Airline News February 2005.


The expected statement by defence secretary Geoff Hoon finally confirming that Air Tanker Ltd, a consortium of EADS, Cobham, Rolls- Royce, Thales and the VT Group, has won the contract to supply the future strategic tanker aircraft for the RAF. Airbus A330s would replace the current ageing fleet of VC10 and TriStar aircraft The 27 year life private finance initiative involves operating the 'planes in a civil role when not required by the military. An airline partner is required, with Virgin Atlantic thought to be the lead possibility although boss man Sir Richard Branson has a well-known aversion to twin-engine aircraft. It does seem to be a case if it is good enough for the RAF it's good enough for me. Australia is to get the A330 too. The British Ministry of Defence declined to confirm the announcement date.

Feb 27, 2005

Aircraft manufacturers, that is general aviation producers (all non- military aircraft except airliners) had a very good year in 2004 producing just under 3,000 aircraft with a total value of $11.9bn nearly 20% up on the previous year and the third highest total of all time. 591 business jets were produced, Raytheon's Hawker 800XP (de Havilland 125 to older readers - see photo) still the top seller with 50 units. Turboprops continued to be purchased with the Beech King Air family still leading on 102 units, Switzerland Pilatus next up with 70 PC 12s and the single engine Cessna Caravan selling a very respectable 64 units. Training and touring aircraft numbers continued to be well down on the halcyon figures of 30 years ago with Cirrus the largest producer at 553 units and Cessna and New Piper showing modest numbers.

Feb 27, 2005

Cargo anoraks will be pleased with this artists impression of an aircraft that will actually become a reality in 2006, even larger than Airbus Beluga A300 based component transporter. Seattle has released details of the 747 LCF (large cargo freighter), a modified 747-400. A pair of these aircraft will be needed to support the multi-national 787 programme, and possibly a third. Two 'planes have been identified for the conversion, which will be carried out in Taiwan. A commercial version at some point? Boeing would not comment.

Feb 27, 2005

Aging DC-9s help Northwest weather higher costs. Northwest Airlines continues to fly aging DC-9s because they are economical and help it endure high fuel prices. The airline owns many of its jets, so its fixed costs are lower than many of its competitors. The average age of Northwest's DC-9s is 34 years, and they account for more than one-third of the company's fleet.

Feb 22, 2005

Kazakhstan, arguably a democracy, but with the same former Soviet management in place since independence in 1991, is attempting to force foreign airlines to move to its new capital of Astana or quit the oil rich country completely. The airlines affected include Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, British Airways (British Mediterranean) and Turkish Airlines who all fly to the commercial centre of Almaty whilst Russia's Transaero operates to both cities. The Kazakh tourist industry is very concerned over the whole matter believing the country will lose out to neighbouring Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. Astana is a bleak soviet style city with little to interest visitors. Air Astana serves the new capital and is 49% owned by BAE Systems. Kazakhstan is presided over by 65 year old Nursultan Nazarbayev who has ruled the country since Russia departed and has now extended his term of office from five years to seven, running unopposed at the elections.

Feb 14, 2005

Cost-cutting is only part of the answer for U.S. airlines. The airlines will have to do more than lower costs to pull themselves out of their financial crises, the Financial Times reports. The airline industry pushed expenses down in the fourth quarter, but the six largest carriers still posted a loss of $4.1 billion, seven times higher than the year- ago loss.

Feb 7, 2005

Airlines need to balance supply, demand, Bethune says. The airline industry will return to financial health when it strikes a balance between supply and demand, according to former Continental Airlines chief executive Gordon Bethune. He discussed the future of the industry on National Public Radio Thursday morning. Bethune is now an industry consultant.

Feb 3, 2005

Air Canada

Air Canada intends on launching summer service from Quebec City to Boston on June 1, becoming the only airline to offer daily nonstop service in the market. It said this will provide a link for Quebec City cruise ships. Its regional airline affiliate, Air Canada Jazz, will operate the flights with Dash 8 aircraft configured with 37 seats in a 2X2 arrangement. It will charge an introductory fare as low as $105 one way, available through agents or its own reservations and Web site.

Feb 23, 2005

Air France, Japan Airlines

Air France and Japan Airlines seem to be getting closer together although the Tokyo-based airline is not, as yet, part of SkyTeam. From 17 February, the daily JAL Boeing 777 Paris - Nagoya service becomes a code-share with AF holding 20 business class seats and 80 in economy. The service will run alongside Air France's existing Tokyo and Osaka operations. Nagoya, about one hour's flight time south of Tokyo, is not served from London with direct flights.

Feb 7, 2005

Air India Express

India is very quickly waking up to the idea of budget air travel, even Air-India getting into the act. Set for launch on March 27 Air India Express plans to have a fleet of 14 Boeing 737-800s within 12 months. These aircraft will have 181 economy class seats in a single class configuration. The new airline will operate 63 flights per week with six aircraft available at the time of the launch. With the induction of four more aircraft, effective winter 2005, Air-India Express will operate 38 additional flights, and add another 26 flights in the third phase effective April 2006, when four more aircraft will join the fleet. Kingfisher, another Indian budget operator, and part of the beer company of the same name, has added the Airbus A319 to its prospective fleet. It's due to launch in April followed by Spicejet in May. Another operator at the no frills end of the market, Air Deccan, is already up and operating.

Feb 27, 2005

Air New Zealand'

Air New Zealand's fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft and eight new Boeing 777-200 aircraft are to be configured in a three cabin layout that eliminates first class. Virgin Atlantic was the first to take this route which is now being copied by a number of airlines. ANZ calls its new passenger configuration Business Premier, Pacific Premium Economy and Pacific Economy and plans to start refitting its Boeing 747s later this year, its still to be introduced 777s 'factory fresh' with the new interiors. Business Premier will offer completely lie-flat sleeping, the 22" wide seat converting into a 6' 7", probably the longest bed to date. Pacific Premium Economy features generous 39"-40" pitch and all classes will have upgraded menus and video on demand.

Feb 27, 2005

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand is introducing a Pacific Premium Economy class on its 747s and 777s flying across the Pacific. This will be in addition to its Business Premier and Pacific Economy classes. The airline has been working for more than a year on improving its look, and Gus Gilmore, vice president - The Americas, said, "This is just the beginning. New planes, new in-flight entertainment systems, new seats, new uniforms and a new food and beverage service are just some of the developments we are working on to enhance our long-distance offerings." Customers will begin to see these enhancements in the second half of this year. The three- class cabin will be available on flights from San Francisco to Auckland by August, and from Los Angeles to both London and Auckland at the end of 2005. Its Business Premier class will have lie-flat seats with ottomans, direct aisle access for all passengers and an on-demand entertainment system. Pacific Premium Economy will have 40 inches of pitch, wide seats, on-demand video, and the same beverage service, outlets and cabin lighting as the business class cabin. Pacific Economy also will have on-demand entertainment and seas with 34 inches of pitch.

Feb 24, 2005

Air Salone

Air Salone, a new airline based in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has appointed the long established Bath Road, Heathrow-based representative company Airlinebusiness Ltd as its passenger general sales agent in the UK and Ireland. The airline plans to introduce a weekly Saturday service Gatwick to Dakar and then onto Freetown in Sierra Leone. The flights will be operated by a two-class Boeing 757 aircraft with 14 seats in business and 190 seats in the main economy cabin.

Feb 20, 2005

Air Scotland

Glasgow airport is to gain a direct service to Paris Charles de Gaulle aimed mainly at the leisure market. Air Scotland (which is the trading name of Greece Airways) is to introduce a twice weekly, Monday and Friday service to back up its established operations to Athens, Malaga and Palma. From Edinburgh it serves Alicante and Malaga. The airline also plans to serve Amsterdam from Glasgow, also twice weekly, a route with both easyJet and KLM established on it. Single class 233 passenger Boeing 757-200s are used on all services.

Feb 27, 2005

Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui, will create a new milestone in travel when it launches historic nonstop service from New York to the South Pacific beginning July 4th, 2005. Air Tahiti Nui, which maintains a fleet of new Airbus A340-300 aircraft, will operate on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal 4 with nonstop service to...

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