Category Archives: Major News

US Airways Joins oneworld Alliance

By Jack Harty / Published March 31, 2014

6800187405_33fe8e7a4c_bUS Airways officially became a member of the oneworld alliance today, March 31. It is the latest milestone in the ongoing American / US Airways merger, and the latest feather in oneworld’s increasingly expansive cap.

American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker remarked on the occasion in a statement: “As we work toward creating the new American, network strength and breadth are essential components in building what will be world’s greatest airline. We look forward to providing our customers with access to key points all around the world via oneworld. Adding US Airways to the roster of oneworld member airlines is a significant step we will take as we combine the two carriers to create the new American.”

Dividend Miles Chairman cardholders will have the top Emerald status in the oneworld program.  As for Dividend Miles Platinum and Gold customers, they will be equivalent to oneworld Sapphire, and Dividend Miles Silver customers will be oneworld Ruby.

Dividend Miles Chairman, Platinum and Gold members will have access to approximately 600 oneworld airport lounges starting today, and Dividend Miles Chairman cardholders will be able to use First Class lounges. Additionally, eligible members will receive additional baggage allowances and access fast tracks through departure security at select airports.

All Dividend Miles members will be able to earn mileage and status points on oneworld member airlines starting today, but US Airways says that “the ability to redeem mileage rewards for flights on other oneworld airlines may be phased in shortly afterwards.”

US Airways file photo. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive

US Airways file photo. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive

Oneworld Chairman Tom Horton, otherwise known as the former CEO of American, added that with the addition of US Airways, “the oneworld network will expand to almost a thousand destinations in more than 150 countries, served by 14,250 daily departures – equivalent to a oneworld flight taking off or landing every three seconds around the clock – carrying 475 million passengers last year and generating annual revenues of US$ 140 billion.” The carrier is adding 60 new destinations to the oneworld map. Additionally, it is strengthening the oneworld presence at its keys hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Washington DC’s Reagan National.

US Airways quietly exited its previous affiliation, Star Alliance, late Sunday night. Both alliances and airlines have worked around the clock to make the transition as seamless as possible. Although the switch has been many months in the making, there is still a transition period before all of the benefits and services will extend to US Airways passengers.

However, US Airways said in a statement that “American and their oneworld partners are working to provide the most popular benefits and services on an accelerated timeline.” Customers should be receiving information about the benefits and privileges they are now due as, with further notifications as benefits come online down the road.

The addition of US Airways is the latest change in oneworld’s biggest membership expansion yet, but not the only carrier to join up today. Brazilian carrier TAM joins the alliance on Monday as well. Further back, Malaysia Airlines, a top tier carrier known for its frequent award winners joined the alliance on February 1st, while LAN Columbia and Qatar Airways joined in October 2013. SriLankan Airlines is due to join early next year.

RELATED:

Qatar Airways Officially Joins oneworld

Qatar Airways Open to Closer Ties with oneworld partners

LAN Colombia and TAM joining oneworld alliance: Analysis

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Contact the author at Jack.Harty@Airchive.com
Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report.
Cover photo courtesy jplphoto.

 

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United Launches Second Daily Houston-Tokyo Flight

By Jack Harty / Published March 30, 2014

United Airlines launched its second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo??????????????????????????????? Naritia early Sunday morning. Fifteen years ago, United/Continental Airlines started flying between Houston and Tokyo.

One cannot forget the hard work of making this route a reality.

How the Route Became a Reality

In the late 1990s, there was a large competition over who would receive rights to fly from the United States mainland to Japan. Not only was it a growing market, U.S. airlines had been mostly shut out of the lucrative and restricted Japanese market. However, 69 U.S.-Japan weekly flights became available for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to dole out, and several airlines expressed their interest, including Continental.

Houston’s business and aviation community wanted a direct flight to Japan, and naturally saw this as their chance to turn a dream into a reality. When the DOT requested carriers to name the routes they most preferred to fly, Continental Airlines would only say it needed authority to fly daily flights from Newark and Houston.

On January 30, 1998, the United States and Japanese governments signed an agreement that would allow U.S. airlines to operate 90 new flights a week. However, the DOT would only allow 21 weekly flights to operate between the United States mainland and Japan on a 12-month temporary basis.

American, Continental and Delta all won seven weekly flights. American launched flights between Chicago and Tokyo on May 1, 1998, followed by Delta, operating Atlanta-Tokyo, on June 3, 1998.

Continental, however, had to make a decision. Would it fly to Tokyo daily from Houston or from Newark. Or would it alternate flights between the two cities?

Two weeks later, Continental selected its Newark hub to operate its initial U.S. mainland flights to Tokyo in order to stay competitive in the New York City market. Although this was a major let down for Houston, Continental spokeswoman Karla Taylor Villalon told the AP at the time that “We have every belief that Continental and Houston will be awarded more (weekly flights),” and she went on to say that Continental planned to launch flights to Tokyo from Houston the following December, despite not knowing if the city would receive approval to do so.

Thankfully Villalon proved right, and later the same year Continental was awarded service to launch daily flights to Houston. This would be Houston’s first and only non-stop flight to Asia.

Continental launched flights between Newark and Tokyo on November 30, 1998 with its brand new Boeing 777-200.

Two months later, Continental Airlines flew its first flight from Houston to Tokyo on January 31, 1999. A large event was held at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to celebrate the new route. Several dozen company executives, federal, state and local dignitaries and business leaders attended the launch party. Speeches were given, a Shinto priest blessed the aircraft, a ribbon was cut, and Continental flight 7 was sent off to Tokyo.

For fifteen years, the lone flight from Houston to Tokyo has departed each morning as Continental/United flight 7 through rain, snow, sleet, and shine. And sure enough, every day the Boeing 777-200 returned to Houston in the early afternoon.

The New Flight

In November 2013, United begin a second daily flight between Houston and Tokyo in spring 2014 when it announced plans to launch flights to Munich from Houston on April 24, 2014.

“The new flights from Houston further expand United’s unmatched route network and offer additional travel opportunities with our joint venture partners ANA and Lufthansa,” said Cheryl Reed, United’s Houston regional sales director. “In addition to adding more nonstop service from Houston, the flights are conveniently timed to provide one-stop connections at the hub from destinations across the Americas.”

“United is pleased to offer Houston-area travelers more flights to more of the world than any other airline,” said Stephanie Buchanan, United’s vice president of the Houston hub. “Besides adding additional nonstop flights from Houston, both the Tokyo and the Atlantic City services are conveniently timed to provide one-stop connections at the hub to and from destinations across the Americas.”

United flight 1 will depart Bush Intercontinental at 9 AM and arrive at Tokyo’s Naritia International Airport at 12:35 PM the next day. The return flight, United 2, will depart Tokyo at 6:55 PM and arrive in Houston at 4:55 PM the same day.

The existing flight to Tokyo, United flight 7, departs Bush Intercontinental at 10:55 AM and arrives at Tokyo’s Naritia International Airport at 2:30 PM the next day. The return flight, United 6, departs Tokyo at 3:45 PM and arrives in Houston at 1:40 PM the same day.

​The flight times are set up to offer “convenient round-trip connections at Narita to the airline’s flights to Guam, Seoul and Singapore, as well as to flights operated by United’s joint-venture partner ANA to 19 destinations in Asia, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Taipei,” according to a press release.

Both flights are operated by a Boeing 777-200. The aircraft has 267 seats with 50 in United BusinessFirst and 217 (including 72 Economy Plus seats) in United Economy.

Related: United launches new service between San Francisco and Taipei, Taiwan this weekend.

Jack Harty reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

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Change Could be in the Air at Houston Intercontinental

By Jack Harty / Published March 20, 2014
Updated 3/20/14 @ 1500EDT*

The international wing of Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is planning to undergo a major renovation. The airport is looking to expand the terminal, known simply as D, to accommodate over one dozen wide-body aircraft, including four Airbus A380s.

IAH 2

A Google Maps Satelite view of IAH’s Terminal D

From 12PM-6PM, terminal D is the place to be. Air China, Air France, British Airways, Emirates, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar, Singapore, and Turkish all have flights arriving and departing in that window. The crush of activity has left the terminal increasingly cramped. Presently it can only accommodate seven wide-body aircraft at best. The number goes down when an A380 is involved. The superjumbo, operated by Lufthansa, takes up two gates, dropping the available space even further.

And that space is currently a hot commodity as Houston IAH continues to grow. Two years ago, Lufthansa started flying the Airbus A380 to Houston, and last year, Turkish Airlines and Air China started flying to Houston.

This year, 2014, is set to continue the trend. On March 30, United will add an additional frequency between Houston and Tokyo Naritia, and on April 24, the carrier will also add new nonstop service to Munich. Additionally, Korean Air will launch flights to Houston from Seoul on May 2.

Even more growth is expected down the road: Jarrett Simmons, who is on Houston Airport System’s Planning, Design, and Construction team says that two other airlines want to fly the A380 to Houston.

iah-terminal-d-concourse-6_24096 iah-terminal-d-concourse-5_24097
The current D Terminal. Photos by Chris Sloan / Airchive

PHOTOS: Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport

The dearth of wide-body gate space is not just an issue for foreign flag carriers. Hometown heavy-weight United is also running out of space to park wide-body aircraft, particularly with the larger 787s.

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A rendering of the new Terminal D
Courtesy of Houston Airport System

On the Houston Airport website, they say that “Terminal D serves as the primary global gateway facility for air travelers in the Houston region but unfortunately, it does not adequately reflect Houston’s current standing as a world leader in business and quality of life offered to its residents.”

Now, United and Houston are working together on a concept to increase the space.

Enter Terminal B and C North.

Currently, United and the Houston Airport System are renovating the Terminal B which is one of the original two terminals. Only United Express operates out of Terminal B, but one day, you may see a Boeing 767, 777, or 787 parked at the gate.

Terminal C is the base of United’s domestic operations. It is divided into a north half and a south half. Terminal C South connects to Terminal E while Terminal C North connects to Terminal D.

United offered the terminal C north concourse space to the Houston Airport System to expand and rebuild Terminal D. The expansion will boast fifteen wide-body gates once completed.

The Houston Airport System says on its website that “It is with this reality in mind, that leaders with the Houston Airport System are moving forward with a dramatic and detailed plan to completely overhaul the Terminal D building at IAH. ” The current Terminal D will remain operational through the renovation and expansion, but there will be a lot of operational changes that will impact the terminal building.

At “Terminal D Industry Day” on March 13, 2014, airport executives addressed plans for the new terminal and provided an update on the renovation of Terminal B north.

Below are images of the phases of the Terminal D expansion and renovation from the PowerPoint presentation that was shown during “Terminal D Industry Day.” The airport intends to submit a request for proposal in the mid to late summer, begin construction by mid 2015, and wrap up by 2021.

522922-Industry_Page_13522922-Industry_Page_14522922-Industry_Page_15522922-Industry_Page_16522922-Industry_Page_17522922-Industry_Page_18522922-Industry_Page_19—–
Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

*This story has been updated to reflect that the current design is only conceptual, according to follow-up information from the airport.

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Airbus A320 NEO Begins Final Assembly

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published March 17, 2014

A320neoAirbus began final assembly of its first A320neo on Monday.

Located in its Toulouse, France factory, the jet has begun the first steps toward completion as the forward and aft fuselage sections are fitted together. Once complete, the airplane will go on to receive its wings, literally, before rolling out of the factory.

Extra: Airbus Breaks Records in 2013

The first flight is expected, according to Airbus, in the fourth quarter of 2014, with an entry into service anticipated to follow one year later.

Neo stands for “New Engine Option.” The new Airbus family members represent a new lease on life for the already exceptionally popular Airbus A320 family. Featuring new engines, sharklets, and other advancements, Airbus says the jet will save fifteen percent in fuel savings over current jets. Additionally, the aircraft will lower airlines’ operating costs by eight percent.

The aircraft has been quite popular with airlines, chocking up over 2,600 orders from fifty customers since its launch in 2010. The most recent came from China Eastern for seventy of the jets at the end of February.

Extra: Airbus’ A321 Receives an Awakening in the U.S.

Extra: In-flight Review: American Airlines Introduces the A321T

Extra: Apollo 11: Behind the Scenes of American Airlines’ Landmark Airbus Order

Extra: Photos of Airbus’ Factory

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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American Publishes Washington Reagan Route Termination Dates

By Jack Harty / Published March 15, 2014

american-airlines-md-80-_10096

An American MD80 rests at the gate in Reagan National.
Airchive Archives

American has published the termination dates for the 17 cities they are cutting service to from Washington Reagan in their reservation system. In order for American and US Airways to complete their merger, they were required to give up several slot pairs at several cities, including Washington Reagan. American did not immediately announce the termination dates as it was waiting for all of the slots to be sold, but over the weekend, the changes were loaded into the reservation system.

May 21

May 21st will be the last day that the airline flies between Washington and San Diego. However, this flight will become a second daily nonstop flight connecting Reagan and Los Angeles.

Due to 1,250 statute miles perimeter restriction, the two airlines are limited as to where they can fly to, but the DOT allows some carriers to operate up to 20 daily nonstop flights beyond perimeter. In order to shift the San Diego flight to Los Angeles, the airline was required to provide sufficient notice to the DOJ.

June 4

June 4th will be the last day of operations between Washington Reagan and:

  • Augusta, GA (AGS)
  • Fayetteville, NC (FAY)
  • Fort Walton Beach, FL (VPS)
  • Jacksonville, NC (OAJ)
  • Little Rock, AR (LIT)
  • Montreal, Canada (YUL)
  • Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
  • Omaha, NE (OMA)

June 18

June 18th will be the last day of operations between Washington Reagan and:

  • Tallahassee, FL (TLH)

June 29

June 29th will be the last day of daily flights between Washington Reagan and the following cities. Instead, they’ll be operated 1-3 times a week.

  • Myrtle Beach, SC (MYR)
  • Wilmington, NC (ILM)

July 1

July 1st will be the last day of operations between Washington Reagan and:

  • Islip, NY (ISP)
  • Minneapolis, MN (MSP)
  • Pensacola, FL (PNS)
  • Savannah, GA (SAV)

August 18

August 18th will be the last day of operations between Washington Reagan and:

  • Detroit, MI (DTW)

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Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

 

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United Plans Domestic 787-9 Flights

By Jack Harty / Published March 12, 2014

789-5

The Boeing 787-9. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

More details about United Airlines’ first 787-9 flights are starting to emerge.

Matt Miller, United’s Managing Director for Japan and Pacific Sales, told Australian Business Traveller that the airline will take delivery of its first 787-9 in July, with another to follow later in the summer.

“We will take delivery of both 787-9s in summer [2014], we actually get the first one in July, and we’ll be flying them domestically before we launch (Melbourne-Los Angeles) at the end of October” explains Miller, UA’s Managing Director for Japan and Pacific Sales. The initial destinations will include Denver, Houston, and Los Angeles. You can read more of what Mr. Miller had to say about the first domestic Dreamliner flights as well as additional details on where to find the jets on Australian Business Traveller.

Last month, United Airlines announced that it would fly the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on a new direct flight between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia starting October 26, 2014.

United’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner will be have 252 seats. There will be 48 seats in BusinessFirst (in a 2-2-2 configuration), 63 Economy Plus Seats, and 141 United Economy Seats (in a 3-3-3 configuration).

In 2012, United Airlines took delivery of North America’s first Boeing 787. The aircraft was delivered in mid-September, and it went through a certification process with the FAA before it made it flew its inaugural flight on November 4, 2012 from Houston to Chicago.

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Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Another Start Up Airline: Avatar/Family Airlines (Again)

By Jack Harty / Published March 12, 2014

Family Airlines is back, again. This time, it’s been renamed Avatar. Take a look at the long-suffering trail of the start-up that just hasn’t been able to, well, start up. And of course we review its latest plan…

Meet Family Airlines (1990s)

800px-Family_Airlines_Boeing_747-100_Maiwald

Photo from WikiCommons taken by Torsten Maiwald

Back in the 1990s, a new American low-cost-carrier with an out-of-the-box idea was proposed. Plans for Family Airlines were announced in 1992. The goal was to offer cheap fares. However, the airline experience went beyond just cheap fares: It was trying to sell a family focused travel experience.

It was planning a fleet of all Boeing 747s seating 581 in a two class configuration.

The airline intended to launch flights initially from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Miami, and Newark in 1992. Shortly after, the airline was to launch flights to Boston, Honolulu, Phoenix, and San Francisco. But, the airline was missing one key component:  the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) blessing.

In March 1993, the FAA said that it would no longer process the airlines’ application. Plans for the start-up were scrapped, but it refused to go down without a fight.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) reviewed the subsequent lawsuits in April, and the founder of Family Airlines, Barry Michaels, was asked to relinquish control of the proposed airline. He complied.

Not so Family Friendly

Three years later, Family Airlines was back in the news, and it was not good publicity.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a suit against Mr. Michaels and his wife, Mrs. Michaels, for fraudulently offering unregistered stock for the airline. They were required to return $363,306 to the investors, and they had to pay $181,000 per person in civil penalties.

We’re Back (2008)

In 2008, Family Airlines filed another application with the DOT. This time, the airline’s plan looked like it had a greater chance of failing as the market was in far worse shape than the original Family Airlines in the early 1990s.

There were no real big changes to the 2008 business plan when compared to the original plan from the 1990s.

Cranky Flier (Brett Snyder) posted some of the Q&As from its 2008 website. One of the Q&As asked “why start an airline today?” Family Airlines’ answer: “The timing could not be better! With the traditional ‘pre-deregulation’ airlines about to go bankrupt and the newer ones unable to fill their vacancy (mainly due to higher operating cost and lack of capacity), the Family Airlines way is a sure success. No airline today can compete on a fare basis, in the markets proposed to be serviced by Family Airlines.”

Snyder also listed a few fun tidbits from the 355 page application Family Airlines had to fill out with the DOT. All statements in quotations are directly from the DOT report Family Airlines filled out.

Family Airlines was planning on a 100% load factor on every flight

The airline was planning to be profitable by the fourth month

It was planning a 5.5 cent cost per seat which would be quite the challenge on a Boeing 747 between Las Vegas and Phoenix

Your flight attendants would be your entertainment: “While on board, passengers will enjoy an innovative entertainment experience brought forth by many of Family’s flight attendants who are would-be “headliners” that love the thought of entertaining others and intent on creating a pleasant flying experience for our passengers.”

They were going to take a similar approach to Spirit, but you would get free gifts: “Nearly all areas of the aircraft are available for advertising including the exterior hull, wing, tail, overhead bins, seat backs, tray tables, video screens etc., and would be available for purchase on a yearly contract. Upon de-boarding, passengers on most flights will receive an assortment of all types of promotional items as a free gift from our sponsors just for flying Family Airlines“

Family Airlines even joined the Airliners.net forums to keep everybody posted on the start-up. Some Airliners.net members will even tell you that the airline was defending itself and its business plan on the forums.

Plus, the airline went as far as painting a Boeing 747 in the Family Airlines Livery.

A year after filing its application with the DOT, Family Airlines heard back from the DOT about its application.

Denied.

Surprised? Most people were not. The DOT ruled that Family Airlines would need to make many changes in order to get off the ground. First, it did not like that Barry Michaels would continue to be involved after committing fraud with the original Family Airlines back in the 1990s. Additionally, the airline never seemed to get its official address right, and the DOT did not believe that it would have enough money to start up.

The year 2009 would be (should have been) the last we would hear of Family Airlines. Well, sort of.

A Third Time is a Charm (2010)

vacationspage

Screenshot of Avatar Vacations from its website www.avatarairlines.com

Did you think they were going to give up? In 2010, Family Airlines was back in the news again, but this time, it changed its identity. Meet the new Family Airlines, Avatar Airlines.

Avatar Airlines was functionally Family Airlines but with a different name. Barry Michaels was still going to be the CEO, and the airline was still planning a fleet of all Boeing 747s.

At the end of 2010, the DOT asked Mr. Michaels for an update about Avatar.

In January 2011, Mr. Michaels sent an eight page letter to the DOT. In the letter, he discussed Avatar’s all Boeing 747 fleet (42 business class seats and 539 economy seats), how the airline would also sell vacation packages, airline catering (they “had preliminary meetings with The Cheesecake Factory, ‘Coca Cola Company, Monster Energy Drink and Starbucks”), shareholders, information about funding the start-up, and he included the biographies of the top executives.

Avatar Airlines never received approval from the DOT to begin operations, and Barry Michaels stepped down as CEO in 2012. Once again, we thought the saga was over.

No, Really the Fourth Time is a Charm

Picture1

Screenshot of AvatarAirlines.com

We were wrong.

Yes, Avatar is back – again. Earlier this year, it started corresponding with the DOT, filing another application to commence operations.

According to its 2014 media kit, “Avatar’s business plan is unique, incorporating six individual profit centers on conjunction with the exclusive use of the Boeing 747 aircraft equipped with 539 economy seats and 42 business class seats, resulting in the industry’s lowest cost per seat mile. this allows Avatar to offer everyday fares between $19 to $99, depending on the destination and time of purchase.”

Picture2

One of the ways Avatar Airlines plans to brand.
Screenshot from the 2014 Avatar Airlines Media Kit located on its website

The airline also states in the media kit: “It’s simple: Big airplanes carrying maximum number of seats combined with fares which are low enough and markets which are large enough to guarantee 100% load factors.”

The airline plans to make money through passenger ticketing, cargo, catering, in-flight entertainment, advertising and promotions (branding), and Avatar Vacations.

A few facts from the about page with Avatar Airlines’ ideas on passenger experience:

Avatar plans to equip its fleet with on-board satellite Wi-Fi capability as part of its in-flight entertainment profit center

“A typical flight from New York to Los Angeles on a 747 would save about 30 minutes of air time, compared to that same flight on a 737″

“Passengers are encouraged to use their own devices, or for a nominal fee, rent a portable hi-tech device from Avatar”

“Avatar thinks it’s outrageous that passengers should have to pay to bring a reasonable amount of luggage with them on a flight.  Avatar plans to “roll back the clock” to the good old days when each passenger was permitted to check two normal pieces of luggage into cargo for no fee, in addition to standard carry-on bags.”

“Avatar plans to partner up with some of the most popular restaurants and eateries to give our passengers the luxury of choice, whether it’s 5-star or fast food.  Pre-order your meals at the time of ticket purchase, and look forward to your favorite on-the-ground dining cuisine at 40,000 feet in the air.”

Although the information above is quite similar to its other start-up attempts, there have been several changes.

Avatar Airlines relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. Also, there have been several changes to the airlines management positions. Mr. Michaels was replaced with former TWA Senior VP, Marvin Ruthenberg.

Future

Will Avatar Airlines finally succeed? Has it made the necessary changes to receive the DOT’s and FAA’s blessing to commence operations? We will have to wait and see. Comment your thoughts below.

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren is the editor responsible for this story. Please do not hesitate to contact him for any questions or concerns at Jeremy.Lindgren@airchive.com.

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Frontier Announces New Cleveland Routes

By Jack Harty / Published March 11, 2014

This morning, Frontier Airlines announced plans to more than double its operations at Cleveland Hopkins.

In mid-June, it will add flights to Atlanta, GA (ATL), Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (FLL), Fort Myers, Fla. (RSW), Orlando, Fla. (MCO) Phoenix, Ariz. (PHX), Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU) and Tampa, Fla. (TPA) on June 13, 2014. Additionally, the airline will launch seasonal flights to Seattle on June 15.

map

Frontier’s Cleveland Route Map
Generated by GCMap.com

Frontier’s growth appears to be in response to United Airlines’ decision to de-hub the airport earlier this year. The airline announced that it would be reducing daily departures by more than 64% over three stages beginning next month.

United announced that it would cut over a dozen cities from Cleveland, including Atlanta, GA (ATL), Phoenix, Ariz. (PHX), and Raleigh-Durham, NC (RDU). Frontier will be able to replace the void United created between Cleveland and Phoenix. However, Frontier will not be the only airline to serve Atlanta and Raleigh-Durham. Recently, Delta announced plans to launch flights to RDU, and it announced plans to go all mainline on flights between Atlanta and Cleveland this summer.

“As the only true low-fare carrier at Cleveland, we’re excited to double our destination choices,” said Daniel Shurz, Frontier’s senior vice president, commercial. “We are confident customers will love our ultra-low fares, more choices, and friendly service.”

“We are more than pleased Frontier Airlines has seen an opportunity to bring more air service to the Northeast Ohio region,” said Airport Director Ricky Smith. “Frontier has shown us they have extreme confidence in this market and would like to continue growing in Cleveland.”

Frontier Airlines will also increase weekly flights to Denver from five to twelve. The carrier already connects Cleveland with Denver, Colorado and Trenton, New Jersey, and it flies to Cancun and Punta Cana in partnership with Apple Vacations.

Route: Atlanta
Effective: June 13, 2014
Frequency: Mon/Tues/Wed/Fri/Sat
Aircraft: A320

Route: Fort Lauderdale
Effective: June 14, 2014
Frequency: Mon/Wed/Sat
Aircraft: A320

Route: Fort Myers
Effective: June 13, 2014
Frequency: Wed/Fri/Sun
Aircraft: A320

Route: Phoenix
Effective: June 13, 2014
Frequency: Mon/Wed/Fri
Aircraft: A320

Route: Raleigh Durham
Effective: June 15, 2014
Frequency: Tues/Thurs/Sun
Aircraft: A320

Route: Tampa
Effective: June 15, 2014
Frequency: Tues/Thurs/Sun
Aircraft: A320

Lee Thomas, who heads the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s air service committee, told The Plain Dealer that several of the new Frontier flights are more business-related (Atlanta and Raleight-Durham) while the others are more leisure destinations.

With United’s service reductions looming to take place, the rock and roll city has received a lot of attention with airlines looking to grow their operations. Will they continue to grow in Cleveland? Will Frontier have success with its rapid growth plan? We will have to wait and see.

Extra: First Look: United’s Schedule Post-Dehubbing Cleveland

Extra: A Look at Delta’s Operations as They Grow in the Rock and Roll City

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Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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ONGOING: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Missing, Presumed Crashed

By Airchive Staff / Published March 7, 2014
Last updated Wednesday 4/9 @ 1015EDT

UPDATE 1015 EDT, Wednesday April 9:

mr_014-1Australia confirmed that it had relocated two pings late Tuesday night that were last heard on Sunday. The news has enabled rescue crews to narrow the search field further, and buoyed hopes that the jet could be found shortly.

The most recent discovery yielded a weak signal that last for roughly seven minutes, located off the western coast of

Yet while the pings are confirmed to be consistent with that of a black box, they have not been confirmed to be from Malaysia Airlines flight 370.

Several signals have been located, though none confirmed, in the past week. The location of the various ping sites, one from Australia and another from China, have been up to hundreds of miles apart, meaning at least one of the two returns is not from the jet.

The multiple evidences around the Australian site has caused searchers to focus more exclusively on it. The current search size remains roughly the dimensions of South Carolina. Nothing new has been heard about the Chinese discovery since it was first reported last week.

Should investigators and search crews continue to turn up new pings the search is likely to move underwater with mini subs. The small underwater ships will scour the area with sonar to attempt to locate any wreckage. The crafts move very slowly, however. Even with a good idea of where MH370 may have gone down, it could still take days, weeks, or longer before anything turns up.

UPDATE 0950 EDT, Monday April 7:

An Australian ship has detected strong electronic signals in the search area for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, which has now been missing for more than one month.

The signals were picked up by the Ocean Shield on Sunday using high-tech equipment provided by the US Navy. Though the signals are NOT confirmed to be from the downed airplane’s black boxes, the pulses match the frequency such a device would edit. The crew picked up the sounds twice on separate passes, the first of which lasted well over two hours.

It is the latest in a string of leads surrounding signals that developed over the past few days. A Chinese ship picked up two signals on Friday, 1.4 miles apart. The pings match the frequency that a black box could be expected to emit, much like the sounds picked up by the Australian search team.

The separate search areas, however, are 300 miles apart. A British Nay ship, the H.M.S Echo is en route with additional equipment to help with the search, expected to arrive  in the area of the Chinese discovery some time on Monday.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders, both exceptionally hardened to survive a crash, typically have battery lives of thirty to forty-five days. As the jet passes more than one month since going missing, time is quickly running out.

UPDATE 0815 EDT Saturday:

The Chinese state news agency Xinhua is reporting that a Chinese patrol ship in the Southern Indian Ocean has picked up a pulse signal at 37.5 kHZ, which is the standard beacon frequency for the black boxes: the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. Though not confirmed if it is in fact from the missing Malaysia Airlines 777-200, it comes at a critical time in the search a month after the plane went missing. The batteries on the locator beacon have a life-span of about 30 days and are expected to expire at anytime. The Chinese news agency said the detector onboard the ship, Haixun 01, picked up the signal at coordinates of 25 degrees south latitude and 101 degrees east latitude. The search continues for the pincers and wreckage in depths of 6,500 feet to 13,000 feet deep which makes wreckage and the black boxes recoverable at such depths if located. The black boxes are required to be sustain hydrostatic pressure at depths of up to 20,000 feet. Experts caution that this could be a false alarm as it was on Thursday when the HMS Echo reported a pulse. False alerts can come from animals such as whales or from ship. Friday’s search had 14 planes and 9 ships hunting across 84,000 square miles of the Southern Indian Ocean, some 1,100 miles northwest of Perth, Australia. Later on Saturday, Australian officials announced a field of white objects were spotted floating within 50 miles of the pings but could not confirm whether these were related to the plane.

Location of 37.5 kHZ pinger frequency detected by Chinese patrol ship.  Image: Google Maps

Location of 37.5 kHZ pinger frequency detected by Chinese patrol ship.
Image: Google Maps

On the same day, the much criticized Malaysian government said three committees would be formed to confront the Malaysia flight 370. One team will be overseeing the investigation into what occurred, led by an independent investigator. Factors examined will include maintenance records, flight recorders, and human factors. Representative from other countries such as China, the US, UK, and France will be part of the committee. The second will committee will cover the deployment of assets used in the investigation while the third will look after the families of the passenger and crew onboard the ill-fated jet.

UPDATE 2215EDT Thursday March 28:
march28-malaysia-searchThe Australian Maritime Safety Authority is shifting its search 1,100 kilometers northeast as refined satellite data and a lead from a search aircraft prompted yet another change.

Refinement of satellite and radar data indicated the aircraft was traveling faster than previously estimated. The increase in speed led investigators to conclude it would have run out of fuel faster than previously thought.

UPDATE 1110EDT Thursday:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Poor weather continues to hamper the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. Crews have been called off from the area repeatedly through the week, including once nearly an entire day. The current search area remains transfixed on a swatch of ocean located roughly 1,500 miles to the southwest of Perth.

Several leads on debris that have been described as “credible” have so far turned up empty, just like all the others that have gone before them. The two most notable leads involve satellite photos from French and Thai authorities, both of which show debris fields containing hundreds of items.

French satellite discovery. Images rendered by MRSA.

French satellite discovery. Images rendered by MRSA.

The French satellite, operated by Airbus, spotted 122 objects floating in the water on Wednesday. They ranged in size from three to seventy-five feet. The photos were taken on Sunday. Nearly one dozen aircraft and half of one dozen ships, led by Australia, have been traversing the area. So far they have not found anything.

Officials in Bangkok, Thailand, meanwhile, passed along satellite images to Malaysian authorities on Thursday. The Thai images showed a debris field consisting of 300 objects that varied in size. The images were taken on Monday, and positioned roughly 125 miles away from the French position.

Hopes had been high earlier in the search when Chinese satellites and search planes turned up two or three objects each that were never found or turned up to unrelated to the airplane. Even the new, large suspected debris fields have high odds of turning out to be nothing but ocean trash. Still, the leads are certainly the most promising thus far.

UPDATE 1126EDT Monday:
Originally posted 1020EDT

The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak concluded that Malaysia Airlines flight 370 crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, with no survivors. The message was conveyed early Monday morning in the US. The aircraft, in part or in whole, still has not been located.

 

The announcement was based on refined data analysis of the jet’s satellite pings to British telecoms company Inmarsat. The data initially suggested two divergent flight tracks after the jet lost contact with radar off the western coast of Malaysia, one heading north into central Asia, the other south into the Indian Ocean. The new analysis, which Razak said used a “type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort”  has ruled out the northern track.

With only the southern track of the jet now in play, the last known position places the airplane and its passengers deep into the remote Indian Ocean.

The lack of viable airfields in which to land the jet in the suspected southern track region led the airline to conclude it was lost without hope. A press conference with further details will take place at an undetermined time tomorrow.

Family members of the passengers and crew on board were notified prior to Razak’s conference. Reports from a hotel in Beijing where many had been staying since the jet went missing two weeks ago have painted a sad, desperate scene as the news sunk in. During his statement, Razak requested “the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time.”

Map via Google Maps

Map via Google Maps

Meanwhile the search continues in the Indian Ocean as crews follow-up on several debris leads. Australia has sent out ships to recover objects of interest located by search aircraft. A Chinese search plane also located a possible debris field, though US search planes going through the same area did not appear to see one. US officials also confirmed the Navy has sent a black-box locating device to the region.

Full statement from airline, posted 3/24/14 @ 2215MYT:

Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, new analysis of satellite data suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.

On behalf of all of us at Malaysia Airlines and all Malaysians, our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.

We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain. We will continue to provide assistance and support to you, as we have done since MH370 first disappeared in the early hours of 8 March, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain. Alongside the search for MH370, there is an intensive investigation, which we hope will also provide answers.

We would like to assure you that Malaysia Airlines will continue to give you our full support throughout the difficult weeks and months ahead.

Once again, we humbly offer our sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy.

And the full statement from Razak:

This evening I was briefed by representatives from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB). They informed me that Inmarsat, the UK company that provided the satellite data which indicated the northern and southern corridors, has been performing further calculations on the data. Using a type of analysis never before used in an investigation of this sort, they have been able to shed more light on MH370’s flight path.

Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the AAIB have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth.

This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sites. It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

We will be holding a press conference tomorrow with further details. In the meantime, we wanted to inform you of this new development at the earliest opportunity. We share this information out of a commitment to openness and respect for the families, two principles which have guided this investigation.

Malaysia Airlines have already spoken to the families of the passengers and crew to inform them of this development. For them, the past few weeks have been heartbreaking; I know this news must be harder still. I urge the media to respect their privacy, and to allow them the space they need at this difficult time.

 

Family members of those on board who have been staying in Beijing released a biting statement, condemning both the airline and the national government of Malaysia’s response:

“At 10pm on March 25, the Malaysian prime minister sent a statement to the families of MH370 passengers without any direct evidence that MH370 crashed in the south Indian ocean and no people survived.

“From March 8 when they announced that MH370 lost contact to today, 18 days have passed during which the Malaysian government and military constantly tried to delay, deceive the passengers’ families and cheat the whole world.

“This shameless behaviour not only fooled and hurt the families of the 154 passengers but also misguided and delayed rescue actions, wasting a large quantity of human resources and materials and lost valuable time for the rescue effort.

“If the 154 passengers did lose their lives, Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and military are the real executioners who killed them. We the families of those on board submit our strongest protest against them.

“We will take every possible means to pursue the unforgivable crimes and responsibility of all three.”

Update 0800EDT Saturday:

China has announced that one of their satellites have found an object that is suspected to be from Malaysia Flight 370. The image shows an object, object, measuring 22.5 meters long and 13 meters wide, in an area arcing south from northern Indonesia deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

China is expected to announce more details about the images in a few hours, according to the Malaysian government.

However, it’s not clear if the object is the same the Australian government spotted on Thursday.

Currently, Australian crews are still looking for the possible debris they spotted via satellite imagery. However, they have no luck, but they are continuing to search.

UPDATE 0922EDT Thursday:

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the search for two objects of interest 1,500 miles off the coast of Australia has ended for the night without finding anything. The search will resume later this morning.

Further, it was reported that the images were taken last Sunday. The Australians pointed to the incredibly large amount of data needed to be searched.

BjN1CisCAAAhsqQ.jpg-large

UPDATE 0120EDT Thursday:

Australia has claimed early this morning that it found two objects of interest in the Indian Ocean. Located in a satellite search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370, it is hoped that the objects will turn up to be from the missing jet.

Authorities from the Australian government said four search planes have been dispatched to the location, roughly 2500km southwest of Perth. The first of the aircraft are expected to reach the site in the next few hours.

It is worth remembering that all such leads so far have, obviously, turned up empty. China mistakenly released satellite images of suspected debris last week that turned out to be unrelated (and almost certainly far too big). Vietnam and Singapore also located false positives as well, claiming to have possibly found a door and a life jacket, respectively.

AUS Media Release

UPDATE 1130EDT Wednesday:

Twelve days have passed since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 vanished from all radar somewhere over the Strait of Malacca, a body of water west of Malaysia. And still no trace of the jet has been found.

In fact little in the way of concrete new information has appeared since our last update on Sunday afternoon. Search crews continue to focus on two tracks, one of which extends south into the Indian Ocean and the other north into central Asia.

Leads continue to come and go, such as one that the airplane landed on the remote island of Diego Garcia, or another that residents of the Maldives spotted it flying low over the tiny nation. And speculation continues to run wild, ranging from terrorists who plan to use the jet as a weapon of mass destruction to on board fires that incapacitated the crew, secret landing in Iran to trailing a Singapore Airlines flight to avoid detection. (Feel free to indulge your speculative tooth with this list compiled by the BBC.)

There have been a handful of interesting informational tidbits, however.

First, authorities in Thailand admitted nine days in to possibly spotting the jet on their own radar not long after it went missing. Why was the information not shared earlier? No one asked for it. Whether the radar will contribute to the search is not yet clear, but it does underscore the disorganization of the efforts thus far along with the challenges of coordinating a multinational search effort with nations who are not accustomed to sharing such information.

Second, investigators are working to recover data deleted from Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah’s personal home flight simulator, according to reports. Investigators caution, however, that no link has been established and that none may exist. The pilots have come under increasing scrutiny as it appears that whoever took control of the jet was a skilled aviator.

Third, and partially related to number two, new reports via the New York Times have suggested that the path of the airplane was likely intentionally programed into the Boeing 777s flight management computer. The information came from US intelligence officials.

UPDATE 1500EDT Sunday:

Overnight, it was reported that the pilots homes were searched again. There was additional scrutiny placed on both flight crew Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27 as the last voice communication from the plane “all right, good night”, was made some 40 minutes after the transponder via Acars, the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, had been turned off. Capt. Ahmad’s flight simulator was seized by government authorities who are piecing through its data for possible clues. First Officer Hamid had been reprimanded by the airline for reportedly allowing 2 female passengers in the flight deck in-flight. However Malaysian defense minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also acting minister of transportation said in a Sunday press conference that “the pilot and co-pilot did not ask to fly together” on the ill-fated flight. 

Recently, USA Today has reported that one of the pilots was a political activist. However his friends and family told USA Today that he was not a terrorist. He was just a strong supporter of the political opposition leader. Authorities continue to collect information about the other crew members onboard, ground crew, and passengers.

The location of of the missing jet 777 covers a massive area that includes both the Indian Ocean and rugged, remote terrain in Asia. Pakistani officials said that the aircraft did not show up on their radars.

UPDATE 1200EDT Saturday:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak issued a statement  on the investigation into missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. We are printing this in its entirety below. Shortly after, Malaysia Airlines issues its own statement in response to that of the prime minister’s.

Malaysian Prime Minister’s Statement:

Seven days ago Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared. We realize this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them.

I have been appraised of the ongoing search operation round the clock. At the beginning of the operation, I ordered the search area to be broadened; I instructed the Malaysian authorities to share all relevant information freel and transparently with the wider investigation team; and I requested that our friends and allies join the operation. As of today, 14 countries, 43 ships and 58 aircraft are involved in the search. I wish to thank all the governments for their help at such a crucial time.

Since day one, the Malaysian authorities have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners – including neighboring countries, the aviation authorities and a multinational search force – many of whom have been here on the ground since Sunday.

We have shared information in real time with authorities who have the necessary experience to interpret the data. We have been working nonstop to assist the investigation. And we have put our national security second to the search for the missing plane.

It is widely understood that this has been a situation without precedent.

We have conducted search operations over land, in the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. At every stage, we acted on the basis of verified information, and we followed every credible lead. Sometimes these leads have led nowhere.

There has been intense speculation. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world. But we have a responsibility to the investigation and the families to only release information that has been corroborated. And our primary motivation has always been to find the plane.

In the first phase of the search operation, we searched near MH370’s last known position, in the South China Sea. At the same time, it was brought to our attention by the Royal Malaysian Air Force that, based on their primary radar, an aircraft – the identity of which could not be confirmed – made a turn back. The primary radar data showed the aircraft proceeding on a flight path which took it to an area north of the Straits of Malacca.

Given this credible data, which was subsequently corroborated with the relevant international authorities, we expanded the area of search to include the Straits of Malacca and, later, to the Andaman Sea.

Early this morning I was briefed by the investigation team – which includes the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., the A.A.I.B., the Malaysian authorities and the acting minister of transport – on new information that sheds further light on what happened to MH370.

Based on new satellite information, we can say with a high degree of certainty that the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) was disabled just before the aircraft reached the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Shortly afterwards, near the border between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control, the aircraft’s transponder was switched off.

From this point onwards, the Royal Malaysian Air Force primary radar showed that an aircraft which was believed – but not confirmed – to be MH370 did indeed turn back. It then flew in a westerly direction back over Peninsular Malaysia before turning northwest. Up until the point at which it left military primary radar coverage, these movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane.

Today, based on raw satellite data that was obtained from the satellite data service provider, we can confirm that the aircraft shown in the primary radar data was flight MH370. After much forensic work and deliberation, the F.A.A., N.T.S.B., A.A.I.B. and the Malaysian authorities, working separately on the same data, concur.

According to the new data, the last confirmed communication between the plane and the satellite was at 8:11 a.m. Malaysian time on Saturday 8th March. The investigations team is making further calculations which will indicate how far the aircraft may have flown after this last point of contact. This will help us to refine the search.

Due to the type of satellite data, we are unable to confirm the precise location of the plane when it last made contact with the satellite.

However, based on this new data, the aviation authorities of Malaysia and their international counterparts have determined that the plane’s last communication with the satellite was in one of two possible corridors: a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, or a southern corridor stretching approximately from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. The investigation team is working to further refine the information.

In view of this latest development the Malaysian authorities have refocused their investigation into the crew and passengers on board. Despite media reports that the plane was hijacked, I wish to be very clear: we are still investigating all possibilities as to what caused MH370 to deviate from its original flight path.

This new satellite information has a significant impact on the nature and scope of the search operation. We are ending our operations in the South China Sea and reassessing the redeployment of our assets. We are working with the relevant countries to request all information relevant to the search, including radar data.

As the two new corridors involve many countries, the relevant foreign embassies have been invited to a briefing on the new information today by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry and the technical experts. I have also instructed the Foreign Ministry to provide a full briefing to foreign governments which had passengers on the plane. This morning, Malaysia Airlines has been informing the families of the passengers and crew of these new developments.

Clearly, the search for MH370 has entered a new phase. Over the last seven days, we have followed every lead and looked into every possibility. For the families and friends of those involved, we hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane.

Latest Press Release at 5:45 MYT from Malaysia Airlines in response to Prime Minister’s Statement

Further to the statement by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak earlier today into the ongoing search for Flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines has shared all available information with the relevant authorities since the moment we learned that the aircraft had disappeared, in the early hours of Saturday 8th March. This includes the very first indications that MH370 may have remained airborne for several hours after contact was lost, which the Prime Minister referred to today.

This is truly an unprecedented situation, for Malaysia Airlines and for the entire aviation industry. There has never been a case in which information gleaned from satellite signals alone could potentially be used to identify the location of a missing commercial airliner. Given the nature of the situation and its extreme sensitivity, it was critical that the raw satellite signals were verified and analysed by the relevant authorities so that their significance could be properly understood. This naturally took some time, during which we were unable to publicly confirm their existence.

We were well aware of the ongoing media speculation during this period, and its effect on the families of those on board. Their anguish and distress increases with each passing day, with each fresh rumour, and with each false or misleading media report. Our absolute priority at all times has been to support the authorities leading the multinational search for MH370, so that we can finally provide the answers which the families and the wider community are waiting for.

We remain absolutely committed to sharing confirmed information with family members and the wider public in a fully open and transparent manner. However given the nature of the situation, the importance of validating new information before it is released into the public domain is paramount.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the 227 passengers and our 12 Malaysia Airlines colleagues and friends on board flight MH370. They will remain at the centre of every action we take as a company, as they have been since MH370 first disappeared.

UPDATE 0330EDT Saturday:

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak held a very short press conference on Malaysia Airlines flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur roughly early Saturday morning (US time), stating that he believed “deliberate action” was taken by someone aboard the aircraft after it went missing.

Still, Razak would neither confirm nor deny earlier reports (see below) that the aircraft was hijacked; stating only that it was being explored along with other possibilities.

He confirmed that the jet was tracked by Malaysian military radar installations north through the Strait of Malacca and into the Andaman Sea. Investigators, Razak said, have determined with a high degree of certainty that Saturday at 8:11AM local time (Malaysian) was the last time the aircraft communicated with satellites.

The location of the last communication, however, is not clear. One track suggests it was last seen near the border between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The other places it due south into the Indian Ocean. In either case, the aircraft is believed to have been airborne for up to seven and one half hours. Razak also confirmed recent reports that investigators believe the aircraft’s communication systems were intentionally disabled.

“These movements are consistent with deliberate action from someone on the plane.” said Razak.

As a result, fourteen countries involved in the search efforts will be relocating their search to the area, ending efforts in the South China Sea.

He said that he is working to ensure that Malaysian authorities share all of the information they learn once it has been confirmed, surely a nod to the oft harsh criticism his government has received for the way the incident has been handled thus far.

The press conference follows what are now widely circulated reports from earlier in the evening in which Malaysian officials told the Associated Press they have concluded “conclusively” that flight 370 was hijacked. The report details several pieces of information that have come out both in the press conference and from multiple reports building through the week. First, that communications were intentionally turned off. Second, that someone with knowledge of how to work the jet was in control after that time. Third, that military radar pings that had been reported early on, were more than likely true.

As to who, or why the jet was hijacked – keeping in mind it has not been 100% confirmed by authorities – remains unclear. So to does the possibility that the jet did not crash, as the mystery behind the disappearance continues to deepen.

UPDATE 1918EDT Friday:

CNN reported earlier that it has information that suggests flight 370 crash in either the Bay of Bengal or the deep in the open Indian Ocean. The classified electronic and satellite data was analyzed by the Malaysian and US governments.

A report from the NYTimes around the same time claims that the jet repeatedly changed altitude as well as course. It was noted that the information in the data was not necessarily reliable.

The news that the jet continued pinging satellites for up to four or five more hours was first broken two days ago by the Wall St. Journal. Since then, satellite company Inmarsat has confirmed that it did in fact receive signals from the jet. It has also been reported that the majority of the airplane’s communications systems were intentionally turned off, nearly fifteen minutes apart.

Also, reports from Reuters indicate that the jet was following normal airways between the region and the Middle East / Europe, strongly suggesting that whoever was in control of the jet knew what they were doing.

Consequently the search has now expanded well into the Indian Ocean for the jet, far beyond the last confirmed location off the northern coast of Malaysia. Investigators and sources within the US have confirmed that they believe something criminal may have been afoot.

The continued developments have sparked fresh waves of speculation into what happened to Malaysian Airlines flight 370 since it vanished over one week ago. Theories range from hijacking/ditch to secret landing at a remote airfield, pilot suicide to massive mechanical failure.

And still, seven days later, none of them completely add up. Even if the jet turns up to be wrecked in the Indian Ocean or Bay of Bengal, it is still unclear how or exactly why. Depending on where the jet wound up, we may never know.

Other developments continued to come out only to wind up disputed. They include the Chinese reporting a “seismic event” in the original search area that they believe may have been the jet crashing. The news was disputed by experts, stating that an earthquake measuring 2.7 happened around the same time.

Other reports stating that the aircraft’s cargo hold was overly full of lithium-ion batteries, the same known for starting fires aboard the 787, also have been disputed. Experts pointed to the high probably of distress calls, and likelihood of evidence.

UPDATE 2127EDT THURSDAY:

Latest map, showing five hours worth of flight time at full cruise speed. Courtesy Ian Petchenik

Latest map, showing five hours worth of flight time at full cruise speed. Courtesy Ian Petchenik

The Wall St Journal again released an astonishing late breaking story on Thursday, alleging that communications satellites “received intermittent data pings” from Malaysia Airlines 370 that contained the plane’s location, speed, and altitude. If true, someone knows far more than they are saying about the (potentially) actual last known location of the jet.

Expanding on its earlier report from last night, the paper reported that the final satellite ping, received five hours after the plane originally departed, was over water at what was reportedly a normal cruising altitude. No one has yet publicly shared what that location is.

READ FULL WSJ REPORT HERE

CNN, which likewise is reporting a similar story, has added that the data suggests a track into the Indian Ocean. It added that officials noted this was not “100%”.

Update 1852PDT Thursday:

Six days have passed since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar screens, and authorities appear no closer to finding the jet than the day it first vanished without a trace.

Falling into a familiar pattern with the investigation thus far, new leads developed in the past twenty-four hours only to quickly wind up disputed or discredited.

The most perplexing remains that of data ping received by communications satellites, first reported late last night by the Wall St. Journal. (SEE LATEST UPDATE, ABOVE)

Though originally characterized as messages sent from the airplane’s Trent 800 engines back to manufacturer Rolls Royce base, the Journal later clarified that satellites continued to pick up signals from the jet four hours after it vanished from radar screens. The signals did not contain data, but have led investigators to conclude that the jet was flying undetected for hours, destination unknown.

If the WSJ report is correct and the aircraft did fly for four more hours, the jet could have flown up to 2,200 miles. Such a range could place it anywhere from northern China to India to Australia, including a huge chunk of the Indian Ocean.

The news, along with unspecified “new information,” has prompted US officials to consider expanding the search into the Indian Ocean. It has been considering sending a ship to begin scouring the area on Friday.

The official search area expanded to include vast swaths of the Andaman Sea this morning as well, pushing the total area to over 38,000 square miles.

It also raises questions about whether the jet, which has presumed to have crashed, ever crashed at all. While it does sound tinfoil hat crazy, multiple reports have come out that suggest the US is seriously considering the possibility that the jet landed undetected.

However, just as quickly as the news began gaining traction Malaysian officials shot it down, stating that they believed the report to be inaccurate. Authorities there have reiterated their commitment to sticking to the official search area. Reports that Boeing and Rolls Royce denied the reports remain conflicted.

Separately, the Chinese satellite photo lead likewise fell apart after officials confirmed the images were never supposed to been released in the first place.

UPDATE 0920EDT Thursday:

Malaysian authorities claimed in a press conference early this morning that last night’s late breaking WSJ report was “inaccurate”. They did not expand on that statement. It represents the latest in an ongoing series of conflicting information. Read WSJ’s fascinating full report, linked here, for the full details. Our summary is in the update below:

UPDATE 0230EDT THURSDAY:

US investigators believe the missing Malaysian Airlines flight 370 flew on about four hours past its last known location, according to a late-breaking Wall St. Journal report.

The report details that the airplane’s two Trent 800 engines continued to send out data for five hours as part of a monitoring and maintenance program.

The information is a dramatic twist that, like several other twists already, raises far more questions than answers.

Graphic courtesy Ian Petchmo

Graphic courtesy Ian Petchmo

Had the airplane maintained a 550mph cruise speed it could have traveled up to 2,200NM before its engines stopped transmitting data. This means the airplane could have wound up as far south as Australia, as far west as western India, into upper China, and nearly to Papau New Guinea in the east.

If it had additional fuel on board it potentially could have gone even further. In either case the development opens up an expansive palette of potential outcomes ranging from failed hijacking to something even more sinister.

Meanwhile, the Chinese released satellite images appear to have met a dead end. Malaysia’s civil aviation chief reported that planes sent to search the area turned up nothing.

“We went there, there is nothing,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur including the AP.

The images detailed three floating objects, last seen on Sunday the 9th about 141 miles ESE of the last known location.

Doubts about the connection between the two appeared early on, however, as the size and shape of the objects appears to be too large to have come from a 777. The largest object measured 78x72ft, all of them appearing to be squarish in shape. The 777′s tail measures 60 ft, its diameter is 20.4ft, length 209.1ft, and wing span of 199.11ft.

UPDATE 1845EDT, Wednesday:

Map3A fresh lead broke late Wednesday afternoon (US time) as the Chinese have released a series of satellite images taken on March 9 that detail debris thought to have come from Malaysian Airlines flight 370.

The three floating objects are located approximately 141 miles to the east south-east from the spot where the Boeing 777-200 disappeared early Saturday morning en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The size of the objects are quite large,  estimated to measure approximately 42ft x 56ft, 45ft x 62ft, and 78ft x 72ft.

The above images were posted hours ago, but were not noticed until picked up by BBC and CNN far more recently. Malaysian authorities appear to not have had any prior knowledge of the images. With the images now several days old the objects, whatever they are, could have easily floated well beyond the original coordinates or even sunk.

It should be noted several promising debris field leads have already come and gone. Notably several reports of debris from Vietnam all turned out to be without merit. A handful of oil slicks also turned out to be bunk, revealing themselves to be shipping oil and not jet fuel.

An interesting addition, the last known communication from the flight deck was “All right, good night.” The final communication appears to confirm that there were no known problems at the time.

UPDATE 1030EDT, Wednesday:

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

Photo courtesy Aero Icarus, Creative Commons

The search for Malaysian Airlines flight 370 grew overnight as lead after lead fell apart.

Most notably, reports that had come out yesterday claiming that the military confirmed that they tracked the jet as it took a west-bound turn out over the Strait of Malacca have proved erroneous. The Malaysian Air Force has since released a statement which said that they have never made such a claim. It did state, however, that it has not ruled out the possibility that it did make such a turn.

It later added that it had noticed something curious on the radar headed in that direction, but that it could not confirm what it was. Reports are stating that American assistance has been brought it to help interpret the data.

Chinese authorities also announced overnight (US time) that they would begin searching for the jet on the mainland, while Vietnamese officials said they would scale back search efforts until more concrete information became available. At the same time, Malaysian authorities expanded the area into the Andaman Sea, prompting India to join the search efforts.

Meanwhile, in the latest curious twist, ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff obtained an email from an oil rig worker off the coast of Vietnam that claims the man saw the flight intact and burning at a high altitude. Vietnamese officials have said they did not find anything in that region, while Woodruff admitted on his twitter account (@BobWoodruff) that it “could be a hoax”.

For the fifth consecutive day, where flight 370 went and what happened remains a mystery.

UPDATE 1855EDT, Tuesday:

Questions were the theme of the day as virtually no answers on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370 appeared on the horizon, literally or figuratively. The situation remains functionally unchanged from our last update eight hours ago, but here is our recap:

The Malaysian military has reported it has primary radar evidence that the airplane veered off course after losing contact. After that, details are sketchy. Initial reports have said the Boeing 777-200ER was last spotted headed due west, cruising at 29,500 feet off the coast of Malaysia in the Malacca Strait. Follow-up reports have quoted senior military officials as saying the airplane was believed to have been flying “low”. In either case, the new path places the jet hundreds of miles off course and headed in a completely different direction.

GoogleMap

Current official search regions. The black square represents the last known position of the jet by civil radar records. The yellow square represents the last known position reported by the Malaysian military. The flight should’ve headed from the black square in a north easterly direction toward Beijing.

Subsequent reports have also since come out that have called the claims into question. Notably, NBC reported that senior non-military officials in the Malaysian government have not made any such claims, underscoring what appears to be an increasingly disorganized response from the government.

Separately, a report appeared in the NewScientist, claiming that Rolls Royce received two automatically dispatched ACARS messages from the jet on its Trent 800 engines. The contents of the messages, and whether they add anything at all to the investigation, is not clear. If true (the keys words in everything we have seen today), it could mean the airline has several ACARS messages as well. Though again, the messages may not raise any red flags.

The search area has now been expanded to cover land between the two bodies of water, as well as throughout Vietnam.

Finally, the issue of two stolen passports appears to have been resolved. Interpol noted earlier today that it was increasingly convinced that neither of the two Iranian men had any terrorist connections. While the two are presently in the clear, authorities have not ruled others on the airplane with malicious intent. Investigators have been pouring through photos and CCT tapes from the airport in Kuala Lumpur to try to find any behavioral abnormalities in any of the passengers.

Four days later, there are still far more questions than answers.

UPDATE 1030EDT, Tuesday:

Several important developments have emerged overnight (US time) on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines 370.

First, reports have come out in the last few hours that the Malaysian military tracked the Boeing 777-200ER as it turned west and headed out over the Strait of Malacca. According to a Times of India report the flight dropped altitude from 35,000 feet down to 29,500 feet. It was last seen around 2:40AM MYT on Saturday near the northern end of the straight. If true, it would mean the jet was tracked for more than an hour after civilian ATC lost contact roughly one hour into into the flight’s journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Second, one of the stolen passports belonged to an Iranian who was ultimately planning to seek asylum in Germany. The other man has also been identified as an Iranian in his late 20s. Both entered Malaysia on the 28th of last month.

Authorities are still not ruling out the possibility of terrorism, but have said that they are reducing the odds there is a connection between the two gentlemen and the missing jet. “We believe he is not likely to be a member of any terrorist group, and we believe he was trying to migrate to Germany,” Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar reported to a news conference. He added that authorities have been studying tapes from the airport to study behavioral patterns of all passengers on board in an attempt to garner fresh leads.

The search has continued across a wide area, which now includes land  in Vietnam according to Vietnamese search crews, and the overland areas between the two oceanic regions according to the airline.

GoogleMap

Current search area as of March 11, 2014, excluding Vietnamese land searches.
      Red square with black fill = last known location by civil authorities.
      Red square with yellow fill = alleged last known location by military   authorities.

Malaysia Airline released additional information on the airplane in a statement, stating that it “was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 2002 and have since recorded 53,465.21 hours with a total of 7525 cycles. All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically.”

All other information remains the same as this situation continues to go from bizarre to even more bizarre.

UPDATE 2015EDT, Monday:

Over three days have now past since Malaysian Airlines flight 370 disappeared, and it appears search crews are no closer to discovering the airplane than when it first was lost.

Leads have continued to come and go through the day with nothing sticking, including several suspected debris fields and oil slicks. In response Malaysian officials have widened the search area considerably, with it now extending from the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea, well outside the original flight path. Ten nations along with dozens of ships and airplanes have been involved in the search.

Several ongoing threads remain both untied and unproven. European security agency Interpol is reportedly investigating the identities of up to four persons listed aboard the flight. Malaysian authorities have suggested that two of the disputed passengers, who were traveling on stolen passports from different European nations, bought tickets together, possibly through an Iranian middle man. Just the same as earlier, however, no connection has been established.

Extra: “Ask The Pilot: Captain Patrick Smith on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

Also still unknown is whether or not the airplane had begun to turn back toward Malaysia based on military radar. The possibility, however, was a major driver behind the decision to expand the search area.

Doubts have been increasing cast on the possibility of a mid-air explosion after US spy agencies reported that they did not detect any evidence of such an event (h/t @flyingwithfish, who’s been calling that for days when Reuters only ran it earlier today). The continued lack of debris field anywhere, which would have been common with a bomb or explosive decompression, has also bolstered those thoughts.

Meanwhile, the airline’s last official statement came out over twelve hours ago, and did not release any new information. The release primarily focused on the carrier’s efforts to take care of families of the missing crew and passengers, who have become increasingly critical of the response.

The lack of information continues to leave investigators baffled and, functionally, still at square one.

What we do know for sure is that the airplane disappeared while flying at 35,000 feet somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and the southern tip of Vietnam. The crew made no emergency distress call before vanishing, nor did the automated ACARS system report any problems. The airplane appears to have had no known maintenance issues, and the crew was experienced.

Two hundred and thirty-nine were aboard, including at least two traveling with stolen passports. Malaysian authorities did not check the passports against an Interpol database that would have registered them stolen.

How, whether, and to what extent those are related, and whatever may be true beyond that, is anyone’s guess.

UPDATE 0948EDT, Monday:
Leads that once held promise evaporated overnight (US time) as the mystery behind the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 continues.

The oil slick that had captivated attention early on turned out to be a dead end. Authorities, which hoped it was from the presumably downed airplane, discovered it was instead bunker oil used in cargo ships after lab tests.

Reports from Vietnam that had been widely circulated about finding an aircraft door and part of a tail also turned up empty. Authorities searching in the same area were unable to relocate either object, while other reports have said the ‘door’ turned out to be logs tied together. The director general of the Malaysian civil aviation department added that the claims were “not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities.”

Malaysian officials also say they have confirmed the identity of one of two passengers who used fake passports to board the plane. The person had no record of entering the country legally. No other details were provided, and no nexus between the stolen passports and the disappearance has been established.

The airplane seemingly upped and vanished three days ago after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. The almost twelve year old Boeing 777-2000ER was traveling at 35,000 feet over the ocean when it abruptly lost all contact with 239 aboard. It has not been seen or heard from since.

Rescue crews from nine nations have joined in the search, which continues by sea through the night and will resume by air Tuesday morning.

UPDATE 0045EDT, Monday:
A press conference was recently held with another update. Here is what we know:

Malaysian’s Civil Aviation Department confirms that they have found no trace of the aircraft, and they cannot confirm that the oil slick is from the aircraft. Additionally, they have not detected any signals from the Boeing 777′s black box.

Officials also say that every angle is being looked at, and they are “not discounting the theory of terrorism” says the department. As far as a rumor that a Chinese group is taking responsibility, government officials have no comment.

Malaysian government officials have confirmed that five passengers did not board the missing flight. They also confirm that all unaccompanied baggage was removed from the aircraft before take off.

The airline will start flying the families of MH370 passengers to Kuala Lumpu soon.

The search continues. Stay tuned…

UPDATE 2100EDT, Sunday:

Unfortunately, there is no new news to report at this time.

The search continues for the jet via sea and once again air, as daylight has rose over the region a few hours ago. Going forward through the day, hopes are that several search ships can locate debris that is suspected to have come from the missing jet.

Vietnamese air search crews found the two items yesterday (Sunday local time in the area) as darkness fell, which prohibited the crews from being able to positively ID the suspicious objects. Officials in the country have said they believe it was an aircraft door. Vessels were dispatched to the area, located 50 some miles off a Vietnamese island. It is unclear whether or not they have reached the area.

UPDATE 1830EDT, Sunday:

As we approach two and one half days since Malaysian Airlines System 370 went missing somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, little is still known.

Vietnamese authorities are still claiming that they spotted two items of interest in the ocean. The two objects could not be confirmed to be from the aircraft, though reports suggested it to be a door and a section of tail. Rescue ships are en route to the last known position, roughly fifty miles south-southwest of Tho Chu Island, Vietnam, after search planes had to turn back after sunset.

The Chinese, meanwhile, who had earlier claimed to have discovered a debris field, have gone silent on the matter ever since.

The search effort thus continues, with forty ships and thirty-four aircraft from nine nations traversing multiple sections of sea in the region.

The stolen passport issue remains a focus of the ongoing investigation. Malaysian has only confirmed two people traveling aboard the flight on stolen passports, both Europeans. Reports are coming out that up to two more people had been traveling aboard MAS370 with stolen passports. The issue remains unconfirmed, however.

What has been confirmed is that the airline and immigration officials failed to check the passports against an Interpol security database. Questions had arisen about how the passengers could’ve boarded with fake documents. Had that been done, the passports would’ve been flagged and the passengers in questions may have been stopped from boarding.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein reported that they have obtained CCTV images of the two in question. They declined to offer further information, citing the ongoing open investigation.

While the passport question remains under investigation, no nexus between the missing airplane and the issue has been determined.

Reports that the airplane may have tried to turn around still remain unconfirmed. A report that another airplane had contacted MAS370 well after ATC had lost contact has not been fully substantiated.

Meanwhile, families of the passengers aboard the flight grew frustrated. According to reports from CNN, a group of Chinese relatives signed a petition in Beijing that the airline tell the truth, and requested the Chinese government to step in to force more information.  The airline had dispatched a care team to the Chinese capital Saturday night, and announced that family members would be transported to the site of the wreck as soon as it could be found.

UPDATE 1605EDT, Sunday:

Yesterday, we learned that at least two passengers were able to board MH 370 with stolen passports. The issue has prompted many questions, primarily how this could’ve happened. We reached out to attorney Adam Wasch with Wasch Law LLP for some insight:

“If we assume that the passengers on board with stolen passports had something to do with the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident, which is unconfirmed at this point, then it could be argued that the airline and Malaysian authorities were ‘negligent’ in allowing those persons on board,” says attorney Adam Wasch with Wasch Law LLP.

“This type of argument passed muster in U.S. federal court in the  9/11 civil action against American Airlines for allowing terrorists with boxcutters on board before the case settled. However, in this case, a claim against the airline would be governed by the Montreal Convention because this was an international flight between two signatory countries. The convention asks only whether there was an ‘accident’ on board as that term has been defined by international and U.S. courts, and the answer to that question here is probably ‘yes.’”

UPDATE 1045EDT Sunday:

Tho Chu IslandThere have been a number of developments to the ongoing MAS370 incident overnight.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, a Vietnamese Navy search plane found aircraft components that they believe may be an inner door and a piece of the vertical stabilizer (tail), according to a Wall St Journal report. The parts are suspected of being from the ill fated, missing MH370 777-200ER and were located about 50 miles south-southwest of Tho Chu Island, Vietnam off the coast of mainland Vietnam.

The objects were not picked up by the air crews, which were forced to turn back as darkness fell. Ships, which are not subject the restriction on daylight, are en route to the last known location. Some forty ships continued searching through the night. Roughly thirty aircraft will begin again in the morning.

The lack of a debris field has raised concern that the airplane “disintegrated in flight at around 35,000 feet” according to a source involved in the investigation. But not everyone is sold on that explanation: “Of couse if ADS-B (transponder) was switched off, which can be done by the flight computer, why didn’t ACRS send out a hundred messages if there was a catastrophic event?”, said aviation expert Steven Frischling of Flying With Fish.

Adding to the mystery is that the plane may have turned back. Rodzali Daud, the Royal Malaysian Air Force chief said in a press conference “What we have done is actually look into the recording on the radar that we have and we realized there is a possibility that the air aircraft did make a turn back.”  Scott Hamilton, publisher of Leeham News has released an additional interesting list of possible scenarios that suggests that the plane may have deviated from the intended flight path and why.

Fake passport images

A screen shot of the two stolen passports, with sequential ticket numbers
They were both to connect to KL 898 together. Thanks to Steven Frischling for forwarding these.

According to Reuters, the possibility of foul play mounted as the Malaysian Transport Minister said authorities were checking the identities of two other passengers in addition to the the two men who were already know to be flying on stolen Austrian and Italian passports. “All four names are with me…We are looking at all possibilities. We cannot jump the gun. Our focus is now to find the plane”, said  Malaysian Transport and Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein. He reiterated the news that the FBI had been called in to assist, after which authorities then retracted back to just two stolen passports.

Of course, the big question remains as to how the passengers carrying the stolen passports cleared airline check-in, immigration, customs, and boarding. The Malaysian government has access to biometric e-passport technology combining an RFID chip, digital photo, and fingerprint identification, and was the first country in the world to deploy it back in 1998. The technology was invented in Malaysia. It’s unclear why it wasn’t deployed here.

Still in a press conference, Malaysia’s Inspector-General and Police Chief Khalid Abu Baker indicated that though they continue to consider the possibility a terrorist act bought down the lane, they don’t necessarily consider it the most likely cause it went missing – yet. 

In a new release from Malaysia Airlines said it is “fearing for the worst”, and had dispatched a “discovery management recovery specialist from Atlanta along with 94 caregivers consisting of well-trained staff and also Tzu Chi Foundation members to provide emotional support to the families. The airline will also be deploying another set of caregivers to Beijing later today.”

MAS issued its 8th press release at 2:43pm local time on Sunday when it said:

Family members of the MH370 passengers from Beijing who wish to travel will be flown in stages to Kuala Lumpur on the available flights.  We are also communicating with the families from other nations to similarly arrange for their travel to Kuala Lumpur. 

In the event flight MH370 is located, a Response Control Centre (RCC) in the area will be activated to support the needs of families.

Scott Hamilton, publisher of Leeham News has released an additional interesting list of possible scenarios that suggests that the plane may have deviated from the intended flight path and why.

We will continue with updates here as they happen and on our social media outlets.

UPDATE 0430EDT Sunday:

Another press conference was held, and MAS has confirmed that two passports did not belong to two of the passengers on MH370.

The stolen passports were linked to two tickets that were purchased at the same time, and the ticket numbers only differ by one number (one ends with 99 and the next ends with 00). @flyingwithfish reports that two passengers who used the stolen passports were flying: KUL-PEK-CPH and KUL-PEK-FRA.

UPDATE 0245EDT Sunday:
China’s XH News is reporting that Chinese rescue forces have reached the suspected site of the missing aircraft.

UPDATE 0050EST Sunday:
Officials are investigating the identities of four passengers that were believed to have been on MH370, and the FBI will send specialists to Kuala Lumpur to assist with the investigation.
It is believed that at least two passengers were travelling on stolen passports.

Military radar indicates that the missing Boeing 777 jet turned back before vanishing, Malaysia’s air force chief said Sunday.

22 aircraft and 40 ships are part of the search and rescue team.

MAS says there are no plans to ground the 777 fleet.

The next press conference is scheduled for 3 AM EST/ 12 AM PST.

UPDATE 2020EST Saturday:
A Malaysian official says that search crews seated all night. There has been no trace of the aircraft, and the search area is being expanded.

Another press conference is expected in two two hours.

UPDATE 1915EST Saturday:
According to the LA Times, the FBI is deploying agents and technical experts to assist in the investigation of MAS 370. The agency will join the investigation as four Americans were on board the flight.

U.S. officials said they are working to determine if this was an act of terrorism, but have said n no evidence thus far that leads them to believe this.

UPDATE 1815EST Saturday:
As of 1815EST, there have been no major updates to the search and rescue mission of MAS 370. Approximately 24 hours after contact was lost with the airplane, MAS issued a press release, highlights from which are found below:

Sepang, 9 March 2014: Malaysia Airlines humbly asks all Malaysians and people around the world to pray for flight MH370.

Immediate families of passengers are advised to gather at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Travel arrangements and expenses will be borne by Malaysia Airlines. Once, the whereabouts of the aircraft is determined, Malaysia Airlines will fly members of the family to the location.

Our sole priority now is to provide all assistance to the families of the passengers and our staff. We are also working closely with the concerned authorities in the search and rescue operation.

We expect more details at the next press conference which is scheduled for 9AM local time Sunday morning.

UPDATE 1600EST Saturday:

The Gulf of Thailand averages approximately 150 feet deep (45 meters), with the deepest point at approximately 250 feet (80 meters). It appears the search for MAS 370 should be easier than searching for Air France 447. (Hat tip Robert Mann)

gulfthai

Map of Gulf of Thailand Courtesy of WorldAtlas.com

UPDATE 1335EST Saturday:

Moments ago, another press conference was held by MAS. The carrier has confirmed that authorities are still searching for the aircraft by sea, though air searching will not resume until Sunday morning.

However, the airline has not confirmed that the oil slick is from the missing flight. It is not confirming or denying reports about possible fake passports.

UPDATE 1200EST Saturday:

So far, there has been no confirmation that the aircraft has been found. We have confirmed reports that Vietnamese search aircraft have found two narrowly-spaced oil slicks in the South China Sea, but officials have not confirmed if the oil slick belongs to MAS 370 . Boats have been dispatched to the area where the oil slick was found to investigate.

Business Insider has obtained photos of an areal view of the oil slick.

One Austrian and one Italian were reported to have been aboard the missing plane, but foreign ministry officials say they were not on-board the aircraft.

Officials in Vienna say the man is safe at home and his passport was stolen. “Our embassy got the information that there was an Austrian on board. That was the passenger list from Malaysia Airlines. Our system came back with a note that this is a stolen passport,” the ministry official said. The passport was reported stolen two years ago while the person was traveling in Thailand, according to the spokesperson.

U.S. officials told NBC News, “We are aware of the reporting on the two stolen passports,” one senior official said. “We have not determined a nexus to terrorism yet, although it’s still very early, and that’s by no means definitive.”

We will bring you the latest as soon as we learn more.

UPDATE: 1125EST Saturday:

Video (h/t to Sylvain Faust @sylvainfaust) of the last 9 minutes of flight before MAS 370 vanished.

UPDATE: 0945EST Saturday:

Vietnamese search aircraft have found two narrowly-spaced oil slicks in the South China Sea. However, they have not verified if it belongs to MAS 370. The air search has been called off for the night, and will resume tomorrow morning. However, the sea search will continue through the night.

UPDATE: 0805EST Saturday:

Over night, Malayasia Airlines (MAS) has issued new press release with a full passenger manifest which can be viewed here.

The families of all passengers on board MH370 are being informed. The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants) and 12 crew members.

An international search and rescue mission was mobilized this morning. At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage.

The sea mission will continue while the air mission will recommence at daylight.

MAS has dispatched a care and comfort team to Beijing to assist families of those presumed to be lost. Gathered in a room at Beijing Capital Airport, Chinese relatives of the missing passengers have angrily accused the airline of depriving them of information while Chinese state media criticized what they believe to be the carrier’s poor response.

There has been mounting speculation as to what might have caused the crash. Ideas include the usual suspect including  a bomb, hijacking and/or deliberate destruction of the plane, accidental shoot down by military missile or some form of military missile or military attack on airplane, and pilot suicide as in EgyptAir flight 990. On the technical front, structural failure and dual engine flame out and loss of control are in play, though both are exceptionally unlikely. Leehman News further details these possibilities.

As a massive search and rescue scene unfolded, there were earlier reports from Vietnamese state media, quoting a senior naval official that parts of the plane had been located. Malaysia’s transport minister later denied any crash scene had been identified. The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).

“The search and rescue operations will continue as long as necessary,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. Reuters reports The Malaysian government has pressed 15 air force aircraft, six navy ships and three coast guard vessels  into service by Malaysia. Vietnam, the country closest to where MAS 370 is thought to went down, on Saturday dispatched two navy boats from Phu Quoc island along with two jets and one helicopter from Ho Chi Minh City to search for the missing airliner. It was readying a further seven planes and nine boats to join the search effort. The governments of China and the Philippines have dispatched ships to the area for the effort while the U.S., the Phillippines, and Singapore have dispatched military planes to aid in the search.

UPDATE: 0400EST:

With well over twelve hours having passed since Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight 370 went missing, we feel confident stating that the airplane is missing and presumed crashed.

If you’re just joining this thread, MAS flight 370 went missing earlier today after departing Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It was last heard from just prior to 0300 MYT, as it passed 125 miles off the coast of Malaysia. Two-hundred and twenty-seven souls were aboard the airplane, representing fourteen nationalities.

MAS has denied earlier reports that the airplane safely touched down in China, and has disputed reports from the Vietnamese Navy that wreckage has been found in South China Sea. It has continued to maintain that it “is still unable to determine the whereabouts” of the flight.

A massive, multinational search operation has been underway since Vietnamese ATC noted that the airplane failed to check in. Air and naval forces from China, Malaysia, and Vietnam are involved in the effort.

Speculation is, predictably, running rampant as to what could’ve caused the Boeing 777-200ER to disappear. All we know for certain is that the weather was understood to be clear, and the pilots quite experienced. Even with this being the third hull loss of this model of aircraft, the 777 has one of the best safety records in the world.

The particular airplane, understood to be registered 9M-MRO, is  powered by Rolls Royce Trent engines. It was delivered to the airline in 2002.

Stay tuned to Airchive here or on our twitter @airchive for developments as this story progresses. Be patient with updates and information in the overnight hours!

UPDATE MAR 8 0218EST:

Boeing has released a brief statement about the incident. They are assembling and dispatching a team to provide “technical assistance to investigating authorities.

UPDATE MAR 8 0145EST:

Malaysia Airlines reports the airplane has still not been located in a press conference. It added that it was aware of a report that the Vietnamese Navy had located the wreckage but would not confirm, stating that it was working with the Malaysian military to confirm the account with the Vietnamese. It has since denied reports that the airplane had possibly landed in China.

A vast search and rescue operation has since been under way. Three nations, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam have joined in the search. Both air and sea assets have been deployed, including ships, helicopters, and C-130 aircraft.

The company added that it would be holding press conferences every two hours.

UPDATE MAR 8 0012EST:

Malaysia Airline System declines to confirm or deny reports attributed to the Vietnamese Navy that MH370 has been located in the South China Sea.

UPDATE MAR 7 2335EST:

A joint rescue operation is underway with China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, according to the airline.

MAS confirmed the last point of contact with the airplane was 120 nautical miles off Kota Bharu over South China Sea.  The airline said there was no bad weather in the area at the time of the disappearance.

So far, the carrier is reporting there was no distress call.

UPDATE MAR 7 2300EST:

Reuters has reported that earlier reports of a signal turning up from the airplane off the coast of Vietnam are false.

UPDATE MAR 7 2230EST:

The Malaysia Airlines press conference has come and gone, and, unfortunately, very little new information was revealed.

The carrier said in its most recent statement that it is investigating reports that the airplane has landed in Nanming, China. China has denied tracking the airplane, however.

The captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, joined the airline in 1981, and had logged 18,365 flying hours. The first officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27,  joined in 2007 and had 2,763 hours logged. Both are Malaysian.

The passengers comprised 14 different nationalities, including 153 total Chinese (including one infant), 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, 7 Australians, 3 French, and 4 total Americans (including one infant), among others.

Full nationality breakdown available here.

UPDATE MAR 7 2216EST:

Malaysia Airlines press conference beginning now here (English).

UPDATE MAR 7 2200EST:

Here is a recap of what we know so far about the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident:

  • Malaysia 370, operating Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Beijing (PEK) was a Boeing 777-200ER.
  • The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members, comprising 13 different nationalities.
  • There is currently no sign of the aircraft, airborne or otherwise. However, Malaysia Airlines confirms the aircraft would have exhausted its fuel supply by this time.

UPDATE MAR 7 2140EST: 

China’s Xinhua news agency reporting that radar contact was lost with MH370 in Vietnamese-controlled airspace (via Reuters).

UPDATE MAR 7 2130EST: 

Malaysia Airlines has launched a dedicated website to provide reports on the MH370 event.

FlightRadar24.com tracking data playback is now available for 9M-MRO, the aircraft operating MH370.

UPDATE MAR 7 2110EST: 

Passengers of thirteen nationalities were onboard MH370, including around 158 160 153 Chinese nationals, according to CCTV.

Again, there have been no confirmed sightings of the aircraft, airborne or otherwise. However, it is now four hours overdue into Beijing, and would no longer have fuel at this point. 

UPDATE MAR 7 2100EST: 

Malaysia Airlines Vice President of Operations Fuad Sharuji tells CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the company has “no idea” where Malaysia 370 may be.

UPDATE MAR 7 2049EST: 

Malaysia Airline System CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya issues statement, offering “thoughts and prayers” for affected passengers and families. Malaysia also reports they are notifying next-of-kin. Statement is reprinted in its entirety below.

We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370 which departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am earlier this morning bound for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time. Subang Air Traffic Control reported that it lost contact at 2.40am (local Malaysia time) today.

 

Flight MH370 was operated on a Boeing B777-200 aircraft. The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants), 12 crew members. The passengers were of 13 different nationalities. Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft. Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew.

 

Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members. The airline will provide regular updates on the situation.

There is still no updated information on the aircraft’s location or status.

UPDATE MAR 7 2028EST: 

The People’s Republic of China reports that MH370 did not enter Chinese airspace or make contact with Chinese controllers.

According to FlightAware ADS-B data, the last recorded movement of the aircraft was a drastic heading change and a descent of 700 feet.

ORIGINAL STORY MAR 7 2017EST:

Breaking news out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Malaysia Airlines announced over Facebook that Subang air traffic control ‘lost contact’ with flight MH370 at 2:40am local time on March 8 (GMT +8 hours), slightly more than six hours ago. The Boeing 777-200ER, registered 9M-MRO, was operating Kuala Lumpur (KUL) – Beijing (PEK), and was due to land a Beijing at 6:30am local time the same day. The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and twelve crew members, for a total of 239 people onboard.

Overnight weather in Kampung Subang, Malaysia was reported as cloudy, but precipitation-free.

At this time, a crash is presumed. If correct, this would be only the third hull loss of a Boeing 777 aircraft, after the British Airways crash at London-Heathrow in 2009 and the Asiana crash in San Francisco last year.

In over forty years of operation, Malaysia aircraft had only been involved in two fatal accidents prior to today. In 1977, flight 653, a Boeing 737-200, was hijacked and crashed near the village of Tanjung Kupang, killing 100. In 1995, a Malaysia Fokker 50 crashed on approach to Tawau, Borneo, killing 34.

Once again, this is a breaking story. Airchive will update this article with more information as it becomes available.

Featured photo via russavia/Wikimedia Commons.

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Airchive staff Chris Sloan in Miami, Taylor Michie in New York, Jack Harty in Houston, Vinay Bhaskara in Chicago, and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren in Seattle are contributing to this report. Contact the editor at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com.

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EVA Air Plans to Launch Flights to Chicago and Houston in 2015

By Jack Harty / Published March 5, 2014

EVA-777-300-JDLIn January, EVA Air announced big plans to expand in North America, and yesterday, EVA Air’s Chairman, K. W. Chang, said that the company is seeing steady demand growth on its North American routes according to a story by EToday News.  He went on to say that service will be increased, and next year, he says EVA Air is planning to launch flights to Chicago and Houston.

Many have speculated that EVA Air would launch flights to Houston for quite some time. Recently, Houston has been growing its reach by adding new routes and airlines to Asia. In EVA’s case, launching flights to Houston and Chicago will be good for the airline as it will be able to codeshare with United, a Star Alliance Partner.

Details about its plans to launch flights to Chicago and Houston are not known at this time.

Starting in June, the carrier will launch a two phase expansion plan which comes just as it will celebrate its first anniversary as a member of the Star Alliance Network. Phase one will increase the carrier’s weekly number of flights from 45 to 55, boosting frequency to Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver. In July, phase two will include adding additional flights to San Francisco and additional flights to Los Angeles.

In a  press release, EVA Air says its average load on North America flights surpassed 80 percent in 2013, and airline executives expect it to continue climbing in 2014.

In order to help with the growth this year, it will take delivery of three new Boeing 777-300ERs in the second quarter of 2014 for long-haul flights between North America and Taiwan.

As for 2015, the carrier says that it plans to take delivery of four Boeing 777-300ERs next year, and it plans to sign a contract for 10 more Boeing 777 aircraft. It is quite possible that it will look at ordering the 777X.

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Photo courtesy jplphoto

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Australian PM to try to Repeal Parts of Qantas Sale Act

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren and Jack Harty / Published March 3, 2014

SIN Spotting-4Australian prime minister Tony Abbott announced that the government will attempt to repeal key provisions of the Qantas Sale Act in a bid to prop up the nations flailing flag carrier, Qantas.

If successful, the changes could lead to substantially increased foreign ownership of the Aussie carrier as well as a split between the domestic and international arms.

The carrier announced massive losses last week, and subsequently shared plans to cut $2 billion in expenses in the coming years, including axing 5,000 full-time jobs. The airline has since been seeking government intervention in the form of debt relief and changes to the Act.

According to reports from the region, cabinet level talks regarding government debt relief and lines of credit fell through on Monday. Following the setbacks, Abott said the government would pursue amending the act. The legislation could be introduced into Parliament as early as this week.

Should the legislation pass, it would lift existing restrictions on foreign ownership of the airline, thus opening the carrier up to significant foreign investment. The carrier’s arch-rival Virgin Australia is not subject to the law, and is thus supported by substantial foreign money, including Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Etihad.

It would also force the carrier to split into two separate companies: domestic and international. The split is crucial as the Australian Air Navigation Act requires an international airline to be majority Australian-owned in order to maintain landing rights, thus capping foreign ownership stakes at 49%. There are no restrictions, however, on Australian domestic airlines being foreign owned.

Repeal of the act would place Qantas on more equal footing with Virgin, but would also increase the odds of Qantas jobs moving out of Australia.

As a result the Labor and Greens parties have already vowed to fight the bill, setting up what could be a protracted fight and an uncertain future for the airline. They claim the move would likely see massive Australian job losses and a gutting of what makes the carrier uniquely Australian. As a result, sources say that it is unlikely to pass the Senate.

Introduced in 1992, the act privatized the airline and limited foreign ownership of Qantas to 49 percent in sum total. Additionally, no single foreign entity can hold more than 25 percent of the airline’s total shares, while foreign airlines collectively can only hold up to 35 percent of the company shares combined.

In trouble

QF Qantas 744 JDLLate last week Qantas reported epic-level losses of $226 million US in the second half of 2013, the largest and most recent in a string of losses. CEO Alan Joyce subsequently announced that the company needs to find $2 billion in savings.

Subsequently everything from 747s to the airplanes’ mechancis have found themselves in the cross hairs. Joyce has rolled out plans to cut 5,000 full time jobs, sell off six 747s, all 737-400s and 767s, and defer any new wide-body deliveries.

The company has been facing pressure from a strong Australian dollar, increased international competition, high fuel costs, and an ongoing price-war at home with Virgin.

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Jack Harty and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren contributed to this report. Contact them at Jack.Harty@airchive.com and Jeremy.Lindgren@airchive.com.

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United Receives Tentative Approval to fly to Haneda

By Jack Harty / Published March 1, 2014

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Photo by Jack Harty

United Airlines has received tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation to operate flights between San Francisco and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. This comes several months after United applied for the rights to fly into Haneda.

Hawaiian Airlines also sought after takeoff and landing rights at Haneda. The company proposed to launch flights from Kona, Hawaii.

The Transportation Department said United’s flight from San Francisco “would introduce a new U.S. carrier at Haneda and would promote competition by giving business and leisure travelers an additional choice for connecting service.” United says it looks forward to completing the approval process.

Extra: Tokyo Haneda Heats Up With International Flights

Slots into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport are highly coveted as it is the closest airport to the city of Tokyo. Flights from the U.S. to Haneda are part of an open-skies accord between the US and Japan, which allows four daily roundtrip flights. Hawaiian operates service between Handea and Honolulu, and Delta serves Haneda from Los Angeles and Seattle.

Almost immediately after American Airlines announced that it would discontinue service between New York’s John F. Kennedy International airport and Haneda, United applied to take over American’s takeoff and landing rights.

Extra: Tokyo Haneda Airport Photo Gallery


Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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New Start Up: American West Jets

By Jack Harty / Published February 26, 2014

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Logo from the company on a presentation
Courtesy of American West Jets

Another start-up airline is in the works. American West Jets has filed with the DOT to acquire Ryan International Airlines’ operating certificate and remaining assets.

The airline would be a subsidiary of American West Aircraft which is an aircraft sales and leasing company. It dates back to the 1980s.

The new company plans to be based in Las Vegas, Nevada, near McCarran International Airport.

The company aims to serve “exclusively currently un-served (or under-served) routes with a highly efficient operation.”

Ryan International Airlines Roots

American Western Aircraft purchased Ryan International Airlines’ assets and brand for $800,000, according to official documents that were obtained by Airchive.

Ryan International Airlines was based in Rockford, Illinois. It flew non-scheduled charter passenger services, including for the United States Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and others. The airline ceased operations on January 11, 2013.

American West Jets is petitioning the DOT to obtain Ryan International Airlines’ operating certificate without having to pay the fee, as the certificate had been dormant for over one year.

Should it obtain the operating certificate, it says it will be the “re-branding of the 33 year old Ryan International Airlines, and it is designed around this well-defined business model: one that uses a minimum of aircraft types, point-to-point flights ensuring low operating and marketing costs, efficiency and high level of customer service and safety.”

Markets

Initially, the carrier wants to focus on making flying to Central America easier for travelers in the South Western U.S.

Shortly after, it wants to enter the West Africa and South Pacific markets. The airline believes there is a strong demand for additional service from the southwest U.S. However, flights to West Africa will need to be initially operated from Sanford International Airport in the Orlando Florida area.

Operation Hubs

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American West Jets planned routes
Image courtesy of American West Jets Airlines

The company’s” west coast fuel farm” is the newly renovated 2,000,000-gallon fuel farm at San Bernardino International Airport. It expects not only to provide fuel for itself, but also to generate revenue by selling fuel to its competitors. With the fuel farm all but complete, the airline plans to open new operations offices, a heavy maintenance facility, shops, and offices at the airport.

The airline also plans to operate out of the new International Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport.

Orlando’s Sanford International Airport will be used as its gateway to Africa.

Fleet

The airline plans to initially operate a fleet of Boeing 747s, L-1011s, and MD-83s.

Orlando will be the North American 747 operational hub. Each 747 will have approximately 350-400 seats.

The airline already owns two L-1011 aircraft which are operated by Sands Corporation. There will be 250 seats with Rolls Royce powered engines and the latest electronic upgrades. Initially, four L-1011s will join the fleet.

A pair of MD-83 aircraft are planned to be obtained to operate domestic flights. Each aircraft will have 144 seats.

It plans to earn enough money to eventually purchase the next generation aircraft Boeing Wide Body 777’s within a year or two to replace its older fleet.

Routes

The airline plans to operate the following:

Domestic flights:

  • 3 flights per week between Las Vegas and Sanford
  • 3 flights per week between San Bernardino and Sanford
  • 2 daily flights between San Bernardino and Las Vegas

Central America flights:

  • 3 flights per week between Las Vegas and San Jose, Costa Rica
  • 3 flights per week between Las Vegas and Los Cabos
  • 3 flights per week between San Bernardino and Belize
  • 3 flights per week between San Bernardino and Los Cabos

Caribbean Flights:

  • 3 flights per week between San Bernardino and Kingston, Jamaica
  • 3 flights per week between San Bernardino and Oranjestad, Aruba

South Pacific flights:

  • 1 flight per week between Las Vegas to Pago Pago, American Samoa
  • 1 flight per week between Las Vegas to Brisbane, Australia
  • 1 flight per week between San Bernardino to Chrischurch, New Zealand
  • 1 flight per week between San Bernardino to Pago Pago, American Samoa

West African Flights:

  • 1 flight per week between Sanford and Conakry, Guinea
  • 1 flight per week between Sanford and Accra, Ghana
  • 1 flight per week between Sanford and Lagos, Nigeria
  • 1 flight per week between Sanford and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Operations Commencing

The airline plans to commence operations in May 2014. It will launch small domestic routes with an MD83, and shortly after, it will add the L-1011s for new routes to Central America. In June, it plans to receive its first Boeing 747-400 to operate flights to American Samoa and Brisbane, Australia.

One Question Remains

The news of the new start-up comes after Florida Express Jet announced that it is grounding plans to start the start-up intrastate airline. After reviewing American West Jets’ plan, it appears it has a much more aggressive plan than other start up airlines.

Did April Fool’s come early?

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Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.
Contact the editor at jeremy.lindgren@airchive.com

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Delta’s SkyMiles Program to be Based on Airfare

By Jack Harty / Published February 26, 2014

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Photo courtesy of Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Delta Skymiles members will begin to earn miles based on fares paid starting in 2015. The program was previously based on how far a participant flew, and marks the first major legacy carrier to make such a change.

“The current distance-based model was developed 30 years ago when fares were highly correlated to distance,” says Jeff Robertson, Delta’s vice president of SkyMiles. “We think the spend-based model allows us to invest more in our premium customers and is right for Delta today.”

Up until now, SkyMiles members who spent $500 on a flight earned the same amount of miles as one who spent $5,000. Delta’s decision to peg the reward program to a pay-more-to-play-more style is likely to anger lower tier, lower paying customers. But it will likely make the biggest spenders in the 91-million strong program quite happy.

Depending on their status, members of the program will earn between five and eleven miles per dollar spent flying on Delta. Have the SkyMiles credit card? Add another two miles per dollar, boosting the max possible earnings to 13 miles per dollar for a diamond member:

SkyMiles program status Miles per dollar* Miles earned with Total miles per
General member 5 +2 7
Silver Medallion 7 +2 9
Gold Medallion 8 +2 10
Platinum Medallion 9 +2 11
Diamond Medallion 11 +2 13

*[on Delta spent] – Source info for chart from Delta Air Lines

Perhaps most importantly, however, the airline has not released fully updated redemption charts. The charts, which are used to determine how many miles are needed to earn a free upgrade to first class, or a round-trip vacation in coach to Europe, will be released at a later time. Changes, up or down, alter the value of the miles.

Still, Delta did announce a new mileage redemption structure which it says will improve award seat availability at the lowest mileage requirement levels. Also, the company will offer one-way awards at half the price of round-trip, provide additional miles + cash award options, as well as make improvements to delta.com and Delta reservations award shopping tools. Where those trips can be found in the system, is again still unclear.

Wednesday’s announcement is not the first revenue-based move the carrier has made with its loyalty program. Delta announced in January of 2013 that members would need to spend a minimum of $2,500  to qualify for the lowest status ring. Previously that feat could be achieved solely by miles flown.

Still,  the revenue-based loyalty program strategy is not new. Virgin America became the first airline to tie ticket price to earning of loyalty points in 2007. JetBlue and Southwest also utilize a revenue-based model. While not a guarantee, it is likely other legacy carriers will wind up following suit.

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Plans for Florida Express Jet Grounded

By Jack Harty / Published February 25, 2014

AirFloridaStart-up carrier Florida Express Jet wound up going under on Tuesday, before ever having a chance to get off the ground. Earlier this month, it was announced that a start-up would provide point-to-point service within Florida, starting in March

Florida Express Jet was going to operate a fleet of Boeing 737-400 aircraft – key word “was”. Each aircraft would have had 138 seats (twelve business class seats and 116 seats in economy). Curiously, the airline planned to offer complimentary Wi-Fi, but $25 to check a bag.

The airline planned offer flights between Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee via Orlando.

Chris Curry, the director of the Tallahassee Regional Airport, said he was notified that the company would be canceling its planned service to the airport Tuesday morning. He went on to say that the carrier has hit a few roadblocks. For example, the start-up needed to raise more capital, and it was unable to secure a gate at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport.

Additionally, he mentioned that Florida Express Jet did not have an agreement with the airport. Should something change, the airport is open to resuming negotiations with the airline.

Tuesday morning, Florida Express Jet’s social media accounts went dark, and it appears its Facebook account was deleted.The company’s website remains up, but the homepage only offers customers an option sign up for future news.

According to Curry, the carrier reports that all tickets have been refunded.

The signs that this venture was doomed before ever reaching the gate were popping up long before last night. The owner of this site, Chris Sloan, attempted to book a ticket on the inaugural but never received confirmation. Three days of attempting to reach the ‘carrier’ failed. Once reached, the carrier claimed the ticket was purchased from Pay Pal (untrue).  It later ‘found’ the reservation and offered to send a fax of the confirmation number and
itinerary, but only sent a receipt. Subsequent attempts to cancel the itinerary via email, phone, twitter, and the website were finally met by a response from the CEO’s wife’s personal email
account.

Classy.

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Asiana Fined $500,000 for Failing to Assist Families of Asiana Flight 214

By Jack Harty / Published February 25, 2014

Asiana-777-NSTB-PIX-1The Department of Transportation (DOT) has fined Asiana Airlines $500,000 for failing to assist the family members and passengers on Asiana 214 that crashed on July 6 at San Francisco airport.

Based on the Federal Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997, all airlines are required to provide assistance after a crash by publicizing and staffing a reliable toll-free phone number for family members and passengers after a crash.

According to the DOT, Asiana failed to adhere to the family-assistance program.

The report says Asiana took two full days to contact three-quarters of the families who had family on-board the flight. The report also states that some families were not contacted until five days after the crash occurred. It also states the carrier lacked translators and personnel trained in crash response.

However, the airline said it faced challenges in reaching passengers and their relatives because many tickets were purchased through travel agents.

Additionally, the DOT argues that Asiana failed to widely publicize a telephone number for family members of those on-board. Even though a number was publicized, it was a reservation line, and it did not have a separate menu option for families and passengers.

“In the very rare event of a crash, airlines have a responsibility to provide their full support to help passengers and their families by following all the elements of their family assistance plans,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in announcing the fine. “The last thing families and passengers should have to worry about at such a stressful time is how to get information from their carrier.”

Although Asiana has not commented publicly about the report, a consent agreement for the fine has been drafted.

The agreement states that Asiana says twelve employees were on duty at San Francisco at the time of the crash, and employees from Los Angeles were also brought in to assist with the response effort.

Plus, the carrier contends that a 24-hour family assistance was set up to provide clothing, food, and counseling. It further argues that its CEO was present in San Francisco from July 9 till July 27 to help deal with the crisis. Asiana argued that his presence ensured families and passengers received adequate assistance.

Based on the DOT report, Asiana is being fined $400,000. Additionally, it is being credited $100,000 to sponsor conferences and training sessions for the next two years.

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

*Cover photo courtesy of the NTSB

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Southwest to Return Two DCA Slot Pairs to the FAA

By Jack Harty / Published February 25, 2014

southwest

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Southwest says it is returning a pair of slots it received from American Airlines at Washington’s Reagan National Airport (DCA) to the FAA. It had won 27 slot pairs, giving it the right to operate 27 daily round-trip flights.

Southwest said it won a Sunday-only pair that it does not intend to use. The company told USA Today that “The Sunday only slots were not something we could use and we did not purchase them, they were included in our bundle…we will be returning them to the FAA. We do operate some Saturday only schedules in various location, but not Sunday only.”

To clear the way for American and US Airways to merge, both companies agreed to give up 52 slot pairs at DCA.

Since this is out of the normal, it is not known who will handle the process of returning the slot pairs.

JetBlue Airways won 12 DCA slot pairs, and Virgin America won four DCA slot pairs last week. All of the slot pairs have been accounted for, but the fate of one remains unknown.

It is quite rare for an airline to voluntarily give up a slot pair, especially at DCA, as they are highly coveted. One slot pairs provide airlines with the right to operate one take off and one landing. They are common in highly congested airports where operations are heavily restricted.

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com.

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Memphis’ Modernization Plan

By Jack Harty / Published February 24, 2014

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Design courtesy of Memphis International Airport

Six months after Delta Air Lines de-hubbed Memphis, the airport has released new plans to modernize the B concourse and to consolidate operations.

The airport plans to consolidate airline operations along with food, beverage and retail concessions into the B Concourse. It also plans to make improvements by adding more moving walkways, widening corridors, increasing the number of boarding areas, raising the ceilings, and adding more natural lighting.

Board5-View2

Design courtesy of Memphis International Airport

According to the airport’s website, shifting operations into one concourse will allow “passengers [to] benefit in a number of ways from the modernization at Memphis International Airport (MEM). Gates will no longer be spread out across three concourses – they will be consolidated into one. Travelers will have more access to concessionaires since these businesses will all be located in the B Concourse. There will be more room to move through the widened corridors and larger boarding areas, more lighting from added windows and taller ceilings, and enhanced customer service via the addition of moving walkways. In addition, we will install new flight information displays that include up-to-date flight information for all airlines serving MEM.”

“We have begun the process of reinventing the Memphis Airport,” said Scott Brockman, MSCAA President and CEO. “Part of that reinvention involves consolidating operations so we can better serve our passengers, airlines, concessionaires and employees. More importantly, we’re going to modernize the B Concourse, giving our passengers more room to move, better lighting and more convenience.”

AirportPhase2

Design courtesy of Memphis International Airport

It is anticipated that the construction will total approximately $114 million in capital costs. The airport authority does not anticipate that this will require the issuance of any additional general airport revenue bond debt.

The project is expected to be completed in five to seven years.

Phase 1: The ends of Concourses A and C will be removed to allow planes to taxi more efficiently and position the airport for future growth.

Phase 2 (2015-2020): Concourse B will be widened to allow for more open pathways, moving sidewalks and natural lighting from taller windows and ceilings.

Timeline:

  • Bidding process for removal of south ends of A and C concourses – 2014
  • Apron reconstruction (west courtyard) – 2014
  • Apron reconstruction (inside “Y” area of B Concourse) – 2015
  • Removal of south end of A Concourse – 2014
  • Removal of south end of C Concourse – 2015
  • Relocation of airline flight operations to B Concourse 2016
  • Modernization of B Concourse, Phase 1 – 2017
  • Modernization of B Concourse, Phase 2 – 2018
  • Modernization of B Concourse, Phase 3 – 2019-2020

Video of MEM’s Concourse Modernization:

Jack Harty in Houston reported this story. You can contact him at Jack.Harty@airchive.com

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