Thursday, 14 October 2021

The keys to restoring UK aviation is simple testing, affordability and sustainability says IATA Director General Willie Walsh

The outspoken head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) says the key factors for restoring the UK's aviation sector are embracing a simpler COVID-19 testing regime, ensuring affordable, competitive airport costs, and working for net-zero air transport.

Speaking at the UK Aviation Club, IATA Director General Willie Walsh emphasized the value of face-to-face meetings and the desire of travellers to get flying again. But he warned that by restricting travel and persisting with expensive PCR testing, the UK had failed to capitalize on its early start in COVID-19 vaccinations, and slipped behind its principal EU partners.

“In terms of day-to-day life, the UK is far more pragmatic in managing COVID-19 than many other states. But its approach to travel continues to focus on restrictions which cannot be justified based on risk. Over the period from February to August, the PCR test positivity rate of arriving passengers to the UK was 1%. And the positivity rate from testing the general population was 7%. So we can confidently say that travel is not increasing the UK’s COVID-19 risk,” said Walsh.

While welcoming recent moves to cut the number of ‘red list’ countries and finally proposing an end to PCR tests for vaccinated passengers, Walsh warned that problems remain, principally with the new post-arrival antigen test. The UK is relying on a closed shop of private testing providers, the effectiveness of which the Competition and Markets Authority has described as “a lottery”.  And prices remain high compared to convenient high-street options elsewhere in the world.

COVID-19 document checks have also been identified as a barrier to travel. The UK must lead with automated digital solutions to take the burden off airlines. “Manual paper checks by airlines are unsustainable as volumes come back. We need to automate the process…airlines are not your border guards,” said Walsh.

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Emirates and utu Sign Strategic Partnership in Drive to Revolutionize Tax-Free Shopping Experience

utu, the travel tech startup, has announced a strategic partnership with Emirates in a bid to shake up the VAT refund sector.

Emirates is the first to join utu’s innovative new service based on deep industry experience that adds customer loyalty and rewards elements to the tax-free shopping experience for cross-border travellers.

Through the “upsize” model, tourists using utu will soon be able to supersize their tax refunds from shopping with rewards, including Frequent Flyer Miles, hotel points, restaurant vouchers, retail loyalty points, and more. This pivot to rewards signals the biggest upheaval in the history of tax-free shopping.

Tax-free shopping is available in 50 countries across the globe, including France, Italy, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, and the UAE. It allows travellers to claim back the Value-Added Tax (VAT) or Goods & Services Tax (GST) for purchases in countries they visit. Although the system was introduced as a way to boost tourism revenue in local economies, it has, over time, fallen out of favour with travellers. By the time a refund is processed by VAT Refund Operators (VROs), shoppers only receive about half of the total value of the VAT refund they are due.

Three additional Cessna Citation Longitude jets for Thrive Aviation

Thrive Aviation has placed an order for three Cessna Citation Longitude business jets. Pictured: Lannie O’Bannion, senior vice president of Sales and Flight Ops, Textron Aviation (left) and Curtis Edenfield, CEO of Thrive Aviation. (Photo: Business Wire)

During this year’s National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, Textron Aviation announced Las Vegas-based private aviation charter operator Thrive Aviation placed an order for three additional Cessna Citation Longitude business jets, set to deliver beginning December 2021. This order will boost Thrive’s fleet of Textron Aviation aircraft to 15, comprised of Cessna Citation Longitude, Cessna Citation Sovereign+, Cessna Citation XLS+, Cessna Citation CJ3+ and Cessna Citation M2.

“It’s rewarding to watch Thrive Aviation expand its capabilities within the Citation family; that’s precisely what we strive to offer by creating the broadest product range in the industry,” said Lannie O’Bannion, senior vice president, Global Sales and Flight Operations, Textron Aviation. “Our relationship with Thrive continues to grow. As they expand their operations, the Longitude will provide them with the lowest direct operating cost of any super-midsize jet.”

“Our guests love the Longitude – it’s a great mix of luxury and performance that has garnered quite the following,” said Scott Musselwhite, senior vice president of Commercial, Thrive Aviation. “With the addition of three more Longitudes to our fleet, we’re better equipped to serve our growing demand nationwide; an expanding footprint that is a testament to our momentum and our future.”

“The private aviation landscape has changed during the past 18 months – we’re confident the expanded fleet of Citation Longitudes is exactly what our customers want and expect,” said Thrive Aviation CEO Curtis Edenfield. “The future is bright for Thrive Aviation and we’re so grateful for the relationship we have with the Textron Aviation team. They’ve been an integral part of our continued success up to this point.”

More details about the Cessna Citation Longitude

Successful First Public Flight of Volocopter's VoloDrone

Volocopter's electric heavy-lift drone VoloDrone conducted its first public flight yesterday, Tuesday 12th October, at ITS World Congress 2021. Together with the international logistics leader DB Schenker, Volocopter, the pioneer of urban air mobility (UAM), demonstrated VoloDrone's seamless integration into the logistics supply chain with an end-to-end cargo transport demonstration. The partners showed their significant progress together since DB Schenker became a strategic investor of Volocopter in early 2020.

The 3-minute test flight took off at 3:02 p.m at homePORT Hamburg and reached a maximum altitude of 22 meters. For this delivery simulation, the electric heavy-lift utility drone was equipped with a load-box in between its landing gear. First, the demonstration teams secured a Euro-pallet sized load to the box under the VoloDrone, followed by a smooth take-off. After this, the aircraft brought the payload to a DB Schenker Cargo Bike and landed safely. Once the payload was transferred successfully, the Cargo Bike delivered its cargo to the final destination under the area's park deck, marking the completion of the entirely electric, multimodal last-mile delivery.

"This first public VoloDrone flight is a strong sign for Volocopter´s leading position in the UAM industry. We are the only UAM company offering solutions for passengers and goods that are flying fully scaled and publicly around the world," says Florian Reuter, Volocopter CEO. "Our VoloDrone will make existing logistics processes more robust, efficient, and sustainable. DB Schenker is an invaluable partner in our endeavour to untap the massive potential of our VoloDrone's logistics use cases."

American Airlines and Jetblue's northeast alliance continues to enhance passenger benefits.

Starting today, members of American Airlines AAdvantage and JetBlue’s TrueBlue Mosaic members will receive their elite benefits, including priority check-in, priority baggage, priority security, and priority boarding when travelling on either airline.

And in November, as AAdvantage members plan their holiday travel, they will be able to redeem miles to book flights on JetBlue online at or by calling Reservations. AAdvantage is the only loyalty program that allows earning opportunities when flying across three U.S. carriers — American, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.

“The Northeast Alliance (NEA) is moving ahead, implementing more consumer benefits that demonstrate our appreciation for our most loyal customers,” said Alison Taylor, American’s Chief Customer Officer. “Additional benefits such as preferred seats will be delivered in the coming months as our partnership with JetBlue continues to make good on our promise to provide more choices to travelers in the Northeast.”

Starting today, AAdvantage elite members will also receive up to two free checked bags when travelling on JetBlue with check-in at JetBlue kiosks, ticket counters or via the JetBlue mobile app. TrueBlue Mosaic members will receive up to two free checked bags when travelling on American with check-in at the ticket counter and, soon, through all check-in channels.

Starting today, AAdvantage® and TrueBlue Mosaic members will receive their elite benefits including priority check-in, priority baggage, priority security and priority boarding when traveling on both airlines.
In November, AAdvantage members will be able to redeem miles to book flights on JetBlue.
Preferred seats will be implemented in the coming months.

The loyalty benefits are part of the NEA, a strategic partnership between both airlines formed in 2020 to offer more choices, more routes and an enhanced travel experience for customers across American and JetBlue’s complimentary domestic and international networks.

“We’re always looking for ways to make our customer experience consistently more seamless and enjoyable, which is why we’re extending some of our most loyal customers’ favorite perks to the experience when they travel on flights operated by our partner American,” said Don Uselmann, JetBlue’s Vice President of Loyalty and Personalization. “And with even more benefits coming online in the months ahead, we’re continuing to bring more value and versatility to both our Mosaic members and our TrueBlue flyers, further enhancing the overall TrueBlue program.”

Today, JetBlue also informed customers about receiving their elite benefits while traveling on American. More details can be found on

Since January, the NEA has brought more service to customers in New York and Boston, including 58 new routes, increased frequencies on more than 130 routes and codesharing on 175 routes. The alliance is connecting the Northeast to almost 150 worldwide destinations, including 10 new international routes on American. These routes, made possible by the Northeast Alliance, include new services from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Tel Aviv, Israel (TLV), which launched in May; Athens, Greece (ATH), which launched in June; and Delhi, India (DEL), which will launch Oct. 31, 2021.

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Air Canada to start new non-stop service from Montreal to Delhi

Air Canada has confirmed it will launch a new year-round, non-stop route between Montreal and Delhi to start at the end of the month. The Canadian carrier will also add more flights to its Indian services from Toronto as demand for connections between the two countries increases.

Air Canada will offer three flights per week to the growing Indian community in Montreal, with the flights operating on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The airline has scheduled the service to be flown by Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft with a configuration of 298 seats over the three cabins, made up of 30 lie-flat seats in Business Class, 21 seats in Premium Economy and 247 in the airline's standard economy cabin. 

The Panasonic eX3 is Air Canada’s latest generation in-flight entertainment system that is fitted to the 787-9 Dreamliner fleet. It features enhanced-definition touch screens at every seat including an advanced-intuitive interface that is easy and pleasant to navigate. And for your own entertainment, it boasts a high-quality audio-video on-demand player, an interactive moving map and games, as well as new sections to let you learn more about Air Canada’s destinations, products and services. 

/More details here

"The Canada-India market is an important and strategic one for Air Canada. These additional flights and new route demonstrate Air Canada's anticipation about the promise and growth of the Indian subcontinent– and we also look forward to further strengthening the cultural and business ties between our two countries," said Mark Galardo, Senior Vice President, Network Planning and Revenue Management at Air Canada. "Today's announcement also confirms Air Canada's commitment to growing its main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, with convenient non-stop service to India from each hub. Air Canada is the only carrier offering a direct service to Delhi out of Montreal, allowing for easy connections through our extensive network. We continue to focus on the growing visiting friends and relatives market and this capacity expansion is a response to increasing demand."

Finnair’s Chief Digital Officer to leave at the start of next year....

Photo Linkedin
Tomi Pienimäki, Finnair’s Chief Digital Officer, will leave Finnair by the end of January 2022 to take on the position of CEO of a Finnish digital services company Siili Solutions Oyj.

“I want to thank Tomi warmly for his excellent work for leading the development of Finnair’s digital services and IT infrastructure. During his time at Finnair, we have transformed all our data to the cloud, and systematically developed our digital services and IT systems to support Finnair strategy”, says Topi Manner, Finnair CEO. “I wish Tomi the best of success in his new role:”

“I feel wistful leaving Finnair and my team here. It has been great to get to develop both Finnair direct customer channels as well as the entire system architecture behind them. Transferring all systems to the cloud was a significant step for an almost 100-year-old airline. We have also taken into use AI both in flight planning and in the operative management of flight operations”, says Tomi Pienimäki. “Digital services play an important role in air travel and will only increase in importance in the future. I want to extend my sincere thanks to all my Finnair colleagues for the excellent collaboration during these two years. Finnair’s digital services will stay with me as I again become a Finnair customer.”

Finnair has already commenced recruitment of Tomi Pienimäki’s successor.

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Social Impact and Environmental Social Governance Reports released by JetBlue

The U.S. carrier JetBlue has just released its latest reports into its environmental and social impact over the last year or so.  The firm has made great strides forward in its desire to be a more environmentally sound airline - this has included so much carbon offsetting, it is the equivalent of taking 652,000 cars off the road for a year.  The full details of the reports are here -  2020 Social Impact Report and 2019-2020 Environmental Social Governance Report.

“In 2020 our mission to inspire humanity was tested like never before,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. “Humanity depends on compassion, and empathy, and our crewmembers took this to heart. They showed up and went above and beyond to keep our customers safe when they needed to travel. Despite a global pandemic, we continued to support our communities, crewmembers and the planet. With a focus on the future, we evolved our diversity, equity and inclusion strategy to support a more diverse pipeline. Meanwhile, we recognize we have more work to do in reaching our ambitious sustainability targets, so we set clear short-term milestones to hold us accountable along the way.”

JetBlue responded to pandemic-specific needs in 2020 by donating both resources and flights to nonprofits to get much-needed supplies and medical professionals to the areas in critical need. JetBlue took on these efforts in addition to its signature corporate responsibility programs focused on youth, education, the environment and increasing diversity within aviation and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Over the past 18 months, societal demands and stakeholder feedback spurred JetBlue to reexamine its relationships with its crewmembers, customers and the communities it serves, and in turn, strengthen shareholder value. Aligned with its long-term strategy, JetBlue reimagined its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy to contribute to the airline’s long-term growth by starting with a concentrating on three areas – people, sourcing and brand.

Enugu, Nigeria is back on the schedule for Ethiopian Airlines

The Ethiopian Airlines Group, the largest pan African airline, has resumed weekly passenger services to Enugu, Nigeria, with the flights operating on Wednesday,  Friday and Saturday. 

Passengers from Enugu will have direct flight connections to many destinations in Africa,  Middle East, Asia, South America and Europe with the vast Ethiopian network and modern fleet and enjoy unique Ethiopian hospitality. 

Passengers from the four gateways in Nigeria – Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Enugu – now have the opportunity to fly to more than 130 Ethiopian global destinations in five continents. Ethiopian became the first international carrier to fly to Enugu when it commenced flight in 2013. The service to Enugu was suspended for two years as the airport was undergoing renovation.

Ethiopian is one of the oldest carriers flying to Nigeria and has been serving the country since 1960, strengthening trade, cultural and tourism ties between  Nigeria and the rest of the world.  

Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, Group CEO of Ethiopian Airlines said "Nigeria has always been and continues to be one of our important destinations in West Africa. We are continually improving our products and services to meet our customers’ expectations and the resumption of services to Enugu is key to reach our customers in different parts of Nigeria. We thank the people  and the government of Nigeria for their continued support in restarting our service to Enugu.”  

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Tuesday, 12 October 2021

IATA has called on the air cargo industry to continue working together....

Photo Ethiopian Airlines
The International Air Transport Association has urged the air cargo industry to continue working together at the same pace, with the same levels of cooperation as during the COVID-19 pandemic to overcome future challenges and build industry resilience. Sustainability, modernization, and safety were highlighted as key priorities for the industry post-pandemic. The call was made at the 14th World Cargo Symposium (WCS), which opened in Dublin today.

“Air cargo is a critically important industry. This pandemic reminded us of that. During the crisis, it has been a lifeline for society, delivering critical medical supplies and vaccines across the globe and keeping international supply chains open. And for many airlines, cargo became a vital source of revenue when passenger flights were grounded. In 2020, the air cargo industry generated $129 billion, which represented approximately a third of airlines’ overall revenues, an increase of 10–15% compared to pre-crisis levels. Looking towards the future, the outlook is strong. We need to maintain the momentum established during the crisis and continue building resilience post-pandemic,” said Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s Global Head of Cargo.

Outlook for Air Cargo 

10 Hydrogen-Powered ATR 72 Cargo aircraft for ASL Aviation

Universal Hydrogen has announced it has executed a letter of intent (LOI) with ASL Aviation Holdings, a global aviation services group based in Dublin, Ireland. ASL will be a global launch customer for the turboprop cargo market and plans to purchase up to ten of Universal Hydrogen’s ATR 72 conversion kits for installation into its existing or future turboprop aircraft fleet.

Universal Hydrogen’s conversion kits will be installed in ATR 72 planes owned by ASL and operated on services for its major customers throughout Europe. In addition to the conversion kits, ASL has agreed to provide an ATR 72 to Universal Hydrogen to use as its cargo test and certification aircraft.

The ASL CargoVision forum is an initiative to drive innovation and sustainability in the air cargo industry, and working together in this forum Universal Hydrogen and ASL will move quickly to reduce emissions in the critical regional sector served by the ATR 72.

New special livery jet for Alaska Air - celebrating Seattle Kraken....

Great new paint job to celebrate the tie-up with Seattle Kraken... Photo  Alaska Airlines/Business Wire

Alaska Airlines has welcomed a new Seattle Kraken themed Boeing 737 MAX jet into its fleet, honouring a long-term major partnership between the team and the carrier.   "As a lifelong hockey fan, I could not be more excited to have hockey returning to Seattle," said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO. "The partnership with our hometown's newest professional sports team is a natural fit for the two organizations – we are both focused on giving back to our communities and have a deep commitment to sustainability. I look forward to cheering the team on and off the ice."

Designed in collaboration between lead Kraken designers and our own creative team, the Boeing 737-9 MAX features a partial Kraken logo to lean into the mystery of the actual "Kraken" brand and mascot. The plane was unveiled this morning to fans and guests awaiting a flight to Las Vegas, where the team will play its first regular season away game. In addition to its inaugural flight to Las Vegas, the plane, tail number N915AK, will fly on routes to Kraken away games in cities Alaska serves. 

Photo Alaska Airlines / Business Wire

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American Express Centurion Lounge opens at London Heathrow Airport

American Express has opened a new Centurion Lounge at London Heathrow Airport in Terminal 3, the first of its kind in Europe. "We are thrilled to introduce the Centurion Lounge experience to our Card Members travelling through London’s Heathrow Airport and make their return to travel even more special,” said Pablo Rivero, Vice President & General Manager, Global Lounge Experiences. 

This new lounge takes up around 650 square metres and has been designed to embody London’s vibrancy and charm as well as hosting all the usual features of a first-class lounge. It is interesting to note that of all the Amex Centurion Lounges around the world,  this is the first to partially utilize renewable energy through newly installed solar panels, to partly go towards the firm's commitment to be net-zero emissions globally by 2035.
Reception area at the Centurion Lounge in London Heathrow Airport (Photo: Business Wire)

Michelin-Stared Chef Assaf Granit of Coal Office in London has created a special menu which is said to highlight rich multicultural heritage with dishes including homemade Kubalah bread, fried pita chips with tahini, shakshukit, a beef & lamb dish with confit tomatoes and tahini, and for dessert, an “Oh 'My Baklava’" olive oil cake with pistachio anglaise and rose water diplomat.

IL Tornabuoni Hotel Joins the Unbound Collection by Hyatt in Florence, Italy

Hyatt Hotels are celebrating the opening of IL Tornabuoni Hotel in Florence. The luxurious 62-bedroom Renaissance-inspired former palace signifies the debut of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brand in Italy, known for its independent, one-of-a-kind hotels that offer bespoke experiences that inspire guests.

Whether it is a captivating past, an exclusive location, famous architecture and design or an award-wining dining experience, each property within The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brand maintains a distinct character and the freedom to be unique, while still providing guests with the World of Hyatt loyalty program and a trusted brand name and reputation.

This historical property – formerly the Palazzo Minerbetti – has undergone significant restoration since its early days as an urban palace hosting well-known figures like the Grand Duke of Tuscany, better known as Cosimo de Medici lll. His patronage of science, architecture, literature and arts contributed to the cultural heritage of Florence and is reflected throughout the hotel via updates to guest rooms and suites, public spaces, the terrace and more.

Carefully curated in colours of red, blue and gold, each of the 62 guestrooms reflect the Renaissance era that Florence is known for, epitomizing the rich history and artistic magnificence of the period and allowing guests to create story-worthy experiences during their stay.

Located along Via de Tornabuoni, one of the most prestigious streets in Florence, guests can explore this cultural heritage, taking a short stroll to admire Palazzo Strozzi, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore or the Uffizi Gallery. Guests can also step back in time with a climb up Giotto’s Campanile, a marbled Gothic tower that delivers spectacular views across the city or find the historic Ponte Vecchio, the famous Medieval bridge hosting authentic Italian jewellery shops, right at their doorstep.

Design and Technology Unite in the New Cessna Citation M2 Gen2 and Citation XLS Gen2 Business Jets

Textron Aviation has released details of the next generation Cessna Citation M2 Gen2 and Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 business jets. These updates to the entry-level light jet and the midsize business jet usher in the next generation of aircraft design and technology, increasing comfort and productivity for passengers and pilots.

“With the mindset that no detail is too small when shaping customer flight experiences, we’ve touched all areas of these aircraft to create the Citation M2 Gen2 and the Citation XLS Gen2 – from the cockpit to cargo area and everywhere in between,” said Christi Tannahill, senior vice president, Customer Experience. “Shaped by extensive customer feedback, the upgrades to these aircraft embody the latest in technology and design. These new models represent a significant commitment from Textron Aviation as we continue to bring best-in-class performance and features to our customers.”

Citation M2 Gen2

The latest updates to the Citation M2 platform strengthen the model’s focus on pilot and passenger comfort as well as productivity. A thoughtfully designed aircraft from front to back, the M2 Gen2 brings an enhanced cabin experience that includes premium interior styling, ambient accent lighting, re-mastered illuminated cupholders and additional in-flight accessible storage.

Productivity has also been bolstered with the latest technology in the cabin such as wireless charging capabilities and USB-A ports at each cabin seat. In the cockpit, three inches of legroom has been added to the co-pilot position for enhanced comfort. Additionally, cabin entry threshold materials have been improved for durability and maintainability.

“Since the Citation M2 was first introduced in 2013, it has quickly become one of our most popular light jet models - in particular with owner/operator customers,” Tannahill added. “Building on its already outstanding performance capabilities and flexibility, the M2 Gen2 brings the latest cabin amenities and technological advances often found in larger jets to the entry-level light jet segment. Passengers will appreciate the USB-A ports at every cabin seat and the USB-C ports in the club area.”

Citation XLS Gen2

Air Partner Unveils New App for JetCard Membership Programme

Air Partner, world-leading global aviation services group offering aircraft Charter, Safety & Security training, and consulting solutions, this week announced the launch of its new mobile app for members of the exclusive JetCard programme. 

Available for iPhone and Android users, the JetCard by Air Partner app allows members to conveniently access their account details and begin the booking process via smartphone. With 24/7 access to the app, members can price, plan, and submit booking requests for trips as well as view statements online and trip history at any time.

“Air Partner is transforming the way both corporate and leisure travellers fly private by making our private aviation services more accessible and convenient than ever been before,” says David McCown, President of the Americas for Air Partner. “At our core, we are about service and meeting our customer’s needs where they are. Our new mobile app does just that. Providing an even more seamless experience to our JetCard members and helping them save time, effort, and money when arranging their private charter needs.”

Along with the ability to begin the booking process online or via their smartphone, the Air Partner JetCard programme app allows users to:

Ethiopian Airlines renews $110 Million deal with Sabre

Sabre Corporation the leading software and technology provider that powers the global travel industry, and Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopia’s flag carrier and the largest airline in  Africa, have renewed their long-term strategic partnership for another seven-year with a minimum commitment of USD 110 million. 

Under the agreement, Ethiopian airlines will continue to use Sabre’s passenger service system, SabreSonic, enabling it to automate sales and service, helping it to maximize revenue opportunities and create efficient airport experiences for travellers. Furthermore,  Sabre’s Intelligence Exchange will help enhance the airline’s passenger experience 

through providing intelligent real-time insights to help make more informed business decisions.  

“Despite the effects of the pandemic, Ethiopian Airlines continues to be one of aviation’s greatest success stories,” said Dino Gelmetti, Vice President EMEA, Sabre Travel  Solutions. “COVID-19 has accelerated airline competitive pressure and the need for  digital transformation, and as Africa’s strongest carrier, Ethiopian Airlines was able to  quickly adapt to the changing landscape, further strengthening its position as recovery  gains momentum.”  

The expanded agreement will also include Sabre’s Dynamic Availability–which will help  Ethiopian airlines earn incremental revenue by enabling proactive response to ever-changing travel conditions with optimized pricing – and Sabre’s Group Optimizer, which will help the carrier optimize the processes for managing group reservations, an area difficult for many airlines to streamline today. These solutions will provide the airline with a competitive advantage by providing intelligent recommendations based on market demand and competition. 

Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakota fleet surpasses one million flight hours, with U.S. Army, Navy and National Guard units

The Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakota fleet has exceeded the 1 million flight-hour mark, some 15 years after the first Lakota UH-72A entered service for the U.S. Army and following the first delivery of the newest UH-72B to the National Guard, as announced at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) trade show in Washington, D.C.

“Many of the men and women who build the Lakota in Mississippi are U.S. military veterans themselves, and they take a lot of pride in supporting the aviators who serve our nation,” said Scott Tumpak, who is responsible for Airbus military helicopter programs in the U.S. “The million-hour milestone is a testament to the commitment of that workforce who has supported unprecedented on-time deliveries and to the reliability and versatility of the aircraft they build.”

Airbus delivered the first Lakota helicopter to the Army in 2006, the same year the UH-72A was competitively selected as the Army’s new light utility helicopter, and has since delivered 463 of this initial Lakota model which primarily serves as the U.S. Army’s initial entry rotary-wing training helicopter. Earlier this year, the Army introduced the first UH-72B Lakota to its National Guard fleet, the first delivery of an order placed in 2020 for 18 of the newest Lakota variant. The UH-72B is based on the widely successful H145, which incorporates various product enhancements that have been developed during the lifecycle of the commercial aircraft. The efficient Fenestron tail rotor, more powerful engines, enhanced controls and the Airbus Helionix avionics suite, to name a few, will provide added benefits for mission safety and flight performance.

By the end of October 2021, the Lakota will be operational for Army and National Guard units in 45 states and territories. It is also flown by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and Royal Thai Army, and is a key enabler of U.S. Army combat training in Ft. Irwin, CA, Ft. Polk, LA and Hohenfels, Germany, and as well as the test range mission at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific. The Lakota’s missions are as varied as its operating locations, and include training, general utility, search and rescue, disaster response, homeland security, drug interdiction, command and control, and VIP transport. Lakotas have been employed extensively in responding to wildfires, hurricanes, floods and other disasters across the country and abroad in recent years, including most recently to provide support following devastating natural disasters in Haiti.

With nearly 10 different configurations available, the Lakota delivers proven performance, outstanding operational reliability, and unmatched versatility for a broad spectrum of military missions. Airbus Helicopters, Inc. builds the Lakota at its production facility in Columbus, Mississippi, which employs a workforce of nearly 250 employees, 40% of whom are U.S. veterans.

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Monday, 11 October 2021

United makes leadership changes in Network Planning and Procurement

United Airlines has just announced the promotion of Ankit Gupta to Senior Vice President of Domestic Planning and United Express, and Patrick Quayle to Senior Vice President International Network and Alliances. Both Gupta and Quayle will continue to report directly to Andrew Nocella, United's Chief Commercial Officer.

In addition to these promotions, United also named former United Express Senior Vice President Sarah Murphy to lead the airline's new Global Sourcing organization as Senior Vice President of Global Sourcing and Chief Procurement Officer. Murphy will now report to Gerry Laderman, United's Chief Financial Officer.

Ankit Gupta

"As we work to deliver the best customer experience in North America with a dramatic increase in premium seats, Ankit's leadership in developing the United Next vision has us poised to exceed our customers' expectations as we meet the resurgence in air travel," said Nocella. "He has helped us execute network strategies that would ordinarily take years to develop in a matter of months. And as we play an ongoing and key role in the U.S. economic recovery, we will continue to shape our domestic network with a fleet that spans the CRJ-550 to cutting-edge mainline narrowbody aircraft."

Gupta, formerly Vice President of Network Planning and Scheduling, will now assume responsibility for the operation and strategy of the United Express network in addition to leading the domestic planning team. By linking the United Express operation more closely with the airline's domestic planning team, United expects to better optimize its network and deliver a better, more consistent experience with the products and services it offers.

New IAG Cargo route between Madrid and Dakar

A new route for IAG Cargo has been confirmed today with an Iberia service to Dakar, Senegal, direct from Madrid.  IAG is responding to increasing demand for the transportation of goods to West Africa. In total IAG Cargo now services over 25 flights a week to the region, flying directly to Accra in Ghana as well as Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria from London-Heathrow.

The new route to Dakar, Senegal marks the first direct flight to the city for IAG Cargo. Flights along this route are running five times a week utilising an Iberia Airbus 330 and A350 with an approximate capacity of 20 and 30 tonnes per flight. This direct route will facilitate the importation of electronics and pharmaceuticals into Dakar. Through IAG Cargo’s extensive network the route will also allow perishables such as green beans, mangos, melons, and fish to reach the US and Asia Pacific as quickly as possible via Madrid.

Freddie Overton, Regional Commercial Manager for Europe and Africa at IAG Cargo, said: “This is an exciting new route for IAG Cargo that will benefit many businesses across Europe and West Africa. We know that our customers have been interested in expanding their reach into West Africa and it’s exciting to be making this happen and expanding into a new market.”

This route reflects IAG Cargo’s focus on expanding into new markets supporting customer need. Additionally, customers have the opportunity to Charter any aircraft in the fleet to almost any destination in the world, this service is alongside our extensive program of scheduled and cargo-only flights.

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Alaska Airlines celebrates the Seattle Kraken's inaugural season.....

Great new paint job to celebrate the tie-up with Seattle Kraken... Photo  Alaska Airlines/Business Wire

Hockey is back in Seattle, and Alaska Airlines is celebrating by welcoming a new Seattle Kraken theme plane into its fleet. The plane is just the beginning of a long-term major partnership between the hometown airline, the new hockey team, and new arena, which includes the naming of the Alaska Airlines Atrium at the Climate Pledge Arena and early boarding for Kraken fans wearing their jerseys for flights departing from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Paine Field (PAE).

"As a lifelong hockey fan, I could not be more excited to have hockey returning to Seattle," said Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO. "The partnership with our hometown's newest professional sports team is a natural fit for the two organizations – we are both focused on giving back to our communities and have a deep commitment to sustainability. I look forward to cheering the team on and off the ice."

Designed in collaboration between lead Kraken designers and our own creative team, the Boeing 737-9 MAX features a partial Kraken logo to lean into the mystery of the actual "Kraken" brand and mascot. The plane was unveiled this morning to fans and guests awaiting a flight to Las Vegas, where the team will play its first regular season away game. In addition to its inaugural flight to Las Vegas, the plane, tail number N915AK, will fly on routes to Kraken away games in cities Alaska serves. 

"The team will play its first regular season game in franchise history tomorrow and our fans who have been patiently waiting for this moment couldn't be more excited," said Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Seattle Kraken. "We couldn't be happier to share this moment with our partners at Alaska Airlines, celebrating with fans aboard this one-of-a-kind plane carrying the spirit of the Kraken to Las Vegas and beyond."

Guests entering the main entrance on south side of the Climate Pledge Arena will enter through The Alaska Airlines Atrium. The 21,300 square-foot glass atrium features stories and images reflecting the Pacific Northwest region and travel opportunities within our region and around the globe that will be displayed on over 8,000 square feet of LED. The atrium aids the arena in reaching it's net-zero carbon goals as it houses 475 solar panels that provide electricity to the building. Fans will also see Alaska branding on the ice and on several boards around the hockey rink during game.

Photo Alaska Airlines / Business Wire

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Airbus Zephyr Solar High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) reaches new heights in its successful 2021 summer test flights

Airbus Zephyr Solar High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) reaches new heights in its successful 2021 summer test flights
Achieved 36 days of stratospheric flight, across two 2021 flights, proving Zephyr’s status as the only HAPS able to perform at length in the stratosphere
Set a new world record for absolute altitude for this class of UAS at 76,100ft.
Secured and exercised FAA flight approvals operating inside the US National Airspace System (NAS)
Demonstrated successful flight with multiple payload integrations and tested new OPAZ payload, streaming Earth observation data
Proved Zephyr can operationalize the stratosphere, achieving some 2,435 total flight hours and demonstrating precise stratospheric manoeuvrability and station-keeping over points on the ground. 

The Airbus Zephyr S completes a successful 2021 test flight campaign in the United States.  The final Airbus solar-powered High Altitude Platform System (HAPS) flight touched down on 13th September in Arizona, USA, ending the most ambitious and successful Zephyr flight campaign to date.

The flight campaign had a clear customer focus - to demonstrate how Zephyr could be used for future operations, flying outside of restricted airspace and over airspace shared with commercial air traffic. Carrying an Optical Advanced Earth Observation system for Zephyr (OPAZ) payload, Zephyr proved its operational value to provide instant, persistent, and improved situational awareness.

“Working with Airbus and the Zephyr team during the 2021 flight campaign, significant progress has been made towards demonstrating HAPS as a capability. This summer’s activities represent an important step towards operationalising the stratosphere” said James Gavin, Future Capability Group Head at Defence Equipment & Support, the procurement arm of the UK Ministry of Defence.

SWISS updates website with new enhanced and attractive functions

SWISS has launched a new booking platform on its website that enables visitors to view the full range of flight services offered by the airlines of the Lufthansa Group and book these more easily, too. The new website features, which are all in the familiar SWISS design, also extend to additional functions such as flight rebooking, seat reservations and booking extra baggage. The enhancements further include a new ‘Sofort’ payment option that enables additional services to be obtained immediately once the booking is concluded. Visitors to will now also enjoy a refined search function that presents the full range of Lufthansa Group destinations at a glance to inspire their travel plans, along with the corresponding best-price offers for any destination selected.

Customers of Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) visiting the company’s website are now presented at a glance with the full range of flight services provided by Lufthansa Group members Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Lufthansa and SWISS, along with a simplified booking process. The new website features extend to further functions, too: visitors can now reserve their seat, book extra baggage or make a rebooking for any flight of any Lufthansa Group airline. The services are also provided with a new ‘Sofort’ (instant transfer) payment option, which is offered alongside the existing credit card payment facility.

“In switching to our new booking platform, we’re not only taking advantage of the synergies we enjoy with our sister Lufthansa Group airlines,” explains SWISS Chief Commercial Officer Tamur Goudarzi Pour. “We’re also – and above all – providing our website visitors with a seamless and consistent user experience. Our new platform will further enable us to launch new products and services more speedily and deliver substantially more added value to our customers.”

In addition to the new booking platform, visitors to the enhanced can take advantage of an expanded and refined search function. The new search facility provides the customer with an inspiring overview of all the destinations available, and will present them with at-a-glance best-price offers based on the filters they apply such as their intended travel period, the region(s) they select and the type of activities desired. 

The new website features are currently only available on the desktop version of But plans are already underway to extend the new booking platform to the mobile SWISS app.

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Six More Airlines Implement IATA Travel Pass - Etihad Airways, Jazeera Airways, Jetstar, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian join the programme.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that Etihad Airways, Jazeera Airways, Jetstar, Qantas, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian, will implement IATA Travel Pass in a phased rollout across the airlines’ networks. These five airlines join Emirates Airline as IATA Travel Pass implementation pioneers.

The announcement, made on the sidelines of the 77th IATA Annual General Meeting being held in Boston, follows eleven months of extensive testing by 76 airlines.

“After months of testing, IATA Travel Pass is now entering the operational phase. The app has proven itself to be an effective tool to manage the complex mess of travel health credentials that governments require. And it’s a great vote of confidence that some of the world’s best-known airline brands will be making it available to their customers over the coming months,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

The app offers a safe and secure way for travellers to check the requirements for their journey, receive test results and scan their vaccine certificates, verify that these meet the destination and transit requirements and share these effortlessly with health officials and airlines prior to departure.  This will avoid queuing and congestion for document checks—to the benefit of travellers, airlines, airports and governments.

IATA Travel Pass is a mobile app that can receive and verify a range of COVID-19 test results and digital vaccines certificates. Currently, vaccine certificates from 52 countries (representing the source of 56% of global air travel) can be managed using the app. This will increase to 74 countries, representing 85% of global traffic, by the end of November.

IATA Travel Pass is expected to play a key role in the aviation industry’s recovery from the impact of COVID-19. A digitalized solution to manage the paperwork of COVID-19 travel health credentials will support a return to travel when borders reopen. With many governments relying on airlines for COVID-19 document checking this will be critical in avoiding queues and congestion at check-in as travel ramps up.

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Improving the U.S. Airport Travel Experience

Airport travel looks different than it did two years ago. Although not totally back to normal, passenger traffic at airports has more than doubled compared to last year, according to the TSA. The number of US airport trips on Uber grew 15% in the last two weeks of September, reaching a new high for 2021 as many riders—including business travellers—returned to Uber.

Even as more people hit the road again, it’s also true that air travel can feel more stressful and uncertain than before. Uber has been looking at things and are focused on getting you where you need to be as efficiently and safely as possible.

The firm has introduced Uber Reserve to let you book your trip in advance and now they bring that offering to airport travel, providing extra peace of mind so you can step off the plane and know your ride is waiting for you. Uber Reserve at Airports includes:

  • Early booking: Reserve your ride up to 30 days in advance, so you know your ride is taken care of before you arrive.
  • Flight tracking: We’ll automatically adjust your reservation based on the flight information you provide, so your driver is ready and waiting at the airport when your flight lands—whether it’s on time, early or delayed.
  • Complimentary wait time: If you aren’t quite ready to get in your ride after you land, the driver will wait up to 60 minutes at no additional charge.
  • Curbside pickup: Your driver will conveniently wait for you curbside so you can step off the plane and into your ride.