United announced today it is expanding its customer COVID-19 testing efforts to include flights out of Houston to select destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Starting for flights departing on December 7, customers originating from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will have the option to take a self-collected, mail-in test that meets local entry requirements for the following destinations, allowing them to reunite with family or start their vacation immediately:
Belize City, Belize (BZE)
Guatemala City, Guatemala (GUA)
Lima, Peru (LIM)
Nassau, Bahamas (NAS)
Panama City, Panama (PTY)
Roatan, Honduras (RTB)
San Pedro Sula, Honduras (SAP)
San Salvador, El Salvador (SAL)
Tegucigalpa, Honduras (TGU)
“Widespread testing is key to unlocking international borders and safely reopening global travel. This is particularly important for our customers in Houston, who rely on United to keep them connected with their family and friends in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Toby Enqvist, chief customer officer for United. “We’ll continue to lead the way on testing – United was the first to announce a customer COVID-19 testing program and the first to offer free tests on flights across the Atlantic – and we’ll look at new, innovative ways to make the travel experience even safer.”
The self-collected, mail-in COVID-19 test is $119. The test will be administered by Advanced Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) and processed at their COVID-19 testing laboratory in San Antonio, Texas. United will reach out to customers 14 days ahead of their flights to provide instructions on ordering a test and the testing process. United encourages customers to research the local requirements for further questions specific to their destination. Customers are advised to take the tests 72 hours before departure and should expect to receive results via email within 24-48 hours of mailing in their test.
“As the energy capital of the world and most diverse city in the United States, Houston plays an influential role in linking global economies,” said Sylvester Turner, City of Houston mayor. “As we fight against a second wave of the coronavirus, the private and public sectors, with guidance from public health experts, must work collaboratively and judiciously to reopen the global economy. Although a vaccine would be the ultimate solution, United’s expansion of its customer testing program is a step in the right direction. I commend United for their leadership and forward-thinking.”
ADL’s self-collection kit includes a plastic tube, a nasal swab and instructions on how to properly collect a specimen. ADL’s telehealth system will be available to support customers traveling to countries that require a health care professional to supervise the COVID-19 test. United has worked closely with officials in each country to ensure that any customer – both visitors and nationals returning home – who tests negative will be able to enter the country.
“Accurate and reliable testing is not only critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but essential in helping get this virus under control,” said Stan Crawford, chief operations officer for ADL. “We are invested in United’s commitment to ensuring customers not only meet their destination’s entry requirements but that, when they do travel, they do so in a way that is safer.”
For the first time in its history, British Airways has decided to unlock the doors to its warehouse this Christmas to give customers and aviation fans the unique opportunity to get their hands on items from British Airways aircraft which have circled the globe hundreds of times.
Although an at-home experience is no match for the real thing, customers and collectors can order bespoke British Airways inflight dining items such as William Edwards plates, soup bowls, cups, saucers and even a butter dish for reasonable prices, allowing them to create an authentic First Class flying experience at home over the festive period.
Those who want to take it a step further can pick up bread baskets, hot towels (which naturally arrive cold), hot towel plates, champagne flutes, coasters and even the Club World casserole dish. After they’ve dined in style, customers can relax in slippers and a day blanket which are also on sale, as they settle down to watch their favourite film or TV show on their at-home inflight entertainment system (their TV).
And for anybody looking for the ultimate Christmas gift, for a limited time there is the opportunity to purchase a piece of history with items such as aircraft trolleys and canisters taken from the Boeing 747, which British Airways has now fully retired.
Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience, said: “This is an incredible one-off opportunity for people to bring the magic of flying with British Airways in to their own homes. We know that these special items will fly and we are delighted to be able to offer them in time for Christmas to give people the opportunity to make it memorable during a difficult year.”
Items will be available to purchase from whatabuy.co.uk/british-airways from Monday November 23, 2020. British Airways is encouraging customers to share photographs of themselves using the items in their own homes tagging @British_Airways and using the hashtag #BAathome.
JetBlue Airways is planning to take delivery of its first Airbus A321LR long-range aircraft next year in time to launch new services to London.
JetBlue is planning to fly from both New York (JFK) and Boston to London in the summer of 2021.
However London airports are slot-controlled. The airline desires to fly to Heathrow Airport (of course) but LHR slots remain elusive unless the slots can be purchased from another airline that is retrenching due to COVID-19.
For now, the carrier will have to split its London operations to two airports – Gatwick (LGW) and Stansted (STN) where it has now secured some slots.
JetBlue with its inflight crew members represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), have announced that its crew members have voted not to approve the tentative agreement between JetBlue and TWU.
“We are disappointed in the results of the vote,” said Ian Deason, head of customer experience, JetBlue. “Both the TWU and JetBlue worked through unprecedented circumstances to reach an agreement that was fair to our inflight crew members. We will work with TWU to determine next steps.”
Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services, the Largest CargoNetwork Operator in Africa, has launched Trans-Pacific routes, extending from Seoul (Incheon) to Atlanta via Anchorage effective November 9, 2020. Ethiopian operates Boeing 777-200F freighters, one of the most technologically advanced aircraft on the route, offering a remarkable freight service to our cargo forwarding customers worldwide with reduced flight hour, seamless connectivity and better payload.
Ethiopian Airlines has been a key enabler in the global effort to conquer COVID-19 by facilitating the shipment of life-saving medical supplies to different parts of the world. Housed within the largest trans-shipment terminal in Africa, the state-of-the-art Pharma Wing of Ethiopian Cargo & Logistics Services, has been central to the airline’s effective handling and shipping of medical supplies across the world. Furthermore, it is in full readiness with all its required capabilities for the distribution of potential COVID-19 vaccine during the forthcoming global distribution.
Operating next generation freighters and with Africa’s largest trans-shipment terminal, Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services facilitates the export of perishables, garments, mining products, and the import of high value industrial products and inputs, pharmaceuticals, among others across its global network.
Qatar Airways has announced it has finalized a codeshare agreement with Air Canada applicable for travel between Doha and Toronto. Sales have started with the first codeshare flight to operate from December 15, 2020. The agreement reinforces Qatar Airways’ long-term commitment to Canadian passengers, and to boosting Canada’s global connectivity to support the recovery of tourism and trade.
Qatar Airways’ passengers can now enjoy seamless, one-stop connections to and from Toronto via the Best Airport in the Middle East, Hamad International Airport. Air Canada passengers will benefit from being able to book travel on Qatar Airways’ flights between Toronto and Doha and onwards to more than 75 destinations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Qatar Airways began flying to Canada in June 2011 with three weekly flights to Montreal that expanded to four weekly in December 2018. The airline has worked closely with the Government of Canada and its embassies around the world throughout the pandemic, temporarily operating three weekly services to Toronto in addition to charter flights to Vancouver to help bring more than 40,000 passengers home to Canada.
By the end of the IATA Winter Season, Qatar Airways plans to rebuild its network to 126 destinations including 20 in Africa, 11 in the Americas, 42 in Asia-Pacific, 38 in Europe and 15 in the Middle East. Many cities will be served with a strong schedule with daily or more frequencies.
Qatar Airways, Official Partner and the Official Airline of FIFA, on November 20 unveiled a specially-branded Boeing 777-300 aircraft painted in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM livery, to mark two years to go until the tournament kicks off on November 21, 2022.
The bespoke aircraft, which features distinctive FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM branding was hand-painted to commemorate the airline’s partnership with FIFA. More aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet will feature the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM livery and will visit several destinations in the network.
The Boeing 777-300ER (A7-BEB) entered service on November 21 operating flights QR095 and QR096 between Doha and Zurich and return (see below). The inaugural route of the bespoke aircraft further reiterates the airline’s commitment to the FIFA partnership by flying to the home of FIFA in Switzerland on this significant date.
Above Copyright Photo: Qatar Airways Boeing 777-3DZ ER A7-BEB (msn 43215) (FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022) ZRH (Rolf Wallner). Image: 951997.
Qatar Airways aircraft slide show:
In other news, Qatar Airways has also announced it will operate three weekly flights to Abuja, Nigeria via Lagos from November 27, 2020 becoming the sixth new destination announced by the national carrier of the State of Qatar since the start of the pandemic. The Abuja service will be operated by the airline’s state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class.
Abuja Flight Schedule: Wednesday, Friday & Sunday
Doha (DOH) to Abuja (ABV) QR1419 departs: 01:10 arrives: 11:35
Alaska Airlines has 32 MAX 9s on order. The airline has provided this update on the Boeing 737 MAX:
This March, Alaska Airlines is scheduled to start welcoming guests on our first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. We currently don’t have a MAX in our fleet. We expect delivery of the first plane in January, followed by several more throughout 2021.
On November 18, 2020 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified the MAX, giving the approval to all airlines to begin the process of bringing the aircraft back into service. Our guests will only fly on a MAX aircraft after we’ve tested and verified all required and necessary processes to prepare the aircraft for passenger service.
We have high expectations and confidence that Boeing has made the required changes and necessary improvements to the MAX. With these enhancements and the FAA’s thorough inspection processes, this aircraft will meet the high safety standards we expect.
For us, safety is always priority number one. If an aircraft is not safe, we won’t fly it.
“As a safety professional with decades of experience, including many years with the FAA, I’ve had the opportunity to stay very close to the FAA and Boeing through the grounding and recertification of the 737 MAX,” said Max Tidwell, Alaska’s vice president of safety and security. “I’m very confident with all the steps the FAA and Boeing have taken and the steps we’re taking at Alaska to prepare us to safely bring this aircraft into our fleet.”
Once our first MAX is delivered, we’ll begin two months of testing and verifying all the necessary processes to prepare the aircraft for passenger service, which is scheduled to begin in March. Our teams will put the plane through its paces, which includes flying it more than 19,000 miles and over 50 flight hours all over the country, including Alaska and Hawaii.
In the coming weeks, our pilots will also begin the required eight hours of flight simulator and computer-based training that focuses on the operation of the MAX. Our pilot training program for the MAX is more extensive than what’s required by the FAA. All of our maintenance technicians undergo a minimum 40 hours of training on the variations between the MAX and our existing 737 NG fleet, with certain technicians receiving additional specialized training.
Before the MAX is added to our fleet, our team of pilots, maintenance technicians and safety experts will put the plane through its paces – flying more than 19,000 miles and over 50 flight hours to test the aircraft. We will activate our training programs and make sure our employees are ready. We’ve been closely testing, verifying and implementing all the necessary processes to ensure the MAX aircraft meets our high safety standards.
At Alaska, safety is always priority number one. If an aircraft is not safe, we won’t fly it.
There is nothing more important than the safety of everyone on board every aircraft we fly.
Safety is everything “This indicates a link to an external site that may not follow the same accessibility or privacy policies as Alaska Airlines. By selecting a partner link you agree to share your data with these sites.”
When we talk about safety, we mean it. Each of our employees is empowered to stop any part of our operation if something isn’t right. We call it “Ready, SAFE, Go.” Before we do anything, we take a moment to check whether everyone is ready, we make sure we’re being safe, and only then do we go.
Alaska manages safety through our Safety Management System (SMS). We were the first major U.S. airline to receive FAA validation and acceptance of our SMS in 2016, even before it became required in 2018. It helps us focus on safety – every day. Rather than rely on a separate “safety manager” or “safety department,” our SMS empowers employees at all levels to participate in it and improve the process.
Alaska will fly the Boeing 737 MAX only after our own assessments, verifications and internal reviews determine that the aircraft is safe throughout our network for our guests and our crews. Teams from divisions all across Alaska are working on the entry into service requirements for the MAX.
“As a safety professional with decades of experience, including many years with the FAA, I’ve had the opportunity to stay very close to the FAA and Boeing through the grounding and recertification of the 737 MAX. I’m very confident with all the steps the FAA and Boeing have taken and the steps we’re taking at Alaska to prepare us to safely bring this aircraft into our fleet.”
— Max Tidwell, Alaska’s Vice President of Safety & Security
We have confidence in the certification process of the 737 MAX.
Boeing has worked closely with the FAA and international regulatory authorities to make improvements to the 737 MAX flight control system and mandatory pilot training. Our teams remained in close contact with Boeing and the FAA all along the way.
We have high expectations and confidence that Boeing has made the required changes and necessary improvements to the 737 MAX and that, with these updates, the MAX will meet the high safety standards we expect.
We will put the MAX through its paces.
We will spend a lot of time with our first MAX aircraft before it’s put into service. Our pilots will fly it more than 50 flight hours and roughly 19,000 miles on what are called “proving flights” to confirm our safety assessments and ensure a full understanding of the airplane’s capabilities in different climates and terrain:
Up and down the West Coast
To airports in the state of Alaska
Across the country
To and from Hawaii
These proving flights are part of the formal delivery process of bringing a new aircraft into the fleet. The flights will be supervised directly by the FAA with representatives on board to evaluate that we can safely operate the aircraft. It will give our pilots the opportunity to:
Validate the operational performance of the MAX and to see for ourselves that the plane is safe
Validate the “Required Navigation Performance,” the technology we pioneered that allows an aircraft to fly safer and more reliable approaches and landings
Perform flight checks and validate procedures, such as working with our ground teams
Perform nighttime flying, GPS, and navigation testing
There will also be “gate fit” tests at designated airports to ensure the readiness of ground operations with the new plane.
Testing and more testing.
The 737 MAX was designed with larger, more efficient engines. To help pilots with the handling of the aircraft, Boeing implemented new flight control software called MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. MCAS relied on information from a single sensor to monitor the angle of the plane. In two accidents, the sensor – an ‘angle of attack’ vane – gave incorrect data to MCAS, which caused the system to activate repeatedly.
Boeing has since made key changes to prevent the previous issues from happening again:
MCAS will now read information from both sensors instead of just one, which will compare the incoming data before activating.
Pilots will be alerted if the sensors disagree. In those cases, MCAS is disabled if the sensors disagree.
MCAS will only activate once for any given alert and not several times in a row.
Pilots will always have the power to override the MCAS system.
What happens next with our MAX?
The FAA’s airworthiness directive continues the process of outlining the required software updates along with the training requirements for flight crews, maintenance technicians and ground crews that must be completed before we bring the MAX into service.
With the lifting of the grounding order by the FAA, it’s expected to take two months until we receive our first MAX from Boeing.
Once we accept delivery of the aircraft, we’ll follow a service readiness timeline that will guide the actions we must take before we begin flying our passengers. The process could take about six weeks for our first MAX to join our fleet after rigorous rounds of test flying, verifying and preparing.