SkyWest Swings Back To Profitability Amid New American And United Deals

Regional carrier in the United States, SkyWest, has turned a profit for the third quarter of 2020. While the airline is not out of the woods yet, it has reached new agreements with American and United on regional flying.

SkyWest turns a third-quarter profit

For the third quarter of 2020, SkyWest turned a net profit of $33.7 million. While this was down from the $91.3 million profit the carrier made in the third quarter of 2019, it is fat better than the airline’s nearly $26 million loss from the second quarter of 2020. But, in the first quarter of 2020, the airline did turn a profit.

Chip Childs, Chief Executive Officer at SkyWest, stated the following concerning the results:

“Over the past several months, we have worked with our partners and our people to respond quickly and aggressively to the worst crisis our industry has experienced. The SkyWest team continues to demonstrate exceptional dedication and flexibility, and I want to thank them for their hard work and focus through this challenge. We are committed and remain laser-focused on ensuring we are positioned for the long-term, maintaining strong liquidity, and delivering on our partners’ objectives in the recovery.”

SkyWest Airlines bolstered its liquidity in the third quarter. The airline entered into a $573 million agreement with the U.S. Department of Treasury for a five-year secured loan facility. This increased to $725 million in October amid other airlines pulling out of loan agreements with the Treasury Department.

A new agreement with American Airlines

SkyWest entered into an agreement with American Airlines on October 29th to place 20 used CRJ700s under a multi-year flying contract. The airline will be using 20 of its own aircraft that are not currently under contract with a partner.

These planes will not enter into service until 2021. Once these 20 go into service, in addition to four CRJ700s entering service in the fourth quarter of 2020 and five in 2021 under a previously announced deal, then SkyWest will be flying 90 CRJ700s under contract with American Airlines.

This also comes on top of a previous agreement for 20 new Embraer E175 aircraft flying for American Airlines. Five of those are anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2021, while 15 deliveries are scheduled for 2022.

American Airlines is working on upgauging its regional fleet, so the CRJ700s will be a great opportunity for plenty of regional destinations that traditionally see CRJ service. American’s regional arm is called American Eagle.

CRJ550s coming to SkyWest…sort of

SkyWest has entered into an agreement to acquire 21 used CRJ550s. These premium 50-seater aircraft will not fly under SkyWest. While the airline will own the aircraft, it is leasing them out under a multi-year agreement for another regional airline that operates United’s regional brand called United Express.

The aircraft purchases and leases are expected to complete in the fourth quarter of 2020. So, while SkyWest will not be operating the aircraft, it will own them.

An update with the Delta contract

Four new E175 aircraft, which will be financed and operated by SkyWest, will be delivered in the fourth quarter that will fly for Delta under their regional arm, Delta Connection. One new CRJ900, financed by Delta but operated by SkyWest, will come to the airline in 2021.

Delta and SkyWest also have a capacity purchase agreement for the CRJ200s that are expiring in 2020. Recently, Delta announced it was moving away from the CRJ200s, with retirements of those aircraft expected by December 2023.

Why SkyWest turned a profit

SkyWest Airlines does not fly its own routes or aircraft. Instead, it flies regional jets on behalf of major US airlines. While, from October 1st, US airlines were set to fly fewer regional services, SkyWest has done quite well for itself thus far.

While the carrier’s total block hours in the third quarter were down 41% from the third quarter of 2019, it still has agreements with the major carriers and has taken over a few routes from the major US airlines. With a fleet of over 400 aircraft, SkyWest has agreements with Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Alaska Airlines.

Heading into the fourth quarter, SkyWest should also be in a good position to turn a profit, or at least narrow losses. With the Thanksgiving and December holiday periods coming up, SkyWest will be doing plenty of more flying than the second or third quarter, which will help the airline’s bottom line.


What Happened To United Airlines’ Boeing 747 Aircraft?

As airlines around the world take to retiring their Boeing 747s, United Airlines was one of the carriers ahead of the game. Its last flight with the Queen of the Skies happened nearly three years ago. However, what happened to the aircraft that made up its fleet?

A prominent yet small fleet

Compared to United Airlines’ distinguished Boeing 737 fleet and extensive Airbus A320 fleet, the airline’s 747 fleet was comparatively small. According to, in total, the airline once held 88 units of the type at various points in its history in four variants. Most popular was the Boeing 747-400, but United also had the -100, -200, and SP.

However, the airline no longer operates any of these models and hasn’t done so since 2017. The majority of the aircraft are stored but over 30 went onto new airlines.

First aircraft in the ’70s

United Airlines began its relationship with the 747 nearly 50 years ago. It acquired the first aircraft in 1970 and ended the year with a total of nine 747-100 in its fleet. Most of these aircraft were moved to other airlines. Between 1985 and 1986 United sent five aircraft to Pan American World Airways. Along with this, Pan Am had another deal with United in which it leased an aircraft registered N724PA. Pan Am kept this aircraft for just over a year before returning it to the airline in 1991.

But the tale of Pan Am was not a happy one. The iconic carrier collapsed in 1991. The rest of the 747 aircraft from 1970 were stored with United Airlines and have since been scrapped.

Many of the other 747 aircraft that United Airlines acquired in the 1970s were stored with the airline. The operator took delivery of a further nine units between 1971 and 1973. All of the aircraft have since been scrapped.

A momentary pause

However, before United advanced its Boeing 747 fleet, it took a pause. It wasn’t until 1986 that new orders of the aircraft returned again. In 1986, United Airlines received 11 Boeing 747 aircraft and continued to expand its fleet in the ensuing years.

Before 1990 hit, it had another 11 747s join. However, in these years, the model of the type that United acquired began to change. Whilst it still had an affinity towards the Boeing 747-100 variant, it also took delivery of three -400 variants, 11 SPs, and two -200s.

Nine of these aircraft went on to other airlines between 1992 and 2006, including Northwest Airlines, Tajik Air, and Qatar Amari Flight. Of those which were stored with the airline, only one continues to bear this status. It is registered N147UA and initially came from Pan Am but is marked to be stored and used by the FAA for testing.

Special missions

In September 1996, a former 747SP that United previously flew underwent a transformation into NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

Rgistration N145UA joined from Pan Am in February 1986. With NASA, it went on to carry a 17-ton, eight-foot-wide infrared telescope mounted behind a massive sliding door. The plane is still serving the space agency as N747NA and bears the nickname of Clipper Lindbergh, which it was initially called when with Pan Am.

The aircraft flies into the stratosphere at 38,000-45,000 feet, putting it above 99% of the Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere. This system helps scientists to study the solar system.

The 747-400

The 1990s was a big decade in terms of receiving deliveries of 747 aircraft for United. In total, it took nearly 50 of them over this period between 1990 and 1999. Most of these aircraft were 747-400 variants although United was still dabbling with the 747-200. It took five -200 models leaving 43 -400 variants.

19 of these aircraft were then passed onto other airlines including Atlas Air, and Blue Sky.

The last bunch

According to, there were 20 747 aircraft in United’s fleet at the beginning of the year that the carrier stopped flying the aircraft. Thirteen of these planes have remained in storage since 2017. Meanwhile, five of them were scrapped that year.

Registration N119UA, which arrived at the carrier in March 1999, was taken on by Atlas Air in June 2019. The cargo outfit currently operates the jet as registration N480MC.

Additionally, registration N128UA, which joined United in May 2000, was handed over to TVPX Trust Services in April 2018. MAX Air then took it on and has been flying it as registration 5N-ADM since July 2018. The Nigerian airline has since named the aircraft Alhaji Dahiru Barau Mangal.

End of an era

According to a statement seen by Simple Flying, at the time of the farewell in 2017, former United CEO and current executive chairman Oscar Munoz spoke about the legacy of the 747. The businessman emphasized how the firm and the jet helped each other to serve its joint purpose of connecting people and uniting across the globe.

“With its unmistakable sloping silhouette, it came to embody the spirit of the age — allowing more affordable international travel and opening the skies to more people than ever before,” Munoz said, as per the statement.

“In that way, its legacy lives on in the next generation of aircraft that will follow in its path. Even so, it will always be ‘Queen of the Skies,’ and while it will be succeeded, it can never be replaced.”

Altogether, United is just one of several airlines that have let go of the Queen in recent years. Carriers have been looking at more modern and efficient solutions to assist on long-haul operations. Moreover, the current industry climate is catalyzing the jet’s retirement across the globe.

What do you remember of United Airlines’ Boeing 747 fleet? Did you ever fly on any of these planes over the years? Let us know what you think of the jets in the comment section.


Hawaiian Airlines To Resume US’ Longest Domestic Flight

Hawaiian Airlines will restart the world’s longest regularly scheduled domestic flight to Boston from Honolulu. This comes as, from December, the airline anticipates operating its full 13-city US mainland network.

While Boston to Honolulu is the longest regularly scheduled domestic flight, it is not the longest domestic flight on record. French bee, followed by Air Tahiti Nui, beat out Hawaiian with their nonstop Tahiti to Paris flights.

Rebuilding the mainland network

In December, Hawaiian Airlines will be resuming its full 13-city US mainland network. Starting in December, Hawaiian will fly two times a week nonstop between Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL). Hawaiian will also be reinstating flights from HNL to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

Daily nonstop service between Honolulu and Long Beach will round out Hawaiian’s rebuilding of its mainline network with flights to all 13-city US cities, though not necessarily at the same frequencies as pre-crisis.

Separately, flights between Kaua’i’s Lihu’e Airport (LIH) to Los Angeles and Oakland and flights from Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG) to San Diego and San Francisco will also resume.

Brent Overbeek, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management and Network Planning at Hawaiian Airlines, stated the following:

“We’re pleased with increased demand for travel to Hawai‘i, and we’re excited to once again offer our East Coast guests the convenience of our nonstop flights as we welcome them to the islands with new health and safety measures.”

Resuming services to and from Hawaii

Hawaii only recently reopened with quarantine exemptions for passengers with a negative, approved test within 72 hours the final leg of departure. Hawaiian Airlines has partnered with Vault Health to offer passengers a PCR saliva test before departing.

Available for all travelers, the test kit will be mailed overnight to customers who will self-collect the sample with assistance from a testing supervisor via video call. The kit is then express shipped overnight to a lab that analyzes the sample and provides results electronically within 24 hours of receipt, streamlining the pre-arrival testing process.

The aircraft

For flights to Boston and New York, Hawaiian Airlines will utilize one of their Airbus A330-200s. These aircraft have room for 278 passengers onboard with 18 in lie-flat first class, 68 in extra-legroom coach, and 192 in standard economy.

Flights from LIH and OGG to the mainland are on Airbus A321neo jets. These planes seat 189 passengers with 16 recliner-style first class seats, 44 extra-legroom economy seats, and 129 standard economy seats.

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has had a tough time thus far. While other airlines could capitalize on a rebounding domestic market in June, July, and August, Hawaiian had to contend with travel restrictions limiting passengers going to and from Hawaii.

In recent weeks, Hawaiian Airlines also announced it would suspend its ‘Ohana ATR service, triggered as a result of mainline furloughs.

Now, with Hawaii reopened for tourism, international borders shut around the world for Americans, and the carrier’s status as a premium leisure airline, it hopes that it can head back towards profitability. The airline also has a partnership with JetBlue, so it can access some connecting feed out of both Boston and New York, which should help fill a few more seats while also picking up the origin and destination travelers.


AirAsia X Cutting Indonesia Arm

Embattled Asian low-cost airline AirAsia X is verging on the brink of collapse and is shutting down its Indonesian arm in an attempt to cut costs and save the wider business.  AirAsia X needs more than US$100 million to avoid liquidation. But the question is, from whom or where is that money going to come from?

“We have run out of money,” AirAsia X deputy chairman Lim Kian Onn told Malaysian media outlets on the weekend.

“Obviously, banks will not finance the company without shareholders, both old and new, putting in fresh equity. So, a prerequisite is fresh equity.”

The end of the road for Indonesia AirAsia

People familiar with AirAsia will know there’s AirAsia and various iterations of AirAsia. The original AirAsia, formally known as AirAsia Berhad and helmed by Tony Fernandes, is based in Malaysia. Over the years, various affiliate airlines have spun off the Malaysian mothership. They share the AirAsia name and branding but are based elsewhere and separate corporate entities. The original AirAsia typically has a significant stake in the affiliate AirAsia airlines.

Operating out of Indonesia is Indonesia AirAsia. Indonesia AirAsia is a low-cost airline based in Tangerang, Indonesia. It operates scheduled domestic, international service.  In happier times, Indonesia AirAsia X also flew scheduled long-haul international flights from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. Indonesia AirAsia X closed its final cabin door in early 2019.

AirAsia Berhad has a 49% stake in its Indonesian affiliate. Indonesian law prevents foreign businesses from majority owning a local airline. That saw a prominent Indonesian business, Fersindo Nusaperkasa, take a 51% stake in Indonesia AirAsia.

Low-hanging fruit for the Malaysian mothership

AirAsia’s Indonesian operations never really scaled up and presented as low hanging fruit in the scramble to cut costs and save broader interests. Before the travel downturn, Indonesia AirAsia flew to about 15 domestic and six international destinations, with a fleet of around 30 Airbus A320-200 planes.

The airline achieved a degree of notoriety in 2014 when an Airbus A320 flying from Surabaya to Singapore crashed into the Java Sea, killing the 162 passengers and crew onboard the flight. That crash was later attributed to pilot error following a non-critical malfunction in the rudder control system. The incident did nothing for Indonesia AirAsia’s reputation and civil aviation safety in Indonesia generally.

Serious ongoing liquidity issues at AirAsia

AirAsia’s problems won’t just be solved by shutting down their Indonesia arm. They face a serious cash crunch. They have immediate liabilities approaching $500 million. As Lim Kian Onn indicates, there’s no money to pay the bills. Over the next decade, there’s something like $14 billion in liabilities due – aircraft leases, contracted maintenance, new orders, and the like.

“There are many lessors, some very big ones too,” said Lim Kian Onn. “We have been talking to them for two months. All of them are understandably upset.

“There are analysts and news reports that suggest creditors, particularly lessors, have no choice but to agree to our scheme. That’s not true. They have choices.”

Meanwhile, in addition to closing down Indonesia AirAsia and dealing with angry aircraft lessors, AirAsia Berhad has written off its 49% stake in Thai AirAsia. That airline is no longer part of AirAsia Berhad’s “restructuring plans.” Just a week ago, AirAsia’s Japan-based affiliate airline closed with immediate effect.

What do you think? What’s the future for AirAsia? Has 2020 finally clipped the wings of the ever-ambitious Tony Fernandes? Post a comment and let us know.


The US-EU Tariff Dispute Could End – If Airbus Pays Back Its Aid

The long-running trade dispute between the European Union and the United States continues to bubble away. Both sides are complaining about Government subsidies aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus have received, saying those subsidies represented an unfair advantage. Last year, the United States slapped a 10% tariff on Airbus aircraft and parts. Just days ago, the World Trade Organization okayed the imposition of counter-tariffs by the European Union.  Now reports indicate the United States has offered to withdraw their tariffs if Airbus pays back monies and subsidies received from various European nations.

The United States offers to end the trade war, on certain conditions

Reuters report on Thursday flags comments made by Robert Lighthizer, a US trade representative. According to that report, Mr Lighthizer made the offer to remove US imposed tariffs leading up to the World Trade Organization’s decision earlier this week.

There are billions of dollars at stake here for both Airbus and Boeing. Boeing, via the United States Government, has long complained about unfair subsidies Airbus has received via low-interest loans from European Union nations. It’s not all one-way traffic, though. Airbus and the European Union have also complained about Boeing’s tax breaks and all lucrative the military and space work funneled to it from the United States Government.

It’s worth noting both Airbus and Boeing say they now fully comply with World Trade Organization rules. But the respective Governments are quite sure about that, and in part, the ongoing dispute is about remedying past wrongs, real or perceived.

A recent WTO win spurs the European Union & Airbus on

Airbus and the European Union had a win in the trade war recently. The World Trade Organization gave the green light earlier this week to the European Union imposing tariffs on US goods in response to the $7.5 billion of tariffs imposed by the United States. The value of the European Union imposed tariffs is estimated to be north of $US4 billion. The World Trade Organization says both sides are at fault. However, the imposition of tariffs last year by the United States appears to have inflamed the situation.

Agreeing to the United States offer would cost Airbus an estimated $10 billion

Various European Union nations made low-interest loans to Airbus assuming projects those funds were propping up were all going to be successful. On that basis, the loans were low risk and priced accordingly. Further, Airbus only had to pay back government loans when aircraft sales reach a certain threshold. The United States argues this gave Airbus an unfair advantage. Not all projects work out well they say, not even at Airbus. The A380 is an example of that.

Mr Lighthizer says if half the loans made were repriced to account for a higher risk level, the United States would pull back, axe the 2019 tariffs, and wrap up the dispute (which covers more than just aircraft). But if half the Airbus loans were repriced at a fair value, it would see Airbus repay an estimated $10 billion.

Naturally, Airbus isn’t wildly enthused about the offer. At the European Union’s Brussel’s HQ, the proposal has also been met with watery smiles. The European Union says it could further inflame the dispute.

Negotiations will continue. Airbus appears to be future-orientated. They may make concessions but aren’t that interested in addressing water under the bridge. The United States prefers to dive deep under that bridge and seek redress for poor past behavior. But Airbus says Boeing would also be up for billions if they went down that path.Advertisement:

Until both sides can find the halfway point they are comfortable with, there is no end in sight for this arcane but fascinating trade war.


United Flight Returns To Chicago After Hail Cracks Windscreen

A United Airlines Airbus A320 inadvertently flew into a hailstorm outside Chicago on Monday afternoon (local time), cracking the cockpit’s windshield. The flight, bound for Washington D.C., was forced to turn back and make an emergency landing at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

A spot of bad weather over Lake Michigan

The flight, UA349, pushed back from O’Hare just before 14:00 on Monday. UA349 is a daily mid-afternoon service east, usually taking about 80 minutes to get over to Washington D.C. On Monday, an A320-200 (registration N462UA) operated the service.

But only minutes into the flight, and tracking due east from O’Hare, the Airbus hit hail over Lake Michigan.  One passenger, Alex Lang, took a photo of the cracked windshield and posted it on Twitter.

Mr Lang described the hailstorm as “pretty bad.” After running into the hail, the United Airlines aircraft tracked north over Lake Michigan before doing a 180-degree turn, tracking south, and heading back towards Chicago. The plane landed safely at 14:58, having spent just over one hour in the air.

Hail can be hard to spot on radar. While any pilot will choose to avoid it, that’s not always possible. While big planes like this Airbus are built to withstand hail, it can cause significant damage to aircraft, not to mention it presenting as a frightening experience for everyone onboard.

“It was loud,” Mr Lang told WBBM NewsRadio“It was just big pieces of hail hitting sheet metal.”

The cracked windshield may have looked worse than it really was

Cracked cockpit windshields are a common occurrence when planes run into hail. Usually, it looks worse than it is. Windshields are designed so that while the outer shield may be cracked, the inner windscreen stays intact. A cracked outer windshield doesn’t necessarily make a plane unsafe to fly. What it does is reduce pilot visibility, and that in itself is a hazard. Plus, it’s not exactly a sight to encourage passenger confidence.

Passengers like Mr Lang see the visible signs of hail damage. But there is other potential damage a passenger onboard may not even be aware of after hitting hail.

Towards the front of the plane is the randome. This is a weatherproof enclosure that protects the radar antenna. Often, the randome can take a hit during a hail storm. It can look ugly if you’re outside the plane. Inside, you won’t even see the damage. However, damaging the randome doesn’t impact flight safety. Even if it were entirely taken out, the antenna would still work, albeit with an increased risk of damage to it.

Modern planes are designed to withstand hailstorms

Another potential threat of hail is the damage it can do to aircraft engines. Theoretically, hail getting into the engine could damage an inlet guide vane or compressor blade. But this is very unlikely to happen. Further, the cowling of the engine is designed to protect the fuselage from loose objects. Given that engine makers and aircraft manufacturers are known to test aircraft engines by throwing solidly frozen poultry into them, it would have to be a mighty big piece of hail to present as a serious threat to an aircraft engine.

But knowing all that wouldn’t stop you sweating if your plane was getting knocked about in a hailstorm above Lake Michigan. Mr Lang said the experience exceeded the worst turbulence he’d ever being through.

After landing safely, the passengers were put onto other Washington D.C. bound flights. The aircraft remains on the ground at O’Hare; however, online databases show it is slated to fly again on Tuesday evening.


Qatar Airways CEO Offers Dire Warning For The Airline Industry

Qatar Airways’ CEO has offered his take on the current state of the aviation world. The airline CEO has indicated that he believes airlines are not in the clear yet and will likely need more support from governments. He also extended the comments to cover his own airline.

Qatar Airways CEO believes airlines are not out of the clear yet

In comments made to CNBC, CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that the “worst was not behind any airline.” He believes that a second wave, which could be worse than the first wave, could lead to other airline collapses or bailouts from countries.

As for Qatar Airways himself, CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that he believed losses would continue for the airline. The airline this year posted a massive nearly $2 billion annual loss. The airline did receive $2 billion in support from its government.

Airlines are still in trouble

Look no further than the United States to see that airlines are still in trouble. After receiving billions in support in March and April, airlines have again turned to Congress in an attempt to secure more funding. Thus far, however, those bids have proven unsuccessful.

Most carriers are still burning through significant amounts of cash. Just a few days ago, the IATA released an alarming statistic that, globally, airlines are burning through nearly $300,000 per minute. This will put cash burn globally in the second half of the year at a whopping $77 billion.

Couple this with significant international travel restrictions, international routes, which are lucrative moneymakers for airlines ranging from Qantas to British Airways to United Airlines, and it is clear that airlines are still combating a perfect storm.

Is he right?

In a year from now, we will probably know whether Al Baker was correct or not. For now, it is anyone’s best guess. However, few, if any, airline CEOs from Europe, North America, South America, and others, are projecting a rosy outlook. Most hope that a vaccine will help stabilize some of the losses by bringing confidence to more passengers in flying and opening up more borders.

While airlines cannot let their guard down, the US aviation sector is seeing signs of a rebound. Since about July, passenger numbers have held somewhat constant with ups and downs and, recently, signs that there might be better days ahead.

The comment on his own airline, however, is quite stark. Qatar Airways has significantly outsized exposure to international travel compared to most other airlines globally, meaning that travel restrictions hurt it more than others. While carriers like LATAM, American Airlines, and China Southern can rely on domestic networks for some revenue, Qatar Airways does not have that luxury. So, it is not unthinkable that Qatar Airways will suffer losses in the next few years without a return of most international travel, but that has not stopped the airline from pursuing growth with new flights to Accra and San Francisco, among others.

Some sectors, such as China, Vietnam, and Russia, thus far have shown signs of a strong rebounding recovery. Vietnam, in particular, had taken very strict actions shutting down international tourism, though the country has recently started opening up international flights.

Ultimately, few industries are as volatile as the airline industry. Almost no one would have predicted carriers would be in such dire straits after carriers started shutting down flights to China back in January and February. Since then, the global spread of the virus has wreaked havoc on airlines, their employees, and all those employed in the tourism sector.


New York Airports Start Offering Rapid COVID-19 Tests

Time frames to get COVID-19 tests results back are shrinking fast. Not so long ago, it was taking days. Now, private enterprise is coming up with tests that generate results within minutes. One such business, XpresCheck, is now operating testing stations at two New York airports that promise results within 15 minutes. That kind of rapid result service offers a path out of the current mess the airline industry finds itself in.

“We believe rapid COVID-19 testing at airports can play a major role in slowing the virus spread,” said Doug Satzman, CEO of XpresSpa Group, in a media statement.

“Having a rapid test inside the airport immediately upon travel could also eliminate the need for a full 14-day quarantine in states where that applies.”

Fast results on offer at Newark & JFK airports

The rapid COVID-19 tests are available at New York’s Newark and JFK airports from Wednesday, October 7. You can find the test station on level 3 in Terminal B at Newark and Terminal 4 at JFK.

“Cutting the time for results to 15 minutes or less changes the testing paradigm for travelers and airport employees, creating a series of benefits,” says Dr. Marcelo Venegas, a medical officer with XpresCheck.

“It means early detection results are known in time to take appropriate measures to prevent disease transmission. This is literally a shortcut to a safer environment.”

The business has plans to roll out rapid COVID-19 testing stations at large and medium airports around the United States. XpresCheck already operates health and wellness facilities at 25 airports around the world. They are an example of a private enterprise leading the way when it comes to COVID-19 testing.

Airlines and airports pour resources into developing COVID testing stations

In recent months, we’ve seen airlines and airports work in conjunction with health and medical organizations to get COVID-19 testing stations up and running. Early examples, like Lufthansa’s facility at Frankfurt were taking three hours to get test results back. That’s better than a few days, but no-one really wants to hang around at an airport for three hours after landing.

Now, as time frames shrink, COVID-19 testing at airports is becoming more and more viable. Ideally, the testing and the results get done before traveling. The result can then get electronically linked to your ticket, and assuming all is well, you are good to go.

In the absence of an effective vaccine, efficient airport COVID-19 centers are the passport to travel, and the airline industry getting back on its feet.

“We are proud to be playing our part in supporting the return of air travel to pre-pandemic levels by making sure both airport employees and travelers feel safe and confident when they come to the airport,” said Mr Satzman.

On most levels, rapid result COVID-19 testing like what XpresSpa is offering seems a no-brainer. They may not be perfect, and some travelers will show up as asymptomatic, but in the absence of a vaccine, they are one of the best tools we have to manage and contain the spread of COVID-19 while allowing us to get on with our lives and get flying again.


Richard Branson Sticks With Virgin Australia And Buys 5% Stake

Despite losing his previous investment in Virgin Australia, Richard Branson is about to tip more money into the re-launched airline. Mr Branson’s Virgin Group previously had a 10% stake in Virgin Australia. But the airline went into administration earlier this year. Since then, Virgin Australia has been re-sold and re-launched. That saw former shareholders such as the Branson Group lose their money. Undeterred, Mr Branson has the checkbook for another round.

Branson to take 5% stake in Virgin Australia

Over the weekend, The Australian Financial Review newspaper reported the Virgin Group was to take a 5% stake in Virgin Australia. Reportedly, the Virgin Group was in final talks with new Virgin Australia owners, Boston’s Bain Capital. The value of Mr Branson’s investment is unknown, but the deal will include continued use of Virgin branding. The previous incarnation of Virgin Australia was paying The Virgin Group approximately US$11 million annually for licensing rights.

It is expected the deal will shortly be finalized and announced when Bain Capital takes full control of Virgin Australia at the end of October.

The move by the Virgin Group to retain an interest in Virgin Australia is significant. The Virgin Group holds a substantial stake in Virgin Atlantic and has its hands full dealing with that airline’s woes. But Richard Branson has long been keen on Australia’s aviation sector. He famously mapped out plans for Virgin Australia (then called Virgin Blue) on the back of a couple of beer coasters with a few airline executives in the later years of the 1990s.

Branson’s continued interest has come at a cost

Since then, the Virgin Group has retained a financial interest in Australia’s second-largest domestic airline, cashing out over time to take its final stake down to 10%. Mr Branson would drop by one or two a year, usually connected with a Virgin Australia promotional exercise, and make a suitable splash in local media.

But Mr Branson’s interest and enthusiasm for Australian Aviation has come at a cost. Over the years, Virgin Australia has asked its owners to tip in equity a couple of times. The airline did so most recently earlier this year. But by then, Virgin Australia’s owners had closed their wallets. They were either hoping for a government bailout (which didn’t come) or a restructure. They got the latter.

Richard Branson sticks with Australian aviation

You could read Mr Branson’s continued interest and continued willingness to invest in Virgin Australia in a couple of ways. Firstly, it’s a crazy brave vanity exercise. But given the financial pressures facing the Virgin Group and many of its airline assets, that’s an unlikely option.

More likely is faith in the underlying strength of Australia’s domestic aviation market. It is having a lousy year but is usually one of the world’s more lucrative aviation markets. In addition, the re-launched Virgin Australia is a slimmer, more efficient airline. Much of the burdensome debt is gone, and excessive expenses trimmed.

Richard Branson obviously thinks Virgin Australia has a future, and there’s money to be made here. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be flexing the checkbook. He’s a smart guy and his belief in Virgin Australia going forward is worth taking onboard amid all the analysis and commentary about the future of Virgin Australia.


US Airline Crew Say Farewell To Passengers Ahead Of Furloughs

It’s crunch time in the United States with CARES Act funding ending, and no extension negotiated locked-in. That means many airline employees are taking their last flights ahead of expected mass layoffs. But not all the employees are going out quietly. Some are going out with some noise, but also with a lot of style and grace.

For myself and one other crew member on our flight today, this means we’ll be furloughed October 1, and unfortunately, this was my last working flight before that day comes,” said American Airlines flight attendant Breaunna Ross as she welcomed her passengers to Dallas on the weekend.

“I also want to personally thank each and every one of you for choosing to fly American today. This job was an escape for me after being unhappy with my job after graduating from college. It was a job that awarded me many opportunities. A job that I fell in love with.”

United Airlines flight attendant Annette Hala spoke to ABC News about working for seven years at United.

“I dreamed of being a flight attendant when I was a little girl, and my dream came true,” she said.

The CEOs at both airlines, American’s Doug Parker and United’s Scott Kirby have vowed to reinstate their employees if or when CARES Act funding gets extended.

Airline bosses scramble to get CARES Act funding extended

Frantic behind the scenes negotiations are underway in Washington. In a letter sent to his employees this week, Doug Parker said he had just spoken to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

“He informed me that the White House and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are continuing to negotiate on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that would include an extension of the payroll support package and it is possible they could reach an agreement in the coming days.”

To date, US airlines have received around US$25 billion in financial aid under the CARES Act. That includes $5.8 billion given to American Airlines for payroll support, $5.4 billion provided to Delta Air Lines, $5 billion handed over to United Airlines, and approximately $3.3 billion given to Southwest Airlines.

But between them, US airlines are reportedly losing around $5 billion a month as US domestic passenger numbers remain nearly 70% down on this time last year. The US airlines are running around half their usual number of flights.

The airlines say they cannot afford to keep employees such as Breaunna Ross, Rheanna Lawson, and Annette Hala on the books without further payroll support.

The situation is less precarious for employees at both Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. Both airlines have no plans for immediate furloughs as CARES Act funding ends. But that may change down the track unless the airline industry starts to pick up more.

For 32,000 employees at United Airlines and American Airlines, it’s crunch time. While Republicans and Democrats feud in Washington, playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods, JetBlue’s CEO Robin Hayes made a last-ditch appeal today.

“Please Congress, we need you to do your job. and we need you to do it now.”