General Industry

Hospitality Ireland Presents Round-Up Of Global Airline, Aviation And Travel News

By Dave Simpson
Hospitality Ireland Presents Round-Up Of Global Airline, Aviation And Travel News

Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of global airline, aviation and travel news.

Portugal's TAP Expects EU To Approve Restructuring Plan Before Christmas

Portugal's ailing flag carrier TAP said on Tuesday November 16 it expects the European Commission to approve its €3.2 billion restructuring plan, which has been under investigation over its compliance with EU rules, by Christmas.

EU antitrust regulators have been examining since mid-July whether the plan, which involves around 2,000 job cuts and pay cuts of up to 25%, is proportionate and complies with state aid rules, and whether it affects competition.

"There has been a deep investigation... the case has been closed and we have answered to all questions," TAP's Chief Executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener told a news conference with foreign press.

"We are now in final discussions and our expectation... is to have the approval this side of Christmas," she added.


The airline, which is 72.5% controlled by the Portuguese state, was working closely with the government through the process, she said.

The CEO said the group was "focused on delivering the plan" and had already cut 2,000 jobs, taking its workforce to 7,000. "We are waiting for an approval (but) that doesn't mean the work hasn't started yet," she said.

TAP posted losses of €1.2 billion in 2020 as passenger numbers fell due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but reported a slight improvement in the first half of this year as travel rules were eased.

Portugal's infrastructure minister Pedro Nuno Santos said TAP was unlikely to succeed alone and must be open to consolidation with other airlines.

Ourmieres-Widener said the company could in the future be part of the consolidation of the airline industry in Europe, but that it was "not a priority for now".


India's Akasa Air Orders 72 Boeing 737 MAX Jets

India's Akasa Air on Tuesday November 16 placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX jets, valued at nearly $9 billion at list prices - a deal that could help the U.S. planemaker regain lost ground in one of the world's most promising markets.

The order by billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed airline comes months after India's air safety regulator allowed the country's airlines to fly the MAX jet, ending its nearly two and a half years of regulatory grounding after two fatal crashes in five months killed 346 people.

Jhunjhunwala, known as "India's Warren Buffett", has teamed up with former chief executives of IndiGo, the country's biggest carrier, and Jet Airways to tap into demand for domestic air travel, which is nearing pre-pandemic levels as the country recovers from a devastating outbreak earlier this year.

The low-cost airline received initial clearance from the civil aviation ministry to start operations in October and is expected to begin flying next year.

"We are already witnessing a strong recovery in air travel, and we see decades of growth ahead of us," Akasa Air Chief Executive Vinay Dube said at the Dubai airshow, where the order was announced.


The order by Akasa includes two variants, the 737-8 and the high-capacity 737-8-200, the companies said.

Reuters reported in September that Boeing was close to winning an order for some 70 to 100 737 MAX jets from Akasa, pending separate talks on a long-term engine service deal.

Boeing dominates India's wide-body market of 51 planes but fare wars and high costs have led to casualties among full-service carriers, including Kingfisher Airlines in 2012 and Jet Airways in 2019, making low cost carriers and Airbus even more dominant.

Boeing's share of India's 570 narrow-body planes fell to 18% from 35% after Jet's collapse in 2018, data from consultancy CAPA India shows. Currently, SpiceJet is the only customer for the MAX planes in the country.

Planemakers Grab Deals At Dubai Airshow

Global aerospace firms have secured tentative or firm orders for more than 400 airplanes at the Dubai Airshow, building on signs of a recovery from a global pandemic that has shattered the industry's profits.


After major orders for narrowbody jets and a new freighter earlier this week, Airbus secured a tentative deal for up to 30 A320neo narrowbody jets from Kuwait's Jazeera Airways, while Boeing ended a recent dearth of orders in India.

Most of the planes ordered were narrowbody models in highest demand from low-cost carriers like Europe's Wizz Air and Boeing's latest customer, Indian startup Akasa.

"I believe this is a sign of recovery. The second half of the decade when most of these aircraft will be delivered is a long time from now, so it is reasonable to expect that at that point traffic will exceed pre-COVID levels," said independent aviation adviser Bertrand Grabowski.

"It is also reasonable to expect that those who emerge from the crisis with lower costs and higher efficiency will win," he added.

A major question marks hangs over Asia, previously the engine of new jetliner demand, executives said, while some fretted over the concentration of orders among a few carriers.

Airlines and suppliers nonetheless seized on signs of a fragile recovery, using the deadline of air show publicity to try to win last-minute concessions.

The deal between Airbus and Kuwait's Jazeera comes after the airline's chairman, Marwan Boodai, told Reuters this month the budget carrier was aiming to buy up to $2 billion worth of jets.

Akasa Air, backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, finalised an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX jets in a move that will help the U.S. planemaker regain lost ground in one of the world's fastest-growing markets.

Boeing is also relying on the order to lend fresh support for the MAX, which remains grounded in China following an almost two-year safety ban that was lifted in the West late last year.

The deal includes a high-density 200-seat version of the Boeing 737 MAX known as 8200, making Akasa the second major customer for that layout after Ireland's Ryanair, which is locked in a dispute with Boeing over prices of new planes.

The 8200's configuration is suited to ultra-low-cost-carriers focused on driving down costs per seat, though industry sources said Akasa would also have to fight for competitive airport costs to succeed in India's choppy airline market.

Nigerian carrier Ibom Air, owned by the Akwa Ibom state government, confirmed a deal for 10 Airbus A220s.

Demand for wide-body jets underpinning big Gulf travel hubs like Dubai and Doha, whose carrier Qatar Airways is absent from this year's show amid lingering diplomatic wounds in the region from a recent rift between Gulf states, remains thin as international travel recovers slowly from pandemic restrictions.

"Once we see the relaxation of borders, entry requirements and all the other paraphernalia with people travelling these days... then you will see the bounceback in the countries that we are now flying to," said Emirates President Tim Clark.

The Emirates executive urged Boeing to provide firm dates for its delayed 777X, saying certification uncertainty had upended the carrier's growth plans. Boeing had no immediate comment.

Emirates is the largest customer for the previous version of 777 as well as the Airbus A380 superjumbo, whose production is ending due to low sales.

Clark, who has been among the biggest champions for the A380, predicted the double-decker would prove its mettle when travel recovers from the COVID-19 crisis. Some other industry leaders see a move toward smaller and more flexible jets.

As supply chain problems hit manufacturing worldwide, Clark said Airbus had not been able to give a date for "even the last" A380 delivery that had been due mid-December.

He also noted that labour shortages were hurting the industry.

An Airbus spokesman said, "All deliveries are agreed with the customer and it is the customer's privilege to announce them."

Canada's Lynx Rebrands As Budget Carrier, Plans 2022 Launch

Canadian budget upstart Lynx Air said on Tuesday November 17 it will launch service in early 2022 with a former Australian airline executive as CEO and new Boeing 737 MAX jets, as leisure traffic rebounds after a COVID-19-induced slump.

Calgary-based Lynx, formerly charter Enerjet, is banking on growth as an ultra-low-cost carrier under Chief Executive Merren McArthur, a former head of budget airline Tigerair Australia.

Lynx said in a news release it has firm orders and lease agreements in place for a total of 46 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft over the next seven years. The first three 737s will arrive in early 2022 when service starts.

It is the latest budget service being introduced in Canada, one of the world's toughest markets for airlines due to high taxes, fees and the costly requirement of a negative COVID molecular test for fully vaccinated arriving travellers.

Canadian budget carrier Flair Airlines, headed by a former executive from European budget heavyweight Wizz Air, announced flights to Mexico on Tuesday. Flair also uses a MAX fleet.

While Canada's travel sector was battered during the pandemic, traffic is bouncing back as vaccinated travelers who have not seen friends and family for over a year take to the skies.

Earlier on Tuesday November 16, Air Canada Chief Financial Officer Amos Kazzaz said he sees strong demand from leisure travelers for sun markets going into the winter holidays.

“We see sort of buildup into what we hope to be a strong summer into transatlantic markets,” Kazzaz told the Scotiabank transportation and industrials conference, citing travel to India as a "bright spot."

U.S. Aviation Regulator In Talks With Telecom Industry Over 5G Dispute

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday November 16 it is in direct talks with the telecom industry about its aviation safety concerns involving the planned use of spectrum for 5G wireless communications.

"We are having very productive discussions and we will figure this out," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said at an event in Washington. "It remains to be seen what mitigations - whether it's adjustments to deployment or actions that we need to take within the aviation sector - what those will look like."

Earlier this month, AT&T and Verizon Communications agreed to delay the commercial launch of C-band wireless service from Dec. 5 until early January.

The FAA issued a Nov. 2 bulletin alerting manufacturers, operators and pilots that action may be needed to address potential interference caused by the 5G deployment with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters.

The FAA bulletin said operators "should be prepared for the possibility that interference from 5G transmitters and other technology could cause certain safety equipment to malfunction."

Wireless trade group CTIA said in a letter to the White House that in nearly 40 other countries, "C-Band 5G spectrum is deployed and planes land safely every day without any evidence of harmful interference."

CTIA asked the Biden administration to "reject further calls to delay C-Band 5G services. Aviation safety is critically important. It is also not at risk due to C-Band 5G operations."

The FAA is considering issuing an airworthiness directive. Dickson said airlines need at least 30 days' notice.

"The industry needs some time to make adjustments to whatever requirements we're going to levy on them," he said. "If they have to change their flight planning systems or how they are getting information to pilots... Whatever it is, we've got to give time to put all those things in place."

Boeing Co, Airbus SE, U.S. airlines, pilots and others have urged the administration "to help aviation and telecommunication industries reach acceptable mitigations." They added that it "will take significant time... to ensure they meet the FAA’s robust safety requirements."

India's SpiceJet, Boeing Settle 737 MAX-Related Claims

Indian budget airline SpiceJet said on Wednesday November 17 U.S. planemaker Boeing had agreed to settle the outstanding claims related to the grounding of its 737 MAX aircraft.

The announcement from the country's second-largest airline comes a day after billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX jets valued at nearly $9 billion at list prices.

"Boeing has agreed to provide certain accommodations and settle the outstanding claims related to the grounding of 737 MAX aircraft and its return to service," SpiceJet said in a filing to the domestic stock exchanges.

The settlement will allow the resumption of new aircraft deliveries from SpiceJet's order of 155 MAX aircraft, the airline said, adding that it will also pave the way for inducing "efficient and younger MAX aircraft" into its fleet.

SpiceJet is Boeing's biggest customer in the South Asian nation for the MAX planes.

India's air safety regulator had cleared in August the 737 MAX aircraft to fly after a near two-and-a-half-year regulatory grounding following two fatal crashes in 2019.

SpiceJet shares were trading down 2.1% as of 0355 GMT on Wednesday November 17 in a weak Mumbai market.

Cathay Pacific Bets On Robust Cargo Demand To Improve Second-Half Results

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said on Wednesday November 17 it expects second-half results to improve considerably from the first half, helped by exceptionally strong air cargo demand.

The outlook comes as the airline continues to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions, operating at only 10% of the pre-pandemic passenger capacity in October and posting a 97.2% decline in passenger numbers from 2019.

"October was more challenging for our passenger business than recent months. Demand for student travel, which had been robust over the past few months, tapered down quickly from early-October," Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Ronald Lam said in a statement.

However, a strong cargo season in the second-half provided a bright spot, Cathay said, to the extent that the airline achieved close to operating cash break-even for the four-month period from July to October.

Reopening of Australian borders for vaccinated citizens also aided the recovery, Cathay said.

"We have already added more capacity and seen an increase in flight bookings," the company said while referring to Australia.

The airline, which had posted a net loss of HK$7.57 billion ($972.01 million) in the first half, still expects annual loss for 2021 to be substantial.

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Yet To Decide On Some Airbus, Boeing Orders, CEO Says

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways is yet to decide on future plans for around 50 Airbus A320neo and Boeing 777X jets it previously ordered, its chief executive said on Wednesday November 17, raising uncertainty over billions of dollars of aircraft sales.

The state-owned carrier is restructuring under new management led by Tony Douglas after a failed bid last decade to compete with major Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Asked about Airbus A320neo and Boeing 777X ordered by previous management, Douglas said the airline was focused on sustainable growth and that a final decision had not been made.

Uncertainty over deliveries and when the industry would recover from the pandemic had added to the complexity of making a decision on future fleet plans.

"The manufactures can't confirm when they are going to be delivered and you have a market that you don't know when its going to recover."

The airline had three years to decide on what it would do with the A320neo order, while a decision on the 777X jets was "way down the road".

Airbus declined to comment. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Boeing's new version of its best-selling 777 twin aisle wide-body jet has been beset by delays, while supply chain issues have hit both manufacturers.

Etihad, which is in the midst of a five year downsizing to become what it calls a "mid-sized carrier", has 26 A320neo jets and 25 777X on order, according to the planemakers.

It would continue to take deliveries of Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner liner jets, which Douglas said would become the backbone of the fleet that will trim to 65 aircraft.

Etihad has 93 aircraft, according to its website. Douglas also said the existing 30-strong A320 fleet would likely be halved as operations reduce with a focus on profitable routes.

It already plans to phase out its 5 777-300ER jets from the passenger fleet and has grounded its 10 Airbus A380s since the start of the pandemic.

"When the market comes back sustainability, then we will look at how we will scale up. We are never going to get back into the madness," Douglas said.

Qatar Weighs "Attractive" Boeing Offer For Cargo Jets

Qatar Airways is considering an imminent purchase of a freighter aircraft and is looking at an "attractive proposition from Boeing", Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said on Wednesday November 17.

The comment from one of the world's largest cargo players is the latest indication that Qatar Airways may help inaugurate a new freighter version of Boeing's future 777X jetliner.

"We are seriously looking at placing a large cargo order, a freighter order, because ... as we are also growing our freight business, we need to be sustainable in that and we are going to imminently place a large freighter order," Al Baker said.

"Of course, I cannot tell you with whom we are going to place the order. But one thing I can say is that the proposal we have received from Boeing is very attractive to the airline."

Qatar Airways says it operates 26 Boeing 777 freighters, 2 747-8 freighters and 6 Boeing 777-300ER mini-freighters.

"We don't only look at the price, we look at the performance, and I think the aircraft that Boeing is developing will outperform the current fleet that we have," Al Baker said.

Al Baker was speaking to reporters at a ceremony to present the passenger version of the world's largest twin-engined jetliner, the 777X, which arrived in Doha on Wednesday after staging a public debut at the Dubai Airshow.

The successor to Boeing's best-selling 777 wide-body passenger plane has been delayed by at least two and a half years amid uncertainty over the timetable for certification.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways expected to receive its first passenger version of the 777X in 2023. Boeing said this week it was sticking to plans to deliver the plane in that year, but stressed the timing of certification would depend on regulators.

A 777X freighter would seek to maintain Boeing's dominance of the market for dedicated cargo planes as Europe's Airbus markets a freight version of its A350, which secured a debut buyer at this week's Dubai Airshow.

The 777X freighter is expected to carry about 110 tonnes of cargo, compared with 109 tonnes for the A350 freighter.

Boeing has not said when it plans to launch the freighter.

"We're talking ... to several prospective customers and having advanced discussions with many of them on what they want and what the airplane would look like," Senior Vice President Commercial Sales and Marketing Ihssane Mounir told reporters.

U.S. Airlines Carried 58.4m Passengers In September

U.S. airlines carried 58.4 million passengers in September, which remains down 20% over pre-pandemic levels, the U.S. Transportation Department said Wednesday November 17.

The figures were more than twice the 25. 1 million passengers carried in September 2020 but still down from the 72.6 million in September 2019. The figures cover the 20 largest U.S. airlines.

Alitalia Launches Auction For Its Loyalty Programme

Alitalia on Wednesday November 17 launched the sale of its Millemiglia loyalty programme, in another step to dispose its assets before being wound down.

The troubled Italian carrier, which last month was replaced by state-owned ITA Airways, said groups interested in entering the data room for the auction needed to express interest by Dec. 10.

Binding bids for the Millemiglia programme, which has a base price of 50.6 million euros ($57.22 million), are due by Dec. 13, Alitalia said.

Under the deal with the EU Commission over the creation of a new carrier, ITA Airways is not allowed to take part in the auction, but can clinch a partnership with the buyer of Millemiglia in a second phase.

The programme has 6.2 million members and survived the end of Alitalia's operations last month as customers can continue to earn miles by using the services of Alitalia's commercial partners or by travelling with Air France, KLM and Middle East Airlines. They can spend points through the portal.

Millemiglia has been managed since 2013 by a separate company called Alitalia Loyalty.

U.S. Expects To Screen 20m Air Travellers During Thanksgiving Period

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday November 17 it expects to screen about 20 million air passengers during the busy Thanksgiving travel period.

The TSA said airport security checkpoints nationwide will be busy in the period that starts Friday and runs through Nov. 28, and that passenger volumes "may be very close to pre-pandemic levels this holiday"

Delta Air Lines said it expects to fly up to 5.6 million passengers from Friday through Nov. 30, nearly 300% over 2020's 2.2 million Delta passengers for the period but still below the 6.3 million passengers during the same period in 2019.

United Airlines said it anticipates more than 4.5 million passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period - about 88% of 2019 volume.

United said it was adding about 700 domestic flights for Thanksgiving week, and would fly 87% of its 2019 domestic schedule in November.

Last week, the Biden administration lifted travel restrictions for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries including China, South Africa, Brazil and much of Europe.

Airlines for America, an industry trade group, said that in the week ending Nov. 9 U.S. airline passenger volumes were 13% below pre-pandemic levels, with domestic air travel down 11% and international down 30%.

Travel group AAA forecasts 53.4 million people will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020 with most travellers going by car. The United States also last week lifted restrictions on fully vaccinated tourists traveling across land borders from Mexico and Canada.

Virgin Australia To Add Seven More Planes As Demand Rises

Virgin Australia said on Thursday November 18 it would add seven more Boeing Co 737 NG planes to its fleet, nearly restoring it to pre-pandemic levels, to help meet a goal of obtaining a one-third share of Australia's domestic travel market.

Australia's second-largest airline said the agreed letters of intent would give it a fleet of 84 737 NGs, just one shy of the 85 it operated before it entered voluntary administration last year and handed back many of its planes to lessors.

The carrier, now owned by U.S. private equity group Bain Capital, competes against Qantas Airways Ltd and Regional Express Holdings Ltd (Rex) in a domestic market that is beginning to recover as states open their borders.

"This fleet growth underlines the confidence we have in the future of our business and the industry generally," Virgin Australia Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka said in a statement. "Vaccination rates are rising, borders are opening, and demand is returning."

The airline said that all staff would be back at work by next month and that it would recruit for another 600 roles across the business. Many employees had been placed on unpaid leave because of lack of demand.

Qantas will also bring back all staff by next month at a time when it has reported a surge in bookings as states open their borders.

Rex this week announced plans to start flights on the highly-trafficked Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane routes from next month.

Rex said it would offer one-way fares as low as A$69 ($50.16), in a challenge to mid-market Virgin Australia and Qantas' low-cost arm Jetstar.

Airbus Jet Demand Hopes Bolstered By Dubai Orders - CEO

A slew of plane orders at this week's Dubai Airshow has added weight to Airbus' hopes of raising output, but the jetmaker is not yet ready to pull the trigger, its top executive said.

Airbus SE bagged 265 firm orders at the Middle East event, closing a gap with Boeing which had been leading this year as sales of its 737 MAX rebound from a safety crisis.

A further 139 provisional orders lifted Airbus' Dubai tally above 400 jets, while Boeing won a firm order for 72 MAX.

CEO Guillaume Faury said Airbus had definitively agreed to increase production to 65 single-aisle jets a month by summer 2023, from a planned average of 45 this quarter.

Beyond that, Airbus has asked suppliers to explore rates of 70 in early 2024 and 75 by 2025, but has not made a decision.

Some suppliers have criticised the plans, worried the pandemic recovery will remain patchy.

"We are in the phase of assessing demand," Faury told Reuters in an interview this week.

"What happened (in Dubai) is important, because together with other prospects or deals to come, it gives substance and ... evidence that the demand we see for rate 70, 75 will be sustained for many years."

That "inside-out" view of demand - based on orders Airbus is receiving and its own assumptions based on talks with airlines - matches the "outside-in" or top-down picture provided by new Airbus market forecasts published at the show, he said.

The forecasts cover 20 years and straddle categories, so cannot easily be used to gauge near-term output of a specific model. But Faury said the latest report was consistent with demand for "maybe 70, 75" A320-family jets a month this decade.

"So if those simulation tools and those sensors continue to be as robust as they have demonstrated in the past, we think 70, 75 is reasonable, but we're not yet there," Faury said.

Industry sources say Airbus intends to take a decision by the middle of next year to leave time for suppliers to react.

Faury said he had received encouraging signals during recent talks with French and German supplier groups.

Privately, some suppliers are less optimistic. "I think most still believe it will be bumpy," a senior industry source said.

Airbus deliveries have flattened in the past three months, in part due to snags in the supply chain.

Faury said the overall burden on the supply chain had eased, however, because of a drop in demand for wide-body jets.

He declined to be drawn on a recent row with engine makers who oppose plans to raise monthly A320-family output beyond 65 in order to leave space for repair revenues on older planes that might otherwise be pushed into early retirement.

Faury said he respected their concerns, as well as those of lessors, and any decisions would be made "as a community".

Airbus appears worried disputes over output plans will deter suppliers from making investments needed to reach the first step of 65 a month, roughly where output was pre-pandemic.

"We are going to 65: that is decided ... We are executing this. But we have not decided anything beyond," Faury said.

J.P.Morgan Restores Buy Call On Boeing After 1-1/2 Years

J.P.Morgan analysts have turned bullish on Boeing Co shares on the likelihood that China will soon allow the U.S. planemaker's 737 MAX jet to return to its skies following a global grounding.

The brokerage gave an "outperform" rating to the stock on Thursday November 18, saying the U.S. planemaker can ramp up global deliveries of the MAX jet to 52 per month in 2024, a rate which could eliminate Boeing's inventory of excess 737s by 2025.

It had downgraded the stock by a notch in March 2020, just when the pandemic had started to extract a huge toll on the airline industry. Boeing's 737 MAX had already been grounded for a year by then, following two deadly air crashes.

Earlier this week, China's aviation regulator agreed that design changes Boeing proposed for its 737 MAX plane could resolve safety problems.

"MAX certification is just one element of Boeing's China exposure, with another being future orders," said J.P.Morgan's Seth Seifman, a four-star rated analyst by Refinitiv for his estimate accuracy.

Seifman estimates 445 deliveries of 737 MAX aircrafts in 2022, or 37 planes per month, compared with an average delivery of about 20 planes each in the last four months.

The analyst also raised his price target on Boeing to $275 from $260, indicating a 21.3% upside to the stock's Wednesday close.

"Boeing's position at the center of global air travel offers confidence that it will recover financially over time and we believe risk-reward now skews favorably," Seifman said.

From Bar Shots To COVID Shots, Spain's Benidorm Beckons

The Spanish beach resort of Benidorm, famous for its vibrant nightlife and especially popular with British partygoers, has opened a COVID-19 vaccination centre specifically for tourists as cases surge along with arrival numbers.

The clinic close to the hotel district was drawing queues of tourists this week and further mobile vaccination points will be set up in areas where big crowds gather.

"I think this sends a message of safety," Benidorm mayor Antonio Perez told Reuters. "This is a public service we want to extend to our tourists."

Spain requires all visitors entering the country to present either a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test. Bars and restaurants do not require vaccine passports, as is the case in many European cities.

Benidorm's COVID cases are significantly higher than the national average, with 249 cases per 100,000 confirmed over a rolling 14-day period, compared to 96 cases nationally, or the 101 cases for the Valencian region in which Benidorm lies.

Rosa Louis, manager of the health district that includes Benidorm, said the return of tourists had played a part.

"We don't have proper data on the rise of the infections (in Benidorm), but we have noticed that as soon as tourists came back, infections rose too, that is without question," she said.

Toni Mayor, head of Valencia's HOSBEC hotel association, said while most hotel guests were vaccinated, some people were lax in wearing masks.

"We have to keep reminding the British put their masks back on," he told Reuters. "Some of them get confused because in Britain you don't have to wear one."

Spain's crucial tourism industry has been getting to its feet in recent months, with visitor numbers increasing more than four-fold in September from the previous year.

The government hopes Spain will recover two thirds of its pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of this year.

Cathay Pacific Fires Three Pilots Infected With COVID-19 On Layover

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd said it had fired three cargo pilots who were infected with COVID-19 during a layover in Frankfurt, over an unspecified "serious breach" of crew rules while overseas.

"The individuals concerned are no longer employed by Cathay Pacific," the company said in a statement issued on Thursday November 18.

The South China Morning Post, which first the firings, cited a source as saying the pilots were suspected of leaving their hotel rooms in Germany.

The discovery of the infections led to more than 150 other Cathay employees, including pilots and flight attendants, as well as many household members and community contacts being sent to a government quarantine facility for three weeks.

"As a result of these findings, we have requested the government to review the decision to place certain groups into government quarantine," Cathay said.

Hong Kong has recorded barely any local coronavirus cases in recent months but authorities in the global financial hub have tightened up quarantine rules.

Hong Kong is following Beijing's lead in retaining strict travel curbs, in contrast to a global trend of opening up and living with the coronavirus. The city government hopes the tighter rules would convince China, its main source of economic growth, to gradually open its border with Hong Kong.

After the pilot cases were reported last week, Cathay said it would step up compliance checks at overseas ports to ensure health and safety protocols were being strictly followed during layovers.

All of Cathay's crew have received COVID-19 vaccines and the airline said it would require a booster dose as well.

Hong Kong's strict rules, which include up to three weeks of hotel quarantine for arrivals, have led to a plunge in travel demand.

Cathay said this week it operated in October at only 10% of the pre-pandemic passenger capacity and posted a 97.2% decline in passenger numbers from 2019.

However, cargo demand has been far more robust and the airline achieved close to operating cash break-even for the period from July to October.

Emirates Cargo Boss Says Supply Chain Constraints Could Stretch Beyond 2022

Global supply chain constraints will continue to hit freight movers until at least the end of next year and could stretch beyond 2022 as logistics companies struggle with labour shortages amid booming demand, Emirates' cargo boss said.

A shortage of freight space and manpower as a result of the pandemic compounded by a rapid recovery in demand has jammed seaports and airports and led transport costs to skyrocket.

"It's not something that will disappear overnight," Emirates SkyCargo Divisional Senior Vice President Nabil Sultan told Reuters at the Dubai air show.

"I believe honestly it's going to be at least another year or two if not more ... I think it is going to go beyond 2022," he said. "There are huge logistical challenges that are out there."

A vast amount of air freight globally is typically moved around by passenger jets, many of which airlines continue to keep grounded as travel demand gradually returns.

At Emirates, the passenger jet fleet accounts for about 70% of its total cargo capacity, according to Sultan.

Emirates, the world's largest international carrier based on seats and distance flown, has stripped the seats out of 16 Boeing 777-300ER passenger jets, temporarily transforming them into "mini-freighters" to cater to booming cargo demand.

Emirates this week announced it would permanently convert at least four of its older 777-300ER jets into freighters. In addition to the "mini-freighters," it is also operating some cargo-only flights using passenger jets that still have seats.

Emirates will receive converted freighters roughly every five to six months starting from the fourth quarter in 2023, Sultan said, though it hopes the time frame will reduce to nearer four months.

The Dubai state-owned carrier would likely more than double its freighter fleet from 10 to over 20 aircraft by 2030, he said, and is evaluating the new Airbus A350 and Boeing 777X freighters.

Sultan said demand for air freight was expected to remain high over the coming years, in part driven by a rise in online shopping, though was concerned a new wave of COVID-19 infections in Europe could add further disruptions if governments enforced lockdowns.

Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways expects air freight rates to start to come down in the first quarter as more passenger jets return, Senior Vice President Sales & Cargo Martin Drew told Reuters at the show.

But with many airlines having downsized and some collapsing during the pandemic, Drew said rates were unlikely to fall to 2019 levels at least for another three to four years.

The state-owned airline has also used passenger jets for cargo-only flights, and is evaluating converting 777-300 passenger jets, as well as the A350 and 777X freighters.

"We would want to get our hands on more freighter lifters as quickly as we can," Drew said.

Korean Air Deal For Asiana Airlines Under British Competition Watchdog Scrutiny

A British regulator said on Friday November 19 it was considering whether a deal between South Korean companies Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines could lead to lessening of competition in the markets.

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority said it was seeking comments from interested parties and stakeholders before Dec. 3 to assist in its decision of opening a formal investigation if needed.

Korean Air said in November last year it would spend 1.8 trillion won ($1.52 billion) to become Asiana's top shareholder.

Lufthansa Eyes Boeing Freighter As Cargo Grabs Spotlight

Germany's Lufthansa is in talks with Boeing on buying a possible new freighter version of the 777X jetliner, while welcoming competition with a new Airbus A350 cargo plane, Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said on Friday November 19.

"We have been negotiating about this morning, but there is much more negotiation to be done," Spohr said at an event to present the upcoming Boeing 777X passenger plane.

Fitted with bulky test equipment instead of seats, the giant twin-engined test plane stopped off in Frankfurt after visiting the Dubai Airshow, where host Emirates is the largest 777X customer, and Qatar, whose flag carrier is also a customer.

Spohr's comments come amid competition to sell new cargo planes to meet demand in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Qatar Airways said this week it had an "interesting" proposal from Boeing for a potential 777X freighter, for which it is widely expected to be a launch customer later this year.

Airbus this week announced an inaugural leasing customer for the freighter version of its A350 as it seeks to break into a Boeing-dominated market for cargo planes.

Bloomberg News reported it may announce a new freighter order later on Friday.

Cargolux, a major operator of Boeing 747 freighters, is being heavily wooed by Airbus, industry sources said.

Simple Flying reported last month that a delegation from the Luxembourg-based cargo carrier had visited Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. Online publication 'aero Telegraph' reported that two recent A350 test flights had carried the call sign CARGOLUX.

Speaking in Frankfurt, Spohr said Lufthansa would be the first airline to receive the 777X passenger plane in 2023.

"That was confirmed today ... we will be the first operator to receive the aircraft," Spohr added.

It also expects to receive its first Boeing 787 plane on time for the summer season next year.

The first 777X delivery has been delayed by two and half years, partly due to coronavirus pandemic and talks with aviation regulators in the U.S. and Europe, Boeing said.

Sierra Space Valued At $4.5bn After Latest Funding

Sierra Space said on Friday November 19 it was valued at $4.5 billion in fresh capital from investors led by venture firms General Atlantic, Coatue and Moore Strategic, in what was one of the biggest funding rounds for a company in the aerospace sector.

Funds and accounts managed by BlackRock Private Equity Partners, AE Industrial Partners and others also participated in the round, which brought in $1.4 billion for Sierra Space.

The commercial spaceflight wing of defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp, Sierra Space aims to make space transportation affordable in the near future.

The company is also developing what it calls a Dream Chaser Spaceplane, which is under a NASA contract to perform cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.

The idea of commercial space travel has been soaring in popularity, with high-flying companies like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin potentially vying for wealthy customers to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of space travel. Both billionaires went on suborbital joyrides earlier this year.

Morgan Stanley estimates that the space economy could be worth $1 trillion by 2040.

Sierra Space said it intends to use the funds to speed up development of its Dream Chaser Spaceplane.

It has also forged a partnership with Blue Origin to develop and operate a commercial space station in low earth orbit. Backers for the orbital reef project include Boeing and Redwire Space.

Foreign Tourists Back In New York, Long Business Recovery Seen Ahead

New York has launched its largest tourism advertising campaign in history. John F. Kennedy International Airport bustles again with foreign passengers. The holiday season promises peak travel cheer, with more visitors on streets and in stores.

But souvenir shops, horse carriage drivers and small businesses that rely on vacationers said it could take weeks, or longer, to revive their fortunes, especially to robust pre-pandemic levels.

"I'm just pessimistic, that they're not going to return in the way people think they will," said Daniel Zambrzycki, the owner of Gifts on the Square in Times Square, one of the world's most-visited tourist sites. "It's a snail-pace progression."

International tourists bring something different to New York than domestic travelers, city tourism officials said. They tend to spend more, stay longer, and bring a mix of cultures, accents and attitudes that reinforce its cosmopolitan feel.

How and when New York tourism emerges from the pandemic after U.S. curbs on foreign travel were eased on Nov. 8 is something that business owners, city officials and other top tourist destinations are closely watching.

Vijay Dandapani, chief executive of the Hotel Association of New York City, sees the country's most populous city as a litmus test for tourism in the rest of the country.

"New York is the biggest destination," he said. "Many stop here and go on to other places."

Current forecasts are not encouraging. This year, NYC & Co, the city's tourism agency, expects total visitor spending of $24 billion, down from about $47 billion in 2019.

Just 2.8 million foreign visitors are expected this year, a far cry from the record 13.5 million in 2019, when they accounted for 20% of all visitors and half of the spending.

International visitors could triple to 8.5 million next year, NYC & Co spokesman Chris Heywood said. But a rebound to 2019 levels may not come until 2025, two years after domestic travel is expected to recover.

By comparison, it took five years for international tourism in the city to fully recover following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, according to the agency.

Some souvenir stores in the Times Square area closed for good after pandemic restrictions shut down discretionary travel from much of the world, making parts of New York feel like a ghost town. While pedestrian traffic has picked up since the summer, shops that remain are operating through uncertainty.

Zambrzycki, for one, worries that spikes in crime and homelessness since the pandemic began in March 2020 will deter some foreign visitors.

He said revenues at his store remained down 65% from 2019. He has no immediate plans to restore store hours or enlarge his four-person staff - half the number in 2019.

Jalal Alif, who manages a shop called I Love NY by Phantom of Broadway, also sees no quick surge in customer traffic.

"It takes time," Alif said, standing in the middle of the nearly empty store. "It's not going to be the same like before."

To jumpstart a rebound, NYC & Co has launched a $30 million tourism campaign, its largest, with $6 million dedicated to key international markets, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea, Heywood said.

"Our goal really is to create urgency to book now and ensure that New York is at the top of the priority list for international travel."

About 20 blocks north of Times Square, Kieran Emanus has offered rides through Central Park in his horse-drawn carriage for decades. Like a visit to the Statue of Liberty, the experience is on the bucket list of many out-of-town visitors.

Emanus enjoyed a modest uptick in bookings in the first week after restrictions were lifted. A good day before the pandemic would have had six carriage bookings on weekdays and 12 on weekends, he said. Now, "if you get eight on a weekend day, you are very happy."

But there are hopeful signs.

Six groups from Britain were among Emanus' recent customers, he said. "I hadn't seen an English person since the pandemic."

U.S. House Panel Seeks Review Of FAA Oversight Of Boeing 787

Leaders of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Friday November 19 they asked for a government review of the Federal Aviation Administration's oversight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Committee Chair Representative Peter DeFazio and top Republican Representative Sam Graves asked the Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General to conduct a review of the FAA’s oversight of the manufacture and production of the Boeing 787. The lawmakers noted numerous production issues have halted deliveries for lengthy periods over the last 13 months.

The lawmakers, aviation subcommittee Chair Rick Larsen and top Republican Garret Graves, asked the inspector general to determine "whether the FAA’s existing inspection program is sufficient to identify production issues, including whether FAA has enough inspectors, whether FAA performs enough inspections, and whether FAA has appropriate processes in place to identify production issues."

Boeing shares were down more than 5% after a Wall Street Journal report that it had further slowed production of 787s.

Boeing said on Friday November 19 that it is "completing comprehensive inspections across 787 production and within the supply chain, while holding detailed, transparent discussions with the FAA, suppliers and our customers."

It said "production is ongoing, and rates will continue to be dynamic," adding that "these methodical inspection and rework efforts continue to impact 787 deliveries."

Last month, Boeing said some titanium 787 parts were improperly manufactured over the past three years, the latest in a series of problems to plague the wide-body aircraft.

The defect was found as Boeing grapples with other problems in the 787 that have caused it to cut production and halt deliveries since May.

Problems started in September 2020 when the FAA said it was investigating manufacturing flaws. Airlines using the model removed eight jets from service.

Boeing was able to resume deliveries of 787s in March after a five-month hiatus - only to halt them again in May after the FAA raised concerns about its proposed inspection method.

In July, the FAA said some Dreamliners had a manufacturing quality issue near the nose of the plane that must be fixed before Boeing can deliver to customers.

U.S.-Bound Passengers Stranded After Emergency Landing

Dozens of people were stranded in Europe for a second night on Saturday after their U.S.-bound flight made an emergency landing in Dublin following an engine failure, passengers said.

Brussels Airlines flight 101 was en route from Brussels to New York on Friday November 19 when pilots issued a "pan-pan" message, which indicates a problem less serious than a "mayday," when flying at 37,000 feet, aviation media and tracking websites said.

Pilots of the 12-year-old Airbus A330-300 requested to divert to Shannon in western Ireland but switched to Dublin on instructions from the airline, according to Aviation Herald, an independent website which tracks airplane incidents.

Lufthansa unit Brussels Airlines confirmed that the plane had diverted after an engine warning and said pilots had followed standard procedure.

Passengers praised the crew but said they had been put up in hotels in Dublin before being flown to Paris on Saturday, where many were then unable to get on overcrowded flights to New York days before Thanksgiving in the United States.

They included 18-year-old Maja Schmidt from Germany who was heading to New York to work as an au pair.

"They didn't have anything vegetarian so I ate bread and a cookie," she told Reuters. The airline said it had a policy of offering vegetarian meals and blamed the problem on a hotel.

Also on board was 22-year-old Oliver Sommerburg from near Hamburg, Germany, taking only the second flight of his life.

"It was crazy, I don't know what's going on. They don't tell us anything," he said.

Bernard Vidick, a Belgian judicial officer, said he had been refused a connecting flight in Paris because the plane bringing stranded passengers from Dublin had also been delayed.

"This means we are blocked in Paris whereas we should be in New York. We are wasting two of the few vacation days we have," he told Reuters.

"We have done our utmost to give care to our passengers in difficult circumstances ... but unfortunately we could not provide an optimal solution to all. We very much regret the inconvenience this caused for our customers," the airline said.

Carriers serving the United States are bracing for congestion and delays next week as the Thanksgiving holiday overlaps with airline labour shortages.

Israel To Provide Up To $44m Additional State Aid To COVID-Hit Airlines

Israeli cabinet members approved an additional bailout plan for airlines further harmed by the spread of the Delta strain of the coronavirus, the finance and transportation ministries said in a joint statement on Sunday November 21.

Total state aid would not exceed $44 million for all of Israel's carriers and would come in the form of three-year bonds which do not accrue interest.

A publicly traded airline will have the option to convert a bond into shares allotted to the state at maturity. In that case, the state would not hold more 24% of an airline's equity and would not have voting rights.

Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli said the plan balances the government's responsibilities with those of airlines' controlling shareholders.

It "benefits the Israeli public first and ensures the stability of the companies and their employees," she said.

Israel's airlines -- flag carrier El Al Israel Airlines , Arkia and Israir -- have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic with the country's borders largely closed to foreign tourists since March 2020.

Since the start of November, tourists who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 can enter the country within six months of their last dose.

El Al, which is in talks to buy Israir, requested $100 million from the government in September as compensation for its strict travel policies.

The airline has reported losses for three years and racked up debt to renew its fleet. It laid off 1,900 employees - nearly one-third of its staff - as part of a recovery plan mandated by the government to receive a $210 million aid package earlier in the year, and reduced its fleet to 29 from 45.

British Competition Watchdog Investigates IAG's Air Europa Deal

Britain's competition regulator is examining whether Aer Lingus owner IAG's planned €500 million purchase of Spain's Air Europa would harm competition in the UK, the watchdog said on Monday November 22.

IAG had announced its plans to buy Air Europa for €1 billion in 2019, but the price was cut in half this year after the airline industry was sent into a tailspin by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The British company has already offered concessions to address EU antitrust concerns over the deal, a filing showed last month, though details were not provided.

The European Commission opened an in-depth investigation in June, voicing concerns that the proposed transaction would reduce competition on Spanish domestic routes and on international routes to and from Spain.

The deal, which involves Iberia buying Air Europa on behalf of IAG, had sparked opposition from the Unite union over jobs and from rival carriers.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it has a Jan. 19 deadline for its initial investigation decision.

"We will collaborate with the CMA. The London-Madrid route is highly competitive and is already part of the European Commission (investigation) process," IAG said on Monday November 22.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.