Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Crowdsourcing the future of flight?

Did you know airlines are constantly looking for ways to make flights more efficient? From gate conflicts to operational challenges to air traffic management, the dynamics of a flight can change quickly and lead to costly delays.

There is good news. Advancements in real-time big data analysis are changing the course of flight as we know it. Imagine if the pilot could augment their decision-making process with “real time business intelligence,”—information available in the cockpit that would allow them to make adjustments to their flight patterns.

The Challenge as offered by GE and Alaska Airlines is the following:

Use the different data sets found on this page under Get the Data to develop a usable and scalable algorithm that delivers a real-time flight profile to the pilot, helping them make flights more efficient and reliably on time.

Source: http://www.gequest.com/c/flight

This competition is hosted on Kaggle, the platform at the crossroads between the seismic trends of crowdsourcing and big data.

Kaggle is an innovative solution for statistical/analytics outsourcing. We are the leading platform for predictive modeling competitions. Companies, governments and researchers present datasets and problems - the world's best data scientists then compete to produce the best solutions. At the end of a competition, the competition host pays prize money in exchange for the intellectual property behind the winning model.

Source: http://www.kaggle.com/about

This bodes well for the future of aviation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A 737-700 Lands on Ice

In what has been a year of “firsts” for Boeing, the 737 just added another “first” to its long list. A Next-Generation 737-700 BBJ flown by PrivatAir touched down at the Norwegian Polar Institute - an outpost dedicated to environmental and climate monitoring in Antarctica. The airplane was the first 737 flight to be operated to commercial standards on the southernmost continent.

The goal of the flight from Cape Town, South Africa was to prove that a commercial airline could operate a service to Antarctica and maintain industry safety standards, while improving efficiency and minimizing environmental impact.

The 737-700 BBJ was specially configured for polar operations, which included landing on blue ice. By the way, PrivatAir is a Geneva-based business aviation and private scheduled-service operator.

Source: http://boeingblogs.com/randy/archives/2012/12/my_favorite_things.html

Monday, December 17, 2012

He Carries On, She Likes to Check

She likes the window seat; he likes the aisle. She wants the shade pulled down; he likes the shade up. She checks a bag; he only carries on. She curls up in a ball to avoid contact; he sits with his elbows and legs splayed out.

The sexes can fly in different directions when it comes to airplane and hotel habits and preferences, adding stress to an already taxing experience for couples and families.

Men still outnumber women among frequent fliers. Several airlines, US Airways LCC +0.78% and Delta Air Lines DAL +1.32% among them, say their customer base runs about 54% to 56% male. But the difference is leveling off. Virgin America says its passenger surveys over the past year average 52% men and 48% women. British Airways IAG.MC +3.57% actually carries more women than men, a spokeswoman said.

Membership in Alaska Airlines' frequent-flier program is evenly split between men and women, at least among members for whom gender is known, according to a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based airline. And at American Airlines, men make up 55% of the frequent-flier-program membership, but women under 30 years old now outnumber men in that age group.

As more women join the ranks of road warriors, gender differences are becoming more noticeable, according to airline data, interviews with airlines crews, frequent travelers—and years of fielding traveler questions and complaints. And those differences are increasingly gaining attention of airlines and hotels.

Airlines with entertainment systems, such as Virgin America, say women prefer movies and men are more likely to tune into live news and sports. Blankets get used more by women than men, airlines say.

In a study Delta Air Lines commissioned on fliers' food preferences, the airline found women are more likely than men to favor a chef salad and a tapas menu. The airline is considering menu changes now. With more women visiting airport clubs, Delta, which says 54% of its frequent-flier membership is male, added Better Homes and Gardens to the magazine selection in the clubs.

Hyatt Hotels set up hotel room "labs" to study behavior and found interesting differences between men and women. One example: Women like to read in bed while men like to read in chairs. So Hyatt stepped up installation of more power plugs bedside for e-readers and tablets.

On Saturday, the company will change to new brands of bathroom products tested on women for its properties world-wide. Hyatt Regency Hotels in North America, for instance, will carry KenetMD Skin Care products instead of the Portico products they use now. "If I don't have to bring all of my bath products, I can turn a checked bag into a carry-on bag," said Sara Kearney, Hyatt's senior vice president of brands.

In general, airlines say, women prefer window seats and men prefer aisle seats. Of US Airways frequent fliers who have stated a preference on seating, males much prefer aisles over windows, almost 2-to-1, according to the airline's passenger data.

That worked well in past years when planes typically weren't as full and middle seats flew empty. Now full planes likely means these gender differences often will collide.

Suzanne Stork from Seattle says her husband Carl takes the middle seat when they travel together even though he loves to look out the window. That's because she likes to shut the shade to cut down on glare when reading or watching shows. "He's like a little boy with trains. He says, 'Look honey, there's a Singapore 747,'" Ms. Stork said. "I couldn't care less."

Curt Borchardt and Jenny Church, retirees from San Luis Obispo, Calif., both prefer window seats, but she ends up in the middle because he's tall and too cramped in middle seats. He even puts his feet under the middle seat in front of her. So she's started booking a window seat one row behind him. "I like not being in the middle seat," Ms. Church said.

Men often complain women pack too much and often have to check bags—risking loss and slowing up the trip. Many women complain Transportation Security Administration rules on liquids put them at a disadvantage. They say they often have to check baggage because cosmetics, toiletries and other supplies don't all fit in a quart-sized baggie.

Women who travel a lot say one of the biggest frustrations is that men often assume women don't have the top-tier elite status or first-class seat for early boarding. Several women interviewed, who were part of a recent super-frequent-flier road trip organized by MilePoint.com, said men would cut in front of them or even shove them in the stampede of boarding, as a result.

"I get pushed out of the way. People just don't believe I belong there," said Christy Lipschultz, a Chicago project manager for a financial-services company. Ms. Lipschultz has tallied about 200,000 miles this year on United Airlines and American Airlines.

And once on the plane, the differences become more strained. Who gets the armrest? In airport interviews, women say men often insist on taking it, even when the woman is in the middle seat. Women also complain men hog all the legroom they can claim. One strategy: Dropping something so the male passenger has to retreat when the woman bends down to pick it up.

"I think men just feel entitled and don't notice. They are oblivious," said Asya Kamsky, a San Francisco software executive who flies about 200,000 miles a year. Ms. Kamsky said she defends her space against encroaching elbows and legs. "I don't have a problem kicking if I need to," she said.

Anne-Marie Maguire, a Cambridge, Mass., consultant, books two aisle seats side-by-side when she travels with her long-legged husband. "Let him take someone else's leg space," she said.

When it comes to airline crews, women get better treatment—at least in the opinion of some men. Egbert Simons, who travels frequently as a wine consultant, says his girlfriend, dressed in Diane von Furstenberg or other designers, can go from coach to first class to use the bathroom all the time.

"I try that and they take me away in handcuffs," Mr. Simons joked.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324705104578147170003062856.html

Friday, December 14, 2012

More Airlines Support Passbook

Just a few short months after Apple introduced the world to the iPhone 5’s Passbook app, people are still struggling to find a use for it, although nowhere near as much as they were when it first came out. The function it provides is highly useful in theory but so far there have not been many situations where it would prove useful. While this says nothing about the actual quality of the app itself, it does show that companies have been slow to jump on board and contribute their services to it. However this is bound to change with time as more companies cotton on and giants like Starbucks are already accepting vouchers through Passbook so it is certainly well on its way.

In case you are unfamiliar with the app, Passbook is a new feature found on the iPhone and iPad that can collect all these different vouchers and tickets from various apps into one convenient place, from which they can be scanned for quick use. This includes Starbucks cards and movie tickets, making life all the more convenient, as well as airline tickets of course and it is the latter use that is perhaps proving to be the most popular.

But it is slowly growing and becoming increasingly useful, especially regarding its use as an alternative means to board a flight. The ability to use your iPhone 5 as a way to carry virtual plane tickets that could provide easy boarding with a simple swipe was there from the start but initially there were only three airline companies accepting mobile boarding passes; United Airlines, American Airlines and Lufthansa. However that number has now risen significantly to ten, providing a much more accessible service to a wider demographic of fliers. While Passbook still provides limited usage at this point overall, it is excelling in the airport.

The complete list of the ten airlines now accepting Passbook’s virtual boarding passes in lieu of real ones, including the original three, are as follows:

  • Air Canada
  • American Airlines
  • ANA
  • Lufthansa
  • Malaysian Airlines
  • Porter Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin Australia

In addition to this, British Airways and Delta are rumoured to be joining the list soon. If you want to add a flight for one of the airlines listed above to your Passbook then you will need to make sure you have iOS 6 running on your device. One way you can add the flight is to download the airline’s own official app and open an account, otherwise you can just use the email confirmation of your flight, which can be sent to Passbook.

Passbook has certainly made the whole boarding procedure a lot quicker and easier than it used to be as all it requires from you is a simple swipe of your iPhone with the boarding pass displayed on the screen. If the number of people you see brandishing iPhones for scanning at the gate is anything to go by then it would seem that in the airport, Passbook has already taken off.

Source: http://macslife.net/more-airlines-support-passbook/

Qantas scraps plans for inflight Wi-Fi following trial

Qantas has scrapped plans to offer Wi-Fi onboard its Airbus A380s following average customer take-up of less than 5% during a nine-month trial.

The OnAir Wi-Fi service was tested on selected Airbus A380s flying to London and Los Angeles from March to November. Qantas offered the connectivity option to customers in various data packages ranging in price from A$12.90 ($13.48) to $39.90.

“Most of our A380 services operate at night and so another dampener on demand was the fact people preferred to sleep than surf the Web,” Qantas said in a release. “We remain focused on delivering services to our customers that they value. Right now, our customers are telling us that access to the Internet on the ground is more important than in the air. We are continuing to invest in upgrading Wi-Fi technology across our domestic and international lounge network. We will continue to evaluate demand for Wi-Fi options onboard.”

Existing service, which allows customers to send and receive text message and make inflight phone calls, will remain available on its A380s, selected Boeing 747s and A330 aircraft, the carrier said.

OnAir received authorization to provide inflight Wi-Fi service within Australian airspace in September.

British Airways commits $500M to fuel from GreenSky London plant

British Airways announced they have committed to buying $500M in aviation biofuel produced at the GreenSky London facility for the next ten years and consent is now being sought to begin construction of the facility at a site in East London.

GreenSky London is a joint development between British Airways and Solena and once built will be Europe’s first commercial scale low carbon jet fuel production facility.

The first-of-its-kind facility will annually convert around 500,000 tonnes of locally-sourced waste, that would otherwise go to landfill, into 50,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation biofuel and 50,000 tonnes of bionaphtha and biodiesel. The facility will also have a renewable power generating capacity of 40 MW.

Keith Williams, Chief Executive of British Airways, said: “We are delighted that the GreenSky London project is getting ever closer to fruition. With world-class technology partners now in place, we are well on our way to making sustainable aviation fuel a reality for British Airways by 2015.”

British Airways has now committed to purchasing, at market competitive prices, the jet fuel produced by the plant for the next ten years which equates to $500 million at today’s prices. Furthermore, the partners have signed an exclusive option on a site for the facility and consent work for the site has now begun.

Dr Jeremy Tomkinson, Chief Executive of NNFCC, who have been providing technical consultancy on the project, said: “Today’s announcement demonstrates British Airways commitment to developing more sustainable forms of transport, which will help reduce the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.”

“Biofuels are the only low carbon alternative to fossil fuels in the aviation sector and as a result GreenSky London is likely to be the first of many similar projects built in the years to come, but every new market needs a pioneer and it is pleasing to see the UK take a leading role in its development,” he added.

The GreenSky London process will use Solena’s high temperature gasification technology to produce a synthesis gas, which will then be cleaned and converted into liquid hydrocarbons using British company Oxford Catalyst’s patented Fischer-Tropsch reactors.

Engineering company Fluor has started pre-front end engineering and design of the project, and the partners aim to have the site operational by 2015. GreenSky London will create more than 1000 jobs in the construction phase and over 150 permanent staff will be needed to operate the facility.

Boeing's Impact

Boeing started a new brand awareness campaign with very well done infographics about the company's impact and innovation legacy.

The slides are available here: http://boeing.com/stories/impact.html
The timeline is available here: http://boeing.com/stories/timeline.html

GermanWings: A convergence between Legacy and Low Cost Carriers

Lufthansa is launching its new concept for European direct services on July 1, 2013, six months after the group’s direct services unit has been merged with low-fare affiliate Germanwings. The new airline, to be branded Germanwings, is a blend of premium and no-frills products and the group’s last effort to turn around its short-haul network to profitability.

Germanwings will operate 32 Airbus A319s and A320s that have formed the fleet of the current low-fare airline. Lufthansa is shifting over 29 A319/320s for a fleet of 61 narrowbodies. The unit also is wet-leasing 23 Bombardier CRJ-900s from Eurowings, one of the group’s regional subsidiaries. The new Germanwings is to reach €1.8 billion in annual sales and 16 million passengers with a combined fleet of 84 aircraft, slightly fewer than the 90 originally envisaged. Lufthansa has decided not to transfer all of the existing non-hub fleet to the new unit. Some aircraft are shifted to hub flying, and the company has decided to accelerate the retirement of its Boeing 737-300 and -500 fleet.

With the kickoff date in July, Germanwings plans to offer three fare categories. “Best” will provide flexible tickets, lounge access, priority security lanes, full frequent flyer recognition, free baggage and free drinks and meals on board. The middle seat will remain free in the first three rows, which are reserved for premium passengers. Germanwings is offering the business class-style service on all domestic routes and trips to Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, France, Russia and the U.K., but not on leisure services to the Mediterranean. Germanwings has decided on a 32-in. seat pitch in the first 10 rows.

Tickets in the “Smart” category are flexible, but can only be changed for a fee. Even frequent flyers can only use the lounge for a €25 charge, but drinks and snacks, as well as baggage, are free. The “Basic” plan is the cheapest, offering 29-in. seat pitch. Fares start at €33 one-way, and baggage, food and other services are extra.

Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann says Smart fares will be offered from €53, and the Best category is offered in the €199-399 range.

Lufthansa claims Germanwings will be able to operate at 20% lower unit costs than the parent company. That cost difference used to be much larger, but with more integration and features, such as two frequent flyer programs, on the Germanwings side and cost cuts inside Lufthansa, the gap has narrowed recently. Germanwings is expected to make a profit in 2015.

Lufthansa Group CEO Christoph Franz says that “the market has changed more quickly than we would have imagined only a few months ago,” leading to “significant cost pressure we have to react to.” The airline conceded its losses have been in the triple-digit-million-euro range in its short-haul operation for many years.

Franz said that Lufthansa had two options: pulling out of non-hub flying or continuing it, albeit at much lower costs.

Separately, Lufthansa decided to introduce a premium economy class across its entire long-haul fleet. The new seats will be introduced when the transition to the new lie-flat business class is completed, most likely by the end of 2014. Premium economy has been a standard feature for many long-haul carriers for many years, including direct competitors, such as British Airways, but Lufthansa has been concerned that too many business travelers might opt to trade down. With the new lie-flat seats in business, management is confident that the product difference is big enough to take the risk.

The airline has charged a group of product experts internally to work on the details of premium economy over several months. It plans to invest less than €100 million in the upgrade. No details as to the capacity share and product features have been decided.

Source: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/avd_12_07_2012_p01-01-525333.xml

Thursday, December 13, 2012

NEW: Google Flight Explorer

Where will you go next? Find out with Google Flight Explorer, the latest addition to Google Flights.

Unlike Google Flights, which launched in September 2011, Flight Explorer appears to be much more customizable. Not only does it let you easily modify your trip length on the left-hand side, but the top bar is full of options: stops, airline, duration, outbound time, and return time. The first two are drop down menus while the other ones are sliders helping you pick the timeframe you want.

The default page loads the “Lowest fares for trips of 3-5 days” and the outline is clearly something we haven’t seen before. There’s a picture of your destination and then a graph of the lowest prices to get you there, taking your filters into account, for the last few months.

Clicking on any of them redirects you to Google Flights, suggesting that this appears to be an augmentation of the previous service, not a replacement. Maybe the two will end up being merged together, but for now they remain separate. Either way, the goal appears to be getting you to stick to Google when looking for an online flight booking service that will help you purchase airline tickets.

“Flight Explorer is a an experimental feature of Flight Search that allow users to explore flight destinations,” a Google spokesperson told TNW. “The feature enables users to consider multiple destinations and multiple days at once, all using live prices, quickly.”

Source: http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/12/13/google-tests-new-flight-explorer-service-to-help-you-buy-the-perfect-plane-ticket/

Senator pressures FAA to get moving on in-flight device use

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill tells the agency she's "prepared to pursue legislative solutions" if it doesn't move at a reasonable pace to allow gadget use on planes.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill wants you to be able to tweet a photo of St. Louis' famous Gateway Arch while you're soaring above it in your commercial airliner of choice.

At least that might be one option open to you if a letter she sent to the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday has the desired effect.
The Democratic senator said in her letter that she was "prepared to pursue legislative solutions" if the FAA takes too long to loosen its restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices during flights.

"We live in an increasingly connected world, and information is traveling at the speed it takes our e-mail to refresh," McCaskill is quoted as saying in a press release on her Web site. "The current rules are inconvenient to travelers, don't make sense, and lack a scientific basis. Airline employees have the incredibly important job of keeping us safe in the air -- their efforts are better spent worrying about rules that actually accomplish that goal."

The FAA ban is based on the concern that gadgets that emit radio waves and data could cause problems with a plane's equipment. But McCaskill -- who sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which oversees communications and aviation policy -- calls the present rules ridiculous and points, as an example, to a recent decision by the FAA to let pilots use tablets.

"The absurdity of the current situation was highlighted when the FAA acted earlier this year to allow tablet computers to replace paper flight manuals in the cockpit," her letter says, "further enhancing the public's skepticism about the current regulations."

Last week, the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Jules Genachowski, said in his own letter to the FAA that the agency should "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices." In August, the FAA formed a committee to reconsider its policy.

Here's the full text of McCaskill's letter from yesterday, as published on her site:

The Honorable Michael Huerta
Acting Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Acting Administrator Huerta,

As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) evaluates the in-flight use of portable electronic devices (PEDs), I urge the agency to embrace the expanded use of PEDs and work to revise the necessary regulations that will allow for the use of laptop computers, e-readers, smartphones and other PEDs during the full duration of a flight.

The Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) process that has been initiated by the FAA is an important step toward this end. Working with the airlines, electronic device makers and other stakeholders, I am confident the agency can craft policies that reflect the increasing use of these devices by air travelers for professional and personal uses, while maintaining a commitment to passenger safety. However, I am concerned by the longstanding intransigence in reaching workable, common sense solutions that provide for the expanded use by airline passengers of electronic devices during the full duration of a flight.

I welcome Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Genachowski's recent letter in support of expanding permissible use of electronic devices on flights. The FAA must now come on board with this common sense position and enact new policies to memorialize it.

As you surely know, the public is growing increasingly skeptical of prohibitions on the use of many electronic devices during the full duration of a flight, while at the same time using such devices in increasing numbers. For example, a traveler can read a paper copy of a newspaper throughout a flight, but is prohibited from reading the same newspaper for major portions of the flight when reading it on an e-reader. The fear of devices that operate on electricity is dated, at best. Importantly, such anachronistic policies undermine the public's confidence in the FAA, thereby increasing the likelihood that rules of real consequence will be given too little respect. The absurdity of the current situation was highlighted when the FAA acted earlier this year to allow tablet computers to replace paper flight manuals in the cockpit, further enhancing the public's skepticism about the current regulations.

While safety and security must be the top priority in air travel, the FAA and other federal agencies should also work to ensure air travel is as hassle free as possible by revising or removing regulations that have become unnecessary or outdated. It is my hope that the FAA will work, with the FCC and other federal agencies where appropriate, as expeditiously as possible to implement common sense changes to today's restrictive regulations on in-flight use of PEDs that better reflect new technologies and the changing role these devices play in Americans' daily lives. While the agency can and should use existing authorities to allow for the broader use of PEDs, I am prepared to pursue legislative solutions should progress be made too slowly.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Germanwings adds PayPal option

Germanwings customers can now pay for their tickets using e-commerce firm PayPal.

The new option allows payments to transferred from customers’ PayPal accounts, meaning that no credit card data needs to be stored with Germanwings.

It's worth noting though that customers will still be charged the same fee for PayPal transactions as for purchases using credit card (currently £8 per person per flight segment to European destinations).

PayPal started out as a method of enabling secure payments for online auction sites like Ebay (which now owns the company), but has grown to include mainstream companies within its portfolio.

Several US carriers including United, AA and Delta allow PayPal transfers, as do British Airways, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Germanwings’ parent company Lufthansa.

Last month it was confirmed that the Germanwings brand would be expanded to operate Lufthansa flights within Germany and Europe from January next year.

Source: http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/germanwings-adds-paypal-option

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IATA: Simplifying the Business

In 2013, IATA will launch projects related to Simplifying the Business, a strategic program agreed by the Board in December 2011 (See: http://fr.scribd.com/doc/115696540/Simplifying-the-Business).

E-Borders: Rather than relying on Airlines for the verification of compliance with border rules (including visas and ESTA-like procedures), Goevernments will own the whole pipeline by providing e-visas, validating them and giving the green light directly to passengers.
Customer contact information: Travel agents will have to share direct contact information with customers with the airlines in order to facilitate push notifications about flight status and other urgent messages.
Open Source Data Model: The IATA will work on promoting a standard data format (or API) that will make it very easy for customers to access data about flight cancellations and delay both from airports and airlines. This extends to data formats used between companies, airports and GDSs. The goal is to promote openness and re usability and break the existing proprietary systems.
Single token: The three key stakeholders (airports, airlines and governments) will agree on providing customers with a single token (either e-passport, boarding pass or smartphone) that will get them through every security stages in airports.
Check-in: Check-in will be a thing of the past. Customers will automatically be checked-in at the time of purchase of the ticket.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

European aerospace giant Airbus will build its first airplane factory in the U.S., aiming to compete better against archrival Boeing in the battle to dominate the global aviation industry.
The Mobile, Ala., factory — due to start up in 2015 —is expected to employ 1,000 people when it reaches full production two years later. Airbus hopes the plant will lower costs and improve its chances of winning business from the U.S. military. Last year, Boeing beat out Airbus' parent for a major Air Force contract.

"We needed to be visible in the States under the Airbus flag," Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Bregier said.

The new $600 million plant will make A320 passenger jets, which compete head-to-head with Boeing's 737. Those planes are the minivans of the airline world — widely-used people-haulers generally flown on short- and medium-haul trips. They generally carry about 150 passengers.

North America is the biggest single market for that type of plane, Airbus executives said, and they want more of it. Boeing's 737 has an advantage now, with Southwest and Alaska Airlines buying only 737s. Current A320 customers include US Airways and Frontier Airlines. American Airlines handed Airbus a victory when it ordered 260 of the planes last year.

Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, cranks out more than 400 of those jets a year, more than any of its other planes.

The new plant advances the company's strategy of expanding production outside its home base. The Mobile operation will join assembly plants in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China.

Labor costs are likely to be lower in Alabama, where union organizing is more difficult than in Europe or in other parts of the U.S. Bregier said cost savings were not the main goal for the Alabama plant, but added, "Clearly we selected a competitive environment."

Building in Alabama helps Airbus cut foreign-exchange costs, as well. Most A320s are built in Europe, so costs are in euros. But planes are sold in dollars because most aviation lending happens in dollars. That cost disadvantage will shrink if Airbus pays to assemble at least some of its planes in dollars.

The deal should help Airbus politically in the U.S., said sales chief John Leahy, in an interview.

"Having an assembly line clearly gets you political support, a lot, in fact," he said. "There's no reason, now that we've become a U.S. manufacturer, that we shouldn't have equal treatment with Boeing," he said.

Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. planned to build a new the U.S. Air Force refueling tanker in Alabama, but lost the bid to Boeing last year.

Barclays analyst Joseph Campbell said Airbus and EADS may be looking ahead to a day when they have a larger defense presence in the U.S. A factory employing Americans who make commercial airplanes may help it.

He downplayed the idea that building A320s in the U.S. will help the company sell more of them to American carriers. "United Airlines doesn't care if the airplane comes from Alabama or Toulouse," he said.

Alabama has been pursuing Airbus for several years, as it threw its weight behind the EADS effort to build the Air Force tanker. Unemployment in the state is 7.4 percent, so the Airbus announcement was welcome news. Two thousand people attended the Monday announcement at the convention center in Mobile, many of them waving American flags as music played.

Alabama offered the company $158 million in incentives such as road improvements and worker training.

Mobile is already home to several aerospace companies, including ST Aerospace Mobile, Goodrich Aerospace and Star Aviation, and much of the business is based at the 1,650-acre Brookley Aeroplex, where the new plant will be based. The aeroplex was an Air Force base until its closure in 1969.

Airbus plans to eventually make four planes per month in Alabama. It is in the midst of speeding up worldwide A320 production to 42 per month.

Airbus said sections of the plane will be built at its other factories and shipped to the port in Mobile, where they will be trucked to the new assembly line. The line itself will be a carbon copy of other Airbus lines, reducing startup expenses, the company said.

The dean of the business school at the University of South Alabama, Carl Moore, said attracting a company like Airbus could have a transforming effect on Alabama like Mercedes-Benz had when it picked Alabama for its first American assembly plant in 1993.

"It's a prestige name that's internationally known," Moore said.

Other big manufacturers have found homes in the South. Boeing assembles 787s in North Charleston, S.C., and Alabama is home to plants owned by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.

Airbus already employs about 1,000 people in the U.S., including about 230 in Mobile who design and install interior items such as seats and cabin equipment for its big planes.

Airlines Face Acute Shortage of Pilots

U.S. airlines are facing what threatens to be their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with higher experience requirements for new hires about to take hold just as the industry braces for a wave of retirements.

Federal mandates taking effect next summer will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience—six times the current minimum—raising the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65.

A rule requiring new airline pilots to have at least 1,500 flying hours will postpone the day flight instructor John Adkins, above, can join a carrier.

Another federal safety rule, to take effect in early 2014, also will squeeze the supply, by giving pilots more daily rest time. This change is expected to force passenger airlines to increase their pilot ranks by at least 5%. Adding to the problem is a small but steady stream of U.S. pilots moving to overseas carriers, many of which already face an acute shortage of aviators and pay handsomely to land well-trained U.S. captains.

"This is going to come to a crisis," said Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp.'s AAMRQ -2.70% American Airlines and now a consultant to FlightSafety International Inc., an aviation training provider.

Added Kit Darby, a consultant on pilot-hiring trends: "We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem."

Estimates differ on the problem's magnitude. Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest carriers that collectively employ 50,800 pilots now, cites a study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department that indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion.

Mr. Darby's firm calculates that all U.S. airlines, including cargo, charter and regional carriers, together employ nearly 96,000 pilots, and will need to find more than 65,000 over the next eight years.

In the past eight years, not quite 36,000 pilots have passed the Federal Aviation Administration's highest test, the Air Transport Pilot exam, which all pilots would have to pass under the congressionally imposed rules.

For passengers, the biggest impact is expected to be at smaller, regional carriers. They have traditionally been a training ground feeding pilots to the bigger airlines, which are expected to step up their poaching.

"Absent a game-changing shift in the supply of" pilots, small to midsize communities "are in jeopardy of losing some, if not all, their scheduled flights," Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, said in a July speech.

More than half of U.S. airline pilots are over 50, said Mr. Darby, the consultant, reflecting a bulge in new hires in the 1980s and scant hiring over the past decade.

In 2007, to bring the U.S. into alignment with some other countries, regulators extended the mandatory retirement age to 65 from 60. By some estimates, 80% of 60-year-old U.S. pilots now are staying on longer. But in December, the first of those who extended their careers will start turning 65.

Capt. John Silverman, a 64-year-old US Airways Group Inc. LCC -3.15% pilot, stuck around when the law changed but must retire in April. "I'm extremely healthy," he said. "I could do more time. But 65 is plenty."

The FAA's head of flight standards, John Allen, said at an industry conference this summer that the projected retirement numbers are "astounding and dramatic" and "we don't have a system to address this issue." A spokeswoman for the FAA said its official position is "to obtain data to determine long-term pilot staffing needs and solutions."

After a decade of consolidation and restructuring, some large carriers are planning to start hiring again. Delta Air Lines DAL -0.97% Inc. estimates it will need 3,500 new pilots over the next decade to maintain its ranks at 12,000, not including any growth. American Airlines recently said it plans to add 2,500 pilots over the next five years. United Continental Holdings Inc. UAL -0.85% has begun taking applications for a few positions in its Continental subsidiary.

Dave Barger, chief executive of JetBlue Airways Corp., JBLU -1.67% said in an October speech that the industry is "facing an exodus of talent in the next few years" and could "wake up one day and find we have no one to operate or maintain those planes."

There are limits to the ability of airlines, especially the regional carriers, to attract more pilots by raising wages. While the industry's health has improved in recent years, many carriers still operate on thin profit margins, with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers.

Dan Garton, chief executive of AMR's regional American Eagle unit, said the issue "is going to become much more visible when regionals have to decrease their flying" for lack of pilots, and some smaller cities lose air service.

Mr. Garton said he has beaten the drum about the problem on Capitol Hill and at the FAA without success. The FAA said it has been encouraging discussions among industry officials to come up with solutions.

Some regulators and industry experts worry about the safety implications of having a smaller pool of applicants at a time when demand for pilots is rising. They fret that some smaller airlines could be forced to lower internal criteria and hire applicants with questionable skills or spotty training records.

"It certainly will result in challenges to maintain quality," said John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety. "Regional carriers will be creative and have to take shortcuts" to fill their cockpits, he said.

Ahead of the new 1,500-hour rule, the Regional Airline Association has been testing its first officers regularly in preparation for meeting the standards, said Scott Foose, the trade group's vice president of operations and safety. "Working collaboratively with the FAA, hundreds of first officers have already received their new certificates and the rest are on track to obtain theirs," Mr. Foose said.

The military hasn't been a major source of commercial pilots for years, and the supply of new pilots has been dwindling. Among the reasons is that would-be fliers face expensive training with no guarantee of being hired by an airline once they complete it.

Third Coast Aviation, a flight school in Kalamazoo, Mich., said business is down 30% to 40% over the past five years. At California Flight Academy in El Cajon, Calif., the rolls are full, but almost entirely with foreign students who will soon return to their home countries. "We don't have locals learning to fly anymore," said Ash Dakwar, the academy's operations chief.

While no one tracks overall attendance at the nation's 3,400 flight schools, FAA data show annual private and commercial pilot certificates—both required to become an airline pilot—are down 41% and 30%, respectively, in the past decade. The National Association of Flight Instructors, in a research paper published this year, said that "there is no feasible way…to continuously supply qualified pilots for the demand of air carriers."

Congress's 2010 vote to require 1,500 hours of experience in August 2013 came in the wake of several regional-airline accidents, although none had been due to pilots having fewer than 1,500 hours.

Regional carriers now are racing to make sure their pilots have 1,500 hours by next summer, while also trying to bolster their ranks. But prospects with close to the required number of hours aren't numerous. "These people just don't exist," said Mr. Garton of American Eagle.

The FAA is trying to soften the blow. It has proposed a rule that would lower the requirement to 750 hours for military aviators and 1,000 hours for graduates of four-year aviation universities. But the exemption, if it goes through, may come too late, and it isn't expected to help most aviators in training anyway, because they come from other types of flight schools.

For them, the challenge of meeting the new requirements is uncharted and costly. "I'm stuck being a flight instructor for another year," said John Adkins, a 27-year-old pilot at California Flight Academy. He achieved the current minimum for being a co-pilot, but the new rule has delayed his dream to join an airline. "You don't make a lot of money as an instructor," he said.

The 1,500-hour mandate "has only discouraged a future generation of prospective pilots to pursue this career," said Mr. Cohen, from the regional airline group. Those who persevere "will try to get the 1,500 hours the fastest and cheapest way possible," he said. "Flying around in empty airspace or towing banners doesn't give you the training you need to fly a complex airplane."

The mandate applies to regularly scheduled passenger and cargo airlines flying jets and larger turboprops. Cargo airlines could also end up struggling to recruit sufficient pilots. Smaller planes, on-demand charters and business jets aren't covered by the new requirements.

The last big pilot shortage, in the 1960s, occurred because "everybody who was of a trainable age was in Vietnam," said Randy Babbitt, a former FAA administrator who was hired as a pilot in that era. Meanwhile, airlines were expanding as jets shortened trips and boosted traffic. Once the military pilots finished their tours, many joined airlines and the shortage problem receded.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203937004578079391643223634.html

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Air New Zealand Hobbit Safety Video A Hit

A four-minute-long Air New Zealand safety video celebrating the upcoming premiere of the first film in the Hobbit trilogy has gone viral within 24 hours of being posted on YouTube.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Third Istanbul airport could start operations in 2016

The Turkish government is moving forward with plans for a third airport in Istanbul, joining Istanbul Ataturk (IST) and Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen. The proposed new airport, which would include five runways, would handle about 100 million passengers annually. The first phase should be completed by 2016; the second phase should open by 2023, expanding capacity to 150 million passengers.

Turkish Airlines CEO Temel Kotil told ATW in Istanbul the carrier helped motivate the government to plan for the new airport. He declined to comment on the expected cost of the new airport, saying it would be “close to double-digit billion US dollars and is one of the biggest private investments [in Turkey].”

“What the government is expecting is not only a base for TK, but also a hub for other airlines, becoming the first entry point from Asian airlines into Europe,” he said. Offering a new infrastructure, airlines will benefit in terms of quality and of costs. For example, Asian carriers could feed traffic more efficiently to/from European or African destinations via Istanbul, Kotil said.

Emirates adds EasyJet as Skywards' newest airline partner

In a unique partnership to facilitate travel around Europe, Skywards, Emirates award-winning frequent flyer programme, and EasyJet, Europe's fourth largest airline, announce the launch of a redemption agreement of Skywards Miles for flights on EasyJet; connecting Emirates 31 destination strong European network with all of EasyJet destinations.

As of 06 November, members will be able be use their Skywards Miles to fly with EasyJet to over 30 countries across Europe and North Africa. Used in conjunction with an Emirates flight or for separate travel itineraries, Skywards members will have the choice to expand their travel options across Europe. The functionality will be available to Skywards members in every tier and the flights are bookable online.

"With over 130 destinations within Europe and North Africa partnering with EasyJet was an obvious choice for Emirates. Like Emirates, EasyJet is committed to expanding its operation by connecting an increasing number of cities; offering passengers limitless travel opportunities. This exciting new and strategic partnership will provide our robust Skywards members base, 31% of whom reside in Europe, with a novel way of redeeming their Miles and expanding their travel possibilities," said Thierry Antinori, Emirates Executive Vice-President, Passenger Sales Worldwide.

"In addition to all the destinations EasyJet flies to, Emirates' upcoming services to Lyon and Warsaw will provide Skywards members with even greater opportunities to explore Europe," Antinori added.

EasyJet operates Europe's number one transport network flying on more than 600 routes from more than 130 airports in over 30 countries and so offers extensive redemption options to the Skywards membership base; including upcoming five additional routes to be added between December 2012 and February 2013. With its reputation for innovation in internet-based travel, EasyJet will extend that simplified booking functionality to Skywards members.

"Emirates is a well-known carrier in our markets, with a justified reputation of being one of the world's fastest growing airlines. Partnering with EasyJet will help extend its reach by providing Skywards members with the ability to access our market leading European Network," said, Paul Simmons, EasyJet's UK Director.

"EasyJet has continued to grow as a carrier of choice for both business and leisure travel alike via our constant focus on operational efficiency and customer service. Skywards members will receive a warm welcome across our network," added Simmons.

The agreement applies to redemption of Skywards Miles on EasyJet flights only and will apply to all destinations across the EasyJet network. All redemptions for flights can be made online through the Skywards web-site and will include applicable charges and taxes. Skywards members will be able to add on optional extras, such as additional baggage allowance, using either Skywards Miles or cash payment.

Source: http://www.ameinfo.com/emirates-adds-easyjet-skywards-airline-partner-317894

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

British Airways has begun the process of fitting out ex-Bmi aircraft with a new fully-flat product to be used on mid-haul routes.

As previously reported, a total of seven former Bmi A321 aircraft are being refitted with 23 Thompson Aero Seating business class seats, featuring a 78-inch fully-flat bed and 45-inch seat pitch, and 131 economy seats with a 31-inch pitch.

In addition the aircraft are being fitted with the Thales i5000 AVOD in-flight entertainment system.

Two of the aircraft refits have now been completed, with a further two to be completed by the end of this month, followed by one in November and two in December.

Source: http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/ba-rolls-out-fully-flat-business-class-seats-on

Low-Fare Carriers Evolve As Sector Increases Global Footprint

When asked about the future of the low-fare airline industry, Vueling Airlines CEO Alex Cruz has a simple answer: “We will grow and the legacy carriers will shrink.” But that is only the short version of a more complex story.

While most low-fare carriers are continuing to grow, strategies and behavior patterns are changing, particularly in Europe. EasyJet is introducing assigned seating and has started selling its tickets through global distribution systems (GDS). Vueling, Norwegian Air Shuttle and others are actively pursuing connecting traffic, and Norwegian plans to launch long-haul flights next year.

“We are evolving the low-cost model,” said Ali Sabanci, CEO of Turkish low-fare carrier Pegasus Airlines, on the sidelines of the World Low-Cost Airlines Congress last month in London. “Only two years ago, ‘GDS’ was a swear word.”

By introducing new possibilities for the model, airlines are trying to gain access to a broader customer base. EasyJet’s drive to GDS cooperation, for instance, is aimed at attracting more business travelers. Vueling has enough frequencies at its Barcelona base to enable a large number of natural connections—passenger streams to which it would otherwise not have access.

EasyJet’s decision to introduce assigned seating also can be seen as a move to draw corporate travelers. Trials on selected routes have shown that the boarding process does not take any longer than the previous open-seating procedure, says EasyJet’s customer and revenue director, Cath Lynn. But the airline now can achieve higher yields and ancillary revenues by offering seats at the front of the aircraft to passengers buying the most expensive tickets.

Some changes also are being forced on low-fare carriers. The industry has always reduced capacity in the winter, but not to the extent it does today. Whereas previously it tended to fill seats by reducing fares, that is now often no longer a viable strategy, given the sharp rise in fuel prices. Instead, airlines park more aircraft in the winter.

Ralph Anker, who runs the network analysis website anna.aero, says Ryanair reduced capacity last winter by 38% from the preceding summer season. The reduction had been only 30% a year earlier. Other low-fare carriers cut winter capacity further as well—EasyJet lowered its capacity last winter 34% from summer levels, compared with 28% in 2010; Vueling cut capacity by 44% last winter from 40% the year before; and Norwegian dropped its offering by 28% in 2011 from 27% the previous year.

As networks grow, the low-fare airlines find themselves in more direct competition with each other. When Hungarian national carrier Malev collapsed in January, Wizz Air immediately widened its already significant presence at Budapest Airport and Ryanair opened a new base. Following the closure of BMIbaby in September, Monarch Airlines, FlyBe, Ryanair and Jet2.com picked up abandoned routes at East Midlands Airport.

One current low-fare success story is Spanish carrier Vueling, which is thriving in spite of its home market’s economic weakness. Vueling benefits greatly from industry consolidation. At its main base in Barcelona, its biggest competitor, Spanair, went bankrupt in January and ceased operations. EasyJet has announced the closing of its Madrid base and Ryanair has reduced capacity into Spain, albeit from a very high level.

Cruz says Vueling had a watch list of airlines that might pull out of the market and reaction plans in place in case that occurred. “We cannot afford not to respond fast,” he says. As a consequence, the airline has seen traffic expand by more than 20% in recent months. Cruz says Vueling has lower unit costs than EasyJet and he sees “more room to cut.”

Vueling expects more growth potential as it develops its Barcelona base. Cruz also is keen to build connecting traffic there, the share of which was about 10% before the summer and is rapidly increasing. He argues that it is fine to offer connections for low-cost carriers as long as the schedule is built on point-to-point traffic and the airline takes advantage of natural connections only. But he will not tolerate new routes that are based on connecting-traffic revenues.

As Vueling opens up more bases in European countries outside of Spain, Cruz sees it becoming more pan-European. “We have to start connecting the dots,” he says. As part of its expansion plans, Vueling is seriously considering an order for the CS300, the larger version of the Bombardier CSeries. “The CSeries will be the new narrowbody in town for a long time,” Cruz believes. “It is a very attractive aircraft.”

Vueling is in the process of placing an order for at least 60 aircraft; it will decide in the next few months if it will order the Airbus A320NEO, Boeing 737 MAX or Bombardier CSeries.

Bombardier is offering a 160-seat version of the CS300, which is designed for 149 seats in a legacy airline layout. The manufacturer might have to add a second overwing exit on each side of the aircraft to accommodate rapid disembarkation regulations in emergencies. Cruz believes the CS300 will still be a comfortable aircraft with 160 seats, though. Vueling, which has given the three manufacturers clear specifications for cabin and seat configuration, has been very pleased by the response.

The Vueling CEO also points out that the Canadian government is eager to help with the financing of Bombardier’s aircraft.

Vueling operates a fleet of Airbus A320s and when it began the order campaign last year, Cruz thought it would choose between the A320NEO and the 737 MAX. Bombardier’s offer came to the table later.

Another European LCC about to reveal a major aircraft order is Turkey’s Pegasus. “We are already there, but I would like to announce it in my own country,” CEO Sabanci says. The carrier is deciding between the A320NEO and the 737 MAX, he says, and it will buy more than 40 aircraft, the size of its current fleet.

Pegasus, originally a charter airline, turned to scheduled flying in 2005. It has averaged 41% annual growth in the past five years. Sabanci thinks the airline has much potential for further development in the Turkish domestic market, as the middle class and disposable income are growing. It can triple capacity on domestic routes in the next few years and still not offer too many seats, he says.

Internationally, Pegasus is focusing on Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). “We need to send the low-cost virus to these countries,” Sabanci says. But he complains about government protection, of which incumbents, such as Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot, are taking advantage. “We would like to fly to Moscow and St. Petersburg, but they are a no-no for us. The regulators still have a romantic relationship with the national carriers,” Sabanci says.

Also enjoying growth in the Middle East, Air Arabia has nonetheless been forced to alter its strategy due to the uprisings in the region, particularly in Egypt. The airline, based in Sharjah, the UAE, is shifting capacity growth away from its two bases in Morocco and Egypt as it waits for the market to return. “Our focus will be on Russia, the CIS and Africa,” Air Arabia’s CEO Adel Ali says.

The airline opened a base in Alexandria, Egypt, several years ago. The Egyptian operation comprises three aircraft, two of which are flying out of Alexandria and one out of the Red Sea resort towns of Sharm-el-Sheikh and Hurghada. Air Arabia Egypt was supposed to have grown to seven aircraft as part of the initial ramp-up and was planned to grow to about 20 units within five years.

Air Arabia had planned to set up a subsidiary in neighboring Jordan, but it shelved those efforts with the outbreak of the Arab Spring last year, and Ali says the decision will not be revisited soon.

Other markets have proven more lucrative than expected. Saudi Arabia has opened its air transport market significantly in the past several years, and Air Arabia now serves six destinations in the country with 70 weekly frequencies.

Source: http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/avd_10_01_2012_p04-01-501260.xml

Business travellers still flying, but without the flair

Employers are asking their executives to fly more but with smaller budgets, a new survey of aviation professionals has found.

Aviation consultancy Ascend's 2012 survey, which polled 624 frequent travellers in Europe and North America, suggests companies expect an average 1.5 percent increase in flights against an estimated 1 percent travel budget increase.

The survey tallies with data from Carlson Wagonlit Travel CWT.L, who manage travel for corporate clients. Their 2013 forecasts show that fares are expected to rise globally throughout the rest of 2012 and into 2013, with travel budgets continue to be squeezed.

This means, thinks Ascend's chief economist Peter Morris, that travel suppliers that can provide good value without loss of business functionality will do well.

"Unlike some other business budget areas, we are not seeing overall cuts which means respondents appreciate the value and necessity of business travel by air in a global marketplace."

Of the travellers in the Ascend survey, just 61 percent travel by either business or first class on long-haul journeys. Economy and premium economy class is slowly filling up with suited passengers; the latest forecasts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show a 3.5 percent year-on-year fall in July for premium-class travel within Europe.


Low-cost carriers, who don't just offer cheap fares, but prime airport destinations and frequencies, are also enjoying the benefits of reduced travel budgets.

Europe's second-largest budget carrier easyJet says that around 18 percent of their passengers are now travelling on business, and this is only set to increase. Spokesperson Anna Knowles says that over the past year, the airline has completed a number of corporate deals, and most recently a deal with the Houses of Parliament.

But even budget airlines cannot rest on their laurels. Morris argues that low-cost carriers must concentrate on providing a range of services, products, and flexibility. "It is not enough to say 'that is the price, take it or leave it' - because it appears that some customers will leave it."

And managed business travellers can access competitive rates from their travel provider, which have been negotiated with legacy carriers.

Nigel Turner, a CWT director, says that though many companies use low-cost carriers, they are not seeing a major shift to these airlines, "as schedule, airport location and total trip cost including all fees are key to any business travel decision making process."


Forty-four percent of respondents thought airport check-in processes were the most improved aspect of corporate travel, with booking technology given the thumbs-up by nearly three quarters of respondents.

Airports investment in IT continues apace. In a recent study by air transport technology specialist SITA, more than half of all airports said they expect IT spend to increase in 2012, while it will remain stable for another third.

Passengers' appreciation of online processes was in marked contrast to offline elements: Customer service and security processes were both cited by Ascend as major flaws in the travel experience.

Full survey: http://www.ascendworldwide.com/download/Corporate_TravelSurvey_2012.pdf
Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/05/uk-ascend-survey-idUSLNE89401U20121005

Monday, October 22, 2012

Qatar Airways Is Latest in Middle East to Join Alliance

The global airline alliances are moving into the Middle East.

American Airlines and British Airways said Monday that Qatar Airways would join their Oneworld alliance, giving them access to one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines and a modern hub in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The announcement came just hours after Air France-KLM revealed a commercial partnership with Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. And last month, Emirates of Dubai, the biggest of the Persian Gulf’s vibrant carriers, announced a wide-ranging combination with Qantas Airlines of Australia.

“It’s a recognition they are taking Gulf carriers seriously after writing them off,” said Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways. “When you cannot defeat someone, you’ve got to join them.”

These deals are just the latest in a flurry of global partnerships in recent months. The three big airline coalitions — Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld — have been busy courting new members in China, Latin America and the Middle East as air travel becomes more global and major business markets expand well beyond the traditional routes between the United States and Europe.

The alliances offer passengers — particularly frequent fliers and business travelers — more destinations, easier connections and the ability to transfer frequent-flier miles among airlines. It also gives them access to business lounges at more airports across the world as well as speedier check-in and boarding.

Formed in the mid-1990s to make connections between flights easier and to offer more destinations than airlines could offer on their own, over time alliances have created deeper bonds among some of their members.

SkyTeam, whose members include Delta Air Lines, Air France-KLM and China Southern, has expanded its partnerships in China, signing on China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines. It added Taiwan’s China Airlines recently. It also brought in Saudi Airlines and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines. For its part, Star Alliance, the biggest of the three alliances, is adding Shenzhen Airlines of China and EVA Airlines of Taiwan, and also signed big Latin American carriers in June — Copa Airlines and the merged AviancaTaca airline.

The deals with the Middle East carriers signify a major turning point for traditional airlines, which have unsuccessfully tried to fend them off and sought to block their expansion in Europe. Global alliances have filled in big chunks of the world in recent years, but there are still significant white spots on the map, particularly in India and Latin America.

“It’s like the opening phase of Monopoly, where you’re busy buying up property across the board,” said Dominique Patry, the vice president for international affairs and alliances at Air France-KLM. “That work is not entirely over yet.”

But even as the alliances grow, some airlines are still seeking partnerships outside them. Qantas, for instance, is a member of Oneworld, and its deal with Emirates effectively put an end to its longstanding relationship with British Airways, another Oneworld member.

Michael Wisbrun, the managing director of SkyTeam, said the carriers had focused so far on expanding their global footprint. “The focus now,” he added, “will be more on enhancing the customer experience.”

The alliance, he said, recently introduced a service called SkyPriority that will expand to over 1,000 airports by the end of the year. Elite passengers from any alliance airline will get the same priority lanes for checking-in and for boarding, allowing travelers to navigate airports faster, whether in Moscow, Atlanta or Nairobi, Kenya.

Charlie Pappas, the head of alliances at Delta, said: “If you fly to Beijing and then connect to a flight with China Eastern, we seek to replicate Atlanta’s best practices. The same if you fly with Air France to Seoul or with Aeromexico to Amsterdam.”

Some airlines are seeking deeper ties still. Delta, Air France-KLM and Alitalia, for instance, have pooled their trans-Atlantic flights through a joint venture that allows them to coordinate ticket prices, schedules and routes on all their flights between the United States and Europe. They split revenue and costs, and share the profit from the venture, which obtained antitrust immunity from competition regulators in the United States and Europe. The venture generates about $10 billion to $12 billion in revenue a year.

Other airlines have established similar partnerships. United Airlines, Lufthansa and Air Canada operate their trans-Atlantic flights along a similar model, as do American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia. American and JAL also have a joint venture on their United States-Japan routes.

All these new businesses have been helped by open skies agreements that have allowed unrestricted access to airports between the United States and other countries, particularly in Europe. Because of restrictions on foreign ownership, these joint ventures are the closest the airlines can cooperate without merging. In fact, a joint study by the European Commission and the Department of Transportation in November 2010 said these alliances were “effectively a close substitute to a merger.”

Mr. Patry, of Air France, said: “The airline industry remains very fragmented. But, eventually, alliances may be a vehicle for the consolidation of the airline industry. There would be the logical thing.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/business/air-alliances-expand-as-qatar-joins-oneworld.html?_r=0

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

EADS and BAE Systems, a European mega-merger? Nein, danke

THE decision made on October 10th by Britain’s BAE Systems, the world’s third-biggest defence firm, and EADS, the Franco-German owner of Airbus, to call off their proposed €38 billion ($50 billion) merger is a bitter blow both to the two companies and to hopes for the emergence of a more integrated European defence and aerospace industry. Executives reluctantly concluded that there was no hope of securing the political agreement of all three governments involved (France, Britain and Germany) that the deal should proceed. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Germans—specifically the chancellor, Angela Merkel—who blocked it. Mrs Merkel informed France’s president, François Hollande, of her decision in a phone call on the evening of October 9th.

Although the intended merger, which would have split the new entity 60/40 between EADS and BAE shareholders, had its critics, it was in the long-term strategic interests of both companies. It offered BAE a way back into the booming civil-aviation market it left six years ago, as well as access to a much stronger balance-sheet. Airbus has an order backlog of €485 billion, more than double Boeing’s.

BAE, which generates over 40% of its sales in America, needs to reduce its dependence on shrinking defence budgets. The Pentagon’s spending is due to fall by $600 billion over the next decade. To protect its bottom line, BAE has cut costs ruthlessly, but there is a limit to how much further it can go. Other options, such as selling its American business or being bought by one of the American prime defence contractors, are deeply unattractive to both BAE and the British government. Being subsumed by a Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin would mean far less influence for Britain over its defence industry than it would have had through a BAE-EADS merger.

As for EADS, four years ago it decided to aim for a better split between its dominant civil and its subscale military operations; to expand its business in America; and to “normalise” the company by freeing its managers from the political interference that stems from a shareholder pact between the French and German governments. At a stroke, the deal with BAE gave it a way to realise all three objectives. Together, the two firms would have produced a well-balanced business resembling Boeing, with stable cash flows, pooled R&D spending and the ability to take on big investment programmes. The merger would also have set off a wave of much-needed consolidation among Europe’s smaller defence firms.

Where Angela feared to tread

The problem was the government shareholdings in the new entity (see article). The Americans insisted that, in order to keep BAE’s vital “special security agreement” with the Pentagon, the new group could not be controlled by foreign governments: it set a limit of 9% each for the French and Germans. The French government, which owns 15% of EADS, agreed to the 9% limit. Germany does not have a direct stake, though Daimler owns 15% of EADS. Still, Mrs Merkel refused.

It is hard to see why. The Americans were happy for the Germans, the French and the British all to have takeover-blocking special shares; and given the closeness of big defence firms to their government customers, Mrs Merkel would have had enough influence over the new entity to protect Germany’s security interests. Possible explanations include her natural caution, German voters’ distaste for the arms business, and above all a suspicion that the new firm would be more Anglo-French than Germanic at heart. All this should worry Europeans. If a generally logical merger can fall apart on such petty grounds, what hope is there of a banking union?

Source: http://www.economist.com/node/21564558

Friday, October 12, 2012

BA to trial automatic check-in service

BA is to trial a new service allowing passengers to be automatically checked in ahead of their flight.

The automated service will check in passengers 24 hours before their flight, assign them a seat and send them their boarding pass electronically.

Launching this month, the trial will initially be offered to selected passengers departing from French airports, before being extended to “a larger group of travellers in the spring”.

If these trials are successful, BA says it will then make the service an option for all customers across the BA network by the end of next year.

BA says that during the trial "seats will be allocated on a individual basis", adding that "if customers wish to change the seat allocated they will be able to do so". The carrier also said that "In the future, the vision is to allow customers to store their preferences and if they are available, be allocated seats accordingly".

Commenting on the move BA’s managing director of brands and customer experience, Frank van der Post, said:

“Customers have so much to think about prior to a trip, be that finishing up in the office or getting the kids’ suitcases packed.

"We’re aiming to give them one less thing to think about by giving them the choice to be checked in automatically and sent their boarding pass electronically. Then they just need to drop off any bags and make their way to the plane.”

The carrier has also announced plans to trial a complimentary porter service for First passengers and Gold Executive Club members at Heathrow T5.

Set to launch this autumn, the trial will see customers greeted as their vehicle pulls up at T5, and offered the services of a porter who will escort them and transport their luggage to the First check-in area.

Source: http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/ba-to-trial-automatic-check-in-service

Inspire Me by Easy Jet

Easy Jet is introducing the new online 'Inspire Me' tool feature designed to help customers find exactly what they are looking for at the click of a mouse. 'Inspire Me' gives customers ideas on where to go, whatever their budget, helping them to see how far their budget can take them or just to pinpoint the right destinations for their trip, all displayed on a map of Europe.

The feature enables customers who are browsing the site to search by multiple criteria including price and by the type of trip they are looking for. Easy to identify symbols, like a heart for a romantic getaway or a sun for a beach break, help narrow options so customers can find their perfect trip faster than ever before. Each destination includes a link to easyJet's booking process or to newly created destination guides for further destination specific information.
Source : http://www.easyjet.com/en/inspireme

Virgin Australia Launches S'Wonderful Marketing Campaign to Hero its People

Virgin Australia has just announced that a major new marketing campaign will debut this afternoon during the broadcast of the AFL grand final.

The campaign will feature a new 60 second TV commercial which was filmed on the salt plains of Western Australia, and will also incorporate online, print, outdoor and social media elements.

“When we launched the new Virgin Australia brand and identity last year, we made a promise to put the magic back into flying,” said Chief Customer Officer Mark Hassell.

“This campaign highlights how we have delivered on that promise. We have completely overhauled the customer experience, transforming the look and feel of travelling with Virgin Australia both in the air and on the ground.

“We now have a brand new product that can compete with the best airlines in the world,” he added.

Source: http://www.virginaustralia.com/au/en/about-us/media/2012/WONDERFUL-CAMPAIGN/

Frankfurt Airport opens new expanded terminal

The €700 million ($899 million) terminal complex is 800m-long and is the largest above-ground construction project at Frankfurt Airport since the opening of Terminal 2 in 1994. It will be exclusively used by Deutsche Lufthansa AG and its Star Alliance partners. It will also provide more docking positions for serving wide body aircraft like the Airbus A380 superjumbo and the Boeing B747 family.

Pier A-Plus will offer 185,000 square metre of total useable floor space. It provides seven docking positions for long-haul aircraft with four designed for double-decker jets like the A380 superjumbo served by three passenger bridges, and three more positions with two passenger bridges for aircraft like the Boeing 747-8 and Airbus 340. It also features five Lufthansa lounges, including one First Class, two Senator and two Business lounges. These facilities combined together expand Lufthansa’s total lounge space by almost 50% to more than 14,000 square meters. The lounges are designed to offer maximum comfort. The moving walkways are made longer and broader to reduce walking distances while the waiting areas feature seats with integrated power outlets and USB ports for electronic devices.

Pier A-Plus at Frankfurt Airport also offers new retail concept. Retail component covers about 12,000 square meters of the total surface area with some 60 shops and restaurants. These are mainly concentrated at two central marketplaces. Also, Duty Free and Travel Value Shops are conceptualised as walk-through shops, which is a first for the airport. Travelers automatically reach the sales area after passing the security control points.

The ground-breaking ceremony for Pier A-Plus took place in December 2008.

link to full press release: http://presse.lufthansa.com/fileadmin/downloads/en/newslink/newslink-59/lh-newslink-59-October-2012.pdf

Friday, September 28, 2012

ParisTech Review. Air traffic is expected to rise globally, particularly in Asia, but if it is to comply with the environmental objectives set out by the international community, the energy consumption of aircrafts has to be reduced. Are we on track?

Didier-François Godart. The whole aviation industry is focused on this ambition. Engine improvements, the electrification of planes and new solutions such as “green taxiing” (rolling on the tarmac with engines offline) will allow airline companies to save both CO2 and money. One should not underestimate the operational benefits: punctuality will increase and congestion at gates and parking areas will be reduced. As an indication, a major airline that adopts “green taxiing” on all its planes will save enough to buy a new plane each year. It is anything but a marginal factor.

The “electric plane” is all the rage in aeronautics. But what will truly be electric in it?

The only primary energy source on board of a commercial plane, in 2012, is kerosene. From that kerosene three other secondary energy sources are generated: hydraulics, pneumatics and electrical. These energies, also known as non-propellant, are used to power various items on board. About 5% to 6% of kerosene is consumed to power the non-propulsive secondary sources. This is an average. It depends on the phases of flight. The so-called “electric airplane” is a vehicle in which all three secondary energies will be replaced by electric-only systems. And believe me, this is quite a disruption already.

Given that kerosene is burned as primary energy anyways, what is the benefit of having electricity as the only secondary energy source?

Electrical power has many advantages over hydraulics and pneumatics. First, it consumes less, overall, because it consumes just what you need, whereas you need to maintain hydraulic pressure even when it is not in use, which involves an energy cost. Another significant gain revolves around maintenance: it is much easier to maintain and repair an electrical system than a hydraulic one. This improved maintenance will have important consequences on the availability of the aircraft, which is a key factor for operators. Finally, the electric plane will burn less fuel because the consumption of non-propulsive energy will be optimized. It won’t have to be grounded as often and will therefore be cheaper for airlines and thus, for passengers too.

Airplanes, excepting the most recent ones, have been designed in an era of cheap oil, without much attention to the secondary consumption. Where are we wasting the most?

For instance, take the design of the pressurization system, which is powered by collecting air on the engines. It can be streamlined, dramatically optimizing its overall energy balance… Today, when pressurizing the cabin, part of the compressed air which comes from the reactors is pumped in. But this bleed air is extracted at high temperature (over 300° C/570°F). So we must begin by cooling it with a “pre-cooler” or heat exchanger, hence incurring a loss of energy. In an electric-only airplane configuration, air will be taken from outside the fuselage and compressed as needed, therefore at a minimal energy cost. In general, as it is, switching to electric will allow an in-depth revamping of systems for an improved energy optimization.

The trend seems to be around electricity nowadays but with a single secondary energy source, what happens in case of failure?

In reality, the “reconfigurability” of the system, that is to say its ability to take over in case of local failure, will not only be maintained but even improved with electricity. Today, it is impossible to substitute with electric if pneumatic power or the hydraulics are faulty. With electric-only systems, we are going to much better detect and isolate breakdowns.

When will airplane electrification happen?

It already has begun. The A 380 and B 787 include electric systems that were formerly hydraulic or pneumatic. On the A 380, for example, reverse thrust and backup flight control actuators are electric. On the B 787, the brakes, the engine starter, and cabin pressurization have switched to electric power.

Taxiing will also be electric on the next generation of aircraft, which will benefit very unevenly to diverse planes.

“Green taxiing” will be a valuable asset, especially for short and medium haul: these planes spend about 30% of the time on the ground rolling on the tarmac. On a Paris-Toulouse flight, for example, time spent taxiing in Paris can take up to 20 minutes for a flight time of one hour. In that case green taxiing can save you 3% or 4% kerosene. Whereas a 0.5% gain in efficiency for a modern turbojet engine would be a dramatic success. We will have to wait until the next generation of Safran engines (LEAP) installed on the Airbus A320 NEO, the Boeing 737 Max and the COMAC C919, to truly step into a new era. The Leap engine will save 15% on average, but at the cost of an in-depth overhaul of engines.

Green taxiing seems a modest achievement, compared to what has already been done with the electric car…

Think again. Electric green taxiing requires considerable power which is difficult to mobilize. For a single-aisle A 320 type airplane, power of about 100 kilowatts must be applied at wheel level. This is a technical challenge. Some smaller aircraft include a motor in the nose wheels, but that does not guarantee the required performance of a large airplane as the front end typically supports only 8% of the weight of the aircraft and the front wheels would skid on a wet tarmac. Therefore, one must install electric motors on the main wheels but available space is scarce because of the brakes that are not only bulky but also heat up to several hundred degrees.

So green taxiing, which seems to be a local issue, is somehow also a systemic problem for planes?

Yes, because wheel motors are managed by “power electronics” (the one driving the different actuators, that is to say, the electric motors that power air compressors or control surfaces like flaps). Power electronics constitutes a critical issue for aircraft electrification. It must be reliable enough, dense enough and light enough to be embedded. In 2012, we are able to embed electronic power of up to 120 kW. The catch is they have a tendency to heat. We require them to be at once effective, light and dense. They are therefore inevitably compact and hot spots are very punitive, and very difficult to reverse. You want to evacuate these calories out of the plane. All current research revolves around this one goal: cooling down power electronics.

Can an electric airplane be manufactured with the same teams, the same processes, and the same management as a conventional airplane?

No, an entirely new approach is needed. For generations, the aviation industry has been organized around silos, the famous “ATA chapters” which cut a plane into several almost independent segments: landing gear, wheels and brakes; cabin conditioning, engines; etc. As we further electrify systems, we will have to build bridges between these different systems, notably by pooling electronic power between different uses and users. This is a major technological revolution. Take the case of a plane about to take off. In the future, the same power electronics elements will successively feed wheel motors, then the electric starter for the aircraft’s main engines, then landing gear retraction actuators, then slats and flaps retraction actuators, and finally, the electric compressors for cabin pressurization.

Specifically, what are the changes commanded by electrification in the management of aeronautical groups?

To achieve the pooling of power electronics, it will be necessary to break down the walls between the old silos so to speak, and to build technical gateways but also gateways for business models and management. This will have a deep impact on the industrial organization of major aerospace OEMs, worldwide.

In the old silo model, each division of a group would probably have come up with its own power supply, with many redundancies and wastage. The new model streamlines it all. At Safran, we have created two entities named Safran Power and Safran Electronics, whose respective missions are to design future power electronics and command/control electronics, to the benefit of the firm’s diverse users. The transversality demanded by electrification rests with those entities. Safran Power and Safran Electronics provide solutions to all companies within the conglomerate and this cross-cutting dynamic, that is to say, the confrontation with all the specific requirements of the former, is enriching the skills of these two poles.

Are corporate groups in the sector going to change their scope of business?

The strategic specialty is now electrical distribution. The best positioned corporate groups will be those able to offer a wide range of electrical systems and to conduct transverse cross-system optimizations, but also engine optimization. Regarding the latter, their design will have to take into account the specificities and contributions of electrification. Thus we see the emergence of engine and equipment manufacturers groups capable of offering complete electrical solutions to aircraft manufacturers. The number of such groups is likely to be very limited.

General Electric has bought Smiths Aerospace, a British company. UTC, owner of Hamilton Sundstrand, has just acquired the supplier Goodrich. For our purposes, Safran has partnered with Esterline, a world leader in on-board electrical distribution systems. This partnership has allowed our subsidiary Hispano-Suiza to be selected by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer to supply the electrical distribution system and full aircraft electrical system integration for the KC-390, its future military transport aircraft.

A 100% electric airliner, propulsion included: conceivable or science fiction?

For now, this is science fiction. One can consider creating electric motors to propel small crafts with limited capacity, but electric propulsion for airliners is not coming anytime soon. To imagine an onboard electric motor delivering the power of a CFM56 is just not an option today. And anyway, the issue of massive generation or storage of electricity would have to be resolved first. Storing large amounts of electrical energy in a plane is impossible with the technology available in 2012.

Be it the case, where would the primary energy able to deliver propulsion electricity come from?

Hydrogen could well be the energy of the future. One would therefore have to embark large amounts of hydrogen. Safran is a world-class leader in hydrogen utilization in its rocket engines. We have also been working in the field of fuel cells for several years. However that was on a rather modest power scale, in the order of a few tens of kilowatts. A major challenge remaining is the complexity and the mass ratio (about 10 to 1) of hydrogen storage. It still meets the same reality constraint: kerosene is an extraordinarily effective fuel and its storage constraints are relatively easy… making it quite difficult to replace. Again, electricity as a total energy solution is not coming anytime soon.

Source: http://www.paristechreview.com/2012/08/24/electric-airplane/