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Category Archives: airlines

Reko Rennie
June 11, 2009 – 11:45AM

Australian aircraft engineers have blasted Jetstar and Qantas for using cheap maintenance facilities overseas after a Jetstar plane’s cockpit caught fire and forced an emergency landing in Guam early this morning.

The engineers union has disputed claims by Jetstar management that the aircraft had been maintained in Australia, saying its last major maintenance check occurred in the Philippines.

The Jetstar A330-200 aircraft – flight JQ 20 – left Osaka’s Kansai International Airport for the Gold Coast just before 11pm last night (AEST) carrying 186 adult passengers, four infants and 13 crew including 9 cabin crew and 4 pilots.

Jetstar in forced landing
A cockpit fire has forced an international Jetstar flight carrying 203 people into an emergency landing on the Pacific island of Guam.
Jetstar chief executive officer Bruce Buchanan said a computer error message identified a fault with a heating element in a cockpit window that caused a small fire.

The pilot managed to extinguish the fire and send out a mayday call before conducting an emergency landing at Guam airport.

The Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association is angry about comments by Jetstar management that link the latest cockpit fire incident to Qantas engineering within Australia.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway stood by his statements and told The Age the less than two-year old plane was checked in Australia only last month.

“The last major check on that aircraft is what’s called an A-check was undertaken in May of this year and it was undertaken by Qantas engineering in Australia,” Mr Westaway said.

But Steve Purvinas, the engineers association’s federal secretary, said the Jetstar A330 last underwent major maintenance in Manila in December 2008.

He said this was the second emergency landing forced by cockpit smoke in 18 months.

“Qantas group A330 aircraft have never undergone major maintenance in Australia,” Mr Purvinas said.

“This is the second cockpit smoke emergency landing on a Qantas group aircraft in 18 months and in both cases the aircraft had undertaken maintenance in the cheaper overseas facilities.

“The previous incident occurred in February 2008 on a Boeing 747 and resulted in an emergency landing in Sydney.”

He said Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar were lucky the two cockpit incidents occurred in an area of the aircraft that was easily identifiable and accessible.

“Qantas are blessed that these incidents didn’t occur in cargo holds or electronic equipment bays,” he said.

“Qantas need to come clean about the high level of overseas maintenance on Australian aircraft or better still, bring the full workload back to Australia where aircraft maintenance over a long period of time has proved to be second to none.”

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has sent investigators to Guam to examine the aircraft, while the US-based National Transportation Safety Board and Qantas would also investigate the incident, Mr Buchanan said this morning.

“It’s no human error.”

Mr Buchanan said the aircraft went into service in August 2007 and the window was one originally fitted by the manufacturer.

Passengers – most of whom were Japanese nationals except for 44 Australians – were unaware of the incident and there was no smoke or fire in the cabin. No one was injured.

“He’s (the pilot) called a mayday and diverted into Guam and all passengers and crew are safe,” Mr Buchanan said.

“In fact most of the passengers were unaware until they got onto the ground and the captain informed them of what actually happened.”

The flight landed safely without incident at Guam International Airport at 2.20am (AEST).

Mr Buchanan commended the crew’s quick actions in putting the fire out. He said the chief pilot had 14 years’ experience flying with Qantas.

“I’d just really like to commend the pilots … they’ve reacted swiftly and in a very professional manner,” Mr Buchanan said.

Jetstar will send a plane from Sydney at 11am today to collect the passengers and crew, who are being accommodated in hotels in Guam. The plane is then due to depart from Guam at 6pm to fly back to Brisbane.

The island of Guam is a US territory, located in the Pacific Ocean about 2100 kilometres east of the Philippines.

The aircraft is the same model as the Air France flight which disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month.

A team of ATSB investigators, including operations, electrical engineer and licensed aircraft maintenance engineers, will travel to Guam this morning to commence the investigation.

A passenger on board the flight, Adam Power, told 3AW he could smell something for two hours before the plane descended.

“I think their main aim was to just keep us calm. There were no bumps or anything like that, just a heavy smell. I wouldn’t say it was a fire smell, it was like someone was cooking or something like that. A different sort of smoky smell … it was a weird smell.”

He said they were told there were “technical difficulties” while they were in the air, with the passengers being told there was a fire after they had landed.

He said that the jet landed about half an hour after the announcement, but the smell was present for about two hours before that.

Mr Power, a musician, said the worst thing was he had to cancel a gig schedule for tonight in Brisbane. “I’ve got to call the manager of that bar. Hopefully he’ll believe me.”

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Agence France-Presse
May 15, 2009 02:46pm

AIR New Zealand will offer a lonelyhearts trip for US singles to New Zealand in what it is billing as the world’s matchmaking flight.

US singles are being offered the chance to fly from Los Angeles in October to “get amongst it” with New Zealanders at the “Great Matchmaking Ball” in Auckland.

Before take-off passengers will attend a pre-flight gate party at Los Angeles Airport, and themed food, drink, entertainment and games will be offered during the long flight, said Air New Zealand’s Steve Bayliss.

The global downturn in travel due to the economic crisis and more recently the swine flu outbreak is leading the airline to come up with unusual marketing ideas.

Earlier this week it launched a domestic television ad showing staff including baggage handlers, pilots and cabin crew at work wearing very little but body paint.

Even chief executive Rob Fyfe appeared briefly in the advert.,28318,25487476-5014090,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse

May 4, 2009 – 8:39AM

Industrial action by Australia’s air traffic controllers (ATC) has been averted after they voted overwhelmingly to accept newly negotiated pay and conditions.

The air traffic controllers’ association Civil Air says the new conditions will help slow down the exodus of controllers to Europe and the Middle East.

But Civil Air executive secretary Peter McGuane says passengers can expect continued delays and cancellations until the shortfall is remedied.

“This has solved the short-term threat of major disruption to Australian aviation but in the longer term passengers face an uncertain future until Australia has enough air traffic controllers,” Mr McGuane said.

In a national ballot, air traffic controllers voted 95 per cent to accept the offer of an average wage rise of 4.7 per cent annually over the next three-and-a-half years.

28 April 2009 8:06am

“New entrant” airlines investing heavily in employee development and resisting the urge to “slash and burn” their workforce during economic slumps are outperforming the industry giants, says a new book on the flight trade.

Airlines with the highest labour costs have some of the lowest total costs, say Monash University’s Professor Greg Bamber and North American business academics Jody Hoffer Gittell, Thomas Kochan and Andrew von Nordenflycht in Up in the Air: How Airlines Can Improve Performance by Engaging Their Employees (Cornell University Press ISBN 9780801447471).

They seek to cut expenditure through “underlying process improvements” and building employee commitment rather than “adopting a narrower focus” on reducing staff numbers.

Employee morale within the airline industry is at a next-to-all-time low, the authors say. In 2007, a survey revealed that only 25 per cent of pilots and flight attendants believed that morale in the industry was high, compared to more than 60 per cent just seven years before.

Regular lay-offs over that period have led to increasing cynicism among employees regarding airline management, the authors say. (Just two weeks ago Qantas announced plans to shed 1,750 fulltime-equivalent positions.)

Low morale often results in poor quality service – alienating many customers – and a spike in flight cancellations as disgruntled employees begin “working to rule” (contributing the bare minimum) and declining overtime assignments.

“Labour cost reductions may have been a necessary condition for survival at some airlines,” the authors say, “but they are far from sufficient for fostering a return to sustained profitability.

“[They] can even be counter-productive when they are carried out in a way that allows total costs to grow and service quality to decline. When service quality declines, costs can rise even further due to the costs of service recovery.”

Case Study
Southwest Airlines entered the US market in 1971, and – in what the authors describe as an “unusual feat” in the deregulated industry – has been profitable every year (but its first) since.

Southwest’s initial competitive strategy was based on the rapid turnaround of aircraft between flights, which required “high levels of coordination” across all elements of the business.

According to the authors, the airline is characterised by “frequent, timely problem-solving communication between functions” attributable to HR practices focussing on “building shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect”.

Southwest’s strategies include:
a hiring process that seeks to identify candidates “with an awareness of other people and a respect for their work”, as well as a willingness to go above and beyond their specialisation;

a training process that builds on this foundation. Employees receive on-the-job training by a coordinator who explains not only the tasks to be performed but how these tasks impact other functions;

job descriptions that outline specialist tasks but encourage flexibility, with broader language such as, “whatever else is needed to ensure a successful operation”;

a high supervisor-to-employee ratio, enabling leaders to actively engage in coaching, respond to feedback and relieve workloads at peak times;

performance management that focuses on problem solving rather than the assignment of blame. Southwest also uses conflict resolution to build a shared understanding of work processes across different functions;

a work/family balance policy aimed at encouraging workers to have fun – because if they are “there is a good chance they are doing well” – and to take time off to “renew themselves” and maintain their family and community commitments;

trade union partnerships. Southwest is the most highly unionised airline in the US, but has one of the lowest conflict levels in the industry, and has only suffered one strike in its history; and
job security. The airline has avoided lay-offs during downturns, the post-9/11 crisis and in the face of customer-service automation.

According to Southwest co-founder and former CEO, Herb Kelleher, “nothing kills your culture like lay-offs”.

“Nobody has ever been furloughed at Southwest,” he says. “It’s been a huge strength of ours… Not furloughing people breeds loyalty. It breeds a sense of security. It breeds trust.”
In Australia

According to the authors of Up in the Air, Virgin Blue Australia has for the most part followed the Southwest model.

It seeks to achieve cost savings primarily through efficient work practices rather than reducing pay and benefits or by sacking the workers it has “invested its resources” in, they say.

It looks for candidates with “flair”, aims at developing a happy, motivated and committed workforce and encourages flexibility.

Virgin Blue experienced growth rates of up to 200 per cent in its first five years (after it entered the market in 2000), and maintains “unit” costs that are approximately 35 per cent lower than Qantas’s.

Its operational reliability and on-time performance are also consistently higher than that of Qantas, the authors say.

Matt O’Sullivan
April 22, 2009

DELTA AIR LINES has challenged Qantas’s dominance of the Australia-United States route after describing its foray into the market as a “disaster” for the incumbent airline.

Qantas stands to lose more than 200 passengers a day – over half the seats on a standard jumbo jet – when Delta begins daily flights between Sydney and Los Angeles in early July.

Even before Delta launches services, the trans-Pacific route has been transformed in a matter of months from being one of Qantas’s most profitable international legs to become loss-making, largely because of a dramatic drop in demand for business and first class travel.

Delta’s network planning chief, Glen Hauenstein, said its flights in July would be “relatively full” because more than 30 per cent of seats were already booked.

He said there was demand to fly the route because under previous arrangements Qantas picked up more than 200 passengers a day through an interlining agreement with Delta and Northwest Airlines. The two US carriers merged last year.

“So the demand is there and … if you’re the incumbent carrier this is a disaster – if you’re the non-incumbent carrier, this is an opportunity,” he said during Delta’s first-quarter earnings briefing.

“And the question is long run, as being the world’s largest carrier and having the extensive route network that we have, do we want to have outlet to Australia? The answer is clearly yes.”

Delta’s Boeing 777s will increase passenger seats on the route every week by almost a quarter, or 4900, to 25,000, just as the aviation industry suffers its worst downturn of the jet age.

Air fares on the route have fallen about 57 per cent since September, according to Macquarie Equities, due to both a dramatic slump in demand and Virgin Blue’s long-haul carrier, V Australia, joining Qantas and United Airlines on the trans-Pacific in February.

However, Delta’s decision this week to charge $US50 ($71) to check in a second bag on international flights from July 1 could face a passenger backlash.

United has revealed in its latest earnings briefing that it is already suffering on the route. Of its Pacific network, Australia and China suffered the biggest declines in revenue in the first quarter.

United also reinforced the extent of the slowdown by revealing that its total premium traffic fell 30 per cent in the quarter.

The biggest threat to Qantas on the route is Delta’s ability to attract US customers because of its extensive US domestic network. The route has historically provided about 10 per cent of Qantas’s total passenger revenue.

Qantas management suggested last week that none of the carriers will make money flying between Australia and the US in the current environment. Qantas said premium travel on the trans-Pacific and London-Australia routes had fallen about 20 per cent.

V Australia began thrice-weekly services from Brisbane to LA this month, two months after it launched daily flights from Sydney to the US. It will launch three return services a week from Melbourne in September.

By Kate Schneider
April 22, 2009 08:30am

A US company has launched the world’s first pets-only airline dedicated to animal-friendly travel. Pet Airways will cater for people who loathe the idea of their pets being stored in the cargo hold area during a flight by offering their pet-only service.

From July the new airline will fly dogs and cats in the main cabin of a turbo-prop Beech 1900 passenger plane which has furnishings such as the seats and bins removed, with animals placed in their private pet carriers and locked into a restraint system.

The plane can hold up to 50 dogs or cats. A pet attendant checks on the animals and makes sure they have regular toilet breaks during the flight.

“Pet Airways is the world’s first airline exclusively dedicated to the safe and comfortable transportation of pets,” the company’s website says.

“With Pet Airways, your pet will be safe and comfortable flying in the main cabin – not in cargo.”

Pet Airways will fly to 42 US cities including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

Fares start from $US149 ($212).,28318,25369013-5014090,00.html