News in Brief

Business Buzz

United Airlines is working to improve baggage delivery as part of an updated customer-service policy aimed at avoiding federally mandated service requirements. United, the largest carrier at Denver International Airport, says it is striving to deliver all checked luggage within 25 minutes of a flight’s arrival. The airline said that is its current standard but it may not achieve the delivery time consistently. Baggage delivery is “one of the last links in the service chain and can tarnish an otherwise positive experience,” United chief executive Glenn Tilton said. The updated customer-service policy covers 12 areas and United says it gives customers more information on policies and pledges than the previous version.

Airbus is considering launching a freighter version of its popular A330-300 passenger aircraft, which would offer a higher payload than the A330-200 cargo aircraft due to enter service at the end of 2009. Airbus chief operating officer John Leahy said the A330-300F could possibly be launched next year, although entry into airline service is likely several more years away. Leahy confirmed the European aircraft manufacturer had received 70 firm orders from 60 operators for the Airbus A330-200 freighter since the aircraft was launched last January including: Etihad Crystal Cargo, the cargo division of Etihad Airways, Flyington Freighters of India and Turkish cargo operators MNG Airlines and ACT Airlines. The plane has also been ordered by several leasing companies such as Avion Aircraft Trading of Iceland, which has signed an A330-200F lease agreement with Icelandair Cargo, Guggenheim Aviation Partners and Intrepid Aviation Group. Leahy said the A330-200F would be able to carry a 60-70 ton payload from Hong Kong to Dubai or Anchorage.

India’s booming aviation sector has prompted one of the largest airline catering and in-flight solutions providers LSG Sky Chefs to make India its major hub and open four new facilities in the country next year. “We are planning new facilities at Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata,” Chief Operating Officer, Asia-Pacific, H.K. Cheung said. LSG Sky Chefs is the sole independent international airline caterer in India and has a presence at the old airports of Hyderabad and Bangalore. It is building facilities at Hyderabad and Bangalore to replace the existing ones. “India is a major market where there is a strong demand for top-quality in-flight catering services,” Cheung said. The market size is around $100 million USD and growing, Cheung, who was in the Thai capital to attend the International Travel Catering Association (ITCA) Asia-Pacific conference, said.

Experiencing high load factors of up to 92 percent, Air France plans to enhance its services to southern Indian cities and is also considering Goa and Kolkata as new destinations. “Our load factors oscillate between 82 and 92 percent in winter and summer seasons. The traffic between Bangalore, where services started in December 2005, and Chennai (opened in October 2006) have already reached the Mumbai levels,” Air France Executive Vice President Bruno Matheu said. “We plan to increase our flights to Bangalore and Chennai to dailies soon,” he said. However, he did not give a specific time-frame for increasing frequencies.

Horizon Air was forced to cancel hundreds of flights in September to perform a precautionary inspection ordered by Canadian air safety authorities on the landing gear of 19 aircraft. Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration, issued inspection orders for higher-usage Bombardier Q400 turboprop airliners like the ones whose landing gear collapsed in two separate incidents in Europe. Those two aircraft were operated by Scandinavian Airlines. The Bombardier aircraft are built in Canada. Horizon is the largest customer for Bombardier’s Q400 aircraft with 33 of the airliners in its fleet. Nineteen of those planes met the criteria for further inspections: more than 10,000 takeoffs and landings.

On Sept. 11, the Atlantic City International Airport was the first airport in New Jersey to use a state-of-the-art undercarriage vehicle screening system that captures a video image of cars, trucks and buses as they enter airport property. The purpose of the new technology is to check for explosives or contraband that could be stashed under the vehicle. Law enforcement officers from the Egg Harbor Township Police Department and the State Police, who share law enforcement duties at the airport, were trained to use the equipment. The Egg Harbor Township Police purchased the undercarriage screening equipment with $22,500 in grant funding from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security. The grant was administered through the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management.

Continental Airlines, along with Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Governor Ted Strickland, have announced a plan by Continental to grow its capacity at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) by 40 percent over a two-year period. Continental will initially operate 50 new flights, principally on regional jets, and add 20 new, nonstop destinations by next summer. By early 2009, Continental plans to add more than a dozen additional flights, principally on mainline aircraft, further strengthening Cleveland’s role in Continental’s global route network. The project is expected to create an estimated 700 jobs. Many of the regional jet aircraft used for the additional service will be reallocated from Newark. Beginning in 2009, a number of additional mainline aircraft will also be allocated to support the growth. The announcement is the result of a partnership among Continental, the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio.

Partnerships/Acquisitions/Contracts

Siemens Airport Logistics was recently awarded a $61.9 million contract from Swinerton Builders of Los Angeles. The contract is for the construction of a 100 percent in-line baggage screening system in three north terminals at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as a part of the LAX North Project. Overall project completion is scheduled for 2010. The LAX North Project is a $192 million project that involves public area refurbishment in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and the construction of the baggage screening system for automatic explosives screening of all outbound checked passenger baggage in the three terminals. The systems transport bags from the lobby ticket counters via conveyors, automatically screens them for explosives and then sorts them by flight number for specific destinations.

Menzies Aviation and IHD, specialists for PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility), have signed a contract to work together to address the upcoming PRM tenders which form part of new EU legislation. Regulation 1107/2006, effective July 2008, focuses on improving quality levels, providing a seamless service and working with the airport operators as steering/managing bodies. Menzies Aviation will work together with IHD on efficient manpower planning, quality management and optimal customer service in the airport environment.

Gate Gourmet, an independent airline caterer and logistics provider, announces it will expand the scope of its business into airline ground handling and support through the acquisition of a leading U.K.-based group operating under the Fernley and International Aviation Services (IAS) brands. The acquired companies offer a comprehensive range of aviation special services including aircraft cabin cleaning, aircraft washing and deicing; security activities such as baggage screening and document verification; airport executive lounges and passenger services such as wheelchair and unaccompanied minor assistance. “This is a major step forward in the evolution of Gate Gourmet and it ensures that we continue as the innovation leader in the airline catering value chain,” said David Siegel, chairman and CEO. “This acquisition enables us to capitalize on our existing airport and ramp presence to provide high quality non-catering service at a competitive cost, both above and below the wing.” Along with Fernley and IAS, the group also includes Specialist Airport Services, European Airport Services and Airfield Services Ltd. The companies operate primarily in the U.K., including at London’s Heathrow, Gatwick Stansted and Luton airports, as well as Manchester, Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Liverpool, East Midlands, Biggin Hill and Glasgow. European Airport Services also operates in Amsterdam; Brussels, and several other regional airports in France and the Netherlands.

Hydrogen Engine Center Inc., a designer, manufacturer and distributor of alternative-fueled internal combustion engines and distributed power generation equipment, announces it has entered into a memorandum of understanding with New Delhi-based Belliss India Limited to sell, deploy, and service its engines and distributed generation equipment in India. “We believe our new relationship with Belliss offers HEC the opportunity to establish broader sales penetration of carbonless energy products in India while allowing Belliss to expand its product and service scope. HEC’s products are complementary to Belliss’ core competencies and products of which steam turbine power plants are their primary focus,” stated Don Vanderbrook, COO of HEC.

Phoenix International Ventures Inc., has announced its wholly owned subsidiary, Phoenix Aerospace Inc., has received a $363,000 purchase order to deliver air start cart systems to a major defense contractor. Delivery is expected by the end of October 2008.

People in the News

Delta Air Lines Inc., announces Chief Operating Officer James Whitehurst, who was passed over for the carrier’s top job, has resigned effective immediately. Outgoing Chief Executive Gerald Grinstein said in a statement that Delta had hoped Whitehurst would stay, but the airline respects “his decision to move on in pursuit of new challenges.” Former Northwest Airlines Chief Executive Richard Anderson beame Delta’s new CEO in September. Whitehurst and Delta Chief Financial Officer Ed Bastian had both been top internal candidates to replace Grinstein but were passed over.

PrimeFlight Aviation Services has named Mark Lyons as its national director of business development, according to Mike Wein, president. Lyons comes to PrimeFlight from Standard Parking Corporation where he served as vice president for airports east and transportation, leading all business development and operations for the east region. Previously, Lyons served as general manager for Aircraft Service International Group and was responsible for the safe and efficient operation of an airline and ground services support facility. Citing PrimeFlight’s recent success, Wein welcomed Lyons as an industry professional. “Mark brings a wealth of experience that will create unique opportunities for PrimeFlight’s ongoing growth,” he said. “I look forward to his contributions.”

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