Saturday, 14 May 2011

Unusual planespotting opportunities

I am by no means an expert planespotter, but when I come across some interesting sights at Europe's airports, I like to share them here. On this occasion the pictures are of two airlines that operate very limited schedules to European airports, so it is not too easy to spot them!

An Uzbekistan Airways A310 taxiing at Madrid-Barajas (MAD) before taking off for Tashkent

An Aeromexico Boeing 767 at Barcelona-El Prat (BCN)

Friday, 6 May 2011

The frustrated merger Olympic-Aegean and the competitive situation in the Greek air travel market

The Olympic-Aegean merger, unlikely to happen anytime soon

The Greek aviation industry has been flying through turbulent times in recent years and one of the consequences has been the proposed merger between the country's two main airlines: Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines.

But it looks like industry consolidation will have to wait, since this merger has recently been blocked by the European Union on the basis that such a merger would bring about a virtual monopoly on Greece's domestic air routes. The people at Anna Aero have been doing some research on the competitive environment in the Greek aviation market. In a couple of articles (beware if you click on the links from work, as they contain some animations and sounds!) they have assessed what the market share of the merged airline would be, it would account for nearly 95% of the Greek domestic routes, but the situation would be significantly different on European routes, were it would be competing with foreign airlines in practically all city pairs.

They have also looked at what is the market concentration at other European markets. Greece would be at the top of the table after the merger, but France is, already now, not far behind. Although it is also true that overland communications might be easier in France, that has a well developed high-speed rail network and that Greece's many islands lack a fast transportation alternative.

The Greek aviation sector has been transformed and has got a face-lift recently but the islands remain dependent on the same old links to the mainland

When reading these articles other considerations come to my mind, maybe material for further analysis, for example, when considering the long-haul market. There is currently no Greek airline flying long-haul (these were large loss-makers for the old Olympic) and there aren't many international airlines flying long-haul into Athens either, so the offer is quite limited. A merged Greek airline would possibly have a better chance to do them, increasing capacity on this market segment.

Another point to consider is whether the resulting airline would join Star Alliance, of which Aegean is already a member, or Sky Team, as Olympic was on track to do. So how the competitive analysis in European routes would vary once taking into account code-sharing agreements and the alliance's partners routes?

In any case, the latest news is the an appeal has been filed regarding the blocking of the merger, so this story might go on for still quite a while...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Spectacular photo of Moscow at night taken from an airliner

I recently came across a site with amazing photos, all of which had in common that had been taken from aircraft in flight.

I then went to my archive and posted on Twitter what is possibly the best picture I have ever taken from an airplane. I took last winter from a Brussels Airlines A319 on a flight from Moscow to Brussels and it enjoyed an immediate success upon posting it, so I decided to post it on this blog too...I hope you like it!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Why I like Amsterdam Schiphol airport so much?

I have been fortunate enough to live in The Netherlands for over a year at one point in my life and I know Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) very well...I recently had the chance to visit it again after a long absence...and I still think is one of the best airports in the World, and possibly the best in Europe for plane spotters!

Is not only modern, clean, convenient and perfectly connected with regular and frequent ground transportation (it sits on a main railway trunk line), it's got great shopping, restaurants, even an art museum! is the small details that end up delighting the aviation enthusiast and planespotter! Here is a sample:

Aviation shop: all sort of memorabilia, aircraft models and other aviation-related stuff can be bought here. the shop is conveniently shaped as a KLM aircraft!

While walking along Schiphol's corridors you will find these indicators whose aim is to help the public recognise the different types of airplanes that are visible across the glass

Panoramic Terrace, although this photo contains only KLM aircraft, a very diverse mix of airlines from all over the World fly to AMS, which makes for a very interesting plane spotting opportunity!

The panoramic terrace is great for plane spotting!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Highlights of the annual Airneth conference (& V): low cost carriers ultimate frontier, long haul and connectivity

What is going to happen once low cost carriers become the dominant force in the European short haul market. What's next?

This is precisely the question that two separate presentations by speakers Wolfgang Grimme, of the University of Giessen, and Peter Morris, of Ascend Worldwide addressed.

Mr.Morris covered the topic of low cost long-haul carriers, a product that has not yet succeed in Europe, despite some attempts like that of the bankrupt Hong Kong-based airline Oasis. However, innovation in this area is coming from the Asia-Pacific region, with a number of successful airlines making inroads in long haul low cost aviation, despite the challenges and constraints of this type of operation. Jetstar, from Australia, might be an airline to keep an eye on as it successfully deploys its business model.

Mr.Grimme's presentation focused on different models to operate connection flights within low cost networks. Airlines and airports in Germany (particularly German Wings and Cologne-bonn and Berlin airports) have attempted to develop this concept, with mixed results so far. It seems the two most promising ways for low cost carriers to successfully operate connection flights are

  • Operate under feeder agreements for long-haul airlines (such as JetBlue is doing already and Vueling is planning to do with Iberia)
  • Facilitate connections when there are multiple low cost inter-hub frequencies.

German Wings tried it...

One of the main challenges when trying to connect between low cost carriers is that many destinations have very limited frequencies and uncoordinated schedules. If there is a network of low cost bases with very dense connections between them, potential connections might arise spontaneously. Once this point is reached, low cost carriers can facilitate these connections: this is what Southwest already does at some of its main bases. In Europe Ryanair has the type of dense network that would allow them to do it too, if they wanted (although I do not think this is going to happen anytime soon!).

...and some Dutch humor to close the conference...!