Posts Tagged 'Star Alliance'

First Lufthansa Airbus A380

Lufthansa has taken delivery of their first Airbus A380. The German airline will first use it to transport the German National Team (“Nationalelf”) to the Football (soccer) World Cup in South Africa starting in less than two weeks.

On May 19, Lufthansa become the second European airline after Air France (and the 5th worldwide) to receive the super-jumbo when Airbus CEO Thomas Enders handed over the aircraft to Lufthansa CEO and Chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber at an official ceremony at the Airbus plant in Hamburg-Finkenwerder, which was attended by about 700 honorary guests. The plane powered by Trent-900 engines carries the registration number D-AIMA and is named “Frankfurt am Main”.

The German flag-carrier first plans to operate its first double-decker for pilot training across 13 German airports plus Zurich and Vienna from May 31 through June 3, and also on a few selected scheduled flights from Frankfurt to Munich and Hamburg in order to familiarize crew and airport staff with the aircraft, while also generating publicity. On June 6, 2010, this super-jumbo will transport the German national soccer team to Johannesburg for the World Cup in South Africa.

Lufthansa has configured its Airbus A380 with 526 seats (12 less than so far recorder Air France). The entirely new First Class cabin (seen above) with eight seats on the upper deck reflects the concept of individuality and offers the ultimate in comfort and technical innovation, which further enhances the travel experience. However, Lufthansa did not opt for the personal Suite-type of First Class product as fellow Star Alliance member Singapore Airlines, or Emirates. Lufthansa is rolling-out an overall new First class product together with the introduction of the A380 as originally announced two years ago. Also on the upper deck is the Business Class cabin with 98 seats. The main deck features 420 Economy Class seats providing an unprecedented level of passenger comfort in coach-class (seen below).

Download the full Seat-plan of the Lufthansa Airbus A380-800.

Long-haul scheduled services, starting with Frankfurt-Tokyo Narita route, will commence on June 11, 2010, with thrice weekly return flights, replacing a Boeing 747-400 on the route. The Tokyo A380 service will become daily from August 4, after Lufthansa receives the second super-jumbo. Currently the second plane is undergoing painting work and cabin interior installment in Hamburg, and will be named “München”.

Furthermore Lufthansa will receive two additional A380s this year (one in July and one in September). Its third A380 will operate between Frankfurt and Beijing thrice-weekly beginning Aug. 25 and its fourth will fly between Frankfurt and Johannesburg thrice-weekly from Oct. 25.  The German carrier will take 4 more such planes next year and expects each A380 to transport 366.000 passengers each year, while flying 4.6 million kms each. It received the first plane 2.5 years later than the original schedule and has 15 firm orders currently with 10 more options for the aircraft type.

The first Lufthansa Airbus A380 has also received a brand new maintenance hangar (the largest in Europe) at Frankfurt Airport, by Lufthansa Technik, after seven years of preparational work. The new facility underwent final tests in early April, when a test aircraft was flown in from Toulouse for this purpose. Lufthansa Technik already employs 80 A380-licensed technicians including staff for stations outside of Germany. It invested €150 million ($200.5 million) to build its A380 maintenance facility at Frankfurt expanded later. Currently, it has the capacity to handle three A380s and two MD-11s at one time. Lufthansa will also get support for the first several months of A380 operations from Airbus, which will provide nine specialists to assist the carrier, and Rolls-Royce, which will supply 20 temporary support staff.

We are happy to see another European airline starting to operate the European-built, largest aircraft in the world, and hope that it will bring the expected results, including reduced noise levels for both passengers and residents on the ground, as well as reduced fuel consumption and less emissions.

The big question remaining is: how will the 11 starting players of the Nationalelf share the 8 First Class seats on their June 6 flight to South Africa? 🙂

by balint01


United And Continental Announce Merger

After a long period of speculation, that included reported merger talks between US airlines in practically all combinations, it became official today: United Airlines and Continental Airlines are merging to form the world’s Largest Airline Company in a “Merger of Equals”.

Following the mega-merger of Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines announced practically two years ago, the third and fourth largest US airlines are merging to form not only the largest in the US, but also in the world. They will remain in the Star Alliance, under the name “United”, but will keep the Continental logo and airplane liveries.

The two airlines together will operate a very extensive domestic US network and a very advanced international network – where currently they operate no overlapping routes, with a fleet of 692 aircraft! Connecting 370 destinations in 59 countries the more than 144 million passengers will have access to the widest global network of any carrier, which combined with the benefits of the Star Alliance will provide a true Global reach, with emphases on the 91 million (!) frequent flier members. With 10 hubs (Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Washington DC, Denver, Cleveland, Guam and Tokyo), the combined United Airlines will be at home in the four largest US cities.

Interestingly, United and Continental were first reported to be in talks at the time of the Delta-Northwest announcement, but the merger rumours about United Airlines merging with US Airways were stronger recently, played down only early last week. The news about a possible tie-up with Continental got stronger (again) towards the second half of the week – but this merger had surely been in the pipeline for some time, as they even have developed a special website only dedicated to the merger:

In a presentation targeted at investors, the new company announced that it will be headquartered in Chicago, “maintaining significant presence in Houston” as well, with the CEO having offices at both locations. On a pro forma basis, the combined company would have annual revenues of approximately $29 billion based on 2009 financial results and ownership will be: 55% United shareholders and 45% Continental shareholders. The holding company for the new entity will be named United Continental Holdings, Inc.  The proposed transaction is expected to generate approximately $200 million to $300 million in annual net cost savings by 2013. The two companies currently employ 87.529 (46.602 (United) + 40.927 (Continental)) people.

Talking about employees, the two airlines’ pilot unions released a joint statement observing that “history has demonstrated that the integration of two airlines is always a difficult challenge. The support of the pilots is pivotal in determining whether a merger is successful or not, as will be the case with this merger…

Of course the merger is subject to approval by shareholders and anti-trust regulations, but will most probably be completed according to plan before the end 2010 (by Q4 this year), with the single operating certificate targeted for the first half of 2012. (It took Delta Airlines to reach that goal by the end of 2010 and to retire the Northwest brand – thus United plans to work with similar timelines).

Looks like if American Airlines wants to stay in the game, it is now left with only one potential partner of significant size: US Airways. Will that be an acquisition type of merger like Delta, or a merger of equals like United and Continental, we’ll see, but it looks like the only logical step to be taken.

by balint01

Women Only Lavatories Aboard ANA Flights

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is rolling out a new service targeted for women passengers aboard its international routes: A dedicated, Women Only Lavatory at the back of each airplane.

Beginning Monday, March 1, 2010, ANA Group will begin introducing women-only lavatories on all of its international routes (except those flown with Airbus A320/Boeing 737 aircraft).

According to the company press release, following numerous requests from passengers for this service, one women-only lavatory will be designated in the aft section of the passenger cabin (location may differ depending on aircraft and configuration) and will be available for use by women passengers in all classes of service. Women-only lavatories will be indicated using the signage below.

Lavatories with such signage will only be available for women passengers throughout the flights except for a few special occasions. Depending on flight conditions, the otherwise restricted men passengers may also use the lavatories but will have to check with a cabin attendant after boarding. The special situations may include:

  • When required for safety reasons, just prior to the seatbelt sign being turned on during take-off and landing
  • When a passenger is not feeling well and a personal emergency requires such use
  • When there are very few female passengers on the flight, and the women-only designation has been lifted for the flight – this will be signaled by an in-flight announcement

Wheelchair accessible lavatories on board ANA flights are separate from the Women-Only facilities.

Signage will be installed on current aircraft beginning March 1, with signage scheduled to be completed by the end of April.

Most probably the Japanese member of Star Alliance will also introduce this new “service” on its maiden Boeing 787 Dreamliner, scheduled to start operations at ANA as the launch customer at the end of this year.

by balint01

Airbus A380 Flights To Zürich

Singapore Airlines will be flying the Airbus A380 to Zürich, Switzerland daily, starting with the 2010 Summer Timetable – from March 28, 2010.

The Singapore Airlines news release states: “Daily Airbus A380 services between Singapore and Zurich will replace the existing 12 weekly frequencies between the two cities, which are currently operated with smaller Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Operations are subject to the airport being certified for A380 flights.

Zürich airport is working on the case to be certified for the A380 as soon as possible, and had a full airport test for the aircraft type at the end of January for two days. Thousands of enthusiastic Swiss plane-spotters took the chance on a very cold morning to watch the 73 meter long Airbus A380 land in Switzerland for the first time. After spending one night in Zürich, the Airbus test aircraft flew to Geneva for similar tests.

These exclusive Airline World pictures were taken of the Airbus Test super-jumbo by Mr. Oliver Decsi, at Zürich airport:

Assuming that the certificate is granted, Zurich will be the third city in Europe and the seventh in Singapore Airlines’ network to receive the A380. The Airline started operating the superjumbo in October 2007 to Sydney and subsequently added services to London, Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong and Melbourne. Many industry analysts earlier predicted Frankfurt, Germany to become the third European destination, but it looks like fellow Star Alliance hub Zürich will get the newest Singapore Airlines airplane, the eleventh of the type for the carrier.

Singapore Airlines is currently the only airline flying non-stop between Zürich and Singapore and can reduce the weekly 12 flights to a daily service, increasing efficiency. On routes where Singapore has started using the A380, it has stolen extra marketshare, and lifted passenger loads. For example on the Tokyo-Narita service, all other airlines flying the route have reported declines in number of passengers (ANA: -13%, JAL: -19%, United Airlines: -22%, Delta Air Lines: -7%), except Singapore with its A380, that gained 8%.

Singapore and Qantas are averaging an 83% load factor across their A380 flights, Airbus says. Singapore’s A380s are achieving a 20% reduction in fuel burn over the 747-400. On reliability, the A380 had a 97% technical dispatch record in the first year, which compares favorably with the Boeing 777 at around 98% and is well ahead of the Boeing 747-400, which swung between 89% and 93% when it entered commercial operations. Airbus is targeting 98% reliability for the A380 this year. The first major batch of software upgrades was introduced on Ship 33, the first for Air France, and these are “making a difference,” as reported by Airbus. The upgrade is being refitted to the other 26 aircraft in service. The A380 has generated approximately 100,000 revenue flight hours on 10,000 flights so far.

Airbus will deliver 20 aircraft this year, including three that were supposed to have been delivered in 2009. “We are at 1.5 aircraft a month and moving up to two a month by year end,” the company said.

20 new A380’s in 2010 will surely mean a lot of similar news about new airlines, new routes and new airports getting the services of the super-jumbo.

by balint01

Turkish Airlines Sponsors FC Barcelona AND Manchester United

Turkish Airlines, one of the most powerfully developing airline in Europe, has signed two major sponsorship deals this week, with two of the best European football teams: FC Barcelona and Manchester United.

Turkish Airlines, Europe’s fourth biggest airline that joined Star Alliance as a full member almost two years ago, is developing very dynamically and aggressively by growing their fleet, launching new routes, increasing capacity and advertising on a global scale – and remaining profitable at the same time (!). They are planning for the long-term, using the Economic downturn as a possibility to order airplanes or to purchase marketing coverage and advertising space at a lower price than usual.

Almost exactly a year ago, they launched their “kick-off” global marketing campaign titled “Feel Like A Star“, where they connected their brand with the face of Academy Award winner American actor and director, Kevin Costner. The Costner Turkish Airlines ad mainly focused on the First and Business class product, but also raised brand awareness all around the world as it aired in 70 countries in 2009.

In 2010, they are moving into the sports arena. First came the news on January 18 from Barcelona, that Turkish Airlines has closed a deal with the Spanish Champion and reigning European Champion: FC Barcelona. Turkish Airlines will be the official airline of the Spanish soccer team for two and a half years, and will pay the Spanish 7.7 million Euros over this period.

According to the terms of this “Official Sponsor” sponsorship contract, all the advertising materials and logos of Turkish Airlines will be displayed on the internal screens of the Nou Camp Stadium in Barcelona and all other locations of the team, Turkish Airlines will make commercial films with the players of the Barcelona Club and carry out the promotion of this sponsorship deal in all the arenas of advertising and mass media. As the result of this sponsorship Turkish Airlines will transport the players of Barcelona to all the tournaments and training camps as well. This will either mean a special, ever-changing schedule of their Barcelona flights, or using a separate aircraft for this task, like a special charter plane.

The official FC Barcelona website already carries the Turkish Airlines logo in its footer.

Just a few days after FC Barcelona, Turkish Airlines announced a new partnership, with Manchester United (MU). Based on the new deal, Turkish Airlines will replace Malaysian Air Asia as the official carrier of the Manchester team, for three and a half years. According to reports, the deal is in the ballpark of a “multi-million British Pounds”, but no exact figures have been released. There is a news article about the new partnership on the official Manchester United website, but nothing else – yet. According to the news report, it will also carry the Turkish Airlines logo and link among the sponsors section of the site.

According to the contract, the same deal will be in place with MU as with FC Barcelona – all the advertising materials and logos of Turkish Airlines will be displayed on the internal screens of the Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester and all other locations of the team, commercial films will be made with the players of Manchester United Club. With title of “the official sponsor of Manchester United” Turkish Airlines will transport the players of the club to the tournaments and training camps as the team’s official carrier.

Such sponsorship deals have certainly helped the awareness of Emirates for example, that is the official partner of British Arsenal FC, Italian AC Milan, French Paris Saint-Germain, German Hamburger SV as well as Greek Olympiacos CFP.

Turkish Airlines, which operates flights both from Barcelona and Manchester Airport, carried 25.1 million passengers last year. It employs more than 12,000 people, and flies to 159 destinations around the world. Given that both football teams have fans on a truly global level, the brand awareness of Turkish Airlines will certainly grow in the next few years. We are looking forward to see innovative marketing campaigns around these partnerships!

by balint01

Expedia Hotels On Air China Website

Air China, that seems to be the most internationalized Chinese Airline in terms of their web-presence, is partnering with US Expedia Inc. to provide accommodation for its online customers.

Air China is the first Chinese airline to provide online hotel booking services to its customers on its website. The partner in this new service is the Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN) that carries more than 100.000 products (Hotels).

The contract between the two partners is an exclusive one and marks the first time that Air China has worked with any partners to provide accommodation to global customers. The “Global” is an important word here, as having checked the Air China website recently, the Hotel Booking is only an option for the 27 international, localized versions of the website – but can not be found on the domestic Chinese version, even if you switch to English language. The customers from Australia, the USA, the UK or Korea, Indonesia or Russia can now book hotels at the same time as booking flights – but Chinese can not.

The Expedia Affiliate Network’s content for the booking engine is localized across those 27 worldwide markets, where the local language customer service support is provided by Expedia. Maybe this is the reason behind the Chinese site not (yet) rolling out this new service?

Jens Uwe Parkitny, managing director of EAN APAC, said that they “worked closely with Air China to understand their business and customer needs, and offered a solution that could bring a significant increase in customers and revenue. The ease of integration and usability of our interface is one of our key selling points and the reason we were able to partner with Air China.

Mr. Jia Tie Sheng, Managing Director Sales Air China, added, “In order to ensure efficiency and breadth of choice it was a natural progression for us to sign the partnership with EAN as they were able to work with us to create a bespoke interface that best meets the needs of our customers and our business. We look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with EAN.”

The Hotel booking service can be reached directly from the Air China Homepage by selecting the “Hotels” tab, with the initial city dropdown menu including the major cities (and Air China destinations) within China only. By clicking on the “more options” link, the Customers can search and book Hotels in all countries of the Expedia inventory. Once starting a Hotel search, they will be taken to Expedia’s Air China branded website that has its Air China specific Header and Footer and carries the Chinese flag carrier’s colors.

We hope other Chinese carriers will follow in providing this more-or-less standard airline website feature, and we hope sooner rather than later the Chinese version of the EAN site will also be available on the Air China website so Chinese customers can also book all the 100.000 Hotels all over the world – in a Chinese localized website.

by balint01

US Airways Airbus Crashes in the Hudson River

US Airways flight 1549 on 15JAN2009 has crash landed in the icy Hudson River in New York City shortly after take-off from New York La Guardia airport. The Airbus A320 was heading to Charlotte, North Carolina with 155 people on board, including the 2 pilots and 3 flight attendants, of whom ALL escaped successfully after the water landing.

US Airways Airbus in the Hudson River in New York City - from

First reports claim, that the plane (registration: N106US, first flight in 1999) took off at 15:26 local time, and soon afterwards passengers heard some sort of an explosion and the plane started shaking. The FAA has disclosed that less than one minute after take-off, the pilot reported “a double bird strike” after colliding with a flock of birds. Soon after the explosion the plane started to turn around and asked for clearance for an emergency landing at La Guardia, just east of Manhattan in Queens which it was granted. Later the pilot chose to try to land at Teterboro which was closer, but couldn’t make it there, either – which resulted in the first controlled emergency landing on water of a US commercial aircraft in more than 50 years at 15:30 local time (less than 6 minutes after takeoff). He informed the passengers “to get ready for the impact” and landed in the Hudson River on the west side of Manhattan, just across New Jersey. Passengers claim it simply felt like a car-accident. Witnesses reported that the plane landed very softly on the river, slowly touching down on the surface at around 48th street, without making a bounce (more about the dangers of such bounces in our earlier article: How to survive an Air Crash?)

Air temperature at the time was -6 Celsius, with the water being +6 C. Television images taken shortly after the accident showed that the aircraft appeared intact and just partially submerged, with local ferry boats quickly rushing to the scene and taking all passengers and crew onboard from the deployed slides/rafts, saving them from being chilled as the aircraft subsequently began to sink. Many were photographed standing on the wings. Passengers have reported that there was indeed some panic onboard after the landing, but the crew was professional in getting them all out of the aircraft through the doors, with women and children first. The 57 year old ex Air Force pilot, Captain Chesley Sullenberger was the last to leave the plane sweaping the center aisle twice to make sure nobody was left behind! He has been flying with US Airways since 1980 and just one day after the accident it regarded as a Hero (similar to the pilot of British Airways flight 038 last year).

US Airways Airbus in the Hudson River in New York City - c by NBC

There were widespread but unconfirmed reports of various injuries, including cuts, broken bones and hypothermia, but nothing life threatening. Victims were treated at local hospitals.

Our preliminary report is that everyone is off the plane and accounted for,” US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker said, adding that it was “premature to speculate about the cause.” Such planes as the Airbus A320 can easily survive the strike of one bird in one of the engines, but hitting 4-5 birds at the same time can cause such an accident as this one.

Landing such an Airbus A320 airliner on water with such precision has never happened before and is claimed as a miracle by many. This type of aircraft typically lands at a speed of around 250 km/hour and hitting the water surface with such speed may make a lot of damage to the fuselage and could practically tear off the engines and the wings or even break the cabin apart – which would result in quick sinking. But luckily this hasn’t happened and the plane landed safely.

This was the second take-off accident in the US within a month that all passengers survived, as on December 20, 2008, a Continental Airlines Boeing slid off the runway in Denver. About a month and a half  ago on November 28, 2008, an Airbus A320 crashed in water on a test-flight, killing 7 people onboard.

by balint01

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