said that EADS has come to terms with the fact that government coffers are empty.

"The shortage of budgets is a reality, it's something we have to accept," he said. "Therefore I have to envisage for still a while EADS has to pre-finance further."

He said he hopes for a political commitment from the three governments — and possibly Turkey which has expressed an interest — but declined to set a deadline.

Airbus and its parent company EADS are still recovering over a funding standoff with European governments over their A400M military plane. Although all parties reached a deal in March that allowed the over-budget and much-delayed project to continue, EADS is still negotiating with the seven customer countries to finalize details.

On Monday, French Defense Minister Herve Morin said he had sent an official to the U.S. over a possible drones buy, saying France wanted to have all options on the table.

"I can't imagine that the interest of Mr. Morin is to make the European military air systems industry collapse," said Zoller.

The total cost of the program is estimated at euro1.4 billion ($1.7 billion), but Zoller said that could go up or down depending on customer requirements.

He said he doesn't want to push back the 2017 in-service target date and there are currently sufficient engineers working on the project.

EADS unveiled its Talarion unmanned air vehicle at the Paris air show last June. The name derives from the winged sandals of Hermes in Greek mythology.
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Aviation Industry Condemns German Air Tax

The European airline industry has rebuked the German government for its proposal to introduce a tax on air travel at German air terminals, to generate an additional EUR1bn annually to fund environmental initiatives.
The announcement has been attacked as an unwelcome burden on the industry when it is already struggling with low, but improving, consumer demand and the aftermath of the Icelandic volcano crisis. Michael Engel, the director of the German Airline Association said the tax would equate to around EUR10-15 on airfares.
Responding to the announcement, International Air Transport Association (IATA) Chief Executive Officer, Giovanni Bisignani, denounced the proposals as “a short-sighted policy,” and “a cash-grab by a cash-strapped government.”
“Painting [the proposal] green adds insult to injury; there will be no environmental benefit from the economic damage caused,” he added.
In its recent global outlook report, which predicted rising profits for the aviation industry in general, IATA noted that European airlines remain in the red. IATA expects the region to post losses of USD2.8bn at the end of 2010, less than the USD4.3bn loss the industry posted at end-2009.
“Even as a cash-grab, the proposed tax makes no sense. The Dutch government tried to raise EUR300m with a similar tax. It cost the Dutch economy EUR1.2bn in lost business,” Bisignani continued. He surmised that the tax would likely just encourage travelers to use airports in bordering countries with more “tax-sensible regimes,” ultimately having a more detrimental impact on the environment.
“The Dutch had the good sense to repeal their tax. Why repeat past mistakes?” questioned Bisignani.
The tax was announced as part of consolidation measures worth EUR80bn in the German coalition government's fiscal plan to tackle the country’s deficit.

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Air France is now proposing its corporate website in mobile phone format,, where the airline’s latest news, practical information, key figures and useful contacts are available in two language versions.

The content on this mobile version, updated in real-time, features a selection of fun videos that take you behind the scenes and short interviews, some of which are exclusively available on this site.

The website contains over 650 pages, 700 photos and 85 videos devoted to Air France’s corporate information.

All editorial and audiovisual material is designed and produced by the Air France Press Office, with the technical support of the Noven web agency.

Today, there are over 400 million mobile internet users worldwide, including 12.6 million in France according to Médiamétrie, i.e. a 20% increase over the past year. In France, 20% of mobile telephone users aged 15 and over have smartphones as opposed to 11% during the first quarter of 2009. 60% of them connected to the Internet using their mobile phones over the last month. Among those with an iPhone, 9 mobile internet users out of 10 surf the web on their mobile phones.

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IATA on twitter

The IATA now has a twitter account for press release with a sleek design and up to date info.

Check it out on :

TREND : data collection on incidents to improve aviation safety

FAA Plans To Identify Threats To Aviation Safety Through Data Analysis

Expanding its analysis of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) plans to identify threats to aviation safety in masses of data, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on June 11th to the House Committee on Science and Technology that the agency is on the right track in looking at their massive data files for safety trends in the air system in an effort to avoid future accidents.

The report, Aviation Safety: Improved Data Quality and Analysis Capabilities are Needed as FAA Plans a Risk-Based Approach to Safety Oversight, was requested by Members of the Science and Technology Committee, including Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Senior Member Jerry Costello (D-IL), who is also Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC), andSpace and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), former Committee Member.

"I'm encouraged that the FAA is adopting the view that it's time to go looking for problems before they show up as smashed aircraft and grieving families," saidChairman Gordon, lead requester for the report.

“This kind of analysis is a significant undertaking, and we will continue to follow the FAA’s progress to make sure they get the best possible results.  As I have said before, maintaining the highest level of safety in our aviation system must be our top priority,” stated Senior Committee Member Costello.

GAO emphasizes in its report the need for strong policies and procedures governing the management of the massive flows of data to be collected and analyzed.  Here again, while the FAA has developed a draft plan for data management, GAO notes that the plan "does not define the level of accuracy and completeness needed for the data, indicate what metrics and processes FAA will use to assess the data, or identify any specific data" – and there is no date for finishing the plan.  The FAA will also need employees with statistical backgrounds and experience in the aviation industry to make this a success, but GAO notes that this will be a hiring challenge for the agency.

The Committee asked GAO for this report in the wake of controversy surrounding the National Aviation Operational Monitoring System (NAOMS) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) two years ago.  Subcommittee Chairman Miller noted that, "GAO's report today reaffirms the value of asking the people who work in aviation about possible safety problems.  There are gaps in data gathered from FAA’s voluntary reporting that a NAOMS survey would fill.”  The report quotes both NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board that voluntary reporting data provides information we do not see in the Flight Operation Quality Assurance data downloaded from aircraft.

“I am going to work to ensure that NASA and the FAA cooperate to bring these systems into being so that we achieve the hoped-for improvements in aviation safety,” stated Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords.

Chairman Gordon concluded, "There is one aspect of success that isn't in GAO's report, but we will need to keep in mind.  Once the FAA is relying on safety management systems, it must be ready to act when the data starts signaling a problem."

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Europe Steps Up Efforts to Collect Aviation-Safety Data

European regulators plan to step up efforts to collect incident data involving pilots and air-traffic controllers, as agencies seek more information about potentially dangerous lapses in aviation safety.

According to many safety experts on both sides of the Atlantic, European regulators lag behind Federal Aviation Administration officials in gathering details about serious mistakes or safety missteps. In the U.S, voluntary reports by pilots, controllers and mechanics are funneled straight to the FAA. But in Europe, where aviation oversight is fragmented among more than 25 national authorities, EASA only began collecting and analyzing such data three years ago. Reports about safety problems from pilots, controllers and others go first to national regulators, who are then supposed to pass them on unfiltered to the European Aviation Safety Agency.

EASA wants to assemble a more complete picture of the region's commercial-aviation hazards, including cockpit mistakes that sometimes aren't reported to regulators. "We need more data in our system" to better assess and reduce risks, said agency chief Patrick Goudou.

The initiative, disclosed at U.S.-European aviation conference here, also is intended to help agency officials participate more fully in data-sharing with their U.S. counterparts and international air-safety organizations. Though still at an early stage, the goal of such cooperation is to build comprehensive and reliable databases to allow regulators to identify and eliminate safety hazards before they can cause accidents.

Some European airlines, as well as regulators from a few countries in the region, still balk at promptly or completely turning over potentially embarrassing incident data, safety experts say.

Speaking at the conference, Mr. Goudou acknowledged that EASA currently has "difficulties" collecting all the occurrences that should be reported. He said a new safety roadmap slated to be approved next year by the European Union is expected to plug that gap and has won "a lot of promises of data-sharing." EASA, among other things, hopes to tap the expertise and staff of some national regulators to analyze data.

Mr. Goudou gave an example of the challenges stemming from spotty and unreliable reporting. Before the high-profile crash of an Air France Airbus A330 last summer in the Atlantic Ocean, regulators received very few pilot reports about malfunctions of external speed sensors. But after investigators determined that ice buildup on those sensors likely contributed to the crash, there was a flurry of pilot reports about similar problems with the sensors on other aircraft. More recently, the flow of reports about such problems has dried up.

"It's a tough cultural question we have to resolve," Mr. Goudou said in an interview. "Pilots tend to deal with the most pressing issues," so they often fail to file reports on other matters.

John Vincent, the EASA official in charge of the information-gathering initiative, told the conference the agency is "trying to establish complete access to all the safety data that is available." But Mr. Vincent added the effort has been slowed because some countries "are not happy with that." Some airlines and national regulators are bound to be "nervous about sharing with the larger global community," he said.

Debate over incident data reporting has been under way in Europe for years, but until this week EASA officials hadn't publicly outlined steps they intend to take to improve the situation. EASA currently has about 300,000 incident reports available for analysis.

Earlier this year, the FAA, EASA and two international air-safety organizations signed a preliminary agreement to move toward widespread sharing of safety data. But in Europe, calls for more voluntary reporting are hampered by legal systems that under some circumstances, permit such information to obtained by prosecutors. Voluntary safety reports in the U.S. typically are protected from use by prosecutors or in civil suits.

EASA was created early in this decade as the European-wide aviation safety regulator, but its staff is still growing and it is still years away from assuming full responsibility for areas such as airports and pilot licensing and training.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Airplane Airbags

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Air France-KLM Group have begun introducing seatbelt-mounted airbags in their economy-class cabins as authorities tighten regulations aimed at reducing the risk of fatalities in plane crashes.
All aircraft built in the U.S. since October must conform to standards designed to keep passengers conscious through an impact involving deceleration at 16 times the force of gravity so that they can escape any subsequent fire. The same rules will be introduced in Europe by the end of next year, European Aviation Safety Agency spokesman Jeremie Teahan said.
While many seats comply with the so-called 16g rule without needing airbags, which are installed in about 2 percent of seats, manufacturer AmSafe Inc. predicts they’ll become standard by 2020 amid heightened awareness of safety issues. The devices cost about $1,200 apiece, versus $25 for a regular seatbelt.
“The problem with our economy seats is that they have rigid shells and a head impact is more difficult to handle,” Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said in an interview in Berlin. “Therefore we need airbags.”
About 80 percent of plane crashes are survivable, and a study of 25 impact-related accidents by the U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in 2005 concluded that stronger seats and better restraints could have averted 62 fatalities.
The world’s airlines have a total capacity of 2.8 million seats, according to Dunstable, England-based OAG, which gathers statistics on the global aviation industry.
Jumbo Exempt
Safety rules for seats introduced in the U.S. in 1988 and Europe in 1992 applied only to new models, exempting planes including the Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jet and Airbus SAS A320 that were introduced earlier but are still in production today. Under the stricter rules, all new-build planes must be 16g compliant.
AmSafe’s airbags are stored in the seatbelt and inflate within 90 milliseconds of a crash, expanding up and away from the passenger to accommodate head movement in all directions.
The Phoenix-based company, which also makes 95 percent of all aircraft seatbelts, introduced the technology in 2001 and says it has been sold to more than 50 carriers including Singapore Airlines Ltd., US Airways Group Inc., Emirates, Japan Airlines Corp. and Swiss International Air Lines AG.
Airbags are required for standard berths where there is no seat in front to cushion against an impact, such as those facing bulkheads, galleys and lavatories, and for premium-class layouts where seats are angled to face into the aisle, Bill Hagan, the president of AmSafe’s aviation unit, said in an interview.
Fixed Back
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific became the first carrier to equip whole planes -- Airbus A340s and Boeing 777s -- with airbags, allowing it to use a “shell seat” design from BE Aerospace Inc. that didn’t otherwise comply with regulations, Hagan said. The berth, introduced in coach class in July 2008, has a fixed back that doesn’t move even when reclined, helping to protect personal space, according to the Cathay website.
Air France-KLM, Europe’s biggest airline, has fitted airbags after installing the same seats in the premium-economy cabins of its 777 jetliners, spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said by telephone. About 2,200 berths are involved, Hagan said.
Air France considered using airbags in the past but concluded that the potential disadvantages of accidental inflation outweighed the benefit of greater cushioning, according to CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon.
Swiss International was also required to fit airbags in the business-class seats of its A330-300s, which entered service in April last year, spokeswoman Sonja Ptassek said. The unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG will have 10 of the planes by March.
‘Critical Footprint’
Hagan says the client base for AmSafe’s airbags has almost doubled from a year ago and that the company is in talks with “major North American carriers” on equipping entire planes with the product, with deals likely to close in 2011.
“The real driver until now has been the premium segment,” Hagan said. “But at a certain point you gain a critical footprint where airlines consider extending airbag use across the plane. I believe this point will be reached next year.”
Still, the International Air Transport Association, which represents airlines worldwide, says it isn’t sure about the wider application of the technology beyond specific cases.
“We’re investigating whether airbags make sense,” Guenther Matschnigg, IATA’s senior vice president for safety, operations and infrastructure, said in an interview. “We need to have numbers before we take any stance.”
IATA will probably make recommendations to the European Aviation Safety Agency later this year, Matschnigg said in Berlin where, like Tyler and Gourgeon, he was attending the group’s annual meeting.
“If anyone can prove that airbags make a difference, we’ll be the first to recommend them,” he said.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Air France: now hold web fares for two weeks

Air France has launched an online service which allows passengers to hold a reservation and fare on any of its European routes for up to 14 days.

The Time to Think service costs from £10 per passenger and will appeal to business travellers who want an element of flexibility without buying a fully flexible ticket. It will mean they can reserve seats on a number of services and only buy the one at the date and time they need.

If the passenger confirms their reservation with payment during that period, the boarding pass is issued 30 hours to departure. If the reservation is not confirmed, it is cancelled at the end of the 14-day period and only the Time to Think fee is lost.

The service will also be useful for leisure passengers who want to take advantage of a sale fare and need to confirm with other passengers before confirming the booking.

Henri Hourcade, general manager, Air France KLM UK and Ireland, says: “Whether it’s business or leisure, we know that people’s travel plans can change which is why we’ve launched our “Time to Think” period. Having the option to reserve the best European flights and fares saves our customers time and money.”

Dubai-based Emirates to order 32 Airbus A380 aircraft

Dubai airline Emirates announced on Tuesday an order for 32 A380 "superjumbos" for 11.5 billion dollars, the biggest contract in civil aviation history according to the aircraft's maker Airbus.
The A380 order, which takes to 90 the number ordered by Emirates, "shows our confidence in the future growth" of the airline industry, chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum said at the Berlin Air Show (ILA).
"It's the largest order ever placed for civil aircraft by dollar value based on catalogue prices in aviation history," said John Leahy, chief commercial officer at Airbus.
Emirates was the first airline to order the huge A380, which was the main attraction at the ILA starting on Tuesday. It has already taken delivery of 10 of the aircraft.
Franco-German Airbus, the arch rival of US giant Boeing, has gone months without receiving any confirmations of orders for the A380 or any new contracts for the plane as airlines have wrestled with the global recession.
Louis Gallois, chief executive of parent company EADS, said in a recent media interview that orders for the A380 would not properly take off again until 2011 or 2012 as airlines put the downturn behind them.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) provided some cheer on Monday with a prediction that the sector should be profitable this year for the first time since 2007.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

IATA Expects Global Aviation To Be Back To Profitability In 2010 - Update

The International Air Transport Association, or IATA, said Monday that it expects the global aviation industry to return to profitability in 2010, in view of a much quicker recovery of global economy, than expected earlier. It now sees global profit of $2.5 billion as against prior forecast of $2.8 billion loss, in March. However, it projects a $2.8 billion loss for the European carriers citing strikes, natural disasters, economic stagnation and currency crisis.

In 2010, industry revenues are forecast to be $545 billion, sequentially up from the $483 billion, but below the $564 billion recorded in 2008. IATA warned that the $2.5 billion profit represented a net margin of just 0.5%, "which is a long way from sustainable profitability" and a major part of the global industry are still posting big losses. IATA maintained its expectation for an average annual oil price of $79/barrel of Brent in 2010.

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA's Director General and CEO said, "Airlines are benefiting from a strong traffic rebound that is pushing the industry into the black. We thought that it would take at least three years to recover the $81 billion (14.3%) drop in revenues in 2009. But the $62 billion top line improvement this year puts us about 75% on the way to pre-crisis levels."

IATA forecasts 2010 passenger traffic to grow by 7.1% instead of 5.6% projected earlier. Cargo traffic expansion is now seen at 18.5%, higher than earlier forecast of 12%. In the first quarter, the industry grew at an annualized rate of 9% for passenger, while cargo expanded 26% driven by inventory re-stocking. IATA also said, "as this cycle completes with normal inventory to sales ratios, we are expecting moderate growth driven by consumer spending."

For both the cargo and passenger business, yields are now expected to advance by 4.5% versus prior growth forecast of 2% in passenger markets and 3.1% for cargo. IATA stated that the 4.5% rate was just ahead of consumer price inflation and contributed to the projected 13% rise in revenues for 2010.

According to IATA, load factor in the first quarter remained near record levels. IATA foresees average demand improvement of 10.2% in passenger and cargo, which is expected to be met with a 5.4% increase in capacity. New capacity of 1,340 aircraft would be added in 2010 of which about 500 are replacement aircraft. The fleet will however also contain latent capacity, as a result of reduced long-haul fleet utilization which remains several percentage points below pre-crisis levels.

Though air space closures triggered by eruption of an Icelandic volcano dented the recovery in April, that led to over 100,000 flight cancellations across European markets over six days, early May figures showed a rebound in traffic for European carriers. While uncertainty remains with the potential for future eruptions, it appears that this was a short-lived shock.

IATA, which represents 230 airlines carrying 93% of international traffic, informed that premium travel was rebounding at an annualized growth rate of 20% over the first quarter and economy travel was back to pre-recession levels. Premium market was in the process of recovering cyclically in many regions—alongside improvements in global trade.

Geographic Split-Up

"The recovery from this crisis is asymmetrical. Worsening conditions in Europe are in sharp contrast to improvements in all other regions," noted Bisignani.

Asia-Pacific carriers are expected to generate largest profit at $2.2 billion, which is more than double the previously forecast $900 million in March and a major reversal from the $2.7 billion loss in 2009.

North American carriers are expected to return to a profit of $1.9 billion, versus previously forecast $1.8 billion loss, and the $2.7 billion lost in 2009. The US economy is growing with a 3.3% GDP expansion. This is driven by demand growth, capacity cuts and domestic mergers.

Latin American carriers profit is projected to be $900 million, up slightly from the $800 million previously forecast. Having posted a $500 million profit in 2009, Latin America will be the only region to post two consecutive years of profit.

Middle Eastern carriers are expected to post a profit of $100 million—their first since 2005. This compares with prior forecast $400 million loss, and the $600 million lost in 2009. The Gulf carriers continued to gain market share through their hubs for Europe to Asia-Pacific traffic even as capacity is being added at a more cautious rate.

African carriers are foreseen to post profit of $100 million, their first since 2002.

IATA anticipates European loss to be $2.8 billion, wider than $2.2 billion, forecast in March. A series of labor strikes and strike threats have also impacted the region's performance. Moreover, 70% of the $1.8 billion loss in revenue was driven by volcanic ash crisis. Also, recovery woes and the currency crisis clouds the future with uncertainty.

"But even with all of our hard work, the result is just a 0.5% margin that does not even cover our cost of capital. The industry is fragile. The challenge to build a healthy industry requires even greater alignment of governments, labor, and industry partners. They must all understand that this industry needs to continue to reduce costs, gain efficiencies and be able to re-structure itself if it is to be sustainably profitable. We must all be prepared for a greater change," added Bisignani.

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Airbus delivers the 30th A380

The 30th A380 to be delivered was handed over today to Emirates Airline, one of the launch customers of the Airbus double-decker aircraft. This is the tenth A380 Emirates has received out of its total firm order for 58 aircraft. 

This aircraft will be on display at the ILA Berlin Air Show which is taking place from June 8th to 13th. Lufthansa will also bring their recently delivered, first A380 to the show and from June 11th an Airbus flight test A380 will be on static and flying display. 

Airbus has already delivered seven A380s so far in 2010, three to Emirates Airline, two to Air France, one to Lufthansa and one to Qantas. Airbus is on track to deliver a total of at least 20 A380s in 2010.

Today five major airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates Airline, Qantas, Air France and Lufthansa, operate 30 A380s on 20 routes linking 18 major international destinations. Together they have carried nearly five and a half million passengers on 15,000 revenue flights and have clocked up almost 140,000 revenue flight hours. These A380 flights have saved 640,000t of CO2 emissions by replacing journeys that would otherwise have been made with less fuel-efficient large aircraft. The A380 has the lowest fuel burn of any wide body aircraft, needing less than three litres of fuel per passenger per 100km.

The A380 is also a proven profit generator. Delivering an impressive double-digit percentage reduction in cash operating costs, it allows airlines to either increase the number of seats offered at little or no extra cost or keep the same capacity at a much lower total cost. This is one of the reasons why seven of the 17 A380 customers have already placed repeat orders and over half the world’s top international carriers have ordered it.

Airbus has received 202 firm orders for the A380 from 17 customers.

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