Etihad completes Abu Dhabi moves

Etihad Airways’ phased move into the new Terminal 3 at Abu Dhabi International Airport has been successfully completed with the transfer this week of the final four long-haul services from Terminal 1.

The final flight moves saw the airline’s Beijing, New Delhi, Johannesburg and Mumbai services move across on Monday, March 23. A total of 31 destinations now operate from Terminal 3.

“The transfer of flights is supported by Etihad’s new passenger facilities, which include new premium lounges as well as improved check-in areas, including a designated check-in zone for our premium customers,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive. Etihad has 18 destinations remaining served by Terminal 1, including its JFK New York service.

Grim prospects for Airlines

March 24: Geneva – Amid an air of gloom in the aviation industry, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) today announced a pessimistic outlook for the global air transport industry with potential losses of US$4.7 billion in 2009.

In only three months IATA has increased its forecast by US$2.2 billion, reflecting the rapid deterioration of the global economic conditions. Industry revenues are expected to fall by nearly 12% – this compares with just a 7% fall after the events of 11 September 2001. “The state of the airline industry today is grim,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO. “Demand has deteriorated much more rapidly with the economic slowdown than could have been anticipated a few months ago. Combined with an industry debt of US$170 billion, the pressure on the industry balance sheet is extreme.”

Falling fuel prices are helping to curb even larger losses. “Fuel is the only good news,” said Bisignani. “But the relief of lower fuel prices is overshadowed by falling demand and plummeting revenues. The industry is in intensive care. Airlines face two immediate fundamental challenges: conserving cash and carefully matching capacity to demand.” IATA also revised its forecast losses for 2008 from US$5 billion to US$8.5 billion; the fourth quarter of 2008 was particularly difficult as carriers reported large hedging-related losses and a very sharp fall in premium travel and cargo traffic.

Regional differences remain significant – only the USA market is expected to return a modest profit, estimated at US$100 million. Elsewhere Asia will be the hardest hit, with losses estimated at US$1.7 billion closely followed by Europe at US$1 billion.

If there is a positive message, it’s that the deterioration forecast for 2009 had already happened by January, but weak consumer and business confidence is expected to keep spending and demand for air transport low. “The prospects for airlines are dependant on economic recovery,” said Bisignani. “It will be a grim 2009. And while prospects may improve towards the end of the year, expecting a significant recovery in 2010 would require more optimism than realism.” He also cautioned that this crisis must bring change: “Recovery will not come without change. There is no doubt that this is a resilient industry capable of catalysing economic growth. But we are structurally sick. Bailouts are not the prescription to return to health. Access to global capital, the ability to merge and consolidate and the freedom to access markets are needed to run this industry as normal profitable business.”

Irish workers to strike

The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has been informed by the unions SIPTU and Mandate that its members plan to take industrial action at Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports as part of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s ‘national day of action’ on Monday March 30.

SIPTU, which represents the airports’ fire, police and security services, has indicated that its members at Dublin, Cork, and Shannon Airports plan to stop work between 04:00 and noon on Monday. Mandate, representing retail workers at Dublin and Cork Airports, has also indicated that it will take industrial action on March 30.

The DAA urged its trade unions to attend the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to discuss the company’s deteriorating financial situation as a matter of urgency and not to engage in any disruptive industrial action until this process is complete. The DAA wants to discuss the payment of pay increases under the national wage agreement before it has concluded a major cost recovery programme.

Cargo planes crashes at Tokyo airport

March 23: An MD-11 cargo plane belonging to FedEx crashed onto the runway and burst into a ball of fire while attempting to land at Tokyo’s main international airport, killing the pilot and co-pilot, the only two people on board.

Investigators said the accident may have been caused by low-level turbulence or ‘wind shear’, quoted Kazuhito Tanakajima, an aviation safety official at the Transport Ministry.

Unusually strong winds of up to 47 mph were blowing through Narita City in the morning, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Strong winds and turbulence have caused other recent incidents at the airport.

Gatwick temporarily closes during bomb scare

March 23: Gatwick airport was put on full alert after a passenger found a note in the toilet of an in-bound Emirates Boeing 777 from Dubai saying a ‘suspicious device’ was onboard.

The airport was closed for 15 minutes while the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit searched the plane and a man in his 20s was arrested by the Police on suspicion of involvement in a bomb hoax.

Pilatus crash kills 14 in Montana

March 22: A Pilatus PC-12/45 crashed into a cemetery while on approach to Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a statement that the PC-12, registered as N128CM, crashed at around 15:00 with the loss of 14 people, half of them children. It is reported that the plane may not have been legally allowed to carry more than nine passengers.

N128CM was owned by Eagle Cap Leasing Inc. based at Enterprise, Oregon. The crash is the fourth major plane accident in the US in three months – before 2009 there hadn’t been a fatal accident in the US involving a commercial airliner for more than two years.

Emirates expands A380 services

As Emirates’ experience with the A380 grows, so does its scheduled services. From June 1, the aircraft will debut in Canada while a new Thai route will extend the aircraft’s presence in Asia.

“The A380 will allow Emirates to address some of the unmet need in Toronto while in Bangkok it will help support the Thai government’s new tourism initiatives,” said Emirates President Tim Clark. The change on both services will provide a capacity increase of about 30% for each route.

The airline will accept another four A380 aircraft into its fleet in the next financial year and will introduce services to Seoul in December. It has shrugged off recent press speculation about poor serviceability of its fledgling fleet of ‘super jumbos’, saying “Our confidence in the A380 remains unchanged; it is an excellent aircraft and feedback from our customers thus far has been very positive. We have no plans to cancel any orders.”

Ryanair’s Dublin cuts

March 16: Ryanair announced a further series of route, flight and frequency cuts at Dublin Airport from July, as the impact of the €10 tourist tax and other Government price increases decrease passenger numbers. Ryanair confirmed that these latest cuts were being implemented in response to the decision of the Government-owned Irish Aviation Authority to increase Air Traffic Control charges by 12% this summer.

From July Ryanair will close four routes from Dublin; to Basel, Doncaster, Oporto and Teesside, and reduce frequencies on eight more routes to Aberdeen, Biarritz, Billund, Bournemouth, Carcassonne, East Midlands, Malaga and Rome (Ciampino).

Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said: “This increase in Government charges is another nail in the coffin of Irish tourism. Already this year the Dublin has increased airport charges, increased wheelchair charges, is double charging for kiosk installation and now the Government allows the IAA to raise ATC charges by 12%, when inflation is at 0%.

“At a time when Governments and airports all over Europe are reducing costs in order to stimulate tourism, the Irish Government is raising costs and introducing taxes, which can only damage tourism.” Needless to say, O’Leary had much more to comment on, especially the performance of the IAA, but none of it very complimentary!

Locals lose Stansted battle

Campaigners have lost their legal battle to prevent an increase in passengers using Stansted Airport, reports the Dunmow Broadcast & Recorder.

‘Stop Stansted Expansion’ was hoping to overturn the British Government’s decision to increase passenger numbers and flights, arguing that the government had ‘disregarded’ environmental and noise impacts when approving the expansion project.

But High Court judge, Sir Thane Forbes, dismissed the group’s challenge, saying its objections were “unjustified and without substance”. The protestors are now seeking to appeal.

Airfields at risk

Have you flown from any of the following airfields or airstrips in the last ten years? Bailey’s Farm, Long Crendon, Bucks; Ledbury (Preston Cross), Glos; Rougham, Suffolk; Damyns Hall, Upminster, Essex – if so, planning consultants Kember Loudon Williams (www.klw.co.uk) would like to hear from you.

All four aviation centres are under threat of closure and the team fighting to keep them open is asking for copies of logbook pages that show the airfields have been well used over the last decade, along with the names and addresses of those who have flown from there. Contact Peter Kember, 01892 750018, e-mail 2pk@peterkember.co.uk