Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press Staff | Wednesday, April 28, 2021
OTTAWA — Internal documents suggest it took about half a year for the federal government to take action on air-passenger refunds after it first identified “gaps” in the rules.
Emails between Transport Canada and the Canadian Transportation Agency, the federal airline watchdog, reveal that back in May 2020, officials highlighted regulatory blind spots around reimbursing passengers whose flights were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One discussion document, recently released to the House of Commons transport committee, says the pandemic exposed holes in the regulatory framework.
“There are no clear and consistent ground rules for how passengers should be treated in circumstances when it is impossible for the airlines to complete passengers’ itineraries,” the document says.
But the correspondence suggests the issue barely resurfaced internally until shortly before then-transport minister Marc Garneau directed the agency on Dec. 21 to strengthen the refund rules, which have not yet been put into place.
Bloc Quebecois transport critic Xavier Barsalou-Duval says the government showed no willingness to tackle the issue through most of 2020.
NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach says Canadians deserve an explanation as to “why it took so long” to act.
“If you just look through the documents, it looks like they took the summer off, almost. It’s troubling because the amount of money that Canadians are owed — most of them are still owed that money — is a huge amount,” Bachrach said.
Earlier this month, Ottawa announced an aid package for Air Canada in exchange for a pledge to refund passengers, among other conditions, but several other airlines are still refusing reimbursement.
The emails also underscore Canada’s weak passenger protection laws compared to some countries, despite a new passenger rights charter that came fully into effect in December 2019.
Details included in the correspondence note that the United States and European Union require airlines to fully refund passengers “if the airline cancelled a flight, regardless of the reason.” In Canada, however, reimbursement hinges on the tariff — the contract between passenger and carrier — as “no refund obligation” exists.
“Repeatedly the minister already said that he had no ability to mandate the refunds, that the (transportation agency) was an arm’s-length body, that we should look at the waivers that come with the airline tickets,” Bachrach said.
“And yet we see in December that indeed the minister was able to do something. But at that point airlines had been sitting on billions of dollars of Canadians’ hard-earned money in the midst of a pandemic, when a lot of families had been financially devastated.”
The Transport Department and transportation agency did not respond immediately to requests for comment Wednesday.
In December, Garneau instructed the agency to craft a new regulation that is “fair and reasonable” to passengers whose flights are cancelled for reasons beyond the carrier’s control, “such as a pandemic.”
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a gap in the air passenger protection framework, which did not foresee the potential for large-scale and lengthy flight cancellations and groundings of air carrier fleets not only in Canada but globally,” he said, using language mirroring what was written in the documents more than seven months earlier.
Scott Streiner, chair and chief executive of the quasi-judicial agency, has said it aims to have the new regulations in place by the summer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2021.
How Do Chinese Jetliners Compare To Their Airbus & Boeing Equivalents?
Airbus and Boeing have a near-duopoly in the domain of jet-powered commercial aircraft. However, China is looking to become a more significant player in this market, with multiple jetliners set to launch in the next decade. With this in mind, let’s take a look at how these aircraft, and the country’s existing and historic jetliners, compare to similar designs from industry juggernauts Airbus and Boeing.
The Shanghai Y-10
One historical example of a Chinese that bears strong parallels to a Boeing aircraft is the Shanghai Y-10. The Shanghai Aircraft Research Institute developed this four-engine narrowbody jetliner in the 1970s. Of course, by this time, Boeing had already launched a single-aisle quadjet: the 707 family. In fact, the parallels are no accident, with the Shanghai Aircraft Research Institute reportedly having used the 707-320C as a reference point for the Y-10.
In terms of its specifications, the Y-10 was closer to the smaller 707-120. Size-wise, it was around 1.3 meters shorter than the 707-120 (42.93 m vs 44.22 m). Correspondingly, it carried slightly fewer passengers (149 vs 174 one-class, 124 vs 137 two-class).
However, it did match the 707-120 in terms of range. Indeed, both designs could fly for around 5600 km (3,000 NM) with a maximum payload. However, the 707-120 could carry more weight while doing so (123,500 kg maximum takeoff weight vs 102-110,000 kg).
Ultimately, just three Y-10s were produced, with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) refusing to take the aircraft on. As a result of this failure, the Shanghai Aircraft Research Institute turned its focus to the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 instead. It was granted permission to assemble the aircraft under license in November 1986.
The COMAC ARJ21
In terms of Chinese jetliners that are commercially active today, there is just one example: the COMAC ARJ21 Xiangfeng (‘Soaring Phoenix’). While COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China) first revealed the ARJ (Advanced Regional Jet) in December 2007, it did not enter service until June 2016. Today, Planespotters.net reports that 55 have been produced.
Being a small regional jet, the aircraft from the Airbus-Boeing duopoly that the ARJ21 is closest to would have to be the Airbus A220-100. The stretched-fuselage ARJ21-900 is 36.35 meters long, and carries between 98 and 105 passengers.
This gives it a slight degree of overlap with the 35-meter long A220-100, which has a capacity of 100-120 seats. However, in truth, these two aircraft were built to serve rather different functions. While their size and capacity may be similar, the regional-focused ARJ21-900 has a range (ER version) of up to 3,300 km (1,800 NM). Meanwhile, the A220-100 can fly nearly twice as far, clocking in with an impressive range of 6,390 km / 3,450 NM).
Upcoming COMAC designs
In addition to its existing ARJ21 series, COMAC also has two new designs in the pipeline, which are set to enter service in the next decade. Indeed, its narrowbody C919 is tipped to be certified by the end of the year. While this 158-seater can’t match the range of the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX 8 (5,555 km / 3,000 NM vs 6,500 km / 3,500 NM and 6,570 km / 3,550 NM respectively), Airbus’s CEO believes it will still provide stiff competition.
COMAC is also teaming up with Russia‘s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) to challenge Airbus and Boeing in the long-haul domain. The two manufacturers hope to have their CRAIC (China-Russia Commercial Aircraft International Corporation) CR929 in service by 2029.
Simple Flying took a closer look at the aircraft, and how it compares to its European and US competitors, earlier this year. It will be interesting to see how the project pans out, and whether it will ultimately succeed in penetrating the duopoly when service commences.
Have you ever flown on any of these Chinese airliners? Of the ones yet to enter service, which are you most excited about? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
Emirates Reportedly Gearing Up For Tel Aviv Flights
Following the normalizing of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last August, it now appears that the state-owned carrier Emirates is gearing up to commence flights to the Jewish state starting in June. When the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement was signed by Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, the UAE became the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to normalize relations with Israel.
A normalization of relations meant that the two countries would set up diplomatic missions and allow visa-free travel, effectively opening up both to business and tourism. Realizing the potential, airlines in both countries almost immediately started planning their routes.
To make matters even better, Saudi Arabia, who does not recognize Israel, agreed to a request by the UAE to open up its airspace for flights between Israel and the Gulf State. This alleviated the need for commercial aircraft to circumnavigate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, cutting hours off some flight routes.
Flights between DXB and TLV
Since commercial flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE began in November, EL AL, Israir, Etihad, and flydubai are all operating direct flights between the two counties. It was always assumed that at some point that Emirates would announce that it too would be offering flights between Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Ben Gurion Airport (TLV).
The only concern was that another state-owned carrier, flydubai works in close partnership with Emirates and would negate the need for Emirates to jump into the mix.
Daily non-stop Boeing 777-300ER flights
It seems that Emirates will commence flights between Dubai and Tel Aviv starting June 15, 2021. According to One Mile At A Time, an internal Emirates internal communication says that the airline will be deploying a three-cabin configured Boeing 777-300ER on the route. The daily Emirates nonstop flights between Dubai (DXB) and Tel Aviv (TLV) will be as follows:
- Flight number EK931 will depart DXB at 14:40 and arrive at TLV at 17:05
- Flight number EK932 will depart TLV at 19:50 and arrive at DXB at 23:50
The Emirates flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai will come as fantastic news for Israeli tourists and business flyers who can now take better advantage of Emirates worldwide network that originates from its massive hub at DXB.
New premium economy seats
In other Emirates-related news, the Dubai-based carrier plans to showcase its new premium economy seats for the first time at the 2021 Arabian Travel Market. The regions leading travel and tourism exhibition will take place at the Dubai World Trade Centre between the 16th and 19th of May.
The highly anticipated premium economy seats will be on display at the Emirates stand for visitors to experience its generous 19.5-inch width and abundant 40-degree pitch. Inspired by automobile-styled stitching, the seats are covered in cream-colored anti-stain leather and have the same wood paneling found in Emirates business class offerings. The seats come with six-way adjustable headrests, footrests, a large dining table, and plenty of storage and powerpoints.
What do you think about the new Emirates flights to Tel Aviv? Please let us know what you think in the comments.
In Flight Chefs Set To Return To Turkish Airlines Flights Over 8 Hours
Long-haul business class travelers with Turkish Airlines can once more enjoy the carrier’s award-winning Flying Chef service. Since May 1st, the characteristic white hats can again be seen whipping up premium onboard meals on flights lasting longer than eight hours.
For those who have been able to travel at all over the past twelve months, flying has been a very different experience. Social distancing at airports, face masks, and a negative test certificate that is almost as indispensable as your passport have all become part and parcel of air travel. Onboard catering and meal services have mostly shrunk to a shadow of their usual self. However, more and more in-flight dining options are making their way back to a tray table near you.
Distinguishing aspect of the airline
Turkish Airlines reinstated their onboard dining and hot meal service just last month. At the beginning of May, it took a step further towards the ways of old (meaning pre-pandemic) and brought back its Flying Chefs. The high-flying culinary service is available to business class travelers on flights lasting longer than eight hours.
“Throughout the past year, we’ve had to make many adjustments to our product and service offerings to protect the health and safety of our passengers and employees. Our award-winning dining service and Flying Chefs program is a distinguishing aspect of the airline, and we are happy to reintroduce this to our worldwide guests to make the flight experience as comfortable and enjoyable as possible,” Ilker Ayci, Turkish Airlines’ Chairman of the Board, said in a statement.
A step up from cold boxes and no coffee
Turkish Airlines, which recently became the fourth airline in the world on the COVID-19 safety ranking, has repeatedly won acclaim for its in-flight meal service. In 2019, it was ranked number five in the world by the Skytrax World Airline Awards for business class onboard catering.
The carrier first resumed hot meal service provided by DO & CO on flights over two and 15 minutes at the beginning of last month. During its most severe in-flight dining cutbacks, business class meals were served cold in prepackaged boxes, and there was no coffee or tea onboard.
Regular IST lounge service coming back
Regular food and beverage offerings at the airline’s Istanbul Airport lounge will also be returning shortly. Opened in 2018, Istanbul’s new airport has hardly seen the number of passengers predicted for its first two years. However, it could very well still reach a potential target of accommodating 200 million passengers a year by the mid-2020s.
Have you had your meal prepared by a Turkish Airlines Flying Chef? What was your experience like? Which airline has, in your opinion, the best business class catering? Leave a comment below and let us know.
The Huge Potential Qatar Airways Sees In Africa
Africa is an important and growing part of Qatar Airways’ network, but where could be next and how suited is the airline’s fleet? Qatar Airways’ Hendrik Du Preez, Vice-President for Africa, recently spoke to Routesonline about the airline’s development and opportunities across the vast continent.
Qatar Airways’ Africa network now comprises 26 destinations, analyzing OAG data indicates, up from 24 in 2019. Abuja, Accra, and Luanda were all added in 2020, while Abidjan is coming this June. Meanwhile, Cairo and Alexandria have resumed following the end of the blockade.
These additions have offset the loss of Gaborone, Marrakesh, Rabat, and Windhoek. Speaking to Routesonline, Du Preeze singled out both Gaborone and Windhoek – each very tourist-driven – as likely to return next year.
Where could be next?
Resumptions are just one part of Qatar Airways‘ plan for Africa.
“We are definitely looking at other destinations in Africa as there is huge potential across the continent for new routes.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo, Somaliland, South Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, were all mentioned by Du Preez as possible future destinations. And the capitals of these countries – Kinshasa, Hargeisa, Juba, Lusaka, and Harare – would make sense. Pre-COVID, Dubai had up to 13 weekly departures to Hargeisa, 11 by Emirates’ partner, flydubai.
Partners are crucial
Qatar Airways has often relied on partner airlines to reach parts of the continent that it did not serve, and they have been crucial to its development.
“We have an interline agreement with Air Côte d’Ivoire, which is important because we do not have that reach in West Africa. We have interlines with many of the airlines all over Africa.”
He said that negotiation is still ongoing with Rwandair, with data showing Qatar Airways has served Kigali since 2012. And South Africa’s Comair, a British Airways franchisee, may well become a partner too. South Africa is by far Qatar Airways’ number-one country in Africa this year, with Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg served.
“We are definitely establishing deeper partnerships with key partners around the continent going forward.”
A mixed fleet enables growth
Du Preez believes that Qatar Airways’ mixed fleet is crucial to its Africa development. This offers flexibility and the opportunity to right-size capacity to demand as passenger traffic picks up; after all, it can take a good while for a long-haul to develop.
It also enables the airline to start a new route – perhaps a secondary destination, of which “there are a many of them” – with a smaller aircraft and to build up over time.
Qatar Airways uses eight aircraft types to Africa this year. In order of the number of flights, they are the B787-8, A350-900, A320, B777-300ER, A350-1000, B777-200LR, B787-9, and A319. The carrier used the A319 on just one route – to the Seychelles – back in January.
The carrier’s mixed fleet also enables a strong focus on cargo, where it makes sense, which can make a huge difference. As Du Preez said:
“Thanks to the belly hold of the B787s and A350s, a lot of the [trip] cost can be covered by the cargo and at the same time we are building up on the passenger side.”
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