Asia accounts for 25 percent of the world’s air traffic, a figure expected to grow to more than 30 percent in three years, largely thanks to the proliferation of low-cost carriers. With cheap fares, easy online bookings and direct connections to previously sleepy backwaters, budget carriers are bringing air travel to the masses in this part of the world.
February 17 will see the launch of scheduled business aircraft services linking Geneva, London and Paris. Club Airways is a private membership service that will market seats in Learjet 45s operated through Bombardier’s Flexjet Europe program at fares that will be roughly 50-percent higher than equivalent fully flexible business-class tickets.
A steady rise in traffic and load factors might seem like good news for the airline delegates gathered at the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly in Vienna from September 29 to October 1. But as airlines turn to “fierce cost cutting” to attract passengers, reality muted any calls for celebration during the three-day event.
Six months ago, when 10 new states joined the European Union (EU), the lifting of trade and political barriers enlarged the world’s largest borderless marketplace to 450 million people. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta joined the existing 15 member states on May 1. In 2007 Bulgaria and Romania are likely to join the EU, with Croatia and Turkey to follow eventually.
The story that tells the economic fortunes of smaller metropolitan airfields in Europe is very much a tale of several cities. Many find themselves in a veritable “Catch-22”–they can expand their operations as long as arriving and departing aircraft meet local neighborhood rules. But increased services aggravate negative public perception of the noise they generate.
UAE low-fare carrier Air Arabia yesterday ordered 34 Airbus A320 single-aisle airliners, with delivery to begin in 2012, and took options on an additional 15. Delivery of the aircraft will eventually more than triple the carrier’s current fleet of 10 leased A320s. Chief executive Adel Abdullah Ali, said Air Arabia’s fleet will double by 2010 and grow to 50 by 2015.
Dubai may harbor ambitions of one day hosting an airshow to outshine those held in Paris and Farnborough, but on one score the Gulf emirate is already well ahead. The nearly $80 billion worth of aircraft sales commitments announced through the first two days of the show smashed all-time records and easily surpassed even an impressive tally recorded at June’s Paris Air Show.
While regional airlines in the U.S. enjoy something of a renaissance as a result of post-9/11 capacity restructuring, Europe’s regionals continue to register unspectacular traffic growth and progressively deteriorating yield performances. The reasons vary, but delegates at last month’s ERA spring conference in Barcelona more often than not pinned the blame on the rise of the discount fare segment.
Aegean Airlines, host carrier at this month’s European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly in Athens, has an eye on opportunities in Eastern European and Middle East markets, according to Aegean COO Antonis Simigdalas, who is also president of ERA. He told AIN that the airline is “geared for such developments, through its fleet plans, traffic-rights applications and economic stability and planning.”
Bombardier Aerospace is responding to demand for bigger regional jets with its 100-seat CRJ1000 and continues to mull a 90-seat stretch of its Q400 turboprop. Regional airlines are thriving, but constant pressure on operating costs means their equipment is getting steadily bigger, the company’s top executives agreed at a pre-show briefing in Belfast last month.