Friday, October 29, 2010

Air Passenger Duty will climb by 50 per cent to some destinations next week, the second significant rise in two years.
Willie Walsh, the Chief Executive of BA, has branded the increase a "disaster". Announcing its half-year results, the airline said: "Excessive taxation puts aviation's social and economic benefits at risk."

Thomas Cook, the travel company, said the move was counterproductive. Willie Walsh, the British Airways chief executive, branded the higher taxes a "disaster".

Virgin Atlantic said family holidays would be "unaffordable for many".

Air Passenger Duty is paid by all travellers on leaving Britain, with the world split into four bands.

The division includes some anomalies. For instance, all of America is in Band B, whose rate will increase from £45 per person to £60 for those flying economy, or rise from £90 to £120 for those in any other class, including premium economy.

However, the Caribbean is in Band C along with most of south-east Asia and South America. This is despite it being closer to Britain than the west coast of America.

In Band C, duty will go up from £50 to £75 per person. This means a family of four flying to the Caribbean will have to pay £300 in duty compared with the current rate of £200, or £160 last year.

Band D duty will rise from £55 to £85. A retired couple visiting grandchildren in Australia, for example, and flying in premium economy class would, from Monday, pay £340, up from £220.

Julie southern, Virgin Atlantic's chief commercial officer, said: "Holidays are an essential part of our lives and are valued even more in these difficult economic times. With passengers now being asked to pay up to 10 times more tax since the air duty's introduction, the annual family holiday will become unaffordable for many."

Manny Fontenla-Novoa, Thomas Cook Group's chief executive, said the company was disappointed that the Government had continued with its plans to increase the duty.

"There is no evidence of this tax having any environmental benefit," he said. "We will continue to lobby on behalf of our holidaymakers."
The Daily Telegraph has run a petition calling on the Government to scrap the tax, arguing it penalises travellers, while the very rich on private jets are immune from the duty.

So far, 50,000 readers have signed the petition to abolish the tax.

Ms Southern said: "Given the forecasted rise in air duty over the next five years, travellers will be more than paying their fair share and in fact contributing more to the Treasury than the banks via the new banking levy.

"Our message to the Government is that this absolutely has to be the last time that the travelling public faces rises in air duty."

Nearly half of all passengers are unaware of the increase in duty, according to a poll conducted by Virgin Atlantic.

The Government is considering replacing the air duty with a tax on each plane but not all the travel industry is happy with this alternative.
Air duty is automatically added to the price when a ticket is booked.

The tax was introduced in 1994 at the rate of £10 on long-haul flights. It was radically restructured and increased in 2007 by the previous government, which said it was a necessary "green measure".

It raised £2.3 billion a year for the Treasury last year but is expected to generate £3.8 billion by 2015.

Airlines say that the duty gives them little incentive to be greener or to invest in new technology because their passengers will be penalised just as heavily as those who opt to fly on carriers that operate old 747s.

APD Per person travelling economy

Band A 0-2,000 miles
eg Europe, Libya Tunisia 
£11 £12 
Band B 2,001-4,000 miles
USA, Canada, Jordan 
£45 £60 
Band C 4,001-6,000 miles
Caribbean, Thailand, India 
£50 £75 
Band D 6,000 miles plus
Australia, Argentina, Singapore 
£55 £85 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

US, Japan Sign Open Skies Aviation Pact

The United States and Japan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Open Skies air transportation that will vastly expand international passenger and cargo flights between the two countries.

The MoU was inked in Tokyo by U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and the Japanese Minister for Transport & Tourism Sumio Mabuchi.

Provisions of the MOU will be incorporated into an agreement on Open Skies to be concluded between the two governments through an exchange of diplomatic notes, the U.S. State Department said.

The agreement will strengthen and expand "our already strong trade and tourism links with Japan," it added.

Liberalizing U.S.-Japan air services for the carriers of both the countries benefits air travelers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific by expanding air service and encouraging vigorous price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security.

Achieving Open Skies with Japan, a major U.S. transportation and trade partner, has been a long-standing U.S. goal.

Once the agreement takes effect, American and Japanese consumers, airlines and economies will enjoy the benefits of competitive pricing and more convenient service.

Under the new pact, airlines from both the countries would be allowed to select routes and destinations based on consumer demand for both passenger and cargo services, without limitations on the number of U.S. or Japanese carriers that can fly between the two countries or the number of flights they can operate.

It would remove restrictions on capacity and pricing, and provide unlimited opportunities for cooperative marketing arrangements, including code-sharing, between U.S. and Japanese carriers.

The agreement would also provide opportunities for growth of U.S. carrier operations at Tokyo's Narita Airport and ensure fair competition regarding the new opportunities at Tokyo's close-in Haneda Airport.

Although the 1952 U.S.-Japan aviation agreement was greatly expanded in 1998, many U.S. carriers serving Japan were still subject to restrictions on capacity, routing, pricing and code-sharing.

Once the agreement is finalized, Japan will become the 95th U.S. Open-Skies partner.

In addition to bilateral Open Skies agreements, the United States has negotiated two multilateral Open Skies accords: the Multilateral Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT) with New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Chile, Samoa, Tonga, and Mongolia; and the 2007 Air Transport Agreement with the European Community and its 27 Member States.

Open Skies agreements have vastly expanded international passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoting increased travel and trade, enhancing productivity, and spurring high-quality job opportunities and economic growth.

Open Skies agreements eliminate government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lessons From Flight Crews Can Help Surgical Teams Work Better

Surgical death rates might be reduced if operating room staff borrowed team-building procedures used by the airline industry, a new study suggests.

A program that trained operating room workers to talk about potential challenges before surgeries, to use checklists and to review what went right or wrong after surgeries significantly reduced the surgical death rate at participating hospitals, the study says.

In the study, researchers analyzed data on more than 182,000 patients who had undergone surgery at 108 Veterans Health Administration hospitals between 2006 and 2008. Of those hospitals, 74 had implemented the Medical Team Training program, using error-reducing techniques borrowed from the aviation industry and NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

After one year, deaths at facilities that had implemented the training program fell by 18 percent, compared to 7 percent at hospitals that had not yet gone through the training.

The decline in the annual surgical mortality rate was almost 50 percent greater at trained hospitals than un-trained hospitals, the team noted.

"The ultimate goal is to have good teamwork and communication to reduce adverse events," said senior study author Dr. James Bagian, a former astronaut who is now the chief patient safety and systems innovation officer for the University of Michigan Health System. "This study shows we had some success. The longer the facility did the program, the greater the improvement in mortality."

The study is in the Oct. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Surgical errors remain a major concern in American hospitals. In fact, a study published Monday in the Archives of Surgery found that egregious and devastating errors - operating on the wrong patient or the wrong body site - still occur. Many of the mistakes cited in that report occurred due to simple errors in judgment or because surgical teams had failed to perform standard pre-operation checks.

The Michigan study focused on a training program that includes two months of planning and preparation with each hospital's surgical staff and a day-long instruction session. At the time of its implementation, Bagian was chief patient safety officer for the Veterans Health Administration's National Center for Patient Safety.

The training emphasizes the importance of teamwork and effective communications; encourages surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and technicians to challenge one another if they notice safety lapses; and encourages the use of checklists to guide discussions that include preoperative briefings and postoperative debriefings.

Like NASA, operating rooms tend to be hierarchical, with the surgeon at the top. This structure means other operation room staff are sometimes hesitant to speak up, Bagian said.

"When you look at problems and adverse events in health care, most of them have as one of their major causative factors a failure of communication," Bagian said. "Based on my background in aviation and NASA, it always was stunning to me that in health care we were very casual and not rigorous in the way we communicated."

According to Bagian, prior research has also shown that physicians tend to rate themselves as good communicators, even though the rest of the OR staff doesn't necessarily agree.

Lots of workers can relate, no doubt. "The bosses think communication is great, people down the line think it's not as good," Bagian said.

To alleviate that type of disconnect, Bagian recommends briefings and debriefings, in which operating room staff get together for a few moments before a surgery to discuss concerns, anticipate challenges, and make sure they have the right tools and supplies.

Post-op debriefings were a learning tool that helped operating room staff avoid future errors, he said.

The briefings can be done quickly, and the study found procedures actually took less time after implementation of the program, Bagian said.

Dr. Peter Pronovost, a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who wrote an accompanying editorial, said the study provides strong evidence that teaching operating room staff about teamwork and effective communication can reduce deaths among surgical patients.

"Medicine has for so long emphasized technical work over team work. We focus on putting tubes in the right places, or tying knots so that wounds don't fall apart," Pronovost said.

"We needed to do that but we have relatively under-invested in teamwork skills," he added. "Poor communication leads to a significant amount of preventable harm, and this study provides a practical way to address some of the teamwork challenges."

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Air travelers found to lose billions to delays

There is now a dollar amount to put on the collective rage of U.S. airline passengers over flight delays: $16.7 billion.

That's the annual cost to fliers when planes don't run on time, according to researchers who delivered a report Monday to the Federal Aviation Administration detailing the economic price of domestic flight delays.

The total cost to passengers, airlines and other parts of the economy is $32.9 billion, according to the FAA-commissioned report. More than half that amount comes from the pockets of passengers who lose time waiting for their planes to leave and then spend money scrounging for food and sleeping in hotel rooms while they're stranded, among other costs.

The report is the most comprehensive so far on the true cost of flight delays because of the method it used to calculate the costs, said Mark Hansen, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley who led the study.

Other research, Hansen said, would assume that a plane with 100 passengers that's delayed for 10 minutes costs 1,000 minutes in total. In reality, he said, the ripple effects of that delay can be far worse for passengers, who lose countless more hours when they miss connecting flights.

"We knew that passengers' costs were being underestimated by using the more simplistic approach," said Cynthia Barnhart, interim dean and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Engineering. "We didn't know the large extent they were being underestimated."

The researchers also calculated that airlines spend $8.3 billion on higher expenses for their crew, fuel and maintenance. Airlines also lose money because they build delays into their schedules, causing them to run fewer flights.

"This report underscores what we have been saying all along, that flight delays drive billions of dollars in added costs, both to our airlines and ultimately to their customers," said James C. May, president and chief executive of the American Transportation Association.

The report focused on data from the year 2007, estimating that air transportation delays put a $4 billion dent in the country's gross domestic product that year.

In 2007, one in four domestic flights arrived more than 15 minutes late. One-third of the delays were attributed to an overburdened air traffic control system. Another third were the result of internal airline problems. Other flights were late simply because an aircraft arrived behind schedule, pushing its following flight past the scheduled departure time.

Last week, the Transportation Department released its statistics on August 2010 flight delays, reporting an overall on-time arrival rate of 81.7 percent, up from 76.7 percent in July, based on data from 18 carriers.

To improve fight schedules, the FAA has pinned its hopes on a dramatic overhaul of aircraft navigation systems, replacing radar with Global Positioning System technology by 2025. The program is called Next Generation, or NextGen, and will cost tens of billions of dollars to deploy.

"The significance of this study is its use of innovative techniques to quantify the total cost of congestion to the aviation industry, the economy and society," said David K. Chin, director of performance analysis and strategy at the FAA's Strategy and Performance Business Unit, in a statement.

Barnhart added that the researchers' mathematical modeling would allow side-by-side comparisons of airline and airport performance.

"When you have some knowledge, it's not a surprise," said Barnhart, who said she's been subjected to her share of flight delays. "Everyone that flies is an expert. They all have their hypotheses about what's going on."

Source :

Monday, October 11, 2010

Air France CEO Calls for EU Curbs on Expansion by Gulf Carriers

Air France-KLM Group is teaming up with Europe’s biggest airlines to push for European Union action to slow the encroachment of Emirates and other Gulf carriers, saying the region’s status as an air-travel hub is under threat.

“Europe is at the crossroads of international air travel, and this is a role we need to value and defend,” Air France Chief Executive Officer Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said in an interview. “What we’re telling the authorities is that we need a strategy that gives us a chance to resist.”

Gourgeon, British Airways Plc CEO Willie Walsh and Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Wolfgang Mayrhuber are among executives scheduled to attend a meeting of the Association of European Airlines on Oct. 15 in London. They will discuss a joint push with American rivals for a change to the export-guarantee regime and the trans-Atlantic trade agreement that enshrines it, said Christian de Barrin, a spokesman of the Brussels-based industry group.

For the past two decades, the U.S. and Europe have agreed to withhold export credit guarantees from airlines registered in five countries where Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. airliners are built: Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the U.S. This means many European and all American carriers are denied cheaper government-backed plane financing available to rivals from countries including Gulf states.

‘Home-Country’ Rule

The role of export financing has ballooned since the credit crunch reduced banks’ willingness to lend. The share of plane deliveries covered by government guarantees more than doubled to 34 percent in 2009, Airbus and Boeing figures show.

“Our ability to fund the acquisition of new aircraft is handicapped by the so-called ‘home-country’ rule,” BA spokesman Paul Marston said. “These guarantees are not operating in the way they were intended -- and we therefore urge the EU to amend the rules to remove the competitive distortions that have developed.”

In a policy paper published on its website last week, Lufthansa called for an end to “market imbalances” resulting from export-credit financing, saying “basic rules of regulatory policy are being disregarded.”

Emirates, the biggest Gulf carrier, already pays very little in the way of airport charges or fuel tax at its Dubai hub, as well as escaping many of the social charges that weigh on European companies, Air France’s Gourgeon said. Those benefits could generate 3 billion euros ($4.2 billion) of operating income if applied to Air France-KLM, he said.

No Tax?

“When you’re supported in this way you can offer the end product at very low prices,” the CEO said in the Oct. 7 interview at Air France’s headquarters near Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. “They don’t pay tax -- they don’t even have a word for it.”

“Emirates is run as a fully commercial business, unlike many European carriers,” the company said in a statement. The carrier pays landing charges in Dubai, and “although differently structured, our employee cost base is comparable to other airlines.”

European carriers may also seek action under EU Regulation 868, which imposes protective duties on foreign carriers that use subsidies or other forms of “non-commercial advantage” to undercut prices, the AEA’s de Barrin said.

Emirates overtook Lufthansa last year as the biggest carrier on international flights, thanks to a sixfold increase in traffic since 2000, when it ranked 24th. British Airways, top in 2000, now stands fourth in the International Air Transport Association ranking, which treats Air France and KLM as separate airlines.

‘Level Playing Field’

Airbus and Boeing together have outstanding orders for 102 widebody planes from Qatar Airways, 59 from Etihad Airways and 175 from Emirates, which has already taken delivery of 13 of the 90 Airbus A380 superjumbos it has ordered in total.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank guaranteed $414 million of Emirates bonds last year to fund the purchase three Boeing 777 jets, an example of the cheaper financing that would be off limits for Lufthansa or Southwest Airlines Inc.

“There’s definitely an argument that there needs to be a level playing field in financing,” said Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners. “Any pressure that France, Britain and Germany can bring to bear makes good sense.”

Air France fell 0.1 percent at 9:32 a.m. in Paris. Lufthansa slipped 0.3 percent on the Frankfurt exchange. British Airways gained 0.2 percent in London.

Manchester Route

European airlines may struggle to maintain efficient connections as Middle Eastern carriers lure more passengers away with new destinations, Gourgeon said. He cited Emirates’s introduction of an Airbus A380 superjumbo flying between Dubai and Manchester, northern England, since last month.

“It will progressively become more difficult for British Airways to have enough passengers to offer the same frequency of flights to Hong Kong,” the CEO said. Traffic through Paris, Milan and Munich would also suffer, he said.

If left unchecked, the competitive imbalance between the Gulf and Europe will eventually lead to a mass shift in stopover traffic, and other economic activities, to Middle Eastern hubs, Gourgeon said.

“I think it’s very dangerous for Europe,” he said. “What they’re trying to do is buy our jobs.”

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dancing flight attendants make it to CNN, Time

MANILA, Philippines - What started as a local airline's effort to "make people interested, showcase homegrown talent and raise morale" has become a huge Internet sensation picked up by news organizations across the globe.

The YouTube video of Cebu Pacific's dancing flight attendants, which was uploaded last Thursday, now has over 6 million views and was featured in the online platforms of CNN, Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Daily Mail, among many others.

"Lady Gaga is on board in spirit, and she's part of the safety demonstration -- how to put on your seat belt, how to put on the oxygen mask if needed," the CNN wire staff wrote.

It was also picked up by, a popular celebrity gossip website.

Carrying seat belts, life jackets and oxygen masks, young female flight attendants of Cebu Pacific danced to Lady Gaga's Just Dance and Katy Perry's California Girls while demonstrating safety procedures. (Read: Netizens mixed over 'dancing cabin crew' video)

Most netizens commended Cebu Pacific for having "pretty flight attendants" and "nice (dance) moves," while others scored the Gokongwei-led airline for "not taking safety lightly" by not providing clear safety instructions and allowing electronic gadgets such as video cameras to be used inside the aircraft.

A number of groups, meanwhile, have urged the airline to reconsider its dancing flight attendants gimmick "for the sake of gender sensitivity and professionalism." (Read: Dancing flight attendants as 'entertainers' hit)

Cebu Pacific has reiterated that its flight attendants did not do the dance routine against their will, adding that they "volunteered" and "enjoyed" doing the said performances.

The airline added that the dance does not replace the serious safety demonstration as required by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

"Nais namin linawin na tuluy-tuloy pa rin naming ginagawa ang standard safety demonstration upang maihatid sa mga pasahero ang mga gawain sa isang emergency situation. Sa katunayan, mas lalong nabibigyang halaga ang safety demonstration dahil dalawang beses siyang ginawa ng aming mga flight attendants," Rosita Menchaca, vice president for in-flight services of Cebu Pacific, said in a statement.

("We'd like to make it clear that we're still doing the serious safety demonstration along with the dance routine to inform our passengers on the things that should be done in emergency situations. Doing it twice actually makes our passengers remember the procedure more clearly.")

For her part, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing Candice Iyog said in a text message to, "Cebu Pacific management and its employees have a very healthy relationship, which helps promote this fun culture."


In an earlier interview with, Iyog revealed that the airline tapped the help of professionals to come up with the routine and has trained at least "2 sets of cabin crew" for it.

On October 1, a day after the viral video was uploaded, another clip of females dancing to the same routine made it to YouTube.

They carried the same seatbelts, life jackets and oxygen masks -- it was a video of a rehearsal done by Cebu Pacific's flight attendants.

One of the girls in the video, the one wearing pink and black pants, is said to be the same person in the first YouTube clip, a number of Internet users observed.

"The one at the leftmost wearing pink at the first few seconds of the vid, I think she's that cute FA (flight attendant)," one YouTube user said.

Another added, "Oh yes! That's her in the pink shirt! Wow. She's super famous now."

Some blogs and websites have already identified the dancing flight attendant in the viral video as Karen Tracy Vitug, who is now considered by many as an overnight Internet celebrity.

Photos of Vitug were also uploaded to show proof that she is the flight attendant featured in the video.

"The famous girl in (the) Cebu Pacific dancing flight attendants video is Karen Tracy Vitug. Karen is one of the cabin crew on-board in that plane and the one dancing in front of the said video," wrote.

"(Vitug is) fondly called by her co-workers as Tracy," wrote.

Youtube video :
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