Friday, December 16, 2011

Pakistan: London-bound flight delayed

LAHORE – Civil Aviation Authority CAA officials stopped London bound flight to fly from Karachi airport for the reason what CAA called that plane was not fit for flying, sources in CAA said on Friday. They claimed that Karachi-London flight Pk-787 was ready for departure and passengers were boarded when CAA airworthiness inspectors intercepted the flight at eleventh hour. The inspectors told the PIA management that said plane was not fit for flying since plane had missing a part of its engine.

Sources claimed that PIA Quality Assurance department was of the view that plane was as per Minimum Equipment List (MEL) set by the international standards.

Sources informed that passengers of the flight were off loaded and sent to the waiting Lounge and plane could depart after delay of three hours. Sources in CAA said that CAA itself was in hot water now a days regarding its performance and its rating in performance has been decreased.

Air India gets revolving credit from oil firms

The Petroleum Ministry has intervened to allow a revolving three-month credit facility to Air India from state-run oil marketing companies thereby stopping the oil firms from implementing a cash-and-carry system for jet fuel supplies from today.

“In terms of the decision taken by the Group of Ministers on October 28, the three-month period of credit may continue so long as the payments due, as per schedules, are made by Air India to OMCs,” the ministry wrote to three OMCs and the Civil Aviation Ministry today.

“However, in the event of default/delay in payment, the OMCs will have no option but to impose cash-and-carry supply terms on ATF supply to Air India,” it added. The OMCs have sought the first payments for the three-month credit facility on December 22, sources said.

On December 12, three OMCs had shot off a joint letter to Air India that “with effect from December 16, supplies shall be under cash- and-carry system.

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“Air India should make payment in advance by RTGS (real time gross settlement) on or before December 15,” said the letter to Air India’s director (Finance) S Venkat. “If there is any default in payment, oil companies will be constrained to suspend supplies.”

OMCs said that the three-month credit ended on December 15 as it came into effect on September 16. But Civil Aviation Ministry requested that it continue until the “operationalisation of Air India’s Financial Restructuring Plan”.

Whistler Medical Centre helipad fails inspection: Vancouver Coastal Health hopes to reopen the pad next month

This isn't going to be a very merry Christmas for any one who needs to get to the Whistler Health Care Centre in a hurry by helicopter.

Helicopters won't be landing at the Whistler Health Centre helipad this holiday season because Transport Canada couldn't issue an operating certificate following an inspection on Thursday (Dec. 15) of the upgraded landing pad.

According to Brent Alley, the Executive Director of Capital Projects with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), a key part of the snow removal system on the helipad is incomplete.

Alley said the contractor working on the project knew that part of the project wouldn't be completed in time, but the inspection was allowed to go ahead so the contractor could get an idea of what needed to be dealt with before the next inspection in mid-January.

"The glycol loop to the heating boilers, there's a missing piece, which is a manifold that has to be customer made and that particular piece isn't made yet," said Alley.

The makers of the manifold that is required to get the heating system operational are working to expedite the creation of the part, he added.

"We acknowledge that this project has been difficult and we are doing everything we can to get it up and running because we certainly know how important it is to Whistler to have this functional so in the interim we'll continue to use the municipal heliport," Alley said. "We're cognizant that that's a solution not as ideal as we'd like."

Alley pointed out that the changes have come about due to Transport Canada changing its standards to make the regulations more stringent at heliports.

In addition to the incomplete snow melting system at the helipad a set of lower traffic poles haven't arrived yet.

The lower poles demanded by Transport Canada are less of a concern because VCH has a work-around for the pole issue. Once the snow melting system is built the pole issue will be addressed through the use of VCH security staff members who will stop all traffic in the area of the helipad when helicopters are expected.

The shorter poles are being manufactured now, said Alley, and they will be ready by mid-January.

Through the inspection Alley said VCH learned that a few other minor issues also need to be addressed.

"The snow that was piled up close to the pad was too high and we've got to find a different way of clearing the snow from the area to make sure it doesn't impact access to the pad," Alley said.

There is also an operational manual that needs updating.

Since the start of the winter season at Whistler Blackcomb, the heliport has been used at least six times to transport an injured person by helicopter. Blackcomb Aviation tracks the occurrences and a representative of the company said the number of times patients have been transferred at the heliport could be as high as ten between Nov. 18 and Dec. 14.

India: Glitch means 4% clear pilot exam - Directorate General of Civil Aviation

Following a software glitch, less than 4 percent candidates managed to clear the first-ever online examinations for pilot license conducted by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) earlier this month, that too in only one subject out of 12.

The exams had been started after a number of pilots were found to have used fradulent means to acquire their flying licenses. Following Friday’s results, none of the 4,000 candidates will be able to secure a licence. Nearly, 900 candidates appeared for the Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) or commander’s license, while the rest were mostly for Commercial Pilot License or co-pilots’.

According to top DGCA officials, of the 4,000 candidates who appeared in the online examinations during December 3-9, 175-odd candidates managed to clear only one subject — air navigation.

The results were posted on the air safety regulator’s website at 5.30 pm today.

Fired-upon chopper never entered Cambodia: Marines chief

A Royal Thai Navy helicopter that came under fire from Cambodian troops on Thursday had not strayed into Cambodian airspace, Royal Thai Marine Corps commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Pongsak Phuriroj, who is in charge of border defence in Chantaburi and Trat, said yesterday.

The Thai Navy Bell 212 helicopter was struck by machine gun fire from the Cambodian side, causing damage to the helicopter's rotor. At the time, it was delivering food to Thai and Cambodian border soldiers based just 50 metres away.

"Soldiers in the field regularly provide supplies for [Thai] soldiers - and also Cambodia's troops, as Thai and Cambodian soldiers enjoy very good relations. They cook together every day. It is surprising that such an incident happened," Pongsak said, adding that Cambodian officers were scheduled to visit local Thai commanders today to discuss the incident.

He said the Royal Thai Navy had sent a letter protesting the act to Cambodia's Third Region Commander. Another letter was submitted through the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said he had received an initial report describing the incident as a misunderstanding.

THAI seek new strategies for next years

Thai Airways International Plc is scrambling for new strategies to cope with challenges in the next two years.

THAI President Piyasvasti Amranand said yesterday that the airline’s management is seeking additional strategies for 2012 and 2013 when the aviation sector should face drastic challenges, led by high jet fuel prices and natural disasters.

He said the airline needed better and clearer plans to deal with unfavorable times ahead. Jet fuel price has climbed by 40 per cent in the first 11 months of this year. The airline has hedging contracts for 60 per cent of fuel for the next quarter, and up to 80 percent in the last quarter of 2012.

In the first 11 months, THAI’s fuel expenses have been increased by Bt17 billion over the same period last year, he added. Against higher cost, the airline could not raise the fares due to the worst flooding in October and November which reduced passenger traffic.

Transport Minister Sukampol Suwannathat, who chaired THAI's executive board meeting yesterday, suggested the airline to introduce new strategies involving with aircraft utilization and aircraft acquisition.

Yesterday, THAI board of directors approved the issuance of bonds worth 2 billion, having Kasikornbank as the adviser. The 5-year bonds, which will be sold to no more than 10 entities, will raise funds for the company's operations, asset investments and loan repayment.

At the meeting yesterday, the board acknowledged the airline’s poor operations in November, when the cabin factor was as low as 61 per cent. In a statement, the board admitted that it’s "exceptionally weak especially for the peak season. The decrease in passenger number is attributed to the flooding, whereby a number of countries issued travel advisories to Thailand. Insurance companies refusing to issue travel insurance during the flood further deterred arrivals with many foreigners canceling or postponing their travel plans," it said.

Cargo and commercial mail service was also affected in November as a result of the flood. With reduced frequencies, the Available Seat-Kilometer (ASK) for November 2011 dropped 2.1 percent from the same period last year. Revenue Passenger-Kilometer (RPK) for November 2011 was 16.8 per cent lower than the same month last year.

For the 11-month period, ASK was 4.2 per cent higher on year while RPK was 0.1 per cent higher. Cabin factor averaged 70.6 percent, which was 3.9 percent lower than the same period last year.

Air India debts mount to Rs.43,000 crore: Minister

Noting that Air India is passing through a deep crisis with its total debt touching a whopping Rs.43,000 crore, government on Friday expressed confidence that it would be able to wipe out the debts with active cooperation of management and employees.

Air India has also a net loss of Rs.18,000 crore accumulated in the past three to four years, Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said.

Giving details of the national carrier's indebtedness, he said AI's outstanding loan stood at Rs.20,000 crore on account of purchasing new aircraft and Rs.20,000 crore for taking loan for operational purposes.

However, Ravi expressed confidence that government would be able to overcome the crisis and wipe out its debts with the active co-operation of the management and employees.

Increase in revenue of the Airlines was the silver lining and 'objective' is to double the revenue, he said.

Air India employees has extended full support to government in resolving the problems, he said while inaugurating the Aircraft Maintenance facility, put up by AI here.

On criticism that AI's debt mounted due to purchase of new aircraft, he said the carrier was able to operate its schedule with the 82 Airbus and Boeing aircraft it acquired. Otherwise, it would have found it difficult to operate its services.

Observing that Air India enjoys the preferred airline status among Non-resident Keralites, Ravi said there were a lot of demands from NRK's to operate more Air India Flights.

State Minister for Excise and Airports, K. Babu, said Airport Authority of India has given its approval on taking 13 per cent equity in the Kannur Airport Project.

Shashi Tharoor, MP, said the airlines market in the country was growing by eight per cent and projected growth rate was 15 per cent.

The state-of-art aircraft maintenance facility with two hangars would become a major revenue earning centre of the state.The facility could be used by other airlines also, he added.

The art of flight: A taste of high-altitude snowboarding three miles up in the Himalayas, with nothing in sight but snow and rock

The Bell 407 helicopter circles the Himalayas

On my last morning snowboarding in the Himalayas, the Bell 407 helicopter set us down on a narrow mountain ledge at 4,800m. As it departed, huge gusts of snow stirring at its ascent, I was struck by how very far we were from any sign of civilisation. Even on remote off-piste slopes in the Alps you’re never too far away from an abandoned ski pole or chocolate wrappers borne aloft in the wind. But here, at roughly three miles up in the sky – the same height as the summit of Mont Blanc – there was nothing in sight other than snow and rock. Row after row of ­jagged mountain peaks stretched into the distance, the world below invisible beneath layers of cloud.

By the afternoon two of our five-person group would be stricken with altitude sickness and have to go back down the mountain early. Looking to the horizon, it was already hard not to feel something similar to vertigo, a sense of slippage and disequilibrium at the extremity of our isolation. The helicopter disappeared from sight. Silence descended. We clipped on our skis and boards, shuffled to the edge of the ledge and dropped into the whiteness below.

Up on these high slopes, it had been snowing steadily for the past four days, so the powder was thigh deep as we plunged through it. In such conditions on a snowboard you start lazily, taking a couple of fat, exploratory turns to test the terrain. Then you point the board straight down the slope and lean back. With your weight on the rear, the nose rises into the air as though you’re surfing. It takes very little to steer through the snow like this and the effect of such effortlessness, even as you continue to gather speed, is trancelike. You feel aware of everything around you: the flex of the board beneath your feet, the camber of the slope, and the breadth of the horizon that opens up as you momentarily crest a hill before plunging into another descent. You ride and you ride until it seems that you are at one with your surroundings. And you never want to stop.

The Himalayas were discovered by Europeans in the 1800s as the British Empire expanded east across India. The mountain range has exerted a grip on our imagination ever since. Generations of armchair adventurers have thrilled at Boy’s Own stories of hidden kingdoms among its unexplored peaks, and real-life dramas such as George Mallory’s doomed ascent of Everest in 1924 and Edmund Hillary’s triumphant expedition three decades later.

It’s a legacy that feels all the more daunting when you travel into the Himalayas yourself, as I did for the first time earlier this year on my debut heliskiing – or in my case, because I’m a committed snowboarder, heliboarding – trip.

I flew to New Delhi, then caught a propeller-driven plane 350 miles north to Kullu in the state of Himachal Pradesh. From there we drove for a couple of hours through the Kullu valley and up into the mountains along a route that traces, in reverse, the course of the river Beas, which runs through much of Himachal Pradesh. Finally we arrived at the town of Manali, which sits at an elevation of 1,950m above sea level.

The town was a famed spot on the hippie trail in the 1960s, celebrated by westerners for the quality and abundance of its marijuana. Today it is still a popular travel destination but the visitors are almost exclusively Indian. During the summer more than 1m tourists head up from New Delhi to escape the city’s stifling temperatures. Manali is also the base for Himachal Helicopter Skiing, founded in 1990 by a gregarious Australian named Roddy Mackenzie. The company holds the exclusive licence for heliskiing in the state and it operates two American-made Bell 407s that carry up to six passengers at a time. The pilots are Swiss, with many years of experience flying mountain rescue missions in the Alps.

Mackenzie, a former professional mountaineer, was drawn to the region on the recommendation of a friend, Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund. At a latitude of 32 degrees north, Manali sits parallel to Los Angeles and enjoys low winds and good sunshine, as well as abundant snowfall – ideal conditions for heliskiing. There’s one other bonus: Himachal Pradesh boasts a peaceful political climate, which is more than can be said for the ski scene further west along the Himalayas in Kashmir.

For my six days in Manali I joined a group of about 20 skiers and boarders from Europe, America and Australia. Most were experienced heliskiers, with trips already logged in Canada, New Zealand and Alaska. Now they were venturing to India in pursuit, as Ralf Buckley, an Australian academic, put it, “of potentially the best snow in the world”.

Our accommodation was the spacious and comfortable Manuallya hotel, a modern development set on a hillside outside town with rooms facing across to the mountains at the front and a helipad for the two Bell 407s at the rear. Well used to catering for international as well as local holidaymakers, the hotel offers a choice of Indian and western dishes at each meal as well as facilities including a spa resort and free WiFi in each room.

Unfortunately we had more time than we had anticipated to get acquainted with its features. On the first morning after arriving I watched clouds gather dense around the mountains, obscuring them from view. A helicopter took off for an exploratory flight only to return shortly, the pilot bearing a rueful expression. With such poor visibility it was impossible to fly.

The same scene repeated itself the next morning and the following two. For four days the clouds stayed low. Snow and rain fell steadily. These were unusual conditions. On average no more than a day or two is lost to bad weather on Himachal Helicopter trips.
Manali town

The town of Manali

With the skies closed in I explored Manali and its surroundings. The town itself wore an air of dishevelment. Hotel construction has boomed in recent years to meet the surge in domestic holidaymakers but many of the new buildings stand crammed together along the road, only half-built and with little work apparently taking place in the off-season. Away from town there is good trekking, such as the route that took me up to dramatic views over the Kullu Valley, the Himalayas rising into cloud in the distance. Or the walk that winds into the hills past a house, jutting precipitously out over the valley, where Nicholas Roerich, a Russian avant-garde painter, mystic and associate of Gorky and Diaghilev, made his home in the 1920s.

On another morning I followed a trail to the hot springs in the neighbouring town of Vashisht. The public baths here are split into male and female sections. They are open to the elements and decorated with ornate stone carvings of Hindu deities. I lay in the male baths, watching the snow that was falling gently that morning dissolve into vapour on contact with the steam. At that moment the world beyond the Himalayas felt impossibly distant, the idea of heliskiing itself a dreamlike absurdity.

I’m normally horribly impatient on snowboarding trips, eager to catch the first lift of the morning and get up on to the slopes. Here I experienced the opposite sensation, as if I’d stepped briefly outside time and could have stayed indefinitely, in the steam and the snow, without another minute passing.

Finally, on the penultimate day of the trip, the skies did clear and we were ready to go. As a novice to heliskiing I was excited but also apprehensive. Weighed down by a backpack heavy with safety equipment – including a shovel, a probe and an inflatable airbag designed to lift you to the surface in the event of avalanche – I scuttled across the concrete landing pad and hauled myself into the cramped cabin of the Bell. The helicopter wobbled into the air and then, abruptly graceful, it swooped towards the mountains.

As we approached the drop-off point, I could see an earlier group already out on the snow, carving lines down what looked through the window like an improbably steep slope.

In a week of good weather skiers are allowed to acclimatise to the mountains gradually, with the helicopters dropping them at ascending altitudes each day, eventually reaching a height of about 5,000m. But with only two days available to us, the pilots decided to short-cut their normal schedule and take us directly up to 4,070m for our first descent.

Once on the mountain we made swift progress. Each run descends 1,000m or more, through untrammelled powder. At its end we rendezvoused with one of the two helicopters that were shuttling groups of skiers up and down the mountain.

The conditions – the breadth of the view, the quality of the snow – were exhilarating. But the air was thin and, without an opportunity to adapt to the altitude, I found myself getting exhausted as we hauled ourselves in and out of the Bell. More than once I lost momentum on a long flat section of powder. On skis you’d simply give yourself a boost forward with poles but on a snowboard, with no additional means of propulsion, stopping on a flat means you’re stranded. Very quickly you start to sink up to the thighs in snow that’s too thick to wade through but too soft to stand on. Digging yourself out to get moving again, in the thin air and under an unsparing sun, takes mental as well as physical endurance because what you really want to do when you’re marooned like this is to throw yourself to the ground and roll around in howling frustration.

By the second day, at 4,800m, I was better used to the conditions. It struck me that the secret of successful high altitude snowboarding is to put in less, not more, effort. Leaning far back on the board you exert minimal control, allowing the angle of the mountain to do the work as you skim across the snow. The way ahead is unbroken, a waking dream of infinite whiteness. And you never want to stop.



Ekow Eshun was a guest of Elemental Adventure (, which offers a week’s heliskiing in Manali from €6,850, including domestic flights from Delhi, accommodation, all meals, guiding and avalanche safety equipment. He flew with Emirates (, which has four daily flights between Delhi and its Dubai hub and onward connections worldwide, including 15 daily flights to the UK; returns from London to Delhi cost from £486

Cebu: Airport transfer

It’s still a long way off, but since Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district floated anew a proposal to move the international airport from Lapu-Lapu City to Cordova town.

It’s backed up with a serious offer from retail giant SM, so it’s worth talking about.

In a letter to airport manager Nigel Paul Villarete, SM Prime Holdings president Han Sy said they are prepared to buy the 300-hectare lot occupied by the Mactan Cebu International Airport if it’s really up for sale or privatization.

A buyout, according to Osmeña, would earn more than enough to finance the airport transfer proposed by Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy.

Sitoy’s eye is also on a reclamation project in Cordova town, a plan that has been floated since the 1980s, covering a wide area up to 1,000 hectares of foreshore land.

Building a new airport would require reviving this ambitious plan.

If you look deeper, earlier studies were already made about the potential impact of the Cordova reclamation project on the marine environment, the small-scale fishermen who eke out a livelihood in the coast, the cost of relocation, the volume of filling materials to be extracted from the mountains to extend the shoreline, etc.

These are factors to be weighed as well in all the excited talk about the commercial value of the airport property and the new investments to be made by relocating the facility.

One of the biggest stakeholders whose view should be sought is the tourism industry itself.

Mactan is a vital gateway to southern Philippines.With 1.3 million visitors, domestic and foreign, entering Cebu yearly, Cebu’s status as the no. 1 tourist destination in the country could easily get upset if a major change in the gateway is made without comprehensive planning.

What we don’t need is a get-rich-quick scheme of development that shortcuts this deliberate process.

If the controversial flyovers in Cebu City are any measure of the quality of planning that goes into public infrastructure, let’s bother to keep the whole process as transparent and objective as it can be.

Vigilant stakeholders and an informed citizenry can spell the difference between an instant project that benefits a few, to a sound public investment.

There’s new knowledge that we didn’t have decades ago, such as the real threat of Climate Change and the rise in sea levels that can be forecast in years ahead.

Computerized models showing wave action and heightened sea levels in coastal areas include a scenario for Cebu island. (That video is sometimes played in environmental forums. Guess what Mactan island and southern Cebu City looks like.)

So it’s good to talk about what an airport transfer to the foreshore of Cordova would mean, and not leave it to business moguls or sea waves to determine that progress.

We must continue giving aid to India to secure £6.6bn fighter jet deal, says minister

The Government's controversial decision to continue giving money to India, a nation that has more billionaires than the UK and an aid programme of its own, is directly linked to developing trade and investment opportunities, a senior minister admitted yesterday.

With surprising bluntness, the International Development minister, Andrew Mitchell, said the decision to spend £1.2bn over the next five years was part of a broader partnership that included the hoped-for sale of fighter jets to India.

"It's an important market, and for our children and grandchildren, it will be an even more important market," Mr Mitchell told journalists in Delhi. Since the Department for International Development (Dfid) announced earlier this year the results of a review of its overseas aid programme, the Government has come under fire for continuing to give money to a nation with a space programme, an economy growing at more than 7 per cent and the resources to offer aid to countries overseas itself. Dfid has argued that hundreds of millions of people in India continue to survive on less than a £1 a day and it says Britain's aid is precisely targeted.

Mr Mitchell said half of the aid money would go towards developing public-private partnerships. The first of these was launched yesterday, with Mr Mitchell announcing a tie-up with the Industries Development Bank of India, aimed at helping the poor gain access to financial services.

Last year, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, visited India with the aim of securing jobs and investment back home. Since then, Britain has seen its exports to India increase by 45 per cent and one potential deal officials are anxiously following is the sale of 126 fighter jets to Delhi. The EuroFighter Typhoon, made by a consortium including Britain's BAE Systems, is one of two jets that have made the shortlist for a deal worth about £6.6bn. Asked about the strategic goals of Britain's aid programme to India, Mr Mitchell said: "It's about everything I have just mentioned. The focus... is also about seeking to sell Typhoon. The relationship is a relationship you have to take in the round."

Fiji : Airlines code share

NATIONAL carrier Air Pacific and American Airlines have begun placing their codes on each other's flights following approval of their application by the United States Department of Transportation.

A statement from the airline said this code share agreement provided Air Pacific customers with access to over 20 major business centres in the United States and American Airlines' customers with access to Fiji on AA coded flights.

Air Pacific passengers will be able to fly from Nadi to 23 US cities including New York, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Chicago, San Francisco on the 'FJ' code. Ticket sales are available from today on .

"It's the first time Fiji's national carrier will be able to sell tickets this broadly within the United States," said David Pflieger, Air Pacific's managing director and CEO.

"This code-sharing arrangement with our partner American Airlines will allow us to increase Air Pacific's presence in 23 US cities and allow us to ticket passengers online from all over the United States to Fiji. This will increase Air Pacific and Fiji's presence and profile in these major cities greatly assisting us in growing our passenger base as well as Fiji's critical tourism industry.

"American Airlines has an extensive network covering major US cities which will mean a much greater catchment area for travelers to Fiji. With the co-operation of the major tourism stakeholders like Air Pacific, Tourism Fiji, hotels/resorts and wholesalers to promote Fiji in these extended markets, we are confident that Fiji tourism arrivals will increase and further grow the Fijian economy."

India: Kanpur-Kolkata flight cancelled

KANPUR: The Kanpur-Kolkata flight could not take off from Chakeri Airport on Friday due to foggy weather.

The Delhi-Kanpur flight arrived at the airport but it was late by nearly five hours. Instead of landing at 11.25 am which is its scheduled arrival time, the Delhi-Kanpur flight landed at 4.20 pm. The same flight which had to reach Kolkata, could not take off due to delay.

This caused inconvenience to both the air travellers.

The officials of Air India informed that the Kanpur-Kolkata flight had to be cancelled because of unclear weather and late arrival of the Delhi flight.

The commissioning of the instrument landing system (ILS) has eased the situation to a considerable extent as till last year, the flights were unable to land at Chakeri airport in the winters.

Canada: Airlines face new rules for cats on planes. Ruling follows complaints from three allergic passengers

The Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled that Air Canada and WestJet must protect passengers who are allergic to cats.

It's suggesting either a ban on cats aboard flights carrying allergic passengers or cat-free buffer zones and effective ventilation.

The airlines can also come up with their own solutions but they will have to be equally effective, the agency says.

The ruling follows complaints from three allergic passengers. The agency ruled almost three years ago that the three would be formally considered as people with disabilities under the law. It then considered whether the airline policies on cats constituted an obstacle to their mobility rights.

The agency consulted the airlines, a number of experts and various interested agencies, including the Asthma Society of Canada and the Canadian Lung Association.

It finally ruled this week in a lengthy document which set out the arguments and cited expert opinions and the legal background.

"The agency therefore finds that the respondents' current pet policies, as they relate to the carriage of cats in the aircraft cabin in which a person with a disability as a result of their allergy to cats is travelling, constitute an obstacle to the mobility of the applicants," the ruling said.

Banning cats from cabins?

The airlines are required to advise the agency within 30 days whether or not they intend to implement one of two proposed solutions.

One plan would ban cats from an aircraft cabin in which a person with a cat allergy is travelling.

The second would require "air circulation-ventilation systems using HEPA filters or which provide 100 per cent un-recirculated fresh air" and a cat-free buffer zone of at least five rows of seats.

Nothing will happen right away.

If the airlines accept one of the solutions, they have 45 days to submit a formal policy. If they reject them, they have 45 days to come up with an equally effective proposal of their own.

Air Canada and WestJet both said they are studying the ruling.

Both airlines now allow small pets to travel in the cabin on many flights, although not on some international routes. Air Canada allows up to four cats or dogs per flight, WestJet sets a limit of two, but allows birds and rabbits as well. Different policies apply to service animals.

The two said they make efforts to accommodate passengers with pet allergies and will re-book flights if necessary.

Asthma society recommendations

The asthma society welcomed the agency's ruling.

"This is a victory for allergy and asthma sufferers," society president Robert Oliphant said in a news release.

"We are pleased that the CTA has chosen to adopt our recommendations which will ensure people with severe asthma may travel safely on airplanes."

The agency said the ruling deals only with cats because the three people who originally complained were specifically concerned about cats.

"Additionally, their medical evidence is insufficient to support claims of allergies to other pets, such as dogs, that are allowed to be carried in the aircraft cabin," the ruling said.

The agency is a quasi-judicial body. It is responsible for economic regulation of federal air, rail and marine transportation. It also serves as a referee to resolve complaints about transport services, fees and charges and is responsible for ensuring that the national transport system is accessible to all.

India: Rape victim levels allegations against prosecutor. Jet Airways airhostess accused pilot of rape. Woman says prosecutor misled her.

Mumbai, Dec 16 (PTI) Victim of a rape case, in which a former pilot of a private airline has been accused, filed an application in the sessions court today, against a lady public prosecutor, calling her conduct as "unprofessional and coercive". The victim alleged that the public prosecutor asked her not come to the court (for deposition) and said that her marriage would be arranged with the accused.

The victim has sought police investigation to see if any nexus exists between the accused Varun Agarwal, a former Jet Airways pilot and the public prosecutor. Powai police had arrested Agarwal on May 29 last year for allegedly raping a 22-year old air hostess, over a period of two years. Agarwal had later been released on bail. 

The victim said that the public prosecutor called her outside the court in June this year and asked her not to engage any advocate from her side. "The public prosecutor also told me that she had been contacted by the accused, who told her that he wants to marry me," the victim stated in the application filed through advocate Mahesh Vaswani.

Further, the victim said that the lady asked her to keep away from the investigation officer, saying he and her lawyer would mislead her and make money for themselves from the accused. "On all other dates, I had stopped contacting my advocate. During the second hearing, the court informed me that my cross-examination would start. I was shocked, as I had much to say in my evidence", said that victim.

However, advocate for the accused refused to comment on the victim's application. "These are mere allegations, and the matter is pending before the court," Laxman Kanal, who appears for the accused, said. The application is likely to come up for hearing on December 21.

A 22-Year-old Jet Airways airhostess, who had accused a pilot of rape, submitted an affidavit in a Sessions Court stating that she was misled by an assistant public prosecutor (APP) who allegedly told her that she would convince the accused to marry her.

The airhostess had, in her complaint, said pilot Varun Agarwal (27), had raped her several times since May 2009, promising to marry her.

In her affidavit filed on December 5, she has, however, stated that the APP “tried to mislead and coerce me into not getting my advocate for the hearing and wanted me to marry the rapist.”

The complainant has urged the court to direct an inquiry into the conduct of the APP who not only misled her but also wrongly recorded her evidence in the case.

“My client told me that the APP had asked her not to pursue the trial and that she should get married to him,” the victim’s lawyer, Mahesh Vaswani said. Agarwal (27) was arrested on May 29 from the domestic airport in Mumbai for allegedly raping the air hostess, who was in a live-in relationship with him. In June, a Sessions Court had granted bail of Rs 25,000 to him. 

Jamaica: Civil Aviation Authority Celebrates 100 Years

From left: Captains Brian Haddad, Maria Ziadie Haddad, Christopher Kirkcaldy, Robert Hamaty, Lloyd Tai and Major Victor Beek, pose for photographers at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority Aviation Industry Awards dinner.
- Contributed

Guam: Military conducting training at Farallon de Medinilla

Guam – The U.S. military cautions the public especially fishermen, commercial pilots and marine tour operators that they will be conducting training on the island of Farallon de Medinilla this week. The training will be done within a 10 nautical mile radius on all quadrants around Farallon de Medinilla, which officials say plays a special and unique role in national defense because its location provides access frequency that supports established training requirements. In addition, the air and sea space in the Farallon provides sufficient room for the many different attack profiles necessary to replicate training opportunities in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Military training will be done on the following dates and times:
Dec. 19, midnight-8 a.m.
Dec. 20, midnight-Dec. 22, midnight
Dec. 22, 7 a.m.-Dec. 23, midnight
Dec. 23, 7 a.m.-Dec. 24, midnight

The U.S. military will also be conduct training at Warning Area 517 (W-517) on December 19th, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.

Lufthansa hands over some flights to discount partner

Lufthansa plans to work more closely with its discount subsidiary, Germanwings, to save money. But the move also means fewer options for passengers on many domestic and European routes.

Passengers accustomed to choosing between premium carrier Lufthansa and its low-budget subsidiary are soon going to be forced to go with the one or the other, depending on the airport they typically use.

This week Lufthansa announced plans to introduce new flight plans both for itself and Germanwings in a bid to stop doubling up on routes and thereby competing with itself, as is currently the case.

Speaking in Stuttgart on Wednesday, Lufthansa Passenger Airlines CEO Carsten Spohr said he wanted his to be “the first airline to start making money again in European aviation.”

Low-fare sidekick

Today, passengers flying out of German airports can often choose between the premium carrier and its low-fare sidekick to travel to a particular destination. But given that some airports lend themselves more to low-budget than top-end flights, the dual offering is not always financially viable.

Business class in Lufthansa planeLuxury could be a thing of the past on some routesThe Cologne-Bonn airport, for example, has become a hub for low-cost airlines, while taxes at Düsseldorf, which is not a million miles away, make it prohibitively expensive for non-premium carriers.

Although such streamlining might sound sensible in practice, critics see several potential problems. One is the fact that although Germanwings has tried to incorporate some aspects of Lufthansa into its own service packages – such as offering the same frequent flyer program and granting loyal customers access to the airport lounge – it is ultimately still a no-trimmings airline. And that is not every flyer's fancy.

“When they are in the airport lounge passengers receive special treatment, but when they leave, they find themselves in an economy class environment,” aviation expert Cord Schellenberg told Deutsche Welle. “And they don't want to have to queue up for 30 rather than just 10 minutes to reclaim their baggage.”


Schellenberg says no low-cost airline has yet managed to successfully incorporate aspects of premium flight standards into their own modus operandi.

The Cologne-Bonn airport The Cologne-Bonn airport has become a hub for discount airlinesEven so, Lufthansa is not in a bad position to try out an either-or-strategy. While passengers are free to choose other premium airlines, they would lose certain privileges such as frequent-flyer miles.

What's more, although other top-of-the-range legacy carriers such as Air France and Swiss Air can deliver German-based travelers to certain destinations, they do not offer the same range of routes as Lufthansa and Germanwings.

Rising prices?

“It will be hard for other airlines to provide the non-stop to the same variety of airports, and passengers don't want to have to change flights to get from say Stuttgart to Rome,” Schellenberg said. “Ultimately, they will accept a change from Lufthansa as long as they can still travel non-stop.”

There are already fears that in reducing the competitive element between Lufthansa and German Wings, prices will rise - a claim that Lufthansa refutes.

Spohr said that in using larger aircraft, both airlines would reduce check-in costs and thus help improve their financial performance.

Author: Tamsin Walker
Editor: John Blau

Lufthansa Cargo China near tipping point: CEO

By Maria Sheahan and Peter Maushagen

FRANKFURT | Fri Dec 16, 2011

(Reuters) - The air freight arm of Deutsche Lufthansa is reviewing its business in China, the world's second-biggest economy, where cargo companies are struggling to make a profit, according to Lufthansa Cargo's chief executive.

"We are leaving all options open," Karl Ulrich Garnadt said at the Reuters Global Manufacturing and Transportation Summit.

"The market in China accounts for a fifth of our sales. But market share and strategic importance come only after economic viability," he said.

Lufthansa Cargo operates a joint venture in China, Jade Cargo, of which it holds 25 percent, with 51 percent owned by China's Shenzhen Airlines, and 24 percent by German development bank DEG. It does not publish details on the volume of freight it carries every year.

Lufthansa group Chief Executive Christoph Franz had said in October that the market in China was becoming more difficult and that the company would review its investment in Jade.

Hong Kong-based competitor Cathay Pacific has said that continued weak demand for air freight in China and Hong Kong pushed its cargo throughput down 17.5 percent in October from a year earlier.

Adding to the weak market, Garnadt said Lufthansa Cargo has known for years that Jade Cargo was undercapitalized and is now in "very constructive" talks with the Bank of China and Shenzhen Airlines to agree a capital increase for Jade.

"This needs to be dealt with soon," Garnadt said at the summit, held at the Reuters office in Frankfurt, but declined to say how long Lufthansa Cargo was willing to wait for a solution.

Jade Cargo, founded in 2004 and based in Shenzhen, has a fleet of six Boeing 747 freighters that fly to foreign destinations including Frankfurt and Chennai as well as to Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Chengdu.

Lufthansa Cargo has 18 MD-11 freighters and also uses the "belly space" on passenger planes operated by parent Lufthansa.

The company planned to lease two additional freighters in 2012 to add capacity but scrapped that plan after a court ruling halted night flights from its Frankfurt hub, Garnadt said.

Lufthansa Cargo expects to lose 15 million euros ($19 million) this year due to the ruling, which came into effect in October. A permanent ban would cost it about 40 million euros a year.

Lufthansa Cargo has said it was working on a "Plan B" for its operations should the night flight ban be upheld by a federal court due to make a ruling in March.

Its options are to either slash its growth plans and make do with a smaller chunk of business by limiting flights to daytime hours, or set up a second hub at an airport that does allow night flights, Garnadt said.

"I would say that we're tending more toward not working at two different locations," he said. Making do without night flights would then mean lower investments, less business and possibly a smaller fleet of freighters.

No final decision has been made on the matter yet, though, he said.

For now, the company has adopted an emergency winter schedule, which includes cutting two flights a week to China, moving flights to daytime, and introducing stop-overs in Cologne/Bonn for flights to China.

The night flight ban comes at a time when the global economic outlook is uncertain.

Global trade is expected to grow at a pace of only 5.8 percent this year, compared with 14.1 percent in 2010, as the European sovereign debt crisis buffets developed economies, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"At the moment we are seeing that we will not be able to repeat the very strong level (of business) we had last year. I see this as a return to normal," Garnadt said.

"The whole industry expects that we will have a very strenuous first half of the year," he said.

Lufthansa to Detail Cost Cuts


FRANKFURT—German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG Friday said it will detail a cost-cutting program in the first quarter next year as it tries to improve its operating profit margin in the face of tough competition from low-cost carriers on European routes and long-haul rivals.

"In the new and constantly changing environment in which we operate, it takes an enormous effort simply to aim to grow with the market," Lufthansa's Chief Executive Christoph Franz said in the employee newsletter Lufthanseat.

He said the company is "fine-tuning" its cost cutting program and will be able to provide more detailed information about it in the first quarter of the new year.

Mr. Franz, who took the reins at Europe's largest flag carrier by market value early this year, said Lufthansa will turn in an operating profit this year but it will be "well below the figure we require in order to secure our company and our jobs in the future."

Mr. Franz's comments come amid a fast-deteriorating economic outlook in Europe and as airlines face challenges from rising costs, and Lufthansa isn't alone in looking to slash costs.

Air France, one of the two operational divisions of the Air France-KLM group Thursday denied a French press report that it plans 2,000 job cuts through attrition and a hiring freeze as part of a broad austerity plan to shore up its finances. The airline is still working on cost-cutting measures that will be presented to management and employee representatives in mid-January.

Air France-KLM has been hit by a steep rise in operating costs, notably its fuel bill, and is expected to report a full-year operating loss after issuing a profit warning in November.

"Lufthansa's margin targets are high and the economic environment is worsening," said Hartmut Moers, an analyst at WestLB Research. The airline has little choice but to eliminate loss-making activities and lower costs, Mr. Moers said.

Mr. Franz has becoming increasingly worried about Lufthansa's near-term prospects since the airline cut its profit outlook for 2011 in mid-September. It announced more cost cuts at the end of October as well as plans to expand its Germanwings no-frills unit to turn around its unprofitable short-haul business in Europe.

Lufthansa also put unprofitable U.K. airline British Midland International up for sale. Negotiations are underway with International Consolidated Airlines Group SA and Virgin Atlantic.

In late November, Lufthansa suspended non-aircraft investment and essential operating capital expenditure for six months to combat rising financing costs.

The prospect of more cost savings is "a further sign that Franz is very motivated and committed to increasing profitability," said Frank Skodzik, an analyst at Commerzbank.

Late on Friday, Lufthansa shares were up 1.7%, outperforming the local market.

Cebu Pacific, CAE To Open $50-M Airbus Pilot Training Center

MANILA, Philippines — Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, and CAE of Canada, world leader in aviation training, are investing US$40 million to US$50 million in a joint venture to establish an aviation training center for airlines in the Asia Pacific region.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Cebu Pacific said the joint venture will also be responsible for type-rating training of its pilots.

The aviation academy is scheduled to start operations in the third quarter of 2012 in Clark Freeport Zone, northwest of the national capital of Manila.

“We are proud to partner with CAE to support CEB’s growing fleet, expansion plans, and training requirements. This will also help make Asia Pacific’s vibrant aviation industry more appealing in the face of growing competition for well-trained aviation professionals,” said Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei.

He noted that “Airbus’ Global Market Forecast predicts more than 34 percent (9,160) of total global airplane orders until 2030 will go to the Asia Pacific region, of which 5,770 of these will be single-aisle planes like the A320.”

Gokongwei said that, “by partnering with CAE, CEB once again underscores its commitment to enhance the Philippines’ tourism and aviation potentials by producing world-class pilots and crew.”

CAE Group President of Civil Simulation Products, Training and Services Jeff Roberts said “we are excited about this new relationship with CEB and the opportunity to help meet the increasing demand for high-quality pilots and other commercial aviation professionals in the Philippines and throughout the region.”

He added that “the new training center will be a world-class, one-stop training center for CEB and a hub for training services for other airlines.”

The joint venture will initially cater to Airbus A319/320/321 series pilot type-rating training requirements and will provide “wet” instructor-led type-rating training for Cebu Air’s current and new-hire pilots. Initial, recurrent, conversion and jet indoctrination training will be available to other Airbus operators.

The state-of-the-art training center will be developed in consultation with CAE’s training facilities design team. It will initially be equipped with two Airbus A320 FFSs with capability to expand by two additional simulators.

The aviation academy is expected to provide training for other aviation personnel in the future, such as cabin crew, dispatch, ground handling personnel and cadets.

CAE is a world leader in providing simulation and modeling technologies and integrated training solutions for the civil aviation industry and defense forces around the globe. With annual revenues exceeding C$1.6 billion, CAE employs more than 7,500 people at more than 100 sites and training locations in more than 20 countries.

We have the largest installed base of civil and military full-flight simulators and training devices. Through our global network of 33 civil aviation, military and helicopter training centers, we train more than 80,000 crewmembers yearly.

We also offer modeling and simulation software to various market segments, and through CAE’s professional services division we assist customers with a wide range of simulation-based needs.

Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority Warns Pilots on Safety

Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Dr Harold Demuren, has warned pilots in Nigeria to be careful at this period when the airspace is threatened by harmattan haze. He said this was necessary as it tended to blur visibility and sometimes gives rise to low level wind shear, that may hamper air safety.

Demuren gave the warning yesterday in a statement made available to THISDAY and urged the pilots to adhere strictly to approved weather minima during this period in the interest of safe flight operations in and out of Nigeria airspace especially at this yuletide, when air traffic is high in domestic operations.

The regulatory body said the issuance of the circular was predicated on the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) forecast that the prevailing weather condition was likely to herald long and severe harmattan in the months ahead.

“This poses a great threat to aviation particularly in areas of challenging terrains because of reduced atmospheric visibility in harmattan dust haze. The advisory circular is, therefore, intended to alert pilots to the hazards associated with harmattan,” he said.

Demuren explained that the harmattan is a dry and dusty wind that blows south from Sahara across the country between the end of November and March of next year.

“On its passage over the desert it picks up large amounts of fine dust particles (0.5 to 10 micrometers) which are transported hundreds of kilometers over the South. The effect caused by the dust and sand stirred by the wind is known as harmattan dust haze. It is a phenomenon which is associated with the end of the rainy season.

He said that the effect of the harmattan is comparable to that of heavy fog, which tends to reduce air-to-ground visibility considerably, adding that aerodrome visibility may fall below the prescribed minima and in severe conditions, dust haze could blot out runways, markers and airfield lightings over wide areas making visual navigation extremely difficult or impossible.

“Where terminal visibility falls below the prescribed weather minima, flights are bound to be delayed, diverted or cancelled. Consequently, Pilots shall exercise maximum restraint when strong surface wind, fog or harmattan haze is observed or forecast.”

The Director-General also directed that all pilots should obtain adequate departure, en-route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET prior to flight operations at all the aerodromes.

“We however plead for the understanding of the travelling public as there may be some levels of delays or cancellations arising on account of unfavorable weather conditions. This is to reassure the travelling public that NCAA is top of the situation and that we are working to ensure that safety is not compromised while wishing our customers pleasant yuletide season”.

Air Zimbabwe passengers stranded as airline runs out of money

More than 70 passengers have been stranded at Gatwick International Airport for nearly a week because Air Zimbabwe’s only long haul aircraft was grouned because the airline couldn't pay nearly £1m in bills.

Air Zimbabwe’s 767-200, named Victoria Falls, was seized by American General Supplies when it landed from Harare at Gatwick International Airport early on Monday.

That evening about 100 mostly Zimbabwean passengers checked in and then learned their flight was delayed. Some were given camp beds on which to sleep at Gatwick and next morning they learned the aircraft was seized via a US court injunction by American General Supplies for unpaid debt for spares of £966 000.

“We demanded proof that the debt had been paid and saw documentation suggesting a transfer of US$1 million (£644 000) was made which is less than the American company is claiming,” one passenger said on Thursday. “Departure is now supposed to be Monday night which is disgraceful,” said a Harare resident whose wife is stuck at Gatwick.

Air Zimbabwe’s London manager, David Mwenga had to flee Gatwick earlier this week as fuming Zimbabweans chased him when he was unable to provide a firm departure date.

Acting Air Zimbabwe chief executive, Innocent Mavhunga, meanwhile announced the airline had now suspended daily flights to Johannesburg.

"We are not flying into South Africa. We are trying to secure funding to pay our debts there,” he said.

Last week, a South African airport support services company, Bid Air, forced Air Zimbabwe to ground a plane in Johannesburg as it pressed for payment of a £320,000 debt.

Zimbabwe's economy has virtually collapsed in the years following the forced seizure of white-owned farms by President Robert Mugabe. The policy led to sharp falls in production, rampant inflation and food and fuel shortages.

“Sanctions are hell“ for Sudan Airways which struggles to survive

By Ulf Laessing and Khalid Abdelaziz

When Sudan Airways General Manager al-Obeid Fadhl al-Moula starts listing the problems of the ailing state carrier, it takes him quite a time to finish.

One of the oldest African airlines that used to fly across the continent and as far away as London, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, Sudan Airways is a shadow of its former self.

It has been worn down by years of U.S. sanctions, financial troubles and mismanagement -- problems that have beset much of the north African country facing a severe economic crisis, especially since oil-rich South Sudan seceded this year.

Largely shut off from the airline manufacturing industry by a U.S. trade embargo, Sudan Airways is down to six Airbus, Boeing and Fokker aircraft -- most of them 15 years old.

Passengers are often stranded for hours or days when airplanes are grounded for technical failures or break down on the way to the runway. Some of those who actually take off pray for a safe landing after several crashes in past years.

“Sanctions are hell for everything, for maintenance, for spare parts,” Moula told Reuters in an interview in the carrier’s headquarters near Khartoum airport.

“All the problems we have are with the fleet. All the time, there is a problem. I do get (spare parts) through friends and companies. (But) it's in the market, you have to pay much more,” he said, his cell phones ringing non-stop.

Washington placed sanctions on Sudan in 1993, listing Khartoum as state sponsor of terrorism for hosting prominent militants including Osama bin Laden and Carlos the Jackal. It added a trade embargo in 1997.

The government has long been trying to overhaul the carrier, founded during the British colonial era in the late 1940s, with the help of outside investors.

But Kuwaiti investment firm Aref Investment Group, which took a 49 percent stake when the government privatized 70 percent of the airline in 2007, has since withdrawn, selling its holding back to the state this year.

“Now Sudan Airways has (gone) back to the government. Now the idea is to have an operator, before it was an investor,” Moula said.

Moula is confident a new investor will try his luck.

The government is in talks with two foreign financial investors and two foreign airlines, including Egyptair.

“We have four candidates ... All of them are from the Middle East,” he said, adding that the size of the stake on offer was flexible.

Any investor would inherit a large state firm with 1,700 staff, a potential burden since locals are difficult to fire under Sudanese labor laws.

Banned from the European Union due to its poor technical record, Sudan Airways serves around 16 foreign destinations in Africa, the Gulf and Middle East. Khartoum to Kano in Nigeria is the longest flight on offer.

Despite its problems, Moula sees Sudan as a huge aviation growth market, pointing out that in 2002 only five airlines flew to Khartoum.

“Now we have 35 airlines,” he said. “Last year we transported 167,000 (domestic passengers). This year we move 260,000,” he said.

“Khartoum could be a hub for all Africa.”

The Pakistan International Airlines syndrome

By Rohail Salman

In 1962, PIA, Pakistan’s flag carrier, created a world record flying from London to Karachi nonstop in the shortest amount of time which was 6 hours 43 minutes and 51 seconds. The record remains unbeaten to this day. Enter 2011, and the Hajj season: one of the busiest times of the year, with an immense amount of passengers, calling for good services, crucially on time flights and a good experience. But alas, the PIA is far from the airline that it was in 1962. With the flights being delayed for an uncertain amount of time and thousands of passengers stranded in the terminals, the PIA’s inefficiency was more evident than it has been for years. And it isn’t only these delayed flights and the stranded passengers that have plagued PIA and its passengers but a number of things which include the poor condition of the airplanes, the shortage of the planes themselves, crash landings and an administration that can barely be bothered. All in all, we can say that the past 3-4 years, have easily been the worst in the history for the national flag carrier airline of Pakistan, and things do not seem to be getting better.

The ‘loss’ brigade
Earlier this year, PIA announced that it had once again suffered a loss of 10.7 billion rupees, just in the first half of the year. The cabinet committee on loss making entities has said that it might use 20 billion rupees on the condition of restructuring the airline. One of the main reasons why the debt is increasing every year for the national flag bearer is its Rs15 billion long term debt, on which it has had to pay billions of dollars of interest every year. Along with the long term debt, the short term liabilities for PIA are also increasing at an alarming rate and if not dealt with soon, will lead to more liquidity problems. In 2008, the airline’s accumulated losses stood as high as Rs73 billion and have risen to over Rs107 billion at present. Financially, it is this long term debt, and the losses that are not dealt with which is causing most other problems for the airline. There are a number of varied opinions regarding why this does exist; politics, global economy and inefficiency are cited as a few, and they all hold true.

Diverging interests
First, we will take on the problem that is cited by the Pakistani officials. In order to take blame away from themselves and the airline, the directors of PIA and the government have time and again blamed the global economic conditions for its persistent financial losses. The primary blame goes, as expected to the rising oil prices in the world and the conflict in the Middle East. True as it might be, the rising oil prices and the conflict in many OPEC countries is not the only reason why PIA is in such a sorry state. Oil prices have been on the rise for the past five years, but the rise has not been very sharp or unanticipated. If proper planning was done, and appropriate cost cutting measures were used by the airline, the negative effect of this ‘bombing in oil prices’ could have been countered much more effectively.

Politics of disaster
Other airline companies too have experienced losses in 2011 but for PIA, the same story has existed from way before the current year. Adding to the fact that the Pakistani currency is in an abyss of devaluation, the problem just doesn’t seem to get better. What I meant by proper cost cutting measures was mostly, reducing the staff. The PIA is one of Pakistan’s largest employers, with over 18000 employees within its ranks. The average staff-planes ratio for an effective airline is supposed to be somewhere around 100:1 aircraft. The PIA however has an overwhelming ratio of 400:1, clearly being overstaffed. In order to run the airline smoothly, some hard decisions have to be made by the administration and one of the most important decisions that they do have to make is to reduce the number of employees in order to work more efficiently and reduce the losses at the same time.

The sordid journey
Now we will take a look at how and why the passenger experience has decreased over the years for the PIA passengers. People have complained of soggy seat covers and messy floor carpets in the planes. There are bathrooms which seem to stink even when one is far away from them. Such aspects are reminiscent of the forms of transportation in Pakistan that are much cheaper, like trains, buses and wagons and are hardly good for people who have been paying increasing amounts of airfare. Adding to that fact is that the passengers have to deal with rattling aircraft and poor equipment, and of course the hours of waiting at the Hajj terminals. Two PIA aircraft were grounded on ‘technical grounds’ which left thousands of passengers stranded in the Hajj terminals. It is inexcusable for a national flag carrier to malfunction, and not have a backup plan for such a crucial time of the year. When the airplanes eventually did arrive, upon landing, one of the plane’s engines caught fire, causing a horrid landing at the Allama Iqbal airport, which again left the Hajjis trapped inside the plane for several hours. So the PIA ended up making an event that many will cherish for their entire lives, one that they would remember for all the wrong reasons. Not only did PIA mismanage its planes and flights, it also put the lives of many local passengers at risk when its Boeing 747 caught fire near the Allama Iqbal airport. Had it been anytime earlier, the plane might have had to make an even cruder or even fatal crash landing. Why the condition of the planes and the fleet is so, can be explained by analyzing the situation in greater detail.

Playing with lives
Due to the financial losses that the PIA has been suffering for the past few years, rather than using formal cost cutting procedures such as reducing the staff, they have resorted to play with their passengers’ lives by cutting back on their fleet maintenance and up-gradation. PIA has had a problem of maintenance and repairs for quite some time now. It is stated that the tender for the maintenance of the aircrafts has been given to a company that does not have an international reputation, and does not possess the necessary technology or skill to maintain an international airline’s fleet. It is pertinent to mention that one of PIA aircrafts was inspected at Paris Airport by the inspectors of Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) while en route from Paris to Lahore. They detected several snags in the aircraft. The organisation warned PIA to overpower the shortcomings or face the consequences. The team detected fuel leakage from one of the engines of Airbus A-310. It is further stated that PIA tends to sublet dubious and substandard companies with no international credibility and little experience for maintaining its fleet. Some former employees have even come forth with claims that high-ups of PIA have financial stake in these small and substandard companies, which is why they are favored. The obscure vendors, hired by PIA, are one of the major problems.

Vested interests, bleak future
Once again we see that the interests of the higher ups are entertained over the interests of the general populace. It is not surprising to see that such a policy exists in a government institution when the powers that be have adopted similar policies themselves. Like the country, the national airline is also losing its national credibility and with the people in power, leeching off through their vested interests, the state of the airline has been left in tatters, and it does not seem that it will be fixed anytime soon, judging by how things are going. Unless the proposed bailout does take place, the future of the national airline does in fact look bleak. If the administration does not admit that it is more than the rising oil prices and currency devaluation that is hurting them, and takes solid measures, the fleet of PIA will soon be stranded on ground, rather than operating up in the air. A change of administration is desperately needed and even though it does sound clichéd, without an administration that actually cares for the safety and well being of the people, there is little chance for the revival of PIA.