Club News

Qatar Airways Chief at Aviation Club

Reported by BTN – Malcolm Ginsberg:

Speaking at the Aviation Club in London last week Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker said that Airbus needs to admit it had a problem with flaws on the surface of its A350 jets and ruled out buying freighter planes from the European aircraft manufacturing company.

BTN’s Editor in Chief made a presentation to His Excellency. Having spent 23 years as Qatar Airways CEO Al Baker is now the longest serving CEO of a major airline.

“They acknowledge that they are working to find a solution, which means they don’t have a solution, and they don’t have a solution because they don’t know why it is happening.”  Al Baker compared the issue with the production and quality issues Boeing has with the 787, saying: “Boeing’s problems with the 787 are ‘dwarfed’ by that at the A350.”

Al Baker confirmed that Qatar Airways had grounded 20 of the long-range A350 jets in a month-long dispute over paint and other surface damage that has also prompted the airline to halt further deliveries.

“Qatar Airways cannot sit with its arms folded and legs crossed. We need to solve it. Airbus has made a very large dent in our widebody operations,” Al Baker said.

“It is a serious matter; we don’t know if it is an airworthiness issue; we also don’t know that it is not an airworthiness issue. The real cause of it has not been established by Airbus. Now they have, at last, accepted that there are other airlines, several of them that have the same condition.”

An investigation done by Reuters showed that the Qatar Airways issue over the A350 is not an isolated case. A private maintenance message board used by Airbus and A350 operators and reviewed by Reuters showed that as early as 2016, Finnair had raised concerns over paint and reported in October 2019 that damage had spread below to the anti-lightning mesh.

According to the investigation, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Lufthansa also complained of paint damage.

The response to His Excellency’s discourse was given by Malcolm Ginsberg, Editor-in-Chief Business Travel News (BTN), who said that Al Baker sought every opportunity to promote Qatar and his airline.  “I might as well add a certain Michael O’Leary who also took the same route, but with far less civility.  I know which airline I would prefer to fly on!”

Other stories can be found at the following links:

Aerotime Hub:

IATA Chief at Aviation Club

The Aviation Club UK

Article courtesy of BTNews: The Business Travel News. For your free subscription visit BTNews: The Business Travel News

Willie Walsh, Director General of Air Transport Association (IATA) was in fine form when he addressed the Aviation Club of the United Kingdom at a packed luncheon held at RAC Club last week.

Willie Walsh was in fine form at the RAC. Answering a question from BTN he said that the double whammy with domestic UK flying where travellers pay departure tax for internal return flights was still very much on the agenda.  “It’s something we are mindful of.”

In a speech laced with some amusing anecdotes inevitably his main target was the proposed increase in airport charges by London’s main airport. “It’s time for Heathrow’s shareholders to step up. They have enjoyed steady returns for years. Instead of expecting the travelling public to be covering excessive returns, it’s time for them to invest. All eyes will be on the CAA to ensure they are doing their job in protecting the consumer by pushing back on the airport’s outrageous behaviour,” said Walsh.  Also sitting on the top table London City Airport boss Robert Sinclair pointed out that all airports were faced with rolling infrastructure costs that were the same however many aircraft movements took place.

The recent IATA Annual General Meeting in Boston agreed its members should achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. “For aviation, net zero is a bold, audacious commitment. Achieving it needs all stakeholders – including governments – to play their part. Together we can make sustainable aviation a reality. In doing so, we will secure the freedom to fly for future generations,” said Walsh.

In terms of specific support from the UK Government, airlines would like to see policies for greater investment in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) through capital grants, production incentives, government-backed loans and ‘green bonds’.

“An emphasis on incentives to establish a thriving UK SAF industry would show this off to the world as a global best practice that will help states avoid a patchwork of different regulations or market distortions. The goal should be energy self-sufficiency for sustainable connectivity. And that would come with the added benefit of creating thousands of well-paid jobs,” said Walsh.

Read Willie Walsh’s Speech

Other articles include:

The Guardian:


The Independent:

The Telegraph:

TTG Media: Airline association boss Willie Walsh slams ongoing PCR testing ‘rip-off’ (

Tornos News (Greek travel Market):

In Memoriam. Mike Sanders: 1943 – 2021

The Club is saddened to hear of the death on 2nd April of a long-time supporter and friend of the Club, Mike Sanders.  For one so closely involved with the development of Concorde it is apt that he was laid to rest on 9 April directly under Concorde’s flight path on final approach to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, that date also marking the 52nd anniversary of Concorde’s maiden flight,

Born on 1943 in Chipping Sodbury, England, Mike attended Filton Technical College and went on to join British Aerospace in 1963 where he stayed until 1979. Mike rose to the role of lead flight test engineer on the Concorde project, spending countless hours on board with pilot and good friend, Brian Trubshaw. Embarking on long months of route-proving around the world, his wife Sheila and children Paul and Julie would revel in the excitement of receiving postcards from Dad’s travels to far flung places they could then only relate to in an atlas.

Seconded by BAe to Airbus in Toulouse in 1979, Mike moved his family to France, driving from the UK on their adventure in Mike’s newly-acquired Citroen. After becoming a direct employee of Airbus, Mike spent months in the US and across Europe promoting the A320 aircraft family and ultimately sold the first A320 aircraft to a US lessor, namely GATX.  Shortly after GATX hired Mike to help them lease out those early A320s!

Following the sale of GATX to Macquarie, Mike spent time in the Dublin office (not everyone had one of those back then) and could never quite get used to his noisy neighbour – a certain upstart called Bono from U2.

In time Mike joined Kuwaiti-lessor, ALAFCO, once again based in Toulouse and continued to teach the leasing business to anyone who wanted to learn.

Adel A. Albanwan, CEO of ALAFCO commented “We at ALAFCO were fortunate to have Mike work with us for over thirteen years.  Mike was passionate about his job and the aviation industry.   He was a humble man and a good teacher and very well-liked and respected by everyone who worked with him.  In short, Mike was an encyclopedia of aviation. We will miss him personally and professionally.”

Latterly in his career, Mike consulted for several parties, including UK leisure airline, Founder and Executive Chairman, Philip Meeson, spent a lot of time with Mike discussing the industry and fleet plans and recalls that “Mike was incredibly experienced and very wise. He helped us in many negotiations, including with both Airbus and Boeing and was always calm under pressure and very good company. His contribution was always significant and remains very much appreciated”.

Aviation Club greets Lundgren

Article from

EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren was Guest of Honour at an Aviation Club virtual lunch last week.

With overseas leisure travel expected to be permitted for people in England from 17 May as part of the next easing of coronavirus restrictions he said that popular destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece should be placed in the lowest risk category with an announcement as soon as possible.

“The success of the UK vaccine rollout has broken the link between cases and hospitalisation.

“It is the same success that allows for the domestic reopening.

“And as we get into May and June we expect the situation to improve because of the progress of the vaccination programmes.

“So, we have demonstrated through the scientific analysis it is safe for much of Europe to be categorised as green.”

EasyJet commissioned research by leading epidemiologists Dr Jeffrey Townsend and Dr Alison Galvan from the Yale School of Public Health in the US.  

The analysis, based on data from 12 April, found that opening UK borders to travellers from much of Europe would increase hospital admissions by less than 4%.

If Spain – the most popular overseas destination for UK holidaymakers – was on the green list, only an additional four people per week would require hospital treatment due to coronavirus, the study found.

The researchers also claimed the 10-day quarantine period for people returning from amber countries is longer than necessary.

Dr Townsend said: “Travel quarantines have been a cornerstone of efforts to prevent infectious disease prevention since the 14th century.

“We’ve determined that appropriate, shorter quarantines and judicious testing can facilitate travel, in cases where they are needed to prevent unsafe levels of transmission.”

Asked about easyJet and Heathrow, the only major European airport it does not operate into. Mr Lundgren said it was not a no.  “It’s something we are always monitoring”.  As for Eilat (Israel), he was less fulsome in spite of incentives from the Israeli Government (see in this week’s BTN).  “We already operate to Ben Gurion from three UK airports.  They are some of our most successful routes.  The status quo remains.

Johan Lundgren (left), easyJet chief executive, and Karl Brünjes, Aviation Club chairman.

Additional coverage can be reviewed at:

The Guardain: Easyjet urges UK to put most of Europe on ‘green’ Covid travel list | easyJet | The Guardian

Yahoo! Finance: EasyJet urges UK government to put Europe on ‘green list’ (

Mail Online: Coronavirus: Brits could safely travel to most of Europe without quarantine, easyJet study claims | Daily Mail Online

Evening Standard: EasyJet boss wants summer hotspots on green list due to ‘minimal’ impact | Evening Standard

The Independent: easyJet boss calls for opening up travel due to vaccine success | The Independent

Belfast Telegraph: EasyJet boss wants summer hotspots on green list due to ‘minimal’ impact –

Express & Star News, Kent News Online, Suffolk News: EasyJet boss wants summer hotspots on green list due to ‘minimal’ impact | Express & Star (

CAA Chair Speaks to Aviation Club UK

Report from

Using the classic words of Flight International magazine in its heyday Sir Stephen Hillier, Chair of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), came across as a “total aviation man” at a webinar hosted by the Aviation Club of the UK last week.

Sir Stephen Hiller has been chair of the Civil Aviation Authority since August 2020. Sir Stephen introduced himself by stating that whilst a former Marshal of the Royal Air Force he started as a mere Private Pilot Licence (PPL) holder, a licence he still held.   For his prepared discourse it was clearly refreshing to know that in the appointment was somebody who had a fine knowledge of the industry he was now serving.  In a new civil aviation role he saw the way ahead.

Safety was the major point he emphasised, returning to the subject again and again, but he also covered topics as varied as the handling of refunds during the Covid-19 pandemic, the environment and airspace.  He said the CAA looks to beef up its powers to improve consumer protection with regard to the Air Travel Organiser’s Licencing (ATOL) scheme.  Sir Stephen pointed out that the CAA is represented on the travel taskforce “and has an important part to play”.  On the technical front the management delays associated with Covid-19 has meant delays in giving approval extensions, something the CAA is monitoring.

Pilots with a licence from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which the United Kingdom is not now part of, can fly within the UK but this has not been reciprocated.  The CAA is working on this issue.  “We are doing what we can and aware of the situation. This is the same for engineers,” he noted.  Regarding EASA, decisions were made not in his time “and was taken at a higher level”.  He pointed out that the CAA had the advantage of a solid foundation and only required 25 people to upgrade the UK system from what already existed in the way of skills needed.  “No risks were flagged up”.  He pointed out that the Boeing MAX had been approved by both Authorities.

Questioned about slots he noted it was not a CAA responsibility.  

And asked what was the best aircraft he has flown during the final Q&A, Sir Stephen made it clear rather, like himself, the now RAF retired Tornado was his favourite, and that he had pulled rank to fly one in a final sortie two years ago.  He also flew in the RAF Memorial Flight Avro Lancaster, “a memorable experience”.  His first solo was in a Leicester Flying Club Cessna 152 at the age of 17.

For the full interview go to this page.

Aviation Club and NATS

Article courtesy BTNews: subscribe for free at BTNews: The Business Travel News

Last week saw NATS CEO Martin Rolfe as guest of honour at the first (virtual) Aviation Club lunch of the year.  He last spoke in 2016.

Aviation Club chairman Karl Brünjes (left) and Martin Rolfe. CEO NATS.Opening his address he cited the analytics company Cirium saying that the pandemic wiped out more than 20 years of global aviation growth, putting traffic levels back to where they were in 1999. Last year more than 40 airlines completely ceased or suspended operations.

He noted that closer to home Eurocontrol has just published a report totting up a total of more than €56bn of aviation losses across Europe in 2020, with 1.7bn fewer passengers contributing to plummeting load factors, as well as 6m fewer flights than in 2019.  By the end of the year 51% of European airframes were grounded and more than 190,000 people across Europe had lost their jobs in the industry.

Martin was emphatic.  “I need no crystal ball to know that it’s going to be a long haul to whatever a ‘new’ normal may look like”.

Two items stood out:  Remote tower operations, where he confirmed that London City Airport was expecting CAA approval this month, and the strange situation regarding the early destination arrival of scheduled aircraft.

“During lockdown we have had the bizarre experience of aircraft leaving their point of origin bang on time and racing to their destination in the hope of being first in the queue, and having to circle for 20 minutes burning precious fuel because they’re too early for their landing slot – or because the airport hasn’t even opened yet. We’ve already spoken with a number of airlines who have been staggered to learn of the fuel they could be saving, and adjusted their departure times accordingly.

Visit the Aviation Club “Speakers” website for a video of the speech.

Aerospace Business in France post-Brexit

article courtesy of BTNews. Subscribe at

On Tuesday 8 December the Aviation Club of the UK hosted a Webinar on pursuing business in France in the aftermath of Brexit.  It is one of a series which the Club will continue into the new year.

David Priestley at UK Export Finance gave a government perspective.Karl Brünjes, Chairman, welcomed delegates and introduced the speakers.

Jean-Claude Bouche of JC15 Consulting who outlined the size and nature of the French aerospace market including consideration of the impact of Covid-19 and how priorities have changed over the last year.

Simon Phippard of Bird & Bird introduced the perspective of British aerospace companies. With the UK leaving the EU and not remaining within the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), UK businesses not only lose automatic access to EU markets, but many UK-issued aerospace licences and approvals are no longer valid on EU registered aircraft. While some businesses have an establishment in the EU or have transferred their licences to EU subsidiaries, many SMEs are not in that position.

Jean-Claude Vecchiato from Bird & Bird’s Paris aerospace practice explained that British companies no longer benefit from the provisions of the EU treaties such as freedom of establishment and of movement of goods and people. However establishing a business in France by, for instance, acquisition or joint venture, would mean that, in most circumstances, they do not have to be treated as “third country” businesses either for access to EU markets or for obtaining EASA approvals. Legally, supply contracts are not fundamentally affected but may need to be amended. Other issues which companies need to consider are the recognition of choice of law and enforcement of judgments.

Corporate partner Anne-Cécile Hansson explained how branches of UK companies will be treated as branches of “third country” companies, which may require notification of additional information. French law imposes restrictions on controls on foreign investment in certain sectors including some defence activities. However in principle there is no restriction on a UK company setting up a French subsidiary.

Laurence Clot, head of Bird & Bird’s tax practice in Paris, noted that double tax treaty provisions between France and the UK will protect taxpayers from most of the impact of Brexit. This is true of tax treatment of interest, royalties and branch taxes but there may be withholding tax implications in relation to dividends. On the other hand, if the UK changes some tax rates such that it is regarded as a tax haven, France may apply anti-abuse provisions. As is well known, VAT and customs duties will be handled very differently on imports and exports between the UK and France.

David Priestley Head of Export Finance Managers and Business Group Operations at UK Export Finance, and formerly with Rolls-Royce gave the Government’s view.  This is the operating title of the Export Credits Guarantee Department, the United Kingdom’s export credit agency and a ministerial department of the UK Government.  He explained how the assistance can be obtained providing guarantees, letters of credit, loans and credit insurance to assist businesses in securing, fulfilling and getting paid for orders.

Cargolux, Covid and Conversions at the Aviation Club

Richard Forson, President and CEO Cargolux Airlines addressed Club Members and Guests during a webinar session on Thursday 12 November 2020

The following article is taken from BTNews and can be found at

Other reports include:

Choice Aviation Services:

Simple Flying:

IATA News:

Airliner Watch:



Bloomberg News:


Richard Forson, President and CEO, Cargolux Airlines, proved to be an informative and entertaining speaker for an Aviation Club of the United Kingdom (virtual) lunch last week.  At 50 minutes it proved to be the longest ever speech to the Club and one of the best.

Richard Forson delivered a strong and informative speech.2021 marks the 50th anniversary of Cargolux, Richard joining in 2012 and now has close to 30 years’ experience in the aviation industry and an extensive background in finance, general business and operational management.  He told viewers that it was boom time for the airline after a dreadful first two months of the year.  “We are working flat out, recruiting pilots and ground staff, but Covid-19 brings its own problems.  We are even more safety conscious.”

Cargolux is examining the Boeing 777-300ER freighter conversion programme as a candidate to meet its future fleet requirements, Mr Forson said.

When production of the 747 ceases in 2022, “a significant capability will be lost to the logistics market,” he conceded. “I don’t ever see another four-engined freighter being developed by any manufacturer.”

Cargolux’s current fleet features 14 747-8Fs and 16 747-400s.

Wizz Air CEO Expects Smaller Airline Industry After Pandemic


To view Webinar session CLICK HERE

The world will have a smaller airline industry as a result of the coronavirus crisis with many privately funded carriers set to go under and governments throwing “good money after bad” to keep national champions afloat, Wizz Air’s CEO said.

Worst hit will be traditional carriers relying on a hub-and-spoke network and business traffic, but Wizz expects demand for its own cheap fares and direct routes to snap back quickly once the pandemic fades, the Hungarian airline’s co-founder said.

Wizz aims to widen a gap in unit costs compared to the rest of the airline industry thanks to regular deliveries of new Airbus AIR.PA aircraft, Chief Executive Jozsef Varadi added.

Co-founded in 2003 by Varadi, a former head of Hungary’s defunct national carrier Malev, Wizz Air is one of Europe’s largest budget carriers with a focus primarily on central and eastern parts of the continent.

Speaking in a webinar hosted by the UK-based Aviation Club, he bemoaned a lack of political coordination over travel restrictions and other measures to tackle the crisis and urged policymakers to pay more attention to the economic impact.

Dozens of countries worldwide, including France and Germany, have given various forms of public support or taken increased government stakes in their flag carriers to help them survive the crisis, which has sharply reduced travel demand.

But the industry has also faced a tangle of inconsistent travel and quarantine rules which airlines partially blame for putting people off taking the reduced number of flights.

“As far as Wizz is concerned, the moment COVID falls away I think we will be back to 2019 levels,” Varadi said.

“We can go very quickly, but the issue is not underlying consumer demand; the issue is restrictions imposed by governments.”

Wizz is operating on half normal traffic now, he said.

While aircraft deliveries are down sharply as airlines struggle to preserve cash, Wizz Air has continued to add to its Airbus fleet during the crisis. Together with India’s IndiGo INGL.NS it makes up about a quarter of Airbus deliveries.

Finance remains available for the small number of airlines like Wizz that have investment-grade status, Varadi said.

He also said Wizz was open to other foreign ventures after forming a startup in Abu Dhabi and expanding in the UK, where it would continue to invest after Brexit.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, a joint venture between the Hungarian budget airline and Abu Dhabi state holding company ADQ, has received an air operator certificate, though its launch has been hampered by a coronavirus ban on foreign visitors. [nL8N2H80C8]

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Aviation Club Webinar on 20 October 2020 with Wizz Air

News from BTNews –

Tomorrow Tuesday (20 October) will see József Váradi, founder and CEO of Wizz Air live via Zoom at a virtual Aviation Club lunch 12:00 noon (BST).  There is no charge for members and their guests.

József Váradi, founder and CEO Wizz AirWizz Air was born in 2003 competing with the state-owned Malev Hungarian Airlines which finally collapsed in 2012.  Váradi, whose education included a spell at the University of London for a law degree, was for ten years with Proctor and Gamble rising to Sales Director for Central and Eastern Europe.  

In February 2015 Wizz Air Holdings Plc started trading on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and in 2018 created Wizz Air UK with UK-registered aircraft and a British Managing Director.  It has in recent times joined Airlines UK.

Wizz Air currently has a fleet of 132 Airbus 320 series aircraft and Mr Váradi will bring us up to date on the current trading situation bearing in mind LSE regulations.  In 2019 Wizz Air transported 41.7m passengers.  He is expected to discuss Wizz Air Abu Dhabi now scheduled to launch 15 November.  

Chairman Karl Bruges will introduce Mr Váradi but he will accept questions after his discourse.  

Registrations close midday today (Monday 19 October).

For readers tuning in to the talk here is the airlines November UK programme.