This year, the annual Cheltenham Races festival ran from the 14th to the 17th March, attracting thousands of visitors to Gloucestershire for the event to bet millions of pounds on horse races.
However, some of the event’s more affluent attendees decided to turn up in style, with many high profile VIP business jets and turboprops flying to nearby Gloucestershire (Staverton) Airport (GLO/EGBJ). An opportunity not to be missed, I headed up to the airport during the week to catch some of these “interesting” visitors!
Today the International Airlines Group announced a brand new low cost, long-haul carrier that will be launched in June later this year. LEVEL will begin by operating two Airbus A330 to 4 destinations in Argentina, The Dominican Republic and The United States.
The flights will be operated with Iberia’s cabin crew and pilots initially. Flights are already on sale now and start as low as €99 one way. The airline is initially launching in Barcelona, but will expand to other European cities in the near future.
Destinations, frequencies and schedules are further below.
Willie Walsh, IAG group CEO said regarding the news: “LEVEL is an exciting new IAG airline brand which will bring a stylish and modern approach to flying at prices that are even more affordable. It will benefit from having the strength of one of the world’s largest airline groups behind it.
“LEVEL will become IAG’s fifth main airline brand alongside Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. It will complement our existing airline portfolio and further diversify our current customer base.
“Barcelona is Vueling’s home base and this will allow customers to connect from Vueling’s extensive European network onto LEVEL’s longhaul flights.
“This is just the start. We’re really excited about the opportunities for expansion and we plan to bring LEVEL to other European destinations”.
eff 01JUN17 Barcelona – Los Angeles 2 weekly
IB2623 BCN1540 – 1955LAX 332 47
IB2624 LAX2140 – 1825+1BCN 332 47
El Al will receive its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner later this year, and is planning on launching flights with them during the third quarter of 2017. The two first 787-9s will be used on their flights to Los Angeles, and will be leased from ALC. Prior to this it will be used on shorter runs, likely to Europe, for crew training and familiarization.
The new jets will replace its current fleet of 767s and 747s that are used on the airline’s longhaul network. The airline will operate a total of 16 787-8s and -9s, a combination of purchased and leased aircraft. With the added capacity the Argentine Ministry of Tourism is looking at getting the airline to serve the capital, Buenos Aires. The airline has options for an additional 13 Dreamliners.
Only six months after regular passenger flights between the US and Cuba were resumed, two US airlines are already dropping flights to the country. Silver and Frontier both blame overcapacity between the two countries. Frontier will end its route between Miami and Havana, while Silver will drop all 9 planned routes. With seven airlines serving the South Florida – Havana market, there has been fierce competition for an overestimated amount of demand due to the lack of flights in the past.
Though no other airlines have left Cuba yet, there have been large amounts of reductions to the island, including cut frequencies and smaller equipment.
Norwegian announced late last year that it will be adding a second daily flight to New York from its London Gatwick base. At first the airline proposed that the second daily frequency would operate everyday except Wednesday bringing the total to 13 weekly flights, but now has proposed that LGW-JFK will operate 14x weekly, year-round.
DY7013 LGW0600 – 0920JFK 789 D
DY7015 LGW1710 – 2030JFK 789 D
Qatar Airways has now planned to enter the Indian market with a new, fully-owned airline after its Saudi subsidiary failed to get the necessary approvals to operate.
The airline will soon apply for the necessary permits to operate in India, and once gotten the carrier will operate up to 100 airplanes. The plans however have received opposition from the Federation of Indian Airlines and other Indian carriers.
As part of Iran Air’s fleet renewal program, the airline has received its first A330-200 (EP-IJA, MSN 1540) after being handed over at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport on March 10.
According to IRNA News, the new aircraft was ferried from Toulouse to Tehran Mehrabad Airport on March 11, Iran Air expects a second A330 by the end of this month. The airline just received their first new aircraft in over 20 years, an A321-200.
Iran Air’s A330 is configured in a two-class layout, with 32 passengers in business and 206 in economy. The current generation A330 is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 772B-60 engines delivering 71,100 lbs. of thrust each.
The new widebodies will initially be used on the airline’s European network, then on flights to Beijing Capital and Kuala Lumpur Int’l airport.
The new order with Airbus includes 16 A350-1000s, 18 A330-900neos, 21 A330ceos, 24 A320neos, and 21 A320ceos totalling to 100 aircraft.
CityWing Aviation Services Ltd have released a statement over social media in which the virtual airline announces they have cancelled all of their scheduled airline service after going into Liquidation on 10th March 2017.
The move comes just days after Van Air Europe, the company that operates the virtual airline’s flight, had their route license suspended by the UK Civil Aviation Authority over safety concerns. CityWing’s statement is as follows.
The reason for the suspension of Van Air Europe’s license is still in speculation but the event that lead to the investigation is known. On February 23rd, Van Air Let L-410UVP-E3 OK-LAZ was operating flight V9502 on behalf of Citywing from Isle of Man to Belfast City. The flight plan was filed with alternate airports as Belfast Aldergrove and Isle of Man due to possible bad weather from the oncoming Storm Doris.
The aircraft departed with 550 kg of Jet A-1 fuel (enough for the flight and reserves) and was on final approach to Belfast City Airport’s Runway 04 around 08:55L (08:55Z). The crew initiated a go around because of their low altitude, affected by increasing turbulence. Weather information for Belfast Aldergrove suggested suggested similar conditions, persuading the crew to return to Ronaldsway Airport on the Isle of Man where runway 26 would be better aligned into the wind.
The aircraft touched down safely on Runway 26 around 09:25L (09:25Z) and was about to vacate the Runway via Taxiway F when tower controllers instructed the aircraft to stop. Emergency services responded to the aircraft and the crew was subsequently instructed to shut the aircraft down. The passengers disembarked onto the runway and were taken to the terminal. The aircraft still had 200 kg of fuel on board.
Several rumours were floating around as to what happened exactly. One of these rumors is as follows. The aircraft reached the Isle of Man just before the storm. When the storm hit, winds picked up and it deemed unsafe to turn the aircraft out of the wind and taxi off the runway. The aircraft was instructed to stop and emergency services were dispatched, so that the trucks could shield the aircraft against the wind gusts. About 15 minutes later the storm front had passed and the aircraft was able to taxi to the apron.
However, this does not tie in with the information that the aircraft was instructed to shut down on the runway and that the passengers disembarked there.
Following the incident, on Feb 24th 2017, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) told another aviation news website that they have no knowledge of this occurrence and that the Czech Republic’s CAA is investigating. The UK CAA added on Feb 25th 2017, that as long as Czech Republic’s CAA is investigating, the operating permit for Van Air Europe in the UK has been suspended.
When confronted with information later on Feb 25th 2017, that the Czech CAA is not investigating, the UK CAA responded on Feb 25th 2017, that they are again examining the current situation. Czech Media reported on Mar 1st 2017, that UK’s CAA told them Czech Republic’s CAA, who have regulatory oversight over the operator, is investigating the occurrence of Feb 23rd 2017. As a result, the permit to operate in the UK has been suspended.
However, the Civil Aviation Authority of Czech Republic told Czech media, that they are not investigating the occurrence and that they are cooperating with the UK CAA. Therefore it is still unclear which CAA grounded the airline indeed and why. Van Air received it operational permit from the UK CAA. The Isle of Man CAA oversees Ronaldsway Airport and the CAA of Czech Republic oversees the operator, as all Van Air aircraft are on the Czech Civil Register.
The airline released a statement on the day. They confirmed that:
“Flight V9-502 returned to Isle of Man due to turbulence on final approach to Belfast’s runway 04. The aircraft was subsequently instructed by tower to stop after landing and a few minutes later to shut down.”
The airline received a brief letter from the UK Civil Aviation Authority stating:
“The incident is indicative of deficiency of operational control.”
The airline also confirmed that:
The aircraft took off with 550kg of fuel and had 200kg of fuel remaining (above final fuel reserve) after landing at Ronaldsway.”
The crew would have needed to declare emergency, had they needed to go around again at Isle of Man and divert to Manchester or Blackpool. The airline does not know why emergency services were present at the runway, their crew did not declare emergency and somebody else must have declared emergency for them.
On Feb 28th 2017 the airline reported that they had received a letter from Czech Republic’s CAA stating:
“The CAA is satisfied with the immediate safety actions taken by the airline and proposed further actions to improve, no investigation was taking place and no further actions were taken by Czechia’s CAA.”
On Mar 10th 2017 UK’s Civil Aviation Authority reported that the permit for Van Air to operate in the UK is still suspended. In early March, Van Air Europe positioned all their aircraft out of Isle of Man to mainland Europe.
In order to keep their services flying, CityWing chartered in other companies to fly their routes. Stansted based charter company Titan Airways supplied a Boeing 737 that was temporarily based at the Isle of Man for flights to Belfast, Glasgow and Newcastle
This was soon replaced by a SprintAir Saab 340A SP-KPR (MSN 139), brought in from Warsaw, Poland.
CityWing also released some very misleading schedules for dates leading up to the 24th of March, in which many days and dates are mixed up.
However this schedule will stand for nothing as on Mar 10th 2017 Citywing announced, that the company has entered liquidation and that all flights of March 11th 2017 and onwards had been cancelled. CityWing’s statement read
As a result of Van Air losing their route licenses on Friday 24th February 2017, the company has found it difficult to source suitable viable aircraft to fulfil our contracts. The company has tried to offer a service whilst suffering considerable losses but these have proved unfortunately to be commercially unsustainable.
It is therefore with much sadness and deep regret that the Directors of Citywing Aviation Services Limited have had to take the difficult decision to close the company today and put the company into liquidation. This decision has not been taken lightly and has been made to protect creditors.
Flights on 11th March 2017 onwards have all been cancelled
We request that you do not turn up at the airports for your flights as there will be no one to assist.
A liquidator will be appointed and they will advise in due course on how to get a refund on your tickets.
There will also be guidance on the UK CAA website from Monday 13th March 2017.
Dutch-Caribbean airline Insel Air has recently been going through financial difficulties as well as most of its fleet being grounded by the Aruban Civil Aviation Authorities. The airline has suspended its routes to Barquisimeto, Caracas, Georgetown, Haiti, Havana, Kingston, Las Piedras, Manaus, Medellin, Miami, Paramaribo, Port of Spain, Santo Domingo and Quito. The airline hopes to return to full operation again by June later this year. The airline will look into relaunching some of its routes as they get their aircraft re-certified.
Current routes, information from airlineroute: Curacao – Aruba up to 6 daily Curacao – Bonaire 4 daily Curacao – St. Maarten 2 daily
Lufthansa recently updated its schedules for the Munich – Mumbai route, which now shows that the Airbus A350-900 will now operate the airline’s daily flights between the two cities. The route is currently operated by their Airbus A330-300 and will operate using their A340-600 between April 8 and 14 before the A350 will be introduced on April 15.
Schedule from airlineroute:
LH764 MUC1140 – 2305BOM 359 D
LH765 BOM0105 – 0550MUC 359 D