Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of the latest airline and aviation news from around the world.
Air Europa Owner Globalia To Furlough 60% Of Staff If COVID Support Ends
Spanish tourism group Globalia will seek to reach an alternative furlough agreement with its unions should the Spanish government not extend its COVID furlough programme, which will expire at the end of this month, a spokesperson for the company has said.
Globalia, which owns airline Air Europa, will propose furloughs for organisational and productive reasons to around 9,000 employees across the group's various companies, including Be Live Hotels and handling firm Groundforce.
Get a FREE Digital Subscription!Enjoy full access to Hospitality Ireland, our weekly email news digest, all website and app content, and every digital issue.
With tourist activity only slowly recovering, Globalia is still far from operating as it did before the coronavirus crisis, a source within the sector said.
Earlier this week, airline Iberia, which recently bought Air Europa in a cut-price deal, also announced that it would propose a furlough to its employees, under similar conditions, should Spain's force majeure government scheme not be prolonged.
Air travel to Spain has slowly begun to recover in recent months with five million international passengers arriving in August, according to official data released on Monday September 20, soaring by 172% from a year ago, but less than half pre-pandemic levels.
United Airlines Accused Of Refusing Employee Exemptions To Vaccine Mandate
United Airlines Inc is facing claims that it unlawfully denied religious and medical exemptions from a requirement that employees receive COVID-19 vaccines after allegedly making it difficult for workers to apply for them.
Six United employees filed a class action in Texas federal court on Tuesday September 21 claiming that workers who sought exemptions from the vaccine mandate were subjected to intrusive inquiries about their medical conditions or religious beliefs, including a requirement that they obtain letters from pastors.
Chicago-based United in a statement said the lawsuit was without merit, and that it has seen an overwhelmingly positive response from employees since announcing its vaccine requirement last month. More than 97% of United's US-based employees are vaccinated, the airline said.
The lawsuit highlights the thorny legal issues faced by employers in mandating vaccines, and comes as President Joe Biden is seeking to require companies with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 weekly.
The plaintiffs on Wednesday September 22 asked the court to temporarily bar enforcement of United's mandate for employees who request exemptions. United has required workers to receive at least the first dose of a vaccine by September 27 or face termination, according to the lawsuit.
The airline has already faced a separate legal challenge to its vaccine mandate, which was dismissed by a US judge in Florida last week. The judge said that lawsuit was not filed properly.
The plaintiffs in Tuesday's lawsuit say United gave employees only until August 31 to request religious or medical exemptions from the vaccine requirement, and that it has automatically denied requests filed after that deadline.
They accused United of violating federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on religion and disability.
The workers are seeking to represent a nationwide class that they said would likely include more than 2,000 United employees.
Airbus To Test Shape-Shifting "Extra Performance Wing"
Airbus said on Wednesday September 23 that it would research an "extra performance wing" capable of changing shape during flight in an effort to secure greater efficiencies and reduce emissions.
Chief Technical Officer Sabine Klauke said the planemaker would build a flying demonstrator to test elements including "gust sensors," with conclusions expected by mid-decade.
The project - first reported by industry publication The Air Current - complements the same planemaker's UK-based "Wing of Tomorrow" eco-wing programme, which is preparing the ground for future competition with U.S. rival Boeing.
Airbus said That the first full-size prototype in that project, designed to be tested on the ground, had been assembled.
The six-year-old UK wing project is designed to pioneer a production system capable of handling next-generation wings for future aircraft programmes like a mooted 2030s replacement of the best-selling A320/321 or an upgrade to the existing model.
An Airbus official told Bloomberg News in May that the aim was a wing that would be both affordable and capable of being built at a high production rate.
The new "extra performance" project will focus on the actual design and aerodynamic performance of such a wing, officials said at a company environmental conference, the Airbus Summit.
Wing design is one of the main areas of competition between Airbus and Boeing, which brought previously outsourced wing expertise in-house with a composite wing centre for its 777X.
Wings tend to improve in aerodynamic performance when their wingspan is longer, but a longer structure typically adds weight and finding the right balance is a complex juggling act.
The proposed new wing would include "pop-up spoilers" or wing surfaces to alter its profile and get the best performance, just as a bird twists its feathers, Airbus officials said.
The announcement came at the end of a two-day conference designed to showcase industry pledges to cut emissions amid climate concerns from politicians and investors.
World's Beautiful, Airbus Says, As Air Industry Sets Out Green Goals
Airbus led a chorus of pledges by aviation leaders to cut emissions under an eco-friendly new slogan on Wednesday September 22, but was forced to defend its jet-selling business under criticism from campaigners urging the industry to tame its growth.
The European company, which last year announced plans to develop a hydrogen-powered airplane from 2035, said aviation could only hit net-zero carbon emissions in 2050 if airports, airlines and air traffic systems also embraced radical change.
"Reaching net zero will be the result of a truly unparalleled act of cooperation," Executive Vice President Julie Kitcher told the "Airbus Summit", attended by policymakers and airlines including easyJet and Lufthansa.
Alternative fuels, lightweight materials and a long-awaited overhaul of air traffic systems are needed, Airbus said. But delegates were warned the transition could also force up fares.
Days before German elections that could reshape European green politics, Airbus road-tested a new slogan designed to link its own brand and an under-pressure aviation industry with sustainability: "The world is a beautiful place".
Replacing the earlier catchphrase "We make it fly", the rebranding could be contentious with green groups. It nonetheless reflects a shift in industry boardroom priorities - from winning the race to develop iconic machines, to overcoming the climate concerns of politicians and investors.
Speakers at the polished event at the plane maker's Toulouse headquarters were supplied with "key messages," though Airbus did for the first time provide a platform for industry critics.
Transport & Environment, which advocates tighter controls on aviation, accused the industry of chipping away at regulation while appearing to be supportive over environmental goals.
It challenged Airbus to stop selling new short-haul jets in Europe from 2035, the date at which it says it will have the hydrogen-powered model available for about 100 passengers.
"If we can't mandate the solution, we should at least begin phasing out the problem," Aviation Director Andrew Murphy said.
Airbus Chief Executive Guillaume Faury defended the sale of new jets, saying it was the best way to cut emissions quickly, pending solutions that include hydrogen power for smaller jets.
"We don't need to stop selling new planes; on the contrary, we need to accelerate the replacement of old planes ... given the speed at which we reduce fuel burn," he said.
Only 10% of planes in service already use the cleanest technology available today, Airbus said.
Industry executives at the two-day, in-person and webcast event agreed on the need for sweeping public and private investment and a "level global playing field" in the race to reduce carbon emissions, for which jetliners account for 2-3%.
Observers said the event marshalled rare unity in an industry struggling to shed the carbon tag and meet opposition from activists and some policymakers, especially in Europe.
Yet cracks appeared over how quickly to adopt low-emission bio-based fuels, which cost three times more than kerosene.
EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren - locked in a battle with legacy carriers over who should bear the brunt of a new European Union mandate to use more Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) - dismissed it as a meaningful long-term solution.
But the chief executive of London's Heathrow urged airlines to kickstart use of the fuel, which manufacturers concede will be the main option for long-haul flights for decades.
"If we don't get to net zero by 2050 we won't have a business. The faster we scale up SAF the faster we can decarbonise aviation," John Holland-Kaye said.
Watching in the audience were some of the financiers who have tens of billions riding on aviation's ability to overcome environmental pressure and tackle huge technical challenges.
"Some of it may be for public consumption but there's a real authenticity from Airbus. They have got to start somewhere," said Peter Barrett, chief executive of SMBC Aviation Capital. "It can't be one solution. This is something Airbus, Boeing and engine makers should be working on together. It's as big a collective challenge as the COVID vaccine."
Boeing Lifts China Jet Demand Estimate Over Two Decades To $1.47tn
Boeing Co raised its forecast slightly on Thursday September 23 for China's aircraft demand for the next 20 years, betting on the country's quick rebound from COVID-19 and future growth in its budget airline sector and e-commerce.
Chinese airlines will need 8,700 new airplanes through 2040, 1.2% higher than its previous prediction of 8,600 planes made last year. Those would be worth $1.47 trillion based on list prices, the US plane maker said in a statement.
The 1.2% increase contrasted with the 6.3% growth Boeing forecast last year, which made China a bright spot in the aviation market at the height of coronavirus lockdowns worldwide.
Earlier this month, Boeing revised up long-term forecasts for global airplane demand on the back of a strong recovery in commercial air travel in domestic markets like the United States.
"There are promising opportunities to significantly expand international long-haul routes and air freight capacity," said Richard Wynne, managing director of China marketing at Boeing's commercial arm.
"Longer-term, there is the potential for low-cost carrier growth to further build on single-aisle demand."
China's domestic aviation market, although still vulnerable to sporadic local COVID-19 outbreaks, has more or less rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels, but the country's borders remain virtually closed, with the number of international flights only 2% of pre-COVID-19 levels.
Boeing projected a need for nearly 6,500 new single-aisle airplanes over the next 20 years, while China's widebody fleet, including passenger and cargo models, will require 1,850 new planes, accounting for 20% of total deliveries.
Air freight market has become a bright spot for Boeing in China as e-commerce demand booms, even as the US plane maker struggles with sales of passenger jets due to trade tensions and the grounding of its 737 MAX.
China's aviation authority, the first regulator to ground 737 MAX following two deadly crashes, has yet to approve the return of service for the aircraft in the country. China accounts for a quarter of Boeing's orders of all aircraft.
China will also need nearly $1.8 trillion worth of commercial services for its aircraft fleet over the 20-year period, company said.