Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2015: 290,939
2014: 363,407
Total: 1,212,540






Opinion: The Airbus A380NEO is a Good Idea

Anywhere from five to ten years from now, the A380 is going to get even better - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Anywhere from five to ten years from now, the A380 is going to get even better – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

First things first; I am sick and tired of all the A380 hate. I get it; it’s not made by Boeing and doesn’t fit the U.S. major route network. Here’s the thing: that doesn’t make it a terrible aircraft and an absolute aviation sin.

I am tired of reading comments from people saying, “Since Delta never ordered it, it must be too big.” No one also wants to hear your comments about how the A380 only works for “government-subsidized airlines,” or, “how all the other airlines that operate it regret it.” I’m looking at you, Jeff Smisek.

There are two immediate things I’ve always thought were an issue with the A380…well, maybe two and a half. Things that I have wanted Airbus to fix for a while now. Let’s dive in…

Continue reading Opinion: The Airbus A380NEO is a Good Idea

United Airlines’ Summer of Discontent

A United 787-9 touching down at Paine Field - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A United 787-9 touching down at Paine Field – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

We’ve all seen the statistic; Airlines For America (a U.S. airline trade organization) is predicting 2.4 million passengers per day this summer in the 91-day period between June 1st of this year and August 31st. 332,000 of those enplanements are going to be international.  Obscene!

Great for the industry. Yes. But be careful what you wish for.

At least, if you happen to be United Airlines. Things do not seem to be matching up with their peers over there? What’s going wrong?

Let’s start with the most recent on-time statistics for United for the month of June. 42% of flights in the United system departed without any delay. Amazing! Especially when their internal goal was 52%. Again, all this is fine in a vacuum- there are things like bad weather, known unknowns, and the like; except it trails its two largest competitors by a large margin.

Delta’s on-time performance for June was 66%, American’s was ~60%, and even Southwest was 53%. This is, of course, last month’s data. This month’s will have the blip of United’s router failure that knocked every flight into at least a two-hour delay on July 8.

Continue reading United Airlines’ Summer of Discontent

BoatReporter: Heading to the Arctic to See Some Bears

This is the M/V Ortelius, registered in Limassol Cyprus. It's got the highest ice class a vessel can attain.  - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

This is the M/V Ortelius, registered in Limassol Cyprus. It’s got the highest ice-class a vessel can attain. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

If you were to ask me to spend a week on a boat for all but maybe two reasons, I’d be likely to risk prison to get out of it. I don’t like boats, and I think that large cruise ships combine the worst of Las Vegas, a crowded beach, and a heaping helping of disease transmission. So, a sedate Caribbean or Mediterranean cruise is also out of the question. What are my two reasons, then? The first one is obvious; planes/missilery. The second one, less so; polar bears.

Before any of you go off on me for saying that this has nothing to do with riding on a Soviet relic, think again. In 1989, the then Soviet Academy of Sciences commissioned an ice-class expedition vessel for ambiguous purposes. This vessel, the Marina Tsvetaeva, was laid down and completed in Gydnia, Poland the same year!

Welcome to bear country. Lufthavn Longyearbyen is located on a peninsula called Hotellnesset. - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Welcome to bear country. Lufthavn Longyearbyen is located on a peninsula called Hotellnesset. – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the vessel was used for oil-field resupply in the Russian Far East, until expedition companies realized it would be the perfect boat for Antarctic charters. In 2011, Dutch company Oceanwide Expeditions acquired the ship and sent it in for a complete overhaul. From this, it would leave the Russian register, and its original name behind. Re-registered in Cyprus (a great Flag of Convenience), and named after Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius, it has been used for Antarctic and Arctic cruises since then.

This boat is also a piece of rock & roll history. In 2013, it carried Metallica, some prize-winning fans, and their equipment to the South Pole for the “Freeze ‘Em All” tour. This was in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Metallica’s first album, “Kill ‘Em All!” At least, so the plaque in the ship’s “Krill ’em All” Bar says.

Having seen the creatures out on the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, I was determined to see them when they were not bored out of their mind waiting for the ice to come in — I wanted to see them on the hunt. Two things are needed for that to be possible: sea ice and daylight. There are only a few reasonably accessible places in the world where you can get both at once. Hence, I made my way to Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, in Norway. I made the trip in SAS Plus, but It was such an unremarkable flight in all areas I didn’t even take an iPhone shot.

Continue reading BoatReporter: Heading to the Arctic to See Some Bears

Thoughts on the U.S. Export-Import Bank Shutdown and Why it Matters

Boeing is one of the largest exporters of anything in the United states in terms of dollar value - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Boeing is one of the largest exporters of anything in the U.S. in terms of dollar value – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Before their summer recess, the U.S. Congress didn’t get many things finished; some would say intentionally. Most crucial for those of us in the aviation realm is the “sunsetting” of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. What is this bank, exactly? Well, it’s almost more of an underwriter.

Founded in 1934 by executive order, but affirmed into its own agency by law in 1945, the Export-Import Bank of the United States exists to offer insurance, loan guarantees, and other financial products to foreign customers. Why? Well, the goal of the bank is to provide American jobs and revenue to American companies while selling the goods abroad.

Screen shot of the bank's website taken on July 2, 2015

Screen shot of the bank’s website, taken on July 2, 2015

Who is America’s largest exporter in terms of real dollar value? Boeing!

What does Boeing do? Well, you are reading this site – you probably have an idea. Boeing, especially Boeing Commercial Aircraft, depends on the Export-Import bank to offer competitive financing rates to international customers. Or, if financing rates have already been obtained externally, offering an extra back stop for customers that do not have a long history of highly-rated credit.

The Ex-Im bank is not a lender of last resort – they are a paramount of financial virtue and do everything by the book. More importantly for those of us in America, they can sometimes offer better rates than the commercial markets in the name of continuing U.S. trade. Truly, to explain the Ex-Im bank’s importance would require a thesis-length article with lots of graphs. No one, but me, wants to read that. So let’s keep it simple, shall we?

Continue reading Thoughts on the U.S. Export-Import Bank Shutdown and Why it Matters

Belavia Airlines: Its Soviet Past and Passenger Experience Present

Belavia's chief Tu-154 pilot, Deputy Director of Marketing and International, and head of technical at a quasi press conference in Minsk.  - Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Belavia’s chief Tu-154 pilot, Deputy Director of Marketing and International, and Head of Technical at a quasi press conference in Minsk – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Bernie, why are you starting a flight review with a picture of a bunch of Russian men at a table? Because this is not a story about where the airline Belavia was — this is more about where Belavia is going. Legally speaking, Belavia turns 20 next March, but they are actually much older. Back in the times of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot used to be broken down into departments based on the Soviet Republics. In other words, there used to be Aeroflot Belarus that was headquartered in Minsk. The Belorussian Directorate of Civil Aviation first came into being in 1953 with its first flight between the old Minsk airport and Moscow.

Having spent so much time working with Belavia and their historic Tu-154s, it’s very important to share why Belavia exists, but also what their current passenger experience looks like.

Continue reading Belavia Airlines: Its Soviet Past and Passenger Experience Present