Tag: airlines

By Joey Roulette for Reuters

SpaceX signed its first deal with an air carrier to provide in-flight wireless internet using the Starlink satellite network, the space company said on Thursday, as it jockeys with other burgeoning satellite firms to put high-speed internet on commercial airlines.

The company, owned by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, has been in talks for months with airlines to provide Starlink internet in-flight, a key prong in SpaceX’s strategy to scoop up enterprise customers beyond consumers and households in rural areas of the globe with little to no internet access.

The deal is with semi-private jet service JSX and involves equipping 100 airplanes with Starlink terminals, with the first Starlink-connected plane taking flight by year’s end, the charter company said in a statement. A JSX spokesperson declined to disclose the value of the partnership.

SpaceX has launched some 2,000 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit since 2019 and, though the network is not yet fully deployed, offers broadband internet service to thousands of customers in a handful of countries for $110 a month using a $599 terminal dish roughly the size of a pizza box.

SpaceX has sought regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to operate Starlink on airplanes and shipping vessels and had previously tested the internet network on a handful of Gulfstream jets, as well as military aircraft.

The Starlink service on JSX planes will come at no charge to JSX customers, the jet service said in its statement, adding it will “not require logging in or other complexities associated with legacy systems.”

Source: MyBroadband

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has published new regulations related to alert level 3 of the national lockdown which allow domestic flights for business travel.

According to the regulations, domestic passenger air travel is not permitted for recreational, leisure, or tourism purposes.

There are also strict rules which must be adhered to by passengers, airports, and airlines.

No catering will be allowed during flights, no onboard magazines will be provided, and the last row of the aircraft will be reserved for isolation of suspected cases.

All the airports will have markings on the floor for social distancing of 1.5 metres. This will be applicable at check-in counters, security checkpoints, and airport lounges.

All airline check-in agents will wear face shields and people will be encouraged to use self-check-in to avoid queues.

At boarding gates, boarding will be staggered and prioritised in terms of the number of passengers to board.

To further encourage social distancing, only passengers are allowed inside airport terminal buildings – which means no family and friends can accompany travellers inside airports.

In a surprise move Mbalula announced that aircraft will be permitted to operate at full capacity, despite previous discussions about creating more space between passengers.

He said it was not necessary to create additional space between passengers because of the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters used in aircraft.

According to Mbalula, these filters are highly effective at removing a virus from the air, which safeguards passengers against the coronavirus.

Three phases
There are restrictions, however, on the number of daily flights – and the airline industry will be opened in three phases.

  • Phase 1 will allow flights from OR Tambo, Cape Town, King Shaka, and Lanseria international airports.
  • Phase 2 will allow flights from Kruger Mpumalanga, Polokwane, and Bram Fischer international airports.
  • Phase 3 will allow flights from Kimberley Airport, Upington Airport, East London Airport, Umtata Airport, and Port Elizabeth Airport.

Mbalula said the initial period will serve as a trial to test the systems and measures to determine if they are holding up.

“We will further engage with the industry stakeholders on the contributions that are necessary for port health capacity in the operations of phases 2 and 3 of the rollout,” he said.

The big problem: few flights available
While opening domestic air travel was welcomed, it does not mean that you can get a flight – as there are currently very few flights and seats available.

This is partly a result of two of the most popular domestic airlines – Kulula and FlySafair – not planning to operate yet.

Kulula owner Comair has entered into voluntary business rescue and only expects to resume flights around 1 November 2020.

FlySafair, which is in a much better financial position because of its substantial cash reserves, remains unsure as to when it will take to the skies again.

FlySafair CEO Elmar Conradie said it can be more costly for them to start operating again under restrained conditions than keeping their planes grounded.

He said the current restrictions on who can fly dampen the demand to travel, which means they may have to fly with empty planes.

Without enough capacity it is not possible to cover the cost of a flight, which means FlySafair will lose money on flights.

Conradie said they need to fill a plane to at least 85% to start to make money, which is unlikely with the current restrictions.

“Without some kind of support from the government, we don’t know how it can be feasible to just fly for business people,” he said.

His views are echoed by SA Flyer Magazine editor Guy Leitch, who said airlines are unlikely to start operating in this restrained environment.

Even with fewer flights per day, aircraft will not reach the capacity levels needed to operate profitably.

Leitch added that companies have also changed the way they operate by adopting video conferencing and webinars over face-to-face meetings.

There is also uncertainty on whether South African Airways (SAA) will open up domestic flights again soon.

On 26 May the airline said it plans to restart domestic flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town with effect from mid-June 2020.

A day later, however, SAA’s business rescue practitioners said the airline’s announcement that it plans to resume domestic flights was “unvetted”.

There is a lot of uncertainty for local airlines around domestic air travel, and it shows in the online flight booking platforms.

Flight costs

  • Seats on Mango from Joburg – Cape Town cost R2 100 each way, and are only available from 15 June
  • Seats on SAA from Joburg – Cape Town cost R3 492 each way, and are only available from 15 June
  • Kulula is not opening until November
  • FlySafair is only opening on 15 June and does not have pricing yet

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