Private jet firm Vista Global continues its rapid US growth with a new deal to acquire Apollo Jets

VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500
A VistaJet Bombardier Global 7500.

  • Vista Global is planning to acquire Apollo Jets in a deal announced Thursday. 
  • The acquisition will give Vista Global’s XO access to Apollo Jet’s roster of 4,000 clients.
  • Vista will also offer aircraft management services through air carrier Talon Air. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Vista Global on Thursday announced a deal to acquire private aviation firm Apollo Jets in the latest bid to grow its US market share.

The acquisition will give Vista around 4,000 Apollo Jets clients and a fleet of aircraft currently operated by Talon Air, an Apollo Jets company. Vista sees the opportunity to convert Apollo’s customers into XO members and subscribers, paying extra for better rates and perks like complimentary aircraft upgrades. 

“The Apollo acquisition reinforces Vista Global’s unrivaled commitment to providing every business aviation client with the best value flying solutions around the world,” Thomas Flohr, Vista Global’s founder and chairman, said in a statement. 

Growth by acquisition has been Dubai-based Vista Global’s primary means of expansion in the US, starting with the purchase of XOJET in 2018 and continuing with JetSmarter in 2019. The two companies were merged under the Vista umbrella to create XO, solidifying Vista Global as one of the largest private aviation firms in the country.

In October, Vista also acquired Wisconsin-based Red Wing Aviation and its fleet of Cessna aircraft. The 15 light jets were incorporated into the XO fleet to provide customers with a more cost-effective option compared to the firm’s larger Cessna Citation X and Bombardier Challenger super-midsize aircraft

XO offers five types of membership that range from no charge to $1,000 per month. A free membership still allows customers to book on-demand private charters but charges a $395 per flight booking service while a paid membership waives that fee and includes dynamic pricing. 

Apollo Jets, alternatively, does not operate on a membership-based model and the firm’s charter brokers often receive a commission on the flight they book for customers.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw new travel trends better suited to larger operators like XO. Current Apollo clients will benefit, for example, from XO’s fleet of “floating” aircraft, or planes that have no fixed base and can perform one-way flights for a fraction of the cost that traditional operators can offer. 

First-time flyers are also entering the industry at a record pace and premium operators like XO are positioning themselves to attract as many new clients as possible. Dynamic pricing and technologically-savvy operations were identified by industry experts interviewed by Insider as two key factors to excel in the new era. 

Seat-sharing flights are also offered by XO where flyers only pay for their seat instead of the entire aircraft to help bring costs down, as Insider found during a tour of a 16-seat Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft used for flights between White Plains, New York and Miami

Vista will now be able to offer aircraft management services through Talon Air. The Farmingdale, New York-based Part 135 carrier boasts heavy jets like the Gulfstream G550 and Challenger 604, as well as the largest fleet of super-midsize Beechcraft Hawker 4000 aircraft in the US, that XO clients will be able to book.

Talon Air’s current aircraft owners and clients are confidential but the firm’s roster boasts the likes of Lebron James and Martha Stewart

Vista expects the acquisition to be completed in the first quarter of 2021 and projects flight activity will grow by 20% following the deal. The completed deal will continue Vista’s track record of at least one acquisition per year since 2018, which shows no signs of slowing. 

“I believe this is just the beginning of consolidation in our industry and Vista Global is leading this market transformation,” Flohr said.

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Frontier Airlines canceled a flight after booting a group of maskless passengers. Now it’s facing claims of anti-Semitism.

frontier airlines
A Frontier Airlines Airbus A321.

Frontier Airlines is facing claims of anti-Semitism after a routine flight from Miami to New York City was canceled on Sunday due to maskless passengers, the New York Times is reporting. 

Passengers had boarded flight 2878 from Miami International Airport to LaGuardia Airport and were preparing for the three-hour trip north when a confrontation erupted between a group of Hasidic Jewish passengers and crew members that resulted in the group’s ejection from the flight. 

“Multiple people, including several adults, were asked repeatedly to wear their masks and refused to do so,” Frontier spokesperson Jennifer De La Cruz told Insider. “Based on the continued refusal to comply with the federal mask mandate, refusal to disembark the aircraft and aggression towards the flight crew, local law enforcement was engaged. The flight was ultimately canceled.”

Martin Joseph, a member of the 21-person group, denied the airline’s account and claims the issue initially stemmed from his 15-month-old child not wearing a mask while eating, he told the Times. After members of Joseph’s group defended the child, citing the federal government’s exemption for children under two, his family and nearby couples were removed from the flight, 

“We understand that the mask has to be worn, and everybody has to wear a mask and that’s the law,” Joseph told the Times. 

Frontier has required passengers to wear masks and undergo a temperature screening before boarding since the spring. The mask rule was later reinforced by executive action from President Joe Biden in January and specifically exempted children under two years of age

Frontier’s policy echoes the government policy but the airline is holding firm on its account that the escalation came as a result of adults not wearing masks and not just the 15-month-old child. 

“The issue did not stem from a child under two,” Frontier said in a tweet that has since received over 3,000 replies at the time of writing. 

Other passengers say that Joseph’s group had been wearing masks during their interactions with the crew, who had reportedly high-fived each other after removing the group from the plane, spurring claims of anti-Semitism. One passenger screamed, “this is Nazi Germany,” as the passengers were deplaning, according to a video posted to Twitter by the Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council. 

The Anti-Defamation League of New York is calling for an investigation into the incident.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Airlines continue to flock to the Boeing 737 Max as it debuts on Alaska and United places a massive new order

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max
An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max.

  • Alaska Airlines began passenger flights with the Boeing 737 Max on Monday.
  • The first day of flights saw two round-trips, the first from Seattle to San Diego, California.
  • United Airlines just placed an order for an additional 25 Boeing 737 Max aircraft.  
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Boeing’s most notorious aircraft is having a great start to March with two milestones to kick off the month. 

Alaska Airlines began passenger service with the Boeing 737 Max on Monday after a long-delayed start. Flight AS482 departed to San Diego from the airline’s hub in Seattle in the early morning hours of the day and arrived without issue before departing back for Seattle.

The first flight was the culmination of more than 19,000 miles and 50 hours of proving flights performed in the weeks since the aircraft’s delivery to Alaska. The airline’s sole Boeing 737 Max 9 was flown as far from Seattle as Charleston, South Carolina; Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; and Juneau, Alaska throughout February, FlightAware data shows. 

Alaska is the fourth US airline to fly the Max and initially planned to start service during the summer of 2019 until the March 2019 grounding delayed those planes. The first Max delivery to Alaska only occurred in January, just two months following the Federal Aviation Administration’s ungrounding order that was quickly echoed by countless regulators around the world.

Executives were confident in the aircraft and its cost-saving abilities even before the first model arrived at Alaska’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hub. Boeing’s loyal customer ended 2020 with firm orders for 68 aircraft, up from an initial 32-aircraft order, and options for 52 more before the first proving flight was even flown. 

More airlines have also relaunched Max service following the ungrounding as countries and regions like Canada, the EU, and Brazil have approved the aircraft to return to the skies. Boeing said in late January that more than 2,700 flights had already been by the Max since the ungrounding

Alaska has only four daily departures are planned with the aircraft until March 18 when its second Max enters passenger service. Los Angeles and San Diego are currently the only cities receiving Max visits on flights from Seattle, according to Cirium data, and eventually from Portland, Oregon. 

The aircraft will primarily stay on the West Coast until more aircraft are added but the proving flights reveal the airline likely has plans for East Coast and Hawaii Max flights. Alaska will be able to take the Max south of the border to Mexico, the airline’s largest international destination region, and Costa Rica as both countries have given the aircraft a green light to fly in their airspace. 

United places more Max orders

United Airlines is also pressing forward with the Max on the heels of a successful relaunch. Andrew Nocella, the airline’s chief commercial officer, told staff in a memo that 25 new Boeing 737 Max aircraft were just ordered and deliveries of 45 previously ordered aircraft have been moved up. 

“These new aircraft represent the best the industry has to offer in terms of customer amenities, experience and comfort,” Nocella said in the memo, which United shared with Insider. “In fact, flights on our MAX aircraft in 2018 and 2019 had the highest average customer satisfaction score of any large narrowbody aircraft.”

The relaunch of United’s Max aircraft kicked off on February 11 with the first flight uneventfully journeying from Denver to Houston, Texas, with Insider onboard. United has steadily increased the number of Max flights and is on track to go from 24 daily departures on February 11 to 96 by the end of March, according to Cirium.

Jonathan Roitman, United’s chief operating officer, told Insider after the first flight that the Max name hasn’t driven too many passengers away from the aircraft. Many on the first flight didn’t even know they were flying on a Max, despite United’s warnings when booking a flight on the Max and the aircraft’s name on airport signage and onboard safety cards

Both United and Alaska are the only two US airlines flying the Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, the largest variant in commercial service. 

Southwest Airlines is the only US airline to fly that Max that hasn’t relaunched operations, with its Max relaunch expected in March.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why an airline executive is excited about Textron Aviation’s new King Air 360, the next generation of a 50-year-old plane

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

  • Textron Aviation unveiled the King Air 360 in August with upgrades for passengers and pilots.
  • Cabins now feel wider, and the cockpit has advanced systems like autothrottle and digital pressurization.
  • Advanced Air’s Levi Stockton explains why he’s excited about the plane, even if his firm isn’t purchasing one. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

An aviation fan favorite just got an upgrade. 

Textron Aviation is continuing the legacy of the iconic Beechcraft King Air family of aircraft and debuted its latest iteration in August. Starting at $7.9 million, the King Air 360 features advanced onboard systems aimed at easing the flying experience.

“The Beechcraft King Air 360 builds on decades of renowned versatility and reliability in the King Air family,” Ron Draper, Textron Aviation’s president and CEO, said, “and this upgrade further elevates it with the aircraft’s superior features and engineering advancements designed to create an enhanced flying experience for passengers and crew alike.”

Any frequent private aircraft flyer is sure to recognize the King Air as its been faithfully flying since the 1960s. Aircraft in the product line have been used by entities ranging from private airlines to national governments.

Levi Stockton is the president of Hawthorne, California-based Advanced Air, an aircraft management firm and private charter airline that operates 22 aircraft, including nine King Airs. He recently got a first-hand look at the King Air 360 during a recent visit to Textron Aviation’s Kansas factory.

Here’s why he’s excited about the Beechcraft King Air 360. 

Stockton has been flying King Air’s since 2005. The King Air 350, the family’s largest passenger model, is also the flagship of his firm’s scheduled airline division.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

“The King Air is really an amazing airplane that does what is advertised,” Stockton told Insider.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

And from what he’s seen, the King Air 360 is no different. Textron Aviation’s latest turboprop has room for up to 11 passengers and a range of 1,806 nautical miles.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Source: Textron Aviation

It can tackle the short hops like New York-Boston or Los Angeles-Las Vegas while also able to stretch its legs on longer routes like Chicago-Miami or Denver-Philadelphia, when conditions allow.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

The true improvements are on the inside, however, including in the passenger cabin that can seat up to 11 passengers. Technically it’s same as its predecessor’s, but Stockton says that the cabin liners have been made thinner to give the cabin a more spacious feel.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Source: Textron Aviation

The windows have manual shades instead of elaborate electronic shades or dimmers.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

And the side tables have been elevated so passengers have more knee space. The improvements may seem basic but likely come as a result of customer feedback, Stockton said.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

The Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion cockpit has one of the aircraft’s greatest improvements, the addition of an autothrottle system for pilots.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

The system allows pilots to set a speed and the aircraft will automatically adjust the throttles to accommodate, reducing pilot workload and ensuring the plane is running at peak performance.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

“You’re going to allow the airplane to always be right at the right performance numbers rather than trying to get the throttles just perfect,” Stockton said, adding that this can help prevent engine issues and keep maintenance costs down.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Cabin pressurization is also automated on the new aircraft, further reducing pilot workload. Aircraft cruising at 27,000 feet will also be pressurized as low as 5,960 feet, Stockton said, decreasing air travel’s effect on the body for passengers.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Textron also unveiled the King Air 360ER, offering longer ranges of up to 2,692 nautical miles. That’s enough range to fly from Los Angeles to New York.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Source: Textron Aviation

Up to 15 passengers can be seated in the King Air 360ER.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Source: Textron Aviation

Stockton said that King Air has carrying capabilities that outweigh even some jet aircraft. Up to 15 passengers can fit in the King Air 360ER while most light and midsize jets can’t, even if the turboprop isn’t as fast.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

And cargo carriers can also use the plane to transport freight.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Both aircraft are powered by Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A engines, offering a maximum cruise speed of over 300 knots.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Source: Textron Aviation

Textron also unveiled an upgraded variant of its King Air 250 aircraft with the King Air 260.

Beechcraft King Air 260
A Beechcraft King Air 260.

Source: Textron Aviation

The slightly smaller aircraft can seat up to nine passengers and fly a maximum range of 1,720 nautical miles at comparable speeds as the King Air 360.

Beechcraft King Air 260
A Beechcraft King Air 260.

Source: Textron Aviation

The same autothrottle and digital pressurization systems are also available in the King Air 260.

Beechcraft King Air 260
A Beechcraft King Air 260.

Stockton said that making the King Air faster will be something he looks for in future variants.

Beechcraft King Air 260
A Beechcraft King Air 260.

So will Advanced Air be placing the next order for the King Air 360? No. Stockton’s firm typically manages aircraft purchased by other companies or wealthy individuals and does not typically make purchases itself.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

But Stockton does expect to be managing a King Air 360 within the next few years for a client, and is excited to see the iconic aircraft continuing to be updated.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

“It just shows that this particular airplane is going to be around for a long time,” Stockton said.

Beechcraft King Air 360
A Beechcraft King Air 360.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An airline in Afghanistan says it just flew the country’s first flight with an all-female crew – here’s what it was like onboard

Kam Air First All-Female Flight
Afghanistan’s first all-female flight on Kam Air.

  • Afghanistan’s Kam Air says it performed the first all-female crewed flight in the country’s history.
  • The Boeing 737-500 flew from Kabul to Herat with two female pilots and four female cabin crew.
  • YouTuber Josh Cahill was onboard to capture the flight as part of an International Women’s Day documentary. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A routine 90-minute flight in Afghanistan just made history.

The country’s only private airline, Kam Air, is celebrating its first flight with an all-female crew, which it says is the first in the South Asian country’s history. 

Kam Air’s first female Afghan pilot, 22-year-old Mohadese Mirzaee, joined Captain Veronica Borysova in piloting the Boeing 737 from the capital city of Kabul to Herat in western Afghanistan on Wednesday. And while they were at work in the cockpit, four female cabin crew serviced passengers for the routine 350-nautical mile flight while it journeyed across the country. 

Josh Cahill, a leading airline reviewer and travel YouTuber, was invited onboard the flight to document the endeavor during a recent trip to the Middle East and South Asia. Aside from the flight’s historic nature, Cahill said the flight was as smooth running as any that he’s in his extensive global journeys, telling Insider that the flight crew consisted of “highly trained pilots.”

Kam Air First All-Female Flight
Kam Air pilots preparing for the flight from Kabul to Herat.

“The crew has been very professional, just as you would expect from any other airline around the world,” Cahill told Insider. “I have joined a few crews at the flight deck around the globe and I couldn’t notice any difference.”

The historic flight was kept largely under wraps, besides inviting Cahill, as is the norm in the country. Airlines typically do not miss the opportunity to spread the word about their accomplishments but Afghanistan’s heightened security discourages high-profile events.

“For security and safety purposes, gatherings or celebrations aren’t very common in Afghanistan,” Cahill said. 

South Asian and Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran are a constant source of fascination for aviation enthusiasts like Cahill as their airlines boast some of the most unique and oldest aircraft still flying. 

The 23-year-old Boeing 737-500 performing the flight was originally delivered to Continental Airlines in 1998, according to, and delivered to Kam Air in April. It isn’t the oldest aircraft in Afghanistan but the type has long been retired by US airlines. 

Cahill is no stranger to the country and has witnessed Kam Air’s development first-hand over the years.

“I have been frequently visiting Afghanistan for the past 6 years and it is nice to see how Kam Air is developing given the difficult circumstances,” Cahill said. The airline had recently lost nine staff members in a 2018 Taliban attack at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.

Kam Air is currently banned from European Union airspace but plans to start flights to Frankfurt, Germany soon, citing its certification under the International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit as a step towards being taken off of the Union’s blacklist. 

Kam Air First All-Female Flight
YouTuber Josh Cahill with Kam Air’s first all-female flight crew.

Cahill frequently travels the globe as part of his job to review the latest airline products but doesn’t encounter female pilots all that often, let alone all-female flight crews, something he hopes will change as the industry progresses. 

“Unfortunately, it is still rather rare to see female pilots around the world, especially in male-dominated societies such as the Middle East, but I really hope that my documentary on Kam Air will change this and inspire more women to join our industry,” Cahill said, having flown on the world’s best and worst airlines during his travels in the furthest reaches of the world from America to Afghanistan. 

Cahill’s documentary on the flight will air on International Women’s Day on March 8.

Read the original article on Business Insider

An expert explains what would’ve happened if United flight 328 experienced its scary engine failure over the ocean

United Airlines Boeing 777
A United Airlines Boeing 777.

  • United Airlines flight 328 landed safely after experiencing an engine failure over Denver over the weekend.
  • Even if the engine failure had occurred over water while en route to Hawaii, the aircraft likely could have landed safely. 
  • Wide-body aircraft like the Boeing 777 are rated to fly for more than five hours on a single engine.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A United Airlines flight from Denver to Honolulu successfully executed a safe emergency landing on Saturday after suffering an fiery engine failure shortly after takeoff.

Though debris spewed across Denver suburbs, the aircraft was able to quickly turn around and land back at Denver International Airport with no injuries or lives lost.

The entire ordeal lasted less than 30 minutes since the failure occurred just miles from a major international airport. But as this aircraft was heading to Hawaii, there was a possibility that the aircraft could have lost its engine while flying high over the Pacific Ocean – with the nearest airport potentially hundreds of miles away. 

It’s a scenario that regulators have feared since the beginning of the jet age. The guiding theory was that having more engines on a plane would help airliners make it to the nearest airport in the event of a failure. Three and four-engine planes like the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-8, and Lockheed L-1011, among numerous others, ruled oceanic skies for exactly that reason.

Regulators eventually created Extended-range Twin-engine Operations Performance Standards, or ETOPS, where twin-engine aircraft could cross oceans. Aircraft only had to stay within a certain flight time from the nearest suitable airport in case an emergency landing was required. 

The Boeing 777-200, the plane in question in the incident over the weekend, can fly over five hours with just one engine thanks to its 330-minute ETOPS certification. That’s around the flight time from Los Angeles to Honolulu.

When flying over the Atlantic between North America and Europe, diversion airports along the way typically include Keflavik Airport in Iceland, Gander International Airport in Canada, and Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland. But flights to Hawaii from the mainland US often have no intermediate airports along the route, leaving pilots with two options: return to the mainland or continue to Hawaii. 

“The decisions that the crew would have to make would be based on the location of the aircraft,” Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel research company Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider. “Has it reached the halfway point between the mainland and Hawaii? If it had not, chances are it would return back to the mainland and land at the closest available airport that could accommodate the 777.”

Overwater flights are dispatched with ETOPS requirements in mind to ensure that a diversion airport is always within reach, assuming that the engine failure or shut down doesn’t lead to other problems with the aircraft.

San Francisco International, Los Angeles International, and San Diego International, to name just a few, are possible diversion airports if the aircraft have to return to the mainland. But if past the halfway point, pilots might decide to press forward to Hawaii and may even determine they can land at the intended destination airport.

An aircraft flying from Denver to Honolulu, for example, wouldn’t operate unless that aircraft could fly to a diversion airport with one engine at any stage of the flight, whether over Colorado suburbs or the mid-point between the mainland and Hawaii. 

A new generation of aircraft based on ETOPS

Fears of an overwater engine failure on a twin-engine jet hindered the development of the segment for decades. True innovations with two-engine aircraft only came about once aviation regulators introduced ETOPS in the 1980s and manufacturers started to build larger twin-engine jets like the Boeing 777, Airbus A350 XWB, and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Those aircraft are now replacing the costlier quad-engine aircraft like the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380, with new types like the Boeing 777X currently in development. Twin-engine aircraft now operate the longest flights in the world, including the latest New York City-Singapore route that’s operated by an Airbus A350-900ULR

And it’s not only twin-engine wide-body aircraft that can use ETOPS as smaller aircraft like the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families can get the certification. Flights from the mainland US to Hawaii are frequently operated by narrow-body aircraft and some airlines use them to fly between North America and Europe under ETOPS rules

“The certification for these planes to operate over water has been rigorous, and it’s been going on since 1985,” Harteveldt said.

Harteveldt was working for Trans World Airlines, commonly known as TWA, when the Boeing 767 received ETOPS certification that allowed it to fly as far as 60 minutes from the nearest alternate airport. Those limits were gradually increased, allowing airlines to fly more direct routes instead of focusing on staying close to land. 

United’s experience with flying over water with one engine

An overwater engine shut down isn’t within precedent as a United Airlines Boeing 777-200 flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Los Angeles in 2003 was forced to shut down one engine while over the Pacific and divert to land, according to FlightGlobal. The nearest airport in Kona, Hawaii ended up being over three hours away, technically over the 180-minute requirement for the 777 at the time. Still, the aircraft was able to land safely after around 190 minutes from the engine shutdown.

Another United Boeing 777 flight from San Francisco to Honolulu in February 2018 was forced to shut down an engine after an issue with the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engine, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report, and managed to make it to the destination airport on one engine. 

Harteveldt noted, however, that the loss of the engine nacelle, or the covering that houses the engine, on flight 328 may have adversely impacted the aircraft’s range and limited the diversion airports available for landing.  It was also revealed that a piece of the engine did in fact puncture the fuselage and may have contributed to an even greater loss of aerodynamics that may have reduced its range, even more, according to Harteveldt. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

United will still fly the Boeing 777-200 after a scary engine failure in Colorado – but the ones still flying have a different engine

United Airlines 777
A United Airlines Boeing 777.

  • United Airlines’ fleet of 24 Boeing 777-200 aircraft has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, but the aircraft will keep flying.
  • A fleet of 22 United Boeing 777-200s are unaffected as they’re powered by General Electric engines.
  • Passengers booked on the 777 might still fly on the aircraft but others will be moved to different jets. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The Federal Aviation Administration has effectively grounded United Airlines’ fleet of 24 Boeing 777-200 aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engine that failed on Saturday during a flight from Denver to Honolulu. 

An airline spokesperson told Insider that the extent of the grounding remains to be seen as the agency has not yet issued an airworthiness directive, or AD, outlining the inspections that the airline needs to perform before the engine can return to the skies. 

Flyers that still see “Boeing 777-200” for their United flights in the next few days, however, need not be concerned as their flight will be operated by a different type of 777 aircraft, one powered by General Electric engines. This grounding only affects the 777s powered by Pratt & Whitney engines and not the entire 777 fleet, which experts say has a track record of safety.

United has 22 General Electric-powered 777-200s currently flying that will serve destinations like Tokyo, Japan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Milan, Italy; and Kahului, Hawaii, among others. The Pratt & Whitney engines were initially purchased by United to power its Boeing 777s but the airline acquired General Electric-powered 777s after a merger with Continental Airlines.

It’s common that airlines acquire new aircraft with different engine types in a merger, but airlines typically stick to one type of engine per plane. 

“Airlines like commonality, it leads to simplification,” Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel research company Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider.

United’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, similarly powered by General Electric engines, will also remain in the skies. The variant is the largest of the 777 family currently in commercial service and also flying for the likes of American Airlines, British Airways, and Qatar Airways.  

Flyers might also see their aircraft changed as their departure date moves closer as United deals with the short-term impacts of the grounding on its schedule. United’s wide-body fleet includes newer jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner family, in addition to the 777-300ER. 

The FAA will likely release its airworthiness directive this week, and that’s when the extent of the grounding will be known. United may be forced to restore aircraft from storage if the grounding is protracted but the airline said it hasn’t needed to cancel any trips due to the incident; though, some delays have been incurred as replacement aircraft move around the airline’s network. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Experts say the plane and engine used by United have a safe track record – and the scary landing in Colorado should have minimal impact on the airline

United Airlines Boeing 777-222
The United Airlines Boeing 777-222 that experienced an in-flight engine failure.

  • A United Airlines jet made an emergency landing after an engine failure on Saturday.
  • Three aviation regulators have effectively grounded Boeing 777s with PW4000-112 engines pending an investigation. 
  • Experts say the issue isn’t likely systemic with the plane or engine, given the track record of both. 
  • Only 69 aircraft in the world are affected, and United is the only US carrier with the model. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Regulators in the US, UK, and Japan have moved to effectively ground Boeing 777 aircraft powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW4000-112 engine pending an investigation into the United Airlines flight that made an emergency landing shortly after takeoff over the weekend. 

Flight 328 from Denver, Colorado to Honolulu safely returned to the airport after an uncontained engine failure occurred shortly after takeoff. The incident resulted in debris falling to the ground in Denver suburbs, but caused no death or injury to passengers or bystanders as the engine failure did not affect other critical aspects of the aircraft. 

The grounding affects 69 aircraft currently flying for carriers including United, All Nippon Airways, and Japan Airlines, and is supported by Boeing, the aircraft’s manufacturer. Impact to United, the only US carrier affecting by the grounding, should be minimal, experts told Insider. 

“We’re very lucky that the fan blades didn’t shatter the cabin, they didn’t puncture the wing, they didn’t puncture a fuel tank,” Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel research company Atmosphere Research Group, said in an interview. “As accidents go, this was as good as you can hope in that there was no injury, no death, and the airplane returned safely to the ground.” 

The incident mirrored a similar issue with the same airline, aircraft, and engine, per Aviation Safety Network data, as a 2018 United flight from San Francisco to Honolulu similarly experienced an engine issue and was able to land safely with no injuries or loss of life. But experts don’t believe that there’s a systemic problem with the engine or the aircraft itself, noting the track record of safety for both.

“This was the launch engine for the plane back a quarter-century ago,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Teal Group, told Insider, as the Boeing 777 has been in commercial service since 1995. If there was an inherent problem with this specific combination of engine and airframe, Aboulafia says we would’ve known about it already.

The first fatal Boeing 737 Max crash, for example, occurred just over one year into its commercial life. The Boeing 777, on the other hand, has over 25 years of service under its belt with no hint of such troubles. The full investigation will reveal whether the incident was an unforeseen problem with the engine or the aircraft, or whether it was a mechanical issue on United’s end. 

What experts don’t agree on, however, is why that particular engine and airframe combination was grounded by regulators around the world. Harteveldt told Insider that the grounding and inspection requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration and others may be due to the heightened safety environment that exists in aviation following the 737 Max grounding of March 2019. 

“I think the FAA wants to err very much on the side of caution in the wake of what happened with the 737 Max to understand what this problem is,” Harteveldt said.

The FAA was criticized in the wake of the 737 Max crashes for a lack of oversight and was one of the last regulators to ground the now-notorious aircraft. Now, the agency is taking an “extremely cautious” approach to this incident, according to Harteveldt.

“This is definitely an extraordinary step that’s being taken, but it’s being taken out of intelligent prudence,” Harteveldt said. “What United, the FAA, and Pratt & Whitney want to do is understand what caused these fan blades to come apart.”

Aboulafia called the move “par for the course” as there are so few Boeing 777 aircraft with this type of engine currently flying. 

“This is what you would do given this incident,” Aboulafia said.

What happens to United

It remains to be seen how long the grounding will last and how long it will take the airline to perform the required inspections, which will determine the overall impact.. 

In the interim, flights that were scheduled to be flown by the Pratt & Whitney-powered Boeing 777s in the next few days will be swapped for other aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Boeing 777-300ER, depending on factors like passenger demand, and distance for a particular route. 

“The grounding of these 24 planes to United will definitely affect the airline’s operation,” Harteveldt said. “But if there is a time for something like this to happen, it is now, when United is operating far fewer flights than it normally does because of COVID.”

This type of aircraft typically spends its life flying overseas routes, but the pandemic has grounded most of those flights. That takes some of pressure off United since the aircraft aren’t needed as much as they would be if air travel were at 2019 levels. 

“I don’t think it’s going to be more than an operational headache,” Aboulafia said. 

United’s analysts are likely troubleshooting the mid to long-term effects of the grounding, according to Harteveldt, and how it will affect operations as the airline heads into the spring and summer season. 

Cargo is also an important factor that will determine United’s next move as airlines have been relying on freight revenues to make up for the loss of passengers. The loss of 24 Boeing 777-200s, as one of the airline’s largest aircraft, will reduce United’s cargo-carrying ability in the short-term. 

The Chicago-based airline, however, still has a fleet of active Boeing 777-200 aircraft currently flying passengers and cargo, the difference is that they’re equipped with General Electric engines and not the PW4000-112 used on Saturday’s aircraft. Airlines typically choose one engine to fly a particular fleet but United acquired the General Electric-powered aircraft as a result of a merger with Continental Airlines. 

United also may consider pulling planes out of storage if the grounding lasts more than a few weeks. The airline has 28 Boeing 777s currently sitting in storage that could be brought back up to the majors; though, it might take around one to two weeks per plane to get them back into flying condition. 

Regardless of the path United takes, Aboulafia says the grounding should have “zero impact whatsoever” on the airline’s overall recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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American and JetBlue just unveiled a new partnership with 33 new routes combined- here’s what it means for travelers

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways
American Airlines and JetBlue Airways aircraft.

  • American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are moving forward with a partnership in the Northeast US.
  • The two will better coordinate in the region and add a total of 33 domestic and international routes. 
  • Elite status holders will also be able to earn and redeem miles on each airline. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are joining forces in the Northeast as part of an alliance that creates new routes, schedules, frequent flyer programs, and more.

The duo is moving forward with the first phase of a “Northeast alliance” following a regulatory review from the Department of Transportation that wrapped in January. JetBlue and American flight codes will be placed on over 70 flights between the two airlines under a codeshare agreement, allowing customers to book certain flights on either airline or website.

“Our alliance with American opens the door for JetBlue to successfully enter into new markets, introducing more choices and our award-winning service and low fares to more customers,” Scott Laurence, JetBlue’s head of revenue and planning, said. 

American has been joining forces with coastal airlines like JetBlue on the East Coast and Alaska Airlines on the West Coast to fill the gaps in its route network. Both American and JetBlue will add 33 new routes combined to domestic and international destinations as travel slowly rebounds with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and growing testing for entry options in foreign countries.

Here’s where travelers will see the biggest differences. 

New routes from the Northeast

JetBlue is adding 15 new routes from New York City’s three main area airports, John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia. American, for its part, will add 18 new routes from Kennedy International and LaGuardia, as well as JetBlue’s stronghold at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

From Kennedy International, two JetBlue new routes will be added to Boise, Idaho, and Kalispell, Montana, in July. Both are located in the Mountain West, a region that’s been surging in popularity during the pandemic as Americans seek social distancing in nature. 

On American, new routes from Kennedy to the Colombian cities of Cali, Bogota, and Medellin; Santiago, Chile; St. Lucia; and Providenciales, Turks and Caicos will start in May and June. Previously announced routes from New York to Tel Aviv, Israel, Athens, Greece, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil also launch this year. 

American will also give New York City its first non-stop link to Orange County, California, as the airline is adding a new route from Kennedy starting July 2. The daily flight will be operated by American’s ultra-premium Airbus A321 aircraft with first class, business class, and economy class seats. 

Newark will see 10 new routes to the existing JetBlue leisure destinations of Antigua; Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; Cartagena, Colombia; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; Nantucket, Massachusetts; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; Seattle; St. Lucia; and St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. The new routes start on July 1. 

LaGuardia will receive more routes across the East Coast and to the west. JetBlue flights to Charleston, South Carolina; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; and Denver also begin July 1. while American will launch and resume summer season flights to Key West Florida; Pensacola, Florida; Rapid City, South Dakota; Kansas City, Missouri; and Savannah, Georgia in June. 

And from Boston, American will also fly to Asheville, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Traverse City, Michigan; and Wilmington, North Carolina this summer. 

Better schedules and more first class

The two airlines are coordinating schedules in key markets so passengers have more choices when they fly. American will notice the difference on six segments, in particular, including  Boston-South Florida, Boston-Washington, New York-Washington, New York-Boston, New York-South Florida, and New York-California.

JetBlue flyers will notice the difference on the Boston-Los Angeles, Boston-Chicago, New York-San Francisco, New York-Atlanta, New York-Dallas, New York-Chicago, and New York-Raleigh, North Carolina segments. 

On the popular New York-Los Angeles route, for example, the airlines will offer a combined 14 daily flights. Both American and JetBlue operate the route with Airbus A321 aircraft with business class cabins. 

American also plans to offer first class on all of its New York-originating flight as it retires smaller regional jets like the Embraer ERJ145. JetBlue currently offers business class on select routes to popular destinations. 

Loyalty has its perks

Frequent flyers from both airlines will also benefit as they’ll be able to earn miles when flying on either starting this spring. Both airlines will soon allow customers to use points and miles to book award tickets on each other’s flights but that functionality will come “over time.”

A JetBlue loyalist might be able to book an award ticket from New York to Tel Aviv on American as Israel is currently well beyond JetBlue’s scope of service. 

Elite status holders may also receive reciprocal benefits when traveling on the two but specifics, including whether that includes complimentary first class upgrades, have yet to be announced. 

JetBlue elites currently do not receive upgrades into the airline’s swanky Mint business class cabin while American offers its status holders complimentary upgrades on select flights. Upgrades are a key perk of frequent flying that keep customers loyal to a particular airline since a single upgrade can be worth hundreds of dollars and yield free meals, early boarding opportunities, and even complimentary lounge access

Better single-itinerary options

The codeshare agreement opens the door for single-itinerary bookings for connecting flights, simplifying the travel experience for those that can’t get to their final destination on either American or JetBlue alone. 

A JetBlue flyer in Buffalo, for example, could book a one-stop trip from New York to Athens, Greece on a mix of JetBlue and American flights under one itinerary. 

The move also eliminates the need for self-connections between the two airlines where passengers book two separate tickets. While a widely-used practice, it can have downsides if one of the flights is canceled or delayed.

Flights can already be booked under the codeshare agreement that starts on February 25. 

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The rise and fall of Pan Am

Following is a transcript of the video.

Irene Kim: Pan Am was once the largest international airline in the US. In 1970 alone, it carried 11 million passengers to 86 countries worldwide. Pan Am is also known as the pioneer of multiple features of modern air travel, and it also holds cult status for its iconic aviation style. But after 60 years of flight and decades of financial turbulence, Pan Am went bust. So what happened?

Pan American Airways was founded by two US Air Force majors. It began as an airmail service between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, in 1927 and was the United States’ first scheduled international flight. Within a year, aviation visionary Juan Trippe took the controls, and Pan Am introduced its first passenger services to Havana. An ad campaign cosponsored by Pan Am and Bacardi successfully encouraged Americans to fly away from alcohol prohibition in the US to drink rum in the sun in Cuba. And Trippe quickly expanded Pan Am’s network.

By 1930, Pan Am was flying routes through most of Central and South America. Crucially, it used a fleet of flying boats, or clippers, to land aircraft on the water at destinations that didn’t have concrete runways for traditional planes. Since they flew seaplanes, Pan Am pilots wore sea captains’ uniforms, a decision that still influences aviation uniforms today. And there were far more important innovations that Pan Am developed in its early days of flight.

David Slotnick: Everything from things we take for granted today, like air traffic control and different flight procedures, different ways of forecasting the weather, of flight planning. Pan Am was the first airline to fly around the world. They actually set a few different records about that. They were the first to fly from the US across the Pacific. It was really a lot. They launched this international service that really helped define what we have today as just regular air travel.

Kim: By 1958, Pan Am offered regular flights to every continent on the planet except Antarctica, giving itself the title of “The world’s most experienced airline.” Pan Am’s modern fleet of pressurized aircraft could fly smoothly above turbulent weather, which provided a comfortable experience for passengers. Its lavish cabins were staffed by a multilingual, college-educated flight crew who served luxurious meals like steak, Champagne, and caviar.

Commercial: On October 26, 1958, Pan Am becomes the first American airline to fly jet aircraft. A Pan Am Boeing 707 streaks from New York to Paris in eight hours. The world enters the jet age.

Kim: The powerful new jet engines, which could fly nonstop over long distances, allowed Pan Am to introduce daily flights to London and Paris. And with the introduction of economy class, Pan Am opened the world of air travel to tourists, not just the rich and famous. In 1970, Pan Am carried 11 million customers over 20 billion miles. Thinking that air travel would only continue to grow, Pan Am invested half a billion dollars in a large fleet of Boeing 747 jetliners.

But this would turn out to be a big mistake.

In October 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo against nations, including the US, that were supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen by more than 400%. This hit Pan Am harder than other airlines because of its exclusively long-haul flights, which required more fuel.

Slotnick: They were the launch customer for the Boeing 747. At the time, that was a great airplane for them to buy. That was the right choice, but the oil crisis really changed things for Pan Am. It was all of the sudden the wrong plane to have. It wasn’t the most efficient. It was flying routes that really weren’t selling that well because demand for travel was going down, and that was a very difficult time. But when they made the decision to buy the planes, who would’ve known?

Kim: While Pan Am’s operating costs skyrocketed, the economy slowed, and America’s appetite for international air travel greatly reduced, leaving Pan Am dangerously overcapacity, with huge, half-empty jets taking to the skies. As a result, between 1969 and 1976, Pan Am lost about $364 million and was estimated to be $1 billion in debt.

Pan Am had long hoped to add domestic flights within the US to its operation and even talked to a number of domestic operators, including American and United Airlines, to propose a merger. But rival airlines convinced the US Congress that Pan Am threatened to monopolize US aviation, and the Civil Aeronautics Board repeatedly denied Pan Am permission to operate domestically. But in 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act was passed into United States federal law, meaning the government could no longer control airline routes. Pan Am was now allowed to acquire a domestic system, and it hastily purchased National Airlines for $437 million.

Barnaby Conrad III: It cost a tremendous amount of money to acquire this particular airline, to get the routes. They obviously made a choice. They couldn’t build from scratch. They needed to go out and buy something. You basically had two cultures going on: Pan Am, very worldly, sophisticated, international. Then you had National Airlines. They were sort of puddle jumpers. They were considered country pilots, so there was a mix of culture that didn’t work there. Then you had different kind of aircraft, and so mechanics had never worked on certain airplanes. I think there was a mismatch there too, personnel, different airports. Just in general, it was really a small southern airline that was matching up with an international airline.

Kim: Within a year of the National Airlines purchase, Pan Am lost $18.9 million, even after selling its iconic Manhattan head office for $400 million. Pan Am continued to self-liquidate to offset its losses. In addition to trading its hotel chains, it sold its entire Pacific division to United Airlines.

But Pan Am still had a global reputation as the flagship US airline. However, this claim to fame would attract a devastating terrorist attack above the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill: On the 21st of December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 took off from Heathrow. It was bound for New York. It was never scheduled to either touch down or land in Scotland. A bomb that had been placed on board accordingly blew up over a small town in the southwest of Scotland called Lockerbie. 259 people all aboard the plane were killed, passengers and crew, and 11 citizens in the small community of Lockerbie were also killed. Pan Am were held culpable and negligent in failing to have adequate security measures. You can have some sympathy for Pan Am, because their defense, if it was a defense at the time, was simply that they had carried out the normal security measures that the entire aviation industry did. But the courts took the view that that was inadequate. They had failed to properly secure the airplane, and as a consequence, a bag had got on board that shouldn’t have been on board in the first place. But Pan Am, you can say, took the hit metaphorically as well as literally for an industry where security standards had not got up to speed.

Kim: The Lockerbie bombing cost Pan Am more than $350 million and proved to be the final blow to the once giant airline.

Just two years later, on January 8, 1991, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy.

After a bidding war, Delta Airlines purchased the majority of Pan Am for $1.4 billion, acquiring its European routes, its northeastern shuttle routes, 45 jets, its mini-hub in Frankfurt, Germany, and its flagship Pan Am Worldport terminal at JFK International Airport. Pan Am hoped to emerge from bankruptcy court, but after realizing it was losing $3 million per day, Delta stopped its cash advances. After failing to raise money from other sources, a phone call was made to Pan Am’s head office on December 4, 1991. The message was: “Shut it down.”

Conrad: Pan American Airways went bankrupt, and they shut down services. It broke people’s hearts, really, not just the people that worked for the airline, but for many other people that flew it and knew it, and it was the flagship airline of America. Pan Am, this legendary airline with its legendary logo, was the second most recognized trademark in the world at the time. A group of friends of mine actually bought those trademarks, and, in fact, I was one of the investors in that group. We bought those trademarks. Unfortunately, Charles Cobb, who was the largest investor, wanted to start the airline again, and we said, “But it didn’t work last time.” We parted ways. He bought us out. He slapped the Pan Am globe on this airline, which is sort of like putting the Pan Am globe on a Greyhound bus. It lasted a couple of months, and it crashed. All the other attempts to do something else with the trademark have failed.

Kim: But Pan Am’s legacy continues to be felt almost 30 years after its collapse. Its innovations remain the pillars of modern air travel. Its brand style has survived throughout the decades as an iconic mid-century fashion statement, with products featuring its sleek, retro logo still being sold. And the Pan Am lifestyle is still romanticized in TV and movies. But the airline itself remains grounded.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2020.

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