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.
Austrian Airlines has begun operations using the first of five Airbus A320s being wet leased from airberlin. The jet, D-ABZA (c/n 3532), has been repainted in Austrian Airlines colours and debuted with the carrier on March 7, operating flight OS779 from Vienna to Skopje.
The second jet, D-ABZC (c/n 3502), is scheduled to enter service today (March 8), with the remaining three aircraft following between now and April. The wet leased aircraft will be used across the Austrian Airlines network, flown by airberlin crews wearing the German carrier’s uniform. The jets will also wear ‘Operated by airberlin’ titles.
“With the five aircraft from airberlin, we will take advantage of market opportunities to strengthen our leading position at our hub Vienna”, Austrian Airlines CEO Kay Kratky explained. “We are proud that we are in a position to actively participate in shaping the market consolidation process.”
Thomas Winkelmann, airberlin CEO, said: “The wet lease agreement is another crucial element on the way to restructuring airberlin and we are very much looking forward to the cooperation with Austrian Airlines.”
The five wet leased aircraft takes Austrian Airlines’ fleet of Airbus A320 Family jets to 36.
Alaska Air Group has closed its acquisition of Virgin America, just days after the deal was cleared by the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The definitive merger agreement was signed in April and approved by Virgin America shareholders in July. The DOJ gave the deal the green light on December 6 on condition that Alaska Airlines implements “limited” changes to its codeshare agreement with American Airlines. Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Alaska Airlines, was not required to divest any assets. The deal was closed on December 14.
“Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are different airlines, but we believe ‘different’ works – and we’re confident fliers will agree,” said Brad Tilden, CEO of Alaska Air Group. “Together, we’ll offer more flights, with low fares, more rewards and more for customers to love, as we continue to offer a distinctive travel experience. The two airlines may look different, but our core customer and employee focus is very much the same.”
Over the next year Alaska Airlines and Virgin America will work together to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to allow the two
airlines to operate as a single carrier. No decisions have been taken regarding the future of the Virgin America brand. Alaska says it will continue to operate the Virgin America fleet with the current product and name “for a period of time” to allow it to undertake extensive customer research “to understand what fliers value the most”. One decision Alaska, an all-Boeing 737 operator, faces is whether to keep Virgin America’s all-Airbus A320 Family fleet.
“We appreciate there is great interest in the future of the Virgin America brand among customers and employees alike,” said Tilden. “This is a big decision and one that deserves months of thoughtful and thorough analysis.”
Tilden will lead the combined company while Ben Minicucci becomes CEO of Virgin America in addition to his responsibilities as COO and President of Alaska Airlines. Peter Hunt, previously Virgin America Senior VP and CFO, will now serve as president of the subsidiary. The company say Minicucci and Hunt’s positions are effective immediately and remain in force until a single operating certificate has been obtained from the FAA, expected in early 2018.