Archive for November, 2006
More from the Times
An attempt by the British Airways chairman to enlist Tony Blair’s support for the airline’s ban on a worker wearing a gold cross backfired badly yesterday.
Martin Broughton tried to win the Prime Minister’s backing at the CBI conference for BA’s controversial policy on uniforms. But the move rebounded on the airline chief when Mr Blair responded with a blunt rebuke and signalled his sympathy with Nadia Eweida, the BA worker at the centre of the row.
Mr Broughton startled delegates at the CBI’s annual conference in London by broaching the furore surrounding BA’s suspension of Ms Eweida without pay during a question- and-answer session with the Prime Minister. With controversy over the case beginning to fade, delegates were surprised by the airline’s chairman’s high-risk tactics of raising the matter with Mr Blair.
Addressing the Prime Minister, Mr Broughton accused Jack Straw, Leader of the Commons, of inflaming the row with a “chorus of abuse”. Last week Mr Straw attacked the airline’s stance as “quite intolerable”.
Mr Broughton asked Mr Blair: “Given that the police, the army and other government uniformed staff have an identical policy to BA in relation to crosses outside of the uniform, do you find the Government’s policy wholly inexplicable?”
But the Prime Minister left the BA boss in little doubt that he did not. He told Mr Broughton: “Look, Martin, do you want my really frank advice on this? One of the things I learned in politics is that there are some battles really, really worth fighting, and there are battles really, really not worth fighting.
”What I would say to you on that is, get yourself on the right side of the line on that one.“
In more emollient comments, Mr Blair added: ”That’s my honest advice, and I understand that it’s really difficult, and incidentally, British Airways is a great airline . . . I am a fan of the airline and a fan of its management. But there are some things that arise in certain ways and you’re best just to do the sensible thing, know what I mean?“
Earlier, in questioning Mr Blair, Mr Broughton had rejected suggestions by commentators that BA should ”use common sense“, protesting that anti-discrimination law was ”a minefield“.
He suggested that ”such a use of common sense would be illegal under the current act“ since ”every conceivable minority sect“ would have to be given equal treatment.
BA last night rejected suggestions that Mr Blair’s response amounted to a slapping down. A spokesman said: ”The chairman thought it was a constructive and sympathetic response from and admirer of the airline.“
Ms Eweida, from Twickenham, southwest London, has remained at home without pay since the dispute flared last month and is waiting for a date for a second disciplinary hearing in the next few weeks.
It was déjà vu for BA as prime ministerial salt was rubbed into its PR wound yesterday. In 1997, it was handbagged by Lady Thatcher, aggrieved that its new logos had no Union Jack. Declaring: ”We fly the British flag, not these awful things,“ she draped her handkerchief over the tailfin of a model jet.
The BA staff member that has kicked off this furore has chosen her ground well. An ardent Christian, (according to her colleagues – read into that what you will) she has insisted that the uniform dress code that she signed up for is inappropriate as it favors other religions ahead of Christianity.
Most, if not all BA employees see the dress code as perfectly normal indeed tolerant of the religious requirements of the full spectrum of faiths represented within the company. There is no requirement within the Christian faith to wear a cross. Wearing this religious emblem is by no means forbidden within British Airways, it, as do others, needs to be kept beneath uniform dress to satisfy the code.
However, public reaction, (fueled by the those who see ‘mileage’ or votes in the issue) has forced BA to re-write its staff dress regulations and eat humble pie in the process.
I don’t see this as a victory for Christianity, more as another couple of feet added to the divide between peoples. A great shame.
Forbes Ryanair Holdings PLC has raised its stake in Irish rival Aer Lingus Group PLC to more than 25 percent in a renewed push to take over the recently privatized carrier, traders and Aer Lingus executives said Wednesday.
Two traders in Dublin brokerages on opposite sides of the takeover battle – speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are legally barred from discussing clients’ transactions – said Ryanair bought more than euro85 million (US$110 million) of Aer Lingus shares late Tuesday, raising its ownership to more than 25 percent from 19.2 percent.
Trading in Aer Lingus, the former state-owned airline that floated on the Irish and British exchanges Sept. 27, was exceptionally heavy in the last hour of business Tuesday, when its share price surged from euro2.65 to euro2.75 (US$3.49 to US$3.62).
Ryanair declined to confirm the traders’ accounts. Ryanair spokeswoman Pauline McAlester said the airline has “a policy of not commenting on market rumor.”
But Aer Lingus chief executive Dermot Mannion said he understood that Ryanair now owned more than 25 percent of his airline. He conceded this meant Ryanair’s interest “isn’t going away any time soon,” but reiterated Aer Lingus’ determination to remain independent.
The raised stake does not markedly improve the chances that Ryanair’s bid, launched Oct. 5 at euro2.80 (US$3.69) a share, will reach the minimum 50 percent ownership threshold it requires to succeed. Investors opposed to a buyout by Europe’s most aggressively expanding airline control more than 46 percent of Aer Lingus shares.
The anti-Ryanair bloc includes the government, which retained 25.4 percent when it sold off most of its holding; a trust representing more than 4,600 current and former Aer Lingus employees that holds 12.6 percent; pension and investment funds controlled by Aer Lingus pilots that hold more than 4.5 percent; and Irish telecoms tycoon Denis O’Brien, who bought a 2.1 stake specifically to complicate Ryanair’s campaign.
However, raising its ownership of Aer Lingus above 25 percent will afford Ryanair increased rights to meddle in the key decision-making of its major Irish competitor. Ryanair could wield a blocking vote at extraordinary general meetings, when Aer Lingus chiefs could be seeking shareholder approval to buy airlines, expand route networks or make other strategic decisions to improve its head-to-head competition with Ryanair.
The increased Ryanair stake also makes it even tougher for any other potential suitor, such as British Airways, to mount its own takeover bid for Aer Lingus. British Airways is run by Willie Walsh, who previously oversaw the drastic 2002-05 restructuring of Aer Lingus and tried to persuade the government to accept a management buyout of the Irish flag carrier. Aer Lingus and British Airways also operate a code-sharing agreement.
Aer Lingus, which was founded in 1936 and means “air fleet” in Gaelic, came close to bankruptcy in 2001 because of a bloated payroll and collapsing business on its key U.S. routes in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Walsh slashed staffing in half, shifted business to lower-fare European destinations, and adopted an Internet-based sales system similar to Ryanair’s – a formula that saw Aer Lingus become one of the world’s few profitable state-owned airlines.
Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary says his company, if successful in acquiring Aer Lingus, would preserve the brand but make the airline much leaner. He says this could mean cutting another 1,000 of the 3,300 current workers – a key reason why the government, labor unions and Aer Lingus employee shareholders are so hostile to the bid, which offers investors a 27 percent premium on the IPO price.
Shareholders have until Dec. 4 to accept or reject the offer. So far, Ryanair says only 0.12 percent of affected shareholders have returned forms accepting the euro2.80 offer, which becomes valid only if Ryanair can secure a minimum 50 percent. If it fails, Ryanair has until Dec. 8 to decide whether to relaunch its bid with a higher price and other sweeteners.
O’Leary quotes, (not for the verbally squeamish.)
Flight Airline Business Blog by Mark Pilling
Looking none the worse for recent heart surgery, Airbus chief salesman John Leahy was in London today (22 November) launching the European manufacturer’s Global Market Forecast, it’s first for two years.
Just as our recent blog with Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker showed, Leahy is a quote machine. So here are the highlights from his packed press conference, which did, as my colleague from Flight International Max Kingsley-Jones observed, start 20 minutes late. Typical Airbus we commented dryly.
1. Leahy didn’t shy away from the obvious: Airbus has had a bad year. Or has it really been that bad? Leahy observed that despite the “absolute mess Airbus is in in 2006”, it will still end up being its second best ever sales performance. Current sales stand at 619 aircraft, compared to the record-setting level of 1,111 in 2005. “This surprised a lot of people in Toulouse when I mentioned it…It has been one of the best of years as well as one of the worst of years,” he said.
2. Market share. Leahy’s target in order terms is to keep in the 40-60% band. This year after five ahead of Boeing, Airbus will most likely fall behind again. It has 43% of the year’s orders now, in unit, terms, and around 35-37% of orders by value. “In terms of deliveries it is our best ever year – we will deliver 425 aircraft.”
3. A380 compensation. Asked (by me actually) if Airbus was setting an industry record for airline compensation levels on a single programme with the A380 Leahy had a straight reply: “I wouldn’t know if we are setting new records. What I do know is the compensation is reasonable in many cases,” he said, adding that in most cases it is capped.
4. A380 cancellations. Despite three delays to the A380, Leahy does not expect any more cancellations after FedEx chopped its A380 freigher order. Customers “get mad, but they don’t talk about cancellations, they are talking about compensation…all the others are staying with us”. And, in fact, carriers like Qantas, Singapore Airlines and others are talking about how many more they are buying, he said.
5. Low-cost A380. After evacuation tests that got 853 people and 20 crew off the A380, Leahy is only half-joking about the super jumbo as a real people-mover. The success of the test means “I’ve got to update my brochures,” he said, when asked if low-cost carriers might be interested in the aircraft. Leahy revealed he was talking to a carrier interested in the A330 that afternoon that had also asked for a idea of the A380 in a low-cost configuration.
6. A350 launch. Wait for the EADS board meeting, said Leahy. But: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the fact of how many of our customers are willing to wait for it (the A350). It has slowed sales for our competitor,” he said, referring of course to Boeing’s 787.
7. Salesmanship. Asked if sorting out the A380 issues was taking up most of his time, Leahy replied “too much!” He is currently spending about 50% of his energy on the A380 and the rest on new aircraft sales. However, the A380 talks have had some spin-off benefits: “Part of sorting out the A380′s problems is producing new sales.”
Having beaten up a bit on the Airbus front it would seem fair to show the story from the other side. Reports of Airbus’ death may be premature, but it still doesn’t look good over there in Toulouse.
SINGAPORE: Boeing is enjoying heady times in Asia.
The latest evidence came from Seoul last week, when Korean Air Lines announced an order worth up to $5.5 billion for 25 jets from Boeing, the largest single order ever from a Korean carrier.
In fact, thanks to fast-growing economies, Asian airlines have been lining up to buy new planes to feed surging demand for travel. The International Air Transport Association forecasts that traffic in Asia will grow almost 7 percent this year, compared with roughly 5 percent in North America and Europe.
Boeing has turned away Southwest Airlines, Boeing’s best customer to date having sold a whopping 477 Boeing 737s to the company alone. Southwest Airlines that flies only Boeing 737s wanted to add two more places on its recent order of 80. However, Boeing said no to them, offering them two slightly used Ford-owed Boeings that the company plans to shed.
Boeing is busy!
The 737 line is the one affected in this case, but it must apply to the 777, 747 and the 787 lines as well.
With the (perhaps temporary) holdup of the A380, many companies that wanted to go the Airbus way have been forced to either change their plans or their ‘horses’. This has created a boom at Boeing and may well be forcing the hand of those airlines that were keeping their cards to their chest, or even just taking their time over their fleet renewal program.
Some airlines saw this coming as did Boeing and deals were done ahead of time – however ‘previous’ that may have been with ‘other’ arrangements pending.
London – Forget multi-billion dollar pension deficits and the soaring price of fuel — Willie Walsh has learned that the last issue you want to get embroiled in with critics is religion.
On Friday, the Irish chief executive of British Airways relented to pressure from no less than the Archbishop of York, commentators in the press and scores of politicians by announcing a review of the airline’s policy which bans employees from wearing crosses.
Kingfisher Airlines by yearend expects to apply to the U.S. Transportation Dept. for permission to launch service to San Francisco and New York, starting in early 2008.
The Indian carrier launched in May 2005 and has been quickly ramping up domestic flights but Chairman and CEO Vijay Mallya is still eager to start long-haul service to the U.S. The carrier previously hoped to start the service in 2007, but because of aircraft delivery schedules and the timing of government approval, the start will likely slip to early 2008, Mallya said during a visit to Washington. “From the day we started, I have had an incessant focus to connect the U.S. and India nonstop,” he said.
Interesting bold type for those carriers who have connecting traffic through London (or anywhere else for that matter) from the USA. India carriers spread their wings still further and alter the shape of the industry yet again.
Apple Computer is teaming up with Air France, Continental, Delta, Emirates, KLM and United to deliver the first seamless integration between its iPod and the airline’s in-flight entertainment systems.
The six airlines will begin offering their passengers iPod seat connections which power and charge their iPods during flight and allow the video content on their iPod portable media players to be viewed on the seat back displays.
Apple said the service will be available on these airlines by the middle of 2007.
United said its Apple connectivity will enable customers to plug-in and charge their iPod, watch movies and TV shows on their iPod using United’s big-screen monitors, as well as listen to their entire music library on United’s noise-cancellation headsets.
Delta Air Lines said its in-flight iPod connectivity will allow customers to listen to their complete music library, view their video content and keep their iPods charged. The Atlanta-based airline confirmed it would begin offering the service in mid-2007 and expects to equip its entire domestic transcontinental fleet with the audio/video integration plus charging functionality by 2008.
Air France said in a statement that while it is partnering with Apple, it is “far too early to talk about a project such as this.”
Apple says it is working with Panasonic Avionics to bring in-flight iPod connectivity to more airlines in the future.
More from Apple…
What a turn up for the books, let us hope that this is just a first step for Apple!
Thales and China’s TEDC (Civil Aviation Air Traffic Control Technology Equipment Development Co. Ltd) have agreed to create a joint venture for ATC modernization in China.
The new enterprise, which will be based in Beijing, will be 60% owned by TEDC and 40% by the Thales Group. It intends to develop, sell and maintain air traffic control centers, primarily in China, using technology inherited from Thales. Thales has supplied primary and secondary radars, navigation aid systems, and associated training services to China over the past few years.
According to Thales, the joint venture ensures the continuity of the NESACC (north, east and southern area control centers for China) programs that are aimed at expanding and modernizing the air traffic control systems at Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.  The three centers, which use Thales EUROCAT equipment, control about 60% of China’s air traffic, mainly its eastern regions.
Three Chinese Airlines Getting Thales IFE for their B-787s
Air China, China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines have selected Thales IFE (in-flight entertainment) equipment for their forthcoming B-787s.
Air China and China Eastern Airlines will each take delivery of fifteen new 787s with Thales Top Series IFEs factory installed when they begin arriving in 2008.  Shanghai Airlines nine new 787s will have the same Thales system when they begin to be delivered in 2008 as well.
Passengers on all three airlines will have audio and video on-demand capabilities at every seat plus a moving map flight information and in-seat laptop power.  11-22-2006.
Well, no sooner do we comment on India and refer to China… Same deal, massive opportunity in the Worlds fastest expanding economy.
British Airways extended its contract with Navtech’s European Aeronautical Group UK subsidiary for three-more years of aeronautical chart services.
Navtech’s continuing chart update services for British Airways includes all the procedures, navigational information and diagrams for the international airports and routes where the airline operates.
Navtech says it provides charting services to over 80 airlines with both paper and electronic products.
We are sitting at the transition between paper and electrons in the information presentation game on our flight decks. As the next generation arrives with e-librarys fitted as standard, they will become as familiar as the coffee stained and ripped charts that every airline pilot in the world uses at the moment. The key (apart from price point which we often think is more important to our collective masters than quality) is quality of presentation and usability. Our situational awareness depends on this vital aspect and the new format promises to bring dividends in that area. As ever, we will see.