General Industry

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

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

Hospitality Ireland presents a round-up of the latest airline and aviation news from around the world.

Delta Air Lines Steps Up Hiring To Deal With Increased Demand For Air Travel

Delta Air Lines has said that it will hire 1,500 new flight attendants in anticipation of an increase in demand for air travel next summer.

The announcement comes as many airlines struggle to keep up with a recovery in air travel and are grappling with staff shortages.

Southwest Airlines last week said it would run fewer flights through the end of the year as a result of a staffing crunch, which disrupted its operations this summer and led to flight delays and cancellations.

Delta Air, too, had to cancel about 100 flights in April due to staff shortages. But a company spokesperson said the airline's operations since have been relatively smooth.


In July, the carrier's average daily departures totalled 4,377 compared with 2,009 in April.

Including the 1,500 flight attendants hired in early 2020 before the pandemic, Delta aims to have 3,000 new flight attendants to support operations next summer. It is also hiring 1,200 pilots.

"The need here is to support future flying," the spokesperson said.

Since May, Delta Air has made full vaccination a condition of employment for new hires. On Tuesday, it reiterated that policy, saying all new hires, including current Delta employees who have been accepted into the training program for flight attendants, must be fully vaccinated before their training start date.

Last week, the company said employees who choose not to be vaccinated will have to pay $200 extra per month for their company-sponsored healthcare plan.


New Boss Of SAS Says It Will Take Years For Demand To Fully Recover

Scandinavian carrier SAS said it was seeing some signs of recovery in air travel as it reported a narrowing quarterly loss, but its new CEO warned it would take years for demand to return to pre-pandemic levels.

The airline, part-owned by the governments of Sweden and Denmark, said it had been encouraged by a gradual increase in demand during the summer holiday season as vaccination drives gathered pace around the world.

Yet, chief executive Anko van der Werff said that while he expected continued demand for leisure flights, the shape of business travel was more uncertain.

"September, October and November are really strong corporate months typically. Now it's Sept. 1 and people are booking very late, very close to departure so we just have to wait and see a bit longer," he told Reuters in an interview.

He declined to give a specific prediction for when overall demand might fully recover from the COVID-19 crisis, though added: "2022 will be better than 2021, but it is in my view going to take years before you are back to 2019 levels."


That was a far more pessimistic outlook than SAS gave in December, when it said it expected demand in 2022 to reach levels "at least comparable" to those before the pandemic.

The CEO was speaking after his airline reported losses before tax of 1.36 billion Swedish crowns ($157 million) in its fiscal third quarter running from May through July, versus a 2.08 billion loss in the same period a year earlier.

Van der Werff, previously the head of Colombia-based Avianca, the first major carrier to file for bankruptcy due to the pandemic, took the SAS helm in July after his predecessor unexpectedly announced his resignation.

"We were the first industry to get really hit by the pandemic and we will be the last industry out. That's how I look at it in other parts of the world, and it's definitely also how I look upon it for Europe and for SAS," he said.

"We really have to make sure that we are flexible, because we don't know how long this will take, and that we remain very competitive."


Spain's eDreams To Expand Subscription Model After Bookings Recovery

Spanish online booking group eDreams Odigeo has recovered from the travel industry's COVID-19-induced crisis faster than most airlines due to its subscription model which it hopes to expand further, chief executive Dana Dunne said on Wednesday September 1.

He spoke after the Madrid-listed company posted a smaller quarterly loss than a year ago, and said it had surpassed pre-pandemic booking levels for the last three months, including a 27% rise in August compared with the year-earlier period.

Airlines are operating at 71% of the traffic levels seen two years ago, according to data from European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol.

"That bodes well for us and we do know we have been taking market share, that is really bright for the future," Dunne told Reuters, attributing the recovery partly to its strategy to sign up subscribers, who pay a fee of around €55 a year to have access to better deals.

The company had 1.5 million subscribers at the end of August, up from 1 million three months earlier, and expects to reach two million in the first half of 2022, a year earlier than planned, he said.

While subscriptions are common in other industries, such as music, television and telecoms, eDreams is a pioneer in developing it for the travel industry.

The industry is yet to recover from the impact of restrictions imposed around the world to curb the coronavirus pandemic, many of which are still in force.

The company's loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation narrowed to €4.2 million in the first quarter from €15.6 million a year ago, out of revenue margin of over €68 million, up from approximately €17 million euros last year.

Its shares rose 2.7% after the results announcement.

Flights Of Japan's ANA Hit By Check-In Delays Due To Amazon Web Service Outage

Some flights of Japan's ANA Holdings were delayed on Thursday September 2 by a temporary disruption of its systems, including domestic ticketing, following troubles in Amazon's cloud service, the airline said.

The system was later restored, a spokesperson added.

Japan is investigating the Amazon Web Services outage, which disrupted operations at major online brokerages and a leading mobile phone carrier in addition to Japan's biggest airline, a government spokesperson said on Thursday September 2.

As mentioned above, the outage, which was at least the third for Amazon since June, hit airline ANA Holdings Inc, which said some flights were delayed after problems with its ticketing and check-in system, but services were later restored.

An Amazon spokesperson said that the six hour disruption in the Tokyo region was caused by the "loss of several core networking devices" and had "been resolved".

Amazon declined to comment on how many customers were affected by the glitch, but outage monitoring website Downdetector showed no other outages, suggesting it was confined to Japan.

In June, many users experienced a brief outage at Amazon's platforms including Alexa and Prime Video, and weeks later Amazon said its online stores had faced a global outage.

"The Financial Services Agency will look into it to understand what happened and is asking affected companies to prioritise the needs of their customers," Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Katsunobu Kato, told a regular media briefing.

SBI Securities and Rakuten Securities were among the online brokerages that reported delays in price data feeds and other system glitches.

Mizuho Bank, a major retail bank, and the main banking unit of Mizuho Financial Group, said some internet services were disrupted by a system glitch at an external network provider, but it did not identify the provider.

NTT Docomo, the mobile phone arm of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, said some of its services were also affected.

China Expected To Keep Curbs On International Flights Throughout H1 2022

China's aviation regulator is likely to keep the current tight caps on international flights throughout the first half of 2022, analysts cited Air China as saying this week.

The move has broad implications for tourism in the Asia-Pacific region, where Chinese outbound travellers normally play an outsized role, though other countries have also been slow to open borders because of relatively low vaccination rates and rising COVID-19 cases.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) last month said that weekly international flights were at only 2% of 2019 levels, as more flights were suspended amid a rising number of imported COVID-19 cases.

China's three biggest airlines, Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, said in their earnings calls that CAAC's restrictions on international flights may continue until the first half of 2022, given the government's COVID-19 prevention approach around the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, Parash Jain, head of shipping, ports and Asian transport research at HSBC, said in a note on Wednesday.

This would push a full recovery further out to 2024, Jain added.

Expectations of a delayed recovery in international travel have partly led some analysts to lower earnings forecasts over the next few years. China Merchants Securities, for example, cut their estimates for net profit for Air China to -9 billion, 2.7 billion, and 6.7 billion yuan in 2021, 2022, 2023.

Air China management told analysts that the recovery of China's outbound travel would be slower than that in the United States and Europe, adding that the vast majority of developing countries have not achieved high vaccination rates.

They added that CAAC was not expected to loosen restrictions until after the first half of 2022.

Chinese airlines do not hold a media call on results, but two analysts briefed Reuters on what was said, speaking anonymously because they were not authorised to comment beyond notes to clients. Air China and CAAC did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

CAAC slashed international flights in March 2020 to allay concerns over rising coronavirus infections. A so-called "Five One" policy allows mainland carriers to fly just one flight a week on one route to any country and foreign airlines to operate just one flight a week to China.

The CAAC has the tweaked the policy with flight suspensions or capacity caps for airlines if a certain number of passengers are found to have been infected with COVID-19, or adding flights if an airline does not import any cases.

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

Wizz Air To Require Employees To Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19 By December

Hungarian airline Wizz Air will require its flight crews to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by December.

As reported by The Irish Examiner, Wizz Air said that it is implementing the policy for all of its pilots and cabin crew as part of its commitment to "protecting the health and safety of its passengers and crews", and that the measure will support the "smooth and continued operations of its flights in the long term".

In "special cases", Employees will reportedly be permitted to take "regular" antigen or PCR tests rather than be vaccinated in "special cases".

Wizz Air Group chief executive Jozsef Varadi reportedly said, "At Wizz Air, our number one priority is the health and safety of our passengers and employees.

"We have a responsibility to protect crew and passengers on board by mitigating the risks of COVID-19, and vaccines play a vital role in this."

Malaysia Lifts Two Year-Plus Ban On Boeing 737 MAX

The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) has lifted a ban on operating Boeing's 737 MAX passenger jet after more than two years, it said in a statement on Thursday September 2.

Malaysia suspended the aircraft in March 2019 after it was grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes.

CAAM lifted the suspension as it released a new safety directive applicable to Malaysian and foreign air operators on September 2.

On the 737 MAX, the regulator said it had been closely monitoring the approval process and extensive work undertaken, particularly from Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and accepted the comprehensive return-to-service requirements set by the FAA for the plane.

Last week, India's air safety regulator also cleared the aircraft to fly with immediate effect.

While several airlines and lessors cancelled orders of the jet after the crashes, national carrier Malaysia Airlines kept its order of 25 jets. It said in May that it would take delivery from 2024.

Lufthansa's Eurowings Sees Rebound In Business Travel

Lufthansa's European low-cost airline Eurowings has seen business class seats start to sell out again for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting it to put on twice as many flights in September as in August.

Eurowings will offer customers about 300 direct business connections from September, double the number in August, to destinations like Paris, London, Rome, Brussels, Zurich or Vienna, the airline said in a statement.

It also said that 10 of its business lounges would reopen in September, offering food, drinks and free wifi.

"We are seeing business class sold out on numerous flights for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic - a clear signal that business travel is rebounding strongly after the end of the summer holidays," chief executive Jens Bischof said.

Lufthansa said earlier this week that it aimed to win back business travellers by increasing the number of flights and improving catering.

Bookings for the group were stronger than expected in July and August, Harry Hohmeister, who is responsible for the group’s Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and Brussels airlines, told an event organised by tourism newsletter FVW.

However, Lufthansa does not expect a full recovery in business air travel to levels seen before the crisis until the middle of the decade.

It only expects an easing of restrictions on U.S. travel at the end of the year, Hohmeister said, but Lufthansa will not scale back transatlantic flights as they still make sense even with few passengers as they can carry freight.

Lufthansa is carrying approximately 50% of the passengers it flew before the coronavirus crisis in 2019, and flying to 88% of pre-pandemic destinations.

India's PNB Asks Tribunal To Quash Jet Airways' Rescue Plan

India's Punjab National Bank has urged a tribunal to quash the rescue plan for defunct debt-laden Jet Airways, alleging irregularities in it, a move that risks delaying any return of the airline grounded two years ago.

A consortium of London-based Kalrock Capital and a UAE-based businessman last year agreed to pump in 10 billion rupees as working capital and give funds to creditors of Jet, which was hit hard due to piling up debt in 2019.

PNB, the court-appointed official in charge of Jet's revival, Ashish Chhawchharia, and a spokesperson for the consortium investing funds into the collapsed airline did not respond to requests for comment.

The country's second-largest state lender PNB argues that Jet's court-appointed rescue official had initially accepted its claim of nearly 10 billion rupees ($137 million) from the airline's backers, but then reduced it by two billion rupees, according to its tribunal filing seen by Reuters.

At the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, PNB argued that a reduction of the amount was arbitrary and illegal.

On September 2, the tribunal agreed to hear PNB's case, Additional Solicitor General of India Aman Lekhi, who argued for the bank, told Reuters. The case will be heard on September 21.

"How PNB has been treated is wrong - both substantively and procedurally," Lekhi said.

Once India's biggest private carrier, Jet Airways was crippled by losses and a pile of debt as it attempted to compete with low-cost rivals and was forced to ground all flights in April 2019, putting at risk its lessors, suppliers, lenders and thousands of employees.

Jet's resolution plan was approved last year by its financial creditors. PNB has maintained that since the resolution plan mandated only minimum payment of liquidation value for dissenting creditors it was left with no choice but to approve the plan.

United Airlines Suspending Operations At Major Newark Hub, Tweets CNN Reporter

United Airlines is suspending operations at major Newark hub in New Jersey following flooding, a CNN reporter tweeted on Thursday September 2.


The airline did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

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