SriLankan Airlines is considering the Airbus A330neo and A350 as a part of its fleet modernization. The airline plans to retire six to seven aircraft in the next two years and possibly replace them with the more efficient widebodies. Let’s find out more.
At the Routes Reconnected event yesterday, SriLankan Airlines CEO Vipula Gunatilleka spoke about the current state of the airline and future plans. Amid a wide-ranging discussion, he touched upon the airline’s fleet and the new aircraft under consideration.
SriLankan is planning to retire six to seven aircraft in the next two years, leaving a sizeable gap in the 24-strong fleet. The exact type of planes up for retirement was not discussed, but we can get some hints from their replacements. Mr. Gunatilleka was quite ambitious about buying new planes, citing the significant reduction in prices due to the pandemic.
To replace the retiring aircraft, SriLankan is considering Airbus’ largest twin-engines options, with Mr. Gunatilleka saying,
“We’ve got an all-Airbus fleet so we’ll look at maybe similar aircraft, so maybe the A330-900neo or even the [A]350 because today the [A]350 is affordable and also to the cargo network are building it might be handy aircraft to have especially on the long hauls.”
Focus on cargo
The decision to go with the A330neo or A350 is largely dictated by the added cargo capacity and long-range these jets offer. As SriLankan begins its recovery, it plans to rebuild its passenger network around busy cargo routes. Destinations like London, Tokyo, Nairobi, and European hubs have all emerged as big cargo routes for the airline during the pandemic.
Currently, SriLankan operates a fleet of 24 jets, split into seven A320s, five A321s, and five A330-200s, and seven A330-300s. The last two are the ones flying long-haul cargo routes to Europe and East Asia with a higher capacity.
However, the aircraft are aging, with the long-range A330-200s averaging 18.7 years each, according to Planespotters.net. The -300s are much younger at only six years old on average. However, since the A330-200s offer more range, they are currently flying as converted freighters.
Both the A350 and A330neo would offer a host of benefits to SriLankan. In addition to adding new destinations and capacity to the cargo network, the increased passenger seating could help on popular routes to China and Australia.
Considering the depressed market for widebody sales, SriLankan is sure it can nab the A330neo or A350 at favorable prices. While the former would fit well within the carrier’s A330 infrastructure, the A350 offers a marked expansion for the carrier. In addition to this, SriLankan has also received permission to operate dedicated freighter aircraft soon.
The coming year will likely see the airline make a final decision about the fleet modernization plan. Whether it’s the A330neo or A350, expect to see some major upgrades to the airline’s offerings.
What do you think about SriLankan’s fleet plans? Let us know in the comments!
India’s GoAir Renames Itself Go First With IPO Coming Soon
Indian budget carrier GoAir has renamed itself as Go First, as it looks to become the country’s first ultra-low-cost carrier. The name change also comes a day before the airline began the process to go public and raise fresh funds. Let’s find out more about Go First and its business strategy.
GoAir made a splash yesterday when it put out ads in major Indian newspapers announcing its new name: Go First. The branding change also comes with a new livery, which will see a sunrise-themed blue tailfin. All of these changes have been made to mark GoAir’s shift from a low-cost to ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC).
But what exactly does that mean? As India’s first ULCC, Go First will have the chance to define the term in India. However, the focus will be heavy on reducing fares, offering point-to-point flights, and slashing services or making them paid wherever possible.
The man leading the transformation of GoAir none other than Ben Baldanza, the CEO who led Spirit Airlines to its successful ULCC shift. If history is any indicator, expect everything from hand luggage, seat bookings, and printed boarding passes to become paid at Go First.
But why are these changes being made right now, amid India’s devastating second wave which has deeply hurt carriers?
Eyes on the IPO
Earlier today, news broke that GoAir had formally filed to hold an IPO for the Wadia Group-owned airline. The carrier wants to raise as much as ₹3,600 crores ($490.2 million) by selling shares later this summer. The filing is the first step of many before GoAir is actually listed on the market.
The decision to go public has been rumored for months now and was recently confirmed by the carrier as well. However, the outlook on airlines has shifted in the last two months as India battles its second wave, which has sent passenger numbers plummeting once again.
For Go First, the IPO will be a much-needed capital injection and reduce dependence on the Wadia Group. The carrier’s debt total has risen dramatically due to the crisis, forcing it to restructure and take fresh loans in March.
The Indian domestic market is dominated by low-cost carriers offering the lowest prices possible. This dynamic has also resulted in a low-profit, high volume industry, with airlines perennially struggling. GoAir’s decision to rebrand as a ULCC and cut fares even more could force other airlines to respond in kind, triggering another price war.
However, it is yet to be seen what firm changes Go First will make to its operating model. Many elements of an ultra-low-cost carrier were adopted by Indian carriers years ago, leaving limited options for airlines to reduce airlines. Keep your eyes peeled for what the newly-christened Go First has in store for the market.
What do you think about Go First and its plans? Let us know in the comments!
Qantas’ Cosmic Supermoon Flight Sells Out In 2.5 Minutes
Earlier this week, Qantas raised the bar on its now-regular scenic flight adventures and began promoting a two-and-a-half-hour flight out of Sydney to view a supermoon event in late May. If it sounds like fun and you are keen to go, the bad news is Qantas sold out the flight in two and a half minutes. Qantas has also closed the waitlist.
The latest in a long line of successful scenic flights for Qantas
Departing early evening on May 26, Qantas plans to send one out of its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners out of Sydney and east across the Pacific. The Dreamliner will climb to 40,000 feet to capitalize on dark and clear night skies. Qantas notes in addition to watching the rising of the supermoon, that evening also happens to be a total lunar eclipse. The airline says that is a highly unusual double act.
Passengers will be suitably lubricated by a pre-flight cocktail party and cosmic cocktails. They may even learn something. A professional astronomer will be along for the ride and providing some inflight insights.
This sortie to check out the southern hemisphere night sky follows a series of highly successful scenic flights for Qantas in the past year. That included a seven-hour marathon overflying much of Australia and a weekend to Uluru. More recently, there was a seafood lunch on an island in the Whitsundays. All of the flights quickly sold out.
— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) April 28, 2021
Blocked seats and presales to premium passengers limit the number of seats available for general sale
The Qantas 787-9 normally accommodates 236 passengers across three cabin classes. But fewer seats were available on the supermoon flight. Qantas blocked off the middle seat blocks in the economy and business class cabins. The ‘E’ seats in the premium economy cabin were also blocked from sale.
The number of seats available to the general public reduced further after Qantas offered its most elite frequent flyers early access. The airline’s best customers weren’t shy about taking up the offer.
According to keen Qantas watchers on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum, around 55 seats were left for public sale at midday Sydney time on Wednesday. Qantas confirmed to Simple Flying those remaining seats sold out by 12:03 Sydney time.
“I jumped on at the strike of 12, and there was barely anything left. There was just one window seat in Y left, second last row. But by the time I had got to checkout, my seats were bumped,” posted one member on the forum.
“My experience too,” posted another member.
Some handy revenue as Qantas capitalizes on demand for scenic flights
Qantas began waitlisting hopeful would-be passengers, but the demand was so high, that waitlist has now closed as well. The airline was selling economy class tickets from US$385, premium economy class tickets from US$694, and business class tickets from US$1158. Note the word “from.” Qantas was charging a premium for a window seat – and that’s fair enough.
But with 24 seats initially available for sale in both the business class and premium economy cabins, and 112 seats initially up for grabs in the economy class cabin, Qantas pocketed over US$87,500 from ticket sales.
To date, Qantas has been operating many of these flights largely on a cost-recovery basis. The airline is keen to keep planes and crews in the air and the Qantas brand firmly in the spotlight. But as the popularity of the supermoon and previous scenic flights attests, there is a lot of demand out there for this kind of flight. It’s an interesting, albeit niche, way for the airline industry to do business in the future.
Eviation Is Closer To Launching Commercial Electric Airplane Service — Alice Gets An EPU
Eviation Aircraft, which is developing and manufacturing efficient electric aircraft with the goal of making electric aviation a competitive and sustainable alternative to the current aircraft we have today, is one step closer to launching commercial electric flights. I has taken delivery of its first EPU (electric propulsion unit) for its first aircraft, Alice.
The Alice is an all-electric aircraft that is able to fly 9 passengers for up to 440 nautical miles. The Alice uses an EPU from magniX, a company that is on a mission to lead the commercial aerospace and defense industries. How it’s doing this is by providing high-performance, reliable, and environmentally friendly propulsion solutions. The EPU used by Alice is one such solution. These magniX EPU systems have been powering aircraft in flight since December of 2019, and are currently in the process of gaining FAA Part 33 certification in 2022.
Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay shared his thoughts about the milestone. “The magniX delivery is one of the key milestones in getting emission-free, low-cost, all-electric aviation off the ground with the first flight of Alice,” he said. “After many successful flights and tests of the magniX EPUs, we’re confident the system will propel us to bringing Alice to market and delivering a sustainable, scalable mobility solution that will revolutionize passenger and cargo flights.”
Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, also added his thoughts. “The Alice is the epitome of the future of air transportation. All-electric by design, taking advantage of light-weight powerful and reliable propulsion systems,” said Ganzarski. “Together, we will enable a great flying experience – zero emissions, quieter, lower cost, all from and to airports closer to more communities.”
Eviation has plans to start a robust flight testing and certification program. Currently, the company operates in the U.S. and Israel and is a member of the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA).
Brace: Qantaslink Dash 8-400 Makes Emergency Landing In Brisbane
On Thursday, sixty-four passengers and crew on a QantasLink Dash 8-400 service into Brisbane got a scare during a full-scale emergency landing. With the pilots flagging a “potential issue” with the landing gear, emergency vehicles waited at Brisbane Airport, and passengers instructed to “stay down” and “brace now.”
Cockpit alert regarding issues with QantasLink Dash 8’s landing gear
The QantasLink Dash 8-400 was operating QF2420. That flight is the breakfast time flight between Newcastle’s Williamtown Airport and the Queensland capital of Brisbane. Normally, it’s a pleasant 611-kilometer flight up the New South Wales coast. On Thursday’s flight, the pilots received an indication in the cockpit about a potential issue with the landing gear.
According to The Aviation Herald, the plane was at 1,800 feet mean sea level and tracking into Brisbane’s runway 19L when the cockpit alert came up, causing the go-around.
The Dash 8 went out to circle Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands for around one hour while the pilots worked on the problem. The pilots attempted a manual gear extension, but the manual extension did not stop the cockpit alert.
“The pilots followed standard procedures and required checklists for this type of event,” a Qantaslink spokesperson said.
Passengers warned to “brace” and “stay down”
The pilots were unable to confirm the landing gear was locked down. They decided to shut down the second engine and began an ILS approach into Brisbane Airport’s runway 19R. Brisbane Airport scrambled its emergency response vehicles.
As the flight made its final approach into Brisbane Airport over Moreton Bay, footage posted online reveals the flight attendant repeatedly instructing the passengers to “brace, brace” and “heads down” and “stay down.”
“We were reasonably certain the landing gear was down and locked – we could do that visually, and in other ways, the procedure to be followed has to be followed,” QantasLink CEO John Gissing later told Brisbane’s Channel 9 News. “And that’s exactly what we did.”
“Our engineers have inspected the aircraft and identified that the alert in the cockpit was due to a faulty sensor, and the landing gear was operating normally through the flight.”
Footage posted online by passengers showed a smooth touchdown, the landing gear securely locked in, and a cabin full of very relieved passengers and crew.
“I was getting a bit concerned at the end,” one passenger said when safely collecting his bags in Brisbane’s terminal.
“Brace! Brace! Stay down!”#WATCH: The moment a Qantas flight from #Newcastle was forced to make an emergency landing in Brisbane Airport this morning, leaving passengers to brace in the safety position. #9News pic.twitter.com/ePFPhj1hRW
— 9News Queensland (@9NewsQueensland) May 13, 2021
QantasLink and passengers praise the crew
QantasLink calls the incident a false alarm. However the airline admits it would have raised blood pressure levels in the cabin. QantasLink apologized for the concern caused and thanked passengers for their co-operation.
Both passengers and QantasLink praised the pilots and flight attendants for handling a very stressful situation well.
“They did a great job handling the situation and were able to call on the extensive training they receive,” Mr Gissing said.
“We’re all here, it’s all good, the Captain did a good job,” one laidback and safely landed Queenslander said.
VH-QON operated Thursday’s QF2420 flight. The Dash 8-400 is 12.9 years old and operated for Qantas by subsidiary company Sunstate Airlines. It is one of 48 Dash 8s flying for QantasLink. As you’d expect from an airline with an exemplary safety record, this is the first recorded issue concerning the plane.
VH-QON remains on the ground while Qantas engineers conduct a full safety and maintenance inspection.
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