Southern polar circle flight, Emirates' Boeing threat and more

Carry on: Business travel roundup also includes Boeing-Embraer deal, Singapore's first A350-900ULR and route news of the week.

Southern polar route plan
A Norwegian airline is planning the world’s first air route to link South America and Asia across Antarctica with Perth as a stopover. Norwegian Air Argentina has approval for the Buenos Aires-Perth leg and is applying for rights to Singapore,

From Buenos Aires, the flight would travel southeast well below Cape Town and on to Perth. The return flight would head again southeast over Tasmania past New Zealand and on to South America.

This means it will make a complete circumference of Antarctica. Air New Zealand also flies over Antarctica between Auckland Buenos Aires but uses the same route in both directions. The Buenos Aires-Perth leg would take less than 15 hours, well within the capability of existing long-range aircraft.

Norwegian Air Argentina, which has just started operations, is a division of Norwegian, the European low-cost airline. It expanded into long-haul operations in 2013 and now has 22 international destinations using Boeing 787-9s.

Boeing tipped for Embraer deal
An unconfirmed media report in Brazil says Boeing will have a 51% stake in a joint company being negotiated with regional jet manufacturer Embraer. The report says the Brazilian government has restricted Boeing’s interest to 51%. Boeing has said it is seeking approval for a partnership that would create a new company focused on Embraer’s commercial aviation business but not its defence unit.

Emirates talks tough over Open Skies
Emirates chief executive and president Sir Tim Clark has warned of the “significant consequences” for Boeing if US authorities bow to pressure from rival airlines to reverse the Open Skies between the US and the United Arab Emirates. Delta, United and American accuse Emirates and the two other major Gulf carriers, Qatar and Etihad, of using government subsidies topping $US50 billion since 2004 to fund their expansion and flights to American destinations.

Sir Tim warns that Emirates has a record $US76 billion order with Boeing for new aircraft, including half of all the orders for the B777X. “For one thing, I certainly won’t need those 150 planes,” says Sir Tim, if Open Skies was reversed. Emirates denies it receives subsidies from its Dubai government owner and that its accounts are fully disclosed and transparent.

Meanwhile, Emirates will resume its daily Dubai-Tunis flights on March 25 after a three-month suspension. This followed a row over a ban on female Tunisian passengers whom the airline said posed security threats.

Dubai Airport clocks nearly 8m in month
Passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport exceeded 7.9m in January, slightly down on the 8m compared to 8.0m in January 2017. The difference is attributed to Chinese New Year falling in February this year. South America was the top region in terms of percentage growth (22.6%), followed by former the Soviet Union (19.7%) – with a bulk of the increase resulting from the surge on routes such as Moscow, Baku and Kazan. London was the top destination city with 333,286 passengers, followed by Kuwait (231,956), and Mumbai (225,776).

First A350-900ULR emerges
The first ultra long-range Airbus A350-900 for Singapore Airlines, pictured, rolls out of f the assembly hall at Toulouse, France. It has yet to be fitted with its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines and is being transferred to an outdoor station for ground tests. Airbus says it will undergo a "short" flight-test programme to check the modifications which give provide its long-range capabilities – including the adapted fuel system which provides for 24,000 litres of extra fuel.

The A350-900ULR will have a maximum take-off weight of 280 tonnes and will have a range of up to 9700nm (18,000km). That’s enough for Singapore Airlines to restore a non-stop Singapore-New York service, once the world’s longest scheduled commercial flight.

Qantas-American renew partnership bid
American Airlines has threatened to reduce its service between Los Angeles and Sydney/Auckland to back its renewed push for a partnership with Qantas. In turn, Qantas has threatened to pull its A380 service between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Both airlines have resubmitted their application to the US Department of Transportation, which rejected proposed joint venture code and revenue sharing agreement in 2016. JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines objected to the original proposal. The airlines say in their new application that an agreement would “unlock” $US300 million annually in consumer benefits and stimulate up to 180m in new trips between the US and Australia/New Zealand.

Route news of the week
Cathay Pacific will launch a seasonal Hong Kong-Cape Town non-stop service to complement its daily non-stop flights to Johannesburg. The new three-times-weekly service will run from November 13 to February 18, 2019 and be operated by an A350-900. Virgin Australia has announced a new daily Sydney-Hong Kong using an A330-200. This comes seven months after the launch of a Melbourne-Hong Kong route. Both connect with Virgin Atlantic Airway’s flights to London. The launch is expected in mid-2018. Jetstar Airways will launch a Wellington-Queenstown route, three times a week. from March 27 using an A320. 

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