31 October 2010

Australian Senate inquiry into pilot training and standards

On the initiative of independent Senator Xenophon, the Australian Senate has launched an inquiry into pilot training and airline standards. Ben Sandilands, on his Plane Talking blog, is actively following the inquiry.

I must stress that this is a personal view partly based in part on my own experience of flight training and holding a PPL but I remain sceptical that airline pilots can be safe without a much higher number of flying hours in the air as pilot in command than seems to be being advocated by some airlines.

AirAsia X to operate to Christchurch

On 29 October 2010 Christchurch Airport (CHC) announced that it has signed a deal that will see Malaysian airline AirAsia X (D7) commence operations from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to New Zealand (subject to regulatory approvals). Whether this new direct route will be non stop or via Australia has yet to be announced. The Wings Down Under blog has a post on the story dated 29 October 2010.

New Zealand has a 1998 bilateral 'open skies' air services agreement with Malaysia (see media statement).

There has been speculation that the Malaysia government would not permit AirAsia X to compete directly with the Malaysia Airlines (MH) operations to Auckland (AKL). Singapore Airlines (SQ) already operates from South East Asia to Christchurch and is about to face competition to its Singapore-Auckland non-stop operations from Jetstar Asia (3K)(again subject to regulatory approvals)(see previous post).

Austria follows Germany to introduce flight departure tax

On 28 October 2010 GreenAir Online reported that Austria intends to introduce a tax on air travel.

On 1 November 2010 there is a major increase in the United Kingdom's Air Passenger Duty.

Alliances approved, Japan-USA 'open skies' signed and Haneda open for international flights ...

... in that order.

On 6 October 2010 the US Department for Transportation announced that it proposed to approve alliances between American Airlines and Japan Airlines, and separately between United Airlines, Continental Airlines and All Nippon Airways (DOT-OST-2010-0059 refers).

On 25 October 2010 the US Department of State announced that 'open skies' air services arrangements had just been signed between Japan and the United States (see previous post).

On 31 October 2010 Mainichi Daily News reported that Haneda Airport (HND), close to central Tokyo, opened for international air services. Flightglobal reported that the first international flights by JAL and ANA actually departed on 30 October, just before midnight, and reported that the airport's new, fourth runway and international terminal opened on 21 October. International landing and takeoff slots at Haneda are very limited and have been sought by many countries.

The Airline Route web site currently has a section devoted to the new Haneda international services and links to a Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism document on the subject dated 23 October 2010 (in Japanese).

30 October 2010

ASEAN-China air transport agreement close?

On 29 October 2010 Channel News Asia reported from Hanoi comments by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee that he expected an ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement to be concluded next month.

Lee also suggested that ASEAN should be pushing for 'open skies' within the ASEAN region. On 27 April 2010 the Business Mirror reported comments from a Philippines official that only one unnamed country had yet to agree to a Multilateral Agreement for the Full Liberalisation of Passenger Air Services (MAFLPAS).

ASEAN already has a 2009 Multilateral Agreement on Air Services, which allows unlimited flights between capital cities by the airlines of member states, and a 2009 Multilateral Agreement on the Full Liberalisation of Air Freight Services.

New Zealand's recent air services negotiations

The New Zealand Ministry of Transport's Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2010 has just been tabled in Parliament and published. It includes a brief section on air services arrangements:

Air services: The Ministry continued working through the issues outstanding in air services negotiations with the European Union. However, given the differences between our respective positions on significant issues, it was difficult to reach a mutually acceptable position. Further negotiations were put on hold pending further developments on either side. 

Negotiations were also held with Papua New Guinea in March 2010 where an understanding was reached on liberalising some elements of the air services arrangements.

New Zealand–Japan air services agreement: An agreement was reached with Japan on amendments to the New Zealand–Japan air services agreement to permit the operation of Boeing B777-300 aircraft on the route.

South Africa signs new MoU with Qatar boosting capacity for their airlines

On 28 October 2010 the Qatar News Agency announced that, following negotiations in Pretoria, South Africa and Qatar have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding quadrupling the flights available to the airlines of the two countries to 28 flights per week for each side.

Canada initials an air services agreement with Qatar

On 28 October 2010 the Qatar News Agency announced that, after three days of negotiations in Doha, Canada and Qatar have initialled an air services agreement that will allow Qatar Airways to operate three passenger flights and three cargo flights per week to Canada.

25 October 2010

ACCC hold pre-decision conference on Virgin Blue/Air New Zealand alliance application

On 18 October 2010 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) held a pre-decision hearing in Sydney on the alliance application from Air New Zealand and the Virgin Blue group (see previous post). The hearing was closed to the media so there has been no reporting.

However, submissions (scroll down for submissions made after draft determination) from the applicants and most of the New Zealand interests that have in the past expressed doubts about the merits of the case indicate that differences are narrowing with the applicants offering to give conditional undertakings to maintain capacity on routes that are of concern (see the end of the submission from the applicants). These routes (sectors) are: AKL-BNE; WLG-BNE/SYD/MEL; DUD-BNE; and ZQN-SYD.

"Open skies" policy debated in the Philippines

The possibility of the Philippines adopting an "open skies" policy continues to be discussed with the Manila Standard reporting on 21 October 2010 that an Executive Order has been drafted.

On 23 October 2010 The Manila Bulletin carried a report with comments from the Speaker, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who emphasised the need to improve air transport infrastructure.

On 24 October 2010 BusinessWorld reported that there was support for adopting an "open skies" policy from key Cabinet members.

24 October 2010

Breakthrough for the Gotthard Base Tunnel Project

In a major civil engineering achievement, after 14 years on 15 October 2010 the boring of the 57km Gotthard Base Tunnel through the Swiss Alps was completed. swissinfo.ch carried a report on the breakthrough.

The new rail tunnel, the longest in the world, will not open until 2017 but will become a major transport between Germany and Italy when it does. The cost is expected to be US$10.6bn. The travel time by passenger train between Zurich and Milan will be reduced by one hour.

Australian Department intervenes to support Delta-V Australia alliance proposal

The newly renamed Australian Federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport has intervened in the case before the US Department for Transportation (DoT) seeking anti-trust immunity for an alliance between Delta Air Lines and the Virgin Blue group (see previous post), including V Australia, writing a letter dated 13 October 2010 to DoT supporting the application.

This case leaves one thinking that the Japanese approach of not implementing its new bilateral air transportation arrangements with the United States until various anti-trust immunities were first granted was totally understandable.

Details on German aviation tax

The German Federal Ministry of Finance has published a short article on its web site detailing how in practice the proposed aviation tax is to work (see previous post).

Thailand signs new air services agreements with Denmark, Norway and Sweden

On 16 October 2010 ScandAsia.com reported on the signing the previous day of new air services agreements between Thailand and Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The new agreements replace those signed in 1949. Thai and SAS have long historic links.

Jamaica signs open skies agreement with Canada

On 20 October 2010 the Jamaican Prime Minister's office announced that Jamaica had signed a new "open skies" agreement with Canada.

Air rights between the UK and Taiwan expanded

On 8 October 2010 the Taipei Times and Taiwan Today reported that negotiators from the United Kingdom and Taiwan had reached agreement to expand the opportunities available to their airlines in terms of both capacity and routes.

This follows the UK deciding to grant visa free access to people from Taiwan from March 2009. New Zealand has recently made a similar move.

Tax dispute may see more foreign airlines pulling long-haul services from the Philippines

A 13 October 2010 weblog posting from The Exciting World of Philippine Aviation reported on a dispute between some foreign airlines and the Philippines government over the imposition of a value added tax. On 5 October 2010 the Manila Standard reported that KLM and Delta were among the airlines considering cutting services to Manila.

Canada updates air transport agreement with Switzerland

On 22 October 2010 the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, announced that Canada had negotiated an updated, more open air transport agreement with Switzerland. The Prime Minister's Office announced more details.

Tyndall Centre report on emissions from shipping

The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester released a media statement and 83 page report on emissions from UK shipping. A key issue covered in the report is the different methods of apportioning emissions to individual countries.

The Guardian published an article on the findings of the report on 23 September 2010.

Further coverage of the UAE v Canada aeropolitical dispute

What is looking like becoming a classic standoff (see previous post) has been receiving further media coverage. The following items are just a sample:

11 October 2010
Gulf News from Reuters

12 October 2010
The Montreal Gazette - note the reference to Australia and New Zealand
The Globe and Mail - editorial

13 October 2010

14 October 2010
The Globe and Mail - suggests there were differing views in the Canadian Cabinet

18 October 2010

20 October 2010

21 October 2010

22 October 2010
National Post NEW - comment from Canadian Transport Minister Chuck Strahl

On 16 October 2010 the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation published a background article.

The 2001 Canada-United Arab Emirates air transport agreement (ATA) itself is also available online. I found it unusual in that the capacity limits are explicitly included in the Route Schedule at the end of the ATA. The capacity principles are not unusual and are clearly spelled out in Article XI. What I have not seen in any of the coverage are the actual true origin/destination (TOD) passengers numbers between Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

13 October 2010

Air New Zealand still waiting for the B787-9

On 10 October 2010 the NZ Herald carried a feature article on the Boeing B787 aircraft that Air New Zealand has ordered (see previous post).

Of particular interest was the comment by senior Air New Zealand manager Ed Sims that the aircraft will offer the potential for non-stop operations from Auckland (AKL) to Chicago (ORD), Mumbai (BOM) and Sao Paulo (GRU). Great Circle Mapper gives the distances from AKL to these airports as 13,171km, 12,303km and 12,045km respectively. Boeing currently lists the range of the B787-9, which has yet to fly, as 14,800km to 15,750km.

CATR research on New Zealand air transport presented

Government-funded (by FRST and the Tourism Strategy Group) research done by Auckland economic consultancy Covec for the Centre for Air Transport Research (CATR) at the University of Otago was presented at a workshop with representatives of the New Zealand tourism industry on 5 October 2010. The 66 slides and an audio file are now available on the CATR web site.

Particularly noteworthy to me are slides 23 and 24 which in diagram form summarise seat capacity into New Zealand in 2004 and 2009, slides 26 and 27 giving a matrix of New Zealand's air connectivity, and slide 32 indicating how B747 and B767 aircraft are being replaced by B777 aircraft on international air services to New Zealand.

12 October 2010

Japan considering "solidarity" tax on international air travel

On 28 September 2010 the Asahi Shimbun reported that the Japanese Government is considering introducing a 'solidarity' tax on international air transport.

Chile, France and South Korea already has such a tax in place with the money being used to fund UNITAID NEW.

New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority commences consultations on future capability and funding

On 12 October 2010 the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) released a major discussion document on Funding Alternatives together with Questions and Answers.

Given the fact that fees and charges have not been adjusted for many years, not surprisingly most of the proposed increases are large. The review is also looking at alternative capability levels for the CAA.

Submissions close on 23 November 2010.

10 October 2010

Aeropolitical 'hard ball' directed at Canada by the UAE

Reports in the Globe and Mail (8 October 2010), the Vancouver Sun (9 October 2010) and on Bloomberg (10 October 2010) point to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) venting its frustration at Canada's refusal to grant increased access to Emirates and Etihad (see previous post). This has taken the form of kicking the Canadian military out of the UAE which the Canadians have been using for logistics support for operations in Afghanistan.

I am left wondering whether there is a real risk of Canada giving notice of termination of its air services arrangements with the UAE. Such action would potentially include removing the right for UAE's airlines to overfly Canadian territory on non-stop services between Dubai and San Francisco/Los Angeles, for example, because Canada is no longer a party to the International Air Services Transit Agreement - Canada withdrew in 1988. (New Zealand has only ever terminated an air services relationship once, with Canada in the 1960s.)

Given that the origin of the military operations in Afghanistan was the horrendous 9/11 attacks in the USA using civil aviation, the actions of the UAE are not a good look.