Friday, August 31, 2012

MENA Airlines... Are Things Looking Up?

Notwithstanding, the violence in Syria and the potential political and security fallout into neighboring countries,  Europe in a near meltdown, The BRIC economies slowing down and the USA in a slow recovery, 2012 has been a year of recovery for the MENA airlines. 

H1 results for the region's airlines and airports have been on the whole positive with double digit growth. The disruptive effects of the Arab Spring have somewhat subsided at the same time as fuel prices went down.

Tourist and business flow into the region and within the region is on the increase.

Passenger traffic increased in 2012 H1 is as follows:
Dubai 14 %, Abu Dhabi 22.8 %, Ras Al Khaimah 67%, Amman 18.4%, Bahrain 13%, Beirut 8.88% , Doha 22%, Muscat 20%, Cairo traffic is back at pre 2011 figures and Dammam 16.2%. 

The airlines drove that traffic with higher passenger loads and improved revenues. Passenger loads for H1 of 2012 were as follows:
Air Arabia 11%, Etihad 27%, Gulf Air 13%, Royal Jordanian 26% (Q1), Oman Air 19%,

IATA in its July 2012 Global Traffic Results showed the Middle East carriers posting an 11.2% increase year on year against a 6.5% global growth (read more)

The airlines followed the well tested and proven policy, the balanced approach of expansion and improved efficiencies and productivity (aka cost cutting)

Airlines expanded their code sharing activities;  GF and RJ on Amman - Bahrain and points beyond, RJ and UL on Amman - Colombo and points beyond. Of course, new routes were announced and frequencies increased.

Etihad continued its policy of expansion through acquisition by increasing its share in Virgin Australia to 10% and a small stake in Aer Lingus (3%) and code share agreements. Even, Emirates is reported in code share discussions with Qantas.

Air Arabia has signed an agreement with Oman Tourist Authority to promote Salalah, RAK Airways signed an agreement for 7000 tourists between. Moscow and Ras Al Khaimah.

In the meantime, the airlines continued taking delivery of aircraft driving the fleet age down and improving fuel efficiencies.

All this might sound a tad boring and repetitious, never mind all that, success and recovery are always amazing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

IFE on a Tablet.

The Boeing B767, the venerable workhorse of the North Atlantic in the 1990s is still alive and kicking. As usual, I only noticed the aircraft type after I booked the flight. I got used to AA operating B777 from London to Chicago and back. The last time I flew in one was probably in 2003 going to Colombo from Abu Dhabi with Gulf Air.  

I am not a movie goer, so the only time I get to watch the latest releases is when I am on an 8 hours or more  flight.  I happen to like AA, their food is good and plenty, at least in Business, their oldish airplanes are usually presentable and the crew are helpful and smiling, yes smiling in spite of all the problems with Chapter 11.

However, their IFE at best ranks way down when compared with Emirates, Etihad and    yes, even BA.  I am aware that their new aircraft will have improved IFE and WI-FI, but then this is for a different time.

The B767 has the old IFE, with overhead screens and a preset program. 
Well, not in Business, AA offers a Samsung Galaxy Tablet, which actually has a better movie selection than their regular AVOD.

The tablet provides a better visual and audio experience than most installed systems. The screen is larger than most and being portable is great, totally flexible on where to place it.  It is easier to navigate and the touch screen is simply excellent.

Offering IFE on a tablet is probably a very cost effective solution when one considers the cost of an aircraft retrofit which could run in the millions of US Dollars. It is also easier to manage when IFE joins the list of ancillary fees.

In any case I found it enjoyable and much better than the unseat system.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kuwait Airways, Privatization At Last ........ Maybe

Since the A300-600 diversion to Meddinah on July 4th due to the loss of cabin pressure due to an engine malfunction and things were deteriorating. The government forced the airline to ground three (3) of the five (5) A300-600 for Inspection. An outcry about how unsafe the ageing fleet is has prompted an attorney to file  a lawsuit on July 9th to ground all flights and appoint a team of experts to examine the fleet (Click for full story). Of course, a well maintained ageing fleet is not necessarily unsafe or unworthy it is just more expensive. Several airlines operate older aircraft with no problems.

Kuwait Airways today, 12th of August 2012 accused the Parliament of obstructing all attempts of fleet renewal in 2005 and 2007 (Click for full story)

The Kuwaiti Cabinet is expected to issue a decree, after the Holy Month of Ramadan, to privatise the airline by transferring it to a company under the Public Authority For Investment and the formation of a new board.  The airline is expected to lease a few aircraft in the interim (Click for full story) to alleviate its safety issues.

The issue of workers rights has been and still is a sticking point, the Workers Union has been accusing management of not safeguarding workers rights (Click for full story).

Kuwait Airways is facing very tough times, and the government may decide to assume all the airline's debt in order to lure investors. However, issues of fleet renewal and workers rights under the new company need to be resolved and that is no easy task.

The coming few weeks should be very exciting and eventful.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It All Started With A Scarf

Airline mergers are not about airline assets, routes, aircraft and business cases, they are about people from different cultures trying to cope and this can be traumatic. To date US Airways did not integrate the flying staff or aircraft since the 2004/2005 merger of US Airways and America West.

The Sister and Brotherhood of  the Traveling Scarves and Ties, sounds like something out of The Lord of The Rings. Well it isn't, it is probably the only grass root, social media driven attempt at integrating two workforces in a post merger environment. This was never a scientific experiment just an FA reaching out to her colleagues.

Kathe Hull a UA FA had the idea to bring the FAs of the merged UA and CO together, after all the merger is there to stay.

“We are sharing bases and so many other things, yet we know so little about each other. I thought this might be a fun way to break the ice,” said JFK-based Flight Attendant Kathe Hull. Inspired by the book and movie "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” she came up with the idea of exchanging scarves and ties, along with a few kind words, among flight attendants.

Well, so it started aided by THE FLYING PINTO , Sara Pinto Keagle. Sara a Continental FA, is no stranger to social media, in addition to her blog she started with others The Crew Lounge which provided a unique insight into an FA life and career reaching out to FAs as far afield as Dubai.

Well, it seems to work, it has spread throughout the airline network and one look at the page shows the enthusiasm, energy of the FAs and the buzz this has created.

The idea has the blessings and backing of Senior Management and the iconic Gordon Bethune

Gordon Bethune
Great positive initiave to make working together a good place to work and a sucessful place in the market. Good for you. i am proud of the people that will make this the best airline ever with this type of approach and attitude. gordon

the FAs at United has proven that when all is said and done it is all about people and how they relate to each other.

 It all started with a scarf, according to Kathe Hull 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bahrain, Merger In The Air

Speculations (read more here) about airline takeovers and mergers in Bahrain were plenty since the beginning of 2012. Things are beginning to take shape and move along. Last week the CEO of Gulf Air in a press conference said that Bahrain cannot afford two (2) airlines and that a merger is a possibility. Bahrain Air Managing Director said to Al Watan newspaper that Bahrain Air is seriously considering a merger with Gulf Air.

In the mean time Parliament has refused to allocate 646 million BD (1.7 billion USD) to Gulf air and are split between;
1- closing down the airline and starting a new one, or
2- subsidising it after restructuring it.
There is a great emphasis on the fact that Bahrain Nationals should take charge of the airline, in order to provide a long term stability at the top, and be responsible to the country for their actions.

Further, both airlines were among the finalists for the third operating airline license in Saudi Arabia (read more here). Bahrain Air will need to buy aircraft which they cannot afford if they are awarded the license while Gulf Air can move some of its fleet to Saudi Arabia to support its operation, if awarded the license.

No matter how one looks at it, things are coming to a head and pretty fast (as fast as things go in Bahrain). 

A merger is probably a reality, but
1- what would the merged airline be named, the Iconic Gulf Air or the nationalistic Bahrain Air;
2- would Bahrain Air Managing Director, Ibrahim Al Hamar be the new CEO of the merged airline (He was  
    Gulf Air's PCE for one year before James Hogan was brought in);
3- how would the government and parliament deal with such a merger in financial terms, Bahrain Air is far 
    too small to take over Gulf Air's massive debt.

Lots of questions, and as usual never a dull moment in MENA's airline scene.

Friday, August 3, 2012

First Responders

One thing all Cabin Attendants, Cabin Crew and/or Flight Attendants in the world share, is airline management and passengers lack of real understanding of their job functions.

The job has evolved during the years, and world events added to the workload. 9/11 brought additional security responsibilities and functions. Probably, technology is responsible for the greatest amount of aggravation in the cabin; our personal devotion and attachment to our personal mobiles and smart devices surpasses our care for our safety or the safety of others.

Cabin Attendants, Cabin Crew and/or Flight Attendants have functions that go beyond service, which everybody seems to think is "what it is all about". Certainly they are the face and the image of the airline.
Basically, they are your first responders, cable operator, meals on wheels and social services all bundled up in one. They are supposed to take care of all:
- medical emergencies,
- fires on board,
- unruly passengers and security issues,
- listen to incessant complaints and demands
- resolve all IFE and connectivity issues and
- deliver food and beverages.

All of the above with a smile.

A little appreciation will go a long way

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Emirates and Qantas

Speculations are over, the Chairman of Emirates Airlines HH Sheikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al-Maktoom announced today that Emirates is in talks with Qantas for a code share agreement within six (6) months. There will be no revenue sharing and the aim is to get Qantas to fly through Dubai. (read full story here)

Qantas has been one of the more outspoken critics of Emirates and the way Emirates expand. Qantas had several problems starting with A380 problems and a two (2) days shutdown due to labour problems with its maintenance staff in addition to soaring fuel prices.

Etihad acquiring a stake (up to 10%) in Virgin Australia was not good news for either carrier. It provided Etihad with access to the Australian market. It was logical for Emirates and Qantas to code share; Emirates gets access as comparable to Etihad's and Qantas gets a boost to its international operations by tapping traffic feed from Dubai


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