News Roundup: Lauda, Etihad, Lufthansa, Airbus, easyJet, Zipair, Virgin Atlantic, Berlin Airport, UK Quarantine

Lauda

Niki Lauda, former Formula-1 world champion and scion of the Mercedes-Benz F1 team, as well as a pioneering proponent of motorsport and aviation safety, would be appalled at what’s happening to the airline he sold to Ryan Air in his final years.

In a terse notification, RyanAir Group announced the base at Vienna would close, effectively ending the airline, on 29th May. They had not been able to force the unions to agree savage pay cuts and changes to working practices. 300 staff will loose their jobs.

The routes flown by the airline will be back filled with RyanAir aircraft.


Zipair

Zipair, a new Japanese startup that was unable to properly start when Covid19 arrived on the scene, has joined the throng of passenger airlines flying cargo.

It’s applied to the Japanese authorities for permission to fly a cargo route from Tokyo to Bangkok using its 787.


Etihad

Etihad is reconsidering the future of its A380 fleet, as it, like Qatar and AirFrance operate just ten aircraft and both of them have either withdrawn or plan to, their fleets.

The airline was facing possible bankruptcy not even 18 months ago, following a bitter price and capacity war between the ME3. Emirates and Qatar are barely sixty miles apart at their main bases, and prior to the blockade of Qatar, all of them could be reached easily driving.

Etihad somehow was able to justify keeping its A380’s which operate regular flights into London and to Australia. However it’s also facing another capacity crunch, and the UK’s bizarre decision to adopt with Ireland a 14 day quarantine for arriving passengers this late in the crisis, has killed that market for the foreseeable future.

Etihad is also said to be reviewing its fleet orders, with cancellation of 20 A350-1000’s high on the list.


Airbus, good news, bad news

Airbus had some good news as it completed its build of the A220 Mobile, Alabama assembly plant. Many analysts and airlines are starting to see the A220 and Embraer E2 as the future of mid-haul regional travel.

The bad news was Emirates announcing the re-timing of its first A350 deliveries and mulling the cancellation of more.

On top of that Etihad is doing the same and Qatar is said to be thinking similar thoughts.

British Airways was already too far down the line of taking delivery of its latest A350-1000, but suspending deliveries is said to be on the agenda. They also took delivery of a 787-10 this week, again too far advanced to stop.

Virgin Atlantic are still due to take 8 more A350-1000’s over the next 2 years – no word on those deliveries yet.


Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic are said to be on the cusp of a recapitalisation deal that will put the airline on a stronger footing. At what cost is hard to see at the moment.

In other good news for the airline it has finally finished replacement of all of its Rolls-Royce Trent-1000 engines on its Dreamliner fleet. Some 40 engines have had to be replaced, including spares, some of them more than once as a cascade of problems occurred as one fix led to another issue.


Lufthansa

Lufthansa is said to be getting a €9 billion support line of grants and credit facilities from the German Federal and Rheinland-Palatinate state governments. However the cost on environmental issues is said to be high, and the airline has to handover a 20% stake as collateral and boardroom seats.

The airline also announced plans to split its long haul fleet in two, with both Frankfurt and Munich getting the 748i, and a more equitable distribution between the two than in the past, at least for now.

The news comes as German leisure carrier Condor was also guaranteed a future by the German government, with more support.


Berlin Airports

The Berlin Government has announced the closure of the historic Tegel airport, with immediate effect, as the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport at Schöenfled is able to deal with the very low demand expected until its official opening in October. The airport is five years late. However if passenger numbers rise above 50,000 a day they will temporarily reopen the airport.

The old airport has been running at three times it’s capacity for decades, but was an architectural gem of early 1960’s airport design. It was crucial during the Cold War and the 1948 airlift that kept West Berlin supplied for a year when the Soviets blockaded the allied enclave.


U.K. Quarantine

With accusations like “closing the barn door after the horse has bolted”, the U.K. is imposing a 14 day enforceable quarantine on arriving air and rail passengers. Except the French and the Irish. It’s considered a stupid move but the public like the idea.

For airlines it’s just another problem. The government having committed to it, quietly inserted a three week rule for reviewing it so expect it to go live, and then be lifted in three weeks time.

And just to make it even more ludicrous, the likelihood is that air bridges allowing flights to low risk countries, for brits to fly on holiday, may well be approved. Could it get any worse as ideas go?


EastJet

EasyJet is to resume flying from mid-June, although on limited routes and mostly U.K. domestic.

The boardroom battle waged by founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who was hoping to oust the chief executive, Johan Lundgren, the chairman, John Barton, the finance chief, Andrew Findlay, and the non-executive director Andreas Bierwirth over the board’s refusal to cancel the 105 A320 aircraft order, placed with Airbus in 2013, failed ignominiously Friday.

Stelios had 45% of the vote, but in Trumpian cries of cheating, said that two of the companies who voted against, were controlled by Airbus and were therefore biased and shouldn’t be allowed to vote. He knew that beforehand so how did he not bring it up before?

The board says they just want to get on with business and hope for a normalisation of relations with their largest single shareholder and founder.