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Portugal Shifts Onto UK Government’s Amber List



Portugal today shifted onto the United Kingdom Government’s amber list. This means that all those arriving from the country after 04:00 this morning will not be entitled to quarantine free travel. The move sparked a mad dash to repatriate Brits in Portugal before the changes kicked in.

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
Portugal has shifted back onto the UK Government’s amber list. Photo: Getty Images

For much of 2021, travel to the United Kingdom has been heavily restricted. At one point, non-essential travel from the country was banned, with a fine of up to £5,000 threatened. Things finally relaxed in mid-May, but while the COVID-19 situation worldwide continues to improve, the UK Government is shrinking its list of safe countries.

The last flight back

Portugal officially transferred onto the amber list at 04:00 this morning. With a delay leaving Portugal, the last flight back to the UK before this deadline arrived with an hour to spare. The flight was the Wizz Air 5916 service from Faro Airport (FAO) to Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA).

Typically, the flight is scheduled to depart from Faro at 23:00, arriving in Doncaster at 02:05. Last night, the flight left Portugal with a one-hour, 25-minute delay at 00:25. Had the flight taken the scheduled time, it would’ve landed at 03:30, meaning passengers would have a mad dash to the border. Thankfully, lost time was made up during the flight, meaning that the aircraft, an Airbus A321, arrived at the gate at 02:58 this morning, according to data from

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
Wizz Air operated the last flight back to England before the rule change. Photo:

Many airlines realized the need to bring passengers back from Portugal early, including British Airways. They scheduled a Boeing 777 on a route usually operated by narrowbodies to ensure a higher capacity. There was increased demand to return to the UK before the change. Those arriving from Portugal now must pay for two PCR tests and quarantine for ten days. With a third PCR test on day five, it is possible to leave quarantine early.

Chaos at the airport

According to The Independent, there was chaos at Faro Airport yesterday due to the sheer volume of Brits suddenly attempting to fly home. When the green list had been put in place, the government advised that it would warn if countries were at risk of moving onto the amber list. However, no warning was given. This seemed to annoy Portugal, who said that they couldn’t understand the logic of the decision.

When Portugal was placed on the Green List, it had a 7-day incidence rate of 27.38 cases per 100,000 people. This had climbed marginally to 37.36 by May 30th, the most recent data shown by the EU COVID-19 dashboard. The decision to remove it from the green list came four days later.

For comparison, the seven-day case rate in the UK was 20.3 when Portugal was added to the green list. On May 30th, it had increased to 35.1, similar to the climb in Portugal. While many were surprised to see Portugal added to the amber list so abruptly, there was also shock that they didn’t add Malta to the green list. The European island nation had a seven-day COVID-19 case rate of 6.61 per 100,000 on May 30th. This was far below that of Portugal when it was added and similar to Iceland’s, also on the green list.

United Kingdom, Portugal, Amber List
The UK government’s current country classification. Photo:

Updates to the red list

It wasn’t just Portugal that shifted status this morning. A host of countries were also downgraded from the amber list to the red list. These are,

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Costa Rica
  • Egypt
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Trinidad and Tobago

With the additions, 45 countries are now on the red list. When arriving at Heathrow, arrivals from red-list countries are separated from others and transferred to Terminal 3. Once they have collected their bags and passed immigration, they are taken to a government-managed quarantine hotel facility.

Do you think the UK Government made the right decision to move Portugal to the amber list? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!

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Transportes Aeromar signs ATR aircraft propeller maintenance contract



Mexican carrier Transportes Aeromar has awarded a contract to Piedmont Propulsion Systems to support its next-generation ATR 42 and 72 aircraft fleet.

As part of the multi-year contract, Piedmont Propulsion Systems will provide complete propeller maintenance for the aircraft.

The financial details of the contract have not been disclosed.

Transportes Aeromar procurement and supply chain manager Javier Tellez Vidal said: “After a competitive market study of the alternatives, the decision to choose Piedmont Propulsion Systems made both technical and financial sense for us.”

Piedmont Propulsion Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Aviation Services and a verified propeller maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) provider.

It offers new proprietary replacement parts and repairs certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The company’s customer base includes Air Canada Jazz, WestJet, Lion Air Group, FedEx Express, Lufthansa Technik, Bombardier Aerospace and the US Department of Defence.

Last month, it became an independent MRO facility to offer complete major inspection support for the Model 568F propeller, including the removal and re-application of the blade compression wrap.

The propeller is fitted on the Next-Gen ATR turboprop aircraft family.

Piedmont Propulsion Systems general manager Sammy Oakley said: “Piedmont Propulsion Systems has invested extensively in the ATR/568F platform which allows us to provide significant cost savings for our customers. We’re excited to continue and grow our relationship with Javier Tellez and his team.”

Headquartered in Westport, Connecticut, First Aviation Services provides component repair and overhaul, PMA parts manufacturing and spare part management for the global aviation industry.

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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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