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2014: 258,704
2013: 330,818

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A Farewell to My Buddy Stephen McNamara with Ryanair

Ryanair Boeing 737 seen in Seattle before delivery. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

Ryanair Boeing 737 seen in Seattle before delivery. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren.

If you cover the airline world, you probably know the name, Stephen McNamara. He is the crazy (or pure genius) PR person behind Ryanair. I was shocked to recently read that he will be leaving Ryanair and heading over to Rugby Football Union as their Director of Communications.

You see, I have a special place in my heart for Mr. McNamara. He is well known as being elusive to many in the aviation journalism biz and I was extremely privileged to have him email me about some “mis-information” a while back. Him leaving has stirred up the memories and I wanted to reminisce.

It all started with me writing a story way back on March 10th 2010 about Ryanair stranding some passengers. The story showed up on my blog, but also on my Seattle PI syndication. This is where Mr. McNamara found my story and strongly disagreed with what he read. He wrote directly to the Seattle PI, but since they have no editorial control over my content, the email was forwarded to me. Mr. McNamara did not like that the Seattle PI was not able to change my story.

“Your answer is less than satisfactory and it is a damming indictment of the Seattlepi.com that you would allow clearly incorrect and biased information appear and remain on your site – brushing this off as an issue for the publisher is simply rubbish – it is on your site, you are the publisher,McNamara stated in his response to the PI (see his full reply here). Even at this early stage in my blogging career, I knew I was on to some gold-standard material.

BONUS: The five stages passengers go through when flying ultra low-cost carriers — like Ryanair

Stephen McNamara, currently head of PR for Ryanair.

Stephen McNamara, currently head of PR for Ryanair.

I decided to write him back. I truly don’t want to be writing wrong information and was happy to update my story. Although he stated that he doesn’t “have the time (or resources) to correct the errors most bloggers come up with,” McNamara gave me a very long winded reply email correcting my mistakes. His reply was filled with even better material and I questioned if I should share his entire email or just give a summary. Knowing Ryanair loves the negative attention and the fact that the message was just too good not to share, I made the decision to copy and paste

If the same thing would happen today, I probably wouldn’t make the same move, but there are benefits to being a lesser known blogger.

Don’t get me wrong here… I have tremendous respect for Ryanair and Mr. McNamara. The crazy ideas they have come up with, just to get free publicity, have been pure genius. The fact that so many journalists around the world pick up the stories as fact has been hilarious.

Passengers and media love to hate this airline, but their business model of extreme ala-cart pricing and laughable headlines getting them free publicity has made them one of the most successful airlines.

It is amusing to me that some headings (example one and two) stated that working as head of Ryanair PR is the worst PR job in the world (well, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary actually said it first). I think I have to disagree a bit. Where else can you come up with stories, like offering standing seats only, banning kids from flights, requiring passengers to pay for toilets or state you are looking at only having one pilot instead of two in each plane and have media around the world eat up your story and give your company publicity? That sounds like a pretty rad PR job to me.

So, Mr. McNamara, I salute you and the work you have done at Ryanair. I hope your replacement is as equally entertaining and able to provide high-end content for little ‘ol bloggers like me. The fact that I have traveled the world to cover different airline and travel stories, but our interaction over two and a half years ago is still one of my favorite all-time stories says something. I wish you the best of luck.

NOTE: I will be emailing Mr. McNamara with a link to this story hoping to get some sort of comment. If so, I will update the story. I wouldn’t hold your breath, but it is the giving season right?

This story written by… David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.

David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.

@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

Two Photos Showing the Passion of Aviation

A Boeing 747-400F taxi's during Paine Field Aviation Day 2009. Photo by Les Smith.

A Boeing 747-400F taxi’s during Paine Field Aviation Day 2009. Photo by Les Smith.

Sometimes a photo (or two) come along that I feel defines why I do this blog and love aviation. These are two of those photos and I wanted to share. These show one of the last 744F’s taxiing and taking off at Paine Field. But the photos are not about the aircraft, but for me, it is about the people (and especially that child waving).

Its departure was not a planned part of Paine Field Aviation Day, but it made most attendees stop in their tracks to enjoy the show. A big thanks to Les Smith for letting me share his photos!

An lift off. Photo by Les Smith.

An lift off. Photo by Les Smith.

Last Chance: How to Fly on Historic Airliners Before They’re Gone

Scandinavian DC-3. Photo by Matt Falcus.

Scandinavian DC-3. Photo by Matt Falcus.

This is a guest post by Matt Falcus. He is an author of the popular Airport Spotting Guides series, and runs the blog AirportSpotting.com which helps aviation enthusiasts make the most out of their hobby with airport, airline and aircraft news and spotting information.

With yet another series of enthusiast’s trips to North Korea recently announced by specialist operator Juche Travel, the demand for flying on historic and rare aircraft types is big business amongst aviation geeks.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that classic jets and props are now very much a dying breed, replaced by the modern aircraft produced by Airbus, Boeing and other manufacturers. We can’t deny the fantastic advances in today’s aircraft, but neither can we deny that it’s not quite the same as the old days.
If you’re lucky enough to see first generation Boeing and Douglas aircraft in action today, chances are it’s with a cargo airline. But with a bit of research, it might surprise you to learn that there are still opportunities to fly on older jets, props and Russian types – opportunities which won’t last for long.

It is well documented that there is only one airline still flying the Boeing 707 in passenger services, and many enthusiasts have made the journey to Iran to take a flight. The operator, Saha Air, operates the type on domestic services, however it is upgrading its fleet, meaning and the chances of flying a 707 are rapidly diminishing.

Photo by Matt Falcus.

A Lufthansa Junkers J 52 (D-AQUI). Photo by Matt Falcus.

The Boeing 727 can today only be found flying passengers in Africa, Iran and Afghanistan. Perhaps these sound like unlikely destinations, but when you consider that they are flown into Dubai on a daily basis, it makes the chance of flying on a short hop to Tehran and return quite feasible.

Even early Airbus products, which you might consider to be relatively modern – namely the A300B2 and B4 models – are now only operated by Iranian airlines.
Canada is a relatively easy place to find a number of rare types still flying passengers, and much easier to travel to for those in the USA. TV shows such as Ice Pilots NWT have highlighted Buffalo Airways and their DC-3 ‘sked’ service. But did you know airlines in Canada also fly some of the world’s last commercial Convair 580, DHC-7, and Hawker Siddeley HS.748 services?

Dragon Rapide by Matt Falcus.

Dragon Rapide by Matt Falcus.

When it comes to Russian airliners, the chance of catching them are running out fast – particularly with the Tupolev TU-134, which has recently been banished from Russia’s airlines. However, organized trips to North Korea are now regularly organized by Juche Travel Services which are targeted at aviation enthusiasts. These offer trips on Air Koryo’s Ilyushin IL-18, IL-62, IL-76, Tupolev TU-134, TU-154, TU-204, and Antonov AN-24. Needless to say you’d be hard pressed to organise flights on each of these types so easily elsewhere.

In Europe you can find some rarities, including the last passenger British Aerospace ATP operator, Next Jet. This airline operates the type on domestic services from Stockholm, Sweden – a pilgrimage I recently made, after missing out on flying the ATP in my native UK.

Classic tri-holder, the MD-11. Photo by Matt Falcus.

Classic tri-holder, the MD-11. Photo by Matt Falcus.

One of the most recent types to feature on the endangered list is the McDonnell Douglas MD-11. Anticipated as having massive potential as the natural successor to the DC-10, its debut was as recent as 1990, but today only KLM Royal Dutch Airlines still operates the type in scheduled passenger service. If you haven’t flown the MD-11, you’d better head to Amsterdam soon as the airline has already begun retiring the type and is expected to complete this in 2013.

Finally, when it comes to even older airliners from the early 20th century and wartime periods, there are a number of specialist operators in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA still keeping these types alive. For the de Havilland Dove, look up LTU Classik in Dusseldorf. If you want to fly a DC-4, Skyclass of South Africa have an example flying tourists. For the Ford Tri-Motor, look no further than the EAA Museum at Oshkosh, WI. For a Junkers Ju52, there are examples flying in Germany and Switzerland.

For full details on the rarest and most historic airliners still flying passengers, including details of the airlines and countries still flying them, check out my new eBook – Last Chance to Fly.

Airline Livery of the Week: Hey Mon, It’s Air Jamaica

Air Jamaica (Caribbean Airlines) - Boeing 737-800 - 9Y-JMB - John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) - September 18, 2011 1 361 RT CRP

Air Jamaica Boeing 737-800 – 9Y-JMB  at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on September 18, 2011. Photo by TVL1970.

Air Jamaica’s fleet over the years has consisted of so many different aircraft it’s hard to keep up. They’ve operated everything from a Douglas DC-8 to Boeing 727’s to Airbus A340s. Heck, they even leased a Boeing 747-100 from Aer Lingus at one point. Fortunately for their fleet operations they now only operate Boeing 737-800s.

Air Jamaica has quite the history of varied government ownerships and privatizations. The airline was founded in late 1968 with the Jamaican government owning the majority share but with Air Canada owning a minor share and providing maintenance services. Air Jamaica was partially privatized which lasted for about 10 years before financial trouble lead the Jamaican Government to take back full ownership.

Today Air Jamaica is a subsidiary of Caribbean Airlines Limited, with the Jamaican Government still having a 16% ownership share. Talk about an interesting ownership history for this airline.

Air Jamaica Airbus A340-300 in last generation livery. Photo by Ken Fielding.

Air Jamaica Airbus A340-300 in last generation livery. Photo by Ken Fielding.

Their website doesn’t seem to be up-to-date with their fleet. One page on their website makes reference to operating seven A320s, one A321, and one A319. Another shows that they are operating the A340, A320 and A321. But on their fleet page, they only reference operating 737s — which is all they currently operate.

Air Jamaica operates flights from their hub in Kingston, Jamaica to various destinations around the Caribbean, New York (JFK), Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Toronto.

Air Jamaica’s new livery is much more snazzy than their old ones. I particularly like the brightness and how the colors on the tail transition down the side of the plane in a swoosh like line. Given that this is a Caribbean based airline, it’s certainly fitting (and almost necessary) that they have a colorful livery!

Photos: TVL1970 & Ken Fielding

This story written by…Colin Cook, Correspondent.Colin is an avid AvGeek who works in finance and is based in the Seattle area. He has an immense passion for aviation and loves to travel as much as possible.

@CRoscoe2121

Exploring Qatar: A Tour of Qatar Executive Jet

Three of the Qatar Executive Jet Fleet, The Challenger 605 and Global 5000 – Photo: Qatar Executive Jet

Qatar Airways already has a pretty good product on their long haul and short haul fleets. A premium ticket will give passengers access to a VIP terminal, delicious cuisine, amazing crew and of course those comfy seats and amenities.  But how can you top that?  Well what about the ability to come and go when you want, fly where you want and even eat or drink what you want on-board your own private jet?  Enter Qatar Executive Jet:  A premium airline within an airline.

Only one other airline in the world has a wholly owned executive jet fleet and that is Delta Air Lines.  The next closest is Lufthansa who uses NetJets Europe for their private jet flights and even Singapore Airlines has a working relationship with JetSuite.  But there is no one in the Middle East/Eastern Europe that offers an executive jet fleet with the facilities and access of a major carrier, like Qatar Airways.

A Qatar Executive Jet Challenger 605 at Doha International Airport – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

Qatar Executive Jet is based out of Doha International Airport where they have a small hangar next door to the Qatar Amiri Fleet facility.  They currently operate a fleet of six aircraft: 2 Bombardier Global 5000’s, 1 Global Express XRS & 3 Challenger 605’s.  They offer 24/7, on-demand service, with the ability to go from booking, to flying in as little as four hours — not too shabby.

Qatar Executive can also be hired for charter work and if the six aircraft in the fleet are not large enough, you can also get access to the Qatar Airways main fleet.

The Interior of the Challenger 605 as it is being readied for a Flight – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

I was lucky enough to access the ramp and hangars while in Doha on a quiet Saturday morning.  Unfortunately only one aircraft was available. We had only a very short window to tour the Challenger 605, since it was being serviced ready for a flight to Mauritius — wish I could have joined.  Even though the 605 looks small on the outside (it is almost 20 feet shorter than its CRJ200 sibling), it is incredibly spacious on the inside. With the ability to turn its seats into two single beds and a double bed along with the sofa… it makes it the perfect size for a few couples heading off somewhere exotic.

Big comfortable leather seats, designer amenities, food and drinks of your choice (McDonald’s anyone?), an amazingly immaculate interior, personal crew and in-flight connectivity all add to ideal you are not an average citizen. Also, smoke ‘em if you have ‘em.  For the smokers out there, you can smoke your favorite Cuban, without a problem. They will even light it for you.

A Comfortable Leather Seat onboard the Challenger 605 – Photo: Mal Muir airlinereporter.com

With only six aircraft in the fleet, Qatar Executive Jet still managed to win Best Business Aviation Operator of the Year 2012.  Surely this shows that for a small airline that has been around for just three years, it was a smart business decision.  All those little touches and the knowledge that the Executive Jet service is backed by the main airline makes it a sure fire winner in the private jet arena.  Now that is the way to travel right?

Disclaimer: Qatar Airways paid for the trip to Qatar, all opinions are my own.

This story written by…

Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.

@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos