Climate change ‘may curb growth in UK flying’

The BBC have reported that concerns over climate change might restrict the growth of flying in the UK, the government has admitted.

The advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently said the UK’s planned increase in aviation would need to be curbed to restrict CO2.

Now a senior civil servant has told a green group that means ministers may have to review aviation strategy.

The group says climate concern is so high the decision on Heathrow expansion should be brought back to Parliament.

The Department for Transport defended the proposed Heathrow expansion, saying it would “provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities” across the UK, all at “no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations”.

Why should the policy change?

It is a crucial time for flying, with policy on aviation right up to 2050 currently out for consultation.

When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050.

But the CCC recently raised the bar of ambition in recommending that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions.

That will mean compensating for any greenhouse gases by either capturing the CO2 and storing it, or planting more trees.

Under the previous 80% scenario, aviation had a privileged position. Its expansion would be counter-balanced by additional CO2 cuts in other sectors, like industry.

The CCC makes it clear this is not an option in a zero-carbon Britain. It says people will continue flying using fuels made from waste, or – in the long-term – electricity.

But crucially, the growth in aviation must be constrained.

The CCC will make further recommendations on this issue in the coming months.

How was the news revealed?

In a letter to a tiny pressure group Plan B, the Department for Transport (DfT) aviation head Caroline Low said: “It may be necessary to consider the CCC’s recommended policy approach for aviation.”

This may sound like a cautious civil servant covering bases, but for Plan B it is an admission that the DfT will have to confront the notion that concerns over climate change may outweigh people’s desire to fly more.

Tim Crosland from Plan B told BBC News: “We’re pleased to see the government is taking seriously our request to review the expansion of Heathrow.

“Since the (Heathrow) proposal was approved there have been developments of immense significance.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report spelling out the dire consequences of exceeding 1.5C average global warming; Parliament’s recognition of a state of climate and ecological emergency; and the CCC’s advice that it is ‘necessary’ for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050,” Mr Crosland said.

“The government can either take the necessary action to avoid climate breakdown or it can stick to ‘business as usual’ and expand aviation, the most polluting mode of transport.

“But it can’t have it both ways.”

Mr Crosland noted that the Scottish government said this week it would review its support for Heathrow in the light of the CCC’s net zero report.

And he called for Heathrow expansion to be brought back to Parliament.

In response, the DfT said: “We take our commitment to the environment very seriously and we will give careful consideration to the net zero report.

“No decision has been taken to review the Airports National Policy Statement, however we are legally obliged to consider requests like this one.”

Prof Kevin Anderson, from Manchester University, told BBC News that curbing the growth in aviation would be politically possible because, in his opinion, most flights are taken by the rich.

Virgin Atlantic in bid for Thomas Cook

LONDON (Reuters) – The chief executive of British Airways owner IAG ruled out bidding for Thomas Cook’s airline unit on Friday, a day after rival Virgin Atlantic was reported to be interested in part of the business.

Lufthansa and private equity fund Indigo Partners are seen among the front-runners for Thomas Cook’s airlines after the firm put it up for sale in February, to raise cash after a string of profit warnings in 2018.

IAG had previously been linked with the business, but on Friday, Chief Executive Willie Walsh said that his firm had not made a bid.

“In relation to Thomas Cook… we’re not putting in any bid,” Walsh told reporters.

He added in an analyst call later in the day that the firm was not actively pursuing M&A at the moment but was in a strong position to do so if something attractive came up.

Virgin Atlantic has put in a preliminary offer for the tour operator’s UK long-haul business, Sky News reported on Thursday. Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic both declined to comment on the report.

Lufthansa is a bidder for Thomas Cook’s German airline Condor with an option to acquire the remaining airlines of the British travel group, Lufthansa’s CEO said on Tuesday.

Indigo Partners is also a likely suitor for Thomas Cook’s airline business, sources said last week, adding that the deadline for initial bids was on Tuesday earlier this week.

An unexpectedly warm summer in northern Europe last year deterred holiday makers from booking lucrative last minute getaways, resulting in two major profit warnings for the world’s oldest travel company.

Worries about the firm’s ability to pay its debts pushed the yield on its euro-denominated bonds that mature in 2022 to a record high last Friday, and Thomas Cook said later in the day that it was in talks with its lenders about bolstering its finances.

Thomas Cook’s half-year earnings release for the six months to March 31 is due next Thursday.

First big French ATC strike of the year

Five thousand flights have been disrupted by the first big French air-traffic control strike of the year the Independent newspaper reports.

The controllers are stopping work as part of a day of industrial action by civil servants across France against President Macron’s plans to reform the public sector.

They walked out at 7pm local time on Wednesday and will resume work at 6am tomorrow, Friday 10 May.

At 3pm today, Eamonn Brennan, director-general of Eurocontrol in Brussels, tweeted: “Approx 5k flights affected with over 300k minutes of delay and many other flights cancelled.

“Network manager is working hard with our colleagues and airlines around Europe to minimise the impact of today’s French strike.”

The delay-minutes figure translates to an average delay of one hour for each affected flight. In addition an estimated 550 flights have been cancelled because of the stoppage.

Delays are building, with many travellers reporting they were boarded on time for flights which were then stuck on the ground for an hour or more while waiting for a slot to overfly France.

Four big airports in southern France are particularly badly affected: Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. Links on easyJet from Bristol, Gatwick and Luton to Toulouse were cancelled, as was a round-trip on Flybe from Manchester and another on Ryanair from Stansted.

Ryanair and easyJet flights to London airports are among those cancelled from Marseille. Ryanair has also cancelled services between Stansted and Perpignan.

The airline said: “We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by these French ATC strikes. We will do everything we can to minimise your disruption, which is sadly beyond our control.”

Many of easyJet’s 60-plus cancellations, and dozens of Ryanair grounded flights, are on French domestic routes.

Passengers on British Airways have been hard hit, with 46 cancellations so far. Three round-trips from Heathrow to Nice, Barcelona and Madrid have been grounded, along with two each to Paris and Marseille, as well as services to Lyon, Toulouse, Basel, Geneva and Zurich.

From Gatwick, BA services to and from Algiers, Bordeaux, Nice and Turin have been grounded. A single round-trip from London City to Paris Orly is also affected.

The cost to the airlines is running into millions of pounds. Besides losing revenue from cancelled flights, they are responsible for providing meals and, if necessary, accommodation for disrupted passengers.

easyJet and Thomas Cook have been named the world’s worst airlines in a controversial new 2019 ranking.

The Independent newspaper reports that easyJet and Thomas Cook have been named the world’s worst airlines in a controversial new 2019 ranking.

The two UK carriers came last out of 72 airlines, scoring just 5.29 and 5.26 out of 10 respectively.

Ryanair was also in the bottom five, ranking 68th with an overall score of 5.6.

The results were compiled by air travel compensation claims company Airhelp, which calculated each airline’s score based on: on-time performance (how many flights take off and land within 15 minutes of the scheduled time); service quality (scored by more than 40,000 consumers around the world); and claim processing (how well airlines respond when things go wrong and passengers claim compensation).

Although the bottom two airlines scored well for service, with easyJet landing a 7 and Thomas Cook 7.6 out of 10, their overall rankings were dragged down by poor claim processing (2.2 and 2.5 respectively).
However, the airlines involved and the UK aviation industry are disputing the findings.

An easyJet spokesperson told The Independent: “In 2018 more than 91 per cent of easyJet flights arrived within an hour of their scheduled time and we have a continuous focus on punctuality and customer care as we know it is important to our passengers.

“Over the course of the year ATC capacity and staff shortages were responsible for more than 75 per cent of all delays across Europe with 30 days of air traffic control strike action impacting customers – all outside of airlines’ control.

“Airhelp is a claims agency taking significant amounts of compensation from customers who could receive the entire amount by claiming with the airlines directly. We take our responsibilities under Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 extremely seriously and always pay compensation when it is due.”

Trade body Airlines UK said: “This so-called report is highly misleading and self-serving. UK airlines operate in a highly competitive market place and need to provide good customer service to attract and keep passengers. They do not need lectures from ambulance chasing claims management companies.”

A Thomas Cook Airlines spokeswoman added: “This report lacks merit, and comes from a claims management company that profits from compensation that should belong to its customers. When customers come to us with flight delay claims, we pay promptly, directly and in full.”

Qatar Airways was crowned the best airline in the world by the report; the Qatari national carrier scored 8.23 out of 10, putting it firmly in the lead ahead of American Airlines and Aeromexico, which placed second and third.

Emirates came 10th overall, but had the highest score for service quality (8.9).

The highest scoring UK airline was Flybe. Although the beleaguered regional carrier suffered heavy losses and had to be financially rescued this year by a consortium including Virgin Atlantic, it was ranked 11th in the world, with an overall score of 7.75.

National carrier British Airways placed 23rd, scoring 7.54.

Onex to add airline business with deal to buy WestJet for $3.5B plus debt

Private equity firm Onex Corp. is making its long-coveted leap into aviation by signing a friendly deal to buy WestJet Airlines Ltd. in an all-cash transaction of $3.5 billion.

Under the agreement announced Monday, Onex will pay $31 per share for WestJet, which will operate as a privately held company after two decades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The price represents about a 67 per cent premium to the shares, which closed Friday at $18.52 — roughly the same price it reached the year of its initial public offering. The stock closed up nearly 60 per cent or $11.09 at $29.61 on Monday.

The two companies said the deal, worth about $5 billion including debt, will be subject to a shareholder vote, likely in July, and close in the second half of 2019 or early 2020.

Tawfiq Popatia, a managing director at Toronto-based Onex, expressed confidence in the airline’s trajectory, which has seen it evolve from a low-cost regional carrier to a full-service international airline targeting higher-yield business passengers.

“The plan is what draws us. The plan is very much part of the appeal of this business…We’re very much investing in this management team,” he told The Canadian Press, saying that no major changes were afoot.

Popatia added that Onex will continue the current employee profit-sharing program that sees a portion of profits distributed twice a year to all 14,000 WestJet employees, on top of an annual bonus.

WestJet chief executive Ed Sims, who will remain CEO, said “there are no job losses planned as a direct consequence of this transaction.”

Industry consultant David Tyerman said “$5 billion is a lot of exposure” for the Toronto-based Onex, which has some US$31 billion of assets under management.

“To me it looks like they’re trying to capitalize on a situation where a company is a bit down and out because of the impact of launching a lot of initiatives that have yet to pay off, as well as the fallout from the pilot situation last year,” he said.

In the past six years, Calgary-based WestJet has created both regional and budget airlines — WestJet Encore and Swoop — and set its sights on long-haul routes with an order for 10 Boeing 787 jetliners set for delivery before 2022, receiving the first one earlier this year.

Intense competition remains a concern. A freshly expanded Flair Airlines, soon-to-launch Canada Jetlines Ltd., and Air Canada’s low-cost Rouge are all crowding the budget airspace that WestJet has flown into with its 11-month-old, ultra-low-cost Swoop subsidiary.

Tyerman and other analysts were skeptical the new deal would benefit passengers through lower airfares at a carrier that has posted quarterly profits for 14 years straight, with the exception of one quarter last year.

Sims said he expects airfares will “remain exactly as competitive as they are today.”

Popatia pointed to Onex’s history in aviation, with past investments in aerostructures manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems and in-flight catering company Sky Chefs.

Twenty years ago the firm teamed up with American Airlines parent company AMR Corp. in a hostile $1.8-billion bid plus the assumption of debt to acquire and merge Canadian Airlines — then the country’s second-biggest carrier — and Air Canada. The plan was dropped after being ruled illegal by a Quebec court.

Onex also failed in its effort in 2007 as part of a consortium to buy Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd.

Popatia said the new foreign ownership threshold — raised to 49 per cent from 25 per cent after amendments to the Canada Transportation Act — “had nothing to do with” its decision, stating that Onex Partners — the company’s flagship private equity fund — is the sole equity provider.

Analyst Benoit Poirier of Desjardins Securities said Onex might also look to acquire Transat A.T. The tour operator, which owns Air Transat, competes with WestJet for sun destinations and launched in 2017 a $750-million plan to develop a hotel chain in Mexico and the Caribbean.

“We believe it would be easier for WestJet to acquire Transat once the company is integrated within Onex, as unlocking Transat’s full potential could take a few years (three to five years) — which might be less suited for a public entity,” Poirier said in an investor note.

The Quebec-based travel company has been in buyout discussions with several suitors since last August, including Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau, Montreal developer Groupe Mach and financial services company FNC Capital.

“We don’t speculate on any issues along those lines,” Sims said Monday.

WestJet’s current growth spurt could also generate profits to offset the rising cost of labour following the unionization of fight attendants and pilots.

“WestJet has been challenged by all this diversification that’s been crunched into this very short space of time,” said Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc. “Shareholders were wondering whether WestJet could execute all these things.”

Private sector union Unifor said it would stand up for WestJet workers as it is sold to Onex, “a takeover specialist with a long history of cost cutting and restructuring at the companies it buys.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney weighed in Monday.

“By moving to private ownership, it is our hope that WestJet will have greater latitude to make long-term strategic investments, growing its fleet and global network of destinations, including direct overseas flights from Alberta,” Kenney said in a statement.

Analyst Doug Taylor of Canaccord Genuity said the Onex deal likely will not “dramatically alter” the competitive landscape.

“WestJet was generally well-funded and was already embarking on a large and highly competitive expansion plan. In our view, a private equity owner of an airline is likely to remain rational with respect to its approach to yields and profitability vs. market share,” he said in a note to clients.

Free Mental Health Assessment for Pilots

Symbiotics give away mental well-being assessments to Airline Pilots in support of Mental Health Awareness Week

 

To help support Mental Health Awareness Week taking place 13th– 19thMay 2019, Symbiotics are delighted to offer mental well-being assessments to Pilots, with the hope that this will help to further the conversation around mental health in this marketplace and help individuals to identify if they may be struggling with a mental health issue.

Symbiotics will provide MHS’ MindQ, a clinically validated mental well-being risk assessment for free of charge during mental health week, up to a maximum of 250 licenses. MindQ is a short online assessment that takes 10-15 minutes to complete and helps to identify those at risk of mental ill-health. The assessment covers a range of issues that can impact an individual’s mental well-being including looking at Emotional Satisfaction (Job, Material, Personal), Anxiety, Depression, Stress coping, Drugs and Alcohol.

Symbiotics’ Chief Occupational Psychologist, Karen Moore, says

With the EASA changes to mandate Pilot Psychological evaluations we are seeing some airlines starting to put in place Peer support programmes and looking to raise awareness of mental health to normalize the conversation. A recent survey we undertook of Pilots shows that there is still a significant way to go in the industry implementing solutions to identify those a risk of suffering from mental health conditions. We see the need to identify issues early as critical to enable people to get the right help as soon as possible and keep people in work. MindQ has been in use by Symbiotics for the last 6 months and we have so far data from almost 500 pilots that show during the feedback sessions, MindQ to be an excellent indicator of an individual’s mental state.”

Mental Health still has a stigma attached to it, which Symbiotics are helping to remove. By offering these assessments free of charge including, where appropriate, a feedback telephone conversation with one of our Psychologists, it is hoped that Pilots will start to talk about the subject of mental health more openly. All conversations and assessment findings being treated in strictest confidence, with no information being disclosed to a third party.

Karen Moore continues “It would be great to giveaway more assessments, however, we have to be mindful of the number of individuals whose results may require a feedback session and therefore have had to limit it in order to ensure we can honour all the feedback sessions. Current research suggests as many as 1 in 4 Pilots are currently experiencing mental health concerns”.

If you are a pilot and would like to take MindQ mental wellbeing risk assessment for free, visit the Symbiotics website here to get your licence code. This offer is only open to the first 250 pilots to get in touch, so don’t delay!

British Airways subsidiary operates to wrong airport

WDL Aviation ‘filed wrong flight plan’

The wet-lease flight which landed in Edinburgh instead of its scheduled destination of Dusseldorf has attracted considerable media coverage. The aircraft – a 96-seat BAE-146 regional jet – was operated by German charter operator WDL Aviation on behalf of BA CityFlyer. WDL filed the wrong flight plan with the authorities, which the flight crew then followed as per their procedures. After safely landing at EDI, it took off again and flew customers on to Dusseldorf.

BA have responded with the following statement: “We are working with WDL Aviation, who operated this flight on behalf of British Airways, to establish why the incorrect flight plan was filed. We have apologised to customers for this interruption to their journey and will be contacting them all individually.”

Ryanair jibe backfires

A number of media outlets report how a Ryanair twitter jibe against us backfired. The Irish airline posted a picture of a book called ‘Geography for Dummies’ after our wet-lease flight landed in Edinburgh instead of its scheduled destination of Dusseldorf. The mix-up occurred when German operator WDL filed an incorrect flight plan. But the Ryanair tweet prompted dozens of social media users to remind the airline of its own failings. One user wrote: “You need to borrow the whole series mate, starting with ‘getting off the ground for dummies’ / ‘how not to strand your customers for dummies’.”

Boeing ‘fix’ for 737 Max

Boeing has issued changes to controversial control systems linked to two fatal crashes of its 737 Max planes in the last five months.

But it’s still not certain when the planes, that were grounded worldwide this month, will be allowed to fly.

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the accidents reports the worldwide press.

As part of the upgrade, Boeing will install as a standard a warning system, which was previously an optional safety feature.

737 Max pilots ‘had 40 seconds to recover aircraft’

During flight simulations recreating the problems with the doomed Lion Air 737Max, pilots discovered that they had less than 40 seconds to override an automated system and avert disaster.

The pilots tested a crisis situation similar to what investigators suspect went wrong in the Lion Air crash in Indonesia last autumn. In the tests, a single sensor failed, setting off software designed to help prevent a stall.

Once that happened, the pilots had just moments to disengage the system and avoid an unrecoverable nose dive of the Boeing 737 Max.

The automated system, known as MCAS, is a focus for the authorities as they try to determine what went wrong in the Lion Air disaster in October and the Ethiopian Airlines crash of the same Boeing model this month.

Expected loss for easyJet

easyJet will release a trading update on Friday ahead of its first-half financial results in May.

Britain’s largest airline operator suffered a £15 million hit in the first quarter from disruption caused by rogue drone flights in and around Gatwick airport, which affected 82,000 customers and resulted in more than 400 cancelled flights.

Half-year figures are expected to detail a loss of about £280 million, according to analysts, blaming weak ticket sales owing to Brexit and the rise in fuel prices for the slump.

The U.K.’s faltering attempt to exit the European Union is hurting demand for air travel, just as the busy summer season gets under way.

EasyJet Plc dropped the most in more than two years after warning the crucial holiday months will be weaker than expected as low-cost airlines feel the brunt of the U.K.’s political crisis over Brexit and waning consumer demand.

“We had hoped for a little more clarity and certainty around Brexit at this point,” Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren said on a call. That uncertainty “has been accelerated in the last four to six weeks and that clearly has had an impact on customer demand.”

Another spanner in Rolls’ works

The pressure on Rolls-Royce over its troubled Trent engines increased yesterday when Singapore Airlines revealed that it had grounded two Boeing 787-10s, report The Daily Telegraph and The Times.

Articles cite engines wearing out faster than expected as the reason for Singapore’s decision, adding to Rolls’ woes. Rolls has put a £1.5bn price tag on resolving problems with the first version of the Trent 1000.