Monday, December 5, 2011

On Airport Seats

Consider a business as prosaic as seating for airport waiting areas. You would think that there would be a "best" here — standardized, functional seating. Well you would be wrong. Different airports have different needs. Some want waiting passengers to shop. They don't want seats that are too comfortable. Some need the flexibility to reconfigure waiting areas. They don't want long rows of fixed seats. Many airports have to watch their spending. But others — airports in the Middle East, for example — have snapped up luxury designs. Some airports value seats built to take extraordinary abuse. London-based OMK makes "prison-worthy" seating, the industry's highest standard, using self-sealing polyurethane that can withstand a stabbing without showing the knife scar.

Source :

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ancillary advice: Know your strategy, and find inspiration outside the industry

Among all the marketing concepts that have arisen in the airline industry, perhaps none has created more buzz than ancillary revenues.

But for all the attention it has received, some airlines still do not have a clear strategy, according to David Stoyle of Amadeus Airline Consulting.

In a presentation to delegates to the recent Amadeus Airline eCommerce Conference in Cannes, France, Stoyle quoted Sun Tzu, author of the ancient "Art of War": "Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

"High-value airlines are making a lot of money with ancillary revenues," Stoyle said. The $20 billion worldwide that airlines took in last year in ancillary revenues has taken pressure off base fares and in many cases is subject to lower taxes or no taxes. 

But ancillary revenue projects can fail if an airline lacks clear overall objectives and priorities or if their "bundling" and "a la carte" efforts are going in two different directions, he said.

A properly thought-out strategy includes six steps, Stoyle said:

1. Define the ancillary scope. Do you want to earn commissions on sales of other travel components? Sell miles or advertising to other businesses or offer a cobranded credit card? Do you want to focus on the passenger, selling lounge access, Internet access, priority boarding, seat selection, etc.?

2. Measure current achievements. How much are you earning on change fees, extra legroom, excess baggage?

3. Set your objectives. Do you have a per-passenger or percentage of overall revenue target, or are you benchmarking against a rival?

4. Identify your opportunities. Look across all your operations for opportunities to further develop existing revenue streams as well as for new opportunities.

5. Prioritize your efforts. What ancillary products and services have the most revenue potential?

6. Build a roadmap so that everyone is on the same page. Look at all the systems that will be affected, and recognize that ancillary products are sold in many different channels, from online to onboard.

Getting inspired

Robert Friedman of Amadeus North America's e-Business Consulting unit advised delegates to look to other industries for ideas for ancillary services.

"Find inspiration from salon services," he said. That is an industry that knows how to upsell, from a manicure to a "spa manicure" that costs 50% more.

Take a look at a sushi restaurant menu, Friedman said. There are a la carte items and bundled items, sometimes with "basic" and "deluxe" options.

Look at how auto shops offer "good, better and best" oil changes and offer ways to save money with "combination service programs."

Ancillary airline revenue: Who’s doing it right?

Eloi Prado de Assis, manager of sales and marketing systems for TAM, gave delegates to the Amadeus eCommerce Conference a pop quiz: "What is more likely?" he asked. "That passengers keep adapting to what an airline offers, or that they will move to an airline that adapts to their needs?"

Adapting to passenger needs is what ancillary services are all about — or what they should be about. The needs of a backpacker, and tourist and a business traveler are all quite different, he noted.

Market culture counts, too. In TAM's home, Brazil, the weak infrastructure suggests opportunities to take the pain out of the airport experience, such as lounge access, priority check-in and door-to-door luggage service.

Prado advised careful consideration of an airline's brand when weighing ancillary products.

"Every time you take something away that was free, you make people angry," he said. "We don't want to be perceived as Ryanair."

There are technical challenges as well, he said.

"We need a system to control inventory and revenue management of ancillaries; control of the actual consumption at the touch points, and integration among all systems, especially departure control systems, Prado said.

He cited KLM, which offers upgraded meals on long-haul flights from Amsterdam, and Qantas as examples of airlines that are "doing it right."

Qantas, which does not charge for the first checked bag, is giving passengers "confidence to enjoy the journey" with the pre-purchase of an excess baggage allowance, John Lonergan, general manager for direct sales, told delegates. That takes some stress out of packing and out of the airport experience.

"That's the beauty of it," Prado said. "It gives you peace of mind."

Source :

Sunday, June 19, 2011

ZEHST : EADS reveals a heir to the Concorde

Zehst is the supersonic airplane that will be revealed by EADS at the Bourget Air Show tomorrow. It will be twice as fast as the Concorde and will put Paris at only 2h30 from Tokyo when current jetliners take 11h for the same trip.

The plane will fly at 4 800 km/h. It's cruise will take it above the atmosphere.

Zehst means 'Zero Emission Hypersonic transportation'. The main asset of the plane is that it will not use kerozene. It should start as a normal plane with biofuels then rely on rocket technology for the cruise part of the flight. Oxygen and hydrogen will mix to produce water and propel the Airplane.

First flight tests should take place in 2030 and the first commercial flight is planned for 2050. There should be 60 to 100 seats in the plane.

Monday, May 2, 2011

African airlines say they are 'being progressively destroyed' by EU blacklist

African Airlines Assn. reiterated its strong criticism of the EU's "continued unilateral practice of blacklisting of mainly African states and airlines with no visible benefits in enhancing safety on the continent" and called on African governments, the African Union and the African Civil Aviation Commission to not "allow this state of affairs to continue as the continent's air transport industry is being progressively destroyed."

The statement follows the European Commission's April decision to prohibit all carriers certified in Mozambique and two Air Madagascar 767s from operating to EU airports. The EC cited "significant safety deficiencies requiring decisive action in both cases" (ATW Daily News, April 20 ). Mozambique is the 14th African state to be subject to a blanket ban; an additional four African states are subject to either a partial ban or have an individual carrier that has been restricted from operating to the EU.

In a statement, AFRAA called the EU blacklist a "public relations exercise" that acts as "a blunt instrument that constrains the development of a viable African air transport industry in Africa." It continued, "While the net losers are African carriers, the net beneficiaries are always the EU community carriers that swiftly step in to fill the vacuum and take the market share of the banned airlines. EU carriers will continue to operate with increased frequencies and higher yields to Mozambique and the other states that are the subject of the ban. If the airspace of an African country is unsafe, it is unsafe also for European carriers who continue to fly the African skies for commercial benefit."

The organization pointed out that LAM Mozambique Airlines has had no major accidents since it was established in 1980 and no accidents of any kind since 1989. It noted that a number of European airlines "can make no such claim … However, [LAM's] impeccable safety record … has not spared it from the EU blanket banning. AFRAA fails to see how such blanket banning contributes to encourage African carriers which strive to achieve industry best practices in safety standards."
LAM said it will be able to continue offering Maputo-Lisbon service despite Mozambique's addition to the EU blacklist by wet-leasing a Boeing 767-300ER from Portuguese ACMI provider euroAtlantic.

Source :

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eyjafjoll Volcano : closing airspace was the right choice

A study by icelander and danish scientists in nano particles (cited in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 26 April 2011) shows that the Civil Aviation Authority's decision to stop all flights in Europe during the awakening of the Eyjafjallajökul Volcano was justified. In april 2010 this ban on flights had been attacked by some aviation specialists. The reason for it were fears that ashes were hazardous for aircrafts. The interruption in air traffic was the longest that ever happent since World War II : almost 100 000 flights were canceled in 11 european countries leaving 10 millions passengers stranded. Net loss for airlines was estimated around 1.5  and 2.5 billion euros.

According to the scientists, 'the first ash particles sent in the air by the explosion were very thin, hard and as sharp as splinters from a crushed glass bottle. Later volcanic ashes had a higher granularity but were also dangerous'. They have estimated that if a plane ever crossed such an ash cloud at high speed, its hull would have been severely abraded and the cockpit windshield might have been totally opacified. Moreover, very thin ashes might have melted in reactors and formed clusters in the coldest parts increasing the risk of a failure.

The scientist conclude that the Civil Aviation Authorities made the right choice.

This study enables them to evaluate the level of threat that any kind of volcanic ash represents. They have created reliable analysis models and protocols. It is also worth noting that the properties of volcanic ash can change when the eruption is very long.

Source : translated from Le Figaro

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Boeing exec: could set out 737 plans by mid-year

An executive of Boeing Co (BA.N), the world's second-largest commercial plane maker, said on Tuesday the company could set out plans to overhaul its popular 737 aircraft line by the middle of this year.

"We are doing a flight test program to test improvements to the airframe and the engine to improve the efficiency of the airplane," Randy Tinseth, marketing vice president for Boeing's commercial aircraft division, said of the 737 line.

"What we have been thinking is that we may be prepared to announce our plans in the middle of the year, but there is not a hard, firm deadline," he said in Mexico City.

A Boeing spokesman told Reuters later on Tuesday that the executive meant the company would be able to provide "more clarity on where we see things" regarding the future of 737 around mid-year.

Boeing is evaluating whether to build an all-new 737 or add a fuel-efficient engine to the existing line as it seeks to leapfrog rival Airbus's (EAD.PA) A320neo in a global market estimated at $1.7 trillion over the next 20 years.

"We are leaving our options open," Tinseth said.

A re-engined Boeing plane would offer fuel savings of about 10 percent and could be brought to market around 2016. An all-new plane could offer double the fuel savings and make it to the market around 2019.

The company also maintained its third-quarter delivery target for the long-delayed 787 Dreamliner, Tinseth said.

He said Boeing had 835 orders from more than 50 customers around the world for the 787, which Tinseth said would "change the world of flying."

Boeing is also readying its first delivery of its 747-8F, a freight superjumbo, expected by mid year, Tinseth said.

In a presentation to reporters, Tinseth said Boeing expected Latin American airlines would need 2,180 new planes, worth around $210 billion to expand over the next 20 years.

About 83 percent of those future orders for the region would be for single-aisle units.

He said Latin America would likely experience a rise of low-cost carriers, and in some countries like Mexico or Colombia, access to more financing through stock offerings.

On a global scale, Tinseth said the Asia-Pacific region, led by China, would drive air traffic growth over the next two decades.

Separately, Tinseth said Boeing was working with the National Transportation Safety Board after a preliminary report on Monday revealed possible manufacturing flaws and more evidence of fatigue cracks in a Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) Boeing 737 jet that experienced a mid-flight fuselage rupture on April 1.

Southwest Flight 812 made an emergency landing in Yuma, Arizona, with a 5-foot roof tear.

Boeing shares rose 0.9 percent to $75.57 in afternoon trading on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Norwegian: Wi-Fi popular with passengers

Norwegian Air Shuttle said its free inflight Wi-Fi is a “hit” with its passengers and that on some routes—such as Oslo Gardermoen-Geneva—between 40% and 50% of all passengers logged on. Other popular Wi-Fi routes include OSL-London Gatwick, OSL-Dubai, OSL-Alicante, Stockholm Arlanda-LGW and ARL-Las Palmas. The LCC noted its wireless system set a record on the April 14 OSL-ALC flight when 87 passengers were logged on at 30,000 ft.

“We’re overwhelmed by the response among our passengers and are gradually installing Wi-Fi on all of our new aircraft,” said Norwegian Director of IT and Business Development Hans-Petter Aanby. “This is a product that no other airline in Europe is currently offering, which gives us a huge competitive advantage. Our passengers will soon be able to see in the booking process whether the aircraft has Wi-Fi.”

Norwegian launched high-speed broadband service in February with technology provided by US-based Row 44 (ATW Daily News, Feb. 10). Starting in May, Norwegian will offer inflight Wi-Fi on all flights between OSL and STO and 11 Boeing 737-800s will have Internet on board by summer. By the end of the year, 21 aircraft will be equipped. Norwegian plans to install Wi-Fi on its entire fleet by the end of 2012.

The carrier, which received ATW’s Market Leadership award in 2009, noted the service will be free of charge “for the time being.” Norwegian currently operates 57 aircraft on 238 routes to about 100 destinations. Fifteen new 737-800s, all equipped with Wi-Fi, are slated to enter its fleet in 2011.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lufthansa: Airlines' inclusion in EU ETS in danger of becoming 'fiasco'

Lufthansa said that "too many problems remain unresolved" regarding implementation of airlines' inclusion in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, leaving open the prospect that the initiative will become a "fiasco" when it goes into effect at the beginning of next year (ATW Daily News, Oct. 12, 2010).

"All of the scheduled deadlines have so far been missed and numerous legal and technical questions remain unanswered—just as 2012 tickets are beginning to go on sale and only eight months before the 'official kick-off'," LH stated in its latest "policy brief" issued Monday. "The aviation industry therefore still has no way of knowing what the major economic parameters will be."

The EU directive mandating airlines' inclusion in the ETS was supposed to be enacted into law by each of the body's member nations by February 2010 (ATW Daily News, Nov. 25, 2010). "Yet most governments have so far failed to do so owing to the complexity of including the international transport sector in emissions trading," LH pointed out. "It certainly cannot be said that the directive is being implemented in a uniform manner which preserves competition."

One major problem, LH contended, is that emission allowances (ATW Daily News, March 8) are based on 2010 traffic figures. "However, that year was marked by airspace closures due to the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The result will be significant distortions in the allocation process," the airline stated. "The European Commission must urgently abandon this benchmark and present a fair solution once and for all."

The issues surrounding the ETS "are exacerbated by the continued lack of clarity" on whether it is legal to impose the scheme on non-EU carriers (ATW Daily News, March 22), LH asserted, adding, "Numerous non-EU states have announced that they will withdraw from the emissions trading scheme and it is still not known how the EU will deal with these [attempts to reject the ETS]. The European Commission is considering simply revoking the traffic rights of airlines, a highly dubious move."

Government lets Google buy travel software company

Source :

Government officials are letting Google Inc. proceed with its $700 million purchase of airline fare tracker ITA Software, but are imposing significant conditions on the deal.

The purchase will establish the Internet search giant as a key player in the online travel market. ITA gives Google control over the technology that powers the reservation systems of most major U.S. airlines and many popular online fare-comparison services, including Kayak, TripAdvisor and Hotwire.

But to win Justice Department clearance Friday, Google agreed to license ITA's software to other companies, and it will be prohibited from accessing any proprietary data or technology of ITA customers that resides on or runs through ITA servers.

In addition, the government will monitor Google to ensure it does not engage in anticompetitive behavior. That could include manipulating its powerful Internet search engine to steer consumers to its own services - or bury links to rivals far down in its search results - if it uses ITA to enter the online travel business.

The company will be subject to broad requirements to report to government officials on its online travel operations, including travel search and advertising. In addition, the government will establish a forum for complaints about Google's behavior

This could eventually lay the groundwork for a broader investigation by either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission into Google's practices as it expands beyond general Internet search into more specialized markets. The company's search results already highlight some of its own specialized services, including mapping, video and finance.

The European Commission and the Texas attorney general are currently looking into whether Google manipulates search results to extend its monopoly into other online businesses.

Google has promised it won't sell airline tickets or book other travel arrangements on its own site. Rather, it has said it wants to use ITA to improve its search results for travel - giving consumers more choices and better ways to search for plane tickets. That would enable the company to command higher ad rates from airlines, hotels, rental car agencies and other leisure services trying to reach travelers.

Source :

Aviation fuel from nonedible plant soars

Several airlines have now successfully tested biofuel made from the little known, non-edible plant Jatropha. Japan Airlines, Air New Zealand, Continental, Brazil’s TAM Airlines and most recently the Mexican carrier Interjet, in cooperation with European manufacturer Airbus, have flown without problems on fuel from this weed-like plant, which grows on land otherwise unusable for farming.

A March 2011 report by Yale’s School of Environmental Studies, funded by Boeing, concluded that “Jatropha can deliver strong environmental and socioeconomic benefits.”

Australian-based Mission NewEnergy, Limited, the largest producer of Jatropha by acreage planted, currently employs more than 140,000 formerly impoverished farmers in India now earning a living cultivating Jatropha without compromising food supply or food pricing. The company is currently distributing product in Europe, and launching its U.S. operations.

The Yale study projected greenhouse gas reductions of up to 60% from Jatropha-based fuel compared to petroleum-based jet fuel.

Source :

Jazeera Airways cancels orders for 25 A320s

Kuwait's Jazeera Airways dealt a blow to Airbus last week, canceling 25 of the 40 A320s it ordered in 2007.

Chairman Marwan Boodai said in a statement that the decision was driven by "the overcapacity we've seen in the market in 2009 and 2010, when we saw close to half the seats offered by our peers on the routes we operated were being flown empty." He added that the carrier "might revisit this decision in the future as Airbus introduces new A320 models to the market," likely a reference to the re-engined A320neo.

Jazeera took delivery of a new A320 in January 2010, bringing its fleet to 11 of the type, six of which it operates. It leases five A320s through its Sahaab Aircraft Leasing subsidiary, including four placed with Virgin America (ATW Daily News, Oct. 12, 2010). Jazeera will take delivery of four A320s still on order from 2012-2014.

The airline said it earned a KWD6.4 million ($23.1 million) net profit in the second half of 2010.

Source :

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New technology could slash airplane delays

If a technology being developed by aerospace giant Honeywell that helps airplanes land in very cloudy conditions wins regulatory approval, it could make a huge dent in weather-related delays throughout the aviation system.

The technology is called Enhanced Visual System/Synthetic Vision System (EVS/SVS), and it is designed to give pilots the information they need to land safely even when there is cloud cover near ground. Current U.S. rules mandate that pilots decide at the 200-foot mark if their ground visibility is good enough to land or if they need to circle around for another try. With EVS/SVS, they would be able to hold off on making that decision until between 100 and 150 feet.

According to Bob Witwer, vice president of advanced technology for Honeywell aerospace, cloud cover below 200 feet was responsible for six entire days' worth of delay at a single airport--New York's La Guardia--in 2010. And as anyone who flies in the United States knows, delays in one city can easily roll over and cause slowdowns or even flight cancellations throughout the country.

For years, Witwer said, airlines have relied on Honeywell's Synthetic Vision System, which provides pilots with a database and 3D graphical representation of their flight paths, complete with detailed imagery showing terrain and obstacles and automatic warnings triggered when their planes get too close. The idea was that the system could offer pilots a better sense of situational awareness, especially when flying into areas where the terrain is "aggressive," such as mountainous destinations like Aspen, Colo.

All told, Witwer said, airlines have flown 800 million hours using Honeywell's Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System. But that system can't do anything to help pilots when clouds are too close to the ground. At least not by itself.

However, with Honeywell's new EVS technology, Witwer said, pilots trying to land in cloudy conditions can look at their instrument displays and see a graphical representation of the area that "makes it look like a sunny day."

EVS works, Witwer said, with the aid of an infrared sensor mounted on the nose of an aircraft, which can capture real-time imagery of the ground and blend it with SVS data. Together, the two sets of data can provide a clear view of the ground, he explained, even if, in some cases, clouds go below 100 feet. "Infrared can pick up things with thermal signatures that the eye can't," like runway lights, Witwer said. "Those are the kinds of things that infrared can pick up, even if vision is obscured to the naked eye."

Witwer said that even the 100-foot limitation could disappear over time, but that it is in place in the EVS technology today owing to issues like signal accuracy around airports and general system redundancy. And in any case, Honeywell believes cloud cover lower than 100 feet is a rare situation and that it's often possible to see the runway from that height anyway.

Ultimately, Honeywell is betting that airlines and the aviation industry in general will see the value of the EVS/SVS marriage and that the technology, when and if it is approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, will help the industry cut down on delayed landings, save fuel, and generally improve the flying experience. So far, Witwer said, pilots have test-flown about 100 hours using the technology, with thousands more hours in engineering tests.

Still, Witwer said it's far too early to know if or when the FAA will approve the technology or how many more hours of testing the agency will require before it considers the system ready for prime time.

Source :

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Southwest plane with torn fuselage averaged 7 flights a day over 15 years, FAA says

The Southwest Airlines jet forced to land last week after a gash opened in its fuselage had made an average of seven flights a day over its 15 years of service -- a demanding schedule for any jetliner.

Federal Aviation Administration officials disclosed Tuesday that the Boeing 737-300 had flown 48,740 hours over its lifetime and gone through 39,781 flight cycles -- takeoffs and landings that tend to place the most stress on a plane's fuselage along with changes in cabin pressures.

Aviation experts had initially speculated that the wear and tear Southwest planes typically  endure -- making an average of six flights per day -- contributed to the incident. Southwest is the leading low-cost carrier in an industry that is highly competitive.

Flight 812, bound from Phoenix to Sacramento, had 118 passengers aboard when it made a safe emergency landing in Yuma, Ariz., Friday. There were no serious injuries.

After the incident, Southwest cancelled about 630 flights and inspected its 78 Boeing 737s, finding five others with fuselage cracks. The airline resumed normal flight operations Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, the FAA ordered all airlines to conduct detailed inspections within five days of older model Boeing 737-300s, 400s and 500s that have logged more than 35,000 flight cycles. The directive also requires airlines to check heavily-used 737s before they reach 30,000 cycles and orders that the older planes, which are mostly owned by Southwest, be re-inspected every 500 cycles.

Paul Richter, chief project engineer for 737s at Boeing, said during a media briefing that the fatigue cracks suspected in the Southwest rupture occurred sooner than Boeing expected in the life of the plane. The company also issued a service order instructing airlines to check their planes.

FAA officials estimate that about 175 planes will be affected worldwide, including 80 in the United States. Domestic airlines must comply with the directive, whereas foreign carriers often honor the orders voluntarily.

Soruce :

Sunday, April 3, 2011

North Asia’s Changing Aviation Face

In 1990, just eight city-pairs and 59 frequencies connected Japan and China. Tokyo Narita with its single runway dominated traffic flows in a highly regulated North Asia. Korea’s airlines were in disarray or too small to register. China was yet to deliver on its promise and Northwest Airlines and the 747 ruled the North Pacific routes into Asia through Japan.

Two decades later the landscape is barely recognizable. Each week well over 630 flights connect more than 60 Chinese and Japanese cities. Boeing 777s overfly Japan into Korea and China from the US and NRT has lost much of its standing as the gateway to Asia. China is moving toward the mantle of the world’s single largest aviation market. Korea’s airlines have emerged as powerful competitors focused almost entirely on international services. And a host of US carriers ply the North Pacific on point-to-point routes.

As the pace of change in the region accelerates, the landscape will change significantly again within five years, says Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation Chairman Peter Harbison. “The competitive situation is getting very fluid with some fascinating dynamics at play,” he explains. Those dynamics include the entry of low-cost giant AirAsia into the region, the order by Japan’s tiny Skymark Airlines for four Airbus A380s, the aggressive expansion plans of All Nippon Airways, the troubles at Japan Airlines and the intercontinental ambitions of China’s airlines. This does not take into account any short-term disruptions arising from last month’s sequence of catastrophes in Japan and the unknown impact of radiation fears on traffic patterns that potentially could last for several years.

IATA DG and CEO Giovanni Bisignani put the scale of the potential change in perspective in an address to the Foreign Press Club in Tokyo in late February when he said that almost 50% of the increase in world traffic over the next five years will come from the Asia/Pacific and China markets. “Of the 800 million new passengers who will fly by 2014, 360 million of them will be in Asia/Pacific and 214 million of those in China alone.”

According to IATA data, the region overtook North America as the largest aviation market in 2009. “The difference was small, and both had a 26% market share. But by 2014 Asia will account for 30% of global traffic while North America will fall to 23%,” Bisignani said. And he noted that in aggregate the region’s carriers are the most profitable in the industry, with $7.7 billion earned in 2010 and $4.6 billion forecast for this year. “They are on a firm financial footing and well-positioned to continue to expand with their economies.”

To Be Or Not To Be

However, while the region will prosper as a whole, there will be casualties as states and airlines fail to keep pace with change. Bisignani singled out Japan: “In 2009, with 54 million passengers, it was number seven for international travel, ahead of China at 49 million, but by 2014 we expect it to fall to number nine with 72 million passengers, behind China with 82 million.” The challenge for Japan is that its air transport sector is the most regulated in the region and the rate of change until now has been glacial, risking marginalization.

Japan’s airports are a major part of the problem, Bisignani said, with a “politically driven construction agenda” that put capacity where demand was limited. “That is still an issue, but the Tokyo situation is [finally] changing. It now has two main airports that are competing and adding capacity.” The airports, however, are still about 75% more expensive to fly to than Seoul Incheon and more than double Singapore Changi.

The solution, Bisignani and Harbison argue, is to move away from cross-subsidization, unjustified fees and unnecessary government involvement. “There needs to be true competition between the airports. For Haneda we need a level playing field with common charges for domestic and international operations,” Bisignani said. Currently, international flights are 50%-75% more expensive to operate than domestic flights.

Geoff Tudor, senior analyst for Tokyo-based Japan Aviation Management Research, adds further perspective: “To be a really international hub, Haneda needs more slots, while long-haul foreign carriers have criticized the late-night/early-morning operation requirement as it makes it difficult for them when it comes to connectivity.” But he notes, “The Japanese public love the arrangement—they can do a full day’s work before leaving on a trip late at night and they can arrive back early enough to head for the office or factory for another full day’s work.”

That local support for Haneda is reflected in the load factors, he says. “ANA has been averaging 85%, beating their estimate by five points, while most of JAL’s flights to Asia and China from Haneda are running at 90% and business traffic is high.” Demand comes from downtown Tokyo and the densely populated area west of the city—Kawasaki and Yokohama. Despite the problems with slots and timings, international airlines are committing to HND because of its popularity with higher-yield business travelers.

Notwithstanding this appeal, the airport has a way to go to be truly classified as an international hub, with only 17 destinations served by 18 airlines compared with the 94 international destinations served by 61 carriers from NRT. Prior to the opening of the new runway in October, HND offered regular services to only three international points—Seoul Gimpo, Shanghai Hongqiao and Beijing—with occasional charters to Hong Kong and Taipei. More international slots, a mix of regional and long-haul, are due to be made available over the next 12 months. ANA’s international destinations from HND are Los Angeles, Honolulu, Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei Songshan, Beijing, Hongqiao and Gimpo.

Narita is responding by reaching out to the hostile local communities with the result that the once strong opposition is giving way to a significant improvement in relations, Tudor says. It was able to increase annual takeoff and landing slots to 220,000 from March last year and an agreement is likely on a 300,000-slot total by March 2015, he says. Also on the radar is a slight but significant relaxation of the curfew by an hour at each end to 24:00-05:00. “The airport is also pursuing new business leads, with a study for attracting LCCs underway and plans forming for the construction of a dedicated LCC terminal which could be running by 2013,” he adds.

Changing Of The Guard

While JAL’s financial and commercial rehabilitation appears to be progressing, it is turning its back on establishing an LCC and is but a shadow of its former size, notes Harbison. “JAL is fragile and it is still in the balance with big union issues and it has no LCC plans because of union pressure.” In late November the courts approved a restructuring calling for the retirement or layoff of more than 16,000 staff by March 31, disposal of 103 aircraft and scrapping of 49 loss-making routes.

Also in March the airline ended its historical relationship with the 747 (at one time it was the world’s largest operator of the type) by retiring its final two. It may well transpire that its greatest asset and chance for success is its antitrust-immunized alliance with oneworld partner American Airlines that starts April 1 and will enable joint pricing and revenue sharing on routes between Japan and the US. JAL is considering a similar tie-up with Cathay Pacific.

Tudor observes that a changing of the guard occurred in November with “ANA carrying more passengers than JAL for the first time and in the same month ANA had again for the first time more flights at Narita than JAL.” The latter’s rehabilitation plan set the international network reduction at about 40% and domestic network cuts at 30%.

Contrasting this, ANA’s international capacity (ASKs) for FY2010 was up 11.2% on the prior year and it just announced a major international network expansion. Over the next three years it is planning to increase capacity by 33%, international passenger revenue by 36.3%, domestic passenger revenue by 8.6% and cargo revenue by 16.7%. One of the pillars of this growth is leveraging its participation in Star Alliance, boosting the cities it serves in Asia directly and with alliance partners from 49 to 85, in Europe from 65 to 75 and in the Americas from 125 to 330.

ANA’s plans are certainly ambitious and in a limited way it has embraced the LCC concept through a joint venture with First Eastern Investment Group of Hong Kong. The new airline, with the working name of A&F Aviation, will lease 10 A320s from GECAS for operation from Osaka Kansai International.

While that move is a “toe into known waters,” Skymark’s A380 order is a plunge into icy depths and is as exciting as it is bold, Harbison reckons. “That order is really going to stir things up.” Skymark, which operates low-fare domestic flights with 18 737NGs, says it plans to launch regular international service and fly the A380 between NRT and London from November 2014, Frankfurt a year later and New York or Paris from 2017. And rather than an all-LCC product, the aircraft will be configured with 114 business seats on the upper deck and 280 premium economy seats on the main deck, with fares half those of current levels, according to the airline.

President Shinichi Nishikubo “admits that his plans for Skymark are challenging and he has no other investment partners at the moment and no time for alliances, which he claims weaken the airline’s efficiency,” Tudor comments. In fact, Nishikubo told Tudor that “Skymark is a crazy company; no one but me wants to invest in such a company.” Crazy or not, the order for A380s adds pressure on ANA and others to follow suit and brings another dynamic to the mix. Tudor remarks that “Nishikubo could join an elite band of airline industry outsiders once considered crazy who went on to great things through innovation and taking risks,” among them Richard Branson, Tony Fernandes and Herb Kelleher.


Even bigger change is taking place in China. In February, CAAC Minister Li Jiaxiang told media in Beijing that the country will invest CNY1.5 trillion ($229 billion) between 2011 and 2015 acquiring 700 more aircraft and building 45 airports. He told China Dailythat by 2015 China will have 220 civilian airports and the fleet of commercial planes will rise to 4,500. Last year there were 267 million air passenger trips in China, up 16% from the previous year.

But Chinese carriers also face significant structural challenges, including a lack of airspace—the civil aviation industry is permitted to use just 20% with the remainder controlled by the military—a shortage of pilots and concerns that safety margins are being eroded by the addition of too many private airlines (ATW, 2/11, p. 40). Domestically they also are threatened by the government’s rapid construction of a nationwide high-speed rail network that already is capturing traffic formerly transported by airlines.

In response, China’s big three plus Hainan Airlines are looking abroad, but they are significantly behind the curve in areas of network development, passenger amenities and customer service and acknowledge that they have a lot of work to do to become more competitive in the international arena against rivals near and far.

Among the former are South Korea’s powerful Korean Air and smaller but equally ambitious Asiana Airlines. Both have world-class customer service products and operate out of what is arguably North Asia’s finest hub airport. They also have well-developed networks into China and the international networks and alliances to flow traffic in and out.

Through ICN and SEL, KE links 17 Chinese cities with 10 in the US while Asiana connects 20 destinations in China to five in the US. Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP-Marketing Randy Tinseth adds perspective to that growth: “In 1990 there was only one weekly flight between Shanghai and Seoul but in 2008 the Korea-China market was 687 weekly flights connecting 52 city-pairs.” They not only are tapping the China market but also reaching into Japan, he says, noting, “In 1990 there were 16 city-pairs with 208 weekly frequencies and by 2007 that had grown to 43 cities with 571 weekly frequencies.” The influence of the two is going to get greater with 16 A380s on order between them, and both are committed to the 787 and A350 as well.

Behind those commitments are solid balance sheets and profits. After a difficult two years, Asiana earned KRW236 billion ($211.3 million) in 2010, a significant turnaround from a net loss of KRW266.3 billion in 2009, as revenue surged 30.5% to a record KRW5.07 trillion. Korean did even better, reporting a 2010 net profit of KRW468.4 billion, reversed from a net loss ofKRW98.9 billion in 2009, although its recovery actually began in the second quarter of 2009. Revenue climbed 22% to KRW11.46 trillion.

In May, KE will take delivery of the first of 10 A380s to be used on US and European routes. Its A380 will be the world’s most spacious, with 94 lie-flat business sleepers on the upper deck with a 74-in. seat pitch and extra-large seat partitions, while economy seats will be set 34 in. apart. Asiana plans to operate its A380s, two of which will arrive in 2014, two in 2015 and two in 2017, to the US and/or Europe.

The forces at play in North Asia are many and varied and it is difficult to forecast scenarios, says Harbison, except that more change is certain. The steady rise of strong competitors in Korea and the potential challenge of China’s carriers will put more pressure on Japan and its airlines. “I am encouraging Japan to think more strategically about its aviation industry, to improve its competitiveness and to turn around from two decades of decline,” Bisignani said in Tokyo.

Success will give Japan a stronger voice in the Asia/Pacific region, the industry’s largest market. Recent events—the US-Japan open skies agreement and the opening of Haneda to intercontinental services plus the extension of Narita’s second runway—“show that Japan is capable of change,” says Bisignani. But Harbison asks, “Will the change continue and will it come too late?”

Source :

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Calls for separate seating rise with tensions on flights

It's not that Ian Burford hates children. But the founder of the Facebook page "Airlines should have kid-free flights!" would prefer not to have a wailing tot nearby when he flies.

"I'm 6-4, so seating is always an issue," says Burford, who launched his page a year ago. "But when you're uncomfortable anyway, and then you have some young child screaming or kicking the back of your chair, it just puts you in a bad position, because there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. It's not a case of not liking kids. It's a case of not wanting them sitting next to you or behind you when you travel."

Across the skies, there's a growing debate over whether airlines should do more to segregate the seating of passengers — with designated areas for kids, for example. At a time when increasingly crowded jets have helped to make flying less pleasant for many passengers and social media allow them to instantly tweet their frustrations to the world, a comfortable perch on the plane — and some tranquility around it — has become ever more precious.

Polls of fliers by the travel search site Skyscanner and of business travelers by Britain's Business Travel & Meetings Show indicate a majority of airline passengers want sections set aside for families, or cabins that are for adults only. Overweight passengers have complained about being humiliated as airlines enforce rules that they pay for a second seat so they won't crowd their fellow fliers. And some passenger advocates say that designated rows for those who are tall, heavy or disabled would be a good idea.

"Travel really has become, from the time you leave for the airport to the time you get to your destination ... a stressful experience," says Jami Counter, senior director at SeatGuru, whose website had a record number of visitors in January as fliers sought information on the roomiest cabins and seats.

"When you get on a plane and there's an issue with a seatmate spilling into your space, that makes it that much more miserable," Counter says. "Comfort is an overriding issue, and social-media tools have made it easy to bubble this up to (the) public consciousness."

High-profile incidents have put a spotlight on the tensions.

Last month, Southwest Airlines apologized to a passenger who told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that he was embarrassed when a flight attendant loudly asked whether he'd bought two seats and said that his weight might upset other fliers. In a separate incident, film director Kevin Smith sent a spate of angry tweets in February 2010 after he says he was kicked off a Southwest flight because airline employees thought his weight prevented him from fitting comfortably into one seat.

Qantas settled a lawsuit filed in 2009 by a woman who said a screaming child on her flight caused her to lose some of her hearing. And in 2007, AirTran kicked a family off a flight that was headed to Boston from Fort Myers, Fla., after the family's 3-year-old daughter was disruptive and wouldn't sit down.

Reducing tensions in flight
Some passengers and travel analysts — noting that airlines have begun squeezing more money out of passengers by charging fees for a range of perks, including seats that recline more and even the option of cuddling with your seatmate — say that to decrease tension in the skies, cabins should be cordoned off even more than they are now.

A poll taken in August by Skyscanner found that 59% of fliers supported a section reserved for families. A survey in January of 1,000 business fliers based in the United Kingdom by the Business Travel & Meetings Show found that 74% said they would like to see some flights bar children from the business-class cabin.
"It would be nice if airlines had a section for parents traveling with children, and their own bathrooms," says Jay Burns, a senior construction manager based in Dallas. And, "airlines should have a percentage of seating in aircraft that is for large people. It is difficult enough traveling today without having to put up with other distractions."

Christopher White, a spokesman for AirTran, says it's rare that a family has to be removed from a plane because of an unruly child, as his carrier did in January 2007.

Although flight attendants usually don't have to intervene, noisy children are "an issue where passengers range from slightly annoyed to very frustrated," he says. "People ask to be moved all the time, and we're happy to try and accommodate that."

Burford says he started his Facebook page as a lark, only to see it gain nearly 800 members. Flights for grown-ups-only would be ideal, he says. Short of that, he says, airlines could "have a box on a booking form to say, 'Please don't sit me next to a child.' "

A marketing edge?
Special flights or sections could help a carrier stand out from the crowd, some marketers suggest.
Lopo Rego, a marketing specialist who teaches at the University of Iowa, noted how passengers are paying the fees airlines now charge for extra legroom in the exit row, or to sit in newly created sections of coach.

"Would that work for a whole section of a plane devoted to families? I think it has potential to work," he says. "I'm just not entirely sure what the price premium they can command might be. But it would be a unique way to differentiate themselves."

Even some who might travel with young children say having their own part of the cabin could be nice.
"If I'm traveling with my niece and nephew, I might want the freedom to let the kids play and make a little noise and not worry about upsetting a few people," says Scot Carlson, North America country manager for Skyscanner.

Some travel specialists see exclusive sections as a bad idea.

"It's a dangerous way of thinking," says Anya Clowers, who advises fliers on how to make their trips more comfortable and has a website, "Who's next? Maybe my grandma who's taking a little more time. ... You want a kid-free flight? Put noise-canceling headphones on. You don't want people to kick you in the back of your seat? Sit in first class or the last row of coach. But kicking kids off planes is just not realistic."

Some airline officials and analysts say that exclusive sections on flights are unlikely to help an airline's bottom line and could turn into a logistical nightmare.

Planes are flying full as carriers pare back flights and seats. So what is there to do with a family who missed their flight when the kids' section on the next flight has no space? And if you're sitting in the back of the grown-up section and a baby is crying in the next row, would being in a separate section really make a difference?

"In the airline industry you can never say never, but it's not in any type of short-term plan for us," says AirTran's White. "I don't know if any airline could sustain profitability with an adults-only route if it's going anywhere that's at all family-oriented, like Orlando. ... Any kind of tourist destination, you're going to be hard-pressed to run a flight without kids."

Counter of SeatGuru agrees that it's unclear airlines could make any money from such sections. "Customers are still price-sensitive. So even though they'll say they'd pay to sit in a child-free section, I'd be fairly skeptical," he says.

Some heavy travelers and their supporters say they'd gladly pay for a few rows of their own.

"We'd like a section of the plane or particular seats on the plane that are more accommodating for people of size," says Peggy Howell, spokeswoman for the Oakland-based National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. "If they're going to cost me a little bit more, I don't care. They're charging for everything these days, so give me a seat that doesn't cost as much as first class but is wide enough to accommodate a little extra weight."

Howell says her organization is troubled by the arbitrary enforcement of rules regarding heavy passengers buying a second seat. She also is concerned that such rules potentially discriminate against women, who tend to have wider hips, and certain ethnic groups.

And, she says, complaints about heavy seatmates often are rooted in a bias many passengers had before they boarded the plane.

"Many people start out with a fat bias already in their minds," she says. "When they see a fat person ... they're thinking for the most part, 'Don't sit by me.' "

'A delicate balancing act'
In 2009, United began requiring fliers who couldn't put down their armrests and needed more than one seatbelt extender to purchase a second seat. The policy followed a number of complaints from fliers who said their personal space was being infringed upon.

Southwest also requires fliers who can't lower both armrests or who intrude on the space next to them to buy an extra seat. If the flight isn't oversold and a second seat is available, the flier can get a refund.

"We could no longer ignore complaints from customers who traveled without full access to their seats," the airline's website says.

Brandon Macsata, executive director of the Association for Airline Passenger Rights, has a problem with what he calls the "fat tax."

"We think it's bad policy," says Macsata, whose group suggests airlines set aside one or two rows for fliers who are tall, overweight or who have disabilities — those who "don't fit into the standard cookie-cutter, coach-class seat."

Counter says the policies at United and Southwest offer fairly objective criteria to deal with touchy situations.
"It is a delicate balancing act of how do you meet the passenger's needs while being fair to other passengers on the plane," he says.

In the end, some flights or sections of the cabin are dominated by one group or another, even without an official policy.

"I think it happens on its own in some instances," says AirTran's White, noting that few children are likely to fly the shuttles that ferry business fliers up and down the East Coast, while flights headed to Orlando's amusement parks are full of families.

Southwest, which has an open-seating policy, also lets families with young children who aren't in the first group to board, get on right after.

"They end up sitting together," spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger says. "This works for Southwest, and we are not currently considering changes to this process."

Friday, March 18, 2011

US checks passengers, cargo from Japan on radiation

(Reuters) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Thursday passengers and cargo arriving in the United States from Japan were being checked for radiation from an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant.

Napolitano, however, told reporters that no harmful levels of radiation had been detected by the checks, which she said were being carried out as a precaution.

"And so in an exercise of caution and just to make sure that everyone remains safe, we are doing screening of passengers and/or cargo if there happens to be even a blip in terms of radiation," she said.

"We have seen no radiation, by the way, even on incoming cargo or passengers that comes close to reaching ... harmful levels," Napolitano said.

She said the screening occurred in a variety of different ways. "It depends on whether you're talking about passengers or cargo and where it's departing from," Napolitano said, adding that the Department of Homeland Security was working with other U.S. agencies to ensure the safety of Americans.

The United States on Wednesday showed increasing alarm about Japan's nuclear crisis and urged U.S. citizens to stay clear of the Fukushima nuclear plant, going further in its warnings than the Japanese government.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, Editing by Paul Simao)


Thursday, March 17, 2011

UK airlines reject BAA plan to take control of scheduling during irregular operations

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK said it is "surprised and dismayed" at a BAA proposal to impose so-called emergency timetables on airlines as a means to handle extreme weather or exceptional situations—such as last December's snow that led to major disruptions at several UK airports including London Heathrow. Under the proposal, these greatly restricted operating timetables could be imposed by the airport operator, a concept the organization categorically rejects.

The idea was floated by BAA's CEO Colin Matthews at last week's hearing of the Transport Select Committee but was shot down by BAR UK, which represents 86 carriers.

“The idea to impose emergency airline timetables appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to take the heat off the airport operator during the inquiry into the December snow crisis and has not even been discussed with the airlines,” said BAR UK CEO Mike Carrivick. “An emergency timetable would not have worked, since the airport operator had simply no idea what would open and when. So why should they be in a position to dictate schedules to individual airlines when they can’t get their own act together?”

In a comment to ATW, Carrivick said he believes it would be “very perverse if the airport operator, responsible for the mismanaged airport closures in December, was arbiter of who could or could not fly,” noting that there were a “huge range of other issues” with the proposal, including the fact that it does not take into account long-haul flights already en route.

Moreover, he pointed out, it would remove the incentive for airports like LHR to reopen quickly while simultaneously imposing lost revenue and added costs onto airlines through EU262 denied boarding regulation. “Do the airlines think such a plan would work? No,” he added. “Instead [of emergency timetables] airline requirements in the first instance are a robust snow plan, one that will be implemented effectively. Let’s keep to the established system of the airlines setting the timetables and the airport operators efficiently managing operations.”

Source :

New anti-terror measures make toilets the most dangerous place on planes, unions say

New anti-terrorist measures have made toilets the most dangerous place on passenger planes, trade unions warned today.

From next week Air France will remove all oxygen cannisters from WCs on all A320 aircraft and three Airbus A340s because of fears that they can be turned into bombs.

The decision was made by France’s Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA) following advice from the United States.

But the national pilots’ union SNPL (Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne) fears that anyone using an airline toilet will be liable to serious illness if the plane suddenly depressurises.

‘Without emergency oxygen anyone could suffer burst eardrums and hearing problems, and indeed pass out,’ said Captain Louis Jobard, the union’s spokesman.

Cap. Jobard said that pilots using the toilet would also be at risk from a sudden loss of pressure – meaning a co pilot would have to cope with an emergency alone.

At the normal cruising height of around 35,000ft, crew or passengers would black out in five seconds.

It would take between four and 10 minutes for the plane to descend to where there was breathable air at 14,000ft, said Cap. Jobard.

Over the past eight months there have been 19 incidents of sudden decompression in Europe.

France is currently on a high state of security alert following bomb warnings from a number of terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda.

Source :

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

European companies divert Tokyo Flights South as Nuclear Risk Mounts

Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) rerouted its Tokyo flights to the southern-Japanese cities of Nagoya and Osaka, citing the risk of nuclear fallout and aftershocks following last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

The German carrier’s services are also stopping in Seoul for a crew change to avoid having staff stay overnight in Japan, spokesman Michael Lamberty said in an interview. Air France-KLM (AF) Group is likewise routing flights via the South Korean capital and other European carriers are taking similar steps.

“We’re doing this to be prepared for all possible scenarios,” Lamberty said by phone from Lufthansa’s hub in Frankfurt. “The radioactive particles are the main concern.”

The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant was today rocked by two further explosions and a fire as workers there struggled to avert the risk of a meltdown, heightening concern about radiation leaks after March 11’s earthquake and tsunami.

Austrian Airlines, a Lufthansa unit, said it would delay today’s flight from Vienna to Tokyo by eight hours to avoid winds that may cause radioactive contamination.

Air France is operating flights via Seoul while continuing to serve the Japanese capital, spokesman Cedric Leurquin said by phone. Prime Minister Francois Fillon told lawmakers in Paris that the carrier has been told to “respond without delay” to demands from French nationals who want to leave Japan.

Extra Crew

Austrian’s flights are also being routed via Seoul, and Alitalia SpA said it has added extra crew on routes to Japan so personnel don’t have to spend the night there. The Italian company introduced the policy on March 13, according to a spokesman who declined to be identified, citing company rules. Flights are otherwise operating normally, he said.

Lufthansa’s Swiss International Airlines unit scrapped a flight from Zurich to Tokyo on March 13 before resuming its daily service yesterday, spokeswoman Sonja Ptassek said. Flights are stopping in Hong Kong for a crew change, she said.

British Airways has put its Tokyo operations “under review” while sticking with its usual timetable, spokeswoman Cathy West said by telephone.

There are almost 24 hours until the next daily flight to Narita airport and the five times-a-week service to the capital’s Haneda terminal doesn’t depart until Thursday, giving the London-based company time to mull options, she said.

Head South

French Prime Minister Fillon said citizens who don’t need to stay in the country have been advised to fly home or head to the south of Japan.

Air France has switched planes on its two daily Paris-Tokyo flights to add 100 seats a day, spokesman Leurquin said. Clients can use a ticket on any flight and special one-way fares are on offer for people who aren’t sure when they’ll return, he said.

In the U.S., The Federal Aviation Administration is working with airlines to ensure that flights to Japan comply with airspace restrictions around the stricken nuclear plant. United Continental Holdings Inc. (UAL), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) and American Airlines said they haven’t made any schedule changes.

United Continental and Delta have the greatest exposure to Japan among U.S. carriers, Citigroup Inc. said in an investor note. In Europe, Finnair Oyj (FIA1S), Alitalia and Air France-KLM are most exposed, according to London-based analyst Andrew Light.

Finnair is “monitoring the situation closely” while continuing to operate services to Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, spokeswoman Maria Mroue said from Helsinki.

Kan Appeal

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appealed for calm as he said the danger of further radiation leaks was rising at the crippled Fukushima facility, 135 miles (220 kilometers) north of Tokyo. Sea water is being pumped to cool the reactors and prevent the uncontrolled release of radioactive material.

About 140,000 people within a radius of 20 to 30 kilometers were ordered to stay indoors, Kyodo News reported.

The March 11 earthquake -- updated yesterday to a magnitude of 9 from 8.9 by the U.S. Geological Survey -- and subsequent tsunami have led to what Kan called the country’s worst crisis since World War II. More than 2,000 people are confirmed dead and there have been 405 aftershocks.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japanese Earthquake Halts Flights Across Asia

Flight operations throughout Asia have been heavily impacted by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that was centered around northeast Japan. The worst hit airport was in the city of Sendai. Abroad, concern is growing for the economic after effects of the disaster, which could have a long-lasting impact on Japanese airlines.

The already weak Japanese economy could worsen, with disruptions potentially further depressing growth and affecting passenger numbers. Analysts worry that tourism could also be hit. These concerns have caused airline stocks to fall sharply. Asian airlines are already struggling to absorb higher fuel prices.

source :
JAL reports no damage to its aircraft, but is experiencing serious service disruptions. Finnair has called all flights to Japan, Air France cancelled some of its operations, and British Airways has warned of service disruptions that could last several days. All Nippon Airway, the country's largest carrier, cancelled 131 flights and diverted another 24. Tens of thousands of travellers have been affected.

Source :

Friday, March 11, 2011

World's greenest airlines unveiled

The world's greenest airlines have been named at the ITB Berlin travel show, with European carrier Monarch topping the list.

The study of airline efficiency was conducted by Atmosfair, a carbon offsetting company, and looked into factors such as how efficient an airline's fleet was and how full its planes normally fly.

Monarch, a charter and scheduled airline operating predominantly from the UK, was judged the world's most efficient airline, with Atmosfair praising its efficient aircraft and high seating density.

German carrier Condor, owned by holiday giant Thomas Cook, won second place thanks to its high occupancy and Canadian Air Transat was ranked third, making it the most efficient long-haul carrier.

Some of the world's better-known airlines fared less well, with Emirates in 30th place, Delta in 33rd, Air France in 37th, Lufthansa 52nd, British Airways in 61st, American Airlines in 63rd and Virgin Atlantic in 99th place.

Although the airline index covered 92 percent of global air traffic, it deliberately excluded budget carriers because of problems with comparing them on an equal footing, most obviously because low-cost carriers often receive subsidies and fly to airports further away from cities, causing additional emissions.

Atmosfair Airline Index 2011

1    Monarch Airlines
2    Condor Flugdienst
3    Air Transat A.T.Inc.
4    Air New Zealand Link
5    Kingfisher Airlines
6    EVA Airways
7    Air Europa
8    Srilankan Airlines
9    TAM Regional
10   Edelweiss Air

See the full list at

Source :

Airlines studying flight cuts, grounding planes to deal with higher oil prices

Evolution of oil price
As airlines push airfares higher to counteract surging oil prices, they also are dusting off the flight plans they crafted to navigate 2008's fuel spike, when crude peaked at $147 per barrel.

United, Delta and American airlines are raising fuel surcharges on overseas flights to levels not seen since 2008 and are laying plans to ground fuel-guzzling aircraft and prune seat capacity, with the deepest cuts coming after the peak summer travel season.

Carriers realize they can't hike fees and fares indefinitely without alienating consumers. So they're looking at ways to curb fuel costs and trim unprofitable flights as oil hits the stratosphere. As in 2008, Chicago-based United is charting the deepest cuts among its peers.

While United intends to hold capacity flat for 2011, the world's largest carrier is planning to reduce its domestic flying by 5 percent during the fourth quarter, United told employees this week. Regional subcontractors will bear half of those cuts.

"Although we've raised our fares recently, we aren't fully recovering our increased costs, and higher fares reduce demand," United CEO Jeff Smisek said in the communique. "As a result, we need to reduce our capacity and allocate our aircraft carefully to markets where we can make money."

If rising oil prices send the U.S. economy into a tailspin, other carriers will ratchet down domestic capacity to keep prices high and avoid flying half-empty jets, analysts predict. So far, Delta and American have trimmed growth plans for the year but haven't announced plans to cut capacity below 2010 levels.

For now, carriers have plenty of pricing power. While airlines have raised domestic airfares by about 25 percent from prior-year levels, travel analyst Rick Seaney expects planes to remain full and prices to stay high for the next few months, regardless of what happens in the Middle East.

"If you're planning a trip for March, April or May, you'd better lock in, and be prepared to hold your wallet in some cases," said Seaney, CEO of

Leisure travelers planning summer trips within North America should wait until late this month to purchase their airline tickets, on the outside chance that oil prices stabilize, Seaney said. Chicago travelers plotting July trips to Paris and London should also wait to see if there is any relief from fares approaching $2,000 round trip.

"It's the highest I've tracked in 10 years," he said.

Navigating a world where crude oil trades north of $100 per barrel isn't nearly as disconcerting to airlines, or their customers, as it was three years ago.

"People understand it," said William Baker, partner with Chicago executive recruiter Baker Montgomery. "There have been so many other problems."

U.S. carriers learned that they could control their own destiny by capping capacity so that markets weren't flooded with cheap seats. They also looked to a host of new fees, including for baggage, that generates greater profits than flying, an estimated $9.2 billion in 2010, according to the Consumer Travel Alliance. And they started preparing for the next fuel spike.

"I think it's fair to say the industry as a whole is getting smarter about how to deal with these situations," said aviation economist Daniel Kasper.

Added airline analyst Michael Derchin, of CRT Capital Group, "They were better prepared for this than they've ever been."

Following the October merger of United and Continental airlines, the carriers' parent created the Fuel Council to look for ways to reduce fuel consumption, which exceeded 9.6 billion gallons in 2010. Every $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs United an extra $100 million on an annualized basis.

The council is looking into hundreds of initiatives, focusing on those that could provide immediate savings, said Alex Marren, senior vice president for operations control and United Express for United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company of the combined carriers.

Borrowing a practice at Continental, United is outfitting 52 Boeing 777s with tweaked software and hardware that lead to reduced drag on the jets' wings and trim the fuel burned by wide-body jets by 1 percent. That adds up to a savings of 5 million gallons of jet fuel annually, or about $18 million, at United's current prices.

Other initiatives under way include "tankering," or directing aircraft to top off at airports where fuel is cheapest. United ferried fuel on about 20,000 flights in 2010, saving more than $2 million, Marren said.

"It's all about being smarter," Marren said.

Texas-based American also has a program aimed at conserving energy, known as Fuel Smart. The 5-year-old initiative saved the airline 123 million gallons in 2010, or $285 million, said Sean Collins, an American spokesman.

As in 2008, United, Delta and American are studying parking inefficient aircraft and shifting more flying to newer, fuel-sipping planes. American is gradually replacing its fleet of 224 aging MD-80s with Boeing 737-800s that burn 35 percent less fuel.

American won't disclose how many of the 20-year-old jets it intends to park this year, but the planes give it "significant flexibility should we determine that a change in how much flying we do is an appropriate response to the current environment," Collins said.

Atlanta-based Delta is accelerating the retirement of its DC-9 jets, which have an average age of 34 years. The carrier has also shed more than 200 50-seat jets and turboprops since 2007 in favor of larger, more fuel-efficient mainline jets, said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

United hasn't disclosed which jets it is considering parking in the fourth quarter. But its pilots union leaders point out that, as in 2008, the oil spike could be a distant memory by the time the capacity cuts announced Monday are slated to take place.

"This is the airline industry," said Capt. Jay Pierce, who heads Continental's pilots union. "I'll believe the (fourth quarter) actions when we're in (the third quarter)."

Added Wendy Morse, his union counterpart at United, "I think the company has maintained the flexibility to move in the other direction should things change."

Source :,0,638066.story