Airlines, Airports and Airliners News -22 to 28 June 2020

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein



NEW LOW-COST AIRLINE FOR SOUTH AFRICA?



Gidon Novick revealed during an interview on CNBC Africa that he is planning to launch a new low-cost domestic airline in South Africa.

Novick is no stranger in the aviation industry. The former CEO of Comair and founder if its successful Kulula brand left the company in 2011 after the joint CEO position fell away.

Novick, after spending three years at Discovery as CEO of Vitality, left corporate life only to find Lucid Ventures started from scratch, with no capital.

Lucid Ventures was initially an investment vehicle aimed at smaller-scale private equity and has now invested in seven hotels.

With SAA, SA Express and Comair all under administration, one would think that today is the worst time to start a new airline.

However, Novick begs to differ. "There is a unique opportunity now. The competitive playing field has been completely changed and there is a chance to do something special. In the current depressed environment, the input costs to start a new airline are at record low levels." He said during the interview.

If all the plans come together the new airline according to Novick will be up and running by year end.

PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES TO GROUND 150 PILOTS WITH FAKE LICENSES



The Pakistan's state-run airline said it will ground 150 pilots, accusing them of obtaining licenses by having others take exams for them, an accusation that followed a probe into last month's crash that killed 97 people in Karachi.

Abdullah Hafeez, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, did not give additional details about the alleged cheating, but said a process to fire the pilots had been initiated.

"We will make it sure that such unqualified pilots never fly aircraft again," he allegedly said in an interview adding that the safety of passengers was the airline's top priority.

Alarmed over the situation, the International Air Transport Association said it was following reports from Pakistan "regarding fake pilot licenses, which are concerning and represent a serious lapse in the licensing and safety oversight by the aviation regulator."

The global airline organization said it was seeking more information.

The move by PIA to ground the pilots comes a day after the country's aviation minister, Ghulam Sarqar Khan, said 262 out of 860 Pakistani pilots had "fake" licenses. He made the revelation while presenting preliminary findings of a probe to parliament into the May 22 Airbus A320 crash.

AIRLINK DISAPPOINTED WITH COURT DECISION - STILL TOO MANY QUESTIONS FOR CREDITORS TO MAKE AN INFORMED VOTE ON SAA RESCUE PLAN.



Airlink respects, but is disappointed with, the South Gauteng High Court's decision to allow the meeting of SAA creditors to proceed.

"We had sought to interdict the meeting and to have the SAA business rescue process stopped on the basis that the proposed rescue plan is implausible, treats creditors unequally, is opaque in explaining how it will be funded and that it is not the product of a truly independent business rescue process. Although Government has recently restated its commitment to SAA, we were left with no alternative but to take legal action, having been frustrated by the business rescue practitioners and their resistance to comply with the provisions of the Companies Act. Given these factors, we fail to understand how creditors can be expected to make an informed decision when asked to vote on the plan at tomorrow's meeting. We cannot reconcile that the process to date is what is anticipated in the Companies Act," said Airlink CEO and Managing Director, Rodger Foster.

Airlink will vote against the implementation of the plan in its current form in the absence of answers to the raft of queries that we have raised and we will seek to convince SAA's business rescue practitioners to revert to their original mandate, as defined in the Companies Act. This requires them to produce a rescue plan in the best interests of all creditors, and not favour certain creditors as well as the shareholder over the others.

We also note recent legal opinions expressed in the media, which raise questions about the fairness and legality of the voting process insofar as: lenders being afforded secured creditor status, when their loans have been guaranteed by Government and holders of unflown SAA tickets purchased in the "pre-commencement" (ie. before 06 December 2019, which was when SAA was placed in business rescue) who have not been recognised as creditors and are therefore unable to vote.

SA EXPRESS LIQUIDATORS SAY SEVEN PARTIES SHOWING INTEREST IN BUYING OR INVESTING



Aviwe Ndyamara The provisional liquidator for state-owned regional airline SA Express announced recently during a briefing to parliament that the number of parties interested in buying or investing in the airline has grown from two to seven. The briefing took place after the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that the airline's provisional liquidator could sell or transfer the airline's property.

SA Express was placed into business rescue by an order of the court. It entered provisional liquidation in late April this year after its joint business rescue practitioners filed an urgent court application.

Ndyamara told parliament that with the finalisation of an interim valuation complete, the liquidators managed to reduce the bond of security of SA Express from R1.8 billion to R113 million. This refers to security required by a master of the high court when appointing a custodian, in this case the provisional liquidators, over an asset, in this case SA Express.

He said the airline had an ongoing lease agreement for offices and hangars for R2.2 million a month and ongoing aircraft and engine lease agreements of no less than R22.5 million a month.

The airline currently holds two licenses which are scheduled to expire in late July, as well as approval to act as an aviation security training organization approval which expires on 31 December. Ndyamara said the liquidators hoped to engage a sale or investment process before the licenses expire.


VIRGIN PLANS TO RESUME SERVICES



Virgin Atlantic has announced its plan to restart passenger flying, with services from London Heathrow to Orlando, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York JFK and Los Angeles set to resume from 20th and 21st July 2020.

As countries around the world start to relax travel restrictions, Virgin Atlantic will resume some routes on 20th July, while steadily increasing passenger flying throughout the second half of 2020, with a further, gradual recovery through 2021 in line with customer demand.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer, Virgin Atlantic commented: "As the Covid-19 crisis stabilises and demand slowly returns, we are looking forward to welcoming our customers back onboard and flying them safely to their favourite destinations. To ensure the health and safety of our customers and our people, we're introducing new measures at every point in the journey to offer peace of mind when taking to the skies with us."

"Our planned first flights will be to Orlando and Hong Kong on the 20th July, however, we are monitoring external conditions extremely closely, in particular the travel restrictions many countries have in place including the 14 day quarantine policy for travellers entering the UK. We know that as the Covid-19 crisis subsides, air travel will be a vital enabler of the UK's economic recovery. Therefore, we are calling for a multi-layered approach of carefully targeted public health and screening measures, which will allow for a successful and safe restart of international air travel for passengers and businesses. We are planning to announce more destination restart dates in the next two weeks for the month of August."

"THE WORST MAY BE YET TO COME" - IMPACTS OF COVID-19 ON EUROPEAN AVIATION AND ECONOMY INCREASING



The International Air Transport Association (IATA) revealed new research showing the impacts on the European aviation industry and on economies caused by the shutdown of air traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened over recent weeks.

Airlines in Europe are set to lose $21.5 billion in 2020, with passenger demand declining by over half. This puts at risk between 6-7 million jobs supported by aviation in Europe alone. An accelerated recovery of air transport in Europe is vital if the worst of these impacts is to be avoided. This can be achieved through government action in two priority areas:

1. A coordinated restart of air travel, with the opening up borders (including elimination of quarantine) and operating rules based on the health guidance set down by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and at European level by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC).

2. Continued financial and regulatory support, particularly direct financial aid, an extension of the waiver to the 80-20 slot rule and relief from taxes and charges.

"Europe's economies have been brought to their knees by COVID-19 and the aviation industry has been especially hard-hit. Recent optimism over the opening of the Schengen borders should not obscure the critical seriousness of the situation. Across Europe, more than six million jobs in the airline industry and those businesses supported by aviation are at risk. Thousands of jobs have already been lost due to the shutdown of air traffic. For our future prosperity it is imperative that the industry recovers as soon as possible," said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA's Regional Vice President for Europe.

The latest assessment from IATA Economics shows that the outlook at national level has worsened for major aviation markets in Europe since April. For example, the passenger numbers, airline revenue, jobs at risk and GDP impacts for the five biggest European markets have declined across every metric:



KLM GRADUALLY REBUILDS NETWORK



KLM is gradually and carefully restarting its network. In July, KLM operates 5,000 European flights. The forecast for August is 11,000. Intercontinental numbers are around 1,900 in July and 2,100 in August. At the moment, about half of the intercontinental flights are cargo-only. KLM hopes that if worldwide travel restrictions are relaxed, an increasing number of intercontinental flights will be allowed to carry passengers again from July onwards.

The number of flights shows considerable growth compared to April, when KLM's flight operations came to a virtual standstill as a result of the corona crisis. KLM operated 1,116 flights within Europe and 612 intercontinental flights in April.

The recovery has therefore started cautiously, but the level of 2019 is far from being approached. In the months of July and August last year, KLM operated a total of some 22,000 flights. Moreover, the occupancy rate lags behind the record year of 2019.

Number of destinations: as much choice as possible for the customer

The number of destinations shows a slightly different picture. KLM has opted to restart as many destinations as possible first in order to offer customers a wide choice and then to increase frequencies and capacity.

This means that in July around 80 percent of the normal number of European destinations and around 75 percent of intercontinental destinations will be offered. In August this will be around 95 percent and 80 percent respectively.

It should be noted that, here too, about half of intercontinental flights currently only carry cargo and therefore no passengers. When international travel restrictions are relaxed, KLM will of course start carrying passengers to these destinations again.

RESULTS OF FOUR WEEKS OF RESUMED OPERATIONS FOR AIRBALTIC



"It is our main aim to connect the Baltics to the world and we are glad to resume flights to major European business hubs as well as popular leisure getaways. We are here to continue providing the best connectivity to and from the Baltic region under the adjusted Destination 2025 CLEAN business plan." Martin Gauss, CEO of airBaltic in a press release stated.

Currently airBaltic performs direct flights from Riga to Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Helsinki, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Tallinn, Vienna and Vilnius. The airline is also gradually resuming flights from Riga to Dubrovnik, Rijeka and Split in Croatia, Barcelona in Spain, Nice in France, Larnaca in Cyprus as well as Rome, Catania and Milan in Italy and other destinations

During the first four weeks of resumed operations, airBaltic has carried over 27 000 passengers to and from the Baltic capitals. Each week the number of passengers carried continues to increase.

During this period, most popular routes were from Frankfurt, Oslo and Amsterdam to Riga. airBaltic is also gradually resuming flights to a variety of sunny leisure destinations. Among them, airBaltic has received most new reservations to Dubrovnik, Split, Rome and Nice.

MUNICH BECOMES TEST AIRPORT FOR EASA RECOMMENDATIONS ON INFECTION PREVENTION



EASA has added Munich Airport to its list of pilot airports intended to set an example of safe travel during the COVID 19 pandemic. These international airports, also including Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam, are to demonstrate how to implement the recommendations devised by the EASA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Munich Airport's participation in the EASA test program fits well with the extensive efforts by Flughafen München GmbH (FMG) to make sure that passengers and employees are safe throughout their time at the airport. Jost Lammers, CEO of FMG and president of European airport association ACI Europe, commented, "As the only five-star airport in Europe, we have a special responsibility and want to help to raise health standards at European airports in line with aviation so that passengers can get to their destinations safely and healthily even amid the COVID-19 pandemic."

The EASA is aiming to work toward a goal of the hygiene measures that it has recommended being put into practice as consistently as possible across Europe. These include wearing mandatory face coverings, maintaining social distancing wherever possible and providing hand sanitizer dispensers. Particular attention is also being paid to making the check-in and baggage drop processes as contact-free as possible. All stages of air travel are to be taken into account, starting at the moment passengers enter the airport building, continuing through the check-in, security and customs processes and extending to the time that passengers spend on board the aircraft. Consequently, in addition to the airports, numerous European airlines are involved in the EASA's large-scale test program.

EMIRATES TO FLY A380 TO LONDON HEATHROW AND PARIS, ADDS DHAKA AND MUNICH TO NETWORK



The highly popular Emirates A380 aircraft will begin serving travellers on flights to London Heathrow and Paris starting from 15 July. This marks the return of Emirates' flagship aircraft on scheduled services since the pandemic forced the temporary grounding of the airline's passenger fleet in March.

Adel Al Redha, Emirates' Chief Operating Officer said: "The A380 remains a popular aircraft among our customers and it offers many unique on-board features. We are delighted to bring it back into the skies to serve our customers on flights to London and Paris from 15 July, and we are looking forward to gradually introduce our A380 into more destinations according to the travel demand on specific destinations. The Emirates A380 experience remains unique in the industry and even though we've modified services onboard for the health and safety of our crew and customers, we are confident that our customers would welcome flying again in this quiet, comfortable aircraft."

In addition, Emirates has announced that it will commence flights for travellers to Dhaka (from 24 June), and Munich (from 15 July), adding to its growing network.

This follows the announcement earlier in the week, that Dubai will re-open to business and leisure visitors from 7 July, with new air travel protocols that facilitate travel for UAE citizens, residents and tourists while safeguarding the health and safety of travellers and communities.

Emirates currently offers flights to over 40 cities, with safe and convenient connections to, from, and through its Dubai hub for customers travelling between the Asia Pacific, the Gulf, Europe and the Americas. More information on www.emirates.com/wherewefly.

Flights to Dhaka and Munich will be operated with an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, and can be booked on emirates.com or via travel agents.

Health and safety first: Emirates have implemented a comprehensive set of measures at every step of the customer journey to ensure the safety of its customers and employees on the ground and in the air, including the distribution of complimentary hygiene kits containing masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and antibacterial wipes to all customers.

AEROFLOT GROUP ANNOUNCES OPERATING RESULTS FOR MAY 2020



Aeroflot PJSC announced operating results for Aeroflot Group and Aeroflot - Russian Airlines for May and 5M 2020.

In 5M 2020, Aeroflot Group carried 11.7 million passengers, 47.8% down year-on-year. Aeroflot airline carried 7.3 million passengers, a year-on-year decrease of 49.7%. Group and Company RPKs decreased by 48.1% and 49.8% year-on-year, respectively. ASKs decrease by 40.9% year-on-year for the Group and by 40.7% year-on-year for the Company. The passenger load factor decreased by 9.4 p.p. year-on-year to 68.8% for Aeroflot Group and decreased by 11.8 p.p. to 64.6% for Aeroflot airline.

In May 2020, Aeroflot Group carried 305.6 thousand passengers, a year-on-year decrease of 93.9%. Aeroflot airline carried 206.3 thousand passengers, a year-on-year decrease of 93.1%.

Group and Company RPKs were down 94.2% and 93.8% year-on-year, respectively. ASKs decrease by 90.2% for Aeroflot Group and by 89.5% for Aeroflot airline. Aeroflot Group's passenger load factor was 45.4%, representing a 31.6 p.p. decrease versus the same period a year earlier. The passenger load factor at Aeroflot - Russian Airlines decreased by 30.1 p.p. year-on-year to 44.1%.

In 5M and May 2020, operating results were affected by the dynamics of demand and significant flight restrictions imposed amid the spread of the novel coronavirus infection. In addition to the suspension of scheduled international flights, quarantine restrictions in Russia and passengers' propensity to travel amid pandemic affected the decline in domestic traffic indicators.

In June Aeroflot Group began to gradually restore operating volumes due to the partial lifting of restrictions. The restoration of flights is accompanied by a progressive increase in the passenger load factor.



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