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Southwest Airlines orders 34 extra Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

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Texas-based carrier, Southwest Airlines has announced that it will be ordering an additional 34 737 MAX aircraft from Boeing. The low-cost airline announced that it has entered into a “Supplemental Agreement” with the US aircraft manufacturer and has increased its firm orders for 2022 with the addition of 34 Boeing 737 MAX 7 aircraft.

According to Southwest Airlines, this new agreement will see an additional 2 aircraft options added to the airline’s order for 2022 with the other 32 aircraft options being added over the next couple of years. This means Southwest Airlines has a total of 234 737 MAX 7 aircraft on order.

In a company statement seen by AeroNewsX, Southwest Airlines stated that it also plans to accelerate “32 options into 2023, 16 options into 2024, 16 options into 2025.” The company also confirmed that it has also “added 32 new options into 2026 through 2027.” This brings the carrier’s total option order book for either 37 MAX 7s or MAX 8s to 268.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 registered N8714Q. Photo by Karam Sodhi | AeroNewsX.

This officially brings Southwest Airlines total firm and option order book to 660 aircraft and mostly consisting of 737 MAX 7s and MAX 8s. The company also revised its aircraft capital spending figures for next year and now plans to spend “approximately $1.5 billion in 2022.”

Previously, the airline was only planning on spending approximately $700 million, however, due to what it described as “improving revenue trends,” Southwest Airlines has decided to spend more money over the coming years on new, more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, Southwest Airlines plans to retire “30 to 35 of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft annually.” Southwest Airlines currently has 383 firm orders for 737 MAX aircraft which includes MAX 7 and MAX 8s. However, the Texas-based carrier may need to convert more of its options into firm orders as according to planespotters.net, Southwest Airlines only has around 389 Boeing 737-700 in service.

Southwest Airlines doesn’t seem phased by the scenario that the airline could short 6 aircraft in terms of firm orders and has stated that it “retains significant flexibility to manage its fleet size.” Southwest Airlines acknowledged that it still has a total of 268 options up until 2027, including 40 737 MAX options for 2022. Southwest Airlines concluded by stating that it will continue to evaluate these options as the airline undergoes this recovery period.

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Source: https://aeronewsx.com/southwest-airlines-orders-34-extra-boeing-737-max-aircraft/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=southwest-airlines-orders-34-extra-boeing-737-max-aircraft

Aviation

SAS Was The First Airline To Operate A Polar Route

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Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) came into existence shortly after the Second World War, following a merger between airlines from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Eight years after commencing operations, it had made history by becoming the world’s first airline to operate scheduled flights that traversed the polar ice caps. Let’s examine these services further.

SAS Douglas DC-6
SAS flew piston-engined Douglas DC-6s on its first polar route. Photo: SAS via Wikimedia Commons

Testing since 1952

1954 heralded SAS’s (and indeed the world’s) first-ever scheduled commercial air route over the polar ice cap regions. With these areas begin remote and uninhabited, such routes carried an additional element of danger in terms of the plane’s (and its occupants’) rescue prospects in the event of a crash. As such, SAS began tests two years beforehand, in 1952.

According to Scandinavian Traveler, SAS operated its first experimental transpolar flight from Los Angeles to Copenhagen in November that year. A Douglas DC-6B named Arild Viking, made the trip in 28 hours, with stops in Edmonton (Canada) and Thule (Greenland).

22 dignitaries were onboard as well as SAS’s chief polar navigator Einar Sverre Pedersen. Tests continued, including transpolar journeys from Los Angeles to Stockholm and Oslo to Tokyo, while SAS awaited clearance to begin its commercial transpolar services.

SAS Douglas DC-6B
SAS made its first experimental transpolar flight in 1952. Photo: SAS Museet via Flickr

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Service begins

US authorities finally granted SAS, with the help of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the rights to carry paying passengers on its California-bound transpolar routes in 1954. Just under two years after the first experimental flight across the pole regions, on November 15th, 1954, SAS’s (and the world’s) first revenue-earning transpolar flight departed.

This route also connected Copenhagen and Los Angeles, although its stops were different to the test flights. It touched down en route in Kangerlussuaq (Greenland) and Winnipeg (Canada), as seen in the map below. It proved a success, with the route’s popularity prompting SAS to increase its frequency to three times a week after just two years, in 1956.

A wide variety of passengers used this route. On the one hand, it was popular among film stars traveling to and from Hollywood, gaining SAS further publicity. American tourists also used the route as a gateway to Europe, as SAS allowed a free onward connection. Today, SAS continues to serve Los Angeles International Airport from Copenhagen and Oslo.

SAS Polar Map
SAS’s first transpolar service stopped in Kangerlussuaq and Winnipeg. Image: GCMap

Also advantageous for transpacific flights

The advent of polar routes also proved a game-changer for transpacific flights between Asia and North America. This, along with relaxations regarding the use of Russian airspace, removed the need for such journeys to make a stop in Anchorage, Alaska along the way.

Boeing explains that the use of direct polar routes on transpacific services benefits both airlines and their passengers. Regarding the establishment of four cross-polar routes in 1998, the US-based manufacturing juggernaut states that:

Flight times are reduced by an hour or more, and fuel requirements are reduced by several thousand pounds. The savings are even greater if a polar route eliminates the need for an intermediate stop. The combined effect of these savings is reduced operating costs, lower emissions levels, and more competitive fares for passengers.”

Did you know about SAS being the first airline to operate a polar route? Perhaps you’ve even flown on such a service yourself? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/sas-first-polar-route/

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Aviation

Canada Not Ready To Relax India Flight Ban

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Canada is not planning to relax its India travel ban any time soon. The Canadian government is likely to announce another one-month extension on the direct flight ban, forcing travelers to take complicated routes instead. Let’s find out more about this decision.

Air Canada 787-9
Direct flights between India and Canada remain suspended since late April, leaving thousands stranded. Photo: Air Canada

Delayed

According to the Hindustan Times, Canada will announce another one-month extension to the ban on direct flights from India. The ban was originally set to expire today, on 21st June, but the government has opted to extend it for at least one more month, until 21st July. The decision comes as the number of cases of the Delta variant, first seen in India, continues to grow in Ontario.

Air India Boeing 777-300ER
Air India has also suspended all of its Canadian operations as the ban remains in place. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

While the health situation in India has changed drastically since the ban was put in place on 22nd April, the risk remains high. Canadian authorities consider the Delta variant to be 150% more transmissible than the original strain, pushing provinces to demand a continuation of the direct flight ban. For now, don’t expect to see direct flights between the two countries any time soon.

Not the only way

Notably, unlike most others, Canada’s ban is on direct flights and not travelers themselves. This means passengers could enter Canada if they break their journey in a third country and take another COVID-19 test. Indeed, reports have begun emerging of travelers opting to purchase expensive tickets in order to fly to Canada from India with a stop of COVID-19 testing.

Currently, very few countries have their borders open to Indian travelers. However, passengers have been creative with their stops. Cities like Belgrade, Mexico City, Addis Ababa, and others have emerged as popular locations to break journeys and take another COVID-19 test.

Qatar A350
Passengers have been taking one-stop and two-stop itineraries from India to reach Canada. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Once passengers test negative, they are free to enter Canada once again. However, quarantine and testing rules on return still apply to all travelers from India. This includes a three-day stay in a hotel on arrival, a negative test, and 14 days of home quarantine. However, the ban still leaves space for travelers from India looking to return to reunite with their families, for studies, or any other reason.

Airlines locked out

For Air Canada and Air India, the announcement means another month of missing out on lucrative flights from India. Considering the larger Indian diaspora in Canada, ties between the countries are robust. This contributed to millions of yearly passengers between the countries, meaning big business for the flag carriers.

For now, any wishing to fly must be prepared for long journeys with multiple stopovers to reach Canada. However, an incoming proposal could make the hotel quarantine requirement obsolete for fully vaccinated individuals. As vaccination rates rise, we could see the flight ban also eased in the coming months.

What do you think about Canada’s decision to extend its flight ban? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/canada-indian-flight-ban-extended/

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Aviation

Vietnam Airlines Set To Receive $174 Million In Aid From Banks

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Vietnam’s flag carrier Vietnam Airlines will receive a total of 4 trillion dong ($174.8 million) from three Vietnamese banks. The airline has been struggling to cope with the financial impact of the ongoing pandemic. The loan will be used to keep the airline out of bankruptcy but it might not be enough.

Vietnam Airlines has been offered a loan from three Vietnamese banks. Photo: Airbus

According to reporting by Reuters today, three banks will lend interest-free loans over the next month. The three banks are Vietnam Maritime Commercial Joint Stock Bank, Saigon – Hanoi Commercial Joint Stock Bank, and SeABank.

In total, the three banks will hand over 4 trillion Vietnamese dong ($174.8 million) to save Vietnam Airlines from bankruptcy. While this might sound like a lot, the airline recorded a net loss for the first quarter of this year of just under 5 trillion dong ($217 million). So, this loan amount won’t even cover the first quarter.

According to experts from the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment, the airline could have a net loss of 10 trillion dong ($435 million) for the first half of the year.

Raising capital

With such huge losses, the airline needs more than a loan to get back on its feet. The plan is for the airline to raise its own capital by issuing new shares to its current shareholders before the end of the year.

Vietnam Airlines will sell 11 of its older A321s to help boost its cash flow and pay debts. Photo: Airbus

Furthermore, Vietnam Airlines announced earlier this month that it would sell 11 Airbus A321s to help improve cash flow issues. Although the airline has said it is selling the aircraft to modernize its fleet, there is little doubt that financial issues had a lot to do with the decision. The aircraft for sale are just over 12 years old.

The banks’ decision to lend money to the airline is slightly surprising to some. In recent weeks reports suggested that banks were unwilling to lend money to the airline. According to local media outlet Dealstreetasia.com, the airline was behind on repayments, and creditors considered legal action to get the airline to pay up.

The Vietnamese government has an 86% stake in the airline. The government is also helping fund the banks. Photo: Airbus

There is a chance the banks had their minds changed by the Vietnamese government. The government owns 86% of the airline. The government had promised a bailout package to commercial banks but was slow to pay up.

Banks have been asking the government to restructure debt payments and make changes to interest fees to help prop up banks and other businesses. The result is that the government-owned airline is being propped up by banks that are relying on government loans themselves.

Currently, Vietnam Airlines’ worries are closely tied to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. It looks as though the airline won’t recover until case numbers go down. Unfortunately, cases are on the rise in Vietnam. Bank loans may not be enough to tide the airline over until it can unground aircraft and get back to a regular schedule.

What do you think of Vietnam Airlines’ situation? Do you think the airline can recover? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/vietnam-airlines-bank-aid/

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Coming Soon: Larger Aircraft Bathrooms – Better For All

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Aircraft bathrooms have been shrinking. Today’s narrowbody lavatories are often as much as 10 inches narrower than they were 10 years ago. That’s uncomfortable for everyone, and for passengers with reduced mobility, it makes them practically unusable. So AirGo has come up with a concept that not only gives space back to the bathroom, making it fully accessible for wheelchair users but manages to do so without reducing passenger capacity.

AirGo Space accessible bathroom
This bathroom concept gives more space for everyone onboard. Photo: AirGo

A concept for a spacious lavatory

Passengers with reduced mobility endure a multitude of challenges when traveling by air. For example, the narrow aisle of the aircraft means personal wheelchair use is not possible, meaning passengers are forced to use airline-provided wheelchairs instead. But that’s not the only issue.

Going to the bathroom onboard can be a very difficult experience. Widebody aircraft must have accessible toilets, but narrowbodies are yet to be covered by the same rule. With aircraft like the A321LR and the 737 MAX now capable of flying for many hours, disabled passengers desperately need a better bathroom solution.

Cabin design firm AirGo has developed just such a solution. Its SPACE lavatory, a finalist in this year’s Crystal Cabin Awards, uses a triangular-shaped bathroom space, giving passengers with reduced mobility the ability to wheel into the lavatory and safely transfer themselves between the chair and the toilet.

AirGo Space accessible bathroom
The extra space makes it easy for wheelchair users to transfer themselves safely. Photo: AirGo

AirGo has designed the SPACE lavatory to be compatible with its Galaxy cabin configuration. This business class seating arrangement has been specifically designed for the single-aisle market, and would leave enough space at the end of the cabin for two spacious bathrooms to be installed.

The concept doesn’t require a reduction in seating capacity. On an A319, for example, the Space lavatory concept actually allows for four more passengers than the next nearest competitor, something that will make this attractive to both passengers and airlines.

AirGo Space accessible bathroom
When used in conjunction with the Galaxy cabin, seating capacity is actually increased. Photo: AirGo

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The problem with aircraft lavatories

At present, only widebody planes are mandated to include accessible lavatories. However, single-aisle aircraft are not subject to the same requirements. A 2016 regulation required aircraft with more than 125 seats to have a narrow wheelchair (known as an aisle chair) and lavatories with handles and controls for the disabled. Airlines would need to comply within three years of the rules being adopted.

However, the Trump administration halted the rulemaking in January 2017. The rules should have been adopted in July 2017, but with the Trump administration busily reviewing the Obama-instigated proposals, the deadline passed, and no new deadline was set.

In 2018, disabled travelers sued the DOT to force airlines to provide accessible lavatories on single-aisle planes. Around two-thirds of disabled people said that the lack of accessible bathrooms was reason enough to avoid flying altogether. In December 2019, the DOT finally issued proposals for better access to onboard toilets.

AirGo Space accessible bathroom
This larger concept would tick all the DOT boxes. Photo: AirGo

The rulemaking applies to aircraft with 125 seats or more and requires that:

  • At least one accessible bathroom is onboard
  • Assist handles are installed
  • Call buttons and accessible door locks are installed
  • Lavatory controls and soap/water dispensers can be activated by touch

However, things are still moving slowly, and the final rule is unlikely to affect in-service aircraft. The DOT has stated throughout that it does not expect to require rebuilding of current lavatory facilities, so it’s mainly new aircraft that will eventually get the upgrade.

Bigger lavatories would be a win for passengers who do not suffer from reduced mobility also. Plane bathrooms have been shrinking for years, as airlines do everything they can to maximize their passenger-carrying capacity. In 2018, the Washington Post reported that some of the bathrooms on new narrowbody aircraft had shrunk to just 24 inches wide – 10 inches smaller than older bathrooms and one inch smaller than J-Lo’s waist.

For anyone over about five foot six, this is a problem. For a passenger with reduced mobility, it’s a nightmare. Bigger bathrooms would be better for everyone, and with innovative designs like this, airlines don’t necessarily have to sacrifice passenger capacity. Let’s hope they take up the challenge soon.

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Source: https://simpleflying.com/larger-aircraft-bathrooms/

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