Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cessna 525B CitationJet CJ3 (s/n 525B-0263) N888PS


Captured this afternoon at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) sporting "jetBed" titles on the engine cowls.
 
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G650 (s/n 6160) N660GA

This is the latest G650 to arrive at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) having arrived on August 28, 2015 from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) as "GLF9" at 12:16pm PST.
 
She is captured this morning on the Gulfstream service center ramp, (September 1, 2015) being prepped for the paint shop.
 
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G450 (s/n 4186) N511AK




Though I have spotted and photographed this aircraft several times in the past, the light was just perfect yesterday (August 31, 2015) and I could not pass up the chance to shoot her in such stunning light as she departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB).

(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Gulfstream G550 (s/n 5294) N117AL


Operated by AML Leasing Company, this lovely aircraft is captured departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 31, 2015.
 
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Personal luxury — Greenpoint to make their first 777 flying yacht

Now it's possible to own a personal Boeing 777, the jet that is becoming the flagship of the Boeing commercial fleet.
 
Kirkland-based Greenpoint Technologies has landed a contract to install a luxury interior in a Boeing 777-200LR, the first time the company will convert Boeing’s largest twinjet for a private buyer.
The work is to be completed at Greenpoint’s wide-body hangar in Moses Lake, Washington. The jet is to arrive there in early 2016. Such conversions can cost upwards of $100 million.

The Boeing 777-200LR is the longest-range version of the model, able to fly more than 17 hours nonstop with a full load of passengers.
 
Greenpoint won’t say who is buying the jet, standard practice in the world of VIP aircraft.
 
“It’s an honor to be selected for this prestigious 777 VIP completion program. Greenpoint’s focus on wide-body aircraft makes this program a fantastic opportunity to showcase our unsurpassed capabilities,” said Greenpoint CEO Scott Goodey, in a statement. “The Boeing 777-200LR offers an ideal platform for a VIP interior.”
 
This first conversion likely will open the door to future luxury conversions of Boeing’s newest big jet, the re-engined and larger 777-9, once that becomes available five years from now.
 
Greenpoint already designs and builds yacht-like interiors for Boeing 747s and 787s, the other two wide-body jets Boeing builds.
 
Greenpoint was acquired in June 2014, by Zodiac Aerospace, of France. Greenpoint employs 450, and is one of the largest aerospace companies in Kirkland.
 
In addition to creating fancy interiors for private aircraft, Greenpoint also is know for inventions such as an elevator from the ground for 747-8s, and sleeping quarters for personal crews.
 
(Steve Wilhelm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

American to debut new heritage jets this fall

American Airlines will debut its last three heritage jets this “autumn”, says chief integration officer Beverly Goulet.
 
Three Boeing 737-800s will sport liveries reminiscent of AirCal (merged with American in 1987), Reno Air (merged with American in 1999) and Trans World Airlines (TWA, merged with American in 2001), her presentation at the Boyd International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas today shows.
 
Asset Image
 
The liveries will join Allegheny, America West Airlines, Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), Piedmont Airlines and US Airways heritage aircraft, as well as an American retrojet, in the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s fleet.
 
Asset Image
American Airlines' US Airways heritage livery
 
Widely popular with employees and customers alike, US Airways began the heritage livery programme following its merger with America West in 2005. It has since been expanded to airlines that merged with American following the American-US Airways merger in 2013.
 
However, the programme only includes airlines that merged directly with American or US Airways – so no Empire Airlines (merged with Piedmont in 1985) and Ozark Air Lines (merged with TWA in 1986) – since the 1980s.
 
Heritage is a popular theme at American. It debuted a series of eight heritage amenity kits for international premium passengers earlier this year that are widely sought by passengers.
 
(Edward Russell - Flightglobal News)

Alaska to take first 737 Max 8 in 2017

Alaska Airlines plans to take delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max 8 early in late 2017, says its vice-president of capacity planning John Kirby.
 
The Seattle-based carrier will take delivery of its first 737 Max about six months after launch customer Southwest Airlines takes its first aircraft, he says at the Boyd International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas today.
 
“Boeing has indicated that it may be ready a little early,” says Kirby.
 
Alaska previously anticipated its first 737 Max 8 in 2018.
 
The airline has firm orders for 37 737 Max aircraft, including 20 737 Max 8s and 17 737 Max 9s, Ascend Fleets shows.
 
Alaska operates a fleet of 143 737s, including 27 737-400s, 14 737-700s, 61 737-800s and 41 737-900ERs, Ascend shows.
 
 (Edward Russell - Flightglobal News)

NokScoot eyes Hawaii flights

Thai long-haul low-cost carrier NokScoot is eyeing service to Honolulu in the future, and plans to operate the flights with shareholder Scoot’s Boeing 787s.
 
Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin, however, thinks it could be another two years before the airline arrives in the Aloha State.
 
“Honolulu is a destination, I believe the Thai people will love it,” he says at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas. “Honoulu is an 11-hour direct flight from Bangkok.”
 
Sarasin tells Flightglobal that NokScoot could operate its Boeing 777-200s to Honolulu, but will prefer to deploy Scoot’s 787s. NokScoot is a joint venture between Nok Air and Singaporean low-cost carrier Scoot.
 
Scoot operates a fleet of seven 787s and has orders for 13 more, Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets shows.
 
NokScoot will operate the Honolulu flights from its base at Bangkok Don Mueang, says Sarasin.
 
He also raises the possibility of partnering with Hawaiian Airlines. “We are going to talk with them, they can take passengers from us on to Los Angeles.”
 
NokScoot’s expansion plans hit a roadblock recently when ICAO placed a “red flag” on Thailand’s aviation regulators after the country failed to meet a deadline to resolve safety concerns found in an audit. This led to Japan and South Korea restricting new flights from Thailand, impeding NokScoot’s plans to begin service there.
 
Sarasin says the airline continues to work with Thai authorities on the issues, and hopes that the red flag will be lifted by the end of the year. In the meantime, the airline plans to start charter flights to Tokyo Narita in October since scheduled flights are currently prohibited, he says.
 
(Ghim-Lay Yeo - Flightglobal News)

Korea’s T’way Air extends services to North America

Korea’s longest established low-cost carrier (LCC) T’way Air has been granted a Foreign Air Carrier Permit (FACP) by the US Department of Transportation. This will allow the carrier to extend its current regional passenger services to North American destinations, as well as provide cargo capacity on the same routes.

With LCC carriers now taking some 50% of all passenger traffic in Korea, regional LCC operators are looking overseas for continued growth.

Initially, T'way will run a daily Boeing 737-800 schedule from Incheon, Seoul to US Protectorate Guam’s Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport, starting late September. In October, it will introduce a 3X-week service from Daegu International to Guam, via Osaka Kansia International.

The move to North America for T’way comes on the heels of the imminent arrival of Asiana Airlines’ new LCC subsidiary Seoul Air, which will compete directly with T’way on its established Korea-Japan regional routes.

More importantly, the carrier will now be able to fly charter services to other mainland US territories and cities, opening up the possibility of direct competition with Asiana on routes to its mainland destinations such as San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Chicago.

Three other Korean LCCs currently offer Korea to Guam services—Jin Air, Jeju Air and Air Busan—even before Seoul Air takes to the skies. This reinforces T’way Air’s recent commitment to change strategy outside its regional niches to continue expanding.

(Jeremy Torr - ATWOnline News)

Russia's Sukhoi pushes Superjet sales in Asia

Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Corp. is pushing Superjet SSJ100 aircraft sales in Southeast Asia as part of a new strategy to expand its emerging market commercial sector sales by 30%. Following a visit to the region earlier this year by a high ranking Russian delegation, SSJ100s have been delivered to Cambodia, Laos and potentially Vietnam.

Vientiane-based Lao Central Airlines will start operations later this year with a single SSJ100, and has options on another two of the aircraft. Sky Angkor Airlines, based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is to take a single SSJ100 in December for use on regional schedules, with two more in the pipeline.

Sukhoi has claimed sales to date of 13 SSJ100s to various buyers in Laos and Indonesia, and has established a new Sino-Russian leasing company to lease at least 100 of the aircraft to Southeast Asian operators over the next three years.

The new leasing entity will base operations in Xixian, Shaanxi province and will spend $3 billion on the aircraft.

Additionally, the recent Russian delegation to the region—which included Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Yuri Slyusar—said it had talks with Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet Air on potential deals for the SSJ100, although this has not been confirmed.

Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (UAC), of which Sukhoi is a subsidiary, is also known to be actively seeking to establish an MRO presence in the region to bolster SSJ100 sales. Initial indications are the MRO center could be in Vietnam.

(Jeremy Torr - ATWOnline News)

Surging E-Jet sales have Embraer mulling production increase

With E-Jet sales outpacing Embraer’s current production levels, the manufacturer will have to consider production increases starting as soon as next year.

The Brazilian manufacturer has already sold 131 E-Jets this year (a mix of current generation E-Jets and E2 aircraft) and, though declining to provide a specific number, hints that E-Jet sales could top 150 aircraft this year on the heels of 149 units sold in 2014.

“We have several [sales] opportunities and this number [131 units sold] can go up substantially” by the end of 2015, Embraer Commercial Aviation VP-marketing Rodrigo Silva e Souza told ATW on the sidelines of the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas.

Embraer will produce 95-100 E-Jets this year (it delivered 92 commercial aircraft last year), but if current sales trends continue, that likely won’t be a high enough level of production in coming years.

“We have the capacity to increase production if necessary,” Silva e Souza said. “A small increment [of increased production] next year is possible … We have produced close to 150 aircraft a year in the past. If we plan accordingly, we can increase to those levels” in future years. The E-Jet backlog has reached a record 531 aircraft.

A big reason for the robust sales is that airlines are interested in both current generation E-Jets to meet more immediate needs and E2s to meet future demand. “The airlines need the [E-Jet] technology in the short term, so they can’t wait for the new [E2] technology to explore opportunities rising now,” Silva e Souza said.

Interest in current generation E-Jets is coming from US airlines looking to replace 50-seat regional jets with dual-class 76-seat E-175s and emerging economies building internal domestic markets.

Many airlines in developing economies are also interested in E2s, Silva e Souza said. “China is growing its domestic [air travel] market and we see a lot of potential for our aircraft to build the regional network in China,” he explained.

Embraer has completed the wing assembly for the E-190-E2, which is slated for first flight in the second half of 2016. The wing-fuselage joining will come “some months from now” and the PW1900G geared turbofan (GTF) engine should be delivered by Pratt & Whitney by the end of this year, Silva e Souza said.

“We see thorough interest in both airplanes [current generation E-Jets and E2s] and in many cases we’re in discussions about both airplanes with the same customer,” he said.

(Aaron Karp - ATWONline News)

Republic Airways gets a big dose of bad news today from its pilots

Republic Airways late today hit a brick wall it may not have anticipated in its increasingly strained efforts to get a new contract with International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 357.
 
Jim Clark, president of Local 357 which represents 2,200 Republic pilots — some of whom who operate regional flights out of Chicago for United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines — said in a interview the general president of the national IBT decided today not to present Republic's last, best and final contract offer to Local 357 rank and file for a vote.
 
Clark was informed of the national IBT decision earlier this afternoon — a decision he subsequently conveyed to Republic management.
 
The national IBT had the final say on the proposed contract. Local 357's seven-member executive board already had voted not to present the contract to rank and file for a vote.
 
A Indianapolis, Ind.-based Republic Airways spokesman did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
 
Local 357 president Jim Clark said he directly communicated the IBT general president's decision to Republic management this afternoon.
 
Clark said it remains to be seen if Republic management is willing to go back to the bargaining table now that it is clear the airline's last best and final contract offer will not be voted on by Local 357 rank and file pilots.
 
If Republic opts not to return to the bargaining table, one scenario, according to Clark, could be a 30-day cooling off period, after which the possibility of a pilots strike could loom.
 
But Clark today emphasized it's still too early to know if a strike is a likely option at this juncture.
 
(Lewis Lazare - Chicago Business Journal)

**Breaking News** Russia’s Aeroflot to acquire Transaero Airlines

Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, will acquire Transaero Airlines, according to a Transaero statement.

A government commission backed the acquisition in a meeting led by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, Transaero said.

“In the interests of the development of the commercial aviation and creating one of the largest in the world group of airlines, the commission has approved the acquisition of JSC Transaero Airlines by Aeroflot Group,” the statement said. “The shareholders of Transaero Airlines believe this measure will serve the interests of passengers, personnel and partners of the airline.”

No other details of the transaction were released.

In May, Transaero reported a 2014 net loss of RUB14.5 billion ($255 million). Aeroflot Group reported a 2015 first-half net loss of RUB3.54 billion, narrowed from a net loss of RUB1.91 billion in the year-ago period.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Virgin America CEO predicts big fare hikes by US airlines in 2016

Virgin America CEO David Cush predicted big fare increases by US airlines, and urged the US government to protect the “competitive structure” of the industry.

“My expectation is in 2016 and 2017, we’re going to see considerable increases in flight tickets [in the US] simply because you have the Big Four airlines [American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines] controlling 85% of the market,” he told the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Las Vegas. “When you have an oligarchy, it operates as an oligarchy, which means lowering capacity and raising prices. What we’re going to see is higher fares across the industry.”

Virgin America is coming off its best-ever quarter financially in the second quarter, and the US airline industry as a whole was highly profitable in the first half of 2015. But Cush said Virgin America and other smaller US airlines face a major competitive disadvantage going forward because the consolidated legacy US airlines are squeezing them out of domestic US regional flight networks, narrowing the number of passengers with access to the smaller airlines.

“In general, we’re favorable towards consolidation,” Cush said, but he added that the inevitable consolidation-driven “pricing pressure” hasn’t arrived yet. “The government allowed consolidation to occur, but it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure competition is there,” he said. “Giving low-cost carriers access to the regional feeds that the legacies have set up is critical.”

Cush said it is “impossible” for airlines like Virgin America to set up a regional domestic network to compete with the likes of American, United and Delta. Cush has sought to arrange interline agreements to allow Virgin America to place its code on legacy airlines’ hub-feeding domestic flights from smaller markets, but has been rejected. “Virgin America has no domestic interline agreements with any domestic carriers simply because they’ve refused us. We’ve asked all of them,” he said. “These guys understand their dominant position in the small markets and they’re cutting off competition.”

Asked by ATW what mechanism the US government should use to remedy the situation, Cush said the Department of Transportation (DOT) could force American, Delta and United to add the codes of carriers like Virgin America to their regional flights. “Part of the DOT’s mandate is to preserve competition … and that’s a place the DOT has not done its job as well as it should have,” Cush explained. “Perhaps the government needs to step in … It’s important for 90% of the consumers that are not [living near] hub airports. For the total competitive structure of the airline industry, it’s very important.”

Cush emphasized that he doesn’t want to see the government picking winners and losers, but he wants it to ensure American, United, Delta and Southwest don’t use their position to stifle competition with other airlines in the US market. “Congress doesn’t have to get involved in telling airlines where to fly,” he said. “But the simple fact of the matter is, I’m from Shreveport, Louisiana, and we used to have five airlines operating into Shreveport. Now we have three. And you can’t fly to Memphis from Shreveport anymore.”

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

US Airways to officially retire on October 17, 2015

The next milestone for the American Airlines-US Airways integration is Oct. 17 when the US Airways brand will be retired. At that time its reservations system will cutover to American’s Sabre system, American chief integration officer Beverly Goulet stated.

“The reservations system migration is the largest customer-facing event left,” Goulet said at the Boyd Group’s International Aviation Forecast Summit. On Oct. 17, all tickets will be sold through American Airlines’ website, and the US Airways designator code will cease to exist. The two carriers have been operating with a single operating certificate since April.

Goulet described the reservation system migration as “drain down.” On July 18, American published a schedule that had no changes until Oct. 17. For travel after that date, all tickets booked on US Airways’ website will automatically be booked through American’s.

The integration team has been migrating tickets booked before July 18 for travel after Oct.17 on US Airways, which was about 10% of the total number of US Airways tickets. US Airways airport ticket agents are training on the new system, and American has reduced the schedule at legacy US Airways hubs on Oct.17, building in more time to allow ticket agents to process tickets on the new system.

American has been changing the signs at airports and expects to finish that project by October 17. At airports where US Airways and American are not co-located, the American is working on getting the message on where to check in to passengers. At some airports, American has shuttle buses beyond security to take passengers to the right gates, Goulet said.

The fleet integration is continuing as planned. Goulet noted that the two airlines overlapped on just three aircraft types: Boeing 757s and Airbus A319s and A321s. On these aircraft, the carrier is working to harmonize the cabin footprint.

The remainder of US Airways fleet will be repainted in American’s livery by the middle of next year, Goulet said All wide-bodies have already been repainted. Cabin trim and finish—which includes bulkheads—will occur as aircraft come in for maintenance. American also is repainting its legacy aircraft in its new livery, painting the unpainted silver aircraft as they come in for maintenance. This process will be completed by mid-2017, Goulet said.

American will not get to full operational integration for another year or two, Goulet said. The carrier expects to begin “route swaps,” where legacy US Airways aircraft or American aircraft can be swapped in on a given route in order to match aircraft size with demand. Even when that begins next year, the carrier must operate a legacy US Airways aircraft with legacy US Airways flight and cabin crews, she said.

Route swaps, together with no longer operating codeshares with US Airways, will “unlock some fairly substantial revenue and cost synergies,” Goulet said. The carrier expects more revenue synergies from the reservation system migration, she said.

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - ATWOnline News)

Dash-8 pilot calls near-collision with UAV ‘possibly catastrophic’

The pilot of a Bombardier Dash-8 regional airliner has described a near-collision with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) while on approach to London’s City Airport as “possibly catastrophic.”

The pilot’s description was recorded in an official report by the UK Airprox Board, which examines air proximity incidents in the UK.

During the April 19 incident, the Dash-8 was descending on its downwind right-hand leg for runway 09 at London City Airport. While 3 miles south of the airport, the pilot reported seeing a UAV around 200 meters away from the airliner and at roughly the same height, 2,000 ft.

After landing, the pilot and co-pilot agreed that the Dash-8 missed colliding with the UAV by about 50-150 meters. A Dash-8 passenger also reported seeing an object, but a review of radar tapes did not show any contacts in the vicinity.

According to the Airprox Board, there were a number of parks and open spaces on the flightpath where a UAV could have been operated from when the incident was reported.

The board said that because the crew had seen the UAV at such close quarters—having been able to read writing on it—they assessed the incident as a category B, causing the aircraft’s safety to be compromised.

In another incident six days later, the crew of an Army Air Corps Lynx helicopter reported a UAV directly ahead as the helo flew over Bristol in western UK The pilot was forced to make an evasive maneuver, passing the UAV within 30-50 ft.

The crew’s report stated the UAV had been difficult to see against an urban backdrop, but low cockpit workload meant they were able to detect the UAV in time.

“The pilot also commented that had the UAV not been sighted through effective lookout, and evasive action not been taken, a midair collision would have occurred,” the report stated, adding the risk of collision was very high.

The UAV operator could not be traced, and the incident was put into the highest risk category of A, meaning a serious risk of collision existed.

The UK Airprox Board has already reported a number of close calls between UAVs and commercial aircraft this year, but the Lynx incident is the first to be reported as a category A.

Concerns about the improper use of UAVs have prompted the UK Civil Aviation Authority to create a so-called “drone code,” advising users to operate their devices within line of sight. Flying an unmanned system near other aircraft could be construed as “recklessly endangering an aircraft in flight,” a crime that can carry a jail sentence.

Last week, the European Aviation Safety Agency started the ball rolling to bring in new rules to govern the use of drones, or UAVs, in the European Union.

(Tony Osborne - ATWOnline News)

Delta, JetBlue continue Open Skies debate

The coalition led by the three US legacy carriers and organized labor is asking the US government to request the three Persian Gulf Airlines freeze capacity to the US if Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) engage in consultation over those airlines’ access to the US.

“We haven’t asked the US government to unilaterally freeze capacity,” Delta Air Lines EVP-corporate affairs and legal counsel Ben Hirst told ATW at the Boyd Group’s International Aviation Forecast Summit. “We’ve asked the US government to request that they do so.” Delta, along with United Airlines and American Airlines and allied labor groups, say the US government should begin consultations—formal dispute resolution talks provided by the Open Skies agreements—with the governments of Qatar and the UAE over alleged subsidies those governments have given Qatar Airways, Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways.

Hirst’s comments are a subtle shift in rhetoric from earlier this year, when the three legacy US carriers were more forceful in asking for capacity to be frozen. Hirst noted that Delta supports Open Skies agreements, but that the three Gulf carriers are “operated in pursuit of state industrial policy,” a concerted effort by Qatar and the UAE to diversify their economies away from oil. “Open Skies agreements are based on the elimination of government-induced restrictions to competition,” Hirst said. “What [the three Gulf carriers] are doing is a violation of these agreements, and Open Skies doesn’t work in the face of massive government distortion of the market.”

The harm caused by the Gulf carriers is apparent, Hirst said. Emirates’ fifth-freedom Milan-New York flight has depressed yields on that route, and now they are the lowest on any transatlantic market. “That market was in reasonable balance with supply and demand before Emirates entered,” Hirst said.  “There was no market justification to upgrade that flight to an [Airbus] A380, and that level of capacity will eventually drive the US carriers out of the market.”

Second, the Gulf carriers have driven US carriers out of the India market. In 2007, Delta had studied operating to as many as seven cities in India, but now has “been foreclosed” out of the country, explaining, “Yields have depressed to the point where we can’t operate to India. That’s a real effect.”

But JetBlue Airways, which has joined with Hawaiian Airlines, Atlas Air and FedEx to support the Open Skies policies as they are now, cried foul. “The big three [US carriers] are in a glass house throwing stones,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told ATW. “The Open Skies agreements are pretty straightforward. If these are changed, we’d go back to a more protectionist era.”

Instead, JetBlue says it has benefited from the Gulf carriers’ expansion. Hayes pointed to Emirates Boston-Dubai service, which feeds passengers to JetBlue’s Boston-Detroit flight. Boston-Detroit had been a monopoly route before JetBlue entered the market, and the New York-based carrier would not have been able to make the flight work without feed from Emirates. Growth by JetBlue’s international partners helps JetBlue expand its own domestic network, and this is good for the consumer, he said. “We play a crucial role in keeping the domestic landscape competitive.”

Open Skies deals have allowed JetBlue to expand its international footprint, especially with its growth in the Latin America market, Hayes said. But the three legacy carriers want to protect their immunized joint ventures with European carriers. “Basically, three airlines have 80% of the share between the US and Europe,” he said. “It’s legal price and schedule collusion because of antitrust immunity.” JetBlue has called on the US Department of Transportation to review immunized joint ventures periodically to ensure customers benefit.

“The Big Three have adopted a very protectionist attitude. They have in-built advantages with their networks and large slot-holdings at protected airports. They don’t need Open Skies as much as airlines like JetBlue.” 

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - ATWOnline News)

Hobby Airport opens first phase of Southwest Airlines concourse

The Houston Airport System and Southwest Airlines have opened the first phase of its international terminal and concourse.
 
The 280,000-square-foot West Concourse, as the whole international terminal, federal inspection station and new Southwest ticket station is being called, is being opened in two phases.
 
On Sept. 1, Southwest opened its new ticket station, which includes self-service stations, as well as international and domestic flight check-in, according to project manager Bill Manning.
 
The new ticket station — about double the size of the current one — will replace the existing ticket check-in station. The existing space will open up the airport's lobby, but has the capacity to more than double the existing Transportation Security Administration security checkpoints.
 
The rest of the West Concourse is expected to open Oct. 15, alongside the bulk of Southwest's international flights. Additional flights to Costa Rica will start in November, said Southwest Airline's Denise McElroy.
 
The other piece of the West Concourse puzzle is the new parking garage. That project, paid for by the city of Houston, will open in two phases, the first is expected to open by Thanksgiving, the second sometime in February 2016, Manning said.
 
(Joe Martin - Houston Business Journal)

Qatar Air Relaxes Grip on Flight Attendants as Carrier Grows Up

Fielding questions is Rossen Dimitrov, the senior vice president who oversees the carrier’s 9,500 flight attendants, 80 percent of whom are women, from places as far-flung as Peru and India. Affable and at times even funny, Dimitrov explains a recent relaxation of policies on marriage and pregnancy, and pledges to review the curfew and other concerns.
 
Qatar Air’s rapid expansion from a regional carrier into a long-haul powerhouse has brought the conservative values of its home state into conflict with Western views on women’s rights. With a fleet of planes on order that will require thousands of new cabin crew, the carrier has planned about two dozen meetings this year to explain shifting policies and better understand the needs of workers.
 
“As the airline matures, the workforce matures,” Dimitrov said later (Qatar Air permitted access to the internal company meeting on condition that comments not be cited directly). “You can’t turn to someone who is 35 years old and say ‘No, you can’t have a family, wait.’ We want to retain people.”
 
Trouser Option
 
The airline has already backed off some of the more intrusive rules. Crew no longer risk being fired if they marry within their first five years of employment or become pregnant. Under new contracts introduced in December, pregnant women will now be offered temporary ground jobs, and they can get married at any time after notifying the company.
 
Qatar Air isn’t alone among Gulf carriers in its struggles to maintain smooth relations with crew members. Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi has been criticized for excluding a trouser option for women when introducing its latest uniforms, though the carrier says that’s because its flight attendants didn’t want them. Dubai-based Emirates has experienced some discord among cabin crew and in February began similar meetings to hear their concerns.
 
Qatar Air, though, has borne the brunt of criticism. In a report released in June, the International Labor Organization found the carrier’s policies on pregnancy and a ban on female attendants being dropped off at work by men to whom they’re not related amounted to discrimination. The U.N. agency acknowledged that things were improving, but said it was waiting to see whether the more relaxed rules are fully implemented.
 
The provision on male drop-offs “reflects a cultural norm in Qatar, which we must necessarily factor into our consideration of the matter, but we expect to be looking at this with the government,” the company said in an e-mailed response to the ILO report. Qatar Air said it should be given credit for what it has already done and for “accepting that there are still aspects on which it may need to work.”
 
Tax-Free Salary
 
The meetings themselves are unusual in Qatar. The flight attendants aren’t unionized -- unions are illegal in the emirate -- and Qatar Air Chief Executive Officer Akbar al Baker has made no secret of his antipathy to organized labor. When questioned about strikes at Lufthansa last year, he said he was happy “we don’t have to take the crap of the unions.”
 
Dimitrov, responsible for overhauling the Qatar Air rulebook, says changes have been driven by the need to retain crew as the carrier expands. Qatar Air will add at least 6,000 flight attendants in the next two years, to staff 320 new jets worth $70 billion it has on order. Current recruits are drawn from 130 nations, lured by the sheikdom’s tax-free status.
 
A Canadian who worked as a flight attendant for Air Canada before getting his commercial pilot’s license, Dimitrov said Qatar is now bringing existing crew to recruitment drives to explain “the great, the bad and the ugly” of the airline.
 
“I’d like people to join with a clear picture of what the job, country and operation is all about,” he said. “If you decide this is not for you, it’s not for you.”
 
Passed Out
 
Dimitrov waded into the center of the controversy in March. He sent an e-mail to cabin crew members that included a photo of a jeans-clad flight attendant passed out in a doorway. Dimitrov said he was “ashamed and disturbed” by the behavior, and scolded the staff for being immature.
 
In a statement, Qatar Air said most flight attendants would agree that the woman had acted inappropriately, and that public drunkenness is “considered highly disrespectful” in the conservative emirate.
 
A top concern is a mandatory 12-hour rest rule before shifts, which Qatar Air enforces by monitoring employees in company housing. The airline has leased about 90 apartment buildings in Doha, where most crew members live rent-free. While compensation is generous by industry standards -- starting at roughly $33,000 per year -- most choose company housing because similar accommodation can cost $2,000 per month.
 
Despite restrictions such as the curfews and a ban on overnight visitors, Dimitrov said the housing proves that the airline takes care of its workers. He points to a new 914-bed development called Crew City scheduled to open in October. Intended as a perk for women who have been with Qatar Air for at least four years, Crew City features one- and two-bedroom apartments, a pool, gym, sauna, grocery store, cafe and laundry.
 
“Sometimes I want to go for a run at 5 a.m.,” but doing so would violate the curfew, said Athena Yousefipour, a Canadian who has been a flight attendant for the airline for almost two years.
 
Dimitrov insists that in its recruiting the carrier is always transparent about the cultural norms that crew members must adhere to. Qatar is a conservative place, he says, and anyone coming to work for the airline or any other company must accept and adjust to that.
 
“Sometimes it’s hard for people who’ve never been to this part of the world to understand,” he said. “I’m not saying bad or good, but beliefs are different and we need to accustom ourselves to the way things are.”
 
(Deena Kamel & Mohammed Sergie - Bloomberg Business)

And the busiest airport in the world is....

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is still the busiest airport in the world when it comes to the number of passengers served each year, according to a new World Airport Traffic Report.
 
Chicago, however, regained its position as No. 1 busiest for aircraft movement, followed by Atlanta and Los Angeles. Atlanta was No. 1 in 2013.

The latest report from WATR looks at data from 2014 for more than 2,200 airports in more than 160 countries.Worldwide airport passenger numbers increased by 5.7 percent in 2014 to over 6.7 billion, registering increases in all six regions, the organization says.
 
Atlanta, the home of Delta Air Lines remains the world’s busiest airport on the globe with 96 million passengers in 2014. Traffic at the airport was up 1.9 percent over 2013 while No. 2 Beijing, with 86 million passengers, experienced more subdued growth of 2.9 percent in 2014 as compared to the double-digit growth it had achieved in previous years.
 
Airport traffic in emerging markets and developing economies experienced growth of 8 percent, whereas airports in advanced economies grew by 4 percent in 2014, with emerging markets reaching a 43 percent share of global passenger traffic.
 
The Top 10 in number of passengers:
  1. Atlanta – 96,178,899
  2. Beijing – 86,128,270
  3. London – 73,408, 489
  4. Tokyo – 72,826,565
  5. Los Angeles – 70,663,265
  6. Dubai – 70,475,636
  7. Chicago – 69,999,010
  8. Paris – 63,813,756
  9. Dallas/Fort Worth – 63,554,402
  10. Hong Kong – 63,121,786
 The Top 10 in number of aircraft movements:
  1. Chicago – total movements 881,933
  2. Atlanta – total movements 868,359
  3. Los Angeles – total movements 708,674
  4. Dallas/Fort Worth – total movements 679,820
  5. Beijing – total movements 581,953
  6. Denver – total movements 565,525
  7. Charlotte, N.C. – total movements 545,178
  8. Las Vegas – total movements 522,399
  9. Houston – total movements 499,802
  10. London - total movements 472,817
(Carla Caldwell - Atlanta Business Chronicle)