Aviation Wrap: Virgin Australia changes mask advice, Alliance expands fleet + MORE

Melbourne, Australia - December 14, 2014: Virgin Australia passenger aircraft at Tullermarine Airport, Melbourne Australia readying for departure

Travel Weekly’s reporter attempted to match his espresso intake with the number of updates in this wrap. He’ll be opting for decaf next time around.

Virgin Australia changes face mask advice following increased government restrictions

In line with the latest medical advice and government restrictions, Virgin Australia has made masks more available and is further encouraging their use on all flights across Australia.

From Thursday evening, the airline moved to proactively distribute face masks and sanitiser wipes to customers departing New South Wales, before expanding the pre-departure measure across the entire Virgin Australia network by the end of the week.

Customers travelling to or from Melbourne are already being provided the packs and are required to wear face masks in line with the Victorian government’s public health order.

Virgin Australia group medical officer Dr Sara Souter said wearing a face covering provides an additional layer of protection and forms part of the airlines COVID-safe flying approach.

“While cabin air on board is well circulated through hospital-grade filtration systems every few minutes and the risk of inflight transmission of COVID-19 remains low here in Australia, the use of masks is being recommended or required in line with government advice for flights to or from areas of increased concern,” she said.

Alliance expands fleet with 14 Embraer E190s

Alliance Aviation has entered into an agreement with US-based Azorra Aviation to expand its fleet with 14 Embraer E190 aircraft, including a “significant” package of related inventory, ground support equipment, tooling and training devices, among other items.

The total acquisition price for the package, of which the aircraft are a part, is worth US$79.4 million ($111.45 million), according to Alliance.

Res welcomes ACCC decision to extend cooperation on regional routes

Image source: iStock/davidf

Regional Express (Rex) has welcomed the announcement from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) that it will continue to allow Rex, Qantas and Virgin Australia to cooperate on 10 competitive regional routes under a draft determination.

The initiative for collaboration on regional routes was put forward by Rex with an application to the ACCC in mid-March, as the industry faced “an overwhelming downturn” in regional travel demand arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the carrier said.

The application sought permission from the ACCC for Rex to coordinate flight schedules with QantasLink and Virgin Australia on 10 regional routes to ensure maximum efficient use of resources amid the “disastrous operating conditions”.

Rex has given an undertaking that ticket prices will not be higher than they were in February 2020 before the effect of the pandemic was felt.

Uber Air updates timeline for Melbourne due to COVID-19 impacts

Uber Air has met with Australian-based partners to provide an update on local timelines amid the continuing global impact of COVID-19.

With the ongoing support of Uber Air’s partners, Melbourne remains Uber Air’s first planned international expansion market beyond the United States but there will not be any public demonstrations or test flights hosted in the Victorian capital this year, Uber announced.

“Just as we don’t build cars to run on the ridesharing app, the Uber Air network requires partners to lead the construction and certification of eVTOL vehicles for Uber Air operations,” the company said.

“There are eight partners working to create the types of quiet, electric vehicles that will make aerial ridesharing a success and we have been encouraged by the progress of their advance towards flight test programs prior to COVID-19.

“However, the restrictions on international travel, quarantines, guidance preventing mass public gatherings and a rolling wave of infections has impacted timelines.”

WTTC calls upon governments to implement comprehensive testing facilities at airports

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling on governments around the world to begin a “substantial program of investment” to ensure comprehensive testing facilities are implemented at airports, which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and see the return of safe travels.

“It is imperative that all airports, catering for international travel, implement globally recognised testing standards for both inbound and outbound passengers,” WTTC president and chief executive Gloria Guevara said.

“This will provide reassurance to all travellers, maintain ‘air corridors’ between countries, and remove damage and disruption caused by blunt quarantines which massively impact the recovery of the travel and tourism sector.”

Electric Aviation Group unveils world’s first hybrid-electric, 70-plus seater aircraft

Image source: PRNewsfoto/Electric Aviation Group

A pioneering design for a hybrid-electric regional aircraft, which is gunning to deliver a technical and commercial entry point for sustainable mass air transport, has been unveiled.

The disruptive design has been developed by the Electric Aviation Group (EAG), the UK-based engineering and development firm, which expects its first aircraft to be in service by 2028.

EAG has optimised the latest technology, economics and operational parameters to create the design for the Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft (HERA), to ensure it can solve the challenges of decarbonisation and mass transportation.

Some of its key features include whisper-quiet operation that reduces noise pollution, innovative airborne battery regeneration to minimise turn-around time, efficient battery integration, and thermal management of motors and power electronics, among other features.

Former Virgin Australia Airlines boss joins Spike Aerospace’s exec team

John Thomas, the former group executive (CEO) of Virgin Australia Airlines, has joined the Spike Aerospace executive team, to help introduce the company’s supersonic jet to the world’s major airlines.

“Spike Aerospace’s vision for supersonic flight is tremendously compelling and ideally suited for all the major international airlines,” Thomas said.

“The Spike Jet with a low-sonic boom, long range and seating capacity will work well in airline operations. I’m looking forward to helping build relationships with major customers around the globe.”

By the mid-2020s, Spike Aerospace believes airlines will be able to offer premium passengers 40 per cent faster flights on the Spike Supersonic Jet for business or first class fares.

This will enable business travellers to be more effective and competitive – while personal travellers can enjoy more of the world. Spike is committed to environmentally responsible aviation, Stage 5 compliance and low-sonic boom for overland flight.

Boeing reports 25 per cent drop in revenue for Q2

Image source: iStock/nycshooter

The Boeing Company has reported second-quarter revenue of US$11.8 billion ($16.56 billion), primarily reflecting the impacts of COVID-19 and the 737 MAX grounding. The company also recorded operating cash flow of US$5.3 billion ($7.43 billion) for the period.

In the second quarter, Boeing restarted production operations across key sites following temporary pauses to “protect its workforce” and introduce “rigorous” new health and safety procedures.

Despite the challenges, Boeing said it continued to deliver across key commercial, defence, space and services programs during the quarter. The company also resumed early stages of production on the 737 program, with a focus on safety, quality and operational excellence.

Following the lead of global regulators, Boeing said it made steady progress toward the safe return to service of the 737, including completion of Federal Aviation Administration certification flight tests.

Boeing president and CEO David Calhoun also used the release of the company’s second-quarter results as an opportunity to update his employees in an open letter, which you can read here.

Singapore Airlines Group passenger carriage plunge leads to $1.1bn loss

Singapore Airlines Group has reported passenger carriage (measured in revenue passenger-kilometres) fell by 99.4 per cent year-on-year for Singapore Airlines, 99.8 per cent for SilkAir and 99.9 per cent for Scoot, resulting in a 99.5 per cent decline for the group.

For the quarter ended 30 June 2020, the group reported a net loss of $1.1 billion, a deterioration of $1.3 billion million against last year.

This was primarily driven by the weaker operating performance as well as the financial impact of $129.6 million from the liquidation of NokScoot, comprising mainly the non-cash impairment of seven Boeing 777 aircraft which had been leased to NokScoot and the group’s share of related costs.

A swing from tax expense to tax credit partly offset the losses.

The group cited the evaporation of travel as travel restrictions and border controls were imposed around the world to contain the spread of the virus, as one of the deteriorating market conditions that contributed to its loss.

Qatar Airways launches arbitrations against UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt

Image source: Flickr/Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has launched four international investment arbitrations against the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Republic of Egypt.

The carrier alleges that since 2017, the four states have imposed an illegal air, sea and land blockade against Qatar.

The arbitrations seek redress for the blockading states’ actions to remove Qatar Airways from their markets and to forbid the airline from flying over their airspace.

Qatar Airways is seeking a total of at least US$5 billion ($7 billion) from the blockading states as compensation for their allegedly unlawful actions.

Delta expands change-fee waivers for new bookings

Image source: iStock/winhorse

Effective 30 July, Delta Air Lines is extending its change-fee waiver to new flights purchased through 31 August.

The US-based carrier is also offering the ability to rebook travel for up to two years for customers who purchased flights prior to 17 April 2020 that are pending travel through to the end of the year.

Furthermore, Delta is implementing automatic seat blocks through at least 30 September, which will automatically block seats adjacent to those selected by a customer once a reservation is complete and allow parties of three or more to book seats together, including middle seats.

Meanwhile, Delta revealed a few positive insights from its Corporate Responsibility Report.

In 2019, Delta was recognised by Great Place to Work, improved its Net Promoter Score, donated 13,064 pints of blood, improved fuel efficiency, and this year, committed to investing $1 billion over the next 10 years to become carbon neutral.

Solomon Airlines extends suspension of scheduled international passenger flights

Solomon Airlines has confirmed it will extend its suspension of scheduled international passenger flights from 31 August to 24 October 2020.

The airline continues to operate a reduced domestic schedule to all 23 destinations within the Solomon Islands.

Non-stop flights resume from Munich to Tunis and Edinburgh

Tunisair is taking off from Munich Airport, with the Tunisian national airline flying again from Munich to the capital city of Tunis three times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Airbus A319, A320, or Boeing 737 aircraft will be used.

In addition to Tunis, another well-loved destination will be served again several times a week.

Easyjet is resuming its flights to Edinburgh, and will fly to the major Scottish city every Tuesday and Thursday night at 9:50pm, and on Saturday afternoons shortly after 3pm.

Air Tahiti Nui launches new mobile app

Air Tahiti Nui has launched a new mobile application, designed to simplify the booking and organisation of trips.

Club Tiare members can access their accounts and manage their miles in a few clicks, as well as easily customise their travel experience by choosing their preferred options and services.

You can also receive useful information about your trip or the tracking of your loved ones’ flights.

The application is available on the App Store and Google Play store.

Star Alliance upgrades ‘Travel Information Hub’

Star Alliance has launched several upgrades to its Travel Information Hub, a tool created by the association alongside its member airlines in order to keep customers abreast of the “ever-changing” international travel landscape.

In its most recent iteration, the Star Alliance Travel Information Hub provides customers travelling with member airlines a broader and more personalised user experience. Customers may now:

  • Enter two-segment journey details (two airlines, three airports)
  • Utilise the Travel Information Hub in four additional languages
  • Avail themselves of an email function to share their findings with others.

AirAsia’s virtual Allstar now on WhatsApp

Getting great customer service with AirAsia is about to become easier than ever before as the company’s virtual Allstar, AVA, has launched on popular messaging application WhatsApp.

Chief customer happiness officer Adam Geneave said the move couldn’t be timelier with record numbers of guests seeking support as a result of COVID-19.

You can chat with AVA directly on +60 11-3516 5078 in Whatsapp or alternatively by visiting support.airasia.com. Available 24/7. Guests just have to say “hi” to get started.

Air New Zealand’s ‘Kia Ora’ magazine back on board

Air New Zealand’s popular Kia Ora magazine is back in seat pockets on domestic flights.

The magazine returns after a fourth month break during the COVID-19 pandemic with Kia Ora last published in April, celebrating 80 years of the airline. 

Kia Ora magazine is being published by Bauer Media New Zealand and edited by Virginia Larson, and is also available online and in the airline’s lounges.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand also announced a new partnership with Tourism New Zealand encourage Kiwis to hit the slopes.

The airline has partnered with the tourism authority on the second phase of its ‘Do something new, New Zealand’ winter campaign that kicked off on Monday.

The month-long campaign will see key ski locations Taupo, Christchurch and Queenstown promoted through social media, digital display advertising and online.

Unfortunately, the announcement comes as Air New Zealand extends its hold on further bookings to Australia until 28 August.

Emirates launches bespoke portal for travel trade partners

A new online gateway has been launched by Emirates, to serve its travel trade partners around the world.

Tailored for each market, and personalised for each partner, the Emirates Partners Portal is a one-stop shop for travel industry partners to quickly and securely access the full range of information on Emirates’ latest products, services and policies, and obtain technical support.

The portal can be found here.

In other news, Emirates has announced it will resume flights to Nairobi (from 2 August), Baghdad and Basra (from 10 August).

This will take the airline’s passenger network to 67 destinations in August.

Meanwhile, Emirates has been given double honours at the 2020 Tripadvisor ‘Travelers’ Choice’ awards for airlines, winning the ‘World’s Best First Class’ award as well as ‘Middle East’s Best First Class’, making this the fourth consecutive win.

The airline also secured its spot as the Top 10 airlines in the world and clinched several other awards including Best Economy Class – Middle East and the overall Travelers’ Choice Major Airline honour for the Middle East.

Emirates and the Dubai Conservation Reserve are also celebrating 20 years of partnership with the release of the first annual report, coinciding with World Nature Conservation Day which falls on 28 July.

The report covers highlights including desert and wildlife conservation and plans to enhance the visitor experience.

United Airlines plans to resume 25+ international services in September

United Airlines has announced it plans to resume service on nearly 30 international routes in September, including flights to Asia, India, Australia, Israel and Latin America and to continue to add ways to visit popular vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Hawaii and Mexico.

The airline intends to fly 37 per cent of its overall schedule in September as compared to the same period last year and is a 4 per cent increase in capacity compared to what is planned for August 2020.

United is also extending its waiver of change fees and award redeposit fees for reservations through August 31.

Cathay Pacific releases new safety measures

Cathay Pacific has released a video detailing its safety measures as part of its ‘Cathay Care’ commitment in ensuring passenger wellbeing.

The video details a list of safeguarding measures from cleanliness to prevention and reassurance at every stage of the journey from check-in to boarding, and the in-cabin experience.

Pacific Airlines enters strategic partnership with Sabre

Low cost carrier Pacific Airlines and Sabre Corporation have announced a strategic new agreement.

Under the new deal, Pacific Airlines will adopt the Sabre Passenger Service System (PSS) as it moves forward with ambitious plans to play a key role, along with national carrier parent company Vietnam Airlines Group, in the recovery and future growth of APAC’s travel and tourism industry post COVID-19.

Vietnam Airlines has been a Sabre PSS user for more than a decade and, with this new agreement, both airlines will benefit from a single, integrated passenger platform to enable improved operational efficiencies and a frictionless experience for travellers, as Pacific Airlines prepares to resume regular scheduled services with Sabre’s PSS.

Combined teams expect to complete the transition quickly from the legacy third party system to the Sabre PSS.

TAP Air Portugal starts again from Munich to Lisbon

Image source: iStock/rebius

Just in time for summer vacation in Bavaria, TAP Air Portugal is resuming its flights from Munich.

The Portuguese airline will bring vacationers and business travellers twice a day from Munich Airport to Lisbon, one of the top 20 travel destinations in Europe for Germans.

TAP passengers will also benefit from the fact that the Humberto Delgado Airport functions as a hub and offers many attractive connections to North and South America, the Azores, and Africa.

Featured image source: iStock/peterfz30

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