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SIA finds premium economy a tougher sell on new non-stop US flights

SIA is facing no problem selling business-class tickets on its ultra-long non-stop flights to the US but is having to price premium economy seats very attractively, a senior executive said Wednesday. The carrier last month resumed after five years the world's longest commercial flight, an almost 19-hour non-stop journey from Singapore to New York. The airline ordered seven new ultra-long-range twin-engine Airbus SE A350-900ULRs fitted with just 67 business class and 94 premium economy seats for those flights and for non-stop services to Los Angeles and San Francisco. These flights have no economy class seats. It represents a major expansion in the US market for Singapore Airlines and a test of whether the carrier can charge the 20% price premium that travel industry data shows is typical for ultra-long non-stop services due to their popularity with time-sensitive business travellers. SIA Executive VP Commercial Mak Swee Wah said there was existing demand for business class which he expected would continue to pick up. For premium economy, however, he said some markets were not "entirely familiar" with the product, which offers more leg room and other amenities than economy class. "I think we need to continue to stimulate and encourage the market to consider this product, initially with very attractive pricing, but eventually I think people will see that even at prices which we offer it is a good product to purchase because it is a very long flight," he said.
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Airbus likely sold 10 A330neo jets to Delta: sources

Delta has emerged as the probable buyer for 10 Airbus A330neo jets worth $3 billion, industry sources said, in a boost for the becalmed European model. Airbus announced an order for 10 of the 300-seat aircraft in its latest monthly order update on Friday, but withheld the name of the buyer for the Oct. 30 deal. Two industry sources said Delta was the buyer. A third said Delta had been looking to expand an existing order for 25 A330neo aircraft. Airbus declined comment. Delta was not immediately available for comment. If confirmed, the deal would mark the second order for the slow-selling A330neo in as many weeks after Kuwait Airways ordered eight of the long-haul planes in mid-October.
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Cathay Pacific cabin crew demand 5.5% pay rise

Flight attendants from Cathay Pacific Airways are demanding a 5.5% pay rise to reflect sacrifices they have made for the company, saying the troubled carrier should not use its data breach crisis as an “excuse”. The airline’s Flight Attendants Union is heading into year-end negotiations with management just as Hong Kong’s flag carrier is embroiled in a massive cyberattack incident affecting 9.4m passengers. “Cathay Pacific tries their very best to make use of all sorts of reasons to lower the percentage [of pay increase], but we based our rise on what they tell stakeholders, and the forecast [next year] should be very good,” union vice-chairwoman Dora Lai Yuk-sim said. She added: “We don’t think there is an excuse for them to, all of a sudden after the data leakage, say business will go down.” Cabin crew this year received a below-inflation 1% rise, half of what non-managerial staff received in 2017. They are now seeking 5.5% on the basis of helping the company recover lost earnings by previously taking a lower raise. The city’s inflation rate stood at 2.7% in September.
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Eight cracked engine blades found in other jets after Southwest death

Inspections around the world after a jet engine failed earlier this year on a Southwest plane, killing a passenger, found an additional eight cases of cracked fan blades like the one that triggered the incident. The unexpected damage to the plane - caused by pieces from the exterior of the engine flying loose and striking the fuselage and wing - led to an examination of other engines and the discovery of additional cracked blades, Mr Mark Habedank, an engineer for engine-maker CFM International Inc told an investigative hearing in Washington on Wednesday. "That's a lot of blades that are cracking," said Mr John DeLisi, the chief aviation safety investigator with the NTSB, one of the questioners at the hearing. The NTSB was examining the failure to see why certification standards designed to prevent such accidents apparently weren't adequate. CFM, a joint venture between General Electric Co and France's Safran SA believes that heightened inspections of fan blades, better lubrication of where they attach and coatings on the metal blades have combined to prevent such a failure in the future, said Habedank, engineering leader for the engine, the CFM56-7B. In conjunction with the US FAA, inspection requirements have been increased on the engines this year.
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US: Tired pilots fight airlines' surprise schedule changes

Sudden changes to flight schedules are driving up fatigue reports and damaging morale for pilots at the nation’s largest airlines, say aviator unions, which plan to make the issue a top priority in new contract talks next year. Pilots at American Airlines Group had about a 33% chance of being switched to a new or longer flight schedule during the summer’s peak travel season, the highest rate ever, according to Allied Pilots Association calculations based on company data. Aviators at Delta say their rate is about the same, although the carrier disputed that. The ability to change crew schedules, which is part of existing labor agreements, gives airlines an extra tool to shorten delays and keep more planes in the air. That reliability can help win customers and boost fares, though it comes with a price. Unexpected changes can squash morale and force pilots to turn down some flying because of fatigue. “It drives up your costs, it wears out your people and consumes contractual and regulatory crew time you can never get back,” said aviation consultant Robert Mann. “It’s widespread throughout the industry.” Consolidation in the US airline industry is probably contributing to the problem as some carriers try to use outdated processes to manage larger, more complex networks with more hub airports, Mann said. Story has more detail.
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SilkAir integration into SIA progressing on track

SIA said the integration of its regional arm SilkAir into the mainline carrier is progressing on track. SIA Group CE Goh Choon Phong shared that three main tasks have been completed. SIA has set up a dedicated project management office to oversee the SilkAir integration. The office has since established 12 workstreams to drive integration activities, including product and service definition, operational alignment, staff integration, corporate as well as legal and regulatory requirements. SilkAir's commercial departments have also been integrated with that of the mainline carrier. Goh added that SIA has also finalised product decisions for the Boeing 737 fleet, including seat, in-flight entertainment and in-flight connectivity suppliers. He declined to provide more details, except to say that the new products will be available from 2020, when the merger is expected to be completed. The Star Alliance carrier announced the merger in May this year and said that the the cabin overhaul programme will cost more than S$100m (US$74m). This involved upgrading SilkAir's cabins with new lie-flat seats in business class, and the installation of seat-back IFE systems in both business class and economy class.
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Passengers reach China after 3-day layover in Siberia

More than 250 airline passengers who endured an unexpected three-day layover in Russia's Siberia region have finally made it to their destination in China. The extended travel delay began Sunday when an Air France flight from Paris to Shanghai made an emergency landing in the eastern Siberia city of Irkutsk after a smoke smell appeared in the cockpit. The 264 passengers and 18 crew members were taken to hotels, but many weren't dressed for the minus-15 degrees Celsius weather. In any case, they couldn't leave the hotels because they were without Russian visas. The China-bound travellers boarded a replacement plane on Tuesday, but it couldn't take off because of problems in the hydraulic system. A second replacement plane got them to Shanghai on Wednesday.
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Fast-growing Spirit to launch nine routes from Austin

Fast-growing Spirit Airlines will make Austin, Texas, its newest destination. The ultra low-cost carrier will debut there Feb. 14, launching with an aggressive schedule that features nonstop flights to eight destinations. A ninth route will join Spirit’s Austin lineup in May. Spirit’s expansion to Austin furthers a period of explosive growth for the airport. A number of airlines have revealed new or increased flights there during the past two years, including international carriers Lufthansa and Norwegian Air. As for Spirit, its initial Austin schedule will feature flights to eight destinations: Baltimore/Washington (BWI); Chicago O’Hare; Denver; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Las Vegas; New Orleans; and Orlando, Florida. The ramp-up is an unusually large one for Spirit. It typically enters a new market cautiously with just a few routes and then expands if its service proves popular.
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US: Thanksgiving expected to be busiest ever for air travel

There’s growing consensus: This will be the busiest Thanksgiving ever for air travel. The latest comes from airline trade group Airlines for America (A4A), which released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast Wednesday. A4A expects a record holiday in terms of passenger traffic, matching similar expectations from the TSA. A4A projects a record 30.6m passengers will travel on U.S. airlines during a 12-day window around Thanksgiving. That’s up from about 29m passengers that flew during the comparable period in 2017. For 2018, A4A defines the Thanksgiving travel period as beginning Friday, Nov. 16, and ending the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27. This year, A4A expects the busiest day during that period to be Sunday, Nov. 25, when the group estimates 3.06m passengers will travel on US carriers.
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United sends the 787-10 to Europe from Newark in 2019

United will operate its new Boeing 787-10 on six routes to Europe next summer, making good on comments that it would fly the aircraft across the Atlantic from its New York City-area base. The Star Alliance carrier will operate the longest variant of the 787 family once daily from Newark to Frankfurt and Tel Aviv from 30 March 2019, to Barcelona and Paris Charles de Gaulle from 29 April 2019, and to Brussels and Dublin from 22 May 2019, it says. “United is proud to offer more seats between New York and Europe than any other carrier and our Boeing 787-10 aircraft based in New York/Newark will enable us to connect even more New York City customers to Europe and beyond,” said Patrick Quayle, VP of international network at United. The shift to the 787-10, which seats 318 passengers in three classes, will add capacity on most of the transatlantic routes. It replaces a 240-seat Boeing 767-400ER on flights to Frankfurt and Paris, and an up to 292-seat Boeing 777-200 on flights to Barcelona, Brussels and Dublin. Only the Newark-Tel Aviv route will see a capacity reduction, as the flight shifts from a 366-seat 777-300ER to the 787. However, United begins new service to Tel Aviv from Washington Dulles in May, complementing the Newark route.
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