27 December 2009

UK Committee on Climate Change releases Aviation Report

On 8 December 2009 the UK Committee on Climate Change released a large Aviation Report. The report sets out the Committee’s assessment of options for reducing UK aviation emissions up to 2050.

Continental Airlines and Air New Zealand apply for anti-trust immunity

Continental Airlines (CO) and Air New Zealand (NZ) have applied to the US Department of Transportation for anti-trust immunity (the docket reference is DOT-OST-2009-0340). The application was posted on the official Regulations.gov web site on 14 December 2009.

Continental Airlines joined the Star Alliance on 27 October 2009.


I was recently involved in a discussion about the shortest distances between various airports in East Asia and South America. Being on opposite sides of the world, many airport pairs in the two continents cannot be served non stop with existing airliners.

The Boeing B777-200LR (17,395 km range) and Airbus A340-500 (16,700 km range) come close but the economics of ultra long-haul, point-to-point routes means that they struggle to be profitable. Therefore the question arises as to what intermediate points make sense to airlines and travellers. For example, to what extent does Auckland (AKL) make sense as an intermediate point for travel between the two continents?

The Great Circle Mapper web site is a great help in supporting such discussions (see previous post) but also useful is the Antipodes Map web site which identifies the exact opposite side of the world to any point on the globe. The Wikipedia entry for Antipodes has a couple of maps that illustrate this.

The world is not exactly spherical. The distance around the Earth at the equator is 40,075 km. The distance around the Earth through the poles is 40,008 km. Therefore the theoretical maximum great circle distance between any two airports is 20,038 km.

Of course, considerations such as times from alternative airports in the event of an engine failure, prevailing winds, connecting times and visa requirements will also influence airlines and travelers decisions.

17 December 2009

Australian Government releases National Aviation Policy Statement

On 16 November 2009 the Australian Government released its National Aviation Policy Statement white paper entitled "Flight Path to the Future" (see previous post). The document is large but individual chapters can be downloaded separately. Australian Transport Minister Albanese also delivered a related speech and issued a media release.

The announcement includes a proposal to relax the sub limits on foreign investment that apply under the Qantas Sale Act (see previous post) but retain the 49% overall limit.

A decision on the location of a second major airport for Sydney is deferred yet again. Ben Sandilands in his Plane Talking weblog is blunt in his comments heading his 16 December 2009 posting Aviation White Paper cripples Sydney.

Of potential direct relevance to New Zealand is an indication that Australia is prepared to grant to third countries fifth freedom access to the Tasman if their airlines serve smaller Australian cities.

Media coverage of the announcement includes that in the:

Airline responses have been released by Qantas (also a separate statement with respect to the Qantas Sale Act) and Virgin Blue.

14 December 2009

United States reaches "open skies" arrangements with Japan

On 11 December 2009 the US Department of Transportation announced that the United States and Japan had initialed historic "open skies" arrangements after five rounds of negotiations (see previous post).

The text of the new arrangements (a Record of Discussions, Memorandum of Understanding and new route Annex) has been made available on the US Department of State web site.

10 December 2009

New air services arrangements between Taiwan and the UK

On 12 November 2009 a press release from Taipei announced that flights by United Kingdom and Taiwanese airlines can increase from 6 to 10 per week.

This follows a large increase in travel from Taiwan to the UK after the UK lifted a visa requirement for visitors from Taiwan.

Note that the new Agreement on the Operation of Air Services is between the Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom and the British Trade and Cultural Office, Taipei.

New Zealand's air services arrangements with Chinese Taipei (the APEC name for the economy) are between the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office, Taipei and the Civil Aeronautics Administration, Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei. Currently no airlines are operating under these arrangements but New Zealand has also recently removed visa requirements for holiday visitors from Taiwan.

07 December 2009

Australian Transport Minister meeting EC Transport Commissioner

On 30 November 2009 the Australian Minister of Transport Hon Anthony Albanese made a media release advising that he was to be meeting with the EC Commissioner for Transport Antonio Tajani in Rome to discuss among other issues progressing the Australia-European Union air services negotiations.

Future of Aviation report released by UK House of Commons Transport Committee

On 2 December 2009 the UK House of Commons ordered its Transport Committee report The future of aviation to be printed (see previous post).

One of the more interesting findings was:

127. Taxation is an aspect of aviation that is hotly disputed. The industry argues that it contributes heavily to the Treasury whilst critics say it should pay more. Yet it ought be relatively straightforward to provide a factual account. We asked for this, but did not receive one. It would be helpful if the Government clarified this issue with a statement of the revenues raised, the extent of any tax exemptions and how these compare to the social and environmental costs of aviation. As part of this clarification, the Government needs to explain the basis for its earlier statement that an additional £10 billion might be raised if VAT and fuel duty were applied to aviation."


"136. Although APD has been restructured to reflect the distance flown, and therefore—broadly speaking—CO2 emissions, the Government is clear that APD is not an environmental charge:

"[…] the Government emphasises that whilst its domestic aviation tax regime is structured so as to send environmental signals, neither APD nor AVGAS should be seen as an environmental charge designed solely to capture the environmental cost of aviation."

06 December 2009

Australian Aviation White Paper due out this month

On 30 November 2009 the ABC reported that the Australian Government is expected to release its National Aviation Policy Statement on 16 December 2009 (see previous post).

A key issue will be what comment is made about the location for a second major airport for Sydney. Given the rampant NIMBYism, I am not expecting a definitive long-term answer (NIMBY = not in my back yard).

The end of year release seems to have stirred the Singapore Airlines (SQ) public relations machine into further action with the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) reporting on 2 November 2009 the airline's wish to be granted fifth freedom rights between Australia and the USA. One wonders if the situation will change should the US Department of Transportation grant anti-trust immunity for the V Australia/Delta tie up (see previous post).

Incidentally the SMH story contains a basic error in the second paragraph when it says "Because Australia and the US have an open-skies treaty, Singapore Airline's access hinges on the go-ahead only from the Rudd Government." The Australia-US treaty is irrelevant to a Singapore Airlines fifth freedom service beyond Australia to the USA. What the article should have said was "Because Singapore and the US are party to an open-skies treaty, ..."

Japan continues to negotiate new air services arrangements with the USA

On 5 November 2009 the Japan Times carried a report from Bloomberg noting that a further round of air transportation negotiations will be held over three days in Washington DC this week.

On 4 November 2009 Aviation Week, quoting US State Department negotiator John Byerly, reported that it is possible that these talks may result in an "open skies" like agreement being initialled (see previous post).

The US is known to use the granting of anti-trust immunity as bait, making an "open skies" agreement a precondition for doing so.

Currently both Delta Air Lines (SkyTeam) and American Airlines (oneworld) are reported to be bidding to provide a much needed equity injection into Japan Airlines which is in financial difficulties after massive recent financial losses (see previous post). Seeking Alpha has a 13 November 2009 post providing some background.

In addition, new runway slots are becoming available at Narita and Haneda airports in the Tokyo area (see previous post). The US has previously tried to tie slot availability into its air services arrangements with Japan, while for its part Japan has considered that the US airlines already hold a disproportionate share of Tokyo airport slots.

If such an agreement is reached it would be a major step towards achieving APEC's 2010 Bogor Declaration goals with respect to trade in air transport services.

02 December 2009

Air New Zealand replacing B737-300 with A320

On 3 November 2009 Air New Zealand announced that it had selected Airbus A320 aircraft to replace its 15 domestic Boeing B737-300 aircraft (see also Airbus announcement). The 14 new aircraft will be delivered between January 2011 and 2016.

Airbus announced on 15 November 2009 that Air New Zealand is to be the launch customer for large "sharklet" winglets on the A320.