2019 in review: January to June

As 2019 draws to a close, Routesonline revisits some of the biggest stories making the headlines. Part one of our review looks at the first six months of the year, featuring Thai Lion Air, Air Transat, airBaltic, Qantas, Jet Airways and more.

Routesonline recounts some of the biggest news stories making the headlines in 2019. Part one covers January to June.

2019 in review: July to December

January

The first chief executive of LEVEL, International Airlines Group’s low-cost brand, told Routesonline how he plans to shape the airline so it is ready to aggressively expand from 2020 onwards. Vincent Hodder, who has since left the role, said the focus in 2019 was to ensure “the foundations of the business are right” to enable further rapid scale. He said: “At LEVEL, we are a part of a large profitable airline group and that gives us access to funding that will support us through our growth phases. As well, the disciplines that IAG has - in terms of how much capacity it takes on and how it deploys that capacity - help you to avoid the situation that a lot of start-up airlines go through.” 

Thai Lion Air took the top spot in Routesonline’s list of fastest-growing major airlines in the world. The carrier, an associate company of Indonesia’s Lion Air, increased year-on-year capacity by an impressive 40.7 percent. New international services added in 2018 included Bangkok Don Mueang – Tokyo Narita, Bangkok Don Mueang – Denpasar and Bangkok Don Mueang – Shenzhen. 

Aviation consultancy ASM helped to secure a major new international route for Suriname with the confirmation that Star Alliance member Copa Airlines planned to launch a twice weekly service from the South American country to Panama City. The route was the first new international service that Suriname has secured in more than a decade. Vijay Chotkan, the chief executive of Airport Management Ltd, which operates Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, said: "This new route brings Suriname closer to the rest of the Americas, which contributes to our strategic vision to reach one million passengers in 2033.” 

Jean-Marc Eustache, one of the co-founders of Transat, spoke to Routesonline about mounting competition in Air Transat’s home market, how the airline is strengthening its position on transatlantic routes, and the future growth of its fleet. Ahead of his planned retirement, he also discussed some of the proudest achievements during his distinguished career - and the toughest challenges he has faced.

February

German leisure airline Germania terminated flight operations and filed for insolvency after failing to secure investment. “Unfortunately, we were ultimately unable to bring our financing efforts to cover a short-term liquidity need to a positive conclusion,” said Germania chief executive Karsten Balke. “We very much regret that consequently, our only option was to file for insolvency. It is of course the impact that this step will have on our employees that we regret the most.” 

Seasoned airline executive Steven Greenway told Routesonline why Swoop, WestJet’s ultra low-cost carrier, is appealing to a new breed of Canadian travellers. “I’ve been blown away by how many of our travellers have been first-time fliers,” he said. “It’s astounding given how developed the country is - some of these people are in their 50s and 60s. I think it is largely because it’s a price point they can afford.” 

Oakland International Airport (OAK) was named the Overall Winner at the Routes Americas 2019 Awards. The airport’s highlights in 2018 included a record ten new destinations and 14 new routes. Southwest Airlines added five year-round routes, while new air carrier Contour Airlines added two destinations. OAK ended 2018 with 13.6 million total passengers, up 4 percent year-on-year. Revisit all the highlights from Routes Americas 2019 in Quebec in our blog from the event.

Beijing Capital International Airport became the first Chinese airport - and the second in the world - to reach the 100 million passenger milestone. However, the airport remained the second busiest on earth after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International continued to grow. Routesonline looked at the top ten airports based on passenger numbers in 2018.

With a month to go before the UK's proposed exit from the European Union, we took stock of the current situation for the aviation industry and looks at some of the contingency plans in place.

March

The airline industry was shaken by the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 on 11 March 2019 with the loss of 157 lives. Following the incident, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft was grounded by countries around the world. Routesonline looked at the airlines operating the aircraft prior to the grounding

Hong Kong-based low-cost carrier HK Express' Stephen Milstrey spoke to Routesonline about the challenges of building a route network from one of the most slot-constrained airports in the world. He also explained why destinations need to change their thinking when it comes to airline incentive programmes.

Brisbane Airport (BNE) was named the overall winner at the annual Routes Asia 2019 Awards after earlier winning the Over 20 Million Passengers category. Australia’s most domestically connected hub and the third busiest airport by passenger numbers, the airport has two major terminals accommodating 35 airlines flying to 85 domestic and international destinations. All the news and images from Routes Asia in Cebu featured in our live blog.

A year after unveiling its new corporate identity, Routesonline spoke to Air Italy's chief operating officer Rossen Dimitrov to find out more about the carrier's ambitions. “With our longer-term growth plan for 2022, there are clearly more new destinations to come and we will announce those in due course,” he said. “In the meantime, we are focusing on launching these new destinations and enhancing our feeder connectivity on both ends.” 

Wow Air abruptly ceased operations and cancelled all its flights after rescue talks with investors broke down. We assessed at the Icelandic low-cost carrier’s network prior to its failure and its intended summer schedule.

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April

The "great move" from Atatürk Airport to Istanbul Airport got underway as Turkey’s new $12bn aviation hub became fully operational. Istanbul Airport comprises three runways and three taxiways, with a 90 million passenger per annum capacity, rising to 200 million passengers per year once the facility is fully operational. 

TUI fly’s managing director Oliver Lackmann told Routesonline about his career in aviation, both in the cockpit and the boardroom. Speaking at Routes Europe 2019, he also discussed how Boeing and its airline customers would need to work together if they are to win back passenger confidence in the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and he confirmed that TUI fly will take four 737 MAX 10 aircraft by 2023.

Budapest Airport was named the overall winner of the Routes Europe 2019 Awards after also winning the 4-20 million passengers category. The airport’s passenger traffic has increased by double digits over the last four years with 2018 recording a rise of 13.5 percent. A total of 18 new routes, including 12 new destinations, were launched between April 2018 and April 2019. See the images and news from Routes Europe 2019 in Hannover on our live blog from the event

Indian airline Jet Airways suspended all its domestic and international flights after failing to find fresh funding. The carrier, which was previously India's second-largest airline by market share, boasted a fleet of 120 aircraft at its peak, flying 600 domestic and 380 international routes.

May

Delta Air Lines revealed plans to serve Mumbai from New York John F Kennedy, rather than Atlanta, as it seeks to re-establish itself in the fast-growing Indian market. Delta previously flew non-stop from New York JFK to Mumbai from 2006 but ended the route in 2008. Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said: “Delta's non-stop service between New York and Mumbai is the latest example of our international growth as we strive to connect the world better than any other airline.”

Leisure services to the Turkish holiday destination of Antalya featured heavily in list of the most-competitive routes in Europe this summer, analysis by Routesonline found, while services involving Moscow airports dominated the most-competitive city pairs. The research looked at the airport and city pairs served by the highest number of airlines during the peak summer season. 

Air Canada entered exclusive talks to buy Transat in a deal that valued the Canadian leisure airline and tour operator at about C$520m. “The acquisition presents a unique opportunity to compete with the very best in the world when it comes to leisure travel,” said Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive of Air Canada.

airBaltic chief executive Martin Gauss outlined to Routesonline his plans to develop a network which spans from its heartland in the Baltics to new airports and bases across Europe. “We are serving up to seven hours with our aircraft and we can reach strategic points,” he said. “From these points our partners take people onwards. And that leads to a connectivity for the Baltics which is unreached, and nobody else can build this.”

Ahead of Routes Silk Road 2019 taking place in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, Routesonline assessed the aviation markets in ‘the Stans’, the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Read our five-part analysis: 

Get to know the Stans: Kazakhstan
Get to know the Stans: Kyrgyzstan
Get to know the Stans: Tajikistan
Get to know the Stans: Uzbekistan
Get to know the Stans: Turkmenistan

June

American Airlines and Qantas were granted tentative approval for a joint venture on flights between the US and Australia and New Zealand, opening the door for the launch new routes and increased capacity. Shortly afterwards, Qantas confirmed plans to open routes from Brisbane to Chicago and San Francisco before the end of April 2020. The airline intends to serve Chicago four times per week and San Francisco three times per week. The new routes will see a total of 14 weekly services between Brisbane and the US, including the daily 787 Brisbane to Los Angeles service that continues to New York.

Three more foreign airlines applied to operate domestic flights in Brazil as Latin America’s largest air travel market continues to open up to new entrants. Routesonline looked at the growth of the Brazilian domestic market despite the suspension of Avianca Brasil’s operations.

Routesonline reported live from the Paris Air Show, bringing news of the latest aircraft orders from Le Bourget. During the event, Airbus launched its new A321XLR long-range aircraft and secured orders from US private equity firm Indigo Partners among others. International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways and Vueling, also signed a letter of intent to buy 200 of Boeing’s grounded 737 Max jet. Read our live blog from Paris.


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