Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of travel, airline and aviation news.
Russia To Lift COVID Ban On Flights To Thailand, Norway, Other Countries
Russia will lift its COVID-19 ban on flights to countries including Tunisia, Thailand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Iran, Slovenia, and Oman from Nov. 9, the government coronavirus task force said on Thursday October 14.
The government stopped normal commercial flights abroad when the pandemic struck last year, but it has since been gradually relaxing the restrictions. The flight bans dealt a heavy blow to Russia's airlines.
United Airlines To Ramp Up Transatlantic Service, Add New Routes
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United Airlines on Thursday October 14 announced an expansion of its transatlantic service next year, adding five new destinations to capitalise on pent-up travel demand.
U.S. carriers are buoyed by the Biden administration's decision to reopen to fully vaccinated air travelers from 33 countries, including most of Europe, in November.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, transatlantic routes accounted for up to 17% of passenger revenues for the big three U.S. carriers - United, Delta and American.
The airlines have said they have seen a surge in bookings since the White House announced the lifting of the travel restrictions last month. United has said that it expects the transatlantic route to have the busiest ever summer next year.
In May, the company will start new flights from Washington to Amman in Jordan, New York to the Azores, and New York to Bergen in Norway. In June, it plans to start flights from New York to Spain's Balearic and Canary Islands.
Anticipating an increase in travel demand, the Chicago-based carrier is also planning to add more flights to Munich, Milan, Berlin, Rome and Dublin.
"We will be flying to more destinations across the Atlantic than ever in the company's history," said Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United. "We are confident that bookings across the transatlantic will be the best."
Other carriers are also gearing up for the reopening of the world's most important long-haul market. Delta Air Lines Inc on Wednesday October 13 said that all of its flights for Europe next year will have new premium economy seats.
British Airways To Start Hiring Cabin Crew For Next Summer
British Airways, which axed thousands of staff during the pandemic, said it will start hiring new cabin crew for next summer, preparing for growth in travel demand in 2022.
The airline, owned by parent group IAG, made about 10,000 staff redundant in 2020 when COVID-19 grounded planes for months.
Some cabin crew who lost their jobs opted to be considered for future BA jobs, and BA said it had already contacted those ex-staff. New recruits were also being considered.
"After 18 long months of closed or restricted borders across the world, we are finally seeing a demand for travel return as countries start to open up and ease their restrictions," BA chief executive Sean Doyle said in a statement on Thursday October 14.
Unite, the union which represents BA cabin crew, told the Financial Times this month that the airline was looking to rehire about 3,000 staff. British Airways declined to comment on how many new hires it needed.
Travel from Britain has been slower to recover than most other parts of Europe as the government has kept COVID-19 rules for longer. Eurocontrol data showed that in the two weeks to Oct. 11, the number of flights in and out of the UK was down 41% from the same period in 2019.
BA said applications were open and it would start training courses for staff in January.
Musk Tweets He Is In Talks With Airlines To Install Starlink Broadband
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk said in a tweet on Thursday October 14 that he was in talks with airlines about installing Starlink, a satellite-based broadband service owned by his rocket company SpaceX.
Musk, who is known for his Twitter banter, announcements and lively interactions with followers, did not provide any details about the talks in his tweet. It was not immediately clear which airlines were approached or when installation would occur.
Shares of in-flight internet provider Gogo Inc fell to an intraday low of 5.7% before recouping some of the losses in afternoon trading.
Starlink, the satellite internet unit of SpaceX, plans to deploy 12,000 satellites. SpaceX has said the Starlink constellation will cost it roughly $10 billion.
It is one of a growing number of companies making small satellites that also includes Amazon.com's Kuiper, Britain's OneWeb, venture capital-backed Planet, and Raytheon Technologies Corp's Blue Canyon Technologies.
Musk currently helms companies including electric-car maker Tesla Inc, rocket startup SpaceX and Neuralink, a startup that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers.
Greek Carrier Aegean Raises Stake In Romanian Animawings To 51%
Greece's largest carrier Aegean Airlines said on Thursday October 14 that it has raised its stake in Romanian Animawings to 51% from 25%, strengthening its presence in the Romanian market.
The Greek company said its total investment for the 51% stake amounted to €1.3 million.
Aegean, a member of the Star Alliance airline group, acquired its existing stake in Animawings, a member of tour operator Memento Christian Tour, in early 2020.
For 12 years Christian Tour, one of the largest tour operators in Romania, was a steady customer for Aegean, arranging chartered flights from Romania to Greece.
From the start of the new tourism season Animawings will operate with three aircraft from Aegean's fleet, serving chiefly outgoing Romanian tourists via chartered and regular flights, Aegean Airlines said.
Boeing Finds New Defect In Continuing Struggle To Produce Dreamliner 787
Boeing Co said on Thursday October 14 that some titanium 787 Dreamliner parts were improperly manufactured over the past three years, the latest in a series of problems to plague the wide-body aircraft.
The quality issue does not affect the immediate safety of flights, the company said, adding it had notified the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Boeing is working to determine how many planes contain the defective part.
Boeing said that the parts were provided by Leonardo SpA , which bought the items from Italy-based Manufacturing Processes Specification (MPS). MPS is no longer a supplier to Leonardo, Leonardo confirmed. Shares in Italy's Leonardo extended losses and closed down 7%. Boeing shares closed down 2%.
Leonardo said in a statement the issues are ascribed to MPS. Leonardo said that MPS "is under scrutiny by prosecutors therefore Leonardo is (an) injured party and will not bear any potential costs associated with this issue."
Italian prosecutors could not be reached for comment late Thursday October 14.
MPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. MPS is listed in Italy and some industry directives as Manufacturing Process Specification.
The parts include fittings that help secure the floor beam in one fuselage section, as well as other fittings, spacers, brackets, and clips within other assemblies.
Undelivered planes will be reworked, and planes already carrying passengers will go through a review process with Boeing and receive FAA confirmation.
The defect was found as the planemaker grapples with other problems in its 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 that model removed eight jets from service.
Boeing was able to resume deliveries of the 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.
Earlier this month Leonardo's chief executive said that Boeing was expected to release an updated production plan for its 787.
Ex-Boeing 737 MAX Chief Technical Pilot Indicted For Fraud - U.S. Justice Department
A former chief technical pilot for Boeing Co was charged on Thursday October 14 with deceiving federal regulators concerning the company's 737 MAX plane, the U.S. Justice Department said.
Australia's Qantas To Sell Land For $595m To Cushion Pandemic Blow
Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd said on Friday October 15 that it had agreed an A$802 million ($595 million) deal to sell land near Sydney Airport to a consortium led by LOGOS Property Group to reduce debt, as the carrier recovers from pandemic lows.
Settlement of most of the lots is expected in the current half ending Dec. 31, the airline said in a statement.
"We'll use these funds to help pay down debt that we've built up during the pandemic," Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said. "The strength of this sale and its impact on our balance sheet means we can get back to investing in core parts of our business sooner."
Qantas shares were trading 2.3% higher at 00:00 GMT, ahead of a 0.5% gain in the broader market.
Qantas said it had also entered talks with LOGOS about potential future development options for the sites being acquired, including a dedicated precinct for the airline and the sale of additional land near the lots being sold.
The airline said it expected to complete the evaluation of those proposals in early 2022 and if an agreement was reached, it had the potential to raise the total value of the deal to more than A$1 billion.
LOGOS said the purchase was backed by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority via the LOGOS Australia Logistics Venture as well as pension fund AustralianSuper.
It plans to develop the site into a logistics, e-commerce and last mile logistics hub. On completion, the development is forecast to have an end value of A$2 billion, LOGOS said.
ITA Takes off, Ending Alitalia's Turbulent Life
New, state-owned carrier Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) took over from Alitalia on Friday October 15, permanently grounding the 75-year old one-time symbol of Italian style and glamour after years of financial losses and failed rescue attempts.
An early morning flight from Milan landed in the southern city of Bari just before 0600 GMT on Friday October 15 to mark the debut of the new, downsized carrier that flies with the same green-white-red livery of its predecessor.
The traditional choice of popes, prima donnas and Italy's political elite, Alitalia has been run by state-appointed administrators since 2017 to avoid being liquidated.
The airline founded in 1946 passed through a dizzying succession of restructurings and changes of ownership.
The company has ended only one year in the black this century and the government has run to its rescue many times, spending more than €8 billion just in the last three years.
ITA won Alitalia's iconic brand for €90 million, nearly one third of what Alitalia was hoping for, the carrier said late on Friday.
As has often been the case during its lifetime, Alitalia's last rites were surrounded by political dispute, with the far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy blaming Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government for its demise.
"Today we are losing another jewel, a company that has forged the history of our nation and ... made us proud to be Italian," said the party leader Giorgia Meloni.
After seeking to sell Alitalia to private investors, in 2020 Rome surrendered to the disastrous consequences of the pandemic for the airline sector and decided to create ITA from its ashes.
The new carrier, in which the government will invest €1.35 billion over three years, will start with 52 jets and 2,800 employees, compared with around 110 aircraft and a workforce of 10,000 for Alitalia.
Under a deal negotiated with the European Commission, there must be clear discontinuity between Alitalia and its successor, and the new carrier needs to be profitable by the end of its 2021-2025 business plan.
However, Alitalia's legacy of high costs, mismanagement and heavy political and trade union influence may be hard for ITA to shrug off.
The launch of a nimbler carrier leaves a question mark over the future of more than 7,000 Alitalia workers who will be put under a temporary lay-off scheme paid for by the government until at least the end of 2022.
Australia's Sydney To Welcome Overseas Arrivals Without Quarantine
The Australian city of Sydney will allow the entry of fully vaccinated travellers from overseas from Nov. 1 without the need for quarantine, authorities said on Friday October 15, although the easing of strict entry controls will initially benefit only citizens.
The decision comes as New South Wales state, of which Sydney is capital, is expected to reach an 80% first-vaccination dose rate on Saturday October 16, well ahead of the rest of Australia, which will enable it to bring forward the entry of overseas arrivals by several weeks.
"We need to rejoin the world. We can't live here in a hermit kingdom. We've got to open up," New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
Australia closed its borders in March of 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing entry almost exclusively only to citizens and permanent residents, who have to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine at their expense.
As well as ditching plans for home quarantine, which had been expected to replace hotel stays, Perrottet said New South Wales would welcome all overseas arrivals.
But he was quickly overruled by Prime Minister Scott Morrison who said the government would stick with plans to first open the border to citizens and permanent residents.
"This is about Australian residents and citizens first," Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
"The (federal) government has made no decision to allow other visa holders ... to come into Australia under these arrangements," he said.
Unvaccinated travellers from overseas will also be allowed back into New South Wales, but only 210 each week and they will have to undergo hotel quarantine upon arrival.
Australians have been unable to travel internationally for more than 18 months without a government waiver, and thousands of citizens and permanent residents in other countries have been unable to return after Canberra imposed a strict cap on arrivals to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Many of these are now expected to return via Sydney, even though some COVID-19 free states in Australia have closed their borders to New South Wales.
Qantas Airways said it would bring forward the restart of international flights from Sydney to London and Los Angeles by two weeks to Nov. 1 and would consider bringing forward the resumption of flights from some other places that had been expected in December.
Major airlines like Singapore Airlines, Emirates and United Airlines have continued to fly to Sydney throughout the pandemic but due to strict passenger caps, most of their revenue has been from cargo.
Singapore Airlines said it would open seats on all 17 of its weekly flights to Sydney for sales to eligible travellers. Previously, 10 of the flights had been cargo only.
New South Wales, meanwhile, reported 399 COVID-19 cases on Friday, well down from the state's pandemic high of 1,599 in early September.
Neighbouring Victoria state, where vaccination rates are lower, reported 2,179 new locally acquired cases, down from a record 2,297 a day earlier.
The capital Canberra on Friday October 15 exited a more than two-month lockdown, allowing cafes, pubs and gyms to reopen with strict social distancing rules.
Australia's overall coronavirus numbers are relatively low, with some 139,000 cases and 1,506 deaths.