Airlines, Airports and Airliners News -14 to 21 June 2020

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein


The International Air Transport Association (IATA), Airports Council International- Africa (ACI Africa) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Regional Offices for African States are united in their call to governments in Africa to rapidly implement ICAO's global guidelines for restoring air connectivity to ensure the safe and harmonized restart of aviation in the region. These guidelines are contained in Takeoff: Guidance for Air Travel through the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis, which was approved by the ICAO Council. They have also been adopted into the African Union's Restart and Recovery Strategies during and after COVID-19 for the African Aviation Sector.

"Developed based on the latest medical evidence and consistent with health best practices the ICAO Take-off guidance provides governments with a framework for restarting aviation while protecting public health. Governments in Africa are encouraged to implement the guidance urgently and in a harmonized and mutually recognized way to allow aviation to safely start contributing to Africa's economic recovery post COVID-19. Air connectivity is critical to economic and sustainable development in and across the continent," said Mr. Barry Kashambo, Regional Director, ESAF speaking on behalf of the ICAO Regional Offices accredited to African States.

"ICAO's Take-off guidance is a global way forward for aviation. Implementation should give governments the confidence to open borders without quarantine, and passengers the confidence to fly. But guidelines mean nothing if they are not implemented. And that is our main message to governments in Africa. Deviations from the guidance and mandatory approaches, especially on quarantine and social distancing, will damage public confidence, make it harder to operate effectively, slow down the industry restart and increase the economic pressures already created by COVID-19. This would be harmful to public health and the economic recovery," said Muhammad Albakri, IATA's Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

"Safety and security remain the industry's main priority and both are firmly entrenched into every airport's operations and corporate culture. Building on this track record, the ICAO Take-off guidance is fully aligned with our industry's focus on passenger and staff wellbeing. We therefore urge African States to urgently adopt these guidelines so that we can ensure the implementation of consistent, harmonized and effective measures across the region, a prerequisite for passengers to return to air travel in all confidence and for the swift restoration of air connectivity for the sustainable recovery of the travel, business and tourism sectors on the continent," said Ali Tounsi Secretary General, ACI Africa.

Effect of COVID-19 on Aviation in Africa
COVID-19 has crippled the air transport industry in Africa. Demand is forecast to fall by 58.5% in 2020 year-on-year - the largest drop of all the regions. Airlines in the region are expected to post a net loss of $2 billion this year as passenger revenues decline by over $6 billion compared to the previous year. Concurrently, African airports are expected to lose 51% of their revenues in 2020, i.e., around $2.2 billion. Job losses in aviation and related industries in the region could reach 3.1 million and GDP supported by aviation could fall by $28 billion. Before the COVID-19 crisis, aviation supported 6.2 million jobs in the region and generated $55.8 billion in GDP.


Our president has advised against unnecessary air travel, but it is still safe to travel as long as you adhere to recommended safety practices.

In line with this, FlySafair has implemented a no-touch policy to reduce physical contact between customers and staff to limit the spread of COVID-19. So please do not hand your phone, boarding pass, ID or other items to any of our staff. Rather display such items for scanning or checking while holding onto them.

To avoid unnecessary contact, we offer travel solutions that limit contact with others. These include, but are not limited to: Travel light - if possible, travel with hand luggage only. Online check-in - skip the queues at the check-in desks. If you have a checked bag, it still needs to be dropped off at the check-in counter.
Digital boarding pass - instead of using a printed boarding pass, when checking in online, download or Whatsapp it directly to your and other travellers' phones.

If you don't have any symptoms like a fever, cough or a stuffy nose and you are implementing safe hygiene practices, you are safe to fly.

Most importantly, look after your health by strictly adhering to the advised safety protocols. So specifically, wash your hands regularly and carry your hand sanitiser/sanitising wipes along. Be aware of surface contamination. Keep your distance from other people. Avoid touching your face. Cough and sneeze into a tissue or folded elbow.

If you do feel ill during a flight, please be sure to alert a cabin crew member immediately.


San Francisco start-up Zephyr Aerospace is introducing a new social distancing-compliant airline seat and bed combo for premium economy passengers. For decades, lie-flat seating has been the indulgence of business and first-class travellers - the "select few" who can afford this luxury. Now a fresh innovation could bring the same concept to economy plus and it couldn't have come at a more important time. Budget travellers can now sit, lie flat and sleep in the same seat and maintain social distancing rules.

Zephyr is a brand-new airline seating concept that transforms the seats in premium economy class on wide-body aircraft into lie-flat beds. The idea, still in the concept phase, could revolutionize the in-flight experience as airlines encourage people to travel again.

The world's first lie-flat "double-decker" seating concept for premium economy class passengers offers a comfortable bed with all-aisle access in a 2-4-2 configuration - the same density as existing premium economy set-ups on 90 percent of airlines worldwide. It's the cheapest way to sleep on long-distance commercial flights.

Zephyr's seat and bed combo provide budget travellers with the same privacy as business class travellers. The non-mechanical sleep seats have limited movable fixtures and are made with the highest standard lightweight composite materials, reducing direct maintenance costs for airlines. A telescopic ladder provides quick and easy access to the upper area and can be removed after boarding.

The drop-down footwell cover increases personal space in each seat, which allows for multiple lie-flat positions. There's even space for small children and families to lie next to each other (dependent on an airline's social distancing rules). Airlines can retrofit these sleep seats between a 38-42'' seat pitch based on their preferences and industry standards and increase ancillary revenue.

"Simply put, the Zephyr Seat offers travellers exactly what they want when they fly - privacy and personal space - at the most affordable price," says Zephyr Seat.


The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria upheld the decision of the Commission for Protection of Competition of 14 November 2019 confirming the selection of Meridiam and its partner Munich Airport as concessionaire for Sofia Airport by the Ministry of Transport.

The investment embedded in this 35-year long-term public-private partnership will contribute to Bulgaria ´s economic rebound post Covid-19 crisis and support the Bulgarian government and local authorities to achieve significant regional benefits in social, economic and environmental aspects.

The airport will develop new standards of carbon accreditation and environmental standards - serving as benchmark for other airports and industries aiming at becoming an enabler of social, economic, environmental and inclusive growth that contributes to Sofia and Bulgaria.

With a proven experience in the airport sector and an existing portfolio of landmark airports including LaGuardia Central Terminal (New York, USA), Queen Alia International (Jordan) or Ivato and Nosy Bé (Madagascar), Meridiam intends to set the ground for a sustainable success story with the new Sofia Airport. Meridiam has committed to work with the entire aviation sector to achieve the reduction of carbon emissions as part of its mission.

Munich Airport will provide all its knowledge, expertise, best practices and market outreach, especially in terms of airline marketing, route development, passenger experience, smart airport development, airport city development and operational efficiency.


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has issued an urgent call to governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to take specific measures to help the aviation sector survive its worst crisis ever.

Border closures and travel restrictions have severely impacted aviation for more than three months and with COVID-19 still very much present in the region, a restart of the industry in many countries seems months away. This situation is unsustainable and risks the collapse of the entire sector.

Latin American and Caribbean governments remain the least supportive of aviation, an industry that prior to COVID-19 contributed US$167 billion to their GDP and supported 7.2 million jobs throughout the region. Forecasts now show a drop of at least US$77 billion in air transport's contribution to GDP, with more than 3.5 million jobs at risk.

Passenger traffic on Latin American and Caribbean airlines dropped by a whopping 96% in April. Even though Brazil, Chile and Mexico saw limited operations in April, they still showed traffic (RPK) reductions of more than 90%. Air connectivity and its associated socio-economic benefits across the region are at risk. This has already directly impacted businesses-from family-run enterprises to large corporations-along the entire travel and tourism value chain, as well as industries relying on air cargo for their imports and exports.

The expectation is that different countries will eventually allow the resumption of operations on different dates. It is therefore essential that the major industry players and governments work together to facilitate the restart of air operations in a safe, efficient and harmonized manner.

Overall, Latin American and Caribbean states are being called on to implement the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) global guidelines for the safe resumption of air travel. IATA fully supports the recommendations contained in the ICAO Council's roadmap 'Take-off: a guide for air travel after the COVID-19 public health crisis'. The document is the result of extensive advisory work in collaboration with governments, the World Health Organization and leading aviation industry organizations.


This week, American Airlines will welcome customers to the new, state-of-the-art Arrivals and Departures Hall at LaGuardia Airport's Terminal B. The new space will offer a clean, comfortable, efficient experience for travellers and provide an upgraded workplace for thousands of the airline's New York-area team members.

Beginning Saturday, June 13, the new Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall will serve as American's main arrival and departure facility at LaGuardia Airport (LGA), including ticketing, check-in, security screening and baggage claim. Light and bright in design, it hosts expanded dining and shopping options, along with direct connections to all concourses.

"As more customers take to the skies, American is ready to welcome them to New York in this reimagined facility, launched by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and developed in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and LaGuardia Gateway Partners," said Jim Moses, Vice President of Northeast Hubs and Gateways for American Airlines. "By centralizing our operation, we can better care for our customers - delivering an intuitive, seamless experience from curb to gate."

Scheduled for completion in 2022, the LGA Terminal B redevelopment project is part of a comprehensive $8.2 billion effort to transform the airport into a modern, unified facility, featuring improved ground transportation access, additional taxiways and best-in-class amenities.

Developed and managed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the Terminal B Arrivals and Departures Hall is the latest milestone in the modernization project - connecting customers via pedestrian bridge to gates 40-59 in a new eastern concourse, which opened in December 2018.

"As one of the first tenants in LaGuardia Airport's history, we're excited to continue to work with American Airlines as we progress into this new, modern era for LaGuardia's Terminal B," said Stewart Steeves, Chief Executive Officer of LaGuardia Gateway Partners. "We look forward to providing an exceptional guest experience for all of American's NYC passengers."

Many flights will continue to operate from the B, C and D gates in the original Central Terminal Building. After checking in at the new Arrivals and Departures Hall, customers will be able to reach all B, C and D gates via a temporary walkway.

In response to improving demand for air travel, American plans to fly 55% of its domestic schedule in July 2020 compared to the same period last year. This includes 95% more flights at LGA compared to May 2020.


In a few days' time, Brussels Airport will again be welcoming thousands of travellers. The corona virus pandemic has impacted significantly on the airport's passenger numbers in April and May. Last month, 22,113 passengers passed through Brussels Airport for essential travel and repatriations. In terms of cargo, although the airport has seen an 8.9% reduction in volumes transported, full cargo in particular is up an impressive 61.5%. Brussels Airport is pulling out all the stops to be able to safely resume passenger flights from 15 June and to be able to offer, together with its partners, an ample choice of holiday destinations this summer. Despite the demise of Swissport, all handling operations will be ensured thanks to the collaboration of the airlines and Aviapartner.

In May, 22,113 passengers passed through Brussels Airport, representing a decrease of 99% compared to May 2019. Both departing and arriving passenger numbers dropped by 99%. In May, each week, some 100 flights were operated by a dozen airlines. In total, 463 flights were carried out last month, enough to ensure connections to many other destinations around the world for repatriation and essential travel (diplomats, doctors, military, business travellers etc.). The average passenger load factor was very low in May, with an average of 48 passengers per flight.

In May, the freight volume at Brussels Airport dropped by 8.9% year-on-year. This decrease is, again, the result of the cancellation of passenger flights that also carry cargo. As a result, belly cargo dropped by 93.2%. However, full cargo was up by a healthy 61.5% year-on-year, more than offsetting the loss of freight capacity on passenger aircraft. These additional flights are operated by full cargo planes, as well as passenger aircraft converted to carry cargo. These additional flights operate mainly during the day. Finally, integrator services saw a big increase in May (+17.5%), owing in particular to a route to Miami operating five times a week.

In May 2020, the total number of flight movements decreased by 86.4% to 2,855 (compared to 21,055 in May 2019). The number of passenger flights decreased by 97.5% due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

It all changed as of 15 June, with the reopening of borders, the resumption of passenger flights for all types of travel and a return to business for several airlines. During the week commencing 15 June, 19 airline companies will be operating direct flights to 36 destinations, the majority of them within Europe. This includes holiday destinations such as Alicante, Catania, Faro, Lisbon, Istanbul, Nice, or even Naples and Athens, as well as city break and/or business destinations such as Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Zurich, Dublin and Budapest. Outside of Europe, Brussels Airport will also be operating flights to Tel Aviv, Montreal, Abu Dhabi and Beijing. This ample initial choice of holiday destinations will expand over the weeks, increasing to 130 destinations in July.

Despite the demise of Swissport, Brussels Airport will do everything in its power to have operations run as smoothly as possible. The airport is working together with the unions, the trustees and the partners to rapidly find solutions. In the short term, Aviapartner and the airlines that have a licence to carry out handling operations will take care of the check-in, boarding, baggage handling and push-back operations.


LATAM Airlines Argentina, with a fleet of 13 Airbus A320 and 2 Boeing 767, has ceased its operations for an indefinite period due to current local industry conditions, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left the sustainability of the project nonviable, the airline wrote in a statement.

"This is regrettable but inevitable news. Today, LATAM must focus on transforming the group to adapt to post-COVID-19 aviation," said Roberto Alvo, CEO of LATAM Airlines Group. "Argentina has always been a fundamental country for the group and will remain so, with LATAM's other affiliates continuing to connect passengers from Argentina with Latin America and the world."

LATAM Airlines Argentina will cease flights to/from 12 domestic destinations while international destinations in the United States, Brazil, Chile and Peru will continue to be served by other LATAM affiliates, once COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted by the authorities. Likewise, international cargo routes will continue to be served by the other group affiliates. LATAM Airlines Argentina is the only group affiliate that will cease operations.


Air Arabia reported a net profit of Dh71 million for the three months ending March 31, 2020, 45% less than the corresponding 2019 figure of Dh128 million. In the same period, the airline posted a turnover of Dh901 million, 12% less than the corresponding first quarter of last year. More than 2.4 million passengers flew with Air Arabia between January and March 2020 across the carrier's four hubs, 14% lower than the number of passengers carried in the first quarter of last year. The airline's average seat load factor - or passengers carried as a percentage of available seats - during the first three months of 2020 maintained its high average and stood at 83%. Air Arabia managed to register a profitable first quarter despite performance being impacted by COVID-19 pandemic that hit the global air travel in mid-February and continues to impact the aviation industry.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani, Chairman of Air Arabia, said, "Air Arabia witnessed a strong start of the year across the breadth of its operations. However, the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the global aviation, which materialized in airport closures, travel restrictions and low travel demand, has affected the overall performance of the quarter. Nonetheless, we are glad that Air Arabia still managed to deliver profitability and solid performance during the first quarter of this year".

He added, "Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have reacted quickly and took all possible measures to protect our passengers and crew while ensuring we continue to fly safely where we can. Additionally, the management team has taken a series of business decisions to control our fixed and running costs during this period while supporting our business continuity. All these measures are set in motion at a time when airlines around the world continue to battle the biggest challenge faced in the history of aviation".

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Al Thani concluded: "Air Arabia enjoys a flexible and robust business model and is driven by a clear business strategy. While this pandemic remains impacting the world economy and providing very little visibility towards the future, we have full confidence in the strength of the aviation industry worldwide and its crucial role in supporting economic recovery post COVID-19. In the meantime, we continue to make daily decisions that supports our business continuity and remain fully engaged with regulators to ensure we can serve our customers while adhering to the highest international safety standards".

Last month, the carrier announced that Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has received its Air Operating Certificate (AOC), highlighting its readiness to start operating from Abu Dhabi as market conditions improve and skies are open again. The carrier's loyalty program, Air Rewards, also won the 210 Rising Star Award at the 2020 Freddie Awards for Middle East, Asia and Oceania during a ceremony held online. These awards meant to recognize the up and coming loyalty program delivering value to members around the world.

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