“If you can’t beat them, join them” might well have been the theme for a debate on the challenge posed by the so-called no-frills carriers during last month’s general assembly of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) in Salzburg, Austria.
In an industry where airlines have all too often been run by aviators instead of businessmen, Aer Arann chief executive Padraig O’Ceidigh (pronounced ‘O’Kaygee’) has brought a cautious–if not typically Irish–approach to the airline. “The most important word in business is ‘no’,” he asserts.
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.
Boeing has awarded Goodyear Tire & Rubber, the world’s largest supplier of aircraft tires, a six-year contract to provide Flight Leader and Flight Radial tires for 737NG aircraft. The “unique body cord shape” of the reduced-weight units is said to minimize stress on takeoff and landing. The tires will equip aircraft to be delivered to operators such as All Nippon, Continental, Ryanair and Southwest.
JetBird, the planned low-cost air charter service, caused quite a stir at the 2006 EBACE exhibition when it ordered 50 of Embraer’s Phenom 100 very light jets and optioned another 50. Speaking exclusively to EBACE Convention News before this year’s show, JetBird managing director Paul Gearney confirmed that the order still stands and that the operator expects to begin flying in April 2009.
Details of Irish carrier Ryanair’s latest contract with Boeing illustrate some of the negotiable areas within such agreements. Last month, the low-cost carrier completed its fourth 737-800 order in seven years under aggressive plans that predict fleet growth from 82 such aircraft to 225 by March 31, 2012. By then, Ryanair expects to carry 70 million passengers annually, compared with 34 million in the current year.
Hamilton Sundstrand (Hall 4 Stand F13) has announced the signing of a long-term maintenance agreement with low-cost carrier Ryanair. The contract covers test, repair and overhaul for the manufacturer’s products on the airline’s fleet of Boeing 737s. These include electric power and cabin pressurization equipment.
This year’s ERA Airline of the Year gold award went to two-time runner-up Eastern Airways. While noting the carrier’s “dynamic approach to industry lobbying,” judges lauded the UK regional’s ability to survive powerful competition through “courage, creativity and persistence,” as well as marketing and operational and technical commitment.
With fuel prices in a steep ascent, do airlines need further inducements from regulators to burn less jet-A? No, says the European Regions Airline Association in response to proposals to extend emissions trading to the air transport industry.
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