Airlines, Airports and Airliners News - 31 Aug to 6 Sept 2020

Compiled by Willie Bodenstein



COMAIR CONFIRMS PUBLICATION OF A BUSINESS RESCUE PLAN



Comair will hopefully begin flying again in December if the business rescue plan published on 2 September is accepted. Creditors and shareholders now have until 18 September to consider and adopt the plan.

The publication of the plan follows negotiations with a preferred investor which will see a fresh equity injection of R500 million in return for a 99% shareholding. Up to 15% of this shareholding will be allocated to a suitable BBBEE partner within 12 months.

The first R100 million will be paid in two equal tranches in September and October as secured post-commencement finance. Additional funding from lenders of R1.4 billion is required in order to successfully implement the adopted plan. This will comprise R600 million in net new debt.

Existing debt will be deferred to provide the remaining R800 million, with capital payments deferred for 12 months and interest for six months. Comair will be de-listed from the JSE and a new board constituted in due course.

The turnaround plan is focused on rationalising operating costs and growing ancillary revenue.

In line with this, the workforce will be reduced from approximately 2 200 employees to 1 800 through a voluntary retrenchment and early retirement programmes, as well as the continuation of the Section 189 retrenchment process that the company commenced prior to business rescue. The fleet will comprise 20 aircraft of which 17 will be next-generation Boeing 737-800s and the remaining three Boeing 737-400s. This fleet mix increases the proportion of owned aircraft, which limits exposure to foreign currency risk.

The aircraft will gradually return to service from December with a seven-month ramp-up period until June 2021.

Other elements of the offer include maintaining the existing relationships with British Airways, Discovery Vitality and Boeing.

In the event that the suspensive conditions in the plan are not met, the plan details how the company will be wound down in a structured manner as this will achieve a better return for creditors than a liquidation.

Richard Ferguson, one of the business rescue practitioners, says that if creditors approve the plan, the business rescue process should be concluded by 31 March 2021, if not sooner, after which Comair will continue to operate as a sustainable business.

"It is important to understand that what happened to Comair was the result of an eco-system problem that has seen some 600 airlines around the world cease to operate. It was not something that was business specific. Comair is a national asset. Getting it back in the air will save 1 800 jobs, provide the flying public with more choice and competitive fares, strengthen the aviation sector and contribute to the broader South African economy."

IATA CALLS FOR BORDERS TO OPEN AND CONTINUED RELIEF MEASURES



The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is calling on governments to work together to urgently find ways to re-establish global connectivity by re-opening borders and to continue with relief measures to sustain airlines during the COVID-19 crisis.

IATA's call reflects deep industry frustration as government policies such as closed borders, travel restrictions and quarantines continue to annihilate travel demand. This was evident in a disappointing "peak (Northern Hemisphere) summer travel season" that saw minimal improvements compared to the May-June period, as four in five potential travellers stayed home, based on comparisons with the year-ago period.

Total July 2020 traffic was 79.8% below 2019 levels. International traffic in July 2020 was 91.9% below 2019 levels.

"Airlines have been largely grounded for a half-year. And the situation is not improving. In fact, in many cases it is going in the wrong direction. We see governments replacing border closures with quarantine for air travellers. Neither will restore travel or jobs. Worse, governments are changing the entry requirements with little notice to travellers or coordination with their trading partners. This uncertainty destroys demand. Ten percent of the global economy is sustained by travel and tourism; governments need to do better to re-start it," said de Juniac.

The prerequisite to open borders is the ICAO Take-off guidance. Additionally, IATA is proposing travel bubbles to mitigate risks between specific markets and foresees a much wider and strategic use of COVID-19 testing as technology improves accuracy, speed and scalability.

"No government wants to import COVID-19. Equally, no government should want to see the economic hardships and associated health impacts of mass unemployment. Successfully getting through this crisis requires careful risk-management with effective measures. If government policies focus on enabling a safe re-start, aviation is well-prepared to deliver. Risk-management is a well-developed discipline that airlines rely on to keep travel safe and secure," said de Juniac.

With the exception of some domestic markets, there is little evidence of an early industry recovery. Airlines continue to lose billions of dollars and are facing difficult decisions to resize their operations and workforce for the future.

70TH ANNIVERSARY OF AEROLÍNEAS ARGENTINAS IN A RETRO CAMPAIGN WITH SBARAGLIA AND SANTAOLALLA



On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, Aerolíneas Argentinas has launched a new campaign, which will include the painting of one of its aircraft with one of its most iconic designs.

With texts by Eduardo Galeano, voiced by Leonardo Sbaraglia and musicalized by Gustavo Santaolallla, the company launched the first of a series of videos in which it will slowly unveil the process of the aircraft painting, which will have one of the most remembered "liveries" since it was placed on the old "Jumbo" aircraft, where both Pope John Paul II and the Argentine football team that raised the world cup in Mexico 86 travelled.

The painting jobs will be carried out in the workshops of FADEA (Argentine Aircraft Factory) located in Córdoba and do not imply an extra cost since there is a surplus with which other 6 Embraer 190 aircraft of the Austral fleet will be painted that will fly under the name of Aerolíneas Argentinas once the merger process in place between the two companies ends.

The initiative is a common practice in the aviation industry and its purpose is to reaffirm the history of the company appealing to nostalgia and to the continuity of the company over the years.

DELTA CELEBRATES UNVEILING OF NEW SALT LAKE CITY AIRPORT



Delta people joined state and local dignitaries, special guests and executives from the Salt Lake City International Airport to unveil the first phase of the new Salt Lake City airport. Delta will celebrate the new airport's official opening on Sept. 15 with a showcase of their newest and largest Sky Club, and the launch of operations that feature innovative customer solutions and the Delta CareStandard from curb to club to baggage claim.

Scott Santoro, Delta's Vice President of Sales for the West Coast, spoke at Thursday's event, expressing his appreciation for the great partnership Delta shares with the state of Utah, as well as the significant role this new airport plays in Delta's vision for the future of travel.

"For the past 60 years, Delta has remained a steadfast, strategic partner to the Salt Lake City International Airport and today, we are gathered to celebrate the new gold standard for travellers coming to or through this great region that we've built together," Santoro said. "For all of us at Delta, this incredible space is more than a concourse or the largest new build in the Western United States for more than 25 years. It solidifies Delta as the airline of choice for passengers traveling to, from, and through Salt Lake for both business and leisure travel for years to come."

Delta's support of the new Salt Lake City Airport build is part of the airline's ongoing strategy to modernize their hub infrastructure and customer experience by investing more than $12B in airport projects that also include LAX and LGA. Delta people have played key roles in contributing since day one to this new airport that is both on time and on budget. The new facility will redefine travel for those coming through the great mountain west region.

As part of the ceremony, speakers contributed items to a time capsule commemorating this date in history. Delta's contribution included a "Keep Climbing Together" t-shirt and a "Once Delta, Always Delta" plaque. Together, the items represent all Delta people - those who continue to serve our customers in the face of the pandemic and those who have chosen to retire or take leave early from Delta to help secure our future.

ATRAN AIRLINES EXPANDS CHINESE COVERAGE AMID GROWING E-COMMERCE VOLUMES



Volga-Dnepr Group's express air cargo carrier, Atran Airlines, has expanded its network in China by bringing Shijiazhuang into the loop amid a growing demand for e-Commerce.

The carrier said it intends to operate the flights on a weekly basis to Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow (Russia) where it is based. Shijiazhuang is the capital and largest city of North China's Hebei Province.

The maiden flight, which was operated on the 8th of August, lifted almost 15 tons of e-commerce-related consolidated cargo. ATRAN is planning to deploy both types of its freighters - Boeing 737-400SF and Boeing 737-800BCF - to guarantee high-quality services for its customers and final consignees who expect on-time delivery of their online purchases.

With Shijiazhuang being the capital of Hebei Province and neighbouring Beijing and Tianjin to the north, the city covers the catchment area of North China. After booming growth of e-commerce and its penetration across first-tier cities of China, second-tier cities, likes of Xi'an and Shijiazhuang, are becoming active game-players and accumulate stable traffic to Russia.

Shijiazhuang is the latest addition to ATRAN's network which complements existing Xi'an, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Urumqi and Zhengzhou most effectively and will provide greater delivery options for ATRAN's customers.

AIR FRANCE WILL SERVE THE FRENCH CARIBBEAN FROM PARIS-CHARLES DE GAULLE AND PARIS-ORLY THIS WINTER



Air France is increasing its service to the French Caribbean. Starting from 21 December 2020 and for the remainder of the winter season, the company will operate flights between Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe) and Fort-de-France (Martinique) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, in addition to its frequencies on departure from Paris-Orly. In total, up to three flights will be operated daily between Paris and each of the two islands.

Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France will thus be connected to the two Air France hubs, giving customers connecting opportunities throughout the company's short, medium and long-haul network.

THAI TO FLY FOREIGN TOURISTS TO PHUKET FOLLOWING GOVERNMENT POLICY



In order to boost national tourism industry, Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) will operate chartered flights to Phuket from six destinations: Denmark, Germany, England, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. THAI also plans to fly tourists from the People's Republic of China to Phuket.

Mr. Chansin Treenuchagron, THAI Acting President, said that in response to the Government's policy to boost and recover domestic tourism after the COVID-19 outbreak, THAI has prepared to operate chartered flights on six international destinations (Denmark, Germany, England, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong) to Phuket for twice a month or more on each route based on passengers' travel demands. THAI expects to launch these flights around late November 2020 with the People's Republic of China as the planned destination.

THAI will provide services with health safety of passengers and employees as its top priority. Physical distancing is applied in every aspect of service provision: check-in, passenger boarding, seat arrangement, inflight box meals to avoid physical contact and disembarkation. The cabin crew were required to wear protective suits, medical masks and gloves while providing services and observed passengers with possible symptoms. Cabin rooms and cockpits were also sterilized and deep cleaned. THAI was the first carrier to receive the Amazing Thailand Safety & Health Administration (SHA) Logo, the partnership of the Ministry of Public Health, the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and private sectors to develop the Thai tourism industry by combining public health safety measures with hospitality service standards to ensure favourable travel experience and hygienic safety.

JAZEERA AIRWAYS SHINES IN 2019 BUT HOLDS EXPANSION PLANS DUE TO PANDEMIC



Jazeera Airways says its operating profits doubled to KD14 million (about USD46 million) in financial year 2019 but its expansion plans remain on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic crisis.

Kuwait's budget airline said its profits rose 108% in the year ending 31 December 2019 on top of revenues of KD103 million ($335 million) - a 26% increase on 2018.

But Jazeera Chairman Marwan Boodai warned the airline cannot attain the same level of profitability this year even with aggressive cost-cutting measures.

"Our goal by the end of 2020 is not the bottom line, but our readiness for the following year, the year 2021," said Boodai addressing their shareholders. "Until then, Jazeera Airways has a strong balance sheet and financial reserves enabling it to withstand difficult conditions for 27 months."

Jazeera Airways had previously announced plans to continue expanding its network and introduced new fare categories at the start of 2020. The airline also recently became the first low-cost carrier in the Middle East to launch long-haul flights to the UK in a bold new venture utilizing its A320 fleet. But its long-term growth plans have been paused due to the circumstances.

"As a private sector company, we are taking full responsibility to ensure our business continuity. Therefore, we have implemented decisive measures to safeguard our financial position caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including the suspension of the 2019 dividend payment and activating the drawdown of bank facilities that were not previously tapped to support Jazeera's ongoing liquidity through the coming months," said Boodai.

By end-2019, Jazeera Airways was serving 37 airports from Jazeera Terminal 5 with a fleet of 13 aircraft comprising of nine A320 and four of the A320neo. The airline took delivery of three new A320neo aircraft in Q4 2019. It posted a load factor of 77.5% in 2019, carrying 2.4 million passengers, 20% more than in 2018.

In recent weeks, Jazeera Airways has made its fleet available for cargo-only flights to transport produce and goods to Kuwait.

AIRASIA UPDATES FLIGHT SCHEDULES UNTIL 30 SEPTEMBER



Following AirAsia's resumption in the Philippines, more commercial flights are being arranged as we gradually restore our network. Updated routes are based on new developments following coordination with our partners in the government, including local government units.

Select flights are open for booking via the airasia.com website and their mobile app. Guests may use their credit accounts to redeem these flights. Additional routes and flight schedules will be on the AirAsia website and mobile app, subject to approval from the authorities.

The airline urges guests to check the latest travel restrictions and advice of respective local and national governments before travelling, as policies may change frequently. Answers to frequently asked questions, including on travel documents, may be found here.

Meanwhile, with travel plans being fluid during the current pandemic, AirAsia offers enhanced flexibility options for guests to manage their flights.

Those with existing flight bookings departing from 23 March to 31 August 2020 which were cancelled by the airline can now choose between a Credit Account with a 2-year validity period or unlimited flight changes until 31 October 2020.

The safety and wellbeing of our guests and Allstars remains AirAsia's top priority. AirAsia is complying with advice and regulations from the local government, civil aviation authorities, global and local health agencies, including the World Health Organization.

Guests can expect enhanced safety measures throughout the entire journey, including pre-flight, in-flight, and arrival processes. These include the mandatory wearing of face masks to be permitted to travel, amongst others. Guests are also advised to check and comply with measures implemented by local airport authorities for a smooth travel experience.

AirAsia is closely monitoring this situation and reserves the right to announce further policies according to the latest developments.

SHARJAH AIRPORT IS GCC'S FIRST CARBON-NEUTRAL AIRPORT



SHARJAH: Sharjah Airport has become the first carbon-neutral airport in the GCC and the second in the Middle East to attain Level 3+ Neutrality accreditation from the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, issued by Airports Council International (ACI), top aviation officials announced.

Ali Salim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Airport Authority, said the airport has adopted many green initiatives and programs, in line with the commitment of the UAE towards reducing carbon emissions that fall under the UAE Green Growth Strategy and to support the national agenda to attain the UAE vision 2021.

Sharjah Airport incurred zero net carbon dioxide emissions in a full year. Its environmental and sustainability projects include energy conservation initiatives, clean energy projects and circular economic initiatives to encourage all stakeholders of the airport to engage and contribute to good practice. Besides strictly monitoring electricity and water consumption in the airport, it also implements an integrated waste management system, targeted at zero landfill waste.

Stefano Baronci, Director-General of ACI Asia-Pacific, said this accomplishment clearly positions Sharjah Airport as an environmental leader in the region and beyond.

"By reaching carbon-neutral status, the highest status currently, in the internationally-recognised Airport Carbon Accreditation program, Sharjah Airport is firmly positioning itself as an environmental leader in the region and beyond. We are grateful to the management team at Sharjah Airport for their continued commitment and active participation in ACI Asia-Pacific environmental initiatives and in support of working towards a new societal value," said Baronci.

The accomplishment marks an important milestone in Sharjah Airport's journey towards continuous environmental and sustainable development as it continues to expand its operational capacity. Sharjah Airport has made a firm commitment to ensuring its operations have a minimal impact on the environment while working towards reducing carbon footprint and energy consumption.

Sharjah Airport has been recognised throughout the years by several entities for its contribution to sustainable initiatives. The airport will be formally presented with the Level 3+ award at the Airport Carbon Accreditation Certification Presentation ceremony at the next ACI Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly, Conference and Exhibition.

DALLAS FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT LAUNCHES NEW INITIATIVE TO REBUILD TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN NATIONAL AIR TRAVEL



Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport announced a partnership with The Convergence Collective and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) to introduce a new national customer data-driven model. The ultimate objective will help benchmark, test and rebuild trust in air travel as the industry works toward recovering from COVID-19.

This initiative will engage the North Texas community over the coming year to better understand their views on the future of air travel. The goal is to gain customer insights that can enhance operational decisions to continue maintaining safety, create an enjoyable travel experience, and cultivate trust while at the Airport.

"At a critical time for aviation, this ground-breaking research initiative will accelerate our ability to restore confidence in air travel," said Sean Donohue, DFW Airport CEO. "We are proud to join forces with the AAAE and The Convergence Collective to validate customer preferences that could help our industry advance the customer experience."

The initiative utilizes a proprietary platform, developed by The Convergence Collective and Quartr to evaluate trust. This unique platform can be leveraged in making real-time operational and communications decisions. COVID-19 has made most data about consumers and stakeholders obsolete because attitudes and behaviours have changed dramatically.

"We applaud DFW Airport's leadership on this initiative," said American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) President and CEO Todd Hauptli. "This is a pioneering step to inform airport decision making and priorities and ensure that travellers have trust and confidence in our country's airports. We look forward to expanding the success of this program at other airports across the country, which will further the benefits of customer data insights and improve the consistency and cost effectiveness of approaches that instil confidence in the air travel experience."

SAUDIA CARGO EXPANDS SCHEDULED FLIGHTS, ADDS SHANGHAI TO NETWORK



Saudia Cargo has expanded its robust cargo network with the addition of Shanghai to its flight schedules that began on August 15, using a Boeing 777 freighter, which has a 95-ton capacity.

Saudia Cargo now operates two flights a week to Shanghai-Saturdays and Tuesdays-originating from Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport and Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport.

The Saudi national air freight carrier's network expansion was in response to the growing demand for air cargo capacity, according to reports issued since last March.

Using charter flights booked by Saudia Cargo clients, the company has so far transported over two million kilograms of medical and pharmaceutical supplies required for facing the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to other millions of other life-saving cargoes needed at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Saudia Cargo CEO Omar Hariri said the company took proactive and practical steps to ensure the continuity of cargo operation to the Kingdom through non-stop charter flights despite the challenges COVID-19 posed.

The company, he added, operated 29 unscheduled all-cargo flights from Shanghai International Airport to the Kingdom to meet the growing demand for cargo.

"Saudia Cargo's high-level flexible schedules enabled it to respond swiftly to the increasing demand for cargo during the suspension of flights. We enhanced the charter flight services while our teams conducted an in-depth analysis of markets and order rates, which helped in the decision-making process for the network," said Hariri who also expressed gratitude to the dedicated Saudia Cargo teams who performed their jobs despite the virus threat.

In July, Saudia Cargo operated over 1,500 flights, of which 500 were done using passenger aircraft dedicated for international cargo operations. This, as part of the company's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saudia Cargo transported 75,000 tons of life-saving cargo including medicines and medical equipment to the Kingdom from March to June 2020, in support of the Kingdom's health efforts towards fighting COVID-19.


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