Virgin Atlantic cargo

Editor’s comment: An army of aid

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Virgin Atlantic cargo

According to aviation data firm Cirium, the number of in-storage aircraft totals 6,639, largely due to increasing travel restrictions and tightened borders, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But while passenger flights remain grounded, demand to transport cargo remains strong. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew – whose health and well-being remains top priority – mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring airlines can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.

Virgin Atlantic has just operated its first ever cargo only charter, transporting 12,490 kgs of essential medical and pharmaceutical goods from London to New York, and plans to continue its cargo offering to destinations from the US to the Far East.

Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “Watching Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural cargo-only charter take-off yesterday at London Heathrow added to a feeling of immense pride towards the herculean effort of our Cargo team. Making the flight happen, in such short notice and in such challenging times, reaffirms the fact that we have one of the best teams in the sky supporting supply chains across the globe.”

Others in the supply chain have seen their focus shift away from aviation activities as they step in to help meet the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and key support staff.

In the US, Rock Hill, South Carolina-based Composite Resources, known for its design and manufacture of composite components for the aerospace and defence industries, has diverted resources to make face masks necessary to control the spread of the disease.

Independent provider of onboard products, services and solutions, the Hong-based Kaelis is dedicating its full resources of managing supply chains globally by offering PPE products including masks, goggles, gloves, sanitising gels and wipes and protective gear.

Elsewhere, Embraer is working in partnership with companies and research centres on technologies that can increase the availability of equipment and solutions to combat COVID-19 in Brazil.

The actions, developed jointly with Embraer’s supply chain, include the manufacturing of parts for the ventilator and respirator industry, the replacement of imported components for ventilators, the development of high-efficiency filtration systems for transforming regular hospital beds into intensive care beds and studies for the development of simple, robust and portable respirators aimed at rapid implementation and availability.

A group of professionals has already been leading initiatives in support of a respirator factory in Brazil, with a plan to start the production of parts next week, in response to the emergency demand for this equipment. Embraer, in co-operation with partner organisations, has already completed the technical and production capacity analysis required to meet the identified needs.

In partnership with the Albert Einstein Hospital, located in São Paulo, Brazil, Embraer is also working to provide technical support for the development of biological air filter systems for air-quality control, which can convert regular hospital beds into intensive care beds. Using highly efficient filters for absorbing air particles, already utilised in air conditioning systems on aircraft, the objective is to provide this solution to hospitals with immediate needs.

Another work front is dedicated to analysing the manufacturing of control valves and flow sensors for another respirator industry in the country, in addition to adapting an existing respirator model for use in combating COVID-19.

While airlines may be garnering headlines for their apparent cap-in-hand approach to financial support, whilst also flying cargo missions delivering much needed medical provisions and support, an army of helpers is banding together behind the scenes to utilise their expertise integrating complex systems for the benefit of the society in this worldwide collaborative effort to combat COVID-19.

 

American Airlines introduces temporary reduct..

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American Airlines is reducing flight attendant-customer interaction and maximising space between customers on aircraft as it responds further to coronavirus (COVID-19).

 To further provide for social distancing and minimal contact between flight attendants and customers, American will offer limited food and beverage options from 27 March through 30 April. The reduced service will be based on flight length and destination. Full service will resume once the COVID-19 situation has stabilised. American is exploring and expects to make bottled water and snacks available at the gate in the near future.

For all flights shorter than 2,200 miles (typically less than 4 1/2 hours), alcohol will not be available in Main Cabin, but will be available on request in first class. Beverages will be available on request and limited to water, canned beverages or juice. No snacks or food for purchase will be served and meals will not be offered in first class.

For all flights longer than 2,200 miles (typically more than 4 1/2 hours), including transcontinental and flights to Hawaii alcohol will not be served in Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra except on long-haul international flights. Alcohol will be available in first class and other Main Cabin beverages will be served as usual.

No snacks or food for purchase will be served. Main Cabin meals will be served on long-haul international flights. First and business class meals will be served on one tray versus in courses.

american will also suspend pre-departure beverage service on all flights.

“Our flight attendants spend the most time with our customers and play a critical role in ensuring the safety and well-being of our customers,” said Jill Surdek, Senior Vice President of Flight Service. “As a result of working with our flight attendant team and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, we are taking these necessary steps today and will continue to update our policies in response to guidance from the CDC.”

Editor’s comment: An at home experience

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Against the backdrop of airlines publicly calling on governments for state aid, and the subsequent growing public backlash against this proposal, Faye Malarkey Black, President and CEO of the Regional Airline Association, has urged Congress to consider that the airline industry is not a monolith.

She rightly points out that the direct impact of this worldwide COVID-19 crisis is felt by all airlines but also has a detrimental effect further downstream on suppliers and third parties.

One area is the sporting world whose schedules have been decimated by the outbreak. All major sporting events have been postponed or cancelled, with Euro 2020 pushed back until next year, and ongoing uncertainty and confusion over this year’s summer Olympics and Paralympics.

For Sport 24, which holds exclusive in-flight rights to the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, Bundesliga, NFL, NBA, NHL, all four Tennis Grand Slams, all four Golf Majors, the NRL, plus more, the absence of live sports has had a massive impact on their ability to serve their airline customers.

Speaking to Inflight, a spokesperson would make no further comment than to confirm that the company would continue to run a 24/7 service which will now consist of less live action and more replays and highlights programming.

Elsewhere, some film studios have brought forward the streaming releases of their latest releases as more people stay at home.

Days ago, Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal’s CEO, announced that Universal Pictures would be making its movies available in the home on the same day as their global theatrical releases. Beginning with DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour (opening 10 April in the US) the company will also make movies that are currently in theatrical release available on-demand, starting as early as 20 March.

“Universal Pictures has a broad and diverse range of movies with 2020 being no exception. Rather than delaying these films or releasing them into a challenged distribution landscape, we wanted to provide an option for people to view these titles in the home that is both accessible and affordable,” said Shell.

As CNET notes, NBCUniversal’s move is the first time a major Hollywood studio has so dramatically collapsed the traditional life cycle of a film release.

Are we set to see a complete change in the window cycle for films appearing on in-flight libraries? Content service providers and their airline customers have long complained that studios stifle their attempts to reduce the time taken to bring Hollywood films onboard.

Has Shell opened a Pandora’s box for IFE?

Sekisui Kydex

SEKISUI SPI unveils new name

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Sekisui Kydex

From 1 April, SEKISUI SPI, manufacturer of KYDEX Thermoplastics, will be renamed SEKISUI KYDEX.

The KYDEX Thermoplastics brand is recognised by designers, engineers, and OEMs as one of the leaders in specialty polymers for aviation interiors.

The portfolio includes applications for seatbacks and seat components, sidewall panels and partitions, as well as monuments and lavatory surfaces.

“With the support of SEKISUI Chemical, the KYDEX brand is expanding its products and services for future generations. The significant investment in our manufacturing campuses enables and encourages us to develop new material solutions in collaboration with our partners and customers. The people, architecture, routines, and culture of SEKISUI KYDEX are specifically designed to take us to new places, because there are no old roads to new destinations,” said Ronn Cort President and COO.

Editor’s comment: Casualties of contagion

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It’s been a long time coming, but Reed Exhibitions have finally confirmed the postponement of Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX), World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE) and the Passenger Experience Conference (PEC), as a result of the growing spread of COVID-19 in Europe.

According to Katie Murphy, Portfolio Director at Reed Exhibitions: “The health and safety of our exhibitors, visitors and staff is our number one priority. In close coordination with all partners involved, we will promptly announce an alternative date for the events.”

As a consequence, the Crystal Cabin Award Gala dinner and prize-giving ceremony, scheduled for 31 March, has also been postponed.

The announcement comes as losses to the aviation industry mount up.

IATA updated its analysis of the financial impact of COVID-19 on the global air transport industry. Forecasting global revenue losses for the passenger business of between US$63 billion (in a scenario where COVID-19 is contained in current markets with over 100 cases as of 2 March) and $113 billion (in a scenario with a broader spreading of COVID-19).

One immediate loss has been Flybe’s entry into administration. According to a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson, “Sadly, despite the efforts of all involved to turn the airline around, not least the people of Flybe, the impact of COVID-19 on Flybe’s trading means that the consortium can no longer commit to continued financial support.”

For Ralph Hollister, Analyst, Travel & Tourism at data and analytics company, GlobalData, ““The impact of coronavirus may have also provided the perfect opportunity for a Virgin Atlantic led consortium to stop injecting money into a business that seemed to be some way away from achieving profitability.”

He adds: “Coronavirus could determine the fate of other struggling airlines on a global scale as worldwide demand for travel plummets. Larger airlines are also not immune from the impacts of the virus. Virgin itself announced emergency measures, including cutting executive pay, and urging other staff to take unpaid leave.”

For many analysts, the real test for the industry will be the Easter holidays. Will families still travel abroad? What is certain, whenever demand resumes, airlines need to be ready.

Editor’s comment: Taking stock

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As the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is forecasting the virus could potentially cost the industry US$46.6 billion per month. That translates into $559.7 billion annually, or 37% of the industry’s total 2020 forecasted global spend.

A majority of GBTA’s supplier companies report that the coronavirus has had a “significant” (24%) or “moderate” (31%) impact on their company’s revenues, with airlines and hospitality providers among the most affected.

According to Scott Solombrino, GBTA’s Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director: “It is clear that the coronavirus is having a significant – and potentially very costly – effect on our members, their companies and on the overall business travel industry.  It is fundamentally affecting the way many companies are now doing business.  If this turns into a global pandemic, the industry may well lose billions of dollars – an impact that will have negative ramifications for the entire global economy.”  At the same time, he praised members for their responses.  “Our industry’s first priority is the health and safety of the business traveller, and our members are being appropriately cautious and pro-active in their approach to the situation.”

Elsewhere, organisers of the forthcoming Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) and World Travel Catering & OnBoard Services Expo (WTCE) in Hamburg have confirmed (26 February) that the event will run as scheduled, unless otherwise directed by local/national German authorities.

Echoing the sentiment of the UFI [The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry], President Mary Larkin said: “We stand in sympathy and support of everyone affected by the current COVID-19 outbreak, whether directly or indirectly. The exhibitions and events industry exists to provide platforms for people and industries to meet, to trade and to collaborate. We, as representative of the exhibition industry, are committed to providing these much-needed places around the world, wherever we can do so.”

Editor’s comment: Not falling but flying

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Twenty years ago, Coldplay released their debut studio album Parachutes, which spawned the single Yellow.

This week came news of the introduction of a new ASTM International standard outlining minimum requirements for designing, manufacturing, and installing emergency parachute systems for small planes.

“Whole aircraft parachute recovery systems are an emerging safety device that is gaining use in general aviation,” says Jay Yeakle, a member of ASTM International’s general-aviation aircraft committee (F44) and who serves as an administrator at Cirrus Aircraft. “The new standard provides design and certification requirements for any person or company to qualify these systems on GA aircraft.

“Certification agencies have had to develop special conditions to certify these systems,” says Yeakle. “Having the new standard will provide companies a way to show compliance with existing rules, so special conditions might not be necessary. This could help speed the certification process, saving time and resources for both the applicant and the certification agencies.”

Aviation Safety Resources chose EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2019 as the platform to launch its ASR Soteria whole-aircraft emergency recovery parachute systems designed to safely bring down an entire aircraft and its occupants in the event of an in-air emergency.

Samson Sky, creator of the Switchblade flying sports car, has agreed to make ASR’s parachute recovery system standard equipment on the Switchblade.
Says Larry Williams, ASR President and CEO, commented: “The application of a custom ASR solution during the critical design phase of the Switchblade represents the latest safety application engineered for the complex environment in which flying cars will operate. While we cannot completely eliminate risk, we can prevent fatalities.”

The message is, if you get into Trouble at High Speed, Don’t Panic, Everything’s Not Lost with Parachutes.

Editor’s comment: A hard rain

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If the third Monday of January is known as Blue Monday, then every day in January must have felt like a Groundhog Monday for Boeing.

For the first time since 1962, Boeing received a grand total of zero orders for the month, although no customers cancelled orders in January.

Announcing a 37% fall in revenues for Q4 2019, and a 24% overall fall in full year revenues, Boeing President and Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun admitted: “We recognise we have a lot of work to do,” adding “We are focused on returning the 737 MAX to service safely and restoring the long-standing trust that the Boeing brand represents with the flying public. We are committed to transparency and excellence in everything we do. Safety will underwrite every decision, every action and every step we take as we move forward. Fortunately, the strength of our overall Boeing portfolio of businesses provides the financial liquidity to follow a thorough and disciplined recovery process.”

Come February, and it’s a slightly improved picture. Bloomberg reported the loan amount raised by Boeing had risen to US$13 billion. Then, during a rather subdued and reduced Singapore Airshow, the manufacturer announced a series of orders and agreements for its digital solutions. This includes Bamboo Airways who will integrate several digital solutions to support their new 787 fleet, with agreements for the Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro electronic flight bag (EFB). Virgin Australia Group has signed a seven-year agreement for Jeppesen FliteDeck Pro electronic flight bag (EFB) and digital navigation chart services.
More contracts could be on the horizon with the company forecasting airlines in Southeast Asia will need 4,500 new airplanes over the next 20 years. Single-aisle airplanes continue to be the main driver of capacity growth in Southeast Asia. This growth helps to stimulate the demand for commercial aviation services, which are forecasted to be worth $785 billion between 2019 and 2038.

While single-aisle airplanes dominate the forecast, widebody airplanes will make up 19% of new airplane deliveries, enabling carriers in the region to serve new international long-range city pairs.

While every rain cloud may have a silver lining, in this case, demand for software services, it might be worth Boeing investing in umbrellas for the near future.

Thai Airways

Editor’s comment: Contagion containment

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Thai Airways

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring a global emergency.  As of writing, 25 countries have reported confirmed cases, including China, where 24,363 people had contracted the virus. In all other countries, 191 cases have contracted the virus.

International travel restrictions and the concern for the health and safety of staff are beginning to be felt by the aviation industry. And it’s not just the suspension of flights to China that are being announced.

Aviation Festival Asia has been pushed back until June from its mid-February dates. The Singapore AirShow has lost a number of high-profile international exhibitors, The Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit (SAALS) 2020, a component of the Airshow programme involving 300 aviation leaders, comprising government officials, civil aviation authorities, airport operators and airline executives, will not take place this year. According to organisers, Experia, this will allow many of the aviation leaders who are deeply involved in working out the responses to the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak to focus on exigencies related to the ongoing situation.

The onboard service response has been quick to be implemented.

THAI’s preventive measures include passenger screening and ground service; in-flight service; aircraft interior cleaning measures and meal preparation measures. Crew must also wear protective masks and gloves, and pay attention to passenger symptoms while on board.

Korean Air has strengthened the level of cabin disinfection for planes that have flown on routes to China. The airline sterilises planes arriving from large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Guangzhou to Incheon Airport upon arrival. Aircraft flying to other destinations in China will be disinfected periodically in order to actively prevent the spread of infection.

Disposable cutlery will be used to serve in-flight meals on all China routes, which will then be disposed of in sealed plastic bags to prevent cross infection. Comfort items such as blankets and pillows will not be provided, and in-flight meals for return flights from Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei and Shanghai, which are usually supplied locally, will be loaded at the time of departure from Incheon.

Flight attendants are recommended to wear masks and plastic gloves on all routes, and the airline is loading each flight with adequate equipment in preparation for any possible infection onboard: masks for passengers seated near suspicious patients and hazmat suits for flight attendants who may need to take care of onboard patients.

Efforts from all airlines continue in order to enable the safe journey of passengers amid the continuous spread of the new coronavirus.

Travel

Editor’s comment: Travel, time off and team..

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Travel

Inflight’s Kimberley Young provides a summary of the latest happenings across the IFEC and cabin technology sector.

This week, the US Travel Association has been encouraging Americans to plan their holidays for the year ahead as part of ‘National Plan for Vacation Day’. Last year saw American workers leave a record number of vacation days unused – 768 million days (up 9% on 2017) according to research.

The Association found that if Americans used their time off to travel, the economic opportunity amounts to $151.5 billion in additional travel spending and two million jobs.

While workers consider their travel plans for the year, aviation industry suppliers are forming new partnerships and strengthening ties to support the growing IFEC industries and provide those travelling by air with positive, memorable and seamless experiences.

In the business aviation sector, Delta Private Jets and the on-demand charter company Wheels Up have closed a previously announced transaction and partnership agreement, combining the two entities to create an owned and managed fleet of nearly 200 private aircraft.

Wheels Up Founder and CEO, Kenny Dichter, suggested the partnership will “democratise the industry”, making private flying experiences accessible to more individuals and businesses.

On the IFEC side, Gogo has launched a new digital rights management service, developed in partnership with castLabs, that will enable playback of video-on-demand content for browsers such as Safari and Chrome, without additional plug-ins or app downloads, aiming to make streaming a more seamless experience for passengers.

The Media Services, Distribution and Technology Solutions company Premiere Digital has acquired CMI Media Management, a service provider to the IFE industry. As Premiere Digital expands its reach across entertainment markets, Haitham Wahab of CMI, said the move will strengthen the position of CMI “as IFE continues to grow and technological innovation gains pace”.

Finally, Flame Distribution has acquired a package of titles from Entertain Me Productions through a new partnership that will give Flame exclusive rights to sell the titles worldwide. Series in the package include biographies exploring the lives of some of the biggest rock and pop music stars, as well as recognisable figures such as young climate activist Greta Thunberg, and a biography of the professional football player Cristiano Ronaldo – perfect for football fans in-flight.

For now, though, with about 150,000 out-of-state visitors expected to travel to Miami for the Super Bowl this weekend, those flying-in will no doubt enjoy the myriad forms of entertainment on offer ahead of the big game.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Inflight e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.