The weekly rollerboard 12 January

AA’s inaugural A321T service. Image: Edward Russell.

This week Australia’s mantle for offering the best transcontinental airline product in the world – which Australian’s unjustifiably love to pick apart as woefully inadequate – was challenged for the first time in perhaps two decades as American Airlines launched its new premium A321T service from New York JFK to Los Angeles.

Compared with the past decade of woefully inadequate product offer onboard American carriers, the product reinvention is a welcome return to the days of glamorous transcon air travel. There will be a 30 per cent increase in the number of first class seats AA offers as business class and economy decline by 13 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. Continued capacity rationalisation carries through to the strategic relaunch with AA’s total New York-Los Angeles capacity decreasing in favour of frequency growth from ten to thirteen services daily.

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The oryx’s new home.

Delays in the opening of Doha’s critically important new Hamad International Airport (HIA) are almost as farcical as those of Berlin’s new Brandenburg International Airport, but the transition to full operations is now in its home stretch and we have a great preview of the stunning new terminal below.

According to Qatar transport minister Jassim Seif Ahmed Al Sulaiti a soft opening trial will begin this month from the chic new terminal involving ten carriers - Air Arabia, Air India Express, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Flydubai, Iran Air, Nepal Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, RAK Airways, Syrian Air, and Yemen Airways.

Qatar Airways is now expected to transition its operations into its new home on April 1.

Doha International Airport is cripplingly overcapacity. Designed for an annual throughput of 12 million passengers a year, in 2013 the airport handled approximately 25 million people with 75% handled by Qatar Airways. After Dubai, it is now the second largest Middle East hub, and is now in the top 25 airports in the world measured by international passenger traffic.

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Looking to the sky in 2014.

Our 2013 retrospective, and Airbus breaking with tradition on A350 MSN2 , inspired me to take a look at what this dynamic industry might have in-store for 2014:

A350 MSN2 the first test aircraft to be fitted with a full cabin interior in its new carbon fibre scheme. Image: Airbus SAS.

CASA Regulation
Some big regulatory changes will take place in 2014. In particular, CASA will need to guide the Australia’s airlines on the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) following changes to regulatory legislation by the FAA in the US and EASA in Europe. Currently Australian carriers are self regulating in this respect, but moving independently as a way to gain competitive advantage will only create headaches for crew in enforcing use on-board.


Image: Graham Cook

Domestic capacity
The war will continue until the end of the first half, bringing further revenue pressure to the Qantas and Virgin groups. Qantas has invested too much the public rhetoric behind in its strategy, to back away now would look like it was giving in. Not the best market image to present given its current financial position. Expect the Federal Government to make small changes to the level of single foreign ownership to the Qantas Sale Act.




Sydney Airport
The political future of Tony Abbott’s Government depends on their ability to deliver a courageous bipartisan policy decision. With a promise of a decision, a ‘government of no surprises’ will now need to deliver with a real commitment on Badgery’s Creek. This will come as a stage 1 single runway development, with no rail connection, because Abbott’s made it clear he doesn’t like trains. Also expect a change to the slot caps at Sydney Airport, starting with the 05:00-06:00am landing window.

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Carry-on’s top 13 of 2013.

2013 was exceptional proof that aviation is far from sclerotic. Beginning with continued fixation on the 787 as Boeing’s amour propre was tested by further incidents and a grounding. Eyes turned skyward for the equal greatest number of first flights in history. Rarely appreciating the continued challenging conditions airlines and the industry faces, politicians continued to provide opaque interference, compounding an already fractured dichotomy. There was awe as the world’s largest airline was replaced with with an even larger carrier, rosy profit turnarounds turned into sickening loss projections, and a renewed geopolitical rivalry in everything from aerospace manufacturing to air traffic rights. Here’s our 13 of 2013:

1. The 787.

The most exciting new aircraft in years became known for one thing in 2013: fire. In January the worldwide fleet was grounded – only the second aircraft since the DC-10 to be grounded in this way – following a series of electrical faults and battery fires caused by thermal runaway. The batteries were pulled out, boxed, and additional venting at a cost of approximately $500,000 per aircraft. Back in the air confidence has grown, the 787-9 is now flying and there has only been a small fiery issue relating to a locator beacon. Image: Richard Deakin.


2. CSeries flies.

110 years later Bombardier did it again for the very first time. This time with the first completely new narrow-body design since the A320 family.


3. ICAO’s emissions agreement.

ICAO’s member states reached a landmark multilateral agreement to develop a market-based measure that would reduce carbon emissions by 2020. The agreement will allow countries and airlines to operate under a single global standard rather than competing carbon regimes. Governments’ individual plans will be approved at the next assembly in 2016.





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The weekly rollerboard 10 November

The first of our weekly rollerboard wraps, neatly packing up a broader and atypical perspective on the industry.

Going to ground

Air India’s Boeing 787 fleet has been in a bit of a pickle over the last few weeks leading to the airline’s decision to preemptively ground one aircraft at a time from the end of November.

Ostensibly for software upgrades, each grounding will last for an undetermined length of time giving AI time to conduct more general repairs across its fleet of ten 787-8s. What is wrong outside the airline’s own 787 minimum equipment list (MEL) Air India hasn’t confirmed, but there has been multiple incidents including the loss of a mid-underwing-to-body fairing located on the belly of the aeroplane on the right side at Bangalore Airport, a cracked windshield grounding an aircraft in Melbourne, another grounding in Sydney due to undisclosed issues, and a braking issue on a flight from London to Delhi.

An unofficial Air India source says “Boeing has put out certain service bulletins which the airline will implement. This is not mandatory. The airline is doing it on its own to increase reliability of the aircraft.”

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No longer a dream. Jetstar’s first 787.

787 test flight

Almost seven years after the order, and five long years of delays, Jetstar’s first Boeing 787-8 is here. Well, almost. It will be at 1305 AEST on Wednesday October 9.

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Boeing’s 777-9X is almost go as Lufthansa commits to order for 34.

Lufthansa has become a launch customer for the yet to be launched next generation Boeing 777X project ordering 34 777-9Xs in addition to 25 Airbus A350-900s, with options and purchase rights for an additional 60 aircraft – 30 each of the 777-9X and A350-900.

The 777-9X will be powered by the General Electric GE9X and feature a new advanced composite wing, which at 71 metres will be the longest aircraft wing Boeing has produced. The result? An estimated 20 per cent better fuel efficiency and a 15% reduction in operating costs over the 777-300ER resulting in the lowest seat kilometre costs in the industry.

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It’s been a long time. I’m back.

I originally set up this blog as an outlet for my fascination with the industry, and as an extension for some of the work I was completing in my Master degree in Air Transport Management. One quickly discovers that there is a wealth of freely available information on the industry. For those willing to put in the time, the list of potential topics can quickly become overwhelming.

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China’s CAAC issues 787 type certification

It’s been a long wait. After years of delays, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) today issued the Chinese type certification certificate for the Boeing 787-8.

A team from China Southern is currently in Seattle undertaking preparatory work and customer acceptance flights before formally accepting the carrier’s first 787 LN 34, registered B-2725, on or before May 28. Hainan Airlines will follow, taking delivery of its first 787-8 in June.

The opaque nature of Chinese bureaucracy has muddied the official reason behind the CAAC’s delay in issuing the Chinese type certificate. Industry sources suggest that the 787 type certificate was ready for issue in late 2011, however due to development delays the preparatory work expired before the 787 could enter service under the old certificate. It is also suggested that Air China’s political connections in Beijing played a hand in delaying the paperwork, waving their magic wand to reduce the competitive pressure on the Chinese flag carrier which couldn’t secure early delivery positions for its 787-9 order, and didn’t order the A380.

Each carrier holds orders for ten 787-8s; China Southern will receive five aircraft, and Hainan seven, by the end of 2013.

Image: China Southern Airlines.

Check out Carry-on’s profile of China Southern
*This post has been amended as we mistakenly wrote Air China had not ordered the 787. Air China has 15 787-9s on order. Thanks to one of our readers for pointing this out.

Japan Airlines is bringing the dream to Sydney.


Pushing ahead with it’s 787 expansion, Japan Airlines will be the first international airline to introduce Boeing 787 services to Sydney. Operating the daily JL771/772 service from Tokyo Narita, the Boeing 787-8 will replace the Boeing 777 currently operated from December 1.

Three months after the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was grounded in late-January, the aircraft and programme are back in the air. With safety fixes for the aircraft’s battery system approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, airlines are bursting with renewed confidence in the besieged programme and planning the aircraft’s re-entry into service on routes around the globe.

Both Japan’s All Nippon Airlines (ANA) and JAL each suffered separate fire incidents in the 787′s lithium-ion battery, and are now working to restore the Japanese public’s confidence in the aircraft before they resume services on June 1. Over the next few weeks both carriers plan to undertake more than 200 test flights for pilot training and battery system verification demonstrating to the public the safety of the aircraft.

With the arrival of the 787 into the Australian market imminent, airlines will soon have a host of new operational opportunities into the country. Initially for JAL, the substantial product upgrade, but capacity downgrade of the 787 reduces available seat capacity on the Tokyo – Sydney route by 24%; instantly improving Qantas capacity share and competitiveness on a market that has struggled since its 1997 peak.  However, the economics of the 787-8 provides the potential to introduce new routes and improved schedules to destinations across Asia and beyond, encouraging growth and allowing markets to mature with the potential to increase capacity with the 787-9 from sometime after 2016. Up-gauging to an aircraft with a similar operating cost, but significantly increased capacity also delivers airlines greater pricing flexibility, to stimulate even more demand through lower fares or the ability to extract higher margins from operations.

The unprecedented level of regulatory and developmental scrutiny afforded the 787 will ultimately deliver an exceptionally safe next generation aircraft. There may be some initial tepidness from passengers in booking on the 787, but ultimately the romance of a revolutionary aircraft will draw them back. It’s been a long wait, but the 787 is almost here.

Carry-on will be flying on the inaugural Sydney service, bringing you all the excitement of the day. Stay tuned.

Boeing’s full page すみません (apology). Image: Yoshiaki Miura, Japan Times.

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