Airbus announced (28-Apr-2011) it is targetting the autumn of 2014 for a maiden flight of its A320neo, with certification to follow about one year later. Entry into service is scheduled for Oct-2015. Current planning calls for an eight-aircraft flight test programme, which will accumulate a combined total of approximately 2600 flight hours. The manufacturer has orders and commitments from IndiGo, Virgin America, ILFC and TAM. The aircraft will feature "sharklet" wing-tip devices and two new engine choices – CFM International’s LEAP-X and the PW1100G by Pratt & Whitney. Modifications for the A320neo configuration include certain structural changes to specific airframe areas, along with a new engine pylon. Earlier this year, customers selected the PW1100G as lead development engine. [more]
Airbus aims for first A320neo flight in 2014
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Alaska Air Group and Virgin: Running two brands is a growing trend. Working them is the hard bit
One of the most discussed aspects of the pending merger between Alaska Air Group and Virgin America is how Alaska would navigate the sensitivities of dissolving the Virgin America brand, given the fierce brand loyalty that Virgin America engenders among higher-yielding passengers. Now it appears that Alaska is giving serious consideration to retaining the Virgin America brand.
Although sustaining two brands post-merger is rare in the US industry, the combination of Alaska and Virgin America is unique in many aspects – most notable is that both brands generate strong positive sentiment among customers. That has not been the case for some US airline mergers, where in some cases a less popular or less prominent brand was retired.
Despite the complexities inherent in running separate brands, there are valid business reasons for Alaska to seriously evaluate the pros and cons of adopting that strategy. One important factor is preserving the levels of revenue that made the deal attractive in the first place.
Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest cost projections; good in the short term but long term challenges loom
Just as the large three global US airlines – American, Delta and United – work to contain their unit costs, their rivals Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest are committed to keeping their respective unit costs in line as the current revenue environment in the US remains weak.
The latter three airlines face different cost dynamics in the future. Alaska is attempting to embark on a merger with Virgin America, which will inevitably create some cost pressure as the full integration gets under way. Southwest is in the middle of complex pilot and flight attendant negotiations, which makes predicting its cost performance in the near- to mid-term difficult. At some point jetBlue will also conclude a new pilot contract that will affect its cost structure.
Cost performance results for Alaska, jetBlue and Southwest for 2Q2016 and the full year look reasonably favourable, although Alaska has refined its 2016 targets slightly, driven in part by increases in performance-based pay. But its costs should remain competitive compared with its peers, and solidly lower than those of the larger network carriers.