Azul might consider Avianca Brasil acquisition in the future: CEO

Azul SA is not currently engaged in negotiations for a possible acquisition offer for struggling Avianca Brasil, Azul CE John Rodgerson said Friday. But he acknowledged there could be space for a possible deal with Brazil’s fourth largest airline, which filed for bankruptcy protection this week. “Their bankruptcy protection case is very recent. It is possible that, in the future, we take a look at it, but right now there is nothing,” he said, nothing he will watch the “natural course” of the case. His remarks followed a report in financial newspaper Valor Econômico that said the company was considering making an offer to buy Avianca Brasil. Quoting Azul’s chairman David Neeleman, the paper said Azul was evaluating that possibility for the “short term” and that, if it goes ahead, the acquisition would be paid for using Azul’s available cash. Rodgerson said the company is obliged to evaluate all market opportunities, but that there was “nothing happening” at the moment regarding a possible offer for Avianca.
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Oneworld confirms it has sounded out China Southern Airlines to join

The courtship of another Chinese carrier to enter the same global airline group as Cathay Pacific might pay off, as Oneworld acknowledged it could deepen its coverage in China, the alliance boss said. Rob Gurney, the CEO of oneworld, said it had yet to start formal talks with the mainland’s biggest airline China Southern, after the group’s biannual board meeting in New York last week. The alliance indicated it had spoken to the carrier but not since it announced its exit from the rival Skyteam alliance. “There are no formal discussions underway with China Southern,” Gurney said, despite the alliance’s obvious lack of presence in mainland China, the world’s second-biggest air travel market, unlike the rival Skyteam and Star Alliance groups. “There are still areas where we can potentially deepen our coverage, there is no doubt about that. We are talking to potential members to help meet some of that,” he said. This has meant its members have sought deals outside its core grouping, such as Qantas pairing with Skyteam’s China Eastern. But Gurney acknowledged that the alliance had been speaking to the mainland carrier. “We haven’t spoken to them [China Southern Airlines] since it has happened. And you know we have got a fantastic partner in Cathay Pacific, a Chinese airline, and they remain really important to us,” he said. Gurney name-checked the Hong Kong carrier, which stands to be most affected, highlighting the sensitivity of adding a mainland Chinese airline which could serve Oneworld better and provide its members with more access to domestic flights in China, even for Cathay fliers travelling within the country.
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Air Berlin's administrator sues Etihad for up to 2 billion euros

Air Berlin’s insolvency administrator is suing Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, its former owner, for damages of up E2b ($2.26b), a Berlin court said Friday. Etihad Airways’ decision to withdraw funding for Air Berlin sent Germany’s then No.2 carrier into insolvency. The administrator said previously that Etihad did not meet its financial obligations towards Air Berlin. “The claims are for payment of 500 million and the establishment that the defendant is obliged to pay further damages. The Chamber has provisionally set the amount in dispute at up to E2b,” the court said Friday. Etihad’s spokesperson confirmed the company had received a claim filed at the Berlin Regional Court by the insolvency administrator of Air Berlin. “We believe that the claim is without merit and will defend ourselves vigorously against it,” the spokesperson said, adding that they would not make further public comment on the issue at the present time. The airline has until the end of January to respond to the suit, according to the court.
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In a plot twist, Spirit tops US airlines in on-time arrivals

Spirit Airlines tops the latest ratings for on-time flights, a big turnaround for a discount carrier that consistently ranked as the tardiest airline in America three years ago. Spirit also has the second-lowest rate of canceled flights in the latest government report. It still has a high rate of passenger complaints, and some travelers avoid it and other budget airlines because of their reputation for poor service. If travellers come to see them as reliable, however, discount airlines could pose a greater threat to bigger competitors. The Transportation Department said Friday that 89% of Spirit's flights in October arrived on time, putting it just ahead of frequent winner Hawaiian Airlines and Delta. It's the first time the Miramar, Florida-based carrier has topped the rankings. It finished second in November 2017. Spirit had the worst on-time performance every month but one between May 2015 and May 2016. "We started looking at every part of the company," said Greg Christopher, the VP in charge of Spirit's operations control centre. "We got a little bit smarter about how we scheduled." Spirit operates many red-eye flights, and some planes were scheduled to run nearly around the clock for two or three days. If bad weather or a mechanical problem caused a single flight to be delayed, "it just cascaded through the next 15, 20 flights," Christopher said. The airline tries to limit using the same plane for red-eyes on consecutive nights, and has added room to its schedule in other ways.
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Lufthansa in early talks on possible tie-up for caterer LSG: sources

Lufthansa is in early talks about a possible tie-up between its LSG Group catering unit with partners such as Austria’s Do&Co, Singapore’s SATS and Switzerland’s Gategroup, people close to the matter said. Lufthansa is exploring its options with the help of Morgan Stanley, but has not launched a formal sales process, sources said. CE Carsten Spohr said last month that the German airline was considering divesting LSG. “We have not defined whether this (sale) would go ahead, or whether we would hold on to LSG in full,” he told the Boersen-Zeitung newspaper, adding the company would not support a sale to private equity. A Lufthansa spokesman said the airline had no additional comment. SATS, Do&Co, Gategroup owner HNA and Morgan Stanley declined to comment. A deal could value LSG at roughly E1b, people close to the matter said, but noted that antitrust issues might prevent some players from being able to buy all of LSG’s assets, meaning a partial sale is also possible. Vienna-listed Do&Co, which has a market capitalization of E830m, is too small to do a deal on its own, the sources said. Do&Co has therefore reached out to investors who could potentially help it finance a deal, they said.
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American Airlines to add 18 routes

American Airlines is adding 18 new routes next summer, including its first service to Glacier National Park in Montana. Most of the flights are from small- and medium-size cities to the airline's major hubs, operated by its partners using regional aircraft. In addition to the new routes, American is also adding a second daily summer flight to Paris and Madrid from its hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Tickets go on sale Monday, Dec. 17. Story has flight details.
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Hunt for Lion Air jet's black box delayed by bad weather

A renewed search for the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 has been delayed for two days due to bad weather hampering the arrival of a specialized ship, the airline said. The crash, the world’s first of a Boeing Co 737 MAX jet, killed all 189 people on board and the main wreckage and second ‘black box’ were not recovered in an initial search. Lion Air said that it was funding a 38b rupiah ($2.6m) search effort using the offshore supply ship MPV Everest, which had been expected to arrive in the search area on Monday. Bad weather and heavy rain at the port of Johor Bahru in Malaysia interfered with the equipment and crew mobilization process, delaying the ship’s arrival at the crash site until Wednesday, the airline said late on Sunday. Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill for the search is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments. A spokesman for the transportation ministry said its obligation was to fund the investigation. The search for the cockpit voice recorder was the airline’s responsibility, he said. Lion Air on Sunday said the search for the cockpit voice recorder was the “duty and responsibility” of Indonesia’s transport safety committee. The airline on Monday issued a revised statement removing that reference.
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UK to detail airspace modernisation strategy

UK authorities are set to unveil plans to overhaul the country’s airspace through a modernisation programme intended to take advantage of air traffic management technology. Air navigation service NATS was requested last year to assess the technical feasibility of restructuring the airspace to improve efficiency, capacity and reduce noise. It states that the restructuring will make better use of performance-based navigation and free-route airspace. The UK government and the Civil Aviation Authority are publishing strategy papers outlining the need for airspace modernisation and the plan for achieving this aim. Last year more than 2.5m flight movements took place within the UK flight information region, an increase of nearly 4% on the previous year. NATS points out that the UK’s airspace has remained largely based on structures developed more than six decades ago, for previous generations of aircraft. CE Martin Rolfe says it does not permit the best use of modern air traffic management technology and current aircraft capabilities. He says the “huge” modernisation programme covers up to 15 airports in the busy south-east of the UK.
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United expands in San Francisco with flights to Melbourne, New Delhi, Toronto

United on Wednesday announced a major international expansion at San Francisco International Airport. The airline said it plans to add flights between San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia, New Delhi, Toronto and to boost service to Amsterdam and Seoul, South Korea. United CEO Oscar Munoz said it's the largest international expansion United has ever done in San Francisco. "We really feel it secures United as the premier gateway to the Pacific," he said. United had teased the new routes as a "historic package of new and expanded international routes" prompting hours of online speculation about the new flights, including possible flights to Africa. (No flights to Africa were announced.) "It's a capstone to 2018, which I think truly is a breakthrough year for United," Munoz said. Story has more flight details.
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Qatar Airways urged to stay in Oneworld

Oneworld is braced for the exit of gulf carrier Qatar Airways, but the airline alliance has made a plea for the Gulf carrier to stay within the global airline grouping. Despite the fissures in the global pact, CEO of the alliance Rob Gurney said that the group was ploughing on with its biggest expansion of member airlines in several years. Qatar Airways remained a member of the airline club as of the conclusion of the biannual Oneworld board meeting in New York last week, having not yet carried out its threat to quit, according to multiple sources who were present. The Gulf airline confirmed this was the case, in spite of its CEO Akbar Al Baker skipping the gathering entirely. Gurney praised the Gulf carrier as a “terrific airline” but he made an impassioned plea for its member to stay. “We think the alliance adds a lot of value to them. They add a lot of value to the alliance. We don’t want them to leave, but at the end of the day, this has got to work for them; it has got to work for everybody,” he said. The Doha-based carrier previously gave a deadline of Christmas before it would make good on its promise to leave. Alliance insiders, however, expected formal notice to be given at the New York board meeting.
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Lion Air and Boeing are heading into a $22b feud

The crash of a Boeing plane that killed 189 people in Indonesia is spiraling into a $22b feud between the aircraft maker and one of Asia’s most influential aviation bosses. In a rare public dispute between the planemaker and one of its biggest customers, the head of Lion Mentari Airlines has threatened to cancel an order for billions of dollars worth of jets because of what he says is Boeing’s unfair reaction to the crash. The man standing up to the US aviation giant is Rusdi Kirana, Lion Air’s owner, and while he was little known to the public outside Southeast Asia before the crash, he’s something of a legend in the industry. Eighteen years after he and his brother rented a Boeing 737-200 to start a service from Jakarta to Bali, Kirana, 55, has turned Lion Air into Indonesia’s largest airline, with one of the biggest order books in the world. “He is, by virtue of the significance of Indonesia, right now probably the most important aviation figure in Southeast Asia,” said Shukor Yusof, founder of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics in Kuala Lumpur. Kirana’s undiminished appetite for expansion -- he wants to start flights to destinations as far a field as London and Dubai -- has made him a key customer for both Boeing and Airbus. Lion Air is the third-largest buyer of Boeing’s updated 737. But seven weeks after a two-month-old 737 Max jet operated by the carrier plunged into waters off Jakarta, Kirana has started a public spat with the planemaker. Lion Air is drafting documents to scrap its $22b dollars of orders with Boeing because, Kirana says, the manufacturer unfairly implicated his airline in the disaster. “I was in a tough situation and they decided to beat me up,” Kirana said in Jakarta, referring to Boeing’s response to Indonesia’s preliminary report into the accident. “They have been behaving unethically, they have been acting immorally in this relationship, so we just go our separate ways.” Boeing wouldn’t comment on the discussions with Kirana, but said in a statement that “Lion Air is a valued customer and we are supporting them through this difficult time.”
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Flood of new passengers to stoke demand for jet fuel in Vietnam

Vietnam's jet fuel demand will surge to a record this year as its tourism industry attracts a wave of new visitors and the country's airlines are rapidly expanding. The country is on track to have 38m international passengers and 16m visitors this year, according to data from CAPA Centre for Aviation. That is up from 18m passengers and 8m visitors in 2015, according to the data. "Aviation demand in Vietnam is booming... Fuel consumption in Vietnam will reach a record high this year and will keep rising for the years to come," said Tran Hoai Nam, vice president of Vietjet, Vietnam's biggest private airline. He added Vietnam's growth in foreign arrivals was the highest in Southeast Asia, rising 8.7% annually. The surge in traffic has translated into a rush of jet fuel demand in Vietnam. Through November, the country has imported 1.87m tonnes of the fuel, according to customs data, equal to 14.8m barrels, and up 18% from the same period last year. "For 2018, jet fuel demand in Vietnam is estimated to be increased by about 20 to 25 percent in comparison with 2017, mostly due to the increase in consumption of the international flights," said a Hanoi-based trader at one of country's jet fuel suppliers. Vietnam currently consumes about 18 million barrels of jet fuel per year, according to data from Petrolimex Aviation. Vietnam's jet fuel imports will continue to surge as the country only has two refineries, Dung Quat in the central province of Quảng Ngãi and Nghi Son in Thanh Hoa province, near to the capital Hanoi, which only started operations this year.
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Virgin Atlantic pilots are extending their holiday season strikes

A breakaway union of Virgin Atlantic pilots that called strikes during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays extended the job action to the first eight weekends of 2019, according to a statement. The Professional Pilots Union sought help from the conciliation service ACAS to resolve the dispute, but Virgin Atlantic Airways won’t negotiate until it calls off the strikes, according to the union statement. A hearing is set for Thursday, two days before the first strike on Dec. 22 — the weekend before Christmas. The PPU said it called the action over its exclusion from talks on changes to pilot benefits. Virgin Atlantic plans to challenge the strike action by seeking an injunction, the airline confirmed. The PPU represents over a third of the 965 Virgin Atlantic pilot workforce, according to its statement. Virgin Atlantic said 16% of its pilots have voted to strike.
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Male flight attendant trend is taking off in Japan

More men are taking jobs in the traditionally female-dominated profession of Japanese airline cabin crew as smaller airlines actively look to distinguish themselves from their large domestic rivals. The increasingly physical nature of the work in combination with the growing need to deal with unruly or drunk passengers, mean soradan (airmen) are being seen in the skies above Japan in larger numbers. Star Flyer currently has about 160 cabin crew, including eight men, and plans to hire six more male attendants by next summer. “The use of male cabin attendants is effective in impressing passengers that we offer a different service from big airlines,” said a Star Flyer spokesperson.
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Jetstar faces $2m fine as airlines put on notice over refund lies

Airlines have been put on notice that they must be fairer with travellers over refunds, with Jetstar facing an almost $2m fine for misleading its customers about their legal rights. All four of Australia's major airlines have entered court-enforceable undertakings with the consumer watchdog to change their refund policies after they were caught lying to customers about access to refunds when a flight was delayed or cancelled. “For too long the airlines have been ignoring consumers' rights for refunds,” said Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims. “You cannot say there are no refunds - no matter how cheap the ticket is, no matter what ticket you buy.” Each airline said it would reassess customer complaints that had earlier been knocked back for refunds and the ACCC urged travellers who had been refused a refund to contact their carrier. Sims said Jetstar was the worst offender, making claims on its website that consumers could only receive a refund if they bought a more expensive fare, and that standard consumer guarantees did not apply to its flights. The ACCC took Jetstar to court over its breaches and the pair have agreed on a $1.95m fine, which has been submitted to the Federal Court for approval. Under the law, consumers may be entitled to a refund if a flight is significantly delayed or cancelled for a reason within the airline's control and the airline cannot put the passenger on an alternative flight in a reasonable time.
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Jet Airways' survival may rest on founder Goyal leaving the cockpit

Jet Airways' 69-year-old founder Naresh Goyal, who started out as an assistant in a travel agency, wove together charm, persistence and consummate dealmaking to build India’s biggest full-service carrier. Now, his penchant for control has emerged as a major obstacle as the indebted airline tries to negotiate a rescue deal, several people who have worked closely with him or known him over the years said. “He was a visionary in his day but those days are behind us,” said a senior aircraft financier who has done deals with Goyal. “This is the moment of truth for Naresh Goyal.” The rising dominance of low-cost carrier IndiGo in a price sensitive market as well as high oil prices, hefty fuel taxes and a weak rupee have left Jet strapped for cash and unable to pay employees and lessors on time. The 25-year-old airline, which Goyal set up with his wife at a time when state-run Air India was the only real formidable opponent, has outstanding dues of about $400m. Jet, which has a mainly Boeing fleet, has delayed pre-delivery payments to the Seattle-based aircraft maker as well as to Airbus, and is overdue on its repair and maintenance contracts, two sources aware of the matter said. Although the Indian air travel market is the world’s fastest growing, at about 20% a year, it is also hobbled by cut-throat competition and chronically low fares. To stay afloat, Jet is cutting flights on some non-profitable routes and trying to raise cash by monetizing assets.
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South African regulator grounds CemAir

The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has suspended regional carrier CemAir from operating, following what it called “unacceptable and intolerable behavior” that posed a threat to safety. The airline’s Part 121 and Part 135 air operator’s certificates (AOCs) have been suspended, with the SACAA recommending to the country’s director of civil aviation the AOCs should be revoked. The suspension became effective at around 15:30 local time on Dec. 13, when the airline was notified of the SACAA’s decision. The airline said it “adamantly rejects the reasons offered by the CAA for their decision” and accused it of “malicious intent … to bring CemAir to its knees.”
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Saudi airline Flyadeal pranks social media with ‘cargo passenger’ seats

Windowless airplanes. Sleeping pods on Airbus aircraft. That may well be the future of air travel. But for budget carrier flyadeal, the future is in the cargo compartment — if you take them at their (online) word. Saudi Arabia’s flyadeal pranked social media users by saying it will install seats in its cargo compartment, allowing passengers to fly with cargo for cheaper air fares. The airline proceeded to provide details, saying that tickets will be available for sale on the so-called cargo passenger class from January 1, 2019. In a series of tweets and in an ad posted on the airline’s official website’s home page, flyadeal went on to say that passengers must be between a height of 145 to 180 centimetres, and should weigh between 40 and 90 kilograms in order to meet the requirements for the seats. The carrier added that height and weight measurements will be taken at time of check-in, and that no refunds or upgrades will be offered to passengers exceeding the limits. The airline later posted a tweet explaining its ad campaign and saying, “You don’t have to go to this length to fly for less. It was a joke!”
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Air Astana issues fleet RFP for new low-cost unit

Air Astana has issued Airbus and Boeing with a request for proposals to provide new-generation narrowbodies for nascent low-cost unit FlyArystan. The Kazakhstan carrier's CE Peter Foster said the airline was considering either the A320neo or 737 Max for the new unit, set to begin operations in the first half of 2019. He did not divulge the number of aircraft being sought. FlyArystan is scheduled to start flights with four A320ceos provided by Air Astana, but Foster says there is no reason that those aircraft could not be returned to the parent airline if Boeing was chosen through the RFP process, programmed to conclude in the first quarter of 2019. "We obviously have high hopes for the low-cost airline, and we think it's right to evaluate both manufacturers at the inception of the carrier," he adds. Foster does not divulge the routes that FlyArystan is set to operate, but does say that within two years it will have a "very extensive" domestic network from four bases in Kazakhstan. One of these will be in the south of the country, one in the west, and the other two "in and around where we live and where we sit" – a reference to Astana and Almaty. He says Air Astana has taken a "strategic and management decision" to allow the low-cost airline to develop "in isolation", because there have been too many examples of parent carriers interfering in their low-cost subsidiaries.
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