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South Korean activist fund KCGI eyes Asiana Airlines stake, shares soar

South Korea's activist fund KCGI, the second-largest shareholder in the parent company of Korean Air Lines, said it was looking to buy a controlling stake in Asiana Airlines, helping send shares of the carrier up 26%. KCGI CE Kang Sung-boo said the fund is in talks with several local and overseas entities to form a consortium to bid for the 31.05% stake in Asiana, which has been put up for sale by top shareholder Kumho Industrial. The stake was worth US$282m at Friday's close. Kang's comment comes as the local airline industry grapples with several challenges, including rising competition from budget carriers, a US-China trade war hitting cargo demand and a Korea-Japan diplomatic row hurting travel. Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines swung to operating losses for the April-to-June quarter, from a year earlier.
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Delta sues chatbot vendor faulted for data breach

Delta Air Lines is suing a vendor of customer service technology, [24]7.ai, for a breach of passenger data. The airline alleges the company had a weak password for its systems, making it too easy for an outsider to crack. Between Sept 26, 2017, and Oct 12, 2017, at least 1 hacker tapped delta.com via [24]7.ai’s computers. The hacker could have scraped the names, addresses, and full credit card details of up to 825,000 US customers. The carrier still doesn’t know if a hacker misused any of its customers data. Aug 8 Delta filed a suit against the Philippines-based vendor. The carrier wants to recover “millions of dollars in costs” it spent investigating the breach, notifying its customers, and paying for free credit monitoring products for affected passengers.
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Cathay Pacific's new boss puts emphasis on safety and security

Cathay Pacific needs to focus on safety and security, its customers and the completion of a 3-year financial turnaround plan, the airline's new CE told staff Monday. Augustus Tang took the top job at the airline following the sudden exit of Rupert Hogg Friday amid mounting Chinese scrutiny over the involvement of some of the carrier's staff in anti-govt protests in Hong Kong. Hogg's departure highlights growing pressure on the corporate sector in the Chinese-controlled former British colony, where Beijing is trying to quell protests that have gone on for 11 straight weeks. Tang, a former Cathay executive who had been running an aircraft engineering business for parent Swire Pacific, was appointed as the airline attempts to salvage relations with Beijing.
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Ryanair legal bid makes UK strike more certain, union says

Ryanair’s bid to block a strike by UK pilots rather than return to talks means a walkout before Britain’s busiest weekend for air travel is more certain, according to the union that called the action. Ryanair has lost the chance to resolve the pay dispute by seeking a High Court injunction at a hearing to be held Wednesday, the day before the start of the 48-hour strike at airports including the carrier’s biggest hub at London Stansted, Balpa said Monday. Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said the attempt to halt the walkout on what he called a legal technicality after refusing further negotiations is “another demonstration of the bullying tactics the airline appears to favour.” He also said that Ryanair is continuing to sell tickets for the strike days, and questioned whether the carrier will be prepared to offer compensation to passengers.
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IBA sees growing airline financial weakness

Consultancy firm IBA has warned of higher market risk after 81 of the more than 120 airlines that the company monitors for financial performance reported lower EBITDAR margins for 2018. “In summary, the airline industry appears to be more volatile,” IBA said in its 6-monthly Operator Score Index update, released Aug 15. The IBA index gives airlines credit scores, based on their financial health, operational efficiency, access to capital, jurisdictional risk and IBA’s own intelligence as an aircraft lessor. In the latest update, IBA downgraded 28 airlines and upgraded 8. Europe & CIS and the Asia-Pacific regions each saw 10 downgrades. There were 3 Asia-Pacific upgrades and 2 Europe & CIS upgrades. “Some of the notable downward movers include Air Astana, Avianca Holdings, NOK, Transat A.T and Aeroflot,” IBA said.
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Lufthansa offers climate-friendly fuel, but at a price

Lufthansa is launching a website that allows customers to buy climate-friendly plane fuel to compensate for the emissions caused by their flight. Lufthansa said Monday that the sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, purchased that way will be added to one of the airline's flights, reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. The aviation industry has come under fire from climate campaigners for its comparatively large carbon footprint, though airlines note that it constitutes only 2% of man-made emissions worldwide. Lufthansa's Compensaid service comes at a steep price. A single economy-class ticket from Frankfurt to New York is E374 more expensive if customers buy SAF, a synthetic form of kerosene. Passengers who opt to donate toward reforestation measures instead pay a E165-euro surcharge.
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Delta pilots claim new Virgin, Air France, KLM deal could hurt career opportunities

The Delta Air Lines' pilots union says the airline's new transatlantic joint venture with Virgin Atlantic and Air France-KLM could pose a risk to aviation jobs in the US. The Delta Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association issued a filing Aug 16 to the US DoT voicing concerns over the airline's failed promise to "produce new flying opportunities for Delta and its employees" in a 2013 Delta-Virgin Atlantic joint venture. Ryan Schnitzler, chairman of Delta's pilots union, asks the DoT to implement new metrics to measure whether aviation jobs in the US will result from the new Delta-Virgin Atlantic-Air France-KLM partnership that will replace the existing deals. Schnitzler noted the new JV, if approved, would significantly reduce Delta’s financial incentive to expand its own operations.
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Cathay reiterates support for HK govt

Cathay Pacific is investigating rumours of an anonymous letter purportedly written by staff members expressing support for anti-govt protests in Hong Kong. “While we cannot confirm the authenticity of this letter, we are taking the matter very seriously and are conducting an internal investigation,” the carrier says. According to the South China Morning Post, the letter criticised the Hong Kong govt for its response to protestors. The letter also called out the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s move to issue a major safety risk warning to Cathay, calling it “white terror” against freedom of speech. Cathay has fired 2 pilots and 2 ground staff for their involvement in the protests, which stem from the govt’s plan to introduce an unpopular extradition bill.
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Ryanair passengers in anxious wait as bid to avert 48-hour strike drags on

Ryanair passengers due to fly later this week are in limbo as they wait to hear if their flights will take off amid the threat of a 48-hour strike. They may not find out until the eve of the stoppage, from midnight Thursday, as a High Court action to prevent the industrial action drags on. The court is not expected to issue a judgment until Tuesday, after the airline sought an injunction to prevent the industrial action. The Commission for Aviation Regulation said that, legally, passengers cannot seek refunds until the airline cancels the flights. Ryanair sources promised "robust contingency" planning should the strikes go ahead so a minimal amount of flights would be cancelled. If strike action does go ahead, only those directly employed by Ryanair will take part and pilots on different contracts will continue to work as normal.
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Top THAI execs agree to help out by cutting their salaries

Sumeth Damrongchaitham, president and CE of THAI, said the airline is only reducing the salaries of top executives, not operation officers. After a THAI board meeting Aug 19, it was reported that many top executives agreed willingly to reduce their salaries in order to ease the burden on the airline. “Lower cost measures will help THAI compete in the airline business. Many board members and top executives have shown their compassion and agreed to help the organisation during this time of crisis. Officials at the operational level do not need to worry, because this measure only aims to lower the cost of management without any effect on the quality of service,” Sumeth said.
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