Costs for IAG’s low-cost airlines

By Bjorn Fehrm

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September 07, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Yesterday we described International Airlines Group’s (IAG) Vueling and LEVEL LCCs. Now we look at their cost and compare these to the direct competition; Ryanair, easyJet, Norwegian and Eurowings.

For Vueling and its competition, we have cost data from 2016 and 1H2017. For LEVEL, it’s too early. It started operations in June 2017. Here we compare the seat-mile costs of the chosen Airbus A330-200 to Norwegian Air Shuttle’s (Norwegian) Boeing 787-8.

  • Vueling has higher operating costs than its direct competition, mainly caused by lower load factors and lower fleet utilization.
  • At present fuel prices, the A330-200 used by LEVEL does not have a Direct Operating Cost (DOC) disadvantage compared with Norwegian’s 787-8.

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Eurowings, Lufthansa Group’s LCC

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 30, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: The European leading legacy carriers are all forming LCC arms. First for short-haul and now for long-haul. For Lufthansa, the LCC operations are gradually consolidated under its Eurowings brand.

The route there has been a roller coaster of airlines and brands. In the end, the regional Eurowings brand became the umbrella under which all Lufthansa Group low cost airlines consolidate.

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Air Berlin files for bankruptcy

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 16, 2017, ©. Leeham Co: Air Berlin, Germany’s second largest airline, with 85 destinations, 8,000 employees and 72 aircraft, filed for bankruptcy yesterday.

We wrote about Air Berlin’s problems in October last year and we’ve covered its part owner, partner and moneylender, Etihad Airways, in articles this year.

It was the latter that no longer believed in Air Berlin’s turnaround plan and stopped the money flow.

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Emirates feels low-cost, long-haul competition

Note: Nov. 24 and 25 are Thanksgiving Holidays in the US. Our next post will be Monday.

By Bjorn Fehrm

23 November 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Emirates Airline president Tim Clark says the carrier “has to change its approach to long-haul pricing to combat increasing competition” after presenting a half year 2016 profit which plunged 64% on 9 November.

The reason is that traditional mainline carriers are entering the low-cost, long-haul market in addition to the established LCC entrants: Norwegian Air Shuttle, AirAsiaX and Wow Air.


Figure 1. Emirates long-haul A380. Source: Emirates.

Emirates will add new low-cost fares to keep its growing fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 filled. Clark states this is necessary and that the airline will not back down on its plans for additional aircraft. It will be a period “of fierce competition as more and more international network carriers are entering low-cost, long-haul,” declares the COO.

What has changed? Isn’t Emirates the Kings of competitive long-haul travel? Read more

Air Berlin, Europe’s ninth carrier, announces serious makeover

By Bjorn Fehrm

October 06, 2016, ©. Leeham Co: Air Berlin, Germany’s second airline and Europe’s ninth largest carrier by passengers carried, announced that it will wet-lease 40 aircraft to Lufthansa together with many European routes, concentrate all tourist operations into a new business unit before spinning it off and that it will reduce staff further.


Figure 1. Air Berlin will focus on its long haul network. Source; Air Berlin.

This comes after combined losses of €1.7bn since 2010. Several restructuring programs have not stemmed the losses. Last year they rose to €0.45bn and they have continued on in 2016. Read more

Tipping point for supply/demand? We don’t think so

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April 28, 2015, c. Leeham Co. Goldman Sachs over the weekend issued a research note, Is the new aircraft supply/demand equation nearing a tipping point?

GS cited the recent United and American airlines actions involving the Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 and other fleet activity or inactivity at Lufthansa Airlines and Virgin Atlantic as harbingers for its thesis.

Goldman has a Sell rating on Boeing stock, based on its belief the demand is leveling off and announced production rate increases by Airbus and Boeing will lead to oversupply.


  • Goldman sees recent fleet actions indicating a softness in demand, driven in part by lower fuel prices.
  • United, Lufthansa actions delaying retirement of older aircraft cited.
  • Virgin Atlantic decision on Boeing 747 replacements delayed, says Goldman.
  • We see other reasons for the above and no meaningful impact.
  • Key wide- and narrow-body campaigns pending.

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Pontifications: Remote control of airliners a bad idea

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

March 30, 2015: In the aftermath of what a French prosecutor said was the apparent suicide-mass murder of 150 people on Germanwings 9525, there have been some calls for and questions of creating a system of allowing ground controllers to assume command of airborne airliners in the event rogue pilot situation develops.

This is a bad idea. Read more

Germanwings; co-pilot deliberately crashed aircraft, had burnout during training.

March 26, 2015, update 3: The Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin confirmed mid-day that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz 28, from Montabaur Germany, deliberately put the autopilot on descent in an act to crash the aircraft.

The prosecutors office has a full transcript of the Flight Voice Recorder’s recording on what happened in and around the cockpit of 4U9525 until impact with ground. He says the co-pilot’ breathing could be heard on the recording at all times but he did not say anything. He was therefore alive at the impact with ground. Read more

Update (3), Germanwings: Authorities confirms co-pilot deliberately crashed aircraft.

Update March 26, 2015: The Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin has confirmed that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz 28, from Montabaur Germany, put the autopilot on descent and was alive at the impact with ground, the accident is now turning from an involuntary to voluntary manslaughter investigation says the prosecutor.

He further revealed that the co-pilots breath can be heard on the tape as can the calls from ATC and the Captains efforts to enter the cockpit. The autopilots “Pull Up, Pull Up” can also be heard as the ground proximity warning triggered. Passengers screaming just before impact can also be heard. The co-pilot did not say anything but his breath is heard until impact. Research has failed to show any terrorist connections for Andreas Lubitz says Robin.

French news is now analyzing possible reasons for this act by the co-pilot pictured here in front of Golden Gate bridge:

Copilot 4U9525 2015-03-26 14.06.33

Flightradar24 has a private receiver network for the aircraft’s intelligent transponder of type ADS-B. They now confirm that the aircraft’s autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 to 96 ft at 09:30:55 UTC.

March 25, 2015: In a breathtaking, stunning revelation, the New York Times reported today that an investigator of the Germanwings accident says the Cockpit Voice Recorder indicates one pilot was out of the cockpit and was unable to get back in.

The pilot can be heard initially knocking on the door to gain reentry, then pounding on the door and yelling to the other pilot. No response.

The scene is horrific to contemplate: the passengers must have heard the locked-out pilot and became increasingly alarmed as the plane descended from 38,000 ft to impact at around 6,000 ft.

This scenario immediately raises two possibilities: an intentional act by the pilot remaining in the cockpit; or an incapacitating medical emergency occurred.

We spoke with John Cox of Safety Operating Systems and a former Airbus A320 captain to discuss this latest news. Cox is also a safety analyst for the NBC network in the US.

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Update on Germanwings; news conference highlights

March 25, 2015: It’s the end of the business day in France, where the Germanwings A320 crashed. Here’s the latest:

  • The cockpit voice recorder was recovered yesterday, badly damaged. It’s been reported that investigators are having difficulty recovering data.
  • The flight data recorder was recovered today, but it, too, was badly damaged and the memory chip is reported missing.
  • There is a theory emerging in Europe that the cockpit windscreen cracked, causing a depressurization that led to hypoxia and pilot incapacitation. Christine Negroni, who is a safety journalist, talks about this possibility in a recorded interview. However, John Cox, a safety expert, emailed us that the windscreen is double-paned and this hasn’t happened before. He is a former A320 captain with a major US airline.
  • A news conference is reportedly scheduled for 11am Eastern time.

News conference highlights

As could be expected, there was little concrete information about the events of the airplane and what caused the accident. Remi Jouty, director of of the French Bureau of Investigation, recounted the flight path and communication concerns of the Air Traffic Control. He also said:

  • The descent began eight minutes after the last communication with the airplane.
  • The CVR has audible data, but it’s too soon to have any kind of analysis of what’s on the data. Initial analysis could be days away but a detailed transcript weeks and months.
  • Although the New York Times reported the second black box, the flight data recorder, has been recovered but was missing the all-important data chip, Jouty said (via the translator) “We have not at all localized the second black box.” News reports quote the French president saying the box itself was recovered but it had no contents.
  • Responding to questions about the theories of depressurization, Jouty said (via translator), “AT this point I don’t have even a beginning of a scenario. I refuse to construct any kind of scenario to include depressurization of the airplane.”
  • Jouty did not know if the auto-pilot was engaged.
  • He confirmed the descent rate was about 3,000 ft/min with some “fluctuations,” based on radar data.

We don’t believe there is going to be any news of consequence to the investigation until the CVR audio is analyzed and information released; and/or until the flight data recorder is found and analyzed. Mapping wreckage and recovery of remains will continue.

We’ll monitor events but otherwise plan to stand down until developments warrant.