09 February, 2024

Small pin grounds Virgin Galactic craft

Virgin Galactic Holdings has confirmed an issue that was found during routine post-flight reviews following its most recent spaceflight,  ‘Galactic 06,’ with an alignment pin that detached from the launch pylon of VMS Eve. Virgin Galactic also confirmed they notified the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 31st January in accordance with regulations which grounded the spacecraft while a review in conjunction with the FAA takes place.

‘Galactic 06’ was a safe and successful flight that was conducted in accordance with Virgin Galactic’s rigorous flight procedures and protocols. Virgin Galactic says that at no time did the detached alignment pin pose a safety impact to the vehicles or the crew on board. Virgin Galactic flights occur in restricted airspace and at specific geographical launch locations that control the hazards to people or structures on the ground. There was no damage to the spaceship or the mothership.

The alignment pin helps ensure the spaceship is aligned to the mothership when mating the vehicles on the ground during pre-flight procedures. During mated flight, as the vehicles climb towards release altitude, the alignment pin helps transfer drag and other forces from the spaceship to the shear pin fitting assembly and into the pylon and center wing of the mothership. The shear pin fitting assembly remained both attached and intact on the mothership with no damage. While both parts play a role during mated flight, they do not support the spaceship’s weight, nor do they have an active function once the spaceship is released.

The alignment pin and shear pin fitting assembly performed as designed during the mated portion of the flight, and only the alignment pin detached after the spaceship was released from the mothership.

Virgin Galactic will provide a further update at the completion of the review and will confirm the flight window for the ‘Galactic 07’ mission, which is planned for the second quarter of 2024.

Hilton Partners with Small Luxury Hotels of the World - dramatically expanding global luxury portfolio

Hilton and Small Luxury Hotels of the World have formed an exclusive strategic partnership that will welcome Hilton guests to hundreds of independently-minded luxury hotels in the most sought-after destinations around the world. 

The partnership will dramatically expand the luxury experiences offered by Hilton as unique SLH properties join the unparalleled hotels of the growing Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts brands.

Through this exclusive partnership, which will ramp up in the months ahead, all of Hilton’s customers, including the more than 180 million members of Hilton Honors, will soon be able to dream, book and earn and redeem Points for stays at participating properties in the SLH community of 560 luxury boutique hotels spanning 90 countries. These locations are highly complementary to Hilton’s vast network of hotels and will give guests access to additional luxury accommodations in hundreds of new destinations. 

“Hilton guests are among the most sophisticated travelers in the world, and we are always looking for amazing new experiences to share with them,” said Chris Silcock, president, Global Brands and Commercial Services, Hilton. “This relationship with Small Luxury Hotels of the World will grant Hilton customers and Hilton Honors members access to a community of high-end boutique hotels in exciting new luxury travel destinations, giving them more ways to dream, book, and earn and redeem points with Hilton.”

Participating SLH hotels will be bookable on all Hilton channels, giving the hotels exposure to a broad audience while allowing them to retain the independent spirit that makes each property unique.

“We’re thrilled to begin this win-win relationship with Hilton as it brings exciting possibilities for both brands,” said Shaun Leleu, chairman, Small Luxury Hotels of the World. “Hilton customers, including Hilton Honors members, gain access to our unrivalled collection of exceptional boutique hotels, while our properties enjoy amplified reach to a loyal and discerning audience. It's a game changer for independently owned hotels on a global scale.”

RTX's Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-52 selected to power new Piper M700 Fury single-engine turboprop

Pratt & Whitney Canada announced its PT6A-52 engine has been selected by Piper Aircraft Inc. for the Piper M700 Fury aircraft. This is the first time the PT6A-52 engine is used to power a single-engine turboprop. Pratt & Whitney is an RTX business.

"During our 55-year collaboration with Piper, we've had the privilege of powering some of the most successful single-engine turboprops in the industry," said Anthony Rossi, vice president, Global Sales and Marketing at Pratt & Whitney Canada. "The M700 Fury is an evolutionary addition to the Piper line-up that includes the PT6A-42A-powered M500 and M600 programs. In total, we have supplied Piper with 12 different PT6A engine models, delivering 3,100 engines to power more than 2,000 Piper aircraft." 

Pratt & Whitney worked closely with Piper to integrate an electronic low-oil-level indicator, the first such device on a Piper aircraft, that facilitates the pre-flight process. With the PT6A-52 as its powerplant, the new Piper M700 Fury will also offer its customers:

Maximum cruise speed of 301 knots true airspeed
Class-leading maximum climb rate of more than 2,000 feet per minute
25% better take-off field length and landing performance compared to the M600SLS aircraft
Six-passenger capacity
Maximum take-off weight of 6,000 pounds

No Fees to Change a Flight: United Airlines Inspires Football Fans to Believe in Next Season

Airline has saved customers more than $2 billion since eliminating change fees in 2020 and will debut new series of ads this Sunday starring Emmy-award winning actor Kyle Chandler

United becomes first big game advertiser to create six different commercials written to speak directly to local football fans

United Airlines has saved customers more than $2 billion since becoming the first legacy airline to permanently eliminate change fees more than three years ago, and today released a series of new commercials starring Emmy-award winning actor Kyle Chandler that will air this Sunday and promote the benefits of the policy change. In the ads, Chandler speaks directly to football fans in five different markets and encourages them to believe in their team and book a United flight to next year's game in New Orleans, without worrying about change fees.

No Fees to Change a Flight: United Airlines Inspires Football Fans to Believe in Next Season

The campaign - "Believing Changes Everything" - is the first time a big game advertiser has created this many different commercials that were written specifically for local markets. The market-specific ads will target Chiefs fans in Kansas City, Browns fans in Cleveland and Texans fans in Houston on broadcast TV and Bears fans in Chicago and Broncos fans in Denver on social media. A general market film will also air on TV in Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Orlando, Colorado Springs and Cincinnati. Each of the local commercials speaks directly to the emotions fans in these cities may be feeling on Sunday and culminates by encouraging them to dream big about their team's chances next season.  

"This is about believing. Believing so hard that you book your flight to next year's big game before the season even starts," says Chandler. "Because believing that hard can change everything."

More than 10 million United customers have changed their flight without paying change fees since the airline's policy went into effect in 2020. Since that time:

3.6 million people switched the time of day of their flight;
1.8 million people extended their trip altogether;
1.5 million people chose to fly to or from a different airport;
300,000 people changed from a domestic flight to an international one, or vice-versa;

And the number of people who changed their flights themselves in United's industry-leading app has doubled.

08 February, 2024

BA apprentices perform key flight dispatch.....

A team of skilled British Airways apprentices have successfully dispatched a flight to South Africa, marking a first for the airline and reinforcing the key role apprentices play throughout the business.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week 2024, around 40 apprentices worked across a variety of roles for the successful departure of the 18:25 Boeing 777 BA43 flight from London Heathrow to Cape Town, South Africa.

Apprentices were stationed across check-in, lounges and at the boarding gate, to support more than 300 customers as they prepared to depart. On the airfield, ground operations apprentices supported with baggage handling and engineering tasks to ensure the aircraft was ready for departure.  

Jawad Arbi, Heathrow Operations Apprentice at British Airways, said:  “Working in collaboration with other apprentices from across the operation to ensure a safe departure has been a fantastic experience. Starting an apprenticeship with British Airways has transformed my career, and I’m excited to continue to develop my skills and see where it takes me."

British Airways’ apprentice scheme, now in its 13th year, has seen a 75% increase in applicants compared to 2022, with 4,500 last year, compared to 2,562 in 2022. The airline is now offering more apprenticeship positions than ever before – it started out offering 30 places in 2011, to 290 today.

Apprentices that join the airline will begin work in 10 area-focused roles across three business areas: Customer, Business and Operations. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced airline colleagues, engage in real-world aviation projects and receive valuable mentorship to kickstart and develop their careers.

The significant interest in the programme reflects British Airways’ position as an industry leader and a key player in shaping the future of aviation professionals and underlines the airline’s commitment to developing and growing the next generation of emerging talent and supporting early careers in aviation.  

Rachel Iley, Director of Global Learning Academy, at British Airways, said: “This landmark flight demonstrates the integral role apprentices play in our workforce and the opportunities available to those who join British Airways on one of our schemes. Our talented apprentices bring a fresh perspective to our airline, and their ideas and enthusiasm will help propel us into the future.”

Throughout 2023, British Airways’ Emerging Talent team, which is responsible for sourcing new talent through apprenticeships and graduate schemes, attended almost 250 career and job fair events and met approximately 37,000 young people to inspire them to consider a career in aviation.

The next cohort of apprenticeships will open for applications October 2024.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon, said:  “Apprenticeships are crucial to giving people from all backgrounds the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity while addressing skills gaps and helping to grow our economy.

 So, it is brilliant news that British Airways continues to embrace apprenticeships offering 178 positions this year, and receiving a record number of applications. British Airways understand the levy and use it well. They have experienced the wealth of benefits apprentices bring to their business, and I hope more businesses follow their lead and experience this for themselves.”

IATA World Cargo Symposium agenda released.

The agenda for the IATA World Cargo Symposium (WCS) which will feature specialized tracks on Digitalization, Sustainability and Safety & Security. WCS is taking place in Hong Kong (SAR), China from 12 - 14 March 2024, has been released.

"Air cargo is an unsung hero of the global economy. In normal times, it delivers some 35% of the value of goods traded across borders. In the pandemic, air cargo brought medical supplies and vaccines to where they were needed. And today it is providing a vital transport alternative for some products as Red Sea shipping lanes face geopolitical uncertainty. Air cargo’s success matters. When air cargo’s global leaders gather in Hong Kong for the IATA World Cargo Symposium, ensuring the future reliability and growth of this critical sector will be top of mind with an agenda focused on sustainability, digitalization, safety and security," said Brendan Sullivan, IATA’s Global Head of Cargo.

Speakers & Sessions 

Ronald Lam, Cathay Group Chief Executive Officer, Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, and Marie Owens Thomsen, IATA’s SVP Sustainability and Chief Economist, will join Sullivan in setting the scene for the conference with keynote addresses. They will be followed by key air cargo experts, including: 

•    Tom Owen, Director of Cargo, Cathay Pacific 
•    Michael Steen, Chief Executive Officer, Atlas Air 
•    Vivian Lau, Chief Executive, Jardine Aviation Services Group
•    Kirsten de Bruijn, Executive Vice President Cargo, WestJet
•    Marco Bloeman, Managing Director, Accenture and Head of Accenture Cargo

The event’s overall theme of Driving Sustainable and Inclusive Growth will be supported by three tracks: 
•    Sustainability, which will include sessions on tracking progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050, ESG reporting, optimizing operations for environmental performance, reducing single use plastics, and circular strategies for Unit Load Device (ULD) components.
•    Digitalization, which will include sessions on data driven strategies to improve performance and reduce costs, achieving the efficiencies of OneRecord, and the potential for generative AI in air cargo.
•    Safety & Security, which will include sessions on Annex 18 Regulatory oversight of freight forwarders/handling agents for dangerous goods shipments, fire containment strategies for lithium battery shipments, ULD airworthiness, latest developments for the safety of live animal shipments, implications of an integrated risk management framework.


easyJet lands industry leading A- rating from CDP in global climate impact assessment

easyJet has been awarded an industry-leading rating of A- by CDP – recognition for the airline’s continued work in optimising the carbon efficiency of its operations, as well as its commitment to reaching net zero by 2050.

CDP, formerly known as the Climate Disclosure Project, is a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions. It is commonly regarded as the gold standard of environmental reporting, one that gathers the most comprehensive dataset on corporate climate action in the world.

easyJet is one of the few airlines in the world to have achieved a rating of A- (having previously been graded B), boosting its score through the quality of its carbon disclosure as well as management of climate change risk.

Jane Ashton, Sustainability Director at easyJet said:  “We are delighted to have been awarded an A- rating by CDP, a true testament to the hard work we are all doing at easyJet to ensure that our SBTi-validated 2035 carbon reduction target is met and our aim to be net-zero by 2050 is realised.

Decarbonising aviation continues to be a major undertaking and focus which is why easyJet continues to take vital steps not only to safeguard the benefits the sector provides but also ensure that we do all that we can to minimise our impact.”

Making continued improvements into 2024:

easyJet continues to make strategic improvements to its fleet every day and has already made a number of ground-breaking changes in the last year.

For example, since the last CDP reporting period, the airline completed the rollout of its Descent Profile Optimisation (DPO) software, which reduces the amount of fuel used during landing by plotting a more fuel-efficient descent on all aircraft – making an estimated saving of at least 50kg of fuel per flight.

Additionally, a fifth of easyJet’s fleet is now made up of A320neo family aircraft – which are 13% more fuel-efficient and up to 50% quieter during take-off, landing and taxing thanks to its state-of-the-art CFM LEAP-1A engines that meet ICAO’s Chapter 14 regulations.

easyJet was awarded the Net Zero Strategy of the Year by Business Green in 2023 which commended the airline for the breadth, detail and ambition that it outlined in its net-zero roadmap.

The airline, which is focusing on new technologies as a means to decarbonise and meet its goals, continues to collaborate with companies including Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Cranfield Aerospace and GKN Aerospace to support the development of zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft.

easyJet is also a founding member of the Hydrogen in Aviation Alliance – a coalition of diverse aviation and hydrogen stakeholders launched to develop and catalyse the infrastructure and policy needed to support hydrogen aircraft operations.   

RAF Globemaster delivers Army attack helicopters to the Arctic

A Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster recently delivered Army Air Corps Apache helicopters to Royal Norwegian Air Force Base Bardufoss.

Joint Helicopter Command personnel were hopeful that they could successfully train and complete environmental qualifications in the Arctic Winter and to learn how to live and operate in one of the world’s most hostile environments where temperatures can fall to -30°C.

The survival and operational training ensure that UK military personnel can operate globally to protect the UK’s interests, particularly alongside NATO and partner Nations. Cooperation and interoperability enable the projection of lethal force and also an ability to sustain deployments.

Once arctic training is complete, the Joint Helicopter Force’s Apache will be staying on in Norway to take part in another exercise involving 20,000 personnel from 14 countries.

Bumper January for Norwegian..........1,138,621 passengers travel with the airline

Norwegian and Wideroe Crew welcome more and more passengers.
In January, the European budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle carried 1,138,621 passengers, securing a load factor of 83.1%.  The capacity (ASK) was 1,820 million seat kilometres, down 3 percent from the same period last year. Actual passenger traffic (RPK) was 1,512 million seat kilometres. In January, Norwegian operated an average of 63 aircraft with a regularity, meaning the share of scheduled flights taking place, of 99.0 percent. Punctuality was affected by the severe winter weather and the share of flights departing within 15 minutes of scheduled time was 76.7 percent.

“Our operations during the winter season are affected by seasonal weather and particular winter storms. I would like to give thanks to the tireless effort of our colleagues, who have ensured that our disruptions are kept to a minimum, to the benefit of our many customers,” said Geir Karlsen, CEO of Norwegian.

Meanwhile, Norwegian's recent purchase - Widerøe welcomed 246,326 passengers during the month, taking the Norwegian Group's total number of passengers to 1,384,947.  

"For the first time, our traffic figures include those of Widerøe, and in total, Norwegian and Widerøe had 1.4 million passengers on board in the first month of the year. For Norwegian, it is very positive that the load factor increased by five percentage points compared to January last year. Demand to beach destinations continues to perform in the high-end of our expectations with many of our customers opting for some warmer Mediterranean weather," said Geir Karlsen, CEO of Norwegian.

For 2024, Norwegian has hedged jet fuel corresponding to approximately 50% of projected consumption at levels close to current forward prices.

In December, the Norwegian Competition Authority approved Norwegian’s acquisition of Widerøe, and the transaction was completed 12 January. Work has already begun to ensure that organisations deliver on shared goals with the aim of delivering better overall customer offerings with seamless travel and increased travel options. One example involves the changing of Norwegian’s ground handling provider to Widerøe Ground Handling, which took effect from 1 February at many airports across Norway.

The above report on the monthly traffic numbers now also includes numbers from Widerøe which is attached on page two. Widerøe increased its production in January with 4 percent compared with the same period last year, while the number of passengers increased with 8 percent. The load factor was up 3 percentage points.

Many industry commentators are wondering what Norwegian's long-term strategy after the company recently invested in Norsk e-Fuel, which will establish what could be the world's first large-scale production facility for electrofuel. The fossil-free jet fuel will be produced at a plant in Mosjøen in Nordland. The partnership will give Norwegian early access to essential fossil-free aviation fuels.

Marty St. George Named President of JetBlue

JetBlue has confirmed the appointment of Marty St. George as the company’s next president, effective February 26, 2024. He will report to Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s current president and incoming chief executive officer.

Since 2020, St. George has served as chief commercial officer at LATAM Airlines Group, Latin America’s largest airline holding company, in Santiago, Chile. Prior to joining LATAM, he operated an airline strategy consulting practice, where he served airline and travel industry clients, including a role as interim Chief Commercial Officer at Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA. He previously served as a member of JetBlue’s leadership team from 2006-2019.

Over the span of 13 years with JetBlue – beginning as vice president, planning, later senior vice president marketing and commercial, and ultimately executive vice president and chief commercial officer – St. George was a key architect of the carrier’s focus city strategy, led its successful entry into airline partnerships, and oversaw its distinctive brand and innovative product strategy. Prior to JetBlue, he held marketing and network planning leadership roles over nearly two decades at United and US Airways.

In his new role as president, St. George will lead JetBlue’s commercial functions – including marketing, loyalty, network planning, airline partnerships, sales and revenue management – along with customer support, enterprise and operational planning, and corporate communications. He’ll also have oversight of JetBlue Travel Products (JTP), an important growth area for the company, which will continue to be led day-to-day by its president, Andres Barry.

Bristow takes major step towards the next generation of coast guard search and rescue aviation services in Ireland

Bristow granted Air Operators Certificate following detailed assessment by Irish Aviation Authority Certificate award is next step towards seamless transition to a new, innovative Coast Guard search and rescue aviation service for Ireland
Bristow Ireland Limited, a subsidiary of Bristow Group Inc, the leading global provider of innovative and sustainable vertical flight solutions, has received its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), marking a significant step towards the next generation of Coast Guard search and rescue aviation services in Ireland.

"Gaining an AOC is a fundamental requirement to provide search and rescue in Ireland," said Neil Ebberson, Bristow Director of Government Services. "It was awarded after the successful completion of a lengthy application and assessment process run by the IAA and ensures the highest standards of professionalism and safety are met in the country."

To gain AOC approval, Bristow Ireland was required to demonstrate that its AW189 aircraft will meet the Irish regulator's requirements for safe and compliant operations; submit detailed documentation to show that it can safely manage continued airworthiness; demonstrate that it can safely operate the AW189 to the required standards; and carry out a proving flight with the AW189 in Ireland.

Ebberson added: "With more than 75+ years of global experience to draw on, our Ireland team demonstrated that we have the experience, skills, and capabilities to operate to the standards the IAA demands for an Air Operator Certificate.

"The next phases of preparation for this critical new service are well in hand. TOEXCEL Ireland Limited - who are our fixed-wing partners - are working in parallel for the award of a fixed-wing AOC, which will in turn enable us to deliver the capability enhancements. We are looking forward to reporting more progress as we move towards the initial transition to the new service in late 2024."

Bristow now has Air Operating Certificates covering 11 jurisdictions.

NAV CANADA and Indra to deploy leading air traffic management platforms

NAV CANADA and Indra have reached a milestone agreement that will contribute to the evolution of Canada's air traffic management systems the firms announced this week. 

The first phase of the agreement will support the deployment of a state-of-the-art flight data processing system (FDPS) and an air traffic flow management system (iACM) for complex airspaces within NAV CANADA's network centre.

In line with NAV CANADA's strategic direction, this partnership represents a tangible step towards Trajectory-Based Operations (TBO) in Canada, shifting air traffic management towards a strategic approach that takes a more comprehensive picture of a flight from take-off to landing. This new technology can calculate routes with great accuracy and predict the evolution of air traffic over an extended horizon, supporting greater planning and coordination.

These systems will integrate information processing from Canada's area control centres, automatically notifying the system of any changes in flight plans between each of their respective airspace. This will enable better flexibility resulting in the improvement of traffic flow within Canadian airspace and across the rest of the network. The result will be more efficient  routings for aircraft operators, reduced fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions while providing greater operational resiliency to disruptions and meeting the capacity requirements of a growing sector.

These advancements, which continue to keep safety at the forefront, reflect the vision for the future of air traffic management defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU), which promote technologies that enable greater collaboration and operational predictability in global aviation.

This agreement also reinforces the collaboration between NAV CANADA, UK's NATS and Norway's Avinor, which also have Indra as a strategic technology partner. Both companies welcomed this important agreement.

The technology will be deployed over a ten-year horizon across NAV CANADA's facilities.

WestJet's Expansive Summer 2024 Schedule

WestJet's Expansive Summer 2024 Schedule

Underpinning its commitment to Canadians, WestJet increases domestic, leisure and international travel opportunities by 15 per cent year-over-year

WestJet has announced a significant increase in coast-to-coast travel options for Canadians with the initial release of its summer 2024 schedule. The airline is set to introduce 10 new routes and return or extend 16 routes that will continue to connect Canadians as part of its robust growth strategy. Publication of WestJet's full summer schedule will be completed over the coming week.

"Our 2024 summer schedule continues to deliver on our commitment to make critical investments across Canada, providing more affordable options for Canadians and international visitors to connect with the people and places that matter the most," said John Weatherill, WestJet Group Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer. "This summer will see the return of seasonal, leisure-focused flying, to connect Eastern and Western Canada, and substantial growth in service to sun destinations, further cementing our position as Canada's leading leisure airline. At our global hub in Calgary and cities across the country, WestJet's schedule supports Canada's visitor economy with more than 75,000 seats arriving each week from Europe, Asia and the United States."

Connecting Canadians Across the Country

In addition to the continued expansion of WestJet's network with 15 new routes to and from Western Canada, this summer Eastern Canada will benefit from 11 new routes including: 

  • New direct seasonal service between Calgary and Deer Lake, Nfld.
  • The return of seasonal non-stop service between Toronto and Deer Lake, Nfld., Moncton, N.B., Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Victoria, B.C.
  • Return of transatlantic flying between Halifax and Dublin, Edinburgh and London, and St. John's and London (Gatwick)
  • 44 per cent growth in Halifax, N.S. and 60 per cent growth in St. John's, Nfld. compared to Summer 2023
Leading in Leisure

As Canada's top choice for leisure travel, the WestJet Group will offer more capacity than any other airline for Canadians looking to fly to popular sun destinations this summer. Highlights include:

  • 57 per cent growth in Latin and Caribbean routes over summer 2023
  • 56 per cent increase in capacity from Toronto to sun destinations
  • More flights between Hawaii and Canada than any other airline, and the only airline providing year-round service between Canada and Maui-Kahului, from both Calgary and Vancouver
Transborder Growth and Expanded Access to Delta hubs

Providing increased opportunities for two-way travel between Canada and the United States, WestJet will grow transborder seat capacity by 26 per cent this summer, including 70 per cent growth to Delta hubs.

Royal Air Force Typhoons arrive in Saudi Arabia for large scale multinational air exercise

Flying high ready for action.
RAF Coningsby based Typhoons from XI (Fighter) Squadron have arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join this year’s Spears of Victory exercise being held at the King Abdulaziz Air Base. 

Personnel from across the RAF have deployed on this large scale, Saudi hosted multinational air warfare training exercise. The RAF are joining participants from several branches of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s military, as well as contingents from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Greece, Pakistan, and the US.

Squadron Leader Hodgkinson, UK Detachment Commander said:  “Spears of Victory 24 is an extremely important training opportunity for our force enablers to work alongside strategic partners in the region to demonstrate the Combat Air capacity of our highly trained pilots and engineers in the Typhoon Force. Now, as much as never before, we strive for excellence in air dominance – collaborating with allies that have come together in a demonstration of their commitment to stability in the Broader Middle East."

In addition to the RAF Typhoons taking part in this year’s exercise, the Royal Saudi Air Force will be flying their Typhoons, Tornados and F-15s.  F-16s are taking part from Bahrain, Greece, and the UAE.  The Saudi F-15s will be joined by others from Qatar.  The French Air and Space detachment will be contributing Rafales, and the Pakistan Air Force will be flying their JF-17s. The Royal Air Force of Oman will also be flying Typhoons.

An F16 arrives from the UAE

Hodgkinson adds: "The welcome at King Abdulaziz Air Base and the support in country has been fantastic and the facilities here will allow us to really make the most of this opportunity. We look forward to a busy deployment, operating at a high tempo alongside our international colleagues; I am confident the whole detachment will learn a great deal from the Exercise."

The United States Detachment is not flying this year, but instead has committed a mixed unit of National Guardsmen to provide a range of ground support activities, including Fire Fighters Security, and logisticians to support the exercise.

07 February, 2024

PLAY Passenger numbers grew by 61% in January

The Icelandic budget carrier, PLAY Airlines carried 99,704 passengers in January 2024, the company confirmed this week. That is up 61% increase from January 2023 when PLAY carried 61,798 passengers. The load factor in January 2024 was 75% compared to 77% in January 2023. 

The airline has reported the demand for flights to Iceland had been affected negatively in the short term by global news coverage of the seismic activity in the Reykjanes Peninsula in November 2023, some of which the carrier claims was inaccurate. Forward bookings are looking good and thus PLAY believes the load factor will increase soon.  Ancillary Yield is also growing, with January experiencing a notable 21% increase year on year.

Of all passengers travelling with PLAY in January 2024, 27.1% were travelling from Iceland, 31.1% were travelling to Iceland and 41.8% were connecting passengers. PLAY’s on-time performance in January was 78.1%, negatively impacted by adverse weather conditions in Iceland.

New destination, the launch of Stopover and Europe’s youngest fleet

In January, PLAY announced flights to Split in Croatia. PLAY’s first flight to Split will be on May 28 and flights will be operated once a week until October. This will be the first time that scheduled flights are operated between Iceland and Split and this is also PLAY’s first destination in Croatia. PLAY’s route network will include around 40 destinations in 2024. 

In late January, it was announced that passengers can now book themselves an up to 10-day Stopover in Iceland with no additional cost. PLAY already offers competitive prices in all its markets and this new feature gives passengers even more reason to choose PLAY. This makes the airline more competitive and will further exploit PLAY’s strategic connecting flights between North America and Europe with Iceland as a hub in the middle.

To compete more fully with Icelandair, PLAY's new stopovers will take advantage of the airline’s hub-and-spoke model, with all flights connecting through Iceland. PLAY’s stopovers will enable passengers to stay up to 10 days in Iceland to experience the island’s incredible natural wonders including waterfalls, geysers, hot springs, glaciers and Northern lights. 

“PLAY has taken advantage of Iceland’s location near Europe to bring travellers convenient flights and affordable fares, and now the stopover feature brings even more benefits to our passengers. Rather than having a few hours' layover in Iceland, travellers can make a stop at this bucket-list destination for an extra day or week to experience everything our home country has to offer. Long stayovers are a win-win for both us and our passengers to enable exploration at a low price,” said PLAY CEO Birgir Jónsson.