April 2008

Vol 7 - No. 10
 

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Travel | April 2008

 


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Miscellaneous

At a ceremony held in Istanbul on April 1, Turkish Airlines was welcomed as the 20th Star Alliance member airline. With an additional 31 destinations – mainly in Turkey, Central Asia and the Middle East, customers now have more choice than ever before when travelling on the Star Alliance network. Overall, the world’s most experienced aviation alliance now offers customers the choice of 18,000 daily flights serving 965 airports in 162 countries. Turkish Airlines is already one of the fastest growing airlines in Europe (passenger traffic growth of 23.5% according to AEA [Association of European Airlines]) and holds a strategic position between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. (Source: www.staralliance.com )

In addition to each Star Alliance airline CEO in attendance, all Star Alliance airlines are also represented by a uniformed staff employee at this ceremony, and Toronto-based Flight Attendant Sherene Kirollos is in Istanbul representing Air Canada with Montie.

Continental to become first North American airline to test biofuels.  Continental Airlines (CO), in partnership with Boeing and GE Aviation, will conduct a biofuels demonstration flight in the first half of 2009 using one of its 737NGs. It will be the first such flight in North America and the third overall.  Virgin Atlantic Airways carried out a demonstration flight last month on a 747-400 with one engine partially powered by a blend of babassu oil and coconut oil  and Air New Zealand will conduct one later this year with an undisclosed fuel mix. Whereas Virgin used an 80/20 mix of conventional and biofuel, CO Executive VP-Operations Mark Moran said yesterday that its test may involve a mixture of as much as 50/50 kerojet and biofuel on one of the test aircraft's two engines.  The choice of biofuels is pending, according to Boeing Director-Environmental Strategy Bill Glover. "One thing we're seeing is a lot of innovation around biofue! ls for aviation," he said. "There's work going on in all these areas and progress is pretty rapid." He stressed that the fuel will be a so-called "second generation" biofuel that does not compete with food crops, adding, "Algae is certainly on the list. Other things on the list are babassu nuts, halophyte plants, jatropha plants or even switchgrass." Moran cited "two critical issues facing the aviation industry that biofuel technology addresses. The first is the impact of aviation on the environment" and the second is "the high cost of fuel." He said CO has achieved a 35 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption per mainline RPM over the past 10 years.  (Source:  Air Transport World)

Emirates launches inflight cell phone calls - Emirates said that the "first authorized mobile phone call made from a commercial flight" occurred Thursday, March 20 aboard one of its A340-300s flying at 30,000 ft. en route from Dubai to Casablanca, marking the launch of its $27 million program to equip its fleet with the AeroMobile system that will allow passengers to use their own cell phones in flight.  Emirates said it has spent 18 months working "closely with regulators and telecommunications providers across the globe, fully completing rigorous testing and certification processes" so that it could become the first airline to allow passengers to use mobile phones. It said a 777-300 will join the A340-300 "very shortly" in having an in-operation AeroMobile system and other aircraft in its fleet will be equipped gradually. Chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum said, "All seats across our fleet are already equipped with in-seat phones, as well ! as e-mail and text messaging capabilities via the in-seat entertainment system. […] We are delighted to now offer them the choice of using their own mobile phones." The service will be activated when equipped aircraft are at cruising altitude, Emirates said, adding that cabin crew will have "full control over the system, including the ability to prevent voice calls at certain times such as during night flights." Only five or six calls will be permitted to take place at one time. The AeroMobile service will allow passengers to send and receive text messages as well.  All phone and text charges will be "in line with premium international roaming rates," the carrier said. "Users will be billed on their regular phone bills by their own service providers as with any other roaming call."  (Source : Air Transport World)

Emirates unveiled its initial A380 schedule on March 4, announcing that the aircraft will enter service on its Dubai-New York JFK route Oct. 1. Flights to London Heathrow follow on Dec. 1 and service to Sydney begins Feb. 1, 2009. Aircraft on these routes will seat 14 in first class, 76 in business and 399 in economy. "While we are still debating our first commercial A380 route, it has always been our intention to fly the aircraft on capacity-constrained trunk routes.” President Tim Clark said. EK is the A380's leading customer with 58 on order. (Source: Air Transport World)

Bombardier takes CSeries to market. Bombardier's long-awaited CSeries program moved one step closer to an official launch after the company's board gave the go-ahead to begin actively marketing the aircraft to prospective customers.

"This is the first step for us to work toward a launch we expect in 2008," President and COO Pierre Beaudoin said. The progress comes more than three years after Bombardier announced its intention to develop a new family of single-aisle aircraft in the 110/130-seat range. The program was buffeted by an uncertain economy as a number of prospective US customers wrangled through bankruptcy. The manufacturer also had to find a committed supplier for a new engine, eventually landing an agreement with Pratt & Whitney for its Geared Turbofan. 

The first CSeries aircraft could be delivered in 2013. "Timing is everything," said Gary Scott, who heads the CSeries program. "The market itself is in much better shape today than it was three years ago. The stars have aligned much better today than they did in 2005."

The aircraft will offer up to a 20% lower fuel burn and will feature a largely composite and aluminum-lithium alloy structure, Bombardier said. It also is touting an up-to-15% improvement in operating costs and "unmatched reductions in noise and emissions." The 110 will sell for around $40 million while the 130 will be in the upper range of $40 million, Scott said. This week, three prospective clients--Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and ILFC--publicly expressed interest in and support for the CSeries but fell short of making formal commitments. 

The size of the aircraft, with its range of 2,700 nm., makes it the ideal replacement for aging, fuel guzzling F100s, MD-80s and DC-9s, Bombardier claimed. The five-abreast seating and large overhead bins make it "passenger friendly" and suitable for transcontinental service in the US, it added. Chinese aerospace giant AVIC I will manufacture the center fuselage and doors. The site of the final assembly plant is still unresolved, with both the US, with its weak dollar, and Mexico under consideration, Beaudoin said. But taking the work from company facilities in Canada or Belfast could alter the level of government support, he conceded. (Source: Air Transport World)

The world's largest passenger jet will take off for Tokyo from Singapore on May 20, making it the third commercial destination for the Airbus A380 plane from the city-state.  Singapore Airlines said on Wednesday that the daily scheduled flight will depart for the Japanese capital's Narita Airport, and return to Singapore on the same day.  Singapore Air, the first airline to operate the superjumbo, launched A380 services to Sydney on October 25, and will start flying the aircraft to London from March 18.  The airline said earlier on Wednesday that it has taken delivery of its third A380, and has firm orders for a further 16 with options on six more.  (Source:  Reuters)

Air France could cut a quarter of the 4,000 jobs in its domestic network by 2016 due to increased competition from TGV fast trains, a spokesman said. "We expect that the competition with the TGV will increase, and we have informed the unions of our plans to adapt our organization to that," he said, adding that there would be no lay-offs and all would be absorbed by natural departures over the next eight years.

A number of regional connections could be cancelled or reduced in frequency. Meanwhile Air France, part of Air France KLM, is considering running fast train services itself. The TGV is a brand name owned by state rail company SNCF and uses trains made by Alstom. Alstom recently unveiled the AGV, a new generation of fast trains that have a commercial speed of 360 km per hour instead of 320 km/h for the current generation. (Source: Reuters)

Airlines should brace for a bumpy ride in 2008 as the US slowdown is seen hitting profits, despite robust cargo demand in emerging markets, the head of industry body IATA warned. The International Air Transport Association said global air passenger traffic growth slowed to 4.3 percent in January from 6.7 percent the previous month, while air freight grew 4.5 percent, easing slightly from 4.7 percent.

"Fasten your seatbelts. There is likely to be turbulence ahead," said Giovanni Bisignani, head of IATA, which earlier this month warned it sees growth in international air traffic slowing to 5 percent in 2008 from 7.4 percent last year. January traffic results show that we could be at a turning point. A month's data is not enough to define a trend. However, the sharp shift in demand growth patterns makes it clear that the US credit crunch is negatively impacting air travel. We are an industry out of intensive care but we are still sick." (Source: Reuters)

United Air parent to shrink fleet to conserve fuel.  UAL Corp, parent of United Airlines, will shrink its fleet by up to four per cent this year to combat the skyrocketing cost of jet fuel, the chief executive of the No. 2 U.S. carrier said on Tuesday. In a message to employees, Glenn Tilton said the airline aims to eliminate 15 to 20 of its older, less fuel efficient narrow-body planes. United's fleet currently has 460 aircraft. The airline industry has been battered by rising fuel costs, which are directly linked to the price of oil. "Continued uncertainty about the overall U.S. economy with the price of fuel at historically high levels has put significant pressure on all U.S. carriers," Tilton said. United and other airlines have attempted to offset the fuel burden with fuel surcharges, fare hikes and charging for services that previously were including in the fare. But some experts say airlines may find it harder to pass the expense to travellers! if a weaker economy erodes travel demand. The fleet reduction is part of a broader effort to offset a possible $1 billion increase in fuel costs in 2008, UAL's Chief Financial Officer Jake Brace said in a statement earlier on Tuesday. The airline currently has 20 per cent of its anticipated 2008 fuel requirements hedged, Brace said. That's up from 16 per cent as reported in previous regulatory filings.  (Source: Reuters)

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