This Week In Air Transport (W/C May 19)
This week’s top air transport stories include the ruling by a U.S. federal judge to cease the American Airlines-JetBlue Northeast Alliance and France’s ban on domestic flights of less than 2.5 hours if there is a rail alternative.
A U.S. federal judge ruled a more than two-year-old alliance between American Airlines and New York-based JetBlue Airways is anticompetitive and has ordered the U.S. carriers to permanently cease the agreement in 30 days. Under the Northeast Alliance (NEA), launched in February 2021, the airlines coordinated schedules at Boston Logan International Airport and at airports in the New York region. In the ruling, the judge said “minimal objectively credible proof” had been provided to support claims of consumer benefits. Reacting to the court’s decision, both carriers said they are evaluating next steps.
France’s ban on domestic flights on routes for which rail alternatives of less than 2.5 hr. exist has taken effect in a move Transport Minister Clement Beaune called a world-first, as part of the government’s plans to encourage people to use less emissions-heavy modes of transport.
In other regulatory news, the European Commission (EC) has formally confirmed it has objections to the proposed Korean Air-Asiana merger, a tie-up it views may be anti-competitive on some Europe-South Korea routes. An in-depth investigation into the acquisition was launched by the EC on Feb. 17. The agency has until Aug. 3 to make a final decision.
LATAM Airlines Group agreed to a $1 million settlement with U.S. aviation authorities over passenger refund practices it instituted during the height of the pandemic. The civil penalty follows an investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection, prompted by consumer complaints on the timeliness of refunds for LATAM-canceled flights to and from the U.S. Under terms of the order, the carrier is instructed to make payments in three parts, due in the next 30, 90 and 150 days.
In airline news, Qantas appointed former American Airlines CEO and chairman Doug Parker to join its board and help oversee the airline during the post-pandemic phase. Parker joined the board May 23. He replaces retiring director Michael L’Estrange, who will step down at the carrier’s annual general meeting (AGM) in November.
Airlines are continuing to expand and add more aircraft. Air Canada is further broadening its reach in the Middle East by entering a codeshare partnership with flydubai. Subject to approval, the Star Alliance member’s marketing code will be placed on nine routes operated from Dubai International by flydubai. The agreement covers service to Medina, Dammam and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, alongside Oman’s capital Muscat and Bahrain International Airport. Additionally, routes to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Karachi, Pakistan, are included.
Qantas will wet lease two Airbus A330s from Finnair for 2.5 years beginning in October. Under the second part of the agreement, Qantas will dry-lease two Finnair A330s for up to three years from late 2025. The Finnair aircraft will be used on some of Qantas’ flights between Singapore and Sydney from late October, and they will operate all flights between Sydney and Bangkok from late March 2024.
Royal Jordanian Airlines firmed an order for eight Embraer E2 regional jets—four E190-E2s and four E195-E2s—with deliveries expected to begin later this year. The aircraft have a list price value of $635 million.
Saudi Arabian LCC flynas plans to add another base in 2023, following its recent growth into the Balkans, France and Central and Eastern Europe. Flynas has three main bases—at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam—underpinning its network of 120 routes across 27 countries. The LCC is looking at further network expansion, including route development opportunities for its incoming Airbus A321XLRs, which is expected “at some point in the middle of the decade.”
Air Algérie signed an agreement with Boeing to buy eight 737-9s as part of the North African carrier’s ongoing fleet renewal strategy. Air Algérie is also expected to sign a deal for five Airbus A330-900s and two A350-1000s.
European LCC easyJet’s long-term fleet requirements include a contractual commitment to lease 11 further midlife Airbus A320ceo aircraft for delivery between May and October. The UK-based carrier is continuing to retire older, less efficient aircraft. EasyJet plans to acquire 18 aircraft in 2024, 27 in 2025 and 28 in 2026—at which point the carrier expects to operate a fleet of 380 aircraft in total.
In airport news, construction on Cambodia’s new Siem Reap International Airport is set to be completed in May and is on track to open by October, with a focus on developing routes to China. The $880 million airport project will see at least 300 weekly flights to and from China.
Singapore’s Changi Airport International (CAI) and Uzbekistan Airports Joint Stock Company have signed an agreement to jointly develop Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport (TAS) with the aim to increase the Uzbek capital airport’s operational efficiency.
Sofia Airport (SOF) plans to invest BGN150 million ($83 million) on capital improvements over the next three years, including building a solar farm. The Bulgarian capital airport is also committed to constructing a third terminal by 2030, according to an SOF statement.