Aviation News in Brief 28 April 2020

IATA, COVID-19, AirAsia Group, AAR Mobility Systems, Emirates, Air Charter Service, Virgin Galactic, NASA, Boeing, Etihad

2020 COVID
A screenshot of the virus tracking site at Johns Hopkins University taken on 28 April showing more than 200,000 deaths worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To access the live site click on the image. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

covid-19-iata-calls-for-relief-for-african-middle-eastern-airlinesIATA calls for global mutual recognition by civil aviation authorities: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on regulators to take urgent action to help civil aviation operate seamlessly and safely between states during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to help facilitate the restart when the virus is contained. Specifically, IATA asked states to take the following immediate steps:

  • Work with the aviation industry to find temporary measures to ensure that licenses and certificates critical to managing aviation safety are extended to remain valid;
  • File their temporary measures with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO);
  • Recognise the measures of other states that are filed with ICAO.

Many aviation regulators around the globe have already taken the necessary steps to provide airlines and licensed crew with the required flexibility, such as extensions to the validity periods for licenses, ratings and certificates, so operational capabilities can be maintained. However, to be effective, these measures must be filed with ICAO so that they can be visible to and recognised by counterpart states. Without mutual recognition, airlines are faced with uncertainty over whether they might be restricted by the states whose territory they enter.

‘’Safety is always the top priority. We therefore commend ICAO for their swift action to facilitate the sharing of states’ temporary regulatory extensions, making it easier for states to extend their mutual recognition,’’ said Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA’s senior vice president for Safety and Flight Operations.

At present, many of the world’s aviation regulators are not able to perform their standard administration of various licenses, as their operations have also been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. In order not to further impede global aviation, ICAO has established the COVID-19 Contingency Related Differences (CCRD) system. This enables all states to record any differences to their standard policies and to make a clear statement that they accept other states’ differences through a new form. This will ensure safe continuity of flights between countries in a harmonised, documented process.

AirAsia GroupAirAsia Group announces Q1 operating stats: Despite the weak travel demand amid increasing and unprecedented travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AirAsia reported a healthy group-wide load factor of 80 percent, which was better than its expected 77 percent. The group consolidated AOCs reported a steady load factor of 78 percent. The number of passengers carried was down 21 percent year-on-year (YoY) to 9.9 million as capacity was reduced by 11 percent.

  • In the quarter, AirAsia Malaysia reduced its capacity by 17 percent YoY, as business was heavily interrupted in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in many markets and the imposed Movement Control Order in Malaysia that began on 18 March 2020. AirAsia Malaysia carried 27 percent fewer passengers YoY, with a reasonably strong load factor of 77 percent.
  • AirAsia Indonesia posted a 10 percent YoY increase in capacity for the quarter even though its available seat kilometres (ASK) retracted by 4 percent, as the company re-deployed excess capacity from international to domestic sectors. Passengers carried decreased by 7 percent as travel demand in the region started to weaken, while load factor was moderate at 74 percent.
  • AirAsia Philippines flew 1.8 million passengers during the quarter, down 9 percent in comparison to the same quarter last year. Capacity reduced by 1 percent YoY as domestic routes and international routes were halted beginning mid-March 2020. Load factor was solid at 84 percent.
  • Capacity realignment and route rationalisation embarked upon by AirAsia Thailand in 2019 continued during the quarter to match the low travel demand. Capacity was reduced by 17 percent while ASK declined by 30 percent, as AirAsia Thailand’s network was realigned through frequency reduction and flight suspensions on international routes due to increasing travel restrictions and redeployment of excess capacity to domestic sectors. AirAsia Thailand recorded 84 percent in load factor as it carried 4.5 million passengers, 23 percent lower than the same quarter a year ago.
  • AirAsia India reported a 30 percent growth in passengers carried to 2.5 million with the 43 percent additional capacity contributed by 10 more aircraft YoY. The AOC closed the quarter with a sizable fleet of 30 aircraft. Load factor remained steady at 81 percent despite rising travel concerns.
  • AirAsia Japan’s capacity expanded by 48 percent while ASK increased by 30 percent YoY. Load factor was soft at 72 percent for the quarter as passengers carried increased at a slower rate of 32 percent YoY.

AAR Mobility SystemsAAR Mobility Systems awarded a $125 million contract for cargo pallets: AAR’s Mobility Systems division has been awarded a sole source firm-fixed-price (FFP) requirements contract that includes a base year with four one year option periods from the US Air Force for the production and repair of 463L cargo pallets. The total contract value is US$125 million. The cargo pallets will be manufactured and repaired in Cadillac, Michigan.

Chef-with-Ramadan-Box-Low-ResEtihad to distribute Ramadan boxes: Etihad Airways has launched the Etihad Ramadan Box initiative to bring Iftar meals to homes across the UAE. The airline has partnered with Zomato, the world’s largest restaurant search and discovery platform and one of the UAE’s largest food delivery apps, to deliver these meals to those affected by COVID-19 including hospitals, essential workers, volunteers and communities in need. Those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, through sickness or financial impact, can request one of the Etihad Ramadan Boxes through the Zomato app, and a freshly prepared meal will be delivered directly from Etihad’s Catering facility in Abu Dhabi.

civil aviation covid-19Emirates ramps up of refund capability: Emirates has ramped up its capability to process refunds, reaffirming its commitment to customers and travel trade partners impacted by travel disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With nearly half a million refund requests pending to manage, the airline has taken proactive steps to restructure its backend procedures and boost resourcing to accelerate the processing of refunds. Pre-pandemic, Emirates processed an average of 35,000 refund requests in a month. Now it is gearing up to handle 150,000 per month, and aims to clear its current backlog by early August. Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airline, said: “It is a difficult time for us, as it is for all airlines. We are dipping into our cash reserves by being proactive in processing refunds, but it is our duty and responsibility. We would like to assure our customers and trade partners that we will honour refunds, and that we are doing our best to speed things up.”

Air-Charter-serviceACS works to fly PPE around the globe: Air Charter Service in Hong Kong said it has booked charter flights to carry more than 10,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment (PPE) around the world through its network of global offices. Stephen Fernandez, regional director for Asia Pacific, said: “We have been booking aircraft carrying protective equipment around the world since the first week of February, initially flying into China and other parts of Asia but, due the spread of the virus, we have now flown aid to all parts of the globe – more than 50 countries…We’ve used all types of aircraft including large freighters such as the Antonov 124, Boeing 747 and Boeing 777, but also passenger aircraft not flying on their usual routes, filling them up with cargo packed securely onto the seats and in the belly hold space.”

Puget SoundBoeing Dreamlifter transports masks from China: Boeing said it completed another COVID-19 transport mission, using a Boeing Dreamlifter to bring personal protective equipment (PPE) from Hong Kong to the United States. Working in partnership with Prisma Health, Atlas Air Worldwide and Discommon Founder Neil Ferrier, the company transported 1.5 million medical-grade face masks bound for healthcare professionals in South Carolina. Discommon, the importer of record for the delivery, secured production of the PPE from trusted manufacturers in China and turned to Boeing to facilitate their transport to Prisma Health, the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. Boeing donated the cost of the mission transport, with Atlas Air operating the flights on behalf of Boeing. The Dreamlifter, a converted Boeing 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter, flew from Hong Kong to Greenville, South Carolina, with the face masks in its lower lobe.

civil aviation covid-19
Angela Gittens, director general of ACI World. (PHOTO: ACI World)

ACI offers new guidance for mitigating risks from aircraft overflow parking: Airports Council International (ACI) World has issued a list of practices to assist airports in mitigating the risks created by temporary aircraft overflow parking on airport infrastructure due to COVID-19. With travel restrictions introduced in response to the global pandemic, airports are faced with the challenge of finding locations to support the parking of temporary overflow aircraft. This poses major risks to airside infrastructure, including: Damage from the use of pavement in a way not originally intended; Aircraft damage, whether by foreign object debris (FOD) or the risk of collision; Runway or taxiway incursion; and issues around aircraft access and availability. The purpose of this Advisory Bulletin – Mitigating the risks created by overflow aircraft parking – is to provide guidance for special aircraft parking arrangements and outlines key measures and requirements needed to diminish the risks created by aircraft overflow parking. “The ongoing health crisis has resulted in an unprecedented disruption of global air transport and has imposed operational challenges to airside infrastructure,” ACI World Director General Angela Gittens said. “It is crucial for airports to implement adequate measures to mitigate the risks created by aircraft overflow parking, and to continue to ensure best safety practices and airfield operations. As the industry navigates the crisis and then plans for a stable recovery, airport operators should also consider re-certification of runway and taxiway pavements used to park aircrafts during the COVID-19 pandemic before resuming operations.”

civil aviation covid-19Virgin Galactic signs with NASA for face shields: In the continued efforts to aid in the fight against COVID-19,  Virgin Galactic has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA, which outlines Virgin Galactic’s commitment to developing innovative solutions to the problems facing healthcare workers on the frontlines.  As part of the ongoing work, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) made significant progress in the development and testing of the PPB Hood – a device designed to support those admitted with COVID-19 with portable oxygen-rich pressure chambers, reducing the subsequent need for ventilator intubation. The team is on track to produce 400 PPB Hoods at a specially constructed assembly line at the Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) in Mojave, California.

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Matthew Driskill is the Editor of Asian Aviation and is based in Cambodia. He has been an Asia-based journalist and content producer since 1990 for outlets including Reuters and the International Herald Tribune/New York Times and is a former president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. He frequently appears on international broadcast outlets like CNN, Al Jazeera and the BBC and has taught journalism at Hong Kong University and the American University of Paris. Driskill has received awards from the Associated Press for Investigative Reporting and Business Writing and in 1989 was named the John J. McCloy Fellow by the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York where he earned his Master's Degree.


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