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?”

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