Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of global airline, travel and aviation news.
Lufthansa, EasyJet Win EU Court Backing To Buy Air Berlin Assets
German airline Lufthansa and British peer easyJet on Wednesday October 20 gained backing from Europe's second top court for their acquisitions of insolvent German carrier Air Berlin's assets four years ago.
Lufthansa received the EU green light from the European Commission in 2017 to buy Air Berlin's subsidiary LGW in return for giving up some slots at Duesseldorf airport.
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In another deal, EasyJet secured unconditional clearance from the EU competition enforcer for the €40 million deal in 2017, which included some of Air Berlin's operations at Tegel airport, leases for up to 25 A320 aircraft and about 1,000 of Air Berlin's pilots and cabin crew.
Polish rival LOT subsequently challenged the EU executive's decisions at the Luxembourg-based General Court.
"The General Court dismisses the actions of Polskie Linie Lotnicze 'LOT' against the Commission decisions authorising the mergers concerning the acquisition by easyJet and Lufthansa, respectively, of certain assets of the Air Berlin group," judges said.
LOT can appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) on points of law. The cases are T-240/18 Polskie Linie Lotnicze "LOT" v Commission and T-246/18 Polskie Linie Lotnicze "LOT" v Commission.
Morocco To Halt Flights With UK, Germany And Netherlands
Moroccan authorities will suspend direct flights with Britain, Germany and the Netherlands over COVID-19 concerns starting on Oct. 21, flag carrier RAM said on Wednesday October 20.
Morocco recently announced that it would impose a mandatory vaccine pass for access to public places and inter-city travel after it inoculated most of its adult population.
So far, Morocco has administered two COVID-19 vaccine doses to 21 million people in a population of 36 million, and has launched a third dose programme.
United Airlines CEO Voices Concern Over Jet Fuel Costs
United Airlines Holdings Inc Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby on Wednesday October 20 warned about jet fuel costs in the short term, as surging oil prices threaten the pace of recovery for the airline industry.
"Ultimately higher jet fuel prices lead to higher ticket prices," Kirby told CNBC.
Despite robust travel demand, a recent surge in fuel prices has proved painful for the aviation industry with Delta Air Lines Inc warning of a fourth quarter pre-tax loss and suggesting it might have to pass on higher costs to consumers.
Higher fuel costs leads to less flown capacity and higher fares. JP Morgan analyst Jamie Baker views higher fuel costs as a short-term negative, but a positive in the medium- to long-term.
A global energy crunch is expected to boost oil demand and could stoke inflation and slow the world's recovery from the pandemic, according to the International Energy Agency.
The brent crude benchmark has risen 62.7% so far this year.
Kirby's comments come a day after United Airlines reported a smaller third-quarter loss, but was hurt by a resurgence in coronavirus cases, which slowed bookings and drove up cancellations.
United Airlines expects to spend approximately $2.39 per gallon in the fourth quarter on jet fuel. The carrier spent on average $2.14 per gallon in the third quarter, about 6% higher than in the same period in 2019.
United Airlines Expects Boeing 777s To Return To Sky In Q1 Of 2022
United Airlines said on Wednesday October 20 that its Boeing 777-200 planes equipped with Pratt & Whitney (PW) engines are expected to return to service as early as in the first quarter of 2022.
The Chicago-based carrier had to ground the wide-body jets after a United flight to Honolulu suffered an engine failure and made an emergency landing in February in Denver.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered immediate inspections of Boeing 777 planes fitted with Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines after the incident.
On Wednesday October 20, the regulator said that it is still evaluating the manufacturers' proposed fixes and will not approve them until it is satisfied that they address its safety concerns.
"Any work performed on the airplanes prior to that time is subject to being affected by any new Airworthiness Directives," the FAA said in a statement.
Greg Hart, United's executive vice president, strategy and planning, said the company has not heard from the FAA, but it expects the aircraft to return to service in the first quarter of next year.
"We have been working tirelessly with Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and the FAA over the past six months," he said.
United is the only U.S. operator of 777s with the PW4000 engine and has 52 such planes.
The anticipated return of the planes is a key element of the company's strategy to ramp up international capacity by 10% next year.
FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in May the agency was going to mandate strengthening a key engine part on Boeing 777-200 planes with the PW4000 engines.
Dickson told a U.S. House committee that the agency is "requiring the manufacturers to address strengthen(ing) the cowling" and will issue an airworthiness directive.
Qantas Expects Return To 100% Of Pre-Pandemic Domestic Capacity By January
Qantas Airways Ltd expects to get back to flying 100% of its pre-COVID-19 domestic capacity by January as Australian state borders open up due to surging vaccination rates, the airline's chief executive said on Thursday October 21.
"It looks like by Christmas we will have every state open except for Western Australia, and Western Australia will open up domestically hopefully early in the new year, we assume around February," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said at an industry conference held by Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd.
Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, eased on Wednesday October 20 as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in immunisation levels.
With cases trending lower in New South Wales, including Sydney, residents will be allowed quarantine-free entry into Victoria for the first time in more than three months. Travellers from Melbourne who wish to enter Sydney, however, must undergo a two-week home quarantine.
Joyce said that Qantas had just one daily flight from Sydney to Melbourne at present, down from 55 before the pandemic when it was one of the world's busiest domestic routes.
"We will progressively in the first week of November go back to nearly 15 flights a day and by Christmas get back to closer to 30 to 40 flights per day and in the new year, February, when business comes back, pretty close to the pre-COVID schedule," he said.
The airline will resume international passenger flights from Sydney to London and Los Angeles on Nov. 1 after New South Wales last week said it would permit the entry of fully vaccinated travellers without the need for quarantine, though only citizens and permanent residents will be allowed back in.
Qantas Prepares Planes For Sydney's International Reopening
Qantas Airways Ltd engineers are preparing for the airline's fleet to ramp up international flying starting Nov. 1, when Sydney opens to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents without quarantine.
With the exception of its Airbus SE A380 super-jumbos, which remain stored in the Mojave Desert in California, most of Qantas' international fleet has already been doing some limited flying on cargo and repatriation flights.
"What we do is have them on a bit of a part-time schedule so they have been doing one day a week rather than seven days a week," said John Walker, the airline's head of line maintenance.
Australia applied strict border rules in March 2020 that stopped citizens from exiting without special permission and required two weeks of hotel quarantine for all arrivals, leading Qantas to stop regular international passenger flights.
Qantas engineering staff at Sydney Airport on Thursday were checking brakes and tyres and catching up on some minor maintenance work on its fleet of A330 planes that were flying on lighter schedules.
"For this aircraft, if it were in a deep sleep, it would be over 1,000 man hours with full crews of 12 or 15 to wake the plane up," Walker said. "We started doing these wake-ups many, many months ago."
In California, Qantas has a team of engineers in Los Angeles that regularly drives two hours to the Mojave Desert to carry out checks on the A380 fleet, he said.
The desert environment there is drier than Alice Springs in central Australia, where other carriers including Singapore Airlines Ltd and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd have stored planes, he added.
Qantas expects five of its 12 A380s to return to service from July 2022 for London and Los Angeles flights, while two are being retired.
London and Los Angeles are also the first destinations for flights from Sydney on Nov. 1. Six weeks later it will start flights to Vancouver, Singapore Fiji and Japan.
It marks a major milestone for an airline that has done little international flying since March 2020 and has lost A$20 billion ($15.08 billion) of revenue due to the pandemic.
"We are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said at an industry conference on Thursday October 21. "We see there is huge interest in people planning their trips for next year."