Airlines, Airports and Airliners News 18 to 24 Jan 2021

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein


Orolia recently organized a series of flight tests to demonstrate and qualify capabilities of the GADSS global aircraft safety program's end-to-end Emergency Locator Transmitter Distress Tracking (ELT-DT) system, including Orolia's Ultima-DT solution.

With these successful flight test results and the performance of its Ultima-DT system, Orolia is now the world's first industry supplier to offer a compliant solution to GADSS Autonomous Distress Tracking requirements, as required for new-built commercial aircraft after January 2023.

This major European initiative has been led by Orolia with the support of French and Spanish government partners such as France's CNES, the Spanish and French Air Traffic Service Units, the Spanish and French Mission Control Centres, the Spanish and French Rescue Coordination Centres, as well as two major Airline Operation Centres from Air France and Iberia. This was the first opportunity to evaluate a system-level implementation of the new Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS), particularly its Autonomous Distress Tracking component (ADT).

This evaluation included Orolia's Ultima-DT, the latest generation of Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT) with Distress Tracking capability. The flight tests were conducted in a business jet, flying along a trajectory across Spain and France. The robustness of the alert and tracking transmission, which involves the Cospas Sarsat MEOSAR satellite constellation, as well as the performance of ground reception and distribution, were confirmed- even with extreme aircraft attitudes.

These tests also provided the opportunity to review some organizational and process aspects, in particular the insertion of the Distress Tracking process into the general aircraft alert management process, including communication between Air Traffic Service Units, Rescue Coordination Centres and Airlines Operations Centres in France and Spain.

Though test data still need to be applied to ongoing program development, preliminary results showed excellent system performance with 100 percent scores for the transmission/detection rate, as well as geo-location functionality. All stakeholders were able to receive distress information in a timely manner.

"This successful evaluation enabled all participants to collect large quantities of critical data in an accurate operational context. The maturity level of the GADSS distress tracking system, including Orolia's Ultima-DT, has now been verified with the same level of reliable performance both in flight and on the ground," said Christian Belleux, aviation product line director at Orolia. Ultima-DT was developed through the Helios initiative, with funding support from the European GNSS Agency under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, grant agreement No 687554.


With its latest economic impact analysis of COVID-19 now completed, the UN agency for civil aviation has confirmed that international passenger traffic suffered a dramatic 60 per cent drop over 2020, bringing air travel totals back to 2003 levels.

ICAO reports that as seat capacity fell by 50 per cent last year, passenger totals dropped by 60 per cent with just 1.8 billion passengers taking to the air during the first year of the pandemic, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019.

Its numbers also point to airline financial losses of 370 billion dollars resulting from the COVID-19 impacts, with airports and air navigation services providers (ANSPs) losing a further 115 billion and 13 billion, respectively.

The pandemic plunge in air travel demand began in January of 2020, but was limited to only a few countries. As the virus continued its global spread, however, air transport activities came to a virtual standstill by the end of March.

With the wide-scale lockdown measures, border closures and travel restrictions being set out around the world, by April the overall number of passengers had fallen 92 per cent from 2019 levels, an average of the 98 per cent drop-off seen in international traffic and 87 per cent fall in domestic air travel.

Subsequent to the April low point being reached, passenger traffic saw a moderate rebound during the summer travel period.

That upward trend was short-lived, however, stalling and then taking a turn for the worse in September when the second wave of infections in many regions prompted the reintroduction of restrictive measures.

Sectoral recovery became more vulnerable and volatile again during the last four months of 2020, indicating an overall double-dip recession for the year.

Disparity between domestic and international recoveries

ICAO also reported that there has been a persistent disparity between domestic and international air travel impacts resulting from the more stringent international measures in force.

It said that domestic travel demonstrated stronger resilience and dominated traffic recovery scenarios, particularly in China and the Russian Federation where domestic passenger numbers have already returned to the pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, there was a 50 per cent drop in domestic passenger traffic globally, while international traffic fell by 74 per cent or 1.4 billion fewer passengers.

As of late May 2020, the ICAO Asia/Pacific and North American regions led the global recovery in passenger totals, largely due to their significant domestic markets. Europe saw a temporary rebound but trended downward dramatically from September. Latin American and Caribbean traffic saw improvements in the fourth quarter, while recoveries in Africa and the Middle East proceeded less robustly.


Air Canada announced that following Transport Canada's (TC) Airworthiness Directive and January 20, 2021 lifting of the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the aircraft ungrounding by regulatory bodies worldwide and the carrier's own independent assessments of the aircraft and operating procedures by its specialized safety and flight operations experts, it will be resuming Boeing 737 MAX commercial operations on February 1, 2021.

"We are very confident the nearly two-year regulatory process undertaken by Transport Canada and other regulators worldwide ensures the utmost safety of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet from nose to tail and from wing to wing. As part of Air Canada's multi-layered approach to reinforcing and enhancing safety, our internal experts have also worked with independent specialists to conduct assessments of the aircraft and our operating procedures," said Captain Murray Strom, Vice President, Flight Operations at Air Canada.

"In addition to implementing all required updates and modifications to the aircraft, Air Canada has gone beyond by equipping its fleet with additional safety-enhancing features that exceed required regulatory standards. These measures are backed by our industry-leading flight operations, the extensive, comprehensive training programs our pilots and maintenance engineers regularly undergo and our industry-renowned flight data analysis. Customers can therefore be assured that every crew member operating our fleet and the many employee teams working behind the scenes have an unwavering commitment to safety. We look forward to welcoming you onboard," concluded Captain Strom.

The 737 MAX will gradually return to Air Canada's North American route network as the airline continues to optimize its narrow body fleet. All flights are operated in accordance with Air Canada's biosafety protocols, centred around the Air Canada CleanCare+ program.

Air Canada has 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8s that have a seating capacity of 169 passengers, with 16 Business Class seats (2x2) and 153 Economy Class seats (3x3), with hours of complimentary personal inflight entertainment at every seat.

Since the Boeing 737 MAX first resumed commercial flights in early December 2020, more than 1,025 flights have been operated safely by airlines worldwide.


"Through the global pandemic, we took meaningful steps to adapt to our new market, transform our business and deliver for our commercial, defence, space and services customers in 2020," said Greg Smith, Boeing executive vice president of Enterprise Operations and chief financial officer. "The resumption of 737 MAX deliveries in December was a key milestone as we strengthen safety and quality across our enterprise. We also continued comprehensive inspections of our 787 airplanes to ensure they meet our highest quality standards prior to delivery. While limiting our 787 deliveries for the quarter, these comprehensive inspections represent our focus on safety, quality and transparency and we're confident that we're taking the right steps for our customers and for the long-term health of the 787 program. As we continue navigating through the pandemic, we're working closely with our global customers and monitoring the slow international traffic recovery to align supply with market demand across our widebody programs. In 2021, we'll continue taking the right actions to enhance our safety culture, preserve liquidity and transform our business for the future."


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the announcement by the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it will require all travellers to the US to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test undertaken within three days prior to their departure to the US, effective 26 January.

"Systematic pre-departure testing is key to giving governments confidence to reopen markets without quarantine. Testing will ensure that at current infection levels, aviation will not become a meaningful vector of new transmissions in the US. Furthermore, IATA traveller surveys show that passengers strongly support and are willing to undergo testing," said Douglas Lavin, IATA's Vice President Member and External Relations, North America.

IATA is encouraged by the flexibility shown by CDC in this order, in terms of accepting both antigen and PCR testing and in providing passengers who have already had COVID-19 the ability to demonstrate they are immune.

"As the efficacy of testing is confirmed, we need to move quickly to the next steps-lifting travel restrictions which prevent travel from Europe and other key markets and removing quarantine requirements imposed by state and local governments in the US," said Lavin.

IATA is developing the IATA Travel Pass, a mobile app to manage information flows around requirements for COVID-19 testing and/or vaccine/immunity information. The IATA Travel Pass will enable travellers to receive and securely store encrypted data on their own mobile devices, including verified test or vaccination results and to share this information with airlines and authorities. IATA urged the US government to make provision to accept test and immunity documents shared electronically via the IATA Travel Pass.

"While this order presents operational challenges, we will continue to work with CDC to achieve a smooth implementation. It definitely is a big step in the right direction," said Lavin.


Myanmar Airways International's (MAI) first E190 commenced operations, operating four flights throughout the day. In addition, MAI's second E190 is due to arrive in the country and the airline will expand its E190 routes to include nine destinations across the country, upgrading from the turboprops used by its sister airline Air KBZ.

MAI has also signed on for Embraer's Pool Program - a program enrolled by all E-Jet operators in Asia Pacific. There are now four new E-Jet operators in Asia Pacific (ex. China) since the start of 2020.

"Our pilots, cabin crew, maintenance crew and our staff are proud to take MAI's E190 to the skies and to serve our passengers with an enhanced flying experience," said Saravanan Ramasamy, Chief Executive Officer of MAI. "We look forward to a productive partnership with Embraer. The operation of the E190 marks yet another important milestone in MAI's fleet expansion strategy and domestic jet network growth. As the demand grows, we plan to scale up the frequency of our E190 operations to eight flights a day."

Embraer is the world's leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft up to 150 seats with more than 100 customers from all over the world. For the E-Jets program alone, Embraer has logged more than 1,800 orders and 1,600 aircraft have been delivered. Today, E-Jets are flying in the fleet of more than 80 customers in some 50 countries. The versatile 70 to 150-seat family is flying with low-cost airlines as well as with regional and mainline carriers.


GlobalX recently received FAA approval and authorization of its training programs for Pilots, Flight Attendants and Dispatchers and Maintenance Technicians. With this approval, GlobalX has proceeded with an in-person training start date in Miami of January 4, 2021 for this first class of Pilots.

On 17 January, GlobalX Airlines took delivery of its first aircraft, an Airbus A320 N223FR (2695). It was welcomed at the company's base at Miami-International (FL) with the traditional water cannon salute by the airport's fire brigade. In the coming weeks, the aircraft is set to be registered as N276GX. A second aircraft is also painted and almost ready for delivery. This is A321 ES-MLS (2480), which is currently being prepared at Tallin and will become N277GX.

GlobalX is planning to operate passenger (charter) flights as well as cargo flights out of two bases at Atlantic City (NJ) and Miami (FL). It has orders for ten A321PFs, of which the first is set to be delivered before July. On the passenger-side, GlobalX wants to grow to five aircraft, all A320 or A321s. Later on, it has ambitions to expand with the A330 as well.


AEGEAN is introducing increased flexibility to its passengers as frequent and sudden changes in travel restrictions, imposed by EU countries in their efforts to control the pandemic, lead to unanticipated changes in travel arrangements.

With immediate effect and for initial travel date from 06/11/2020 until 28/03/2021, AEGEAN is introducing a new voucher option for passengers whose flight is not cancelled but want to voluntary cancel their ticket, due to travel restrictions imposed. The above-mentioned passengers will now have the option to request a voucher of the same value as the ticket purchased, eligible for redemption on any future flight within the next 18 months.

Additionally, and for the same travel period until 28/3, passengers may modify their reservations with no rebooking fees and no fare difference on any available flight to the same destination to any future date (with a travel date of up to 31/10/2021). They may also request to change their ticket to open status for 1 year from the date of their initial booking.

Finally, it is noted that in the event of flight cancellation by AEGEAN, due to the above-mentioned travel restrictions, passengers may always request for a credit voucher of the same value as the ticket purchased (plus an additional 10%) or request for a monetary refund.


Virgin Atlantic has announced the completion of financing transactions relating to two Boeing 787 aircraft, further strengthening its balance sheet, in partnership with Griffin Global Asset Management and Bain Capital Credit.

On 4 September 2020, Virgin Atlantic achieved the privately funded, solvent recapitalisation of the airline to ensure that it continues to provide essential connectivity and competition to customers in the UK and beyond. This latest financing opportunity - a first for Griffin Global Asset Management - allows the airline to pay down debt and improve its cash position as it enters 2021, to further strengthen the airline's resilience until passenger flying resumes at scale.

With the mass roll out of effective vaccines on the horizon, the implementation of testing regimes and a reduction in UK quarantine policy, customer demand for travel in 2021 has been gradually returning. Meanwhile, on the back of a record 2020, Virgin Atlantic Cargo continues to keep global supply chains running by transporting vital medical supplies, ensuring the airline plays a central role in supporting the effort to save lives.

Oliver Byers, Chief Financial Officer, Virgin Atlantic said: "Since the beginning of the crisis, we have taken decisive action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and protect as many jobs as possible. As provided for in the recent privately funded solvent recapitalisation of the airline, we have continued to explore additional financing opportunities to strengthen our balance sheet into the new year.

"We are proud to be partnering with Griffin on this financing opportunity regarding two of our Boeing 787-900s. Their flexibility and speed have been particularly impressive and we welcome this show of confidence from our new partners. This deal will allow Virgin Atlantic to further bolster our cash position and we are confident that we will emerge a sustainably profitable airline, with a healthy balance sheet."

Ryan McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of Griffin Global Asset Management (Servicer) said: "The Virgin Atlantic team has taken impressive steps to strengthen their business throughout this very challenging period and we are confident that they are positioned to outperform going forward. The Griffin and Bain Capital teams are excited to contribute to Virgin's success for many years to come."

Marc Baer, President of Griffin Global Asset Management (Servicer) said: "We have had a longstanding relationship with Virgin Atlantic and are very pleased to provide this creative financing solution that will reinforce their strong competitive position in the market. The talent and professionalism of the Virgin Atlantic Team is commendable and their collaboration with us allowed the transaction to come together expeditiously."


Boeing [NYSE: BA] and BBAM Limited Partnership announced the lessor is expanding its 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter fleet with six firm orders and six options. The agreement brings BBAM's 737-800BCF orders and commitments to 15 and highlights the continued strength of the e-commerce and express cargo market.

"As we look ahead to expanding our cargo fleet, the 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighter provides the performance and efficiency our customers need," said Steve Zissis, CEO of BBAM. "Adding these highly capable freighters to 276 Boeing airplanes in our managed fleet helps to further strengthen our leadership position in the marketplace."

Based on the popular Next-Generation 737, the 737-800BCF is meeting customer demand for a newer-generation freighter that offers higher reliability, lower fuel consumption and operating costs per trip compared to other standard body freighters. Primarily used to carry express cargo on domestic or short-haul routes, the airplane is capable of carrying up to 23.9 tonnes (52,800 pounds) and flying up to 2,025 nautical miles (3,750 kilometres). Since entering service in 2018, the 737-800BCF has won more than 150 orders and commitments.

"BBAM is one of the industry's leading full-service leasing companies and has built their reputation on smart investments. We are honoured that BBAM has selected more 737-800BCFs, based on the success of our standard body freighters in their portfolio," said Ihssane Mounir, Boeing's senior vice president of Commercial Sales and Marketing. "The continued strong demand for the 737-800BCF demonstrates the critical role these converted freighters play in the growing express and e-commerce market."

BBAM is the world's largest dedicated manager of investments in leased commercial jet aircraft, providing over 200 airline customers in more than 50 countries with fleet and financing solutions over the last three decades. BBAM is the only manager in the aircraft leasing industry focused exclusively on generating investment returns for third-party investors. BBAM currently has more than $28 billion of assets under management and employs over 150 professionals at its headquarters in San Francisco and in additional offices in Tokyo, Singapore, Zurich, Dublin and Santiago.


Qantas and Japan Airlines (JAL) today announced plans to form a new joint business, designed to better serve customers travelling between Australia, New Zealand and Japan and support the tourism industry's recovery when international flying resumes.

The airlines have submitted an application for authorisation to regulators in Australia and New Zealand, with a decision expected within six months. Subject to this regulatory approval, it is anticipated that the joint business would commence operations around July 2021, when Qantas has said it expects its international network to gradually restart.

The coordination made possible through a joint business would enable Qantas and JAL to ramp up flights between Australia and Japan sooner than would otherwise be possible. The airlines have flagged an intention to launch a new route between Australia and Japan and expect to announce details once regulatory approval is received, borders open and demand returns.

Under the proposed five-year agreement, the airlines would deliver substantial benefits for customers and help accelerate the recovery of the tourism, trade and corporate travel links between Australia and Japan, including:

An expanded codeshare relationship and optimised schedules on flights between Australia and New Zealand and Japan, opening up more connections to more destinations beyond the major city gateways. Qantas customers would have access to 14 new codeshare destinations in Japan and JAL customers would have access to 15 new codeshare destinations in Australia and New Zealand.

Enhanced frequent flyer benefits for Qantas and JAL customers, including improved earn of Qantas points or JAL miles on routes under the joint business beyond what is possible today, as well as the ability to upgrade using points or miles on each other's services.

Improvements in the customer experience, including streamlined processes for disruption management and investments in product and service inflight and on the ground, designed to better serve the carriers' joint customers.

Japan Airlines President Yuji Akasaka added: "For over 50 years, JAL and Qantas have operated flights between Japan and Australia, demonstrating our mutual commitment to support and strengthen the diplomatic relationship built by the two countries.

"We believe that a joint business with Qantas will make for a quicker recovery between both countries with the ability to expand connectivity within each carrier's respective domestic network, providing more customer choice and travel growth opportunities."


Latvian airline airBaltic has successfully continued its maintenance program, completing C check on the first seven of its Airbus A220-300 aircraft and is planning to do four more C checks soon. In 2019, airBaltic became the first airline entitled to provide a full scope of maintenance for Airbus A220-300 aircraft type.

Andris Vaivads, SVP Technical Operations of airBaltic: "With each C check, our Airbus A220-300 aircraft also receive a number of additional modifications, further improving efficiency and reliability of the most aircraft. As a carrier operating only the A220, we are also unique in being able to perform full scope of maintenance on the aircraft type."

C check is a part of the aircraft maintenance program that has to be performed on all commercial aircraft after a certain time of usage. For Airbus A220-300, manufacturer has defined that a C check has to be performed every 8 500 flight hours. Overall, 40 people work on a single C check. airBaltic currently employs more than 120 technicians.

Since May 2020, airBaltic operates all of its flights with a single aircraft type - Airbus A220-300, thus minimizing the complexity and benefiting from the additional efficiency provided by the aircraft.

Since introduction of the Airbus A220-300 aircraft in late 2016, airBaltic has carried over 5 600 000 passengers on the aircraft. Thus far, most passengers have been carried to such destinations as Amsterdam, Paris, London and Moscow. Airbus A220-300's have completed close to 60 000 flights and flown over 141 000 block hours.

The Airbus A220-300 has performed beyond the company's expectations, delivering better overall performance, fuel efficiency and convenience for both passengers and the staff. This aircraft offers an excellent flying experience with such benefits for passengers as wider seats, larger windows, more hand luggage space in the cabin, improved lavatories and much more.

The Airbus A220-300 has a high-quality air filtering system equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) type filter that provides the best level of filtration currently available for recirculated cabin air from the very beginning of boarding, during entire flight and until all passengers have left the aircraft. The quality of cabin air is carefully controlled and is recirculated with ventilation rates that provide a total change of air 20-30 times per hour.

In addition, the new aircraft is also considerably quieter - with a four times smaller noise footprint. Moreover, at the moment, it is the greenest commercial aircraft in the world, as it is the first aircraft to have a transparent declaration of the life-cycle environmental impact, helping to reduce CO2 and NOX emissions by 20% and 50% respectively.


As of January 20th, 2021, Royal Jordanian will start implementing the new measures required by the Jordanian Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission for inbound flights.

Until further notice, all passengers traveling to Jordan are required to pay the PCR test fees prior to flight departure through airlines sales channels, except for children less than 5 years of age.

In addition, passengers are required to fill out a health declaration form and submit it to the check-in counter employee at the airport before boarding the plane.

These measures will apply to travellers of all nationalities flying to Jordan.

RJ passengers are urged to arrive at the airport 3 hours prior to their scheduled flights to avoid delays and allow more time for the implementation of the new procedures.

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