Congestion costs billions, but airlines show little concern

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Introduction

 March 21, 2019, © Leeham News: There are many estimates for how much flight delays and disruptions cost airlines and passengers. But everyone agrees the total number is big—possibly more than $1bn for each major US airline each year.

In 2017, delays cost airlines and passengers $26.6bn, according to the FAA/Nextor estimate. That total includes direct cost to airlines and travelers, lost demand and indirect costs. Congestion at the three major airports serving New York City directly cost air carriers an estimated $834m a year, according to a 2009 report.

Chicago O’Hare Airport at 7pm, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Source: FlightRadar24.

Yet despite the high cost, flight on-time statistics are basically where they were 20 years ago. Moreover, there are no discernible positive trends in the data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Of course, airlines take steps to decrease or limit flight delays, and, of course, some things, such as severe weather, are out of anyone’s control.

At the same time, airlines have shown little interest in pushing for low-cost solutions to decreasing system-wide congestion. There is no clear or easy explanations for carrier’s lack of motivation. However, interviews with current and former airline executives, researchers and others highlighted a few key factors.

Summary
  • Reducing air traffic congestion is a huge, hairy beast of a problem.
  • That complexity makes it difficult to see system-based approaches.
  • Airlines are concerned that competitors could benefit more from reduced congestion.

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A simple solution to congested skies

By Dan Catchpole

Danieljcatchpole[at]gmail[dot]com

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Introduction

Feb. 14, 2019, ©. Leeham News: Flight delays cost the airline industry

Traffic back ups are increasing–so much so that Airbus has invested in improving air traffic management to avoid congestion affecting aircraft sales.

billions of dollars each year. They cause travelers untold aggravation and inconvenience every day. And the main culprit—air traffic congestion—is only going to get worse as Boeing and Airbus deliver tens of thousands of jetliners over the next couple decades.

Regulators, lawmakers and the aviation industry in the United States have settled on spending billions of taxpayer dollars on NextGen—after having already spent billions—to implement complex technical solutions to keep the skies safe and cut down on flight delays.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimated in 2017 that implementing NextGen will cost roughly $35.7 billion by 2030–$20.6 billion from the FAA and another $15.1 billion from the aviation industry.

NextGen has moved with the swiftness of a sprawling, technocratic federal program—that is to say like an elephant at the ballet. It has endured delays and cost escalation, though these have not been crippling. However, it is years away from unclogging America’s congested air spaces.

Moreover, there are very real questions as to whether NextGen will be able to deliver all the FAA promises it can.

Summary
  • Air spaces are getting more crowded, leading to greater flight delays.
  • Airbus is concerned that congestion could hurt demand for jetliners, and is taking steps to improve air traffic flow.
  • Substantial questions exist as to NextGen’s ability to unclog air traffic congestion.
  • Taking a system-wide approach that taps into airlines’ desire to maximize profits could be implemented now, say proponents.

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Key customers shrug off Boeing’s 2020 NMA launch date

Jan. 30, 2019, © Leeham News: Key customers and suppliers shrugged off Boeing’s announcement today that a program launch for the prospective New Midmarket Aircraft won’t come until 2020.

If Boeing goes ahead with the NMA, a decision yet to be made, an announcement was widely expected at the Paris Air Show in June.

Authority to Offer (ATO) the airplane for sale may still come as early as March or April.

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Bombardier CEO “proud” at A220 FAL groundbreaking

Jan. 16, 2019, © Leeham News, Mobile (AL): Groundbreaking for the Airbus A220 final assembly line today might be viewed as a bittersweet moment for Alain Bellemare, CEO on Bombardier, designer of the C Series.

Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders at the A220 FAL groundbreaking in Mobile (AL). It’s his last one with Airbus., He retires in April. (Scott Hamilton photo.)

The program nearly bankrupted Bombardier. A sale of 50.01% of the CSLAP limited partnership to Airbus was necessary to save the program and Bombardier.

Bombardier’s share in the program was reduced to about a third after the Airbus sale. (A quasi-government Quebec pension fund owns the rest.)

But in an interview following the groundbreaking, Bellemare was almost giddy with excitement.

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KKR invests $1bn in small lessor

Jan. 3, 2019, © Leeham News: The US private equity fund KKR agreed to invest $1bn in boutique lessor Altavair, a deal that includes taking a 50% stake in the company.

KKR may supplement the investment with additional commitments, the companies said.

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LNC’s Top 10 stories in 2018

Jan. 2, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing dominated the Top 10 news stories last year, as measured by views.

Displacing Airbus at Hawaiian Airlines, which ordered the 787-9 and canceled the A330-800, led the readership.

Boeing’s flip of the Hawaiian Airlines order for the A330-800 to the 787-9 was the most read story of 2018. Photo: Hawaiian Airlines.

Airbus’ launch of the A350-900ULR came in second.

Here are the Top 10 stories on Leeham News for 2018: Read more

2019 Outlook: Will Bombardier exit Commercial aircraft?

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Introduction

December 27, 2018, © Leeham News.: In July the CSeries changed from Bombardier to Airbus and in November the Q400 program was sold to Viking Air, the buyer of de Havilland Canada aircraft from Bombardier like the Twin Otter and the water bomber CL415.

When the Viking Air deal closes in the second half of 2019, only the CRJ regional jet will make up Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. Will the CRJ stay with Bombardier or go? And if so, why?

Summary:
  • With other divisions increasing revenues amid healthy margins, the loss-making Commercial Aircraft’s time was up. It’s future hope, the CSeries, was digging an ever deeper cost hole with each delay. Only a market success could save it.
  • The Boeing trade complaint in April 2017 made a success far-fetched, sealing the fate not only for the CSeries but for the Commercial Aircraft division.
  • With the CSeries at Airbus and Q400 at Viking Air, why keep the CRJ? It makes no sense. The CRJ is presently dressed for sale. Now it’s more a question to whom and when.

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Boeing deal, “crucial to Embraer survival,” in doubt

Update, Dec. 7: Embraer to appeal injunction.

According to the Google translation of a Brazilian newspaper, the injunction appears to be intended to halt any completion of the deal during the interim between the November presidential election and the assumption of office by the president-elect. The Google translation does not appear to indicate the injunction is based on any specific objection to the proposed JV.

ANALYSIS

Dec. 6, 2018, © Leeham News: In a stunning piece of news, a Brazilian court blocked the proposed joint venture between Boeing and Embraer.

If the action holds, this is a major blow to Boeing’s future plans.

The new joint venture, which LNC dubs NewCo for the lack of a name, was to be responsible for all future Boeing aircraft of 150 seats and below, according to a Memorandum of Understanding revealed by Embraer’s labor unions.

This is critical to Boeing’s long-term future for the 2030 decade. Read more

Delta orders more A330-900, pushes out A350-900

By Bjorn Fehrm

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Introduction

November 22, 2018, © Leeham News.: Delta and Airbus announced Friday; Delta will increase its A330-900 order from 25 to 35 aircraft and push out 10 ordered A350-900 five years, to 2025-2026.

Why this change for Delta? Can the 10 added A330-900 replace the planned A350-900? If so, will other airlines do the same?Summary:

  • Delta is a large operator of A330. With the new order, it will grow to 60 aircraft in the next five years. Through its Delta TechOps operation, it has achieved low operating costs for the A330.
  • In its 251t version available from 2020, the A330-900 can cover most of Delta’s Asian destinations.
  • The A350-900 is now a sub-fleet of 15 aircraft until 2025. It will be reserved for Delta’s longest Asian destinations and where higher capacity is needed.

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Huge surge of A320 orders greatly exceed near-, mid-term A320 retirements

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Introduction

Oct. 4, 2018, © Leeham News: The huge surge of orders for the Airbus A320 family far outstrips the aging aircraft statistics, an analysis shows.

Airbus has a backlog of more than 6,000 A320 family members, with more than 1,700 sales potential just for retirements.

There is a backlog of more than 6,000 A320neo family members, with the near- and mid-term delivery schedule far exceeding A320 retirements. Photo credit: Airbus.

There are more than 4,300 A320s scheduled for delivery from 2019 through 2025.

There are just 765 A320s that hit 25 years old during the same period.

The surge in A320-family aging aircraft begins in 2030, just as the bulk of the current backlog ends, according to data bases maintained by Ascend and Airfinance Journal’s Fleet Tracker.

Summary
  • Useful lives of A320s in passenger service historically have been 25 years. Till now, no P2F programs existed to extend the useful lives.
  • But, some passenger airlines are returning A320s off lease in 12 years or less—accounting for some of the surge in orders vs aging aircraft.
  • Supply-demand imbalance in the secondary markets could emerge.

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