AviationThis week's aviation wrap: Cathay slashes jobs, dumps Dragon; Qatar claims clean Covid record; and Virgin Australia boss call it quits.

World's longest flight is back again

Singapore Airlines reinstalls New York flight, but will switch to JFK airport, when it restarts on 9 November.
Singapore Airlines reinstalls New York flight, but will switch to JFK airport, when it restarts on 9 November.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will resume the world’s longest scheduled flight between Singapore and New York-JFK starting 9 November.

The flight, using A350-900 aircraft, will replace SIA’s Singapore-Newark route, which has been suspended since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Nonstop ultra-long services are the bedrock of our services to the key US market,” SIA executive vice president commercial, Lee Lik Hsin said. “We will continue to ramp up existing services and reinstate other points as the demand for both passenger and cargo services return.”

Cathay slashes jobs, dumps Dragon

Cathay Pacific Group has released details of a massive corporate restructuring in response to the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the aviation market.

The airline said the restructuring – which includes the demise of Cathay Dragon - would enable the company to “secure its future” and meet its responsibilities to the Hong Kong aviation hub and its customers.

Some 5,900 jobs will go, while a majority of Cathay Dragon’s routes will be operated by Cathay Pacific and HK Express, a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The airline would also seek changes in conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots as part of the restructure.

Cathay Pacific's chief executive, Augustus Tang, said, “The global pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on aviation and the hard truth is we must fundamentally restructure the group to survive.

“The management team has concluded that the most optimistic scenario it can responsibly adopt is one in which, for the year 2021, the company will be operating at well under 50% of the passenger capacity it operated in 2019.”

The now-defunct Cathay Dragon’s routes will be split between Cathay Pacific and HK Express.
The now-defunct Cathay Dragon’s routes will be split between Cathay Pacific and HK Express.

Qatar Airways’ almost clean bill of health

Qatar Airways says its “robust” Covid-19 monitoring, detection and hygiene programme has resulted in more than 99.98% of passengers travelling Covid-free on board, with significantly less than one per cent of passengers confirmed to have tested positive by local authorities following a Qatar Airways flight.

The airline’s figures were based on flying more than 4.6 million passengers on more than 37,000 Covid-19-free flights across the globe since February 2020.

Furthermore, Qatar said significantly less than one per cent (0.002%) of operating cabin crew have been affected on board to date, with no new cases recorded since the airline introduced its full PPE in-flight uniform in May 2020, as well as the inclusion of passenger face shields on all flights.

Another player in the air for Vietnam

Vietravel, a large Vietnamese tourism operator, has received approval to launch its airline on 18 December. CEO Nguyen Quoc Ky said that the pandemic has forced his airline to rethink their strategy. For now, Vietravel will “wholly” focus on the domestic market.

Based in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien Hue, Vietravel will enter a fiercely competitive airline market which already has six players: Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, Jetstar Pacific, Bamboo Airways, VASCO and the newly-created military-owned Vietstar Airlines.

Jet Airways poised for take-off

India’s Jet Airways, which ran out of funds in April 2019 and subsequently declared bankrupt, has a new owner in investment firm Kalrock Capital and UAE-based businessman Murari Lal Jalan.

Kalrock and Jalan had initially proposed to restart with international operations, but later tweaked plans to focus on flights between major cities, before scaling it up gradually to other sectors.

The first flight of Jet Airways 2.0 is not likely to happen until the first quarter of 2021.

Virgin Australia’s strategy under scrutiny

The departure of Paul Scurrah as Virgin Australia’s boss, and his replacement with ex-Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka is being interpreted as a move by new owners Bain Capital to prune costs.

Warren Staples, a senior lecturer in the School of Management at Melbourne’s RMIT University said, “Bain is looking to slash costs, improve the balance sheet, and exit via listing or making a quick sale – a classic pump and dump strategy.”

Staples, whose topics cover corporate governance, business ethics, CSR, business and government relations, added, "If Virgin does head down the lowest cost path then it's hard to see this price war with Jetstar ending successfully for them.”

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