Taste of Finnair packaged meals

Editor’s comment: Meals on wheels

By General NewsNo Comments
Taste of Finnair packaged meals

Pre-COVID, airlines and their suppliers were keen to attract passengers onboard with the promise of replicating their on-ground connectivity experience in the air.

With air travel still depressed and many aircraft still grounded and parked up, airlines have now begun promoting the in-flight experience on the ground and at home.

Unsurprisingly, AirAsia was one of the first to offer popular in-flight meals at home, when it launched its AirAsia Delivery service in May. Deliveries were made by AirAsia staff who received particular training in hygiene and service and booked via the LINE booking platform.

THAI Airways and Singapore Airlines have since followed suit in kind. THAI Catering launched a delivery service back in the summer and began offering in-flight meals at its head office’s restaurant.   More recently, SIA has recently launched Discover Your Singapore Airlines, which includes SIA@Home, a special cabin crew concierge service that brings a selection of first class and business class meals to the home. Limited edition dining ware and amenities are also available depending on the package chosen.

Now, Finnair has joined in by trialling the sales of ready-made in-flight business class meals. However, availability is limited to a single Finnish store near Helsinki Airport.

Many may have questioned the rationale behind such meal services, but as airlines struggle to get cash flowing, this is a creative revenue stream. More importantly, as Marika Nieminen, Finnair Kitchen VP, says: “This is a new business opening for us and employs our chefs in Vantaa. As so many of Finnair Kitchen’s employees are temporarily laid off, the project enables us to create new work and employment for our people.”

Alex Cruz BA CEO

Editor’s comment: Out with the old

By General NewsNo Comments
Alex Cruz BA CEO

On 8 September, Luis Gallego, former Iberia Chief Executive,  took up his new role as International Airline Group’s Chief Executive, stating: “My goal is to ensure that IAG adapts to the “new normal” in aviation and builds on its strengths to secure a strong future for the Group, our customers, shareholders and employees.”

A month later Gallego has wielded the axe with Alex Cruz, Chairman and Chief Executive of British Airways moving aside as Non-Executive Chairman.  He is replaced by Sean Doyle, Chairman and Chief Executive of Aer Lingus.

Elsewhere within IAG,  Fernando Candela, LEVEL Chief Executive, joins the Group’s Management Committee in a new role of Chief Transformation Officer, while at Aer Lingus, Donal Moriarty, currently the airline’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, will become Interim Chief Executive. A permanent appointment will be announced in due course.

According to Alvaro Lopez-Jorrin, Board Secretary, “As our new team comes together, we remain focused on making the right operational and strategic decisions for the long-term benefit of all IAG’s stakeholders.”

Over in Italy, the name Alitalia has been consigned to history with the establishment of its replacement, the catchy-named Italia Trasporti Aereo.

For Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance Roberto Gualtieri, the Newco represents the “first step towards the establishment of a quality carrier capable of competing on the international market,” backed by “the choice of top-level managers and great skills able to develop and implement a solid and sustainable industrial plan.”

Nunzia Catalfo, Minister of Labour and Social Policies, added: “We need a national airline to help Italy get back on track. With the birth of the Newco we are faced with an ambitious challenge, which must necessarily be won in order to equip the country with a competitive and qualified air carrier, which enhances the professionalism and skills that we have always expressed in this sector.”

With Autumn in full flow, it seems now is the time for some to have a clean slate.

Editor’s comment: A tale of two markets

By General NewsNo Comments

It’s been a week of contrasts.

There’s the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warning that the airline industry will burn through US$77 billion in cash during the second half of 2020 (almost $13 billion/month or $300,000 per minute).

easyJet, for example, despite raising over £2.4 billion in cash since the beginning of the pandemic from funding sources such as debt and equity, has just posted its first ever full-year loss, and expects to have a fourth quarter cash burn of £700 million.

The stats behind this loss show just how a once strong balance sheet has been eroded: full-year passenger numbers decreased by 50% to 48 million as capacity decreased 48% to 55 million seats. Based on current travel restrictions in the markets in which it operates, easyJet expects to fly approximately 25% of planned capacity for Q1 2021.

While Boeing’s 2020 Boeing Market Outlook projects demand for 18,350 commercial airplanes in the next decade – 11% lower than the comparable 2019 forecast – valued at about $2.9 trillion, the picture in business/VIP aviation is a lot rosier.

Honeywell’s 29th annual Global Business Aviation Outlook forecasts up to 7,300 new business jet deliveries worth $235 billion from 2021 to 2030, down 4% in deliveries from the same 10-year forecast a year ago. Despite the dip, 4 of 5 business jet operators in the survey indicate that purchase plans have not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Business jet usage is expected to rebound to 80% to 85% of 2019 levels in the 4th quarter of 2020 and fully rebound by the middle of 2021, indicating demand for business jet travel is returning after the global pandemic caused a slowdown in the industry earlier this year,” said Heath Patrick, President, Americas Aftermarket, Honeywell Aerospace.

For once, the grass does appear to be greener on the other side.

front view of Hamburg Messe

AIX and WTCE set for late summer return to Hamburg Messe

By Featured, General NewsNo Comments
front view of Hamburg Messe

Aircraft Interiors Expo and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo have been pushed back to 31 August to 2 September 2021, moving from the original April dates.

According to Polly Magraw, Exhibition Director, Aircraft Interiors Expo and World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo: “After consulting with exhibitors and airlines, we recognise the industry needs more time to allow for the reopening of borders, lifting of travel restrictions and resuming of services. It is clear that the industry needs to meet in person later in 2021. Our priority is to deliver an engaging and COVID-secure face-to-face event in September that gives our exhibitors and visitors the additional time to adapt and continue on the path to recovery.

“Now, more than ever, there is a strong need to reunite, connect and do business. The importance of AIX and WTCE cannot be underestimated as the largest marketplace that brings together key stakeholders from the global supply chain. We are confident that this decision best supports the industry, and in September we will be ready to regroup and look ahead to the future.

“The majority of exhibitors have already confirmed their participation at the face-to-face events in 2021, and we continue to focus on keeping the industry connected during this time, fostering collaboration, promoting new innovative solutions and helping to nurture critical business contacts. We look forward to facilitating this through a further series of virtual events, set to take place in April, details of which will be announced soon.

“We once again want to thank all of our exhibitors, visitors, and partners for their support. We believe this extra time ahead of the 2021 events will offer exhibitors reassurance and more opportunity to prepare their fantastic showcases, and for our visitors to be ready to restart planning for the cabins of the future.”

Nicholas E. Calio

Editor’s comment: Treading carefully

By General NewsNo Comments
Nicholas E. Calio

Pinch, punch, first day of the month. It’s been a battle-weary journey for the US aviation industry just to reach 1 October.

As I write, the payroll component of the CARES Act, which became law in March, has just expired, putting thousands of airline workers jobs at risk.

With hours left, A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio (pictured) stated: “The CARES Act recognised that in order to save jobs and support general business operations, Congress needed to provide both payroll support and loans. One does not cover the other… Regardless of the loans announced by Treasury…, without funds dedicated specifically to payroll (through the PSP), airlines will have to take action to address the loss of payroll funds.

“To be absolutely clear, furloughs are inevitable without a PSP extension. All of which says to Congress and the Administration: ACT TODAY!”

Days earlier, the US Department of the Treasury closed loans to seven air carriers: Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue, Hawaiian, SkyWest, and United, subject to conditions and satisfactory documentation. The reallocation of funds will be subject to a loan concentration limit of US$7.5 billion per passenger air carrier, or 30% of the $25 billion available for passenger air carriers.

Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on Congress “to extend the Payroll Support Program so we can continue to support aviation industry workers as our economy reopens and we continue on the path to recovery”.

IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac recently labelled the latest near-term industry outlook as getting darker. “This is no time for governments to walk away,” he said. “The industry is grateful to those governments that have already provided support, but new job-saving measures are needed – including financial measures that do not add to overstressed balance sheets.”

As the industry heads into the winter season, its financial position is the worst it’s ever been. Now is the time to care.

Royal Brunei has launched Dine and Fly flights

Editor’s comment: Come on inside

By General NewsNo Comments
Royal Brunei has launched Dine and Fly flights

“We’re on a road to nowhere, Come on inside, Takin’ that ride to nowhere, We’ll take that ride.”

Talking Heads are not the only ones to be willing to take a ride to nowhere, with passengers reportedly lining up to take so-called ‘flights to nowhere’.

Back in August, Royal Brunei Airlines launched its RB Dine and Fly flight. The full-service 85-minute scenic flight on an A320neo was sold out in 48 hours and gave its 300 passengers an aerial view of Borneo and Brunei Darussalam. The airline has flown another five such flights since, all with live commentary by its pilots and crew.

To mark Father’s Day (8 August) in Taiwan, EVA Air gave passengers ‘an alternative travel experience’ with a three-hour flight across Taiwan. Those onboard were served a full-course meal and received a Hello Kitty-themed amenity kit and IFE.

More recently, Qantas announced what became its ‘fastest selling flight’ with a seven-hour flight over Australia. The 10 October flight is reported to offer full-service meal and a celebrity cameo.

Elsewhere, ANA gave 300 passengers onboard its A380 Flying Honu, a ‘Hawaiian resort experience’ at the airport and onboard, including special cocktails. Operating on the Narita-Honolulu route passengers enjoyed a 90-minute scenic flight.

With borders closed and travel restrictions still in place in many regions across the world, such ‘flights to nowhere’ offer the chance for passengers and crew to enjoy the flying experience once again, albeit in a limited, one-off way.

Until demand for air travel rebounds to significant levels, such flights will just be a novelty, a nice PR story, but not a serious enabler of restoring passenger confidence or indeed a tonic for the industry itself.

Alex Cruz BA CEO

Editor’s comment: Winter is coming

By General NewsNo Comments
Alex Cruz BA CEO

Alex Cruz, Chairman and CEO of British Airways, spent an uncomfortable 2+ hours on Wednesday morning before the UK’s Transport Select Committee to discuss the implications of the Coronavirus pandemic on the airline and aviation industry.

Updating MPs, Cruz described the current situation as “the worst crisis British Airways has ever gone through in its 100-year old history,” claiming “COVID has devastated our business, our sector, and we are still fighting for our own survival.” The airline is burning through £20 million a day.

In line with the expectations of parent group IAG, Cruz warned it will take at least until 2023 for passenger demand to recover to 2019 levels. The airline has faced widespread criticism for its so-called ‘fire and rehire’ approach to the introduction of new contracts for its cabin and ground crew, a move Cruz said was now off the table following consultations and agreements with trade unions.

“The relationship is very clear. Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them,” he said.

The airline is in the process of reducing headcount by up to 13,000. By the end of August, the headcount was reduced by 8,236 due to employees leaving the business and mostly as a result of voluntary redundancy. The focus on survival has put a halt to the carrier’s multi-billion investment programme, which has seen improvements to the customer experience including new onboard services, cabin upgrades and lounge enhancements.

With winter approaching and this ‘deep crisis’ showing no sign of improving, survival is the name of the game for all in the aviation industry – directly or indirectly involved.

Virgin Atlantic's Mile High Tea in collaboration with celebrity pâtissier Eric Lanlard i

Editor’s comment: Food, Glorious Food

By General NewsNo Comments
Virgin Atlantic's Mile High Tea in collaboration with celebrity pâtissier Eric Lanlard i

The fluid nature of the imposition of quarantine restrictions by respective governments around the world is eroding the travel plans of many.

As IATA’s CEO and Director General Alexandre de Juniac recently commented, “Government management of travel restrictions is so unpredictable and uncoordinated that people are still not flying.”

While aviation remains frustrated by the lack of harmonisation and coordination to reopen borders, airlines have taken steps to encourage and reassure its flying customers.

From airport testing to free COVID-19 insurance cover and the much-publicised enhanced cleaning protocols, passengers are slowly adjusting to a new normal. But it’s an old familiar in-flight experience which will bring an extra layer of confidence and satisfaction.

As Virgin prepares to expand its network and reintroduce flights, it has begun to resume onboard food and beverage services. Aside from much-loved favourites, such as the Wander Wall, the carrier is introducing a range of new special meals over the coming weeks.

While commercial operators struggle, private aviation is recovering. Catering suppliers like On Air Dining are enjoying an upturn in fortunes, with the company taking on more staff to meet demand at its bases at Farnborough and Stansted Airport.

As chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli once said, “Food is so heavily connected to memory.” Bringing back memories of one of the joys of flying will surely help passengers adapt to a new travel experience.

WestJet crew member wearing a mask

Editor’s Comment: Wanna fly? Wear a mask – it’s not rocket science!

By General NewsNo Comments

After weeks of confusion as to whether passengers should be wearing masks on commercial flights in the US, one leading regional carrier has finally introduced a zero-tolerance policy. This makes it a requirement for all passengers over the age of two travelling on WestJet to wear a face mask or face covering.

Passengers who don’t comply will face penalties, including being denied boarding which could see an aircraft return to the gate so the passenger can be offloaded and suspended from travelling on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to 12 months.

It’s a hard line that needs to be taken across any commercial flight to avoid the feared second wave of COVID-19. But it seems not all airlines and passengers are using common sense. On a recent Tui flight from Greece to the UK, 16 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after they flouted the mask-wearing recommendation. The remaining 193 passengers and crew aboard have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. This situation could so easily have been avoided if all passengers had complied with the recommendation.

The simple protocol can be applied by any airline and explained to any passenger contemplating a flight. WestJet has a straightforward three-stage process: 1) Passengers will be asked to put on the mask in a discussion with cabin crew. 2) Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and that compliance is necessary. 3) Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a non-fly list for 12 months.

With commercial aviation still taking tentative steps back into the air, perhaps it’s time for passengers who have craved the opportunity to fly to use their head and follow the advice of the cabin crew. We all want air travel to be like it was but, until then, we need to pull together and support the airline staff in the cabin.

WestJet crew member wearing a mask
Passenger checks in using QR code on phone

Collins Aerospace eliminates the need for touching airport kiosks

By Featured, General NewsNo Comments

Collins Aerospace Systems, a Raytheon Technologies business is eliminating the need to physically touch kiosk screens during airport check-in and baggage drops. The company’s new Kiosk Connect solution provides the first full, end-to-end, contactless airport journey — a high demand as passengers return to travel.

By simply scanning a QR code with their mobile device, passengers can quickly connect to a common use kiosk using either the airport’s public Wi-Fi or the kiosk’s built-in Wi-Fi, with no requirement to download any apps. From there, users complete the check-in process on their phones and produce boarding passes and bag tags without ever touching the kiosk screen.

“When combined with our secure biometric solutions and self-service airport products, this new feature enables travelers to experience a contactless airport journey all the way from check-in to boarding,” said LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president and general manager, Information Management Services for Collins Aerospace. “As we work to help the aviation industry rebuild passenger confidence in flying, it’s incredibly important to us to provide solutions to improve safety and which are easy to use.”

Collins Aerospace’s ARINC SelfPass system is able to complete a passenger’s contactless journey through the use of a single token ID driven by secure biometrics. SelfPass can be applied to multiple points in the process, including check-in, immigration and security, lounge access and boarding. Each step can be completed in a matter of seconds with no need to present traditional boarding and identification documents. Air travellers simply step up to the camera for a facial match against the biometrics database then proceed.

Passenger checks in using QR code on phone