Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Boeing lands $4.2 billion jet deal with rapidly expanding Chinese airline

China’s fast-growing Hainan Airlines said it is buying 19 Boeing passenger jetliners in a deal worth $4.2 billion.

The company described its plans in a filing with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, saying it needs more aircraft to meet skyrocketing travel demand among Chinese consumers.

Hainan Airlines, a unit of China's powerful HNA Group, said it would buy 13 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and six Boeing 737 Max 8 jets to help manage its continued “rapid growth” in China’s consumer travel market as middle-class incomes rise.

Hainan said it plans to issue $2.18 billion worth of corporate bonds to help fund the deal.

The Dreamliner deal is a welcome boost for slow Boeing widebody sales. Boeing makes Dreamliners in Everett and builds the smaller 737 jets in Renton.

Boeing declined to provide more information on the deal.

Chinese airlines have expanded their fleets and route networks in recent years as business booms. China will pass the U.S. and become the world’s largest air travel market by 2024, according to an International Air Transport Association forecast.

To meet surging demand, China is building 74 new airports by 2020, increasing the country's total number of airports to around 260, the Civil Aviation Administration of China has reported. At least 30 are already under construction, while another 40 will be built over the next three years.

Hainan Airlines and its owner HNA Group have been among the most aggressive players as it invests in U.S. companies and other foreign airlines in recent years. Earlier this month, Hainan said it applied to Chinese authorities for rights to fly to Zurich, Tehran, Sydney, Australia, and Tijuana, Mexico.

Last year, HNA paid $137 million to acquire eight Puget Sound-area golf courses.

In 2015 and 2016, HNA bought a stake in Azul, Brazil’s third largest airline, and also acquired Swiss airline catering company Gategroup Holding for $1.5 billion, and snapped up stakes in airlines Virgin Australia and TAP, the Portuguese national airline.

HNA's rapid expansion is raising questions in North America, including its increasingly heavy debts and how it is financing all its acquisitions, including a recent report in the New York Times.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Ryanair to Offer New York, Havana Links With Air Europa Deal

Ryanair will soon offer connections to destinations including New York and Havana, as the budget carrier widens its network of long-haul partners with a deal with Spain’s Air Europa.

In the first stage of the cooperation starting Tuesday, Ryanair customers can book Air Europa tickets to 20 cities in the Americas via the Dublin-based carrier’s website, the company said. The second phase will include connections between Ryanair’s flights to Madrid and Air Europa’s long-haul destinations, bringing the no-frills specialist’s strategy closer to network rivals.

The Irish carrier is tapping its dense European network with an eye to supplanting its legacy competitors’ often unprofitable short-haul operations designed to feed passengers to more lucrative long-distance routes. The Air Europa deal follows similar agreements with Aer Lingus and Norwegian Air Shuttle.

An increasing share of Ryanair’s passenger growth in the coming years will be from feeder deals, Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary has said. The airline expects to carry 200 million passengers by 2024 compared with 117 million last year, with about 10 percent of that expansion likely to derive from these types of partnerships.

In addition to offering Aer Lingus and Norwegian connections at Dublin airport as early as this summer, Ryanair has said it could operate feed arrangements with the likes of Deutsche Lufthansa, Italy’s Alitalia and Portugal’s TAP.

Air Europa, based in Mallorca, is Spain’s third-biggest airline after Iberia and Vueling. It is a member of the SkyTeam alliance with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM.

Ryanair last week formally started offering passengers connecting flights on its own network at Rome’s Fiumicino airport, another step the company’s taking away from its pure focus on point-to-point travel. That move, which the discounter previously shunned for the risk of over-complicating its schedule, brings Ryanair closer to conventional airline operations after decades of challenging rival network carriers with bargain basement fares.

(Thomas Gualtieri and Benjamin D Katz- Bloomberg Business News)

Coulson Group buys Southwest jets to make first-ever Boeing 737 firefighting tankers

A Northwest aerospace company has bought six Boeing 737 passenger jets from Southwest Airlines to convert them into aerial firefighting tankers.

It appears to be the first time that Boeing's single-aisle workhorse will be enlisted to fight wildfires from above, dumping 4,000 gallons of fire retardant chemicals at low speed and low altitude.

Coulson Group CEO Wayne Coulson says the converted Boeing 737-300 jets will dump 2,100 gallons per minute using systems the company originally developed for its fleet of four Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft.

They'll also have room for 63 passengers, or enough for three strike teams of 20 firefighters each to drop at airports in fire zones.

The first of the jets is being repainted at an International Aerospace Coatings facility in Spokane. They'll roll out next week when the deal is formally announced.

Coulson said he decided to convert 737s after realizing that there wasn't a single C-130 available anywhere in the world to buy.

"So we looked at other planes and the 737-300 was a perfect fit for us," Coulson said. "We were lucky to get them, and since Southwest was the only owner, they're for the most part in platinum condition."

Coulson declined to say how much his contract aerial firefighting company paid for the airplanes.

"The six 737s were less than one C-130," Coulson said, laughing before adding, "What's expensive is getting the plane right with all the engineering work needed to modify our C-130 system for the 737."

He said Southwest sold the jets because the Federal Aviation Administration would not allow it to fly too many 737 variants at the same time, once it takes delivery of dozens of brand-new, fuel efficient 737 Max 8 jets.

Coulson Group's 200 staffers operate a fleet of C-130s and Sikorsky S-61 helicopters in Portland, Oregon, Port Alberni in British Columbia, and Melbourne, Australia. It operates an air tanker base in Reno, Nevada, and helps the U.S. Forest service and other countries combat wildfires during hot and dry summers.

The fleet won't be the first Boeing aircraft converted for firefighting. Colorado-based Global SuperTanker Services flies a converted Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet that can drop nearly 20,000 gallons of fire retardant.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal) 

Zetta Jet Keeps Spreading Its Wings Across Continents

The Zetta Jet fleet has expanded to include a dozen Bombardier Global 5000s and 6000s and Challenger 650s. The Globals can accommodate up to 14 passengers, or be reconfigured to provide sleeping quarters for five to seven travelers.
In the above photo, Bombardier Global 6000 (c/n 9688) N688ZJ is seen at Ted Stevens-Anchorage International Airport (ANC/PANC) on May 8, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Since launching in August 2015, Singapoe-based Zetta Jet has quickly established itself as one of the fastest growing charter flight providers in the Asia Pacific region. Through its satellite base in Los Angeles, the privately owned operator also has extended its reach into the North American market.

But the long range of its Bombardier Global 6000 jets (6,213 nm/11,119 km) means that it also can connect travelers with Europe from major cities in China and from the U.S. That’s what has brought Zetta Jet to the EBACE show, where it has aircraft on the static display.

The most recent expansion came in late December when Zetta Jet agreed to merge with fellow Singapore private aviation company Asia Aviation Company, along with U.S. aircraft management specialist Advanced Air Management. The acquisitions will expand Zetta Jet’s international reach, as well as service offerings.

Zetta Jet has remained headquartered in Singapore and has merged operations with Asia Aviation Company under the core Zetta Jet Pte Ltd. brand. Advanced Air Management, which is based at Los Angeles-area Van Nuys Airport, will be renamed Zetta Jet USA. The group will expand its aircraft management portfolio under the name Zetta Jet Management.

Geoffery Cassidy will continue to lead Zetta Jet as managing director, based in Singapore, while Matthew Walter is to remain director of sales and James Seagrim director of operations. Walter and Seagrim are based in Zetta’s office in California. “The merger of both companies under Zetta Jet is a significant milestone, which will greatly strengthen our value proposition as the world’s first truly personalized private airline,” Cassidy commented last month.

Fast Fleet Growth

In less than two years, the company has expanded to a fleet of 12 Bombardier Global 5000s and 6000s and four Challenger 650s that are averaging 100 flight hours a month. The most recent addition to the fleet was a Global 6000 delivered on April 11 to its base in Los Angeles.

Asia Aviation, based at Seletar Airport in Singapore, provides a range of aircraft management, charter and flight department services. Advanced Air Management has concentrated on managing long-range business jets.

Back in early November 2016, Zetta Jet signed a $129 million deal to lease four Bombardier Challenger 650s from China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing, which bought the 12-seat twinjets from the Canadian manufacturer. The new aircraft, which will supplement its larger Bombardier Global 5000s and 6000s, are now being operated out of the company’s Van Nuys North American hub.

The Global 5000 and 6000 cabins can seat up to 14 passengers and can be reconfigured to provide beds for between five and seven people. The aircraft feature Rockwell Collins’s Venue cabin management system and Bombardier Wave wireless connectivity package, based on Honeywell’s JetWave hardware and Inmarsat’s Ka-band JetConnex service. The cockpit is built around Bombardier’s Vision flight deck with a synthetic vision system and MultiScan radar as standard equipment, as well as an optional enhanced-vision head-up display.

According to Zetta Jet, it is the only Part 135 charter operator approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to fly in the polar regions. This allows it to plan shorter routes for many flights between the U.S. and Asia, avoiding fuel stops.

The company also has made significant investments in the outfitting of its aircraft cabins. It recruits cabin crew from leading aviation and hospitality industry groups, providing training at Switzerland’s École hôtelière de Lausanne. Flight attendants use luxury products such as Christofle silverware, Hermès Egyptian linens and Salon champagne.

As well as offering individual flights, Zetta Jet customers can buy 100-hour blocks of charter time at discounted rates and guaranteed availability. This allows clients to switch between the Global 5000 and 6000 models.

In April, Zetta Jet announced a new partnership with safety and risk management specialist Medaire. The company’s fleet is now datalinked to Medaire’s medical, security and travel safety services around the clock. This includes technology that allows patients and crew who are unwell during a flight to be examined and cared for by a doctor on the ground.

(Charles Alcock - AINOnline News)

Airbus launches ACJ330neo into slow market

Airbus unveiled the A330neo as the latest member of the company’s line-up of wide-body corporate jets, offering 17.5% more range than the baseline version.

The re-engined A330-900 is now scheduled to enter commercial service in 2018, but Airbus is already looking for customers for the VIP version.

John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer for customers, singles out the head-of-state and government delegation sector as a particular market opportunity for the ACJ330neo.

“The ACJ330neo offers an unbeatable combination of modern design, proven capability and productivity, as well as being part of the world’s best-selling wide-body family,” Leahy says.

The A330-900 has been delayed by the availability of Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines. Flight tests are expected to start later this summer.

The ACJ330neo will be developed from both the A330-900 and the smaller, but longer-range, A330-800 models.

When equipped with Trent 7000 engines, the ACJ330neo will offer 9,400nm (17,400km) range, a 17.5% increase over the baseline ACJ330, Airbus says.

The market for VIP wide-bodies has tailed off recently. Airbus delivered only one ACJ model last year – an ACJ330. Customers also took delivery in 2016 of only one wide-body Boeing Business Jet, a variant of the 777-300ER, according to data released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

But BBJ deliveries picked up in the first quarter this year. Boeing delivered one each of BBJ derivatives of the 777-300ER, 787-8 and 787-9 up to 31 March, GAMA’s database shows. Airbus did not deliver any narrow-body or wide-body ACJs in the first quarter.

(Stephen Trimble - FlightGlobal News)

Dassault Falcon 8X performs longest flight yet

The Dassault Falcon 8X performed its longest flight to date earlier this month when a demonstration aircraft flew nonstop between Singapore and London.

The ultra-long-range jet has a range of 6,450nm (11,945km), which Dassault says enables it “to comfortably fly ultra-long intercontinental routes from Asia to Europe in a single hop”.

Since entering service last October the 8X has undergone a number of upgrades, most recently including approvals to operate flights in severe crosswind conditions and at the restrictive London City airport.

The 8X will also provide in-flight connectivity to passengers through Inmarsat’s JetConneX Ka-band satellite-based high-speed broadband service. Honeywell’s JetWave antennas can be installed on all in-production Falcon Jet aircraft, including the 8X.

Initial installations are already under way, with first deliveries scheduled to begin in the summer. JetWave will also be available as a retrofit on in-service aircraft and as an upgrade option on aircraft already equipped with other satellite communications systems.

“The smooth introduction of our new Falcon 8X, combined with its reinforced operational capabilities, suggests it will be a big success in the marketplace,” says Dassault Aviation chief executive Eric Trappier. “This bodes well not only for the future of the programme but, most importantly, for the operational benefits it will bring to our customers.”

(Kerry Reals - FlightGlobal News)

Pilots want raise as Amazon ramps up Prime Air

Amazon is risking another brand-bruising delivery debacle as it ramps up its Prime Air program in the face of a pilot shortage, the union for the pilots said Monday.

Scores of contract Amazon cargo pilots plan to descend on Amazon’s annual meeting in Seattle on Tuesday to let Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and other brass know of the impending problem — and to put pressure on their employers to raise their pay.

The pilots, who deliver Amazon goods via a contract the Seattle company has with their cargo airlines, have been without a contract for several years.

The low pay has resulted in dozens of pilots exiting the cargo airlines for better paying jobs at passenger airlines, the union claimed.

The pilots — who are employees of two cargo companies, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and Air Transport Services Group, of which Amazon has warrants to buy up to a 20 percent stake — warn that the retailer could face a delivery crisis like the debacle several years ago when Christmas presents arrived late.

Amazon was forced to refund shipping charges and gave out $20 gift cards to its unhappy customers.

The pilots are represented by the Teamsters and have been in contract negotiations with the airlines for several years.

Other airlines, including big passenger carriers, pay pilots as much as 60 percent more than Amazon’s two contract airlines, the union claimed.

At least one regional passenger airline, Air Wisconsin, is wooing pilots with a $39,000 first-year bonus — roughly 80 percent of first-year total compensation, according to a statement it made in February.

“Air travel is expanding rapidly but the number of available pilots has not kept pace,” said David Harris, senior editor of Cargo Facts and Cargo World.

Amazon is the cargo companies’ biggest customer and will contract 40 planes by 2018 for its Amazon Prime Air services.

Amazon, in a statement, said it is “pleased” with the airlines’ ability to service its Prime Air service.

(Lisa Fickenscher - New York Post)

Ethiopian Airlines' Business-Class Goals Hit by Airbus Delay

Ethiopian Airlines was betting Airbus’s new A350 wide-body would help it lure lucrative business-class passengers away from the likes of Emirates, but nagging delivery issues are putting Africa’s largest carrier behind schedule.

The airline won’t receive 10 new planes by the end of June as planned, with some coming as late as next year, Thomas Gabreyohannes, the carrier’s director for Germany and central Europe, said in an interview. Ethiopian is counting on the A350s to increase sales of premium tickets, similar to the boost it saw after becoming the first African airline to fly Boeing’s 787 long-haul Dreamliners.

“When we received the Dreamliner, our business-class traffic jumped,” Gabreyohannes said in Frankfurt. “We hope the A350 will have the same impact.”

The delay represents a stumbling block for state-owned Ethiopian, which despite regional political unrest and violence, is increasingly challenging bigger rivals that have extensive African routes. Ethiopian has built one of Africa’s rare corporate success stories with the continent’s only consistently profitable airline shuttling passengers from around the world to more than 50 African cities in addition to dozens of destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, mimicking models like that of Dubai-based Emirates.

Ethiopian now has four of the twin-aisle A350s and was expecting another 10 by the end of next month. According to the new schedule, four will arrive by the end of this year and the remaining six in 2018.

Airbus, which declined to comment on Ethiopian’s timeline, so far has delivered 81 of the jets -- typically used on long-distance flights -- and expects this year’s A350 handovers to beat last year’s 49. Assembly has been hampered by a shortage of seats and other interior fittings supplied by Zodiac Aerospace.
‘Huge Pressures’

Ethiopian currently serves London and Frankfurt daily with its A350-900 variant, and also takes the aircraft on shorter routes from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Mumbai and Dubai. The new planes may be used to expand services to Beijing, and Paris is among new destinations under consideration, Gabreyohannes said.

The carrier has not yet decided if it will also buy the larger A350-1000, and is still weighing which model to use for short-haul services. Bombardier Inc.’s Q400 and C Series and models from Embraer SA are still in the race, Gabreyohannes said.

Founded in 1945, Ethiopian ranks as Africa’s biggest carrier by passenger traffic, ahead of South African Airways, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc and Kenya Airways, according to the International Air Transport Association.

While outbreaks of violence around ethnic conflicts and human-rights protests have claimed hundreds of lives in Ethiopia in the past year, the airline’s growth plan is intact. Capacity rose more than 15 percent in the six months through Dec. 31, and revenue by passenger kilometers, a measure for demand, also gained about 15 percent, Gabreyohannes said. The airline expects similar increases for its fiscal year ending June 30.

“There was some slowness in demand particularly from Africa that has recovered,” he said. “Demand is good now, but there is huge pressure on yields due to the highly competitive prices.”

(Richard Weiss - Bloomberg Business News)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Isle of Man Registry Turns 10 With 1,000th Aircraft on the Books

Virgin Galactic Dassault Falcon 900EX (c/n 205) M-VGAL "Galactic Girl" captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on May 17, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Here at the EBACE show this year, the Isle of Man Aircraft Registry (Booth T50) is celebrating 10 years since it was created. The UK Crown Dependency was a true innovator in providing private aircraft owners with a more convenient registration option, and some other jurisdictions have since tried to follow suit.

Today, the Isle of Man is close to registering its 1,000th aircraft. The registry is under the leadership of director of civil aviation (DCA) Simon Williams, but the credit for its launch back in 2007 goes to Brian Johnson, the former head of the flight operations inspectorate at the UK Civil Aviation Authority. Johnson is now technical director with offshore registration consultancy Estera Aviation (Booth T50), and, ahead of this week’s show, he shared his account of how the registry got started.

In 2005, the Isle of Man government, after many years’ negotiations, had received permission from the UK Department of Transport to establish its own aircraft registry (IOMAR)It hoped the service would provide a new business opportunity for the island's private corporate services sector and be as successful as the existing ship registry, which includes many super yachts. As a contracting state to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UK would be ultimately responsible for IOMAR’s regulatory standards, in the same way the UK is responsible for its overseas territory registries in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

The Isle of Man government recruited Johnson from his CAA post at London’s Gatwick Airport to become DCA and oversee the creation of the new registry. As a professional pilot, he had experience flying corporate aircraft.

“I had experience of the industry and new ideas for ways we could improve the registration process and regulatory support for corporate aircraft,” he told AIN. “My mission statement would be ‘safety with service’ and it still is for IOMAR.”

The last new aircraft registry to be established had been started many years previously. In 2006, the offshore registries of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Aruba were the major options available to high-net-worth individuals and international businesses.

“Traditionally, most owners registered their aircraft in their home country, but offshore registers offer some unique advantages,” Johnson explained. “They are all customer-focused as they do not have a large home aircraft market. And if you wish to travel the world, particularly in politically sensitive countries, an offshore registration provides total confidentiality and carries no political bias. For pilots with popular ICAO licenses, all offshore registers will validate flight crew licenses to fly their registered aircraft.

Before IOMAR could be established, the Isle of Man government’s legal team had to amend the air navigation order and other associated legislation. While this was being done, Johnson wrote a policies and procedures manual with a view to streamlining the registration process. The new air navigation order took effect on May 1, 2007, and that’s when IOMAR was officially born.

“One requirement that I had always felt could be improved was the reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) approval,” Johnson explained. “I organized an airspace specialist to write a standard RVSM manual, which meant as long as the crew had received RVSM training and the aircraft was technically compliant, the day it was registered it could receive an RVSM approval. This saved weeks of writing, reviewing and correcting manuals and ensured accuracy and compliance. We confirmed the manual was always up to date and re-issued when required. Uniquely, we had very quickly raised standards, ensured compliance, and reduced cost and unnecessary workload for our operators. We later added more standard operational approval manuals, always with the aim of improving regulatory safety standards.”

M For Manx

In a stroke of good fortune, Johnson was able to secure the letter “M” as the official registration prefix for the new registry. It turned out that the UK had been allocated M in 1947, after Spain had changed their prefix from M in 1933, to EC for España Civil. “My confidence [on discovering the availability of the prefix] was now growing rapidly as everything was falling perfectly into place. I traveled back to the island [from a meeting in London] thinking of all the registrations we could allocate beginning with M. M-YJET, M-AGIC, M-YWAY were some of the earliest, and the registry is now full of unique registrations chosen by aircraft owners.”

From the outset, the Isle of Man government made it clear that it didn’t want the aircraft registry to be seen as a flag of convenience. Accordingly, Johnson was given a brief to run it on a not-for-profit basis to avoid the impression of a conflict of interest. This meant that registration charges were quite competitive, and by the end of its first year IOMAR had 51 aircraft on its books—well ahead of target.

Three new offshore aircraft registries have been established in the last few years in San Marino, Guernsey and Jersey, but IOMAR is now the world’s sixth largest registry for business aircraft.

(Ian Sheppard - AINOnline News) 

Southwest Airlines Gets Serious About Hawaii

Flights to Hawaii are starting to move towards the top of Southwest Airlines' list of future growth opportunities.

For years, Southwest Airlines has been talking about Hawaii as a future market for growth. However, it has never been the carrier's top priority. In recent years, there have always been more compelling or time-sensitive opportunities to soak up Southwest's capacity growth.

That's starting to change. At Southwest Airlines' annual meeting last week, CEO Gary Kelly indicated that entering the Hawaii market is now a "high priority" for the company.

Southwest's attention has been elsewhere

Ever since it added Boeing's 737-800 to its fleet five years ago, Southwest Airlines has highlighted Hawaii as a potential new destination. Yet the carrier has instead pursued a series of one-off opportunities to grow in capacity-constrained markets since then.

In 2014, as part of the American Airlines-US Airways merger, Southwest acquired slots at LaGuardia Airport in New York and Reagan Airport near Washington, D.C. Putting those slots to use was a key growth priority for 2014.

In late 2014, Southwest Airlines' home airport -- Dallas Love Field -- opened up to longer-haul domestic flights, after years of being limited to short-haul routes. This represented an even bigger opportunity, driving the bulk of Southwest's 2015 capacity expansion.

For the past two years, international markets have been the key growth driver. Southwest opened an international terminal in Houston in late 2015 and it is scheduled to open a new one in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this summer. These cities are becoming Southwest's two main international gateways, although the carrier operates international flights from some other cities, too.

Hawaii comes into focus

In contrast to the recent past, Southwest doesn't have any well-defined growth plans for 2018 and beyond. As a result, Hawaii seems to be rapidly moving up management's priority list.

Southwest Airlines will start adding the 737 MAX 8 to its fleet later this year. The MAX 8 will have more range and be more fuel efficient than any of the aircraft in Southwest's current fleet, making it an ideal plane for flying to Hawaii.

That said, Southwest is in the midst of retiring the last of its older "Classic"-series aircraft. As a result, its fleet size is scheduled to increase just 3% from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2018. Additionally, there is a lengthy certification process for operating long over-water flights, like the ones from the West Coast to Hawaii. Southwest hasn't even begun that process yet. Both of these factors suggest that Hawaii flights won't launch until 2019 -- or even 2020.

Should Hawaiian Airlines be worried?

Not surprisingly, shares of Hawaii-focused airline company Hawaiian Holdings fell last Wednesday, following Kelly's comments about Southwest Airlines expanding to Hawaii. However, while Southwest's entry into the Hawaii market could cause some short-term disruption, it isn't likely to hurt Hawaiian Airlines' positioning in the long run.

Southwest hasn't said yet which bases it might use to fly to Hawaii. However, it's reasonable to expect that it would be interested in Hawaii flights from many of Hawaiian Airlines' 10 destinations in the western U.S.: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, California, San Jose, California, Sacramento, California, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. (The latter two would probably be feasible only with the smaller and longer-range 737 MAX 7, though.)

In the biggest cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle), Hawaiian already faces lots of competition. It has still managed to generate a consistent revenue premium thanks to its good service and unique focus on providing Hawaiian-style hospitality onboard.

Competition is lower on Hawaiian Airlines' routes from cities like Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento -- all of which are prime candidates for Southwest service to Hawaii. That said, by the time Southwest would be ready to launch service to Hawaii, Hawaiian will probably have switched to its new A321neo fleet on these routes.

Indeed, the A321neo will be critical to Hawaiian's ability to fend off new competition from Southwest Airlines. It will be roughly comparable to Southwest's 737 MAX 8 fleet in terms of unit costs. The A321neos will also include 16 first class seats and 45 extra-legroom economy seats, boosting their revenue potential.

Southwest Airlines is likely to see strong demand for its flights to Hawaii, whenever they take off. It is the No. 1 carrier in many West Coast cities, which means that it is starting with a large base of frequent fliers and can also offer lots of connecting options. Nevertheless, Hawaiian Airlines' unique in-flight experience, its premium seating options, and the low costs of its new A321neo fleet will help it remain strongly profitable on West Coast-Hawaii routes.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

The Airbus A380 superjumbo is the next big thing in private jets

The Airbus A380 has officially found a new lease on life as an ultraluxurious private jet.

On Monday, Sparfell Partners announced at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition that it would sell secondhand Airbus superjumbos as head-of-state aircraft.

The Geneva-based firm also announced that it would work with London's Winch Design to create the A380 private jet's opulent interior.

While Sparfell confirmed that the A380s were used, it declined to disclose their source.

According to Flight Global, Sparfell's superjumbos are believed to be the four early-build A380s coming off lease from Singapore Airlines.

Sparfell's ad on Avbuyer.com indicates the planes were built in 2007-08 with Rolls-Royce engines and a seating configuration in line with that of Singapore Airlines.

A rendering of the Airbus A380's interior.
 (Winch Designs)

Sparfell also declined to say how much it cost to convert the aircraft, but a company representative told Business Insider that the converted A380s would cost less than a comparable new ultra-VIP transport.

The announcement represents the beginning of a new phase for the iconic but slow-selling aircraft. With the earliest-production A380s expected to enter the secondhand market over the next few years, the market for ultraluxe executive jets may be a viable channel for these planes. Until now, most industry observers looked toward high-density, low-cost, long-haul carriers or bargain-hunting mainline carriers as potential secondhand customers.

(Winch Design)

The A380 as a VIP transport is not a new idea. Unfortunately for Airbus, few have been willing to take on the world's largest airliner as a private jet.

In 2007, Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal ordered such an aircraft. However, the proposed aircraft never came to fruition, and the order eventually was struck from the Airbus order book.

(Sparfell Partners)

(Benjamin Zhang - Business Insider)

Boeing negotiating widebody order with SaudiGulf Airlines

Boeing said it has agreed to negotiate a widebody aircraft order with Saudi Arabian startup SaudiGulf Airlines for as many as 16 aircraft, which the airline indicated will be 777s and/or 787s.

The Dammam-based carrier started operations in October 2016 with what it described as an upscale, full-service offering that it hopes will differentiate it from other carriers in the Saudi domestic market. The airline currently operates a fleet of four Airbus A320ceo aircraft. It has 16 Bombardier CS300 aircraft on firm order, plus 10 options.

The news that the airline has entered into talks with Boeing about a widebody order came in a Boeing press release detailing a number of deals, mostly military, between Boeing and Saudi Arabia that were announced in connection with US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

The airline currently only operates domestic flights, serving Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh and Abha. It has indicated it will fly internationally to Dubai, but Dubai is not listed as a destination on SaudiGulf’s website.

SaudiGulf CCO Karim Makhlouf told ATW that long-haul flights are in the airline’s mid- to long-term plan. Destinations have not yet been decided on, but Southeast Asia is one region of interest, both for normal services and religious traffic heading to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.

SaudiGulf is considering both the 777 and 787 for its future requirements, he said, with a decision to be made “within the next two to three years.”

Makhlouf said SaudiGulf is also considering moving from the A320 to the larger A321 as its passenger numbers grow. “In common with most operators, once the A320 successfully reaches certain loads or thresholds, you typically grow into the next size,” he explained. Load factors on its A320s are reaching 60%, which is “not bad and in line with projections,” Makhlouf said.

(Alan Dron and Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8H4 (36975/6199) N8514F taxies at Dallas Love Field (DAL/KDAL) on March 8, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines plans to launch new international flights from Fort Lauderdale, Nashville, and St. Louis beginning in November. All flights are subject to government approvals.

The Dallas-based carrier will offer nonstop services from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to San Jose (Costa Rica) and Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) starting in November. Also, from Nov. 11, Southwest will begin nonstop flights to Cancun (Mexico) from Nashville (Tennessee) and St. Louis (Missouri).

Southwest also published new flight schedules from July 5 between Mexico City and Houston, Texas, which the carrier said brings timing improvements to its 3X-daily roundtrip flights currently offered between the two airports. Beginning Oct. 29, a fourth flight will be added in each direction on the nonstop route.

In addition, Southwest said a new daily, nonstop route will be added between Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Mitchell International and Cleveland (Ohio) and Nashville beginning Nov. 5.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Uzbekistan Airways launches 787-8 operations to New York

Uzbekistan Airways launched 2X-weekly Tashkent-Riga-New York JFK Boeing 787-8 services, replacing a 767-300ER on the route, May 18.

The Uzbekistan flag carrier plans to eliminate the stop in Latvian capital Riga in July.

The airline took delivery of its first 787-8 in August 2016, which started commercial operations Sept. 5, 2016. It has two 787-8s in service, which operates from Tashkent International Airport to Dubai, Delhi, Tel Aviv, Istanbul Ataturk, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Moscow.

The Tashkent-based airline said in November 2016 it will order three additional 787-9s.

Uzbekistan Airways has had a partnership with Boeing since 1996. Its fleet comprises 34 aircraft, including 767s, 757s as well as Airbus A320 and Ilyushin Il-114-100 aircraft.

The carrier said in 2014 it was on track to join the SkyTeam global alliance; however, no news has been available since then.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

JetBlue Introduces "Blue Finest"

JetBlue Airways Airbus A320-232 (c/n 1650) N531JL sports the carriers new special livery "Blue Finest"
(Photo: Courtesy of Mark Szemberski via JetBlue)

JetBlue rolled out its newest special paint scheme Monday, unveiling a livery honoring the New York City Police Department. The Airbus A320 will begin flying through JetBlue’s 101-city network after Monday’s unveiling at New York's JFK Airport, the carrier's busiest base.

The “Blue Finest” livery features a bright blue fuselage before ending with the NYPD flag across the tail section. A smaller badge and shield will greet fliers by the jet’s forward boarding door.

The flag that was the inspiration for the aircraft’s tail design was adopted by the NYPD in 1919. Among its highlights are a field of 24 white stars, which represent the 23 separate towns and villages that eventually became a part of New York City. The 24th star represents New York City itself.

“As New York’s Hometown Airline, supporting our local public servants including the NYPD is part of our DNA,” Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s EVP for customer experience, says in a statement. “Our mission of inspiring humanity is brought to life each day through our crewmembers, many of whom are also former public servants. This mission also lives in the work the NYPD does to keep our communities safe.”

Adding to the poignancy for the carrier, JetBlue estimates up to 15% of its in-flight crewmembers have served in some capacity as public servants in positions ranging from law enforcement to first responders to military service.

“I want to thank everyone at JetBlue for honoring the hardworking men and women of the NYPD with this incredible symbol of partnership and professionalism,” NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement. "This aircraft, ‘Blue Finest,’ has the perfect name and appearance to represent those who have made it their lives' work to fight crime and keep people safe. It is an impressive interpretation of NYPD hallmarks and will spread our commitment to public safety far beyond New York City.”

JetBlue’s “big reveal” of the aircraft came Monday morning at its hangar at JFK in front of employees, “many of whom previously worked with NYPD and were specially invited to the event.”

Also on hand were "Bobbies" from the British Metropolitan Police Department, who were competing in "plane pull" charity event against teams made up of JetBlue crewmembers and local authorities from the New York Police and Fire departments. The event was to raise funds for childhood cancer research. Also benefiting from the charity event is the J-A-C-K Foundation, a children's cancer research fund established by officers from the British Metropolitan Police Department.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

China's Hainan Airlines to buy 19 Boeing jets for $4.2bln

China's Hainan Airlines, which has poured billions of dollars into overseas acquisitions, announced plans Monday to buy 19 Boeing aircraft for $4.2 billion to help meet skyrocketing travel demand by Chinese consumers.

The company said in a statement to Shanghai's stock exchange that it would buy 13 Boeing 787-9 passenger jets and six 737-8s, citing the continued "rapid growth" in China's travel market as incomes rise.

It plans to issue 15 billion yuan ($2.18 billion) in bonds to help fund the deal.

Chinese airlines have seen booming business in recent years, rushing to expand their fleets and route networks amid growth that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts will take China past the United States to become the world's largest air-travel market by 2024.

Hainan Airlines and its parent HNA Group have been among the most acquisitive players in a wave of overseas investments by Chinese companies in recent years.

HNA is a sprawling conglomerate with interests in aviation and tourism.

Last year alone, HNA purchased Brazil's third largest airline Azul, Swiss airline catering company gategroup, and stakes airline Virgin Australia and Portuguese national airline TAP.

A unit of privately held HNA announced in October plans to buy the aircraft leasing business of US-based CIT Group Inc. for $10 billion.

The Chinese government has encouraged companies to invest overseas to open up new markets.

Many companies obliged, pouring billions into overseas purchases to such an extent that Chinese authorities became worried over capital flight and the impact on the slumping yuan currency.

The government has since reversed course, denouncing "irrational" investment abroad and putting restrictions on fund outflows.

(AFP News / Yahoo Business News)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Southwest Airlines Steals JetBlue's Crown in the 2017 J.D. Power Rankings

Southwest Airlines nearly overtook perennial winner JetBlue in the J.D. Power airline rankings last year. In 2017, it finally got over the hump.

After taking a step backward in 2016, JetBlue Airways improved its score significantly in the 2017 J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

However, that wasn't enough to keep JetBlue at the top of the J.D. Power rankings for a 13th consecutive year. Instead, Southwest Airlines continued a surge up the rankings that began last year, dethroning JetBlue as the industry leader in customer satisfaction.

What the study measures

J.D. Power's annual airline study investigates customer satisfaction by surveying more than 10,000 travelers each year. The survey covers seven factors, according to J.D. Power, listed in order of importance: "cost and fees, in-flight services, aircraf,; boarding/deplaning/baggage, flight crew, check-in, and reservation."

The airlines are scored on a 1,000-point scale. Since 2006, airlines have been split into two categories for the purposes of making rankings: "traditional carriers" and "low-cost carriers." The average score for low-cost carriers is routinely higher than that of the traditional carriers.

JetBlue bounces back

From 2005, the first year of the J.D. Power study, through 2016, JetBlue took the top spot every year. For much of that period, it steadily improved on its score, reaching 801 in 2015.

JetBlue had a setback in 2016, though. In last year's survey, its rating declined in everything except the "aircraft" category. As a result, its total score fell to 790, nearly allowing Southwest to overtake it with a score of 789.

However, JetBlue rebounded in the 2017 survey, posting a score of 803, slightly ahead of its 2015 mark. JetBlue improved year over year for six of the seven factors measured.

Southwest's surge continues

Despite JetBlue's strong performance in this year's survey, it wasn't enough to fend off the challenge from Southwest Airlines. Southwest posted an extremely strong score of 807 and performed consistently well across all seven categories, according to J.D. Power.

It's not that surprising that Southwest Airlines has been moving up the rankings recently. First, its unique "no-fee" philosophy wins it a lot of points with customers. Second, it has finally moved past all of the operational disruption related to integrating its acquisition of AirTran Airways. Third, it has compromised on some of its cost-saving moves; for example, it still doesn't have seatback TVs, but it instead offers free streaming entertainment on customers' personal devices.

Alaska remains on top among traditional carriers

While Southwest Airlines achieved the best score overall, Alaska Air received top marks among traditional carriers. This was its 10th consecutive victory in the traditional carrier segment.

Alaska Airlines achieved a score of 765 this year, up from 751 last year. Still, while that may be better than the legacy carriers it's grouped with, Alaska still has a way to go to catch up with JetBlue and Southwest. It will be interesting to see if Alaska Airlines will move closer to the industry leaders in the coming years as it adopts some aspects of Virgin America's highly regarded passenger experience.

What's next?

While JetBlue executives were surely hoping for a 13th straight victory in this year's J.D. Power Awards, a bruised ego will probably be the only damage JetBlue faces from falling in the rankings. It still achieved one of its highest-ever customer-satisfaction scores in 2017. And just like last year, JetBlue and Southwest stand far ahead of the competition.

A big shakeup to the rankings could be coming in 2018, though. Consumer backlash against airlines has reached a new peak in the past two months, following a string of viral videos showing major customer-service gaffes at a variety of airlines. The worst of these was of course United Continental's infamous passenger-dragging incident.

Thus, airlines will be under the microscope for the foreseeable future. We will find out in a year if this heightened awareness of customer-service lapses has a measurable impact on airline industry customer satisfaction.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Elvis’ private jet being auctioned after 30 years on a runway in Roswell, New Mexico

(GWS Auctions Inc.)

It won’t fit in a garage, but that likely won’t stop Elvis Presley fans from trying to get their hands on one of the largest mementos credited to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll: His long “lost” private jet.

Presley’s 1962 red Lockheed JetStar will be sold to the highest bidder on May 27. The starting bid is $10,000 and it already has one bidder.

It’s missing its engines, by the way.

GWS Auctions Inc. out of California is orchestrating the action and estimates the plane is worth between $2 million and $3.5 million.

The Web site www.liveauctioneers.com, which is handling the bidding, says the jet has been parked on the tarmac in Roswell, New Mexico, for more that 30 years. “This is the ‘lost’ jet...(It) was very important to Elvis, as he owned it with his beloved father, Vernon,” says the Web site.

Celebrity Insider reported Saturday that many fans of the King are hoping his ex wife, Priscilla Presley, will purchase the jet and place it in a museum or have it moved to Graceland in Memphis, where Elvis died and is buried.

It is currently owned by a private collector, who was not named. Elvis owned other planes, but this is the only one that is not in the procession of the Graceland estate, says a web site for the auction.

GWS says the interior was personally designed by Elvis, including gold-tones with woodwork, red shag carpet and red velvet seats. It’s one of only 204 such aircraft manufactured between 1957 and 1978, in a private project between JetStar and Lockheed, says GWS.

The jet is one of 315 lots included in an auction of celebrity memorabilia. For details, visit www.TheCelebAuction.com or Liveauctioneers.com.

(Mark Price - Miami Herald)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Delta eyes big late summer order; analysts don't like Boeing's chances

Delta Air Lines may issue a request for proposals in August or September as it weighs 74 orders for either Airbus A320neo or Boeing 737 Max jets, plus an extra 75 options on more planes.

The multi-billion dollar order would be a big win for Boeing and its 737 plant in Renton, where 10,000 workers build the jetmaker's best-selling new 737 Max jets.

Scott Hamilton, the Bainbridge Island aerospace observer and Leeham News publisher, has said he thinks Boeing wants Delta to be its launch customer for the new — but so far unconfirmed — larger Max 10 jet.

Delta is being tight-lipped and won't either confirm or deny any of the reports. A Delta spokesman said the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.

The airline recently deferred a big order for Airbus wide body jets.

Delta is the only major airline that has yet to order either of the aerospace world's two leading new single aisle jets, the Boeing Max or Airbus A320neo (new engine option), preferring to sit on the sidelines so it could see which jetmakers' latest generation single aisle jet would perform the best across the airline industry.

Aerospace analysts Michel Merluzeau and Saj Ahmad both think Boeing's chance of winning the order aren't good, but for different reasons.

Merluzeau, director of aerospace market analysis at AirInsight Research, thinks the Airbus jet is the better aircraft.

Ahmad, of StrategicAero Research, thinks Boeing's Max series is the better airplane, but said other factors are at play.

"It probably wouldn't be a surprise if they went with Airbus' A320neo family," Ahmad said.

Why? Delta bought 30 A320s with their current engine option (not neos) four days ago.

Worse, Ahmad said, Boeing's decision to file an unfair trade complaint against Bombardier from Canada, amid allegations its rival dumped C-Series jets in the U.S. at unfairly low cost to secure a big Delta order could hurt its chances of winning a future Delta deal. If Boeing's complaint is upheld by U.S. trade authorities, that could result in Delta paying more for its 75 Bombardier jets.

Ahmad is not 100 percent certain that move will hurt Boeing's chances, though.

"Delta also has a rather big 737 fleet, and arguably could be seen as a launch customer for the 737 Max 10, which is almost certainly going to be formally launched at next month's Paris Air Show," Ahmad said.

If Boeing doesn't win the Delta order, it's not the end of the world, Ahmad said.

Now that the first Max has been delivered, Ahmad said, there's ample opportunity for Boeing to go after big customers like Ryanair, Southwest Airlines and others, who may order more Maxes to modernize their fleets.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Branson Hints at New U.S. Airline Venture After Alaska Spat

Billionaire Richard Branson signaled he may jump back into the U.S. airline business after tussling with Alaska Air Group Inc. over how long the carrier must pay royalties on his Virgin America brand.

Alaska has to keep paying “unless we decide to start another airline. So, we’ll see what happens,” Branson said in an interview Thursday with Bloomberg TV. When asked if he would create a new carrier, he said, “watch this space.”

The serial entrepreneur’s comments hint at a return to the U.S. airline industry following Virgin America’s $2.6 billion sale to Alaska in December. Branson maintains he should be compensated for the brand through 2040. Alaska, which plans to retire the Virgin America name in 2019, has said it doesn’t need to pay for a brand it isn’t using.

Branson could find room for a new U.S. airline as the major carriers have held back the supply of seats in recent years and have been saddled with higher costs because of new labor deals, said Samuel Engel, an aviation consultant with ICF.

“There’s always space for another airline in the U.S.,” Engel said. “It is a competitive and dynamic market, and the consolidation that has taken place in the last 10 years that has run parallel with capacity constraint only increases that opportunity.”

Virgin America paid Branson a licensing fee of 0.7 percent of revenue, a deal set to continue after the Alaska deal. Virgin America began service in 2007 and over the years it built a following of customers with its style, music and purple lighting on a fleet of Airbus A320 family jets. Alaska, which flies Boeing 737 planes, has said it will abandon the purple lighting in favor of blue.

Virgin America won a string of airline awards from travel magazines, and built a network of routes that crossed the U.S. That made it an attractive takeover target for Seattle-based Alaska, which was seeking a bigger piece of the California market and the lucrative transcontinental business. Alaska beat out JetBlue Airways Corp. to buy Virgin America.

Alaska didn’t respond to a request for comment. Other Branson-backed airlines include Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd.

(Cory Johnson and Michael Sasso - Bloomberg Business)