Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Aussie travellers grow more unhappy with airlines

Plane simple

The level of airline service descended steadily in CHOICE's latest annual travel trends survey, with satisfaction ratings for all domestic airlines down since the 2016 survey. Jetstar once again came rock bottom in travellers' rankings. Holiday problems plagued 48% of Aussie travellers in the 12 months to July 2017 with a third of those having problems with flights.
"Despite that, many aren't taking up the fight with their airline," says CHOICE head of media Tom Godfrey.
Aussie travellers are so fed-up with the airline industry, two-thirds of them didn't complain when they were left stranded. 37% of people who didn't complain said they thought their complaints wouldn't achieve anything, while 34% thought the complaints process itself is a hassle.

Time to complane

The difficulty of complaining to the airlines is a consistent theme of CHOICE's research, prompting the launch of Instead of digging around airline sites for a complaint form, file your complaint on and we send it to the airline for you.
62% of people said no action was taken by the airline when they experience a delay
By using, you can also help our fight for a fairer airline industry. We used travellers' experiences to lodge a super complaint on the airline industry with the ACCC in 2016. A super complaint is a mechanism we use when the level of complaints in a given sector have reached epidemic proportions.

Consumer compensation

The most common flight problems experienced were delays and cancellation, with people flying on budget airline Jetstar more likely to experience a flight delay or cancellation.
63% of flight problems experienced were delays and cancellations
Although you book your flight to leave and land at a specific time, in Australia, airlines don't guarantee those flight times.
And if your flight is delayed or cancelled, it's at the airlines' discretion if they provide any compensation – six in ten people told us their airline took no action. Contrast that to the European model, a clear-cut scheme where flyers receive a set compensation amount (depending on flight distance) if a flight arrives three hours or more after it was scheduled, is cancelled or overbooked.
"With delays and cancellations a top problem for Aussie travellers, CHOICE is calling on the domestic airline industry to provide fixed financial compensation to travellers who have flights cancelled or delayed for reasons within the airline's control," says Godfrey.
"An industry-wide system of standardised compensation already exists in the European Union, so it's hardly a stretch for Australian consumers to get the same guarantees for a service they paid for.
"Whether it's a missed business meeting, family dinner or even a wedding, Aussie travellers shouldn't have to pay for the airline's mistakes."

Travel insurance

Three quarters of travellers said they were covered by travel insurance for their last international holiday. But younger people seem less likely to take out travel insurance, with only 51% of travellers aged under 22 stating they were covered.
Coinciding with 2016 research commissioned by the Insurance Council of Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into Australians' travel insurance behaviour, our research finds travellers have little understanding of their travel insurance. CHOICE's 2016 Consumer Pulse survey found 42% of consumers read none or almost none of the terms and conditions when signing up to a product or service online.
Travellers believe they're covered for events they're unlikely to have cover for – two out of three (66%) assume their travel insurance covers for insolvency or bankruptcy of travel agents or providers, however less than a third of policies actually provide this cover.
CHOICE reviews of 230 travel insurance policies combined with case studies highlight serious issues with travel insurance exclusions and consumer understanding of policies, including in relation to mental health, specialty sports and alcohol exclusions.

Car hire

43% of people rated car-hire companies' response to their complaint 'Poor to terrible'
The survey found consumers have the greatest dissatisfaction with car rental companies' response to complaints (43%), closely followed by travel insurers (41%) and airlines (38%). Our CHOICE Help consumer rights advice service regularly receives enquiries related to unfair practices in the car hire industry.
Car hire contracts are complex documents, particularly for people with English as a second language. And when you're standing in a car rental agency queue at a crowded airport after a long flight, your time and capacity to read and understand a 24-page 10,900-word hire agreement is limited.
So we're expanding our research into consumers' experiences of the car hire industry with an analysis of car hire contracts, loss damage waiver and excess reduction products, customer service and booking processes.

Survey details

The Online Research Unit, on behalf of CHOICE, surveyed 2506 Australians aged 18–75 years from 19 June to 12 July 2017 who took a domestic flight for a holiday in the past 12 months and at least one international flight in the last two years. The data has been weighted to be representative of the Australian population as per ABS Census 2016.

These are good times for the global air transport industry

Record profits revealed for Asian carriers despite troubles plaguing Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines

Major industry group cites global economic growth, higher ticket prices and more travellers

The Geneva-based association, representing 275 airlines accounting for 83 per cent of global air traffic, said airlines were set to conclude the year with a tally of US$34.5 billion in net profit, revised upwards 10 per cent from an earlier estimate this year of US$31.4 billion.

As a whole, the strength of mainland Chinese and Japanese carriers and the air cargo business would help the region’s airlines generate US$9 billion of profit.

How the Boeing jet no one wanted became the plane airlines scour the planet for

Boeing 717 A Delta Air Lines Boeing 717-200. Flickr/Tomás Del Coro
  • The Boeing 717-200 went out of production in 2006.
  • Only 156 of the planes have been built.
  • A decade later, the airlines that operate the 717 want more of them.

On May 23, 2006, Boeing delivered the last two 717-200 jetliners to customers at its Long Beach, California factory. It marked to the end of a program filled with promise but that had ultimately failed to capture the interest of airlines. Even Boeing's well-oiled sales operation could only manage to muster up 156 orders for the little 100-seat, short-haul-airliner.
Currently, the 717 is operated primarily by four airlines; Delta, Hawaiian, Qantas, and Spanish low-cost carrier Volotea. With 91 of the planes in its fleet, Delta is the by far the type's largest operator.
Incredibly, a decade after being axed from Boeing's lineup, airlines are scouring the planet looking for available Boeing 717s.
"These guys keep begging me to give them more 717s," Dinesh Keskar, Boeing's senior vice president of sales for the Asia Pacific and India, told Business Insider. "But that era over and it's not going to happen."
So how did a plane Boeing couldn't sell become an aircraft that airlines can't get enough of?

The difficult life of the 717

Well, there are several reasons, but first some background. Even though the 717 carries both the Boeing name and company's signature 7X7 naming scheme, it's not actually a Boeing. Rub on that Boeing logo with a brillo pad and some soapy water and you'll soon find the words McDonnell Douglas imprinted on the plane.
Boeing 717 AP
In 1997, Boeing acquired its long-time rival McDonnell Douglas for $13 billion. At the time, McDonnell Douglas produced the MD-11 widebody and the MD-80/90 narrow-body. Soon after the merger, Boeing phased out all of MD's commercial airliners. But, it spared a new variant of the iconic DC-9 airliner called the MD-95 that was set to enter service in 1999. (The MD-80/90 were also variants of the DC-9.)
To make it fit better into the Boeing's portfolio of products, the MD-95 was rebranded the 717-200.
However, that wasn't enough to convince airlines to buy in.
Even though it carried the Boeing name, it was still a plane designed and engineered by a different company with differing thinking and philosophies. Thus, the 717 was an orphan that didn't belong to any of Boeing's product families.
"We have the 737MAX 7,-8,-9, and -10. We have a family," Keskar said. "You talk to others and they'll tell you that family has a lot of value."
For airlines, there's great financial incentive to have aircraft of varying sizes and roles being operated by the same crew and serviced by the same maintenance teams using the same spare parts. 
Even though the McDonnell Douglas DC-9/MD-80/MD-90 still served as the backbone of many major US airlines like American, Northwest, and Delta, none of the big boys would take the bait. In fact, when American acquired Trans World Airlines in 2001, it sold off all of its 717s.
Hawaiian Boeing 717 Wikimedia Commons
During the turbulent days of the early 2000s, the airline industry was reeling from the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and spiking fuel prices. Which meant many of the 717's potential customers were either in no financial position to buy any planes or were dumping its aging MD fleet in favor of more fuel-efficient planes like the Boeing 737NG or the Airbus A320.
Interestingly, the people who did buy the plane loves them.
"They're brilliant aircraft. Anyone who has them wants more of them," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Business Insider.
And Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley echoed those sentiments.
"It's great little secret. For what we do here in Hawaii, there's no better aircraft built today or even on the drawing board."
Delta CEO Ed Bastian also praised the 717 for its durability and reliability during a recent interview with Business Insider. 

The rebirth of the 100-seat airliner

As with many things in life, what is old is new again. As the airline industry recovered, demand for air travel boomed while investors ratcheted up the pressure to lower unit costs. The solution; upgauging to bigger planes.
Qantas Boeing 717-200 Qantas
As a result, Boeing and Airbus both neglected the 100-150 seat market in favor of bigger, pricier, and higher margin models.
While this was happening, another little phenomenon happened in the airline industry, the regional jet. During the 2000s, Bombardier's CRJ and Embraer's ERJ made their presence felt in a big way by offering small 50-70 seat regional jets that allowed airlines and their regional partners to serve routes traditionally operated by turboprops with jets.
"Back in 2009 we had over 500 small aircraft," Bastian said. "The CRJ-200 was our predominant fleet type."
Over time, airlines began to upgauge their regional jets with mainline aircraft. That's where the 717 jumps back into the picture.
With around 100-130 seats, the 717 is the perfect size aircraft to take over for regional jets. In fact, Boeing used to market the 717 as the "Full-size airplane for the regional market."
Delta CRJ A Delta Connection Bombardier CRJ. AP
"The 717 is very much about how do we get out of the regional jets," Bastian said. "Customers hated the small regional jets, our employees hated them because they looked at it as an outsourcing of their jobs, and our [investors] hated them because they're fuel inefficient and their ownership costs were escalating."
"Even the regional operators didn't the like them cause they are losing money on it because we had the contracts screwed down pretty low," Bastian added. 
With the addition of AirTran Airways' fleet of 88 717s following the low-cost carrier's acquisition by Southwest, Delta was able to drop 200 regional jets from its fleet.
Unfortunately, for Delta or anyone else looking to get their hands on a batch of 717s, they are pretty hard to come by. Delta currently operates roughly 60% of all 717s ever made while Qantas and Hawaiian, the second and third largest operators, have no plans to relinquish their planes anytime soon. And while Volotea's said that they will replace their 17 717s with Airbus A319s, there still aren't that many of the 100-seaters out there.
Boeing 717 Flickr/redlegsfan21
Since discontinuing 717, Boeing has also stopped selling the smallest variant of the 737, the 737-600. As a result, the company has abandoned the 100-150 seat market.
That's where a plane like the Bombardier C Series, now under Airbus control, comes into the picture. The CS100 is of a similar size to the Boeing 717, but with much greater range and fuel efficiency.
According to Bastian, Delta's long-term plan is to eventually replace the airline's older 717s with the 75 CS100 jets it has on order.
Two decades after it first flew, the Boeing 717-200 is still going strong. Even though Boeing didn't sell many of them, those that did buy the 717 can't get enough of them. That's a sign of a great plane.

Norwegian signals growth potential at Singapore

The FINANCIAL -- Norwegian has signalled its intent to expand into Asia following the launch of its Singapore-London route at an event hosted by the airline in Singapore this week.
Norwegian is the world’s sixth largest low-cost airline and Skytrax 2017 ‘Best low-cost long-haul airline’, an award it has won three years consecutively. The Scandinavian carrier currently operates the world’s longest nonstop route by a low-cost carrier between Singapore Changi Airport and London Gatwick, flying four times a week using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
This week, Norwegian Global Head of Sales, Lars Sande and Head of Sales UK & Ireland, Dominic Tucker delivered presentations to Singapore’s travel community to explain the airline’s low-cost long-haul model and its plans for future expansion. More than 65 agents from travel and trade organisations attended the event and received information about how it can work with Norwegian and sell the airline’s high-quality products on board brand new aircraft, according to Norwegian.
Lars Sande, Global Head of Sales at Norwegian said: “It’s a pleasure to open the door to Singapore’s travel industry which will help make our new low-cost long-haul service a success. With more than 200 aircraft on order, Asia will be a key part of our future growth and Singapore offers a springboard to more competition and affordable fares in the market.
“Following our successful event, we look forward to starting a deep relationship with Singapore’s travel trade who will now be able to confidently sell our high-quality flights to customers.”
Norwegian is the only low-cost airline operating direct flights from Singapore to London after launching the route on 28 September. The route is exclusively serviced by the brand new state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner which has an economy and Premium cabin offering passengers more than a metre of legroom, generous baggage allowance and lounge access at Gatwick Airport.
The route between Singapore and London also offers passengers onward connections to more than 20 destinations in Europe and the USA.

Scoot's strategy dovetails with New Southbound policy: CCO

Scoot CCO Vinod Kannan

Taipei, Dec. 4 (CNA) Singapore-based budget airline Scoot, which has operated in Taiwan for five years, is optimistic about prospects in the local market because its development strategy suits Taiwan's New Southbound policy, a company executive said recently.

"Taiwan is like a mini-hub for us," according to Vinod Kannan, Scoot's chief commercial officer, in a conversation with CNA last week. "So the Southbound policy is exactly in line with what we are doing."

The policy, launched in mid-2016 to reduce Taiwan's dependence on China, seeks to increase Taiwan's cooperation with Southeast Asian and South Asian countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia.

The low-cost carrier is also eyeing further expansion of its network in Southeast Asia, especially after a merger in July with Tigerair Singapore that gave Scoot more than 10 new destinations in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, Kannan said.

As more business and travel exchanges emerge in the region, the extended network will enable Scoot to offer more economical fares, Kannan said.

Scoot currently offers nonstop service to Northeast Asia between Taipei and Seoul, Tokyo and Sapporo and between Kaohsiung and Osaka and to Southeast Asia between Taipei and Kaohsiung and Singapore.

Kannan acknowledged getting Taiwanese passengers to use Scoot for other Southeast Asian destinations could be a challenge because of the extra time needed to transit through Singapore.

But he said the network is ideal for travelers who might make multiple stops and mix business with tourism in their itineraries.

"It's not perfect, but I think the list of destinations and the network we have is probably the best," Kannan said.

To further solidify its position in the Taiwan market, he said, Scoot will add one more weekly flight on both the Taipei-Sapporo and Kaohsiung-Osaka routes to provide four round-trip flights per week starting in the first quarter of 2018.

In addition, Kannan said his company is leading a transformation in the low-cost carrier business model by flying medium to long-haul routes, and that has attracted the attention of Taiwanese passengers.

After launching flights from Singapore to Athens in June, Scoot will operate flights from Singapore to Honolulu this month and to Berlin in the second half of 2018.

The flights to Athens, which have had a load factor of 80 percent, transported some 2,000 Taiwanese passengers this summer, Kannan said.

The load factor on Scoot's existing flights serving Taiwan is around 80 percent, Kannan said, and the goal is to raise that level to 85 percent in the near future, which is the airline's system-wide average.

According to the carrier, it carried more than half a million Taiwanese passengers in the 12 months ending September 2017, a year-on-year increase of nearly 20 percent.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Flying drones in ASEAN

Permit needed: Operating a drone is easy but technically every unmanned aircraft needs a permit from the DCA to fly in Malaysia. — EDDIE CHUA/The Star

Permit needed: Operating a drone is easy but technically every unmanned aircraft needs a permit from the DCA to fly in Malaysia. — EDDIE CHUA/The Star
PETALING JAYA: Laws governing drone usage vary from country to country but generally, most nations allow unmanned aerial vehicles to operate in their airspace with restrictions and conditions.
For example, Myanmar and Vietnam require drone operators to get a mandatory permit from their Defence Departments and their respective Civil Aviation Depart­ments to fly drones.
Travellers to these countries are advised to secure the permit before entering the country or risk having their drones seized upon arrival.
The good news is that travellers may reclaim their seized drones upon departure.
Indonesia and Singapore allow drones to be flown without a permit.
However, they must fly below an altitude of 60m in Singapore and 150m in Indonesia.
In Indonesia, drones also cannot be operated near an airport or in an airplane’s flight path and in some places, over temples. They also cannot fly over people.
Those found breaking the law face three years’ jail and a fine of up to one billion rupiah (about RM304,000), according to the Indonesia Transport Ministry’s Regulation No. 90.
In Singapore, a drone operator also needs to have the device within sight at all times and may not fly it near buildings.
However, those conducting aerial surveys or commercial photography have to obtain a permit from Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority.
In Thailand, any drone without a camera can fly without a permit.
Flying any drone with a camera mounted requires permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), a requirement introduced early this year.
Thailand also requires drone operators to be above the age of 18.
A special permit from the Historical Park Office is also needed when flying a drone over historical parks or sites.
Anyone caught flying without a permit will have their devices confiscated.
Drones are not allowed to fly over cities and villages in Thailand and the maximum altitude is 90m.
Drone owners also need insurance coverage.
In Britain, drones may not be flown within 150m of a congested area and 50m of a person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the pilot.
The British government also requires all aerial vehicles weighing more than 250g to be registered with the Transport Department.
Those who fail to register their drones will be fined.


Monday, November 20, 2017

‘Air Race 1 World Cup’ flies fast and furious over Thailand

The high-flying “Air Race 1 World Cup” took to the skies this weekend over Pattaya, Thailand. It was a first of its kind event in the country and could pave the way for more to come.
CGTN’s Martin Lowe reports.

It’s fast and it’s furious, with the howl of racing engines and the smell of burning aviation fuel. Eight small planes twist and turn through the sky. First past the post is the winner.
The event, at U-Tapeo Naval Air Base in Thailand, puts the country firmly on the international sporting map. Following the success of a test meeting 12 months ago, this is the first time competitive air racing – with planes dicing wingtip-to-wingtip around a course of pylons – has taken place anywhere in Asia.
“The part that can get the most exciting is passing,” former US Navy Pilot Ryszard Zadow explained. “Getting behind somebody in their wake turbulence, 30 feet off the ground going 200 miles an hour, the airplane can get thrown around by the other guy’s wake, and next thing you know you’re upside down!”
Enthusiasts call “Air Race 1” the world’s fastest motor sport. Unlike other events – in which planes fly one-at-a-time against the clock – these aircraft compete together. They race at speeds of up to 450 kph, often just a few meters above the ground.
“Actually, we’re expecting there to be a huge appetite,” Air Race 1 CEO Jeff Zaltman said. “The spectators in this part of the world, not only in Thailand but all across Asia, they love sport. They love motorsport, both participating and enjoying as a spectator, so we’re trying to tap into that.”
Thailand has expressed interest in staging a Grand Prix motor race for some time. The success of international events like this, can only strengthen its case.
The Air Race 1 championship at the moment consists of a single three-day event each year, but if the sport can regain past popularity, more races may be added. Organizers are considering making Thailand a regular venue for the sport.

Does Lack Of A Deal In Dubai Mean The End For A380 Jumbo Jet?

I cover the travel biz: airlines, hotels, rental cars and destinations Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
A picture shows an Airbus A380 of Emirates bearing the portrait of late UAE's founder and late president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan during the Dubai Airshow on November 12, 2017, in the United Arab Emirates.  (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
The Dubai Air Show has come and gone. So far, despite breathless anticipation, no deal with Emirates Airline (or anyone else) has been signed for additional Airbus A380 jumbo jets.
Just before the show, speculation was rife that Emirates would order between 36 and 38 of the giant planes, which can seat between 500 and 600 passengers. The Associated Press breathlessly reported, “The order is expected to be one of the highlights of the November 12 to 16 event.” At list prices, estimates were that such an order would bring in $16 to $18 billion, although Emirates, by far the leading customer for the A380, would no doubt demand (and get) a discount.


Ludicrous first class cabins and gardens on Mars: seven things we learned from the Dubai Airshow

The Dubai Airshow concluded yesterday after a feverish week of aircraft orders and luxury oneupmanship. Here's what the annual aviation jamboree taught us.

1. First class is getting increasingly ridiculous

Fully enclosed private suites with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, virtual windows and seats inspired by Nasa (and designed to simulate the feeling of weightlessness that astronauts experience on board spacecraft) were among the new innovations unveiled by Emirates for its first class cabins, as part of a multimillion dollar upgrade across its entire fleet of Boeing 777s. Those virtual windows will project live footage of views captured by cameras installed outside the plane.
Economy class passengers can expect improvements too. “Throughout the aircraft, our customers will see modern and airy cabins, with painstaking attention to detail evident in design touches such as the textured wall and ceiling panels, lighting features, and more,” Sir Tim Clark, the president of Emirates, said in a statement.

William Franke: The Man Who Bought 430 Airplanes in a Single Day

On Wednesday, Airbus announced its largest single aircraft order in the company’s history. U.S. investment firm Indigo Partners bought 430 aircraft of the Airbus A320 family for a sticker price of 49.5 billion dollars. The deal was announced at the Dubai Air Show by a jubilant John Leahy, Airbus‘ Chief Operating Officer – Customers. The massive deal includes orders for both the A320neo and A321neo aircraft, Airbus’ newest revamp of the A320 family.
Just a few days prior to the order, Airbus had been concerned that the Dubai Air Show would end in disaster for the company, with annual orders tracking below anticipated levels and few new orders placed at the Gulf event. Airbus has struggled to sell its flagship A380, even after its revamp as the A380plus. Rival Boeing had been pulling ahead of Airbus in recent weeks with further 787 orders firming up in Dubai.
With this order, Airbus has caught up in one fell swoop. The unusualness of the order begs the question: who places an order of this magnitude and what motivates them to place an order with a single manufacturer instead of diversifying?