LCCs ready for take-off; carriers prepare for Boeing B787 deliveries


LCC start-ups dominated airline news this week. Air Canada revealed it is drawing up a business plan to launch an LCC in response to its fast-growing low-cost rivals such as WestJet, Porter Airlines, Air Transat and Sunwing in the Canadian market, according to reports.

Details of the LCC emerged in a letter of understanding forming part of a tentative agreement reached with the Air Canada Pilots Association, and came with the explicit line: “The LCC is not intended to replace mainline routes the company considers financially viable.”

Read the full article: Air Canada considering launch of new leisure LCC as competition in leisure market intensifies.

In a dramatic escalation of low-cost competition in Japan, Skymark Airlines announced plans to launch an LCC operation called the "Narita Shuttle". Skymark will become the first LCC to open a hub at Narita with the launch expected several months ahead of All Nippon Airways' planned LCC JV at Kansai.

Read the full article: Skymark Airlines plans 'Narita Shuttle' LCC; ANA-led LCC makes a move.

A&F Aviation, ANA’s LCC JV subsidiary, said the branding of the start-up is expected to be formally announced next month when its corporate identity and livery are. It will operate a fleet of 10 A320s which will be acquired from GECAS, the first of which will be delivered at the end of the year. The Osaka Kansai International based carrier will launch operations in Mar-2012 and will initially operate to Fukuoka and Sapporo Chitose, adding its first international route to Incheon from May-2012.

Nigeria is home to First Nation Airways which plans to commence operations in May. The carrier, which has three A320 aircraft to date, will initially service Lagos, Abuja Port Harcourt and Kano. More routes will be added to its network as it takes delivery of further aircraft.

In the Carribean, REDjet announced plans to commence service on 08-May-2011 with service from Barbados to St Lucia, followed by Port-of-Spain. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday. REDJet business development director Robbie Burns also disclosed that the airline had concluded some strategic alliances with international service providers ServisAir and Laparkan.

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In the week that Boeing reported its first B787 test aircraft, ZA001, passed its 1000th hour of flight testing, the B787 has featured heavily in the news. This week, Kenya Airways and Boeing reach B787 settlement agreement while Air Pacific dropped its B787 order. Royal Air Maroc, ANA, China Southern and Azerbaijan Airlines have all spoken of their plans when they receive their much-delayed B787s.

Boeing stated B787s powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines have accomplished 90% of the testing needed for certification, but testing of the GEnex powered aircraft is not as advanced.

On Thursday, Kenya Airways and Boeing reached a settlement agreement on the delayed delivery of the nine B787-8s. The airline has also re-affirmed its intention to exercise the option of purchasing four more B787-8 after the initial delivery of the nine aircraft.

Kenya Airways signed a purchase agreement in 2006 for nine firm B787-8 aircraft also taking an option to purchase four additional 787-8 aircraft. The first B787-8 was expected to enter into Kenya Airways service in Oct-2010 is now expected to be delivered by 4Q2013.

The aircraft come in at a time that the airline predicts a "momentous growth in passenger and cargo demand and a rapidly expanding route network". The B787-8 will be used to replace the ageing B767 aircraft as well as open up new long range routes. Kenya Airways was the first carrier to purchase and operate the B777 in sub-Saharan Africa, and was the third major Africa airline to order the B787. 

Air Pacific, meanwhile, confirmed it has cancelled its order for eight Boeing B787-9 aircraft. The Fijian flag carrier had five on firm order with three options. The airline had placed an order for B787-9 aircraft with options for another three in 2006. Air Pacific has not confirmed the reports.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), the launch customer for the B787, stated it would commence B787 pilot training as early as this month. The carrier's mechanics have commenced computerised training and will receive further training by Boeing in Everett. So far, there have been more than 100 ANA mechanics, who visit in groups of 10-12, who have been flown to Seattle for training.

China Southern Airlines President and General Manager Tan Wangeng stated the carrier could receive its first B737 aircraft as early as Dec-2011. The carrier plans to deploy the aircraft on international routes.

Morocco's minister of industry, trade and new technologies Ahmed Chami also stated Royal Air Maroc expects to receive its first B787 before the end of 2011. Boeing has already painted the carrier's first B787, which is third in the production line. The carrier will be the first with General Electric Co engines.

Azerbaijan Airlines Deputy Chairman Sabir Ilyasov, meanwhile, said the carrier hopes to launch its first flights to the US in 2014, following the delivery of its first two B787s. The carrier is scheduled to receive two B787s in 2014, enabling it to open new routes to Europe, Southeast Asia and America.

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