Taiwan opens up, Hawaiian's switch to Boeing and more

More airlines return to Taiwan
Air New Zealand’s decision to resume flights to Taiwan is part of an international trend that will reduce its absence on global aviation networks. After a more than 20-year gap, Air France will resume service between Paris and Taipei from next month, ahead of Air New Zealand’s new non-stop Auckland-Taipei Taoyuan service from November 1.

Air Canada was one of the first airlines to resume a Taipei service last year after a 14-year hiatus. KLM and Turkish Airlines are the only European carriers serving Taiwan.

China’s military still holds some sway over Taiwanese air space and cancelled more than 200 special flights during the Chinese New Year holiday because of an alleged threat to safety. Direct flights between China and Taiwan resumed in 2008, with the exception of Chinese New Year when Taiwanese visiting the mainland had to fly through either Hong Kong or Macau.

Many western airlines pulled out of Taiwan in the early 1990s after being pressured by China. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s China Airlines and Eva Air have been expanding their networks across Asia and Europe.

Air New Zealand chief executive officer Christopher Luxon says the new non-stop, direct route to Taiwan will cut travel time by several hours, compared with China Airlines' existing flight via Australia and will boost two-way tourist numbers. Some 38,000 Taiwanese visit New Zealand every year but only 12,000 Kiwis went there in the 12 months to January.

Virgin Australia completes turnaround
Does Air New Zealand regret cutting its ties with Virgin Australia at a substantial loss in 2016? The No 2 Australian carrier has made a dramatic recovery under chief executive John Borghetti, in whom Air New Zealand was said to have lost confidence.

Mr Borghetti reported an underlying profit before tax that was more than doubled (up by 142%) to $A102.7 million for the December half-year. This compares with a post-tax loss of $A21.5m for the December 2016 period and a profit of $A4.4m in 2017. Virgin has increased its total share of the domestic aviation market (including Tiger) from about 27% to about 38%.

El Al seeks Saudi air space
Israel's El Al has asked the International Air Transport Association to help it access Saudi Arabian air space so it can compete with Air India's planned Delhi-Tel Aviv route. In an unprecedented and historic move, Saudi Arabia will provide full access to its air space for the Air India service. El Al flies four weekly flights to Mumbai but these take seven hours rather than five as they take a longer route.

Some adept backdoor diplomacy between Saudi Arabia and Israel has focused on the common enemy of Iran. No other Arab carrier is following the Saudi move while Israel is giving a financial grant of $US750,000 to Air India, which previously served Israel between January 1996 and April 1998 with a Mumbai-Tel Aviv route. The new service will run three times a week from March 22 using a Boeing 878-8 Dreamliner. 

Hawaiian dumps Airbus for Boeing
Reports that Hawaiian Airlines is switching to Boeing’s 787 to replace its A330 fleet have proved correct. Hawaiian intends to buy 10 B787-9 aircraft valued at $US2.82 billion at list prices. Meanwhile, Boeing has ruled out speculation that it will revive its dormant B767 as a passenger plane. “Bringing back the 767 [passenger version] – I just don’t see it,” vice-president of commercial marketing Randy Tinseth says.

AirAsia sticks with Airbus
By contrast, Malaysian budget airline AirAsia is sticking with Airbus and has no plans to purchase Boeing aircraft, group chief executive Tony Fernandes says. “Boeing is keen to have us as a customer … but right now we are still very much an Airbus customer,” he says.

Media reports last month sources said AirAsia was set to confirm an order of wide-body jets from Airbus after Boeing tried to win over the airline. AirAsia has sold its aircraft leasing operations to firms managed by BBAM in a staggered $US1.2b deal that will transfer ownership of up to 182 Airbus aircraft.

Route news of the week
Singapore Airlines and its two offshoots, Silk Air and Scoot, have expanded their group codeshare partnership to cover Scoot routes to Japan, Taiwan and additional points in Malaysia. The change affects Scoot services from Singapore to Kaohsiung, Kuantan, Macau and Taipei Taoyuan-Sapporo New Chitose. Hawaiian Airlines will double its Honolulu-Papeete (Tahiti) to two times weekly from October 2 to November 20. Air India is introducing a fifth flight each week to its Delhi-Sydney service from March 30 using a B787-8 Dreamliner.

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