Carry on: Laptop ban, Air NZ embraces AV, US-Europe fares drop and more

British Airline Pilots Association safety expert Steve Landells says there's a greater risk of lithium battery fires if larger devices are kept in an aircraft's hold

Nevil Gibson reveals the laptop ban won't be extended – for now – and others news of relevance to business travelers.

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Laptop ban won’t include Europe
Travellers and airlines can rest easy. US and EU officials have decided against a ban on laptops, tablets and cameras in cabin baggage on flights from Europe to the US. But they say other measures are still being considered.

The meeting was requested by EU officials after recent reports suggested US authorities had new information about laptop parts being turned into explosives. Details of a specific threat have not been made public.

The British Airline Pilots Association has welcomed the decision. Its safety expert, Steve Landells, says there's a greater risk of lithium battery fires if larger devices are kept in an aircraft's hold.

"Given the risk of fire from these devices when they are damaged or they short circuit, an incident in the cabin would be spotted earlier and this would enable the crew to react quickly before any fire becomes uncontainable," he says. "If these devices are kept in the hold, the risk is that, if a fire occurs, the results can be catastrophic; indeed, there have been two crashes where lithium batteries have been cited in the accident reports."

The US restrictions, introduced in March, apply to devices larger than a smartphone on flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The UK issued a similar ban on flights from six countries but not those from the Gulf. The bans have resulted in a big drop in bookings to the US from those countries and talk of the ban being extended to Australia.

Qantas returns to Vanuatu
Qantas is to resume its services to Vanuatu from June 15 through resuming its codeshare with Air Vanuatu. This comes 16 months after Qantas and other airlines suspended flights over the state of the runway at Port Vila International Airport.

Since then there has been extensive temporary rehabilitation work carried out while a full rebuild of the airport is set to start by July. Air New Zealand has yet to resume regular services from Auckland though it has operated a few charter services in the past year.

Air New Zealand peers into the future
Air New Zealand is giving travellers a sneak peek into what the future of inflight service could look like. It has been working with IT company Dimension Data on software for Microsoft’s augmented reality (AR) viewer HoloLens.

As cabin crew go about their inflight duties they will be able to collect and display customer information directly in front of them.

This could include preferred meal and drinks choice, onward travel and loyalty membership details. The HoloLens can even detect how the customer feels by picking up on visual and audio cues.

Transtasman travel goes mobile
Qantas has introduced mobile check-in and digital boarding passes for travel between Australia and New Zealand. The offering will be initially made through web and mobile (Qantas.com) before being extended to the Qantas app in June 2017. From this time, Qantas will also look to extend the service from its transtasman routes to other destinations on its international network. 

US travellers seize transatlantic deals
While domestic airfares are rising for the coming summer months, US travellers are finding plenty of bargains if they have a passport. The average price of air tickets sold so far for summer travel to Europe is down 15% from a year earlier. Discount European airlines are having a big impact on prices, as established competitors cut fares to compete and demand from Europe for tickets to the US have dropped.

The State Department is urging caution about travel to Europe because of a continuing terror threat. However, with the US dollar remaining strong and airlines adding lots of seats, many travellers are taking advantage of bargains. The number of tickets sold in the US for trips to Europe is up 26%.

Norwegian budget airline to launch in Argentina
The booming low-cost carrier, Norwegian Air Shuttle, is stretching its wings to South America. It has formed Norwegian Air Argentina, based in Buenos Aires, which will fly to its London Gatwick hub. Norwegian also plans to link flights from Argentina to European cities such as Paris, Barcelona, Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Government approval is still needed but the airline hopes to make announcements and begin selling routes from Argentina by the end of this year. British Airways is the only UK carrier to fly direct to Argentina with a service between London Heathrow and Buenos Aires.

Boeing delivers first 737 MAX 8
Less than a week after a potential manufacturing flaw in a batch of about 30 engines grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX fleet, the Malaysian arm of Indonesia’s Lion Air, Malindo Air, took delivery of the first MAX 8. It did not have the CFM International-made LEAP engines, which had raised concerns with US aviation authorities.

Boeing lands big Primera order
Boeing and Primera Air announced an order for eight 737 MAX 9 aeroplanes, valued at more than $US950 million at list prices. The agreement also includes purchase rights for four additional 737 MAX 9s and a lease agreement for eight more aeroplanes from Air Lease Corporation.

Primera Air operates out of Scandinavia with an all-Boeing fleet of nine 737-700s and 737-800s with flights to more than 70 airports in Europe. The airline plans to use the MAX 9's auxiliary fuel tanks to lower trip costs on flights connecting Europe to the east coast of the US.

Delta delays Airbus orders
Delta Air Lines is delaying delivery of 10 Airbus A350-900s and placed a fresh order for 30 smaller A321-200s. The decision comes after American Airlines Group also delayed taking delivery of several wide-body Boeing and Airbus aircraft, suggesting an oversupply in the market. The Delta delay is for two to three years. The aircraft were to be delivered by 2019-20.


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Shouldn't the air nz story have appeared on April 1st?

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