San Francisco welcomes new low-fare links with Mexico

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Interjet, the low-fare Mexican carrier has today (Wednesday 14 March) launched its new nonstop service between San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and two cities in Mexico: Cancun (CUN) and Guadalajara (GDL).

SFO is the Bay Area’s largest airport connecting non-stop with 83 cities in the US on 13 domestic airlines and is served by a number of low-fare airlines. It is the 10th US airport on the Mexico City-based carrier’s network and flights will operate 3 times a week on both the SFO-CUN and SFO-GDL routes using Airbus A320s seating 15- passengers.

The inaugural flights were celebrated at SFO with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and welcome speeches attended by representatives of SFO, City of San Francisco and Interjet.

Jose Luis Garza, Interjet’s CEO described San Francisco’s Bay Area as “a thriving centre of arts and technology, business, sports and innovation.”

He added: “We’re delighted to be able to offer business and leisure travellers to Mexico, our unique brand of low-cost prices with free checked bags on select fares, more legroom between seats and great service that has been embraced everywhere we fly.”

Inset image: The inaugural Interjet flight landing at San Francisco International Airport

OneJet launches new city pairings in US

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Kansas City Airport and West Palm Beach will welcome a new link later this month with Pittsburgh, thanks to OneJet – the US carrier operating regional aircraft and small business jets.

Established to provide consumers increased access to nonstop travel in the small to medium markets at relatively low cost, OneJet typically uses the normal passenger terminals and gates of the airports it flies to rather than operating from a private terminal or fixed-base operator (FBO) facility.

The new routes to West Palm Beach in Florida and Kansas City in Missouri will provide fast and reliable flight options to regional business travellers, including those employed by major corporate customers in the Pittsburgh area.

The launch of the Pittsburgh route will coincide with the introduction of the airline’s new OneJet Plus service, which will offer an enhanced service and amenities onboard larger ERJ135 aircraft. “For the past two years, OneJet’s right-sized, point-to-point , nonstop services have met our customers’ demand for expedited travel between key business and leisure destinations,” said OneJet’s CEO, Matthew Maguire.

Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO, Christina Cassotis told reporters “OneJet’s unique business model that caters to corporate travellers is a key part of the regional network strategy of Pittsburgh International Airport.”

Sabiha Gocken Airport

Fly Baghdad plans route expansion to airports in Europe.

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Fly Baghdad entered the regional air travel market at the end of 2017 with the launch of a service from Baghdad International Airport to Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. Since then, the Iraqi low-fare carrier has launched flights to Ankara’s Esenboga International Airport, also in Turkey, Amman in Jordan and Beirut in Lebanon.

Plans are now afoot to expand the Iraqi low-fare carrier’s network beyond the Middle East to Europe and India.

The airline, which also serves Erbil International Airport and Sulaimaniyah Airport in Iraq, was  re-launched early last year to compete against the state-owned Iraqi Airways and several other private carriers.

Ali al-Hamdany, CEO of the Baghdad-based airline told reporters at a conference in Dubai last year that Iraq has a huge population of cash rich travellers, but not many places to visit and “everyone is talking about travelling”.

This year the airline is hoping to add flights to Frankfurt in Germany, Malmo in Sweden and Delhi in India as part of a network expansion that is also expected to include Dubai.

Header image: Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey.

bmi increases flights to Paris from Bristol hub

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Bristol Airport is to see additional service to Paris Charles de Gaulle with bmi, in response to customer demand.

The airline currently flies twice daily between its Bristol hub and Paris, but will be adding a further flight three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“Having consistently invested in our service offering from our Bristol hub, manifesting itself in increased frequencies on key business routes as well as new destinations such as our recently launched Bristol to Gothenburg service, we believe these additional flights between Paris and Bristol will offer our customers an even greater choice, with greatly improved convenience and flexibility, alongside the continued service, efficiency and value that our customers expect from bmi,” said Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer of bmi.

Adding, “With the strong affinity between the Paris Metropolitan region and the South West / South Wales, especially in the energy and aerospace industries space, increasing our service offering now to 14x weekly flights in either direction, we are looking to directly address our customers’ needs.”

Nigel Scott, business development director, Bristol Airport said, “We are delighted bmi regional will increase the capacity on flights between Bristol and Paris (Charles de Gaulle) airports. This will provide improved services to a European hub airport offering world-wide connections whether for business or leisure.”

This spring also marks five years of bmi’s successful Frankfurt and Munich routes from Bristol which, since launching in March and May 2013 respectively, have consistently grown to become two of the airline’s hallmark services.

Greek regional airports to benefit from Sky Express’ expanded network

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The Greek regional carrier, Sky Express, which is headquartered in Athens and which currently serves 28 destinations is expanding its Greek network this summer with four new domestic destinations.

Alexandroupolis, Kefalonia, Lesvos and Samos will all benefit from twice daily flights from the Greek capital with Athens-Alexandroupolis and Athens-Kefalonia routes starting in May and the Athens-Mytilini (Lesvos) and Athens-Samos routes starting in July.

According to Sky Express’ CEO, Harry Botsaris, Sky Express is on a mission “to expand its presence and strengthen even more its position in the Greek aviation market.”

Adding that the airline is integral to the success of the country’s tourism sector, Botsaris added “we connect all corners of Greece to meet the needs of the local communities, thus contributing to the development of tourism.”

Toulouse takes off in 2018 as France’s third largest regional airport

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Following record growth in 2017, Toulouse-Blagnac, France’s third largest regional airport, is showing continued growth throughout the first couple of months of 2018.

In January the airport recorded +8.6% growth (679,150 passengers) and +2.4% growth in February (667,681 passengers). Domestic traffic saw a dip (-3.2%) in the second month of the year, primarily due to the cancellations of 137 flights, mainly in Paris, due to adverse weather conditions and a strike.

With 9.2 million passengers (1.1 million more than in 2016) travelling through the airport in 2017, last year’s growth has been attributed primarily to Aeroport Toulouse-Blagnac (ATB’s) development strategy to increase European low-cost traffic at the airport. Ryanair, easyJet and Volotea airlines have all seen increased activity at the French regional hub.

Following the many records set in 2017, the year ahead looks equally promising  for the airport, particularly with the arrival of new facilities that will offer passengers an enhanced experience.

Explaining that the increased traffic has led to the need to improve facilities at the airport, Anne-Marie Idrac, president of the ATB supervisory board, explained:

A single area for security checks, incorporating the latest technologies, a more attractive range of shops and catering outlets within a vast commercial space, a boarding pier dedicated to low-cost and regional airlines, a 4-star hotel connected to the air terminal: this is what our airport will be offering its passenger in 2018.

With the airport’s commercial terminal undergoing a complete refurbishment, extension and enlargement, Dufry – the duty free and travel retail giant which has been awarded the contract to operate two new duty free stores at Toulouse-Blagnac – says the revamp will tie in with ATB’s strategy to offer its passengers all the services normally associated with a large international airport.

The retailer also says that the commercial merchandise offering is aimed specifically at the ‘Toulouse Airport Traveller’, which typically includes business and frequent travellers, plus low-cost passengers, families and children.

Loganair unveiled as Carlisle Lake District Airport’s airline partner

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Passengers travelling from Carlisle Lake District Airport (CLDA) can now look forward to flights serving the South of England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, courtesy of Loganair.

The Scottish carrier, which will connect Cumbria and the Lake District to London Southend, Belfast City and Dublin City, with eight flights per-day throughout the working week and a total of 12 at weekends. Flights went on sale today (12 March 2018) with services commencing on 4 June.

“We’re delighted to become the first operator at the new Carlisle Lake District Airport and will be opening up Loganair’s services to a whole new range of customers,” said Jonathan Hinkles, managing director of Loganair. He was commenting on the fact that when the new service launches, it will be the first time since 1993 that CLDA has offered commercial and business passenger flights.

Kate Willard, head of corporate projects at Stobart Group (which owns CLDA) said: “Stobart group is committed to delivering a brilliant air travel experience across the UK and Ireland. We are therefore delighted to be announcing flights with Loganair connecting London, Belfast and Dublin with Carlisle and the Lake District.

“There is huge demand from London, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to visit Carlisle, which is home to major businesses and serves as a gateway to the Lake District, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and South Scotland.”

Having welcomed 45 million visitors to the county last year, Gill Haigh managing director of Cumbria Tourism, revealed that a large number of these were day trippers to the Lakes. “The new flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport will be a major boost for Cumbria’s connectivity and our £2.72billion tourism industry,” she said.

“Our marketing strategy has a key focus on encouraging visitors to stay in the county as a whole,” Haigh continued before adding: “New flights through Carlisle will create alternative travel options and Cumbria Tourism is working in partnership with the airport to encourage new and existing visitors to enjoy more of our iconic landscapes and world-class experiences.”

Meanwhile Nigel Wilkinson, board member of the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Cumbria LEP is contributing £4.95million to help the airport improve its runway and terminal, an important investment which will enable flights to and from Carlisle and provide wider global access via international hubs.”

Adding to the excitement about the new service to and from CLDA and what it will mean for the local economy, John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle stated: “It is vital that we have the infrastructure to support taking our local economy to the next level. The development of CLDA will have a huge impact on our ability to grow economically. Many local businesses will be able to expand as a result of these new flights and it will also encourage other businesses to choose Cumbria as a viable location.”

O’Hare revamp negotiations near completion

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Despite being served by a vast number of regional and low-fare airlines and known as one of the world’s busiest airports, Chicago O’Hare International Airport is often described as ‘outdated’ and has a reputation for gridlocked traffic. But the airport, which has a terminal dedicated to regional and low-fare carriers including Lot, Spirit, Volaris, Viva aerobus, Wow and WestJet, may soon be vaulted into the 21st century with state-of-the-art remodelling plans (estimated at US$8.5bn) in the final stages of negotiation.

The renovation project would be the single largest and most expensive terminal revamp in the airport’s 73-year history. It has been described by Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, as “not just a game changer for O’Hare”, but “a turning point for Chicago,” that will create a vast number of jobs while strengthening the city’s position as a leader in travel, tourism and trade.

As well as growing O’Hare’s sluggish number of international flights the renovations will help create more room for its domestic carriers with more than 3.1 million square feet of terminal space added – an impressive 72% increase on the existing 4.3 million square feet.

Renovation plans include dozens of new gates and two new passenger concourses for domestic traffic, which will be linked to the main terminals by underground tunnels and moving walkways. Terminal 2 will be replaced with a new ‘Global Terminal’ to accommodate larger aircraft serving international destinations.

However news of the revamp has ignited a spat between the Texas-based American Airlines and Chicago-based United Airlines, with the former claiming that the renovation plans are favourable to United, with additional gates being allocated to them in the new terminal.

The battle between the two carriers could jeopardise the deal, as Chicago plans to issue up to US$4 billion in bonds backed by the airport’s revenue, such as terminal rents and landing fees, to pay for the capital improvements at the hub’s terminals.

The goal to overhaul the airport without raising taxes is underlined by the importance of getting buy-ins from both United and American, which could be an issue of the airlines don’t agree on the gate allocation.

Header picture: Terminal 3, Chicago O’Hare Airport – © Chicago Dept. of Aviation

Iberia airport services celebrates record year

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In 2017 Iberia Airport Services, the Spanish carrier’s handling division, served 91.2 million passengers, nearly 3.5% more than in 2016.

Providing passenger handling and ground services in 29 Spanish airports, including some of the country’s smaller regional hubs, Iberia Airport Services works with aircraft belonging to Iberia, the IAG group and almost 200 other customer airlines.

While around 60% of the company’s activity is concentrated in Spain’s larger hubs such as Madrid and Barcelona, Malaga, Alicante and Bilbao, other smaller airports, such as Los Rodes in the North of Tenerife, Jerez de la Frontera, La Palma and Reus are also among those to experience the largest growth.

According to Angel Marcos, director of Iberia’s Airport Services, “2017 was a record year in numbers of passengers and aircraft served, but, in addition, we continued to advance with our commitment to the environment and we introduced modernisation projects in invoicing, baggage management, and safety which let us offer a better service to our customers.”

With a fleet of more than 8,500 units of equipment for providing its services, around 39% of the ground vehicles used by Iberia’s Airport Services are now electric, which has enabled the company to significantly reduce its CO2 emissions.

Wizz Air to expand Vienna operations

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Wizz Air is to expand its Vienna operations with the deployment of two additional Airbus A321 at Vienna Airport by March 2019, growing its annual capacity to over two million seats on sale.

Following the establishment of the Vienna base with three aircraft this coming June, the airline will deploy the two additional aircraft for a total of five based aircraft by March 2019, allowing Wizz to further diversify and expand its Vienna network.

The base establishment and expansion of operations represent a total investment of over $570 million, creating more than 200 direct jobs with Wizz Air.

Wizz Air’s service from Austria will include nine new routes from Vienna to Nice in France, Reykjavik in Iceland, Catania and Milan in Italy, Lisbon in Portugal, Madrid in Spain, Malmo and Stockholm Skavsta in Sweden, and Kharkiv in Ukraine. The newest services will commence in February and March 2019.

George Michalopoulos, chief commercial officer at Wizz Air, said: “Today’s announcement once again underlines our strong commitment to the Vienna market and Austria as a whole. After the opening of our Vienna base this June, in just nine months we’ll expand our operations to five based aircraft with a local team with more than 200 direct employees, while growing our low-fare network to 27 routes.”

The airline said its extended operations will also contribute to the local economy, supporting jobs in the aviation, transportation, hospitality and tourism industries.

“The fact that Wizz Air is already expanding its operations at Vienna Airport and will increase the number of aircraft stationed at its Vienna base by two to a total of five underlines the competitiveness of Vienna Airport as a competitive aviation hub and high-performance gateway,” said Julian Jäger, joint CEO and COO of Vienna Airport. “Thanks to the expanded base as well as the additional flight connections, Wizz Air is provided added growth impetus to Vienna Airport and passengers will be offered an even broader range of travel options when flying out of Vienna.”

Michalopoulos went on to say: “Offering nearly half million seats on sale in 2018 and over two million in 2019 we are creating new opportunities for Austrian customers to visit some of the most beautiful cities and regions in Europe.”