FlyerTalk – The world's most popular frequent flyer community https://www.flyertalk.com FlyerTalk is a living, growing community where frequent travelers around the world come to exchange knowledge and experiences about everything miles and points related. Thu, 17 Sep 2020 22:33:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Air Canada Offers Infinite Flight Pass Starting at $1,520 USD Per Month https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/air-canada-offers-infinite-flight-pass-starting-at-1520-usd-per-month.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/air-canada-offers-infinite-flight-pass-starting-at-1520-usd-per-month.html#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 22:33:09 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73598 In another attempt to court flyers back to their aircraft, Air Canada is offering an Infinite Canada Flight Pass to flyers. Starting at around $1,520 per month, flyers qualify for an unlimited number of flights within Canada, with no blackout dates, booking restrictions, or change and cancellation fees.

Canadian flyers who wish to see the True North at their will now have a flight pass option with Air Canada. The airline announced the launch of their “Infinite Canada Flight Pass,” an unlimited ticket starting at $1,520 USD per month ($2,000 CAD).

Book as Soon as One Hour Prior to Flight Without Change or Cancellation Fees

The new pass will only be available for subscription until Sept. 23, 2020 – but it comes with a lot of benefits. The one, two or three-month Infinite Canada passes are available in three classes of service: Standard economy tickets, Flex economy tickets, and Latitude full economy tickets.

Passholders will get access to an unlimited number of flights within Canada (no international travel included) for one price throughout the duration of their Infinite Canada pass. Flights can be booked as soon as one hour before departure, and qualify to earn Altitude Qualifying Miles. More importantly, the flight passes come with no blackout dates, booking restrictions, change fees, or cancellation fees.

“Air Canada recognizes that as air travel begins to return to normal customers want flexibility and certainty,” Lucie Guillemette, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Air Canada, said in a press release. “Our new Infinite Canada Flight Pass provides both by enabling customers to easily book and change their travel plans without any blackout restrictions or change or cancellation fees, while locking in the price of their flights for up to three months with one flat fee.”

Although the flight passes offer complete flexibility, it’s unclear how many Air Canada expects to sell. Moreover, it’s unclear if flyers who purchase the flight passes will be able to renew them once they expire.

Infinite Flight Pass Latest New Benefit Rolled Out From Flag Carrier

The Infinite Flight Pass is the latest attempt to get flyers to come back to the airline as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The airline also announced they will offer complimentary COVID-19 insurance coverage to all outbound international flyers booking between Sept. 17 and Oct. 31, 2020. The insurance will include coverage for COVID-19 treatment medical expenses, $150 per person, per day for quarantine meals and accommodations, and cash in case the Canadian government goes to Level 4 while a traveler is abroad.

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Southwest Grounds 115 Aircraft Over Weight Issues https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/southwest-grounds-115-aircraft-over-weight-issues.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/southwest-grounds-115-aircraft-over-weight-issues.html#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 22:15:48 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73596 Southwest Airlines has taken 115 Boeing 737-800 airframes temporarily out of service, over weight and balance data issues sent to dispatchers. The 75-pound weight difference was enough to create an inconvenience for the airline, but they expect it to have a “minimal” impact on operations.

Southwest Airlines says they were forced to ground a number of their Boeing 737-800 fleet, after there was a discrepancy between the weight and balance of aircraft. The Dallas Morning News reports the airline took 115 aircraft out of service, down from what was estimated to be 130 airplanes with issues.

75-Pound Discrepancy Enough to Ground Aircraft

The airline told the newspaper that the difference in weight and balance between the aircraft and dispatch teams was 75 pounds. Although it might seem minor, the difference was enough to ground all the airframes until the problem could be sorted.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily ceased flying the respective aircraft to enter the correct weights of the aircraft into the system and reset the program,” a spokesperson told the Dallas Morning News. “In the meantime, this will cause some delays and/or cancellations; however, we do anticipate the impact to our operation to be minimal.”

Under federal law, aircraft with 20 or more seats or a maximum payload of 6,000 pounds or more must be weighed every three years. In addition, pilots in command of the aircraft are expected to comply with operating limits published in the Airplane Flight Manual. Any discrepancy in weight could affect the aircraft balance and center of gravity, along with the fuel calculations for successful operations.

The airline said they were able to bring back “a couple dozen” aircraft into service by Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, and are working to get the rest online. There’s no timetable for when Southwest could get the affected airframes back into the regular fleet.

Second Time Southwest is Accused of Weight and Balance Issues in 2020

This incident marks the second time Southwest Airlines has stood accused of having weight and balance issues with their aircraft. In January 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration sought a $3.92 million penalty against the Dallas-based airline for allegedly operating 44 aircraft with incorrect weight and balance data. Southwest claims the issues were self-reported and resolved.

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Airline Leaders Go to Washington One Last Time for Additional Funding https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/airline-leaders-go-to-washington-one-last-time-for-additional-funding.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/airline-leaders-go-to-washington-one-last-time-for-additional-funding.html#respond Thu, 17 Sep 2020 21:14:18 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73594 The executives of three major airlines went back to the White House as a last-ditch effort to secure additional funding after the Payroll Support Program ends. With only 13 days before airlines go through with their announced furloughs, the leadership signaled the talks with government officials were productive.

The heads of three airlines made one last trip to Washington, DC, in hopes they could secure more Payroll Support Program funding to prevent letting go of over 30,000 employees. CNBC reports the chief executives of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines spent the day meeting with White House officials, in hopes their concerns would be heard before the Oct. 1, 2020 deadline.

American and United Stand to Lose Most Without PSP

The meeting consisted of American CEO Doug Parker, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly and United CEO Scott Kirby, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – the president was not at the talks. Although both sides did not elaborate on the discussions with reporters, the airlines signaled that it was a productive talk.

“We had a very good meeting with the chief [of staff],” Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told reporters, as quoted by CNBC. “The first CARES Act kept this country out of pandemic and I think the only mistake that was made is that it didn’t go far enough and long enough.”

Although it’s unclear if the leadership met with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, American CEO Doug Parker said they were also in touch with her office to continue the discussion. So far, none of the proposed “phase four” bills have moved forward in either chamber of Congress.

While Kelly has been the most outspoken of the executives about securing additional support, both American and United have the most employees to lose. Without additional Payroll Support Program funds, American is planning to furlough as many as 19,000 employees, while United could release over 16,000 workers. All of the releases would be effective Oct. 1, 2020 – the first day allowable under the original CARES Act.

The executives and union leaders are asking for an additional $25 billion in payroll support grants, which would potentially keep current employees on staff through March 2021. Although both sides and the White House have signaled that the support is needed and could be positive, a bill has yet to materialize.

Unions Continue to Campaign for Additional Support

Joining the executives in their call for additional money are the airline unions, including the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. According to The Hill, the unions are demanding action take place before the funds expire.

“Despite the aggressive self-help measures the company has taken to bolster its financial position, and even with several thousand of our colleagues opting for voluntary leave and early retirement, nearly 20,000 American Airlines team members are facing furloughs in just two short weeks,” the American Airlines union leaders wrote to Congress, according to the publication. “And several markets in our domestic network are at risk of significant reductions in air service.”

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U.S. and Europe Rulemakers Consider Temporarily Waiving Slot Requirements https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/u-s-and-europe-rulemakers-consider-temporarily-waiving-slot-requirements.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/u-s-and-europe-rulemakers-consider-temporarily-waiving-slot-requirements.html#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2020 22:32:40 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73591 As airlines struggle to fill aircraft and cut capacity by 50 percent or more, lawmakers are considering offering aid by offering airport slot waivers. The Federal Aviation Administration and European Commission have both proposed waving minimum flight requirements through March 2021.

Under normal circumstances, airlines cutting capacity would come with losing valuable take off and landing slots at the world’s biggest airports. But the COVID-19 pandemic has been anything but normal, and airlines have been forced to cut capacity because flyers are not booking new airfare.

As a result, two major government organizations are considering waving minimum flight requirements through March 2021, giving airlines some protection over their routes. While the Federal Aviation Administration is proposing a waiver, the European Commission says they plan on extending theirs in the coming days.

Airport Slot Waivers Would Protect Routes Held by Airlines

Under the current FAA rules, airlines can lose their slots if they do not fly them at least 80 percent of the time. But according to Reuters, the agency is considering a plan to allow airlines to keep their slots through March 2021. The airlines would get a blanket waiver at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA), as well as at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA).

However, for slots at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the FAA would offer airlines credits for flights cancelled directly due to COVID-19. If an airline were to not use a slot for an extended period of time, it could be offered to another carrier on a temporary basis to keep passengers and freight moving.

In Europe, the Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean has already expressed her intention to extend slot waivers unilaterally through Mar. 27, 2021. Because intra-Europe traffic is slumping in September and international traffic is still at historic lows, the commissioner said the extension would help airlines continue to plan for schedules once aviation gets back to normal.

“I appreciate that industry stakeholders – airports, airlines, and slot-coordinators – have reached an agreement on how to mitigate these problems, and I would like to highlight the importance of this agreement,” the commissioner said in a statement. “Airlines will now be able to start planning and making available any excess airport capacity for others to use.”

Spirit Lone Dissenting Voice in Waiver Extensions

Among U.S. based carriers, all three legacy carriers and JetBlue supported the extensions, as their schedules have been significantly cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only dissenting voice was Spirit Airlines, which argued that allowing slots to open up would allow flyers to “receive greater choice among offerings in these key markets.”

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These Airlines Accepted the Most Government Support During COVID-19 https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/these-airlines-accepted-the-most-government-support-during-covid-19.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/these-airlines-accepted-the-most-government-support-during-covid-19.html#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2020 21:53:29 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73587 The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on airlines and their bottom lines, as flyers are choosing to stay home and borders close. As a result, some carriers were forced to accept assistance from their governments. Lufthansa had one of the biggest bailouts of 2020 – but how much did other airlines get?

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unmeasurable toll in the number of lives lost. The aviation industry is not immune, and has lost a number of talented individuals to the viral outbreak.

Because flyers are opting to stay “safer at home” to avoid potential contact with the novel Coronavirus, airlines have taken serious hits to their budgets and bottom lines. In addition, border closings and mandatory quarantine periods have forced flyers to reconsider their travel plans until the virus gets under control.

As a result, some airlines have turned to their governments for bailouts. Although Lufthansa’s bailout from the German government is the biggest of 2020, OAG Aviation Worldwide broke down how all the packages compare in a recent webinar

Singapore Airlines Deemed Most Expensive Based on Seats Flown

Comparing all of the airlines that have accepted state aid, the biggest proportional package went to Singapore Airlines. Flying only 6.6 million seats between January and August 2020, the $8.7 billion support package cost the city-state government $1,315 per seat.

Slide courtesy: OAG

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific’s deal was the second most expensive, coming in at $574 per flown seat, while Alitalia’s tentative program would rank third at $394 per seat. Although Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM Group took the most money from their respective governments, the bailouts only cost $372 and $334 per seat, respectively.

In the United States, American Airlines $5.8 billion tops all the carriers, but only broke down to $52 per available seat flown. Delta Air Lines accepted $5.4 billion in support, which comes down to $59 per seat flown. United Airlines took the least of the legacy carriers at $5 billion, but it cost the government $71 per seat flown. Southwest Airlines, who only accepted $3.3 billion in support, cost the state a paltry $31 per seat flown.

South American Carriers at Higher Risk of Bankruptcy

Despite the government and investor support, there are few airlines that are considered a low financial risk. With their generous support from their government, Lufthansa joins names like Air New Zealand, Emirates, and Singapore Airlines as airlines at a low financial risk.

Slide courtesy: OAG

Those at high risk include several low-cost international carriers, including Avianca and Aeromexico. Aeromexico filed for bankruptcy earlier this year to reorganize their assets and liabilities. Also in the high risk category is Virgin Atlantic, which negotiated a bailout package from shareholders Virgin Group and Delta.

Among the U.S. carriers, Delta and United join ultra-low-cost carriers Allegiant Airlines and Spirit Airlines in the moderate risk category, while American is in the high risk, moderate support category. According to the New York Times, American is expected to accept a $4.75 billion loan from the U.S. Treasury.

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Southwest Airlines Won’t Take Loan Against Rapid Rewards https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/southwest-airlines-wont-take-loan-against-rapid-rewards.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/southwest-airlines-wont-take-loan-against-rapid-rewards.html#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2020 21:09:00 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73584 While the three legacy airlines are leveraging their loyalty programs to raise money during the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest Airlines says they won’t Rapid Rewards as a funding source. The airline tells investors they are satisfied with the amount of money they have raised on the unsecured market and their investment-quality rating with all three agencies.

The latest trend among American carriers is to leverage their rewards programs to increase liquidity, as hopes of additional federal support are waning. All three legacy carriers – American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines – have turned to their loyalty program profitability and user data to secure new funding as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Meanwhile, Spirit Airlines is making some changes to their loyalty program to attract even more flyers, as it sees Free Spirit as a potential profit center.

However, Southwest Airlines will not be joining the other carriers in using their loyalty program for additional liquidity. In an investor update filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Dallas-based airline said they would not be using Rapid Rewards for a loan.

Southwest Claims $12 Billion in Unencumbered Assets, with 55 Percent Leverage

In their filing, the airline says they have $12 billion in unencumbered assets, consisting of $10 billion in aircraft and $2 billion in spare engines, ground equipment and real estate. As a result, their current debt-to-invested capital ratio is 55 percent, giving them some room for flexibility if needed.

Because of their leverage, and the fact that they are the only U.S.-based carrier with an investment-grade rating from all three rating agencies, the airline has opted to not to use the Rapid Rewards loyalty program as collateral for a loan. Instead, airline leaders say they are capable of securing additional funding from the open market if necessary.

“In addition to the value from aircraft and other physical assets, the Company has significant value from its Rapid Rewards® loyalty program,” the airline wrote in their SEC filing. “The Company does not currently plan to utilize its loyalty program should it need to secure additional financing; further, the Company was successful obtaining additional liquidity in the unsecured debt market as recently as July 2020.”

Furthermore, the airline may not necessarily need additional cash, based on their current reported financial status. Since the beginning of the year, Southwest has raised over $18 billion dollars, with the majority on debt issuances and sale-leaseback transactions. As of Sept. 15, they also have a balance of cash and short-term investments of $14.8 billion, even with an average daily core cash burn of $16 million.

Operating Revenue and Load Factor Continue to Decline

Even though Southwest may not be seeking additional funding from their loyalty program, their overall situation remains depressed. The airline reported operating revenue compared year-over-year is expected to be down by up to 75% over the next two months, with load factors cut in half.

Table courtesy: Southwest Airlines

As the airline moves forward, they anticipate the majority of their bookings will be leisure-oriented, and is inconsistent based on the region. To attract more customers, the airline will continue to leave middle seats unoccupied for flyers not traveling together through Nov. 30, 2020.

To follow the continued leisure growth, Southwest is planning to add service to both Miami International Airport (MIA) and Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), improving their presence at core leisure markets. The strategy is similar to JetBlue, which expanded its map to include more “Visiting Friends and Relatives” destinations.

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Singapore Airlines Considers “Flights to Nowhere” to Encourage Bookings https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/singapore-airlines-considers-flights-to-nowhere-to-encourage-bookings.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/singapore-airlines-considers-flights-to-nowhere-to-encourage-bookings.html#comments Tue, 15 Sep 2020 21:17:42 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73581 To get flyers back on aircraft without worrying about international regulations from the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore Airlines is reportedly considering offering a “flight to nowhere.” Passengers would be ferried on a flight departing and arriving at Singapore Changi Airport, potentially paid for in part with tourism credits.

Singapore Airlines is potentially considering a plan to offer “flights to nowhere” in order to get paying passengers on aircraft once more. The Straits Times reports the luxury carrier is planning flights that would depart from and land at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), starting in late October 2020.

Three Hour Flights Would Launch for Domestic Passengers

According to the newspaper, the idea was first launched by Singapore Air Charter, who approached Singapore Airlines about partnering on the airplane rides. Each flight would be expected to take around three hours, suggested on the airline’s Airbus A350. The talks have since lost momentum, but Singapore Airlines could be moving forward in a new partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board.

Although Singapore Airlines has operated “flights to nowhere” in the past, this latest initiative is fueled by public demand to travel. A survey conducted by Singapore Air Charter found 75 percent of flyers would be willing to pay for such a flight, at prices of around $211 for an economy seat and $432 for a business class seat.

The original plan called for “staycation” bundles for the nowhere-bound flyers, complete with airport shopping vouchers, limousine transfers and hotel packages. But a partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board could open up the use of public travel credits to pay for flights, reducing the price of the airplane ride for domestic tourists.

A spokesperson for the airline declined to comment specifically about the plans, rather saying that they are considering a number of ideas.

“Singapore Airlines is considering several initiatives that would allow us to continue engaging both our customers and members of the public,” the airline said in a statement to the Straits Times. “We will make an announcement at the appropriate time if we go ahead with these plans.”

“Flights to Nowhere” Gain Popularity During COVID-19 Pandemic

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has closed down borders and forced travelers to stay “safer at home,” “flights to nowhere” have picked up popularity. In August 2020, Taiwanese carrier EVA Air offered one aboard their famous “Hello Kitty” aircraft, while All Nippon Airways offered a 90-minute sightseeing flight aboard one of their Airbus A380 “Flying Honu” aircraft.

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European Carriers Send “Last Call” to Save Aviation During COVID-19 https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/european-carriers-send-last-call-to-save-aviation-during-covid-19.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/european-carriers-send-last-call-to-save-aviation-during-covid-19.html#comments Tue, 15 Sep 2020 20:31:54 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73579 The biggest trade association for European airlines is calling on the European Commission to determine a path forward to opening borders and allowing travel once again. The group is asking for more COVID-19 testing and tracing measures, easy-to-understand maps and regional-level restrictions.

A group representing European airlines is issuing their “last call” to try and help recover the travel and aviation sectors, with the goal of boosting the trade bloc as they attempt to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release, Airlines for Europe is calling on a four-step plan to reopen borders and encourage commerce once again.

Plan Calls for Easy-to-Read Maps, Testing Measures and Quarantine Exemptions

The four-step plan from the aviation group calls for the European Council to consider more than the number of COVID-19 cases from a nation. Instead, the consortium wants Europe to publish an easy-to-read map for all travelers, offer COVID-19 testing options upon arrival, and quarantine exclusions for low-risk travelers.

Since the European Commission recommended some borders reopen in July 2020, their evaluation process includes an understanding of “the health situation, the ability to apply containment measures during travel, and reciprocity considerations.” However, Airlines for Europe is asking the European Union to expand their considerations to include incidence rate and the positivity rate for COVID-19 infections. Quarantines and restrictions could also be applied to specific regions, instead of the Schengen Associated region.

In place of quarantines, the group is calling for enhanced testing of inbound international passengers. By offering tests to passengers prior to departure, the group suggests the spread of COVID-19 can be limited, while welcoming individuals who cannot stay in quarantine for two weeks. Another option is the London Heathrow Airport (LHR) plan, which would allow flyers to make an appointment for on-site testing before boarding their flight.

The group also wants quarantine exclusions for certain travelers, including airline crews and passengers transiting through Europe. They suggest allowing travelers who will be staying for less than 72 hours with little contact with the public to be in the exclusion group.

Finally, the airline organization wants the EU to develop a clear map of what restrictions are ahead for potential flyers, similar to the ones made by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and United Airlines. Although the EU currently offers a map, it’s not necessarily updated in real time.

Renewed Call to Action Comes as Final Effort for Airline Recovery

Joining Airlines for Europe in asking for a new solution is Airports Council International – Europe (ACI), who previously said: “Saving European tourism and aviation is not going to be done by selectively pouring billions into a few airlines.” While Lufthansa took a bailout package from the German government to keep afloat, Virgin Atlantic restructured with the help of their partners to keep flying. British Airways has taken many difficult steps to maintain liquidity, including selling off parts of their art collection and immediately retiring all of their Boeing 747 airframes.

Both ACI and Airlines for Europe agree that in order to save European travel and aviation, the quarantine needs to be replaced with risk-based strategies. Otherwise, the sector could be in for a catastrophic collapse.

“The Council of the EU must make this a political priority,” Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM group and chairman of Airlines for Europe, said in a statement. “Uncoordinated national measures over the last six months have had a devastating impact on freedom of movement – a core EU principal – with significant knock-on effects for our travel and tourism sector”

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Boeing 737 MAX Clears Hurdle for European Operations https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/boeing-737-max-clears-hurdle-for-european-operations.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/boeing-737-max-clears-hurdle-for-european-operations.html#comments Tue, 15 Sep 2020 18:44:24 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73577 The march to get the Boeing 737 MAX continues, as European authorities say they have completed their test flights of the troubled airframe. Taking place in Vancouver, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency is now evaluating the data from the air trials, which will be reviewed by the Joint Operations Evaluation Board.

After months of continued data collection, the Boeing 737 MAX may be one step closer to flying passengers once again. In a press release, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) says they have completed their test flights, and is now evaluating data gathered from the trials.

737 MAX Could Return “Once We Are Convinced It Is Safe.”

Because of the stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, European investigators opted to do their test flights in Vancouver, near Boeing’s West Coast facility in Seattle. The process started with simulator flights at London Gatwick Airport (LGW) starting Sept. 1, 2020, followed by actual test flights of the redesigned aircraft between Sept. 7 and Sept. 11, 2020.

“While Boeing still has some final actions to close off, EASA judges the overall maturity of the re-design process is now sufficient to proceed to flight tests,” the agency said prior to the tests. “These are a prerequisite for the European agency to approve the aircraft’s new design.”

With the test flights complete, the data will be analyzed and go before the Joint Operations Evaluation Board. The group will meet at London Gatwick to go over the information, and determine if and how the 737 MAX can move forward to airworthiness once more.

The EASA did not provide public comment on how the tests went, or what Boeing must complete on the aircraft to bring the 737 MAX back into service. Instead, the agency noted they were working closely with international stakeholders to determine the next steps.

“EASA has been working steadily, in close cooperation with the FAA and Boeing, to return the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service as soon as possible,” the agency said in a statement at the conclusion of the test flights. “But only once we are convinced it is safe.”

Despite Operator Optimism, No Set Time Table for 737 MAX Return

Although there is interest by operators to bring the 737 MAX back, safety administrators on both sides of the Atlantic have not yet committed to a deadline for the airframe to re-enter fleets once again. The FAA previously put together a document of required changes, which included upgrading software systems, before the aircraft would be reconsidered for airworthiness.

Despite this, some airlines say they anticipate bringing back the 737 MAX before the end of the year. During their second quarter financial report, Southwest Airlines said they are hopeful that the aircraft could return before 2020 comes to a close.

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Air Canada Starts Voluntary COVID-19 Arrival Testing https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/air-canada-starts-voluntary-covid-19-arrival-testing.html https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/air-canada-starts-voluntary-covid-19-arrival-testing.html#comments Mon, 14 Sep 2020 20:18:53 +0000 https://www.flyertalk.com/?p=73575 Air Canada is partnering with Toronto Pearson International Airport and McMaster HealthLabs to start voluntarily testing international passengers upon arrival. The goal of the study is to determine the effectiveness of quarantine periods.

Three aviation stakeholders want to test how many inbound passengers are coming to Canada with COVID-19, as an evidence-based measure to determine if the two-week quarantine is still the best method to protect against the virus. In a press release, Air Canada announced they will partner with McMaster HealthLabs and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to offer testing at Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to explore “the effectiveness of various quarantine periods for travelers.”

Voluntary Testing Hopes to Provide Evidence-Based Solutions

Much like the United States, Canada requires most inbound visitors to quarantine for 14 days, in case they are unknowingly carrying the novel Coronavirus. However, the airline hopes to help ease those restrictions using science to determine just how many flyers actually have the virus.

“Air Canada has advocated for the adoption of rational, science-based measures in Canada relating to COVID-19, to allow for the prudent easing of travel restrictions and the mandatory 14-day quarantine, thereby striking a better balance for travelers and for the Canadian economy without adversely impacting public health,” Dr. Jim Cheung, chief medical officer for Air Canada, said in a press release. “We are pleased to co-sponsor this extremely important study, which we believe should provide alternatives to the current blanket restrictions and quarantine.”

The month-long testing project is designed and managed by McMaster University, using ethics board-approved protocols. The goal is to determine the number of inbound international flyers who test positive for COVID-19 during the 14-day quarantine period.

Upon arrival, visitors arriving at Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport will be asked if they would like to participate in the study. Those who volunteer to do so will give a sample to McMaster University researchers at the airport. They will then provide two additional samples through self-testing: one seven days after arrival, and one 14 days after arrival. Participants will be informed of the first test results within 48 hours.

To ensure the testing is accurate, specimens will be analyzed by the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton using the PCR method. Lufthansa requires flyers who say they cannot wear a mask to provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test prior to travel. Results will be analyzed by an independent group, which will then scrutinize the data prior to its publishing.

Testing Plan Comes as Multiple Stakeholders Call for Canada to Open Borders

As the study begins, more stakeholders are calling on the Canadian government to determine a safe and effective way to open borders to international travelers once again. Both the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and the National Airlines Council of Canada have demanded the Canadian parliament determine a plan to welcome travelers back into the nation.

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