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bmi regional appoints new CFO
Paul Roberts has been announced as the new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of bmi regional.
Roberts joins the Board from SkyWest, where he enjoyed a stint in the same job role leading up to the airline’s acquisition by Virgin Australia. He is also a Fellow of the Association of the Chartered Certified Accountants.
Paul Robert’s first commercial role in aviation was with CityFlyer Express in the UK, where he became finance director after the company was bought by British Airways. Before joining SkyWest in 2010, he spent 17 years in senior financial roles in both the UK and Australian aviation and tourism sectors.
Cathal O'Connell, CEO of bmi regional, remarked, “Paul has considerable experience of successfully leading airline finance functions and driving improvements in financial performance of regional carriers internationally. Given the growth plans for bmi regional, Paul is a great addition to the bmi regional team - we’re really pleased to have him on board.”
Inflight nominated for Oman Air Media Award
Inflight magazine has been shortlisted for the UK’s ‘Oman Air Media Awards 2014’ under the category ‘Best Article about Oman Air.’
The article in question was an operator profile written by Inflight’s editor Liz Moscrop, focusing on Oman Air’s ‘transformation from a small regional airline into a multi-award-winning force to be reckoned with,’ by becoming ‘the first carrier in the world to offer both in-flight mobile phone and in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity.’
Other awards categories include ‘Best blog article about Oman’, ‘Best article about Oman Air’s sports sponsorship’ and ‘Best print article about Oman’.
The awards ceremony will take place at the World Travel Market event at London’s Excel on Tuesday 4 November 2014.
Monarch finalises order with Boeing for 30 737 MAX 8s
After announcing Boeing as its preferred bidder for fleet replacement at the Farnborough International Airshow this summer, Monarch has finalised an order for 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and a further 15 options, marking the beginning of the airline’s transition to an all-Boeing single aisle fleet over the next decade.
“Seven days after welcoming new owners into the business, this order is a demonstration of our commitment to the future and the evolution of Monarch as a distinctive European scheduled leisure carrier,” announced Andrew Swaffield, CEO of the Monarch Group. “The 737 MAX 8 fits our network strategy of serving our traditional European leisure routes in greater frequency, providing increased choice and service for Monarch customers, with significantly improved unit costs to our business.”
The 737 MAX is the fastest selling aeroplane in Boeing’s history. The aircraft has an 8 percent per seat operating cost advantage over the A320neo, incorporating CFM International’s LEAP-1B engines as well as advanced technology winglets.
Ryanair opens new bases in Glasgow and Copenhagen
Glasgow International Airport (pictured) has become Ryanair’s third Scottish base, whilst from March 2015 Copenhagen Airport will be the airline’s 2nd Danish base as well as its 70th base overall.
Copenhagen airport will initially have a Boeing 737-800 aircraft operating on three routes (London, Milan and Warsaw), with ten new routes due to be announced after the new year as well as the delivery of three more 737-800s scheduled for later on in 2015.
Ryanair’s chief commercial officer, David O’Brien, commented, “Our 3 new Copenhagen routes with daily frequencies are ideal for business passengers and families booking their low fare summer holiday getaways.”
Ryanair plans to invest $400m in Copenhagen, hoping to create 1,000 jobs and handle 1 million passengers each year. Glasgow, on the other hand, will be a smaller base for the airline, which is set to create 850 ‘on site’ jobs and deal with 850,000 customers per annum.
One aircraft will operate on seven winter routes, including thrice-daily services to London Stansted and Dublin) and then on nine summer routes from 2015 (Bydgoszcz, Carcassonne, Chania, Derry, Dublin, London, Riga, Warsaw & Wroclaw).
“The airline has ambitious plans for growth, particularly amongst Glasgow’s business community, which is why it is focused on opening at primary airports, such as Glasgow,” commented Francis Bourienne, Glasgow International Airport’s commercial director. “We are already seeing strong demand for Ryanair’s services amongst our customers and are committed to working with the airline to continue to enhance our route offering and deliver services based on demand.”
Qantas begins transforming its IFE content
As well as forming partnerships with Sky News, Foxtel and Fox Sports, Qantas has also teamed up with Stellar Entertainment, a full-service content service provider, in a bid to completely overhaul the airline’s in-flight entertainment (IFE) offering.
Involving Stellar Entertainment has already seen Qantas double its number of new releases and blockbusters available in-flight, adding 100 hours of additional content, and Foxtel’s content will aim to further the variety of television programmes available.
Brian Walsh, Foxtel’s executive director of television, explained, “Foxtel will present a broad range of popular local programming from our top-rating channels including Selling Houses Australia, Grand Designs Australia, Coast Australia and a variety of music and entertainment shows.”
A ‘Foxtel Picks’ channel will also showcase a library of lifestyle, drama, food, sport and entertainment programming from the likes of The Lifestyle Channel, Fox8, Showcase, the History Channel and Comedy Channel.
Whether it’s accessed through the seat-back or on personal electronic devices via Qantas’s Q streaming technology, both domestic and international passengers can also view regular in-depth news coverage seven days a week from Sky News.
Whether it’s accessed through the seat-back or on personal electronic devices via Qantas’s Q streaming technology, both domestic and international passengers can also view regular in-depth news coverage seven days a week from Sky News.
In addition, Sky will provide a new international Australian news service called ‘Australia Channel,’ which will broadcast live to Qantas’ international network of lounges, so passengers returning home will be able to watch the latest news, sport and business updates from Australia.
Finally, Fox Sports in-flight content, although not live, will include highlights packages, interviews and documentaries.
“By partnering with news and entertainment experts like Foxtel and Sky News we’re able to deliver a greater variety of premium content on a more regular basis, just as our customers would experience at home,” commented Qantas group executive of brand marketing and corporate affairs, Olivia Wirth.
WestJet reinvigorates rewards programme
WestJet has officially introduced milestone teal, silver and gold ‘rewards tiers’ to its frequent flyer programme, which now offers higher WestJet dollar earn rates.
Gold members receive 10 airport lounge vouchers, four advance seat selection vouchers, no charge for first and second checked bags, no fee to change to an earlier or later flight on same day of travel, priority security screening at select airports and advance boarding.
As part of the launch promotion, the airline is giving passengers the chance to become gold members without having to reach the annual flight spend requirement: ‘Fast Track’ means registered members with a qualifying flight spend of $1,500 for WestJet flights flown between now and 31 January 2015 can receive gold benefits until February 2016.
Similarly, the ‘Status Match’ deal gives gold flight status to members with top-tier status in another Canadian airline's frequent flyer programme and a minimum of 25,000 qualifying miles or 25 qualifying flight segments.
“We are really excited about launching WestJet Rewards Teal, Silver and Gold tiers. We want our guests to be excited too,” commented Marshall Wilmot, WestJet’s VP of product and distribution. “Both promotions allow everyone to experience the best of what WestJet Rewards tiers have to offer and, hopefully, members will tell a few friends as well.”
SES partnership will see GEE bring Ku-band connectivity to airlines
Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) has formed a strategic partnership with satellite operator SES, whereby SES will provide GEE with access to global Ku-band connectivity on a combination of SES satellites along with select teleport services.
"The demand for in-flight connectivity has never been greater, particularly with airlines looking to serve passengers and drive ancillary revenue,” explained Aditya Chatterjee, CTO of GEE. “As we continue to expand internationally, SES's broad coverage area, technology capabilities, and sales and service commitments provide us with a solution that meets our airline customers' short and long-haul needs and the passengers' desire to always be connected.”
With a fleet of over 50 satellites and an additional five under construction, as well as upcoming high throughput satellite spot beam-based systems, SES’s network will greatly enhance GEE’s in-flight entertainment and connectivity capabilities, allowing robust connectivity on most global airline routes and providing significant increases in bandwidth speeds.
“SES is pleased to support GEE with its expertise and assets for in-flight connectivity today and in the future,” announced CCO of SES, Ferdinand Kayser. “The aeronautical mobility sector is a key target market for SES and is poised for strong growth in the coming years. This important agreement delivers a tailored solution for GEE's global aero connectivity needs, and provides an extended base for GEE's widely enjoyed service to travellers.”
GEE integrates WISE IFE with SKYfi platform
Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) has introduced its WISE (wireless in-flight services and entertainment) solution within the on-board connectivity platform SKYfi developed by KID Systeme, which is currently installed on several of Cebu Pacific Air’s (CEB) new A330 wide-body aircraft.
WISE provides the software backbone for SKYfi’s wireless in-flight entertainment (IFE) product, as well as a complete content programme including movies and TV shows approved for streaming with digital rights management by major Hollywood studios.
“We're pleased with the current performance of our SKYfi product featuring WISE, which marks an important step in the deployment of a strong wireless in-flight entertainment and connectivity offering to the airline market," commented Manfred Brunke, product manager at KID Systeme.
Several of CEB's A330s operating on both regional and international flights have been equipped with KID Systeme's SKYfi portfolio, which offers connectivity and content streaming to passengers' personal electronic devices, since June this year.
Through GEE's strategic partnership with KID Systeme, WISE is integrated on KID Systeme’s widespread Airline Network Architecture hardware platform, a line-fit product on Airbus aircraft. As part of the integration, GEE also plans to provide its content management and delivery expertise to SKYfi’s airline customers, producing and delivering a full range of software solutions, local and international content selection and distribution, technical services and support.
Alexis Steinman, senior VP of software and development at GEE, remarked, “Our partnership with KID Systeme will provide our robust content-rich and hardware agnostic wireless entertainment solution to KID Systeme and airline customers, and we're delighted that the programme is going according to plan on board CEB”.
This initial launch of SKYfi will allow CEB to gauge the popularity of its wireless content and connectivity product with passengers. CEB uses its A330 aircraft on flights from Manila to Dubai, Sydney, Kuwait, Riyadh, Dammam, Singapore and Incheon, among others.
VLM signs LOI to lease 2 SSJ100 LRs from IFC in April 2015
VLM Airlines and Ilyushin Finance Company (IFC) have signed a Letter of Intent for the airline to take delivery of two Sukhoi Superjet 100 LR (long-range) aircraft, which will make VLM the first European operator of the type.
Under the terms of the LOI, VLM Airlines will take delivery of two SSJ100 LR aircraft in April 2015 under a 12-year operating lease, with options for two further aircraft. The deal also includes purchase rights for ten aircraft.
Arthur White, CEO of VLM Airlines (below left with Alexander Rubtsov, CEO of IFC), commented, “While VLM Airlines will continue offering ACMI and charter services with our Fokker 50 fleet, we see an exciting opportunity as a niche scheduled operator. The Sukhoi Superjet 100 LR fits our new strategy perfectly, with its exceptional efficiency and performance, advanced fly-by-wire technologies and spacious cabin.
“This is a significant deal for IFC and the SSJ100 programme, as it represents our first customer in Europe, which we are delighted about,” remarked Alexander Rubtsov, CEO of IFC. “After intense competition and a detailed review, we are extremely pleased that VLM Airlines has chosen to base its future operation on the SSJ100 LR. We believe the aircraft will not only enable VLM Airlines to exceed its growth plans but will also give Europe a live insight into the excellent capabilities and passenger appeal of the SSJ100, which represents a truly cost-effective regional aircraft solution.”
White’s colleague, Steve Blair, VLM’s COO and accountable manager, explained that the target date for the LOI to be converted into a full lease agreement is the end of November. The completed agreement will include the decision dates for confirmation of the two options that the airline has.
“As for delivery of the two firm aircraft, we’re aiming to receive the first in early April and the second by the end of the month,” Blair added. “We’re looking at a couple of options for the configuration, but it’s likely to be around 12-14 business class and 74 economy class.” Although he was unable to reveal the equipment the airline is lining up, Blair declared that it is VLM’s intention to outfit the aircraft “to meet all the [customer] needs” for inflight entertainment and internet connectivity.
The COO also pointed out that at present the SSJ100 LR, capable of flying 4,500 km, is not EASA certified. “The versions we will receive for the start-up will be the Basic version with a 3,000 km range. EASA certification for the LR should be completed towards the end of the 2015 summer season, around September/October. The aircraft will then be updated to the LR configuration which involves modifications to the fuel tanks and some other ‘hard’ mods, which according to Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC) are minor. There will also be winglets involved too,” Blair noted.
The routes VLM will operate with the SSJ100s are to be announced later, but Blair remarked that “anywhere within 4,500 km of Antwerp” was possible. One airport to which VLM is not currently expecting to operate the aircraft is London City, but the contingency is there. “Part of the lease agreement is to include the capability to operate the aircraft into London City, but under current planning we’re unlikely to fly it there,” he confirmed.
Pilot training will take place at Superjet International’s facility in Venice. “We expect the first courses to begin by mid-December. Those who apply to train to fly this aircraft are not likely to see home much during the Christmas and New Year period,” quipped Blair. “We need to be ready because we want to fly the aircraft around 300 hours a month.”
Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
Cebu Pacific launches direct flights to Tokyo Narita
From 26 March 2015, Cebu Pacific Air will begin operating non-stop four-times weekly flights between its Cebu hub and Tokyo Narita International Airport.
The new route adds to the airline’s expanding route network in Japan. A month after Cebu Pacific launched direct flights from Manila to Tokyo Narita and Nagoya in March this year, the Japan National Tourism Organisation indicated that the Philippines was one of its fastest growing source of foreign visitor arrivals. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Osaka.
Both countries hope this development will boost tourism, with Candace Iyog, the airline’s VP of marketing and distribution, saying the flights are “just in time for the Visit the Philippines Year 2015 and “the cherry blossom season in Japan”.
Flights, which are to take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, will be operated using Cebu Pacific’s A320 fleet. The airline currently flies from Mactan-Cebu International Airport direct to 25 Philippine and other international destinations.
As the only low-fare carrier operating this route, Cebu Pacific says it is offering fares between Cebu and Tokyo which are up to 60% lower compared with other airlines.
Dragonair to enhance IFEC on A320 fleet
From November 2014, Hong-Kong based Dragonair will begin fitting a new in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) system, ‘StudioKA’, on the airline’s 15 A320 aircraft, allowing passengers to access IFE content on their personal electronic devices (PEDs).
Once passengers have downloaded the StudioKA app to their PED they will be able to connect to the in-flight Wi-Fi network, enabling them to access StudioKA’s 80 films, 500 TV programmes, music CDs and radio playlists. 10V AC power supplies will enable laptops and other devices to stay fully charged.
In business class, passengers will also be given an iPad with access to premium content, including an additional selection of new-release and art-house movies and more than 20 extra drama and comedy TV programmes.
Economy class will benefit from a new seat-back design which has stowage space for two tablets – one on the seatback and one on the meal table – as well as a new LED lighting system.
Aer Lingus unveils new business class IFEC offering
Aer Lingus has implemented in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) services from Panasonic, Deutsche Telekom and Aeromobile, meaning passengers travelling in business class on transatlantic flights will soon have access to complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi on personal electronic devices (PEDs), as well as the ability to send and receive texts and data on mobile phones.
The airline’s new business class product was created with four elements in mind: sleep, work, dine and relax. Passengers in ‘work’ mode can make use of built-in power points with universal sockets and USB power outlets. Work lights with a dimming feature are also standard on all seats.
Aer Lingus has focused heavily on giving passengers the space to work, creating ample stowage space. Mini-tablets can be stored under the personal monitor, whilst there are also separate, specially designed stowage spaces for laptops and pockets for mobile phones.
Panasonic’s ex2 IFE system will offer 50% more new releases and 100% more television programmes (including box-sets such as Game of Thrones and True Detective), available for business passengers to watch on multi-touch 16’’ high definition monitors from gate-to-gate. HD games are also available, and there’s a massage function in the seat for extra comfort.
Finally, a new ‘Ireland Channel’ will be launched, showcasing the best of Ireland in terms of television, tourism, business and Aer Lingus developments.
BoardConnect enables IFE on PEDs for medium-haul Lufthansa passengers
Passengers on Lufthansa’s medium-haul flights will soon be able to access in-flight entertainment (IFE) content on their personal electronic devices (PEDs) via the airline’s BoardConnect Wi-Fi service.
So far 20 of Lufthansa’s A320 aircraft, which fly to destinations including Tel Aviv and the Canary Islands, have been equipped with BoardConnect, meaning that once passengers have downloaded the free Lufthansa entertainment app onto their PEDs prior to boarding, they will be able to begin putting together their own personal IFE selection.
Content offered on the BoardConnect platform includes Hollywood films, TV series, music and digital media (such as audio books) in up to eight languages. Passengers also have access to the wide range of Lufthansa radio programmes, various daily newspapers and magazines as e-journals, as well as flight information.
In terms of retail opportunities, branded products from the Lufthansa WorldShop can be ordered conveniently from a passenger’s seat for delivery directly to their home.
Lufthansa Technik developed and installed the corresponding wireless access points for BoardConnect in the cabin.
WestJet adds new Calgary–Penticton route
Penticton has become WestJet’s 41st destination from Calgary International Airport , allowing travellers from the British Columbian city to connect via Calgary to Los Angeles and Las Vegas as well as Canadian cities including Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver.
The new daily non-stop service will also encourage more passengers to enjoy what Southern British Columbia has on offer. “Whether it's skiing and snowboarding through the champagne powder at Apex Mountain Resort in the winter or wakeboarding on Okanagan Lake in the summer, it truly is a community with year-round appeal and we're pleased to be bringing visitors to the region to enjoy all it has to offer," noted Paul Harvalias, WestJet’s VP of revenue management.
Calgary is WestJet’s busiest Canadian airport, with an average of 97 daily departures. It is also home to WestJet Encore which will operate these new services with its Bombardier Q400s.
WestJet and FAAB reach tentative agreement for flight attendants
Following negotiations between the WestJet Inflight leadership team and the Flight Attendant Association Board (FAAB), which began in May this year, the two parties have developed a tentative agreement to replace the flight attendants' memorandum of agreement, which will be available for WestJet flight attendants to review from 31 October.
Tyson Matheson, VP of the WestJet Inflight leadership team, announced, “We were looking to accomplish several ambitious goals with WestJet's first flight attendant agreement, including industry-leading total compensation with competitive work rules, standardised processes that flight attendants can trust and a framework to continue open and honest dialogue between WestJetters.”
“Our goal throughout the process was to offer a tremendously fair and balanced agreement for everyone involved,” added Anthony Pascale, chair of FAAB. “From the beginning, our focus has been on the interests of our people, and on building a sustainable process that allows us to move forward together. I firmly believe this focus has resulted in an industry-leading proposal.”
Voting will take place from 10 November. WestJet and FAAB have committed, in writing, to honour all facets of the tentative agreement, which covers a five-year term, and changes may only be made through negotiations with flight attendants. There is also a clear and enforceable dispute resolution process in place.
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