Flight News & Airline Gossip

 Updated – 22nd January 2020

Flight News & Airline Gossip from around the World, just small bits of information that we feel you might be interested in.


Turkish Airlines to launch new flight from Birmingham

Turkish Airlines will launch direct flights from Birmingham to Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast on June 3.

The service will operate twice weekly, with fares from £216.

Omer Faruk Alier,  Turkish Airlines’ Director in Birmingham, said: “This new route is being introduced in direct response to customer demand for the destination, as more people from across Birmingham and the surrounding area travelled to Turkey’s stunning riviera last year.”

Turkish Airlines also flies to London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Edinburgh and Manchester.


Heathrow baggage handlers plan February strikes

The Unite union is calling for two four-day strikes by its baggage handler members at Heathrow next month in a row over pay.

The dispute is a result of the company refusing to make a pay offer to employees of Global Baggage Solutions Ltd for 2019 and offering an increase of 32p an hour for 2020.

The pay offer was unanimously rejected by Unite members working but the company refused to negotiate.

Unite is seeking an increase in pay to ensure all workers receive the London Living Wage of £10.75 an hour and senior handlers receive a higher payment.

The four-day strikes are planned for Sunday February 2-Wednesday February 4 and Sunday February 22-Wednesday February 25.

Unite says passengers at Heathrow whose baggage is lost could ‘see their possessions disappear into the void’, as specialist baggage handlers are responsible for finding and repatriating lost baggage with distraught passengers.

Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “Heathrow passengers need to be aware that if their baggage is mislaid, it could disappear forever while our members are on strike.

“Our members will no longer accept low pay and this dispute is completely a result of the refusal by Global Baggage Solutions to negotiate.

“Our members are taking strike action as a last resort as life is becoming a daily struggle to survive on poverty pay rates.

“There is still time for strike action to be avoided if Global Baggage Solutions is prepared to make a realistic pay offer and return to the negotiating table.”


Ryanair loses bid to delay COO’s move to easyJet

Ryanair is to appeal a High Court decision that a 12-month non-compete clause against its chief operations officer is unenforceable.

The airline had used the clause to prevent Peter Bellew from joining easyJet until 2021.

Ryanair argued Bellew possessed information of immense competitive value and said the non-compete clause meant he was not free to join easyJet until January 2021.

Bellew’s lawyers denied he was subject to the clause, saying it was attached to a share option scheme they said was effectively valueless.

They also argued that the restriction against working for ‘any airline that competes with Ryanair in any market’, was overly broad.

Judge Senan Allen said the wording of the non-compete clause was deemed in the ruling to be too broad.


United Airlines settles lawsuit over revenge porn

United Airlines has agreed to settle a revenge porn lawsuit for $321,000 brought by a flight attendant.

The suit, which was first filed in August 2018, was backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and alleged a pilot posted explicit photos of the flight attendant online without her consent.

The two employees were in a relationship but ‘Jane Doe’ broke it off after discovering compromising images online.

It alleged Captain Mark Uhlenbrock, now retired, refused to remove the images and continued to post them on multiple websites, where they were seen by at least two of Jane Doe’s work colleagues.

It claims Uhlenbrock posted photos of her in work uniform and shared details online about her work at United.

Uhlenbrock was eventually arrested by the FBI and sentenced to three years for stalking.

However United allowed him to retire on full benefits shortly after his conviction.

The flight attendant had raised the issue with United’s management but no action was taken.

Uhlenbrock faced no disciplinary action even after a second flight attendant made a complaint against him several years later, the lawsuit stated.

“Employers must not ignore harassment complaints simply because the harasser holds a position of authority,” said EEOC supervisory trial attorney Eduardo Juarez.

As part of the settlement United agreed to amend its sexual harassment policy to include cyberstalking and harassment made through the internet or social media when on or off duty.


BA announces new Spanish route from London City

British Airways is launching flights to San Sebastian from London City Airport in summer 2020.

When the twice-weekly service starts in July, it will be the fifth Spanish route operated by BA from the Docklands airport.

Rachel Riley, head of commercial for BA at London City said: “The launch of this new route from London City will prove very popular with our leisure customers looking for new places to explore. It will be the first time San Sebastian is served from London City and we are excited to offer our customers another easy getaway leaving from the heart of London.”

British Airways is making further changes to its schedule from London City next summer with additional flights to Berlin, Florence, Glasgow, Manchester and Nice.

There will be some frequency reductions to Geneva, Ibiza and Rotterdam.

The airline is also launching a new summer-only service from Glasgow to Palma and adding an extra weekly flight from Stansted to Florence.

Aegean Airlines reinstates Birmingham flight

Aegean Airlines will reinstate flights from Birmingham to Athens next year, when it will be offering a total of 19.2 million seats to 155 destinations, including four cities in the UK.

Greece’s largest carrier will offer two flights a week from Birmingham and it will offer an additional weekly flight from Edinburgh, although it has not yet confirmed the launch dates for the additional services.

Aegean also flies from London and Manchester.

UK passengers can connect in Athens to flights to many of the Greek islands, including Corfu, Kos, Crete, Santorini and Mykonos.

CEO Dimitris Gerogiannis said: “2020 constitutes a new beginning for Aegean, as we are further investing in our network and overall activity from eight bases in Greece and Cyprus.

“With 11 new routes, 1.5 million additional seats and 19.2 million seats in total, and of course with the addition of the first 6 A320neo family aircraft to our fleet, we create a new growth potential for our company.”


ABTA welcomes plans to reform airline insolvency process

ABTA has welcomed a commitment in the Queen’s speech to reform the airline insolvency process following recent failures, including Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch.

Boris Johnson’s new government said the law would be changed to protect passengers in the event of an airline going bust.

The government envisages introducing a mechanism to make it easier for the CAA to grant insolvent airlines a temporary operating licence so they can repatriate passengers.

When both Monarch and Thomas Cook collapsed, the government stepped in to bring passengers home, spending tens of millions on requisitioning aircraft from other airlines after Monarch and Thomas Cook aircraft were impounded.

The government also plans to increase the CAA’s oversight of airlines in financial difficulty to reduce the likely impact of future failures, and also put the CAA in charge of repatriating both ATOL and non-ATOL protected passnegers.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said the government’s decision to repatriate passengers who had booked flight only deals with no financial protection following the collapse of both Monarch and Thomas Cook had undermined the package holiday sector ‘by incentivising consumers towards unprotected arrangements’.

He added: “ABTA has long argued for clarity regarding airline insolvency arrangements and welcomes the commitment in The Queen’s Speech to bring forward legislation.

“This is a complex issue, as was recognised by Peter Bucks in the Airline Insolvency Review recommendations, and should include a full consultation to provide a solution as confusion regarding the protection provisions is damaging to customers and businesses alike.”


Ryanair to add new route from Southend

Ryanair will launch summer-only flights from Southend to Girona next April.

Flights will operate twice weekly until October. They are bookable now.

Girona is about 40 minutes’ from Barcelona.

Wizz Air also launched flights this autumn from Southend, to Bucharest in Romania and Vilnius in Lithuania.


Cash-strapped Hong Kong Airlines has seven planes impounded

Hong Kong Airlines had seven of its plane impounded at Hong Kong by the Airport Authority due to outstanding payments.

The planes were seized in accordance to a Airport Authority Ordinance and could be sold off if debts are not paid within 60 days.

Neither the airline nor the airport authority disclosed the nature of the unpaid bills but the South China Morning Post reports HK Airlines could owe up to HK$17.2 million in unpaid airport fees.

The airline came close to having its airline permit revoked last week over its perilous financial situation but managed to convince the Air Transport Licensing Authority it had new funds to stay afloat.

HK Airlines is backed by Chinese conglomerate HNA Group which itself has a major multi-billion dollar debt pile it has been struggling to service.

The airline’s financial woes were evident before the Hong Kong protests began and since then they have got progressively worse.

It has cut several routes and from early next year will no longer operate long haul flights.



TUI Board reappoints Fritz Joussen for another five years

The TUI AG Supervisory Board has reappointed Fritz Joussen as CEO for a further five years.

His current contract has been extended to September 30 2025.

Joussen joined the TUI Executive Board in October 2012 and has been CEO of TUI Group since February 2013.

He led the merger and integration with TUI Travel in the UK.

TUI said the group is now developing new digital businesses and targeting new markets in Southeast Asia and South America with its digital strategy.

It said the transition to a digital company will be accelerated over the next few years.

“Today’s TUI is not the TUI of five years ago,” said a statement.

Supervisory Board chairman, Dr Dieter Zetsche, added: “The transformation into a digital and platform organisation is associated with enormous opportunities and will strengthen our long-term position. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with Fritz Joussen as our CEO for another five years.”


EasyJet adds third Turkish route from Liverpool


EasyJet has added a new route from Liverpool to Antalya.

Flights will operate weekly on Thursdays throughout the summer.

EasyJet already flies from Liverpool to Dalaman and Bodrum.

Flights will take off from 2 April 2020.

Seats are now on sale with fares from £60.16 return.


Ryanair launches new route from Liverpool

Ryanair has launched a new route from Liverpool to Zadar in Croatia.

The twice weekly starts in May 2020.

Ryanair has launched a seat sale with fares available from just £21.99, for travel from May to June 2020, which must be booked by midnight Friday December 13.


EasyJet to relaunch flights to Tunisia

EasyJet will relaunch flights to Tunisia next summer for the first time since the terror attack in Sousse in 2015.

The airline will offer two flights a week from Gatwick to the Tunisian beach destination of Enfidha.

Altogether, easyJet will offer 12 new routes from the UK next summer, including services to Tirana, the capital of Albania, for the first time ever.

The airline has put 370,000 summer seats on sale across its today.

Flights to Tirana will operate three times a week from Gatwick from May 1, giving access to the Adriatic coast 40-minutes’drive away.

UK country manager Ali Gayward said: “We’re pleased to be continuing to deliver an unrivalled network which, with today’s announcement, sees two new destinations for passengers from the UK and 25 new routes placed on sale across our network.

“Our new routes are making it easier and more affordable than ever for our customers to travel to a range of summer destinations.

“We expect our new destinations to be especially popular amongst customers – offering something different from typical bucket and spade holidays. We are continuing to deliver a network of destinations which provide our customers with flexibility and choice, underlining our commitment to providing the destinations our customers want.”


Passenger stung by scorpion during flight


A passenger was taken to hospital after being stung several times by a scorpion on a United Airlines flight.

After experiencing a ‘stinging sensation’ the woman went to the bathroom where the scorpion fell out of her trouser leg and ‘scurried across the floor’.

Flight attendants managed to capture the creature.

The airline confirmed the incident and the passenger was transported to hospital for a check-up on arrival in Atlanta.

Crew members ‘responded immediately’ United said.

“We have been in contact with our customer to ensure her well-being.”

It is not known how the scorpion got onto the plane, which departed from San Francisco, or what species it is.


Air Malta launches new package holiday arm

Air Malta has launched a new package holiday business based on flights from the UK, Italy, Germany and France.

The airline said more markets will be added soon.

Air Malta claims to be able to offer packages for less money than booking flights, hotels and transfers separately on airmaltaholidays.com.

Chairman Dr Charles Mangion said: “As the ‘Airline of the Maltese Islands’ we are determined to facilitate inbound travel. Every year we fly over two million customers, the majority being tourist visitors. It was a natural step for us to start offering package holidays.”

Chief commercial officer Paul Sies said Air Malta Holidays was the airline’s ‘first step at entering the package holiday market after an absence of several years’.

“Over the last few years, technological innovation has created opportunities for us to offer package holidays. Customer experience is enhanced, allowing our passengers to ‘build’ their own travel package,” added Air Malta chief executive Clifford Chetcuti.

Sies said Air Malta also has ambitions to launch dedicated websites for booking events and conferences.

“These new online systems will be targeting event and conference organisers in Malta that wish to attract foreign tourists to their events and conferences,” he added. “This will continue facilitating travel to the Maltese islands at value for money.”


Wizz Air launches new Spanish route

Wizz Air UK has begun a new, twice-weekly service from Luton to the Spanish city of Castellon.

Flights began today, with one-way fares starting at £8.99.

The historical city is capital of the Castellon region, which dates backs to medieval times.

Wizz Air UK managing director Owain Jones said: “Castellon is a destination waiting to be discovered.”


Norwegian granted Heathrow slots

In a surprise decision, Norwegian Air last week was granted take-off and landing slots at Heathrow, giving it a foothold to launch low-fare long-haul services in competition with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, among others.

The carrier said it had secured six slots, adding: “We have a strong track record of disrupting incumbent carriers and alliances by offering low fares and award-winning service on specific routes and destinations previously operated as monopolies”.

The award was confirmed by the slots authority Airport Coordination Ltd in its report for next summer. Norwegian’s six slots – out of 14 it applied for – are valid from 29 March – 24 October 2020.

Most of Norwegian’s ex-UK growth has been concentrated at Gatwick, from where it flies to 30 destinations, 11 in North America and two in South America, through its Norwegian UK subsidiary, carrying more than 4.5m passengers a year.

The number of slots granted is tiny in operational terms and the airline, which is in the middle of a route reorganisation to repair its financial position, has not said how it might use them.

Norwegian has already said it is dropping its long-distance flights from Stockholm and Copenhagen to the US and Thailand after this winter season, with the last services taking off on 29 March 2020.


CAA fails to meet deadline for Thomas Cook refunds

The Civil Aviation Authority has admitted it has not been able to process all of the claims from Thomas Cook customers by the deadline it originally set.

It says despite ‘working tirelessly’ to process payments, only two thirds of claims it received on the first day will be paid by this weekend, within the target 60-day deadline.

The rest of the Thomas Cook customers have been contacted to obtain additional information ahead of payment.

“This has been a challenging operation, due to the potential threat of fraudulent claims and the poor quality and complexity of the data we received from multiple booking systems used across the Thomas Cook Group,” it said in an update on Thursday.

“While we would like to process refunds as soon as possible, we are unable to make some payments without verifying all aspects of a submitted claim, and therefore the 60-day claims period is paused while we await the required information.

“This process is in place to make sure the right payments are being made to the right people. We do not expect the requests for further details to cause significant delays to payment once we have received the requested data.

“We also encourage consumers that applied for refunds on 7 October 2019 to check their junk and spam email folders if they have not received contact from us by this weekend.”

After reviewing Thomas Cook booking data, the CAA expects the refunds programme will cover around 300,000 cancelled holiday bookings in total.

It has already received around 215,000 valid claims, with the remaining 85,000 rejected as either duplicate claims or invalid claims.

In addition it has already fully refunded 45,000 customers who paid for Thomas Cook holidays solely by direct debit in October.

This means around 40,000 bookings have not yet been claimed for.

Although the claims system will be open until September 2020, the CAA urged these customers to put in a claim as soon as possible.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty thanked consumers for their ongoing patience.

“I appreciate that this is a concerning time for Thomas Cook customers who are waiting for their refunds, particularly at this time of the year,” he said.

“Where we have had to request further information, we encourage those consumers to respond at the earliest opportunity so that we can finalise these payments. I would like to reassure consumers that all valid ATOL protected payments will be refunded.”

But some of those affected have taken to social media to complain of problems getting through to the CAA by telephone and not getting replies to emails.


Jet2 to launch flights, city breaks and holidays to Lisbon

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays will launch flights to Lisbon next April.

Flights, city breaks and holidays are now on sale from Manchester and Birmingham Airports.

Two weekly flights will operate from both bases  – Thursday and Sunday services from Manchester Airport and Monday and Friday services from Birmingham Airport.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “We are delighted to be launching flights, holidays and city breaks to Portugal’s stunning capital of Lisbon for the first time from Manchester and Birmingham Airports. Offering the best of both worlds, holidaymakers can explore the charismatic and vibrant city, or head to one of many coastal resorts.

“With two weekly flights giving customers all the flexibility to suit their budgets and needs, combined with our VIP customer service, we’re sure that Lisbon and its surrounding coastal resorts will prove extremely popular with holidaymakers.”


South African Airways gets lifeline


South African Airways has been given a lifeline with a rescue plan announced today.

The troubled airline has been placed into a local form of bankruptcy protection while money is injected from the country’s government and from existing lenders.

The so-called ‘business rescue’ will see the airline receive R4 billion (around £207 million) in total – half from the government and half from lenders.

In a statement, the airline said: “SAA understands that this decision presents many challenges and uncertainties for its staff. The company will engage in targeted communication and support for all employee groups at this difficult time.

“SAA will endeavour to operate a new provisional timetable and will publish details shortly. The company greatly appreciates the continued support of both its customers and partners in the travel industry around the world.”


Thomas Cook India pays £1.5 million for brand

Thomas Cook (India) has bought the rights to continue using the brand name from the administrators of the failed UK business for £1.5 million.

The deal means it can continue to sell holidays using the Thomas Cook brand in India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.

Chinese firm Fosun, one of Thomas Cook’s biggest shareholders, owns the rights to the name in the rest of the world.

Prior to the collapse of Thomas Cook, TCI had a licensing agreement to use the name only until 2024. It said it was considering ditching the brand due to the negative publicity it attracted following the demise of the European businesses, however, chairman and MD Madhavan Menon said today: “I am delighted that we have been able to sign an agreement to acquire the rights to the iconic Thomas Cook brand across India, Mauritius & Sri Lanka.

“The brand is one of the most respected names in the travel services space and one that we at Thomas Cook India have operated uninterrupted for 138 years since 1881.”

TCI was bought by Fairfax Financial Holdings of Canada in 2012 and its licensing agreement gave it first refusal to continue using the Thomas Cook brand if the UK business went bust before 2024.

Although there was some confusion with customers over whether or not the India business was in financial trouble as well, it has strong brand equity in South Asia, and is debt free.


TUI adds flights to Sharm el Sheikh from Doncaster Sheffield

TUI has added flights to Sharm el Sheikh from Doncaster Sheffield Airport along with new charters to Cape Verde, Fuerteventura, Hurghada, and Cancun.

Flights to Sharm El Sheikh will operate every Sunday May 3, increasing to two flights a week during the winter, starting on November 1. TUI’s programme features just four hotels in Sharm at the moment, but the operator said more will be added.

New year-round flights to Fuerteventura from Doncaster Sheffield will launch on May 6 and there will also be weekly flights to Cape Verde and to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada throughout next winter.

Flights from Doncaster to Cancun will launch on March 31 for the summer season.

TUI UK&I’s director of aviation planning Karen Switzer said: “Earlier this month TUI announced its winter 2020 and summer 2021 holiday programme which has since expanded with more destinations and added flights.

“We are delighted that the additional flights provide holidaymakers departing from our regional airports with even more choice when deciding where to go away.

“With additional flying capacity and more than 1,000 hotels already on sale for summer 2021 it gives those planning ahead the opportunity to choose the most suitable airport, destination and hotel.

“The customer is at the heart of everything we do and this additional growth to some of our customer’s favourite holiday hotspots from Doncaster Sheffield demonstrates our continued commitment for people to discover their smile with us.”

Robert Hough, chairman Peel Airports, said: “TUI’s latest announcement will bring our total growth to over a quarter of a million additional passenger seats now on sale and the expanded winter 2020 programme is a great indication of the confidence that TUI has in our established reputation for providing an easy, friendly and relaxed service offering more choice for our customers.”


Loud bang was sonic boom of RAF jets scrambling to 767

A loud bang experienced by people in London and the Home Counties on Sunday morning was caused by the sonic boom of two RAF jets scrambling to a Boeing 767 that had dropped out of contact.

The aircraft had recently been decommissioned by El Al and was being flown from Tel Aviv to the US when its radio malfunctioned across Germany.

Pilot Steven Giordano told the BBC of the moment he spotted the typhoons: “I looked left and about had a heart attack when I saw one – so close – strobes on and with blueish ‘glow strips’ along the side of his fuselage.

“We flashed our landing lights to acknowledge and established radio contact on ‘guard’… with the fighters. We were already talking to London control at that point. They remained with us for about five minutes.”

The sonic boom happened at around 4.20am.

The Royal Air Force jets were scrambled from Coningsby in Lincolnshire after the 767 lost communication in UK airspace, the Ministry of Defence said.

In June two RAF aircraft were scrambled to assist a Jet2 flight into Stansted after a passenger became disruptive, the passenger was later charged.


Slide falls from plane, lands in garden, authorities investigate


Aviation authorities in the US are investigating how an inflatable evacuation slide fell from a Delta Air Lines’ plane as it approached Boston Airport and landed in a garden.

The pilot noted a ‘loud sound’ as the plane started its descent into Boston.

However, there were no other issues with the plane, which landed safely.

Homeowner Wenhan Huang was in his garden in Massechusetts when the chute fell, and he watched it land on his lawn.

Delta said: “Our maintenance team is inspecting the aircraft; at this time we do not have any additional information. The flight landed without incident and taxied to the gate under its own power.”

A full investigation is underway by the Federal Aviation Administration.



Florida flight forced to return after passenger faked illness for better seat

A flight was forced to return to Pensacola in Florida after a passenger faked a medical condition to get a better seat.

When the Miami flight landed, the woman refused to get off, said Mike Wood, a spokesman with the Pensacola Police Department.

Officers were called and all other passengers were evacuated from the aircraft.

The woman was eventually persuaded to leave and was then detained for a psychiatric evaluation.

“When we got on the ground, we figured out she was faking a medical condition in order to get a better seat,” Wood said.

The flight took off again about two hours later.


Loganair confirms job losses are likely as it closes its Norwich base

Loganair has said there are likely to be job losses as a result of its decision to close its Norwich base due to lack of demand for its flights to Manchester.

It has begun a formal consultation with the 44 pilots, cabin crew and engineers based at the East Anglia airport.

The Scottish airline will axe the Manchester service in the new year but it will continue to operate flights from Norwich to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Jersey using aircraft and crews from its Scottish bases from February.

Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said the decision was ‘beyond disappointing’.

He said ‘some redundancies are likely’, but he said the airline was hoping to minimise these by offering staff jobs at other bases.

The airline said the main reason for the closure of the base was a lack of interest in its route been Norwich and Manchester.

Loganair is the largest airline at Norwich Airport, and the UK’s fifth largest by number of flights.

Hinkles said: “It is beyond disappointing that we have arrived at this decision, but the financial implications left us with little choice.”


Baby delivered on airport jetway

A newborn baby girl has been given the middle name ‘Sky’ after being born on the jetway at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in the US.

Nereida Araujo went into labour just before the American Airlines flight landed at the airport, in North Carolina, and gave birth on the airbridge.

“Everybody was cheering for me and clapping. I thought I was going to make it to hospital, but it just happened so quick, she came so fast,” she said.

The family had only intended to spend a short time at Charlotte Airport in transit. They were travelling  from  Pennsylvania from Florida to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The girl has been called Lizyana Sky Taylor.


Norwegian to fly from Heathrow next year

Budget carrier Norwegian Air has been granted six slots at Heathrow for next summer.

It’s believed the airline will use the slots on transatlantic routes, with Orlando tipped to be one of the destinations, although Norwegian has not yet commented on where the Heathrow services could fly to.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that the airline has been granted six slots, three take off and three landing, at London Heathrow.

“We have a strong track record of disrupting incumbent carriers and alliances by offering low fares and award-winning service on specific routes and destinations that were previously operated as monopolies.

“Our strategy benefits both consumers and businesses boosting local economies and employment.

“We continuously adjust our network in response to demand and we will announce any further changes as and when it is appropriate to do so.”

Last week, Norwegian announced it was ending some long-haul routes from Scandinavia to the US and Thailand. The announcement followed news it had signed an interline partnership with US budget carrier JetBlue for next summer.

In October, the airline revealed revenue rose for the seventh month in a row and was up 6% year-on-year.

Its new CEO, Jacob Schram, is due to start on January 1.


Lufthansa faces multi-million dollar fine for almost 900 unauthorised flights

Lufthansa is facing a $6.4 million fine from the US Federal Aviation Administration for operating hundreds of unauthorised flights to the States.

The FAA alleges Lufthansa operated nearly 900 flights between Frankfurt and San Diego and between Frankfurt and Philadelphia without the necessary permits.

It claims Lufthansa operated 600 flights between Frankfurt and San Diego and 292 flights to Philadelphia without authorisation.

The US airports were not listed in Lufthansa’s FAA-issued Operations Specifications, it said.

“Lufthansa is fully cooperating with the FAA on this matter and will be addressing the regulatory issues involved with the Agency. Lufthansa is globally committed to compliance with all laws and regulations,” the airline said.

Safety wasn’t compromised, Lufthansa said, although the FAA said Lufthansa was aware it was operating the flights without full authorisation.

In a statement, the FAA said: “Between March 22, 2018 and May 27, 2019, Lufthansa operated approximately 600 flights with Airbus 340 aircraft from Frankfurt International Airport to San Diego, and from San Diego to Frankfurt.

“Between Oct. 28, 2018 and April 10, 2019, Lufthansa operated approximately 292 flights with Airbus 330-300 and Boeing 747-400 aircraft from Frankfurt to Philadelphia, and from Philadelphia to Frankfurt.”

Lufthansa has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s penalty letter to respond. Airlines often negotiate lower fines with the agency.


Gatwick long-haul bonanza

New direct routes to Brazil and Argentina have contributed to a 2.3% year-on-year uplift, equal to more than 107,000 passengers, for long-haul flying at Gatwick, the airport said last week.

Announcing its interim results for the six months to 30 September, the airport said one in five of its passengers was now flying long-haul thanks partly to Norwegian’s new service to Rio de Janeiro and an increase in flights to Buenos Aires.

Combined, the routes led to 101,100 more passengers to South America from Gatwick than the previous year and provided more opportunity for goods to be shipped, leading to 39% year-on-year cargo growth between Gatwick and South America.

Overall, in the six months ended 30 September, 26.6m passengers travelled through Gatwick, an increase of 0.2% 56,803. Revenue was up 5.6% to £541.3m, resulting in EBITDA up 7.9% to £350.6m and a profit after tax of £137m.

The airport now offers more than 60 long-haul routes. As well as strong growth to South America, Gatwick has welcomed new direct routes to Miami, San Francisco, Kuwait City and Mexico this year. The most recent route – to Shanghai with Air China – launched early last month.


Flybe resurrects Glasgow – Southend

Glasgow’s air connection with Southend which has been dropped by Loganair (BTN 18 November) is being resurrected by Flybe as part of its summer schedule, which runs from 29 March – 24 October next year.

The first phase of the Flybe programme shows the airline, which is due to be rebranded as Virgin Connect in 2020, operating six new domestic routes from Southend, including Glasgow, as well as a new Manchester – Stuttgart service.

The new routes are between Southend and Belfast City, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Isle of Man and Jersey as well as Glasgow, in addition to four existing services to Caen, Groningen, Newquay and Rennes.

The increased Southend network will be operated by three 78-seat Q400 turboprops based in Belfast City, Edinburgh and Glasgow alongside two 70-seat ATR aircraft based at Southend Airport, which is owned by the Stobart Group.

Connect Airways’ CEO Mark Anderson said: “By increasing our presence at London Southend, our customers will also, for the first-time next summer, benefit from Flybe’s ability to create a truly customer-centric regional network.

“This schedule strengthens Flybe’s commitment to providing unparalleled connectivity from regional airports to destinations across the UK, Europe and beyond.”


Jet2 adds Mykonos for 2020

Jet2.com and Jet2holidays will add flights and packages to the Greek island of Mykonos from both London Stansted and Manchester airports next summer.

The decision means that the operator will offer 13 destinations in Greece in 2020, five of them new for next year.

It will operate up to two flight a week to Mykonos from Manchester and Stansted from May 24 to November 1.

At the same time, CEO Steve Heapy has announced bold plans to increase Jetsholidays’ ATOL to allow it to carry up to 700,000 more passengers over the next year. It is currently licensed to carry 3.9 million but wants to increase this to up to 4.6 million, said Heapy at the operator’s annual conference this week.


Jet2 parent sees shares jump on the back of strong bookings

Shares in Jet2’s parent jumped today after it said it would ‘significantly’ beat market expectations for profit based on strengthening bookings and encouraging consumer demand.

Dart Group’s shares were 5.8% higher in morning trade as the group reported its half-year financial results.

Pre-tax profit rose 2% higher to £339.7 million for the six months to September 30 while revenue increased by 16% to £2.62 billion.

But looking further ahead, the group warned of potential ‘headwinds’, including whether the UK gets a ‘pragmatic and balanced’ Brexit agreement and other cost pressures, such as fuel, foreign exchange, carbon and other operating charges.

“These, together with the necessary continued investment in our own products and operations, including that required to attract and retain colleagues, are headwinds that our leisure travel business faces,” it said.

Executive chairman Philip Meeson added: “The modest increase in profitability reflected a later customer booking pattern in our leisure travel business, as customer demand strengthened throughout the course of the summer season.

“As is typical for the business, losses are still to be expected in the second half, as we continue to invest in additional aircraft and their associated infrastructure, together with the increasing cost of retaining and attracting colleagues in readiness for further flying programme expansion at several of our UK operating bases in the summer 2020 season.”

Jet2’s flight-only product carried 4.75 million passengers, up 8% on the previous year.

Its tour operator, Jet2holidays, took 2.71 million customers on package holidays, a rise of 17%.

Package holidays now represent 53% of flown customers, compared to 51% last year.

Average flight-only ticket yield per passenger sector at £88.87, 1% higher than the prior year.

Dart Group said this reflected the ‘strong late booking trend and associated pricing, offset by increased levels of promotional pricing required to remain front of customers’ minds earlier in the summer season’.

The average price of a Jet2holidays package holiday grew by 2% to £702.

As a result, overall leisure travel revenue grew by 17% to £2,528.8 million.

Though revenue growth was strong, operating profit margin reduced to 14% due to the cost of fuel, the weakness of sterling against the Euro and US dollar, and real wage increases, which were not fully passed on to the customer.

This meant operating profit increased 3% to £361.5 million.


Qantas rejects proposals from Airbus and Boeing for ultra long-haul aircraft

Qantas is playing hardball with plane makers Airbus and Boeing over their proposals for ultra-long haul ‘Project Sunrise’ planes.

The two manufacturers have earmarked the Boeing 777-8X and Airbus A350-100ULR as suitable aircraft to fly from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London but Qantas wants to see more affordable prices.

The current proposals don’t make it financially feasible, Qantas says, despite both submitting their ‘best and final offers’.

“We’ve asked them to go back and re-look at that, to sharpen their pencils, because there still was a gap there,” Qantas International chief executive Tino La Spina said at an investor presentation.

“We’re eagerly awaiting to see what we get back from that.”

Qantas boss Alan Joyce has said on several occasions that the project will be ditched if the business case doesn’t stack up.

That involves not only the cost of new aircraft but also agreeing a new pay deal and ‘productivity improvements’ with long haul pilots.

Joyce said there is ‘huge demand’ for the nonstop routes and the airline believes it can charge a premium of about 30% for the convenience of a nonstop flight.


BA’s first 787-10 Dreamliner to join fleet in New Year

British Airways will take delivery of its first brand new 787-10 Dreamliner in January 2020, with Atlanta earmarked as its first route, a month later.

BA has ordered 12 787-10 Dreamliners, with six arriving in 2020.

The 787-10 aircraft has a carbon fibre fuselage, which allows cabin pressure to be maintained at a lower level, offering a better level of humidity, reducing the drying effect of the cabin air, so customers arrive feeling more refreshed.

The aircraft is also more fuel efficient and quieter than its predecessors.

The four-class aircraft will feature an eight-seat First cabin, fitted with the airline’s newest First seat, which is currently also available on BA’s 787-9 Dreamliner.

The aircraft comes fitted with British Airways’ recently unveiled business class seat Club Suite, in a 48-seat forward-facing Club World cabin. The World Traveller Plus cabin will have 35 seats and the World Traveller cabin will have165.

BA chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said: “The delivery of our first 787-10 aircraft marks another significant milestone in our £6.5bn customer investment plan.

“The aircraft delivers a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the aircraft it replaces, another step towards our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.  It will also offer greater comfort for our customers, as it features our latest generation seats in all cabins.”

Initially created specifically for the Boeing 787-9, the airline’s latest generation First suites have been designed based on our customers’ feedback.

The suite includes a fixed 23-inch high definition in-flight entertainment screen that can be controlled with a handset, integrated into the seat from which customers can change channels or watch the moving map.

The aircraft’s Club Suite offers direct-aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy and flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, with 40% more storage, vanity unit and mirror, wi-fi and 18.5-inch in-flight entertainment screens.


Virgin Atlantic expands summer programme from Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic has announced a new flying programme for summer 2020 including a new second daily service to Delhi, a new weekly flight to San Francisco and the next routes to debut its new A350 aircraft.

A second daily service to Delhi will start on March 29 2020 and will go on sale on Saturday November 23.

It will depart Heathrow in the morning, complementing the airline’s current evening departure. Together with Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic will offer seamless connections between Delhi and New York JFK, Boston, Detroit and Atlanta via Heathrow.

The airline will also be re-timing its Mumbai flight to an evening departure from Heathrow, offering a more convenient choice for business customers.

Virgin Atlantic is also expanding its San Francisco programme, boosting the service to twice daily.

The airline will fly its brand new A350 on this route from May 2020 and, coupled with the new flight, will boost capacity by 40,000 seats for the summer season.

By August, Virgin Atlantic’s A350 aircraft will fly to five destinations across its network and all its flights to Africa will be on the new aircraft.

The next daily routes to debut the aircraft from summer 2020 are Johannesburg from March 2020; Los Angeles from April 2020; San Francisco from May 2020 and Lagos from August.

Virgin’s A350 aircraft took to the skies in September with an inaugural flight to New York, with a totally redesigned Upper Class cabin.

Virgin has ordered a total of 12 A350-1000 aircraft, all scheduled to join the fleet by 2021.


Emirates eyes new markets as it orders 50 A350 aircraft

Emirates has announced a firm order for 50 A350-900 XWB aircraft worth US$16 billion.

Delivery of the first Emirates A350 XWB is expected in May 2023, and will continue until 2028.

Emirates chairman and chief executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum signed the deal with Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury at the Dubai airshow.

This purchase agreement replaces the heads of agreement signed in February where Emirates announced its intent to purchase 30 A350s and 40 A330Neos.

Sheikh Ahmed said the order ‘followed a thorough review of various aircraft options and of our own fleet plans’.

He added: “It is Emirates’ long-standing strategy to invest in modern and efficient aircraft, and we are confident in the performance of the A350 XWB.

“Complementing our A380s and 777s, the A350s will give us added operational flexibility in terms of capacity, range and deployment. In effect, we are strengthening our business model to provide efficient and comfortable air transport services to, and through, our Dubai hub.

“This US$ 16 billion deal reflects our confidence in the future of the UAE’s aviation sector, and is a strong affirmation of Dubai’s strategy to be a global nexus connected to cities, communities and economies via a world-class and modern aviation sector.”

The A350 will enable Emirates to serve a range of new markets, not only in region but also on long-haul missions of up to 15 hours of flying time from Dubai. Emirates intends to equip its A350s with its latest products, and offer different cabin configurations including Premium Economy.

Airline chief calls for business class ban on short haul flights

An airline boss has called for business class to be banned on short haul flights to reduce the carbon footprint of aviation.

Jozsef Varadi, chief executive officer and co-founder of Wizz Air, is calling for the industry to eliminate business class on flights under five hours.

“Business class should be banned. These passengers account for twice the carbon footprint of an economy passenger, and the industry is guilty of preserving an inefficient and archaic model,” he said.

“A rethink is long overdue, and we call on fellow airlines to commit to a total ban on business class travel for any flight under five hours.”

At an investor and press briefing yesterday, Varadi said sustainability pledges by rival airlines, such as British Airways and Air France KLM, to be carbon neutral by 2050 are a ‘joke’.

“We’re all going to be dead by that time,” he said.

Wizz Air claims it currently operates at the lowest CO2 emissions per passenger and expects to reduce this by 30% for every passenger in the next 10 years.

But Varadi admitted: “While it’s a step in the right direction, we still have a very long way to go. The industry as a whole needs to be more aggressive in its ambitions if we are truly to make a difference.”

At the recent ABTA Convention in Tokyo, Tim Williamson, customer director for Responsible Travel, said the only way to tackle climate change is to fly less and reduce the growth of the aviation industry.

He told delegates: “We need to fly less and we need to encourage our customers to fly less. If you’re going to stop the planet heating above two degrees, I can’t see how you can do that without stopping flying.”

He said the travel industry should ‘get on the front foot’ because regulation is coming.


Flybe to ditch Southampton summer routes

Flybe, rebranding as Virgin Connect next year, has scrapped eight summer routes from Southampton, plus Dusseldorf flights, in a blow to the regional airport.

Malaga, Alicante, Palma, Faro, Biarritz, Nantes, Bordeaux and Bastia in Corsica will not operate in summer 2020.

Southampton airport said the decision reflects the need for it to have a longer runway so it can accept a wider range of aircraft. It recently submitted plans to extend its runway.

A spokesman for Flybe said it understands the disappointment of some leisure customers about the decision but said it wants to better serve its frequent fliers, including business travellers and those visiting friends and family.

“This has included adjusting the timings on some of our existing flights and removing a number of unprofitable sun routes and French regional services, such as the nine from Southmampton, which last summer did not meet expected demand.”

While Southampton services have been reduced, Flybe is adding seven new routes from London Southend and one from Manchester.

It will launch flights for the first time from Southend to Belfast City, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Isle of Man and Jersey. It already flies from Southend to Caen, Groningen, Newquay and Rennes.

It is also introducing flights from Manchester to Stuttgart.

Seats will go on sale this week for Flybe’s 2,500 flights a week across the UK and regional mainland Europe next summer.

Additional summer routes will be announced shortly, it said.

Southend Airport is owned by the Stobart Group, one of its new co-owners. It will offer 214 flights a week on 10 routes from the London airport.

The Southend flights will be operated by three of Flybe’s own 78-seat De-Havilland Q400 turboprops based in Belfast City, Edinburgh and Glasgow alongside two 70-seat ATR aircraft based at Southend.


EasyJet buys Thomas Cook flight slots at Gatwick and Bristol

EasyJet has paid £36 million for all of Thomas Cook’s take-off and landing slots at Gatwick and Bristol airports.

The airline has acquired 27 slot pairs in total, consisting of 12 summer  and eight winter slot pairs at Gatwick as well as six summer slot pairs and one winter at Bristol.

The slots became available following the collapse of Thomas Cook in September.

EasyJet beat off competition from British Airways, Wizz Air and Virgin for the Gatwick slots and is now able to significantly expand its operation.

More details of its future expansion plans for the slots will be revealed on November 19 when easyJet releases its full-year results.

The low-cost carrier added contractual terms over the new slots have been concluded with Thomas Cook’s liquidators.


Virgin confirms new flights and shop openings

Virgin Atlantic is to launch more flights from Manchester and Gatwick next summer, while Virgin Holidays will open five additional retail stores by the end of this year.

The airline will offer a total of 43,000 extra seats from Manchester to Orlando, Barbados and Las Vegas for summer 2020, an 11% increase in capacity.

It will also have two extra flights a week from London Gatwick to Orlando, offering up to 18 flights a week in the peak summer season

Together with partners Virgin Connect (formerly Flybe) and Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic will offer almost 800,000 long haul-seats next summer.

It already announced in September that it was adding 30,000 seats from the northwest for this winter.

To complement the capacity growth, Virgin Holidays will be investing in five new retail stores, creating 28 jobs.

The stores, which are all scheduled to open this year, will be in Birmingham, Derby, Peterborough, Romford and Stoke-on-Trent.

The five new stores are in addition to seven already scheduled openings in Canterbury, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and St Albans, all of which are on track to open before the end of the December, said Virgin.

Flights for summer 2020 will go on sale on Saturday.


Qantas under pressure to ground all 737s after cracks found on wing

Qantas is under pressure to ground its fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800 aircraft after a second was found with a cracked primary wing structure.

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers says all of the airline’s 737 aircraft should be kept on the ground until urgent inspections have been carried out.

ALAEA federal secretary Steve Purvinas said: “Boeing had previously thought the cracks were only occurring on aircraft with over 35,000 landings, but the issues has now been identified on two Qantas aircraft with as few as 27,000 landings and Qantas are yet to inspect the majority of its 737 fleet.”

But Qantas played down the fears, saying the discovery ‘does not immediately compromise the safety of the aircraft’.

It has, however, scheduled inspections of 33 of its Boeing 737 aircraft, all of which have completed more than 22,6000 cycles, out of ‘an abundance of caution’.

The aircraft with the crack in its wing has been removed from service for further inspection.

Cracks have been discovered on several 737 NG model aircraft around the world since the US Federal Aviation Administration ordered checks a month ago.

The cracks relate to the plane’s ‘pickle fork’, which is an attachment linking the wings to the fuselage.

The FAA directive called for checks on 737 NGs that had flown more than 30,000 trips.

“Qantas would never operate an aircraft unless it was completely safe to do so,” the airline said.

ALAEA said it understands Virgin has already inspected its 737 aircraft ahead of schedule.

“Qantas fly a fleet of much older aircraft and must take the wing crack seriously having now found cracks on two of their planes,” it added.


Ryanair warns of job losses and reduces profit guidance

Ryanair’s share price rose 3% in early trade today despite the airline narrowing its profit guidance and warning of job losses.

The airline blamed the 737 MAX delays for the job cuts, saying it will be forced to cut or close a number of loss making bases this winter.

“We continue to work with our people and their unions to finalise this process,” it said.

Reporting an unchanged first half profit of €1.15 billion, Ryanair has narrowed full year profit guidance to €800m to €900m, down from its previous range of €750m to €950m.

Looking forward, the airline said: “Our outlook for the remainder of the year remains cautious. We try to avoid the unreliable optimism of some competitors.”

But Steve Miley, a senior market analyst at www.asktraders.com, said despite Ryanair’s challenges, investors were impressed by the figures.

“To say that it’s been a tough first half for Ryanair would be an understatement,” he said.

“The budget airline has had to grapple with pilot strikes, Brexit uncertainty hitting consumer demand, currency headwinds and rising risk of further delay to its Boeing Max 737 aircrafts.

“Despite the challenges, revenue increased by 11% to €5.39 billion on the back of a 10% growth in passenger numbers and 18% jump in revenue from ancillaries. Investors were impressed by the figures with the share price jumping over 3% in early trade, as it continues to fly higher from August’s low.

“Investors are taking Boeing Max 737 problems in their stride. Deliveries of the MAX 737 are expected to be lower than initially expected in March, with rising possibility of delay. Growth at the airline is expected to take a hit again next summer as the airline will carry around 5 million fewer customers than planned. This hasn’t dented demand for the shares this morning.”


Emissions-free vehicles for Heathrow

Autonomous emissions-free baggage vehicles have gone on trial with British Airways at Heathrow in a move the airline says will help it to improve punctuality further and “depart every flight on time”.

Hello dolly: One of Heathrow’s new vehicles.

BA runs up to 800 flights a day to and from Heathrow, transporting around 75,000 bags back and forth between baggage halls and aircraft. The trial is believed to be a world first.

It is being run in conjunction with the airport authorities and autonomous vehicle specialist Aurrigo, and involves driverless baggage vehicles, known as dollies, carrying up to 40 bags in one journey.

The dollies use the latest navigating technology to memorise the airfield to determine the shortest route to transport luggage. Unlike current vehicles, they depart for the aircraft as soon as each one is full, speeding up the loading process.

BA says the trial, in addition to improving operational efficiency, also forms part of the airline’s wider environmental commitment to run an emissions-free airside operation.

Aurrigo CEO David Keene said: “Our driverless pods are an example of British innovation and engineering in operation worldwide. The Heathrow trial shows how similar technology can be used in a completely different industry to deliver significant results.”


Belfast gets aviation boost

What was once Short Brothers, the world’s first aviation production company, is about to have a new owner.

Spirit Aero is to buy Bombardier’s aviation business centred in Belfast. The Kansas-based company claims to be the world’s largest first-tier aerostructures manufacturer and is a supplier to both Boeing (B737 fuselage) and Airbus (major A350 components).

The deal is structured as a US$500m cash consideration, plus assumption of liabilities of about $600m, Spirit said in a statement. The Canadian company is refocusing on its business aviation and trains after disposing of its C Series line, now renamed the A220, to Airbus.

“This transaction represents another strategic milestone in the reshaping of our portfolio to focus on our strong business aircraft and rail franchises,” Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare said.

Spirit CEO Tom Gentile added: “The Bombardier operations bring world-class engineering expertise to Spirit and add to a strong track record of innovation, especially in advanced composites.

“Belfast has developed an impressive position in business jet fuselage production, in addition to the world-acclaimed fully integrated A220 composite wing. This acquisition is in line with our growth strategy of increasing Airbus content, developing low-cost country footprint and growing our aftermarket business.”

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020.


United on environmental trail

The industry-wide campaign to protect the environment took another step last week with United Airlines committing US$40m (about £31m) toward a new investment vehicle focused on accelerating the development of sustainable aviation fuels and other decarbonisation technologies.

The carrier, which earlier this year agreed to buy up to 10m gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over the next two years, says it will look to collaborate with other environmentally-conscious partners on the initiative.

Among all airlines around the world, United holds more than 50% of all publicly announced purchase commitments to using sustainable aviation fuels and is the only US carrier currently using this fuel on a continuous basis.

In other developments, United released details of how it is extending its Polaris premium-cabin product (below) to the Boeing B787 Dreamliner fleet, with the first aircraft now being fitted out and expected to be in service before Christmas.

All 37 aircraft with the airline are set to be reconfigured with the new cabin by the first quarter of 2021, while 13 new B787-9s to be delivered to United next year will arrive with Polaris already fitted.

■ In more good news for Polaris passengers between New York Newark and Heathrow, United on Friday launched with Marriott International what it claims is the travel industry’s first free baggage delivery from the airport to five Marriott hotels.

No more 2+2+2: United’s Polaris lay-out on the B787-10 Dreamliner.


IndiGo places giant Airbus order

In one of the largest orders placed by a single operator, Indian carrier IndiGo last week signed a firm order for 300 Airbus A320 family aircraft. The deal includes A320neos, A321neos and A321XLRs and takes Indigo’s total on order to 730.

Indigo chief executive Ronojoy Dutta described the order as an important milestone which reiterated the company’s mission of strengthening air connectivity in India, which would in turn boost economic growth and mobility.

“India is expected to continue with its strong aviation growth and we are well on our way to build the world’s best air transportation system, to serve more customers and deliver on providing low fares and a courteous, hassle free experience to them,” he added.

IndiGo is among the world’s fastest growing carriers. Since its first A320neo was delivered in 2016, its fleet has grown into the largest in the world, currently comprising 97 of the model alongside 128 A320ceos.

Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury welcomed the new order, adding: “We are delighted IndiGo continues to build its future with Airbus, making it the world’s biggest customer for the A320neo family.”

The choice of engine manufacturer for the order will be made later.


Jet2 adds Austrian route for summer 2020

Jet2 has announced summer flights to the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck for the first time.

Flights will operate twice weekly (Wednesday and Saturday) from Manchester Airport, from May 23 to September 19, as well as weekly Wednesday services from Birmingham Airport from June 3 through to September 16.

The launch comes on the back of the company’s first ever programme of ski services to Innsbruck, which start in December this year.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “Innsbruck is the perfect fit for the growing number of people who are looking for adventure, scenery, and wellness on their holidays.”



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