Bidders must absorb US$3.3b debt to buy Air India

India further reduced -- to US$3.3b -- the amount of debt bidders for Air India will need to absorb and eased some eligibility requirements, as prime minister Narendra Modi tries once again to sell the carrier. Expressions of interest are invited by March 17, according to preliminary terms published Monday. The entire company will be sold but effective control needs to stay with Indian nationals, and bidders would need to accept a little more than a third of Air India’s debt -- down from two-thirds the last time around when not a single suitor could be found. “This is a clean exit by the govt and the entire non-aircraft related debt has been taken out of the balance sheet,” said Kapil Kaul of CAPA “We expect significant response as the offer structured by the govt of India is very attractive.”
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American Airlines CE: Passengers should trust 737 Max if ‘best pilots in the world’ fly them

Passenger confidence about flying on the Boeing 737 Max when it finally returns to service is “not good” at present, according to the boss of American Airlines. But CE Doug Parker has told staff that travellers will trust the plane when “the best pilots in the world who don’t take airplanes up until they know everything about them, they’re comfortable doing it”. Parker said: “Polled today, which a lot of companies are doing including ours, asking people ‘How do you feel about the Max?’, the results are not good. There’s very high awareness of the issue. And there’s real trepidation about whether they would fly it today or not.” He predicted sentiment will start to change when the US regulator approves the Boeing 737 Max to fly again.
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Iranian passenger plane slides off runway into highway, passengers safe

A Caspian Airlines plane slid off the runway onto a highway on landing at an airport in southwestern Iran Monday, but all passengers were evacuated without injury, Iranian state media reported. Some other Iranian media outlets reported 135 passengers and 7 crew members were on board but there was no official confirmation. IRNA, quoting local aviation officials, said a technical issue delayed the plane's landing which caused the accident. Iranian media reported that the pilot was unable to deploy the landing gear, adding that the incident was being investigated. Photographs of the aircraft show registration number EP-CPZ, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 built in 1994. An unverified video showed an evacuation of passengers from the plane sitting in the middle of a highway in Mahshahr.
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IATA: Coronavirus could cause a ‘sizeable’ traffic disruption

The novel coronavirus outbreak in China could cause a “sizeable disruption” to passenger traffic, especially for operators in the Asia-Pacific region, though analysis of past pandemic episodes—such as SARS, the avian flu, and MERS—indicates that “any effect on air transport would be temporary,” IATA said. “In the past, the airline industry has proven resilient to shocks, including pandemics,” IATA concluded, though it acknowledged the adverse timing of the 2019-nCoV outbreak as it coincided with the Lunar New Year celebrations and China’s busiest travel season. Moreover, owing to the very strong growth of the Chinese air transport market over recent years, an additional 450m passengers fly to, from, and within China per year compared with a decade ago.
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Cathay Dragon offers 11 months’ unpaid leave, Cathay Pacific shelves cabin crew ‘extra pay’ as cost-savings plan kicks in

Cathay Dragon flight attendants have been told they can take the rest of 2020 as unpaid leave, while a lucrative pay scheme for cabin crew at Cathay Pacific has been suspended as the embattled airlines look to cut costs in the year ahead. Cathay Pacific, which has borne the brunt of 7 months of anti-govt protests – including a boycott by mainland Chinese customers – last week ran into stiff new headwinds as the growing coronavirus epidemic led to refunds being offered on flights to and from airports north of the border. The company first told employees in November that it planned to cut capacity by 1.4% in 2020, resulting in fewer flying duties for about 13,000 cabin crew and 4,000 pilots.
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Flybe rescue complicated by mortgaging of assets

Flybe mortgaged off the majority of its remaining assets to its shareholders last year, potentially complicating the UK govt’s efforts to provide a loan on commercial terms to the struggling airline. Connect Airways — a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital — formally took over the regional airline last year, with the members of the consortium also providing loans to Flybe. UK corporate filings show that Flybe received a loan from the 3 shareholders in Feb 2019 that required the airline to pledge assets such as buildings, equipment and intellectual property as collateral. A person familiar with the matter said that the loan agreement covered the majority of Flybe’s assets that it had not already offered as security to previous loans.
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In the race for cheap airfare, it’s you vs. the machine

Travel providers now use artificial intelligence software to re-price their offerings, sometimes dozens of times a day, to maximise revenue. For business and leisure travellers, the result is a variation of the cat-and-mouse game, where travel companies are almost always the cat. Traditionally, hotels and airlines priced their offerings depending on peak demand periods, past sales data and the number of current reservations. Now, changes in travel pricing are being made much more frequently. The practice, called “hyperdynamic pricing,” is poised for significant growth, said technology consulting firm AlixPartners. According to research by Hopper, the average price of a domestic flight changes 17 times in just 2 days, while international flights change a dozen times in that span.
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Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants to seek industry-standard wages in next round of talks

A union representing Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants said it expects to meet with the company once again this week in order to negotiate fair wages. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which held its first picket of 2020 at Daniel K. Inouye International last Wednesday says it has hired a financial consultant to present a wage assessment for flight attendants based on industry standards. Since November, when 99.9% of AFA members voted to authorise a strike, with 95.1% of members participating in the vote, the union and airline have been trying to agree on costing models that determine wages. “We have been haggling over the costing models,” said Sharon Soper, Master Executive Council president. “What the company has for their own costing model is not the standard costing model for the industry.”
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Flight shaming is working, but will Europe's railways buckle under the strain?

Germany and Sweden have seen a drop in air passengers, partly as a result of flight shaming. Fliers are moving onto Europe's creaking rail networks, which will likely mean more delays, crowds and cancellations for all. Environmental groups welcomed a 4% annual drop in people flying via airports in Sweden, where the concept of flight shaming or Flygskam was born. Germany, too, saw a 0.4% decline in air traffic last year; domestic air travel fell more steeply — down almost 2%. But the German airports association, ADV, blames economic, not environmental reasons. Germany's Deutsche Bahn, on the other hand, is seeing record numbers of long-distance rail travellers. In the first half of 2019, it carried 71.8m longer-haul passengers and expects that figure to have reached 150m for the whole of last year.
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Emirates advises crew to stay in hotels, avoid crowds in China due to virus outbreak

Emirates airline is advising its flight crew to stay in their hotels when on a layover in China due to the new coronavirus outbreak there that has killed 81 people. In an internal notice, seen by Reuters, the airline also recommends that crew avoid areas where there would be large gatherings of people. Emirates flies to 3 mainland China cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. It does not fly to Wuhan where the virus first appeared. The carrier is providing hand sanitiser and face masks to crew operating flights to China, the Jan 27 internal notice said. An Emirates spokeswoman said crew have been advised to wear a mask during flights to China if they serve passengers with any symptoms.
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Philippines: 70% to 80% of passengers to and from China not showing up for flights

Around 70% to 80% of passengers headed to or coming from China are not showing up at airports for their flights, the Airline Operators Council in Manila said Monday. Council chairman Allan Nepomuceno said this trend in international flights may also affect domestic flights and the country’s tourism industry at large. "Several airlines already confirmed to us there are about 70% to 80% of the passengers are not showing up,” he said. The low number of passengers showing up for their flights to and from China comes on the heels of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, although the Department of Health has assured that there is no confirmed case in the country yet.
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German Airways looks to hire 'dozens' of Embraer pilots

German Airways is to bring in another 3 Embraer 190s this year as part of its transition to an all-jet fleet. The carrier has emerged from parent Zeitfracht Group’s combination of regional operators LGW and WDL. LGW has 15 Bombardier Q400s while WDL has 4 E190s in service. German Airways states that 3 more of the jets “have been ordered” for 2020. The carrier states that it is looking to hire several new pilots who are already qualified to operate Embraer regional jets. “In the coming months we will be able to offer dozens of new colleagues in the cockpit an attractive and secure job with an economically very stable airline,” says Zeitfracht COO Dominik Wiehage. “This also includes extensive benefits under collective agreements, which is certainly not a matter of course in our industry.”
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Ryanair ordered to pay portion of Bellew's legal costs

A judge has ruled that Ryanair must pay a portion of its former COO Peter Bellew's legal costs of having to defend the airline's failed legal bid to block his move to rivals EasyJet. Ryanair had sought to compel Bellew to comply with a covenant that he would not join a competitor for a year following termination of work with Ryanair. Last month, when dismissing Ryanair's action following an 8 day hearing, justice Senan ruled that a clause in Bellew's contract restraining him from working for another airline for 12 months was unenforceable. While Ryanair had proved it had a legitimate interest in exacting the covenant from Bellew, the judge said it went beyond what Ryanair had shown to be justified.
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Wizz stays with P&W for another 166 Airbus jets

Wizz Air is staying with Pratt & Whitney for another 166 Airbus A320neo-family jets. The agreement to take the PW1100G engine covers 90 aircraft from a 2016 deal plus a further 56 A320neos. It also covers the 20 A321XLRs recently ordered by the carrier – although Wizz had already indicated that it would fit the Pratt & Whitney engine to these long-haul variants. Wizz Air has previously selected the PW1100G for other A320neo-family jets on order. The airline received its first, an A321neo, in March last year. Pratt & Whitney says the latest selection brings Wizz Air’s overall orders to 276 aircraft powered by the PW1100G. The manufacturer will also provide long-term maintenance service for the powerplants.
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IndiGo eyes international growth as Q3 profit more than doubles

IndiGo will focus on increasing capacity on routes outside its home market to ensure an even split between international and domestic services, after facing strong competition from other LCCs within India. IndiGo CE Ronojoy Dutta said the carrier was “moderating ourselves to be 50% domestic and 50% international” to shift the balance away from “metro to metro” markets. The airline revealed Monday a more than doubling of net profits to US$69m in the 3 months ended Dec 31. Dutta said strong competition from other LCCs on routes linking large Indian cities – which “used to be our strongest market” – but notes that “non-metro markets are doing very well”. As it stands, IndiGo’s proportion of capacity and revenue on international routes is “marching towards 25%”, says Dutta.
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Fastjet Group still trying to finalise sale of Zimbabwe operation

Fastjet Group believes it has sufficient resources to meet operational needs until the end of March, as it scrambles to finalise a deal to sell its Zimbabwe airline to investors. The company had previously warned, last November, that it faced a February deadline to secure additional funding, and had disclosed that it was discussing restructuring proposals including divestment of Fastjet Zimbabwe. Fastjet Group says an investor consortium led by Solenta Aviation Holdings is finalising due diligence work on the Zimbabwe operation and obtaining the necessary regulatory clearances. The consideration payable by the consortium has yet to be confirmed, and depends on further discussions and the extent of any other outstanding liabilities and costs.
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