Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Things change,- BOAC's 1959 Winter Schedules

The tables in BOACs Advance Winter Schedules, a preview of their monthly editions, unsurprisingly all start in London.

There is a single exception,- the headline first one which shows the prime services between London, Manchester, Glasgow and Shannon to New York, San Francisco and then on across the Pacific to Honolulu, Tokyo and Hong Kong. 

This table starts in Teheran, then seen as an important source of business despite its low, twice weekly, frequency. Next call? Tel Aviv,- and with well used traffic rights between the two. The link continued through the 707 and into the early 747 era but ceased with the Iranian revolution in 1979.

The trans-Pacific route was axed in due to high costs and poor average loads. A significant reason for those was that BOAC persisted with full fare IATA fares and no relaxation of conditions or excess baggage allowances long after its competitors had started to circumvented them. It was also faced with a double or quits decision. It could either invest in lifting its frequencies to daily to match Pan Am, Northwest, and JAL or abandon the route. It chose the latter option and cut its eastern route from London short at Tokyo rather than continue from there across the ocean.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

All night Tubes for London,- The Unions are under the moon.

A lot of exciting, innovative things are happening on Britain's railways. Electrification schemes, line and track reinstatements and doubling, station renovations and a little way in the future, HS2.

One might have thought that the unions would be totally on board , delighted at the job opportunities offered and the immense benefits for the customers.

Think again.

Talking about the planned introduction of 24 hours a day operation on some core London Tube lines starting next year, Rail magazine quotes two union leading lights pronouncing:

 "Whilst the RMT is not against night running of the Tube in principle...."
 "ASLEF is not opposed to extra services but..."

As ever most of the "buts" are centred  around  the traditional Union barricades of protecting and avoiding changes to existing jobs even if they have become or could become redundant. Hence the ongoing battle against driverless underground trains even though automated ones are already running on some Tube lines albeit with drivers still sitting in the cab. Entirely driverless trains have operated entirely safely on London's highly successful Docklands Light Railway for several years.

 Negative attitudes have to be an enormous and debilitating drag both on managements trying to make things happen and on staff and potential new staff who want to embrace the new opportunities with enthusiasm and make them work. This is true in any industry and the dire effects of negativism are well apparent in many including shipyards, the old docks and historic car manufacturing. Transport industries are all about making things happen and delivering service. Traditional legacy unions seldom, if ever, are.

Happily though it looks as if there will be all night Tubes in London and eventually the automated trains will even run as they are designed to.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

African Roundup August September 2014

Two sides of the African coin are display from new style Fastjet on the one hand and the  more traditional but still lean Precision Air of Tanzania on the other. Neither is having an easy time.

Fastjet is a brand new, so far foreign created and managed startup which aims to bring Easyjet style low cost air travel to millions spread across Africa. The idea is a series of airlines based in a number of countries, each with a national interest, operating point to point but networks broadly based but adapted from the European model. Most of its processes and ways of going about things are new to the continent. 

Fastjet breaks the mould of legacy national carriers, privatized or not. Ignoring the different case of South Africa, the big two, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways are neighbours on the eastern side of the continent. Both have fast growing networks and progressive, expansionist strategies. Their structures, cultures, and ways of doing things though make them look like legacy type carriers. In Kenya’s case they also have old fashioned legacy unions. 

If Fastjet works, gets the bases and frequencies it needs and keeps its costs, numbers and structures to a minimum it is an exciting project. Among other things it is already best in Africa for frequent quick and open reporting of its results. If it doesn’t overcome the obstacles in its path and eventually fades away, the fear is that it may in the meantime bring down a number of smaller but very valuable operators without whom the host countries would have serious holes in their transport infrastructures. That’s the sort of thing that existing carriers from behind their barricades tend remind their governments in efforts to keep them frightened.

Enter Tanzania’s 49% Kenya Airways owned Precision Air. Dar es Salaam based, it has steadily built up not only domestic trunk services in a country short on effective rail and road links (The Serengeti National Park stands right in the only realistic path for a main road between the coast and Lake Tanganyika), but a host of lesser but socially useful routes. Tanzania now has a better domestic air network than at any time since the demise of East African Airways in 1977. From the national point of view all this is at risk if Fastjet’s low baseline fares and A 320s cream off Precision Air’s revenue on the domestic trunks to an extent where the now mainly turboprop carrier can not continue the lower frequency, higher cost ATR services elsewhere around the country. The nightmare scenario would be if both carriers were to throw in the towel. There would be an enormous gap. Tanzania,-and Africa,-need both models.

Precision is managing its way through a difficult period. Profitable for more than 10 years, it suffered a US$18m loss in 2013 caused in part by costly Johannesburg B737 operations.  Since then under new CEO, former Kenya Airways executive Sauda Rajab, the ageing B737s have been discarded and staff numbers cut by nearly 20%. Additional foreign funding is now being sought. Kenya has declined so the focus is reportedly on the Gulf.

Swaziland rarely hits the news but it does have a brand new US$150m airport sitting totally unused some 70kms east of the capital, Mbabane. Through rose-tinted spectacles at the 2003 planning stage it was to be an international gateway to the southern Africa tourism and conference markets. But why and how against the overwhelming dominance of Johannesburg? Is there any point? Government embarrassment has now led to Swazi-Airlink, the national carrier, being directed to migrate from the old better located Matsapha Airport. As an artificial political creation, like Lilongwe if government restrictions hadn’t forced airlines to go there instead of Blantyre, the new airport will still be largely silent. Swazi-Airlink operates only 5 daily flights to Johannesburg with its single ERJ135.  Spare a thought too for early shift staff resident in Mbabane faced with that 70km journey to work. There are no local buses or rail links.

With Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways now providing 2 flights a day to many East African points, low cost operator FlyDubai, with its growing fleet of new B737-800s has now joined the fray. Although linked with Emirates it is not Emirates. It offers a low cost style of product and, operates  from the low cost terminal on the east side of Dubai’s runways so does not offer easy connections to and from its stablemate. It is now to add Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar to its recently inaugurated Entebbe, Kigali and Bujumbura destinations. Both Dar and Entebbe will continue to be served by Emirates in direct competition for non premium class point to point business. Nairobi has yet to attract FlyDubai. In another move Kenya Airways is responding to even more regional pressure by increasing free baggage allowances on its Dubai flights. They go up to 64kgs for business class and 46kgs for economy. Dubai is the magnet for East African traders and shoppers for whom flying on the same aircraft as their goods is a must. The mysteries, vagueries and potential additional costs in the depths of the continents’ cargo sheds are to blame for that.

Fastjet meanwhile has started linking Dar es Salaam and Entebbe, adding these international links to Harare, Lusaka and Johannesburg. It has also now formed FastJet Kenya which was originally planned to be the launchpad for its East African network.  An application for an Air Service Licence has been made but has yet to be granted. This will be followed by one for an AOC, to which opponents, declared and undeclared, are expected. It’s not difficult to identify them.

While carriers multiply in East Africa, Virgin Atlantic has announced it will withdraw Cape Town-London flights in April 2015.  This follows its earlier retreats from Accra and Nairobi and marks what looks like a 49% owner Delta prompted refocus and redeployment of Heathrow slots onto the Atlantic. In fact it is not unlike the general drift of BA long haul policy either.


Air Uganda continued talks with the Uganda CAA on its AOC renewal including the inspection of the fleet which has since returned to the lessor. Too late though. Predictably the investors became fed up with hassle and uncertainty about the future so this once promising venture has now decided to permanently cease trading. A needless government shot in its own foot even if for reasons only known to itself it does have aspirations to re-start the long defunct state owned Uganda Airlines. They would do better talking to Fastjet.(Sep 2014)

Ethiopian Airlines, their tenth B787-8 due on 2nd October, have placed an order for 20 B737-800MAX’s and taken 15 options. With the passenger capacity of the 737-800 not far short of that of the 787-8, balancing orders between the two aircraft will be every fleet planner’s dilemma. The 737 is substantially lighter and cheaper but is shorter on range, competitive passenger appeal and cargo capacity. As a narrowbody, the 737 is easy to handle on the ground and is just the latest, if highly updated, version of an aircraft which crews, engineers, handlers and passengers everywhere have known since the 1960s. To the economist the answer probably comes out similarly to that of the A330-300 v Boeing 777-200 dilemma. In this case the 737-800 is in the A330-300 position. If it can do the job and meet all the payload and range requirements, ignoring questions and arguments about eventual residual values, it’s cheaper to buy and usually the most economic answer. If it can’t then go for the nicely sized, go anywhere, do anything but more expensive to buy wide bodied 787-8 which also offers the cargo bonus. Depending on freight loads and yields available, the latter can move the figures closer together but the attractions to the finance departments of the biggest 737s remain clear.

Always determined to keep its nose out ahead particularly of the Kenyan competition and to be Africa’s biggest and most successful network airline, Ethiopian is also close to ordering the 777X or A350-1000. A further 17 B787s are another possibility.

The airline is re-launching its Seychelles route on 29th September with a thrice weekly 737-800, aimed we assume mainly at business from overseas. Currency remittance problems make Seychelles and unattractive place for foreign airlines to sell tickets.

(Sep 2014)

Fastjet. See above for our main commentary. The company has reported a 2014 first half US$30.5m loss including US$13.9m ‘trading losses from the Tanzanian operation’.  Fly540 Ghana and Angola had a US$13.5 ‘adverse effect’ and remain on the ground pending ‘restructuring’. With the opening of Harare and Entebbe, average utilisation of the 3 A319s has reached 9.9hrs daily. The profitability target is 11.5hrs.

The anticipated fleet growth from these 3 current A319s is planned to be to 13 aircraft in 2015 and 30+ by 2018. The largest base is to be South Africa with 9 aircraft together with 7 each in Kenya and Tanzania. A search is underway to source up to 10 A319s. The Easyjet fleet rollover would be a logical source. (Sep 2014)

FlySAX (Kenya) is looking to increase its fleet, probably with a veteran but cheap to buy MD83, and to add Juba to the network. Their focus is otherwise mainly on mainly Kenya safari and private charter work. (Sep 2014)

Golden Wings (S Sudan) has launched domestic operations from Juba with Russian aircraft (Aug 2014)

Kenya Airways ,with its brand-strengthening 787-8 fleet now up to 5, is seeking US$3.8m from the Kenya Airports Authority for losses incurred as a result of the August 2013 fire which destroyed the Nairobi’s  arrivals terminal. 
Meanwhile the sensibly cautious progressive migration of flight departures into Nairobi’s new Terminal 1A at the western end of the original 1970s crescent of arrivals terminals continues. Early reports indicate that the building is a considerable improvement on the other three. Early comments would say ”Not before time”. Previous expensive foreign aid backed updating projects have achieved some things but not expensive looking results. (Aug 2014)

Precision Air has added Bukoba and Kigoma to its Tanzanian domestic network using ATR42s. It has also dropped its Comoros route, a successor to Air Comores Nord 262 small turboprop  operation started in the 1960s. This leaves Nairobi, the provider of a good volumes of international feeder traffic, as its sole regional destination. (Sep 2014)
Rwandair has confirmed its order for two B787-8s as part of a new 5 year Strategic Plan. Also included is its intention to expand its African network and to enter long-haul with routes to Europe and China. Hence these 787s. (Sep 2014)
SouthEast Airlines (Kenya) is a new Low Cost carrier. It plans to launch of twice daily Nairobi-Mombasa services with a single CRJ200 any time now. Up against Kenya Airways frequencies and flexible capacity, a twice daily is likely to have a hard time. SouthEast is GSA for Somali-owned African Express Airlines who operate regional services with a small fleet of DC9/MD82s . (Aug2014)
Sudan Airways is seeking to lease A320s for regional flights. Their current fleet comprises 3 F50 and 2 leased A300s.  US trade sanctions severely limit their choice of aircraft. The airline is less than it has been. In the 1960s and 70s it operated a successful and good quality limited sixth freedom network reaching from London through to Nairobi, initially with new Viscount 800s and later Comet 4Cs.


Air Madagascar anticipates being dropped from the EU black list in November. It also intends to replace elderly 737-300s and some ATRs on domestic services with 2 cheap to acquire and operationally versatile BAe RJ85s. The fleet currently includes 2 ATR42s and 2 ATR72-500s. (Sep 2014)

Air Namibia. Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako Airport became ICAO compliant enabling wide-body operations to resume from 4th August. (Aug 2014)
Air Seychelles will launch twice weekly A320 Mahe to Dar es Salaam services in December. It is a route with potential. Unlike Kenya, Tanzania, home of probably the world’s finest game parks, has little in the way of accommodation on its magnificent beaches. As result and despite Zanzibar’s attractions, Tanzania does not provide enough game park and beach holiday combinations to compete with Kenya. Triangular routing possibilities for tour groups using the combined services of Etihad from Europe to Abu Dhabi to Nairobi and back via Seychelles look attractive. (Sep 2014)
Air Zimbabwe.  One the 3 grounded MA60s has been restored to service.
 CEO EO Edmond Makona has told the government  that US$368m is needed to recaptalize the company. That includes US$ 331m for fleet replacement. A reported loss of US$44m in 2013 alone makes these figures unreliable. The current operational fleet consists of one each of B767-200, B737-200 (both elderly) and the MA60 (Sep 2014)

Comair, continuing its policy of either buying new or taking used aircraft from known big name carriers who bought, operated and maintained them, is to take 2 B737-400s from Qantas (Sep 2014)

Malawian Airlines is to launch Mozambique destinations in November. Lilongwe  to Nampula will be served twice weekly and Tete thrice en route to Harare.  The current network consists of Johannesburg, Lusaka and Harare and the single domestic route, Lilongwe to Blantyre. The fleet consists of one Q400 and one B737-800, both leased from 49% shareholder Ethiopian Airlines, with whom all flights are codeshared (Sep 2014)
Proflight (Zambia) is to start thrice weekly Ndola-Lubumbashi services on 14th October.A CRJ100 has been wet leased for one month to cover a fleet shortage but may stay longer. (Sep 2014)
SAA continues to be short of cheerful financial news. The 2012-13 operating loss was US$92m, bringing accumulated losses to US$1.49bn.The Public Enterprise Minister is talking of the need for US$464m to ensure survival. The use of Treasury backed private loans or has been suggested along with, for the first time, bonds. KPMG has been appointed to advise on a 20-25  long haul aircraft fleet renewal programme. That should be a couple of days work but we doubt if it will be.

Possibly in response to the new competition from Fastjet, the airline has increased Johannesburg – Dar es Salaam frequencies to 14 weekly and is now talking of adding new Tanzanian destinations, Mwanza and Mbeya.   (Sep 2014)
SA Airlink is launching twice daily Monday to Friday E135 services between Cape Town-Windhoek on 6th October. In the meantime it started flying, also twice twice daily on weekdays, between Johannesburg and Sishen. (Sep 2014)
Swaziland Airlink As reported above, the airline has been directed by the local CAA to relocate ops from Matsapha to the new and empty King Mswati Airport 70kms from the capital, Mbabane on 30th September. Also as reported, government directed moves of this kind do not have a happy history for the national economy, the airlines, the passengers or the airports. (Sep 2014)

Vic Falls Airways (Zimbabwe) is planning starting up with a leased B767-200ER on routes between Harare and London, Guangzhou and Johannesburg. In the case of Guangzhou the target market is obviously the very large Chinese labour market in central and southern Africa. An Air Operator’s Licence has been issued but the AOC is still awaited (Aug 2014)


Africa World Airlines (Ghana) China’s Hainan subsidiary, whilst pursuing a possible new national airline joint venture with the Government, has deferred its first A319 delivery until February 2015 (Sep 2014)

Air Cote d’Ivoire following the completion of airport upgrades, the airline plans to launch domestic flights in October with new Q400s, 2 of which are firm orders. It also has 2 options (Aug 2014)
Arik Air has signed an MoU with Emirates to explore future areas of co-operation. A shareholding is considered unlikely. (Aug 2014)

Goldstar Airlines (Ghana) has yet to obtain an AOC. Hence a delay to original plans for a June launch with classic B747-200s to Gatwick, Baltimore, Guangzhou and Natal (Brazil). The choice or aircraft is clearly based on purchase or lease price, not engineering or brand image considerations. (Sep 2014)

Med-View Airlines (Nigeria) launched its Lagos – Accra route on 15th September . Abidjan, Dakar and Bamako are to follow by January along with Dubai and Jeddah. The fleet comprises 3 B737s and 1 B767 (Sep 2014)

TACV (Cape Verde) is talking of launching Natal (Brazil) services in 2015.(Sep 2014)

West Link Airlines (Nigeria) is another AOC-holding start-up. It talks of launching scheduled operations with fleet of 6 B737-700s. No dates have been given.  (Aug 2014)


Egyptair ,out-sixth freedomed the Gulf fraternity maybe, (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are all there) will withdraw its five weekly Cairo – Manchester services this autumn. (Sep 2014)

Syphax (Tunisia) is planning the early 2015 launch of a Tunis-Beijing A330-200 route (Aug 2014)


The Italians stir................

Alitalia  launched a Rome – Marrakesh route, competing with RyanAir on 3rd September (Sep 2014)

Then there’s a bit of a flurry in Eastern Africa by the Gulf fraternity..............

Emirates is to increase its Dar es Salaam frequency from 7 to 12 weekly on 26th October, just as FlyDubai enter the market too. See below for more. (Sep 2014)

Etihad, not one to let the Emirates grass grow under its feet if possible, is to launch A320 services to Entebbe and Dar es Salaam early in 2015. Unlike Emirates who eschew anything smaller than an A330-200 (slowly being phased out), Etihad’s narrow bodies allow it to enter markets on a relatively low risk basis and then develop them to wide body capacity as soon as profitable demand allows,- or just carry on with the narrow bodies.(Sep14)

Fly Dubai on 24th September starts daily B737-800s to Entebbe Two extend to Bujumbura and three to Kigali .They have useful 5th freedom rights Entebbe- Bujumbura.

It is also starting daily Dar es Salaam services on October 16th. Two will extend to Kilimanjaro and two to Zanzibar. Their current fleet comprises 40 B737-800s, mostly between 2 and 3 years old. (Sep 2014) 

And the Turkish................

 Turkish Airlines continues its spectacular route expansion with the launch of thrice weekly A321 flights to Asmara, Eritrea on 19th August.


AFRAA says its Joint Fuel Buying Agreement has saved members US$3m over the past 3 years. AFRAA is negotiating with suppliers on a joint volume basis leaving member carriers to then contract individually.  (Sep 2014)

Burkina Faso has initiated planning for a new airport for its capital city, Ouagadougou (Sep 2014)

Kenya’s  Government, encouraged no doubt by Kenya Airways’ departing CEO Titus Naikuni, seems to have recognised its error and has revoked the impending imposition of VAT on new aircraft and spares (Aug 2014)

Nigeria’s  Government has reiterated its ever present  intention to create a new national carrier.  Almost inevitably there are no details and the previous January 2014 initiative was stillborn. Why this very wealthy government should want to go anywhere near owning or running an airline is a good question. Arik and others in the private sector are perfectly capable of meeting most domestic and regional needs at no cost to the taxpayer. For long haul services and networks the country is well served by foreign carriers and their home hubs.(Sep 2014)

Uganda .Regulatory deficiencies were identified in an ICAO national audit. As previously reported these prompted the Uganda CAA to summarily cancel all AOCs thereby effectively grounding Air Uganda and other local operators. ICAO has yet to reveal the audit findings.  As result Air Uganda ceased operations, terminated staff and returned aircraft to lessors. To fill in a network gap the UCAA quickly granted 5th freedom rights between Entebbe and Juba to Rwandair and Ethiopian Airlines (Jul/Aug 2014)

West Africa The ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has prompted in the temporary suspension of flights to and within the nearby region. Emirates and British Airways are among the longhaul carriers to have done this (until May 2015 in BA’s case) along with Kenya Airways, Arik and Asky among the regional operators. Business on long haul routes to neighbouring countries is also said to be substantially down and BA have carried out what look like a number of planned cancellations to Accra (Aug 2014)

West African Development Bank is to take minority shareholdings in ASKY and Air Cote d’Ivoire as both carriers seek to increase their share capital (Sep 2014)

John Williams
30 September 2014

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ebola.- Its effects coming soon to an airport, station or port near you.

With the first Ebola deaths in the western world has come a wave of hysteria, particularly among those politicians whose greatest fear is the possibility of accusations of inactivity in the face of any threat great or small.

It's a difficult one for them. Calls for calm and the simple statements that airport checks of incoming passengers (from affected areas) are next to pointless would be a personal disaster if a case should be confirmed.The politician concerned would be hung out to dry.

The reality is that airport checks are likely to be of very little use.


1) There are often no symptoms or raised temperatures for two weeks or more.

2) The flows through and into major hub airports are so large that it is impossible to tell where any of the Great Migration type flows have come from. People are not coming along in neat self contained batches from each flight.They are all mixed together.

3) It's no use standing at the doors of flights arriving direct from West Africa or other specified place. Many people will have connected over a number of intermediate points. If they really did think they were a risk and wanted to get home anyway they would be unlikely to travel on closely monitored direct flights.

Nevertheless, 24 hour media means that the least sign of political misjudgment will be leaped upon  and sanctimoniously decried by political opposition and other groups. Resignations will be called for. No leader likes to live with that possibility.

So.. expect airports,railways stations and ferry ports to be subjected to an overdose of oversight , occasional flurries of people in top to toe protective suits, and quite possibly a lot of hassle on top of the surfeit that already exists. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

UK Rail-"For your added comfort".. and some disappointment.

The head of the Thameslink franchise in proudly announcing their new fleet of electric trains has said that he can't promise a seat for everyone but charmingly added that there will be more room for people to stand in greater comfort.

Clearly his PR people have been at work on the usual assumption of that industry that the population is gullible, not to mention dim.What they really mean is that some potential space for seats has been given over to space for more standing. By this subterfuge they are able to say that the train offers more capacity= this is really good news.

The reality is that this growing trend is not good news at all. It is a bad news alternative to the expensive alternative of further lengthening trains and platforms. To most people "capacity" means at least seating even if of the high density variety. More space to crush load Japan style is not real capacity. A bit of honesty might go down better.

The reality is that if people have to travel in the peaks they may have to stand in some discomfort for up to half an hour. There is no room in some stations, tracks or trains to do better. Say that and there will be some complaining .Commuters will never accept the poor economics and difficult practicalities of actually meeting ever escalating demand over very short uni-directional peaks but at least a bit of honesty will mean that they are not disappointed.

Talking of disappointment and add to it British northerners belief that they suffer from per capita investment levels in transport infrastructure way below their compatriots in London and the South East, there will be confirmatory evidence of this when the overdue (by 50 years) electrification of the main Liverpool to Manchester line is complete in December. Not for the north shiny new fleets of high comfort trains. No. For a start there will only be three available so not all services will be electric. Even more more obvious though will be that the ones that are electric are operated by midlife and scarcely revitalised hand me downs from,- yes London and the south East