Main News August 17 2012


Getting smart with used cooking oil

AIRMALL USA, concessions developer and operator of the AIRMALL at Cleveland Hopkins airport, has formed a partnership with Bradford Airport Logistics. The venture will see the developer implement an environmentally-friendly solution that is aimed at recycling waste cooking oil from tenants in the airport’s concessions program.

To this end, Bradford has worked with AIRMALL to install a system of customized retrieval carts that collect the spent cooking oil from the fryers of food outlets at the airport. The collected grease is subsequently recycled to make environmentally friendly products, amongst which is the production of B-100 biofuel for vehicular usage.


Outsourcing or insourcing?

The wind of change, it seems, continues to blow down the economic corridors of the airline sector.

The latest carrier to look at changes to the status quo is United Airlines, which has announced that it is to outsource some of its cargo operations. Part of the reason for the change in operations stems from the ongoing merger with Continental: and a spokesperson has admitted that the initiative was in line with cutting cost and forging a more efficient operation.

Houston has been cited as one of the stations that will see the changes although others are also on the cards. The carrier has gone on to say that ramp cargo handling will still be performed in-house, however.

Whilst the number of affected workers has not been disclosed, it is known that United is still working with the union that represents cargo workers in order to relocate those involved or offer end of contract inducements. If all goes according to plan, the strategy should be effected by November this year. This isn’t the first time United has looked at its staff balance sheet, though: in all, since the merger got underway, some 15 stations have been involved in in-sourcing labor. Clearly, then, there is no one single solution here, for United is weighing up the situation on a station-by-station basis.


Big order for Florida manufacturer

JBT AeroTech has been awarded orders in excess of US$10m by a freighter airline, which the GSE specialist declined to name. This contract will see the manufacturer furnish cargo loaders, de-icing vehicles and pushback tractors. In addition to this it has undertaken to refurbish and upgrade the carrier’s existing cargo loaders. This new and refurbished GSE will in turn be used to support the airline in its global operations.

“We are pleased to continue supporting the cargo handling and ground support needs of the air freight industry,” commented John Lee, Vice President for JBT AeroTech Division. “This order represents the ongoing commitment of cargo air carriers to invest both in new products and in the upgrade of their GSE fleets to improve operating efficiency.”

According to JBT, delivery of the equipment is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.


Emissions policy hits a brick wall

A Senate panel has voted to prevent US airlines from paying fees to Europe for their fleet emissions. The vote effectively means that the Transportation Secretary now has authority to stop carriers participating in the much-debated EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

Predictably, the outcome was a disappointment to environmental groups who are keen to see the EU scheme adopted on a global basis. Calling the bill short-sighted, the international counsel at Environmental Defense Fund admitted that the result would set back any worldwide consensus, something that is badly needed to give the scheme full credibility. However, the US is not alone in its bullish stance: Russia, China and India have also long opposed the credits trading scheme, calling it unfair.

Readers will know that the European scheme issues permits to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide; it then charges any airline which generates more than its share. EU officials have assured the airline sector that the cost overall will lead to a slight increase in ticket prices. Nonetheless, US carriers estimate that the initiative will cost them some US$3.1bn by 2020.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has yet to be approached directly on the matter although EU officials have been contacted with the aim of securing some sort of compromise.

The Golden Crown


Tim Rane, JBT AeroTech’s Region Manager, North Europe, ME, Russia & Africa, brings a fable to the table – and talks safety.

He may not have been the first person in history to have a sudden flash of inspiration, but Archimedes is the man who made the word Eureka famous. It all started when King Hiero II grew skeptical about his new laurel leaf-shaped crown. The king wanted to know whether the crown was solid gold, or if some other metal had been added. It was up to Archimedes to figure this out, only there was one catch: he couldn’t destroy the crown.

It seems to me that the same conundrum exists in preventing aircraft damage. Most probably, no operator wakes up in the morning with a plan to hit an aircraft with their GSE; and most certainly, no GSE manufacturer plans to design their product with the intent of hitting an aircraft; and of course no airline buys its aircraft with “Kiss me quick, I’m looking for ramp rash” stickers emblazoned all over its livery.

Looking for solutions

Early last year I was called by David Roberts, Corporate Safety Manager, Aircraft Ground Damage, at British Airways. He asked us to participate, along with other GSE manufacturers and stakeholders, in a five-day working group which had one aim: to stop 3.5 tonne container loaders from hitting its A319-320 fleet at all BA’s stations. The team was assembled at 7am every morning for a full week airside, along with BA operators, maintenance providers, trainers, aircraft damage repairers and GSE manufacturers. We set to work to establish the root cause of failure. We looked at the GSE, its operating procedures, the units in operation, the new technology presently available for aircraft collision avoidance, the interface with the aircraft, the containers, the dollies and the way they repaired the aircraft damage. No stone was left unturned. But still we couldn’t replicate why operators hit the aircraft consistently in the same zone. But then, out of nowhere on day three, we observed an accident about to happen: it was our Eureka moment!

An AKH container was stuck, half in, half out of the rear hold of an A319. It was full of suitcases, and therefore too heavy to manhandle. The way the operator was trying to un-stick it was platform up and down, loader wheels turning left and right, and driving forwards and backwards. He was under time pressure so he was trying to do this simultaneously. The loader lurched forwards, almost putting the bed inside the hold.

Root cause of failure? It was clear that the interface alignment is critical for loading containers without them sticking on the A319, but nobody released how critical. We all profess to be excellent drivers, but if you were asked to park your car 40 times per day, five days per week in the same spot with a parallel positioning accuracy of plus or minus one inch, could you do it? I guess not. So why should we expect GSE operators to do so? Also, on inspection of every A319, the in-hold entry pallet drive motor was completely worn down to the bare metal. No wonder containers were getting locked between the load guides: they were unable to pull containers in, relying only on the loader pushing them in.

Corrective action:

Short term quick fix: Focused driver training on the importance of perfect alignment and paint a red stripe on the loader to help line up accurately with a red mark on their aircraft.

Medium term fix: Fit a load bed extension to the loader with a powered roller to move the loader drive station further away from the aircraft body and fit soft rubber buffers to the cab. Also, get aircraft maintenance to replace the in-hold pallet drive rubber wheel more regularly, before it gets worn down to bare metal.

Long term fix: Get Airbus to consider changing its in-plane container guide design on all new aircraft to a better container lead-in design, preventing container lock up and allowing less accuracy of the loader operator.

In summary, that Eureka moment has allowed BA to engineer out the chances of repeating this particular incident, but only by working together with Airbus, with their operators and with the GSE manufacturers to solve seemingly impossible problems. If this partnership is well managed by the airline, as it was by British Airways, we can start to make a (metaphorical) dent in reducing the aircraft damage bills.

Main News August 3 2012


New lounge at Tom Bradley

Star Alliance member carrier Air New Zealand has been selected to design and manage the Alliance’s new lounge at Los Angeles International. The facility is the result of a US$1.7bn investment that has seen the redevelopment of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which was commissioned by Los Angeles Worldwide Airports.
The Los Angeles Lounge becomes the first Star Alliance branded lounge to feature a new design concept aimed at satisfying the needs of today’s traveler. Designed by the Gensler company of architects, this facility owes much to a contemporary interpretation of modernist Los Angeles architecture dating from the 1950s and the 1960s. To that end, it incorporates predefined spaces to suit a wide range of passenger requirements. Read more

Main News July 20 2012


Baggage fees not seen as a deterrent

Rising baggage fees have not stopped travelers checking in their luggage when they fly. According to the latest Department of Transportation data, US airlines collected more in checked baggage fees in the first three months of this year than in the previous three months.

Between them, the 17 largest airlines collected a total of US$815.8m for baggage fees during the initial quarter of this year. This total was up from US$792m posted in the fourth quarter of 2011. The increase comes in the face of a 4% drop in traffic this quarter, according to Associated Press reports.

Delta Air Lines was prominent, collecting the most (US$198m). United, American and US Airways were all runners-up, with each banking more than US$100m in terms of check-in fees.

Airlines also collected US$631m in changed reservation fees for the first three months of the year: this compares with US$567.1m earned in the fourth quarter of 2011 and US$597.8m garnered during the first quarter of 2011.

Once again, Delta outshone other airlines, banking some US$192.3m from this service.



IAM ratifies fresh contract

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 142 has confirmed that the ramp and stores agents at Alaska Airlines have ratified a new, six year contract. This latest agreement concerns some 600 workforce members and the deal was approved by 91% of those voting.

Various elements are covered under the terms of the document. A phased-in pay rise of 10% is now on the cards and employees can look forward to enhanced merger and job protection, as well as signing bonuses. Other emoluments include increased premium pay and improved benefits and working regulations.

“Both committees are to be commended for their no-nonsense approach to this round of negotiations, which enabled a full and complete agreement to be negotiated and ratified prior to the amendable date of July 19, 2012,” commented the District 142 President, Tom Higginbotham, in a statement. “Such an accomplishment is a rare occurrence in this industry.”


Better baggage handling results welcomed

More on bags: baggage handling results from May this year have shown that, for the eighth month in a row, US airlines have improved their on-time performance.

According to the Department of Transportation and an Air Travel Consumer Report, 83.4% of flights arrived within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time in May this year, which was a 6% improvement when compared to the same month in 2011. in fact, the industry has posted year on year gains for on-time arrivals for each of the past eight months.
In May, 99.72% of all US airline passengers had their bags properly delivered, an all-time record for any May since records began; the previous record was set in May 2010. The May baggage handling performance also represented the twelfth consecutive month of year on year improvement.


Lost – but not always found

According to yet another new survey, airports are an ideal environment in which to lose personal belongings. During 2011, statistics show that, for example, over 8,000 mobile devices were left at seven of the largest airports around the US.

What is more worrying is that only one of those airports reported handing the lost devices over to the authorities. Six out of seven airports said that they were in the habit of donating mobile devices to charity or transferring them to another location.

Portable computers topped the bill, with a total of 3,576 misplaced, equating to 44.6% of all lost devices. Smartphones and tablets were close behind (3,444 lost or 43.0%), whilst USB drives accounted for the remaining 12.4%.

Five out of seven airports stated that most mobile devices were being left behind at Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoints whilst two declared (perhaps unsurprisingly) that they discovered most of the missing devices in restrooms.

Even more alarming was the sheer size of some of lost items, which have included vehicle tires and even microwaves.


Main News July 6 2012


Screening investment perhaps not enough

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan on the US airport screening technologies market has found that during 2011, the TSA spent approximately US$437.1m in contract obligations toward airport screening technologies.

The Transportation Security Agency is responsible for preventing knives, guns and other weapons from being taken on board aircraft. Despite these precautions, more than 800 guns were detected on board aircraft last year. These findings have highlighted the need for more stringent screening methods.



Facing up to the question of CO2

ICAO has said that it will focus on three options in addressing greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve this, it will look to eliminate the baseline and credit system, which allowed the trade in baseline increases or decreases.

It was felt that this initiative was broadly similar in scope to global carbon offsetting and as such, represented unnecessary duplication. Remaining options include offsets (with a revenue-generating mechanism) and the tried and trusted cap and trade scheme.

There is ongoing resistance from the US and China (and some other countries) towards the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which has put the International Civil Aviation Organization under pressure to come up with a workable alternative.

ICAO’s Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin, has said that he expected the council to have a draft plan in place by March 2013, effectively extending the proposed 2012 deadline that had been anticipated. But coming up with a scheme that will be acceptable to all of the organization’s airlines, that number close on 200, could well prove elusive.

And so the debate over permit purchase for flights into and out of Europe continues, with no obvious solution on the horizon.



Growth on the cards at BBA

BBA Aviation has committed to a seven-year lease extension and expansion of its Orlando corporate headquarters offices to accommodate anticipated growth.

Signature Flight Support and ASIG, together with their parent company BBA Aviation, collectively have more than 1,000 employees in 12 Florida cities, with almost 200 based in Orlando. The expansion will support the future anticipated growth of the business and the creation of new, high-earning jobs over the course of the next three years.

“We are delighted to commit to our ongoing presence in Orlando.” commented S Michael Scheeringa, President Signature Flight Support and member of BBA Aviation’s Executive Committee. “We found the partnership with both the state and city to be conducive to both retention and growth.”



LAN acquisition goes through

History was made on June 22, when Chile’s LAN Airlines completed a takeover of Brazilian rival TAM, thereby creating the world’s second-largest airline by market value, in a deal that analysts confidently predict will yield up to US$700m in annual cost savings within a period of four years.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that the new carrier, called LATAM Airlines Group, will be flying into the teeth of a recession: indeed, currently there is a slow-down in economic growth and demand for air travel in Brazil. But those significant cost savings could save the day. The airline will be focussing on improving performance in Brazil and it is hoped that during the merger, there will be little in the way of redundancies.



Volaris fined for misleading website

Recently, the US Department of Transportation fined Volaris US$130,000 for failing to disclose to consumers that they might have to pay baggage fees when buying a ticket.
“We adopted our rule on baggage fees to make sure that consumers have complete and accurate information about how much they will have to pay when they book a flight,” confirmed the US Transportation Secretary. “We will continue to take enforcement action when carriers fail to comply with our rules.”
According to the DOT’s latest regulations, carriers must clearly and prominently disclose on the first PC window that offers a fare for a customer’s itinerary whether or not additional fees for baggage may apply. Moreover, it is obliged to direct travelers to where they can view applicable baggage fees. This regulation applies to all airlines selling air transportation in the US, including foreign carriers.



Oiling the wheels – but not everybody’s

Delta Air Lines, which in a recent, well-publicized report decided to buy an oil refinery in an attempt to gain more control over its aviation fuel costs, has stated that it will not be selling jet fuel on the open market.

The carrier’s subsidiary, Monroe Energy, is to invest some USD$100m to convert the 185,000 barrels per day refinery in Pennsylvania in an attempt to increase its jet fuel output to 52,000 barrels per day, which represents about 32% of its output. Monroe Energy, which has been specifically set up to own the refinery, will then sell the fuel back to Delta.



Airports set to gain in the Philippines

Cebu Pacific has unveiled its self check-in kiosks at eight airports across the Philippines, enabling passengers to check in more quickly for any domestic Airbus flight during this coming summer’s peak travel period.

“We hope our guests take advantage of this added convenience, so they can breeze through the check-in process this summer. This is similar to our Web check-in service, which CEB also pioneered in the Philippines,” explained Candice Iyog, CEB’s VP for Marketing and Distribution.

CEB was the first Philippines carrier to offer self check-in (this occurred last December), using computer terminals in Ninoy Aquino International airport Terminal 3. CEB’s self check-in kiosks have now been deployed to a range of airports including Manila, Cebu, Clark, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Tacloban, Kalibo and Puerto Princesa. This service is available for check-in on all Airbus flights, ranging from eight hours to an hour and a half before the flight.
Earlier, the carrier announced that it would be mounting additional flights, in time for the summer, with the arrival of two brand new Airbus A320 aircraft. This includes flight frequency increases to Kalibo, Caticlan (Boracay), Puerto Princesa, Bacolod, Davao, Siargao, Cebu, Iloilo, Pagadian and Dipolog, to accommodate travel demand.

Mallaghan catering to the American market

A US order for five wide-body catering trucks was placed by LSG SkyChefs in December 2011. Driven by a need to expand its current catering truck fleet with good quality and commercially competitive units, LSG opted for the Mallaghan CT6000 model, and in so doing, allowed the opportunity for further expansion of the strong global relationship between the two organisations. The order also represents for Mallaghan its first commercial venture within the US market.


The Mallaghan CT6000 models are built on a International Durastar 4300 commercial truck chassis. Designed to meet all IATA and US specifications, including a design that can stand up to a 90mph jet/wind blast test, the units include Mallaghan’s usual reliable control system features as well as some unique features on the truck, such as electrical linear actuators for four-way motion control on the forward platform and inherent safety interlocks on the rear door to prevent the raising of the cabin body with the door unlocked.

The units were manufactured both in Ireland and in Mallaghan’s new manufacturing facility in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky location will also provide full OEM after-sales support (spare parts, service and technical support) for the US marketplace, as Mallaghan looks to develop its presence within this region. These CT6000 units are likely to be deployed by LSG SkyChefs across multiple locations around the US.

Image Mallaghan

Silent and emissions-free refueling

PLH Aviation Services has begun refueling aircraft with a new three tonne truck that is battery-powered. The truck’s chassis was actually developed by Canadian Electric Vehicles, which is based in Errington, on Vancouver Island. To date the company has manufactured over 60 of these chassis and this represents the first example to be deployed in Canada.


The trucks comprise an Isuzu cab and chassis and have a payload of 6,000 pounds, which is coupled to a speed of 40 kilometres per hour. Each of the environmentally-friendly refuelers relies on a 96 volt AC motor allied to a 30 kW battery pack for locomotion. Charging of the battery pack is effected via the grid and can be achieved in four to six hours, taking advantage of off peak tariffs if need be. Electric drive brings with it all the usual benefits of zero emissions, an absence of engine idling, low operating costs and smooth and quiet running.

The latest sale comes after 20 years of manufacturing these specialist vehicles: the first came about after PLH approached CEV in 2000, with a request for building a refueler for use at Los Angeles airport. The initial dozen units all found homes within the US market; today, around 60 of these trucks have been converted and are in use around airports in North America, Europe, The Middle East and Australia.

Amongst other products, the company is responsible for lavatory trucks and an electric pushback tractor, the so-called Might-E Tug. Another application is that of the Ford Ranger conversion kit that enables a vehicle to be retrofitted with electric power.

Integrated cargo revenue solution unveiled


In partnership with US-based Revenue Technology Services, Mercator (the commercial arm of Emirates Group IT) has developed a fully integrated Cargo Revenue Management Solution which will be rolled out to Mercator’s global customer base during the first quarter of this year.


The system, currently being implemented by launch customer Emirates SkyCargo, results in the Mercator SkyChain product becoming one of the world’s first fully integrated cargo solutions and will allow airlines using SkyChain to manage their cargo operations with the benefit of being able to fully optimize costs, increase operational efficiencies and maximize revenues and profitability.

The partnership with RTS puts Mercator at the industry forefront by offering customers a Cargo Revenue Management Solution that is tightly integrated with an airline’s core booking and operations process. This is a significant step for the industry, as it does away with the current practice of integrating with third party revenue management products and the large associated costs and overheads that are usually involved.

“We selected RTS as a partner because of the company’s diverse experience and demonstrated success in the field of revenue and profit management,” commented Duncan Alexander, Vice President Mercator. “The demand forecasting, overbooking, allotment management and bid price optimization engines from RTS revenue management software have been integrated within SkyChain to provide an integrated, Web-based interface, end-to-end cargo solution.”

Pradeep Kumar, Senior Vice President of Cargo at Emirates SkyCargo, added that with the introduction of the revenue optimization, capacity-constrained flights sales teams would have the advantage of being able to optimize flight revenue. “This feature will, in turn, influence sales techniques and behavior, representing a huge and beneficial cultural shift for both our people in the field and our valued customers.”

6th June 2012

Freedom of speech at 35,000 feet

The announcement that Virgin Atlantic would be introducing a facility that would enable individuals to make mobile calls between London and New York has met with a mixed reception.
Despite the reality that sees the vast majority of people wedded to their portable phone, a large percentage of travellers have stated that they would rather mobile phone use were not permitted on aircraft. This is the result of a new survey from flight comparison site Skyscanner.
A surprisingly high proportion of people, 86% in fact, said that it would be annoying to have to listen to other people’s conversations. Only 1% of respondents said they would pay more to fly with an airline that offered mobile calls.
Although Virgin has said use and call duration would be restricted, the thought of sitting next to someone chattering away in a confined space is clearly not something relished by many.



Cargo screening to be law by December

The US Transportation Security Administration has announced that passenger air carriers must undergo 100% inbound cargo screenings on international flights: this will start on December 3 this year.
Following the recommendations of the 9/11 commission act, the TSA is set to screen all cargo shipments loaded in passenger aircrafts for explosives. The agency had earlier planned to begin implementing the requirement by the end of 2011, but this deadline was delayed over concerns about the cost and time required for screening all packages.
The TSA said that to further enhance the air cargo security, without limiting the movement of goods and commerce, it has begun working with other governments, international organizations and industry partners, with the aim of establishing more risk-based and intelligence-driven procedures within the screening process.
Administrator John Pistole said that harmonizing security efforts with the agency’s international and industry partners was considered a vital step in securing the global supply chain.
“By making greater use of intelligence, TSA can strengthen screening processes and ensure the screening of all cargo shipments without impeding the flow of commerce,” he announced.
According to the agency, the operations will select screening approaches, which include risk-based, intelligence-driven processes, on a per-shipment basis: this will allow faster scanning of lower risk cargo.
The TSA added that the current risk-based security efforts are one simply aspect of its recent global supply-chain security initiative.
Both domestic and international passenger aircraft that are loaded with cargo and departing the country’s airports are currently undergoing screenings. In line with the extra workload, the TSA has appointed about 500 inspectors for implementation of the process and, further to its domestic inspector workforce, some 100 internationally-focused inspectors have been employed for assessing and filing security measures at foreign airports.


Autogrill renews at Atlanta

Italian catering group Autogrill has said that it has renewed catering and retail concessions at Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta. In a prepared statement, Autogrill said that it expected revenues over the period to exceed US$1.2bn. The catering concessions will be renewed for ten years while the retail concessions will be for seven years, it added.
Autogrill has been operating at the airport since 1994.



Bag fees dictating passenger choice?

Baggage fees continue to be a sore point amongst travelers. So is the unpalatable fact of life now beginning to influence how passengers prepare for a trip?
According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, US airlines garnered less revenue from bag fees in 2011 than they did in 2010. Whilst we ought to note that the revenue decline was slight (US$3.36bn in 2011 compared with US$3.4bn in 2010), it’s nonetheless of some significance, because during that same 12 month period, the numbers of passengers flying actually grew.
The year 2008 marked the turn of the tide: that was when the first bag fees were introduced. Profits accruing from this extra earner grew healthily in line with people’s desire to fly. Indeed, a colossal jump of 42% in revenues was logged over the 2008-2009 period. But the balloon could have burst. The main interpretation that can be put on this change is that travelers are putting less into their bags before leaving home.
Of all the carriers polled, Delta Air Lines banked the most bag revenue: it collected US$863.6m in all over 2011. American Airlines collected the second highest total (at US$593.5m). In third place was American’s current wooer, US Airways, with a total of US$506.3m.



Virgin penalized over PRM handling

The US Department of Transportation has levied a civil penalty of US$100,000 against Virgin America for filing incomplete reports with the Department about complaints registered by passengers with disabilities, as well as for not responding to the complaints.
The DOT rules require airlines to record any complaints relating to PRMs and furthermore, categorize them by the type of disability and by the nature of the complaint. These are then submitted in an annual report. Moreover, if an airline receives a written complaint alleging a violation of the Department’s disability rules, the carrier is obliged to submit a response within 30 days that specifically addresses the complaint.
In July 2011, the Department’s Aviation Enforcement Office conducted a routine on-site inspection at Virgin America’s corporate headquarters, where it reviewed all disability-related complaints received by the carrier. The Enforcement Office found that in many instances, Virgin America failed to provide a written response that addressed the consumer’s complaint.


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