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Air Southwest: The final chapter in Air Southwest story and the loss of brand has taken place with the repainting of the last members of its fleet of Dash 8-311s. It started with the announcement on the 14th July with the announcement that they would cease operations on the 30th September. G-WOWD was the first go, becoming VH-QQM with Skytrans Regional in May followed by G-WOWC which went to North Cariboo Air as C-GLWN at the end of August. The leases of Air Southwest's three remaining aircraft were transferred to Eastern Airways on 4th July and as recorded in our last issue G-WOWA was returned to service on 17th October following a repaint in basic Eastern Airways colours. Both G-WOWB and G-WOWE were noted on 2nd November at Humberside operating Eastern Airways services by which time G-WOWB had been repainted at Eindhoven in basic Eastern Airways colours.
British Airways (BA): British Airways is investing more than £5 billion (€5.84 billion) in new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges and new technologies over the next five years. To offer a more personalised service, it announced on 9th November that around 2,000 senior cabin crew would be given iPads to help keep track of passengers’ needs. It follows a highly successful trial, involving 100 senior crew members, responsible for delivering customer service onboard the airline’s 226 aircraft. It discreetly replaces long cumbersome scrolls of paper, which are normally handed to cabin crew, listing up to 337 customers, just before the doors close and the aircraft departs. In addition, the iPad also gives them a vast library of information at their fingertips including timetables, safety manuals and customer service updates. iPads used by pursers onboard the dedicated Airbus A318 business class-only service between London City Airport and New York’s JFK which operates via Shannon, can also get live updates throughout the flight, thanks to the services’ unique OnAir capability, which allows internet access across the Atlantic. British Airways has officially a new £73 million (€85.25 million) extension to Gatwick’s North Terminal which will be home to all BA flights at Gatwick. Over 4.5 million passengers fly on BA flights to and from Gatwick every year to 45 domestic, European and long haul destinations. Not surprisingly, British Airways has been named travellers favourite airline, with Ryanair rated the worst in a poll by gocompare.com. BA received 19.1% of the votes for best airline, comfortably ahead of second-placed Virgin Atlantic (13.8%). Ryanair was named as the worst airline by 19.3%, with rival easyJet the second worst (12.1%). Finally, the first Boeing 747-87UF to be registered in the UK, G-GSSD, was delivered Global Supply Systems. The new aircraft, the first of three, is painted in the British Airways livery and flew into Stansted Airport on 4th November directly from the factory at Seattle.
Bmibaby: Northern Ireland’s Tourism Minister, Arlene Foster was hand on 31st October to welcome passengers arriving from Amsterdam at George Best Belfast City Airport at the start of its winter schedule. The flight was the first of seven new European routes operated by bmibaby, with Geneva beginning in December and Malaga, Faro, Alicante, Palma, Ibiza starting in 2012. BmiBaby will also offer a new twice per week summer route to Mahon, Menorca, from 15th June. It will also increase frequencies to Palma and Faro to three per week and Alicante will operate up to four per week. BmiBaby added Stansted to its East Midlands and Birmingham routes earlier this year and it has carried more than 60,000 passengers in just six months – flying up to 11 times a week on that new route. Birmingham-Knock is the only route now served by bmibaby in the republic. For the winter it is being operated four times per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays with a flight on 22nd December replacing that on Christmas day.
Flybe: Flybe is the largest airline brand in the UK domestic market with 27.9% passenger market share in year ended September 2011 up from 26.9% in the previous year. Its UK division currently operates out of 14 UK bases and serves 73 airports in total in the UK and 12 other European airports. While Flybe has reported higher profits it is cutting capacity in the UK by 6% this winter in response to falling demand and rising oil prices stating that the “domestic flights boom over”. Its Dublin - Exeter is being operated at four per week schedule down from five last winter. Dublin - Southampton operates at a frequency of 15 services per week route although the DAA timetable shows considerable over the winter period. Edinburgh and Manchester are also served from Knock. up 74% to £14.3 million (€16.7 million) in the six months to 30th September due in part to the acquisition of Finncomm Airlines (rebranded as Flybe Finland) in a joint venture with Finnair. Revenues at its UK business increased 7% to £329.1 million (€384.45 million) in the half-year and passenger numbers were up 5% at 4.2 million, the load factor was up 1.6 percentage points at 65.6%. It has net assets of £113 million (€132 million) and holds £88 million (€102.8 million) total cash, (£22 million/ €25.7 million net). Average passenger fare was up 3% to £76 (€88.78). Of 83 aircraft in the fleet right were owned (debt financed) and 75 on operating leases. 16 of the aircraft are operated by Flybe Finland while the balance consist of 14 Embraer ERJ-195LRs and 53 Bombardier DHC-8-400Q Dash 8s.
Jet 2: Jet2.com has been flying commercial aircraft for over 25 years and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dart Group PLC. In Ireland it operates on the Newcastle-Cork route and over the winter the route is being maintained at a twice weekly (Friday and Sunday) frequency with some variations over the Christmas period and using Boeing 737-300s. From Belfast International Airport it flies to Alicante, Blackpool, Dubrovnik, Geneva, Ibiza, Jersey, Leeds Bradford, Mahon, Murcia, Palma Majorca, Pisa, Toulouse and Tenerife although some of these are seasonal.
Titan Airways: Stansted-based VIP and charter specialist Titan Airways, is bolstering its fleet with the introduction of two additional Boeing 757s. The two aircraft, TC-OGS and TC-OGS are coming from AtlasJet and being leased from Lloyds. The two aircraft are scheduled for delivery in spring 2012. Following repainting in Titan Airways distinctive livery and with their interiors finished to Titan’s very high standard, it is anticipated they will be ready for service by May 2012. Titan will upgrade the interior of its existing Boeing 757-256 G-ZAPX and refurbish it with new slim-line seats. As with all the Titan fleet, the new 757s will be available for short notice, rapid response charter and sub-charter. Its unique ‘Go Now’ policy guarantees that any of its fleet can be airborne within 60 minutes of flight confirmation. The diverse client base includes airlines such as Aer Lingus, cargo operators, tour operators, large companies and specialist charters such as the Irish Defence Forces who have used them for overseas deployments. Their aircraft have been used by a host of famous people and indeed Titan Airways manage and operate Lord Sugar’s Embraer EMB-135BJ Legacy 650, G-SUGA. On 11th November, it took delivery of a brand new Cessna 525A CitationJet CJ2+ business jet. The aircraft, G-POWG is configured with six leather seats in total, a club four arrangement of four seats including two stowable tables for work, plus two forward facing seats behind this. So from humble beginnings 24 years ago, with this addition, Titan now operates a unique fleet with 6 - 265 seat aircraft (others being Boeing 737s, BAe. 146s and a Boeing 767).
This article first appeared in the December 2011 Issue of FlyingInIreland Magazine