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New Victoria restrictions dash hopes of quick domestic recovery



Hopes domestic aviation could rapidly recover from Victoria’s latest lockdown were dashed on Wednesday when Acting Premier James Merlino announced Melburnians won’t be allowed to travel further than 25km from their home when restrictions ease.

The news, combined with continued borders closures from most other states, means the majority of flights will remain cancelled.

Victoria’s ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown was first imposed two weeks ago and was due to last seven days, however, since then the cluster has increased to 84 active cases in the local community.

The eased restrictions will come into effect from Friday, which will see Melburnians only allowed to travel within 25km of their homes unless it’s for work, education, care or getting a vaccine.

Restaurants and cafes will also only be able to open to a maximum of 50 people inside.

In regional Victoria, restaurants and cafes can open for up to 150 per venue for seated service, with up to 75 allowed indoors.


Acting Premier Merlino said he expected next week to be able to relax restrictions again so people can cross between the capital and regional areas.

On Wednesday alone, 56 flights departing and arriving into Melbourne have been formally cancelled, but the number of flights not taking place is likely to be around 300 less per day than before the lockdown.

Today’s news is likely to cost the industry hundreds of millions more dollars lost – Qantas earlier this year revealed border closures resulting from the Northern Beaches COVID cluster at Christmas cost the airline $400 million in lost earnings.

The problems are likely to be exacerbated due to the end of JobKeeper and an increase in capacity announced by airlines in recent weeks.

Last month, Virgin announced it would hire an extra 250 staff, including pilots, ground staff and baggage handlers, in addition to the 150 new cabin crew roles unveiled in April. It also said it would launch five new services and significantly increase frequency across its network, including by 30 per cent on the ‘Golden Triangle’.

Qantas also recently said it would launch seven new routes, upgrade many of its services to larger widebody 787s and A330s and would soon exceed 100 per cent of its pre-COVID capacity in the next few months.

The news marked an increase from Qantas’ April prediction that its domestic capacity would hit 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels in Q4 of FY21.

Meanwhile, Rex recently announced it would soon rival Virgin and Qantas to fly Melbourne–Canberra using one of its new 737s. This has subsequently been delayed owing to the lockdown.

The only state not to close its borders to Victoria was NSW. On Wednesday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the end of lockdown “vindicated” her decision.

“We trusted regional communities to do the right thing … and we’ve been able to be vindicated in that decision,” she said.

“It really upsets me when you hear about the personal stories of families being separated unnecessarily and businesses collapsing,” she said.

Victorians who arrived in NSW after May 27 are required to comply with lockdown restrictions they would have been expected to follow had they not left.

The lockdown will come as a huge blow to domestic aviation in Victoria and beyond. Melbourne Airport revealed domestic passenger traffic in April notched up to 65 per cent – the biggest since COVID and the same as Sydney.

Announcing the numbers, chief executive Lyell Strambi has argued Australia needs to speed up its vaccine rollout so it can open its borders – or risk being left behind other nations.

“In the short-term our splendid isolation is ultra-safe from COVID, but in the long-term it will act as a handbrake on the economy, jobs and opportunities for Australians,” he said.

“While the recovery has commenced, it remains fragile,” said Strambi. “We need to be more aggressive in relation to the vaccine rollout, in order to realise the benefits of Australia’s remarkable management of COVID-19.

“It is increasingly likely that Australia will be left behind as countries around the world reopen to one another on the back of high vaccination rates.

“Demand for international travel clearly exists and we are hopeful that once we get a high proportion of our population protected by vaccines, we can start to carefully reopen to counties with similarly high rates of vaccination and low rates of infection.”

Sir Richard Branson has also urged the Australian government to speed up its vaccine rollout.

“It should be the number-one priority of the government, nothing else matters more, to be honest,” he told Nine News.

It comes after this month’s budget papers strongly hinted international travel will not fully resume until mid-2022.

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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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Air India Restarts Flights From The UAE Amid Confusion Over Eligibility



Amid confusion about travel eligibility to and from the UAE, Air India has announced it will resume flights from Dubai today. The carrier will operate flights from Dubai’s Terminal 1, but there remains no clarity if UAE residents can fly from India yet. This is despite Dubai authorities issuing guidelines for travel earlier this week.

Air India Boeing 787
Currently, bookings can only be made for return flights to India, despite the new rules. Photo: Getty Images


Starting 10:00 AM today, 24th June, Air India is resuming its operations from Dubai. Flights will operate from the newly-reopened Terminal 1 in Dubai. This means travelers can book tickets to return to India if they wish. However, the reverse is not true currently. 

When it comes to inbound travel to Dubai, there has been much confusion. On June 19th, UAE authorities confirmed that travelers from India with residence visas will be allowed to return to Dubai from 23rd June. However, this timeline was never met, with airlines stating that they were not given clearance to carry passengers to Dubai. Instead, passengers were left stranded yesterday.

Emirates is yet to confirm its flight schedule and travel requirements. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Air India and Air India Express have said that the ban on Indian travelers remains in effect until July 6th, as previously announced. This means no airline is currently selling tickets on flights from India to Dubai. The earliest date for a resumption seems to be June 26th, when Air India is offering flights from Delhi to Dubai. However, it’s unclear if these will ever operate given the confusion over entry requirements.


The news of Dubai allow Indian residents to return was a relief to thousands who were stuck in India since April. Even as the second wave slowly recedes, the UAE added strict health checks to prevent new variants of COVID-19 from entering the country.

Once travel actually resumes, residents will need to be fully vaccinated, take three COVID-19 tests in total, and spend a day in quarantine. Only if all tests come back negative can travelers step out of quarantine and return to their home in Dubai.

IndiGo A320neo
No airlines are currently selling one-way tickets from India to Dubai. Photo: Airbus

However, the lack of permission for airlines means that many are still stuck in limbo. The next few days will likely clarify when carriers can actually begin carrying passengers to Dubai once again. For now, keep an eye out for further announcements from airlines regarding the same.

Bouncing back

After two brutal months, cases in India have finally begun falling. Wednesday saw just 54,000 cases, down from a peak of 400,000. While there are still some ways to go before declaring the second wave over, travel will likely begin bouncing back. Indeed, domestic traffic has doubled over the last month as passenger confidence returns.

International traffic still has some ways to go before recovering. Bans on travelers from India remain in place, meaning few can even travel abroad. However, the UAE’s reopening signals that more countries will slowly begin reopening their borders to Indian travelers soon.

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