United Airlines, Expedia end feud over online ticket sales

United Airlines and Expedia Group reached a deal to continue online ticket sales, ending a standoff in which the airline had threatened to withdraw from one of the internet’s largest travel sellers. The agreement covers a multiyear period, the companies said Monday without specifying how long it would last or disclosing other terms. United, which had said it would withhold fare data from Expedia starting Sept 30, disclosed last week that the two parties were discussing a new contract. Airlines and ticket sellers have tussled for years over distribution costs as the carriers have sought to sell more of their own tickets directly to customers. Expedia sued United in February in federal court in New York alleging that the airline had breached a 2011 contract.
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Delayed Aigle Azur liquidation leaves time for Air France rescue

A French court began the process of liquidating insolvent airline Aigle Azur Monday but left bidders including Air France-KLM and Air Caraibes 2 more days to come back with an acceptable rescue plan, the CFDT union said. The Evry commercial court ordered Aigle Azur's liquidation under a "going concern" process that leaves more time before assets are sold off, setting a midnight deadline Wednesday for bidders to improve their offers. Air France, which submitted an initial proposal last week, has agreed to combine its bid with Air Caraibes parent Dubreuil group, two sources said. Monday's decision buys time for the resubmission of a joint plan. Air France wants to buy Aigle Azur's medium-haul business serving Algeria and the surrounding region, along with valuable take-off and landing slots at Paris Orly.
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Norwegian bondholders agree to new terms

Norwegian Air Shuttle has secured some financial breathing space, after its bondholders voted in favour of changes to their investment terms. Norwegian has been seeking to delay the repayment of two unsecured bonds, NAS07 and NAS08, to ensure sufficient liquidity for the coming winter. The company wanted to extend the maturity date of NAS07 from Dec 2019 to Nov 2021, while NAS08—due in Aug 2020—would be pushed back to Feb 2022. In return for the extension, the company was offering bondholders an interest rate premium and additional security. Updating the market Sept. 16, Norwegian said both sets of bondholders voted in favour of the proposed amendments “with sufficient majority.” Norwegian acting CE Geir Karlsen said: “It will give us added financial headroom going forward,”
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Higher jet fuel prices expected to pressure airlines in 4Q

A surge in the price of jet fuel after weekend attacks at several Saudi Arabian oil facilities appears likely to pressure airlines’ margins in the 2019 Q4 and beyond, analysts said. The Sept 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq and Khurais fields knocked approximately 5.7m barrels per day of oil production offline. Saudi Arabian officials have indicated one-third of that amount can be brought back online within days, while full capacity may take weeks or months to return. The price of Brent Crude, the global benchmark, was last up 10.7% at US$66.60, after logging its largest intraday move in history. The sudden move comes against a backdrop of weak fuel price growth through the peak summer travel period, following a move down in prices in late May.
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Gov't approves Air Premia's revised business plan

The Korean govt conditionally approved Air Premia's revised business plan Monday, a move that will keep the airline on track to begin operations by Sept 2020. In March, the LCC was granted a license after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport approved its business plan, which differentiated itself from other LCCs by promising to provide "premium economy services" and operating only mid- to long-haul flights to destinations including the US, Canada and Vietnam. However, just a month after the approval, Air Premia was on the verge of losing the license as a conflict arose between management and shareholders over purchasing new aircraft. The shareholders wanted to replace then-CE Kim Jong-chul with Kim Se-young and Sim Joo-yeop who would jointly head the firm.
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International panel set to criticise FAA’s approval process for Boeing 737 MAX jets

A panel of international air-safety regulators is finishing a report expected to criticise the initial US approval process for Boeing ’s 737 MAX jets, according to people briefed on the conclusions, while urging a wide-ranging reassessment of how complex automated systems should be certified on future airliners. As part of roughly a dozen findings, these govt and industry officials said, the task force is poised to call out the FAA for what it describes as a lack of clarity and transparency in the way the FAA delegated authority to the plane maker to assess the safety of certain flight-control features. The upshot, according to some of these people, is that essential design changes didn’t receive adequate FAA attention.
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Thomas Cook gains extra time to secure rescue deal

Thomas Cook has delayed a crunch creditors’ vote until next week, giving the stricken tour operator more time to smooth obstacles to a GBP1.1b rescue package aimed at saving it from collapse. Fears for the future of the tour operator have been mounting, as it threatens to buckle under the weight of high debt, intense competition and one-off factors. The company, which employs 20,000 staff, including 9,000 in the UK, succeeded Monday with a courtroom application to put off a creditors’ vote over the terms of a GBP900m rescue funding injection – which could yet rise to GBP1.1b – until next week. The travel group also needs to persuade the CCAA – which administers the Atol scheme covering travel companies – that it should renew its licence at the end of Sept for another 12 months.
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US: FAA chief will assess 737 Max status in trip to Seattle this week

FAA chief Steve Dickson plans to visit Boeing facilities in Seattle this week to personally assess the status of the grounded 737 Max. Dickson, a former executive and pilot at Delta Air Lines who is qualified to fly the 737, said he intends to perform test runs on a Max flight simulator while on the trip. The agency hasn’t seen Boeing’s final safety assessment and application to return the plane to flight, he said. “It’s really safety first and we’re not on any specific timeline,” Dickson said. When asked about indications that other regulators around the world may wait to return the plane to service and conduct additional scrutiny after FAA acts, Dickson said it’s not unusual for other agencies to validate FAA’s work. “We’re working very hard to ensure that everyone is aligned,” he said.
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Virgin Australia to repurchase 35% stake in loyalty program

Virgin Australia has moved to reverse the partial spinoff of its loyalty program, reaching a deal to buy back the stake it had previously sold. Virgin confirmed Monday it had entered negotiations to repurchase the 35% stake in its Velocity frequent flyer program held by investment company Affinity Equity Partners. This deal is expected to be worth A$700m (US$480m) and is scheduled to close by year-end. Completion is subject to certain conditions including finalising documentation, funding and govt approval. When concluded, the purchase will once again give Virgin Australia full ownership of Velocity. The airline sold the 35% stake to Affinity in 2014, resulting in a A$336m gain for Virgin. At the time, the carrier said selling the stake would give access to the capital and resources to allow Velocity to grow more quickly.
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US: You’re right. You’re spending more time sitting on that plane.

One thing about flying from Washington to Los Angeles hasn’t changed: It takes essentially the same amount of time to go from Ronald Reagan National to Los Angeles International now as it did several decades ago. So why have schedules for the flights gotten noticeably longer? The answer is that as the number of travellers has increased and airlines have added flights to accommodate them, airports have become more congested. As a result, planes spend more time waiting to take off and then, when they land, more time waiting for an open gate at the terminal. That means passengers are spending more time confined in the cabin. A4A recently analysed data compiled by the DoT and found that from 1990 to 2018 taxi time increased 19% at the nation’s 30 largest hubs and 24% at 31 medium-size airports.
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Beijing Daxing airport’s first operator to be China United Airlines

China Eastern LCC China United Airlines will be the sole commercial aircraft operator at Beijing Daxing International for the first few weeks after the opening of the facility, which is scheduled for the end of September. Flights by other airlines at Daxing International will begin in late October as they introduce winter schedules, China United deputy president Sun Li said. In all, 16 airlines will fly from the airport during the winter schedule period, CAAC said. Its figures for the number of routes opened in that time suggest that operations will step up slowly. Sept. 9, CAAC airport division chief Liu Chunchen said the airport would be ready for operations Sept 15. China United’s services will be moved from its current base Beijing Nanyuan Airport, which will close to civil users when Daxing International opens.
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Airbus sees no major 2019 impact from possible US tariffs

Possible US tariffs against Airbus aircraft and European parts are unlikely to have a major impact on the planemaker's 2019 results, but disruption cannot be ruled out, its CE said. Monday, Guillaume Faury said the main risk was that airlines would refuse to buy Airbus jets because of the risk that repeat purchases would be rendered uneconomic by future tariffs. The World Trade Organisation has at least partially approved a US request to impose tariffs on EU aircraft and other goods as part of a 15-year trade dispute in which the EU is also preparing similar action against the US. Analysts say airlines tend to renew their fleets only every 15 years or so, meaning long-term risks must factored in whenever they are making purchase decisions.
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UK: Heathrow drone protesters rethink strategy; fail to ground flights

Climate-campaign group Heathrow Pause is “considering escalating” its protest at London Heathrow Airport, after 3 days of illegal unmanned aerial vehicle activity within the airport’s exclusion zone failed to keep flights grounded. Heathrow Pause said signal-jamming has been used to block the action, but it performed “at least 16 successful drone flights” within the exclusion zone. “The airport authority has made contradictory statements about safety and completely abandoned protocols previously held as essential to guaranteeing passenger safety. As a consequence, activists are considering escalating their approach to meet the change in circumstances,” Heathrow Pause said Sept 16.
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Higher flight costs coming in Germany to curb emissions

Germany’s main political parties are coalescing around proposals to increase the cost of flying, potentially doubling the tax on short-haul flights to slash greenhouse gas pollution. Alarmed that the country is falling short of emissions-reductions pledges it made under the Paris Agreement on climate change, chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats are drawing up policies with their Social Democrat coalition partners and focusing on air transport for some of the most dramatic reductions. A proposal by Merkel’s CDU to double levies on domestic flights was announced by the party’s finance expert, Andreas Jung. They’re part of a broader package that ministers are due to consider at a Sept 20 meeting of Merkel’s cabinet meeting dealing with climate policies.
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Russia-Czech Republic solve Prague, Seoul route dispute

Russian and Czech aviation authorities have reached an agreement on Zhukovsky-Prague and Prague-Seoul routes, the Czech Transport Ministry said Sept 13. According to the ministry, capacity on the Zhukovsky-Prague route can be increased from IATA summer season 2020. Czech airlines’ rights to operate Prague-Seoul flights will be permanently confirmed and expanded during the year. In July, Aeroflot Airline and Ural Airlines had to postpone or cancel several flights from Moscow Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky to Prague because of the dispute between the two countries. The Czech Transport Ministry restricted flights between Moscow and Prague, explaining that Russia “unilaterally restricted Czech Airlines’ rights to fly over the Siberian part of the Russian Federation on the route between Prague and Seoul.”
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India: Alcohol test must for airside staffers: DGCA

The Director General of Civil Aviation Monday issued orders making breath analyser test mandatory for all personnel engaged in “safety sensitive aviation functions”. As of now the DGCA conducts 100% BA tests on pilots and cabin crew. The new regulations will cover more than 25,000 aviation personnel including aircraft maintenance engineers, vehicle drivers, equipment and aerobridge operators, marshallers, personnel manning apron control, personnel involved in operational duty on air side, aerodrome rescue and firefighting personnel and air traffic controllers. As per DGCA notification, at least 10% staff of a company involved in the crucial activities will be randomly subjected to BA examination on a daily basis.
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