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Flybe Loses Legacy London Slots As CAA Revokes Operating License



Despite appealing directly to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Flybe 2.0 has failed to stop its predecessor’s operating license from being revoked. Shapps upheld the decision of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, so the license was ended on June 3rd. That means Flybe’s valuable legacy slots at Heathrow will now be returned to the slot coordinator.

Flybe’s revival has hit a snag as the legacy Heathrow slots have been lost. Photo: Getty Images

Heathrow slots lost for the new Flybe

The all-new Flybe is facing a significant hurdle to its hoped-for launch later in the year. Following an earlier decision of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to revoke the carriers operating license, the new Flybe had appealed directly to the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to step in.

However, the outcome of the appeal has not gone Flybe’s way. As reported by the Telegraph, Shapps backed the decision of the CAA to revoke the license, confirming the ruling on June 3rd.

While the revocation of the license won’t prevent Flybe from operating – it has already obtained a new license for the new airline – it does have an impact on the collateral that came with the old Flybe. Most important of that was its Heathrow slots, which will no longer be a part of the package.

Had the old license been upheld, the new Flybe would have had the choice of operating to London Heathrow in line with its capacity allocation. However, the worry for the CAA was that the new airline had no intention of operating the slots, and could therefore have sold them for an eye-watering amount of money.

Flybe Dash-8-400
Flybe’s LHR slots are estimated to be worth around £10 million on the sale market. Photo: Getty Images.

The Telegraph estimates that the seven pairs of slots under Flybe’s ownership could be worth around £10 million ($14 million). Pre-pandemic, they might have been worth a lot more. Whether Flybe would have operated or sold the slots is academic now, however, as they will be returned to the slot coordinators for redeployment.

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What’s next for the new Flybe?

At present, the loss of the former operating license doesn’t seem to have deterred the startup’s investors from committing to a relaunch. Despite lawyers working for the administrator EY telling the CAA earlier in the year that the slots are essential for the business, there’s been no sign of the deal falling through as a result of the decision.

Indeed, a spokesperson for EY told the Telegraph,

“The decision will not impact the wider administration or the sale of the company’s business or assets to the purchaser, Flybe Limited, formerly known as Thyme Opco Limited. The new entity, Flybe Limited, is independently and separately licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority, and will continue to hold a valid and active licence.”

flybe Dash 8 400
Just one aircraft remains registered to the new airline. Photo: Getty Images.

However, the final fate of the new Flybe rests in the hands of Cyrus Capital, the investor leading the revival of the carrier. Things have been moving forward, with a single aircraft stored in Exeter registered to the new airline. The Dash 8-Q400 arrived in February from Zagreb, but has not operated any flights since early March.

According to ch-aviation, the new Flybe did secure some additional slots for limited services from London Heathrow. These are to Aberdeen Dyce and Edinburgh, and would see it fully taking over British Airways’ presence on these routes. However, no route has been launched, and the slots are unsecured after the end of the summer season.

The Telegraph notes that slots were also secured at Birmingham and Manchester, giving hope that the airline’s revival could be afoot. But the new Flybe will need more than one plane and a handful of slots to make a meaningful comeback. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Swoop Targets Growth With Fall Return For International Routes



Canadian ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop has high hopes for international travel this fall as it releases its winter schedule. The airline shared today that the expanded schedule will see the resumption of services to the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

Swoop Hamilton 737
Swoop emphasizes that it is the first Canadian carrier to fully reintroduce all its aircraft. Photo: Swoop

Time for a change

United States and Canada-based airline advocacy groups have been putting pressure on authorities to open the border between the countries. Travel has been heavily restricted between the two neighbors since the beginning of the pandemic, rocking aviation activity for over a year, and organizations are thinking enough is enough.

There have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks. For instance, Canadian Health Minister Patty Hadju spoke this week of a phased reopening plan that could begin early next month. Also, Global News reports today that US congressman and co-chair of the Northern Border Caucus Brian Higgins shared that US president Joe Biden wants the border open.

With these prospects, Canadian airlines are preparing to ramp up services. Swoop highlights that daily bookings have been matching pre-pandemic figures. Thus, along with the scale-up of flights, the carrier is going ahead with its fleet growth plans and introducing its 10th Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft before 2022 hits.

Swoop 737 Interior
Amid the restrictions, flights across the Canada-United States border have been for essential travel only. Photo: Swoop

Booking rebounds

Swoop president Charles Duncan spoke about activity heading into the second half of the year. With demand increasing, his firm is highlighting its offerings that run in line with the release of new schedules. The airline will be flying internationally from Toronto, Hamilton, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Abbotsford.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for travel this summer, most especially in provinces where vaccination and re-opening plans are on track and clearly outlined. With the release of our winter schedule, those who are planning further ahead or dreaming of a vacation abroad can find our always affordable flights and Getaway packages available for booking through April 2022,” Duncan shared in a statement.

“Consumer confidence is coming back, and the message is clear, Canadians are ready to start planning that long overdue trip. When travellers are ready, we look forward to safely welcoming them back onboard our aircraft.”

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Balancing the network

Swoop is proud to announce that it will be flying to vacation hotspots such as Las Vegas, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Montego Bay. Duncan previously told Simple Flying that capacity had been down by 90% earlier this year due to the tough conditions. In contrast, US carriers were generally down between 20-30%. As a result of the restrictions, there was a refined focus on domestic routes, with moves such as new operations to Victoria and the return and addition of new routes to Kelowna.

Swoop 737 Jet
Flights on the scheduled winter service with the Boeing 737 aircraft will start from CA$40 one way. Photo: Swoop

Flair won’t be the only ultra-low-cost carrier keeping an eye on border reopening progress this summer. Fellow Canadian outfit Flair Airlines, which has also been largely concentrating on domestic services in recent months, would also be keen on returning international flights as it sends its new 737 MAX aircraft to the skies.

Altogether, Swoop will be glad that there is optimism across the network again. The airline will be glad to deploy more 737s, which it dubs the perfect aircraft for its routes.

What are your thoughts about Swoop’s ambitions for the end of the year? Are you looking to hit the skies with the airline soon? Let us know what you think of the carrier and its prospects in the comment section.

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Spirit Airlines Just Made The Best Argument For Lifting LaGuardia’s Perimeter Rule



On Saturday, June 12th, Spirit Airlines made the best argument for lifting the perimeter rule at LaGuardia or at least relaxing it. The airline inaugurated services on the airport’s only transcontinental services, flying an Airbus A320neo nonstop from LaGuardia Airport (LGA) in New York to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Simple Flying got a chance to fly on the inaugural.

Spirit Airbus A320neo
Spirit Airlines has launched a new LGA-LAX nonstop route, and it is a testament to what service could be like if the LaGuardia perimeter rule were relaxed. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Spirit’s LaGuardia to Los Angeles flight

Spirit Airlines announced in March that it would launch LaGuardia’s only transcontinental route to Los Angeles starting on June 12th. Using an Airbus A320neo, this flight would run once a week on Saturdays.

Spirit Airlines is a relatively small player at LaGuardia, though it is trying to grow as much as possible at the airport. The airline’s operations are currently split across two terminals.

All flights to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) depart out of Terminal A. Every other flight out of LaGuardia, including to Los Angeles, departs out of Terminal C. LaGuardia flyers will know Terminal C is heavily utilized by Delta Air Lines.

The iconic “Welcome To New York” sign at LaGuardia. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

LaGuardia is governed by a perimeter rule. For nearly 40 years, the airport has been restricted to handle flights only within a 1,500-mile radius from the airport as a means to reduce congestion and push airlines toward New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is the flight to Denver, and the second is on Saturdays. On Saturdays, the perimeter rule is relaxed, and airlines can add leisure flying on a day where traffic is usually lower at the primarily business-centric airport.

The inaugural flight

Early in the morning on June 12th, I made my way to LaGuardia’s Terminal C to catch the 07:20 departure to Los Angeles. There is a lot of construction going on at LaGuardia, so plan some extra time in case you take a wrong turn, or you have unfamiliarity with the airport.

Terminal C is home to Delta Air Lines, WestJet, Frontier Airlines, and Spirit. Delta dominates. Spirit Airlines has a baggage drop-off and check-in counter located on the left-hand side of security when entering.

Spirit Big Ftont
I booked into a Big Front Seat on this flight. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

If you are flying this summer, plan to arrive at the airport early to get through security. Plenty of passengers on the flight to Los Angeles felt the bottleneck here. You can save on time through security by enrolling in CLEAR or TSA PreCheck for expedited security screening. I have both, so I was through security in minutes.

There was not much pomp and circumstance at the gate to celebrate the inaugural flight, though there was clearly a buzz among the employees.

Boarding started about 45 minutes before departure and was efficient. It seemed that much of the aircraft was going out empty (despite the seat map showing it as an almost full flight). Then, however, the plane started to fill up as passengers were held up with the long security line.

Spirit A320neo
The legroom was comparable to a domestic first class seat on other airlines. Photo: Jay Singh | Simple Flying

Onboard, Spirit Airlines outfits its Airbus A320neos with room for 182 passengers. The Airbus A320neo is the next-generation version of the popular Airbus A320 family, and Spirit Airlines is a major customer of this type. The carrier has even ramped up deliveries of the aircraft over the next few years.

I chose to book in Spirit’s Big Front Seat for the flight to Los Angeles, which was a great deal. I paid under $200 for the one-way flight with the upgrade. This is essentially a domestic first class style of hard product, though it does not have any other frills.

Our flight time across the country was just under five hours and 15 minutes. We departed roughly on time and landed in Los Angeles about 20 minutes ahead of schedule in what has to be one of the smoothest landings I have ever experienced.

Spirit LGA-LAX
The inaugural Spirit Airlines flight between LaGuardia and Los Angeles. Photo:

The flight is blocked to depart LaGuardia at 07:20 and arrive in Los Angeles at 10:10 (all times are local). The return flight departs LAX at 13:27 and arrives in LaGuardia at 21:52 (all times are local).

Given the length of this flight, Spirit’s flight attendants conduct multiple services down the aisle. Passengers will have to pay for food and beverages, though if you have Gold Status, you can get a complimentary inflight snack and nonalcoholic beverage.

What was really special was the flight attendants. In the last few weeks, as passengers have retaken to the skies, I have had some very excited and happy crew, glad to welcome people back onboard. The same was true on this flight, though the flight attendants were even more enthused about the airline’s new loyalty program and provided plenty of detailed information about it inflight.

Spirit Getty
The new Free Spirit loyalty program launched earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images

Spirit’s flight is an argument for lifting the rule

The adage “show not tell” rings true. While some airlines have pushed hard for lifting the perimeter rule at LaGuardia in the last decade, no airline has serviced the LGA-LAX route in nearly 15 years.

There are many reasons why airlines would not want to fly once a week on this route. First and foremost, a weeklong trip starting on Saturdays generally targets a leisure-oriented customer base. Still, the New York to Los Angeles market is also a heavy business travel market.

Seeking consistency, airlines tend to schedule their transcontinental operations out of either New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) over in New Jersey.

Spirit A320neo
Spirit Airlines has also shown itself willing to service transcontinental routes in other markets. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The problem with this route is that there is no low-cost competition on the route. While there are some deals to be had on this route, finding something comparable to what Spirit Airlines charges with the potential buy-up to the Big Front Seat is very difficult.

New York-JFK is far too expensive of an airport for Spirit Airlines to operate from. Plus, it has a reputation of being mostly an international and business-oriented airport, not the crowd that Spirit is necessarily going after.

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Meanwhile, Newark is not easily accessible for a large swath of New York City-area travelers. While it is considered an area airport and United Airlines has tried to push the airport hard as an option for New Yorkers, United’s return to JFK shows a significant market that is not willing to trek over to New Jersey to catch a transcontinental flight.

Spirit LAX
Spirit is the only ultra-low-cost carrier flying between New York and Los Angeles. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The other options are much further away from New York City and include Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip (ISP), Stewart International Airport (SWF), and Westchester County Airport (HPN). Unfortunately, none of these are very viable options for targeting New York City travelers.

While airlines battle out for premium customers on the route, Spirit Airlines can offer a low-fare alternative to fly between New York City and Los Angeles, which is unavailable otherwise. Save for avgeeks like myself, there is little overlap between the customers who fly JetBlue Mint, Delta One, United Polaris, or American’s Flagship First to Los Angeles and Spirit’s customers.

At the end of the day, willing to try a once-a-week flight, Spirit Airlines has shown what things could be like if the perimeter rule at LaGuardia were lifted in a manner that enabled for additional low-cost growth in the New York area. However, whether that rule will be lifted or relaxed remains to be seen and is not without opposition.

Would you fly Spirit between LaGuardia and Los Angeles? Do you think LaGuardia’s perimeter rule should be relaxed? Let us know in the comments!

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Did You Know? China Used To Build The Embraer ERJ145



The Embraer ERJ series is a popular family of regional jets that sees service all over the world. The family has also had several military derivatives among its 1,231 production examples. However, did you know that, despite being a Brazilian company, some of Embraer’s ERJ145s (the family’s largest variant) were produced in China? Let’s take a look at the manufacturer’s former involvement with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG).

American ERJ
Embraer’s partnership with the HAIG began in 2003. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The ERJ145 in a nutshell

Embraer launched its EMB 120 ‘Brasilia’ turboprop in the mid-1980s. However, by the end of the decade, it wanted something more. This led it to launch the ERJ145, a turbofan-powered stretch of its existing commuter aircraft, which it unveiled in 1989. It would have a capacity in the region of 50 seats, compared to the EMB 120’s 30 passengers.

The ERJ145 retained the EMB 120’s three-abreast seating configuration. The 29.87-meter long plane first flew in August 1995, and received its type certificate in December 1996. Its eventual introduction into revenue-earning service followed in April 1997. One of the family’s main competitors is the Canadian-built Bombardier CRJ series.

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American Eagle ERJ140
American Eagle presently flies the ERJ140 and ERJ145. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Within two years, Embraer has launched two shorter versions of the aircraft, the smallest of which was the ERJ135. This model is 26.33 meters long, and typically has 37 seats. Meanwhile, the mid-sized ERJ140 is 28.45 meters long, and with a 44-seat cabin. All three models feature swept wings that have a total span of 20.04 meters in width.

What is the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group?

For 13 years, Embraer produced some of its ERJ145s in China. This was the result of a joint venture with the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group (HAIG). This company came into being 69 years ago, in 1952. Its aim at the time was to produce airliners for the Chinese domestic market. It takes its name from the city of Harbin, in Heilongjiang Province.

Harbin Y-12
The Harbin Y-12 was a development of the original Y-11. Photo: Allen Zhao via Wikimedia Commons

The aircraft that it produced were generally licensed copies of Soviet planes, with both military and commercial designs shared. For example, its H-5 light bomber was a copy of Ilyushin’s Il-28. However, production was limited, with just over 300 H-5s built compared to more than 6,000 Il-28s. Some of its designs were its own, like the Y-11 utility plane.

13 years of Chinese production

While seemingly unrelated at first glance, the two worlds of the ERJ145 and the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group collided in 2003. This was when Embraer established a joint-venture company with the Chinese manufacturer, known as the Harbin Embraer Aircraft Industry. This represented the start of a 13-year spell of Chinese ERJ145 production.

Embraer Legacy 650
Harbin also produced five Embraer Legacy 650s between 2003 and 2016. Photo: David Merrett via Flickr

Harbin assembled examples of the ERJ145 for Chinese carriers, although the parts were shipped in from Embraer’s facilities elsewhere in the world. In total, the partnership resulted in the production of over 40 ERJ145s in China, as well as five Embraer Legacy 650s. The legacy is a business jet variant of Embraer’s existing ERJ family.

The joint venture eventually came to an end in March 2016, after 13 years of Chinese ERJ145 production. The last delivery of a Harbin-built ERJ145 took place in March that year. Four years later, in 2020, the production of the ERJ series ended altogether. Many examples remain active in both military and commercial service with regional carriers worldwide.

Did you know about the Harbin Aircraft Industry Group’s involvement with Embraer? Have you ever flown on an ERJ145? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Lufthansa Subsidiary Eurowings Discover Plans Zimbabwe Flights



Lufthansa’s new long-haul leisure airline Eurowings Discover plans to connect Europe with Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in March 2022.  Starting in the spring of 2022, Eurowings Discover plans to operate three flights per week from Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) via a stop at Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) in Windhoek, Namibia.

Eurowings Discover
The flight from Germany to Namibia takes over ten hours. Photo: Lufthansa

Eurowings Discover will deploy one of its Airbus A330 aircraft on the new route as it goes head to head with German charter airline Condor Flugdienst on long-haul leisure routes. Initially, the airline plans to fly to the African tourist hot spot on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.

Frankfurt to Windhoek takes over ten hours

The flight time on the first leg of the journey between Frankfurt and Germany takes ten hours and 30 minutes and could prove popular with Germans wishing to travel to the former German South West Africa colony. While there has not yet been a mention of how long the plane will stay on the ground to refuel or if passengers will be allowed to get off the plane.

The flight makes a stop in Windhoek. Image GCmaps

If Singapore Airlines fifth freedom flight between Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)-Narita International Airport (NRT)- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is anything to go by, the stopover takes just over an hour, and passengers are allowed to get off and reboard.

VFA can handle widebody aircraft

While not as arduous a journey as the first leg, the flight time between Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) and Victoria Falls Airport (VFA) is a pleasant one hour and 35 minutes. Rebuilt In April 2013, thanks to a $150 million loan from Exim Bank of China, the airport and its new 13,123 foot (4,000 meters) runaway can handle aircraft as large as a Boeing 747.

The old runway at Victoria Falls Airports is now used as a taxiway. Photo: Eurowings

When commenting on the new Eurowings Discover Frankfurt to Victoria Falls flights, Zimbabwean news website quotes Eurowings Discover as making the following remarks in a statement:

“Eurowings Discover is excited to announce that with effect from March 30, 2022, our Sub-Sahara Africa network will grow, offering three weekly flights from Frankfurt to Victoria Falls, thus further strengthening our commitment to the region and expanding our footprint in Africa.”

Victoria Falls is a tourist magnet

Since David Livingston first discovered it on 16 November, 1855 Victoria Falls has become a tourist magnet for people around the globe. In the local Sotho language, the 354 foot (108 meters) high waterfall is called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which, when translated into English, means “the smoke that thunders.” Regarded as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, the sheer power of the Zambezi River cascading over a cliff never disappoints.

Victoria Falls is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Photo: Eurowings

Besides visiting Victoria Falls to take in its slender, the journey to Southern Africa also allows thrill-seekers to check off a couple of items from their bucket list. The top adrenaline rush things to do at Victoria falls are:

  • Whitewater rafting through up to 24 Grade 3-5 rapids on the mighty Zambezi River.
  • Bakota Gorge Swing-Attach yourself to a harness and freefall 330 feet before the rope tightens, and you swing across the river in a 95-degree arc.
  • Bungee jump 365 feet from the center of the Victoria Falls bridge.
  • Swim out to the Devil’s Pool and gaze over the falls into the abyss below.

For many people, the chance to visit Victoria Falls and Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime event that the Lufthansa Group and its Eurowings Discover airline is making possible. You have got until March 2022, so start saving now.

What do you think about Eurowings Discover’s new proposed route to Victoria Falls? Please tell us what you think in the comments.

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