Baltia’s Boeing

Baltia Air Lines has taken delivery of its first aircraft, a Boeing 747.

November 25: US start-up carrier Baltia Air Lines has just taken delivery of its first aircraft, a Boeing 747.

Although technically a start-up airline, according to financial records with the US Securities and Exchange Commission Baltia was actually formed in 1989. According to ‘Tom’ on the Airline Blog, financing issues and failure to get US Department of Transportation approval for flight operations led to the 20-year delay in acquiring the first aircraft.

In a press release, the airline’s Executive Vice President Russell Thal stated “The purchase of the aircraft, which was paid for in full, is a major event for us. To date, Baltia Air Lines has no debt, and we intend to expand our fleet using revenues generated once we start flight operations.” Barry Clare, Vice President of finance, said the company has begun the process of getting certified by the Federal Aviation Administration. He said the airline will start with just one plane and believes it can generate $100 million a year in revenue. Baltia will operate from Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport in New York and fly to St Petersburg in Russia, although no date has been announced for the first scheduled service.

$640 million for Papua New Guinea Airports

Papua New Guinea is to upgrade its 21 national airports.

November 27: In a plan to upgrade its 21 national airports, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has initiated a ‘Civil Aviation Development Investment Programme’ to strengthen safety and services to the Pacific islands.

PNG’s topography limits road travel, making safe, affordable and reliable air services critical to the development of the region. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US $480 million multi-tranche 25-year loan as part of the country’s $640 million plan to upgrade its airports, which are struggling to meet International Civil Aviation Organisation safety and security standards, according to PNG’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The government and private sector is expected to provide the balance of the $640 million, and work is likely to last nine years under the supervision of the CAA.

Niki’s new Embraers

Niki has ordered two more Embraer 190 medium airliners.

November 25: Austrian budget airline Niki, founded by ex-Formula One World Champion Niki Lauda, has ordered two more Embraer 190 medium airliners for delivery in 2011.

Niki is Austria’s second largest airline and received its first E190 just three months ago. “The plane is right for me,” said Lauda. “First of all, I don’t make any compromises when it comes to quality – secondly, it is well known that I am a big fan of the latest technologies, especially when they bring efficiency and savings.” Today’s announcement brings Niki’s total order of E190s to 12.

MD-11 fire kills three

An MD11 freighter caught fire while attempting to take off from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport.

November 28: A McDonnell Douglas MD11 freighter belonging to Zimbabwe-based cargo company Avient Aviation caught fire while attempting to take off from Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport in China for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The aircraft veered off the runway, according to a report by the news agency APP.

Three of the seven crew members were killed in the fire, with one other in a ‘serious’ condition. Aviation Safety Network reports the aircraft as Z-BAV (c/n 48408/457) and a write-off.

Gatwick sale given green light

The European Commission has approved BAA’s sale of London Gatwick Airport.

November 26: The European Commission (EC) has approved BAA’s sale of London Gatwick Airport to the private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), controlled by Credit Suisse and General Electric Company.

BAA, owned by Spanish firm Grupo Ferrovial, was ordered to sell some of its airports following an investigation by UK competition authorities. Gatwick is the first to be sold, GIP paying £1.51 billion for the Surrey airport. The EC said in a statement that it could not see any competition concerns, despite GIP having a 75% stake in London City Airport as “the horizontal overlaps between the activities of London City Airport and Gatwick Airport are limited. London City is mainly a niche airport focusing on short-haul flights for business passengers, while Gatwick is a large airport serving predominantly leisure passengers.”

Ryanair’s Rygge destination

Ryanair announced it is to set up a base at Rygge Airport near Oslo in Norway.

November 25: Budget airline Ryanair announced it is to set up a base at Rygge Airport near Oslo in Norway, the first time it will have operated from the country.

Flights will commence in March with three based aircraft and 16 new routes to European destinations. It is Ryanair’s 37th base.

Rygge Flystasjon is also home to several units of the Royal Norwegian Air Force with F-5 Freedom Fighters the main operating type.

bmi’s bad news

UK airline bmi has announced route cuts and job losses.

November 25: UK airline bmi announced route cuts and job losses as it restructures its mainline and regional operations in the “worst recession in the UK since records began,” according to a press release. The restructuring comes from a review undertaken by new owner Lufthansa, which took over bmi in July 2009.

Loss-making routes will be axed in early 2010 and nine aircraft will be withdrawn from service, bringing the fleet down to 30 airliners. Two Airbus A330s will be returned to the leasing company and other aircraft withdrawn as leases expire in the first half of next year.

Routes to be chopped include the London Heathrow-Tel Aviv and London Heathrow-Aleppo services, with the last flights departing London on January 9; the London Heathrow-Kiev service from January 10 and the London Heathrow-Amsterdam service from March 27.

Up to 600 redundancies will be sought across the business, and the airline says that further job cuts “cannot be ruled out”.

Gulf Air’s new strategy

Middle Eastern airline Gulf Air has outlined its new strategy to “become commercially viable in 2010”.

November 23: Middle Eastern airline Gulf Air, the flag carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, outlined its new strategy to “become commercially viable in 2010” with route and aircraft fleet changes.

The airline plans to buy more narrow-body aircraft beyond the 15 ordered Airbus A320s and fewer wide-body aircraft as it expands its operations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. However, it is suspending a number of long-haul routes that are no longer profitable, such as Shanghai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. It may sell five of its A340s and dispose of other aircraft that have become “surplus to requirements”.

Mr Talal Al Zain, Gulf Air Chairman and Chief Executive of Mumtalakat, the investment company that owns the airline, said, “We must re-align Gulf Air to deliver a product that our customers need and want. At the moment, Gulf Air currently relies on significant Government support, spending far more than it earns. This is clearly unsustainable.

He added: “We estimate this programme will save the Government of Bahrain up to $2.65 billion in direct support over the next five years. If we do not implement it, Gulf Air will continue to be an unacceptable burden on the national economy. No Government, business or individual can continue to spend more money than it earns over a continued period of time. Gulf Air is no exception.”

Eurofly and Meridiana to become one

Italian carriers Eurofly and Meridiana are to merge into Meridiana Fly.

November 24: Italian carriers Eurofly and Meridiana will merge into Meridiana Fly, reports ATWonline. Meridiana already owns nearly two-thirds of Eurofly, having bought a substantial stake in its competitor in December 2006. Since then the two airlines have worked together in a partnership. The new carrier will focus on medium and long-haul services, with peak summer and winter short-haul and charter operations handled by a subsidiary company, Meridiana Express.

The merger will be complete by January 31, and the new Meridiana Fly will have a fleet of 17 McDonnell Douglas MD-82s, four Airbus A319s, eight A320s and five A330s.

Heathrow’s Terminal 2 is closed

Air France passengers bound for Paris on Monday were the last to use London Heathrow’s Terminal 2.

November 24: Air France passengers bound for Paris on Monday were the last to use London Heathrow’s Terminal 2 as it closed to make way for a brand new £1 billion replacement.

Open for the last 54 years, it opened in 1955 – Colin Matthews, BAA Chief Executive said: “The closure of Terminal 2 marks an important moment in the modernisation of Heathrow. We look forward to the new Terminal 2 providing a new home for the Star Alliance and a better experience for our passengers, with less impact on the environment.”

Work on the new Terminal 2 will begin in 2010 and is planned to open to passengers in 2014. Services that have used Terminal 2 in the past have been relocated to Terminal 4, 4 which has just received a £100 million facelift.