Compiled by Willie Bodenstein
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THIS WEEK IN AIRLINES, AIRLINERS AND AIRPORTS
Airlink and Pumas sign headline sponsorship agreement.
IATA - accelerate easing of travel restrictions.
Kenya Airways releases results for the financial year 2020.
Updated: United Airlines statement on 5G implementation.
Qatar airways statement on Airbus A350 Aircraft.
ICAO - Technical assistance project to support the enhancement of Tanzania's aviation safety oversight system.
First Airbus A320neo with Airspace Cabin delivered to Swiss.
American Airlines and British Airways to launch joint operations under one roof beginning December 2022.
China Airlines Orders Four New Boeing 777F Freighters.
AIRLINK AND PUMAS SIGN HEADLINE SPONSORSHIP AGREEMENT
Airlink and the Pumas rugby team are firming up their long-standing partnership with a headline sponsorship agreement which sees the team re-branding as the "Airlink Pumas". Airlink has been closely associated with the Mpumalanga-based Pumas rugby team for the past seven years.
"The decision to consummate a closer partnership follows a mutually-successful association which began many years ago. It reflects our long-standing commitment to supporting economic development in the province and its communities. Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport is a key destination for many of our business and leisure customers and we are proud to promote the region through our partnership with the Pumas, with which we have shared values, ethics and a never-say-die competitive approach," explained Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.
"The team has won many supporters across South Africa and around the world and its new captain, Phumzile Maqondwana, will lead the newly-named Airlink Pumas out against the Sigma Lions at Ellis Park shortly. It will mark the start of a new exciting phase for all of us. We wish Marius van Rensburg, CEO, Jimmy Stonehouse, Director of Rugby and the entire team all the best for the 2022 season. We know you'll make us all proud", said Mr Foster.
IATA - ACCELERATE EASING OF TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged governments to accelerate relaxation of travel restrictions as COVID-19 continues to evolve from the pandemic to endemic stage. IATA called for removing all travel barriers (including quarantine and testing) for those fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, enabling quarantine-free travel for non-vaccinated travellers with a negative pre-departure antigen test result, removing travel bans and accelerating the easing of travel restrictions in recognition that travellers pose no greater risk for COVID-19 spread than already exists in the general population.
"With the experience of the Omicron variant, there is mounting scientific evidence and opinion opposing the targeting of travellers with restrictions and country bans to control the spread of COVID-19. The measures have not worked. Today Omicron is present in all parts of the world. That's why travel, with very few exceptions, does not increase the risk to general populations. The billions spent testing travellers would be far more effective if allocated to vaccine distribution or strengthening health care systems," said Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General.
A recently published study by Oxera and Edge Health demonstrated the extremely limited impact of travel restrictions on controlling the spread of Omicron. The study found that:
If the UK's extra measures with respect to Omicron had been in place from the beginning of November (prior to the identification of the variant), the peak of the Omicron wave would have been delayed by just five days with 3% fewer cases.
The absence of any testing measures for travellers would have seen the Omicron wave peak seven days earlier with an overall 8% increase in cases.
Now that Omicron is highly prevalent in the UK, if all travel testing requirements were removed there would be no impact on Omicron case numbers or hospitalizations in the UK.
"While the study is specific to the UK, it is clear that travel restrictions in any part of the world have had little impact on the spread of COVID-19, including the Omicron variant. The UK, France and Switzerland have recognized this and are among the first to begin removing travel measures. More governments need to follow their lead. Accelerating the removal of travel restrictions will be a major step towards living with the virus," said Walsh.
With respect to travel bans, last week, the WHO Emergency Committee confirmed their recommendation to "Lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress experienced by States. The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time."
What happens when COVID-19 is confirmed as endemic?
All indications point to COVID-19 becoming an endemic condition-one that humankind now has the tools (including vaccination and therapeutics) to live and travel with, bolstered by growing population immunity.
This aligns with the advice from public health experts to shift the policy focus from an individual's health status towards policies focusing on population-wide protection. It is important that governments and the travel industry are well-prepared for the transition and ready to remove the burden of measures that disrupt travel.
"The current situation of travel restrictions is a mess. There is one problem-COVID-19. But there seem to be more unique solutions to managing travel and COVID-19 than there are countries to travel to. Indeed, research from the Migration Policy Institute has counted more than 100,000 travel measures around the world that create complexity for passengers, airlines and governments to manage. We have two years of experience to guide us on a simplified and coordinated path to normal travel when COVID-19 is endemic. That normality must recognize that travellers, with very few exceptions, will present no greater risk than exists in the general population. That's why travellers should not be subject to any greater restrictions than are applied to the general community," said Walsh.
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KENYA AIRWAYS RELEASES RESULTS FOR THE FINANCIAL YEAR 2020
National carrier Kenya Airways PLC (KQ) has released its full year financial results for the financial year ended 31 December 2020 at a virtual investor briefing held recently. The year 2020 marked the worst year in the history of aviation with airline passenger traffic reducing to levels last seen in 1999 resulting in 21 years of airline passenger traffic growth being wiped out in just one year.
The Group's total revenue during the period reduced by 59 % to Kshs. 52,805 million. This was as a result of reduced flight capacity caused by the unparalleled global downturn in commercial aviation. During the year, the airline operated a few repatriation flights and ramped up its cargo operations. This was greatly contributed by the shutdown of the scheduled network operations from April-August 2020 following the Kenya Government directive to suspend all scheduled passenger services into and out of the country in a bid to curb the spread of the Corona virus.
The Group saw a decline of 39% in total operating costs, mainly driven by the reduced operations for the year. Of the total operating costs, direct operating costs declined by 62% whereas fixed costs declined by 3.1%. Based on the above revenue and cost dynamics, the Group recorded an Operating Loss Margin of 51% representing 50 points below the same period last year.
Kenya Airways Board Chairman Michael Joseph says, "The year 2020 was an extremely challenging for the airline due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely impacted the aviation industry. While nobody could have predicted the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, its continued prevalence globally and the fact that the industry projects demand to remain at levels lower than 2019, Kenya Airways emphasises its commitment to an efficient network, improvement of service quality and delivery. We have taken bold measures to protect our people and our guests as we restructure our business to position for recovery."
"It has been a tough year where we have faced unprecedented challenges. The situation continues to be difficult even as we gradually resume our operations, mainly due to the depressed demand for air travel, with recovery to 2019 levels expected to take between 3 to 4 years. The scale of this challenge requires substantial change so we are in a competitive and resilient position to address the impact of COVID-19, withstand any longer-term reductions in customer demand and any economic shocks or events that could affect the airline" said Allan Kilavuka, Kenya Airways - Group Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer.
Kenya Airways officially resumed domestic flights on 15th July 2020 and international flights on 1st August 2020 after four months of suspended operations. In order to instil confidence and guarantee the safety of customers and staff, the airline has collaborated with key stakeholders in the aviation industry - Kenya Airports Authority, the Ministry of Health among others to put in place various safety protocols and measures.
Despite the challenges in the first half of the year in review, KQ continued to reunite families mounting over 30 special repatriation flights to more than 16 destinations across the world. KQ cargo also played a vital role in delivering critical supplies such as medical equipment, personal protective equipment and food supplies. In addition, Kenya Airways stepped in to support the Kenyan exporters flying on average 6 flights to Europe to carry flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables weekly, accounting for over 800 metric tonnes of cargo a week and a total of 22,451 metric tonnes through the period.
UPDATED: UNITED AIRLINES STATEMENT ON 5G IMPLEMENTATION
While we anticipate minor disruptions at some airports due to the remaining 5G restrictions, we're pleased the Biden Administration reached a compromise with AT&T and Verizon to avoid mass cancellations across the aviation industry. We look forward to a higher level of coordination between the regulators, telecom companies and the aviation industry to ensure that customers are not faced with disruptions going forward.
The federal government's current 5G rollout plan will have a devastating impact on aviation, negatively affecting an estimated 1.25 million United passengers, at least 15,000 flights and much-needed goods and tons of cargo traveling through more than 40 of the largest airports in the country annually. When deployed next to runways, the 5G signals could interfere with the key safety equipment that pilots rely on to take off and land in inclement weather.
We won't compromise on safety - full stop. But, governments in other countries have successfully designed policies to ensure the safe deployment of 5G technology and we're simply asking the US government to do the same. Otherwise, the radio altimeters on certain aircraft, which provide information to other safety systems like autopilot, heads-up displays, terrain warning and pitch control, will be compromised and will result in significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s and regional aircraft in major cities like Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Unfortunately, this will result in not only hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations and disruptions for customers across the industry in 2022, but also the suspension of cargo flights into these locations, causing a negative ripple-effect on an already fragile supply chain. We implore the Biden administration to act quickly and apply the same common-sense solutions here that have clearly worked so well around the world.
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QATAR AIRWAYS STATEMENT ON AIRBUS A350 AIRCRAFT
On 20 January 2022, Qatar Airways, through the legal proceedings against Airbus in the Technology & Construction division of the High Court in England, sought an expedited hearing of a preliminary issue to address our serious and legitimate safety concerns regarding the surface degradation condition adversely impacting our Airbus A350 fleet which has resulted so far in 21 Airbus A350 aircraft being grounded.
These defects are not superficial and one of the defects causes the aircraft's lightning protection system to be exposed and damaged, another defect leaves the underlying composite structure exposed to moisture and ultraviolet light and other defects include cracking in the composite and damage around a high percentage of rivets on the aircraft fuselage. We welcome the decision of the court to expedite this issue and order a hearing in April in an effort to bring about a more rapid resolution to the dispute.
We continue to strongly believe that Airbus must undertake a thorough investigation of this condition to conclusively establish its full root cause in order to establish whether any proposed repair solution will rectify the underlying condition and ensure no risk to the continued airworthiness of the aircraft.
Qatar Airways' number one priority remains the safety of its passengers and crew. For this reason, all affected aircraft remain grounded and we are unable to accept delivery of further aircraft tendered for delivery by Airbus. Airbus has responded by seeking to cancel an entirely separate contract for the delivery of 50 A321 Neo aircraft. We confirm that we are adhering to all of our obligations under all applicable contracts. It is therefore a matter of considerable regret and frustration that Airbus has taken the apparent decision to expand and escalate this dispute. We continue to urge Airbus to undertake a satisfactory root cause analysis into the cause of the defects, as it is required to do. Qatar Airways remains prepared to help with the root cause analysis however it can. In the meantime, we will continue to robustly defend our position in the legal proceedings.
ICAO - TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE PROJECT TO SUPPORT THE ENHANCEMENT OF TANZANIA'S AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT SYSTEM
The successful launch of a new China funded ICAO capacity-building project to strengthen Tanzania's aviation safety oversight system was celebrated at a special launching ceremony last week.
The event was attended by Honourable Eng. Godfrey Kasekenya (MP), Deputy Minister for Ministry of Works and Transport of the United Republic of Tanzania and by Mr. Xu Chen, Minister Counsellor of the People's Republic of China to the United Republic of Tanzania. ICAO Secretary General Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar was represented by Mr. Barry Kashambo, Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESAF).
In addition to the provision of expert support for the improvement of technical activities in the fields of aerodromes, flight operations, air navigation services, accident and incident investigation, the project will spur Tanzania's civil aviation system to benefit from workshops and on-the-job training to build human resource capacities in these fields as well as procurement of safety hardware and software tools.
Mobilizing resources to support enhancements to capacities of ICAO Member States' civil aviation authorities and systems is a priority for the UN aviation agency and the project represents a major contribution towards this goal.
It was underscored at the ceremony that this latest cooperation between Tanzania and ICAO is being pursued despite numerous challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and that it will ultimately improve the level of implementation of ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices in Tanzania to enable safer aircraft operations.
Funded through China's South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, the new collaborative project is implemented through ICAO's Technical Cooperation Bureau.
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FIRST AIRBUS A320NEO WITH AIRSPACE CABIN DELIVERED TO SWISS
SWISS has taken delivery of its first Airbus A320neo featuring the new Airspace cabin configuration.
The new Airspace cabin features include: slimmer sidewall panels for extra personal space at shoulder level; better views through the windows with their redesigned bezels and completely integrated window shades; the largest overhead bins for 60% more bags; the latest full LED lighting technologies; LED-lit 'entrance area'; and new lavatories with hygienic touchless features and antimicrobial surfaces.
SWISS is a long-standing Airbus customer, operating Airbus A220 and A320 Family Aircraft on its European network and in addition A330s and A340s globally. In 2018 Lufthansa Group, the parent company of SWISS, chose to equip more than 80 of its new A320 Family aircraft on order from Airbus with Airspace cabins.
The A320neo Family is the most successful aircraft family ever and displays 99,7% operational reliability rate. The A320neo provides operators with 20% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The A320neo Family incorporates the latest technologies including new generation engines and Sharklet wing tip devices. The Airbus' A320neo Family offers unmatched comfort in all classes and Airbus' 18-inch-wide seats in economy as standard.
At the end of December 2021, the A320neo Family had received nearly 7,900 orders from over 120 customers worldwide.
AMERICAN AIRLINES AND BRITISH AIRWAYS TO LAUNCH JOINT OPERATIONS UNDER ONE ROOF BEGINNING DECEMBER 2022
American Airlines and British Airways announced more details regarding plans to co-locate operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport's (JFK) Terminal 8 beginning Dec. 1, 2022. Enabled by a $400 million investment to redevelop, expand and enhance the terminal, the move will bring the Atlantic Joint Business partners closer together. Jointly, the terminal investments and co-location will offer a more seamless customer experience while supporting the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's ambitious plan to transform JFK into a leading global airport.
American and British Airways were the first carriers to begin redevelopment efforts at JFK, breaking ground in Jan. 2020 on five new widebody gates, four new widebody hardstand parking positions, an enhanced baggage handling system, new customer amenities and expanded premium guest offerings - including approximately 130,000 square feet of new and renovated terminal space.
British Airways will remain in Terminal 7 until Dec. 1, 2022 and we have continued to invest in the experience for our customers, including our check-in area, concessions and lounges."
When complete later this year, premium customers traveling on both airlines and other oneworld partners will have access to a reimagined journey through JFK depicted by newly released artist illustrations.
As customers arrive at Terminal 8, a co-branded premium check-in area providing personalized, concierge-style service for top-tier guests will replace American's former Flagship First Check-In space. Thoughtfully designed architectural elements will also define an exclusive new check-in space for eligible business customers.
Once through security, three distinctive custom lounges combining the best of both brands will provide a refined, welcoming preflight experience for select guests based on cabin of travel and loyalty program status. The expanded premium lounge offerings will incorporate seating for approximately 1,000 of American and British Airways' most loyal customers. Each lounge has been designed with original high-end finishes - evoking a unique sense of space while elevating the experience and service offered to every guest.
The most exclusive lounge will have an all-new champagne bar, fireside lounge and a la carte dining room, which reimagines American's Flagship First Dining into a fully immersive experience. Adjacent, another premium lounge - with sweeping airside views, a wine bar, cocktail lounge, library and buffet - will offer an elevated, lively experience. American's Flagship Lounge and Concourse B Admirals Club will be repurposed into a contiguous lounge for eligible business class customers.
While disruptions to the customer journey remain limited, American's Flagship First Check-in at JFK is expected to close beginning Feb. 1 for construction. Premium customers traveling on eligible itineraries will be directed to temporary check-in counters located nearby. All lounge spaces will remain open and operational through the duration of the redevelopment project. Following completion, the Concourse B Admirals Club will close. The Concourse C Admirals Club will continue to serve members, qualifying elite customers and those traveling on eligible itineraries.
As Atlantic Joint Business partners, American and British Airways offer the most flights and the most competitive schedule for customers traveling between New York and London compared to any other partnership - with up to 14 peak daily departures scheduled to operate between JFK and London Heathrow Airport (LHR) this summer.
When co-located, American and British Airways customers will be able to realize even more value from established reciprocal benefits while enjoying unprecedented flexibility and a truly seamless connecting experience when traveling across airlines. Until operations are fully transitioned to Terminal 8 in December, British Airways will continue to provide a world-class experience for their customers at JFK's Terminal 7.
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CHINA AIRLINES ORDERS FOUR NEW BOEING 777F FREIGHTERS
China Airlines has announced its intention to purchase four more new Boeing 777F freighters. The deliveries are slated to commence in 2023 and six 777F freighters have progressively entered service with China Airlines since 2020. Ordering four new aircraft will eventually bring the 777F freighter fleet to ten aircraft in total. This expansion of the 777F freighter fleet, alongside the world's largest 747F freighter fleet, will boost the already considerable cargo carrying capacity of China Airlines.
China Airlines is the fifth largest air cargo carrier in the world. The ongoing fleet acquisition program will boost operating performance by balancing network development and market movements against the aircraft replacement schedule. China Airlines began taking delivery of six 777F freighters in December 2020. Three have been delivered so far with two more slated for 2022 and one more lined-up in 2023; delivery of the four newly ordered 777F freighters will commence in 2023 and be completed in 2024.
The 777F is a twin-engine freighter whose high performance and fuel efficiency makes it suitable for trans-Pacific routes, having fewer restrictions on payload and enabling more efficient use of hold space. The aircraft is equipped with fully temperature-controlled cargo holds. The main cargo hold can be fitted with cargo pallet restraint systems used for carrying semiconductor machinery and engines, providing high-value cargo such as precision instruments and temperature-controlled goods with optimal carriage services.
China Airlines benefited from the cargo-carrying capacity of its eighteen 747F and three 777F freighters due to the strong demand in the cargo market during to the COVID-19 pandemic. These aircraft, along with the belly hold cargo of passenger aircraft, delivered exceptional results. Multiple records were broken in 2021, including sending out over a hundred cargo charter flights in one month, surpassing TWD 15.4 billion in single-month cargo revenues in December, exceeding TWD 10 billion in cargo revenues for five consecutive months and sweeping past TWD 100 billion in cargo revenues for the entire year. China Airlines is focusing all efforts on the cargo market. Once the new freighters are progressively introduced into service, the additional capacity they bring will be utilized to capture global business opportunities.
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