Maybe you were on holiday, or just took a break from social media and you’re worried that you have missed what’s happening around the world of aviation? No problem, as we have collected the most important headlines and news pieces in the month of May. Without further delay, let’s look at some of the top headlines this month:
Air France-KLM posted negative quarterly results. Subsequently, Air France has offered 400 people to retire and is cutting off some of its routes to optimize costs. This is the result of rising fuel costs and the relatively old and inefficient Air France-KLM group fleet, including older 747s, which the group is looking to replace. Air France will receive new Airbus A350s, while KLM will take in new Boeing 787s.
KLM Boeing 787 Dreamliner
SAS Pilot strike ended on May 2nd. According to the newest reports, SAS canceled 4000 flights, which affected around 380 000 passengers. 1400 staff was involved in the protest, asking for bigger salaries, reduced workload and scheduling issues. As a result, SAS has told its shareholders that a profit in 2019 is very unlikely to happen.
A low-key interesting agreement has happened, as Emirates started codesharing flights with LATAM. Qatar Airways owns 10% of LATAM. Emirates and Qatar Airways do not get along particularly well, as Qatar‘s aircraft cannot enter Bahrain‘s, Egypt‘s, Saudi Arabia‘s and United Arab Emirate‘s airspace.
Thomas Cook, the leisure and airline company is selling off the airline part of its business. Thomas Cook‘s 2018 was not successful, as the group is heavily in debt. To pay off these debts, they are selling their airline business, which ironically, is the only profitable activity in the group. Potential buyers are indicated to be Lufthansa, Indigo group, which controls Wizz Air, Frontier Airlines, Volaris and others, the IAG group and easyJet. Thomas Cook has blamed the uncertainty of Brexit and the shifting consumer practices of staycationing - when travelers do not fly to holiday destinations and choose to spend their free time within driving distance of their home.
Emirates chief commercial officer resigns after airline's profit dives, as the harsh climate for airlines has put a dent in the profitability potential for everyone. Fuel prices, the uncertainty of Brexit and currency fluctuations have put a lot of strain on airlines to stay profitable. Even Ryanair, which has seen passenger numbers rising, has posted a 4-year low profit.
Asiana Airlines removes its First Class service, as the airline is also struggling financially and is trying to re-structure its flight operations to reduce debts.
On the other hand, All Nippon Airways went all in and has launched their first flights from Tokyo to Honolulu with an Airbus A380 on May 24th. The Japanese airline will serve the route with 3 (!) Airbus A380s. A very bold move, considering the fact that they need to fully fill the A380 for the flight to be profitable. On the other hand, the livery on these Airbus A380’s is truly incredible!
All Nippon Airways Airbus A380 with the ANA livery
The Jet Airways crisis seems to be over, as no proper bid has been received. The airline seems to be going towards closure, as only Etihad has come forward and put up a bid for the grounded carrier. However, with a lot of special terms that Etihad is asking for, including a partner to help them with the investment, it is unlikely that the bid will materialize into anything. Jet’s top executives, including the CEO and the CFO, have also resigned.
A lot of changes are coming to Canada’s aviation industry. Firstly, WestJet, the rapidly expanding Canadian airline is being acquired by Onex – the price for the whole ordeal is set to be around the $5 billion mark, including WestJet’s debt. The two parties expect the deal to close down in late 2019 or early 2020. Secondly, Air Canada is acquiring the Canadian leisure airline Air Transat, with the deal still subject to various agreements.
Flybe’s CEO has left the company. Effective July 15th, she Christine Ourmieres-Widener will depart the company. In July, Flybe will also be taken over by the consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Group and Cyrus Capital.
In an interesting turn of events, Air India has come up with a plan to combat the dominance of low-cost carriers in India. To fill seats, the airline will offer very cheap tickets 3 hours before a flight, in order to serve customers who are in an emergency situation. This offer applies only to flights within India. After the collapse of Jet Airways, only time will tell how Air India will meet the future. With the government looking for a buyer and with crippling debts, seems like India is not yet ready for a full-service carrier to operate and not bleed money everywhere. On the other hand, low-cost carriers are striving – for example, Vistara has leased former Jet Airways Boeing 737s to serve the same routes. Vistara only operates Airbus A320’s.
Airbus has delivered the first Delta Airlines Airbus A330 on the 24th of May. The aircraft is suspected to operate between the United States and Asia. This is the first of 35 of Delta‘s A330 order. A few months prior, Airbus delivered the first A220 to Delta Airlines. While this is not related to the Boeing 737 issues, as Delta ordered the aircraft previously, it marks that Airbus is taking a stronger stance in the United States – a market which is hugely dominated by Boeing.
Delta Airlines Airbus A220
Sadly, after Airbus canceled the Airbus A380 program, the first two production A380‘s are being scrapped. This showcases that there is no second-hand market for the A380, as airlines struggle to fill the required seats in order for the aircraft to operate profitably.
At AirbusID (Airbus Innovation Days), the European manufacturer has announced that they have increased the MTOW and the range of the Airbus A220. The former Bombardier C-Series aircraft will be able to reach more destinations, as Airbus takes “credit of existing structural and systems margins as well as existing fuel volume capacity.” The A220-300 will now be able to fly 3 350 nm (6 204 kilometers/3 855 miles), while the Airbus A220-100 can now reach up to 3 400 nautical miles (6296 kilometers/3 912 miles). That is an increase of 450 nm in range.
Airbus celebrated the 50th anniversary of their company on the 29th of May. Airbus put up an impressive performance of their whole range of aircraft flying together at the same time.
Keep an eye on our #Airbus50 family flight using @flightradar24.#A220: AIB50DO#A319neo: AIB50WA#A330neo: AIB50TN#A350: AIB50IL#A380: AIB50OW#BelugaXL: AIB50XShttps://t.co/t3pPNREYB2 pic.twitter.com/gOC4I4IoFP— Airbus (@Airbus) May 29, 2019
After numerous articles criticizing the work culture, carelessness at Boeing’s North Charleston plant, where the 787 is built, changes are finally coming. Boeing has announced that the Vice President of the Boeing 787 program, David Carbon, is leaving the company. While Boeing has stated that the manufacturing processes at the plant are “the healthiest they’ve ever been”, numerous articles have proven otherwise.
On May 30th, Boeing fired up the engines of their new 777X for the first time ever. Boeing aims to test the 777X in late June of this year, with the first commercial flights commencing in 2020. The Boeing 777X is expected to offer competition to the Airbus A350, as currently, the Airbus A350-1000 dominates the market long-haul wide-bodies with two engines that are able to carry more than 360 passengers.
Embraer’s Commercial aircraft division is renamed to Boeing Brasil – Commercial. Boeing had started a partnership with Embraer earlier this year, after court approval. The partnership was the result of Airbus and Bombardier, another regional aircraft manufacturer, joining forces. As Boeing did not want to lose out, they partnered up with the Brazilian manufacturer to compete with Airbus in the regional aircraft market.
Everyone is still anxiously questioning the future of the jet and multiple headlines have shed some light on the recent developments.
First of all, Boeing has said they completed the Boeing 737 MAX 8 software update, which changes the way that MCAS acts, including reading data from both AoA sensors, only being able to provide a single input instead of multiple ones and pilots being able to override MCAS no matter what.
But according to sources, Boeing knew about the malfunctioning safety alert of the AoA sensors for more than a year before telling the FAA and various airlines. The same safety alert that would have prevented the two accidents, which yet again points out the negligence by Boeing.
Boeing has announced that a bird strike might have helped in dooming the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX. However, after the Lion Air crash last year, a Boeing official in a meeting with pilots dismissed that a bird strike would activate MCAS. While it might have contributed to the crash, but it should not excuse Boeing for such poor design of MCAS.
More and more airlines are asking Boeing to compensate for the Boeing 737 MAX groundings. Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines have joined Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines (interestingly enough, as they are an American carrier). As the US and China are involved in a trade war, this can be interpreted as a Chinese power move. While trade talks have continued between the two countries, Boeing has revealed that they too have a representative in the negotiations.
Looks @BoeingAirplanes is squeezing as many #737MAX’s as it can across the street as they are now using the parking lot to the north of the storage lot. As of today 35 parked across the street. pic.twitter.com/oRxzgaEZRK— Woodys Aeroimages (@AeroimagesChris) May 4, 2019
After a meeting on 23rd of May, FAA and US regulators have indicated that they would approve the 737 MAX to fly again by the end of June. Airlines from the United States expect that the grounded aircraft would need 150 hours of maintenance to get flying again.
Boeing has told SpiceJet, an Indian low-cost carrier that the Boeing 737 MAX will fly by July. Other airlines are indicating a similar timeline, except they are more conservative, as the MAX is starting to appear on schedules in August of this year.
In an interview with CBS, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg has personally apologized to the victim’s families. In addition, he also indicated that Boeing will compensate every airline for the grounding, delivery delays caused by the groundings and the maintenance required to get the 737 MAX going again. The compensations could be in the form of free maintenance, cash or discounts on further orders.
One of the biggest aviation networking conferences has happened in Bangkok at the start of the month. AIR Convention attracted the biggest players in the Asian market, including top management people from more than 150 airlines. Missed the event? AIR Convention is returning to Europe this September!
Slowly, but surely Mitsubishi is preparing for the launch of their new MRJ. The company has opened its offices in the United States and has teased some exciting news are coming in the Paris Air Show, one of the many airshows happening in 2019. While it is definitely seen as positive news, Mitsubishi might be too late – with the Airbus A220 seeing huge success and Boeing partnering up with Embraer, the window of opportunity might be closing.
As part of the restructuring process at Bombardier, the Canadian company is selling off its plants in Northern Ireland and Morocco. The sale is part of the plan to move all manufacturing processes back to North America and putting their Global, Challenger, Learjet business jets and CRJ aircraft brands under the name Bombardier Aviation. Airbus is debating whether it is an option to buy the North Ireland plant, as the Belfast factory produces the wings for the Airbus A220 and engine covers for the A320.
An Aeroflot Sukhoi SuperJet 100 has caught fire on an emergency landing attempt at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. According to a preliminary report released by Aviation Safety Network, the pilots lost all electrical systems after taking off from the airport, attempted to make an emergency landing, but overshot the runway threshold, the aircraft bounced once to 2 meters and subsequently bounced again – this time the aircraft reached a height of 6 meters. The second rebound ruptured fuel tanks, which caused the deadly flames.
A point of discussion about the crash was whether more people could’ve escaped the aircraft, as video footage suggests that passengers carried their hand luggage off the burning Sukhoi SuperJet. While Russian authorities have indicated that the aircraft’s passengers evacuated the aircraft in 55 seconds, which is under the industry norm of the 90 seconds, open discussions have raised the question whether people were holding up the evacuation just to get their hand luggage first.
So, those are all the most important aviation news in the month of May.