Monthly Archives: January 2021

Air Transat to shut down until April 30 except for repatriation flights

Transat issued this statement for Air Transat:

Following the Canadian government’s request not to travel to Mexico and the Caribbean and the imposition of new quarantine and COVID-19 screening measures, Transat A.T. Inc. announces today the complete suspension of all scheduled Air Transat flights until April 30 and the repatriation of its customers to Canada. This operation is expected to take place over the next two weeks.

“We are putting in place the measures requested by the Canadian government, including not travelling to the South. This forces us to temporarily suspend all our flights, including to Europe,” said Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat. “We will do everything we can to return our customers back to Canada. We obviously share the government’s objective to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including the new variants, and this is what all of our personnel have been doing in recent months, particularly on board our aircraft, with a comprehensive program of adapted sanitary measures.”

Repatriation flights program

Air Transat will operate several dozen flights over the next two weeks to return its customers to Canada. Transat customers scheduled to return to the country between now and February 13 will keep their original flight, while customers whose flights are cancelled will automatically be redirected to another Air Transat flight. Transat’s priority is to get everyone home.

Until April 30, customers who are unable to travel due to the cancellation of their flight will be refunded in the same method of payment they used for their booking.

Federal government support is crucial

In light of the disastrous situation in which the entire industry finds itself, Transat reiterates the importance for the federal government to put in place the sector-specific financial assistance announced to support its industry and the investments it has made in recent years, not to mention the tens of thousands of workers in the sector who have lost their jobs.

The airline industry is highly competitive, and international carriers from other countries have benefited from significant support measures from their governments since the beginning of the pandemic. This is creating a considerable imbalance that has hurt the competitiveness of Canada’s airlines for months and threatens their survival. Moreover, the entire Canadian economy will be deprived of the vital and strategic contribution of the airline and aeronautics industry when the recovery comes.

From the outset of the pandemic, Transat has implemented a series of measures to safeguard the company and its cash flow, including temporary layoffs affecting 75% of its staff. Unfortunately, the temporary shutdown of operations has resulted in further layoffs of flight crews and support staff.

Qatar Airways launches flights to Seattle/Tacoma

Qatar Airways made this announcement:

January 29, 2021 marked the introduction of Qatar Airways flights to Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) – allowing passengers traveling from the Pacific Northwest even more flexible travel options via the most connected and Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport (DOH).

Seattle/Tacoma marks the airline’s eleventh U.S. gateway, surpassing the number of destinations it operated in the U.S. pre-COVID-19. The four weekly flights will be operated by Qatar Airways’ state-of-the-art Boeing 777-300 featuring 42 seats in Business Class and 312 seats in Economy Class.

Kicking off 2021 by expanding its West Coast footprint with inaugural fights to the Emerald City comes as the airline continues rapidly rebuilding – and expanding – its network across the globe. The new flights from Seattle follow last month’s successful San Francisco (SFO) to Doha launch.

As a leading global connector, Qatar Airways currently operates over 800 weekly flights to more than 120 destinations, with plans to increase to over 130 destinations by the end of March. Passengers traveling to and from Seattle can enjoy seamless connections via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International airport with the widest network of destinations in Africa, Asia-Pacific, South Asia and the Middle East.

Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Doha, Her Excellency Ambassador Greta C. Holtz, stated: “I am honored to celebrate the launch of Qatar Airways flights to yet another U.S. destination – operated on U.S.-made Boeing aircraft.  This new route will open doors for more tourism, business, and education opportunities.   Opening this new route is just one more indicator of the growing ties between Qatar and the United States in all respects.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “An international destination renowned for innovation, technology and natural beauty, we are delighted to serve this increasingly important business and leisure market. And, as one of the top airports in the U.S., passengers will have an increased number of convenient connections when Alaska Airlines joins the oneworld alliance on March 31st – including to Alaska, Canada and Hawaii.”

Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO, Mr. Brad Tilden, said: “Qatar Airways is an outstanding airline known around the world for its excellent quality and service. We’re tremendously proud to join them two months from now as a oneworld alliance member. Our guests will be able to earn and redeem miles on Qatar to amazing global destinations, along with an ease-of-travel experience and oneworld benefits for our elite flyers. Making connections even easier for our guests, Qatar flies to Doha not only from Seattle, but also from two of our other West Coast hubs: San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

As a oneworld partner, Alaska Airlines will connect customers from the U.S. West Coast to Doha and beyond via its other hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco, complementing Qatar Airways’ existing strategic partnerships with JetBlue and oneworld carrier American Airlines.

Qatar Airways Privilege Club and Alaska Mileage Plan members can now earn frequent flyer miles on both carriers. Beginning 31 March, members can also redeem frequent flyer miles on both carriers’ full networks and elite oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald status perks including lounge access. The two airlines are also working closely on developing a strategic codeshare agreement and commercial cooperation in line with the U.S. carrier joining oneworld at the end of March.

Business Class passengers flying to and from Seattle will enjoy the award-winning Qsuite business class seat, featuring sliding privacy doors and the option to use a ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ indicator. The Qsuite seat layout is a 1-2-1 configuration, providing passengers with the most spacious, fully private, comfortable and socially distanced Business Class product in the sky.

Seattle/Tacoma is the seventh new destination and the second in the U.S. to be added by Qatar Airways since the start of the pandemic. The launch of flights to Seattle and resumption of Atlanta in June will increase Qatar Airways’ U.S. network to 12 destinations in the U.S., connecting onwards to hundreds of American cities through strategic partnerships with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue. Atlanta and Seattle join existing U.S. destinations including Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York (JFK), Philadelphia (PHL), San Francisco (SFO) and Washington, D.C. (IAD).

Seattle/Tacoma Flight Schedule: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday

  • Doha (DOH) to Seattle (SEA) QR719 departs: 08:00 arrives: 11:20
  • Seattle (SEA) to Doha (DOH) QR720 departs: 16:05 arrives: 17:15+1

In other news, Qatar Airways has temporarily suspended acceptance of new bookings from UAE for the next 7 days due to UK government concerns. South Africa & Rwanda are also temporarily suspended – exceptions include GCC nationals & Resident Permit Holders returning to other GCC countries.

Air Belgium fleet will soon expand with the arrival of cargo aircraft

Air Belgium (2nd) has made this announcement:

Air Belgium has announced that it will soon introduce 4 cargo aircraft (no aircraft types specified) with an ambition of 6 units by the end of 2021.

The first two aircraft should be operational as of March 2021. The first aircraft will be based at Liege Airport.

At the same time, the airline will of course continue its passenger flights to the French West Indies.

In such an uncertain period, this is good news for the airline. We are delighted to be able to begin this diversification into the commercial and cargo sector, which my team and I know well. This will complement our existing passenger business which has been severely impacted by the current travel restrictions. This demonstrates once again the resilience and flexibility of our airline’s development potential. As well as the ever-growing attractiveness of Liege Airport.” – CEO of Air Belgium, Niky Terzakis.

In other news, Air Belgium has announced a delay in its new route to Mauritius, which was due to start in mid-December 2020, will not start until March 30, 2021.

Air Belgium aircraft photo gallery:

Air Belgium aircraft slide show:

Blue Air expands its Turin base by adding Palermo flights in April 2021

Blue Air will introduce three weekly services between Turin and Palermo, effective in April 2021.

Blue Air will operate up to 4 flights weekly flights between Turin and Palermo, according to the following schedule:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

TRN 13:30   PMO 15:10

PMO 15:55  TRN 17:35

Blue Air is constantly developing its local network, connecting Turin with 8 key Italian destinations: Alghero, Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Lamezia, Naples, Palermo (NEW), Trapani.

Blue Air aircraft photo gallery:

Blue Air aircraft slide show:

Air Canada to suspend flights to the Caribbean and Mexico

Air Canada today said that, beginning January 31, 2021, it is temporarily suspending flights to Mexican and Caribbean destinations for 90 days in response to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, particularly during the Spring Break period. The decision, designed to achieve an orderly reduction in service and minimize customer impact, was taken in collaboration with the Government of Canada following consultations.

“Air Canada believes a collaborative approach with the Government of Canada involving all air carriers is the best means to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given concerns around the variants of COVID- 19 and travel during the Spring Break period. Through consultation we have established an approach that will allow us to achieve an orderly reduction in service to these destinations that minimizes the impact on our customers and will support important public health goals to manage COVID-19.  System-wide the incremental impact on Air Canada’s cash burn is not material given the already reduced levels of passenger traffic resulting from COVID-19 and travel restrictions,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer at Air Canada.

Following consultations with the federal government, Air Canada has agreed to suspend operations to 15 destinations beginning this Sunday, January 31 until Friday, April 30. To help ensure Canadians are not stranded abroad, Air Canada plans to operate a number of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations after January 31 in order to return customers at the suspended destinations to Canada.

Affected customers will be offered full refunds given the services are being suspended with no alternative available.

Suspended destinations include:

  • Cayo Coco
  • Cancun
  • Liberia
  • Montego Bay
  • Punta Cana
  • Varadero
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Antigua
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Kingston
  • Mexico City
  • Nassau
  • Providenciales
  • San Jose

WestJet cuts flying to Mexico and Caribbean at request of Canadian government

The WestJet Group today announced it would temporarily cease international flying to 14 sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean in response to a request from the Government of Canada.

“The government asked, and we agreed,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure. We also note that the overwhelming majority of quarantine exemptions, well over 90 per cent in fact, are connected to land borders and not air travel. We have responded to their request and will suspend service to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.”

Effective Sunday, January 31 at 12:01 a.m. ET, WestJet will suspend southbound operations to the following destinations until April 30. Over the subsequent two weeks, WestJet will work to bring our guests already in destination back to Canada.

Vancouver – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Vancouver – Cancun, Mexico
Vancouver – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Calgary – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Calgary – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Calgary – Cancun, Mexico,
Calgary – Liberia, Costa Rica
Edmonton – Cancun, Mexico
Edmonton – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Toronto – Cancun, Mexico
Toronto – Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Toronto – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Toronto – Kingston, Jamaica
Toronto – Montego Bay, Jamaica
Toronto – Liberia, Costa Rica
Toronto – Varadero, Cuba
Toronto – Saint Lucia
Toronto – Saint Marten
Toronto – Nassau, Bahamas
Toronto – Bermuda
Edmonton – Mazatlan, Mexico (Swoop)
Edmonton – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Swoop)
Toronto – Montego Bay, Jamaica (Swoop)
Toronto – Cancun, Mexico (Swoop)

Through its Safety Above All program, the WestJet Group has implemented extensive safety measures since the start of the pandemic and as a result, there have been no documented cases of person-to-person transmission onboard the airline’s flights.

“The pandemic has had devastating impacts on our hard-working people, and they have made tremendous sacrifices throughout,” continued Sims. “The government recognizes how uniquely hard hit our industry has been and has acknowledged our efforts to curb the spread of the virus. We note their words of support for our airline as a strong partner in the fight against COVID-19.”

For guests with travel booked during the impacted period, WestJet will proactively notify them of their options.

Somon Air resumes flights to Tashkent

Somon Air made this announcement:

Beginning today, January 29, 2021 Somon Air will resume its regular flights on the Dushanbe-Tashkent-Dushanbe route. The flights will be operated every Friday, departing from Dushanbe at 1030 local time and from Tashkent at 1300 local time.

Passengers traveling to Tashkent on this service must hold a certificate of negative COVID-19 results by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method issued within 72 hours prior to arrival. The certificate of a negative result must be authentic, not altered, all fields must be filled in on a computer, not by hand, and the certificate must be carried out by a medical facility accredited by the state of departure and must be issued in Russian or English; children under 12 years are excepted from this requirement. Persons with COVID-19 symptoms and a positive result of the PCR test will not be permitted to travel.

In accordance with the Decision of the Special Republican Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan, until February 1, 2021, all international flights are suspended to the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Australia, the Netherlands and the Republic of South Africa. Citizens residing in these countries, as well as stateless persons and third-country nationals who have been in these countries for the last 14 days, are not allowed to enter the Republic of Uzbekistan. Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan and stateless persons entering Uzbekistan through third countries who have been in the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, and Republic of South Africa for the last 14 days will be placed in a temporary quarantine complex or in a corresponding hotel for a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

All passengers arriving at airports in the Republic of Uzbekistan are required to conduct an express test for the detection of coronavirus infection antibodies at their own expense. Passengers receiving a positive result of the rapid test will be placed in specialized medical institutions for treatment.

All passengers traveling to Dushanbe on this service must hold a certificate of negative COVID-19 results by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method issued within 72 hours prior to arrival in Tajikistan. Children under 3 years are excepted from this requirement. Foreigners who wish to travel to Dushanbe must have a permit issued by a Tajik Authority before entering Tajikistan, as well as a visa (if required). Holders of Uzbekistan passports do not need permission from the authorizing body of the Republic of Tajikistan to enter the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan.

 

Passengers with high body temperature or symptoms of COVID-19 will not to be permitted to travel. All passengers must wear face masks and disposable gloves at the airport and on board the aircraft.

Somon Air aircraft photo gallery:

Somon Air aircraft slide show:

British Airways becomes the first UK airline to trial the use of mobile travel health passport

British Airways has made this announcement:

VeriFLY and BA

  • British Airways will be the first airline in the UK to trial VeriFLY, a mobile travel health passport
  • VeriFLY, will certify test certificates and required travel documentation on a personal mobile device, before leaving home and offer a fast track opportunity at the airport
  • British Airways is working with joint business and oneworld partner, American Airlines to trial the new app
  • Trial begins from February 4, 2021 on all transatlantic routes between London and the US

British Airways today announces that it will begin trialling a new travel health app, VeriFLY, with customers who are eligible to travel between London and the US from February 4.

The new digital health travel passport, which can be downloaded to a mobile device, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by checking customers meet the entry requirements of their destination by providing digital health document verification and confirming eligibility. Use of the VeriFLY app will be optional and customers will also continue to be able to evidence they meet the US entry requirements at check-in.

The trial follows the recent announcement that American Airlines, British Airways’ joint business and oneworld partner, now allows all customers to use VeriFLY when they are travelling to the US from all international destinations. Since American became the first airline to use VeriFLY in November for selected routes*, thousands of customers have travelled using the app, with many providing positive feedback to the airline on its ease of use.

British Airways is the first airline in the UK to trial the use of a mobile travel health passport for customers travelling from London. It will also be the only airline outside the US to offer its customers the opportunity to trial VeriFLY.

Sean Doyle, British Airways’ CEO said: “Although flying is currently restricted, it is essential we do as much as we can now to help those who are eligible to fly and prepare to help our customers navigate the complexities around changing global entry requirements when the world re-opens.

“We remain focused and committed to finding user-friendly, evidence-based solutions to make journeys as seamless they can be. Through these trials, we hope to provide travellers and governments on both sides of the Atlantic with the tools and the reassurance they need to make safe travel possible.”

Robert Isom, American Airlines’ President said: “We are pleased to be working hand-in-hand again with our partner, British Airways, to make transatlantic travel as seamless as possible for those who are permitted to fly by utilising the latest in digital technology.”

VeriFLY has been pioneered by private software company, Daon, which also works with some of the world’s leading banking and credit card companies. The software will allow people to combine travel verification documents and Covid-19 test results in one place, ensuring travellers are fully compliant with the entry requirements for their destination before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks will be available for check in.

VeriFLY can be downloaded to a customer’s mobile device with ease from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. After creating a secure profile, the platform prompts customers to confirm their flight information, upload details of a negative Covid-19 test result and any other essential documentation. The software confirms the test matches the country’s regulations with a simple ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ message. VeriFLY will also provide users with reminders once the credential has expired.

The British Airways VeriFLY trial will begin from February 4, 2021 for customers travelling from London to all US routes currently operating** and will be updated to ensure conformance with the latest UK government requirement for a declaration around the reason for travel once the airline has clarity on the legislation.

Phase two, which will follow in the near future, will extend to cover customers travelling to the UK from the US across both carriers. This will make British Airways and American Airlines the first transatlantic partners to offer a digital solution for eligible customers flying to the UK.

British Airways is also simultaneously conducting a testing trial with American Airlines and oneworld on some routes from the US to the UK. The results of the trial will be shared with Oxford University, the academic partners and with governments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Air Peace takes delivery of the first Embraer E2 for the African Continent

Air Peace, Nigeria and West Africa’s largest airline, took delivery of their first E195-E2 aircraft on January 27. The aircraft is now due to fly from Embraer’s facility in São José dos Campos to join the Air Peace fleet in Nigeria.

Air Peace is the launch customer in Africa for the E2, the newest, most efficient, and most comfortable aircraft in the segment. The airline is also the global launch customer for Embraer’s innovative premium staggered seating design.

The jet delivered is the first of 13 firm E195-E2 orders, with 17 remaining purchase rights, as announced in March 2019, and updated with three further firm orders from purchase rights announced at the Dubai Air Show in November 2019. The total value of the deal, with all purchase rights exercised is US $2.2bn. The aircraft are configured in a comfortable dual class arrangement with 124 seats.

Photo: Embrer.

Most of PSA Airlines’ fleet is “temporarily grounded” by the FAA, major cancellations

PSA Airlines (American Eagle) (subsidiary of American Airlines) has been “temporarily grounded” by the Federal Aviation Administration for an inspection issue on nearly all of its planes according to CNN.

Over 230 flights has already been cancelled so far.

PSA Airlines largely operates from the Charlotte, Washington (Reagan National) and Philadelphia hubs.

Route Map:

According to CNN, “American Airlines said that most of PSA’s 130 aircraft had been pulled from service “out of an abundance of caution” to perform a “necessary, standard inspection” of the nose landing-gear doors.”

Photo: Syracuse Airport.

PSA Airlines issued this statement:

Most of our aircraft have temporarily been removed from service to complete a standard inspection. We’re working to resolve the issue and sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience.