Edinburgh Airport triples car drop-off fee

Car drivers who spend more than five minutes dropping off passengers at Edinburgh Airport will from Monday be charged three-times as much as they are now.

The move means drivers dropping off passengers within five minutes will continue to pay the current £1 fee, but those who take between five and ten minutes face paying £3, compared to the current £1.

The new higher fee was announced today and takes effect on Monday, just as the Edinburgh Festival concludes.

Edinburgh Airport said it is “continually talking to its passengers and has made these changes following valuable feedback from customers who have said that taxis using the [present] drop-off zone to wait for pick-ups are causing a lot of congestion”.

Richard Townsend, head of retail and property at the airport, added: “At Edinburgh, we work hard to make sure that we’re developing our services and facilities to meet the expectations of our passengers and airlines.”

But the local press is not enthusiastic.

Edinburgh Evening News today said the drop-off fees have been dubbed a “kiss and fly tax”.

Taxi drivers also do not welcome the price hike. Quoted in the same newspaper, Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis, said older people and the disabled [who cannot reach the free facilities situated some distance from the terminal] would end up paying more.

Business Traveller readers appear firmly against drop-off fees (click here to read the recent lengthy thread about dropping-off passengers at Bournemouth Airport).

But airport authorites find them a useful cash generator because they cannot, as in times gone by, automatically raise airline fees year-after-year because the market today is more competitive.

And the problem with these passenger fees is that once the fee is established, airports can raise them further in the years ahead.

edinburghairport.com

Alex McWhirter 

Ryanair to launch Edinburgh and Glasgow routes to Stansted

Ryanair will next summer fly to London Stansted from both Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The budget airline will operate both routes three-times daily, it has been announced.

At Glasgow International, Ryanair will also introduce new routes to Bydgoszcz, Carcassonne, Chania, Derry, Dublin, Riga, Warsaw and Wroclaw. It will retain its 16 summer routes at Glasgow Prestwick.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “Ryanair is pleased to launch its 2015 summer schedule, with nine new Glasgow International routes and 16 Glasgow Prestwick routes, which will deliver 1.35 million customers per annum to/from Glasgow.”

As well as the new Stansted route, Ryanair will increase frequencies on three other Edinburgh services — to Barcelona El Prat (five-times weekly), Pisa (thrice-weekly) and Rome (four-times weekly).

Ryanair this week launched its new Business Plus service (see news, August 27).

ryanair.com

Graham Smith

Hilton opens tenth London Doubletree

Hilton Worldwide has entered into a franchise agreement with Jurys Inn to open its tenth Doubletree property in London.

Formerly Jurys Inn London Islington, Doubletree by Hilton London – Islington is located less than 300 metres from Angel underground station.

The hotel has undergone major renovation in the last six months and currently contains 229 rooms. From October 1, an extension to the property will see this number increase to 372, including 66 deluxe rooms and 43 executive rooms.

Doubletree Islington

The property features a gin bar, Bar 60, a restaurant offering all-day dining, 300 sqm of meeting space, a 24-hour business centre, a fitness centre and free wifi.

John Greenleaf, Doubletree by Hilton’s global head, said: “Since 2007, the brand has grown from no presence in the UK to nearly 25 properties, with ten of these in the London area.

“The Doubletree brand resonates with the UK traveller by offering a friendly, approachable service experience, which starts with the presentation of our signature, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie at check-in.”

Earlier this year, Hilton opened its ninth Doubletree property in London in Chelsea after signing another franchise agreement with Jurys Inn (see news, May 19).

doubletree.com

Graham Smith

ANZ enjoys third consecutive year of profit

Amidst a flurry of loss announcements made by several carriers (see here, here and here), it’s a breath of fresh air to report that Air New Zealand has enjoyed profits of NZ$332 million (US$278 million) for the 2014 financial year.

The earnings represent the third consecutive year of growth for the airline, with an increase of 30 percent over the same period last year.

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9

ANZ chairman Tony Carter attributed the positive result to the efforts that the airline has made to its key strategic initiative.

“With new aircraft offering better operating economics, an optimised network with the right alliance partners, disciplined cost management and a daily focus on improving the customer experience, we are very well positioned to continue growing,” said Carter.

The outlook for the coming year, based on current expectations of market demand and fuel prices, is also positive. This does not include equity earnings from Virgin Australia, of which it has a 25.99 percent stake, as the Australian carrier earlier today announced a loss of A$211 million (US$197 million).

Space seat – premium economy on the B777-300ER

To maintain its growth, ANZ has a number of initiatives underway to improve its services. This includes the introduction of the fuel-efficient Boeing 787-9 aircraft (see here), the refurbishment of its Boeing 777-200ER fleet, and moving to new terminals and lounges in Los Angeles and London.

In addition, the airline is also looking to benefit from its new alliance with Singapore Airlines, which was recently granted regulatory approval (see here).

Business class on the B787-9

“This alliance is the third strategic revenue sharing alliance we have formed in recent years, following agreements with Virgin Australia (reauthorised in 2013) and Cathay Pacific in 2012. Strong alliances such as this provide us with a platform for sustainable growth, allowing us to open up new routes and markets across the Pacific Rim,” said ANZ chief executive Christopher Luxon.

Finally, the airline also announced that it would be remunerating over 8,000 of its employees with a one off bonus of up to NZ$750 (US$635) each as a small token of its appreciation for the hard work done in the last year.

For more information, visit airnewzealand.co.nz

Clement Huang

Drastic restructure for MAS following financial loss

Following its announcement earlier today that it has suffered a loss of RM307 million/US$97 million (see here), Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has revealed that it will commence a RM6 billion (US$2 billion) recovery plan to help it return to profitability.

The drastic restructuring will see MAS cut 30 per cent of its workforce by 2018. This represents nearly 6,000 of its existing staff.

The plans have been set in motion by majority stakeholder Khazanah Nasional, which currently owns a 69 per cent stake in the airline and will soon take complete ownership (see here).

In addition, as reported previously by Business Traveller Asia-Pacific (see here), a new chief executive will be appointed as the incumbent Ahmad Jauhari Yahya looks set to be shown the door once his term expires next month.

Finally, many long haul routes will be slashed as the carrier looks to focus its efforts on its regional and domestic market. These are expected to include services to Germany and certain routes to China.

In a BBC article earlier today, Khazanah Nasional managing director Azman Mokhtar expressed his belief that the airline would find its feet again and that the cutbacks are neccessary.

“The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived,” said Mokhtar. “While it is imperative that MAS as a critical enabler in national development is revived, public accountability for the use of the funds mean that it cannot be renewed at any cost’.

For more information, visit malaysiaairlines.com

Clement Huang

MAS to axe 6,000 jobs and long-haul routes

Malaysia Airlines will cut 30 per cent of its workforce and a number of long-haul routes as part of a recovery plan after being hit by two disasters this year.

The carrier will make 6,000 of its 20,000 employees redundant, it was announced today.

It will become a nationalised private company (see news, August 8) — which might result in a change of name — with a new chief executive.

MAS will axe a number of routes to China. In Europe, the airline currently flies to London Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt — it is not yet known which service(s) will be axed, but it is believed the German route is likely to go.

The carrier will now focus on its local Asian routes and rely on its Oneworld partners to fly passengers in from Europe and elsewhere.

The plan is to move MAS back into profit by 2018.

It is struggling to survive following the disappearance of flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean in March and the shootdown of MH17 over Ukraine last month (see news, July 17). The tragedies resulted in a combined 566 deaths.

Khazanah Nasional, the investment holding arm of the Malaysian government, is currently the majority stakeholder in MAS with a 69.4 per cent share. It will soon take full ownership of the airline.

Khazanah managing director Azman Mokhtar said: “The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived.”

MAS today announced its second quarter financial results, reporting a net loss of 307 million ringit (£59 million). This follows a loss of 443 million ringit (£85 million) in the first quarter.

The airline was in financial difficulty even before this year’s back-to-back disasters; the last time it made a profit was in 2010.

malaysiaairlines.com

Graham Smith

Virgin Australia to sell 35% stake of loyalty program

Just a day after Qantas Airways revealed its A$2.8 billion (US$2.6 billion) loss over the past 12 months (see here), fellow Aussie carrier Virgin Australia has reported that it also made an underlying loss of A$211 million (US$197 million) in the past year.

While yields improved by 1.2 per cent over the period, operating costs also increased by 3.4 per cent, negating the benefits of the yield increase.

In addition, the low-cost carrier Tigerair Australia (which Virgin holds a 60 per cent stake in) also reported a A$46 million (US$43 million) loss and does not expect to achieve profitability until 2017.

In a bid to increase its cash balance, the airline has announced that it will sell a 35 per cent stake of its Velocity frequent flyer program. While no buyer has been named yet, an article by the Sydney Morning Herald stated that “a private equity group” would be purchasing the shares.

The decision is surprising, given that yesterday Qantas’ announced it would not be selling a stake in its Qantas Loyalty program as it was too profitable. The scheme has enjoyed double-digit growth and brought in earnings of A$286 million (US$267 million).

For more information, visit virginaustralia.com

Clement Huang

MAS announces US$97 million loss in second quarter

Malaysia Airlines has revealed that the disappearance of MH370 continues to have an effect, with the announcement of its 2014 Q2 financial results.

The national carrier reported a net loss of RM307 million (US$97 million) during the period of April to June. In addition to the carrier’s earlier loss of RM443 million (US$140 million) in the first quarter, MAS total loss during the first half of 2014 is currently standing at RM750 million (US$237 million). This represents a 65 per cent larger deficit than the same period last year. 

On top of this, it is not yet known what the full impact of MH17 will be on the carrier’s financial earnings, as the incident occurred in July 2014. However, early indications and comments from Malaysia Airlines Group chief executive officer, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya suggest that it will be significant.

“[As] the impact of the two tragedies [has] damaged our brand, the need to restructure the Company was accelerated. The full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17 is expected to hit Malaysia Airlines in the second half of the year”, said Ahmad Jauhari.

Malaysia Airlines A380

According to MAS, the financial loss can be attributed to lower yields and deteriorating seat factor following the MH370 incident. In addition, this was coupled with a two per cent increase in operation cost, principally due to escalating fuel expenditure, which rose by nearly 10 per cent over the previous corresponding period.

Passenger load factor fell to 68.9 per cent in May, but rebounded in June to return to above 80 per cent. However, it is highly probable that July’s figures may not be so rosy due to the MH17 incident.

“We expected the impact of MH370 on the performance in Quarter 2. Given that, our team put in much hard work and effort to regain market confidence and rebuild sales. Tragically, just as we were beginning to see signs of recovery in all regions, we were dealt the blow of MH17”, commented Ahmad Jauhari.

MAS has made moves to reduce costs and increase productivity, with the airline having brought forward the retirement of the older, less fuel-efficient Boeing 737-400 aircraft (see here). It’s fleet now consists of 88 aircraft, including 54 B737-800s, 15 Airbus A330s and 6 Airbus A380s – with an average fleet age of 5.28 years.

In addition, majority shareholder, Khazanah Nasional Berhad has announced its intention to take full ownership of MAS (see here). If approved, a plan will be put forth to restructure the airline group and help return it to profitability.

For more information, visit malaysiaairlines.com

Clement Huang

First Q400 NextGen turboprop for Nok Air

Now, that’s something you don’t see everyday. Thailand-based low-cost carrier Nok Air has taken delivery of its first Q400 NextGen turboprop at Bombardier’s facility in Toronto.

Featuring the airline’s unique bird livery, the aircraft, named “NOK ANNA” is the first commercial Q400 NextGen aircraft to offer 86 seats.

“We are very excited to not only be the first to operate the Q400 NextGen turboprop in Thailand, but also the launch operator for the extra capacity seating configuration,” said Patee Sarasin, chief executive officer, Nok Air.

“We always aim to lead through continuous innovation to offer our passengers an unsurpassed experience, and our new Q400 NextGen aircraft will enable us to serve more passengers comfortably and conveniently, as well as expand to new destinations profitably.”

Nok Air’s fleet currently consists of two ATR 72-500 and 16 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. It also has an order for seven Boeing 737 MAX 8s, and five more Q400 NextGen jets.

For more information, visit nokair.com

Clement Huang