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Old July 7th, 2009, 07:23 PM   #641
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Qantas fined in Canada air cargo price-fix scheme
7 July 2009

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd has pleaded guilty to participating in a price-fixing conspiracy on air cargo exported on certain routes from Canada between May 2002 and February 2006, Canada's Competition Bureau said Tuesday.

Qantas, which is the fourth carrier to be convicted in the bureau's conspiracy investigation, admitted that during this period its freight division fixed surcharges on some cargo that was trucked from Canada to the United States for onward shipment to Australia and other destinations.

The bureau fined Qantas C$155,000 ($133,620) for its part in the scheme, which it continues to investigate.

Last month the bureau, an arms-length government agency, fined Air France-KLM, Europe's biggest airline, and a subsidiary, Martinair, a combined C$10 million for communicating with competitors about the amount and timing of fuel surcharges on air cargo exported from Canada.

($1=$1.16 Canadian)
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Old July 10th, 2009, 03:03 PM   #642
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Airlines buckle up for Pacific flights pact
10 July 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald

VIRGIN BLUE and the US carrier Delta Air Lines face big hurdles in persuading competition regulators to allow them to form a joint venture on the Australia-US route.

In a tacit admission that the trans-Pacific is proving an enormous challenge, Virgin and Delta, the world's largest airline, have unveiled plans to form a revenue-sharing agreement under which a steering committee would manage the airlines' aircraft on the route.

The deal would allow Delta and Virgin's long-haul carrier, V Australia, to schedule flights throughout the day rather than have their aircraft departing at the same time. There would be codesharing and extended frequent flyer program benefits.

But industry insiders believe the deal's potential to lessen competition works against its approval.

The US Department of Justice is taking a tougher stance on such deals. It recently blocked Continental's entry to the

Star Alliance. The Australian regulator also stopped a merger of Qantas and Air New Zealand's trans-Tasman operations

in 2003 despite strong competition on the Auckland-Australia route.

Qantas and United Airlines declined to say whether they would oppose the deal. Air New Zealand, which has one-stop flights between Australia and the US, was "considering whether to lodge an appeal".

The plans come less than a week after Delta began daily services between Sydney and Los Angeles. Once highly profitable for Qantas and United as the only direct carriers, the route has been a loss-maker for airlines since at least the beginning of the year.

Should Virgin and Delta overcome the regulatory hurdles, their combined operations will pose the biggest threat to United, which, although insisting it is committed to the route, has been singled out as the most likely to stop services.

Virgin's chief executive, Brett Godfrey, said the planned deal was a "huge risk mitigator" for the two airlines amid a severe downturn in travel.

"We have to see ourselves through what will be a very difficult six to 12 months," he said. "This is a bit of a hybrid of a merger. [But] we have no intention of any capacity reduction."

The deal would be similar to Qantas's joint services agreement with British Airways between London and Australia, which allows them to share costs.

Virgin and Delta do not expect a response from the competition regulators until at least the end of the year. Virgin has ended its interline agreement with United.

Investors interpreted the planned deal as a chance for Virgin to limit its losses on the trans-Pacific. Its shares rose 1.5c, to 30.5c, yesterday.
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Old July 14th, 2009, 09:10 AM   #643
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Virgin defers on call for funds
14 July 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald

VIRGIN BLUE has left open the door to a capital-raising after taking several hours yesterday to issue a carefully worded statement denying speculation of an imminent announcement.

The airline entered a trading halt early yesterday after the Herald reported that it was on the verge of announcing a raising of up to $400 million, only to emerge more than four hours later denying a potential rights issue was under way.

But Virgin's statement implied that it has been actively canvassing fund managers' appetite for an issue of new shares. "Given the prevailing macro-economic conditions, Virgin Blue ... assesses capital management initiatives as appropriate. However, the board has not approved any such transaction as has been reported," it said in a statement to the ASX.

It did not respond to questions from the Herald about why it had to request a trading halt in order to respond to a media report, and whether Virgin management had made any proposal to the board.

Speculation about Virgin tapping the market for cash to steer its way through a severe downturn in travel has been brewing for weeks.

Australian fund managers say they would be tempted to buy into Virgin only if it was able to secure a cornerstone investor to give them comfort about its longer-term future.

Private equity investors of the likes of TPG and Indigo Partners an investor in Tiger Airways are the only likely candidates given the strained financial positions of most airlines.

Virgin will also be mindful of not breaching a 49 per cent cap on foreign ownership. If the airline becomes majority foreign-owned, it will be unable to fly on its recently launched route between Australia and the US.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson, who has a 25.5 per cent stake in Virgin, would also have to invest more capital to avoid a dilution of his holding.

Despite Delta Air Lines and Virgin unveiling joint-venture plans for services between Australia and the US, analysts doubt the US carrier's willingness and ability to invest equity.

The Singaporean backers of Regional Express also have a 4 per cent stake in Virgin, but industry insiders are sceptical of their ability to raise the capital needed even if they wanted to increase their holdings.

Likewise, Air New Zealand has been raised as a possible cornerstone investor given that a tie-up could result in substantial cost savings, but it would hinge on the NZ Government's appetite.

Insiders also downplayed interest from Middle Eastern airlines despite Emirates forming a code share with the Australian carrier last month.

Shares in Virgin closed down 1.5c at 29c yesterday.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 08:13 PM   #644
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United to match any rival air price
22 July 2009
The Australian

THE low-fare bonanza across the Pacific is set to continue, with United Airlines vowing to keep protecting its patch by matching any discounts offered by competitors V Australia, Qantas and Delta Airlines.

United vice-president Pacific James Mueller yesterday said he expected the fare wars to continue into the foreseeable future and that United would not back down from challenging any competitor's initiatives.

``United is determined and committed to matching the initiatives of other carriers and we'll compete aggressively on price if that's what's required for us to protect our business here,'' Mr Mueller said in Sydney.

``In terms of the question of how it's going to play out in the future, and are these fares sustainable, my view on that is ultimately it's supply and demand that are going to determine what the prevailing market prices are.

``Certainly, as long as we see this level of capacity, relative to the fundamental market demand, there's going to be a lot of pressure on prices.''

Consumers have in recent months been the big winners from the doubling of capacity on routes between Australia and the US mainland, with return economy fares falling to less than $1000 and cuts in premium tickets of up to 40 per cent.

V Australia this week offered one-way economy fares to Los Angeles for $579, an estimated 70 per cent discount on usual one-way fares.

But the fare wars have taken their toll on profitability, with Qantas and V Australia admitting they are losing money on flights to the US.

Mr Mueller would not say whether United was losing money on the route, but noted that Australia was one of the places where the airline's business had held up relatively well, particularly compared with other parts of its network.

He said United's investment in upgrading its premium cabins had seen it maintain its Australian market share in the face of increased competition.

``I look at our services to Australia as sort of our southern cornerstone of our overall Pacific product offering,'' he said.

``We hear often from our global customers how important these services are, and fully intend to keep operating here indefinitely.''

In other aviation news yesterday, Jetstar announced it would double its daily services between Sydney and Darwin as it continued to build up its Top End hub.

And Regional Express said subsidiary Pel-Air Aviation had been selected as conditional preferred tenderer for a 10-year contract to provide fixed-wing patient transport in Victoria from mid-2011.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 08:26 PM   #645
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Swine flu drags Sydney Airport numbers down
21 July 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald

SYDNEY AIRPORT suffered a halving in Japanese passengers last month due in part to fears about swine flu, contributing to a 4 per cent decline in overall traffic.

However, the latest monthly figures for Macquarie Airports' flagship asset show a moderation in the decline in passenger traffic after several months of more severe falls.

MAp's European airports also recorded less severe declines. Copenhagen's traffic fell almost 9 per cent in June, Brussels 9 per cent and Bristol 12 per cent.

Investors took a positive view of the latest traffic statistics. MAp securities rose almost 5 per cent, or 11c, to $2.36 yesterday, in its fifth consecutive trading day of gains.

The slump in Japanese travellers at Sydney Airport accelerated last month due to fears about swine flu. Koreans also dropped by a quarter. Qantas's low-cost subsidiary, Jetstar, cut a third of flights between Japan and Australia in June and this month due to cancellations of trips.

Helping offset the decline, American traveller figures rose 14 per cent as fares between Los Angeles and Sydney declined substantially due to competition between Qantas, United Airlines and Virgin Blue's long-haul carrier, V Australia. American visitors are likely to increase further this month following the US airline Delta beginning flights to Sydney.

Yesterday V Australia launched a $579 one-way fare across the Pacific, which it boasted was 70 per cent lower than the best one-way tickets offered by its competitors.

Sydney Airport also stands to benefit from the Singapore Airlines-backed Tiger Airways increasing flights to Melbourne from four a day to as many as nine.

However, Macquarie Equities analysts said Tiger's increase in share of the Melbourne-Sydney route to 10 per cent was likely to stifle any near-term recovery in airlines' yields. They said it may also prompt Jetstar to put on more flights to Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport.

Tourism Australia has also warned that the worst of the downturn in international visitors is now likely in the second half of this year. A fall in visitors in the first three months was less severe than expected because of discounting in air fares.

Melbourne Airport has also reported steady traffic for the latest quarter at 5.9 million passengers. International passengers rose 6 per cent but domestic numbers fell 1 per cent.
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Old July 21st, 2009, 08:55 PM   #646
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More cheap flights
22 July 2009
Daily Telegraph

QATAR Airways will begin flying from Australia later this year, with launch fares to the Middle East and Europe on sale for under $1700 return.

Three weekly services will start from Melbourne on December 6, with daily flights from April 2010. Flights to Sydney are expected to begin next April.

The airline will fly to Europe, the UK, Africa and India via Doha -- the capital of Qatar, near the United Arab Emirates. The city is expected to follow Dubai and Abu Dhabi and become a popular stopover destination for Australian travellers.
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Old July 22nd, 2009, 04:51 PM   #647
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Runway breaches top airport safety log
20 July 2009
The West Australian

There were more than 80 reportable safety incidents at Jandakot Airport last year, an average of one every 4 days.

The airport’s safety log from 2008, obtained by The West Australian in a freedom of information request from Federal air traffic control agency Airservices Australia, reveals a range of breaches.

These include planes and helicopters taking off without clearances, communication breakdowns between controllers and pilots, and crash-landings.

In August, a student pilot crashed into a suburban street in Wattleup, almost 10km south-west of the airport.

In another incident, two dogs ran wild around the runway in a dangerous breach of perimeter security.

The log reveals runway incursions were the most common reportable incident with 22 reports.

Aircraft violated controlled airspace nine times and emergencies were declared 12 times.

Two incidents, including the Wattleup crash, were classified as aircraft accidents.

The log reveals several instances of pilots being unfamiliar with clearance procedures and rules at Jandakot and others either ignored or misunderstood directions from controllers or flew higher or lower than their clearance.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has imposed tighter rules on Australia’s six general aviation airports, of which Jandakot is one, from tomorrow.

The new rules aim to improve safety at the busy airports, which are typically used by flight schools, charter operators, helicopters and private planes.

The new rules limit the number of aircraft in a landing and takeoff “circuit” and require all aircraft to be cleared to enter, cross or taxi on any runway.

At least one air traffic controller must be on duty for all daylight hours within 12 months.

Jandakot is Australia’s busiest airfield with more than 350,000 flights last year, and an Airservices Australia spokesman said the number of safety incidents was consistent with other Australian general aviation airports.

The agency had rigorous safety management and all incidents of any type were reported, from minor to procedural to those of a “more serious nature”.

“Because the system captures all incidents, the number of (reports) is not in itself an indicator of the level of safety or risk at an aerodrome,” a spokesman said.

Jandakot Airport Holdings managing director John Fraser said the company, which has a 49-year lease on the airport, had no control over flight movements, which were Airservices Australia’s responsibility.

“It has to be kept in mind that 82 incidents out of 380,000 or so aeroplane movements, with no deaths or significant injuries, is a fairly insignificant number,” Mr Fraser said.

“You would probably see far worse on the motorways.”

Australian Transport and Safety Bureau spokesman Julian Walsh said there had been “no obvious trends of any sort” at Jandakot Airport.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 09:10 PM   #648
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Small airports lose service share
24 July 2009
The Australian

THE number of regional airports served by passenger services continues to dwindle at a rate of about ten a year, despite an overall increase in passenger movements.

A report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics shows that the number of regional airports serviced by regular public transport (RPT) fell from 170 in 2005 to 138 last year.

This was down from 268 in 1985 and was despite the fact that passenger movements at regional airports continued to rise, from 17.5 million in 2005 to 22.3 million last year. This was accompanied by a rise in the number of passengers on regional air routes, from 16 million in 2005 to 20.1 million.

The fall in the number of airports has prompted renewed calls by the Regional Aviation Association of Australia for more federal government attention to aviation infrastructure.

The bureau's analysis found that just under half of all regional airports had experienced growth and gained additional RPT seats.

It said most of the airports that lost passenger services were in remote areas where there was an insufficient population base to support profitable services.

The number of airlines also dropped over the survey period, from 34 to 27 -- although more have since left the industry -- and the bureau noted about 70 percent of regional airports were served by single operators. It found the average annual passenger growth rate of 9.6 per cent was due mainly to an 8.3 per cent increase on routes between regional airports and major cities to 18.5 million.

The number of passengers travelling between regional areas grew at 2.1 per cent, from 1.5 million to 1.6 million.

Regional Aviation Association of Australia chief executive Paul Tyrrell said the association was concerned about the decline in the number of regional ports.

``I understand there are economic reasons,'' he said. ``But it's really starting to limit the number of towns that have RPT services.''

Mr Tyrrell said one of the problems was that smaller Navajo and Chieftain aircraft, which were no longer in production, had been the backbone of thinner regional routes and new, replacement aircraft were significantly more expensive and required more traffic to justify the capital expenditure.

There was also only a certain number of destinations that were viable for regional airlines with bigger aircraft such as Saabs and Metros.

Mr Tyrrell said the danger was that some medium-size towns that had traditionally relied on passengers services might start missing out.

He called on the federal government to pay more attention to regional air routes as part of the national transport infrastructure.

``I'd love to see air routes considered the same as land and sea routes,'' he said.
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Old July 23rd, 2009, 10:30 PM   #649
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Cheap fares, mines boost Perth Airport
24 July 2009
The West Australian

More low-cost airlines, airfare wars and the resource industry have led to a surge in passengers through Perth Airport.

The 6.1 per cent rise in passengers for the year to June 30 — the highest growth of any Australian capital city airport — is in stark contrast to the global slump in international passenger traffic, with big falls up to 40 per cent.

More than 9.7 million passengers travelled through Perth Airport in the year to June 30, an increase of 555,815 travellers over the previous financial year.

International passenger growth was 4.2 per cent while domestic growth jumped 6.7 per cent.

Perth Airport chief executive officer Brad Geatches conceded that airlines had to slash fares to attract passengers.

“While the number of passengers increased during the year, the commercial aviation market became far more challenging for our airline partners and many found it necessary to discount airfares to support demand,” Mr Geatches said.

Strongest growth was recorded in the intrastate market, with a 15 per cent rise for the year, mainly because of fly-in, fly-out workers in the resource sector. “We have also benefited from new intrastate and interstate services by Virgin Blue, Tiger Airways and Jetstar as well as new services from Skywest,” Mr Geatches said.

New international services by Jetstar, Pacific Blue and AirAsia X to Bali, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have proved very popular with WA holidaymakers.

Biggest outbound growth was Bali with a 42 per cent surge in passengers, while inbound it was passengers from Kuala Lumpur, up 30 per cent.

Mr Geatches said Perth Airport’s redevelopment was on track with $70 million invested in aviation infrastructure last year and $190 million planned for this year. International Air Transport Association figures for May show an overall slump in passengers of 9.3 per cent, with freight demand down 17.4 per cent.

IATA director-general and chief executive officer Giovanni Bisignani said the industry “may have hit the bottom, but we are a long way from recovery”.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 12:18 PM   #650
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Qantas flight from S'pore struck by lightning

Thu, Jul 23, 2009
AsiaOne


A Qantas Airbus A330-300 operating the QF72 flight from Singapore to Perth was struck by lighting just minutes after takeoff, Australian paper WA Today reported.

A spokesman for the airline was reported to have said that the incident did not present any safety issue to the plane or its passengers.

Passenger Neville Fitzpartick, who was returning to Australia from a two-week trip to Russia told news website PerthNow that he saw "an orange stripe" run along the wing and side of the plane as lightning hit the aircraft during a tropical storm.

PerthNow reported Mr Fitzpatrick saying that the plane was not affected by the strike, though the captain did inform passengers that the aircraft had been struck by lightning.

The plane had left Singapore in "heay rain and heavy cloud" according to Mr Fitzpatrick's account on PerthNow.

The passenger, who was sitting in first class with his wife said that the lightning struck "a minute or so" after the plane had taken off.

The flight was otherwise uneventful.

According to WA Today, Qantas said that the aircraft will be inspected by engineers after landing, and that "it is too soon to say if any maintenance will be required."

The return flight from Perth to Singapore was also delayed by two and a half hours for checks. Passengers on board the flight will be presented with refreshment vouchers, WA Today reported.

This is the second time in a month that a Qantas plane was struck by lightning. A July 10 flight from Perth to Melbourne was cancelled after the aircraft, travelling from Sydney to Perth, was hit by lightning just before landing.

http://travel.asiaone.com/Travel/New...23-156641.html
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Old July 24th, 2009, 12:21 PM   #651
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New One-Way Fares Between LA - Australia from Just $359* - Coming Home is Optional! V Australia Makes it Flexible and Affordable

SYDNEY, July 21 /PRNewswire/ -- V Australia continues to shake up the market with the introduction of super cheap one-way tickets between Los Angeles - Sydney and Brisbane offering more flexibility for travelers, which are on sale now.

While one-way fares are not new to the arena, V Australia is the first airline to offer one-way fares across ALL of its fare brackets, including its lowest lead-in fares, offering one-way tickets from just $359*, approximately 76% lower than the lowest one-way fare currently offered by competitor airlines^.

Virgin Blue Group Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said the initiative was another example of V Australia remaining open and adaptable to new ideas and championing change for consumers.

"The biggest joke in the industry was that for the cheapest and least-restrictive one-way fare travelers had to purchase a return fare and throw away the return portion. This was obviously good for the airlines, but not so for travelers and we're happy to be the first trans-Pacific airline to offer affordable one-way fares while removing the archaic 'advanced purchase conditions' and minimum stay requirements often associated with one-way tickets."

Currently trans-Pacific one-way fares on other carriers are only available in the higher fare brackets.

Brett Godfrey continued, "Effectively travelers get stung twice for even considering a one-way fare, which is usually exquisitely expensive coupled with extensive conditions.

"With V Australia's new 'freedom fare' we've certainly made it easier and much more affordable for those who want flexibility for their return flight, or only need to travel in one direction."

Availability of affordable one-way fares is great news for students, backpackers, expats and those on working holidays who may not necessarily have a firm return date.

If travelers are in doubt about their travel plans, buying a one-way fare will also negate any penalty fees that usually apply to the lower fare brackets if changes are made to a return flight after the booking is confirmed.

One-way fares from America are only available for purchase online at www.vaustralia.com with Guests able to purchase 'through fares' from Los Angeles to Sydney or Brisbane and onwards throughout Australia on Virgin Blue's extensive flight network.

One-way fares from Australia to America are only available for purchase online at www.vaustralia.com.au and do not include through fares via Los Angeles to other US destinations as operated by V Australia's code-share partners.

In addition to the one-way fare, for international visitors traveling on a budget around Australia and between Australia and New Zealand, the easiest and most flexible way to fly is with a Virgin Blue Airpass only available online at www.virginblueairpass.com. The Virgin Blue Airpass offers travelers set airfares from as low as AUD$69 per flight across a variety of Virgin Blue 'Fly Zones' (Quick Fly, Metro Fly, Coastal Fly, Cross Country). Travelers can 'mix and match' a minimum of three and a maximum of eight flights from any of the four fly zones, and up to nine Guests can travel together on the one Airpass.

^ Fares sourced on 20 July 2009 from www.qantas.com.au and http://travel.united.com. For a one-way LA-SYD flight with Qantas for travel on 20 August 2009 the lowest one-way fare on sale was for $1491. For a one-way LA-SYD flight with United for travel on 20 August 2009 the lowest one-way fare on sale was for $1490.

* There are no maximum or minimum stay requirements as part of the fare however length of stay in Australia is subject to applicable visa requirement. Fares are economy one way fares, and exclude government-imposed taxes, fees and the 9/11 Security Fee (collectively between $USD100 to $USD250 depending on itinerary). Prices are in US dollars and include applicable fuel surcharges. On sale from midnight (PDT) July 20, 2009 until midnight (PDT) August 4, 2009 (unless sold out earlier) for travel from July 20, 2009 to November 30, 2009. Fares are current as at July 17, 2009, are subject to availability and may vary until ticketed. Seats are limited and may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Available only for instant purchase online and fares are non-refundable and cannot be cancelled for credit to use at a later date. No stopovers are permitted. Connecting flights between Sydney and other Australian domestic ports are operated by Virgin Blue Airlines. Any Australian domestic travel can be booked through Virgin Blue. Tickets purchased through the Guest Contact Centre cost $15(USD) more.


For further information:
Amanda Bolger - Manager Public and Media Relations Virgin Blue Group
+61 7 3295 3115
[email protected]


SOURCE V Australia
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Old July 24th, 2009, 04:45 PM   #652
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Sydney Airport earnings up 2pct helped by new airline business

SYDNEY, July 24 AAP - Sydney Airport, which is 49 per cent owned by Macquarie Airports (MAp), has reported a two per cent lift in first half earnings, despite a difficult market for the travel sector.

The airport, Australia's busiest, benefited from new airline business during the period, with France's Air Austral and Virgin Blue's V Australia beginning operations and Delta Air Lines of the US entering the trans-Pacific route.

"Delta's entrance into the Australian market shows again that Sydney Airport is an attractive destination for international carriers," chief executive Russell Balding said on Friday.

The airport's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) excluding small recurring expenses was $325.8 million for the half year ended June 30, up from $319.5 million in the previous first half.

Revenue rose 1.8 per cent to $404.5 million in the first half, despite a 3.5 per cent fall in passenger traffic.

Its operating expenses fell by 3.5 per cent reflecting the benefit of a recent corporate restructure and cost management.

"In the current environment, expenditure control remains critical," MAp chief executive Kerrie Mather said in a statement on Friday.
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Old July 24th, 2009, 04:46 PM   #653
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Airport may lose Big Mac -- Bank changing course
24 July 2009
Daily Telegraph

MACQUARIE Group may be about to sever its long and often controversial link with Sydney Airport.

According to leading analysts, the group is preparing to announce a major shift in its business model that could result in Macquarie Airports -- which owns 74 per cent of Sydney Airport -- either being privatised and brought back into the Macquarie mother ship, or being cut loose to be run as an independent entity.

Trading in shares of Macquarie Group and Macquarie Airports were halted yesterday, with both telling the Australian Stock Exchange they would make a ``significant announcement regarding strategic options within the next two business days.''

One institutional infrastructure analyst said the fact MacGroup entered a trading halt suggested the announcement was bigger than a mere asset sale by its listed satellite fund Macquarie Airport.

``It does suggest it will be a bigger announcement, perhaps a takeover by a third party or by Macquarie Group itself,'' the analyst said. ``For the bank to do it, you have to ask yourself whether they have the capital to make such a large acquisition, and I would suggest probably not.''

Other analysts suggested Macquarie Airports would sell its stakes in Copenhagen and Brussels airports.

But the common thought seemed to suggest Macquarie Group would cut its poorly-performing airports fund afloat by either selling its 21 per cent stake in MAp to MAp shareholders, or to an Australian-based third party.

Adding weight to that theory, analysts told The Daily Telegraph yesterday that MacGroup did not have the balance sheet at present to take MAp back into the fold.

``I really doubt that Macquarie can privatise it internally and take it onto its balance sheet. They just don't have the capacity,'' Merrill Lynch infrastructure analyst Matthew Spence said. ``It could be an asset sale, or the sale of the whole business.''

Before the trading halt, MAp shares surged 10.46 per cent to $2.64, as news began to trickle out to traders.

Talk was that MacGroup would rejig its complex business model built around separately listing its various portfolios, such as Macquarie Airports, Macquarie Infrastructure Group and Macquarie Leisure Trust.

Since the global financial crisis the model, made infamous by the now defunct Babcock & Brown, has been found wanting.

Earlier this month MacGroup sold its stake in Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board for $250 million and has also proposed selling its stake in Macquarie Leisure Trust Group and US tollroad assets in the troubled Macquarie Infrastructure Group.
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Old July 26th, 2009, 08:14 AM   #654
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Airline dogfight over lucrative Pacific route
25 July 2009
Agence France-Presse

Major airlines are fighting the biggest war in 15 years over the lucrative Pacific route linking Australia and the United States, experts say.

Carriers are slashing prices and offering special deals after US giant Delta and Virgin's V-Australia entered the market this year -- just as the downturn grounds swathes of passengers.

"It's not a pretty place right now," said Peter Harbison, of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation research group.

Analysts are tipping at least one airline to pull out within months after the new players muscled in on a route long dominated by Australia's Qantas and US carrier United Airlines.

Fares are touching all-time lows, less than half of those paid a year ago, on a route that has not been so competitive since Continental and Northwest pulled out in the early 1990s.

"I think (fares are) probably about as low as they've ever been. It's not just the competition and the arrival on the route of V-Australia and Delta," said Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent for Orient Aviation magazine.

"The current recession is hitting the airline industry very hard, particularly the high-yielding business-class traffic."

The entry of Delta, the world's biggest airline, this month sparked a furious round of discounting on what is one of the globe's most profitable routes.

Some fares have dropped to just 530 US dollars return and carriers are offering extra incentives, such as V-Australia's free limo pick-up for business passengers.

Australian flag-carrier Qantas is selling business-class seats two-for-one and has taken the "unprecedented" step of letting children fly free.

"This is the first sale of its kind for many, many years," a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Analysts are convinced the blood-letting will kill off one player, possibly as early as October, with V-Australia tipped as the most likely casualty.

"It's unlikely that all of the carriers will continue to serve on the route. There's simply too many seats on the route and you can't fill them," Ballantyne said.

"Delta is a pretty big airline, they're not going to start and then leave. But V-Australia may decide this is not worth the effort."

However, V's operator Virgin Blue has announced a joint venture with Delta which is currently awaiting regulator approval.

America's United has underlined its commitment to a route it has served for 24 years, while a pull-out by Qantas, which accounts for half the market, is unthinkable.

"We've invested heavily in that route and we've no plans to do otherwise," the Qantas spokeswoman said.

Until one airline blinks, passengers will be able to enjoy cheap seats on the 14-hour journey to and from Los Angeles.

"It's fantastic for consumers -- but very bad for airlines," Ballantyne said.
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Old July 27th, 2009, 07:27 PM   #655
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Turbulent ride for Virgin Blue's CEO
28 July 2009
Daily Telegraph

VIRGIN Blue chief executive Brett Godfrey yesteday sought to deflect concern about the troubled state of the airline's finances by revealing both his plan to retire and a board decision to sell $231 million worth of new shares in the carrier.

Mr Godfrey, who has held the control column since 2001, said he would go at the end of next year because he wanted to talk to his family about things other than aeroplanes.

Friends said Mr Godfrey was tired and dispirited after a worrying year in which Virgin's shares plunged, slashing tens of millions from his fortune (he has a 2 per cent stake) and that of his major shareholder, Sir Richard Branson, because of the slump in high-yield business travel.

Virgin shares are now worth $515.4 million far less than its fleet of Boeing 737 and 777 jets and the airline will post its first full-year loss next month and not pay a dividend.

Stock was in a trading halt yesterday but last traded at 29c. Mr Godfrey told reporters shareholders could expect to see between $160-$165 million worth of red ink in the final accounts down from last year's after-tax profit of $95 million.

Announcing the share sale, Mr Godfrey rejected recent reports that Virgin had to raise cash to fund losses and needed a cornerstone investor.

``Virgin Blue businesses are trading at levels which are cash flow positive in 2009 and will be more so in 2010 excluding today's capital raising,'' he said.

Mt Godfrey said the airline did not need a cornerstone investor because it already had one, noting Sir Richard Branson's privately owned Virgin Group of companies was fully supportive and would take part in the offer. Yesterday's announcement was not unexpected and came after traders learned several weeks ago that the airline's debt-to-equity level had grown to 88 per cent.

The capital raising, underwritten by Credit Suisse and J. P. Morgan, comprises a $2 1million institutional placement and a 1-for-1 non-renounceable pro-rata entitlement offer to raise $210.4 million.

The plan requires Sir Richard Branson, the biggest shareholder, to stump up as much as $79.9 million to preserve his 25 per cent interest. He said in a statement that his belief in Virgin Blue was underlined by his group's ongoing support.
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Old July 31st, 2009, 09:29 PM   #656
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Virgin Blue soars into capital raising
30 July 2009
The Australian

VIRGIN Blue's $231 million capital raising is more than halfway home, after the institutional components were both oversubscribed.

The airline announced yesterday it had completed the $112.1m institutional component of its one-for-one non-renounceable entitlement offer as well as a $21m institutional placement, both at 20c a share.

Virgin Blue shares, which had been suspended since Monday, resumed trading yesterday and closed marginally higher at 30c, up 0.5c.

The airline said the institutional components were both ``well oversubscribed'', with strong demand from new and existing local and international investors.

It said about 96 per cent of shares were taken up by existing investors.

``We're delighted by the strong support we have received for the offering by shareholders, as well as a new institutional investors,'' chief executive Brett Godfrey said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange.

Still to come is the retail entitlement offer, due to open tomorrow and close on August 28.

The fully underwritten offer aims to raise $98.3m through the issue of 491.5 million new shares.

Virgin has said it will use the capital raising to improve its liquidity and financial flexibility. Analysts say the raising, in conjunction with sale and leaseback of assets, will boost the airline's unencumbered cash to about $675m, or about 21 per cent of revenues.

Mr Godfrey announced this week that he would leave the company towards the end of the next year, fuelling a flurry of speculation about a possible replacement.

The airline's board, which is also currently looking for a new chief commercial officer to replace Stefan Pichler, is expected to look both internally and externally the new chief.

Possibilities bandied around so far have included former Qantas executives John Borghetti and Peter Gregg.

Virgin also revealed this week it was heading into fiscal 2010 expecting to break even after posting a 2008-09 group net loss after tax of $160m to $165m.

The 2008-09 unaudited loss includes a net profit after tax on domestic operations of up to $30m, offset by trading losses from fledgling international airline V Australia of $30m to $35m as it dealt with the combined impact of an economic slowdown and increased competition on the Pacific.

V Australia's start-up costs contributed another $60m to $65m to the result and the rest came from $90m to $95m in non-cash losses, relating to ineffective fuel and currency hedges.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 09:18 PM   #657
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Webjet flies high on back of downturn
7 August 2009
Daily Telegraph

ONLINE travel agent Webjet increased its annual profit by 15 per cent and ``would be disappointed'' if it didn't see another rise in the new year.

The company's net profit rose to $7.7 million for the 12 months to June 30, from $6.7 million in the prior corresponding period, excluding credit from the establishment of a deferred tax asset, the Melbourne-based company said in a statement yesterday.

Profit for 2007/08 was $9.4 million, when the deferred tax benefit of $2.5 million is included. Revenue rose 20 per cent to $30.1 million, while Webjet's total transaction value gained 17 per cent to $388 million.

Past comments ``in relation to the reduced demand, the likely reduction in the unit value of travel, the probability of consumers aggressively hunting bargains, and the probability of aggregation sites such as Webjet gaining market share, have proven to be accurate'', chief executive David Clarke said in the statement.

``This resulted in continuous price discounting by airlines across all segments of the market,'' he said .

``Available capacity operated by carriers both domestically within Australia and internationally from Australia has been rationalised and adjusted for the lower demand profile but overall capacity is still substantially

in excess of demand.

``Consequently, we do not expect to see a sustained improvement in market conditions, certainly in the six months to December 2009 and, arguably, not until well into calendar year 2010.''

For this reason, Webjet would increase its marketing budget to take advantage of lower advertising costs, particularly in regional areas.

The company also has frozen base salaries during 2009/10.

And Webjet will release new products to increase its market share.

``Relative to these macro-economic factors and marketing initiatives, we would be disappointed if 2009/10

does not result in another profit increase,'' Mr Clarke added.
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Old August 15th, 2009, 07:09 AM   #658
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Battle for open skies
15 August 2009
The Sydney Morning Herald

Clive Dorman reports on moves to lift restrictions on European air routes.

The Federal Government has signalled it is only months away from an "open slather" deal on air routes between Australia and Europe, despite pressure from some countries that still own their national carriers to stop liberalisation.

About 15 years after successive federal administrations began increasing Qantas's exposure to new foreign competition, the Federal Government signalled last week there would be no return to protectionism.

In a speech at the Asia Pacific Outlook Conference in Sydney earlier this month, the secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Mike Mrdak, said the Government would not use the recession as an excuse to put the brakes on reform.

"The current economic environment has not altered the Government's commitment to pursuing liberalisation," Mrdak said.

"One of the highest aviation priorities over the next 12 to 18 months will be the negotiation of a comprehensive air services agreement with the European Union. Such an agreement would replace Australia's existing bilateral agreements with 17 of the 28 EU member states. It holds out the promise of removing most, if not all, regulatory restrictions on Australian and European airlines operating between Australia and the EU."

The agreement with the EU would follow similar ground-breaking agreements with the US and New Zealand. Airlines can now decide on their own how many flights a week they can operate between Australia and the US. This has led to a collapse in prices. Fares that were as high as $2500 return a year ago are now less than $1000 because of new competition.

The agreement with New Zealand will be taken to a new level in the next few months, with the abolition of international status on trans-Tasman routes.

Airlines will be able to operate from domestic terminal to domestic terminal in both countries, which they say will save them up to $60 a seat a flight as they escape high international airport charges. The airlines have signalled that trans-Tasman fares could fall to as low as $130 one way.

Mrdak saw the same benefits in liberalising the air routes between Australia and Europe.

He said, however, there was still resistance from some governments. "Some of the countries in the region with which we have major aviation relationships do not favour open skies," he said.

He was speaking as the Malaysian Government was apparently giving in to pressure from government-owned Malaysia Airlines to ban the low-cost carrier AirAsia X from flying between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur.

Under the Malaysia Airlines monopoly on the route, fares have typically been as high as $1200 return. AirAsia X was offering fares last week on the Melbourne-Kuala Lumpur route from $99 one way.
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Old August 22nd, 2009, 03:53 PM   #659
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Qantas Re-launch of the "I Still Call Australia Home" campaign

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Old October 14th, 2009, 08:22 PM   #660
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By VRHNA from HKADB :





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