Japan Airlines Wants To Launch Flying Taxis By 2025

Could we see flying taxis in the skies around Osaka and Tokyo by the mid-2020s? If today’s announcement of a strategic partnership between Japan Airlines and aircraft lessor Avolon is anything to go by, then yes. JAL will take up to 100 Vertical Aerospace VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft in a move it hopes will spark an ‘air mobility revolution’ in Japan.

The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) market will be lifting off for real within the next few years. Hailed as a solution to congested and polluting commutes, it could soon bring us closer to the airborne, multi-level urban highways of our sci-fi reading youth.

While there may be some time before electrical helicopters fly past the Empire State Building, the Burj Khalifa, or the Petronas Towers in silent file, they could soon be dotting skylines worldwide. By 2025, Japan Airlines intends to introduce one of the world’s first eVTOL ridesharing businesses.

Flying taxis in time for Osaka Kansai EXPO

The Japanese flag carrier has signed an agreement with Dublin-based aircraft lessor Avolon, the two announced today. Through the partnership, JAL will have the right to purchase or lease up to 50 Vertical VA-X4 eVTOL aircraft via Avolon. It will also have the option to purchase or lease an additional 50 units. Japan Airlines is targeting entry into service for the Osaka Kansai Expo, taking place over six months starting April 2025.

“Today’s announcement represents an important step towards the social implementation of Air Taxi at Osaka Kansai EXPO in 2025. Our partnership with Avolon lays out the pathway towards achieving Air Mobility revolution in Japan. The introduction of VA-X4 will also contribute to reducing our environmental impact, and we fundamentally believe that sustainability will be the engine for future growth across our business and region,” Tomohiro Nishihata, Managing Executive Officer of Japan Airlines, said Wednesday.

Unconstrained by borders

The strategic partnership will also see the leasing firm’s investment and innovation affiliate, Avolon-e, assist JAL in identifying and targeting local customers. It will also research infrastructure requirements, certifications, and commercial models related to ridesharing in the sky.

“We continue to identify partners who share the same vision to revolutionise air travel through zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft and shape the future of travel. (…) We believe JAL’s multi-decade experience will prove invaluable as Vertical seeks type certificate validation with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, demonstrating that the VA-X4 will be a global eVTOL, unconstrained by borders,” Avolon’s CEO, Dómhnal Slattery, commented.

Most pre-orders of any eVTOL vehicle

Japan Airlines is not the only major carrier interested in Vertical’s VA-X4. It is the most pre-ordered aircraft in electrical flight. Virgin Atlantic has signed up for up to 150. Across the Atlantic, GOL is looking to take 250 while American Airlines is down for as many as 350. Avolon has agreed to purchase a total of 500. Along with smaller deals, the VA-X4 has 1350 conditional pre-orders thus far.

As the name implies, the VA-X4 will have space for four passengers (plus the pilot). It will be capable of traveling over 200 mph with a range of 100 miles. It will also be 100 times quieter – and safer – than a helicopter. Vertical has scheduled the first piloted flight to take place in 2022 in Bristol, UK.

Source https://simpleflying.com/japan-airlines-flying-taxis/

When Did BWIA West Indies Airways Become Caribbean Airlines?

People that have flown in and out of Trinidad and Tobago in recent years are likely to be familiar with its flag carrier, Caribbean Airlines. This state-owned enterprise also serves as the national airline for Guyana and Jamaica. However, its history goes back further than you might think, in the form of its predecessor, BWIA West Indies Airways. Let’s take a look at the history of this carrier, and at what point it took on the identity that it retains today.

Formed in the 1930s

BWIA West Indies Airways dates all the way back to November 1939, when former World War I fighter pilot Lowell Yerex established the airline. It first took to the skies a year later, with a Lockheed Lodestar plying its initial route between Trinidad and Barbados. Its name at the time was simply BWIA, which stood for British West Indian Airways.

Impressive growth saw the carrier serve long-haul destinations such as London in the 1960s. This decade also saw BWIA enter the jet age by flying the Boeing 727, which it dubbed the ‘sunjet.’ In 1980, BWIA became Trinidad and Tobago’s national airline when it merged with Trinidad and Tobago Air Services to become BWIA International Airways.

66 years of service as the national airline

Under the new name, BWIA’s fleet and network grew. In addition to its existing London route, it also served other European destinations in the form of Frankfurt, Glasgow, and Manchester. The airline, which locals affectionately knew as ‘Bee-Wee,’ flew various jetliners, including widebodies like the Airbus A340, the Lockheed TriStar, and even the Boeing 747.

At face value, BWIA was in a strong financial position at the turn of the century. Indeed, 2003 saw it carry 1.4 million passengers and 8,100 tonnes of cargo, while employing approximately 2,350 members of staff. This generated earnings of around $276 million.

However, despite these earnings, BWIA continued to make losses. Financial injections from the Trinidad and Tobago government helped to prop it up, but, in September 2006, the carrier announced its closure after 66 years of service. The government agreed that a new carrier, known as Caribbean Airlines, would take over its role, starting in January 2007.

Caribbean Airlines today

Although this could have meant that BWIA’s 1,700 employees at the time would lose their jobs, Trinidad Express reports that they were able to apply for contracts with the new carrier. However, Caribbean Airlines started off as a somewhat streamlined re-incarnation, with routes to the likes of London, Manchester, New York, and Toronto being cut.

As such, the airline, which celebrated its 14th anniversary earlier this year, has more of a short to medium-haul focus. That being said, it did receive a boost when it acquired Air Jamaica in 2011. According to ch-aviation.com, its present fleet is as follows.

  • 7x ATR72-600.
  • 10x Boeing 737-800.

In terms of the airline’s destinations, it flies primarily to locations throughout the Caribbean. That being said, it also has a presence at four US airports and one in Canada, as well as three countries in South America (Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela).

Source https://simpleflying.com/bwia-west-indies-airways-rebrand/

Are Premium Cabins On Planes About To Get Smaller?

For many airlines, premium cabins are a key source of income. While they generally seat far fewer passengers than economy class, the higher prices that premium seating demands mean that the front of the aircraft is a big money-spinner. However, as the airline industry navigates through its post-pandemic recovery period, are these cabins set to downsize?

Slower recovery in business travel

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally altered several facets of what we previously thought to be everyday life. As many of us will have experienced, the health crisis has seen remote work replace in-person, office-based roles. This shift has been made in an attempt to reduce unnecessary travel and, with it, the spread of coronavirus.

With the pandemic now beginning to subside, working in a physical workplace rather than at home is becoming the norm once again. However, for many people, the health crisis has been an eye-opener that has highlighted that the viability of remote work might be greater than previously believed. This also has implications for business travel’s recovery.

Advances in digital communications that have been made during the pandemic have allowed international meetings to take place live and online from the comfort of workers’ homes. COVID-19 has highlighted the fact that, while in-person meetings are important, it might not always be necessary to travel around the world for them

Subsequent reconfiguration projects

Over in Europe, a reconfiguration project at Virgin Atlantic has also seen it downsize certain premium cabins. The headline of this onboard reshuffle is the fact that it will replace the ‘Loft’ social space with ‘The Booth,’ a two-person area, on certain Airbus A350s.

However, a by-product of this new leisure space will be a reworking of the A350’s seat map. As Simple Flying reported at the time of Virgin Atlantic’s announcement, the newly configured aircraft will feature just 16 Upper Class suites. Behind them will be a far larger economy class section, which can accommodate up to 325 passengers.

In contrast, SeatGuru reports that Virgin’s standard A350s have a larger 44-suite Upper Class Cabin, and just 235 economy seats. Both configurations have the same 56-seat premium economy section. Small premium cabins are not new to Virgin Atlantic. Indeed, the 747s that flew its leisure routes had just 14 Upper Class suites in the plane’s nose.

Smaller aircraft = smaller cabins

Another aspect to consider in terms of the future of premium cabins is the movement away from larger aircraft. The advent of long-range narrowbodies like the Airbus A321LR has allowed carriers like Aer Lingus and JetBlue to redefine transatlantic operations.

With the future of long-haul narrowbodies looking bright, it seems probable that premium cabins will indeed become smaller on average. To use Aer Lingus as an example, its transatlantic A321LRs have a 16-seat lie-flat business class cabin. Meanwhile, its widebody A330s seat between 23 and 30 premium passengers.

As such, if more airlines follow suit and implement long-haul narrowbodies on intercontinental routes to allow greater point-to-point connectivity, smaller premium cabins, as are natural on smaller aircraft, seem a certainty, especially when combined with the factors discussed earlier. Of course, smaller premium cabins might also feel more exclusive, and thus may prove to enhance passenger experience in such business class sections.

Source https://simpleflying.com/premium-cabins-getting-smaller/

Philippine Airlines Files For Bankruptcy

Philippine Airlines has announced its intentions to file for bankruptcy in the US. The struggling Manila-based flag carrier will use the Chapter 11 process as an attempt to deal with more than $2 billion of debts. The airline will also make a parallel bankruptcy filing in its home country, as well as implementing a restructuring plan to trim its fleet.

Parallel bankruptcy filings

2021 is Philippine Airlines’ 80th year of operations. However, the carrier has not been able to celebrate eight decades of service in the way that it might have liked, owing to the challenges of the present global health crisis. The pandemic has been a challenge for carriers worldwide, and the airline announced this morning that it would be filing for bankruptcy.

As seen above, the aforementioned bankruptcy filing will take the form of a US Chapter 11 restructuring program. However, the Manila Bulletin reports that Philippine Airlines will also mack a parallel filing back at home. It is hoped that such procedures will help the struggling carrier alleviate its debts, which presently stand at more than $2 billion.

Philippine Airlines gained a majority approval from its stakeholders to initiate the filings. According to Bloomberg, 90% of the carrier’s lenders approved the plan. A website set up by the carrier to outline its proposed recovery explains that Chapter 11 “will enable PAL to emerge with fresh capital, lower debt, and a sturdier financial foundation for the future.”

The Chapter 11 restructuring now gives us the opportunity to seal in the recovery and get back to a firm financial footing once and for all.  We’re hopeful.  We’re very encouraged that PAL is undertaking a “pre-arranged” Chapter 11 process where we go in with the strong support of our major creditors and the commitment of our shareholders, unlike most Chapter 11 scenarios.”

Fleet restructuring efforts

Part of the restructuring is set to impact the carrier’s fleet. This was on the cards even before the bankruptcy filings, with Simple Flying reporting in May 2021 that Philippine Airlines was looking to cut the number of Airbus A350s and Boeing 777s that it operates. According to data from ch-aviation.com, the carrier’s present fleet consists of 59 aircraft.

Of these aircraft, just 27 are active, with a majority of 32 presently waiting in the wings. Bloomberg reports that the carrier’s restructured fleet will be 25% smaller. Meanwhile, the airline’s recovery plan has set a target of at least 20 aircraft going forward. It will be interesting to see which aircraft stay, and what this will mean for PAL’s network.

Flights to continue

It is important to note that, despite the serious nature of bankruptcy filings, Philippine Airlines will be able to continue its operations for the time being. It explains:

We will continue to fly and to serve our customers throughout this process:  it is business as usual for us.PAL continues to increase domestic and international flights as travel demand recovers with the easing of travel restrictions, and we will roll out new products and services that help make flying safer and more convenient.”

This is because the nature of Chapter 11 means that companies that have made such bankruptcy filings can continue operating while the proceedings progress. This will help Philippine Airlines to avoid widespread cancellations despite its financial difficulties.

n any case, the carrier, which received a $296 million cash injection last May, will likely come out of its bankruptcy proceedings as a rather smaller and different airline.

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Source https://simpleflying.com/philippine-airlines-bankruptcy/

Through The Years: Kam Air’s Diverse Fleet

The scenes at Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport are horrifying, and it is impossible to know just how awful it is when so far away. Yet ch-aviation.com reports that Afghanistan’s largest airline, Kam Air, is in talks with the Taliban to restart operations. Although it is a highly sensitive matter and timeframes are anything but certain, we look at Kam Air, whose first flight was in December 2004. Since then, 20 aircraft types have been used.

An extremely mixed fleet

Kam Air has operated an extremely diversified fleet in its 17-year history, as would be expected under the circumstances and where mainly wet-leased aircraft were the order of the day. The current year has seen the A340-300 (previously used by Philippine Airlines and AirAsia X) used, along with the B737-300, B737-500, B767-300ER, and ATR-42.

The carrier’s first widebody, a B767-200ER leased from defunct Kyrgyzstan airline Phoenix Aviation, was used in 2005 from Kabul to Dubai. The -200ER was again used from 2007 until 2018, the year the A340-300 entered service. The only B767-300ER appeared in 2020 and 2021.

The MD-87 had the most flights

Across Kam Air’s 17 years, over one-quarter of all passenger flights (27%) were by the MD-87, a type used between December 2012 and October 2019. This is a finding from analyzing schedules using data from experts Cirium.

Aircraft used over the past 17 years

The following lists all aircraft used in order of total flights, led by the MD-87. Note the use of the Antonov 24s and 26s, along with the B727, Saab 340, and Fokker 100. The latter, an important niche regional jet, was used domestically between 2016 and 2017. While we know how often passenger aircraft were used, we cannot be sure about Kam Air’s freighters. As such, they’re shown at the bottom.

  1. MD-87
  2. B737-300
  3. MD-82
  4. B737-200
  5. ATR-42
  6. A320
  7. A340-300
  8. Saab 340
  9. MD-83
  10. AN-24
  11. B767-200ER
  12. B737-500
  13. B737-800
  14. B737-400
  15. B767-300ER
  16. Fokker 100
  17. AN-26
  18. B727
  19. B747-200F
  20. DC-8F

23 destinations from Kabul in 2021

This year, Kam Air’s network was almost fully from Kabul, with the domestic links to Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, and Kandahar the most-served with over six in ten (63%) flights, Cirium indicates. The top-10 routes are shown below.

  1. Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif
  2. Kabul-Herat
  3. Kabul-Kandahar
  4. Kabul-Delhi
  5. Kabul-Islamabad
  6. Kabul-Istanbul
  7. Kabul-Tashkent
  8. Kabul-Faizabad
  9. Kabul-Zaranj
  10. Kabul-Jeddah

Multiple aircraft per route

Most routes saw multiple aircraft being used, perhaps right-sizing capacity with demand or based on aircraft availability. The 2,237-mile service from Kabul to Istanbul was no exception, with the A340-300, B767-300ER, B737-300, and B737-500 all deployed this year. With a block time of up to six hours to Turkey, the route is among the longest by Classic Boeing 737s.

Source https://simpleflying.com/kam-air-diverse-fleet/