Joon launches long-haul services

Business Traveller Online writes that Air France subsidiary Joon has launched the first of six long-haul services for this summer, with daily flights to the Egyptian capital of Cairo. 

The route is the first to be served by the carrier’s refurbished A340 aircraft. Joon will also launch long-haul flights to Mumbai in June, and ahead of this it will start services to Cape Town (from April 3), Tehran (April 5), Fortaleza (May 4), and Mahe (May 5). 

What it is like to be a passenger on Qantas’ new London to Perth flight?

The Independent and MailOnline both publish first-hand stories from journalists who travelled on Qantas’ inauguaral flight between Heathrow and Perth this week.

The MailOnline reporter describes feeling remarkably fresh, with anti-jetlag meals, and cabin crew refilling water bottles throughout the flight. 

The Independent notes that it is an expensive operation as the airline has to use considerable amounts of fuel to carry all the fuel it needs for the 17 hour journey, with the length of the journey also meaning there must be a four pilots and two additional cabin crew on board.

The reporter suggests that Gulf competitors will be watching the load levels carefully, although flights via the Middle East take four hours longer, they account for two thirds of the traffic between the UK and Perth. Qantas’ one daily flight accounts for fewer than 500 passengers a day across both directions. 

With Delta and WestJet eyeing joint venture, are United and Air Canada next? 

Travel Weekly reports on effort by Delta and low-cost carrier WestJet to obtain permission to operate an antitrust-immune joint venture on flights between the US and Canada could spur United Airlines and Air Canada into action on their dormant joint-venture partnership.

This summer, Delta and WestJet will offer a combined 26 per cent of the US-Canada transborder aviation market capacity, according to the air travel intelligence company OAG. 

That total will fall well short of Air Canada, which will offer 46 per cent of the US to Canada market capacity. Air Canada’s codeshare partner, United, meanwhile, will offer 12 per cent of USto Canada capacity. 

Stobart scraps plans to buy Flybe

Travelmole writes that the Stobart Group has withdrawn its offer for Flybe after the pair railed to reach an agreement.

In a statement, the Board of Stobart Group said it had decided it was not in its shareholders’ best interests to increase its latest proposal, which has been rejected by the Flybe board. 

VLM returns to Birmingham, UK

Business Traveller Online reports that Belgian carrier VLM will relaunch flights between Antwerp and Birmingham next week, following the resurrection of services between Antwerp and London City in October.

The airline will serve the route between March 26 and October 27, and is currently offering promotional fares from €39 on way. 

Norwegian seeks capital with losses set to widen 

Norwegian Air Shuttle is raising fresh capital, selling off some aircraft and putting its frequent flyer scheme up for sale as the airline ‘tries to shore up its finances’. 

Norwegian also announced deepening estimated losses for the first quarter despite rapidly increasing revenues. The carrier announced yesterday that it will raise NKr1.3bn through a private placement.

It is rumoured Norwegian will sell five Airbus 320neo aircraft that will lead to an estimated gain of $15m-$20m, while it has also started a strategic review of its Reward programme that will look at ‘its incorporation and possibly ownership’.  

Cathay Pacific buffeted by $160m loss

Cathay Pacific has suffered consecutive annual losses for the first time in its history, as Hong Kong’s flag carrier remains under pressure from rivals in China and the Gulf

The company, 45 per cent owned by the British conglomerate Swire and 30 per cent owned by Air China, said yesterday that it lost HK$1.26bn ($160m) in 2017. 

It lost HK$575m in 2016. China’s three main state-owned carriers — Air China, China Southern and China Eastern — have made substantial aircraft orders and have been adding more direct routes to Europe, the US and Australasia, partly cutting Cathay out of its lucrative role as a conduit for China’s fast-growing outbound travel

With Gulf airlines such as Emirates and low-cost regional rivals stepping up competition in east and south-east Asiaeconomy-class passenger fares have been squeezed, also hitting other legacy carriers including Singapore Airlines. 

IAG warns of air duty boycott for carrier LEVEL

The UK press have reported that IAG has warned that it could opt to keep new low-cost airline LEVEL out of the UK over air passenger duty (APD).

They note that IAG launched the low-cost, long-haul carrier last year with flights from Barcelona to the US, and in November announced plans to set up a new base from Paris, flying to the Caribbean and North America from July.

IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh has spoken of expansion plans for the airline, and was initially weighing up Paris and Rome for the choice of its second base, though previously said he would consider the UK for the future. 

Recently though, Walsh said he had written to MPs, saying air passenger duty – which is levied against each passenger on every flight departing from the UK – undermines Britain’s position as a global trading nation post-Brexit, and reduces the chance of him bringing LEVEL to the UK.

He said: “In Spain and France, LEVEL can offer lower fares than it can in the UK – and that goes for other long-haul low-cost airlines too. MPs need to know that APD undermines our ability to introduce new low-cost flights that would benefit their constituents,” Walsh added. “If APD was axed, IAG could open new routes and operate LEVEL from regional airports.” Walsh has told MPs that abolishing APD would make it more likely that LEVEL could operate from Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester, saying it is not financially viable with LEVEL’s fares starting at around £88 one-way, when long-haul economy APD is £78. 

A spokesperson for the Treasury said: “We have frozen Air Passenger Duty for most flights, keeping the cost of travel down for 95 per cent of the population.”

Lauda teams up with Condor to sell flights for Niki relaunch 

Niki Lauda has teamed up with German holiday airline Condor to sell flights for Laudamotion, the airline created after he bought Austrian carrier Niki out of insolvency.

Lauda agreed a deal to buy Niki, a unit of collapsed Air Berlin, in January, beating a rival offer from IAG.

Lauda plans to restart the carrier with 15 planes by the end of March, scrap the Niki brand and integrate it into his Laudamotion business, which offers business charter flights

Air Belgium registers its first two planes

 Air Belgium’s first two planes were registered in mid-February, taking the airline a step further towards meeting an end-of-March target date for launching its first commercial flight. 

The two Airbus A340 planes were added to the national air register todayAir Belgium is still awaiting its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) which the airline is hoping to receive imminently.