Saturday, April 27, 2013

April, A Month of Surprises and Controversies

April has been an interesting month for Etihad and the region. No surprises, well maybe a few small ones.

The big news is Etihad's 24% equity stake in Jet Airways for $379 million, no surprises here.
This will increase Etihad's reach in India which was only 2% of India's international traffic in 2011/2012. It will also provide Jet Airways with an international hub in Abu Dhabi. The equity stake will come with the usual joint fuel purchases, insurance, maintenance and ground handling, etc. to save both airlines money.
 
The surprise is, two days later, the Indian Government signing an agreement with the UAE allowing for 50,000 seats weekly for each side from the current 13000 between India and Abu Dhabi phased in over 3 years. A move that miffed Indian carriers, and Jet airways wants 41600 seats (its current share is 4285 seats). So far so good, except Air India is now faced with a problem much bigger than Emirates. A GCC airline with a tremendous Indian market reach and feed. Air India is expected to get its act together and start competing, ah well more likely they will ask for more government subsidy, at a cost to the taxpayer which is much more than Etihad's FDI.

FDI was intended to inject foreign investment in the existing airlines to allow them to expand.
Well maybe not, earlier the Indian government approved a joint venture between Air Asia and the Tata Group, Air Asia India. A low cost airline that will compete with Spice Jet and Indigo. The two airlines least affected by the Etihad/Jet Airways deal. That will keep the aviation market in India in a state of flux.

Another surprise is a code share agreement between Air Canada and yes Etihad. Two years back a request for additional frequencies and destinations for Etihad and Emirates had Air Canada up in arms to the point that it strained diplomatic relations to the point the UAE government revoked the entry visa at arrival for Canadians among other things. Things have been improving and Canadians got their visas on arrival privileges back. It seems Air Canada realized there are Canadians living in the UAE.

Abu Dhabi was in the center of some controversy, a DHS proposal for a US Immigration and Customs pre clearance arrangement in Abu Dhabi. This had US Carriers, A4A and others complaining, putting it mildly, that this will provide an advantage to a foreign carrier in a city where no US carriers operate. Well, that prompted Dubai to put itself forward as an alternative, after all both Delta and United operate to Dubai and Emirates has more USA frequencies. I am sure we will be hearing about this in the coming few weeks.

Of course the old complaint of EXIM bank financing of foreign airlines' aircraft purchases came up again. Delta and others do not like it, according to them it affords foreign competitors owned by governments an undue advantage. These days competing aircraft are almost technically and operationally similar, so financing tips the balance. Europe has ECA to support Airbus, go figure Delta. Considering that US carriers don't even consider the MENA market worthwhile, taking the amount of direct flights to the region as an indication, the only thing it will achieve is loss of jobs at Boeing and their suppliers. US carriers have to learn to compete on service, I mean service comparable to GCC and Asian airlines and of course it would help if they increase the frequency from a daily flight to Dubai to a few other destinations in the region.

Last but not least, Qatar is demanding and Canada is resisting a request to move the ICAO headquarters from Montreal, where it has been since 1947. The reasons are location (too far for Europe and Asia), harsh winters, high taxes and of course visas, Canada makes it hard for delegates to get visas. Qatar proposed Doha as an alternative and is ready to build the new head quarters and fund the UN agency's running costs starting from 2017 (the lease for the HQ ends at the end of 2016)

On the lighter side of things passenger traffic increased in MENA and a few airlines were profitable!




Monday, April 22, 2013

MRO AMERICAS 2013

Aviation Week and Space Technology (AWST) runs the MRO Conference and Exhibition annually at various regions (Americas, Asia, Middle East, Europe etc...). Having worked in the UAE for more than a decade and a half, I have attended several MRO Middle East including the last one in Dubai in January 2013.

The MRO Conference and Exhibition provides a venue for international and regional speakers from the industry to discuss the state of aviation in general and the MRO sector in particular. The exhibition usually includes regional and international MROs that have a presence in the region allowing them to bring their latest developments to their customers and potential customers.

On a personal note the MRO Middle East exhibition provided me with the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues to discuss events both professional and personal. An exchange of views that though informal was important to remain current of what is happening in the region. The last MRO Middle East 2013 was an opportunity to say good bye to friends and colleagues before leaving to relocate to the USA.

MRO Americas 2013 (MROAM) held in Atlanta (16 to 18 April 2013) was an opportunity for me to observe how things are in the USA and in a way to introduce myself to a new market where I will be working.

MROAM is much bigger in terms of exhibitors and attendees than its Middle East equivalent. The conference had several sessions running simultaneously over the three days. Aviation is a truly global business,  so one sees the familiar large international MROs exhibiting alongside the USA regional players. The exhibition was well planned and it was easy to locate stands and booths.
The Aviation Week EVENTS app is a great help in locating exhibitors and keeping track of the conference sessions.

I was not expecting to meet many familiar faces at MROAM. Surprisingly, I was wrong. The value of MROAM for me was the opportunity to visit, observe and meet professionals from MROs in the USA and get the feel of how things are done. Things are not that different here, aviation is a truly global industry.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Flying With Delta

For me Delta was the best airline ever, not only in the USA but worldwide. It was the airline with the best service. The airline that had the most efficient and most content staff, who were paid as much as if not more that their unionized colleagues at other carriers. The staff who imposed the standards on themselves without management intervention. The staff that when things went bad bought the airline the "The Spirit of Delta" a B767-200 (N102DA) delivered on 15 December 1982; their way of contributing to their airline.

Things changed since then, the airline became unionized and then the merger with Northwest on 14 April 2008. The merger made Delta the airline of Detroit.

I never flew with Delta before, but they had better flights than AA to Atlanta. So Delta it was.

Delta's ground staff are great and very helpful and they will take the extra mile to help. I had a missing "S" in my name on the boarding pass that the TSA in Atlanta required to be addressed. The Delta Agent did his utmost to the point of walking with me to the TSA security area to ensure I had no problems. Great but they work on their own tempo which is kinda slow.

Their FAs to my surprise did not smile, out of Detroit and were a little sloppy; one passenger had her tray table open and was working another had his noise cancelling headphones on, during landing. On the way back the FAs did smile a bit more but they were loud making remarks to each other.

On the way back, the aircraft diverted to Cincinnati due to thunderstorms at Detroit. The Captain did a great job explaining the reasons and how long is the expected wait, they even got one of the dispatchers to explain things. It was not too bad, we took off after one hour and a half. Still while the Captain did a superb job the FAs performance was lackluster.

One would say, you get this with all airlines, maybe. Maybe my expectations were much higher.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Dubai World Central Taking Off

Dubai World Central (DWC), Dubai's mega airport designed to accommodate 160 million passengers has suffered delays in opening. Airlines have been reluctant to move out of Dubai International and relocate to DWC. The aprons are becoming more and more congested as Emirates and Flydubai increase their fleet size and frequencies and international carriers operations increase. 

Currently, DWC is used by a handful of Cargo Carriers. Dubai International has been trying for years to move Business Aviation to DWC without much success until recently when Execujet and Jet Aviation joined DC Aviation at DWC. Currently DWC has one runway and a low cost terminal and no further development will happen before 2018, when the last development in Dubai International is completed. Only then will the other 4 runways and passenger terminals be built to accommodate an Emirates Airline move in 2025 (Dubai World Central, A Vision Delayed).

Last week it was announced that nasair a low cost carrier from KSA and Wizz Air another low cost carrier from Hungary will commence operation on 27 October 2013 to DWC. Wizz Air is a new entrant to the Dubai market, however nasair, already operating from Dubai International will be adding up to another 10 weekly additional frequencies to DWC. Dubai Airports estimates DWC will have around 30 carriers operating into it by 2015, a very ambitious plan.

The final qualification of the terminal will commence now to support the October opening. The terminal was the venue of MEBA 2012 last December 2012. DWC has an access problem at the moment because of its remote location. The RTA will as usual will come up with solutions that will  alleviate the problem.

Finally, DWC will be the new home for the Dubai Air Show starting this year and MEBAA.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Emergency Response and Crisis Management!!

Today, April 1, 2013 in the early morning a suspicious looking device was detected in an X-ray machine at a security station at Detroit Metro's North Terminal. The bomb squad was called and passengers where evacuated to the old Smith Terminal at 5:50 am. The all clear was given at 8:20 am.

There were no scenes of panic and passengers braved cold temperatures as they walked to Smith, some of them in vacation clothes. It was more confusion than panic. Watching the networks in the morning, it was obvious that Detroit Metro's Emergency Response plan did not work too good.

Access to the North Terminal was blocked by Police cruisers and passengers arriving to the terminal were told to go back from where they came (it appears that none were told to go to Smith Terminal to wait). There was no indication that between the time the North Terminal was evacuated and then reopened that a press briefing was conducted or passengers appraised of the situation.

Not exactly the best response to a crisis. Detroit Metro you gotta do better.

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