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With the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicting that Europe’s aviation market will grow at 2.3% per year over the next two decades, adding an additional 550 million passengers by 2036, a growing concern is that airport infrastructure isn’t up to scratch, according to one of the association’s leading figures.

“Passengers will double by 2036, but airport infrastructure isn’t being addressed as it should and European airspace is inefficient,” said Rafael Schvartzman, regional vice-president, IATA on the second day of Routes Europe in Bilbao, Spain, during a panel discussion on the state of Europe’s aviation industry.

Schvartzman also noted that the passenger compensation system in Europe is not fit for purpose, saying “We need a more fair and balanced system.”

On a more positive note Mark Clarkson, EVP product development, OAG, revealed that with the increase in passenger traffic and low-fare travel, “Airlines are increasingly looking at secondary markets and developing forgotten markets.”

According to data from OAG, European capacity grew by 3% in 2017, compared with the previous 12 months. Of this, low-fare seats accounted for 32%, up from 30.4% in 2016, emphasising the rise in the market of low-fare carriers such as easyJet, Ryanair and Eurowings.

 

BA’s battle against LCCs

Meanwhile, an interview with British Airways’ (BA) chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz, saw a packed-out conference room tune in to hear what he had to say about the airline’s plans over the next few years and how it aims to battle the rise of low-cost carriers (LCCs).

Referencing the airline’s centenary celebrations next year, Cruz stated that its focus is on showing the world that BA is “still the leader in its field, when it comes to the quality of the service and product it offers.”

On the subject of long-haul, low-fare flights, Cruz stated that when he first joined the airline in 2016, the challenge particularly with flights from Gatwick was how BA could continue being competitive while delivering a quality service.

“The trick has been our newly refurbished 777s,” he revealed, explaining that the aircraft’s cabin reconfiguration “has enabled us to compete satisfactorily with low-cost, long-haul services.”

The airline has also launched its new long-haul ‘basic’ fare together with its transatlantic joint business partner airlines: American Airlines, Finnair and Iberia on flights from London to Austin, Boston, Delhi, Denver, Dubai, Hong Kong, Lagos, Oakland, Philadelphia, Punta Cana and Singapore.

 

Aviation disruptors

A session on aviation disruptors covered the inevitable subject of Brexit, as well as political instability and security concerns such as terrorism.

bmi Regional’s CCO, Jochen Schnadt, highlighted that the primary issue with Brexit is the level of uncertainty it creates. “If you ask 100 people what it means you get 101 answers,” he said, before adding that Brexit is a massive disrupter to the industry.

Leon Verhallen, head of aviation marketing at Brussels Airport, underlined the need for government support to maintain confidence in the aviation market in the light of recent attacks. “After the Brussels attacks some US travellers weren’t allowed to travel to Belgium,” he said, divulging that as a result of this disruption Boeing had to meet with its Belgian clients in the Netherlands. – by Chloe Greenbank, Editor, Regional Gateway

Inset image: British Airways Chairman and CEO, Alex Cruz (right) with John Strickland, director, JLS Consulting.

Silver Airways has successfully closed the acquisition of Seaborne’s business and assets, creating an independent airline to serve the Caribbean, Bahamas and Florida areas.

The combined airline will continue operating Silver’s route network in the Bahamas, Florida and beyond under the Silver Airways banner and Seaborne’s route network throughout Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean under the Seaborne name.

Silver Airways CEO Steve Rossum, who will serve as CEO of the combined airline, said this transaction “will benefit our guests, team members, and the communities we serve, as well as both airlines’ valued codeshare and interline partnerships with most major US carriers.”

Seaborne CEO Bun Munson said that despite the “devastating impact” of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, employees have successfully restructured the company, adding, “We are well positioned to grow with an airline that shares our common goals of success, and are very pleased that San Juan and the US Virgin Islands will continue to be significant for Silver and Seaborne.”

The total fleet now consists of 31 aircraft, including Saab 340 and de Havilland Twin Otter seaplane aircraft. Silver is the North American launch customer for the eco-friendly ATR-600 aircraft in the US. The airline also took delivery of the first 46-seat ATR-42 earlier this month, and has a firm order for 19 additional ATR-600s and up to 30 additional purchase rights.

Initially, Seaborne will continue to operate under its own certificate as a standalone operating subsidiary of Silver. The merger of the two airlines’ operating functions, joint branding and streamlining the guest experience is expected to take place during the next year.

Ryanair has exercised options for 25 Boeing 737 MAX 8s in a move valued at over US$3 billion at list price, bringing its total firm orders for the aircraft type to 135.

The first of its MAX 8 aircraft will be delivered in the first half of next year and increases the low-fare giant’s total orders to more than 650 B737s since first partnering with the aircraft manufacturer in 1994. Ryanair says it will allow it to grow its traffic to 200 million customers per year by 2024.

The carrier currently operates an all-Boeing fleet with an average age of six and a half years and says the new aircraft will reduce fuel consumption by up to 16%, reduce noise emissions by 40%, and offer 4% more seats per flight (197 compared to 189 on the B737-800NG). This will enable it to lower fares even further, it added.

Neil Sorahan, chief financial officer, said the airline still has a further 75 options for B737s remaining.

Ihssane Mounir, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ senior vice-president, global sales and marketing, added that the B737 MAX 8 “is undoubtedly the best possible airplane for the low-cost market and today’s increased order with Europe’s leading low-cost airline is testament to that.”

The latest order was previously listed as unidentified on Boeing’s orders and deliveries website. Ryanair launched the CFM International LEAP-1B-engined MAX 8 in late 2014 with an order for 100 aircraft, followed by an additional order for 10 more at last year’s Paris Air Show.

The Dublin-based airline is already the world’s largest B737-800 customer. Last month it took delivery of its 500th B737-800NG.

 

LARA COUNTDOWN provides a convenient summary of our top 5 recent headlines for our followers. Check out this week’s video which features news from Lion Airlines, Wizz Air and Geven, a new product launch from Global Eagle, SAS Airlines expansion plans and CFM engine inspections following the Southwest incident.