Compiled by Willie Bodenstein
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THIS WEEK IN AIRLINES, AIRLINERS AND AIRPORTS
United plans to expand service to Cape Town with year-round, non-stop flights from New York/Newark.
IATA - Travel Momentum Builds as Restrictions are Lifted -Even faster progress is needed.
Turkish Airlines celebrates its 75th anniversary in Athens.
Eight hundred thousand passengers passed through Brussels Airport in January, up 183% on 2021.
American Airlines E175 Fleet Tops 100.
Starlux launches widebody fleet with first A330neo.
Schiphol receives ACI's 'Voice of the Customer' recognition.
Aeromexico resumes UK service to Mexico City.
Leisure-focused carrier Allegiant Air doubles its destination list from Washington, D.C.
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UNITED PLANS TO EXPAND SERVICE TO CAPE TOWN WITH YEAR-ROUND, NON-STOP FLIGHTS FROM NEW YORK/NEWARK
United has announced it plans to expand service to one of the world's most popular vacation destinations by offering three nonstop flights per week, year-round, between New York/Newark and Cape Town International Airport, subject to government approval. The new schedule starts on June 5 and means that more than 85 U.S. cities - including places like Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles - will be more conveniently connected to one of the 25 best cities in the world.
United will fly a 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft that includes 48 lie-flat, United Polaris® business class seats, 21 United Premium Plus® seats and 39 seats in Economy Plus®. All seats are equipped with seatback on-demand entertainment to help customers pass the time and relax during their travels.
United is the only airline to offer nonstop flights between the U.S. and Cape Town and offers more flights to South Africa than any other North American carrier.
"By offering flights to Cape Town year-round, we're making it even easier for our customers to visit one of the world's best destinations," said Patrick Quayle, United's senior vice president of international network planning and alliances. "United's direct flights from New York/Newark cut the usual travel time to Cape Town by more than five hours, giving visitors extra time to enjoy the beauty and majesty of South Africa."
According to Expedia's 2022 Travel Trends Report, more than two-thirds of Americans (68%) are planning to go big on their next trip and nearly a third plan to visit a bucket-list destination this year. This resurgence in international travel is something those in the South African tourism industry are eagerly awaiting.
"This announcement provides much-needed relief to the tourism and hospitality sector in the Western Cape and will support economic recovery in the province," said Wrenelle Stander, CEO of Wesgro. "We welcome the news of this expansion and thank United Airlines for their commitment to serving this world-class tourism destination."
United first launched flights to Cape Town in December 2019 and it quickly became one of the airline's marquee international routes. The airline later built upon this success in Africa with the launch of flights between New York/Newark and Johannesburg in June 2021, new services between Washington D.C. and Accra, Ghana in May 2021 and between Washington D.C. and Lagos, Nigeria in November 2021.
This expanded service also strengthens United's leading network from New York/Newark. United offers service to 74 international destinations from New York/Newark, more than any U.S. carrier. In 2022, the airline will introduce new services to additional international destinations including Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Azores, Portugal; Bergen, Norway; Tenerife, Spain and Nice, France.
Cape Town is South Africa's second-largest city and a melting pot of creativity and cuisine, ranking among the most beautiful in the world. Four towns in the Western Cape Province - Knysna, Stellenbosch, Hermanus, and Cape Town - were recently among the Top 100 most Loved Places in the World in a global consumer sentiment analysis conducted by the destination marketing agency, Destination Think.
IATA - TRAVEL MOMENTUM BUILDS AS RESTRICTIONS ARE LIFTED -EVEN FASTER PROGRESS IS NEEDED
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data showing growing momentum in the recovery of air travel as restrictions are lifted.
IATA reported a sharp 11-percentage point increase for international tickets sold in recent weeks (in proportion to 2019 sales). In the period around 8 February (7 day moving average) the number of tickets sold stood at 49% of the same period in 2019. In the period around 25 January (7 day moving average) the number of tickets sold stood at 38% of the same period in 2019.
The 11-percentage point improvement between the January and February periods is the fastest such increase for any two-week period since the crisis began.
The jump in ticket sales comes as more governments announce a relaxation of COVID-19 border restrictions. An IATA survey of travel restrictions for the world's top 50 air travel markets (comprising 92% of global demand in 2019 as measured by revenue passenger kilometres) revealed the growing access available to vaccinated travellers.
18 markets (comprising about 20% of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine or pre-departure testing requirements.
28 markets are open to vaccinated travellers without quarantine requirements (including the 18 markets noted above). This comprises about 50% of 2019 demand.
37 markets (comprising about 60% of 2019 demand) are open to vaccinated travellers under varying conditions (18 having no restrictions, others requiring testing or quarantine or both).
These numbers reflect a spate of relaxations announced around the world, including in Australia, France, the Philippines, the UK, Switzerland and Sweden among them.
"Momentum toward normalizing traffic is growing. Vaccinated travellers have the potential to travel much more extensively with fewer hassles than even a few weeks ago. This is giving growing numbers of travellers the confidence to buy tickets. And that is good news! Now we need to further accelerate the removal of travel restrictions. While recent progress is impressive, the world remains far from 2019 levels of connectivity. Thirteen of the top 50 travel markets still do not provide easy access to all vaccinated travellers. That includes major economies like China, Japan, Russia, Indonesia and Italy," said Willie Walsh, IATA's Director General.
IATA continues to call 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.
"Travel restrictions have had a severe impact on people and on economies. They have not, however, stopped the spread of the virus. And it is time for their removal as we learn to live and travel in a world that will have risks of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. This means putting a stop to the singling out of the traveling population for special measures. In nearly all cases, travellers don't bring any more risk to a market than is already there. Many governments have recognized this already and removed restrictions. Many more need to follow," said Walsh.
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TURKISH AIRLINES CELEBRATES ITS 75TH ANNIVERSARY IN ATHENS
As the airline that flies to more international destinations than any other airline with 128 countries in five continents in its flight network, Turkish Airlines celebrates its 75th anniversary in Athens, its first international destination. Operating its first international flight on February 12, 1947 on Ankara - Istanbul - Athens route, this flight carries a special meaning as it was the first-time the airline carried the national flag on international skies.
Operated with DC-3 type aircraft with TC-ABA tail number, the first international flight of the flag carrier departed from Ankara on 12 February 1947 at 10:00 and after a stop in Istanbul, it continued to Athens Airport, which was known as Hassani Airport back then. Among the passengers of the 2 hour 40 minute international flight was the era's Turkish State Airlines General Manager Osman Nuri Baykal.
On the anniversary flight, Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board and the Executive Committee, Prof. Dr. Ahmet Bolat stated, "We had the honour of carrying our flag to abroad 75 years ago at Athens. While we transported 30 passengers between two neighbouring countries on February 12, 1947, now we carry millions of our guests to their loved ones over the continents. As the airline that flies to more countries than any other, we will continue to host our guests with Turkish hospitality and fly our flag proudly in the sky."
The global carrier celebrated its 75th anniversary with a special announcement during Istanbul - Atina February 12 flights. During the announcement, cabin crew addressed passengers saying, "As the airline that flies to more countries than any other, we are celebrating 75th anniversary of our Athens flights, our first international destination. Although many changes occurred in aviation since that first international flight, excitement and happiness of meeting with our passengers in skies remained the same for Turkish Airlines. We hope to discover the world for many more years with you" which was joined by passengers with applause.
Operating its first international flight 75 years ago with only 33 aircraft, Turkish Airlines now boasts one of the world's youngest fleets with 371 aircraft, flying to Athens with four frequencies and to Thessaloniki with two frequencies, connecting these cities to 127 countries around the world.
As for Turkish Airlines' second destination in Greece, the flag carrier started to fly to Thessaloniki back in 2001. For these flights, Turkish Airlines operates with TK 1881 flight number in honour of the founder of Republic of Turkey and Turkish Airlines Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in reference to his birth year.
EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND PASSENGERS PASSED THROUGH BRUSSELS AIRPORT IN JANUARY, UP 183% ON 2021
During this first month of 2022, Brussels Airport welcomed more than 800,000 passengers, an increase of 183% compared to January 2021, but still down by 52% compared to the same period before the crisis (January 2019). A month that was positively impacted by the Christmas holidays but was also marked by the more stringent sanitary measures in Europe. Cargo continued its growth with a 4% increase in total volumes transported compared to January 2021.
In January, Brussels Airport welcomed 800,518 passengers, an increase of 183% compared to January 2021 (stringent travel restrictions) and a decrease of 52% compared to the same period before the crisis (January 2019). Passenger numbers in January were positively impacted by the Christmas holidays, with numerous travellers returning from their holidays. This resulted in a relatively large difference between departing (363,583 passengers) and arriving (436,935 passengers) passengers. The share of departing transfer passengers was 19.5%, 1.5% lower than in 2019, due to the stronger recovery in originating traffic than in transfer traffic.
Passenger numbers were again put under pressure by the worsening epidemiological situation in Europe, the travel restrictions and the testing requirements. The ban on flights to Morocco also had a negative impact on the whole month. Fortunately, this ban was lifted as from the 7th of February.
The top 10 destination countries in January were respectively Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, France, the US, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Spain, Portugal and the US did particularly well compared to 2019. The ten most popular destinations were Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, Malaga, Tenerife, Dubai, Alicante, Geneva and Frankfurt. Both Malaga and Tenerife recorded comparable passenger numbers in 2019.
In the coming months, Brussels Airport is preparing to welcome back four airlines that suspended their flights at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic: Delta Air Lines, Air Transat, CSA Czech Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines.
In January, cargo volumes at Brussels Airport grew by 4% compared to January 2021 and even by 10% compared to January 2019. The month was particularly busy due to high demand for air freight. This phenomenon was partly due to the disruption of global cargo supply chains.
Compared to January 2021, growth in freight transport continued mainly in the full cargo segment (+24%), but also in belly cargo (+51%), due to the severe travel restrictions and the resulting decline in passenger flights a year ago.
Integrator services, on the other hand, experienced a 25% decline after the continued strong growth of recent months. The same goes for trucked air freight, which saw volumes drop by 8% compared to January 2021.
In terms of volumes, Asia remains the most important region, followed by America.
The transportation of vaccines to and from Brussels Airport continued. In total, since the start of vaccine shipments in November 2020, 900 million vaccines have been transported, confirming more than ever the role of Brussels Airport as the main European pharmaceutical hub.
The total number of flight movements in January 2022 increased by 86% compared to 2021 and amounted to 10,585 (compared to 17,232 in 2019). The number of passenger flights increased by 149% compared to 2021 but remains at 52% of the number of passenger flights in January 2019, before the crisis. Flight occupancy rates are also at 52% of January 2019 rates. This last January, full cargo flights increased very slightly by 0.9% compared to 2021. The share of cargo flights carried out by passenger aircraft is declining but remains an important additional connectivity option for destinations such as Brazil, China and Japan.
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AMERICAN AIRLINES E175 FLEET TOPS 100
An order for three more E175s from American Airlines has pushed its network fleet total for the 76-seat E-Jet to over 100 aircraft. Deliveries will be completed this year. AA's Envoy Air subsidiary will operate the E175s.
The E175 is immensely popular with North American carriers. The E-Jet can easily be configured in three classes to offer product consistency with larger mainline airplanes. American Eagle's E175s have 12 First Class, 64 Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra seats.
To date, Embraer has sold over 800 E175s to customers around the world. North American customers account for more 85% of those orders, or over 700 aircraft.
SCHIPHOL RECEIVES ACI'S 'VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER' RECOGNITION
Amsterdam's Airport Schiphol has once again received the 'Voice of the Customer' recognition from Airports Council International (ACI). ACI, the global overarching organization of airport companies, has granted the recognition of Schiphol's efforts over the past year to try to look after the interests of passengers in the best possible way. This ACI recognition was created specifically within the context of COVID-19, to reflect changing expectations among passengers.
According to ACI, over the past year Amsterdam Airport Schiphol went to considerable lengths to ask passengers for their needs and expectations and use this information as input for further service improvements. The Voice of the Customer award underlines the considerable efforts Schiphol is making to respond to the continuous changes in conditions and passenger expectations and to improve service levels.
"It is very important for us to ensure that passengers always feel comfortable with us, even in these challenging times. To that end, we do whatever we can to listen to passengers and identify their needs, because their wishes and expectations develop rapidly. This feedback has helped us once again to realise some wonderful improvements for our passengers this year. We're committed to continuing this effort," Wieke Vrielink, Senior Manager Marketing & Customer Experience at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
One example is a new tool that allows passengers to pre-order food and drink and pick up their order behind Security Control the moment they arrive. This reduces the number of contact moments, because all steps - from ordering to payment - take place online. Another example is the crowding indicator, which we launched in response to passenger feedback about the impact of crowding levels on their experience at the airport. The Schiphol app helps passengers find a quiet place at the airport and shows them at a glance which parts of the airport are busy and which are not. Schiphol also received this award in 2020, when the 'Sanitizing Service' points (among other things) were installed at the airport.
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STARLUX LAUNCHES WIDEBODY FLEET WITH FIRST A330NEO
Taiwan's STARLUX Airlines has taken delivery of its first widebody aircraft - an A330-900. It is the first of 26 Airbus widebodies set to join the airline's fleet, comprising eight A330neo and 18 A350s.
The A330neo aircraft and one A350 are being acquired on lease from ALC, while the airline has 17 A350s on direct order with Airbus. Benefiting from the A330neo's unbeatable operating economics and award-winning Airspace cabin, the aircraft will feature a two-class cabin with 28 business class seats and 269 economy class seats.
The A330neo joins an existing fleet of seven single-aisle A321neo at the airline and will complement the airline's network by flying regional routes from Taiwan to the wider Asia-Pacific.
At the same time, STARLUX has also signed up for the computer-based ACE (Airbus Cockpit Experience) Suite training solution. Using a "learning by discovery" approach, STARLUX's flying crew will be able to use the ACE Trainer that simulates a 3D Cockpit environment with guided lessons and free play.
ACE Suite offers an efficient learning process that also provides customers with significant time savings off high-level devices training. Users can enjoy better knowledge retention and continuous skills reinforcement. ACE Suite is approved by EASA and in line with ICAO regulations.
"I am delighted to welcome our first A330neo, as it marks a key milestone in our growth. Having already operated modern and efficient single-aisle A321neo, we are confident that the A330neo will bring even more flexibility and efficiency in our network strategy, while optimising cost efficiency and achieving high passenger comfort," K.W. Chang, Founder and Chairman of STARLUX Airlines. "We are also looking forward to starting to take delivery of our A350s in the coming months."
"We are excited to work closely with STARLUX to build their new fleet," said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer. "Together the A321neo, A330neo and A350 will enable the carrier to benefit from the unique technical commonality and efficiency offered by our latest generation aircraft. In addition, they offer the best levels of comfort in their respective size categories, which will be a key element for STARLUX in delivering its premium in-flight experience."
At the end of January 2022, the A330 Family had won over 1,800 orders (including 353 A330neo from 23 customers worldwide).
AEROMEXICO RESUMES UK SERVICE TO MEXICO CITY
Aeromexico will resume operations to Mexico City as of April 1 with five weekly flights, using its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. This represents a monthly offer of more than 9 000 seats.
Aeromexico has been operating in London since 2012. The United Kingdom is one of the most relevant global investors for Mexico and an important source of visitors. Customers traveling from London to Mexico City can connect with more than 42 destinations operated by the airline within the country.
Giancarlo Mulinelli, Senior Vice President of Global Sales commented: "We celebrate our return to London Heathrow International Airport, which is one of our customers' preferred routes for business and leisure travel. We resume service with our best airplanes and we are sure that we will continue connecting Mexico with Europe offering the best service and the highest health and hygiene protocols."
Aeromexico connects Europe with six direct routes from London, Madrid, Amsterdam and Paris to Mexico City. From Madrid to Guadalajara and Monterrey. Thus, the company adds more than 330 flights with an offer of almost 90 000 seats per month.
Heathrow Chief Commercial Officer, Ross Baker said: "We are delighted to welcome Aeromexico back to Heathrow so that our passengers can get back to visiting the fantastic destinations Mexico has to offer. With travel restrictions easing and the airline resuming five flights a week to Mexico City, passengers now have more choice and businesses can go back to developing stronger trade links with one of the largest emerging markets in the world. Almost half of UK-Mexico trade totalling £1.5bn travelled through Heathrow in 2019, so the return of Aeromexico is a great platform to start rebuilding that success."
LEISURE-FOCUSED CARRIER ALLEGIANT AIR DOUBLES ITS DESTINATION LIST FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
Allegiant Air is set to double its number of nonstop destinations from Washington Dulles International Airport this spring. Beginning April 21, the ultra-low-cost carrier will add year-round twice-weekly service to both Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas and Nashville International Airport (BNA) in Tennessee. Both routes will be served with Airbus A320-family aircraft.
Allegiant, the newest carrier to begin service at Dulles International, launched year-round nonstop service to popular Florida leisure destinations Jacksonville and Sarasota last fall and is currently the sole ultra-low-cost carrier flying from the National Capital Region's leading international airport.
"With a continued strong rebound in demand for domestic leisure travel in a post-COVID-19 environment, Allegiant Air is stepping up in a big way to meet the needs of Washington, D.C. area travellers," said Carl Schultz, acting vice president of airline business development for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "Austin and Nashville are fantastic additions to Allegiant's destination line-up from Dulles International and add convenient new options for budget-conscious travellers."
Emphasizing a comprehensive travel experience, the Las Vegas-based carrier focuses its service on nonstop flights to world-class vacation destinations, with the option of bundling additional services such as lodging and rental cars in a one-stop booking experience. Allegiant joins United Airlines in serving the Dulles-Nashville route and both United and American Airlines in the Dulles-Austin market.
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