Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thai Airways International increases flights from Bangkok-to Phuket and Krabi

Thai Airways International increases flights from Bangkok-to Phuket and Krabi while the Ministry of Transport launched cheaper bus fares for people during the New Year holiday period.

Thailand’s national carrier, Thai Airways International, has increased its special flight services on 5 routes, totaling 38 flights to cater for extra travelers during the long holiday period of New Year. They are Bangkok-Phuket (12 flights), Bangkok – Krabi (9 flights), Bangkok-Chiang-Mai (12 flights), Bangkok – Chiang Rai (2 flights) and Bangkok – KhonKaen (3 flights). A Thai Airways executive also affirmed that the company can add extra flights or use larger planes if demands increase. Passengers can make reservations at tel. 02 3561111 twenty four hours a day. On the other hand, the Ministry of Transport and Communications announced a ‘convenient journey’ program for passengers offering special prices. Their Transport Company offers 50% discount for its buses, except the 24 seat VIP bus. The deal is offered between December 27th and January 6th. It can accommodate around 10,000 passengers per day.

Phuket Gains Two Extra Hong Kong Flights

Phuket Gains Two Extra Hong Kong Flights


Monday, December 29, 2008
DRAGONAIR is planning to add two additional weekly flights connecting Phuket and Hong Kong next year, bringing the total number of flights between the islands to nine per week.

An airline executive told Phuketwan that the expansion is being made to improve connections with other destinations through Cathay Pacific.

Dragonair is the regional wing of the Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific airline. 
The increase in flights is going ahead despite the dramatic drop of visitors to Thailand following the week-long closures of Bangkok's airports by anti-government protesters a month ago.

Added flights are expected to start in March, an airport spokeswoman said this afternoon.

The airline currently operates a daily scheduled service using Airbus 320-200 and A321-200 between the two islands with weekly total seat capacity to and from Phuket of more than 2300. 

The route's load performance has been very encouraging, said a Dragonair spokeswoman.

Although the recent political unrest in Thailand may have caused some short-term impact on the route with cancellations, the airline remains confident about its long-term success here, she said.

Dragonair relaunched its operation between Phuket and Hong Kong with a daily scheduled service on December 15, 2006. 

The airline first flew to Phuket in December 1986. The service was temporarily suspended in January 2005 due to the drastic drop of demand on the route after the tsunami hit the island in December 2004.

The increase in flights comes as news agency reports appear around the world, portraying the drop in tourism in terms of bar custom, first in Bangkok via Reuters, and now in an AFP report from Phuket. 

''Located at the entrance of a huge bar complex in Patong Beach, Phuket's busiest tourist town, Sharky's should be standing room only. Instead, barely half the bar stools are occupied,'' says a new report from AFP that appeared in Singapore's Straits Times.

''Sunbathers still dot Phuket's sandy white beaches but in far fewer numbers than is usual at this time of year.'' 

Another report from Reuters also appeared in newspapers around the world over the past few days.

It quotes Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) boss Phornsiri Manoharn, who estimates the eight-day closure of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport by protesters will have caused one million foreign visitors to cancel or go elsewhere.

''This is the hardest hit we've ever encountered in the 48 years we've been promoting tourism to Thailand,'' she told Reuters, saying the airport shutdown put the December 2004 tsunami, bird flu and SARS in the shade.

Thai Airways passenger numbers almost back to seasonal average

Source from
Bangkok Post: 29 Dec 2008
Festive season helps THAI fill more seats

Bigger test will come after holidays

Air travel demand in the festive season has temporarily eased Thai Airways International's worries about filling aircraft seats by bringing a moderate-to-high cabin factor.

But the national carrier remains concerned about demand in the period after Christmas and New Year, given the double impact of worsening global economic turmoil and the crisis in travel confidence in Thailand sparked by anti-government protesters' occupation of Bangkok's two airports.

THAI's international traffic has slowly come back from a near shutdown of operations between Nov 26 and Dec 5, when Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports were seized by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The cabin factor on international routes during the holidays season is more than 60%, close to the 70% recorded in the same period last year, as the airline has recovered most bookings, mainly from long-haul travellers, suspended during the airport shutdowns.

"It [international passenger traffic] could be worse. It is much better than we feared," said a senior THAI executive.

Demand for domestic routes in the holidays has clearly bounced back from the airport shutdown aftermath with THAI's cabin factor of 75% being "just as good" as last year.

The recovery of the airline's international traffic has been helped by a campaign to boost image and confidence and by fare incentives launched in the international market.

Domestic passenger demand, especially during the holidays, is easier to revive as most travellers are Thais, who understand the political situation and want to spend holidays in the provinces as they traditionally have done.

THAI's " Follow Your Dreams" fare promotion, launched in October and specifically targeting outbound travellers, has helped it buck the market downturn.

But the true test will come after the festive season ends in the second week of January. A slump has been anticipated as the worst of the worldwide economic crisis begins to be felt.

THAI is preparing to counter the threatened traffic slowdown by following up in January with a further promotion campaign, known as "Loving Thailand", featuring reduced fares, according to the airline.

Net fares in the campaign, lasting from January to March 2009, are about 15% lower than the current promotion, or 30% below regular net fares.

For instance, a round-trip from Bangkok to Hong Kong will cost just 5,265 baht, excluding airport taxes and fuel surcharge. A Bangkok-Singapore flight would be 3,545 baht, while flights to Europe start from 24,730 baht.

17 Bodies Recovered from Crash Wreckage in Congo

By Eddy Isango, Associated Press Writer

posted: 04 September 2008 02:15 pm ET

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — A team of U.N. peacekeepers lowered by helicopter to a remote plane crash site in eastern Congo on Thursday recovered all 17 bodies from a humanitarian flight that crashed four days ago, a U.N. spokesman said.

The wreckage of the plane is strewn over two facades of a forested mountain nine miles (15 kilometers) northwest of the airstrip at Bukavu where it had been due to land, U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich said.

Of the 15 passengers on board, seven worked for the U.N. The rest were employed by aid groups, including Handicapped International and Medecins Sans Frontieres. They include French, Canadian, Indian and Congolese nationals.

The 10 peacekeepers found 16 bodies on one face of the mountain and went to a second face to find the 17th, Dietrich said. The black box flight recorder was also recovered, he said.

The Beechcraft 1900 aircraft, on an aid flight that originated in the capital, Kinshasa, lost contact with the Bukavu air tower Monday as it descended to land. It had made several stops, and the last takeoff was from Kisangani, 450 miles (725 kilometers) southeast of Bukavu.

Its wreckage was spotted on Tuesday on the mountain ridge.

Heavy fog prevented a rescue helicopter from reaching the site until Thursday, Dietrich said.

Dietrich said rescuers believe the plane did not crash into the mountain as previously thought, but rather slammed across it, because the bodies were found in relatively good condition. "It's possible that their death was not instantaneous," he explained.

The crew is transporting the dead back to Bukavu, which is 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) northeast of Kinshasa. The flight recorder will be analyzed for clues to the cause of the crash.

Vietnam's Jestar Pacific’s first Airbus takes off

HA NOI — Jestar Pacific Airlines has put their first Airbus A320 plane into operation, servicing flights between Ha Noi and HCM City.

The general director of Jestar, Luong Hoai Nam, said the new plane would help the airline to raise the total seats on flights by 40 per cent during the Lunar New Year.

Jestar Pacific now operates five Boeing 737-400s planes and one Airbus A320 to serve passengers to eight domestic destinations.

Vietnam Airlines starts Ha Noi-Can Tho route

HA NOI — Vietnam Airlines will launch flights from Ha Noi to Can Tho from January 4 next year. The new route will be serviced by seven flights per week.

The airline is offering a 50 per cent discount on the air fare from January 4 to 15, with the minimum price of VND750,000 (US$45) for a one-way ticket on the new route. It is the carrier’s 28th domestic network.

GLOBAL AIR CARGO DOWN 7.9 PERCENT

International air cargo traffic tumbled 7.9 percent in October from the same month last year. That was the biggest monthly decline since 2001, the International Air Transport Association reported.

The fifth consecutive month of “increasingly severe drops” has dragged volume through October 0.8 percent below the same period in 2007, and the market faces further declines, IATA said.

“The deepening slump in cargo markets is a clear indication that the worst is yet to come,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general. “The gloom continues and the situation of the industry remains critical.”

Asia-Pacific carriers, which account for 45 percent of the world air cargo market, suffered an 11 percent decline in October, reflecting a sharp drop in exports.

North American and European airlines reported smaller declines of 7.6 percent and 5.4 percent.

Latin America saw traffic slip 11 percent. African carriers boosted volume by 3 percent, reflecting growth in traffic within the continent, while Middle East operators booked a 1 percent increase.

 “While the drop in oil prices is a welcome relief, recession is now the biggest threat to airline profitability,” Bisignani said.

For Asian carriers, this was the worst October in terms of freight traffic since 2003, when they were hit by the fallout from the SARS disease outbreak. Scares about SARS crippled the air industry in Asia.

“Airlines around the world are facing extremely difficult market conditions, with expectations of even tougher times ahead in 2009,” said Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. Capacity cuts, he said, are “in line with expected demand” and carriers are trying to reduce costs across operations.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BOC Aviation to buy 10 Boeing 737-700s

Dec. 29, 2008 (China Knowledge) - Asia's largest aircraft lessor BOC Aviation, controlled by Bank of China, will buy 10 Boeing 737-700s from the U.S. Southwest Airlines Co and lease them back to the American air carrier, sources reported, citing Robert Martin, CEO of BOC Aviation, as saying.

According to Southwest Airlines, the first five aircraft were sold at US$175 million and it expects the similar price for the remaining five aircrafts next quarter. And the lease-term will be 12 years.

BOC Aviation, formerly known as Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise (SALE), provides operating lease and fleet financing services for airlines, with headquarters in Singapore and offices in the U.K. and the U.S.

On Dec.15, 2006, BOC purchased all the shares from the lessor's previous shareholders for US$980 million, and later renamed it BOC Aviation. 

Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, Texas, is the largest airline in the U.S. in terms of the number of passengers carried domestically per year, and the sixth-largest U.S. airline by revenue. It also has the second-largest passenger fleet of aircraft among all of the world's commercial airlines. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

He's got a learner's permit, so what's the problem?

A pilot with the Turkish airline Anadolujet was fired in September after he left the cockpit to use the bathroom and left the controls of the Boeing 737 in the hands of a 15-year-old boy, the British newspaper the Mirror reported.
Perhaps the pilot had forgotten that in 1994, 70 people died after an Aeroflot pilot let his son fly the plane and the boy accidentally turned off the autopilot.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is Siem Reap Airways suspension the first step to a new Cambodian national carrier?

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - In November, the European Commission blacklisted Siem Reap Airways from flying to Europe which prompted a suspension of all flights from the carrier by Cambodia’s Civil Aviation Authority. Siem Reap Airways was the only regular – and so far reliable- carrier to operate on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route and had plan to launch a new route between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville in the south of the country. The Cambodian government indicated that the measure was temporary and flights would resume once Siem Reap Airways would have processed with the necessary safety requirements.

The government granted a license to Siem Reap Airways’ parent company Bangkok Airways to serve the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route. Bangkok Airways flies now up to four times daily the domestic sector which is one of the most important air routes for Cambodia. Bangkok Airways puts an Airbus A319 on the route with 138 seats. However, Bangkok Airways no longer serve Siem Reap Airways twice weekly Siem Reap-Pakse as well as Siem Reap-Ho Chi Minh City.

The EU ban was prompted by reports logged by Cambodia’s civil aviation authorities on safety. It could be interpreted as a tricky step to pave the way to the creation of a new Cambodian national carrier.

Early December, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called again for the creation of a new national airline, citing lower fuel costs as a key difference to turn the airline into a profitable operation. “We have to give birth to a national airline that makes a profit,” the prime minister said.

Discussions have so far provided no result with Indonesia’s investor, the Rajawali group. The government plans an initial capital of US$50 million and it with 51 percent of the shares remaining into the hands of the Royal government.

Last national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge, went into receivership in October 2001, seven years after its creation.

As airlines around the world are currently in dire financial situation, the creation of a new carrier would be a surprising move.

Alleged arms smuggler Bout testifies in Thailand

By MICHAEL CASEY – 

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — The man dubbed the "Merchant of Death" for his alleged arms smuggling activities took the stand Monday for the first time to fight extradition to the United States and deny charges that he conspired to arm Colombian rebels.

Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Viktor Bout was shackled at the ankles but looked relaxed and spoke in mostly measured tones during his testimony at Bangkok's Criminal Court.

The United States is seeking the extradition of Bout, who was arrested in the Thai capital in a sting operation in which undercover U.S. agents posed as Latin American rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"I never met or talked to anyone from FARC," Bout told the court. "I didn't do anything wrong in Thailand. I have never been to Colombia or the United States."

The 41-year-old Russian, who has long denied any involvement in illicit activities, was purportedly the model for the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie "Lord of War."

He was arrested in March at a Bangkok luxury hotel and subsequently indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges.

Bout identified himself to the court as "a 41-year-old businessman." He spoke in Russian, which was translated to Thai.

Asked to state his line of work, Bout replied, "I am in aviation and construction."

Bout said he had traveled to Bangkok "to relax" and to meet with "a Thai businessman who wanted to buy airplanes."

"I did not commit any terrorist acts," said Bout, claiming he was a pawn in an American plot.

"The U.S. is trying to use this to cover up its internal problems and prevent good relations between Thailand and Russia," said Bout, briefly raising his voice and shaking his finger as he spoke. He did not elaborate.

At one point, Bout held up two fingers and flashed the victory sign to an acquaintance in the courtroom, where his mother and wife were present. After a two-hour testimony, the court adjorned for lunch and Bout smiled for cameras as police escorted him out.

According to reports by U.N. agencies and several Western governments, Bout has delivered arms to dictators and warlords in Africa and Afghanistan, allegedly breaking several U.N. arms embargoes in the process.

His extradition hearing started in June but has been repeatedly delayed, with a revolving door of defense attorneys.

Bangkok's Criminal Court has said it expects the hearing to wrap up Wednesday but one of Bout's defense attorneys, Preecha Prasertsak, said he planned to seek an extension to locate more witnesses.

At an earlier hearing, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration testified that his agency set up the operation that lured Bout from Russia to his arrest in the Thai capital.

DEA agent Robert Zachariasiewicz told the court that Bout faces U.S. charges of conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile. He could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

The original arrest warrant issued in Thailand was based on a charge of using the country as a base to negotiate a weapons deal with terrorists. But that charge was dropped in April and a second arrest warrant issued asking for his extradition to the United States.

Prosecutor Sanchai Krungkanjana has said the first arrest warrant had been dropped because "there was insufficient evidence in Thailand" but there was enough evidence in the U.S. to approve Bout's extradition.

Vietnam to slash prices

Vietnam will cut prices at hotels and on state-owned Vietnam Airlines by 30 to 50% to boost the country's tourism industry, hit hard by the worldwide economic slowdown, senior tourism officials said Friday. Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said tourism in Vietnam had been hurt by the turmoil, with international arrivals down sharply. 

Vietnam expected between 4.8 and 5 million international visitors in 2008, but had only received 3.9 million by the end of November. Visitor numbers from traditional tourism markets such as Japan, South Korea, and Europe were all down. 

A passenger sits aboard an almost empty Thai Airways Airbus A-330 preparing to fly to Hanoi at the Suvarnabumhi international in Bangkok on December 6, 2008. (AFP/Getty Images)
Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism will announce a plan to revive the tourism sector next week, said Vu The Binh, director of VNAT's TravelDepartment. 

Binh said the plan would take effect from January 1 through to September 30. 

The plan includes cutting prices on package tours run by state travel agenciesand room rates at the country's three-to five-star hotels between 30 and 50%. 

Vietnam's government can influence prices at both state-run and private hotels, if the private hotels belong to official state-affiliated tourism bodies, as most do. 

Binh said Vietnam Airlines had committed to reducing ticket prices 30 to 50% on most of its flights, including those from Western Europe, Japan, South Korea and Asean countries, which account for 50 to 60% of all arrivals. 

Vietnam will begin granting visas on arrival at all international border gates as of next year. Currently, several of Vietnam's border crossings with Laos and Cambodia do not grant visas. 

The plan will use some of the money allocated under Vietnam's 1 billion-dollar economic stimulus plan, announced earlier this month. 

Vietnamese newspapers reported this week that VNAT plans to spend 20 to 30 million dollars on a global tourism marketing campaign in foreign media. 

There were mixed reactions from hotel managers. 

"I am optimistic," said Mai Van Chung, sales director of the Flower Garden in Hanoi's Old Quarter. "I think the plans can help to bring foreign visitors to Vietnam." 

But Han Le Hang, manager of the boutique Zenith Hotel in downtown Hanoi, said most hotels had already cut prices 20 to 30%. 

"If a hotel cuts its rates by 50%, it will have no money to pay its staff," Hang said. 

According to VNAT, the number of international visitors to Vietnam had been rising some 10% each year, but only 15 to 20% were return visitors. The agency ascribes the low return rate to low quality of hotels and lack of entertainment. 

VNAT estimates each visitor spends between 1,200 and 1,500 dollars in Thailand, 2,000 dollars in Singapore, but only 900 dollars in Vietnam.10:43 AM 2008-12-20 

'Merchant of Death' Russian arms dealer pleads with Thai court: 'Don't send me to the U.S.'

An alleged Russian arms dealer dubbed the ‘Merchant of Death’ has denied conspiring to arm Colombian rebels.

Viktor Bout, 41, told a Thai court he had never met anyone from the  Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and insisted he should not be extradicted to the United States.

Dressed in an orange prison uniform, Bout was shackled at the ankles but looked relaxed and spoke in mostly measured tones during his testimony at Bangkok's Criminal Court.

The United States is seeking the extradition of Bout, who was arrested in the Thai capital in a sting operation in which undercover U.S. agents posed as Latin American rebels from FARC.

'I never met or talked to anyone from FARC,' Bout told the court. 'I didn't do anything wrong in Thailand. I have never been to Colombia or the United States.'

The Russian, who has long denied any involvement in illicit activities, was purportedly the model for the arms dealer portrayed by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 movie 'Lord of War.'

He was arrested in March at a Bangkok luxury hotel and subsequently indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges.

Bout identified himself to the court as 'a 41-year-old businessman.' He spoke in Russian, which was translated to Thai.

Asked to state his line of work, Bout replied, 'I am in aviation and construction.'

Bout said he had traveled to Bangkok 'to relax' and to meet with 'a Thai businessman who wanted to buy airplanes.'

Enlarge Viktor Bout

Bout, 41, has been indicted in the U.S. on four terrorism-related charges

'I did not commit any terrorist acts,' said Bout, claiming he was a pawn in an American plot.

'The U.S. is trying to use this to cover up its internal problems and prevent good relations between Thailand and Russia,' said Bout, briefly raising his voice and shaking his finger as he spoke. He did not elaborate.

At one point, Bout held up two fingers and flashed the victory sign to an acquaintance in the courtroom, where his mother and wife were present. 

After a two-hour testimony, the court adjorned for lunch and Bout smiled for cameras as police escorted him out.

According to reports by U.N. agencies and several Western governments, Bout has delivered arms to dictators and warlords in Africa and Afghanistan, allegedly breaking several U.N. arms embargoes in the process.

His extradition hearing started in June but has been repeatedly delayed, with a revolving door of defence lawyers.

Bangkok's Criminal Court has said it expects the hearing to wrap up on Christmas Eve but one of Bout's defence lawyers, Preecha Prasertsak, said he planned to seek an extension to locate more witnesses.

Enlarge Lord of War

Movie model: Bout was reportedly the inspiration for Nicolas Cage's character Yuri Orlov in the 2005 film Lord of War, above, about a Russian arms dealer

At an earlier hearing, an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration testified that his agency set up the operation that lured Bout from Russia to his arrest in the Thai capital.

DEA agent Robert Zachariasiewicz told the court that Bout faces U.S. charges of conspiring to kill Americans, conspiring to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile. 

He could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

The original arrest warrant issued in Thailand was based on a charge of using the country as a base to negotiate a weapons deal with terrorists. 

But that charge was dropped in April and a second arrest warrant issued asking for his extradition to the United States.

Prosecutor Sanchai Krungkanjana has said the first arrest warrant had been dropped because 'there was insufficient evidence in Thailand' but there was enough evidence in the U.S. to approve Bout's extradition.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

We have moved to www.mekonghorizons.com


To those that might come to this site looking for news and information, we have moved!

Please visit our new site, 

Hong Kong pilots sacked for trying to take off on airport taxiway.













Quote:

Hong Kong - Two pilots with a Hong Kong airline have been sacked for trying to take off in plane carrying 122 passengers from a taxiway rather than a runway, the airline said Sunday. Hong Kong Airlines captain Indra Santrianto and his Argentinian First Officer Diego Martin Chiadria were dismissed over the incident Boeing 737 at Hong Kong International Airport on September 13.
An air traffic controller raised the alarm when he saw the plane bound for Cheong Ju in Korea speeding along the taxiway and alerted the cockpit crew in time for them to abort take-off.
Santrianto, an Indonesian, told his company he was merely travelling at speed on a taxiway on his way to the north runway and that air traffic controllers had mistaken his approach for an attempted take-off.
However, an investigation by Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department concluded the pilot was attempting a take-off and said the incident was caused by "temporary loss of situation awareness" on the part of the flight crew.
Taxiways at Hong Kong International Airport run the length of the runways but are narrower, have distinctive green lighting and, unlike runways, no centre lighting.
A report by the Civil Aviation Department recommends improving the airline's standard operating procedures and action to "enhance flight crew situation awareness and alertness."
The report also recommends improvements to taxiway lighting and ground marking systems at the airport.
Hong Kong Airlines spokesman Alex Au confirmed that the two pilots had been dismissed. "It is a fair report," he said.
"We have already released the two pilots, and we are implementing the recommendations that the CAD made regarding procedures."
Seven-year-old Hong Kong Airlines, which with sister airline Hong Kong Express flies to 30 cities across Asia, fired a number of senior expatriate pilots early this year.
John Findlay, general secretary of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, said: "I would urge the Civil Aviation Department to take a long, hard look at what is going on at Hong Kong Airlines.
"The numbers of highly qualified pilots who have been terminated for no apparently justifiable reason is alarming. Public confidence in Hong Kong Airlines has to be assured."
However, Au said claims that the September incident indicated general poor standards at Hong Kong airlines were "grossly unfair and inappropriate."
"It is not just the pilots but the environment and the circumstances which led to the incident," he said.
There have been two previous incidents involving planes attempting to take off from taxiways rather than runways at Hong Kong's 11-year-old international airport.
Action was taken by the Hong Kong Airport Authority to improve lighting and markings on the airport apron following the last incident in 2007.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Qantas raises Jetstar Pacific stake: Vietnam

VIETNAM has allowed Qantas to lift its stake in the low-cost carrier Jetstar Pacific Airlines to 30 per cent from 18 per cent.

The increased stake will come from an additional share issuance, the Vietnamese Government said on its website, adding that Qantas may raise its stake to 49 per cent in the future. 

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung also asked the Ministry of Transport to grant Jetstar Pacific a licence to operate more domestic and international routes, the Government said. 

Jetstar Pacific Airlines, the first joint stock airline in Vietnam, had a loss of $US10.7 million ($16 million) in the first half of this year due to high fuel prices and operation costs, state media said earlier this month. 

By the end of August, the airline's accumulative losses had reached $US50 million, Tuoi Trenewspaper said. 

Vietnam Airlines buys six turbo-prop planes

HA NOI — Vietnam Airlines yesterday signed a contract to buy six new ATR72-500s planes worth a total of US$112 million to modernise its fleet for short-haul routes, officials from both companies said.

The six new 70-seat planes, in addition to five ordered a year ago and three that the company already has, will bring Viet Nam’s flag carrier’s fleet of ATR 72-500s to 14 by 2010.

Vietnam Airlines started operating ATR aircraft in 1992 and ordered -500 series between 2001 and 2007.

"Thanks to the substantial growth of Viet Nam domestic and Indochina aviation markets, there has been a growing demand for aviation transport services from the big cities of Ha Noi, Da Nang and HCM City to Laos and Cambodia," said the president and CEO of Vietnam Airlines Pham Ngoc Minh.

"We strongly believe that with the purchase of six more ATR 72-500s, Vietnam Airlines will satisfy increasing demand for its services on short-haul routes, helping to promote tourism, investment and trade relations among regions and between Viet Nam and its neighbouring Indochina countries."

Stephane Mayer, ATR CEO underlined the importance of "having such a prestigious and renowned airline in Asia operating ATRs. The success of the regional operations of Vietnam Airlines plays an important role in expanding the ATR aircraft fleet in Southeast Asia."

He noted that the company had increased their support facilities in Asia, looking to build upon the developing commercial potential for ATR in the region.

ATR says its 500 series aircraft have low noise levels and the lowest fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emission per passenger in the market.

Vietnam Airlines now operates a young fleet of 50 modern aircraft and plans to expand its fleet to 104 by 2015 and then 150 by 2020. It currently flies to 23 international destinations and aims to serve 11 million passengers in 2010. — VNS


Thursday, December 11, 2008

IATA forecasts a grim 2009 for Airlines


by Devesh Agarwal | Wednesday, December 10, 2008 |  View Comments

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) painted a grim forecast for the airline industry as it announced its forecast for 2009 showing an industry loss of US$2.5 billion. All regions, except the US, are expected to report larger losses in 2009 than in 2008.

Forecast highlights are:

  • Industry revenues are expected to decline to US$501 billion. This a fall of US$35 billion from the US$536 billion in revenues forecasted for 2008. This drop in revenues is the first since the two consecutive years of decline in 2001 and 2002.
  • Yields will decline by 3.0% (5.3% when adjusted for exchange rates and inflation).
  • Passenger traffic is expected to decline by 3% following growth of 2% in 2008. This is the first decline in passenger traffic since the 2.7% drop in 2001.
  • Cargo traffic is expected to decline by 5%, following a drop of 1.5% in 2008. Prior to 2008 the last time that cargo declined was in 2001 when a 6% drop was recorded.
  • The 2009 oil price is expected to average US$60 per barrel (Brent) for a total bill of US$142 billion. This is US$32 billion lower than in 2008 when oil averaged US$100 per barrel (Brent).

Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO says
“The outlook is bleak. The chronic industry crisis will continue into 2009 with US$2.5 billion in losses. We face the worst revenue environment in 50 years,”
IATA also updated its forecast for 2008 to a loss of US$5.0 billion. This is slightly improved from the US$5.2 billion loss projected in the Association’s September forecast primarily as a result of the rapid decline in fuel prices.

The reduction in industry losses from 2008 to 2009 is primarily due to a shift in the results of North American carriers. Carriers in this region were hardest hit by high fuel prices with very limited hedging and are expected to post the largest industry losses for 2008 at US$3.9 billion.

An early pre-emptive action by a 10% domestic capacity reduction in response to the fuel crisis has given the region’s carriers a head-start in combating the recession-led fall in demand. The lack of hedging is now allowing the region’s carriers to take full advantage of rapidly declining spot fuel prices. As a result, North American carriers are expected to post a small profit of US$300 million in 2009, which represents a profit margin of less than 1%.

All other regions will show losses:
  • Asia-Pacific carriers will see losses more than double from the US$500 million in 2008 to US$1.1 billion in 2009. With 45% of the global cargo market, the region’s carriers will be disproportionately impacted by the expected 5% drop in global cargo markets next year. The region’s largest market - Japan - is already in recession. And its two main growth markets - China and India - are expected to deliver a major shift in performance. Chinese growth will slow as a result of the drop-off in exports. India’s carriers, which are already struggling with high taxes and insufficient infrastructure, can expect a drop in demand following on from the tragic terror incidents in November. Indian carriers which represent just 2% of the global market are expected to contribute almost $2 billion of the $5 billion losses forecast for this year.
  • Losses for European carriers will increase ten-fold to US$1 billion. Europe’s main economies are already in recession. Hedging has locked in high fuel prices for many of the region’s carriers in US dollar terms, and the weakened Euro is exaggerating the impact.
  • Middle Eastern airlines will see losses double to US$200 million. The challenge for the region will be to match capacity to demand as fleets expand and traffic slows - particularly for long-haul connections.
  • Latin American carriers will see losses double to US$200 million. Strong commodity demand that has driven the region’s growth has been severely curtailed in the current economic crisis. The downturn in the US economy is hitting the region hard.
  • African airlines will see losses of US$300 million continue. The region’s carriers face strong competition. Defending market-share will be the main challenge.
Bisignani made special note of the continuing contraction of air cargo traffic that started in June 2008, saying
“Air cargo comprises 35% of value of goods traded internationally. The 7.9% decline in October is a clear indication that the worst is yet to come - for airlines and the slowing global economy,”
“Airlines have done a remarkable job of restructuring themselves since 2001. Non-fuel unit costs are down 13%. Fuel efficiency has improved by 19%. And sales and marketing unit costs have come down by 13%. IATA made a significant contribution to this restructuring. In 2008 our fuel campaign helped airlines to save US$5 billion, equal to 14.8 million tonnes of CO2. And our work with monopoly suppliers yielded saving of US$2.8 billion. But the ferocity of the economic crisis has overshadowed these gains and airlines are struggling to match capacity with the expected 3% drop in passenger demand for 2009. The industry remains sick. And it will take changes beyond the control of airlines to navigate back into profitable territory.”
Bisignani outlined an industry action plan for 2009 saying
“Labour must understand that jobs will disappear when costs don’t come down. Industry partners must contribute to efficiency gains. And governments must stop crazy taxation, fix the infrastructure, give airlines normal commercial freedoms and effectively regulate monopoly suppliers.”