Exclusive: Sun Country Airlines Interested In The Boeing 737 MAX & Won’t Rule Out Airbus Jets

Sun Country Airlines just finished a successful initial public offering (IPO) in March. One month since then, the airline is flying high and targeting expansion. In an exclusive interview with Simple Flying, Sun Country’s CEO, Jude Bricker, talked about its fleet and expansion moves. One big takeaway is that the ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) is interested in the 737 MAX and could even take the Airbus A320neo, but the economics do not make either acquisition feasible just yet.

Sun Country is interested in the 737 MAX

Mr. Bricker confirmed the airline’s interest in the MAX, stating the following:

“The 737 Max is an airplane that we’re interested in, and we remain engaged with Boeing and CFM – the engine manufacturer – on that type.”

The Boeing 737 MAX would be a natural extension of Sun Country’s fleet. The airline currently flies a fleet of Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. These are mid-life jets that serve the airline well and it has built up its reputation as an all-Boeing 737 carrier. The airline also operates a diversified business, including charter operations and flying cargo for Amazon.

What is holding the airline back?

Sun Country has not placed an order for the Boeing 737 MAX. On why the airline has not done so yet, Mr. Bricker stated the following:

“If we can get the economics where we need them to be, we’ll be in that airplane. I’m a believer in the airplane; it’s a good machine. But right now, the 737NG, it is the type we operate, is just more available and cheaper. It doesn’t have to be the same price, obviously, but that price differential between a MAX 8 – same size interior – and an -800 isn’t sufficient enough for us to get into the new MAX aircraft. But, Boeing can control the price, and if they make it worth our while, we’ll be in it.”

As an ultra-low-cost carrier, keeping costs down is very important for the airline. Taking on a new Boeing 737 MAX would cost the airline more than a mid-life, used Boeing 737-800. While that would be partially offset by lower fuel and maintenance costs for the MAX compared to the 737-800, the price of a new aircraft is a little too high for the airline right now.

All-Boeing is not a foregone conclusion

The impetus to move toward a new fleet is all about economics. For Sun Country, as long as the airplane can help keep its costs low on the airline’s model, it will fly the jet. This also leaves the Airbus A320neo family as an option:

“I don’t think it’s going to be age or reliability that pushes us into changing out the fleet. It’s going to be the economics of the MAX, or the Neo, we could go Airbus too, but it’s going to be the economics of the aircraft that push us into that type.”

Sun Country taking on a new fleet type is a focus around the airline’s expansion plans and less so about an urgent need to change out its fleet of Boeing 737-800s. While it is difficult to imagine a mixed fleet of both Boeing 737-800s and Airbus A320neos, a transition toward the A320neos would need to be a low-cost option that will benefit the airline.

he Airbus A320neos could easily beat out the mid-life 737-800s on maintenance expenditures. The 737-800s the carrier currently flies are getting closer to needing maintenance overhauls than a brand new Airbus A320neo. Also, the A320neo beats out the 737-800 on fuel efficiency.

The issue with taking on a new A320neo, which is true across most mixed fleets, would be that Sun Country’s pilots would have to undergo training to fly the A320neo. That training can be expensive.

In addition, Sun Country would not be able to completely end its Boeing 737 flying. The agreement with Amazon sees the airline fly Boeing 737 freighters, and it does not appear that either party would want to take on the costs of flying a new type of aircraft such as an Airbus A321 converted freighter.

Operating a mixed fleet means Sun Country cannot double-dip easily on pilots. Currently, the airline can use its pilots in the off-seasons to fly the cargo 737s it needs to fly and bring those pilots back to the mainline passenger operation in the busy season. With a mixed fleet, Sun Country cannot do that. That lack of flexibility would increase the carrier’s costs since it needs pilots to support the airline during the busy season, but in the off-season, aside from leasing out its jets and pilots to another airline, it would be an excess cost of payroll.

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Source https://simpleflying.com/sun-country-boeing-737-max/

Singapore Airlines Takes 3 Airbus A350s In One Day

We’ve seen a few simultaneous aircraft deliveries to airlines over the past year. Qatar Airways took delivery of three 777Fs at the start of this year while Ethiopian Airlines took two A350s in November. Singapore Airlines is the latest carrier to accept multiple aircraft at once with the delivery of three A350-900s on April 2nd. Departing Toulouse in the afternoon/evening and flying overnight, the three A350s landed in Singapore between 08:00 and 12:00 on April 3rd.

Flights details for the three A350s

The flights were picked up on RadarBox.com and posted to the flight tracker’s Twitter account:

As you can see above, the three flights were assigned flight numbers SQ8895, SQ8896, and SQ8897. Let’s look at each flight and the A350 aircraft involved in the delivery:

SQ8895: This flight saw the aircraft registered 9V-SHT (MSN 464) depart Toulouse on April 2nd at 13:29 local time. The aircraft flew for 12 hours and 56 minutes, arriving at Singapore Changi at 08:25 local. Data from AIB Family Flights notes that this jet had four test flights before its delivery flight.

SQ8896: This flight saw the aircraft registered 9V-SHU (MSN 469) depart Toulouse on April 2nd at 15:32 local time. The aircraft flew for 12 hours and 47 minutes, arriving at Singapore Changi at 10:20 local. This jet only had two test flights before its delivery flight.

SQ8897: This flight saw the aircraft registered 9V-SHV (MSN 475) depart Toulouse on April 2nd at 17:16 local time. The aircraft flew for 12 hours and 47 minutes, arriving at Singapore Changi at 12:03 local. This jet had three test flights before its delivery flight.

With more A350s still undelivered to Singapore Airlines, we know that the next A350 coming down the line from Airbus is likely the A350 registered as 9V-SJB (MSN 472). This jet was spotted without its engines at Airbus facilities in Toulouse on February 25th, 2021.

The Airbus A350 in Singapore Airlines’ fleet

The A350-900 has quickly become a core type within Singapore Airlines’ diverse fleet. The airline first ordered the type in 2006 and placed three orders for A350 jets after it. In fact, 2013 saw the airline’s total firm orders for the jet increase to 70- which was later adjusted to 67. This includes seven Ultra Long Range models, officially designated the A350-900ULR.

Data from Planespotters.net indicates that the carrier currently has 55 Airbus A350s in its fleet. These have an average age of 2.6 years old.

Singapore Airlines has settled on three configurations for its A350. They are as follows:

  • 67 business class seats, 94 premium economy. This configuration goes exclusively to its A350-900ULRs.
  • 40 business class seats, 263 economy class seats
  • 42 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, 187 economy seats

Other aircraft in Singapore Airlines’ diverse fleet include the Airbus A330 and A380 (all 19 remain parked and inactive), as well as the Boeing 737 (inherited from the SilkAir brand closure), 777, and 787. The carrier’s cargo division also operates the Boeing 747-400F.

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Source https://simpleflying.com/singapore-a350-deliveries-one-da/

A Pattern For International Growth? Delta Expands Iceland Flights

Not too long after Iceland decided it would scrap its entry restrictions for vaccinated travelers, airlines are starting to add flights to the island country. Delta Air Lines has announced an Iceland expansion, fueling the prospects of a summer surge in travel not just at home but even abroad. As Delta does this, it may seem like lifting restrictions for vaccinated travelers may be a boon for tourist destinations to get more services. It can provide some insight as to where airlines will be adding capacity.

Delta’s Iceland expansion

Delta Air Lines is returning to Iceland this May. The airline will connect three of its hub to Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport (KEF).

The first service to resume will be on May 1st, with daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Then, starting on May 20th, the airline will first reconnect Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) to KEF. Finally, daily service from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) will start on May 27th.

The flights from Boston will depart daily at 22:25 and arrive in Iceland at 07:45 the next morning. The return service will depart KEF at 10:15 and arrive at 12:000 the same day in Boston. All times are local. Boston to Iceland is an entirely new service for Delta.

Out of JFK, Delta’s daily flights will depart at 22:15 and arrive at 08:05 the next morning. The return flight will depart at 11:15 and arrive at 13:15 the same day. All times are local.

Meanwhile, out of MSP, Delta will fly daily, with a departure time of 20:45 and an arrival time the next morning at 07:55. The return flight will leave Iceland at 09:30 and arrive at 11:000. All times are local.

“We know our customers are eager to safely get back out into the world, including exploring one of the globe’s most beautiful outdoor destinations. As confidence in travel rises, we hope more countries continue reopening to vaccinated travelers, which mean more opportunities to reconnect customers to the people and places that matter most.”

An interesting array of products

Delta is offering a very leisure-oriented array of products to Iceland this summer. Out of both Boston and Minneapolis, the airline will fly 193-seater Boeing 757-200 aircraft. Onboard, Delta will offer premium economy, extra-legroom economy, and standard economy.

Delta is using a domestic and short-haul international Boeing 757-200 jet on these flights. With recliner-style first class seating on them, these planes are not equipped with a proper international business class cabin, so Delta is not offering a business class on those flights. Instead, that cabin is sold as premium economy.

Meanwhile, New York-JFK is getting a premium cabin. This summer, JFK to KEF service will operate with one of Delta’s premium Boeing 757 aircraft. These 168-seat jets have a lie-flat Delta One business cabin onboard.

Aside from New York, both Boston and Minneapolis are getting leisure-oriented aircraft serving the route. As Iceland is a large tourist-oriented market, it is fine for Delta not to offer a premium cabin on two of its flights to Iceland.

A foundation for resuming international travel

As Iceland becomes the first destination in Europe to fully exempt vaccinated Americans from non-essential leisure travel restrictions, expect additional carriers to lay on flights to the country. United is the only other US airline expecting to serve Iceland this summer.

A mostly seasonal destination, Iceland is getting some renewed attention from US travelers. As most international destinations remained closed, the few that are open are bound to get some additional travelers.

International travel demand is still a little weak. Even as some countries are open for international travel, not all passengers are willing to take a long-haul vacation right now.

Nevertheless, Delta has a better shot of getting more travelers to fill up its planes to Iceland than it does for other destinations,. So, instead of using those planes on a route they would have difficulty filling, it makes sense to at least make an effort to fly as many people to Iceland as it can. Delta will, however, face some stiff competition from Icelandair.

As more destinations open up, expect airlines to lay on new flights where they can. This is especially true for leisure destinations, as leisure travelers coming back much quicker and faster than premium business travelers.

Source https://simpleflying.com/delta-iceland-growth/

Boeing 717 Pilot Sues QantasLink For Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

A QantasLink pilot is taking her former employer to court after two mid-flight incidents allegedly caused the pilot post-traumatic stress disorder. The pilot is seeking a total of US$607,210 in damages and costs in a Queensland court.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Brisbane-based Jacinda Cottee, 43, worked as a QantasLink pilot between October 2011 and March 2021. She was a First Officer operating one of their Boeing 717-200s. QantasLink is a regional brand of Qantas. Before that, Ms Cottee worked as a Captain at Darwin-based Airnorth and now-defunct Townsville-based MacAir.

Last Wednesday, Jacinda Cottee filed a statement of claim against various QantasLink companies at the Brisbane District Court registry. In that claim, Ms Cottee says she now suffers from PTSD because QantasLink didn’t maintain their planes properly, and those planes were subsequently involved in engine-related incidents when Ms Cottee was in the cockpit

“QantasLink breached their duty of care by failing to perform proper maintenance on the Boeing 717 aircraft,” Ms Cottee’s solicitor told The Australian. Solicitors Slater and Gordon declined to provide further comment to Simple Flying.

Jacinda Cottee’s complaint concerns an engine failure on a Boeing 717-200 flight she was operating between Alice Springs and Brisbane in March 2018. That flight was an hour west of Brisbane when the aircraft experienced a loud bang and began vibrating. On landing, inspections revealed damage to the compressor blades of one engine.

Three years earlier, there had been a problem with an engine on a flight between Hobart and Melbourne.

Working out who is responsible may be a big task

The amount claimed covers lost past and future earnings. But digging into this case and the complex corporate structures behind QantasLink’s operations suggests determining who is responsible for what is easier said than done.

QantasLink is a brand. That brand features on aircraft owned by other businesses, including Eastern Australia Airlines and Sunstate Airlines. These are former regional airlines that, over the years, have been swallowed up and subsumed by Qantas.

QantasLink doesn’t directly operate the 20 Boeing 717-200s that fly in its colors. Adelaide-based National Jet Systems (NJS) does. NJS was a part of Cobham Aviation, another Adelaide-based airline that does a good business operating charter, passenger, and specialist aviation services for a number of customers. Last year, Qantas bought National Jet Systems.

Indirectly, Qantas now controls and operates the QantasLink fleet, including the Boeing 717-200s. But from a legal and corporate point of view, it’s very arm’s length. An added complication is that Ms Cottee’s direct employer was not Qantas or QantasLink. It was Cobham Aviation.

“It may well be that no member of the Qantas Group is the ­entity responsible for the maintenance or service of the engine,” Qantas’ legal representative told The Australian.

Slater and Gordon described Ms Cottee’s case to Simple Flying as very interesting. Qantas is justifiably proud of its safety and maintenance record. Jacinda Cottee’s career as a QantasLink pilot is over. What the Judge makes of it and what that career is worth will be worth watching.

Source https://simpleflying.com/pilot-sues-qantas-ptsd/

Why The Airbus A380 Doesn’t Work As A Private Jet

There has been plenty of speculation about the prospect of turning the Airbus A380 into a private jet as the type winds down its commercial career. However, the practicality of such a move is in question. Comlux Aviation is a world leader in handling exclusive aircraft operations and management services to VIPs from across the globe. The company’s CEO, Andrea Zanetto, explained to Simple Flying why the superjumbo wouldn’t work as a business jet.

Looking ahead

The A380 was first introduced in October 2007, with Singapore Airlines being the first operator. However, it’s Emirates that is the largest holder, with 117 units currently in its fleet. With the production of the behemoth coming to an end, there have been questions about its role in the future.

At 2019’s Dubai Airshow, Airbus marketing director David Velupillai shared that there is an eventual possibility of having a corporate jet based on A380. He highlighted the plane’s popularity with passengers, along with its quietness and comfort, as reasons why it could be a good choicfor the private sector.

With these statements in mind, Simple Flying took the opportunity to ask Comlux’s leadership about its thoughts. The firm was founded back in 2003 and has since been looking after VIP customers regarding the personal and professional management of their private aviation needs. Being such a driving force in the private industry, the company would undoubtedly understand the requirements of the market.

The drawbacks outweigh the benefits

Zanetto explains that there are too many limits that come with the deployment of the A380 as a private jet. He is a big fan of the aircraft, but there are notable restrictions and it would be impractical in business aviation.

“Well, I think not even governments would go that way, and for private, you generally don’t buy a castle if you want to have a luxury home. So, why buy a castle? Maybe a few people in the world will have a castle, but in the end, will not become cozy or nice to fly with. You cannot land anywhere. You just lean to main hubs. This is not an aircraft for private aviation. There are too many limitations on the aircraft. Why do you want to restrict yourself to fewer airports in the world?” Zanetto told Simple Flying.

“It’s a beautiful aircraft. It’s a pity that they stopped the manufacturing of it because it’s a beautiful experience to fly, but it’s nothing to do with private aviation.”

Additional factors

Moreover, much like the reasons that commercial carriers have to stop deploying the aircraft, private jet operators have similar concerns regarding efficiency. In an environmental and financial sense, the giant quadjet is hard to justify in the current climate.

Zanetto nonetheless affirms that even taking these factors out of the picture, the physical limitations are overwhelming. Regardless, if there ever is a request from a client to handle the superjumbo, his team would be keen to take it on.

“In the end, the cost of operation is something important for everyone, including the VIP guests that are flying. But I think I would say that the limitation of the aircraft, plus the size, is too big to consider for anything private. It makes no sense. The two floors, the size, which is really huge, it’s just too much. Unless there’s one person that is just willing to have it. You know, it happens with the boats as well. Boats are growing in size, the private boats, and they come to a point where they cannot even land anywhere,” Zanetto added.

“The trend is there. Maybe if a customer comes and asks us to operate, we would definitely be doing that, providing, as always, some limitations. Of course, in terms of aviation, it would be a fantastic, unique piece of art. I would like to see that, but as a consultant, I would not recommend it, unless you really have specific needs.”

Time is running out for the giant

Altogether, the Airbus A380 is rapidly disappearing from the skies and it’s becoming increasingly less common to spot units at airports across the globe. Several airlines were already going through retirement plans for the type before the global health crisis. However, the pandemic is significantly catalyzing the model’s phase-out across the continents

Even though the likes of Emirates will likely continue to fly the plane throughout the decade, many of its current holders are expecting the plane to remain on the ground even after the industry recovers. Production of the jet is also expected to end this year, after just 14 years since it was introduced. With such a short commercial lifespan, it would be a shame to see such a work of art go to waste

As Zanetto suggests, it won’t be a surprise to see a handful of individuals hit the skies with converted units of the A380. However, even if this happens, there will be considerable limitations. Thus, it would still be a rarity to spot the superjumbo in the decades to come

Source https://simpleflying.com/a380-private-jet/