Administrators in charge at South African Airways (SAA) plan to hand the airline back to management by the end of March, should all terms and conditions be met. The airline has been under administration since December 2019 and put a stop to all operations in September 2020 due to lack of funds.
South African Airways to emerge from administration
SAA will be handed back to management by the end of the month after spending over a year under administrators. According to Reuters, administrators, who have been called Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs), are looking to hand over the airline before April after receiving enough money in bailouts.
All parties involved had hoped for this to happen by March, but this has now been pushed back to April. SAA was promised an R10.5 billion ($715 million) bailout in the South African government’s October budget, with administrators claiming to have received R7.8 billion ($529 million) so far.
Money from the bailout includes:
- R1.5 billion ($102 million) on severance packages
- R400 million ($27 million) transferred to creditors
- R360 million ($24.5 million) has fulfilled unpaid salaries
- Additional funds reserved for working capital after a restart
- Paying back passengers who had bought tickets
However, before administrators give up control of the airline, further payments to employees and creditors are needed. Administrators also want a receivership set up to ensure all debt obligations are met. While most SAA funding has been from the state, the airline has also taken on capital from other creditors since going into administration in December 2019.
The rescue team claims that the beleaguered carrier’s debt has been reduced by R35.7 billion ($2.43 billion) since they took over. Additionally, the airline’s workforce has been cut from 4,700 employees to just 1,000. Laying off employees has been one of several cost-cutting measures SAA has resorted to, including selling off stock such as chopsticks, toothpicks and oven bags.
An end to the SAA saga finally in sight?
The South African government hasn’t been too pleased with the way administrators are handling things at SAA. Earlier this week, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Chairperson for the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), said he was “fed up” with the level of cooperation from administrators, stating it has “has not been on a level which is satisfactory.”
This dispute arose after administrators failed to provide parliament with an update on how the rescue process was going. The SCOPA committee claims to have sent a request on March 3rd, with the rescue team claiming they didn’t receive any such request until March 10th.
Restarting flights may be on the horizon
The management and board of directors at SAA have hinted there is a plan to resume flights on the table. Although no firm date has been set, the airline feels it has enough working capital to begin flying again. SAA had a sizeable fleet of 49 aircraft before entering administration and has since returned 40 of those to lessors.
Many have called South African Airways a lost cause, with the airline failing to run a profit in 10 years and receiving countless state-funded bailouts over the years. On top of the R10.5 promised in October, the airline received R21 billion (($1.4 billion) in June and R3.5 billion ($238 million) earlier in 2020. South African authorities have persisted in their support for the airline, which may now finally pay off.
Do you think the South African government was right to persist with SAA? Let us know your insights and thoughts in the comments.
This Concept Allows You To Expand The Width Of An Aircraft Aisle
Congestion in the aisle is a major bug-bear for the frequent flier and impacts airlines’ abilities to speed up their turnaround time. This seat concept, developed under a European project known as PASSME, effectively doubles the width of a narrowbody aisle, allowing passengers to pass one another and get to their seats more quickly.
Eliminating aisle congestion
There’s nothing worse than finally being called to board a flight and then having to stand around in a congested aisle, waiting for some guy in front to jam his huge bag into the overhead compartment. Aisle congestion is one of the most significant reasons for less than optimal turnaround times, and it’s a problem airlines have been trying to crack for years.
Many have tried different tactics, such as boarding back to front, boarding in groups, or discouraging large items of carry-on baggage. Nothing, so far, has been the magic answer. For many airlines, particularly low-costs, it remains something of a free-for-all and one of the most stressful moments of the trip.
But this seat concept aims to take that stress out of the equation, with a unique mechanism that allows airlines to physically widen the aisle. Rather than a squeezy 16 inches of aisle width – impossible to pass by another passenger, the PASSME seat concept increases this width to a generous 32 inches, enough for anyone to pass by easily.
The sliding aircraft seat
The concept is simple enough; the concept works via a sort of scissor mechanism contained under each group of three seats. Folding up the armrests allows the group of three to be squeezed together sideways, reducing the width by around 2.6 inches per seat.
While the narrower seat wouldn’t be too comfortable for long periods of travel, it’s only a temporary issue. Once passengers are seated, and as the crew traverse the cabin to check backrests and tray tables, a push of a button will allow the seats to expand to their full width, locking safely into place.
#CCA18 Cabin Systems finalists 2018: @PASSME_EU‘s seat row can be pushed aside, creating space in the aisle. @RockwellCollins‘ partition wall allows #Eco enough legroom. @ZodiacAerospace‘ Durinal reduces occupancy of the other lavs. #AIX18 @aix_expo #PaxEx https://t.co/P7I5NTa4x1 pic.twitter.com/xJuh8C78ZZ
— Hamburg Aviation (@HamburgAviation) April 5, 2018
This small increase achieved by compressing the seats together effectively doubles the width of a typical 737 aisle. As a result, the project partners state that boarding time for an aircraft could be reduced from the typical 20 minutes down to just five to seven minutes.
Of course, there is a weight penalty to pay due to the additional mechanism under the seat. Across an entire Boeing 737, that would equate to around 5% additional weight. However, the designers believe this could easily be offset by the operational benefits it achieves.
The PASSME Project
PASSME is the acronym for the European project entitled Personalised Airport Systems for Seamless Mobility and Experience. It’s a collaboration between 12 project partners, including Optimares and Almadesign, coordinated by TU Delft, with the aim of reducing the door-to-door air travel time by 60 minutes.
Working on the seat featured here are Almadesign, who are styling the product, and Optimares, who are developing the seat structure. DLR is assisting with the simulation side of things, while TU Delft is testing and developing the product.
But the PASSME project goes a lot further than just innovative seats. The team is tackling all sorts of different pain points in the travel process, from smartphone apps to luggage flows and passenger demand forecasting for airports.
What do you think of the sliding seat? Let us know in the comments.
Emirates Suspends Flights To India Amid Rising COVID Cases
Emirates has reportedly suspended flights to India amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the region. The news comes days after England announced that it would be placing India on its red list. Yesterday around 315,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country.
Airlines in Europe are keen to make the most of the upcoming season. Indeed, in Europe, the number of vaccinated individuals is steadily rising following a difficult start. However, it seems that some countries may be facing a tricky start to the summer season as they enter their second waves.
India flight ban
Emirates is set to suspend all flights to and from India for an initial period of ten days from Sunday. Commenting on the matter, the airline posted the following notice on its website,
“Effective 24 April 2021 and for the next 10 days, Emirates flights from India to the UAE will be suspended. Furthermore, passengers who have transited through India in the last 14 days will not be accepted to travel from any other point to the UAE.”
However, it seems that it won’t just be Emirates flights that are affected. Reports suggest that the decision to ban travelers from India was made on a government level and will affect all airlines traveling to Dubai from India. Earlier today, Simple Flying explored the possible impact of such a decision, seeing as India is the UAE’s largest market in terms of seats flown.
For now, Emirates’ flight suspension is only valid for ten days. However, it could easily be extended, as is the case with the airlines’ current flight suspension to South Africa. When this was first announced, it was due to last just 12 days. However, the South Africa flight suspension has now been in force since January 15th and has been continually extended. As things stand, it is currently in force until May 30th.
One route suspended, another relaunched
While Emirates has suspended flights to India, it announced the relaunch of another route on the same day. From July 2nd, the airline will resume its 5th freedom tag flight from Barcelona to Mexico City.
Emirates operates its fifth freedom Mexico City flight with a two-class Boeing 777-200LR. This has 38 business class seats and 264 economy class seats. While the flight will also carry passengers, Emirates notes that it will carry personal protective equipment and vaccines to Mexico in the belly. Meanwhile, it will move avocados, berries, mangos, automotive parts, and medical supplies in the opposite direction.
The flight will offer additional cargo capacity on top of Emirates’ dedicated freighter fleet. Yesterday, Emirates President Sir Tim Clark suggested that the airline would seek to convert some of its older 777s into freighters, commenting,
“To be quite honest, we have a number of 777-300ERs, which are excellent aircraft, as you know, which are coming up to the end of their passenger lives. We’re looking at retaining those and basically converting them into freighters, and they have about a 90-100 tonne capability. A huge volumetric capability so they would fit into our network very well.”
What do you make of Emirates’ India flight suspension? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Not Dead Yet – The Three Airlines Still Flying The Boeing 717
Unlike other aircraft types, the Boeing 717 is fighting on, helped by its often niche role for airlines. After Volotea retired the aircraft, the sole users are now Delta, Hawaiian, and QantasLink. The thickest route for the aircraft – Honolulu to Kahului – will see up to 24 departures a day this year.
The Boeing 717 was delivered to launch customer AirTran back in 1999. Some 22 years later, use of the 717 is reasonably strong in 2021, despite no longer operating in Europe following Volotea’s retirement of the aircraft on January 10th of this year.
Volotea initially used former MexicanaClick 717s. Now, Volotea – like many airlines worldwide – is focusing on larger aircraft, including A320s, to benefit from lower seat costs and more revenue opportunities. In March, Simple Flying revealed where Volotea’s A320s will initially be used, with the type to be used to help grow Volotea’s competitiveness as it matures and faces more competition.
Over 326 million B717 seats
The Boeing 717 had 31.7 million seats in 2011, which in the past decade rose to a peak of 34.7 million in 2016 – not bad for an older aircraft. This is partly a testament of the type’s often fairly niche operations, depending on what country is looked at.
Volotea, for example, initially used the aircraft so that it could focus on thinner routes ignored by other low-cost carriers. At the same time, they have been crucial for Hawaiian Airlines’ island-hopping services, including the 100-mile route between Honolulu and Kahului.
From five to three airlines
In the peak year, 2016, Delta, Hawaiian, QantasLink, Turkmenistan, and Volotea used the 717. For the remainder of 2021, however, only Delta, Hawaiian, and QantasLink will use it. Speaking in 2020, John Gissing, CEO of QantasLink, nicely summarized the carrier’s use of the aircraft.
“The B717s provide us with [the] flexibility to service many segments of the domestic market, including regional routes, fly in fly out operations, or add more frequencies to capital cities. These are the kind of routes where travel demand is likely to recover first.”
Hawaiian Airlines is #1
While further change this year is inevitable, Hawaiian Airlines presently has getting on for half the B717 capacity as Delta. This is not surprising given Delta has 45 717s versus 12 with Hawaiian, according to Airfleets data.
But actually, Hawaiian’s figure is quite impressive. While Delta has 165% more 717s, it has only 85% more seats. The reason is obvious: Hawaiian’s high-frequency, intra-state services. Later this year, Hawaiian will have up to 24 daily departures with the 717 from Honolulu to Kahului. No wonder Avi Mannis, the airline’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, told Simple Flying last year that:
“The 717s, our interisland aircraft, they’re absolutely fantastic planes. Simply, no plane is better suited to operating in this environment – very high frequency, short stage length, but with a lot of passengers. The 717 is absolutely the perfect airplane for that.”
123 routes this year
The Boeing 717 is expected to be used on 123 routes across the remainder of 2021, OAG schedules data shows, with the top-10 routes shown below.
- Honolulu to Kahului
- Honolulu to Kona
- Honolulu to Lihue
- Honolulu to Hilo
- Atlanta to Charlotte
- Atlanta to Houston Hobby
- Melbourne to Canberra
- Atlanta to Little Rock
- Atlanta to Huntsville
- Atlanta to Washington Dulles
Of the123 routes, 99 are within the US, including one-offs and limited-time services. The remaining 24 are within Australia, including Newcastle (New South Wales) to Melbourne, which launched on March 15th. Qantas hadn’t operated this route non-stop for more than a decade.
What are your thoughts about the 717? Comment below!
Southwest Reports A Profit For Q1 While Alaska And AA Face Losses
Southwest Airlines has reported a profit of $116 million for Q1 2021, despite other U.S carriers, including Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, reporting losses. However, with the scale of losses narrowing across the industry, many claim the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
Southwest posts a profit for Q1 2021
With demand for leisure travel steadily picking up since February, Southwest Airlines has posted total revenues of $2.05 billion and profits of $116 million for the first quarter of 2021. Southwest is the first major U.S carrier to post a profit since the beginning of the pandemic, after recording its first-ever annual loss in 2020.
Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement,
“While the pandemic is not over, we believe the worst is behind us, in terms of the severity of the negative impact on travel demand.”
While other U.S carriers rely heavily on business and international long-haul travel, Southwest has banked on leisure travel to get back on its feet. While business and international long-haul travel are still at a fraction of their pre-pandemic levels, leisure travel has rebounded much better. Even still, airports across the country are currently operating at around 40% less capacity than in 2019.
Southwest revealed that it has about 35% of expected bookings in place for June and 20% for July so far. The airline, which notes “a sequential improvement from March to April 2021, and again from April to May 2021, based on improving bookings,” believes travel demand will pick up significantly for the summer. CEO Kelly added,
“We believe there is significant pent-up demand for leisure travel and are optimistic about summer 2021. In response, we are in the process of adding flights in June 2021, and we currently expect June’s available seat miles (ASMs, or capacity) to be only slightly less than June 2019 pre-pandemic levels.”
Federal aid spares heavily losses for Southwest
Despite the positive income, Southwest would have reported large losses of up to $1 billion for the quarter without federal financial assistance. The airline industry has received around $54 billion in grants to pay workers and a further $25 billion in low-interest loans since the onset of the pandemic.
Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in a statement,
“Excluding the benefit of PSP (Payroll Support Program) Extension proceeds and other special items, our first quarter 2021 net loss was $1.0 billion… We remain grateful for this much-needed federal payroll support on the heels of substantial losses in 2020.”
Other U.S carriers still lost billions
American Airlines posted losses of $1.25 billion, joining Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the billion-dollar quarterly losses club. However, there is cause for optimism as airlines receive more bookings and demand appears to be recovering. The stock market was in agreement, with shares in airlines rising by 2-3% before the opening bell this morning.
Doug Parker, American Airlines’ chief executive, said,
“With the momentum underway from the first quarter, we see signs of continued recovery in demand.”
Alaska Airlines also posted losses for the first quarter of $131 million, although they were narrower than analysts expected. Excluding aid received under the Payroll Support Program, Alaska would have lost $436 million.
Do you think the air travel industry will permanently recover in the summer, or further travel restrictions and COVID cases will cause another slump? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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