Posts Tagged 'aviation'

First Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental for Lufthansa

Lufthansa has conducted the first scheduled flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington, DC, USA with the brand new Boeing 747-8Intercontinental, which is the latest, and most advanced version of the classic Boeing 747. Lufthansa is the launch customer of the type.

The plane was delivered to Lufthansa (LH) on May 1 (about 2 years later than originally planned)  and has been used for training for a month at its home base in Frankfurt, before her maiden revenue flight on June 1, 2012. Flight LH416 — the first Boeing 747-8I passenger service — passed through the traditional water salute at Frankfurt in the morning and landed at 12:45 local time, 10 min. ahead of schedule. Flying time was 7 hr. 57 min.

The (so far) longest version of the classic Boeing 747 JumboJet has 362 seats in three cabins: 8 seats in First-class, 92 seats in Business-class and 262 in Economy. With this size, it fills the gap between the Airbus A340-600’s and the A380. Even the size (and most of the plane) was designed by Boeing, based on requirements by Lufthansa, making the German carrier a real launch customer of the new -8Intercontinental. Actually Lufthansa was the one originally raising the idea of this type to Boeing, who agreed to make the plane a bit longer, and implement many of the new technologies developed for the 787 Dreamliner program – including state-of-the-art wings with much improved aerodynamics and raked wingtips, some composite materials, fly-by-wire technology and next generation engines.

The fourth-generation 747 is powered by GE Aviation’s GEnx-2B engines, which will bring double-digit improvements in fuel burn and emissions over its predecessor, the 747-400, while generating 30% less noise (should be noticeable even on board). It should burn 10-15% less fuel than the last 747 version, the -400, which puts it right next to the Airbus A380 in terms of seat-mile-cost. This first plane is within the limits but has not yet reached planned targets in terms of performance requirements, said Deutsch Lufthansa AG Executive Board member Carsten Spohr, as quoted by ATW News. “This first new aircraft (of a new type) is never the best one,” Spohr told ATW. He said the weight of the aircraft is too high, resulting in more fuel burn. Also, he said, the General Electric GEnx-2B engines have to improve. Lufthansa hopes these issues will be resolved by the delivery of the tenth/eleventh plane of the type next year.

It is such an honor to join Lufthansa in welcoming the 747-8 Intercontinental into service,” said Elizabeth Lund, Boeing vice president and general manager, 747 Program. “Lufthansa has provided great inspiration and leadership in helping us design a new Queen of the Skies for the 21st Century, an airplane that Lufthansa will love for its efficiency and reliability, airport neighbors will love for its quiet operations and low emissions, and passengers will love for its beautiful new interior and extra space.

The German flag-carrier has 20 747-8Is on order plus 20 options as part of its biggest-ever fleet modernization program. The aircraft will be delivered at a rate of five aircraft per year through mid-2015. After the Washington route, other destination cities to follow include Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, New Delhi and Bangalore.

Korean Air and Air China are the next customers to receive their first 747-8I type airplanes next year, while Lufthansa will take delivery of four more aircraft this year (the second one within a month).

________________

More about the 747-8I overview, details, development process and the new aircraft in general is available in the Lufthansa Magazine Special Issue on the web or for your iPad in iTunes (highly recommended!) (free app, with a selection of free issues of the Lufthansa Magazine, You should look to download the special Boeing 747-8 edition)

by balint01

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9th Emirates A380 Destination: Manchester

Emirates Airlines is going to fly their Airbus A380 superjumbo to Manchester, UK from the first of September.

The Dubai based carrier will be replacing one of their two daily flights between Dubai and Manchester on September 1, 2010. The plane to be operated to their second A380 destination in the UK will be a 517 seat version of the largest Airbus plane. The A380 will replace a Boeing 777 that currently operates the route.

Manchester will be the 9th destination that Emirates flies the A380 to, and the third in Europe, following London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Outside of Europe they operate the doubledecker aircraft to Toronto, Jeddah, Bangkok, Soeul Incheon, Sydney and Auckland.

This announcement didn’t come cheap for Manchester, though: “We have invested close to £10 million in upgrading the airfield and terminal. . .to accommodate the aircraft,”  Andrew Cornish from Manchester Airport said.

by balint01

Lufthansa Italia Launches at Milan-Malpensa

There was a great market opening in Northern Italy for scheduled air services, as the weakened Alitalia decided to focus on their hub in Rome. Ryanair was among the first operators to announce that it’s capable of placing a few aircraft there, but in the end it seems that Lufthansa is the first airline to actually make a strong move.

Lufthansa has been shopping around Europe as we reported earlier, but has missed out on purchasing a stake in the re-launched Alitalia a few weeks ago, who in the end chose to cooperate with their long-time SkyTeam partner, Air France-KLM. Lufthansa (and Star Alliance) had a very good relationship to the second biggest Italian carrier, Air One, but Air One is included in the newly formed Alitalia, thus probably that relationship will sooner or later end. But the German flag-carrier is not sitting around waiting for that, instead, they have chosen a different way to strengthen their position in the Italian market: setting up their own subsidiary outside the safe German home-market.

lufthansa_italia_a319_by_mxphotos1

The new Lufthansa Italia took to the skies on January 28, 2009 with a panoramic flight over the Alps which was followed by the christening ceremony of its first two Airbus A319s, named “Milano” and “Varese” respectively. Until now all Lufthansa planes have been named after German cities, therefore these new names are symbolically emphasizing their aggressive expansion strategy and real focus on the Italian market.

The A319s were painted in Lufthansa Italia livery and refurbished with 138 seats across two classes. The cabin interior will be designed Italian-style, in-flight service will be in the hands of Italian fights attendants and Italian delicacies will round off the in-flight cuisine. Scheduled service will start February 2, 2009, with the first two destinations: thrice daily flights to both Barcelona and Paris (Charles de Gaulle).  After the arrival of the next two aircraft, starting March 2, 2009 twice daily flights to Brussels, Budapest and Madrid plus a daily service to Bucharest will be added to the timetable four weeks later. London (Heathrow) (four-times-daily ! ) and Lisbon (daily) will be brought into the network from the start of the 2009 summer flight schedules at the end of March when another two Airbus A319s join the fleet. Five aircraft are ex-Germanwings and one will come from the Lufthansa mainline. The new services will provide Lufthansa customers with fast, non-stop connections to European metropolises.

In the summer, the new airline will operate some 260 weekly flights out of MXP in addition to the 140 operated by Lufthansa. This will mean that Lufthansa and Lufthansa Italia will operate a total of weekly 400 flights from Milan-Malpensa!

Once LH Italia receives its own Air Operators Certificate (AOC), it will employ some 300 people. Lufthansa Italia is seeking an Italian AOC in large part to secure traffic rights to non-EU destinations like Eastern Europe or countries that do not have open skies agreements with the EU.

by balint01

Book Review : Air Babylon

‘Flying!’ says Tom, as Susan and I slip past him. ‘A champagne lifestyle on lemonade money. Don’t you just love it?’

Air BabylonWe do love it, and if you want to know more about it, or just a have a good laugh, this 2005 book by Imogen Edwards-Jones & Anonymus (where Anonymus stands for a number of unnamed airline and airport staff interviewed by the author) takes you behind the scenes of the world of flying in a very funny, entertaining way.

The book is basically a lot of anecdotes compiled in a fictional day of an Airport Duty Manager of the imaginery Air Babylon Airlines, organized in 24 chapters that span each hour of the day from 5am – til 5am the next day. We witness the Airport operations from handling flight arrivals early in the morning that arrive with dead people and criminals on board as well as with a snake that broke loose during the flight, through check-in and boarding, including the always required and sought after quick cigarettes on the apron as well as the must-have coffee breaks to fight the hangover from the last day… Our hero arrives at the airport at 5am with his shitty car looking around the parking lot at the Jaguars, Audis and BMW’s of the baggage handlers… We get an insight to the world of check-in for example, why and what the check-in agents are typing into the computer while we just stand there in front of them for a few minutes in silence. Why and based on what does the duty manager make the call about late comers allowed on the plane or being rejected, or another important “lesson” for the reader’s future travels is why complaining and whining around about the desired seat can result in a very unpleasant travel experience…

Later on during the day we witness “typical” airport situations such a boyfriend saying goodbye to his girlfriend and taking pills, a police escorted terrorist checking-in, or random sex happening around in the airport toilettes. The book also reveals the tricks of how we can get the worst seat on a flight or where is the best place to have sex on board an airplane or why we usually don’t see the panty-line on a stewardess’ skirt… On the other hand, I believe some parts of the story include an exaggerated amount of alcohol drinking by the staff and crew – they probably do drink while on the job, but I personally believe it’s not as bad as described in the book by Edwards-Jones. But of course I haven’t been working as a flight attendant, so I shouldn’t make any statements about that…The nose of an Airplane as seen from the apron

Even though the book is mostly about the airport life, it also takes us on an extremely eventful flight to Dubai to join the team of sex-hungry, alcohol-blooded airline employees celebrating the assistant airport manager’s birthday on a quick get-away trip. During this flight we learn about many typical situations on board – from heavy turbulence to breakfast fixing by the “hosties” or why the cabin heating seems to work much better after dinner.

The book reveals a large number of airline secrets that are good and fun to know for everyday travellers, and does this in a very entertaining, humorous manner. We at the airlineworld blog have both read it and suggest it for airline-fans as well as to regular passengers. Only one warning: if you’re afraid of flying, you should read it in a nice chair on the porch or in your living room (especially the chapters after 9pm), rather than onboard a long transatlantic flight – even though it would also make such a flight much easier to survive and the time would fly much faster!

by balint01

Lufthansa Shopping Around Europe

Lufthansa Logo

Lufthansa, the German flag carrier has been one of the most successful airlines in Europe in recent years and a leader in the Star Alliance. They have made very strong relationships with the other European Star Alliance members by sharing loyalty programs (pushing through their own Miles & More program to be used by others), promoting strong code-share agreements, etc. They have also assured to have an insight and some influence over at least some of their fellow European Star partners by having minority stakes in British bmi and the Scandinavian SAS. Lufthansa has also made a strong partnership with Italian Air One in 2000 – this is a nowadays often heard name, as Air One is merging with the nearly-collapsed Alitalia to form the new Italian flag-carrier.

Swiss logo 1. SWISS International Airlines (2005)

Other European carriers may have also had some similar agreements in place, but no minority ownership in other airlines, until only a few years ago. Then in 2004 Air France merged with KLM, creating Air France-KLM and created the world’s largest Airline in terms of annual revenue in those days. As an answer, Lufthansa purchased the bankrupt Swiss International Airlines in March 2005, which was also officially communicated as a merger, but in reality it was a take-over by the Germans. Swiss has been turned around and is making profit these days – thus it is living proof that Lufthansa may be very successful in acquiring other airlines and merging them into its extended line of subsidiaries that contain smaller, regional partners such as Air Dolomiti, Lufthansa CityLine, Augsburg Airways just to name a few. Obviously Swiss became a much bigger subsidiary than these others by keeping its own brand and identity but sharing the coherences.

JetBlue logo

2. jetBlue (2007)

Then, two years after the succussful Swiss take-over, Lufthansa began airline shopping in late 2007. First it purchased a 19% stake in the American low-cost airline, JetBlue and announced extended partnerships.

Brussels_Airlines_Logo3. Brussels Airlines (2008)

But in 2008, Lufthansa really shifted gears and became the main advocate and driver of airline consolidation around Europe. Basically any airline sales that have happened this year, included Lufthansa as a potential buyer at some point, but more interestingly in a number of cases they turned out to be the actual buyers. On September 15 2008, Lufthansa announced a relative surprise 45% stake acquisition in Brussels Airlines, just two weeks after the first rumours of such a tie-up. It is interesting as Brussels Airlines has not been a member of Star Alliance (has been an outsider to any airline alliances actually), and is a result of a merger by itself, that happened not so long ago. In 2006 SN Brussels Airlines (replacement of the earlier bankrupt Sabena) merged with Virgin Express, a Richard Branson owned low-cost carrier to create the largest Belgian airlines. Lufthansa now owns 45% of it, but has an option to purchase the remaining 55% by 2011. Brussels Airlines is bound to gain full membership to Star Alliance in the coming years as a result. During the merger process it was revealed that Brussels Airlines was also in talks with British Airways, but that deal has fallen through.

Over the course of 2008, Lufthansa was also mentioned as a potential buyer of SAS, or its subsidiary in Spain: Spanair. They are both members of Star, so it would have been a logical step. (The Spanair interest has been expressed already in 2007 as we reported.) However, a Spanair flight suffered a very bad, deadly accident on August 20th, 2008, following of which Lufthansa seems to have given up on purchasing the SAS lead airline group that fell into heavy losses after the accident.

bmi logo4. bmi (British Midland) (2008)

But let’s not forget the large UK market, where as said earlier, LH has held a minority stake (30%-1 share) in the second largest local player on the market: bmi. The current majority stakeholder, Sir Michael Bishop has 50%+1 share, with the remaining 20% being owned by the Scandinavian SAS Airlines group. Lufthansa is planning to purchase the stakes of Sir Bishop (who expressed his intentions of selling his stakes to the Germans in late October, 2008), with which they would become the 80% owner of the second largest British Airlines, and the airlines holding the second largest number of take-off and landing slots at London Heathrow airport, the biggest European Gateway to North-America. This sale is expected at around GBP 314 Million, which at the time of the announcement was worth around EUR 400 Million. By the time the sale is concluded sometime in January 2009, it may cost less for the Germans due to the recent weakness of the Pound against the Euro. Having mentioned Sir Richard Branson’s name in connection with Brussels Airlines above, both parties have confirmed that should Lufthansa become the majority owner of bmi, he would very much like to link up the long-haul operations of his Virgin Atlantic Airways with the short and medium haul flights of bmi – to create a realistic competition to British Airways in the UK. Virgin Atlantic Airways President Richard Branson said in December that “talks will take place with Lufthansa, maybe are taking place, to see whether it makes sense for the two companies to work together,” the Associated Press reported.

Update: On 18MAY2009, the takeover bid has been approved by the European Commission.

austrian_airlines_logo5. Austrian Airlines (2008)

On the other hand, Lufthansa quickly turned its focus towards the recently loss-making Austrian Airlines, a long-time close Star Alliance partner. The Austrian Government was selling off the majority stake of its own flag-carrier over the course of October-November, 2008. There are some controversial details to the final bidding process where AirFrance-KLM had dropped its bid, but after all, Lufthansa was announced as the winner of this privatization effort. This sounds like a logical step, based on their long-time partnership. The deal is expected to be closed by January 2009.

Update (29AUG2009): It took much longer than expected, but finally on 28AUG, the European Commission has officially approved Lufthansa’s acquisition of Austrian Airlines Group. Lufthansa alleviated antitrust concerns by agreeing to reduce service between five European cities (Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne and Brussels) and Vienna.

Update (05FEB2010): All remaining shares in Austrian Airlines Group held by minority shareholders have been transferred to Lufthansa subsidiary Osterreichische Luftverkehrs Holding by order of the Vienna Commercial Court. Share certificates are redeemable for cash compensation, Lufthansa said. In December it said it would pay €0.50 ($0.70) for each outstanding share. Austrian Airlines Group is expected to be delisted from the Vienna Stock Exchange soon.

germanwings logo6. Germanwings (2008)

Another late 2008 announcement saw Lufthansa taking full ownership of the German low-cost carrier, Germanwings (established in 1997), that was owned by Eurowings, a Dortmund based regional air carrier. To twist this story, Lufthansa has been holding a 49% stake in Eurowings since 2006 with full control as parent company, thus it was already partial owner of Germanwings before the announcement in December, 2008, that it will fully take it over as of January 1, 2009.

7. What’s next in 2009?

Looking at the dynamics of Lufthansa shopping around Europe for other airlines, we are sure they will continue in 2009. But what could be their next target(s)?

  • Alitalia
    The Italian flag-carrier is just being reorganized and the new owners are looking for a strategic partner, which could be either Lufthansa (given their strong relationship to Air One, it would make sense) or Air France-KLM (they have been cooperating with Alitalia and are all in SkyTeam). And let’s not forget that Lufthansa has been interested in Alitalia all along the long and rocky road to its privatization.
    Update (09JAN2009): Lufthansa confirmed that it did not make an offer for Alitalia in the end, and prefers to work with its Star Alliance partners in the Italian market. Air France-KLM will hold a minority stake in the reorganized Italian flag-carrier.
  • SAS / Spanair
    Given the earlier speculations and shared Star Alliance interests, a partial or majority stake exchange or merger could still happen between Lufthansa and SAS or SAS subsidiary Spanair.
    Update (02FEB2009): SAS has sold its 80.1% stake in Spanair for €1 ($1.31), leaving SAS with the remainder. This practically rules out Lufthansa buying the Spanish carrier, but would still offer the possibility for a stake in SAS.
  • LOT Polish Airlines
    The Polish government is planning to sell all or at least part of the national carrier of Poland that has been in Star Alliance and has been cooperating with Lufthansa for quite some time.
  • TAP Portugal
    We don’t know about TAP being up for sale, but would not be surprised if Lufthansa would simply buy the fellow Star Alliance member that would give them a much larger presence in South-America.
  • CSA Czech Airlines
    I wouldn’t bet on such a tie-up, but given the aggressiveness of the Germans, if and when CSA will be up for privatization, they may join the tender process, just in case…
    Update: Lufthansa had not turned in an offer for CSA.
  • Regional carriers
    There are a number of regional flag-carriers of smaller European countries that could theoretically be of interest to Lufthansa next year, such as those Star Alliance associates on the Balkans (Croatia Airlines and Adria Airways) or any of the small carriers in the Baltic states.

If Lufthansa will keep its course and will continue to be shopping around Europe for airlines in 2009, we’ll be here to keep you updated! And of course the other two major European players (Air France-KLM and British Airways) will also have to speed up their consolidation plans if they want to cooperate with any airline in Europe, before Lufthansa buys them all…

by balint01

Airbus A320 Crashes in the Mediterranean Sea

An Airbus A320 has crashed in the Mediterranean Sea on 27NOV2008, just 2.5 km offshore Canet-en-Roussillon in Perpignan, southern France. Reports say this was a test flight, with three people found dead and four missing (but feared dead), which would mean none of the 7 people onboard would have survived the crash

The aircraft plunged into waters just off the French coast after taking off in late afternoon with a crew of seven from Perpignan, France, where the plane was being overhauled. The accident occured at around 5pm local time, as the plane was preparing to land after the two-hour test flight. The plane belonged to Air New Zealand and had been leased to the German carrier XL Airways for the last two years. It was to have been returned in the coming days to Air New Zealand, thus it has been repainted to Air New Zealand colours when the accident happened.

The Airbus A320 in XL Airways colors and registration
The Airbus A320 in XL Airways colors and registration (c by Roger Andreasson at airliners.net)

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe told a news conference in Auckland that two of the crew were German pilots from XL Airways. (Some reports say they were actually piloting the plane on this flight, but this is not yet confirmed.) The others were a pilot and three engineers employed by Air New Zealand and an inspector from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority, he said.

Three bodies were recovered from the water, and though French Navy boats, planes and a helicopter were continuing rescue search efforts, a spokesman for the French Coast Guard said that it was very unlikely that anyone had survived the crash.

Fyfe told reporters on Friday 28NOV2008, that he still hoped survivors would be found. “I certainly haven’t given up hope,” he said.

The cause of the accident is not yet known, but according to some reports, the spokesman for XL said “the plane tried to make an emergency landing on the sea.” The remains of the plane is currently resting in about 30 meters of water.

by balint01

Flight Review: easyJet

Route: BUDAPEST-London/Gatwick
Travel Date: 05OCT2008

Ticket Purchase

I have bought the ticket through www.easyjet.com, which was very simple and straight forward. After selecting your departue city on the homepage, it narrows down the list of destinations which are directly served from there. Also there is an option to indicate if you’re flexible about your dates. As I was on a business trip, this was not an option for me, I had to leave on a Sunday as the Monday schedule from Budapest to London pretty much destroys the full business day, thus it’s not an option… (I think with the winter 2008 timetable this flight has been rescheduled as an evening flight.) The Search Results still show 3 days, even though I have opted not to be flexible with my dates…

The least fair step of the booking process, comes after selecting your flight, where additional services are already added to your flight by default and the price of course is increased. This page looks very crowded, with loads of information presented in a number of different stlyed boxes below each other, making it hard to read and find the important information (“I’m charged with extra stuff”), which seems to be lost among the colored text and symbols. Third party taxes are of course OK, but why do I have to be automatically opted-in to Travel Insurance and 1 checked-in luggage with their associated costs? I can somewhat understand the luggage as probably the average traveller takes 1 larger, non-carry-on bag with them, but the insurance is really something that should not be opted-in by default! I can still add other items to the service, such as Speedy Boarding, additional luggage, and special sports equipment. This is the step when I can also opt-in to compensate my CO2 emmissions of the flight(s) booked. After having actively removed the Travel Insurance and the Checked-in luggage fee, I can continue to the next page to provide my traveller details, etc. Based on my preferred credit card type, I’m again charged with the extra Credit Card Transactional Fee. Only Visa Electron is transaction fee free… Once paid, I can already check-in if my flight is within 3 months from now! This is a very nice solution!

Offsetting Carbon Emissions 

Offsetting Carbon Emissions is very easy and simple with easyJet. As I already mentioned after selecting your flight you are presented with a very loaded page where you can opt-in for extras. One of those is the CO2 offsetting schema, that has already calculated the amount you should pay for this “service” and you can opt-in with just one simple click.

easyJet Airbus A319 (G-EZBU) c by Martin Stephen on airliners.net

easyJet Airbus A319 (G-EZBU) c by Martin Stephen on airliners.net

Check-In

I chose to check-in online, immediately after finishing my booking. It opens 3 months before the actual flight, it’s very simple, and you can print your boarding pass at the end of the process. It is very convenient as you can proceed straight to the gate with that piece of paper. The only worry I would have is that if I’m checked in 3 months in advance for a flight, I may simply forget about it… 🙂 As easyJet is using “Open seating“, there are no seats assigned to the passengers, you can look for a free seat you like and just take it once you’re on the aircraft. With the internet check-in, one is placed in boarding group “A”, that supposedly gets on board after those who have purchased the “Speedy Boarding” service – to guarantee themselves as among the first people to enter the airplane. There is another group following “A”, which is “B” and includes those who checked-in at the airport. They are the last ones to get on the plane and can only select from “left-over” seats.

1. BUDAPEST – LONDON GATWICK (EZY 5444)

Aircraft: Airbus A319 (G-EZBU)
Class: Economy (one class layout)
Punctuality: Flight took off 2 minutes late, arrived exactly on time.
Boarding: By bus, thus the above described boarding groups were hard to coordinate I think. As I took the aft door of the plane after getting out of the bus, I probably entered the plane with my “A” group Boarding pass earlier than some of those going through the front door and having “Speedy Boarding”… I got a window seat without any problems. Flight was less-than half house, with plenty of free seats, I was the only one in my row on my side.
Seats: Regular seats with less-than average legroom
Flight Attendants: There were 4 of them, 2 young girls and 1 guy plus 1 older purser. Two of the girls were good looking, all of them were very friendly.
Meals: Meals are offered at an additional cost, you can select from a range of sandwiches and drinks including alcoholic drinks. Those who selected a warm sandwhich, had to wait about 20 mins before they got their heated up food.
In-Flight shopping: In-flight shopping contains a selected range of items. I have purchased a limited series easyJet model plastic aircraft only, as the parfume I wanted to buy for my wife has already ran out.
Entertainment: No LCD screens or such, only the In-Flight magazine of easyJet plus the In-Flight Shopping guide of course. Bring your own reading material and music player!

Onboard easyJet

Onboard easyJet

Overall Experience

It was exactly what I paid for: transportation from Budapest to London Gatwick, in a timely, correct manner without any frills. I would take this flight again, but only if I ever want to leave on a business trip on a Sunday afternoon as the schedule is not really good for travellers originating in Budapest. Totally wrong schedule for any Hungarian business travellers, as the flight leaves in the afternoon and returns from London in late morning, but probably suits London business people just OK. The pricetag: this one way flight costed HUF 41.400 or USD 255, with the purchase taking place 10 days before the departure.

by balint01


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