They’re Back: British Airways Puts Portland And Pittsburgh Flights On Sale

British Airways has put on sale three more US routes. Taking off next summer will be London Heathrow to Portland (the first time it’ll operate), Pittsburgh (resumption), and Gatwick to New York JFK (resumption). They come as BA pushes back the start of San Jose, pulls Gatwick to Las Vegas, removes the A380 from Los Angeles, adds the A380 to three more US airports, and makes various other changes to its US network.

BA is finally set to introduce Heathrow to Portland, which it had expected to begin in June 2019. Photo: Getty Images.

What’s happening?

Resuming on May 28th will be Gatwick to JFK. Operating once-daily, it’ll variously use the 332-seat and 336-seat B777-200ER, according to its schedule submission to OAG. It’ll be followed on June 3rd will be Heathrow to Pittsburgh and Portland, both by 214-seat B787-8s.

The schedule for all three routes is shown below (all times are local). The different departure times on different days reflect slot availability.

BA171: Heathrow to Pittsburgh, 16:45-19:50, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun; B787-8BA170: Pittsburgh to Heathrow, 21:50-10:10+1BA267: Heathrow to Portland, 15:10-16:59, Tue, Sun; B787-8BA267: Heathrow to Portland, 15:15-17:04, Mon, Wed, Fri; B787-8BA266: Portland to Heathrow, 18:45-12:10+1, Mon, Tue, Wed, FriBA266: Portland to Heathrow, 18:50-12:15+1, SunBA2273: Gatwick to JFK, 15:00-18:00, once-daily; B777-200ERBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:01-08:00+1, Mon, Tue, FriBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:10-08:10+1, Wed, SatBA2272: JFK to Gatwick, 20:25-08:25+1, Thu, Sun
BA Pittsburgh, Portland, JFK
There is no sign whether Charleston, introduced in April 2019, will resume. Image: GCMap.

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First time for BA to Portland

It’ll be the first time that BA has served Portland. It announced the route in December 2019, with it set to begin on June 1st, 2020, on a five-weekly, year-round basis, but it was understandably suspended. Had it launched in 2020, it would have been head-to-head with Delta’s summer-seasonal Portland-Heathrow offering. There’s no indication if or when Delta will resume the route.

BA inaugurated Pittsburgh in April 2019, nearly a year before the impact of the pandemic started to be felt. It had four weekly flights by the B787-8; the same as it’ll have next summer. Across all airlines, Pittsburgh-London had over 40,000 round-trip point-to-point passengers in 2019, booking data shows, together with around 270,000 to/from Europe generally. Meanwhile, it will be the third time since 2008 that BA has served Gatwick to JFK.

BA Pittsburgh
BA began Pittsburgh in April 2019. Photo: via Beth Hollerich, Communications, Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Other key US changes

BA will no longer use the A380 to Los Angeles from January 10th onwards. However, Boston, Chicago, and Washington will again see the double-decker quadjet next summer. The restart of San Jose has been pushed back from March 27th to June 14th, while Gatwick to Las Vegas (which was to be three-weekly from March 29th) has been cut next summer. Will it return?

BA A350-1000
In summer 2022, BA will use the A350-1000 (its largest aircraft) to Austin, Chicago, Denver (now from September 4th), Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando, Phoenix, and San Diego. Photo: Getty Images.

Other notable changes include Nashville becoming once-daily from May 6th, up from five previously planned, with the larger and more premium B787-10 replacing the B787-8. New Orleans gets a fourth-weekly service, while Houston and Seattle return to twice-daily from May 8th. However, JFK to Heathrow reduces to seven-daily.

Will you be flying across the North Atlantic next year? Let us know in the comments.

Did you miss our previous article…


What Is India’s UDAN Regional Airport Development Scheme?

In October 2016, the Government of India unveiled the UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme, which loosely translates to “flying made possible for the common citizen.” The project aims to connect small towns in India through subsidized air routes and developing regional airports. Through this initiative, the Indian government intends to build infrastructure and a culture of air travel for people in tier 2 & 3 cities by making flying cheaper and more accessible.

Indian Government’s UDAN scheme aims to provide affordable air travel to all citizens. Photo: Getty Images

Boost for regional aviation

While we talk about India being one of the largest aviation markets in the world, and rightly so, air travel still remains out of reach for millions of Indians. The LCCs have certainly revolutionized aviation in India, but there’s still much to be done to bring affordable flying to the regional parts of the country. The UDAN scheme – intended to run for ten years – has been implemented to do just that.

The scheme aims to enhance regional air connectivity in two ways:

Developing new and existing regional airportsCreating hundreds of subsidized air routes to underserved and unserved airports

The initiative has planned to develop 100 new airports, heliports, and water aerodromes between 2019 and 2024. So far, more than 750 valid routes have been allotted to shortlisted airlines after four rounds of bidding. For the development of airports, the Airports Authority of India has designated funds of around ₹ 25,000 crores (approx. $3.3 billion) for a period of five years from 2019 to 2024.

IndiGo A320neo
The scheme offers subsidized routes to underserved airports. Photo: Getty Images


To fund such a project, the government has to infuse cash and provide concessions, which it does in three ways:

Central government concessionsState government concessionsAirport operators’ concessions

The central government provides what is known as Viability Gap Funding (VGF) to make routes financially viable for commercial airlines. VGF is reduced if the passenger load factor remains high and is discontinued after three years when the route becomes self-sustainable.

The center also provides relaxation on Goods and Service Tax (GST) and freedom to some airlines to enter into codesharing arrangements with domestic and international airlines.

Support from state governments comes in the form of reduction of Value-added Tax (VAT) to 1% or less for ten years to airports developed under the scheme, providing land for airports and other utilities at subsidized rates.

The airport operators contribute by waiving parking, landing, and storage charges at participating airports, no TNLC (Terminal Navigation Landing Charges), and other such subsidies.

To boost regional flights, the scheme also calls for air caps from Rs 1,420 to Rs 3,500 for fixed-wing aircraft (based on distance and duration) for flights to unserved and underserved routes. Such fare caps are subsidized by imposing a small levy on every departure on major routes.

Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik!#UDAN-RCS is a first-of-its-kind scheme that aims to create affordable yet economically viable and profitable flights on regional routes along with boosting tourism and creating new jobs in the sector. #SabUdenSabJuden

— MoCA_GoI (@MoCA_GoI) September 9, 2021

Slow progress

The implementation of the scheme, however, has been slow, and several targets have not met their deadlines. An Economic Times report in July this year cited the rating agency ICRA, which said that not even 50% of the routes had been made operational, and the second wave of the pandemic impacted the plan even further. As of May this year, 47% of total routes and 39% of airports (unserved and underserved) were operational.

Shubham Jain, SVP and Group Head for Corporate Ratings at ICRA, stated,

“The slow progress of UDAN implementation is attributable to delayed upgradation of infrastructure and readiness of airports, due to lack of adequate right of way (including insufficient runway lengths) at some of the RCS airports and delays in securing necessary regulatory approvals.”

According to ICRA estimates, the target of operationalizing 100 airports under the UDAN scheme could face a two-year delay, pushing it to 2026 from the earlier deadline of 2024.

What are your thoughts on the Indian government’s UDAN scheme? Please share your comments below.

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What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?

Music artists and bands often rely on private aviation for their fast jet-setting lifestyle. Private airplanes save much-needed time during busy schedules of tours and provide respite in between gigs by eliminating long queues, delays, and waiting time for regular commercial flights. And sometimes, when these jets wear interesting liveries, advertising the band’s name, they also make a spectacular announcement of the artists’ arrival in a particular city.

The Rolling Stones used a Boeing 767-300ER for their latest tour. Photo: Getty Images

The Rolling Stones, too, had their own private flying experience, first with a Boeing 737 and later on a much larger 767 for their latest tour.

Private luxury

From 2014 to 2015, the Rolling Stones’ choice of aircraft was the Boeing 737-400, the first of which was hired from Greek leasing company GainJet and the second from Phoenix-based leasing company Swift Air.

For their “No Filter Tour” in 2017, the band upgraded to the much larger Boeing 767-300ER, which, like the 737, carried the same livery of the group’s trademark lips image and the band name. The aircraft was hired from leasing company Aeronexus and had the registration number ZS-NEX.

The 767 was a significant step up for the band in onboard luxury and space. The plane has 96 huge first-class seats and a comfy leather couch that could convert into a bed and was privately placed in the cabin’s front.

The aircraft was often eagerly awaited and spotted by fans and aviation enthusiasts at various cities as the group flew around the world during their tour.

What Happened To The Rolling Stones’ Boeing 767?
The 767 featured 96 first class seats and a comfy leather couch, among other things. Photo: Getty Images

Where is it now?

The 767 first entered service 31 years ago in 1990 with LOT Polish Airlines with registration SP-LPA. Over the years, LOT leased it to airlines such as Air New Zealand and Air Europa.

In February 2016, the airplane was acquired by Aeronexus Corporation and later that year painted in the Rolling Stones livery for the band’s “No Filter Tour.”

Since 2018, the 767 has featured the Globus Reisen Voyages livery and has made several stops around the world in the last year alone. As of today, the 767’s last flight was on December 6th from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Johannesburg, South Africa, according to

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Not the only famous 767

ZS-NEX isn’t the only 767 to have high-profile owners. Canadian rapper Drake has his own Boeing 767-200ER for private transportation. Dubbed as “Air Drake,” the jet is registered as N767CJ and features shiny gold detailing on the walls, a theatre room, fully-enclosed private suites, and velvet couches.

The aircraft is provided to Drake free of charge in a partnership with Cargojet, which covered it in its unique branding in an effort to get free publicity.

Canadian rapper Drake also enjoys a 767 for personal transport. Photo: Getty Images

American billionaire Mark Cuban also once owned a 767, the most expensive aircraft in his private jet collection. Registered as N767MV, it was configured with 98 business class seats and was often hired out for high-end charter. The plane was also used at times to transport Cuban’s NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks.

As reported by Simple Flying, Cuban’s 767 seems to have had a change of ownership as it was seen flying for Atlas Air earlier this year.

Have you ever seen a private jet of your favorite band? Do share your comments.


How Powerful Are The Boeing 777’s GE90 Engines?

Recently in Zurich, the testing of a pair of GE90 engines on a SWISS Boeing 777 took a dramatic turn when the thrust of the powerplants caused damage to parts of a noise protection hangar. The visually spectacular incident left acoustic protection material strewn all over the surrounding area, giving the impression that a tornado had touched down in the middle of the hangar. Using this example, let’s look at just how powerful the Boeing 777’s GE90 engines are.

The GE90 is one of three engine types for the Boeing 777. Often dependent on the aircraft variant, other options include offerings from Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. Photo: GE Aviation

Record-setting thrust

According to GE Aviation, the -115B variant of the GE90 set a world record for thrust during its certification testing in 2002. During the 60 hours at “triple red-line conditions,” a maximum of 127,900 lbf was achieved. This testing of operational limits saw the engine run at maximum fan speed, core speed, and exhaust gas temperature.

Precise numbers are all well and good, but they might not mean much to most people who never come into contact with these types of units and measurements. Put into perspective, a contributor on the website Quora notes that the force of a GE90 would be able to “blow the heaviest tank in the world like the wind blows a leaf. Maybe throw it 50 meters away.” That would be quite a sight to see!

Of course, the most obvious and visible ‘application’ of the engines’ thrust is the fact that just two of these powerplants can take a behemoth machine like the Boeing 777-300 into the sky and up some 30,000+ feet. More impressive is the fact that just one running (as per ETOPS certification) would be able to keep the aircraft airborne for quite some time. It’s something most of us see regularly (at least in planespotting videos) but maybe don’t reflect on too often.

How Powerful Are The Boeing 777’s GE90 Engines?
GE90 engines- and essentially every commercial aircraft engine, is a marvel of engineering. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple FlyingStay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Destroying a hangar

It was on December 4th, 2021, that the Twitter account “Breaking Aviation News and Videos” posted a video showing a Boeing 777 test going wrong (at least with the structure around it).

A SWISS 777-300ER parked at Zurich Airport was undergoing some engine tests at an unspecified date and time. Portuguese media outlet Aeroin reports that engaging the aircraft’s powerful GE90 engines had an unfortunate effect on the bespoke noise protection hangar that it was situated in.

The video and photos embedded below show that one of the hangar’s deflection panels was destroyed while acoustic protection material was blown up and away, strewn about the tarmac around the hangar. Indeed, the video captured of the incident shows the pieces of material floating and falling, as if a small storm had somehow parked itself over the hangar.

— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) December 4, 2021

Made by WTM Engineers for Zurich Airport, the noise protection hangar is meant to contain engine noise during aircraft engine testing (as is somewhat obvious in the name). In containing noise, residents and the surrounding community are shielded from the incredible roar of massive powerplants like the GE90 during testing.

Aeroin notes that the hangar was designed to accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 747-8 and can suppress noise emissions as high as 156 dB (measured near the engine) down to less than 60 dB in areas outside the hangar.

What’s next (for aircraft engines)

The GE90 and its carbon fiber fan blades made their debut in 1995 on a British Airways 777. While engines from other manufacturers power some variants of the 777, the GE90 is the exclusive powerplant on the -300ER, -200LR, and Freighter.

“It took GE another 15 years to break the record, which they did at 134,300 lbs. of thrust with the new GE9X engine,” GE Aviation’s website notes. The GE9X is the exclusive powerplant of the Boeing 777X, an aircraft that will hopefully see its entry into commercial service sometime in late 2023 or early 2024.

Did you miss our previous article…


Jet Airways 2.0 Is Reportedly Eyeing A Huge New Aircraft Order

The new owners of India’s former full-service carrier Jet Airways are reportedly in talks with airplane manufacturers for a huge order. For months now, Jet Airways’ revival plans have intrigued industry professionals, former Jet loyalists, and aviation enthusiasts alike. News of Jet’s potential aircraft order worth billions has further added momentum to the carrier’s second attempt at taking to the skies. Here’s what we know so far…

New owners of Jet Airways are reportedly planning a new airplane order. Photo: Getty Images

Giant order

A report by Bloomberg News suggests that the new owners of Jet Airways, the Jalan-Kalrock Consortium, are in conversation with both Boeing and Airbus for an order of at least 100 narrowbodies for around $12 billion.

Ankit Jalan, the nephew of one of the winning bidders Murari Lal Jalan, spoke with Bloomberg about Jet 2.0’s resurrection strategy. If all goes according to plan, the group could infuse around $200 million via equity and debt over the next six months.

The latest news follows a series of steps in the carrier’s revival plans – from the new owners winning the bid and the National Companies Law Tribunal (NCLT) approving Jet’s revival plan in June to the renewal process of the airline’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC).

Jet Airways Boeing 737s
The new order could be at least 100 narrowbodies worth almost $12 billion. Photo: Getty Images

Speaking about how Jet is gearing up for its relaunch in the coming few months, Jalan said,

“We are working on all the things that we need to do to make an airline operational — whether that’s the training infrastructure, whether that’s the IT systems, whether it’s the marketing plan — all that is being worked upon as we speak. All these things will come beautifully together in the next two or three months.”

irbus or Boeing?

Jet Airways is left with just a handful of planes and will need fleet consolidation before restarting operations. The plan for 100+ airplanes is aligned with the company’s long-term expansion strategy, and the latest report has left many wondering whether the new planes will be American or European.

Airbus has delivered a hit with its A320neo family of jets, with customers lining up with purchase orders. Naturally, the European manufacturer’s delivery slots are booked for several years. But it’s being reported that Airbus is looking for a possible early delivery schedule, should a deal with Jet materialize.

737 MAX Jet Airways
While Airbus has its hands full with many A320 orders, Boeing could win over Jet with a competitive price for its MAX planes. Photo: Getty Images

Then we have Boeing, which recently got a new lease of life in India’s narrowbody market with a lucrative deal with Akasa. To further bolster its position in India, Boeing could offer a competitive price to Jet to outbid its European competitor. Jalan also hinted that Boeing could dust off the previous order of 225 MAX airplanes by Jet before it went bust.

Creating space again

The aviation landscape in India has seen significant changes since Jet Airways’ demise in 2019. Jet’s new owners are infusing working capital to resurrect a full-service airline at a time when Indian skies are set to witness a huge churn.

Jalan has said that Jet’s second stint will be like the first one – it will be a full-service carrier with a business class and a frequent flyer program. The airline will once again look to woo the corporate traveler, particularly on busy trunk routes as it once did in its glory days.

But with the Tatas most probably merging Air India and Vistara for a solid full-service product and the ever-hungry low-cost carriers dominating the domestic market, just how much space is left for Jet 2.0?

Jalan believes there is “enough room” in India for more airplanes and says that Jet also has the advantage of its legacy and loyal customer base, stating,

“The reaction that we saw of the Jet Airways brand coming back was motivation in itself. That’s exactly why Jet is coming back; to serve the loyal fan base, to serve the people who miss Jet.”

What are your thoughts on Jet’s revival plan? Please share your comments below.


Late Start Diverts American Airlines Delhi-New York Flight To Gander

An ultra-long-haul flight, a substantially late start, and a longer-than-usual route – not the best of combinations when flying between cities pretty much on opposite sides of the world. But that’s precisely what happened to an American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER flying from New Delhi (DEL) to New York City (JFK) on November 29th. The otherwise non-stop flight had to make a stopover at Gandor airport before continuing on to JFK. Let’s find out more.

American Airlines’ 777 flying from Delhi to NYC had to be diverted to Gander due to the crew timing out. Photo: Getty Images.

Late start leads to diversion

American Airlines flight AA293 has a scheduled departure time of 12:55 am from New Delhi to New York JFK. The daily non-stop service between the two cities was recently inaugurated on November 12th, marking the official return of the airline to India since 2012.

The ultra-long-haul flight cannot use the Russian airspace for now (more on that later), which means that the aircraft has to take a longer route both ways, with the return flight to NYC being the longer of the two. Any significant delay for this particular flight risks the crew timing out and not completing the entire flight.

And that’s what happened on November 29th, when the flight to NYC was delayed by almost four hours. As reported by One Mile At A Time, the crew had two options – to cancel the flight or divert it to an intermediate point and have a crew change. The carrier chose the latter.

The airplane made a stop at Gander, and American had to fly another crew to the airport to complete the remainder of the 777’s flight to New York.

Late Start Diverts American Airlines Delhi-New York Flight To Gander
American had a crew change for the second leg of the flight from Gander to JFK. Photo:

Longer route

Non-stop flights between India and the US are some of the longest in the world and mostly require rights to overfly Russian airspace for a more efficient route. Air India and United routinely take this route on their India-US flights to save both time and fuel.

One Mile At A Time reports that American Airlines currently does not have permission to use Russian airspace for this route. The airline’s management best knows the reason for this – perhaps there has been a delay in applying for airspace rights.

This has made an already long flight even longer, sometimes stretching the one back to NYC for more than 16 hours. The report suggests that Eric Ferguson, the president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), is not happy with the new route to Delhi as the airline has been staffing the flight with just one captain and three first officers. Because of the longer route due to the Russian airspace problem and the flight almost reaching 16 hours, it should ideally have two captains.

American 777-300ER
American doesn’t have permission to overfly Russian airspace for this particular flight yet, making it take a longer route. Photo: Getty Images

Flights of this duration leave little room for significant delays. American Airlines does use the Russian airspace for some of its other flights, so it seems the carrier has had some delays in completing the necessary formalities to acquire the rights for the JFK-DEL flights. Hopefully, this is a minor hiccup along the way to what one expects to be a long and successful return of American Airlines to India.

Have you traveled non-stop between India and the US? What has your experience been like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Aurigny Borrows A Small Plane From The Isles Of Scilly

Isles of Scilly Skybus is down by one aircraft as one of the fleet’s Twin Otters has been drafted to support an Aurigny Air Services route. Guernsey-based Aurigny had to borrow the plane for its Alderney air routes due to one of its Dornier Do-228-200s undergoing maintenance.

The aircraft coming from Isles of Scilly Skybus is a Twin Otter registered G-CEWM. Photo: Isles of Scilly Skybus

G-CEWM chosen for the mission

According to the BBC, an aircraft from the Isles of Scilly Skybus fleet has been drafted to cover for an Aurigny aircraft while it undergoes maintenance. The Skybus aircraft, a Twin Otter, will operate Aurigny’s Alderney routes.

Temporarily out of commission and undergoing routine maintenance is one of Aurigny’s Dornier Do-228-200s, of which the airline has three. In its place is the De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter registered G-CEWM.

Since yesterday, November 25th, the aircraft has been operating a number of Aurigny routes, with data from showing the following flights completed by the Twin Otter:

GR202GR501GR502GR505GR506Aurigny tells the BBC that the Isles of Scilly Skybus plane would be used until the completion of the Dornier’s scheduled maintenance.

Aurigny Air Services
The Skybus Twin Otter replaces one of Aurigny’s Dornier turboprops, pictured here. Photo: David Jones via Wikimedia Commons Stay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

bout the aircraft

The aircraft called upon to fill in at Aurigny Air Services is a De Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter, currently registered G-CEWM. The turboprop took its first flight in December 1979 and was initially registered as PZ-TCE to fly with South African carrier Surinam Airways.

The Twin Otter then spent some time with Desert Sand Aircraft Leasing, registered as N70551. It wasn’t until 2008 that the plane joined the fleet of Isles of Scilly Skybus. According to, the 42-year-old aircraft had initially been configured with 20 seats but now only seats 19.

Twin Otter Isles of Sicily
The Skybus aircraft is now 42 years of age. Photo: Rob Hodgkins via Flickr 

Where do these airlines fly?

Both airlines connect mainland Britain to various islands located south of England in the English Channel and the Celtic Sea. Skybus has eight aircraft while Aurigny has seven (including a single 122-seat Embraer E190).

While two carriers and their small fleets of island-hopper aircraft have no overlap, both serve the city of Exeter.

Aurigny route map
The route map belonging to Aurigny Air Services. The carrier notably offers service to London Gatwick. Photo: Aurigny Air Services

While Skybus’ home base is Land’s End (LEQ), Aurigny’s hub is Guernsey (GCI). However, Aurigny also has bases located at Alderney Airport (ACI) and Jersey (JER).

Flying since 1984, Skybus operates routes to St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, which is just a short 20-minute flight from Land’s End Airport or 30 minutes from Newquay and 60 minutes from Exeter. This allows for connections to regional services throughout the UK.

Skybus route
The small route map belonging to Skybus. Photo: Isles of Scilly Skybus

Have you ever flown with either of these airlines? Which route did you fly, and on what aircraft? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment.


Brussels Airlines Expands Its Fleet With A 9th Airbus A330 Jet

On November 22nd, Brussels Airlines announced that it will be adding a 9th Airbus A330 to its fleet. However, according to the airline’s statement, this new aircraft won’t be coming anytime soon, with an operational start of June 2022. The new addition rebuilds the Brussels long-haul fleet and facilitates growth in the African market.

Moving forward, the aircraft of Brussels Airlines will have a new, brighter livery. Photo: Brussels Airlines

Seven months’ notice

While we’re used to hearing about fleet expansions extremely early when it comes to brand new aircraft (that may not necessarily be produced yet), it’s interesting to have Brussels Airlines announce an additional A330 some seven months in advance.

The airline says that its 9th Airbus A330 will “become operational” in the Brussels Airlines fleet as of June 2022. The carrier exclusively operates the -300 variant of the A330, it should be a safe bet that this 9th aircraft will be the same.

The additional widebody will be used by the carrier to support its African operations, as it noted in Monday’s statement:

“With the extra capacity, the Africa expert of the Lufthansa Group will reopen the West African stations Conakry and Ouagadougou and add frequencies on its routes from Brussels Airport to Freetown, Monrovia, Banjul and Lomé.” -Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-342 OO-SFD
A member of the Star Alliance and the Lufthansa Group, one of Brussels Airlines’ core strengths is connecting Europe to Africa. The airline considers Africa its most important market.  Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple FlyingStay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Shrinking and growing

At this time, Brussels Airlines has a total of eight Airbus A330-300s. However, in previous years, the carrier had as many as 12. This figure went down to 10 just before the global health crisis and was brought further down to just eight due to industry-wide challenges. This fleet reduction was part of the carrier’s “turnaround program in 2020.”

One route suspended in 2020 was its African service to Conakry (Guinea) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). The inclusion of this 9th jet will allow the carrier to resume this service and will see it operate three weekly flights to the West African nations, “as well as add additional frequencies to Freetown, Monrovia, Banjul, and Lomé.”

“We always said that we would go for growth as soon as market conditions permitted. As we see a strong demand in the West African market, we want to take the opportunity to go for growth and invest in an expansion of our African network. –Peter Gerber, CEO, Brussels Airlines

Brussels Airlines Airbus A330-342 OO-SFD (2)
Additional staff will be brought on as part of Brussels Airlines’ recovery. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Where will this aircraft come from?

The airline didn’t specify exactly which aircraft would be its 9th A330. However, the airline’s announcement noted that the jet would be an “allocation,” indicating that it would likely come as a reshuffle within the Lufthansa Group.

We do know that the airline “lost” its other A330s to Eurowings over the course of the pandemic. Of course, these jets have been repainted and reconfigured to meet Eurowings’ needs, but it might be more profitable for Lufthansa Group to shift one of these aircraft back to Brussels Airlines. Otherwise, there are a number of SWISS A330-300s stored in Amman (Jordan) at the moment. Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see where this allocated aircraft will come from.

Where do you think Brussels Airlines will get this additional A330-300? Let us know by leaving a comment.

Did you miss our previous article…


Indian Airports Ordered To Phase Out Older Inefficient Vehicles

The Indian government’s plan of sustainable aviation practices in the country gained further momentum with the decision to replace all old airport equipment by next year. While some airports have already incorporated electric vehicles into their operations, the new mandate applies to all airports handling more than 3.5 million passengers per year.

Major Indian Airports have been asked to use electric equipment by May next year. Photo: Getty Images

Eco-friendly equipment

The Ministry of Civil Aviation of India (MoCA) is taking its aim for carbon-neutral airports seriously by giving a tight deadline to many airports to replace inefficient equipment. By May 2022, Airlines and Ground Handling (GH) companies have to find electric or more fuel-efficient replacements for their current equipment.

Once implemented, one could expect several airports in India to operate more sustainable transport buses, pushback tugs, baggage tractors, and a host of other equipment that help in passenger and cargo loading and cleaning aircraft, etc.

The Business Standard cites MoCA’s November 1st order, which says,

“It has been decided that all GH agencies and airlines doing self-handling at airports having passenger movement of more than 3.5 million passengers per annum shall comply with the minimum standard of ground support equipment and vehicle.”

So far, airports in the country have been following their own policies on such initiatives. This new mandate will help standardize the procedure and will affect around 25 airports.

Tight deadline

While the move is accepted and appreciated across the board, many feel that the deadline of May 2022 is pretty tight. The last two years haven’t been the best for airlines and aviation companies. The financial burden inherited following the pandemic makes it tricky for these new changes to be implemented in less than a year.

The order says that no ground support equipment older than 12 years will be allowed, even if refurbished. But many believe that the policy could be relaxed for certain equipment, such as the low ladders, that can be used up to 20 years when refurbished according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Delhi Airport
While the move is being appreciated, many feel the implementation deadline is tight. Photo: Getty Images

Procuring new equipment takes time, and airlines and GH companies feel that May 2022 is cutting it close. The Business Standard report quotes R Ramana, Director and CEO of GH agency AISATS as saying,

“The norms will require us to make multi crore investments. Equipment such as pushback tractors or low loaders (pallet loaders) are made to order. Usually it takes 6-8 months to receive them after placing an order. The intent of the policy is right… But its implementation timeline needs to be stretched and tailored so that airlines and ground handling companies are able to meet the conditions based on the capital expenditure implications.”

Green push

MoCA’s order is part of a larger plan by the Indian government to make Indian aviation, among other sectors, more sustainable and in sync with the global aviation industry’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

In June this year, Delhi and Hyderabad airports received ACI Asia-Pacific Green Airports Recognition for embracing newer technologies. Delhi was lauded for reducing carbon emissions by using TaxiBot for aircraft pushback; Hyderabad was praised for improving air quality at the airport by using electric equipment such as Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) and solar-powered Baggage Freight Loader (BFL), etc.

Delhi airport
Delhi airport has been lauded for using TaxiBots and becoming the first single-use plastic-free airport in the country. Photo: Getty Images

In February last year, Delhi’s IGI Airport also became the first in the country to be free of single-use plastics. Down south, Cochin airport became the first fully solar-powered airport in the world in 2015.

The global aviation sector has been pushing hard for better and efficient aircraft, sustainable fuel, and airport equipment. The contribution of an enormous aviation market like India is definitely required.

What are your thoughts on the Indian government’s plans for sustainable aviation in the country? Please leave your comments.

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From Kuala Lumpur To The World: The History Of Malaysia Airlines

Closing in on its seventy-fifth birthday, Malaysia Airlines is one of Asia’s most high-profile airlines. Nowadays, Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysia Airlines’ 99 aircraft flies 116 routes to 76 destinations in 22 countries. In addition to a comprehensive domestic and regional network, Malaysia Airlines has a presence throughout Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe.

A Malaysian Airways Fokker F27 Friendship photographed around 1970. Photo: foundin_a_attic via Flickr

The airline can trace its history through several name changes and ownership changes to 1947, when Malayan Airways Limited operated its first passenger flight. At the time, modern-day Malaysia did not exist. More recently, it hasn’t been the easiest ride for Malaysia Airlines. The contemporary state-owned airline has struggled to make a profit with the recent travel downturn has also highlighting the airline’s financial stresses.

post-WWII airline that grew fast

That early postwar airline, Malayan Airways, operated out of Singapore. The airline, a collaboration between Straits Steamship Company and Imperial Airways, operated Airspeed Consul twin-engined aircraft. The first passenger flight was on April 2, 1947. Five passengers flew between Singapore’s Kallang Airport and Kuala Lumpur’s Sungai Besi Airport.

With the input of airlines from friendly countries, Malayan Airways grew rapidly. By 1955, the airline was flying Douglas DC-3s. Within 20 years of that first flight, Malayan Airlines was flying a wide variety of planes, including the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, Vickers Viscount, Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, Bristol Britannia, de Havilland Comet 4, and Fokker F27.

In 1960, Malayan Airlines commenced its first long-haul flight to Hong Kong, using an 84-seat Bristol Britannia. Three years later, in 1963, modern-day Malaysia was born, and Malayan Airways rebranded to Malaysian Airways – just a tweak but one that better reflected the airline’s home base. In the same year, five ultra-modern Fokker F27 Friendships landed at Malaysian Airways.

A MAS De Havilland Comet 4 photographed in the late 1960s. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons

Malaysian Airlines System (MAS) breaks away from Singapore

In 1966, Singapore broke away from Malaysia to form the contemporary stand-alone city-state, and Malaysian Airways renamed to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MAS). Within a short time frame, Boeing 707s and 737s began arriving at the airline. But 20 years after formation, the airline was beginning to experience some growing pains.

Core to the problem were the differing interests of the two owners – the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia. As a city-state, Singapore had an outward focus and wanted to build up the airline’s international network. Malaysia wanted to focus on domestic routes at home.

That strategic conflict led to the break up of the airline in 1972. The two new airlines were named Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airline System, informally known as MAS. Singapore Airlines took the Boeing 707s and 737s and began flights out of Singapore. MAS took the Fokkers and started concentrating on domestic routes and some international services from Kuala Lumpur.

After the breakup, MAS was operating 19 aircraft, including jets capable of operating flights through to London. With the advent of DC-10-30 aircraft in 1976, MAS flights to Amsterdam, Paris, and Frankfurt began.

Under Malaysian Government ownership, MAS really began spreading its wings. Like the present day, emerging nation-states put a lot of value on their national carriers having both an extensive network and a high profile. Malaysia was no exception.

Malaysian Airlines System received its first Boeing 737 in 1993. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

sian Financial Crisis deals MAS a body blow

By the 1980s, MAS was flying to 47 overseas destinations. In addition to an extensive network throughout Asia, MAS flew to eight airports in Europe, seven airports across Oceania, as well as Los Angeles and Honolulu. MAS has always concentrated on Europe and Ocean at the expense of the Americas, where it struggled to make flights profitable. But that didn’t stop MAS from having a go. Over the years, they’ve tried flights as far afield as Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

Nonetheless, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, MAS grew into a significant long-haul airline. However, the airline was dealt a serious blow with the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. A series of financial losses caused MAS to undertake what nowadays would be called a “transformation program.”

Aside from one noteworthy annual profit in the early 2000s, the period of financial turbulence lasted well over a decade. Loss-making long-haul routes got the ax, but that couldn’t offset rising salary, airport, and aircraft costs. Fuel costs and poor revenue management would prove particularly problematic.

Towards the end of this century’s first decade, a business turnaround plan executed by a new CEO got the airline back into the black. CEO Idris Jala made some big changes at MAS. He rationalized routes, including ending all unprofitable international flights. MAS changed from a predominantly point-to-point airline to a hub-and-spoke airline.

Idris Jala also got serious about revenue management. He was so successful the Malaysian Government wanted him in the national cabinet. His successor, Tengku Azmil Zahruddin, took over in 2009. Around this time, a raft of new aircraft orders went in, including for Boeing 737s, Airbus A330s, and Airbus A380s.

Malaysia Airlines, Airbus A380, Retirement
Malaysia Airlines brought the Airbus A380 into service in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

troubled last decade at Malaysia Airlines

The last decade has been a turbulent one for MAS. The airline rebranded once again, this time to Malaysia Airlines. But the legacy airline struggled to compete against the rise of nimble low-cost airlines. This was perhaps best illustrated by the arrival of the expensive A380s in 2012. The big jumbos rapidly became an albatross for Malaysia Airlines.

Two high-profile incidents also kept Malaysia Airlines in the public eye for all the wrong reasons. Flight 370, a Boeing 777-200ER, and its 239 people onboard mysteriously vanished in 2014. Searches have never found that plane. In the same year, another 777-200ER was hit by a missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 onboard.

High turnover of executives, plans to delist the airline, rebranding, and cultural issues at Malaysia Airlines combined with financial issues to create a perfect storm of problems. The recent travel downturn was the icing on the cake, but the ongoing problems at Malaysia Airlines predate that.

It would be enough to end most airlines, but Malaysia Airlines survives. Owned by a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, the airline may be a shadow of its former self and still in trouble, but Malaysia Airlines is hanging in there. The airline is still flying and waiting for better days. In 2021, Malaysia Airlines remains a highly recognized carrier with an excellent inflight product.

Malaysia Airlines will be back better than ever as people start flying again, rebuilding and planning to capture a slice of the glory days before the Asian Financial Crisis.