News & Current Affairs

December 1, 2008

Empty aircraft fly from Bangkok

Empty aircraft fly from Bangkok

Stranded passengers at Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok

Thousands of passengers have been stranded by the protests

About 40 empty planes have flown out of Bangkok’s international airport after authorities reached a deal with protesters camped there for seven days.

Thousands of travellers have been stranded since anti-government groups took over two airports last week.

The deal allows a total 88 planes to be flown out to other Thai airports, where it is hoped they can evacuate some of the blockaded tourists.

The crisis has economically damaged the country since it intensified last week.

Thailand’s deputy premier for economic affairs is reported to be meeting senior figures in commerce, industry and tourism today to discuss the damage being done.

As the backlog of stranded foreigners grows with each day, foreign embassies are beside themselves with frustration.

Foreign airlines

A spokeswoman for Airports of Thailand said: “Thirty-seven aircraft have left Suvarnabhumi (international airport) since the first aircraft of Siam GA (a regional airline) took off on Sunday evening.

“International airlines will have to contact us to take those stranded aircraft out of Suvarnabhumi.”

Twelve planes belonging to foreign airlines are stranded at Suvarnabhumi, as well as 29 from Thai Airways, 16 of Thai Airasia, 15 from Bangkok Airways, and 22 aircraft from other airlines.

With thousands of British citizens among the estimated 100,000 travellers, a spokesman for the UK’s Foreign Office said: “Bangkok’s two main airports remain closed but airlines have been able to arrange flights and transfers to and from alternative airports.

An anti-government protester outside Bangkok airport

“Some British nationals have been able to fly out but not in the necessary numbers.

“We have continued our consultations with airlines and Thai authorities…and action is being stepped up to enable people to travel in greater numbers, for example via Chiang Mai.”

Chiang Mai, in the north, is 700km (435 milies) by road from Bangkok, while the other option – Phuket, a resort in the south – is 850km (530 miles).

France has said it will send a “special plane” to fly its citizens out of Thailand on Monday, with “those in the most pressing situations…given priority,” AFP news agency reported.

Air France-KLM has already said it would fly travellers out of Phuket.

A few airlines have been using an airport at the U-Tapao naval base, about 140km (90 miles) south-east of Bangkok.

On Sunday more than 450 Muslim pilgrims stranded at the international airport were taken by bus to the base where they were to board a plane for the annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Spain and Australia have been arranging special flights to evacuate their citizens.

Thailand’s tourist industry is losing an estimated $85m (£55.4m) per day, and the government warns that the number of foreign tourists arriving next year may halve, threatening one million jobs.

The protesters from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are a loose alliance of royalists, businessmen and the urban middle class.

They opposition want the government to resign, accusing it of being corrupt, hostile to the monarchy and in league with exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.


Are you stranded in Thailand or do you have family affected by the protests? What are your or their experiences? Send us your comments

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September 26, 2008

Terror suspects held on KLM plane

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:46 pm

Terror suspects held on KLM plane

The KLM passenger carrier was destined for Amsterdam

Police in Germany have arrested two terrorism suspects on a plane preparing to take off from Cologne-Bonn airport.

The two men, both in their early 20s and of Somali origin, were under surveillance for months, police say.

They were said to be “possibly planning attacks” and had left suicide notes at their flats expressing their wish to die in a “holy war”.

The KLM airliner, which was bound for Amsterdam, was eventually allowed to take off after a luggage search.

Police boarded flight KL1804 at 0655 (0455 GMT), police spokesman Frank Scheulen said.
“The police did not storm the plane – it was done by ordinary police, special forces were not used,” he added, contradicting earlier reports by KLM staff that commandos had made the arrests.

He said the suspects – a 23-year-old Somali and a 24-year-old Somali-born German citizen – were “under suspicion of participating in a jihad [holy war] action and of possibly planning attacks”.

The remaining passengers were ordered off the aircraft for a baggage inspection.

The plane was cleared for departure just over an hour later and has since landed in Amsterdam.

Germany’s federal crime office said on Thursday it was hunting for two Islamic militants believed to be on their way to Germany.

The arrests in Cologne are thought to be unconnected with that terror alert.

September 18, 2008

Deadline looms for Alitalia deal

Deadline looms for Alitalia deal

Alitalia air hostesses and employees demonstrate at Fiumicino airport near Rome, 17 September 2008

Union protests forced the ailing airline to cancel 40 flights on Wednesday

A consortium of investors has warned Italian trade union leaders they have just hours to accept a rescue plan for failed national airline, Alitalia.

The consortium said if the acceptance did not come before an investors’ meeting at 1400GMT on Thursday, the package would be withdrawn.

The deal would include longer working hours and 3,000 job cuts.

Union protests forced Alitalia, which is losing 2.1m euro ($3m; £1.7m) daily, to cancel 40 flights on Wednesday.

The carrier, which is operating under a bankruptcy commissioner, faces liquidation if a deal is not reached.

The airline says it is running out of money to buy aviation fuel.

Under the rescue proposal, the Italian consortium has put forward a 1bn euro offer for the airline.

Alitalia would merge with Air One, the country’s second largest airline, and its 1.2bn euro debt would be absorbed by a second firm, which would then be liquidated.

Disgruntled pilots

Italy’s four main union organizations – CGIL, CISL, UIL and UGL – have already signed up to the agreement with the consortium CAI, but five other unions have rejected the deal as “useless and provocative”.

Alitalia plane

The new Alitalia would employ about 12,500 people

Those opposed to the package – SDL, ANPAC, UP, ANPAV and Avia – include pilots and cabin crews.

The new Alitalia would employ about 12,500 people including 1,500 pilots, 3,300 cabin staff and 7,650 technicians, workers and managerial staff, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pledged to do all he can to save Alitalia, in which the Italian government holds a 49.9% stake.

In April, plans for the airline to be bought by Air France-KLM collapsed.

Alitalia suspended trading in its shares in June and filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

August 14, 2008

BA seals alliance with American

BA seals alliance with American

British Airways says it has sealed an alliance with American Airlines that will allow the two carriers to agree fares, routes and schedules together.

The move will also include Spain’s Iberia, which is merging with BA.

With aviation fuel prices near record levels and spending on air travel slowing, airlines are looking at ways to cut costs.

But the carriers will have to persuade the US that the deal does not break US rules on foreign ownership of airlines.

Challenges

Under the business agreement, the three airlines will co-operate on flights between the US, Mexico and Canada and the EU, Switzerland and Norway.

“We believe our proposed co-operation is an important step towards ensuring that we can compete effectively with rival alliances and manage through the challenges of record fuel prices and growing economic concerns,” said Gerard Arpey, chairman and chief executive of AMR Corp, the parent company of American Airlines.

However, BA’s rival Virgin Atlantic, owned by Sir Richard Branson, said the plan would reduce competition in the airline industry.

“What they’re proposing is to create the world’s biggest airline with American Airlines,” said Virgin’s Paul Charles.

“But we know what dominant players do – they snuff out competition, they raise prices and they become even more dominant.”

Competition

Peter Morris, an aviation analyst from Ascend, told that it was unlikely that the deal would be anti-competitive.

“I think BA would argue that it will reduce its cost structure, which it can then pass on, to a degree, to passengers.

“BA is far less dominant than any of Air France, KLM or Lufthansa are out of their hubs.”

AA and BA tailfins

The airlines hope the alliance will help them to cut costs

Mark Pritchard MP, a member of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, also saw the decision as “good news” for both UK and US consumers.

“With tougher trading conditions for most airlines – coupled with the need to support the spirit of the Open Skies Agreement, Congress has no real excuse to delay the deal unnecessarily,” he said.

The airlines said they planned to apply to the US Department of Transportation for immunity from US anti-competition rules and they would also notify European regulators.

They have previously failed to win an exemption from these laws because of their dominance at Heathrow, where BA and AA control nearly half of all the landing and take-off slots to the US from the airport.

‘Good news’

However, BA chief executive Willie Walsh said the relationship would strengthen competition by providing consumers with easier journeys to more destinations.

“This may not be good news for Richard Branson but it is good news for consumers,” Mr Walsh told.

Earlier this week, Sir Richard said he had written to presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain to warn that the proposed alliance between BA and American Airlines would severely damage competition on transatlantic routes.

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