WestJet returns its Boeing 737 MAX to service

WestJet today returned the first of its 737 MAX aircraft to passenger service with the departure of WS115 from Calgary to Vancouver. With the second 737 MAX flight, WS122, from Vancouver to Calgary departing at noon PT.

On board the first flight were 71 guests including Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, Chris Burley, WestJet Board Chair and Chris Rauenbusch, President, CUPE Local 4070 and a member of WestJet’s Inflight team. The aircraft was piloted by Captain David Colquhoun, WestJet Master Executive Council Chair, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and Captain Scott Wilson, Vice President WestJet Operations.

“The return of WestJet’s MAX aircraft to the fleet marks an operational milestone after 22 months of intense review,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “WestJet’s preparation, training processes, due diligence and safety above all philosophy drives our confidence in welcoming guests on board our MAX aircraft.”

Captain David Colquhoun, WestJet Master Executive Council Chair, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said, “For nearly two years, ALPA has been working tirelessly with Transport Canada, international regulators, and airline management on reviewing the MAX and the revised pilot training requirements needed to safely return this aircraft to service. No one knows better than airline pilots what is needed to be adequately prepared and trained to manage the handling qualities of this renewed aircraft. Today, as we usher the safe return of the MAX in Canada, ALPA will continue to provide its expertise and voice of safety in future discussions.”

“I was proud to operate the MAX aircraft today on its first commercial flight since the Canadian skies reopened,” said Captain Scott Wilson, WestJet Vice President Operations. “I am confident with the changes made to the aircraft and our training procedures, our MAX is one of the safest aircraft in the skies.”

Chris Rauenbusch, President CUPE Local 4070 said, “CUPE Local 4070, the union representing WestJet cabin crew members, has full confidence in the return of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to the workplace of our membership. Union representatives participated in a full technical briefing at Boeing facilities in Seattle, WA and following further data from Transport Canada, Boeing and WestJet, the union is confident that this aircraft type is safe for our cabin crew and our guests.”

Video:

Southwest Airlines service in Fresno and Santa Barbara to begin in April 2021

Southwest Airlines today published initial flight schedules for the carrier’s next two airports to be served in California, Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and Santa Barbara Airport (SBA), with service beginning in April 2021.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF., SERVICE BEGINS APRIL 12, 2021
Starting April 12, 2021, Southwest Customers will be able to fly between Santa Barbara, Calif. and more than 50 airports with three destinations offered nonstop: DenverLas Vegas, and Oakland.

Fly nonstop between

Santa Barbara and:

Initial daily service:

One-way fares
as low as:

Denver

1 flight each way

$69

Las Vegas

3 flights each way

$39

Oakland

1 flight each way

$39

The number of seats, days, and markets for these fares are limited. 

FRESNO, CALIF., SERVICE BEGINS APRIL 25, 2021
Starting April 25, 2021, Southwest Customers will be able to fly between Fresno, Calif. and more than 50 airports with two destinations offered nonstop: Denver and Las Vegas.

Fly nonstop between

Fresnoand:

Initial daily service:

One-way fares
as low as:

Denver

1 flight each way

$69

Las Vegas

3 flights each way

$39

The number of seats, days, and markets for these fares are limited. 

Air Canada to suspend service to Yellowknife, also in Newfoundland and Labrador, 737 MAX to return on February 1

Air Canada is adjusting its route map due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions and lower travel demand.

Service to the far north in Yellowknife will be suspended on January 23 until further notice.

The airline is also suspending some service in the Atlantic Provinces. Flights between Gander and Halifax, Goose Bay and Halifax, and St. John’s and Toronto also will be suspended on  January 23.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/499410177″>Air Canada to Resume Boeing 737 MAX Commercial Operations</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/aircanadamedia”>Air Canada</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In other news, Air Canada made this announcement concerning the return of the Boeing 737 MAX:

Air Canada said that following Transport Canada’s (TC) Airworthiness Directive and January 20, 2021 lifting of the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the aircraft ungrounding by regulatory bodies worldwide, and the carrier’s own independent assessments of the aircraft and operating procedures by its specialized safety and flight operations experts, it will be resuming Boeing 737 MAX commercial operations on February 1, 2021.

“We are very confident the nearly two-year regulatory process undertaken by Transport Canada and other regulators worldwide ensures the utmost safety of the Boeing 737 MAX fleet from nose to tail, and from wing to wing.  As part of Air Canada’s multi-layered approach to reinforcing and enhancing safety, our internal experts have also worked with independent specialists to conduct assessments of the aircraft and our operating procedures,” said Captain Murray Strom, Vice President, Flight Operations at Air Canada.

“In addition to implementing all required updates and modifications to the aircraft, Air Canada has gone beyond by equipping its fleet with additional safety-enhancing features that exceed required regulatory standards. These measures are backed by our industry-leading flight operations, the extensive, comprehensive training programs our pilots and maintenance engineers regularly undergo, and our industry-renowned flight data analysis. Customers can therefore be assured that every crew member operating our fleet and the many employee teams working behind the scenes have an unwavering commitment to safety.  We look forward to welcoming you onboard,” concluded Captain Strom.

The 737 MAX will gradually return to Air Canada’s North American route network as the airline continues to optimize its narrow body fleet.

Routes operated by the Boeing 737 MAX:

Beginning Feb. 1, Air Canada’s 737 MAX will operate select flights between:

  • Toronto and: Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg

Air Canada will continue to deploy the fleet on routes that are best suited for its range and capacity.

Green Africa Airways is getting ready to start operations

Green Africa Airways (Lagos) now intends to launch operations in the first quarter of 2021.

As previously reported, the upstart signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for 50 Airbus A220-300s after canceling its order for 50 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. Deliveries for the A220s will start later this year.

Initially the new airline will commence operations on domestic routes with leased bridge aircraft.

The new airline is currently in the final stages of securing its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

Green Africa is owned by Babawande Afolabi.

Singapore Airlines plans to be the first airline to vaccinate its work force

Singapore Airlines intends to vaccinate its front-line workers as part of a national effort. Front-line workers in the aviation and maritime industries will be vaccinated within the next two months.

The airline hopes to be the first airline in the world to vaccinates its work force.

KLM halts all long-haul flights to Amsterdam due to new COVID-19 rules

From Reuters:

“KLM, the Dutch subsidiary of Air France KLM, will halt all its 270 weekly long-haul flights to the Netherlands from Friday after new COVID-19 rules were imposed by the Dutch government, a spokeswoman for the airline said.

Among a series of new regulations announced on Wednesday was a requirement for passengers and crew to show evidence of a second negative rapid coronavirus test taken just before departure.”

Brussels Airlines signs ground handling contract with Alyzia

Brussels Airlines has made this announcement:

Following the bankruptcy of its handling partner Swissport Belgium in June 2020, Brussels Airlines initiated a procedure to search for a new ground handler in its home base at Brussels Airport. As the bankruptcy vacated the second handling license at the airport, several contenders entered the Belgian market to run for a permanent license. In December, the second permanent operating license was granted to Alyzia, a French company serving over 80 airlines in 8 French airports.

After a thorough tender process that took several months and which was based on quality, performance and cost criteria, Brussels Airlines decided to appoint Alyzia as its new ground handling provider at Brussels Airport as of 1 April 2021. The contract foresees a cooperation until at least 31 March 2024. The contract includes ramp handling (including baggage handling, tarmac handling and de-icing, among other services) and the management of Brussels Airlines’ Lost&Found service. Until the end of March 2021, Brussels Airlines’ ground handling continues to be managed by Aviapartner, the other license holder.

 

Norwegian appreciates support from the Norwegian Government

Norwegian is pleased to announce that the government of Norway has decided to support and contribute to the airline’s funding of new capital, pending certain conditions. This move significantly increases Norwegian’s chances of working through the crisis caused by the pandemic and to position itself as a key player within Norwegian and European aviation.

“On behalf of everyone at Norwegian, I would like to sincerely thank the government for their support. Norwegian has been faced with a very challenging and demanding situation due to the pandemic, and the government’s support significantly increases our chances of raising new capital and getting us through the reconstruction process we are currently in. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but a participation from the government underscores that we are heading in the right direction,” said Norwegian CEO, Jacob Schram.

Norwegian entered into an Irish examinership process and a supplementary reconstruction negotiation in Norway late last year. On January 14, 2021, the airline presented a new business plan (LINK) based on a simplified business structure with a focus on a European route network and discontinuing its long-haul operations, as well as significantly reducing its debt. The plan comprises a fleet of around 50 aircraft in operation this year, and to gradually increase to approximately 70 aircraft in 2022, pending demand and potential travel restrictions. The debt will be reduced to around NOK 20 billion, and the company will raise four to five billion NOK in new capital.

“With a new business plan, and a participation from the government, we are confident we can attract investors and get through the Examinership and reconstruction process. We have received extensive support from political parties, customers, colleagues, shareholders, and business partners, for which we are extremely grateful, especially during these challenging times. Furthermore, the government’s support will contribute to help securing jobs and maintain healthy competition within the aviation sector,” added Schram.

United reported a fourth quarter net loss of $1.9 billion, $7.1 billion for the full-year 2020

United Airlines (UAL) has announced fourth quarter and full-year 2020 financial results. The company continues its efforts to lead the industry as it manages the most disruptive crisis in aviation history.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, United has raised over $26 billion in liquidity and made important progress in reducing core cash burn (see detailed chart below) to ensure the company’s survival. Over the last three quarters, the company has identified $1.4 billion of annual cost savings and has a path to achieve at least $2.0 billion in structural reductions moving forward. United ended 2020 with $19.7 billion in available liquidity1, including an undrawn revolver capacity and funds available under the CARES Act loan program from the U.S. Treasury.

Having stabilized its financial foundation, the company expects 2021 to be a transition year that’s focused on preparing for a recovery. United has resumed heavy maintenance and engine overhauls, investments that are essential to recovery when demand returns. The combination of structural cost reduction and timely investments will help set up United to exceed its 2019 adjusted Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) margin in 2023. The company expressed high confidence that it would achieve this target by 2023 – and said its ongoing recovery planning would help ensure the company was equipped to reach this level even sooner, if demand returns more quickly.

“Aggressively managing the challenges of 2020 depended on our innovation and fast-paced decision making. But, the truth is that COVID-19 has changed United Airlines forever,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. “The passion, teamwork and perseverance that the United team showed in 2020 is exactly what will help us build a new United Airlines that’s better, stronger and more profitable than ever. I could not be prouder of – and more grateful to – this team, which is going to lead us there.”

_____________________________________________________________________

* Adjusted EBITDA margin is a non-GAAP financial measure calculated as Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA), excluding special charges and unrealized (gains) losses on investments, divided by total operating revenue. We are not providing a target or a reconciliation to profit margin (net income/total operating revenue), the most directly comparable GAAP measure, because we are unable to predict certain items contained in the GAAP measure without unreasonable efforts. Adjusted EBITDA margin does not reflect certain items, including special charges and unrealized (gains) losses on investments, which may be significant. For a reconciliation of adjusted EBITDA to net income for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, please see the accompanying tables to this release.

Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year 2020 Financial Results

  • Reported fourth-quarter net loss of $1.9 billion$7.1 billion for the full-year 2020.
  • Reported fourth-quarter adjusted net loss2 of $2.1 billion$7.7 billion for the full-year 2020.
  • Reported fourth-quarter total operating revenue of $3.4 billion, down 69% versus fourth-quarter 2019.
  • Reported fourth-quarter operating expenses down 45% versus fourth-quarter 2019, down 42% excluding special charges3.

Core Cash Burn

  • Reported fourth-quarter daily cash burn4 of $23 million, plus $10 million of average debt principal payments and severance payments per day.
  • Reported fourth-quarter core cash burn4 of $19 million per day, an improvement of an average of $5 million per day versus the third-quarter 2020.
  • Core cash burn captures underlying operational performance of the company throughout the pandemic; a reconciliation with cash burn4 is provided below.

$M/day

2Q20

3Q20

4Q20

Cash burn4

$(40)

$(25)

$(33)

  Debt principal and severance payments

(3)

(4)

(10)

  Timing of certain payments5

2

1

(2)

  Investments in the recovery6

(1)

(2)

  Capital expenditures, net of flight equipment purchase deposit returns

4

(1)

Core cash burn4

$(38)

$(24)

$(19)

First Quarter 2021 Outlook

  • Based on current trends, the company expects first quarter 2021 total operating revenue to be down 65 percent to 70 percent versus the first quarter 2019. Accelerated distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine may lead to faster improvement, however, the company is not including this potential improvement in its first quarter 2021 revenue outlook.
  • Expects first quarter 2021 capacity to be down at least 51 percent versus the first quarter of 2019.
  • Expects first quarter 2021 ending available liquidity to be similar to year-end 2020 available liquidity of around $19.7 billion1.

Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Highlights

  • Completed $3 billion Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificate (EETC) transaction; the largest deal of this type in aviation history.
  • First U.S. airline to leverage its loyalty program, MileagePlus®, as collateral for a $6.8B loan.
  • Received $968 million in net proceeds from the sale of 20.8 million shares in the ATM program in the fourth quarter 2020. For the full year 2020, total net proceeds were $989 million from the sale of 21.4 million shares through the ATM program.
  • Only airline to partner with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and Air Mobility Command (AMC) to study how effectively the unique airflow configuration on board an aircraft can prevent the spread of aerosolized particles among passengers and crew.
  • First airline to safely transport the first delivery of Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine into the U.S.
  • First among U.S. global airlines to permanently eliminate change fees on all standard economy and premium cabin tickets for travel within the U.S., and starting January 1, 2021, any United customer can fly standby for free on a flight departing the day of their travel regardless of the type of ticket or class of service.
  • Announced bold environmental commitment unmatched by any airline; pledging 100% green by reducing greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050.
  • First U.S. airline to implement schedule reductions due to sharp travel demand drop.
  • Increased cargo revenue by an industry-leading 77 percent in the fourth quarter by leveraging international flying and deploying strategic international cargo-only missions.
  • Launched the world’s first free transatlantic COVID-19 testing pilot for customers.
  • First U.S. airline to launch a COVID-19 testing program for customers traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii.
  • Since COVID-19 began, first major U.S. airline to require masks onboard. In the third quarter, extended mask requirements to airport terminals.
  • One of the first U.S. airlines to enforce policy banning customers for refusing to follow mask requirements.
  • First major U.S. airline to ask all passengers to complete a health self-assessment during their check-in process based on recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic.
  • First airline to contact customers when flights are more than 70% full to give them the opportunity to change their plans for free.
  • First U.S. airline to introduce a tool like the Destination Travel Guide, a new interactive map tool on united.com and the United mobile app that allows customers to filter and view destinations’ COVID-19 related travel restrictions.
  • First U.S. airline to introduce an interactive map feature for customers on united.com, powered by Google Flight Search Enterprise Technology, to easily compare and shop for flights based on departure city, budget, and location type. Customers can simultaneously compare travel to various destinations in a single search.
  • First U.S. airline whose CEO took a 100% salary cut.

Taking Care of Our Customers

  • Launched United CleanPlusSM to reinforce the company’s commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of the entire customer experience, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness, including partnerships with Clorox and experts from the Cleveland Clinic.
  • First and only airline to maximize ventilation systems by running the auxiliary power on mainline aircraft during the entire boarding and deplaning process, so customers and crew get the important safety benefits provided by high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems.
  • Electrostatic spraying aircraft interiors on all U.S. flights.
  • Began using new Clorox® Electrostatic Sprayers to disinfect airport terminals.
  • Introduced customer COVID-19 testing from Houston to Latin American and Caribbean destinations.
  • Began working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the first contact tracing initiative for all international and domestic flights.
  • Added Zoono Microbe Shield, an EPA-registered antimicrobial coating that forms a long-lasting bond with surfaces and inhibits the growth of microbes, to the airline’s already rigorous safety and cleaning procedures.
  • Launched an automated assistant chat function that gives customers a contactless option to receive immediate access to information about cleaning and safety procedures put in place due to COVID-19.
  • Began cleaning pilot flight decks with Ultraviolet C (UVC) lighting technology on most aircraft at hub airports to disinfect the flight deck interior and continue providing pilots with a sanitary work environment.
  • Expanded touchless check-in capabilities to kiosks at more than 215 airports.
  • Launched free COVID-19 testing to all employees and checks their temperatures before they begin work at all U.S. airports.
  • In May, started providing individually wrapped hand wipes and snack bag with pretzels, Stroopwafel and water to reduce touchpoints.
  • Redesigned United’s Mobile App to be more accessible for people with visual disabilities.
  • Announced changes to the MileagePlus Premier® program that will make it easier to earn status in 2021 for the 2022 program year.
  • Launched virtual, on-demand customer service at the airport.
  • Announced plan to continue installing United Polaris® Business Class on Boeing 787 fleet.

Reimagining the Route Network

  • In 2020, started 43 domestic routes and 10 international routes, with 15 more international routes planned to launch in 2021.
  • In 4Q, responded to Thanksgiving travel demand by adding over 1,400 domestic flights to the November schedule.
  • In 4Q, expanded service to India with 4 daily flights including the addition of O’Hare to Delhi; United remains the only U.S. carrier to serve India.
  • Compared to September, United had nonstop service in 23 more domestic and 8 more international routes in October, 37 more domestic and 32 more international routes in November, and 95 more domestic and 53 more international routes in December.
  • Announced plans to return service to New York/JFK after a five-year absence, with two daily round-trips to both San Francisco and Los Angeles starting in February 2021.

Assisting the Communities We Serve

  • Through a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights, United has transported more than 401 million pounds of freight, which includes 87 million pounds of vital shipments, such as COVID-19 vaccines, medical kits, PPE, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment, and more than 3.4 million pounds of military mail and packages.
  • Booked over 2,900 free flights for medical professionals to support COVID-19 response in New Jersey/New York and California.
  • Using crowdsourcing platform – Miles on a Mission – donated more than 11 million miles for charities like the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, College to Congress, and Compass to Care.
  • More than 19.2 million miles were donated by MileagePlus members and 7.6 million miles were matched by United to help organizations providing relief during COVID-19.
  • Donated nearly 1.2 million pounds of food from United Polaris lounges, United Club locations, and catering kitchens to local food banks and charities.
  • Over 7,500 face masks were made from upcycled unused employee uniforms.
  • More than 800 gallons of hand sanitizer produced by United employees in San Francisco for use by United employees.
  • Donated 15,000 pillows, 2,800 amenity kits, and 5,000 self-care products to charities and homeless shelters.
  • More than 2.2 million pounds of food and household goods were processed by United employees at the Houston Food Bank.
  • More than 2,500 United employees worldwide have volunteered, with over 36,800 hours served.

Additional Noteworthy Accomplishments

  • For the ninth consecutive year received a perfect score of 100% on the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a premier benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation.
  • Honored by DiversityInc with their “DiversityInc Top 50” designation, lauding the airline’s leadership in promoting diversity through a diversity-focused talent pipeline and talent development, leadership accountability and a top supplier diversity program.
  • Recognized for the fifth consecutive year as a top-scoring company and best place to work for disability inclusion with a perfect score of 100 on the 2020 Disability Equality Index (DEI).
  • Teamed up with Peerspace to bundle flights with work and meeting spaces for remotely distanced companies.
  • Named best overall airline in the world by Global Traveler Readers.
  • Selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates as the official airline for the 2020 Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates.
  • Announced signing of The Board Challenge and committed to adding a second Black board member to the Board of Directors.

_________________________________________________________________________

Total available liquidity includes cash and cash equivalents, short-term investments and $1 billion available under our undrawn revolving credit facility, as well as $7 billion available under the CARES Act loan program.

Excludes operating and non-operating special charges, and unrealized gains and losses on investments. Reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures are included in the tables accompanying this release.

3 Reconciliations of non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures are included in the tables accompanying this release.

4 Cash burn, as previously guided, is defined as: Net cash from operations, less investing and financing activities. Proceeds from the issuance of new debt (excluding expected aircraft financing), government grants associated with the Payroll Support Program of the CARES Act, issuance of new stock, net proceeds from the sale of short-term and other investments and changes in certain restricted cash balances are not included in this figure. Core cash burn is defined as: Cash burn, as further adjusted to exclude: debt principal payments, timing of certain payments, capital expenditures (net of flight equipment purchase deposit returns), investments in the recovery and severance payments. Amounts may not add due to rounding. See the tables accompanying this release for further information.

5 Timing of certain payments refers to exclusion of payments in the quarter that had been deferred from prior periods or additions of payments that were deferred to a future period to maximize cash preservation.

Investments in the recovery primarily include, but are not limited to, spending on engine and airframe maintenance to prepare for the efficient operations ramp up as air travel demand returns.

WestJet to renew Boeing 737 MAX service on January 21

WestJet has made this announcement:

WestJet’s first Boeing 737 MAX flight following the opening of the skies will operate with the departure of WS155 from Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver (YVR) on January 21, 2021.

Starting on January 22, 2021 the MAX will operate three-times weekly as announced, between Calgary (YYC) and Toronto (YYZ).

Additional return to service details are available here.

WestJet’s 737 MAX: Behind the Scenes (from WestJet Blog):

With our 737 MAX aircraft returning to service, we wanted to give you the opportunity to see what’s been going on behind the scenes, so you can have the same level of confidence in the MAX that we do.

Meet two team members who led the efforts and discover the incredible preparation and care that’s gone into ensuring safety above all aboard our 737 MAX aircraft.

As Director of Line Maintenance at WestJet, John Romane and his team of Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, oversee maintenance of all the aircraft in our fleet. This included making the necessary updates to the MAX that Boeing and Transport Canada identified. While both Boeing and Transport Canada were on-site to oversee the initial modifications, doing the updates in-house gave John and his team full visibility to ensure the work also met our WestJet standards.

John Romane, Director of Line Maintenance

John Romane, Director of Line Maintenance


“Our maintenance teams will dedicate 2,000 work hours to each of our 737 MAX aircraft, implementing and testing the updates prior to them returning to service.”

-John Romane, Director of Line Maintenance



In addition to making these updates to our 737 MAX aircraft, our Chief Pilot 737, Jimmy-Dean Porter worked hand-in-hand with Boeing and Transport Canada to create a comprehensive training program for WestJet’s 737 pilots. The program includes MAX-specific simulator training, as well as extensive briefings, training modules and evaluations.

Jimmy-Dean Porter, Chief Pilot 737
Jimmy-Dean Porter, Chief Pilot 737

“I have complete confidence in our MAX aircraft. I have no hesitancy putting my family on board, with any of our WestJet pilots.” –Jimmy-Dean Porter, Chief Pilot 737


We are also conducting validation flights with every MAX aircraft in our fleet to make sure it performs as intended prior to returning to commercial service.

To learn more about John and Jimmy-Dean’s roles in safely returning of our 737 MAX aircraft to service, watch our behind-the-scenes video.