After years of on-and-off speculation, the US ultra-low cost carriers Frontier and Spirit have stated their plans to merge, building to a scale not seen in any other ULCC in the Americas. However, the merged entity would still be dwarfed by the US’ four largest airlines – American, Delta, Southwest and United.
In many respects the combination of Frontier and Spirit is logical, given their common fleet, similar business model, and slightly different network approaches. US regulators may or may not reach similar conclusions; but the airlines believe their proposed merger will expand low cost options to passengers in numerous markets.
There is also the obvious question about whether this latest chapter in US consolidation will spur more M&A activity, and the answers are not that clear.
TO READ ON, VISIT: Frontier and Spirit: will a new ULCC chapter emerge?
Airlines are beginning to ramp up services to and from Vietnam as the government loosens restrictions on overseas air routes and visitor entry. Many services were resumed in Feb-2022 and the rate is likely to pick up even more from the end of Mar-2022 as the Vietnamese tourism industry reopens.
Vietnam is one of multiple Asia-Pacific markets looking to reopen to tourists, with the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia among those that have recently made significant announcements in this regard. This is a particularly important step for Vietnam, as it is one of the region’s most popular destinations and tourism is a major contributor to the economy.
While some major markets remain heavily restricted, Vietnam’s airlines are beginning to restore routes where they can, both within Asia and outside the region. In some cases, the country’s airlines are launching new long haul flights to take advantage of changing market dynamics.
TO READ ON, VISIT: Vietnam’s airlines start to gain international momentum
Liverpool Airport never really fulfilled its potential after being overlooked as the English northwest region’s primary international gateway 60 years ago.
But in recent years, under (majority) private sector ownership, it has managed to secure a niche as a low cost airport with two of the biggest hitters in that segment, easyJet and Ryanair, taking up most of the capacity.
It is quite recent, but just pre-pandemic the airport's 'Strategic Vision' and master plan statements identified a new goal – that of being ‘the airport of choice’ for the northwest.
But that is a tall order when Britain’s third busiest and six times bigger airport is less than 50km away down the motorway.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic has been something of a leveller, and if Liverpool is ever to do it, now is the time to go for it.
But apart from the additional traffic it would bring, such ambition has to be matched by infrastructure spending, and firstly the city council must understand fully what the impacts of that would be on its perception from an environmental viewpoint. That is why it is a laudable decision to review the airport’s expansion master plan from the environmental perspective. What might not be so laudable is for the council to sell its small stake.
As John Lennon, after whom the airport is now named, once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
The Japanese airport privatisation programme initiated by the Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry over a decade ago was progressing nicely until the coronavirus pandemic, which slowed it down without stopping it entirely.
Now it looks set to pick up speed again with the Niigata Prefecture aiming to make a final decision on whether or not to proceed in Nov-2022. The likelihood is that it will, because the programme can be judged to have been a success so far and because Niigata, while being only Japan’s 24th largest city, is underserved by air transport.
What is of equal interest is whether or not MLIT’s critical twin aims of increasing the number of LCCs and of their passengers, and increasing tourism, can be achieved at Niigata.
In the first case it can, but greater tourist numbers won’t flow automatically from a privatisation.
TO READ ON, VISIT: Niigata - Japan’s next airport for privatisation edges closer to a deal
Before the coronavirus pandemic – which stopped it dead in its tracks – Cape Verde, the Atlantic Ocean archipelago which is right on the operational limits for leisure airlines flying out of Europe (its main market), had witnessed impressive tourist growth, mainly generated by charter airlines.
The government is now trying to pick up the pieces by reverting to an imposition on the national airline to satisfy the demands of the country’s diaspora and to kick-start tourism again. As part of the package it is rewriting the country’s aviation code which, inter alia, might help define PSO routes more readily.
But there is more to it than that.
Along with most other countries Cape Verde faces an uncertain future. Will tourists return at all? If not, how can we encourage them to? They are an important feature of the economy.
The answer may lie in a better understanding of which organisation is best suited to which task – point-to-point leisure services; providing for the needs of nationals; and hubbing activities from what could be a geographically advantageous situation.
Having a respected private sector airport operator in charge might help, and finding a concessionaire is a priority too for the government.
But finding the right one might also prove not to be so easy.
Brazil is nearing the end of a state auction of its main airports, one that began a decade ago. The more recent rounds have been of small regional airports, but the domestic airports in the two biggest cities – having been held back previously to help the finances of the state operator, Infraero – have been included for this seventh tranche, which will be completed in the first half of this year.
A readjustment will mean that Rio de Janeiro’s Santos Dumont Airport will be auctioned separately, while the ‘block’ it was previously in is given over to the Congonhas Airport (São Paulo) group.
The asking price for all the airports seems high, and in the case of Santos Dumont it is eye-watering. Whether or not such prices can be achieved until ‘normality’ is achieved is open to question.
It is to be wondered whether the government had considered linking Santos Dumont and Congonhas into one package.
While foreign investors will be attracted to the Rio airport in particular, there will be nagging concerns as to whether a future government might revoke the concessions – after all, that has happened before, in several countries.
Meanwhile the existing government is selling off infrastructure as fast as it can to improve the country’s economic outlook before the presidential election.
This regular weekly CAPA report features a summary of recent aviation sustainability and environment news, selected from the 300+ news alerts published daily by CAPA.
This week’s issue includes: Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Safran and Singapore Airlines sign Global Sustainable Aviation Fuel declaration; Neste and ITOCHU expand partnership to grow the availability of SAF in Japan; Singapore Airlines selects ExxonMobile to supply SAF over one year pilot; Virgin Group partners with Agilyx to research and develop waste-to-fuel facilities; Airbus and SEA SpA sign hydrogen distribution research agreement.
TO READ ON, VISIT: SPECIAL REPORTS: Aviation Sustainability and the Environment