Sea-Tac Incident: Stolen Q400 Closes Airport Before Crashing

At 20:00 local time in Seattle yesterday, an empty passenger aircraft (operated by Horizon Air) was stolen and crashed by an airline employee.

Authorities said the man had made “an unauthorised take-off” late on Friday local time, forcing Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to close.

Seattle airport was forced to temporarily close; delays can be seen on numerous late-night departures from Sea-Tac.

Although unnerving, the local Sheriff’s Office said that the incident was “not a terrorist incident” and identified the airline employee responsible as a 29 year old man, local to the area.

Alaska Airlines – sister carrier of Horizon Air – has acknowledge the ‘unauthorised take-off’, as has Seattle-Tacoma Airport itself.

Two F-15 Fighter Jets were scrambled from Portland Airport to pursue the Bombardier Q400 aircraft. However, officials have confirmed that neither of the fighter jets were involved or had any role in the crash when the plane came down about an hour later in the south of Ketron Island – 30 miles south of Sea-Tac airport.

Why did the employee do what he did?

A conversation could be heard on a live-stream of ATC, between the air traffic controller and the employee – referred to as ‘Rich’ or ‘Richard’. Prior to the crashing of the 76-seater aircraft, Rich could be heard saying:

“I’ve got a lot of people that care about me. It’s going to disappoint them to hear that I did this. I would like to apologize to each and every one of them. Just a broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess. Never really knew it, until now.”

The air traffic controllers remained remarkably calm throughout, despite the deeply saddening situation unfolding in front of them. My thoughts go out to Richard’s family and friends affected by this.

What happens now?

The FBI have taken over the investigation of the distressing incident, according to a local police department. There is no doubt that tricky questions will be raised about how the employee was able to ‘steal’ this aircraft – the notion that, at one of the USA’s largest airports, a man can simply take-off with an empty aircraft is incomprehensible. Had this incident unfolded in a different way, it had the potential to cause mass loss of life.

Horizon Air’s COO Constance Van Muehlen made the below statement, late last night:

Flights from Seattle resumed around 90 minutes later, despite being temporarily grounded.

A321LRs will allow Aer Lingus to add TWO NEW Transatlantic Routes

Aer Lingus’ Chief Executive Stephen Kavanagh has, this week, confirmed that the airline will be deciding on two new North American destinations, from a shortlist of three possibilities. The Irish Times reports that two likely destinations are Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Montréal – in addition to a possible destination in the Midwest.

Aer Lingus already offers connections from Europe to 13 US destinations, via its Dublin hub.

These latest plans for transatlantic expansion come after years of steady, yet sustained growth in the market. The carrier has expanded even more rapidly since IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia and others) bought it – with new routes being added to Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Hartford, New York Newark, Philadelphia, Seattle and Miami since 2015. Today, the airline serves 13 destinations in North America – but with a limited fleet of just 13 Airbus A330s and 5 leased Boeing 757s – the airline simply cannot expand any further with its current fleet.

Aer Lingus offers a competitive long-haul Business Class cabin.

However, next year, Aer Lingus will begin receiving its order of 12 Airbus A321LR aircraft, meaning the airline will be able to initiate a new raft of expansion – the first of which will be the two destinations shortlisted this year, beginning in July 2019, with seats on sale shortly after announcement.

The new Airbus A321LR aircraft open up a range of new possibilities for Aer Lingus. Initially, they will likely be used for Aer Lingus’ transatlantic flights from Shannon – replacing leased Boeing 757s – but the airline is clearly also ambitious in adding new “long and thin” flights to smaller North American markets which previously weren’t feasible with larger aircraft. Additionally, the airline may choose to replace Airbus A330s with multiple A321LR frequencies on shorter transatlantic jaunts, freeing up longer-range aircraft to operate to new destinations such as Denver, Dallas or Las Vegas, for example.

Both Pittsburgh and Montréal are within the published range of the Airbus A321LR.

With this logic, it would make sense for Aer Lingus to launch flights to Montréal – taking the number of destinations they serve in Canada to 2, following the successful growth of their Toronto operation since 2014. Pittsburgh is also a destination seeing growth from IAG at present, with British Airways recently announcing service to London. In the Midwest, many have speculated that Aer Lingus could be eyeing service to Minneapolis or Detroit – both of which are within the theoretical range of the Airbus A321LR.

Going forward, it is clear that Aer Lingus will have many new opportunities for growth with the forthcoming arrival of new Airbus A321LR equipment. Although the two shortlisted destinations will be the start of that new wave of expansion, they certainly will not mark the end.

Aeroméxico Crash: 97 Injured, All Passengers Survive

An Embraer E190 – operated by Aeroméxico Connect – has crashed shortly after take-off from Guadalupe Victoria International Airport, in Durango State.

All 103 passengers & crew onboard the ill-fated AM2431 flight have survived the incident, but 97 are understood to be injured. Aeroméxico’s Chief Executive has said that the Captain sustained injuries and is ‘being operated on’, although the injuries were not life-threatening.

The aircraft was headed on a 477-mile journey from Durango-Guadalupe Airport to Mexico City, when the incident occurred.

XA-GAL was bound for Mexico’s capital – Mexico City – when the accident occurred.

The identities and nationalities of those on board are currently unknown, but – thankfully –  all passengers were able to put a safe distance between them and the aircraft before it caught fire.

The reason for the crash remains unclear, although several witnesses have suggested that the weather could be to blame for the tragedy. State Governor José Rosas Aispuro said the plane was hit by a gust of wind, forcing the plane into a sudden descent. He suggested that the left wing of the Brazilian-manufactured plane scraped the ground, then the engines came off.

The airport operator, Grupo Aeroportuario Centro Norte, said that early data corroborates this version of events – saying that the plane had departed during a heavy hailstorm. One passenger said that a strong air current hit the aircraft, causing the Embraer 190 to drop to the ground at around 16:00 local time, yesterday.

Aerial imagery shows the extent of the incident. Image: AFP

A fire, which began after the crash, was put out – according to Civil defence spokesperson Alejandro Cardoza, and there were no burn victims.

Nobody was hurt in the fire that ensued after the initial impact of the crash.

The aircraft involved was registered XA-GAL, was manufactured in Brazil 10 years ago and has operated under the Aeroméxico brand since 2014. Both the airline and aircraft manufacturer have good safety records, with Aeroméxico’s last incident involving a passenger fatality taking place in August 1986. XA-GAL came to rest about 380 meters past the runway threshold and 320 meters past the paved end of the runway, slightly to the left of the extended centreline.

In a statement, Aeroméxico said that they ‘deeply regret’ the events and regard yesterday as a ‘terrible day for the Aeroméxico family and Mexico at large’. Embraer have dispatched a team of investigators to the site to determine what went wrong.

Emergency Services carry survivors away from the burning wreckage, as crew members console eachother. Image: Associated Press

The crew, at this point, can only be praised for their handling of the situation, with all 4 crew and 99 passengers escaping alive. I wish everyone involved a quick recovery and express my support for family, friends and loved ones of those who are injured.

For relatives and loved ones affected, a telephone helpline has been established: +52 (55) 51 33 40 59 from Mexico and 1 866 205 4084 from abroad.

Featured Image: Associated Press

Ryanair Strikes: 600 Flights Cancelled, 300 Staff ‘Threatened’ With Sack

600 Ryanair flights are cancelled today, after a planned strike by cabin crew over pay and conditions is carried out. Employees have long expressed anger at their working conditions, and Ryanair has been hit by several separate strikes this year.

Ryanair’s Dublin Headquarters

Five unions said they would support a call to strike for Ryanair cabin staff in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy for two days this week, forcing the Dublin-based airline to cancel approximately 600 flights. The Spanish USO and Sitcpla have led the charge against Ryanair and, after holding meetings with representatives from the airline on Tuesday, said the strike was ‘unavoidable’. Unions want Ryanair to give workers the same conditions as their own employees and want staff to be employed according to the laws of the country they work in, rather than the Republic of Ireland. The strikes are causing unprecedented disruption for passengers, as Unions walk-out in the midst of the busiest summer holiday period.

What has been Ryanair’s response?

Ryanair have hit back fiercely, following the strikes. The airline has threatened to sack 100 pilots and up to 200 cabin crew over the issue. These potential job cuts come as Ryanair plans to cut its winter Dublin-based fleet from 30 aircraft, to just 24.

Ryanair has threatened to reduce its Dublin-based fleet from 30 to 24 aircraft.

Despite these threats, the airline has had to concede that there will be more strikes this summer, as the airline is not prepared to give into ‘unreasonable demands’. The President of Spain’s Sitcpla union remained undeterred saying that the ‘threat’, in ‘Ryanair’s style’ didn’t frighten the workers at all.

What disruption is it causing to passengers?

Unsurprisingly, the unions have coordinated the strike in the interest of causing as much disruption as possible.

Passengers who are affected will be notified by email or by text regarding their flight and full refunds or alternative flights will be offered to those caught up in the shambles. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have urged all passengers to seek compensation under European air passenger rights regulations. Ryanair say that strikes are ”extreme circumstances’ and therefore they will be rejecting any EU261 compensation claims.

BA CityFlyer Manchester-Dublin Euro Traveller E190 Flight Review

In 2017, British Airways returned to the UK regions, with the announcement of new flights to a range of holiday destinations from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol – to be operated by BA’s wholly owned subsidiary, CityFlyer. Initially, I was sceptical: BA has long treated the English regions with contempt whilst airlines like Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic have thrived “up North”. However, last December, British Airways yet again increased its presence with new flights from Manchester to Dublin (adding to Aer Lingus’ frequent services) and Florence and expansion of existing connections to Ibiza, Malaga and Palma. Naturally, I was keen to try out the new flights and sample the “Jungle Jets” that solely make up BA CityFlyer’s fleet. I was not disappointed…

Flight Profile:

British Airways 4474: Manchester (MAN)-Dublin (DUB)

Aircraft: Embraer 190, G-LCYY

Seat: 15D (Euro Traveller)

Manchester Airport – Check-in/Lounge/Boarding

Manchester Airport is in the midst of a much-needed £1 billion investment, with the transformation project already under way in Terminal 2. Whilst Terminal 3 (host to most OneWorld partner airlines at Manchester, including BA, AA and Iberia) will be improved in the coming years, for now the terminal remains overcrowded and small. Despite this, Manchester Airport is making great strides to improve the experience with a string of new cafés and bars and a new ‘adults only’ Lounge.

‘The Nook’ is a swanky bar located in Terminal 3, providing a good example of MAG’s improvements in the terminal.

British Airways’ Lounge is located on a mezzanine level, looking down into the main terminal. Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to be treated with the lounge experience on this trip, although I hope to try it out soon. Boarding began promptly, at 09:25 – as my aircraft, G-LCYY, was towed onto stand and was carried out according to group numbers.

The Aircraft: Where should I sit?

The cabin is upholstered with blue leather, and grey armrests. Every seat looked extremely comfortable and well-padded – a nice change from the modern ‘slim-line’ alternatives more widely used by airlines in this day and age.

This Embraer 190 can seat up to 98 passengers, in a 2-2 configuration.

Initially, I was struck by the sheer amount of legroom that this aircraft boasted – with a 34″ seat pitch! The comfort was truly unrivalled for a short flight across the Irish sea and the amount of legroom was unwavering throughout the entire plane. I was seated in row 15 – in the rear portion of the aircraft – and I was able to stretch my legs out straight in front of me with ease. Every seat also had a recline of 6″, and an abundance of seat width (specifically, 18.5″) and a large tray table, that would easily accommodate any laptop to work on the go. I simply can’t emphasise the comfort of this regional aircraft enough and would recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone choosing between BA CityFlyer and a rival airline.

34″ of pitch on an intra-Europe flight? Yes, please.

With this generous layout, CityFlyer’s Embraer 190 has a capacity of 98 passengers, in a 2-2 ‘double-bubble’ configuration. The “Double-Bubble” fuselage concept is a shape derived from overlapping two ovals to form a four-abreast cross section. The widest point of the upper oval is at the passenger’s elbow level, maximising space and allowing for wider seats and aisles than larger aircraft. This makes the E-Jet family a winner with passengers and with airline companies. 

The ‘Double-Bubble’ fuselage concept maximises passenger comfort. A big plus!

Business Class was broadly similar to the rest of the aircraft and, for a short intra-European flight, I would highly dissuade anyone from upgrading to Club Europe; Economy Class seats were equally as comfortable. It is still beneficial, however, to sit at the front of the cabin, for swift disembarkation and quick refreshments service (especially on a 40 minute flight).

The Flight

Unfortunately we incurred a delay on departure from Manchester Airport. Single runway operations meant that congestion blocked our pushback from Terminal 3. However, communication from the pilot was prompt and informative. Soon enough, we had broke through the typically thick blanket of British cloud and set course for Dublin.

Wingview: G-LCYY soaring over the Irish sea.

The flight itself was rather uneventful and only took around 25 minutes in total – meaning the crew had no choice but to carry out the onboard service efficiently and quickly. A task which they fulfilled with ease.

Onboard Service

When travelling on British Airways mainline, the onboard service consists of a buy-on-board M&S menu. With CityFlyer, this isn’t the case. Even on a flight as short as mine, the cabin crew immediately got to work and served every passenger with a complementary drink and snack – choosing from biscuits, popcorn, crisps, Diet Coke, Tonic Water and many more.

A small, but welcome touch – all guests still receive complementary drinks and snacks on BA CityFlyer.

Granted, this is a small touch but adds to the experience and makes short-haul flying feel that little bit more luxurious.

The Verdict – A Fantastic Way to Fly

British Airways CityFlyer offers one of the most comfortable and convenient short-haul products in Northern Europe, with 34″ of seat pitch and many of its radiating from London City Airport. Barring a small delay due to congestion at Manchester, the flight, aircraft and crew were faultless and, if flying from the UK Regions to a holiday destination such as Palma or Ibiza, there certainly is no other rival that comes close to matching the comfort of BA CityFlyer.

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NEW London-Antwerp Route Flight Review (+ the world’s largest Belgian Buns!)

Belgium is one of the most important countries in the European Union. Whether your reasoning is because of the beer, chocolate and waffles or the political epicentre of Brussels, there is no doubt that Belgium is a premier destination for business and tourism. The U.K. is Belgium’s fourth largest import and export partner and up to 1.8m British nationals visit the nation every year.

Yet surprisingly, barring Brussels, the nation offers poor connections to Britain, by plane. There is no low-cost connection between Brussels’ main airport and London and it is notoriously difficult to reach the tourist hotspot of Bruges by air. However, this year, that has all changed. Flybe triggered the raft of new air connections to the Flanders region of Belgium, announcing even more expansion from its highly successful London Southend base.

Flybe’s inaugural flight to Antwerp recieved a water cannon salute.

In March, Flybe inaugurated the new four-weekly service connecting the British capital with Antwerp – the only British airline to do so. Its not just London that is now connected either, as Flybe offers convenient connections via the seamless Southend Airport to Manchester, Dublin and Glasgow.

The route was launched with great fanfare, encouraging all customers to #BeMoreBelgian. London Southend’s CEO, Glyn Jones, posed with the airport’s attempt at baking the world’s largest Belgian Bun!

The world’s largest Belgian bun was a novel idea for an inaugural ceremony, but went down well with the passengers nevertheless.

I decided to try out the new connection for myself and see how simple and easy it was to fly from Antwerp to London’s Best Airport.


Antwerp Airport is like stepping back in time (in a good way). The miniscule check-in area and landside bar with terrace all make for an enchanting experience – overlooking the apron. Being a small airport (serving just over 273,000 passengers in 2017), it was quick and easy to traverse.

There are very few facilities once airside, apart from a café and a small lounge – so don’t plan on spending extensive amounts of time duty-free shopping. I was able to try out the “lounge” for myself, which consisted of a room with blacked-out glass doors, adjoining the main departure lounge. It had all the amenities you would expect: a range of beverages (including a coffee machine and alcoholic options), comfy seating, charging points and modern, slick furnishings. Additionally, any lounge guests could ask for complementary sandwiches or snacks from the café in the main airside area. Whilst undoubtedly small, the VIP Lounge offered a weirdly luxurious experience – like waiting for your flight in the sanctuary of your own private room. It was probably as close as I was ever going to get to the luxury of LAX’s Private VIP Terminal!

As you’ll know from my previous articles, I love turboprops and the experience of flying in a small aircraft. The stereotype that propeller aircraft are old-fashioned, slow and loud couldn’t be further from the truth.

EI-FSL was just over 1 year old, and offered a modern and airy cabin, with comfort comparable, if not superior to any other mainline aircraft you’d find across Europe.

EI-FSL is just 1.9 years old – as a result, the cabin is sleek and modern.

The ATR also boasts the widest seats and aisles of any other regional aircraft, allowing all passengers to enjoy 18.6” of seat width. Personal overhead panels were also available, with reading lights, fresh air nozzles and a call button, which were surrounded by ambient blue mood lighting. The cabin was configured in a one-class configuration, in a 2-2 setup, seating 70 people. 

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The flight summed up all the qualities I love about flying on a small aircraft, with Flybe – efficient boarding, on-time departure, friendly crew and a comfortable cabin. You simply don’t get a similar relaxed and straight-forward experience when flying with a low-cost carrier, in my experience.

Landing in Southend Airport is a pleasure, as usual, with unparalleled levels of efficiency and a modern terminal building – you can be out of the airport and onboard the 53-minute train into central London in minutes.

London Southend Airport is small, but modern and full of all the amenities you’d expect. I wrote a full article on the airport’s history and growth last year.

The best way to get to and from Antwerp? Certainly easier, quicker and more relaxing than driving to Brussels Airport, catching a ferry from Ostend or getting the train.


A place where the Belgian stereotypes ring true: Chocolate, Waffles & Beer. A fantastic combination!

The new Flybe connection from London Southend makes it easier than ever to get to Antwerp and what could be a better excuse to explore the typically Belgian city? Modern architecture in the relaxing waterside Eilandje neighbourhood harmonises with the beautiful old town, where the scent of Belgian waffles drifts through the cobbled streets. The city is just waiting to be explored and I hope that the new flights will allow more people to discover the best-kept secret of Belgium.

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Disclaimer: I was invited onboard one of the first flights from London to Antwerp; the trip was provided by Flybe on behalf of Stobart Air. Views expressed are entirely my own.

SKYTRAX 2018 World Airline Awards: Who are the winners and losers?

Today in London, SKYTRAX held its annual World Airline Awards ceremony, which involves 20 million travellers voting on over 335 airlines across the globe, deciding which airline deserves titles ranging from ‘Best UK Leisure Airline’ to ‘Best Business Class’. Airlines often use SKYTRAX ratings as massive marketing tools, so it is important to know: who are the winners and losers of this year’s awards?

Winner 1: Singapore Airlines – wins ‘World’s Best Airline’

Taking the most prestigious award is the Singaporean carrier – SIA. The airline has won the ‘World’s Best Airline’ title three times previously, but not for over a decade, as airlines such as Qatar Airways and Emirates swept past them in terms of luxury and innovation.

The SKYTRAX CEO said a real ‘wow’ factor for Singapore Airlines was consistency and the airline scored highly in ‘product and service’. Singapore Airlines also won the separate titles for ‘Best Airline in Asia’, ‘Best First Class’ and ‘Best First Class Seat’.

Winner 2: China Southern – wins ‘Most Improved Airline’

The Guangzhou-based airline has won the ‘most improved’ award, an accolade Saudia won last year. This award goes a long way in determining the success of an airline and is a significant source of pride for the airline, as it jumps from 23rd to 14th in SKYTRAX’s 1-100 airline league table.

Loser 1: Etihad Airways – drops 7 places in airline league table

Etihad Airways has found itself plummeting in SKYTRAX’s 1-100 airline league table, from 8th place in 2017 to 15th place this year – behind the likes of China Southern, Swiss, Qantas and EVA Air.

Etihad Airways has recently announced a massive restructuring plan.

This comes amid a stringent restructuring of the airline and cost cutting measures (such as increased fees for seat assignments) in order to steer the airline through its financial woes.

Loser 2: US Airlines – no airlines from the USA picked up a headline award

No US airline has left with a major award from SKYTRAX this year, as Air Canada pick up the coveted ‘Best Airline in North America’ award, Air Transat take ‘World’s Best Leisure Airline’ and WestJet get the ‘Best Low-Cost Airline in North America’ title.

WestJet 737MAX cabin (Photo by WestJet)

American Airlines, United and Delta all took home a single award each for ‘Best North American First Class’, ‘Best North American Business Class Lounge’ and ‘Best North American Business Class seat’ respectively. No US Airline made the top 10 in the world.

From a UK perspective – TUI UK, British Airways and EasyJet are all winners

British Airways collected the award for ‘Best Cabin Crew in the UK’, despite Virgin Atlantic beating British Airways in the overall league tables. EasyJet was named the ‘UK’s Best Low-Cost carrier’, whilst TUI was voted the ‘UK’s Best Leisure Airline’.

British Airways was awarded ‘Best Cabin Crew in the UK’

Across Europe, Lufthansa was the only airline to make the top 10 (having recently been awarded the five-star ranking by SKYTRAX), Aegean retained its title as ‘Best Regional Airline in Europe’ and Air France won ‘Best First Class in Europe’ for its La Premiere product and several awards for their culinary excellence.

Aegean retained its title as ‘Best Regional Airline in Europe’ for yet another year.

Japan Airlines recieved a five-star rating from SKYTRAX

Whilst separate from the awards ceremony, it was also announced today that Japan Airlines has gained a five-star ranking putting it on a par with its Japanese counterpart All Nippon Airways, which already holds the five-star title.

JAL boasts spacious seats in Economy Class with some of the widest in the industry.

JAL becomes the 11th five-star airline around the world with this announcement, and I’m sure the ranking is one Raj would corroborate from his recent reviews of the airline’s Boeing 787 product.  

“Japan Airlines has worked extremely hard over the last 5-years to truly transform their product and service experience for customers. Without doubt, JAL are now delivering some of the best standards of inflight seating and IFE hardware, and this has been well paired with staff service quality that continues to increase in appeal for both the domestic and International markets.”

skytrax ceo on jal’s five-star ranking

Overall, SKYTRAX ratings provide a good idea of how airlines across the globe are performing on an annual basis, but airlines are allowed to promote voting for themselves so results can be skewed. Additionally, the five-star rankings are not decided by votes from the public – however I think that JAL thoroughly deserves the accolade, considering its 2-4-2 seating arrangement on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Economy Class and Apex Suites in Business Class.

What do you think about SKYTRAX’s 2018 Airline Awards?

Aviation Round-Up: 16th July 2018 – New Routes, Deliveries & More

Routes News


One of Europe’s leading low-cost carriers has announced a raft of expansion from the UK, beginning this winter. The new winter services will add 358,200 seats to EasyJet’s network, with over 248,600 of these being to and from the UK. Within the expansion, EasyJet has announced its 1,000th route – a new connection from Manchester to Bordeaux. The airline is also expected to open a new route from Manchester to the Greek city of Volos next summer, following the great success of its Gatwick connection (which I broke the news of last year).

Taking delivery of new aircraft such as the Airbus A320NEO (above), enables EasyJet to expand into new markets with existing equipment

The expansion will involve new routes from London, Glasgow, Bristol, Liverpool and includes what EasyJet calls its ‘largest ever expansion’ from Manchester, with new routes from the airport to Faro, Barcelona, Lanzarote, Bordeaux and Innsbruck.

“The launch of these 16 new routes across the UK provides our passengers with even more amazing destinations across Europe for both holidays and business travel.’

-sophie dekkers, uk country director

Shenzhen Airlines

Shenzhen Airlines has opened reservations for a new route from its base in Shenzhen to London’s Heathrow airport. The flight will operate with two-class Airbus A330 equipment, on a thrice-weekly basis. This latest route comes amid rapid expansion of flights from China to the UK, following an agreement last December to increase the number of permitted flights per week between the UK and China to 150.

United Airlines

Following great fanfare in October 2017, United will drop its Los Angeles to Singapore route in favour of relocating the US gateway to San Francisco. An additional daily frequency will be added between the tech-hub of San Francisco and Singapore, meaning United’s will offer morning and evening connections on the ultra-long haul route.

Qatar Airways

Raj flew on Qatar’s Airbus A350-1000 delivery flight earlier this year. Passengers originating in Edinburgh and Manchester can now enjoy the Airbus A350 experience, when flying Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways have recently substituted the Boeing 787-8 for their newer Airbus A350 XWB equipment on the Doha-Edinburgh route, a change which will now be replicated this winter in Manchester. Two of up to three daily flights on the Doha-Manchester sector will be operated by the Airbus A350-900XWB, representing a capacity increase. Meanwhile, overall frequency will increase to 18-weekly flights – a figure expected to increase further to thrice-daily next summer.


This month saw more Airbus A350 recipients receive their new equipment, and EasyJet recieved their first Airbus A321Neo. 

Philippine Airlines

The Philippino national carrier has become the 19th airline around the world to operate the Airbus A350, after its first of six aircraft were delivered. The airline will primarily use the aircraft for routes to Europe and New York JFK, with the inaugural passenger flight currently scheduled for October 28th from Manilla to London.

Philippine Airlines’ first Airbus A350 was delivered from Toulouse to Manilla earlier this week.

The airline’s Airbus A350 is configured with 295 seats in total, with three cabin classes to choose from. Business Class will offer fully-flat seats with direct aisle access in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. Similarly to other Airbus A350 operators, Premium Economy has a 2-4-2 configuration and Economy Class offers a minimum of 18″ seat width, in a 3-3-3 setup.


EasyJet has recieved its first Airbus A321Neo aircraft, which will make its debut later this month on flights between London Gatwick and Faro.


The aircraft is set to have 235 seats, a 30 % hike in capacity from an Airbus A320 and a 50% increase from an Airbus A319. EasyJet’s first Airbus A321Neo is registered G-UZMA and will provide extra capacity from slot-restricted airports, such as London Gatwick and significantly reduce fuel consumption per seat. Airlines such as Wizz Air have already taken the plunge with higher-capacity equipment, taking advantage of lower costs and higher seating capacity on trunk routes.

Other Aviation Stories

Etihad Airways begins charging for seat selection

The Abu Dhabi based carrier is about to embark on a radical restructuring, aiming to resolve the financial difficulty the airline finds itself in. This latest development is an example of the cost-cutting that will have to be implemented in order to turn the airline’s fortunes around.

Etihad is bracing itself for a radical restructuring, announced earlier this year.

Etihad Airways has begun charging for seat assignments in Economy Class for all flights after 15th July 2018. Whilst the airline previously charged for ‘Preferred Seats’ and seats towards the front of the cabin, fees will now be incurred when selecting any Economy class seat – regardless of fare class. The charges are already being implemented on tickets already issued, though passengers will still be able to select seats for free, from 24 hours prior to departure.

IAG subsidiary LEVEL goes short-haul, with new base in Vienna

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, launched its answer to Norwegian last year as the new low-cost brand ‘LEVEL’ was established. The announcement came amid a multitude of spin-offs announced by full service airlines, designed to appeal to millennials, like JOON from Air France, for example.

The airline initially had a primary goal: to operate low-cost, long haul services, across the Atlantic. Pitched at younger travellers, the airline based itself in Barcelona, offering services with Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires, Boston and Punta Cana.

LEVEL launched its transatlantic services from Barcelona last year, with a fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Since then, the airline has evolved. This year, LEVEL has opened a base in Paris Orly, offering services to the Caribbean Islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe – in addition to services to Montréal and New York Newark.

Now, comes the biggest development yet. In less than a month, LEVEL will launch intra-Europe operations from Austria’s capital – Vienna. The carrier will be based at Vienna’s Terminal 1, with four Airbus A321 aircraft initially operating to 14 European destinations.

LEVEL’s new Airbus A321s are believed to be acquired from Air Berlin

Specifically, the airline will offer flights from Vienna to:

  • Palma (PMI), daily from July 17th
  • London Gatwick (LGW), double-daily from July 17th
  • Barcelona (BCN), daily from July 23rd
  • Malaga (AGP), three-weekly from July 30th
  • Venice (VCE), daily from July 31st
  • Olbia (OLB), three-weekly from July 31st
  • Ibiza (IBZ), three-weekly from August 7th
  • Paris (CDG), thirteen-weekly from August 11th
  • Milan (MXP), thirteen-weekly from August 11th
  • Dubrovnik (DBV), four-weekly from August 11th
  • Larnaca (LCA), three-weekly from August 11th
  • Alicante (ALC), two-weekly from August 11th
  • Valencia (VLC), two-weekly from August 12th
  • Bilbao (BIO), three-weekly from August 13th

The flights will operate with a 210-seater Airbus A321 equipment (seized from now-defunct Air Berlin), in an all-Economy configuration. Flights can currently be booked via the Vueling website, with starting fares from just €24.99 one-way. Customers will be entitled to one piece of hand luggage free of charge, with checked luggage, and on-board drinks and snacks on a buy-on-board basis.

LEVEL’s new flights will operate with Vueling’s ‘VY’ flight code.

The proposition for passengers is much the same as that offered by the larger and more established IAG airline Vueling. However, LEVEL will not offer the ‘Excellence’ fare class offered when booking Vueling flights, which offers passengers an experience closer to what you’d find on a full-service airline.

Bottom Line:

LEVEL has certainly gotten off to a flying start, expanding its transatlantic programme rapidly when compared to last summer. This is the latest example of that expansion, which is sure to bring low fares to the Austrian capital (especially when coupled with the recent launch of Laudamotion) and it also continues the trend of low-cost airlines expanding in the traditional territory of conventional full-service carriers.

Aviation Round-Up: 27th June 2018 – New Routes, Deliveries & More

Over the last year, a cornerstone of LondonSpotter has been the signature Route Reviews and Delivery Reports. Now, with a new concept, we will combine the two. The new fortnightly ‘Aviation Round-Up’ will be your one stop shop for all the breaking news across the aviation industry – from routes to deliveries and even scandals.

So, let’s dive in, with my pick of the most recent developments in aviation…

Routes News

Norwegian Air

Norwegian will make its debut in the Canadian market, with a new transatlantic service from Hamilton to Dublin. The daily service will inaugurate on the 31st March 2019, and will be operated by a B737MAX aircraft, with 189 Economy Class seats. It will be the first direct, nonstop route between the two cities, and Norwegian’s first service between Europe and Canada. Fares start from €189 each way. It is hoped that the service will prove popular with lower-yielding travellers heading to Downtown Toronto, but also will serve communities in Niagara Falls and across the US border, in Buffalo.

Norwegian’s 787-9 will operate the new London Gatwick to Tampa route.

On a separate note, the airline has announced  a new route between London Gatwick airport and Tampa, starting from October 31st. The route will have direct competition from British Airways, who have dominated the market between the UK and South West Florida for several years. The airline will also increase its services from London Gatwick to Boston, Orlando International and Fort Lauderdale and hike capacity on its newly-launched Buenos Aries service – increasing it from four-weekly to a daily operation.

Guy Stephenson, Gatwick’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“Norwegian’s new Tampa service, a new daily schedule for the existing Buenos Aires and Boston routes and increases to other services, all give our passengers yet more choice and flexibility.”

Virgin Atlantic

In recent years, Virgin Atlantic has consolidated its network, ending flights to Tokyo and Sydney and focusing on its transatlantic joint venture with Delta. The daily flight from Heathrow to Dubai will cease to operate from 31st March 2019, as the airline says the route is no longer viable.

Virgin Atlantic will no longer grace the runways of the UAE. Passengers can now choose between Emirates, Etihad and British Airways to fly from the Britain to the UAE.

Hainan Airlines

Following the successful launch of the new Beijing-Edinburgh-Dublin connection, Hainan Airlines will operate its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet on the triangular operation. The route will be operated by B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft for most of July, before switching over to the lower capacity B787-8 variant from July 20 for the remainder of the summer season.

Credit to – Hainan Airlines now serves Manchester, London Heathrow and Edinburgh in the UK.

LOT Polish Airlines

The Polish national carrier has announced a duo of new routes out of London City Airport – the most convenient airport for accessing central London. On January 9th 2019, LOT will launch a new service from Warsaw-Chopin to London City, to be operated with Embraer 190 aircraft – configured with 106 seats. The new twice daily service will add to present thrice daily flights to London Heathrow.

Just over a month later, LOT will also launch services from Budapest – the Hungarian capital – to London. Again, the service will operate with Embraer 190 aircraft on a twice daily frequency. This means LOT will serve two destinations from two London airports going forward, which is a significant presence for a small player in the industry.

Aircraft Deliveries

A350s dominated this month’s star deliveries, with the Spanish flag carrier receiving its first example of the aircraft.

Iberia receives its first Airbus A350XWB

The Spanish flag carrier has today recieved its first Airbus A350-900XWB aircraft, registered EC-MXV. This is the first A350-900 to include the new higher winglets and aerodynamic improvements.

EC-MXV departing Tolouse, bound for its new home in Madrid. Picture – Airbus.

The airline’s aircraft are equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and will be configured with 348 seats. All seats, regardless of cabin class, will offer in-seat entertainment screens, power outlets and Wi-Fi. As this is the first of 16 A350 aircraft Iberia have on order, the airline will carry out crew familiarisation flights, with the first commercial flight taking place on the 20th July, with services from Madrid to London Heathrow and Paris CDG.

Cathay Pacific is presented with its maiden A350-1000 aircraft

In more Airbus-related news, Cathay Pacific has recieved its first Airbus A350-1000 variant, registered B-LXA. Similarly to Iberia, the aircraft will initially be deployed on short haul regional services such as to Taipei from its Hong Kong base. From then, the aircraft will stretch its legs on long haul operations to destinations such as Washington-Dulles and Manchester.

Madrid, Tel Aviv, Amsterdam, Manchester and Zurich will be served by the new aircraft. Photo – Cathay Pacific

B-LXA is the first of twenty A350-1000 aircraft Cathay Pacific has on order, of which eight are expected this year, four next year, with the remainder due from 2020 and beyond. Cathay Pacific is also an existing operator of the -900 variant; twenty two are in service with the airline at present.

Other Aviation Stories

British Airways cancels error fares from London to Tel Aviv & Dubai

In a spectacular PR blunder, British Airways has revoked the tickets of passengers who booked flights with the airline from London to Tel Aviv & Dubai. Two weeks ago, BA flights to Tel Aviv and Dubai were put on sale through online travel agents with what the airline called ‘manifestly incorrect’  fares: £200 return to Tel Aviv, and £220 return to Dubai. Whilst it is common for airlines to revoke error fares for long-haul first class, for example, these fares were not clearly erroneous and definitely not ‘manifestly incorrect’. For example, Wizz Air consistently offers prices from London to Tel Aviv that are well below £200.

Wizz Air offers services from London Luton to two destinations in Israel (Tel Aviv and Eliat-Ovda, the latter from Winter 2018).

Call it opportunistic but Wizz Air and Virgin Atlantic have both capitalised on the mistake. Wizz Air particularly are offering so-called ‘rescue fares’ to those affected by British Airways’ error with prices of £80 each way between London and Israel. Wizz Air’s chief corporate officer pulled no punches as he used the occasion to convince travellers to turn their backs on conventional airlines such as British Airways:

“Wizz Air is delighted to give new customers who’ve been left in the lurch following the cancellation of their BA flights to Tel Aviv the opportunity to break with tradition. We’re confident that our new customers will realise that there’s no need to pay high prices to travel to some of the most exciting destinations in Europe and beyond.”

Emirates will operate the WORLD’S SHORTEST A380 flight

Emirates has a reputation as a record breaker, and the airline is certainly not showing any signs of slowing down. Not only is Emirates the world’s largest ‘superjumbo’ operator but the airline will also break the record for the world’s shortest A380 flight this week. In celebration of Emirates’ 25th anniversary of serving Oman, the airline will roster its double-decker A380 onto the Dubai to Muscat route on Sunday.

The double-decker Airbus A380 forms the backbone of Emirates’ fleet.

The following flight will be operated by an Airbus A380, with a distance of just 217 miles:

EK862 Dubai to Muscat departing 8:25AM arriving 9:35AM
EK863 Muscat to Dubai departing 12:05PM arriving 1:10PM

This flight will beat the previous record by 18 miles and flying on the world’s shortest flight of the largest commercial aircraft will certainly be a surreal experience.

Enjoyed this article? Do let us know what you think about our new ‘Aviation Round-Up’ concept and stay tuned for the next round-up, in two weeks time.