Short-haul operators in Europe have been seeing almost no growth in passenger numbers and have struggled to reduce capacity to offset lower traffic as the global economic downturn has turned to recession. After a disappointing 2008 that saw load factors fall, European Regions Airline Association (ERA) members now suffer “a considerable worsening” in demand.
Should anybody harbor any doubts, two recent events confirmed that the mid-decade airline-order boom has ended: Airbus announced A320 production cutbacks and Ryanair has come looking for bargain-basement prices for single-aisle airplanes. Airbus now plans to cut single-aisle production from 36 to 34 a month starting in October and possibly to a lower rate later.
European low-cost carrier Ryanair has entered “early negotiations” to order 200 to 300 new Boeing 737-800s or Airbus A320-series airliners in the coming two years. The equipment, which includes replacement capacity, would support continued expansion during the 2012 to 2017 timeframe, with Ryanair potentially benefiting from any decline in aircraft prices during the current recession.
UK regional airline Eastern Airways is “exactly on track, or slightly ahead” of projections for this year, according to COO Chris Holliday. Although he attributes continued profitability to tight financial controls, Eastern has “always been extremely focused on costs,” he said.
A new jet ownership and charter business called JetSuite is preparing to take delivery of its first Phenom 100 next April and has unveiled details about its business model.
During a quarter in which all the big publicly traded regional airlines turned a handsome profit, it came as little surprise that Atlantic Coast Airlines led the pack, as the Sterling, Va.-based carrier prepared to embark on the most ambitious, and perhaps riskiest, undertaking in its 14-year history.
Speaking on the sidelines about FlyDubai’s order announcement for 50 Boeing 737-800s on Monday, Emirates Airline deputy chairman Maurice Flanagan made it clear that his airline hasn’t suffered from the business woes about which other airlines are complaining. “There has been no downturn whatsoever,” said Flanagan here at Farnborough. “We have exceeded our revenue forecast. It is an exciting situation.”
New United Arab Emirates low-cost carrier FlyDubai kicked off firm order announcements at this year’s Farnborough International yesterday morning with a $4 billion purchase of 50 CFM56-7B-powered Boeing 737-800s. It also plans to lease an additional four machines from Babcock & Brown Aircraft Management. Under the terms of the contract, FlyDubai may convert orders for the aircraft to 737-900ERs.
Jet fuel prices are soaring, capital markets are drying up, Western economies at best are stalled and defense budgets are under threat as shrinking tax bases swell national debts to unsustainable levels. But you won’t find many prophets of doom among the top aerospace executives gathered here for the 2008 Farnborough International show.
If Airbus COO customers and chief commercial officer John Leahy ever met a paying customer he didn’t like, it certainly wasn’t one of the world’s big aircraft lessors, whose strong balance sheets look all the stronger at a time soaring fuel costs eat away at profits of the world’s airlines.