Saturday, 29 January 2011

Aena goes retro to present its new airport investments in Spain

I was at Madrid's Fitur a few days ago. This is one of the largest tourism trade shows in the World and, as you might imagine, airlines and other aviation-related operators had a strong presence. Aena, the Spanish airport operator had a huge stand where it showcased their current and projected investments at some Spanish airports, such as Santiago de Compostela (SCQ) and Alicante (ALC). The new and projected terminals at these airports where presented with a miniature scale model, but what amazed me the most is the aircraft models they chose to fill them up...a joy for aviation history enthusiasts!...I do not believe we are going to see Lufthansa's Boeing 727 and TWA's Lockheed Superconstellation at Spanish airports anytime soon, though!

Is good old Connie making a comeback? ask Aena!

A nice retro aircraft model, a Lufthansa Boeing 727

Thursday, 13 January 2011

When a direct flight is not really a direct flight?

I was recently at Barcelona airport and something caught my attention: in all airport screens, and also in the airport guide, I could see announced some flights operated by Iberia to destinations in North and South America (New York, Bogota, Mexico...), nothing unusual if I did not know that Iberia does not currently operate long distance flights at Barcelona (it is opening BCN-GRU and BCN-MIA in March). Passengers on these flights need to change planes at Madrid, however, nothing in the flight information suggested that was a non-direct flight.

Can you tell which of these flights are really direct?

Many airlines do code-sharing on certain routes, so you might end up flying with a different company to that you have booked the flight with, but I haven't come across (yet) a case where an airline markets a non-direct route, involving a stopover an a plane change, as a direct flight (if you do, please let me know!).

For example, in this snapshot from Aena's website (Spain's airport operator) you can find a Barcelona-New York (JFK) flight operated by Iberia, however when looking into the details this happens to be a non-direct flight.

Aena's website shows two Iberia flights BCN-JFK, the first one is a code-shared American Airlines direct flight, the second one does not really show a direct flight, but an indirect route to the Big Apple

It turns out that Iberia has been marketing for years something called "Catalunya-America": these are, basically, some flights specially timed to provide connections, via Madrid, to some American destinations. The way these flights are marketed has sometimes led people to believe those were really direct flights and it has been a source of misunderstandings.

From what I have seen so far on this case, I found the information provided by Iberia on these flights to be a bit misleading to the uninformed passenger. Despite the fact that they might be well coordinated to enable connections, these are still non-direct flights and this should be made more clear when marketing them.

What I am wondering is why Iberia can present these non-direct flights with their own codes as proper direct flight. What prevents Lufthansa, for example, from showing a Barcelona-Beijing or Barcelona-Bangkok flight, that would in all cases involve a Frankfurt or Munich stopover, as direct flights?

If someone could clarify these points I would be grateful...

Monday, 10 January 2011

The best airline meal in a long time

A meal on Brussels airlines

One of the best airline meals I have had recently (I mean, on Economy class of course), on board Brussels Airlines flight from Moscow Domodedovo (DME) to Brussels (BRU). Very simple and unpretentious, but nice and filling. You will see in the picture that it was not a big dish, but rather an ecclectic collection of ingredients: Feta-style cheese and pasta salad, bread and butter, salty crackers, a cake and, of course, being on a Belgian plane the piece of chocolate could not be missed. No dodgy sauces trying to mask ingredients of doubious provenance or dull overcooked vegetables, just the sort of food that brightens your journey...

It's a pitty that on the successive flight to Barcelona, despite flying the same airline only paying "a la carte" menu was on offer...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Turkish Airlines, total rebranding

We continue tracking the amazing movements of Turkish Airlines (THY), a company that seems to be in the middle of a transformation that is nothing short of a total reinvention.

The Turkish flag carrier is making a very serious effort to position itself as one of the top players in the European air travel market, it is not only the amazing network and fleet expansion, the sponsorship deals with F.C.Barcelona and Manchester United or a stream of full-page commercials in top international magazines , but THY is looking at every aspect of the air travel experience: rebranding includes areas such as in-flight entertainment, cabin interiors (the upcoming fleet expansion is the perfect opportunity to implement it)and on-board food.

I will keep an eye on THY to see how they surprise it next time, but granted the frantic marketing activity of the company I guess it won't be long!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Spain's empty airports (V): Burgos

This case is similar to Logroño (see previous post). The historical city of Burgos and its region is not without its tourist attractions, and to be fair, in spite of the economic crisis, Burgos airport (RGS) has shown some modest growth since its inauguration, in 2008. However, it has capacity for 500,000 passengers year, and with only a handful of regular flights, operated by Air Nostrum, to Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Paris-Orly, there are serious doubts about its capacity to generate enough demand on the long-term to make it economically viable.

The Spanish government invested €45.6 million on this facility, a figure that might be justified in cases where the airport helps break geographical isolation (it does not seem to be the case here) or brings significant benefits in the form of tourism income and local development. This might be a valid strategy for Burgos, but when taking a closer look at where did the growth in traffic come from, a rather different picture emerges, there have been some new charter flights operating at the airport, but they are flying local people out rather than bringing tourists in! So, in practice, the government is subsidising locals to go spend their money elsewhere...does not look like a sustainable growth strategy to me..

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Spain's empty airports (IV): Logroño

The Spanish region of La Rioja is famous worldwide for its great wines and its cellars attract numerous visitors every year, but few get there by plane if we are to judge by the traffic figures at the regional airport Logroño-Agoncillo. The airport was inaugurated in 2003, after an investment of €40 million, and after a few years of growth, peaked in 2007 at 56,000. It has been in falling since then and it currently stands at around 20,000 passengers per year.

There is hardly any regular traffic at the airport, only Air Nostrum operating a regional jet to Madrid-Barajas (MAD), but it is possible that there is not really a critical mass of passengers to sustain more flights, particularly when considering that land transport in the area is quite good (Logroño is in the middle of the Ebro Valley, a major communication line) and Bilbao airport and its much broader choice of flights and frequencies, is 1,5 hours away by car.

In the meantime the airport keeps losing €4,42 million a year, or €220 per passenger, and its debt stands at €52 million.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Lufthansa and Boeing, 50 years together

Lufthansa is celebrating its 50 years of continued use of Boeing aircraft. Here is an example, I could recently spot at Frankfurt airport (FRA), of a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 specially decorated for the occasion, with a large "50" painted on the side.