MAX 8s for Silk Way

Azerbaijani carrier Silk Way has place an order for ten Boeing 737 MAX 8s, valued at $1.1bn at current list prices.  The manufacturer had previously attributed the aircraft to an unidentified customer.

“Silk Way’s success and profitability is a direct result of investing in its fleet and services and growing its regional and international footprint,” said Zaur Akhundov, President, Silk Way Group of Companies.  “I am confident we will maintain our rate of growth, supported by ten new Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes.”

The airline currently operates eight Boeing aircraft – all freighters – consisting of two 767-300Fs, three 747-400Fs and three 747-8Fs.

Marty Bentrott, Vice Oresident of Sales, Middle East, Turkey, Russia and Central Asia, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “We are very pleased to expand our partnership with Silk Way with this airplane order.  We value our partnership with Silk Way and are grateful for their enduring confidence in the Boeing products.”

Flight Restrictions Tightened

The US and subsequently the UK Governments have introduced additional airline security measures on flights originating in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Britain’s Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, said in a written statement to the House of Parliament on March 21 he was revising aviation security measures for selected inbound flights to the UK.

“In conjunction with our international partners and the aviation industry, the UK Government keeps aviation security under constant review.  The UK has some of the most robust security measures in the world and we will not hesitate to put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate,” he said.

Under the new restrictions electronic devices such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablets larger than 6.3in (16cm) x 3.7in (9.3cm) x 0.6in (1.5cm) will not be allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Tunisia.  Instead these items must be packed in travellers’ hold luggage.  Passengers have raised concerns that these items could be stolen or damaged.

The ban follows an earlier directive by the Trump Administration to prohibit electronic devices from a passenger’s carry-on luggage on nonstop flights to the US from eight nations.  The indefinite US ban covers ten airports and nine airlines with restrictions applying to travellers from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although no specific reason was given for the new ban initially, Reuters quoted US officials as saying it relates to a terror threat uncovered several weeks ago, during a US Navy SEAL raid on a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen.  Subsequently, US Department of Homeland Security said the decision was based on this information as well the downing of a MetroJet aircraft over Egypt on October 31, 2015 and the attempt to destroy a Somali-owned Daallo Airlines Airbus A321 on February 2, 2016, after which investigations showed explosives had been smuggled aboard both aircraft.  “We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent security as they continue to target aviation interests,” US officials said in a statement.

HIA Joins the Elite

Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) has become just the sixth facility in the world to receive Skytrax’s ‘5-Star Airport’ ranking.  The rating is awarded by the London-based aviation institute to airports providing first class facilities for its passengers combined with excellent service from airport staff.  It takes into account the front-line areas for departures, arrival and transfer, including airport facilities, customer service, security, immigration, shopping outlets and food and beverage facilities.  Doha joins Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo/Haneda and Munich as five star facilities.

Engineer Badr Mohammed Al Meer, COO of HIA, said: “Joining the elite of airports and being the first airport in the Middle East to earn five stars from Skytrax is an honour, and a direct result of the thousands of people who ensure HIA operates smoothly every day, every flight.  No matter how long our guests are with us, we strive to make their journey flawless and memorable.  This acknowledgement is highly gratifying, and will continue to motivate us to create an exceptional experience for everyone.”

HIA, which has only been operational for three years, has enjoyed several strategic milestones over the past 12 months, including the launch of its iBeacon enabled mobile app, the introduction of the dual passenger train shuttle to concourses D and E and the opening of multiple duty free stores.

The Qatari airport also enjoyed success at the 2017 Skytrax World Airport Awards, held in Amsterdam where it was named the “Best Airport in the Middle East” for the third consecutive year and awarded “Best Staff Service in the Middle East” for the second year running.

AirAsia X Heads to the US

Malaysian low-cost long-haul carrier AirAsia X has outlined plans to introduce links to Honolulu.  The four-times weekly service will operate between Kuala Lumpur and Hawaiian capital via Osaka, Japan starting on June 17.

AirAsia X Group CEO Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said: “This is the game-changing destination we have all been waiting for.  By connecting Asean and North Asia to the US with our low fares, we will make it possible for those who could only dream of a vacation across the Pacific to take that trip.  We wish to thank all the relevant authorities and governments for their support in making this a reality.”

The route launch came just two weeks after AirAsia X received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate services into the US for the first time.  The approval allows the carrier to operate from Malaysia to any US destination.

Meranun added: “This is a major milestone for AirAsia X.  Our expansion up until now has concentrated on Asia, Australasia and the Middle East and we are excited about our first foray into an entirely new market as we look beyond Asia Pacific.  As part of our growth plans, we are also looking to resume our very popular London rotations, and are working towards securing the necessary approvals.”

Record-Breaking Flight for Qatar Airways

Qatar Airways has launched the world’s longest commercial flight, flying non-stop from the Qatari capital Doha to Auckland, New Zealand.

Qatar Airways’ first flight to New Zealand flies over the city of Auckland on its final approach to the airport. (Qatar Airways)

The inaugural service departed Doha on February 5 and arrived in Auckland early the following day – a significant day for all New Zealanders as it was Waitangi Day, celebrating the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.

Operated by one of the carrier’s Boeing 777-2DZ(LR)s, A7-BBB (c/n 36013), the flight took 16hrs 20mins to complete and covered 9,032 miles (14,535km). After touching down in New Zealand for the first time the aircraft was given a traditional water cannon salute by the Auckland Airport Fire Department.

Travelling on board the flight was Qatar Airways’ Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker who said: “The launch of our new service to Auckland is an important milestone for us as we expand both in the region and globally across our network providing more options and better connections to exciting business destinations in Europe and the Middle East.  Arriving on Waitangi Day and achieving the world’s longest flight for the return record-breaking service makes this an even more momentous occasion for Qatar Airways and provides another accomplishment to celebrate in this our 2oth year of flying the flag internationally for Qatar.”

Auckland is the first New Zealand city served by Qatar Airways.  The new daily flights are operated by the carrier’s 777-200LRs, which are configured in a two-class layout with 42 Business Class and 217 Economy Class seats.

The carried added the Doha-Auckland-Doha daily rotations will also offer 116 tonnes of belly-hold capacity every week to support the growing imports of raw, industrial and consumer materials into New Zealand.  While in Qatar the Hamad International Airport freight terminal, operated by Qatar Airways Cargo, offers ‘QR Fresh’ a seamless temperature-controlled handling and storage solution, to deliver perishable products such as dairy produce, meat and fruits from Auckland into the Middle East and on to major European markets.

Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight touches down on New Zealand’s Waitangi Day in Auckland. (Qatar Airways)