Low-Cost Indian Airline IndiGo launching flights to London

In January 2018, IndiGo  – India’s largest passenger airline – began to seek regulatory approval to operate flights from New Delhi to London, Paris, Madrid and Hong Kong. Now, it looks like IndiGo’s aspirations may be one step closer to reality.

The budget carrier, whose operations revolve primarily around short haul flights within the Indian subcontinent, has reportedly secured a slot at London Gatwick airport from the beginning of 2018’s winter season.

IndiGo has secured slots at London Gatwick – one of the world’s busiest single runway airports.

IndiGo is planning to launch the new route with its Airbus A321neo aircraft, scheduled for delivery this November, which will be configured with over 200 seats, sources say.

However, there is  an added complication. IndiGo does not have any Airbus A321neoLR aircraft on order – the variant other airlines such as Primera have used to facilitate their foray into long-haul flying. Instead, the budget carrier has only ordered the standard A321neo, which offers significantly diminished range. This, coupled with a dense seating configuration, means it is clear that IndiGo will not be able to operate its new Delhi-London service non-stop.

Istanbul has been proposed as a potential refuelling stop for IndiGo’s new route to London. Under this scenario, the airline would be able to carry passengers between Delhi and Istanbul –  in addition to passengers bound for Gatwick.

Due to the range of the Airbus A321neo, IndiGo would have to select a refuelling stop en route from Delhi to London – Istanbul is the favourite.

However, routing via Istanbul would add around 200 miles and inconvenient extra travel time, when compared to rival’s Delhi-London flights. It is also uncertain as to whether the airline would have fifth-freedom rights to carry passengers solely between Turkey and the British capital, removing an opportunity to top up revenue.

Regardless of whether IndiGo launches flights this winter, a new trend of low-cost Indian airlines setting their sights on Europe is evident. Rival to IndiGo, SpiceJet, has previously voiced its ambition to launch long-haul budget flights to Europe and has preemptively secured slots for Delhi-Manchester flights on numerous occasions.

Other low-cost airlines – both from India and elsewhere – are voicing their ambitions to launch low-cost, long-haul flights from India.

Additionally, Singapore Airlines subsidiary – Scoot – wants to operate its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners on Singapore-India-Europe routes, utilising fifth-freedom rights (the freedom that allows airlines to fly from their home country to a second nation and then carry passengers from there to a third nation).

“We can look at Singapore-Delhi/Mumbai/Chennai/Kolkata-Europe/Gulf flights. We can fly to places like Zurich, Paris, Manchester (not London), Abu Dhabi and Bahrain”

-indian manager of scoot, Bharath Mahadevan

 

Of course, Air India and Jet Airways would be badly affected by the advent of low-cost, long-haul flights. The cost structure of both airlines is simply too high to compete with fares offered by the likes of IndiGo and their profit margins would likely be slashed. For low-cost airlines, the road to long-haul flying could be fraught with challenges too – Primera’s disastrous transatlantic launch proved this. However, with LCCs controlling more than 65% of India’s domestic market, the trend towards budget flights to Europe is unstoppable.

Featured image: Devendra Kulkarni

Aviation Round-Up: 7th September 2018

As we edge into autumn, airlines are already planning their summer 2019 flying programme (United and American have both announced a deluge of service changes for next year) so the next couple of weeks promise to be filled with new route announcements helping to shape airlines’ operations for the coming year. In this Aviation Round-Up, I outline my picks of the biggest route development stories of recent weeks.


Routes News

Iceland’s low-cost carrier to launch flights to Orlando

Icelandic carrier, WOW Air, has announced its next new destination to be launched this December. The airline will operate three-weekly seasonal flights from its Reykjavik hub to Orlando-International, utilising Airbus A321neo equipment. Blocked at 8hrs25mins westbound and ~3,534 miles, this route will be one of the longest to be operated by the Airbus A320 family when it launches on December 18th.

WOW Air’s primary business model revolves around offering customer’s low fare travel between Europe and North America, connecting in the geographically well-placed hub of Reykjavik.

This is the latest instalment in WOW Air’s rapid expansion; since launching their first US flights to Boston in 2015, the airline now operates to 15 North American cities from Washington D.C. to San Francisco – with the primary goal of opening up transatlantic flying to a larger audience. Keen to demonstrate this, WOW Air is offering promotional fares starting from just £129.99 one-way between the UK and Orlando, connecting through the airline’s Iceland hub, to celebrate the new route.

United Airlines announces a trio of new routes to Europe

United Airlines has announced a trio of new routes to Europe from various hubs across the US – two new summer seasonal destinations and one new year-round route. The airline will be the only US carrier to offer nonstop flights to Naples, launching a new route to the Amalfi Coast from New York Newark. United’s new service to Naples will be its sixth nonstop service to Italy and is conveniently timed for connecting customers from more than 60 destinations across the United States. Elsewhere in Europe, Prague will gain a new summer seasonal connection to New York Newark. Both of these new routes will operate with Boeing 767-300 equipment and will inaugurate in summer 2019.

United will add another transatlantic Dreamliner route next summer, in the form of a new link between Amsterdam and San Francisco.

United will also launch a new year-round connection between San Francisco and Amsterdam, building on existing services to the Netherlands from New York, Chicago, Houston and Washington D.C. The new flight will utilise United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment, operating on a daily basis from March 2019.

British Airways Cityflyer heads to Rome; says more new routes to come

During 2019, British Airways Cityflyer is set to base an additional four Embraer E190 aircraft at London City Airport, increasing the number of aircraft in CityFlyer’s fleet to 26. The first new route as a result of this expansion will be a connection to the Italian capital, in the form of a six-weekly London City to Rome Fiumicino flight beginning this November.

British Airways Cityflyer offers one of the most comfortable intra-Europe flight experiences, with 34″ seat pitch onboard.

In a teasing statement, British Airways promised that there were more new routes to come – saying that Rome is “the first of a number of new routes and extra flights to be announced for next year” – implying that CityFlyer’s tally of destinations from London City will increase further.

American Airlines alters its European network

AA has made a host of modifications to its European network for next summer’s flying programme, including nine new routes to meet customer demand.

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The airline will begin two new seasonal routes from Dallas-Fort Worth to Dublin and Munich, both operating with American’s Dreamliner aircraft and expand its footprint in Greece with an additional seasonal Boeing 787-8 service from Athens to Chicago O’Hare. Four new routes will be launched from Philadelphia – to Edinburgh, Berlin Tegel, Bologna and Dubrovnik – all of which will operate on a seasonal basis. American Airlines will complement its joint-venture partner with a new daily seasonal frequency from Phoenix to London Heathrow, utilising Boeing 777-200ER equipment. Finally, the airline will be launching just one year-round route from Charlotte to Munich, operated by ex-US Airways Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Unfortunately, to facilitate this expansion, AA will be cancelling a number of European routes. The long-standing Chicago-Manchester flight will be cut – leaving the North of England without a link to the Windy City – 3 routes will be cancelled from Philadelphia, to Glasgow, Munich and Frankfurt and American will further diminish JFK’s importance as an East Coast connecting hub with flights to the Irish capital, Dublin, and Edinburgh both coming to an end.

 


Other Aviation Stories

Flybe refreshes its livery, in sync with new ‘Close To You’ branding

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has announced a new livery to be applied to its fleet of Bombardier Q400 and Embraer E175 aircraft. The airline anticipates that 10 aircraft will be repainted every year, with the entire fleet repainted by 2025.

The reimagined livery was revealed earlier this week, adorning G-JECP. Image courtesy of Melvin Debono.

The new scheme, designed to appear sharp and sleek, will be applied at no extra cost to the business and is being implemented in spite of the fact that Flybe’s fleet has not yet been fully repainted in the previous livery redesign. The new look harmonises with Flybe’s new ‘Close To You’ brand message – which conveys the airline’s ambition to connect all regions of the United Kingdom and deliver a friendly, personable service.

LATAM embarks on $400m cabin upgrade programme

Latin America’s largest airline has embarked on a $400 million investment to upgrade its onboard product. The passenger experience on both long-haul and short-haul aircraft will be improved, with over 150 Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft being retrofitted with Recaro seats and USB outlets and Boeing 767, 777, 787 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft set to receive new cabins in all classes.

LATAM will install a new Business Class cabin, offering direct aisle access to every seat for the first time.

Business Class travellers will see the biggest upgrade, with new Thompson Aero seats offering direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration, 18″ IFE screens and fully-flat seats.

“On-board experience is one of the most important differentiators in choosing an airline and the most relevant factor in customer satisfaction, and so it was essential that our passengers were involved in the development process of our new cabins.”

-Claudia sender, president of latam airlines group

Come back in two week’s time for your next aviation round-up.

EXCLUSIVE Interview – Can Britain’s Worst Airport Improve?

Last week, London’s Luton Airport was named as the worst UK airport for the third year running. In an annual passenger satisfaction survey by Which?, just 35% of passengers said they were satisfied with the experience of travelling through London Luton. It is understood that some 521 passengers were asked about their experience at London Luton, between April and May of this year. Passengers were asked to rank aspects of the airport experience such as toilets, bag drop queues, staff, shops and seating. Luton Airport scored one star in all of these categories.

can Luton’s fortunes be turned around?

However, Luton is embarking on am ambitious redevelopment project (work which may have negatively impacted on this year’s survey results), designed to enhance accessibility and modernise the airport. Therefore, on the 80th Anniversary of London Luton Airport, our Editor – Ethan Chandler –  had the chance to interview Kimberly Kennedy, Head of Terminal Operations at Luton to find out whether Britain’s worst airport can turn around its fortunes, with its upcoming redevelopment plan.


Ethan Chandler: You are investing £160m into improving the London Luton Airport experience for your travellers. Can you briefly outline what changes you are implementing within this programme?

Kimberly Kennedy: London Luton Airport’s £160m redevelopment is nearing completion. This is the single largest investment in our history, and will increase annual capacity to 18 million passengers. As part of the
transformation, LLA has more than doubled the retail and dining space in the terminal to offer passengers a greater variety of choice.

An overview of the changes LLA are making to the airport, due for completion in 2026.

Since the start of 2018, more than 30 new stores have opened at the airport, including Chanel, Hugo Boss and Oliver Bonas. A new boarding pier containing eight new boarding gates. In addition the redevelopment has delivered a new dual carriageway access road, a multi-storey car park, re-modelled coach and bus interchange, new taxiway extension, additional aircraft stands and a
larger security hall.

30 new stores have opened at LLA just this year, including Hugo Boss and Chanel.

Work has also start on the DART (Direct Air Rail Transit) that will replace the current shuttle bus between Luton Airport Parkway station and the terminal, with a journey time of less than four minutes. This is expected to be in service by 2021.

EC: Luton Airport is 34 miles from Westminster and the centre of London. How will you work with Govia Thameslink and the Government to deliver faster services to the capital and what are you doing to improve the passenger experience when travelling between Luton Airport
Parkway and the airport terminal?

KK: LLA is already really well served by rail, but is the only London airport without an express-style rail service. This is why we are calling for four fast trains per hour to call at Luton Airport Parkway (LAP) station under the new East Midlands rail franchise. The change could be made through a simple
timetable change which requires no capital expenditure. A more frequent train service would reduce the journey to central London to under 30 minutes and
would encourage more passengers to travel to the airport by rail, cutting congestion and emissions on local roads.

EC: This year Luton Airport has seen more expansion with new flights with Wizz Air to Athens, Bari, Larnaca and more, with direct services to Tallinn, Eliat, Verona, Grenoble and Tromsø yet to launch​. What steps is the airport taking to cope with additional passengers in key areas like the security hall and how will Luton Airport ensure ample seating capacity and dining options for all customers?

KK: As part of the current transformation, we have expanded the terminal building, which includes increasing the number of seats available for passengers and providing a greater variety of shops and restaurants. More seats will be added in the main departure lounge this year. Across the airport we now have 18 food outlets (the same number as Stansted) these include, Bella Italia, Oriel Grande Brasserie and The Smithfield pub and kitchen.

LLA’s newest eatery – the Smithfield Pub.

We have also changed the layout of the terminal to make it simpler to navigate for passengers. The security area has been relocated downstairs and the number of security lanes has increased, while new equipment has sped up security checks.

EC: In recent months, London Stansted has gained new long-haul flights to Dubai and to key cities in North America. Does Luton Airport have ambitions to gain long-haul flights in the near future and, if so, which destinations and airlines are being targeted?

KK: We are always considering new ways to improve our passengers’ experience, which includes planning new routes and offering a greater choice of destinations. However, there are no immediate plans to introduce new long-haul flights from the airport and our core business will always be low-cost flights to Europe.

LLA’s focus will remain on low-cost flights to Europe, rather than branching out into long-haul services.

EC: So do you view low-cost flights to the US as a concept that could work from London Luton, given the tide of low-cost transatlantic flights we have seen launched from the UK in recent years?​

KK: There are no immediate plans to introduce this service. However, we are always listening to what our passengers want and this may be something we consider in the future.

EC: In a Which? survey in 2018, London Luton scored just 35% for customer satisfaction and was named the worst airport in the UK. Luton scored low in categories for range of shops and food outlets and toilets; some called it ‘chaotic’ and ‘crowded’. Going forward, how will the redevelopment programme address these issues and transform Luton into one of the UK’s leading airports, rather than one of its worst?

Which? polled 521 of its subscribers who had travelled through the airport between May 2017 and May 2018, just 0.003% of all passengers in that period. During this time we’ve undergone a period of significant change, investing £160 million redeveloping the airport to increase capacity and
transform the passenger experience. In the first six months of 2018 alone, 1.2 million passengers responded to our customer service tracking, 70 per cent of whom told us they were happy with their experience. As we near the end of our transformation we’re proud to have recently opened 30 new shops,
restaurants and additional toilet facilities. We’ve added close to a thousand new seats throughout the terminal and doubled the size of our security search area.

The airport has made a priority of ensuring security is a smooth and efficient process.

Evidence of our focus on improving the passenger experience is paying off, as we were recently voted the best airport in London in survey comparing objective data.

Our advice is people should come and experience LLA for themselves.

EC: Thank you. I’m pleased to say I’ll be taking you advice and travelling on Wizz Air’s inaugural flight to Tallinn in September! I look forward to seeing the positive changes Luton is making.


Thank you to the team at LLA, who granted me this Q&A with Kimberly Kennedy. Photos courtesy of London Luton Airport. 

Flying is slower now, than it was in 2008 – this is why

The aviation industry is constantly evolving, with faster, safer, smoother and more efficient aircraft. In recent years, you only have to look at the new aircraft models on the market to see the progress being made: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the Airbus A350 (both of which are designed to revolutionise long-haul ravel) and the newest players in the short-haul scene – the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo. So why, in an age when air travel is more advanced than ever before, are airlines claiming that it takes longer to get from A to B than a decade ago? There is one simply answer. An industry-wide practice, known as ‘schedule padding’.

What is schedule padding?

An investigation by Which? has revealed that flight times this summer are up to 35 minutes longer than they were in 2008.

It’s clear that planes aren’t physically flying slower. In fact, in January of this year, Norwegian set a record for the fastest subsonic transatlantic flight recorded on a commercial aircraft – taking 5hrs13mins to fly from New York-JFK to London Gatwick. The journey was blocked at 6hrs30mins – a difference of 77 minutes between actual flight time and scheduled flight time. This meant that, although the flight left the States 24 minutes behind schedule, it still arrived 53 minutes ahead its allotted arrival time.

Planes aren’t physically flying slower – Norwegian set a subsonic flight-time record earlier this year.

This is the art of schedule padding: Norwegian was able to turn an initially delayed flight into a record-breaking one.

A different example is Aer Lingus’ flights from London Heathrow to Dublin. EI151, operating daily between London and Dublin, is blocked at a flight time of 80 minutes:However, the actual average flight time for this journey is 51 minutes, just under 2/3 of the scheduled time set by the airline.

Therefore, under normal circumstances, this allows Aer Lingus to leave London up to 29 minutes late, yet still claim to be on-time upon arrival in Dublin.

Who are the perpetrators and why do they do it?

According to flight timetables, approximately 76 out of 125 flights take longer now than they did a decade ago. According to the Which? study, EasyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair are all guilty. The report found that British Airways’ flights from London to New York-JFK, Singapore and Bangkok all took 20 minutes longer this year, than in 2008.

According to their timetables, Virgin Atlantic’s London Heathrow to New York Newark flight is now scheduled to take 35 minutes longer than it did previously.

It will take you longer to get to Berlin this year, too: London to Berlin Schönefeld flights operated by both Ryanair and EasyJet took 10 and 19 minutes longer, respectively. And no, this can’t be blamed on Brexit. It is because airlines are becoming more savvy with their punctuality. Increasing the scheduled time for a flight gives them more margin for error and makes a delay less likely to cause a damaging knock-on effect throughout the day. Additionally, it allows them to bolster their punctuality ratings.

Last year, Hong Kong Airlines flew to the top of the punctuality league tables, with a whopping 94.8% of all flights being reported as arriving ‘on-time’. To begin with, the airline was praised until it emerged that they had simply extended flight times. To his credit, the airline’s vice chairman, Tang King-shing, was honest. He admitted, ‘We saw on-time performance was a problem, so we allowed extra time.’

Even though EasyJet and Ryanair both increased their flight times, they have still suffered a drop in punctuality since 2009.

Another potential reason is to avoid paying out compensation. Under EU regulation 261/2004, if you are delayed by more than two hours an airline has to provide you with:

  • two free phone calls, faxes or emails
  • free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay
  • free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required.

Compensation is even more costly if the delay in question is longer. If an airline allows itself more time to reach its destination, they are less likely to be delayed. Hence, they are less likely to have to compensate customers in any way.

Finally, one potential explanation could be that airlines are flying planes slower than they can actually fly. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair all suggested that this is something they do.

Ryanair suggested that flying planes at slower speeds allowed it to offer low fares to their customers.

The concept behind this is that airlines reduce fuel consumption, translating into less fuel use, cheaper operating costs and – for the consumer – cheaper tickets. This could be one potential upside of schedule padding for the average passenger.

Are there any excuses for schedule padding?

British Airways has said that routings to and from the Far East have had to be adjusted for security reasons, including the tragedy of MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine.

European airspace is also busier now than it was in 2008. Flight taxi times at congested airports, such as London-Heathrow have increased dramatically and airlines are clearly compensating for this.

It has also been argued that padding airline flight times gives customers more reliable indicators on which to plan meetings, onward transport or flight connections as a small delay wouldn’t necessarily cause disruption.

Conclusion

Schedule padding isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, due to the reasons mentioned above, it isn’t always an airline’s fault. However, there are clearly ulterior motives for schedule padding and airline’s should be transparent with their customers about how long they’ll spend in the air.

Aviation Round-Up: 23rd August 2018 – New Routes, Deliveries and More


Routes News

British Airways – Bound for Pittsburgh 

Britain’s Flag Carrier continues its rapid expansion in the US this month, with the announcement of a new connection between London-Heathrow and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. British Airways will operate 4x weekly services on a year-round basis, from 2nd April 2019. Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment will operate the new service, with 35 Business Class seats, 25 Premium Economy seats and 154 Economy Class seats.

British Airways has expanded rapidly in the US in recent years – to New Orleans, Austin, Nashville and Fort Lauderdale, just to name a few.

BA will face competition from WOW Air, Condor and Delta (whom all operate seasonal flights across the Atlantic) to Reykjavik, Frankfurt and Paris-CDG respectively. However, British Airways will provide Pittsburgh’s only nonstop connection to Europe throughout the year.

Qantas – A fifth International destination for the 787 Dreamliner

Qantas launched the first ever Aus-UK non-stop flight back in March.

Qantas’ 787-9 Dreamliner is set to be deployed on selected rotations from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney to Hong Kong. This marks the fifth international destination for the Dreamliner, which currently operates the non-stop Perth to London flight. The Dreamliner will represent a significant upgrade for passengers on Australia-HK routings, as they will have access to the Australian carrier’s newest products in all cabin classes.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Resumes flights to Boston

The Dutch national carrier has announced that it will be resuming flights to the US city of Boston, beginning in Spring 2019, from its Amsterdam-Schipol hub.

KLM’s new Amsterdam-Boston flight will be operated by a 292-seater Airbus A330-300.

The three-weekly services (KL617/618) will be operated by Airbus A330-300 aircraft, and will add to existing frequencies operated by KLM’s joint-venture partner, Delta. From July 2019, the service is planned to increase to four-weekly – with an additional frequency on Mondays.

Cathay Pacific – Opening a NEW U.S. Gateway

Cathay Pacific’s newest Business Class product, onboard the Airbus A350, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Cathay Pacific will launch a new service to Seattle, beginning next Spring, from its Hong Kong hub. The flight will represent Seattle’s only connection to Hong Kong, as Delta recently withdrew its flight between the two cities and will be operated by the Airbus A350-900, featuring three cabin classes. The expansion means Cathay Pacific will now serve 10 destinations in North America.

Thomas Cook Airlines – Manchester Transatlantic Flights Tweaked

Thomas Cook Airlines has amended its summer 2019 schedules for its transatlantic flights from Manchester.

Thomas Cook will operate to 6 US destinations nonstop from Manchester in 2019.

The headline changes include an increase from 2 to 3-weekly flights on the recently inaugurated Manchester-Seattle route, and increases in flights to New York JFK and Orlando International. The airline will also resume a once-weekly flight from Manchester to Jamaica, choosing Montego Bay as its Jamaican gateway.

Wizz Air – A raft of new U.K. expansion

Following year of rapid expansion in the U.K. market, low-cost carrier Wizz Air has announced an additional five new routes.

Wizz Air has expanded rapidly from London Luton this year, with the launch of a new UK AOC.

The airline will operate daily services from London Luton to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon and thrice weekly flights to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. From Liverpool, the airline is also initiating expansion – to the Romanian cities of Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj.

Jet Airways – Increases Manchester operation

Jet Airways has taken the decision to increase the frequency of its upcoming Mumbai-Manchester link – 3 months prior to its launch. One additional weekly frequency will be added, meaning the flight will operate five times per week. The Indian airline will operate an Airbus A330-200 on the route, in a two-class configuration.

Jet Airways’ new route will offer an economic boost to the North of England and will stimulate new business and leisure travel demand.

China Eastern – Gatwick gains Shanghai link

China Eastern will launch a new nonstop route to Shanghai Pudong to London’s second busiest airport – beginning December 7th. The new flight will operate on a thrice weekly basis, with Airbus A330-200 equipment. Gatwick’s CEO – Stewart Wingate – said the following:

”I’m delighted to welcome China Eastern to Gatwick and look forward to the start of this vital new link to Shanghai which, like London, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important cities and business hubs”

-STEWART WINGATE, GATWICK CEO

Qatar Airways – Heads to Gothenburg, Sweden

LondonSpotter Author – Callum Johnson – reviewed Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787-8 Business Class earlier this year.

Qatar Airways has operated flights to the Swedish capital, Stockholm, for over 10 years and operates nonstop connections from Doha to Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki. However, this year, Qatar Airways will expand further in Scandinavia, with the launch of a new nonstop flight to Gothenburg. The 5x weekly operation will inaugurate on 12th December, operated by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner equipment. It is thought that the new route will provide easier connections from Gothenburg to the Middle East, Africa and Asia – with no competition from Qatar Airways’ Gulf rivals at present.


Deliveries

The last few weeks saw more Airbus A320neo aircraft emerge from factories in Hamburg and Toulouse, including Lufthansa’s first example adorned with the airline’s new livery. 

Lufthansa

German flag-carrier Lufthansa has recieved its first Airbus A320neo, featuring the airline’s reimagined livery in the past month.

The aircraft is registered D-AINK and becomes Lufthansa’s 11th example of an A320neo, marking the first new delivery of a short haul aircraft for the airline since November 2017.


Other Aviation Stories

American Airlines Makes Changes to ‘Basic Economy’

American Airlines will make its ‘Basic Economy’ product a little more bearable, with a new change coming into effect as of 5th September. Basic Economy fares will once again include the ability to take one carry-on bag onboard, free of charge.

American even offers basic economy, when flying Transatlantic.

American’s President claims this is about making basic economy more ‘competitive’, although this is clearly a climb down from the initial proposals for Basic Economy.

“Basic Economy is working well in the markets where we offer it, and we continue to see more than 60 percent of customers buy up to Main Cabin when offered a choice. Removing the bag restriction will make Basic Economy more competitive, allowing us to offer this low-fare product to more customers.”

-Robert isom, American airlines president

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.

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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.