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Airbus Reportedly Just Weeks Away From A350 Freighter Launch



Airbus has openly discussed its considerations for a freighter version of the A350, noting that Boeing’s monopoly in the cargo market is ripe for disruption. Now, it seems the project could be moving ahead, as the planemaker is said to be in talks with more than a dozen airlines about the plane. Subject to board approval, the A350F could begin marketing at the end of this month, with a formal launch by the end of the year.

Qatar Airbus A350
One of the world’s most capable widebodies could soon enter the cargo market. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

A350F could be launched by the end of the year

It’s been one of the most talked-about developments in aviation this year, and it looks like it’s almost certainly happening. Airbus’ pitch to disrupt Boeing’s monopoly on the freighter market continues to push forward, with Bloomberg reporting today that the planemaker could begin taking orders for the A350F as soon as next month.

According to an inside source, Bloomberg says that Airbus is in discussions with more than a dozen potential customers for the jet. The planemaker will need to seek approval from its board to begin formally marketing the aircraft in the coming weeks. Any further development will be dependent on being able to secure enough firm commitments from airlines.

If everything goes to plan, the A350F could officially launch by the end of the year. It would be a major strategic move for Airbus, which has long lagged behind Boeing in terms of its freighter products. While Boeing offers most of its product line in cargo variants, Airbus has only ever offered the A300 and A330-200F.

800th A330 delivered – an A330-200F for HNA Group
The A330F hasn’t been a top seller. Photo: Airbus

In terms of market share, Boeing has a clear upper hand with more than 760 cargo aircraft ordered to date, and that number doesn’t include its ‘combi’ aircraft. In contrast, Airbus has sold just 38 A330F, with a backlog of none. Speaking at its first earnings call this year, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury noted that more competition was needed, commenting,

“We are looking at that segment very seriously. We think it’s not healthy to have one player on the market. We want to bring our contribution to that market situation.

“We don’t like the idea that we are not active in that segment, and that’s probably an area where we will be more aggressive and where we will invest, moving forward.”

The CEO also noted that there is an underlying demand for an Airbus freight aircraft, with the A350, in particular, exhibiting all the characteristics of a great cargo plane. Sources have suggested that a cargo variant would be based on the A350-900, but that it could be stretched slightly over the passenger version.

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Will airlines order the A350F?

Right now, cargo is the biggest bright spot in aviation, with eCommerce booming amid the pandemic. This is not a trend that is expected to reverse anytime soon, even as the world begins to open up again. In Boeing’s latest Commercial Market Outlook, it projected a demand of 2,430 cargo aircraft in the next 20 years, 930 of which would be widebody aircraft.

The A350F would be a high capacity, high-efficiency cargo plane, capable of traveling long distances across the globe. It would compete directly with the 777F and, in some ways, with the 747-8F. However, the 747-8F is out of production, with the final jets going to Atlas Air, so only the 777F remains an in-production competitor.

Korean Air Cargo Boeing 777F Getty
The 777F has been a popular workhorse, but is older technology now. Photo: Getty Images

Although the 777F is a highly capable aircraft, its underlying technology is a generation behind the A350. Airbus states that the A350-900 is around 30% more fuel-efficient than the 777-200ER. Although the 777F is based on the -200LR, the savings are likely to be commensurate, more or less.

As such, there is no more efficient aircraft currently in play that could compete with an A350F. Boeing could upset the applecart with the launch of a 777XF, but the jury is still out on that front. With that in mind, Airbus could see a solid level of demand for airlines looking to replace aging 777Fs who are already in the Airbus ecosystem, such as Qatar, the CEO of which has already said he will be at the front of the queue for any new freighter aircraft.

Do you think Airbus should press ahead with the A350F? Let us know in the comments.

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Now Qantas eyes 107% pre-COVID capacity and Jetstar 120%



Victoria’s lockdown appears to have done little to stem Australian aviation’s escalating network wars after Qantas announced it would increase its capacity to 107 per cent of pre-COVID levels and Jetstar to 120 per cent.

The move has been made possible because the airline group negotiated a new deal to utilize up to 18 of Alliance’s E190s, up from an initial 14. This then allowed it to shift its larger 737s to other domestic routes.

Finally, Jetstar will temporarily redeploy three A320s from Jetstar Asia in Singapore to increase its capacity in Australia, alongside the six A320s already on loan from Jetstar Japan.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said the new strategy was to “think creatively” about how the business uses its fleet.

“Victoria represents about 20 per cent of our total network and with restrictions in Melbourne easing and as borders start to reopen, we expect to see a quick rebound in travel demand just as we have in other cities when lockdowns ended,” said Joyce. “Our forward bookings certainly suggest that’s going to be the case.”

The new deal with Alliance will see the 94-seat E190s painted in QantasLink livery. Qantas said the jet’s five-hour range makes it well suited to linking regional centres with smaller capital cities.


Alliance welcomed the delivery of 14 new E190s into its fleet in October last year following a $111 million deal for the jets. The new E190s joined its existing fleet of 24 Fokker F100, 13 Fokker 70LRs and five Fokker 50 turboprops.

The move also means that Qantas’ Canberra-Adelaide’s frequency can double from nine per week to 18 per week from mid-July.

“Expanding our long-standing relationship with Alliance gives us access to a different aircraft type without spending any capital,” said Joyce.

It comes only a month after Qantas said it would use its existing E190s under the Alliance deal to fly five new routes including services from Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne to Townsville.

It also revealed it would rival Virgin on three new routes that its reborn competitor only announced the week prior.

The news marks the latest development in the apparent second “capacity wars”, as airlines look to expand their networks in a world with fewer border restrictions but no international travel.

In May, Virgin said it would hire an extra 250 staff, including pilots, ground staff and baggage handlers, in addition to the 150 new cabin crew roles unveiled last month.

The airline made the announcement alongside revealing plans to launch five new services and significantly increase frequency across its network, including by 30 per cent on the ‘Golden Triangle’.

Virgin said last month it was “committed” to restoring its pre-COVID market share, despite Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce repeatedly claiming his airline group would increase its slice of the domestic industry from 60 to 70 per cent.

Meanwhile, Rex said it would rival Virgin and Qantas to fly Melbourne–Canberra from 10 June using one of its new 737s. The move has been delayed due to Victoria’s current lockdown.

It follows last month’s launch of the Sydney-Canberra service, where Rex now operates seven return flights each weekday, alongside flights to the Gold Coast and Adelaide, as well as Sydney and Melbourne.

The new “capacity wars” have seen Rex and Qantas engage in a war of words, which has included Joyce mocking Rex’s “empty aircraft” and Rex deputy chairman John Sharp branding his rival “technically insolvent”.

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Boeing Conducts 737 MAX 10 Taxi Tests



Boeing is conducting the final taxi tests of its first 737 MAX 10 aircraft. Eagle-eyed planespotters have spied the MAX 10 out and about in preparation in Renton for its first flight rumored to be occurring any day. The MAX 10 is the fourth version of the MAX family. To date, 20 customers have ordered 550 of the MAX 10s.

Boeing is conducting MAX 10 taxi flights and preparing for its maiden flight. Photo: Boeing

High-speed MAX 10 taxi tests conducted this week

Footage posted on Twitter by Katie Bailey shows N27751 moving about on taxiways and conducting high-speed taxiing tests. The MAX 10’s maiden flight has been expected for a couple of weeks. Now, Renton’s informed planespotters say the first flight is imminent. The taxi tests are the last set of ground evaluations before the plane takes to the skies.

The MAX 10 was first launched in 2017 at the Paris Air Show. Boeing took 240 orders from 10 customers at the launch. The largest of the four MAX variants Boeing offers, the MAX 10 can fly 3,800 miles (6,110 kilometers) and carry up to 230 passengers (depending on the cabin configuration).

First deliveries of the 737 MAX 10 now delayed by three years

The MAX 10 uses the same LEAP-1B engines from CFM International as the other MAX variants and has an identical wingspan. But the MAX 10 has a longer fuselage than the other three variants. The MAX 10 is eight meters longer than the smallest variant, the MAX 7.

“Airlines wanted a larger, better option in the large single-aisle segment with the operating advantages of the 737 MAX family,” Boeing said when launching the MAX 10.

“Adding the 737 MAX 10 gives our customers the most flexibility in the market, providing their fleets the range capability, fuel efficiency, and unsurpassed reliability that the 737 MAX family is widely known for.”

Boeing has not had an easy ride with its MAX program. The MAX 10 is no exception to the rule. Deliveries of the MAX 10 were originally slated to start in 2020. It’s now 2021, and the MAX 10 is yet to take to the skies. Earlier this year, Boeing pushed back the delivery timeline to 2023, representing a three-year slippage.

“This schedule reflects a number of factors, including an updated assessment of global certification requirements informed by continued discussions with regulators and resulting in a management decision to make modifications to the aircraft’s design,” Boeing said in an SEC filing earlier this year.

MAX 10 launch customer eyeing further order

United Airlines, who already fly MAX 9s, has an order for 100 MAX 10s. The Chicago-based airline is lined up as the launch customer. United is also waiting for a large order of MAX 8s to begin arriving. Despite the delays, United is shaping up as a big fan of the MAX. Rumors are swirling that United Airlines is in advanced talks with Boeing for another big MAX order.

In 2017, United did a deal with Boeing to convert part of an existing MAX 9 order to MAX 10s. At the time, United said deliveries would start in 2020.

“With superior fuel efficiency and increased range, the 737 MAX 9 and MAX 10 aircraft will elevate the performance and capabilities of United’s existing 737 fleet,” said United Airlines at the time.

“The MAX 10 will provide even more flexibility to United’s route schedule and give them the best economics of any airplane in the single-aisle segment.”

Despite the delays and problems around the broader MAX program, United’s rumored new MAX order signals its confidence in the plane. The imminent first test flight of the MAX 10 will further cement that confidence at United and other customer airlines.

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United Airlines To Update Its Employee Appearance Standards



United Airlines has shared with its employees that it will revise its appearance standards for flight attendants and customer service representatives. Starting from September 1st, new appearance standards will go into effect. More details will come out next month, but here is what United is planning for now.

United B787-10
United Airlines will release updated employee appearance guidelines for customer-facing employees this fall. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

More inclusive appearance standards

United Airlines wants to ensure its employees can express themselves through appearance standards that portray them as ambassadors of the global United brand but allow employees to be their authentic selves and celebrate their individuality. The focus is to allow employees some more freedom to express who they are while maintaining a professional standard.

The initial appearance standards update will be for uniformed, customer-facing United employees. This includes customer service representatives and flight attendants. The goal is to provide a more modern look for employees while maintaining inclusive standards. This is also designed to give employees more freedom of gender expression.

United FA
The focus will be on letting flight attendants be more expressive about themselves while also maintaining professional standards. Photo: United Airlines

Kate Gebo, Human Resources and Labor Relations Executive Vice President, stated the following on the updated appearance standards:

“As the face of United, our customer-facing teammates can provide an even better experience for our customers when they look and feel their best. We’ve spent the last several years listening to the feedback we’ve received from our employees and our Business Resource Groups to develop these revised standards. We’re confident that these modernized and more gender-inclusive appearance standards will provide a more authentic representation of the people and cultures that make United the company it is today.”

What to expect

A full list of updated appearance standards will come out next month. However, the updated standards will go into effect from September 1st. United released the image below for a sneak peek of the updated changes.

UA Teaser
The teaser United released. Photo: United Airlines

The changes will become more inclusive regarding visible tattoos, nose piercings, hair, make-up, and nails. While there will be limits on this, it will still be more inclusive than the current guidance.

The plan is to expand many of these updated appearance standards to additional workgroups. This includes pilots, ramp service employees, and, eventually, other workgroups.

Employees who are not covered by specific uniform standards, such as those in airline management and administration or other non-uniformed groups, will have other guidelines on maintaining their professional appearance. United Express employees will receive other communications regarding their appearance standards.

New uniform programs

The launch of the new uniform program was delayed as a result of the crisis. The launch of the new uniform programs for pilots, flight attendants, and customer service representatives is still planned.

United B767
United still plans on releasing new uniforms. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United stated it is committed to completing the design process and incorporating feedback from employees during the last wear test in early 2020 to improve the new uniform program. The focus is to revisit this program and the next steps once United gets to a more solid financial footing.

The focus will continue to be on presenting a professional appearance but allowing employees to express themselves within reason.

Are you glad to see United Airlines update its employee appearance standards? Let us know in the comments!

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Airbus Hopes For Qantas A350-100 Project Sunrise Order Soon



European planemaker Airbus remains confident Qantas’ ambitious Project Sunrise will take off soon utilizing their modified A350-1000 aircraft. The Australian airline was on the cusp of ordering the aircraft early in 2020. However, the global travel downturn came out of nowhere and put the brakes on Project Sunrise and the Airbus order.

Qantas wants to operate modified A350-1000 aircraft on its future Project Sunrise routes. Photo: Qantas

Qantas close to sealing the A350 Project Sunrise deal early in 2020

For years, Qantas has wanted to drop the stopover airport and fly nonstop from key Australian cities to far-flung destinations like New York, Frankfurt, and London. To date, no aircraft could do so and make money at the same time. But Project Sunrise aimed to overcome that handicap. Qantas issued a challenge to both Airbus and Boeing to come up with a plane to fly the distance. In late 2019, Qantas found the plane they were looking for – a modified A350-1000.

In early 2020, Qantas was expected to lock in the deal and order the planes. But the travel downturn interrupted the airline’s plans. Qantas bunkered down to ride out the financial turbulence and decided not to order any new planes in the immediate future. That included the Project Sunrise A350s.

However, Qantas has remained bullish on Project Sunrise. In April, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said he expected to reboot the plan within 12 months.

“I think it is a great strategy for the new environment post-COVID and something that we continue to be excited about. What we have to do is get the right environment. I’m hoping within the next year.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce hopes to reboot Project Sunrise within the next 12 months. Photo: Getty Images

Project Sunrise aircraft potentially a marque order for Airbus

The A350 order, while not large (Qantas was eyeing an order for 12 planes), would nonetheless shine the spotlight on the A350 and its manufacturer, Airbus. So it’s not surprising Airbus remains keen to seal the deal. Speaking to media earlier this week, Airbus Chief Commercial Officier Christian Scherer said;

“It is exactly where we left it off, and with our good friends at Qantas, we’re hoping to be able to  hit the defrost button on the project as soon as possible.”

The vast bulk of Qantas’ international flying remains grounded, but many stakeholders continue to have faith in Project Sunrise and the benefits it offers. Recently, Simple Flying reported the New South Wales Government offered Qantas US$39.7 million to exclusively operate Project Sunrise flights from Sydney for five years. That requirement was one among several the Government offered in exchange for the multi-million dollar subsidy.

Airbus CCO Christian Scherer remains confident the Qantas A350 order will proceed. Photo: Airbus

Prospects of a Sydney-centric Project Sunrise stirs up some controversy

Qantas hasn’t confirmed they’ve taken the deal, only that they are continuing talks. But the prospect of Sydney-centric Project Sunrise flights stirred up controversy among flyers based in Australia’s second-biggest city, Melbourne.

“It would be curious to know whether the Project Sunrise model can work out of a single airport for that period of time, or whether the model is reliant on having both Sydney and Melbourne operating together early on – and whether the New South Wales subsidy is enough to make up the difference over that period of time,” one reader commented to Simple Flying.

“Melbourne is a huge market of five million people, who can already fly to London via Perth or Singapore with Qantas. There would be no compelling reason for Melburnians to fly via Sydney. Also, what happens if a competitor airline decides to fly London-Melbourne direct in that five-year timeframe and steal all of the potential market?”

Meanwhile, the first Project Sunrise flight remains some years off, with the aircraft order not yet placed. However, judging from comments to the media, Qantas and Airbus appear keen to keep the plan on track.

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