Digital health passes are tipped to be key in the quest for reopening air travel this year. With several nations working on technological solutions to record and present important testing and vaccination details, United Kingdom’s authorities confirmed today that the country is also launching its own scheme.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has shared details about the app-based approach. The system will enable travelers to show if they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative for the virus before heading overseas.
Notably, rather than designing a whole new application to launch this system, the government shares that it will be based on the existing NHS app. Shapps shares the following, as reported by Sky News:
“It will be the NHS app that is used for people when they book appointments with the NHS and so on, to be able to show you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had testing. I’m working internationally with partners across the world to make sure that system can be internationally recognised.”
Presently, the NHS app is a useful tool for numerous medical requirements. Features include the ability to manage appointments, register details, order repeat prescriptions, and find out general information.
It is natural that the UK would be keen to utilize the app in regard to COVID certification as it already can be used to view GP health records securely. With the population already familiar with this system, the storing and viewing of new data will be far more feasible than introducing a whole new program.
Diplomacy is vital
Nonetheless, even though the app’s scalability is a big plus within the UK, it’s also critical that it is recognized by other nations. To be used for international travel, there needs to be a universal understanding of these systems.
The European Commission hopes that airlines will be using its Digital Green Certificate by this summer. This certificate will include details about vaccinations, antibodies, and testing in a bid to open up free movement.
Moreover, airlines across the continent are trying their hand at several different apps to record COVID travel certification. So, with several destinations and companies implementing different systems, there needs to be coordination to allow people to safely travel as smoothly as possible.
Gearing up for a return
Altogether, the UK population will be eager to hear more details about travel requirements in and out of the country. Bar some exceptions, general international is banned until at least May 17th. However, this date is fast approaching, and the roadmap to reopening is still unclear.
For now, we know that the government is introducing a traffic light system. Still, the countries that will be red, amber, or green as part of this policy are yet to be announced.
One thing that is clear is that testing is here to stay. Shapps concluded the following in Sky News’ report:
“You will still need to take a pre-departure test and one test on your return. I think people are getting very used to testing now, not least because we provide testing up to twice a week for everyone in the country right now. So I don’t think a test itself is a big deal.”
Airlines are preparing for a busier summer schedule in comparison to the current downturn. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Greece are looking forward to welcoming back tourists. As a result, carriers are ramping up their frequencies in anticipation.
Travel has largely been suppressed amid ongoing travel restrictions and harsh conditions across the globe over the last year. Therefore, there is undoubtedly plenty of pent-up demand. Yet, the ability to fly is in the hands of governments and their policies. A balanced approach to enable safe but practical travel will be crucial in the next chapter.
What are your thoughts about the UK’s digital health pass plans? Is this a good move for the country? Let us know what you think in the comment section.
Jumbo Future: The Boeing 777X Has 320 Orders So Far
Although the aircraft is still around two years away from entering service, Boeing has racked up 320 orders for the new 777X. According to Boeing’s order book, the largest number order is the 115 aircraft ordered by Emirates. We’ve taken a closer look at the current and possible future 777X orders.
The newest variant of the best-selling 777 widebody family, the 777X, is already proving popular with airlines worldwide. According to Boeing’s list of unfulfilled orders, 320 aircraft have been ordered already. The next-generation aircraft includes the 777-8 and 777-9 variants.
At the end of last year, the manufacturer already had 309 firm orders, but this has jumped to 320 in the last few months. However, this doesn’t mean any new orders have come in. Previously, Singapore Airlines was only going to take 20 new 777X, but the airline increased this to 31 in February by switching from 14 787-10 Dreamliners to an additional 11 777X.
In addition to the 115 which will join Emirates’ fleet, 60 will head to Qatar Airways, and 25 will go to Etihad. A further 20 each will join ANA and Lufthansa, with 21 going to Cathay Pacific. Boeing will deliver 18 777X to British Airways, and the remaining ten are for an unidentified customer or customers.
Are problems at an end?
The 777X has been faced with problems and delays for several years now. First, development took longer than expected. Then, the global pandemic has meant deliveries have been deferred, and global demand is low. The program’s delays have meant airlines interested in the 777X have switched or placed orders for Dreamliners to meet growing demands.
However, the delays may now be a good thing. According to the previous schedule, the first 777Xs would have headed straight for storage during the travel restrictions of last year. Now, when the first aircraft is finally rolled off the production line, it should enter service.
However, delays are still being reported. The earliest delivery is now looking like 2023. But most airlines are suggesting the bulk of deliveries won’t happen until 2024 or 2025. For many airlines, that gives them more time to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. However, if recovery is swift and demand grows, and the planes still aren’t ready, Boeing may seem the 320-strong orders drop.
More or fewer orders?
While the delays may be welcomed by some airlines, other airlines have voiced concern. Emirates President Tim Clark confirmed he has spoken to Boeing about the possibility that delays could be as late as 2025.
Emirates plans to use the new 777Xs to replace some of its older A380s. If the airline wants to recover well over the next years but won’t receive its new aircraft until around 2025, it could modify its order. There is also a rumor that Cathay Pacific could slash its order for 21 777X by half.
However, demand for the long-awaited 77X remains strong. It appears as if Lufthansa and Qatar Airways are vying for the position as the launch customer. Each airline hoping to get the new aircraft as soon as possible. British Airways also has the option for 24 more of the type, so this could see a small order increase for Boeing.
What do you think of the 777X program? Do you think we will see an increase in orders as the program inches nearer completion? Or will more airlines look to defer, swap, and cancel orders? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.
SmartLynx Airlines Malta to add 5 Airbus A330 freighters
SmartLynx Airlines Malta has announced an important addition to its Airbus fleet. Currently operated Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft, the fleet will be joined by Airbus A330 aircraft type with a goal to become leaders of long-haul market.
5 Airbus A330 aircraft will be modified to Zero LOPA by removing passenger seats and preparing aircraft for cargo flights. The planes are planned to be added to SmartLynx Airlines’ fleet during May and June.
According to IATA, in April 2021, air cargo demand reached an all-time high and was up 9% compared to pre-COVID levels (Feb 2019). The increased market demand for long-haul cargo operations prompted SmartLynx Airlines to grow their fleet and introduce the modified aircraft, able to transport cargo shipments, including vaccines and medical supplies, on long-haul flights.
The global aircraft leasing platform CDB Aviation will be leasing out several Airbus A330 aircraft to SmartLynx Airlines.
The updated A330 aircraft will carry cargo for existing and future clients to and from Asia, USA and Europe, with a volume capacity of 260 m3 and a maximum cargo weight of 50,000 kg.
Earlier this year, SmartLynx Airlines has already showed its flexibility and forward-thinking attitude, making the necessary Zero LOPA modifications on two of the fleet’s A321 units to meet the growing demand for cargo transportation and became one of the first carriers to introduce A321F to operations.
Alaska Airlines announces fleet expansion and new route
Seattle-based carrier, Alaska Airline has confirmed that it is ordering more aircraft from Boeing and Embraer. In addition to aircraft which are already on order, Alaska Airlines stated that it now plans to add a total of 30 additional mainline and regional aircraft to its fleet. The airline has also announced that it plans to operate flights to a new international destination for leisure travellers.
Like the majority of US carriers, Alaska expects domestic travel to return to pre-pandemic levels by the summer of next year. This means the carrier will require more aircraft across its route network and is starting to prepare for the influx of travellers, who are eager to get out and travel.
Alaska Airlines decided to take up its option and has placed an additional order with Boeing for 13 Boeing 737 MAX jets, which will be staggered a bit later in 2023 and 2024. “Regional aircraft play a huge role in Alaska’s growing network,” said the Senior Vice President of fleet, finance and alliances, Nat Pieper. “As our network expands, regional aircraft connect smaller communities to our larger hubs providing critical feed to assist in the development of new markets.”
Last December, Alaska and Boeing renegotiated delivery terms for its order of 68 737 MAX aircraft which also includes an option for 52 more aircraft. The airline took delivery of its first 737 MAX aircraft, registered N913AK back in January and is already in commercial revenue service with the airline and expects to continue to receive 737 MAX aircraft as part of the carrier’s order right up until 2024.
The new terms on the deal with Boeing means the carrier is left with 39 options aircraft which it may use from 2023 to 2026. Speaking about the new agreement, Nat Pieper said, “We are excited to exercise options for more 737-9s just months after committing to 68 firm deliveries. It’s another indication that we’re ready for growth.”
Alaska has also placed a tentative order for 17 Embraer 175 aircraft, which will be split between the wholly-owned Horizon Air and SkyWest. Horizon will receive nine Embraer 175s over the next two years, with five scheduled for delivery in 2022 and four in 2023. Meanwhile, all of SkyWest’s aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and are scheduled to strategically arrive when demand begins to ramp up and the requirement for more jets is more prevalent.
In addition to updates to its fleet, Alaska has also announced the opening of a new international leisure destination for travellers. The airline revealed that it will soon operate flights from its west coast hubs to Belize City (BZE) and becomes the carrier’s most recent international destination.
Commented on the new destination, Brett Catlin, Alaska Airlines Vice President of network and alliances for Alaska said “Our guests are eager for more eco-friendly leisure destinations, especially as they get vaccinated, and we’re ready to offer them terrific options. Belize offers an unbeatable mix of sensational beaches, iconic cayes and rich heritage.”
Belize will also mark the fourth country that Alaska flies to and will join countries like Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. Potential operating schedules and routes to Belize are still yet to be announced, but they are expected to be revealed by early June when tickets go on sale.
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Inside Wizz Air’s New Rome Expansion: 32 New Routes
Wizz Air has today, May 13th, announced its next base: Rome Fiumicino. This becomes its 43rd base at which it’ll add 32 new routes along with four A321neos, each of which has 239 seats. Despite serve Fiumicino for years, Wizz Air has barely grown at the airport – until now. Coronavirus has changed that, presumably because of lower charges.
Wizz Air’s new Rome base opens in July, less than two months away, to capture peak summer demand, especially outbound to key tourist destinations. Speaking at the press conference in Rome, Wizz Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, George Michalopoulos, said:
“I am delighted to announce our newest base in Rome Fiumicino Airport. Wizz Air’s fifth Italian base underpins our commitment to continue to invest in Italy supporting both Italy’s economic recovery as well offering consumers a wide range of affordable destinations at low fares.”
32 routes from Rome Fiumicino
The coming routes are summarised below, with all but one beginning in July. Given the need for bilaterals to Turkey, which requires an Italian or Turkish air operator’s certificate, it is surprising that Antalya and Bodrum are to begin. It is believed that it has ‘Italian jurisdiction’ to launch these services.
Combined, the 32 routes have 88 weekly departures, meaning each aircraft will operate about three round-trips per day. At an average of 989 miles, most routes will still be in the less-than-two-hour sweet spot for low-cost carriers.
|From Rome Fiumicino to…||Weekly departures||Start date|
|London Luton||7||July 1st|
|Satu Mare||2||July 17th|
|Sharm El Sheikh||2||July 17th|
|Tel Aviv||3||July 16th|
|Tenerife South||2||July 3rd|
|Tirgu Mures||3||July 1st|
14 routes to have head-to-head competition
14 routes will see head-to-head competition in July, particularly Tel Aviv, Mykonos, Santorini, Nice, and Split. Tel Aviv starts on July 16th and will be three-weekly. It’ll compete directly with Alitalia (27 weekly departures), El Al (five), Ryanair (three), and Blue Bird (two). In all, there will be 40 departures that week, down from 51 in the same week in 2019.
Only one route – Luton, Wizz Air’s largest airport – will be served seven-weekly or more. This route, which will arrive back into Rome at 00:55, was previously served by both Monarch (2012-2017) and easyJet (2014-2020).
Rome becomes fifth base in Italy
Wizz Air has developed very significantly in Italy in the past year. It announced its first base, at Milan Malpensa, in May 2020. Now, 12 months, later Rome Fiumicino becomes the fifth and also its second-largest base, as follows.
- Milan Malpensa: five based aircraft
- Rome Fiumicino: four
- Catania: three
- Bari: two
- Palermo: two
You’d be forgiven for not keeping up with Wizz Air’s rapid expansion, which in the past two weeks has included multiple new routes from across Italy, including Catania and Bari to Abu Dhabi. Both routes start on September 21st; Catania has fares starting from €59.99 one-way.
24 new airports added to Wizz Air’s network
The Wizz Air Group will add 24 new airports to its system in 2021, as summarized in the following tweet from Sean Moulton. The ULCC’s new Fiumicino base is responsible for adding Antalya, Dubrovnik, and Hurghada. While Wizz Air has served Croatia for years, mainly Split, it has avoided Dubrovnik – which it dropped in 2011 – because of high charges. How things change.
Wizz Air add flights 3 new airports to its network:
Sharm El Sheikh
— Sean M 🌈✈ (@SeanM1997) May 13, 2021
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