Category Archives: Major News

ANA To Receive Its First 787-9 Next Week

By Jack Harty / Published July 24, 2014

KBFI-4_9_14-7ANA’s first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will arrive in Tokyo, Japan next Tuesday.

The airline will begin flying the jet on domestic flights next month. It will be deployed on international routes in April.

Before paying passengers will fly on the 787-9, ANA will be operating a special commemorative flight “Dreamliner” with American and Japanese elementary school children in Japan on-board. The aircraft will fly over Mount Fuji, after departing from Haneda. Additionally, the TOMODACHI logo will be displayed on the aircraft to support the initiative to strengthen Japanese-US ties.

It appears that ANA may beat the 787-9s launch customer, Air New Zealand, in operating the world’s first passenger flight of the jet.

The first 787-9 will arrive with domestic route specifications with 395 seats; 60 more than the 787-8.

Currently, ANA has 28 787s in its fleet, and in a press release, the carrier said that “The fuel savings achieved from the 787 aircraft already in service are sufficient to operate 500 round trips from Tokyo to Frankfurt and are reducing CO2 emissions by 150,000 tons a year. When all 80 Dreamliners are in operation, the CO2 reduction will be 450,000 tons, with enough fuel saved to operate 1,400 round trips to Frankfurt.”

RELATED:

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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PHOTOS: Inside the Irkut MS-21 Mockup

By Airchive.com Staff / Published July 16, 2014

MS-21-Model-1821

Photo of model courtesy of Wikimedia Commons-MilborneOne

FARNBOROUGH, UK – At Farnborough, Irkut Corporation displayed a mockup of the Irkut MS-21 (MC-21) which is also known as “Magistralny Samolyot 21 veka” – “Airliner of the 21st Century.”

The aircraft will be approximately 40-45% composite, and the manufacturer says the MS-21 family will be compliance with future environmental requirements. Plus, its cabin is wider than the Airbus A320 cabin by 12 cm and the Boeing 737 cabin by 28 cm, and the manufacturer claims that the aisles will be wide enough to allow two passengers go through the aisle without blocking each other.

There will be three variants of the MC-21.

The MS-21-300 is the baseline model, and it is similar to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737-800. It will be able to seat up to 181 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 152 passengers in a standard two-class configuration.

The MS-21-200 will be able to seat up to 150 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 136 passengers in a standard two-class configuration. The aircraft will be similar to the Airbus A319, Boeing 737-700, and Bombardier CS300.

The MS-21-400 is a proposed stretched model, and it will be similar to the Airbus A321, Boeing 737-900ER, and Boeing 757-200. This variant would be able to seat 212 passengers in a standard one-class configuration or 178 passengers in a standard two-class configuration.

So far, nine carriers have ordered 257 of MS-21 aircraft.

The aircraft is still in the developmental stages, but its first flight is expected sometime in 2015 or 2016.

Photos of the mockup:

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Jack Harty contributed to this report from Houston, Texas. Vinay Bhaskara and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report from Farnborough, UK.

Photo of model courtesy of Wikimedia Commons-MilborneOne

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Eastern Air Lines Chooses MRJ90 for Regional Flying

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published July 14, 2014

FARNBOROUGH, UK: Eastern Air Lines, yes that Eastern, has placed a memorandum of understanding with Mitsubishi for twenty MRJ90 regional jets. The deal includes options for up to twenty more.

The jets will begin delivery in 2019. Upon delivery Eastern plans to fly them from its Miami hub to destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America, though Eastern CEO Edward Wegel declined to say where. Details on interior configuration were scant too, but Wegel estimated an 82 seat capacity. The MRJ90 is restricted to a two-two configuration, with a maximum capacity of 92.

Wegel explained that his choice for the jet was connected in part to the choice of power plant, Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower geared turbofan engine.

The jet has 275 firm orders thus far, and 325 total commitments. It is targeting a first flight date in the second quarter of 2015, followed by an entry into service with launch customer Skywest in Q2 2017.

Related, Wegel says Eastern remains on track to be airborne by the first quarter of 2015. The airline intends to run charter service with Boeing 737-800 aircraft until it reaches enough mass to switch to scheduled service.

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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Farnborough Today: Sunday, July 13

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published July 13, 2014

The Airbus A350 makes its Farnborough debut.

The Airbus A350 makes its Farnborough debut.

LONDON, UK: The 2014 Farnborough air show doesn’t open until tomorrow, but given the action so far in the otherwise sleepy London suburb you would have thought it was already underway.

Boeing held its media day at the show to discuss the status of its 777, 777X, and 787 Dreamliner programs. Unsurprisingly, it was positive. Also unsurprisingly, it isn’t too worried about its rival Airbus, whose A330neo jet is widely expected to launch this week. Behind all the rhetoric and posturing it has to be at least a little worried. An A330neo would provide a pretty serious competitor to the 787-9 and -10, though mostly by virtue of Airbus’ ability to undercut on pricing, not performance.

Notably left out of the briefing was the 747, a program that is widely considered to be in its twilight despite a substantial remake into the -8 type only a few years back. Boeing executives still appear confident that it will pull through eventually, but the question of when (and thus for us, whether) appears elusive.

In a surprisingly timed move Boeing announced it would be launching a high density 737 MAX 8, basically geared straight at European budget carrier Ryanair. The jet will expand its capacity to 200 people. The company had been considering such a move for some time, but the announcement prior to the show seemed early.

American announced a CFM International order for its A320neo order, a deal worth $2.6 billion. More importantly, the company began testing its Leap 1B engine, thereby leaping in front of its sibling, the Leap 1A. The Leap 1B will be powering the 737 MAX exclusively, while the 1A, the A320neo. CFM is likely prioritizing the MAX program thanks to its greater potential for profits, particularly as it trails in performance on the neo to the other offering from Pratt & Whitney. Our sources at Airbus tell us the 1A, which has entered testing, could be behind three months behind the current promised schedule. Will that delay Airbus’ plan to start testing the engine on a real neo in Q2 of 2015? It could.

Bombardier, for its part, did not even wait until Sunday to get into the action. As our regular readers know the Canadian transportation firm fired the first salvo of the show last night when it announced a substantial Cseries order, the first in some time. UK leasing company Falko did the deal for 24 CS100s, expected to be signed for tomorrow. Technically this is a letter of intent (LOI) order, meaning it is not firm. This isn’t too concerning as LOIs usually convert to firm orders down the road.

Aside from that, it was a quiet day. Workers finished placing final touches on company chalets while remaining jets set to be a part of the show trickled in through the day.

The show officially opens tomorrow, and we can already guarantee it will be an extremely active day. Airbus, ATR, Boeing, and Bombardier are all expected to make announcements beginning around 1000 local time and continuing on well into the late afternoon. We haven’t confirmed, but we’re expecting orders from all four.

Make sure to stay tuned right here at Airchive.com for the latest developments. For the most up to date information we can provide follow us on Twitter (@airchive) and on our Facebook page.

Cheers!

Farnborough Today in Photos:

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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UK Lessor to Order CSeries Jets: FARNBOROUGH 2014

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren & Vinay Bhaskara / Published June 12, 2014

Image courtesy Bombardier

Image courtesy Bombardier

FARNBOROUGH UK: A UK lessor has signed a letter of intent for up to 24 CS100 CSeries jets on Saturday, just days ahead of the beginning of the 2014 Farnborough air show, at a media dinner located at the Wind Tunnel Project.

The firm, Falko, is expected to formally sign the deal at the show on Monday.

The order comes as welcome news for Bombardier, which has seen a mere trickle of commitments for its newest airplane in recent months. The last order came in February of this year, when an undisclosed, existing customer added three aircraft at the Singapore Airshow. To date, the jet has accumulated 471 commitments so far, 203 of which are firm. It is still aiming to hit 300 by the time the airplane enters service, currently expected in 2015.

Falko, formed in 2011, already owns and operates several Bombardier aircraft, including three CRJ-900 regional jets and two Q400 turboprops. Yet it is the firm’s fleet of 57 Avro RJ85/RJ100, three BAe 146s, and eight Boeing 717-200s that make this order particularly significant. These aircraft are a key target market for the CSeries as a replacement aircraft, and Bombardier are no doubt excited at the prospect of reaching more such replacement customers in partnership with Falko.

More broadly, the order should quiet rampant speculation surrounding the direction of the C-Series program, which has once again cropped up after the recent failure of the Pratt & Whitney PW 1000G engine. That failure precluded the C-Series from flying at Farnborough, and increased skepticism about a program that was already under a great deal of scrutiny.

Still, indications are that the program remains on solid ground long-term operationally, though sales will remain a challenge (and ultimately the deciding factor). As a lessor, Falko’s confidence in the aircraft is heartening, though given its market segment, the only new-build competitive options are the smaller E-Jet E2s, or the COMAC C919, neither of which performs the C-Series’ mission as effectively.

Bombardier’s timing, effectively firing the opening salvo of the show, is certainly counter to its generally muted presence at airshows. But it gave the Canadian manufacturer the opportunity to re-assert its confidence in the progress of the program at the most prestigious airshows in the world.

Yet it will be telling to see what the remainder of the week holds for the jet. Is today’s order a sign of better, perhaps even bigger, things to come, or will this wind up the CSeries’ single shot?

Either way, to customers, these types of postures are rather meaningless (and indeed customers often are able to use timing of order announcements as leverage in negotiations), but for the outside world of mainstream media and investors, the order should restore a measure of faith in the CSeries’ program that perhaps should not have been lost in the first place.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com.
Cover photo by Howard Slutsken / Airchive

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United Reduces Venezuela Service

By Jack Harty / Published July 12, 2014

United Airlines is now following other airlines as they plan to reduce flights to Venezuela this fall. This move is due to a dispute about money trapped by tight currency controls in the South American country.

Currently, United flies daily flights between Houston and Caracas.

Starting September 17, United will only fly between Houston and Caracas four times a week. The flight will depart Houston a few minutes before midnight on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Flights will depart Caracas for Houston on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

United reported a loss of $21 million in the first quarter due to weakening of the exchange rate on approximately $100 million in Venezuelan bolivars.

Earlier this week, Delta announced it would reduce service to Caracas to weekly instead of daily.

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You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Boeing Celebrates Delivery of First 787-9 Dreamliner to ANZ

By Jack Harty & Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren; Reporting by Isaac Alexander
Photos by Isaac Alexandar / Published July 9, 2014

photo1EVERETT, WA: Boeing and Air New Zealand celebrated the first 787-9 Dreamliner delivery on Wednesday.

The airplane is expected to fly away to Air New Zealand’s Auckland headquarters tomorrow, on Thursday, following a number of familiarization flights around the Western US in the past week. It is expected to begin flying between Auckland and Sydney before moving to Auckland to Perth on October 15. It will begin flying regional international routes to Asia before beginning service to Vancouver in two years.

The airplane is outfitted with eighteen Business Premier seats, twenty-one premium economy, and 302 regular economy seats, including fourteen rows with its Skycouch quasi-lie-flat product. The airplane will offer passengers a new, Panasonic based in flight entertainment, though no WiFi will be on board for now. It added that the airplane has KA-Band connectivity hardware built in to allow for the option down the road.

photo14 photo15 photo4 photo12

The company has ten of the airplanes on order.

“We are proud to be the launch customer for the 787-9,” said Air New Zealand Chief Financial Officer Rob McDonald. “We believe it will be a game-changer for Air New Zealand, with increased levels of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. We look forward to inviting our customers on board to experience the aircraft and all of its benefits for themselves.”

“This delivery is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our employees, suppliers and Air New Zealand,” said John Wojick, senior vice president of Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Air New Zealand was a perfect partner for us in developing the 787-9, given its innovative spirit, unique mission requirements and geography. The 787-9, combined with Air New Zealand’s exceptional onboard service, will set them apart from the competition by providing an unrivaled flying experience.”

photo9Crucially, the certification also includes ETOPS up to 330 minutes, clearing a hurdle right out of the gate that the 787-8 struggled with for years. In fact the entire final assembly and flight test programs remained remarkably problem free, a nod to what many hope is the end of Boeing’s Dreamliner program troubles.

The 787-9′s fuselage is twenty feet longer than the original 787-8. The stretch allows the aircraft carry forty more passengers. Plus, the 787-9 can fly an additional 450 nautical miles.

Like the 787-8, the 787-9 offers passengers larger windows, larger stow bins, modern LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride.

So far, 26 customers have ordered a total of 409 787-9 aircraft. The orders for the 787-9 make up 40% of the total 787 orders.

As far as other carriers, United expects to take delivery of its first 787-9 in August. It plans to fly the airplane between Los Angeles and Houston starting September 20.

ANA is expected to take delivery of its first 787-9 this summer as well. No plans have been announced for first routes.

Related Stories:

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Jack Harty contributed to this story from LA.
Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this story from Toronto.
Cover photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

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United to Use Mixture of Insourcing, Outsourcing Following Station Reviews

By Jack Harty / Published July 8, 2014

United 777-200 JDLUnited Airlines is insourcing at some of its stations while outsourcing others following station reviews, according to sources. More than a dozen stations were reviewed and bids were taken to determine which route each would take, part of cost-cutting measures. Now the results are in.

In April, United discussed plans to outsource jobs at the Lihue, Kona, and Kahului airports in Hawaii. However, the carrier has since decided to reverse course. Further complicating the matter, the employees at these stations still need to approve the contract due to different wages and work rules. This vote is expected later this month.

United has also determined that it will insource all of its above wing jobs at Honolulu, as well as United Express operations in Phoenix and Washington Dulles. Plus, it will bring back all of its jobs it outsourced in Denver a few years ago to in-house.

However, the story is different at a dozen other stations across United’s network. The carrier will outsource all of its operations in Albuquerque, Buffalo, Charleston (South Carolina), Charlotte, Columbus, Des Moines, Detroit, El Paso, Pensacola, Salt Lake City (ramp only), Sioux Falls, and Wichita.

“This is a difficult decision, but we need to ensure that our costs are competitive,” said United spokesperson Christen David.

In total, the airline will gain approximately 400 new jobs, but with the outsourcing, over 600 jobs will be lost.

The transitions are expected to occur around October 1st.

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Delta Becomes Latest U.S. Airline to Significantly Reduce Venezuela Flights

By Luis Linares / Published July 7, 2014

Delta 737-900Delta Air Lines will become the the second U.S. airline, after American, to drastically reduce service to Venezuela in light of an ongoing dispute between international carriers and the Venezuelan government over strict currency controls. The reductions take effect on August 1st.

The rules currently prevent airlines from repatriating earnings from tickets and cargo space sold in the country without government approval.

Delta currently serves Caracas daily from its Atlanta hub using a Boeing 737-800.  Once the cuts begin, service will be reduced to weekly, departing from Atlanta to Caracas on Saturdays and returning from Caracas to Atlanta on Sundays.

A Delta spokesperson stated that the airline has provided uninterrupted service for 15 years; that it values it longstanding commercial relationship with the Venezuelan government; and that it is committed to serving the Venezuelan market.

Delta joins twelve other international airlines that have cut capacity, sales, or routes to Venezuela as a result of the country’s economic crisis, which has caused the revenue of international airlines to be reduced by the country’s inflation rate, currently the fastest in the world at almost 60 percent, and frequent devaluations of its currency, the bolivar.  Air Canada and Alitalia are the only airlines to have suspended all their service to Venezuela so far.

RELATED: American Airlines Drastically Cuts Flights to Venezuela

In May, Venezuela reached agreements with Aeromexico, Aruba Airlines, Avianca, Insel Air, and TAME to repatriate debt from 2012 and 2013 in-country sales, which will be paid in installments through 2016.  The Venezuelan government has threatened not to welcome back any carriers that suspend their services.  Venezuela accumulated debt to foreign airlines is approximately $4 billion USD.

The cuts by American and Delta, leave United as the only U.S. airline not to have modified its service yet.  United currently serves Houston to Caracas daily using a Boeing 737-700.  Will they be next?  Stay tuned.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com
Follow the author @LUISFERLINARES

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Lufthansa and Air China Strengthen Partnership

By Jack Harty / Published July 7, 2014

Lufthansa and Air China signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance their commercial partnership as part of a joint venture in Beijing this morning.

During a state visit, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel, Carsten Spohr, the Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and Mr. Song Zhiyong, President and Executive Director of Air China Limited, met to sign the deal.

Although Lufthansa and Air China have been connected as members of the Star Alliance, the companies expect this new arrangment to pave the way for the creation of a commercial joint venture and to add to the existing joint ventures with United Airlines and with Air Canada between Europe and North America (since 1998) and with ANA (since 2012) on routes between Europe and Japan.

In a press release, Lufthansa said “the new partnership agreement should come into force as early as the start of the winter flight timetable in late October 2014.”

“We are delighted that, together with Air China, we will be able to offer our customers, particularly those in Europe and China, even better flight connections and services in the future”, said Carsten Spohr at the signing of the memorandum of understanding on 7 July in Beijing. “Thanks to strategic partnerships with leading airlines, the Lufthansa Group airlines now connect the world’s four largest economies even better.”

The new joint venture will offer customers of both airlines a more varied product range and one that can be combined more flexibly. Plus, there will be additional travel options and flight connections, and there will collaboration in the area of maintenance, repair and overhaul services.

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up: July 4th Edition

By Jack Harty / Published July 4, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone, and Happy Fourth of July! In this week’s edition Virgin America wins best domestic airline (again), analysts tell JetBlue and United that they should swap planes, American and US Airways move closer in Chicago, the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was delivered, and more…

Best Domestic Airline: For the seventh consecutive year in a row, Travel + Leisure’s

Photo by Sam Wozniak / Airchive

Photo by Sam Wozniak / Airchive

readers have named Virgin America the best domestic airline in its annual World’s Best Awards.

“Winning this award is one of the highest honors in our industry,” said David Cush, Virgin America’s president and CEO. “It reflects the opinions of some of the world’s most discerning travelers and shows that seven years after our launch as a new carrier we’re continuing to deliver on our promise of creating a different kind of domestic airline: one that offers both the best customer experience in the skies and the best value.”

The other top US domestic airlines that made the top five were JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

The top five international airlines based on the Travel + Leisure survey were Singapore Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Asiana Airways.

Analyst Recommends JetBlue and United Swap Planes: Wolfe Research’s

The 8000th 737 takes to the skies for the second time, on April 9th. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

The 8000th 737 takes to the skies for the second time, on April 9th. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

Hunter Keay and Jared Shojaian told Barron’s they think United and JetBlue should swap planes. They explain:

We believe both United Continental and JetBlue have fleet inefficiencies that contribute to poor margins for both airlines. If United Continental acquired JetBlue’s 60 E-190s (and the 24 on order), in a transaction like the one Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines announced in 2012 when Southwest Airlines agreed to sublease its 88 B717s to Delta Air Lines, we believe both companies would benefit. This would also represent no incremental capacity to United Continental, by our math.

 

We rate shares of both United Continental ($54 TP) and JetBlue ($15 TP) as Outperform. We think both companies are underearning their potential (for different reasons), and we expect material earnings and margin improvement next year. And both companies could help in this improvement by one relatively straightforward transaction.

US Airways and American Get Closer: Earlier this week, US Airways relocated its gates and baggage claim at Chicago O’Hare to Terminal 3 to move closer to its merger partner, American. Later this year, US Airways will move all of its operations to Terminal 3, but in the mean time, customers who need to check-in and check luggage will still need to enter in Terminal 2.

All Blacks ANZ 789-3

Photo by JDL

First Boeing 787-9: On Monday, Boeing completed the contractual delivery of the first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner to its launch customer Air New Zealand. ANZ will receive nine more 787-9s over the next few years, and the carrier expects to fly its inaugural flight in October.

United to Cut Stuttgart: Citing under-performing profits, United Airlines has announced that it will stop flying between Newark and Stuttgart, Germany effective September 20, 2014.

Qatar Arrives at DFW: Qatar Airways officially started flying to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW); its seventh U.S. destination. The airline is the second Middle East carrier to launch service to the, following Emirates.

Qatar Airways CEO, His Excellency Akbar Al Baker said, “Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a major hub for global aviation and an essential part of our expanding global network. We greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of these cities and the airport, which has made this important partnership possible. We look forward to offering our signature 5-star service to passengers across North Texas. Also, through our oneworld partnership with American Airlines, Qatar Airways will now connect cities across the Southwestern USA to our network via DFW.”

Etihad will start serving DFW on December 3rd of this year.

In case you missed it, Airchive had a lot of great coverage right here. This week’s stories:

Overview of El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia

Airbus to Offer Higher Capacity A321

Southwest Airlines CCO Robert Jordan on Business Traveling and Rising Fares

Southwest Airlines Has Left the Country

First A320neo Rolls Out of Factory

Front Seats Aboard Republic’s E-Jets

PEOPLExpress Takes Off

Boeing’s 1,500th 747 Goes to Lufthansa

InFlight Review: British Airways Boeing 747-400 Club World

United Loads Domestic Boeing 787-9 Flights

Have a great weekend!

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

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PEOPLExpress Takes Off

By Oliver Porter / Published June 30, 2014

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: PEOPLExpress’ mission revolves around a basic, hassle-free, low-cost mode of transport around the east coast. From Airchive’s first look, the airline hit each of these points successfully.

Due to simplicity through the airport, an older plane, and stripped but friendly service, hopping onto PEOPLExpress felt like a different kind of air travel. The trip felt like a ride, whether in a bus or someone’s back seat, where the passenger spots a small fare, pops onboard, pops off, and has few frills yet few unexpected experiences. PEOPLExpress gets you there for a minimum fare, without making you feel overtly like a sheep in a herd.

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Terminal

Newport-News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is situated in the Hampton Roads Metro Area. One barrier to arriving at the airport from the Norfolk area (south) is the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which can have large delays. Besides a $60 one-way taxi fare to both Norfolk in the south and Williamsburg in the north, car is the only viable transit mode to PHF.

Once you arrive at the terminal however, the trip becomes quite simplistic. Check-in took longer than expected due to an antiquated computer-system. Combined with the ultra-small airport and effective security line, however, door-to-gate time was under fifteen minutes.

The terminal is modern, airy, and with lots of light. PEOPLExpress has the entire A-concourse, which makes flying through quite simple. The airline provided free mugs and breakfast refreshments in celebration of the new service. There were very few shops and restaurants within the airport, so eating options will probably be limited for frequent travellers.

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The Aircraft

The boarding attendant forgot that there was a premium section of the plane, and instead began boarding by the back five rows to the front. This was a minor mistake, however, and the back-to-front technique was fast and efficient, especially with our 75 percent load factor.

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On the jet bridge, one could clearly note the “operated by Vision Air” titles, but most would not know to look for them and instead find the fresh livery appealing. Interestingly, the premium cabin is not separated from the rest of the cabin; the large seats are the only difference. Each seat is an old-fashioned Recaro leather job with plenty of legroom and old fashioned recline. After several recent flights on slimline seats with no true recline, this is actually a welcome site. As with most LCCs, there is no IFE.

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The Flight

We took off of Runway 7 smoothly, and then had a brief snack service with pretzels and a drink. In the future, snacks will be free, but drinks will be extra. This is the reverse of most services. Several employees from the airline, family, and members of the PHF airport helped keep the load factor relatively high, and the mood was exciting as executives moved up and down the aisle to welcome people aboard.

Our arrival at Newark was uneventful, as the fire department could not make it for a spray-down. We arrived in Terminal B, which is quite old and could use a remodeling. Nevertheless, the terminal is quite easy to use and not crowded, which is a major advantage for stress-free travel.

Origins and Aura

The original PEOPLExpress began serving customers in the Northeast United States. on April 30, 1981. The airline grew quickly throughout the 1980s, and eventually merged with Continental in 1987. It concentrated its network at Newark, but grew quickly and consequently suffered when it competed with major carriers, especially on international routes.

Riders had mixed opinions about the airline, but it successfully moved people at low fares – some colleagues remember getting from New York to Boston by air for only $19. The airline was cheap, convenient, and had no frills, either.

The new PEOPLExpress bears some resemblance to the old airline, but is in many ways a different company. In order to begin operations, PEOPLExpress currently operates aircraft under a wet lease arrangement with Vision Air. Wet leasing provides an airline with an aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance, or ACMI for short. Vision is based in Las Vegas, and has several charter operations. On the first day of operations, the airline did not have a distinct culture or brand identity apart from fully marked check-in, aircraft, and personnel. Nevertheless, the service was personal and the overall experience had a small-business aura, almost like going to your local deli. There was an upstart, can-do attitude among the senior staff on the plane for the first flight to Newark.

The lack of a strong brand identity at this stage of the airline’s life is subjective, because the airline has not had time to showcase its service and culture for more than one day. From the moment the door closed to the moment it opened, the crew, was positive and quite excited, and did not mention Vision Air once during the flight. This is a good sign, because if all crews indeed act the same way, the airline will be able to build its brand and count on employee buy-in, which is a key element of a solid corporate culture.

One true believer in the PEOPLExpress idea is founder Mike Morisi, who rode the first flight to Newark. Morisi is a former employee of the original PEOPLExpress. and was among many cheering on takeoff, landing, and arrival, with palpable energy and a positive outlook on what he and his team believe will be the next upstart to contend with a new, ultra-consolidated legacy airline industry.

Executives remarked throughout the morning that there were several challenges before operations began, but they have proved doubters wrong by actually taking off.

The airline still does not have its own operating certificate, but Morisi remarked that his team is working with regulators and should have one within a year at the very latest.

The Newport News Story

Many people on social media have asked why the airline chose the name PEOPLExpress, why they did chose to start now, and why they began in Newport News. The name probably came from senior management’s – including Morisi’s – former association with the original airline, but the story behind Newport News and the timing behind today’s launch is much more business-oriented.

The Newport News Williamsburg Airport (PHF) is in the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area. The area expanded in the gilded age, when the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad came to town under the direction of magnate Collis Potter Huntington. Huntington’s rain line still brings coal from West Virginia mines straight to the port of Norfolk. Huntington, who was one of the leading investors involved in building the Transcontinental Railroad, also contributed to the Huntington-Ingalls Shipbuilding Company, which currently is the sole U.S. manufacturer of aircraft carriers, and is the largest industrial employer in Virginia. South of the shipyard and across the James River Bay lies the Norfolk Naval Base, which, combined with Ft. Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, and Naval Air Station Oceana make the location an enormous military port and base area. Additionally, Maersk and other shipping companies have operations in Norfolk. With such a large military, industrial, and educational base – Old Dominion and Hampton Universities are nearby – there is a continuous market of travellers coming to and from the area for a variety of purposes. This makes the area ripe for new competition given recent consolidation and service cancellations following the mergers of American and US Airways as well as Airtran and Southwest.

Niche Market

Airtran was one of the first major airlines to thrive off of the large Norfolk metro area, with services at both Norfolk (ORF) and PHF. The airline effectively sidestepped legacy routes that relied on hubs and provided substantially lower fares. When Airtrain and Southwest joined forces, the combined entity dropped all flights from PHF. Morisi explained that this was a “big loss” for travellers in the area, and in a single move PHF lost about 50% of its service. This was a large influence on starting an operation at the airport, as fares have skyrocketed. For the Oceana Airshow Weekend, three months away, for example, US Air fares are about $250 round-trip from Boston with a connection. Enter PEOPLExpress, with a nonstop service that takes almost half the time, and that fare now drops to $150. Many, including Airchive analysts, have remarked that under basic operating assumptions, profitability will be difficult at a 66% load factor. The first flight, albeit filled with many airline employees, had a 75% load. Morisi expects many customers to buy ancillary services, such as checked bags and food, in order to keep the airline profitable.

Future

Growth plans for Florida, Atlanta, and New Orleans are still on track, according to Morisi. He explained that aircraft acquisition and further financing are a continuous process, and interestingly there is no financial backing from the airport itself. After using the service, it is clear that, while an infant, PEOPLExpress fills a huge need in the area. Even without marketing, the service is a no-brainer for those who want the lowest price. Government contracts and legacy frequent fliers may hurt PEOPLExpress in the short-term, but Morisi pointed out that in the end, fare price wins, and cost will be his airline’s major advantage as it expands to seven daily services out of PHF.

Related Stories:

Analysis Part I: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

Analysis Part 2: Nostalgia is Not a Viable Business Model for PEOPLExpress

PEOPLExpress Announces Initial Operations

Flashback: Check out these vintage original PeoplExpress timetables and route maps

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Boeing’s 1,500th 747 Goes to Lufthansa

By Jack Harty / Published June 30, 2014

Boeing’s 1,500th Boeing 747 (Lufthansa’s 14th Boeing 747-8) arrived in Frankfurt, Germany yesterday morning. This delivery marks a significant milestone for both the airline and the manufacturer.

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Image Courtesy: Lufthansa

Since the 1970s, Lufthansa has received 76 Boeing 747s from Boeing while Boeing has produced more 1,500 747s.

In a press release, Lufthansa writes “What started as the first training flight with the new Boeing 747 over the mountains east of Seattle in October 1969 went on to become an icon of the Lufthansa fleet, and, indeed, of commercial aviation as a whole. On 9 March 1970, the then Lufthansa CEO Herbert Culmann took delivery of the first Lufthansa Boeing 747-130 in front of the factory in Everett. The aircraft’s production number was 12 and its Lufthansa registration was D-ABYA.”

Image Courtesy: Lufthansa

Image Courtesy: Lufthansa

Lufthansa became the second international airline to fly the aircraft, but it was the first European carrier to fly scheduled services with the 747. Over the years, the jumbo jet has become an iconic aircraft at Lufthansa, and it was even a host for several major world premières in succession, including the first film shown on board a jumbo jet.

Originally, Lufthansa intended to operate it as a military aircraft, but the airline would use it primarily for passenger and cargo services.

In April 1972, Lufthansa was the launch customer of the cargo version (also known as the “Smiling 747″) which allows airlines to load even bulkier goods. Thanks to the all-cargo 747, Lufthansa became the number one airfreight transporter.

‘A step towards the 1990s’ is how Lufthansa CEO Heinz Ruhnau described the purchase agreement signed on 23 June 1986 for an initial order of six enhanced Boeing 747 aircraft.

It was the first airline to order the “Dash 400” (Boeing 747-400), and Lufthansa helped develop the new aircraft by providing hundreds of suggestions for improvements and more than 20,000 engineer hours.

The new Dash 400 was developed with upward-pointing winglets, new and more economical engines, new materials such as composite materials and aluminium alloys. All of these innovations helped cut fuel consumption by 24% compared with the -200 series.

However, the carrier continued to work with Boeing to develop a new 747 model, the Boeing 747-8I, and it became the first passenger airline in the world to receive and operate the Boeing 747-8I.

‘It’s an honour for Lufthansa that the anniversary jumbo will fly in the colours of the Lufthansa crane,’ said Nico Buchholz, Head of Group Fleet Management at Deutsche Lufthansa AG. ‘For decades, Lufthansa has been one of the aircraft manufacturer’s closest advisers – a pioneer when it comes to developing new, environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient aircraft,’ added Buchholz at the handover in Seattle.

Lufthansa is expecting to take delivery of four more 747-8Is which will make it the world’s largest operator of the 747-8 among passenger airlines.

RELATED: Boeing’s 747 Celebrates 1,500th Delivery as Future Remains Uncertain

Photos: Inside Boeing’s 747 Factory

RELATED: Boeing Delivers 50th Boeing 747-8

FLASHBACK: Boeing 747 Early Sales Brochures, Photos, and Marketing Materials

PHOTOS: Lufthansa Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Inaugural

RELATED: A History of Boeing’s 747 Factory

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You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

Photos courtesy of Lufthansa.

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United Loads Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published June 28, 2014

Overnight, United Airlines loaded its first 787-9 domestic flights. However, it is not clear if this will be United’s inaugural 787-9 flight.

Starting September 20, 2014, United Airlines will begin flying one daily round trip Boeing 787-9 flight between Los Angeles and Houston IAH. Based on the schedule, United will operate the 787-9 on this route until October 25.

The outbound flight will depart Los Angeles around 7:30 AM and arrive in Houston around 12:49 PM. The return flight will depart Houston around 2:40 PM and arrive in Los Angeles around 4:08 PM.

The first 787-9 is expected to arrive in August. Once the aircraft goes through its introduction into service, it will begin replacing routes presently served by the 787-8.

United’s second 787-9 will arrive in October, and two more -9s and one -8 will be delivered during the first quarter of 2015.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst (in a 2-2-2 configuration), 88 Economy Plus Seats (United’s extra legroom economy seats), and 116 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

United’s 787-9 International Routes

Subject to government approval, United Airlines will launch direct flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia with the Boeing 787-9 on October 26, 2014. The new direct service will be operated six times a week.

United Airlines will begin flying the Boeing 787-9 between Los Angeles and Shanghai in early March 2015. United currently operates the 787-8 between the two cities.

Other United 787 News

Yesterday, United took delivery of its 12th 787-8 which allows it to begin flying the 787 between Houston and London again.

Additionally, United will begin flying the 787-8 between Houston and Frankfurt early next year.

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Shreveport Airport To Receive First Class and Airport Upgrades

By Jack Harty / Published June 23, 2014

Shreveport Regional Airport is growing, and the airport is planning $30 million dollar upgrades.

Starting July 2, Delta Air Lines will begin flying the Boeing 717 between Atlanta and Shreveport,  the first time in several years that an airline will be offering first class seating on flights in and out of the city.

Gary Anderson, Delta’s regional manager explained to the Atlanta Business Chronicle that “as we retire many of our 50 seat regional jets, we’re bringing in 717 aircraft and introducing them to cities of a similar scope of Shreveport. So many cities across the country are really enjoying the enhanced service.”

Currently Delta flies approximately eight daily flights operated by CRJ-200s between the two cities, and starting July 2, it will operate seven daily flights (one flight with the 717 and six flights with the CRJ-200).

Earlier today, American Airlines announced that it will also begin offering a first class product on two of its seven daily flights to Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) starting August 19. Currently, American Eagle only operates the ERJ-145 on this route, but the CRJ-700 with make an appearance with nine first class seats in August.

Bryant L. Francis, C.M., Director of Airports, told KTBS that “we have been working diligently to convince our airlines that this market can support more seats, larger aircraft, and additional nonstop destinations, and we’re encouraged by the move American is making to provide a higher level of service for our customers while increasing overall seat capacity.”

Upgrades Coming

Thanks to grants from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Association, the airport will invest more than $30 million into the airport making upgrades. However, passengers may not be seeing all of the changes.

The airport will resurface taxiways, replace some of the ramps, and update the airfield signs.

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The cover photo is courtesy of Shreveport Regional Airport.

You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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American Airlines Drastically Cuts Flights to Venezuela

By Luis Linares / Published June 18, 2014

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American Airlines Boeing 737-800: Image by Luis Linares / Airchive

American Airlines will become the latest airline to drastically reduce service to Venezuela in light of an ongoing dispute between international carriers and the Venezuelan government over strict currency controls. The rules currently prevent airlines from repatriating earnings from tickets and cargo space sold in the country without government approval.

American will reduce weekly service to Venezuela from 48 to 10 flights per week by dropping service between Venezuela’s capital Caracas and New York JFK International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Juan starting July 2. The reductions amount to an 80 percent cut in service.

As of March 31, American had $750 million USD trapped in Venezuela.  American joins eleven other airlines that have cut capacity, sales, or routes to Venezuela as a result of the country’s economic crisis, which has caused the revenue of international airlines to be reduced by the country’s inflation rate, currently the fastest in the world at almost 60 percent, and frequent devaluations of its currency, the bolivar.  Air Canada and Alitalia are the only airlines to have suspended all their service to Venezuela so far.

After the cuts, American will only serve Venezuela from Miami.  Flights to Caracas will be reduced from four daily to one, with an added flight on Saturdays.  Miami to Maracaibo service will be changed from daily to twice per week.  The only other U.S. carriers serving Venezuela are Delta from Atlanta and United from Houston, both with one flight per day.

In May, Venezuela reached agreements with Aeromexico, Aruba Airlines, Avianca, Insel Air, and TAME to repatriate debt from 2012 and 2013 in-country sales, which will be paid in installments through 2016.  The Venezuelan government said foreign airlines that suspended flights to the country would not be welcomed back and suggested it may devalue the bolivar for ticket purchasers as it worked to normalize flights and prevent the other airlines from leaving the country.  Venezuela owes foreign carriers $4 billion USD.

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Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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New Airline “La Compagnie” to Launch Exclusively Business Class Service Between New York and Paris

By Luis Linares / Published June 17, 2014

La Compagnie Press ReleaseIn July, pending U.S. approval, new French airline “La Compagnie” (The Company) will start exclusively business class service between New York and Paris.  The inaugural flight will take off from Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) on July 11 to Newark International Airport (EWR).  In February, we reported new Le Bourget-headquartered airline Dreamjet would start this service.  This month the name was changed to La Compagnie, Dreamjet will be retained in the French Air Operator Certificate.

Founder Frantz Yvelin intends to “democratize” business class across the Atlantic with very competitive fares offering a “French style and American dependability.”  The airline plans to use a Boeing 757-200 fitted with Aviation Partners blended winglets.  The seating layout will consist of 74 angled lie-flat seats in a 2×2 configuration.  The aircraft will serve four to five weekly flights during the summer departing CDG at 17:50 and arriving in EWR at 20:30.  Return flights will depart Newark at 21:45 and arrive in CDG at 11:15.  Flight crews will consist of two pilots and three flight attendants fluent in international languages.

The inflight amenities include kits with cosmetic products by Caudalie and a meal service with menus created by Christophe Langree, the Michelin-starred chef of Hotel Matignon in Paris, which serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of France.  Inflight entertainment will consist of complimentary WiFi service, and all seats will have personal Samsung tablets uploaded with an assortment of books, magazines, music, and movies.

Other features of La Compagnie’s French style include a sleek and stylized interior cabin with leather headrests and armrests in the airline’s baby blue color.  Additional interior tones muted, from the wood grain of wallboards to the blue-speckled gray carpeting.  The cabin crew will be outfitted in stylish signature uniforms designed by the French fashion house Vicomte A, whose colorful ready-to-wear line combines an aristocratic tradition and elegance, as well as French know-how and “art-de-vivre” (art of living).

If the name Frantz Yvelin sounds familiar, he is the founder of L’Avion, which operated business class-only service from Paris Orly Airport to Newark from 2006 to 2009, before being bought out by British Airways to integrate with its OpenSkies subsidiary.  The entrepreneurial initiative for La Compagnie was created in October 2013 by Yvelin with assistance from former Swissair and JetAirways CEO Peter Luethi.  The fundraising campaign drew nearly 30 million Euros from French and European investors.

La Compagnie plans on offering a three-tiered price structure.  Including applicable taxes, fees, and carrier charges, one way fares are broken down as “Best” $750 USD (500.50 euros); “Semi” $1,300 USD (955 euros); and “Flex” $2,132 USD (1,564 euros).

As we reported in February, history could play against La Compagnie, considering the demise of all-business trans-Atlantic ventures like MAXjet, Silverjet, and EOS, which went bankrupt in a six-month stretch between December 2007 and May 2008.  Mainline carriers providing service across the pond, like Air France, American, and Delta have recently or are soon planning on also upgrading their business class cabins.

 

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Three Airlines Jump on the Phoenix/Cleveland Market After United Departs

By Jack Harty / Published June 15, 2014

Last month, United Airlines stopped flying between Cleveland and Phoenix. This route was the only mainline route United cut from Cleveland when it de-hubbies the city.

For several years, United (and its merger partner Continental) had a monopoly on this route. Now one month after the carrier stopped flying its one daily round trio flight between the two cities, three airlines have already announced plans to begin flying between these two cities.

Now, Frontier, Southwest, and US Airways enter the picture.

Frontier Airlines announced plans to launch three weekly flights (Mon., Wed., and Fri.) between these cities in March, and it flew its inaugural flight last week. The carrier operates a Airbus A320 on this route with 188 seats. When this route was announced, the route was only a summer seasonal route, but the carrier will resume service again in November.

US Airways announced plans to begin flying between Phoenix and Cleveland last month. The carrier will fly one daily round trip flight October 3, and it will operate a Airbus A320 with 150 seats on this route.

Southwest has not made any official announcements about starting flights between Cleveland and Phoenix, but in its weekly schedule update, the carrier’s reservation system shows that it will start nonstop flights between the two cities on December 29. The airline will operate daily flights until January 4, 2015 which is when its schedule ends. It’s not clear if this route is only seasonal or will be year round. Either way, it appears that Southwest sees potential in this market. The carrier will be operating a Boeing 737-800 with 175 seats on this route.

During the first quarter of 2013, the peek amount of passengers on this route was 350 per day. Many of the 350 were connecting passengers as Cleveland was still a hub for United at the time.

By the end of the year, there will be 513 seats available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On all of the other days there will be 325 seats available.

This route may be slightly tough to pull off with three airlines competing. Although, Phoenix is a focus city for Southwest and a hub for US Airways. The carriers’ large operations will allow Phoenix to be a connecting point for onward connections to other destinations in the southwest region of the U.S.. However, a Frontier only flies to Denver from Phoenix.

Who will survive? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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You can contact the author at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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