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Transport

Numerous Cities on List For Potentially Losing Air Travel

The ball is now in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s court when it comes to deciding whether to grant the request of domestic airlines to significantly trim certain cities and airport from their respective service lists.

And, ironically, it comes at a time when the majority of the country is starting to reopen for business in the wake of the effects from the coronavirus pandemic.

The government comment period on the matter ended on Thursday, leaving the matter to a decision by the DOT, which has not said when it will issue a ruling according to USA Today.

Airlines are looking to drop service to conserve some desperately needed cash, with demand for air travel having dropped to unprecedented lows. At one point, screenings by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) were off 94 percent compared to a similar date last year. But as a condition of accepting federal grants and loans as part of the CARES Act stimulus package, U.S. carriers needed to maintain the same amount of service it offered prior to the coronavirus impact as well as seek permission from the DOT to drop routes.

But the cuts could be devastating to small airports.

According to USA Today, Anthony Dudas, the airport director in Williston, North Dakota, said that the town is a gateway to the rich Bakken oil fields. Before the pandemic, it had five daily flights from United and Delta. Now, those flights have been reduced to one a day for each of the two airlines. If Delta is granted permission to suspend service, the community will be down even further – serving a $275 million airport that opened last year.

“While we understand the need for air carriers to have flexibility in adjusting schedules and services, we believe the impact from significantly reducing air service to western North Dakota will be enormous,” Dudas wrote.

Here is the list of cities that could be dropped.

ALASKA AIRLINES

Charleston, South Carolina

Columbus, Ohio

El Paso, Texas

New Orleans

San Antonio, Texas

ALLEGIANT AIR

New Orleans

Ogdensburg, New York

Palm Springs, California

San Antonio

Springfield, Illinois

Tucson, Arizona

AMERICAN AIRLINES

Aspen, Colorado

Eagle, Colorado

Montrose/Delta, Colorado

Worcester, Massachusetts

CAPE AIR

Portland, Maine

Corvus Airlines

Goodnews Bay, Alaska

Kodiak, Alaska

Napakiak, Alaska

Napaskiak, Alaska

Platinum, Alaska

DELTA AIR LINES

Aspen, Colorado

Bangor, Maine

Erie, Pennsylvania

Flint, Michigan

Fort Smith, Arkansas

Lincoln, Nebraska

New Bern/Morehead/Beaufort, North Carolina

Peoria, Illinois

Santa Barbara, California

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

Williston, North Dakota

ELITE AIRWAYS

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

FRONTIER AIRLINES

Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina

Mobile, Alabama

Palm Springs

Portland, Maine

Tyler, Texas

JETBLUE AIRWAYS

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Palm Springs

Sacramento, California

Sarasota/Bradenton, Florida

Worcester, Massachusetts

Seaborne Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Culebra, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Vieques, Puerto Rico

SILVER AIRWAYS

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Huntsville, Alabama

Key West, Florida

Tallahassee, Florida

Tampa, Florida

SPIRIT AIRLINES

Asheville, North Carolina

Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands

Christiansted, Virgin Islands

Greensboro/High Point, North Carolina

Plattsburgh, New York

SUN AIR EXPRESS

Nashville, Tennessee

SUN COUNTRY AIRLINES

Madison, Wisconsin

Philadelphia

Portland, Oregon

Sacramento

St. Louis, Missouri

UNITED AIR LINES

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pennsylvania

Charlotte Amalie

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fairbanks, Alaska

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Ithaca/Cortland, New York

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Key West, Florida

Lansing, Michigan

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Rochester, Minnesota

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Transport

Pakistan jet grazed runway at 327kph without landing gear

As Flight 8303 from Lahore approached Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport last Friday afternoon, air-traffic controllers were concerned that it wasn’t descending on the proper path

A deadly plane crash in Pakistan is prompting questions about how the crew could touch down without landing gear when their sophisticated jetliner was bristling with equipment to prevent pilots from doing just that.

After an abrupt descent that had unnerved air-traffic controllers, the pilots of the Pakistan International Airlines jet on Friday briefly put the aircraft on the runway without the landing gear, grinding along on its two engines at a speed of more than 327 kilometres (203) miles) per hour, according to preliminary data.

The pilots aborted the landing attempt, climbing back into the sky, but reported shortly afterward they’d lost power. The Airbus A320 apparently glided into a neighbourhood as pilots were attempting to return to the same runway, killing 97 of 99 people aboard.

“It is unbelievable to me that an airline crew on a jet like an Airbus, with all the warning systems, would attempt to land the plane without the gear extended,” said John Cox, an aviation safety consultant who formerly flew the A320 as a US airline pilot.

In addition to checklists designed to make sure pilots don’t attempt to touch down without the landing gear, the jetliner has multiple warning systems designed to alert crews if they somehow forget or the gear aren’t working.

“The airplane is not happy that you’re this close to the ground without the gear extended,” said Cox, who is president of consulting company Safety Operating Systems.

It’s not yet clear why the two jet engines quit after functioning well enough for about two minutes to lift them about 3,000 feet (915 metres) above the runway. Engines have become so reliable that losing two at the same time is almost always because of some common factor, such as damage from hitting a runway or a problem with the fuel supply.

Regardless, the bizarre landing attempt – which was carried out without any indication from the crew that they’d had an emergency during their initial descent – either triggered the accident or was a catalyst that worsened the situation, according to Cox and others who have studied crashes.

A Pakistan International spokesman declined to comment on “incomplete information.” An Airbus spokesman referred queries to Pakistani authorities. Civil aviation spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar didn’t respond to a call on his mobile phone.

As Flight 8303 from Lahore approached Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport last Friday afternoon, air-traffic controllers were concerned that it wasn’t descending on the proper path, according to a report cited by Sky News. A controller cautioned the pilots that they were “high” and urged them to adjust, according to the leaked preliminary report.

Turn back

“We are comfortable. We can make it,” the pilot can be heard telling the controller, according to a recording of Karachi’s air-traffic radio posted on the LiveATC.net website.

Twice as the plane neared the runway, a controller told pilots to turn and break off their approach, according to the report. Again, the pilot declined, responding on the radio he was “comfortable” and was prepared to land on runway 25-Left.

At no point did the pilots say they had a problem with their landing gear or any other type of emergency, according to the radio calls.

Approaching a runway with such a rapid descent, which often leads to higher-than-recommended speeds, is a harbinger of danger, according to decades of warnings from investigative agencies such as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the nonprofit Flight Safety Foundation.

After the controllers finally cleared the plane to land — despite their earlier warnings — the pilot replied, “Roger.” In the background, the sound of a cockpit warning chime can be heard.

Too much energy

The jetliner was well above the normal speed as it neared the runway, said Jeffrey Guzzetti, the former chief accident investigator for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. It was traveling at roughly 250 miles an hour at about 1,000 feet above the ground, according to the tracking website, Flightradar24.

That’s more than 50 miles per hour faster than is typical for jets like the A320, Guzzetti said.

“They have too much energy for a normal landing,” he said.

It not only increases the chances of skidding off the runway, but puts additional pressure on the pilots to slow the big jet and can lead to other things going wrong.

Flightradar24’s data suggests that the jet was traveling at 375 kilometers (233 miles) per hour when it reached the runway and slowed to about 327 kilometers per hour as it lifted off. The data hasn’t been validated by investigators.

While it’s possible that in the chaos and confusion they might have have forgotten about the landing gear, it’s still puzzling, according to Guzzetti and Cox.

Computer system

The A320’s on-board computer system issues both a warning sound and illuminates a light to draw attention to a text message if the gear isn’t out as the plane nears the ground.

A separate safety system designed to prevent aircraft from inadvertently striking the ground also senses when the gear isn’t deployed before landing. Its recorded voice repeatedly says “Too low, gear” if the problem continues.

Before-landing check lists also require crews to verify that the plane’s instruments show the gear is locked into place.

“It’s very unusual in modern transport category aircraft to have a no-gear landing, just because the checklist and the warnings that go off,” Guzzetti said.

At about 2:34 p.m., the plane slammed onto the runway. Its engines left a series of black smudge marks, starting at 4,500 feet from the start of the landing strip, according to video of the runway broadcast by news outlets. It shows three separate patches, as if the plane skipped into the air between impacts.

“Going around,” a pilot on the jet told controllers, the term for aborting a landing and taking off again.

The plane climbed about 3,000 feet, but couldn’t hold its altitude, according to the radio transmissions and flight data.

“Sir, we have lost engines,” a pilot said. Then, 30 seconds later, he said, “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday.”

Seconds later, the plane hit the ground.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

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Transport

New United CEO Scott Kirby Comes Out Firing

United Airlines’ Scott Kirby, who took over as CEO last week in the wake of Oscar Munoz’s retirement, is wasting no time establishing his authority.

Kirby cut 13 high-level executives in a cash-saving move on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic has throttled the industry financially. A day earlier, he told an online investor conference that the airline absolutely would not declare bankruptcy, and that he thought flying was safe enough to not block the middle seats on planes from being sold.

Well, he did build a reputation as an open – some might say abrasive – executive while at American Airlines.

Kirby is eliminating 13 of United’s 67 officer positions, all effective on Oct. 1. That’s the day after the restrictions on firing employees runs out per the federal government’s rules for airlines accepting billions of dollars in stimulus package grants and loans.

“While there are glimmers of good news in our July schedule — we expect to be down about 75% versus 90% right now — travel demand is still a very long way from where it was at the end of last year and the financial impact on our business remains severe,” United said in a written statement as reported by CNBC.

The cuts are in response to the loss of nearly 90 percent of business for United and all airlines, as the demand for travel has dropped dramatically compared to last year and beyond.

But Kirby defiantly said during the investor conference a day before that he has no plans for the airline to go bankrupt.

“Zero percent, no chance,” Kirby said. “It’s worse for shareholders. It’s worse for creditors. It’s worse for employees. It’s worse for every constituent that we have.”

To that end, Kirby also said he won’t sacrifice potential sales by blocking middle seats, as some airlines have done. As the blog The Points Guy noted, Kirby said the airline’s cleaning process, air circulation and a requirement for passengers and crew to wear face masks make it a safe experience.

“Airplanes don’t have social distancing — we’re not going to be six feet apart,” he said. “But an airplane environment is incredibly safe.”

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Transport

India domestic air travel to resume May 25 after virus shutdown

Domestic flights ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year

No indication was given when international travel would resume.

Domestic air travel will resume in India on May 25 after a two-month shutdown imposed to stop the spread of coronavirus, the aviation minister said Wednesday, in a further easing of national lockdown restrictions.

The government halted all domestic flights – which ferried 144 million passengers as well as cargo across the vast country last year – on March 25, days after suspending international flights.

“All airports and air carriers are being informed to be ready for operations from 25th May,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter.

No indication was given when international travel would resume.

A limited number of interstate Indian trains – on a network which normally carries over 20 million passengers a day – resumed a week ago.

An additional 200 passenger services – 100 pairs of trains operating to and from major and some smaller cities – would resume from June 1, Indian Railways said late Wednesday, adding that online bookings would start from Thursday.

The announcement comes the same day as the country of 1.3 billion people reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, with 5,611 new cases recorded in 24 hours.

It took the total to 106,750, with financial capital Mumbai the worst-hit city, according to government figures.

More than 3,300 people have died – though unofficial estimates are higher – and Mumbai accounts for almost a quarter of fatalities.

Other major cities such as New Delhi and Ahmedabad are also badly affected.

Hospital bed shortages

Mumbai authorities are looking to requisition thousands of private hospital beds, with state-run care facilities overwhelmed in the city of 20 million people.

“A plan is under consideration to take over 80 percent of beds in private hospitals for non-COVID cases,” Mumbai city spokesperson Vijay Khabale-Patil told AFP.

With some virus patients reportedly sleeping on the streets outside hospitals waiting for beds to become free, authorities say they need to boost the 5,000 available for critically ill patients.

Mumbai has already had to build makeshift field hospitals and turned several landmarks into quarantine facilities, including a 19th-century horse-racing venue, a sports stadium that was used to host NBA games last year and a planetarium.

There are fears the start of the monsoon next month and the spread of diseases like dengue fever will add to the burden.

The capital New Delhi, also home to 20 million people, has likewise been badly hit.

It now has more than 10,000 cases and while authorities have confirmed only 160 coronavirus deaths, media reports – citing cemetery records – say there have been almost triple that number at least.

Gujarat state’s largest city, Ahmedabad, has meanwhile recorded 8,945 cases with nearly 600 deaths.

Experts predict the epidemic will worsen in the major cities over the next month and infections are only expected to peak in June or July.

Despite the crisis in cities, the Indian government has insisted it is keeping the spread under control in the world’s second-most populous nation.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

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Transport

Southwest Offers Promotion to Entice Customers

Airlines are looking for a way to overcome the sudden – but seemingly lasting – drop in the demand for travel, and Southwest thinks it has a short-term boost.

The Dallas-based budget carrier has launched a new promotion to entice fliers back into the air.

From now until August 31, 2020, passengers who register for the airline’s new promotion will be given double Rapid Rewards loyalty program miles.

According to Forbes, current Southwest Airlines loyalty members earn miles as a function of how much their ticket costs. For every dollar spent on a flight (exclusive of taxes), discounted economy tickets earn 6 miles, standard economy tickets earn 10 and business fares earn 12. With this new promotion, an additional 6, 10 or 12 miles will be rewarded to the traveler after the journey is taken. In turn, the award balances can be converted to free flights or other perks.

“We’re all eager to move again in a new chapter that feels more familiar, and Southwest is giving Customers the freedom to dream and the inspiration to confidently recapture the magic of travel,” Ryan Green, Southwest Airlines Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer said in a statement. “And for those Customers preparing to return to the skies, our Southwest Promise is a fortified focus on supporting Customer and Employee health throughout the journey, bringing new peace of mind and comfort with the familiar warmth and value that only Southwest can provide.”

This new promotion also comes on the heels of a fare sale that Southwest launched. Customers may take advantage of fares starting from $49 to $99 one-way to select nonstop continental U.S. destinations. Examples include:

– As low as $49 one-way nonstop between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City

– As low as $79 one-way nonstop between Nashville and Philadelphia

– And as low as $99 one-way nonstop between Dallas and New York

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Transport

Airlines Planning More Flights to China

More and more airlines are planning on flights to China, counting on the travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus starting to dissipate.

China has restricted international passenger flights to its borders since March, according to Forbes, basically limiting airlines to just one flight a week to mainland China.

No official change in policy has been announced yet, but as the world starts to reopen after a devastating three months fighting the virus, several airlines – notably Asiana Airlines, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines – are expecting to revive service to China.

United Airlines earlier said it will “pencil in” a re-launch of service to Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai, saying in a memo to employees that “We continue to work out the feasibility of restarting passenger service to China.”

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines plans to resume 12 routes to China in June, adding to sister airline Korean Air’s re-launch. Korean Air and Asiana’s planned destinations include Beijing and Shanghai. Forbes noted that Beijing has even stricter international arrival rules that require incoming flights first land at a neighboring airport to complete health checks outside of the capital.

Qatar Airways said it expects to serve Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai by the end of June.

Turkish Airlines plans to resume Shanghai in June and then add Beijing and Guangzhou in July, according to a preliminary plan posted by local media.

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Transport

Saudi Ports Authority opens new shipping lane to East Asia

Container transportation lane will operate from Jubail Commercial Port

The new line for container transportation will operate from the Jubail Commercial Port through the global shipping line Hyundai Merchant Marine.

Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani) has launched a new shipping lane between the kingdom and East Asian countries.

The new line for container transportation will operate from the Jubail Commercial Port through the global shipping line Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) and partly in agreement with the alliance consisting of Hapag-Lloyd of Germany, OEN of Japan, and Yang Ming of Taiwan, according to a report by the Saudi Press Agency.

It will serve industrial companies in Jubail and Ras Al-Khair.

A statement by SPA said: “The new shipping line will contribute to linking the Jubail Commercial Port with East Asian ports, in addition to opening direct lines for shipping and exporting national products, increasing the quantities of handling in Saudi ports, in addition to facilitating and accelerating direct import and export operations from East Asian countries and increasing trade exchange.”

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Transport

ATPCO automates coronavirus waivers for travel agents

ATPCO has developed an automated solution enabling airlines
to override existing fare rules and waive change fees in the GDSs.

The solution will go live in the Sabre, Amadeus and
Travelport GDSs for American Airlines tickets on June 7. Other airlines are
also expected to use the technology. 

As a result, travel agencies won’t have to manually process
the voluminous fee waivers and ticket validity extensions that airlines have implemented due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“It is incredibly time-consuming for each airline and agency
to manually process changes to tickets,” Eloise Rorke, ATPCO’s lead for product
development, wrote in a recent blog. “Each airline was trying to come up with their
own solution and nothing was working the same way across all channels. ATPCO
saw this happening and, as a service organization to the industry, started
looking for ways to help.”

In an email, American spokeswoman Rachel Warner said the
carrier helped champion development of the new solution alongside ATPCO and
other technology partners. She said that when it goes live, the solution will
restore a sense of normalcy for agencies. 

Following the launch, the GDSs will be able to automatically
price American’s free change fee for impacted tickets, meaning agencies won’t
have to manually review policies against each ticket. 

At present, American is allowing one free change for all
tickets purchased by May 31 for travel between March and September. Validity on
such tickets has also been extended through 2021, In addition, ticket validity
has been extended through 2021 for all unused ticket that were slated to expire
between this March and this September.

Airline-owned ATPCO uploads fare data into the GDSs. American,
Delta and United are part of the ownership group.

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Transport

United to notify flyers when flight is crowded

United will begin notifying customers 24 hours ahead of time
if their flight is going to be crowded. Customers will then have the option of
rebooking or receiving a travel credit. 

The policy will last through June 30. 

The move, to go into effect next week, comes after a Twitter
image of a packed United 737 drew national headlines. The tweet was posted
Saturday by Ethan Weiss, a doctor flying home to San Francisco with a group of
physicians and nurses who had been working for the past few weeks in New York
City hospitals. 

I guess @united is relaxing their social distancing policy these days? Every seat full on this 737 pic.twitter.com/rqWeoIUPqL

“This is the last time I’ll be flying again for a very long
time,” Weiss wrote. 

In a statement on its website, United explained that despite
a 90% reduction in its schedule, 85% of its flights are still less than half
full. However, a small number of flights are more crowded. 

“To make it easier for our customers to plan, we’ll do our
best to contact them about 24 hours before their departure time so they can
decide whether to adjust their plans before they arrive at the airport — and
we’ll provide this option at the gate, if more than 70% of customers have
checked in,” the carrier said. 

In an April 29 email to customers, United chief customer
officer Toby Enqvist wrote that the carrier had begun automatically blocking
middle seats in order provide passengers with enough space. 

United has now backed away from that guarantee. Its website
currently says that the airline has adjusted its seat-selection systems to
avoid seating separate parties next to each other “where possible.”

“While we cannot guarantee that all customers will be seated
next to an unoccupied seat, based on historically low travel demand and the
implementation of our various social distancing measures, that is the likely
outcome,” the website says.

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Transport

Virgin Atlantic Announces Summer 2021 Flying Program

Saying it expects a gradual demand for the return of air travel, Virgin Atlantic has announced its flying program of the summer of 2021.

As countries start to lift travel restrictions, the Great Britain-based airline says it will steadily increase passenger flying in the second half of the year with a further, steady recovery through 2021.

“As the Covid-19 crisis stabilizes and demand gradually begins to return, we are looking forward to welcoming our customers back and flying them safely to their favorite destinations,” Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer of Virgin Atlantic, said in a statement. “We have taken the opportunity to pause, reflect and reshape our 2021 flying program looking at efficiencies in our fleet and connectivity across our network, to ensure it is fit for the future, flying to the destinations we know our customers love to fly.”

Beginning March 28, 2021, Virgin Atlantic will fly to the following destinations:

— From London Heathrow: Antigua, Atlanta, Barbados, Boston, Cape Town, Delhi, Grenada, Havana, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Lagos, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Montego Bay, Mumbai, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, Shanghai, Tobago, Tel Aviv and Washington.

— From Manchester, England: Atlanta, Orlando, New York JFK, Barbados and Los Angeles.

— From Glasgow, Scotland: Seasonal service to Orlando.

— From Belfast, Northern Ireland: Seasonal service to Orlando.

“Our longstanding commitment to US customers remains clear as we confirm our summer 2021 flying program,” Yuli Thompson, VP, North America and International at Virgin Atlantic, said in a statement. “Virgin Atlantic will continue to offer great connectivity between major US hubs with our focus on London Heathrow and Manchester airports, ensuring our close trans-Atlantic ties remain strong, and onward links to our international network are as seamless as possible.”

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