Friday, June 22, 2012

First Air Canada now Qantas.

It was Air Canada claiming that additional frequencies by Etihad and Emirates will cause the shedding of 10,000 jobs. Now it is Qantas complaining to the government that they will go under if Etihad is allowed to raise its stake from 3.96% to 10% in Virgin Australia. The reason is they might undercut Qantas by reducing domestic fares.

If Etihad and Virgin Australia wanted to reduce domestic fares they can do it anytime and without an equity stake. Qantas is complaining against "government owned" Etihad and Singapore, at least Emirates was spared this time.

Qantas suffered from rising fuel prices, labour strife that has grounded the airline for two days and of course A380 troubles. Qantas warned of a slump in profits. These problems are not the work of competitors. Still Qantas claims its international operations are suffering because they are being undercut by Singapore and Etihad.

The real issue for Qantas is for the government to remove the limit on foreign investment in the airline imposed under the Qantas Sale Act which dictates that the airline remains majority Australian owned.

It appears that legacy carriers find it easier to blame their problems on high visibility airlines like Etihad and Emirates than finding solutions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Life without AVOD

Everyone in the industry is talking about connectivity during flight, and how on board Wi-Fi will change the travel experience by providing social media and online content at 41000 feet. Some suggested passengers using their smart phones and tablets for on board entertainment while the airline provides content.

Airlines advertise AVOD (Audio/Video On Demand) as part of their marketing. AVOD is not a perk it is a necessity when one is travelling on ultra range flights of up to 17 flight hours. With airlines like Emirates and Etihad among many others providing around 400 movies, several TV shows, a hundreds of audio selections and games with the ability to play with other passengers.

So far so good. Travelling back to Dubai from London Heathrow with BA on board what must have been one of their oldest B777; the aircraft looked and felt like it. The cabin was almost in tatters. The worst part was the In Flight Entertainment System.

BA has one of the better AVOD Programs for IFE, but not on this one. Twenty odd video channels and no audio, not too bad for a seven hours flight if one can overlook and tolerate waiting times for the movies to start.

The problem is passenger expectations, you pay for a ticket expecting AVOD and end up with a late 80s IFE System, a great downer. This a problem facing legacy carriers with aging fleets, greatly differing on board experiences for the same flight and cost.

As technology brings in more and more channels and content to IFE the divide between one aircraft and the other becomes intolerable something that needs to be addressed by the airlines.

Maybe I should be asking for a refund, Just Saying.





Sunday, June 17, 2012

Impressions of a Chapter 11 Airline ..... AA

This is the first time I travel on long flights With AA since they went bankrupt under Chapter 11. I flew with American Eagle a few times since then. 
I had my doubts, I was not sure what to expect. 

I was pleasantly surprised, both sectors, one a morning flight the other a night flight, were enjoyable. The FAs were friendly and as usual professional. The flight deck announcements were longer, more informative and sounded friendlier. 

So what, one would say. 

Well, these are the ones that have thrown their lot with the US Airways merger bid. The pilots that have been negotiating a contract for the last few years with no resolution.  The fact that they are still delivering a great travel experience, shows their professionalism and their concern not only for the traveling public but towards AA. We have a saying in Arabic, one does not throw stones into the well, one drinks from. I suppose it holds true everywhere.

Personally, I do not think a merger with US Airways is a good thing. The flight and cabin crew from the last merger, seven years ago, have not been integrated as yet. This merger will make them three groups. The premise that US Airways crews will get similar pay as AA's who will not lose any and the new entity will still be competitive does not sound right. This is a bankruptcy and some pain and discomfort is bound to be felt by all stake holders. 

Three hundred thousand miles later, I grew to like AA. Their staff are usually helpful, smiling and always professional. I wish them all the best and hope AA emerges a better airline. 

I hate to be traveling with US Airways. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Etihad, The Pressure is On

In the news this week Etihad added half a million passengers to 2.4 million passengers an increase of 26% in Q1 2012, pushing revenues to US$ 989 a 28% increase making it the best Q1 ever (click here for details).

On the other hand Abu Dhabi hotels revenue rose by 1% and occupancy went down by 6% on the back of new properties coming on line. In absolute terms the number of guests increased by 17% over the same period in 2011 (click here for details).

The numbers are great in absolute terms, but they put pressure on the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and Etihad to fill the additional capacity. Etihad needs to increase the percentage of passengers who have Abu Dhabi and the UAE as their final destination.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ROTANA JET .... A UAE FIRST

Today June 6 2012 witnessed the first regional flight from Abu Dhabi (Al Bateen) to Sir Bani Yas, an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, a resort and nature reserve. (full story here)

ROTANA JET (no connection to the hotel chain) is the first UAE regional jet operator. It will be operating two (2) EMBRAER EMB145 regional jets with a fifty (50) passengers capacity. The plan is to operate three(3) weekly flights to the island. Flights to Ras Alkhaimah, Fujairah and Al Ain are planned for the near future with possibly Dubai at a later date.

ROTANA JET (www.rotanajet.ae) started as a corporate jet operator. The airline is introducing a new means of connecting the northern emirates to Abu Dhabi with the aim of encouraging nationals and expatriates alike to travel within the UAE and enhancing tourism to Abu Dhabi.

Kudos for having the vision and the courage to start an intra emirates operation.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Quality Assurance, Safety Management Systems and the FAA

The FAA has finally released its FAR Part 145 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) 2006-26408. The NPRM was initially issued in 2006 and withdrawn in 2009 because the FAA felt it did not adequately address the current repair station operating environment. The new proposal covers three major areas plus several other changes
1. The system of Ratings.
2. The certification Requirements.
3. Repair stations providing maintenance to air carriers.

The original 2006 NPRM proposed a requirement for a formal Quality System to improve safety, this requirement is not included in this proposed NPRM. The rationale is that the FAA is developing the Safety Management Systems (SMS) rules and those will cover repair stations operating under Part 145. It is felt that if a Quality System is mandated now it will have to be modified once SMS rules are produced, which is not an efficient use of repair station resources.

SMS requires compliance with the following requirements
1. Identify safety hazards, assess and mitigate risks.
2. Ensure that remedial action necessary to maintain an acceptable level of safety is implemented.
3. Provide for continuous monitoring and regular assessment of the safety level achieved.
4. Aim to make continuous improvement to the overall level of safety.
However SMS requires a Quality Assurance Program and policy that is consistent with and supports the fulfilment of the activities of SMS, including annual internal audits.

In the original NPRM the FAA proposed an expansion of the existing Quality Control system to include a Quality System that assures compliance with regulations and internal processes and procedures. Any findings are addressed and corrections/corrective actions taken to ensure compliance and improve the effectiveness of the procedures. It also requires management oversight and follow up to ensure effective corrective actions and continuous improvement. This requires an internal annual audit plan and periodic management reviews.

SMS requires a Quality Assurance system, but it is directed towards the safety function, and does not cover the other aspects of the operation. It can be argued that all actions or inactions affect safety and therefore SMS will mandate by default an all encompassing Independent Quality Assurance regime.

Considering that the origins of this NPRM date back to 1999 and has been issued and withdrawn several times; to wait for the release of the SMS rules could mean a wait of a few more years and a QA System will not be mandated until the turn of the decade.

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