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News : JetBlue values cushions, competition, challenging markets

JetBlue values cushions, competition, challenging markets

Robin Hayes, CEO of JetBlue Airways, reminded A4A Airline Summit attendees that the airline industry is always subject to external events, so it is nice that JetBlue and other US airlines finally have good financial cushions. They should, however, still plan conservatively, Hayes advises.

Meanwhile, he thinks US consumers are very fortunate to have several models, legacy, traditional low-cost, regional and ultra low-cost, each offering a different service, to choose from. The exception to this favorable environment is in slot-constrained airports. “We have spent a lot of time and money getting limited slot positions in DC Reagan and New York LaGuardia,” Hayes noted. “When slots are concentrated, fares get higher.” He objected to possible Federal mandates for airline performance, for example on baggage, pointing out there are “always unanticipated consequences to mandates. Let the market sort this out.” The carrier certainly likes challenging markets. JetBlue will announce its 21st destination country this week.

Henry Canaday, contributor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Washington, DC, USA

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News : Transformed Southwest set to grow, change further

Transformed Southwest set to grow, change further

“I can’t remember a time when I have been more optimistic about the future,” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told attendees at Airlines for America’s Commercial Airline Summit.

Kelly recounted the transformation of Southwest since 2001 from a much smaller, predominantly short-haul, all-domestic carrier, through more than a decade of recession, high and volatile fuel prices, tougher competition and missed ROI targets into a much different airline today.

“We optimised our route system, changed our boarding process, introduced business select, revamped our frequent-flyer system, added the 737-800, retrofitted new seats, launched MAX and launched international routes,” Kelly summarised. “We are now replacing a 30-year-old reservation system.”

The transition yielded record profits in 2014 and a load factor of 83%, up from 68% in 2001.

Southwest will continue to add new Latin American destinations in 2016. And the “Southwest effect” remains durable, with fares down and passengers up 32% at LaGuardia and fares at Washington Reagan down 34%, according to Kelly. He is looking at up to 50 new destinations in North and South America and more investments in technology in the coming years.

Henry Canaday, contributor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Washington, DC, USA
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News : Cobham to produce terminal for Inmarsat's European Aviation Network

Cobham to produce terminal for Inmarsat's European Aviation Network

Inmarsat has signed an agreement with Cobham SATCOM (Cobham) whereby the latter will design and produce an advanced Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) terminal as part of Inmarsat’s European Aviation Network in-flight connectivity solution.
The solution will allow aircraft to switch automatically from Inmarsat’s satellite connectivity to a terrestrial component provided by Deutsche Telekom using an on-board network communicator without any interference to service delivery.
Cobham’s terminal will exploit Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) technology to enable a direct connection between aircraft and Inmarsat’s S-band satellite, which is currently being manufactured by Thales Alenia Space. As part of the agreement between the two companies, Cobham will update the BGAN ground infrastructure it originally established with Inmarsat to accommodate S-band operations.
Commercial and business aircraft will then be able to offer in-flight Wi-Fi access to passengers across high-traffic flight paths in all 28 EU member states utilising Inmarsat’s 30MHz (2 x 15MHz) S-band spectrum allocation.
Leo Mondale, president of Inmarsat Aviation, explained, “Although airlines have understood the importance of offering passengers advanced in-flight connectivity for some time, suitable technology has not been available to meet the needs of modern travellers until now. The European Aviation Network will be the first solution to provide consistent, reliable high quality broadband across Europe, even during peak hours and over busy flight paths.
“We have a successful track record of working with Cobham SATCOM and are delighted to welcome them as the latest European partner on this ambitious project, alongside Deutsche Telekom and Thales Alenia Space. Together, we are supporting European aviation and helping to position Europe as the forefront of global technology innovation.”
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News : APEX 2015: GEE feeds appetite for in-flight reading

APEX 2015: GEE feeds appetite for in-flight reading

Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) has announced two new content agreements that appeals to bibliophiles of all ages.

Under an agreement with Cupcake Digital young passengers will have access to more than 80 digital children’s books and audio book experiences created from modern classics such as Strawberry Shortcake and The Smurfs as well as big screen adaptations like How to Train Your Dragon and Rio. Content can be viewed via the airline’s in-seat entertainment systems using GEE’s AIRREAD service or on their own personal electronic device (PED) via the GEE AIRTIME portal. Airlines can purchase GEE’s “Children’s Read-Aloud Books by Cupcake Digital” app for in-seat use or they can choose from 80+ storybooks and select content for their wireless IFE.

AIRREAD is an in-flight entertainment (IFE) digital electronic reader, currently featured on more than 850 aircraft globally, AIRREAD enables passengers to access a library of reading content, including magazines, newspapers, books and audio books. Global Eagle Entertainment delivers partnership between GEE and Cupcake Digital helps to ensure that there are great inflight entertainment choices for passengers of all ages.

In another announcement, multichannel magazine content distributor, Zinio will add more than 3,000 global magazine titles in over 50 languages to the GEE catalogue of over 7,000 digital books and newspapers. The content is available in tailored regional and route-specific lineups, based on passenger preferences and destinations, on airline seatback systems via GEE’s AIRREAD service or on passenger smartphones and tablets through the GEE AIRTIME portal.

Zinio’s inflight entertainment licensing agreement adds the world’s largest digital newsstand to the GEE content library including magazine titles such as Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Esquire, Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic.

Alex Preston, editor, Inflight/
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon

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News : APEX 2015: SAS Airbus A330-300 long-haul cabin debuts new IFEC

APEX 2015: SAS Airbus A330-300 long-haul cabin debuts new IFEC

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), as well as becoming the launch customer of the 242-tonne version of Airbus’ A330-300 in Europe, has also introduced new cabin features and in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) service options to the aircraft for the first time.
The features are being debuted in the long-haul cabin of SAS’ new A330 and being retrofitted on three further A330s the airline already has in service. They include a new RAVE-Centric 'lite' IFE system from Zodiac Inflight Innovations (Zii) for passengers, featuring dockable monitors to host and process content and applications locally, and the latest flight attendant panel.
Other elements of the new cabins include full coloured LED-based mood lighting with millions of different colour possibilities and a new lie-flat bed Vantage XL business class seat from Thomson.
Eivind Roald, EVP commercial, SAS, commented, “We are delighted to welcome our passengers on board our new Airbus A330-300s, and to offer the very best comfort and innovative cabin features. This is the latest example of the significant investments which we are making in our fleet, and at the same time launching new routes, giving us the strongest range of services to United States and Asia from Scandinavia.”

Ingo Wuggetzer, Airbus’ vice president of cabin marketing, added, “With ever more state-of-the-art cabin innovations available for the A330, and some of the latest ones chosen by SAS for its new A330 aircraft, SAS’ passengers will be able to experience the best-in-class cabin comfort, mood-lighting ambience and IFE and connectivity services.”

Stephanie Taylor, editorial assistant, Inflight /
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon
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News : FinnAir attends to passenger well-being with new IFE system

FinnAir attends to passenger well-being with new IFE system

FinnAir’s new Airbus A350 XWB aircraft, will, the airline hopes, allow it to provide ‘a unique Nordic experience’ to its customers with a state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. 
Entering into long-haul service on 21 November, 2015 on Finnair's Helsinki-Shanghai route, the A350 XWB will boast a Nordic Sky entertainment system, which according to Juha Järvinen, chief commercial officer, Finnair, "is the ultimate travel companion and revolutionises the in-flight experience by providing innovative digital services for every step of the journey." 
The on-screen display (16 inch touch screens for Business class; 11 inch screens in Economy) shows the main stages of the flight, informing passengers in advance when meals will be served, when rest lighting will be activated, and when purchases can be made from the in-flight shopping service.Business class passengers are provided with Bose noise cancelling headphones.
Cabin crew announcements - available in seven languages - appear at the top of the display screen, causing minimal disruption to the passenger by reducing the number of audio announcements. The cabin crew can update all flight events - such as the flight schedule and the food menu - in real time.
Content offering has also been increased to include more Hollywood blockbusters and classic movies, as well as the introduction of unique branded channels such as the BBC, National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel. 
Wi-Fi can be accessed with passengers' own devices. Business class passengers, Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum members and oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members enjoy full internet access free of charge, while Economy class passengers can purchase it either by the hour or for the duration of the flight, via the Wi-Fi portal or by using an internet voucher code.
Global music streaming service, MixRadio, has created exclusive playlists, including bespoke playlists for every long haul destination featuring old and new local music. 
The cabin includes dynamic ambient mood LED lighting that gradually changes to suit the time of day, destination or season. The lighting can create 24 different scenarios - including the Northern Lights - from a choice of over 16 million different colours. 
The time of day in both destinations is also shown in an attempt to help passengers adapt to the time zone of their destination. 
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News : APEX 2015: Cobham’s AVIATOR 300D SBB system receives STCs for various Airbus types

APEX 2015: Cobham’s AVIATOR 300D SBB system receives STCs for various Airbus types

Cobham SATCOM’s (Cobham) AVIATOR 300D SwiftBroadband (SBB) solution has received a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) for installation on-board Airbus A319s, A320s and A321s.

The system for the Airbus aircraft consists of a compact 2 MCU size SBB unit with a flange-mounted Diplexer Low Noise Amplifier which connects to an IGA-5001 SBB Intermediate Gain Antenna. The STC also certifies two cabin Wi-Fi antennas for installation in the cabin.

AVIATOR 300D has been approved for use on all personal electronic devices (PEDs), meaning any cabin crew device with in-flight Wi-Fi capability can be used to send real time data to and from the aircraft for real-time credit card processing and crew voice calls.

It also enables cockpit connectivity for ACARS over SBB. Using Inmarsat SBB IP data and voice over IP capabilities, it can provide services such as aircraft flight tracking information. Ethernet ports can also be provided for connecting Aircraft Interface Devices and Electronic Flight Bags so pilots can obtain real-time information including graphical weather updates. Cockpit Voice is enabled by a PTA-12 dialler for pilot voice communications.

Furthermore, the STC allows for the use of AVIATOR Wired or Wi-Fi handsets to contact MedAire’s MedLink Global Response Centre when a medical situation arises during the flight.

The STC was developed and is now owned by Avionics Support Group Inc, which also developed the certification for the Cobham AVIATOR 300 solution on the same Airbus airframe types last year.
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News : Fiji Airways business class passengers to get iPads on 737s

Fiji Airways business class passengers to get iPads on 737s

From 1 November, Fiji Airways will offer business class passengers travelling on its Boeing 737 aircraft iPads equipped with pre-loaded film, TV and music content as part of a broader strategy to upgrade the in-flight entertainment (IFE) experience across its entire fleet. 

“This is an exciting product upgrade for business class guests on our Boeing 737 fleet, and will offer them convenience and choices we haven’t been able to offer before on this aircraft type,” explained David Bowden, Fiji Airways’ CEO. “This new audio-visual enhancement will be an on-demand service including the latest movies and TV shows along with the classics. Coupled with our award winning in-flight service, wines, and menu designed by Chef Lance Seeto, we can now bring the Boeing 737 business class experience to par with that of our A330s.”
The iPad based IFE will initially offer passengers a choice of 23 films, 19 television shows and a range of music, but Fiji Airways says this will increase to over 100 hours of content by March 2016. The IFE content for both its aircraft types (Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s) will be provided by Global Eagle Entertainment, which is also already selling the airline’s video advertising and sponsorship spots, which will begin appearing on IFE screens at the beginning of 2016.
“Fiji Airways is stepping up its content game with a creative approach that is on par with other leading airlines,” remarked Amir Samnani, senior vice president of content services for Global Eagle Entertainment. “Both Fiji Airways and Global Eagle are committed to a whole new level of content delivery and game-changing innovations focused on providing the very best passenger experience.”
Fiji’s other 2015 investments include the purchase of several new aircraft and introduction of online check-in options.

Pictured: Business class seating on a Fiji Airways Boeing 737 aircraft
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News : APEX 2015: ViaSat IFC allows Virgin America pax to stream Netflix

APEX 2015: ViaSat IFC allows Virgin America pax to stream Netflix

As the result of a partnership between Virgin America and ViaSat, whereby the latter is providing in-flight connectivity services on ten of the carrier’s new Airbus A320 aircraft, Virgin America has teamed up with Netflix to showcase its new on-board streaming capabilities. 

Until 2 March, Virgin America passengers can receive complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi, allowing existing Netflix members to stream programming including House of Cards to their personal electronic devices. New members can use the in-flight Wi-Fi to sign up to Netflix for a free 30-day free trial.  

During this period, seasons 1-3 of House of Cards will also be available via the airline's recently upgraded Red seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) platform.

“Netflix and Virgin America are both known for their focus on innovation and for shaking up their respective industries – so we're thrilled to team up to bring the best in technology and entertainment to the skies. These latest generation investments in our in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment platforms allow us to provide the largest breadth of streamed content ever available at 35,000 feet – along with entire seasons of some Netflix favourites via the Red platform,” remarked Abby Lunardini, Virgin America’s VP brand marketing and communications. “We hope our guests enjoy the offering and know that even President Frank Underwood can't get entertainment this good on-board Air Force One.”
The new ViaSat service will be rolling out to about one aircraft per month through to June 2016 to align with Virgin America’s aircraft delivery schedule.  
“Bringing ViaSat’s in-flight internet service and streaming capability to an aircraft creates a really natural spot for an online media service to acquire new customers or bring more to current customers,” remarked Don Buchman, ViaSat's VP commercial mobility, at the APEX EXPO. “When the internet came out 20 years ago, no one knew what it was going to be. We thought e-mail was the killer app. Then, once it was out there and more bandwidth came on, videos started to get really big. It’s a natural progression to find value where you didn’t know it existed and that’s what we’re enabling airlines to do with our service.” 
Buchman continued, “When providing Wi-Fi type services, airline’s initially thought, ‘How can I package this really expensive pipe in a way that creates a little bit of value but doesn’t cost me a lot or disappoint my customers?’ Now what we’re saying is, ‘instead of worrying about packaging, just present them with the real internet.’ From what we’re seeing, the passengers love it!”
ViaSat offers a high service level agreement per device [12Mbps per passenger]. “We can talk bits and bytes and economics but what passengers truly understand is when they’re sitting on an airplane and just watched two hours of a streamed movie over the real internet; that makes sense.”
When asked about ViaSat’s aims, Buchman commented, “We decided to jump to the end-game and offer the real internet – not cached, stored content, but real, streaming internet content. There’s an ice hockey player named Wayne Gretzky. Someone asked him, ‘How do you score so many goals?’ And he answered, ‘I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck’s going to be.’  That’s how we think when it comes to delivering in-flight entertainment and connectivity – we are enabling passengers today to ‘Bring their own Rights’ to the plane and have access to their content when they want it.”
Buchman finished by saying, “The internet and entertainment are converging and you’re seeing that with the Netflix and Virgin America announcement. We believe bandwidth demands will continue to increase, so we want to provide the capacity needed to allow for 4K television, 3D TV, etc. That’s why we are making high-value, long-term investments in our satellite system. We want to grow our presence worldwide, and our next satellite, ViaSat-2, is a key part of that strategy as it doubles our bandwidth economics and extends our coverage by seven times.”
Virgin America’s #NetflixOnboard partnership was marked with a House of Cards and Netflix-branded aircraft (pictured).

Stephanie Taylor, editorial assistant, Inflight /
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon
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News : ALTO Aviation appoints new quality assurance manager

ALTO Aviation appoints new quality assurance manager

Rafael Vazquez is to take up a new role at ALTO Aviation as quality assurance manager.

“We are very excited to have Rafael Vazquez joining the ALTO Aviation team. Vazquez brings a wealth of experience and multiple professional certifications in quality processes and procedures that will be of great value as the company evolves and expands its product offering, to assure our continued commitment to unrivalled product quality and customer service to each one of our clients,” stated Don Hamilton, president of ALTO Aviation.

Vazquez has twenty eight years of experience in quality assurance management positions in manufacturing industries including aerospace. Prior to ALTO Aviation, he worked for ATI Flowform Products and CSI Mfg., holding responsibilities including management and overall organisation of QC departments, quality assurance project plans, product and document inspection, audits, corrective action systems, inspection plans and risk assessments.

Vazquez will be based at ALTO Aviation’s facility in Sterling, MA.
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News : APEX 2015: Caribbean Airlines becomes launch customer for FTTS Second Screen

APEX 2015: Caribbean Airlines becomes launch customer for FTTS Second Screen

As well as revealing plans to deploy Lumexis Corporation’s (Lumexis) Fiber-To-The-Screen (FTTS) in-flight entertainment system on-board its Boeing 737 aircraft, Caribbean Airlines has been announced as the launch customer for the company’s FTTS Second Screen solution.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Caribbean Airlines as our latest airline customer,” commented Jon Norris, Lumexis’ VP sales. “In addition to continuing the in-service success of the FTTS system, Caribbean Airlines is the launch customer for FTTS Second Screen, which enables passengers to use their own tablets and smartphones simultaneously at their seat without interrupting the entertainment running on the FTTS HD monitors.”

The first installation will take place in June 2016. 

Alicia Cabrera, Caribbean Airlines’ senior marketing manager, was present Lumexis' APEX press briefing, saying, “This is quite a milestone for us. We had a very dated Hi8 overhead system and now we’re able to offer our customers choice. From a technical standpoint, our customers can now select exactly what they want. We’re delighted to be able to differentiate our product.” 

When asked why Caribbean Airlines had opted for seat-back rather than wireless IFE, Cabrera replied, “Our flights operate mainly from Trinidad over water to North America and into London, so the level of investment required for in-flight connectivity is too big for us and this [FTTS] is what we need to satisfy the needs of our market.”

“We are delighted to be working with Lumexis to introduce their FTTS IFE system as part of the cabin upgrade project being rolled out across our B737 fleet,” explained Caribbean Airlines’ VP commercial and customer service, George Reeleder. “FTTS will play a significant role in raising customer satisfaction by delivering our promises in providing the highest standards of service and reliability marked by genuine Caribbean hospitality, commitment to safety and consistent value delivered by passionate people.”

Headquartered in Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Airlines operates to 19 destinations, including regional services to the eastern Caribbean as well as to Caracas in South America. The carrier also flies longer-haul to North America with Boeing 767s that currently use Thales’ i4000 IFE system. 

Stephanie Taylor, editorial assistant, Inflight /
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon
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News : APEX 2015: Astronics debuts AeroShield low drag radome

APEX 2015: Astronics debuts AeroShield low drag radome

Astronics Corporation (Astronics) has revealed its new AeroShield low drag radome and composite adapter plate technology, created by wholly-owned subsidiaries Astronics AeroSat and Armstrong Aerospace, at the APEX EXPO in Portland, Oregon.

The AeroShield radome has been designed with an aerodynamic shape to reduce drag, thereby improving fuel-burn savings. It also meets FAA safety requirements regarding hardiness against bird-strikes. 

The company’s complementary composite adapter plate decreases weight by 78% over traditional metal designs while simplifying and standardising the installation of connectivity systems. It also delivers commonality and interchangeability across entire fleets, making for easy de-modification during end-of-lease restoration.

Both new products are ARINC 791 compliant, with Astronics hoping the designs will help to eliminate costly SATCOM installations, simplify aircraft maintenance inspections and reduce system life-cycle costs.

Stephanie Taylor, editorial assistant, Inflight /
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon
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News : WestJet reports September traffic data

WestJet reports September traffic data

WestJet has published its traffic results for September 2015 with an increased load factor.
Revenue passenger miles (RPMs) increased 7.8% year-over-year to 1.632 billion from 1.505 billion last September. Available seat miles (ASMs) grew 5.9% over the same period to 2.099 billion from 1.982 billion. 
"We are very pleased with our strong year over year traffic growth as we continue to fly record numbers of guests while improving our on-time performance," remarked WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky. 
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News : WOW air selects MINT for crew training management

WOW air selects MINT for crew training management

MINT Software Systems has signed a service agreement with WOW air which has selected MINT TRMS for its training scheduling, electronic grading and records management for their cockpit and cabin crew training department.
“We are very happy to welcome WOW air as our new customer”, remarked Jörg Latteier, managing director of MINT Software Systems. “WOW air are very ambitious and have carefully been testing MINT for a couple of months. Now they felt ready to move forward starting to use the powerful MINT training scheduling and records management capabilities to support the training of their continuously increasing pool of crew members. WOW air will entrust their growing training volume to our proven software MINT TRMS, and we will efficiently support them during the coming years”, he added.
WOW air will use MINT TRMS for flight deck crew planning and scheduling, record keeping and currency calculation. The tools for electronic grading and data analysis will help WOW air to significantly enhance its training performance and to reducing overall training cost in the same time. Instant online access to training schedules, electronic forms, learning material and other training related data in the integrated and multifunctional web portal will simplify the day-to-day life of all air crew and instructors.
“We tested MINT thoroughly during some months, because we wanted to be sure to select the most flexible training management solution that would have the capability to grow with us and effectively support our business in the future”, commented Robert Oedlund, director crew training at WOW air. “We have found that MINT TRMS with its powerful tools for e-Grading, record management and its great communication capabilities combines all the functionalities we required under one roof.”
The deal includes the delivery of the SaaS version of MINT TRMS for training scheduling, record management, training data collection and analysis for all flight crew at WOW air.
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News : Wizz Air passenger numbers up 22% in September

Wizz Air passenger numbers up 22% in September

Wizz Air has announced its passenger statistics for September 2015, with the airline’s load factor passing 90%.
Revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) were up 22% in September at 2,794,804,000 compared with 2,289,240,000 last September. Available seat kilometres (ASKs) totalled 3,078,313,000, compared with September 2014’s 2,622,814,000, a 17% increase. The number of seats on offer was up 18% to 1,994,760 from 1,693,620 for the respective periods.
The load factor in September was 90.9%, up by 3.3 percentage points from 87.5% last September. The number of booked passengers (as opposed to passengers flown because refunds are rare)  numbered 1,812,795, compared with 1,482,548 in September 2014, an increase of 22%.
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