News: UNITED, ElAl historic flight, JetAirways back?

UNITED

United Airlines has permanently scraped its US$200 change fee on domestic tickets.

This may seem unimportant but its a massive shift in policy and will force the other majors to follow suit. You have to wonder how long before other airlines start to do the same, and not just in the US.

For years airlines have made fortunes out of charging passengers for changing even the slightest details of their travel itinerary, when in fact there simply wasn’t any excuse to charge $5 never mind $200. If you wanted to change a name or a flight you’d be charged the fare increase, and the change charge on top of that.

The original charges came about when there was real cost – back in the days of multiple carbon copies and paper tickets, and the cost of re-issuing was genuine, although nothing like $200. The internet and computerisation, as well as security concerns rendered paper ticketing obsolete.

However don’t get over excited – the lowest cost “basic economy” tickets will still attract the charge. However in 2019 the number of passengers actually using them was under 5%.

Question: Will it attract more people back into flying as we approach the normally ultra-busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays?

The bigger news for international travellers comes from January 1st 2021, form that dat on, if you’re booked on a flight in the morning and want to change to a flight later in the day, if space exists you’ll be able to do so free of extra charges.

There are also changes for United MilegaePlus Premier members that should add benefits too.

Have no doubt, this is a big deal for passengers. Long overdue reforms like this are rare and show just how hard Covid has made airlines think.

Bearing in mind that American Airlines has just slashed 55% of its schedule for October, airlines need to do more to persuade people to fly.

JetAirways

JetAirways has just bought back six of its 777-300ER’s. The aircraft were on a lease purchase scheme – which means at the end of the lease, the airline pays a final payment and owns the aircraft.

Indian insolvency laws are almost non-existent, bankruptcy procedures are a shambolic process leaving behind a mess of problems and indecision. However leased aircraft are easily repossessed. JetAirways sold off its head ofice in Mumbai and several other assets – enough to raise US$13 million to pay off the final payment and get the aircraft back.

The question now is, will they be seized by the other creditors who want their money, or is the airline going to try and make its way back into the aviation market?

Fleet Ireland had been the owners, and the deal includes returning the aircraft with their engines, which had been removed.

Even so the airline doesn’t have the millions it would need to put the aircraft back in the air and service them, they haven’t flown for over a year.

jetAirways did have bidders – the process was due to end today, 31st August, but with aviation in such a mess, the new backers have declined to proceed right now. The may never do so. India is in the grip of a huge increase in Covid cases with no end in sight, they’ve gone from 1 to 3 million in the space of 4 weeks.

ElAl flies into history as change comes to the Middle East

Following years of informal security and intelligence ties between the UAE and Israel, largely over their shared loathing of Iran, a normalisation agreement, that will allow the two to recognise each other and establish embassies was signed a couple of weeks ago.

As a result the first ever (publicly known) commercial flight between Israel and the UAE has taken place.

It’s a landmark in and of itself, but what’s more staggering is that Saudi Arabia allowed the 737-900 to fly over its airspace. In historic terms this is almost beyond belief. Its not quite without precedent, in the last couple of years Saudi Arabia was permitting Air India flights to reach Israel over its territory.

Either way the fundamentals of the thing are that Jordan, Egypt and the UAE now recognise Israels existence. Kuwait, Bahrein and even Saudi Arabia may not be far behind.

This could have major repercussions for flights from the Middle East, as Syrian airspace is closed because of the civil war, even Iraqi airspace isn’t entirely safe right now, which has forced UAE based Emirates and Etihad to fly over Iran and Turkey to get to Europe. If Saudi Arabia opens its airspace, and the Israelis allow over flights – which seems inevitable, a shortcut to Europe cutting an hour from many flights opens up. It also cuts off a source of foreign currency for Iran, as aircraft won’t fly over it and it won’t be able to charge fly-over fees.

The move won’t affect Qatar, because Saudi Arabia and its allies have their own blockade on the country, forcing it over Iranian air space.