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Thursday, January 31, 2013

ACCC approve Virgin's acquisition of Skywest

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have given Virgin Australia approval for their take over of regional operator Skywest as mentioned on this blog back in October.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today cleared the deal, saying it was unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition.
"The message that we received from the market was broadly supportive of the proposed acquisition," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

The move will see Skywest rebranded as Virgin Australia and take on Qantas' own regional operation, QantasLink, flying secondary routes including the resources sector and charter services.

Skywest are based in Perth with the bulk of their offering in the major mining regions of Western Australia, they also have a link to South Australia, while also operating the Virgin Australia ATR fleet on the east coast.

At the same time Virgin announced they wanted to take a 60% stake in Tiger, the ACCC will report back on this next week (Feb 7th)

This can only be good for the airline as it will expose them to the lucrative mining contracts that Skywest hold in Western Australia with stable financial backing also giving them an edge to challenge for more contracts through out all the resource rich areas of Australia

Read more on the ACCC approval from either Australian Business Traveller HERE or The Daily Telegraph HERE

Thursday, January 24, 2013

QF look to voluntary job cuts after NZ loss

Qantas are seeking voluntary redundancies from check-in and ground staff after losing the contract to handle Air New Zealand flights in the 5 main Australian cities they serve.
Qantas’s long-standing contract to provide ground-handling services for Air New Zealand at airports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth will end in March. The multi-million-dollar contract is one of Qantas’s largest, and includes checking in of passengers and baggage handling.
The biggest losses are expected to be in Sydney at Sydney International as it handles the most Air New Zealand flights.

Air New Zealand made the decision in November to switch their Australian check-in and ground handling services supplier to Toll Dnata.
Airlines are increasingly turning to cheaper third-party operators such as Toll Dnata and Menzies Aviation for ground-handling services at airports.
It comes at a bad time for Qantas with job cuts over several different departments in different cities totaling 1260 roles.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald HERE

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2 "new" C172's online at MAC

Marlborough Aero Club (my home aero club) has recently taken possession of two new Cessna 172 aircraft for training, ZK-OMR a C172E and ZK-OMK a C172, the Aero Club still has its two Piper PA-38-112 ZK-DMF & ZK-EQH the aircraft I learnt to fly in.  It would be nice to get back to Blenheim one day and take these two birds for a spin, but that wont be happening anytime soon.

The local newspaper The Marlborough Express published this article about the new acquisitions

      After six months of waiting, pilots at the Marlborough Aero Club have finally been able to take to the skies in two new planes, the first steps in turning the club into one of New Zealand's few bush pilot training schools.
Club president Craig Anderson said it had been a long six months getting the two Cessna 172 planes from the United States to take off on their first flights here on Friday.
The planes, which cost $140,000, had to be found using the internet, then inspected in California and Arizona, flown to San Francisco to be disassembled then shipped to New Zealand, to be reassembled and registered, he said.
"It's a lot of work. The paper work getting them on the Civil Aviation Register here is just a mess. Your shoulders start slumping."
However, Mr Anderson said the planes were crucial to the club's plan to transform itself, teaching prospective pilots to fly in back country, taking off and landing on grass strips and other less traditional runways.
Bush pilot training was something that was not offered by many clubs in New Zealand, but was more challenging and a lot more fun than traditional flying, teaching greater skills, he said, and the wait for the planes had been worth it.
"There's a lot of people walking out of those planes with big grins on their faces and everyone's been saying people are going to get a lot of enjoyment out of them."
The instructors had also been working with experienced Marlborough pilots learning and getting familiar with the about 10 landing strips, which the club will be training on.
"We're very lucky because on the field here [at Omaka] we have got people who have done a lifetime of bush flying and strip flying, people with in excess of 15,000 bush flying hours."
The strips offered different challenges, being curved or tricky to approach in different conditions. The club was preparing a list of each strip's features and trainee pilots would be trained specifically for each strip to make sure the training was safe, Mr Anderson said.
The planes will get their first serious outing at the club's inaugural Healthy Bastards Bush Pilot Champs on February 2.
The champs, which will attract at least 30 pilots, from around the country will involve two competitions, one will see pilots trying to take off and land in the shortest distance and the other will see them trying to land as close as possible to a line on the runway.   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cobham/QantasLink call sign/code change

QantasLink's regional partner Cobham aviation have had a small update to their call signs.  Cobham operate B717 and BAe 146/RJ100 aircraft on behalf of QantasLink in regional areas of Western Australia and Queensland in support of the mining boom, on both FIFO and RPT services.

Up until yesterday these aircraft have flown with their regos as their call sign, as have the BAe 146F's operated by AAE.

From today the Cobham B717 fleet will fly under the Q-Jet call sign/QJE code while the 146 fleet will fly using the JetEX call sign and JTE code, it is as yet unconfirmed if the AAE 146's will also gain a code or not.
Screen shot from showing the new QJE code

Friday, January 18, 2013

Qantas Group makes minor fleet purchase change

Qantas have trimmed their order for Boeing 787-8s for Jetstar to 14 frames, down by 1, while at the same time announcing a renewed domestic push with the leasing of 5 more Boeing 717s and the purchase of 3 more Bombardier Q400 aircraft.
On top of the 14 787s remaining on order for Jetstar, Qantas retains the option to buy up to 50 more Dreamliners in either the 787-8 or stretched 787-9 variant for delivery from 2016, to be shared between the Jetstar and Qantas fleets.
The new domestic aircraft are tipped for work in the mining rich regions of Queensland and Western Australia on both FIFO and RPT services.
In what is a clear competitve response to the announcement by Virgin Australia it is seeking to grow its regional airline portfolio through the acquisition of Skywest, the additional Boeing 717s and Bombardier Q400s will support Qantas’s defensive position on thinner regional routes, particularly in Western Australia. Qantas’s existing 717 fleet is operated for QantasLink by Cobham.
Read more on these fleet announcements from either Australian Aviation HERE or Australian Business Traveller HERE

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

QF upgrade some trans continental routes

As reported back in November (HERE) Qantas are moving all weekday MEL-PER & SYD-PER flights to A330.  They have now announced that they will fast track the all A330 introduction on their SYD-PER flights to April, while at the same time changing weekday flights on BNE-PER to all B763.

This is great news for travellers as it means the end to narrow body jets on these trans-continental flights, at least on weekdays when travelling on QF (unless your unlucky enough to get a QF code share on JQ metal)
"We will now have wide-body aircraft on all weekday flights between the eastern states and Western Australia," says Qantas Domestic CEO Lyall Strambi. That's a change from the mix of wide-bodies (with two aisles) and Boeing 737s (with one aisle) currently used.
I suspect flights from ADL-PER will still operate with B738s as will flights to DRW & CBR so the B738 fleet can still be rotated through WA.

Read more about the end to narrow body trans-con flights from Australian Business Traveller HERE

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

EK look towards RTW on an A380 via QF on the pacific

In an interview with Bloomberg, Emirates president Tim Clark has shown his desire for a round the world route operating with A380 aircraft, with Qantas on the LAX-SYD leg.

Avgeeks will know how protective the ACCC and Australian Government are with the Pacific route, with only Australian or American based & owned airlines being allowed rights to the route, with the singular exception of Air New Zealand.  In the past Singapore Airlines have sought approval to operate on the SYD-LAX routing but have been denied.

Mr Clark said he was sure that the upcoming alliance between the airlines could be expanded to the pacific to accommodate this, but Emirates would only push for this expansion if Qantas boss Alan Joyce and his executive team fully backed the idea.

Mr Clark said a tie-up across the Pacific Ocean was left out of the discussions for the current Emirates-Qantas alliance because “the trans-Pacific is Qantas territory.” Still, the regulator’s initial approval doesn’t prevent the carriers from exploring the option, he said.
The companies could also link their routes into Dallas, the hub for American Airlines, Mr Clark said. Emirates has pursued a code-share agreement with American, which hasn’t made progress as the US company examines a merger proposal from US Airways and goes through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, he said.
 It will be interesting to see the Qantas response to this proposal from Emirates and whether they are open to code sharing with Emirates on what is one of their most prestigious and financially rewarding routes.  It will also be interesting to see how the Australian Government and the ACCC will respond to any request to add this route to the current or future alliance agreements.

I suspect that the fact that the route will still be flown on QF metal wearing QF colours with QF benefiting from the flights, that there would be less resistance than if EK were seeking to fly the route with their own metal and benefiting from the profits of such a flight.  But time will tell if the two airlines want to pursue this route, and if they do whether the ACCC want to give them the opportunity to do so.

Read more of the bloomberg interview via the Brisbane Times HERE

Virgin move to Sabre

Preparations at Virgin's Brisbane head quarters are ramping up in preparation for Saturday's move from the old Navitaire system to the more common and reliable Sabre system.

This means that from the weekend onwards not only will Virgin Australia's booking & check-in systems be different but all Virgin Australia flights will move to the VA code away from the DJ code.  This will see flights  that previously operated by 4 separate divisions (Pacific Blue (NZ) DJ/PBN, Pacific Blue (Aus) DJ/PBH, Virgin Blue DJ/VOZ,  V Australia VA/VAU) finally unified under the one code, despite having been unified under the one name for sometime now.

As most Virgin frequent flyers will know the online Velocity members area (My Account) will be offline from 10.30pm tomorrow night (Wednesday 9-Jan-13) until Sunday 13-Jan-13 to enable the change, with members asked to complete any bookings or points redemption before Wednesday.

"Nor will it be possible to check in for flights via mobile phones or the internet this weekend. Passengers will also be unable to book flights via Virgin's website from Saturday until Sunday afternoon.
The airline has also warned passengers flying between next Monday and January 20 to turn up at airports at least an hour before a domestic flight and three hours before an international service because checking in might be slower than usual.
Virgin will increase staff at airports and call centres by 30 per cent this weekend to handle the complex switch in reservation systems. About 4000 Virgin staff have undergone training over the last year."
I hope this change works out well for Virgin as the outage they experience with Navitaire last year cost them dearly.  Sabre is a great system that is used by a large number of airlines world wide and seems to be stable and efficient.

Sabre also operates the website which give passengers booked on any flight or airline within the Sabre system the option to:
  • Check the status of any flight including delays, cancellations and gate info
  • Book ground transportation, travel extras and travel protection to complete your trip
  • Email your itinerary to friends, family and colleagues right from your mobile or PC
Check out more about the Virgin switch via Fairfax Media's Business Day reporter Matt O'Sullivan HERE
or check out Sabre from its corporate website HERE or virtually there HERE

Monday, January 7, 2013

New airstrip with big plans

For those of you who have been with me for the last 4-5 years, you will remember that I started this blog in "the old country" as Marlborough Aviation Notes, well this little article from the Marlborough Express caught my attention today, so in keeping with my origins, I think its only right to post it here.

A group of five aircraft enthusiasts from Marlborough have developed their own airstrip near Blenheim who say it could be used by small commercial operators flying to and from the North Island.
The new Sky Harbour Airfield at Marshlands, near Spring Creek, has been a nine-month "labour of love" for the five friends - including a former commercial pilot, a former airfield owner, an aircraft engineer tutor, a small aircraft builder and someone with a field big enough to land a plane.
The men, aged from their 50s to their 70s, built the airstrip themselves, putting up an electric fence to keep the cows out and flattening the ground for the runway with a 12-tonne roller.
Former US commercial pilot Ron Long said they marked out the 950-metre landing strip with old white car tyres . . . "as everybody does".
All it needed was a wind sock, Mr Long said.
The men wanted their own airstrip, and somewhere to keep their planes, but hoped to develop the site into a fully operational airfield, particularly as a safe place for microlights to operate without the danger of them having to make a forced landing in vineyards in the unlikely event of having an engine failure on takeoff.
There are very few areas left in the Wairau Valley where this is possible, they say. Anthony Chaytor's property, where the airstrip is situated, is ideal, with extended landing areas in both directions. Mr Chaytor has been a microlight enthusiast and has owned many aircraft over the years, and he was keen to see the airstrip on his farm become active again.
The men have been in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority and the air traffic controllers at Woodbourne.
"We look forward to the airstrip growing," Mr Long said.
"We will try to develop it for aviation-related businesses, like a maintenance facility or paint shop, and ultra-light flight instruction. If small commercial operators, like Sounds Air or air2there wanted to operate out of there, they would be 100 per cent welcome but we haven't talked to them."
The Sky Harbour Airfield could be used by small commercial aircraft in emergency situations or bad weather, Mr Long said.
Eight kilometres from Marlborough Airport and four kilometres from Picton Airport, it was the closest airfield to the North Island, he said.
All people using the strip needed was clearance from Woodbourne air traffic control and a transponder.
The transponder would make an aircraft show up on air traffic control's radar, Mr Long said.
"The field is open for anyone to use and you don't have to call for a reservation," he said. "We think it will be a good asset for the region and an additional airstrip in case of emergencies."
The Sky Harbour Airfield cost only $2000 to develop, with the men sourcing second-hand materials, such as fence posts and fencing, from Blenheim businesses.
There was no charge to land at the runway, although there would likely be a $15 overnight parking fee.
The group was also looking at putting in an access road, Mr Long said.
"It's a beautiful, remote area to fly in and out of with very few obstructions, which makes it nice and safe."   
The article and 7 great pics by Marlborough Express photographer Scott Hammond can be seen HERE

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Air NZ new CEO

In an interview with The New Zealand Herald, incoming CEO Christopher Luxon has outlined some of the focuses he will pursue now he has stepped into the role vacated by former CEO Rob Fyfe.

Mr Luxon has stated that domestic will be a renewed key focus for the airline as another A320 is added to the domestic only fleet.  The fleet currently sits at 4 A320s ZK-OAB, OJQ, OJR & OJS along with 13 B737-300 aircraft which are progressively being retired and replaced with A320s.  The additional A320 should take the domestic A320 fleet to close to 20 frames by the time the replacements have completed.
He said he was finalising his "Go Beyond" strategy for the airline which would be unveiled in the next two months.
I can only assume from what else is in the article this will involve a broader customer focus from all levels of the airline staff, as well as increasing the internal communication between the staff.  I wonder if this 'Go Beyond' will borrow any elements from the 'Game Change' strategy of partner Virgin Australia.

Read the full interview with Christopher Luxon by Grant Bradley HERE

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