News Briefs

    Qantas launches Concierge and closer ties with Facebook

    Qantas Airways launched (09-Feb-2017) Qantas Concierge, a Facebook Messenger bot. The solution is part of a wider strategy by the carrier, to provide faster responses and tailored information to consumers through easily accessible channels. The launch also marks the beginning of Qantas as an official Facebook partner, joining a select group of companies. The new chat bot utilises artificial intelligence to become, “More user friendly and effective over time”, while Qantas plans to grow capabilities of the solution through 2017 to provide itineraries, flight and gate change updates and boarding passes. Qantas head of digital and entertainment Kristin Carlos said:

    “We recognise that different people want to communicate with us in different ways. With over 15 million people on Facebook in Australia, growing our presence with the social networking service makes sense”.



    Vietnam Airlines to place Dreamliner on Hanoi-Sydney services

    Vietnam Airlines confirmed (09-Feb-2017) plans to commence three times weekly Hanoi-Sydney service with Boeing 787-9 equipment on 28-Mar-2017. The route will be the airline’s third to Australia, after Ho Chi Minh City-Sydney and Ho Chi Minh City-Melbourne services.



    Wellington Airport forecasts over 6M passengers for 2017

    Wellington International Airport forecast (10-Feb-2017) passenger numbers will reach over six million in 2017, two years ahead of predicted figures. Airport chief commercial officer Matt Clarke stated Feb-2017 is expected to be the busiest month due to “big events” such as Guns ‘n Roses concert and Black Caps versus South Africa cricket test and one-day match, “on top of Wellington Airport’s recent passenger growth”



    Air New Zealand to announce interim results

    Air New Zealand announced (09-Feb-2017) 2017 interim results will be announced before NZX trading begins on 23-Feb-2017.



    Singapore Airlines Canberra services performing well

    Canberra Airport MD Stephen Byron reported (09-Feb-2017) average load factors on Singapore Airlines service “are in the mid-80s”. The carrier launched four times weekly Singapore-Canberra-Wellington service on 21-Sep-2016. Mr Byron added “There has been a fairly even balance in the number of inbound and outbound passengers” which “shows that the flight times work in both direction”. The second leg to Wellington, New Zealand is also “becoming more popular” said Mr Byron.



    TTF welcomes new Crown hotel development

    Tourism & Transport Forum Australia (TTF) welcomed (09-Feb-2017) the conditional approval of Crown’s Queensbridge Hotel Tower and welcomed the Victorian Government on a decision that will support the creation of more than 1000 direct and indirect ongoing tourism jobs.

    The Tower, designed by Wilkinson Eyre, will be made up of a 388 room, six-star hotel, approximately 700 apartments, and a publicly accessible restaurant and lounge at the top of the tower.



    Tonga increases tourism revenue target

    Tonga‘s acting CEO of tourism Sione Moala-Mafi said Tonga is increasing its tourism revenue target based on tourism earnings of TOP80 million (USD35 million) in 2016 (, 10-Feb-2017). The nation’s plans also include launching new markets, improving niche markets, and developing hotels and other sectors which will boost tourism.



    DIRD responds to Virgin-Alliance charter proposal

    Australia‘s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) responded (08-Feb-2017) to an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) draft determination, which proposed to deny authorisation of a charter alliance agreement between Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) and Alliance Airlines.

    The ACCC ruling was issued on 19-Dec-2016. DIRD stated it considers the proposed agreement to, “Not have a significant anti-competitive impact”, contrary to ACCC’s ruling. DIRD noted in light of Qantas‘ existing ability to, “Offer an integrated product for corporate fly-in-fly-out services, the agreement would allow VARA and Alliance Airlines to compete more effectively with Qantas”. DIRD also stated ACCC’s draft determination, “Understates the competitive tension” provided by Regional Express (Rex). DIRD stated REX is, “Well placed” to enter the corporate charter market, “If there was a decline in competition”.


    Alliance reports stable financial and traffic outlook

    Alliance Airlines maintained (09-Feb-2017) a stable financial and traffic outlook following the half year ended 31-Dec-2017. Alliance stated less contract flying in the first quarter of the reporting period did, “Impact the current financial result”, however operations, “Returned to meet expectations” in the second quarter.

    Alliance Airlines stated Australia‘s resources sector is, “Demonstrating signs of a recovery”, which is expected to “benefit” the carrier. Alliance also stated wet lease income continues to improve, though an interim dividend was not issued as the business continues to repay debt and, “Invest in future growth”. The carrier will “consider” a full year dividend at the end of the current financial year.



    Transition of Sunshine Coast’s Maroochydore Airport

    Sunshine Coast Council and Palisade Investment Partners announced (09-Feb-2017) representatives from both parties will form a steering committee to oversee the transition of Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Airport’s operation from council to Palisade. As previously reported by CAPA, Palisade secured the concession to operate the airport for 99 years.


    Sunshine Coast Airport expansion approved

    Sunshine Coast Council and Palisade Investment Partners agreed (09-Feb-2017) to jointly develop Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Airport’s expansion project. Works include construction of a 2450m x 45m runway, an air traffic control tower, a new aviation fire station, upgrading navigational equipment and taxiway loops, apron expansion and related infrastructure.

    The council will maintain responsibility over the project and handle all contracts while Palisade is willing to contribute AUD290 million (USD221 million) for the construction of the new runway in 2022. As previously reported by CAPA, the airport also secured AUD181 million (USD135 million) loan from the federal government. The council expects to award tender for the project in Sep-2017, allowing works to complete by Dec-2020.

    Sunshine Coast Council stated (09-Feb-2017) it will retain a financial interest in the operation of Sunshine Coast Maroochydore Airport by receiving an annual rental payment of 5% of gross revenue. Palisade Investment Partners secured the concession to operate the airport for 99 years. The 5% annual lease payment will total an estimated AUD205 million (USD156 million) over the 99 years commencing from 2017/18.



    REX opposes costs of runway extension

    Regional Express (Rex) lambasted Bega Valley Shire Council’s plans to expand Merimbula Airport runway in a letter to Bega Valley Shire Residents and Ratepayers association (, 09-Feb-2017). Rex stated the increased costs of expanding the airport runway could lead to the suspension of multiple daily Merimbula-Sydney services, or the entire service.

    In the response, Rex GM of network strategy and sales Warrick Lodge commented it is “naive” to think another carrier will allocate Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport slots to fill “the weaker demand of Merimbula when Merimbula cannot fill 55% of the capacity Rex has dedicated to it”. Mr Lodge said even in the case of finding another carrier, a larger aircraft will result in fewer air services, and maintains it is unnecessary to expand the runway by 200 metres. Mr Lodge continued that the council “can be almost certain that Rex’s services will be severely downgraded, if not withdrawn” if it continues with its plans for runway expansion.

    The carrier plans to redeploy slots to other cities should the council proceed with runway expansion.



    New drone platform to be deployed in resources sector

    Airobotics announced (07-Feb-2017) its fully automated, industrial grade drone platform will soon be deployed for the first time at an Australian resources operation. The Airobotics platform will be used by South32 to capture data and insights across the Worsley Alumina operations in a 3D digital environment, enabling future improvements. Airobotics co-founder and CEO Ran Krauss said:

    “The launch of Airobotics’ automated drone platform marks an important milestone, being one of the first deployments for Airobotics in Australia“.

    As previously reported by CAPA-Centre for Aviation, Airobotics is in the process of obtaining a CASA Remote Operator’s Certificate.


    These are among the over 30 news items in relation to the Australia Pacific region published by CAPA Centre for Aviation in their Asia Pacific Airline Daily and over 400 news items covering global aviation.