April was a quiet month for route announcements, with airlines already implementing their summer expansion yet still considering any new connections for the winter season. Nevertheless, here are my picks of this month’s most important route development news:
British Airways – Oakland Connection Goes Seasonal
After being launched with much fanfare, including a rather odd advertisement campaign, British Airways’ new Gatwick-Oakland, CA route will be suspended for the winter season from October 20th. The airline is keen to reinforce that the route will be revived from March 2019.
Despite this, British Airways will also be initiating expansion to the US and South America. The new Heathrow-Santiago de Chile flight, launched last year, will be increased from four to five weekly, served by the four-class Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Simultaneously, from October 29th, the airline will add three additional weekly frequencies onto its ‘capital to capital’ Heathrow-Washington D.C. service, taking the total number of weekly flights to 17.
Etihad Airways – Further cutbacks, with Perth and Edinburgh getting the axe
Etihad’s flights from its Abu Dhabi hub to both Edinburgh and Perth will end on September 30th, following a string of recent cutbacks and financial difficulty. It is widely accepted that the yield or revenue per seat did not meet Etihad’s expectations. Much of the Middle East airlines’ core market revolves around Europe-Australasia connections however, indirect carriers to Europe like Etihad face increased price competition following the introduction of Qantas’ new non-stop Perth to London route. It remains to be seen whether Etihad will continue with its recent cutbacks, but the airline is facing financial reality and rationalisation must be carried out.
Air Belgium – No permit for overflying Russia
Despite a promising start, Air Belgium is facing difficulty in obtaining a permit to overfly Russia. The airline’s CEO – Niky Terzakis – says that ‘overflying Russian airspace is unavoidable’ and, as a result, the launch date for Air Belgium’s new Charleroi-Hong Kong flights has been postponed until June 3rd.
VLM – Expanding rapidly, with only flights from Ostend-Bruges to the UK
VLM will introduce two new routes to Manchester from Belgium, beginning in October. It is the first time that Manchester will have a direct flight to Ostend-Bruges, offering passengers easy access with daily flights to the stunning, medieval city of Bruges. Additionally, VLM will serve Antwerp from Manchester twice daily Monday to Friday, with daily flights over the weekend. The new flights are in addition to recently announced Antwerp-Aberdeen flights and presently operating Antwerp-Birmingham and London City links.
ROUTE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MONTH: WOW AIR EXPECTED TO LAUNCH REYKJAVIK-DELHI
Having rivalled Icelandair in the US-Europe transit market, WOW Air is now looking to cities further afield in a race to beat Icelandair to Asia. In an interview with the CEO of the airline it was revealed that WOW Air is planning to announce routes to Asia in May this year.
He says that this is the area where he sees the most growth, and just as WOW Air has added 14 routes to North America in the past few years, he could also see WOW Air adding 14-15 destinations in Asia, making Iceland the “Dubai of the North.” India would be the obvious market, competing against the MEB3, to operate low-cost flights from the US. Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are widely tipped to be first in line, with the airline holding a press conference in Delhi on May 15th. This will certainly be an interesting development in the world of low-cost air travel.
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For the last couple of delivery reports, we have introduced a new feature to the article, Delivery of the Month; in essence it highlights our favourite commercial aircraft delivery that took place in April 2018. This month it is being awarded to Primera Air who took delivery of their brand new A321NEO.
Out of the 17 Airbus A320NEO deliveries that took place in April, 1 special A321Neo was destined for Primera Air. On April 16th 2018 Primera Air, a low-fare Nordic airline subsidiary of Primera Travel Group, took delivery of this special airplane, which will eventually allow them to operate a longhual – low cost business model with service transatlantic to North American destinations. Currently, the carrier’s fleet consists of seven Boeing 737-800, two B737-700 and has an ongoing order of ten B737 MAX 9
16 NEOS were also delivered to their respective airlines, Volaris, Air India, British Airways, Air Asia, Frontier,SAS Ireland, Vistara and TAP. This is the first delivery of the A320Neo to airlines TAP Portugal and British Airways, both airlines have placed sizeable orders for the narrow isle jet.
Delivery of the first Embraer E2 to Scandinavian regional airline – Wideroe
Another notable delivery was the first Embraer E2 which was delivered to Wideroe. The Norwegian airline chose the E190-E2, the first variant of the modified and upgraded E-Jet following on from the E170 to E195 family. The Scandinavian regional airline operates 450 daily flights using only turboprop aircraft so the delivery of the E2 marks a focus on adding capacity to their growing fleet.
Lion Air take delivery of the first Boeing 737MAX9
Indonesian carrier Lion Air were the first airline to put the 737MAX8 into service, and are now the first airline to take delivery of the larger variant of the successful narrow body, the 737MAX9. They are also the first Indonesian carrier to place a firm order for the even larger 737MAX10 to complement their ever growing fleet of 737s.
The 737 families made up 70% of all Boeing deliveries for the first quarter of 2018, with this month seeing the delivery of aircraft to, Southwest, Air Canada, Thai Lion Air, United, Shanghai Airlines and Silk Air.
Belavia takes delivery of their latest E-Jet
Belavia of Belarus has taken delivery of a new E175, the first of 3 E-Jets to join the fleet in 2018. By the end of the year, the carrier will be flying 7 E-Jets, 3 E175s and 4 E195s. This is all part of a fleet modernisation programme with another five E175s and E195s leased from Nordic Aviation Capital being added to their E-Jet fleet, bringing the total up to 12 aircraft.
Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines both take delivery of special livery A350-900 aircrafts
Qatar Airways took delivery of A7-ALZ, an A350-900 in the One World livery and Vietnam received their 12th A350-900 in the Sky Team livery (registration VN-A897) This is the second one world A350 (the first being Finnair OH-LWB) and the first SkyTeam A350.
A350s were also delivered to Latam, Ethiopian, Delta, Asiana and Malaysia Airlines.
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Your guide to the best value airfares for the month ahead!
We all know that finding and booking flights to your favourite destinations without breaking the bank isn’t easy, so here is a guide that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the best value air fares. This months edition is focused on finding you some of the best Bank Holiday Monday day trips out there!
For this months Fare Finder, I used Kayak to locate these fantastic value flights. Check them out and grab a bargain for yourself!
If you were to ask a large group of people what their favourite day trip destination was, I can guarantee the most popular answer would be Dublin! Known world over for being the home of St. James’s Gate since 1759, the Guinness brewery offers an interesting insight and unique perspective on how one of the worlds most popular drinks came to be. Other must see sights include Dublin Castle, The National Museum of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Normally cheap flights to the Irish capital are offered by Ryanair, well known for their no thrills service. However, this deal gives you the opportunity to fly from Birmingham with Ireland’s only 4* airline! Aer Lingus are offering return flights from as little as £85pp return; their excellent flight timings also mean you get a full day in Dublin!
In March’s Fare Finder, we featured Benidorm. Alicante is often seen as the gateway to this Costa Blanca resort, but if you take a closer look, you will find an adventure, that you didn’t even know was there. Overshadowed by the Castillo de Santa Barbara, the Barrio de la Santa Cruz is home to some traditional Tapas bars and narrow picturesque streets that are sure to make an excellent Instagram photo!
Many readers might be surprised to learn that British Airways are offering return flights to Alicante for £90pp. This London Gatwick departure leaves at 6.30am, and offers travelers nearly 14 hours in the city. The BA website can be found by following this link.
Not feeling adventurous enough to jet away across Europe? Why not keep getaway closer to home, and spend your Bank Holiday in Manchester? The 180,900 m² Intu Trafford Centre, is the third largest shopping centre in the UK, with bargains to be found in almost every shop, try not to spend too much! Football fans can take tours of the National Museum of Football and cross city rivals Man City and Man United’s grounds. Avgeeks on the other hand might not want to leave the airport and choose to spend all day at the Manchester Airport Viewing Park!
Flybe’s Embraer Regional Jet will get you up to Manchester quicker than road or rail, and given the time of the month, probably cheaper than them too. A return ticket will only cost £70pp, but with seats on the Jungle jet limited, don’t leave it too soon to book.
Munich is a city that has previously featured on Fare Finder. For it to feature twice, surely means that it is a must visit, right? First time visitors to the city will be impressed with the ease at which you can get lost wondering around the streets, discovering the delights of the Bavarian capital. Again, for the Avgeeks who want to make a spotting trip out of it, the Visitors Park just outside the airport’s perimeter is the ideal base. Offering superb 360° views, a well stocked shop and cafe, it really is a must visit for any spotter.
Ryanair are offering cheap return flights from their Irish headquarters of Dublin. Priced at £81pp return, it really is a steal for a great value day trip. I would recommend using Kayak (the website I used to find all these deals), as you will be able to ensure you get the best price.
in next months fare finder:
We look at finding you the best flight deals for June!
Now in it’s 31st year, the IATA International Ground Handling Conference sees delegates from all aspects of the aviation industry come together with the view of changing the way we travel for the better. Whether its offering improved training programmes for ground staff or showcasing the latest in technology, you can be sure to find it here.
This year the 2018 conference was being hosted in Doha, Qatar from 22-25 April at the Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel. Hosts and Principal Sponsors, Qatar Airways and Qatar Aviation Services (QAS) welcomed over 700 delegates from all over the world to join them. This year was the first time ever that the event had been held in the Middle East, so the hosts were eager to make a lasting impression.
As one of the part of the media team invited by Qatar Airways, I flew out on one of their Boeing 787 aircraft which you can read all about here.
Although the IGHC has now ended, we’re putting this article together to give you the opportunity to experience what it is like for members of the media to experience one of this years most prestigious aviation events!
The morning started with a minibus ride through Doha’s Financial District. Signage welcoming delegates to Doha for the 2018 IGHC were dwarfed by the modern and impressive looking buildings that stood along the streets that guided us to the Sheraton Interchange.
The Sheraton is regarded as a local landmark in the city of Doha. This distinct pyramid shaped building has stood on the West Bay overlooking the Arabian Gulf since it opened in 1979. As the countries economy began to boom and the city of Doha rose up from the desert, the hotel underwent a refurbishment to maintain it’s appealing Arabic charm and to offer guests modern facilities and a luxury 5* experience.
With such an iconic landmark being perfect to showcase to the world how far Qatar has come over the years, it is no wonder that the Sheraton was chosen as the host venue.
The Opening Ceremony:
The foyer of the main conference hall was lined with stands from all of the major players in the ground handling industry. Representatives would all be hoping that they can make progress towards securing major contracts with potential business clients. Throughout the week there would be seminars hosted giving reps the stage to present how their new and innovative methods would improve ground handling.
Before any of this could occur, the opening ceremony had to take place. The Al Dafna Hall was made up immaculately of white tables and chairs. Taking our seats we eagerly awaited the VIPs who would be sat on the front row to arrive. With the room standing for the Qatari National Anthem, that was our signal that the 31st IATA International Ground Handling Conference had begun.
Joseph Suidan, Head of Ground Operations for IATA took to the stand to welcome everyone to Doha and to express his ambition for everyone to come together to change the industry for the better. Joseph took this opportunity to pay thanks to Qatar Airways and Qatar Aviation Services for hosting everyone who was in attendance.
After Joseph’s brief welcome to the room, a video detailing the history of Qatar Airways right up to it’s 20th Anniversary was shown. After a round of applause it was time for the man who made it all possible for Qatar to take the stand, His Excellency Mr Akbar Al Baker.
Mr Al Baker is the Group Chief Executive Officer for Qatar Airways, and it is no secret that he has been instrumental in leading the airline to the point where it is now. Stepping up to the podium, he paid homage to his nation for being able to persevere and continue to stride forward despite the current blockade against his country.
With Qatar Airways being the operator of Hamad International Airport, it was only right that Mr Al Baker should praise it by addressing it as “one of the most technologically advanced and sleek international hubs anywhere in the world”. In charge of ground staffing and operations at Hamad Is Qatar Aviation Services. IGHC 2018 was the first time that QAS had been showcased to the world at a major aviation event since they were established in 2000. It was fair to say the there was high hopes that they would leave a good impression on the right people.
As Mr Al Baker continued with his speech, I couldn’t help but get the impression that the event so far had been a showcase of Qatar Airways demonstrating their superiority. It was clear that a strong statement protesting the ‘illegal blockade’ of Qatar from the rest of the Middle East was being made. It was a clear demonstration that both the airline and the country can adapt and overcome any obstacles thrown at them. They truly are “A Nation Defiant”.
As His Excellency finished on stage, Nick Careen the Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security at IATA traded places. Despite openly admitting it wasn’t quite his forte, he was going to provide the delegates with an economic update on the industry.
He began by immediately highlighting that “rising costs are the biggest challenge to aviation” and that “salaries are the biggest cost”. Whilst oil costs play a major factor in determining whether an airline makes a profit or a loss, Mr Careen did provide some good news by stating that “oil prices are expected to ease bar any geopolitical issues”.
IATA predicts the demand for air travel to double over the next 20 years. With 4.1 billion passengers being flown on 41.8 million flights in 2017 alone, it is clear to see that any headway that can be made with improving the passenger journey and streamlining ground handling tasks will certainly be welcome over the next few years.
As Nick Careen stepped down from the stage, another round of applause went around. Delegates made their way into the foyer and members of the media made their way down the corridor to take part in the press conference.
The Press Conference:
Gathered into a room much smaller than the Al Dafna Hall, members of the local and international media took their positions in preparation for the arrival of the 4 person press panel. Together they consisted of:
Mr Nick Careen, Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security, IATA
His Excellency Mr Al Baker, Group Chief Executive, Qatar Airways
Eng. Badr Mohammed A Al Meer, Chief Operating Officer, Hamad International Airport
Mr Murat Nursel, Senior Vice President, Qatar Aviation Services
As the introductions were made, the floor was opened up for the media to get answers to their questions.
Q: Is it expected that Qatar Airways will post a large loss because of the current political situation?
A: Yes it will be a large loss, announced hopefully by June. Though we (Qatar Airways) are expecting a loss, we will keep expanding our network – Mr Al Baker.
Q: Do you have a response to the allegations of illegal working conditions at Hamad International Airport?
A: The inspection wasn’t co-ordinated with the airport. We did not have time to prepare and these accusations are false. We don’t have any labour camps – Mr Al Meer.
These accusations could have been planted by our (political) adversaries to portray a negative picture – Mr Al Baker.
Q: Are Qatar Aviation Services looking to expand to other airports?
A: It has not been confirmed but has has been identified as a potential expansion. QAS will introduce their own systems to airports. Yes there will be other handlers/companies that pose a challenge. We will ensure that our high standards are met. We do not want to go global, only to airports (Milan Malpensa and London Heathrow were mentioned) where we feel our standards are not met – Mr Al Baker
Q: Have you got any more details on the third stage expansion at Hamad International Airport?
A: I would not like to make any comments. We do not divulge any information except via official communications. I can confirm however it will be expanded before Qatar 2022 (World Cup) – Mr Al Baker.
With that the press conference was bought to a close and so was the opening morning. As delegates and officials broke for lunch, everyone in the building was certainly hoping that they could establish effective working relationships with new clients to together Improve ground handling services around the world.
With Qatar Airways being one of the joint hosts and principal partners, It was only natural to expect a strong show from them. I couldn’t help but get the feeling though that a lot of it was a show of strength from the nation of Qatar to send a message of defiance to their neighbouring countries. The products and services on show certainly have the potential to improve the passenger journey if they were deployed correctly, only time will tell if this will be the case.
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I’m always looking for the best flight deals around and while I usually book revenue fares, I also try and look for some good deals that can be redeemed with air miles.
While looking at airlines that I wanted to review this summer, it struck me that while I have flown many times on a Boeing 787, I have hardly ever flown on an Airbus A350 so I decided to have a hunt for Cathay Pacific A350 flights to review.
Now many of you will know that my newest credit card is the American Express British Airways Premium Plus card which I want to talk to you about today and show you how you can use it to get some incredible deals like the one I just booked.
What is great about this card is the sign-up bonus it will give you. Now although the sign-up bonus is lower than lots of cards you will see advertised for the US market, its the best you’re going to get for British Airways cards in the UK.
Anyway, now onto the perks:
1. If you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months, you will be awarded a generous 25,000 Avios points.
2. Every time you make a purchase you will receive 1.5 Avios points for every £1 you spend.
3. Every time you buy a flight on BA.com, you will get 3 Avios points per £1 you spend.
4. If you spend £10,000 in your first year, you will receive a companion voucher which enables you to buy one flight and receive a second ticket on the same flight in the same cabin for free!
5. If you refer a friend you will receive an extra 9,000 Avios points and they will receive a welcome 1,000.
So, with that said, here is how I made use of my new card. As I said above, I knew that I wanted a new business class product on an A350 to review for you guys so while browsing on Kayak I found that Cathay Pacific operates the Hong Kong – Taipei leg on one of their new Airbus A350-900 series so I looked to buy a revenue ticket but prices were pretty expensive.
Now, Cathay Pacific are part of the OneWorld alliance which means I can use Avios (which I got as part of my American Express deal) to book flights with them through partner airline British Airways and to my surprise it was incredibly cheap.
And just like that I am paying £30.10 to sit in the business class of one of the best airlines in the world and only making a dent of 9,000 Avios into my 25,000 start-up bonus. On this occasion I actually went a bit further and purchased a Cathay Dragon A321 business class flight and then a return flight on the Cathay Pacific A350-900 in Premium Economy which meant that I paid a total of 24,000 Avios and £57 – a huge saving from the £1,000+ I would have paid as a normal revenue passenger.
So, if you haven’t already then sign up for the American Express Card here (plus if you use my link you’ll get a bonus 1,000 after signing up), spend £3,000 in the first three months (far easier than you’d originally think if you get a supplementary card for family members) and spend those Avios on awesome flights like me!
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featured image by Zach Honig from thepointsguy.com
Many of our keen readers will know that earlier this year, Bombardier, the Canadian-British Aerospace company, and Airbus, joined forces to compete against Boeing in the 100-150 seater market. Airbus acquired a 50.01% majority stake in the C-Series Aircraft Limited Partnership. This brought together, the combination of Airbus’ global reach, with the efficiency and modern design of the C-series to generate significant value to the C Series programme. With huge cost savings leveraging on Airbus’ supply chain, and a potential demand of nearly 6000 aircraft in the next 20years, the time was perfect for Airbus to step in and take a majority stake in the C-Series programme.
This allowed C-Series aircraft to be delivered to the US, to undergo final assembly in Alabama. In essence the company is able to dodge the current import tariffs. Handing over a majority of their flagship aircraft was a huge risk for bombardier, but they felt it was the best way forward, but this was more important for Airbus as they do not have a mainstream competitor in said market, it refrains from compromising their own aircraft sales.
The current C Series Family consists of 2 aircraft, the first being the smaller CS100 (officially BD-500-1A10) which holds 108-133 passengers. This is followed by the larger CS300 (officially BD-500-1A11) which can seat 130-160 passengers. Service entry of the CS300 with Air Baltic saw a 21% lower fuel burn replacing their ageing 737Classics.
This all took place last October, but it seems now Airbus are thinking of renaming the C series. The C-Series may soon be renamed the A200-family, sources told Bloomerang. The CS100 and CS300 would be renamed the A210 and A230, however the source also made note that a final decision on the name change has not yet been made and also other names are still under consideration.
This follows the “A3XX’ model that is currently implemented across Airbus’ entire commercial aircraft fleet from the A300 to the A380. The name change is an easy way of viewing the C series as an extension of Airbus’ current fleet, with Airbus’ much larger global reach this may appease customers and result in those crucial orders. It is clear that the C Series had a rough start to its life, two years behind schedule added an element of uncertainty to the programme which tested the patience of potential customers, but now with the presence of Airbus it may be the right time for the C Series programme, or should I now say the A200 programme to flourish.
It is still uncertain if a name change will ensue, but the deal is said to formally close in July which is when any changed will come to light. Personally I think that this would easily get mistaken for the A310 and A330 and that this would actually hinder sales of the C-Series, the A210 and A230 seem out of character, considering the entire airbus fleet currently starts with “A3”.
I have personally flown the Swiss Global Airlines CS100 and from a passenger point of view it is a joy to fly on with Delta’s CEO Ed Bastain even going as far to say “It is an absolute wide-body feel on a narrow-body,”.
Swiss Global Airlines is currently the largest C-Series operator with 17 in their fleet and Bombardier and Airbus still have a backlog of 343 aircraft to be delivered to their respective customers. For now, only time will tell if the C Series programme will turn out a success.
New aircraft, a new image, new routes & new products on-board
Founded in 1946, Aigle Azur is the second-largest airline company in France. It benefits from a long rich history and celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016. Every year, Aigle Azur transports almost 2 million passengers aboard its fleet exclusively composed of Airbus aircraft through nearly 300 scheduled weekly flights from its bases in Lyon, Marseille and Paris.
In August 2017, the airline instated Frantz Yvelin as their Chief Executive Officer – marking a change in leadership – and, simultaneously, another new chapter was opened with the arrival of a new shareholder, David Neeleman, from the parent company of Hainan Airlines – HNA.
Earlier this year, at a press conference in Paris, the airline announced its long-term reinvention with a host of developments, including new aircraft, a new image, new products onboard and new routes. Whilst Aigle Azur has long been prominent in its traditional Mediterranean markets, it is now expanding further afield. Last year, the airline launched new services to Beirut and Moscow and the airline will strengthen its position in the intra-Europe market this summer – with a new route between Orly and Milan and expansion of the existing Berlin connection.
Building on this European expansion, the airline will launch new long-haul services from Orly to Beijing-Capital (beginning June 21st) and Sao Paulo-Campinas (beginning July 5th). Both services will operate on a three-weekly basis – although the latter will increase to five-weekly in September – with Aigle Azur’s new Airbus A330-200s.
France’s second largest carrier currently has twelve aircraft in its fleet (9x A320s and 1x A319) – but this is increasing to 12 with the arrival of two new A330-200s.
These new aircraft will operate the new services to Beijing and Sao Paulo and will reinforce current operations from Paris to Bamako, Algiers, Oran and Porto. In addition, these A330s will debut a new onboard product, divided into two classes, Business and Economy.
The new Business Class will have fully-flat seats, a state-of-the-art on-board VOD-type entertainment system, mood lighting and access to Wi-Fi. Finally, the airline has unveiled a new visual identity, which includes a reimagined livery, which can only be described as refreshingly gorgeous. This is all part of Aigle Azur’s aim to compete with the best business class carriers and to ‘conquer new business opportunities’.
As a growing carrier, the airline is also keen to form close partnerships with airlines from around the world. Logically, Aigle Azur will codeshare with Brazilian carrier Azul – whose largest hub is in Sao Paulo-Campinas and will provide endless connections around Brazil for Aigle Azur’s customers – and the Chinese five-star carrier Hainan Airlines.
“This flight represents another milestone in the growth of Viracopos as a major hub of Azul. We are very excited about adding Paris to our ever growing domestic and international network. We will offer fast and convenient connections from all over Brazil to Paris.”
the chief revenue officer, Azul linhas aereas
Aigle Azur will also form a strategic and commercial partnership with Air Caraibes – a major client of Paris-Orly – and the Portugese flag carrier TAP.
Ultimately, seeing a regeneration of an airline is always interesting. Aigle Azur is sticking to its former markets faithfully but, also, expanding rapidly into unchartered territory for an airline of its size. Flying from Paris-Orly (an airport arguably more convenient for Business travellers travelling into Paris), with a variety of partners around the world and a globally competitive product, Aigle Azur is enjoying something of a renaissance.
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 jet made an emergency landing in Philadelphia today after suffering a catastrophic in flight engine failure.
Southwest Flight 1380, from New York to Dallas was cruising at 32,000 feet when the incident occurred. Shrapnel from the explosion collided with the aircraft’s fuselage causing a window to be broken and a nearby passenger to be partially sucked out of the aircraft. Fellow passengers saw the situation unfolding and managed to pull the woman back into the aircraft.
With most passengers on board saying prayers and writing messages for loved ones, the crew ensured all 149 people attached their oxygen masks whilst the pilots executed an emergency descent into Philadelphia.
Upon landing in Philadelphia, a fuel leak caused by the damage ignited a small fire which was quickly extinguished by airport fire fighting services.
Kristopher Johnson, a passenger on board the flight told CNN that “Shrapnel hit the window causing a serious injury. No other details about that. Several medical personnel on the flight tended to the injured passenger”.
Whilst the exact nature of injuries suffered on board have not been made clear yet, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has confirmed that one person was killed during the incident.
Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) investigators have been dispatched to Pennsylvania to investigate the cause of the incident.
Our thoughts go out to all involved.
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The Australian national carrier, Qantas, has a remarkable safety record; no fatalities or hull losses in the jet era. This extraordinary record of pioneering safety achievements spans the airline’s 97 year history. In 2008, the Advertising Standards Agency challenged Qantas’ remarks that it was the world’s ‘most experienced’ airline. The carrier defended itself fiercely, listing 30 notable industry-leading achievements. I have a feeling that this latest development won’t go down as one of those symbolic actions.
After receiving the Airbus A380 10 years ago, the aircraft has become the backbone of the airline’s long haul fleet. In 2012, the airline announced plans to increase the seat count on its aircraft from 450 to 484 seats, by removing toilets and squashing in more seats. Last week, the airline announced its intention to become the launch customer for Airbus’ new ‘Cabin Flex’ programme. The initiative will deliver up to 11 more Premium Economy seats or 7 more Business Class seats. However, there’s a catch. In order to accommodate the new seats, Qantas will be deactivating emergency exits on the upper deck. Here’s how Airbus describes the new line-fit or retrofit solution:
A380 Cabin Flex makes extra space for additional seats by allowing the upper deck “Doors-3” to be deactivated. The programme can bring up to 11 more Premium Economy seats or 7 more Business Class seats.
The so-called ‘enhancement’ is clearly attractive for airlines. Airbus predicts that there will be a Return on Investment (RoI) in just one year. The cabin-flex option is available to be fitted on new aircraft on delivery or retrofitted onto existing aircraft.
Qantas have no plans to receive any more A380s – instead continuing to operate the 12 double-deckers already in their fleet. We don’t know yet whether Qantas will simply install seats in front of the exit doors – which is bound to be confusing for passengers, especially in an emergency – or just cover them up. Furthermore, the press release never mentions safety. It is widely known that the maximum evacuation time for an aircraft on fire is just 90 seconds. Does the removal of these exits have an affect on that?
Although the cabin-flex option is attractive for airlines, it certainly isn’t for passengers. With no reassuring message on safety in Airbus’ press release, Qantas need to clarify this immediately, instead of profiteering from extra seats.
It was announced a couple of days ago the SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) has placed an order for a further 50 A320NEO aircraft to complement their standing order of 30. This order will allow SAS to operate a single type fleet by 2023, operating the most efficient aircraft which is flown on many short and medium haul routes from Scandinavia to the rest of Europe.
“NEO is short for New Engine Option, and the new engines are the CFM Leap 1A, the NEO also comes equipped with 2.4 meter-long Sharklets rising up from the wingtips, giving the NEO lower fuel consumption, and an almost 1000 kilometre longer range. Inside the cabin, SAS have chosen overhead compartments that are significantly larger than the CEO A320s. Another new feature is the placement of the AFT toilets. ‘Two toilets are placed next to each other towards the aft bulkhead, the lateral one is designed to be more accessible for people with reduced mobility. ’SAS currently have 12 NEOs out of the 30 they had on order alongside 12 CEO A320s. SAS are the largest operator of the A320NEO in Europe and it was about time I got on-board to see what it offered.”
Overall I found the NEO a very pleasant experience, the updated cabin added to the already positive user experience which combined with SAS’ exemplary on-time performance. The quiet NEO made for a very pleasant and relaxing flight.
Today, the Scandinavian airline is investing heavily in biofuels and has also been working for several years on increased production of biofuels to use for their operations. This upgrade in passenger experience and lower fuel consumption has contributed heavily towards SAS’ growth, enabling the Scandinavian airline to purchase these new aircraft, further pushing for a single-type fleet.
Back in 2012, SAS were operating six different aircraft types on short-haul but currently operate only two – the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 – however, SAS hope to phase out all remaining 737s by 2023 to pave way for one single aircraft type for their intra-Europe operations, thus leading to standardization and increased efficiency, as well as lower maintenance costs.
The new order of NEOs are expected to be delivered from Spring 2019 through to 2021 (15 will be leased) and a further 35 direct from Airbus being delivered up untill 2023. It is said that this order includes an option for up to a further 5 A320NEOs and through leasing agents, SAS can tailor their growth based on their current circumstances. All the new A320NEOs will be equipped with SAS’ new high speed Wi-Fi.
“We are proud with this repeat commitment by SAS. The A320neo will complement SAS’s existing Airbus fleet, with unbeatable fuel efficiency and the lowest operating costs and environmental footprint. It is the perfect choice for SAS, for replacing its older generation aircraft. This means more of SAS’s passengers will keep enjoying the best comfort in the skies,” said Eric Schulz, Chief Commercial Officer, Airbus Commercial Aircraft.
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