All posts by Craig West

LHT Embarks on Cabin Conversions

German maintenance, repair and overhaul provider Lufthansa Technik (LHT) has embarked on a programme to upgrade Airbus A320s for fellow Lufthansa offshoot Eurowings.  The initiative covers cabin conversions for 33 single-aisle jets, including A320s and A319s, being transferred from airberlin to the Düsseldorf-based low-cost carrier under a six-year wet-lease agreement.

“The modification of 33 aircraft in such a short amount of time requires intensive co-operation and great experience,” Ole Duenhaupt, Design Verification Engineer for cabin modifications at Lufthansa Technik explained.

The MRO was responsible for the design and approval of the cabin changes, which include an increase in seat pitch and the corresponding adjustment of the overhead service elements.  The company is also installing new safety belts, adapting the in-flight entertainment hardware and modifying the cabin monuments.

“The team responsible for the work, consisting of representatives from the airberlin as well as technicians from Eurowings and our engineering department, co-ordinated and completed all the required steps – from the preparation of the design documents and the planning and co-ordination of the layovers to the aircrafts’ approval and acceptance for flight operations – in the shortest time possible.  All the wheels interlocked with precision,” Duenhaupt noted.

Work on all 33 aircraft is due for completion by the end of April.

Norwegian Honours Sir Freddie

Norwegian has revealed its maiden Boeing 737 MAX will pay tribute to aviation entrepreneur and pioneer Sir Freddie Laker.  The carrier has a long history of honouring iconic figures on the tails of its aircraft, noting the personalities displayed on its jets “symbolise the spirit of Norwegian through innovation, challenging the norm and inspiring others.”  Sir Freddie Laker will become Norwegian’s third British hero, following author Roald Dahl and pioneering aviatrix Amy Johnson.

Sir Freddie enjoyed a long and distinguished career in aviation, working for aircraft manufacturer Short Brothers, delivering military aircraft during World War Two, and setting up several airline ventures post-war.  He was arguably best known for founding Laker Airways and the ‘Skytrain’ service which first took to the air in September 1977, offering low-cost long-haul flights from London/Gatwick to New York/JFK.

Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said: “We continue to see huge growth in our transatlantic flights but we are standing on the shoulders of giants like Sir Freddie Laker who first pioneered the idea that travel should be affordable for all.

“Millions of passengers around the world owe a huge debt to Laker, who first opened the door to the affordable fares we all now enjoy.  We are honoured to have Sir Freddie as one of our tail fin heroes and it is especially fitting that he will be the first face on our brand new MAX aircraft serving new transatlantic routes between the UK, Europe and the US this summer.”

Norwegian will take delivery of the first of 100 MAXs in May.

Austrian Expansion on Hold

VIENNA AIRPORT has appealed against a court ruling banning the construction of a third runway at the Austrian hub.  The facility has been lobbying for an additional runway, to be built to the southeast of the airfield, for several years amid claims its existing infrastructure was close to maximum capacity.

However, its plans were dealt a blow on February 18 when Austria’s Federal Administrative Court blocked the proposal, claiming the positive aspects of the new runway did not justify its environmental impact and extra carbon dioxide emissions.

Launching its challenge on March 23, the airport said: “An extraordinary appeal has been filed with the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court on grounds of unlawfulness of content, serious procedural violations, inconsistency in the reasoning underlying the court decision and an inconceivable interpretation of the law.”

Julian Jäger, a management board member of Vienna Airport operator Flughafen Wien added: “In terms of its contents, the court decision is indecisive and contradictory.  On the one hand, the court found that there would be further passenger growth at Vienna Airport, and that there is a need for an additional runway for aircraft to take off and land.  However, it does not deal with the issue of where this need will be diverted if the runway is not built.”

Jäger noted that banning a third runway at Vienna will force passengers and airlines to use neighbouring airports.  This, he said, would cost the facility around 30,000 new jobs and would have a significant impact on Austria’s economy and tourism industry.

Flybe Launches at Heathrow

Flybe has launched scheduled flights from London/Heathrow.  The Exeter-based regional carrier introduced its first of 40 weekly connections from the capital to Aberdeen and Edinburgh on March 26, operated by its fleet of Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops.

Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: “We are so pleased to confirm further our commitment to Scotland by offering even more flights to London with our two new routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow’s Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal, giving passengers greater choice and linking them with our range of codeshare partners through our ‘One Stop to the World’ approach.”

Flybe’s arrival at Heathrow comes just two months after the airport reduced its charges for domestic passengers in a bid to improve regional connectivity.

The carrier gained access into the capacity-constrained hub via slots surrendered by British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group (IAG) following its 2012 acquisition of British Midland International.  Under the terms of the deal, the European Commission ordered IAG to release 14 daily slot pairs, seven of which were to facilitate new competition between Heathrow and Edinburgh and/or Aberdeen.  As a result, Flybe was not required to pay for these slots.

Etihad Agrees EgyptAir Codeshare

Etihad Airways and EgyptAir will extend their partnership after signing a new codeshare agreement.  The deal, announced on March 1, will be rolled out in three phases, initially covering services between Cairo and Abu Dhabi.  It will be expanded at a later date to give the UAE flag carrier access to major points across Africa via the Egyptian capital, while EgyptAir will gain entry onto key routes to Australia and the Far East via Abu Dhabi.

The third and final phase will see Etihad adding its ‘EY’ code onto domestic flights across Egypt.  No timescale has been confirmed.

Etihad CEO Peter Baumgartner said: “EgyptAir is one of Africa’s most established and renowned airlines with an extensive network spanning cities across the African continent.  This new codeshare agreement reinforces our commitment to a partnership strategy with airlines around the world that provides guests with more travel options to destinations worldwide.  Our newest partner will also help further promote tourism, cultural and business opportunities between the UAE and Africa.”

Captain Sherif Ezzat, EgyptAir Chairman and CEO added: “The agreement will open new skies to our customers and we look forward to working with Etihad Airways to offer all guests a superior service provided by our highly skilled and professional crews.”

500 and Counting for Engine Alliance

Engine Alliance is celebrating its 500th engine on wing.  The manufacturer, a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney, reached the milestone on February 28 when Dubai-based carrier Emirates took delivery of its 90th GP7200-powered Airbus A380.

“We have a lot to be proud of as we kick off 2017.  Along with the 500th engine instalment, the GP7200 fleet has now accumulated one million engine cycles,” said Dean Athans, President of Engine Alliance.  “Passengers love the A380.  Their excitement about the airplane motivates us to keep the GP7200 the quietest, most reliable, most efficient A380 engine out there.”

The GP7200, one of two engine options offered for the European superjumbo, now powers 125 A380s, accounting for around 60% of the global fleet.  This includes 10 examples each with Air France and Korean Air, eight with Etihad Airways and seven with Qatar Airways in addition to those in service with Emirates.

Elsewhere, Engine Alliance has added two new engine overhaul centres to its network: Emirates Engine Maintenance Centre in Dubai and Pratt & Whitney Eagle Services Asia in Singapore.  The new facilities will complement the company’s workshops at GE Wales and Air France Industries.

Ryanair Adds Frankfurt-UK Connections

Ryanair has unveiled plans to add direct services from its Frankfurt Airport base to Manchester and London/Stansted.  The Irish low-cost carrier’s new German hub, which is due to go online imminently, will initially be linked to four Iberian destinations (Alicante, Malaga, Palma and Faro) with two based aircraft.  Its new services to the UK – twice daily to Stansted and six times a week to Manchester – will be added in October to coincide with the introduction of Ryanair’s winter timetable.

Manchester Airport CEO Ken O’Toole said it was “pleasing” to see Ryanair expand its route network from the facility, adding that Frankfurt “is popular with leisure passengers and a key business market for the North.”

Stansted’s Aviation Director Mats Sigurdson noted the services will also offer travellers the opportunity to connect onto long-haul services via the German hub.

The addition of Frankfurt increases the number of destinations that will be served by Ryanair from Stansted this winter to 124, including new connections to Aalborg, Oradea and Pardubice.  The carrier is yet to finalise its Manchester programme.

Ryanair will add direct links from Frankfurt to Manchester and Stansted in October. (Ryanair)

A350 Debut for Air Caraïbes

French Caribbean carrier Air Caraïbes has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350 XWB.  The jet, F-HHAV (c/n 082) – acquired on lease from AerCap – was handed over to the Les Abymes, Guadeloupe-based airline on February 28 during a ceremony at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse.

The aircraft is expected to enter revenue service on March 2.  (Airbus)

It was then ferried to Paris/Orly ahead of its maiden commercial service to Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France on March 2.

The aircraft features the European manufacturer’s ‘Airspace by Airbus’ cabin, accommodating 389 passengers in a three-class configuration including 18 in Business, 45 in Premium Economy and 326 in Economy.

From left: Air Caraïbes’ Marc Rochet and Jean-Paul Dubreuil, alongside Airbus EVP Programmes Didier Evrard, Rolls-Royce President – Civil Aerospace Eric Schulz and AerCap President and CCO Philip Scruggs.  (Airbus)


Orkney Extension for Loganair

Scottish carrier Loganair will continue to operate Orkney inter-island air services after securing a new four-year Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract.  The deal, which followed a competitive tendering process, starts on April 1 and will see the airline maintain vital links between Kirkwall, North Ronaldsay, Sanday, Stronsay, Eday Westray and Papa Westray with its fleet of Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders.

Commenting on the contract, Loganair Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles said: “It’s a privilege to be selected to provide air services to the community of Orkney for another four years.  The contract award is a testament to the dedication of our team of pilots, engineers and ground staff in Orkney who operate these essential air-links every day.”  He added: “This year’s contract award is particularly special as it will take us into and beyond the 50th anniversary of our presence in Orkney.”

The inter-island air services, inaugurated by Loganair in September 1967, includes the famed link between Westray and Papa Westray, which can be flown in as little as 47 seconds and is officially recognised as the world’s shortest scheduled flight.

Making Waves

Guernsey-based air taxi start-up Waves has applied for an Air Operator Certificate ahead of its planned launch later this year.  The carrier, created by entrepreneur Nick Magliocchetti and backed by local private equity investors, will initially lease up to three Cessna 208B Grand Caravans and plans to adopt a hybrid operating model, combining scheduled services with Uber-style on-demand travel.  It says passengers will be able to book flights via an app, accessing timetabled connections (flown up to four-times per hour) or creating bespoke trips for individuals or groups of travellers.

Waves added that fares will be significantly lower than regular airline services – flights between Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney will reportedly be available for between £45 and £75.  Longer term, the carrier hopes to add links to points in the UK and Europe by 2018.