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Aviation News Round Up


Avatar Airlines receives first investor funds and moves into fast track


Last week Avatar Airlines received its first investor funds pursuant to its ongoing $300 mm private offering and recently-implemented Pilot Investor Program. The Company believes that the program will help fast -track the success of the offering by granting pilots with the necessary FAA and SEC credentials, a priority number for employment as a 747 Captain once the airline is certified.


Avatar’s plan is to exclusively fly the Boeing 747 jumbo jet and consequently has chosen to hire the crème de la crème of the worlds most experienced airline pilots. Every pilot must be rated in the 747 and with a minimum of 10,000 flight hours with some as much as 30,000 hours. In addition, pilots who meet all flight requirements will also need to buy into Avatar’s private equity offering.


Avatar’s CEO, Barry Michaels said, “ Although our first investor represents a very modest part of our $300 mm offering it’s represents a very significant milestone. For those in the investment community, it presents proof-of-concept that the program will be successful. I believe it is going to snowball. No one likes to be first, and now we have our first, with several others in the pipeline. I think it’s a defining moment for Avatar.


"There’s no better way to validate Avatar’s business plan than through a financial investment made from the very pilots that will fly Avatar’s aircraft once certified. Avatar is confident that it will deliver on its promise to turn the airline industry on its head by returning large wide-bodied aircraft to the sky while eliminating the nickel and dime philosophy of other airlines all to the benefit of budget-conscious travellers.”


Michael E. Zapin, EVP, added, "Though there are still hurdles and benchmarks Avatar must meet in order to become designated as a fully certified 121 passenger/freight operation, it is now headed in the right direction and at full speed. An ultimate win for its investors and the flying public."



United Airlines Launches Fundraising Campaign To Help India Fight Covid-19


United Airlines, currently the only U.S. airline serving India, has initiated a new online fundraising campaign to help India face the surging number of Covid-19 cases. Customers can donate to the airline's relief partners including Airlink, Americares, GlobalGiving Foundation and World Central Kitchen. The online campaign platform is scheduled to be available for donations until June 15.


The airline is offering up to 5 million bonus miles to encourage MileagePlus members to support this effort. United will match each donation up to a total of $40,000 in cash donations to disaster relief partners.


United said it is working directly with its partner organizations, as well as engaging with community leaders to assist the impacted communities.


Among the airline's partners, Airlink transports medical supplies and PPE; Americares supports COVID-19 treatment facilities, donating critical medical equipment, PPE and supplies for health workers; and World Central Kitchen provides hot meal distribution to health care workers by partnering with local restaurants.


Between April 28 and May 2, the airline's cargo operations helped transport more than 300,000 pounds of critical medical supplies to the country. This included donations from the U.S. India Chamber of Commerce and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in Houston. The company transported 50 ventilators through the USICOC Foundation to the Indian Red Cross Society.


In the wake of the tragic COVID situation in India, U.S. President Joe Biden last month had pledged America's support with a range of emergency assistance, including oxygen-related supplies, vaccine materials, and therapeutics.



American Airlines reopens more Admiral lounges


As American Airlines continues welcoming customers back to the skies, the airline is reopening additional Admirals Club lounges and adding enhancements to give customers more peace of mind when traveling.


Lounges reopening in May include the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) Admirals Club at gate B7 and the Miami International Airport (MIA) lounge at gate D15, and the Admirals Club at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).


The previously reopened lounges at Austin Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Nashville International Airport (BNA), and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will extend their operating schedule to seven days a week. Additionally, lounges at São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) in Brazil and Mexico City International Airport (MEX) have reopened as well. Just in time to travel this Memorial Day weekend, American will have 27 lounges reopened across 21 cities. American began reopening lounges in June, with health and wellbeing improvements in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Starting today, revamped signature food-for-sale items will be available all day in select lounges.


“As we welcome customers back to the skies, we have been eager to expand signature offerings that everyone in the family — including kids — can enjoy,” said Clarissa Sebastian, managing director of premium customer experience and onboard products for American. “We know even more families will be returning to travel this summer and the Admirals Club provides safe and clean service with care.”


American is expanding its touchless technology to streamline the customer’s airport experience. Starting tomorrow, the airline will introduce a touchless entry trial for the Admirals Club lounge located in Terminal A at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). Customers who choose to participate in the trial will enjoy quick, easy entry to the Admirals Club through facial recognition technology, which automatically verifies membership without customers pulling out their phone or wallet.


Australian regulator moves to block Qantas-Japan Airlines deal


Australia's competition regulator on Thursday (May 6) said that it would block a pricing, code-sharing and scheduling deal between Qantas and Japan Airlines because it would likely mean higher fares for passengers. Qantas had claimed that the five-year agreement - proposed in late 2020 - would speed the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and "better serve customers" by improving connections between 29 smaller cities in Australia, Japan and New Zealand.


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said that, in reality, cooperation would cause "severe harm to competition" and "eliminate any prospect of Qantas and Japan Airlines competing for passengers". Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Qantas and Japan Airlines had dominated the market for flights between Tokyo and Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.


The world's major airlines have seen profits plunge since the pandemic began, with many receiving taxpayer bailouts to survive. As international travel slowly returns, airlines have tried to claw back profits, at times bumping up against rules designed to protect passengers.

Australia's regulator said it was open to granting exceptions to aid airlines' recovery, but not at the expense of reducing competition in the long term.


"The ACCC can only authorise these agreements if the public benefits from the coordination outweigh the harm to competition," ACCC Chair Rod Sims said. "At this stage, we do not consider that Qantas and Japan Airlines' proposal passes that test."


The airlines have until May 27 to make their case before the ACCC makes its final determination.



Emirates, flydubai, Etihad reduce flights to Pakistan


The UAE's three major airlines, Emirates, Etihad, and flydubai, have considerably cut the number of weekly flights to Pakistan in line with Islamabad's directive to reduce international inbound flights from Wednesday (May 5) because of raging Covid-19 cases.


Pakistan has urged all international airlines to reduce inbound flights from May 5 to 20, as its aims to contain the third wave of the pandemic. The country reduced the number of international inbound flights from 590 to 123 per week between May 5 and 20. The government will review its decision about extending or cancelling this decision on May 18.


An Emirates spokesperson said in a statement that the Dubai-based carrier continues to operate passenger services to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, and Sialkot, but with fewer flights available for passengers from May 5 until 20 May, as per the latest Pakistani government's directive.


"Emirates regrets any inconvenience caused. Affected customers are advised to contact their travel agent or Emirates booking office to make changes to their bookings," said the statement.


The budget carrier flydubai's spokesperson said it would reduce its schedule and operate 16 flights a week until May 20 to the destinations on its network in Pakistan.


"Passengers can rebook to the next available flight, rebook to another destination in Pakistan or alternatively receive a refund. Passengers can amend their booking," said the spokesperson.


An Etihad Airways spokesperson said following regulations being updated by the Pakistan authorities from May 5, a limit would be placed on the number of international passengers allowed to travel into and from Pakistan.


"As a result, Etihad Airways is temporarily reducing its passenger flights between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan, from May 5 to May 20. Etihad is working to increase the aircraft capacity for those flights it is permitted to operate, and also contacting impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and rearrange travel plans," the spokesperson added.



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