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United CEO Munoz to step down, 5 years after leading turnaround

Oscar Munoz, who helped to steady United after a troubled 2010 merger, but not without the occasional public relations crisis, will step down next year as the airline’s CE. In May, J. Scott Kirby, the airline’s president and a veteran of the industry, will succeed Munoz, who will move on to the position of executive chairman of the airline’s board for a one-year term. Analysts said they were unsurprised by the leadership change, which had been predicted since Kirby was hired in 2016, shortly after Munoz underwent a heart transplant. Munoz, a first-generation college student from an immigrant family, had also been expected to assume the role of chairman several years ago, but the promotion was scuttled in 2017 after the airline stumbled in responding to public outrage when security officers dragged a passenger off one of its planes in Chicago. “While the timing of this transition was always a key topic, this has been largely expected by investors ever since Oscar Munoz hired Scott Kirby in 2016,” Andrew Didora, an airline analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote in a research note. Didora added that he did not anticipate a change to the airline’s strategy. Story has more background.
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Air France to operate all long-haul, 70% of domestic flights on Friday

Air France said it plans to operate all its long-haul flights on Friday, as well as over 90% of its medium-haul flights and almost 70% of its domestic flights. Public sector strikes in France prompted the French civil aviation authority on Thursday to instruct airlines to reduce their flight schedule on Friday by 20% to and from Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly and regional airports. Railway workers, teachers and emergency room medics on Thursday launched one of the biggest public sector strikes in France for decades, determined to force President Emmanuel Macron to abandon plans to overhaul the country’s generous pension system.
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Horizon Air warns about lax safety culture among its pilots

Horizon Air’s head of flight operations recently warned of a a lax safety culture among the airline’s pilots and called for urgent action to prevent a serious air accident. The Seattle Times reported that John Hornibrook, the Seattle-based airline’s president of flight operations, wrote in an internal Nov. 27 email message: “If we sit back and do nothing, we will have an accident. Nothing good can come of the trajectory we are currently on.” The email was sent to top airline managers and pilot leaders. The incidents Hornibrook listed ranged from pilots going over airspeed limits to aircraft approaching stalls, and also included weather-induced threats that perhaps could have been avoided. Hornibrook and Horizon president Joe Sprague said the distribution of the email should be seen as an example of Horizon’s high safety standards. “The memo was meant to respond to the spike we saw in irregular events,” Hornibrook said. “I’m not sitting back and waiting for something bigger.” Horizon Air's pilots fly Bombardier Q400 turboprops and Embraer E175 jets on routes that link smaller cities into a feeder network for Alaska Airlines.
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DHS retreats on possible facial screening of US citizens

The Homeland Security Department is backing away from requiring that US citizens submit to facial-recognition technology when they leave or enter the country. The department said Thursday that it has no plans to expand facial recognition to US citizens. A spokesman said DHS will delete the idea from its regulatory agenda, where privacy advocates spotted it this week. The advocates and lawmakers accused DHS of reneging on repeated promises not to force American citizens to be photographed leaving or entering the United States, a process that is required for foreign visitors. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called the administration's retreat “a victory for every single American traveler who flies on a plane.” He credited public pressure for the about-face. He said, however, that he still plans to introduce legislation to ban biometric surveillance of Americans. Edward Hasbrouck, a privacy advocate who pointed out the proposal, said the matter might not be settled. “Was this a trial balloon to find out whether the DHS had finally reached the limits of our willingness to be treated like criminals whenever we fly?” he said. “And if so, has the DHS partially backed off, at least for now? Maybe.”
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South Africa makes last-ditch move to save state airline

South Africa’s government will cede control of the national airline to a restructuring specialist in a last-ditch attempt to save the cash-strapped business from collapse. As part of a rescue plan started on Thursday, the government will hand the running of SAA to business rescue practitioner Les Matuson to make the sort of painful cuts that would be difficult for politicians to push through. SAA has been granted a 4b rand ($272m) lifeline from the government and banks to launch the rescue plan, but that cash could only last for months, analysts say. The airline has been on the brink of collapse since a crippling strike last month left it without enough money to pay salaries on time. Then two major travel insurers stopped covering its tickets against the risk of the company becoming insolvent. SAA employs around 5,000 people, while the wider SAA Group, including maintenance and catering units, employs around 10,000. The airline said it would publish a new provisional flight schedule soon.
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Air France tests autonomous baggage tractor at Toulouse

Air France has embarked on tests with a driverless autonomous baggage tractor which is being used to deliver luggage for aircraft loading at Toulouse airport. Developed by a co-operation between ground vehicle manufacturer Charlatte and autonomous system specialist Navya, the AT135 tractor – known as 'Autonom Tract' – operates between the baggage sorting area and the aircraft stands. Testing of the vehicle under real airport conditions commenced on 15 November. "This test is the first step to a more widespread roll-out of autonomous vehicles at our airports," says Air France technology innovation head Vincent Euzeby. Once the baggage sorting facility receives passengers' luggage, an Air France subcontractor places the items in containers attached to the tractor's train. The location of the Air France aircraft on which the baggage is destined to be loaded is programmed, through a touchscreen, into the vehicle's navigation system. It then departs on a route to the aircraft stand – using 360° detection and decision-making technology – and stops nearby, allowing ground personnel to retrieve the baggage and load it manually onto the flight, before the tractor is despatched back along its arrival route to the sorting area.
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Jetstar ground crews to strike in lead-up to Christmas over pay and conditions

Jetstar ground crews and baggage handlers across the country have voted to strike in the weeks leading up to Christmas and beyond. The decision was taken after airline operators rejected their demands for better employment conditions. These included 30 guaranteed hours of work per week and increases in current wages, which the Transport Workers’ Union says are among the lowest rates in the industry. The final decision on whether Jetstar pilots also will take industrial action in a bid for better pay and conditions will be announced on Friday afternoon. The ballot for pilots voting to strike closes at noon on Friday after being open for a week. The results of the vote held by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots and scrutinised by Elections Australia will decide on a number of different actions. This could range from deciding not to work overtime, refusing to follow standard fuel-saving procedures or stopping work for up to 24 hours. More than 51% of the votes must be “yes” for any measures to become a protected industrial action. The union claims its members represent about 80% of the more than 800 commercial pilots employed by Jetstar in Australia.
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Boeing tries to reassure airline industry leaders about Max

Boeing is reassuring airline industry leaders about the safety of the grounded 737 Max as it continues working to get the plane back in service. The aircraft maker invited about 30 union officials, safety experts and others to the Seattle area for two days of meetings with Boeing executives and factory tours. The event shows how motivated Boeing is to get the Max back in the air quickly, says Lori Bassani, president of the union that represents American Airlines flight attendants. Bassani said Thursday that Boeing gave no new details on how soon it expects regulatory approval of changes it is making to the Max after two crashes that killed 346 people. Reporters were not allowed at the event, which wrapped up Wednesday. Guests included former Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt. The participants heard from CEO Dennis Muilenburg, other Boeing executives and test pilots. Boeing hopes to enlist pilots and flight attendants in its effort to convince the public that the plane will be safe after changes are made to flight-control software that was implicated in the crashes.
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SAS gets good news — for now — on Norwegian route changes

SAS is expecting a short term boost from rival Norwegian’s decision to pull a number of long-haul routes in the region. As part of a wider restructuring plan, Norwegian is ending flights from Copenhagen and Stockholm to the USA and Thailand. On some of these routes there is an overlap with SAS’s services. “I think it’s in the short term, of course, a positive if we have a better balance between demand and supply in the market, and the market has been characterized by a significant oversupply in the recent years,” CEO Rickard Gustafson said Thursday. While losing a low-cost competitor is undoubtedly a good thing for a legacy carrier like SAS, it also points to the difficulty European airlines currently have making money in the market. Gustafson said that Norwegian’s withdrawal was a “recognition of how difficult it is to generate a decent return” in today’s environment before gloomily pointing out that passenger demand was falling. The CEO’s comments came after the company reported its Q4/full-year results. On a quarterly basis the carrier bounded back with pre-tax profit rising 39% to $115m for the three months to the end of October. On an annual basis, however, the company saw profit slump 61% to $83.6m. Revenue for the year rose 4.5% to $4.9b. SAS blamed the poor full-year performance on “jet-fuel costs, unfavourable currency movements and a strike“.
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Garuda chief dismissed for alleged smuggling onboard new A330neo

Indonesia has called for the dismissal of national airline Garuda Indonesia’s CE for allegedly smuggling items on an Airbus A330-900 fresh off the production line. The minister for state-owned enterprises Erick Thohir Thursday ordered the dismissal of Garuda Indonesia's CE Ari Askhara, over an alleged attempt to smuggle a motorcycle into the country via the delivery of its first Airbus A330-900 in November. Thohir did not spell out Askhara's name but specified that the individual was the chief executive of Garuda, initials "AA". He explains that he received a letter from its board of commissioners, as well as a report from Garuda's audit committee, whose report indicated that there was "additional testimony" to support claims that the motorcycle belongs to "AA." "The [financial] transfer process was made in Jakarta to the personal [bank] account of Garuda's finance manager in Amsterdam. Mr "IJ" had assisted in the shipping and its processes, and in other [matters] too." Thohir did not specify who "IJ" was or what his role was in the carrier. He indicates that there will be further investigations, and the smuggling attempt is likely to lead to a civil and criminal case, as it "caused losses to the country."
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