US air traffic congestion looms over shutdown risk
September 22, 2023
The US government has met its quota for 2023 to hire new air traffic controllers [ATCs], Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told a congressional committee on 20 September, urging lawmakers to avoid a federal shutdown that could halt training for those new hires and further damage air traffic congestion. In his opening statement to the US House Committee on Transportation nd Infrastructure, Buttigieg praised House of Representatives lawmakers for passing in July legislation to set funding and priorities for the US Federal Aviation Administration. "We hit our goal for air traffic controller hiring this year, with a total of 2,600 ATCs now in training." he says. "A government shutdown would stop that training. Even a shutdown lasting a few weeks could set us back by months or more because of how complex that training is." A Senate committee faces a deadline to advance its version of the FAA reauthorisation bill for approval by that chamber. The current version of that legislation required every five years, enacted in 2018, expires on 30 September. Both chambers of Congress are required to propose their own bills and reconcile their differences before advancing the same bill for the US president to sign into law, a process intended to balance power in the US legislative branch. The House and Senate also face a deadline of 30 September to agree upon other federal budget legislation that, if not passed, could result in a shutdown of government services that are not deemed essential. The House committee ranking Democratic member Rick Larsen said during the hearing that the annual federal budget review is "threatening to end in a self-inflicted government shutdown" and urged both chambers to pass legislation in time to keep the government running. Congress has in the past voted for temporary measures to keep the government operating and create more time to reconcile differences and pass annual federal budget legislation. "We are counting on FAA reauthorisation legislation that ultimately passes to provide additional, critical authorities and resources needed to keep our airports and communities safe," Buttigieg says. Certain federal services deemed essential including air traffic controllers currently in service at airports would remain on the job during a government shutdown but training of new controllers would halt without new federal spending. Shortages of air traffic controllers employed by the FAA have been among the factors contributing to more disruptions and delays for US carriers, making it harder for carriers to maintain schedules when responding to severe weather and other incidents. Outlining some achievements by the FAA, Buttigieg said "we helped airlines lower cancelation rates from their pandemic spikes down to 1.6% this year, which is also below 2019 rates. "And we have a wave of new rules underway to protect passengers when their flights are delayed or cancelled, and to get rid of junk fees for things like being seated next to your kid." Political debates in both the House and Senate over spending and priorities would need to be reconciled in time for the 30 September deadline to enact legislation. These issues include proposals that would mandate consumer protections from airlines including restrictions on fees charged for baggage or seating, along with a proposal to raise the legally required pilot retirement age from 65 to 67 as a means to help airlines retain flight crews while new hires can be trained.
Aeroflot to reinstate Hong Kong service
September 22, 2023
Aeroflot is planning to resume flights between Moscow and Hong Kong from 23 December. The Russian carrier says it will fly on the route thrice weekly from Moscow's Sheremetyevo International airport. The service will be operated using Airbus A330 equipment.
Boeing raises China’s 20-year aircraft demand outlook to 8,560
September 21, 2023
Boeing has raised its forecast for China’s new aircraft demand in the next 20 years, driven by increasing demand for domestic air travel and economic growth that is "well above" the global average. Chinese airlines will need 8,560 new commercial aircraft through 2042, which is higher than the 8,485 aircraft it predicted in 2022, but lower than the 8,700 forecast in 2021. It is also higher than the 8,090 new planes it projected in 2019. "Domestic air traffic in China has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels and international traffic is recovering steadily," Boeing vice-president, commercial marketing Darren Hulst says. Its domestic aviation market is projected to be the largest in the world by 2042, which will help power demand for 6,470 single-aisle aircraft, says the airframer in its 2023 Commercial Market Outlook (CMO). Moreover, it is expected that Chinese carriers will require 1,550 widebody aircraft mainly to support a growing network of international routes. China is expected to account for 20% of the world's aircraft demand through 2042 and its commercial fleet will more than double to nearly 9,600 jets over the next 20 years. "Fleet growth will drive two thirds of forecast deliveries in China, while the remainder will replace older jets with modern aircraft that increase efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions," it adds. Boeing says it expects an annual fleet growth of 4.5% in China, and an annual traffic growth of 11.4%, which puts it on course to compete with North America as the largest aviation market during the forecast period. The commercial fleet will require $675 billion in aviation services including maintenance, repair, training and spare parts over the forecast period. Boeing says continued growth in e-commerce and express shipping will also drive demand for 190 new freighter deliveries. The report also anticipates that the country will require 433,000 new aviation personnel including 134,000 pilots, 138,000 technicians and 161,000 cabin crew members to serve its growing market.