Airline Dispatch

Aviation and airline industry news for the week Monday 5 July 2021.

Bumps in the road to recovery

Southwest Airlines flights at McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada. Image: Ken Lund/CC2

The week opened here with the start of the Independence day weekend in the United States and was a test of airline companies plans to scale up travel following the slow-downs with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Air travel has been on the rise over the past month, with airline trade association International Air Transport Association (IATA) claiming domestic air travel worldwide has recovered to 76 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 level. The industry has been on reduced activity for most of the past 15 months so opening up quickly caused some problems, not least of which were weather related.

According to, low-cost carrier Southwest cancelled 2,687 flights during June, while American Airlines cancelled 2,423.

Southwest have blamed the weather and an IT outage, but the Southwest pilot’s association are also blaming a lack of personnel – ramp staff, customer service agents, flight attendants, and pilots. The association says, as more people come out of training, the cancellations and delays should ease.

Vox is also attributing the problem to labour shortages.

American Airlines is having to scale back it’s planned expansion due to labour shortages. The airline said staff shortages meant is could not quickly recover from weather disruptions as they occurred and have cut 1 per cent of their scheduled flights through July to build additional resilience.


Europe reopens in fits and starts

Europe is opening in fits and starts with the European Union lifting restrictions on member states inviting tourists from ‘green’ category countries (including New Zealand). Countries that have already begun welcoming back tourists include Denmark, Spain, France Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. Ireland is planning for a 19 July return. Greece, Croatia and Cyprus. Some countries, namely Portugal and Britain have had to pause their re-opening to curb rising case numbers.

A full picture of the state of the EU re-open can be found on the website:


IATA traces the state of the industry

Graph showing international holiday bookings increasing. Click image for more information. Source: IATA.
  • Air cargo has grown and is now 9.4 per cent above pre-crisis levels. A V-shaped economic recovery is reflected in the performance of air cargo.
  • Global passenger air travel is slowly recovering but travel demand is lagging OECD consumer confidence measures due to strict travel restrictions.
  • Big divergence in domestic vs international travel with domestic in the mid-70 per cent with international at less than 20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
  • Domestic travel recovery rates are dependent on how well the virus is being controlled in that country.
  • Holiday bookings on international services starting to pick up


Premium economy’s rebound

Air New Zealand premium economy seats. Image: Kent Wien/CC2.0

Nobody expected the airline system to return looking the same as it had before the pandemic and one interesting difference caught by The Air Current was that returning passengers are migrating towards different levels of service.

The article says one of the trends is that the return of passengers has been in the leisure and family sectors, and the business; and that both segments are gravitating towards premium economy.


London Heathrow Terminal 3 reopening

Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. Image: NewbieRunner/CC2.0

London’s Heathrow airport, the worlds second-busiest airport by international passenger traffic, is to re-open on July 15, 2021.


Cargo plane night ditch

Transair B737-275C(A) N810TA at Tainan Airport May 2019. Image: li cheng TSAI/CC2.0.

A Transair night cargo flight, RDS810, flown by a Boeing 737-275C(A) was written off in a ditching incident shortly after takeoff from Honolulu. The two pilots survived with serious injuries and were recovered shortly after the wreckage sank. Initial reports indicate that the ditching was caused by the failure of one or both engines and the inability to maintain altitude to return to the airport.


American Airlines cancels plans to return to New Zealand

American airlines 787-9 N839AA landing at Sydney airport. Image: Bidgee/CC3.0

More bad news for New Zealand travellers came on Thursday when American Airlines announced it had scrapped plans to fly to New Zealand from the end of the year. The airline had earlier committed to flying between Auckland and Los Angeles and Dallas and between Los Angeles and Christchurch. Auckland International Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood told RNZ Checkpoint that there was too much uncertainty for American to commit to New Zealand.

Air New Zealand brings back long haul routes it suspended early on in Covid-19 pandemic

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZI
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9. Image: Ian Pattison/CC2.0

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Air New Zealand announced it was to return to the long-haul routes it suspended in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and would be increasing frequencies on those it had been operating.

Network suspensions included flights from Auckland to Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Vancouver, Tokyo, Honolulu, Denpasar and Taipei.

The flights are expected to resume from 31 October and 31 December 2021.

It also axed the London – Los Angeles portion of its Auckland to London route, and closed Auckland to Buenos Aires.

For the first half of this year Air New Zealand’s long-haul services have been limited to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul, all departing from Auckland.


Delta ramps up with used planes

Delta Air Lines Airbus A350-941 at Detroit. Image: Alan Wilson/CC2.0

Following an aggressive aircraft retirement programme in 2020 over COVID-19, Delta airlines has had to accelerate its build-up according to Simple Flying.

The airline retired over 200 aircraft from its fleet during the year, many of which were planned cuts accelerated by the pandemic. In an effort to ramp-up capacity, Delta has turned to the second-hand market to acquire seven Airbus A350-900s from LATAM, and 29 Boeing 737-900ERs from Lion Air.


Invercargill airport air traffic control services to remain

Mount Cook Airline ATR 72-500 (72-212A) ZK-MCA at Invercargill Airport in July 2005. Image: Phillip Capper/CC2.0

Following a review of air traffic management services in December 2020, the Civil Aviation Authority has decided to retain air traffic control service for Invercargill’s airport.

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