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Friday February 6, 2009

Ryanair announced a reduction of its Shannon base owing to a €10 ($12.94) "tourist tax" that the LCC claimed "is devastating forward bookings" at the Irish airport. From March 30 it will reduce its based aircraft to four from six, cut five routes (to 25), 20 weekly flights (to 116) and more than 100 employees (to fewer than 200). "Irish tourism can only succeed if Ireland is a low-cost destination," Ryanair said, adding that the cuts "would be immediately reversed" if the tax is repealed.

Shanghai Airlines suspended trading in its shares yesterday as it anticipated a capital injection from the government. SAL noted in a statement that it is discussing with stakeholders an effort to reduce its debt ratio, which Board Secretary Xu Junming confirmed will occur through a capital injection. Its debt ratio was 91.4% on Sept. 31, 2008. Chairman Zhou Chi previously revealed that the airline requested approximately CNY3 billion ($438.5 million) from the Shanghai municipal government, SAL's controlling shareholder at 35.7%.

Chinese carriers expect to post a collective 2008 loss owing to the difficult operating environment. The government already has injected CNY7 billion and CNY3 billion into China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines respectively. Industry analysts believe that the aid granted to SAL also is designed to smooth its merger with CEA (ATWOnline, Feb. 5). SAL warned last month that its 2008 loss may double the CNY435 million reported in 2007 (ATWOnline, Jan. 21).

Mexicana parent Grupo Mexicana will launch a Guadalajara-based regional airline designed to "complement the routes currently covered" by the mainline and its Mexicana Click LCC subsidiary. The unnamed carrier will operate 13 leased CRJ200s and fill the gap on routes that are not cost-effective for its partners or that were operated by competing LCCs that have failed or reduced capacity. Initial flights will be to Puerto Vallarta, Torreon, Veracruz, Monterrey, Chihuahua and Ciudad Juarez. A timetable was not announced. CEO Manuel Borja said the decision "comes at a time when productive investment is critical in an industry that requires smart business plans and companies willing to undertake challenges that imply growth."

Copa Airlines CEO Pedro Heilbron said yesterday that Panama City's Tocumen International, home of the carrier's "hub of the Americas," has secured financing for a $50-$70 million expansion that will grow the airport's gates to 34 from 22. Speaking at the Raymond James Airline Growth Conference in New York, he said Copa will benefit long term from the expansion and will continue to grow its traffic in the short term despite the economic downturn, with a 13% capacity boost planned for 2009.

But the carrier will not grow its fleet this year owing to the economy and actually will reduce its fleet size from 42 (15 E-190s and 27 737NGs) to 41 by year end when it returns two leased 737-700s while adding one aircraft. Fleet expansion will resume in 2010, he said. While Copa expects to be affected by the economy in 2009, Heilbron noted that its traffic "is still showing a pretty healthy growth rate" and rose 15% year-over-year in January.

Kingfisher Airlines deferred delivery of its five A380s by two years to 2014 because it wants to wait for the higher-MTOW A380-900 that can fly nonstop to the US, a spokesperson from Kingfisher parent UB Group told Dow Jones. The airline already has deferred delivery of 32 of 48 A320s it was scheduled to take in late 2008 and 2009.

Southwest Airlines this month began including a laminated, 12-in.-by-6-in. drink and snack menu in all seatback pockets.

EasyJet announced the following new routes: Daily flights from London Gatwick to Munich, Zurich and Vienna (April 2); thrice-weekly LGW-Bodrum (April 23); four-times-weekly flights from Milan Malpensa to Heraklion (July 26) and Dubrovnik (Aug. 2) and thrice-weekly service to Rhodes (July 25) and Split (Aug. 1); thrice-weekly flights from Paris Orly to Faro (July 11) and Dubrovnik (July 12); twice-weekly Berlin Schoenefeld-Cagliari (April 1); twice-weekly Lyon-Pisa (July 11), and thrice-weekly Manchester-Dalaman (Aug. 6).

The LCC transported 2.8 million passengers in January, up 2.8% year-over-year. Load factor rose 3.7 points to 75.7%.

Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines signed a codeshare agreement covering SIA's six-times-weekly Istanbul Ataturk-Dubai-Singapore flights and THY's four-times-weekly IST-SIN service.

Southwest Airlines flew 5.14 billion RPMs in January, down 6.4% year-over-year. Capacity fell 4.4% to 8.17 billion ASMs and load factor dropped 1.4 points to 62.8%.

Ryanair transported 4.1 million passengers in January, up 11% from the year-ago month. Load factor held steady at 69%.

ARINC reached a deal with Enerjet to provide data link communications including its AviNet Ground Network and GLOBALink for 737-700 charter flights. Work involves configuring avionics and data message flow through ARINC's network to interface with Enerjet's applications and third-party providers.

A J Walter Aviation said it selected DHL Express to manage its inbound and outbound delivery requirements. Valued at £1.2 million ($1.7 million) per year, the contract guarantees next-day delivery to the US and allows for discounted rate options.

STG Aerospace said US FAA amended its STC approval for its Wireless Emergency Primary Power System to include 737-300, -400 and -500 aircraft in addition to 737NGs already certified.