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‘Bain’ drops in 21-year-veteran to be new Virgin CCO



Virgin Australia has announced its new chief commercial officer is a 21-year veteran of new owner Bain Capital’s ‘sister’ consultancy firm, Bain & Company.

Dave Emerson has jetted in from Texas to take up the opportunity in Brisbane, and had previously been advising the airline “since last year” in his last role.

The move will likely increase speculation owners Bain Capital want to keep a more watchful eye on their Australian assets by dropping in a trusted lieutenant.

It comes weeks after Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka sparked a national debate when she suggested a vaccinated Australia should open its borders, even if it could potentially lead to some people dying.

After criticism from figures including the Prime Minister, she later said she accepted her comments were hurtful and would “choose different words” if she had her time again.

However, Hrdlicka insisted Emerson had earned an “international reputation for excellence” while advising dozens of major global airlines.


In the new role, he will set and oversee Virgin Australia’s commercial strategy, including revenue management, sales, distribution and marketing, effective immediately.

Emerson will replace Virgin Australia’s current chief commercial officer, John MacLeod who announced his retirement at the start of the year.

“On behalf of the entire Virgin Australia team, I want to sincerely thank John for the important role he has played and all that he has achieved, and wish him all the best in his retirement,” Hrdlicka said.

Bain Capital and Bain & Company are separate businesses but ‘globally affiliated’. Bain & Company is the original consultancy founded in 1973 that later launched separate private equity firm Bain Capital in 1984.

“In 1984, Bill Bain and his partners set out to apply the same results-oriented approach to the private equity market,” reads a statement on Bain & Company’s website.

“As a separate company, Bain Capital shares no management or information with Bain & Company. What we do share, however, is our approach to taking on tough business challenges and our commitment to delivering extraordinary results.”

The news of a high-profile appointment also comes a month after Qantas won a last-minute injunction to stop Virgin Velocity’s ‘defecting’ new CEO from starting his job.

It marked the latest twist in the row between the two airlines, which started after it emerged Rohrlach accepted a job working for Qantas’ loyalty scheme before switching to the Virgin rival shortly afterwards.

Virgin reacted by issuing a statement saying it “categorically denies allegations that it has been anything but proper and appropriate” and is confident it will be “vindicated” in court.

“We look forward to welcoming Mr Rohrlach to the Virgin Australia family with open arms and showing him why we are Australia’s most loved airline with a winning team that attracts the very best,” the business said.

The flag carrier is taking the action because it says it had already shared highly sensitive information while onboarding Rohrlach, who was also the ex co-CEO of Jetsar Japan.

In January, Australian Aviation reported how new Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka’s refreshed senior team included just one executive remaining from predecessor Paul Scurrah’s era.

The new Virgin Australia Group leadership team:

  • Jayne Hrdlicka, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director
  • Stuart Aggs, Chief Operations Officer
  • Lisa Burquest, Chief People Officer
  • Alistair Hartley, Chief Transformation Officer
  • Paul Jones, Chief Customer and Digital Officer
  • David Marr, Chief Financial Officer
  • Nick Rohrlach, CEO Velocity
  • Susan Schneider, Chief Legal and Risk Officer
  • Moksha Watts, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer
  • Dave Emerson, Chief Commercial Officer

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Virgin Hopes To Launch Satellites From A Boeing 747 Next Week



Virgin Orbit has officially set a date for its ‘Tubular Bells’ mission. The Boeing 747-400 packed with seven satellites from three countries will take off on June 30th or in the early days of July, if all goes well. The takeoff, or launch, will take place from Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert.

Virgin Orbit uses a former Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 for its space missions. Photo: Virgin Orbit

All set

In exciting news today, the Richard Branson-backed Virgin Orbit has announced plans for its first Tubular Bells missions. The launch comes after two planned demonstration flights, one unsuccessful one in May 2020 and a successful one in January 2021, paving the way for this first formal flight.

Onboard this aircraft is seven satellites, made from commercial and military missions. Three are CubeSat satellites are for the US Department of Defense Space Test Program. Three are for a private Polish firm SatRevolution, which is launching its first optical satellites as part of its 14-satellite constellation. The final satellite is a CubeSat for the Royal Netherlands Air Force, it’s first for military purposes.

The aircraft comes equipped with ‘Launcher One,’ which contains the satellites. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Virgin uses the CubeSat technology for its missions, which are miniaturized satellites that are only 10cm³ and weigh up to 1.3 kilograms. This means they can easily fit in the underwing ‘Launcher One’ on the specially retrofitted 747.

Virgin Orbit CubeSat
Several CubeSat’s can be carried on the 747 for lower earth orbital missions. Photo: Virgin Orbit

Date Set

In a statement today, Virgin Orbit announced that the date for the first Tubular Bells flight will be June 30th or within the first week of July. This means the launch is just over a week away and marks a big step for the company.

In recent weeks, the special 747-400 (aptly nicknamed ‘Cosmic Girl’) has been undergoing a series of tests. This includes high altitude flight-like pressure tests filled with cryogenic propellants. This is meant to simulate the flights the aircraft will undertake very soon and one that will hopefully go as smoothly as the previous demonstration.

Virgin Orbit Boeing 747-400
The 747 has been undergoing a series of tests to prepare for its first formal Tubular Bells flights. Photo: Virgin Orbit

As we draw closer to the launch, Virgin Orbit will confirm the final date. This will likely depend on flight preparedness, weather conditions, and thousands of other technical factors. Keep an eye out for the final announcement in the next few days.


The aircraft carrying out the first launch flights is Boeing 747-400 registered N744VG and belongs to Virgin Galactic. However, Cosmic Girl began her life as passenger aircraft for Virgin Atlantic in October 2001, registration G-VWOW. After carrying up to 386 passengers for over 14 years, the aircraft was sold to Virgin Galactic to serve as a launchpad for space missions.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 G-VWOW
The passenger 747 has been reconfigured with space for satellite launchers and will likely remain in the fleet for years to come. Photo: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

As Virgin Orbit draws closer to regular orbital deployment flights, expect to see the excitement around the industry grow. Hopefully, in the near future, space travel will become a common phenomenon for average passengers too.

What do you think about Virgin Orbit’s upcoming flight? Let us know in the comments!

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Air India Overtakes SpiceJet To Become Second Largest Domestic Carrier



As the second wave impacted traffic in May, there has been a change in the list of India’s biggest airlines. Air India has officially overtaken SpiceJet to become India’s second-largest airline, with a market share of over 20%. However, total capacity and passenger traffic dropped to a pandemic-era low due to the surge of cases in India.

Air India A321 Getty
Air India’s market share has been slipping since last year, but has jumped this month. Photo: Getty Images


According to DGCA traffic data, May saw a shuffling of airline rankings in India. While IndiGo remains the biggest airline in India, and grew its market share slightly to 55.3%, there were changes further down the list. Most notably, Air India overtook SpiceJet to become India’s second-largest airline by passengers carried in May.

SpiceJet’s market share slipped from 12.3% to 9.4%, while Air India’s jumped from 12% to 20.3% between April and May. However, the flag carrier’s increase is also due to the shrinking market share of GoAir, AirAsia India, and Vistara.

SpiceJet 737
As load factors fell dramatically, SpiceJet slashed schedules, reducing its market share. Photo: Getty Images

It is important to note that May is a bit of an anomaly. The start of the month saw COVID-19 cases in India reach global highs, reaching over daily 414,000 cases at the start of the month. This meant passenger traffic nosedived, as travelers were understandably scared to get on planes. In total, only 2.1 million passengers took to the skies in May 2021, down from 7.8 million in March ’21.

Different story

While Air India’s gains show a big jump in passengers carried, passenger load factors (PLFs) tell a different story. SpiceJet continued to have the highest load factor in May as well, at 64%. Meanwhile, Air India’s PLF fell to a meager 39.3%, meaning less than 40% of its flights were full on average during the month.

This means SpiceJet’s decision to cut capacity likely helped preserve cash as it tried to survive this crisis. Meanwhile, Air India continued to operate capacity and deepened its losses, which are being funded by the government for now.

SpiceJet Q400
SpiceJet’s use of the smaller de Havilland Dash 8 Q400 means higher load factors as well. Photo: Getty Images

GoAir had the second-highest PLF in May at 63.3%, only down from 65.7% in April, although its market share slipped to an all-time low of 3.0%. IndiGo’s PLF slipped from 58.7% to 51.2% as it continued to fly a large part of its network and carried 1.17 million passengers.

Eye on June

Traffic data from June will shed light on whether the change in rankings was a pandemic anomaly or a permanent shift (which seems likely). While traffic has increased in recent weeks, it remains far below levels even in seen in early 2021. This means carriers continue to burn cash at a high rate and fly fewer flights.

IndiGo Airbus A320-200
IndiGo has seen its booking rise quickly as cases fall in India. Photo: Getty Images

The government has also capped flights at 50% of scheduled capacity, preventing airlines from quickly adding flights on high-demand routes. This means recovery to even 80% remains a few quarters away, while a full recovery seems out of reach until early 2022. For now, Indian airlines are more focused on saving cash and surviving the crisis than increasing their market share.

What do you think about India’s aviation recovery? Will these figures hold? Let us know in the comments!

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Opinion: Will Online Meetings Replace Business Travel?



Depending on who you ask, business travel is significantly changed or just taking a couple of years off. Zoom was great fun for a month or two, but it got old fast for most people. But Zoom and the many other video conferencing offerings are cheap, efficient, and a potentially serious threat to the future of business travel.

Has Zoom changed business travel forever? Photo: Ontario International Airport

Business travelers make up 12% of all travelers but account for 75% of profits

Business travel is travel undertaken for work purposes. That could be to attend a meeting, convention, or site visit. The common factor is you interact with people face-to-face. Business travel was worth US$1.28 trillion in 2019. That didn’t all go to airlines. Hotels, convention centers, restaurants, and bars are also big beneficiaries.

Business travelers are usually big-spending travelers. That makes them important from a profit perspective. Business travelers accounted for just 12% of the world’s total airline passengers in 2019, but they contributed about 75% of the airline industry’s profits.

Naturally, airlines everywhere want them back. In their public statements, most airline CEOs are upbeat about the return of business travel. They correctly point out video conferencing can never replace a handshake or quiet one-on-one conversation.

“I don’t believe the people who say ‘everything will be digital in the future,” SWISS International Air Lines CEO Dieter Vranckx told the recent Routes Reconnected Conference, “I think the balance will be in the middle.”

“Our bet is that business travel is going to come back, and that is because business travel is about human relationships and human interactions,” says United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “And as tough as this pandemic has been, it has not changed human desire to be together.”

“Businessmen like to face people, they like to feel people, they like to notice the body language,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has said.

Business travelers make up 12% of all travelers but account for 75% of profits. Photo: Ontario International Airport

Can a laptop camera replace a coffee together?

Airline CEOs have a clear interest in promoting business travel. They couch their messaging in terms of public safety, timelines, and best practice, but the messaging is all about getting people onto planes and revenue into the airline’s coffers.

Video conferencing bosses have a different agenda to push. They want more people working home using their software. Zoom is the best-known beneficiary of this trend. Zoom’s earning have increased tenfold in the last year. But even Zoom’s CEO,  Eric Yuan, thinks his product has its limitations. Video-conferencing may replace a day return flight to nut out some terms in a contract, but it won’t replace that spur-of-the-moment face-to-face conversation that led to the deal in the first place.

Video conferencing bosses like Yuan see their software helping to entrench the hybrid workplace, where employees split their time between working from home and going into the office. Interestingly, that may increase business travel down the track.

Video conferencing bosses see hybrid workplaces as the future for many. Photo: Getty Images

Finding the medium between being at home and getting out and about

Eric Yuan sees a future where employees work from home three days a week and perhaps hop on a flight Wednesday night to whizz over to the office two states away for the rest of the week. Scott Kirby has also suggested that this model might be the future of work for many people. It is one reason why Kirby has remained upbeat about the return of business travel. All those mid-week business travelers would be a tasty revenue stream for airlines like United.

It could work out nicely for both airline and video conferencing CEOs and shareholders if that pans out. After a bumpy year with many online meetings, most people agree there is a happy medium between being at home and getting out and about. Most people also agree there is only so much video conferencing the average human can cheerfully tolerate. Kirby says.

“Business travel is not about transactions. It’s about relationships, building and maintaining relationships, and you just can’t do that through video, and so I continue–we’ve made the bet that business travel is coming back.”

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Qantas 737 captain and first officer ‘incapacitated’ in mayday incident



The Qantas 737-376, VH-XMO, was involved in the incident (ATSB)
The Qantas 737-376, VH-XMO, was involved in the incident (ATSB)

Both the captain and first officer of a Qantas Freight 737 were left temporarily “incapacitated” after ingesting “gaseous oxygen” in a mayday incident in 2018.

An ATSB report reveals the captain was left “gagging” and “gasping for air” on the Express Freighters Australia aircraft travelling between Brisbane to Melbourne. The first officer then subsequently suffered “incapacitating symptoms consistent with hyperventilation”.

The aircraft landed safely in Canberra, and at no point was both pilots simultaneously incapacitated.

The incident was sparked by the flickering of a caution light and the breathing troubles a result of pilots selecting the emergency flow setting while manipulating the oxygen mask settings.

Qantas Freight told Australian Aviation, “After this incident occurred back in 2018, we updated our policy on how pilots troubleshoot technical issues during flights to avoid these actions inadvertently causing other consequences as occurred in this incident.”

The 737-376SF aircraft, VH-XMO, operated by Express Freighters Australia, was conducting a scheduled freight flight from Brisbane to Melbourne on the evening of 15 August 2018 with two flight crew on board. During cruise the crew observed the master caution warning light flickering, and then identified that the right wing-body overheat annunciator was illuminating.

In response the flight crew actioned the non-normal checklist. When this did not resolve the overheat indication, the crew then conducted further troubleshooting in consultation with line maintenance operations personnel in Sydney.


As the flight progressed towards Narrandera, the crew identified that the cabin pressure was reducing, commenting to each other that they both felt slightly unwell. As the cabin altitude continued to climb and anticipating that it would exceed 10,000 feet, the crew elected to don the emergency oxygen masks and advised air traffic control that they had commenced a descent.

During the initial phases of that descent, the captain became temporarily incapacitated due to ingesting an increased supply of oxygen. This was due to the captain selecting the emergency flow setting while manipulating the oxygen mask settings.

The report said gaseous oxygen resulted in a “choking and gagging response”.

“The first officer, cognisant that they had previously discussed feeling unwell, observed the captain slumped forward, gagging, and gasping for air,” said the ATSB. “The first officer recalled checking on the captain during this episode but not receiving a response.”

Australian Aviation understand this incapacitation lasted only momentarily.

The first officer then declared a mayday, advising of issues with the aircraft and that they had commenced an emergency decent. The flight was subsequently diverted to Canberra Airport.

After the captain had recovered, the first officer experienced incapacitating symptoms consistent with hyperventilation. The captain then declared a PAN PAN radio call to air traffic control, informing of the first officer’s incapacitation and requesting the attendance of emergency services on arrival at Canberra. The aircraft was landed without further incident.

The ATSB’s investigation identified that the intermittent flickering of the master caution light and overheat annunciator was likely due to an electrical fault in the right wing-body overheat detection system.

A fault with a valve in the aircraft air conditioning system prevented isolation of the right wing-body duct, which led the crew to conduct further troubleshooting during which the cabin air supply was reduced. In conjunction with a higher than normal cabin leak rate, the reduced airflow also lessened the cabin pressure.

“The flight crew responded to the cabin pressure reduction by donning their oxygen masks and descending the aircraft,” said the ATSB’s director of transport safety, Stuart Macleod.

“During the descent, the captain selected emergency flow on the oxygen mask resulting in an ingestion of gaseous oxygen, causing their temporary incapacitation.

“After the flight was diverted to Canberra, the first officer then experienced symptoms consistent with hyperventilation, leading the captain to declare the first officer incapacitated.”

After landing, both the captain and first officer were transported to hospital via ambulance for medical assessment. Post‑occurrence medical testing and assessments did not identify lasting effects from the flight.

Separately, the aircraft was inspected by maintenance personnel.

“Maintenance engineers identified a range of serviceability issues with the aircraft fuselage cabin drain valves, fuselage door seal, and the auxiliary power unit duct bellow seal that affected the capacity for the aircraft to hold cabin pressure,” Macleod said.

Subsequent to the occurrence the operator implemented a range of changes to its maintenance program, including incorporating a functional check of the cabin drain valves; specifically verifying the integrity of the auxiliary power unit duct bellows seal; and introducing an enhanced aircraft cabin pressurisation system check.

“This occurrence is a reminder to flight crews of the hazards of dealing with system malfunctions that are not resolved using the approved non-normal checklist procedures,” said Macleod.

“Configuration changes to an aircraft system may induce other effects due to underlying unserviceable components that may not be immediately apparent.”

The investigation also reminds flight crews to be aware that non‑normal situations can lead to a misapplication of emergency equipment in the moment that it is actually needed. In this case the selection of the emergency flow setting on the fixed oxygen system resulted in a temporary incapacitation of the captain.

Qantas added, “While these freighter aircraft were maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ requirements, we have since put in place additional checks to the maintenance program.”

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