Sunday, November 30, 2008

ST Aero to Retrofit Indonesian C-130Bs

ST Aero to Retrofit Indonesian C-130Bs 

(NSI News Source Info) SINGAPORE - November 28, 2008: Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (ST Engineering) today announced that its aerospace arm, Singapore Technologies Aerospace Ltd (ST Aerospace), has been awarded a US$51 million (about S$75m) contract to perform maintenance and modification on four C-130B aircraft for the Indonesian Air Force (IAF).
The programme commences immediately and is expected to be completed over 30 months. The work will be performed by ST Aerospace's subsidiary, ST Aerospace Engineering Pte Ltd (STA Engineering).
This contract is not expected to have any material impact on the consolidated net tangible assets per share and earnings per share of ST Engineering for the current financial year. "We are pleased that the Indonesian Air Force has selected us for this programme. We have previously provided services to IAF, and the continued endorsement through this new contract demonstrates its satisfaction with our quality proposition.
With our extensive experience on the C-130 and our performances in serving leading air forces and airlines around the world, we look forward to bring value to the IAF and meet its expectations," said Tay Kok Khiang, President, ST Aerospace.
ST Aerospace is the aerospace arm of ST Engineering. Operating a global MRO network with facilities in the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe, it is the world's largest aircraft MRO provider with a global customer base that includes many of the world's leading airlines, airfreight operators and military operators. Its services include airframe, engine and component maintenance, repair and overhaul; engineering design and technical services; and aviation materials and management services, including Total Aviation Support. ST Aerospace has a global staff strength of more than 7,000 engineers and technical specialists. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Southeast Asia in chaos as air links severed

The severing of air links with Bangkok - a vital air hub that handles 3% of world air cargo and 100,000 travellers a day - rippled through the region with airlines scrambling to reroute passengers and freight as hopes for a quick resolution to the crisis faded.

The government yesterday backed away from a threat to use force to disperse the protesters who have shut down the capital's two commercial airports, setting the scene for a prolonged disruption to transport across the region and a massive blow to the kingdom's economy.

Since Tuesday, dozens of airlines have cancelled all flights to and from Bangkok until further notice while others made special arrangements to rescue passengers stranded in Thailand, some by utilising U-tapao airport.

Suvarnabhumi airport is one of the world's most "densely connected" airports, serving about 100 airlines with flights to 184 cities in 68 countries, said Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines.

"The biggest impact is on Thai Airways. Their hub is shut and crippling their operations," said Mr Herdman. "The ripple effect for other Asian carriers in rerouting passengers and cargo causes a significant knock-on disruption."

On a normal day, about 100,000 passengers pass through Suvarnabhumi, Mr Herdman said. "That's a lot of inconvenience for a lot of people," he said.

Thai Airways, losing 490 million baht in revenue a day with its fleet parked on the tarmac, said yesterday it would try to operate flights from U-tapao airport.

But it was unlikely U-tapao could handle more than a trickle of extra passengers. U-tapao's car park has room for just 100 vehicles and its terminal can accommodate only 400 people at once.

Cathay Pacific Airways scheduled two flights yesterday and today from U-tapao airport to bring home Hong Kong residents, said spokeswoman Carolyn Leung. Air Macao and Malaysia's AirAsia are also planning rescue flights to U-tapao.

Tourism officials and economists says the tourism industry's losses over the remainder of the year will balloon to about 150 billion baht, equal to 1.5% of gross domestic product, with two million or more travellers canceling their plans.

Exporters in Thailand are aghast at the mounting costs of lost trade, estimated by the Federation of Thai Industries at two to three billion baht a day.

Singapore Airlines' six daily flights to Bangkok were halted for a third day. Japan Airlines has stopped all five daily flights between Bangkok and three Japanese cities, including Tokyo, since Wednesday.

Rich using charter aircraft to leave Thailand

Foreign royal families, dignitaries, leading international corporate executives and others have resorted to expensive charter flights as they make a desperate scramble to get out of Bangkok after the closure of Suvarnabhumi airport and the threat of violent civil unrest in Thailand.

Commercial airlines including budget carrier Nok Air and VIP aviation service providers such as the ASA group have started special flights out of Thailand from U-tapao airport, the only airport near Bangkok still operating.

Airlines and charter firms have been flooded with requests for flights as people are desperate to leave the country.

"Our phone has been ringing off the hook with requests to help people leave," said Simon Wagstaff, the managing director of ASA, which provides elite travel, private aviation and security services for VIPs in the Asia Pacific region.

Nok Air flew about 60 executives of a major German company from U-tapao to Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon, where they were to continue on commercial flights to their destinations.

Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports were forced to shut down on Tuesday night and Wednesday night by anti-government mobs. ASA has already flown about 10 charter flights, carrying 50 people, from U-tapao to the two nearest international hubs - Kuala Lumpur and Singapore - where the passengers connected with international flights.

The company's clients are flown by corporate aircraft like Hawker 850 HP jets, King Air 350 turbo-props and Cessna Citation CJ3s, which can each seat 6-10 passengers.

Their passengers go by road from Bangkok to U-tapao airport in Chon Buri province, a distance of about 150km, before flying out.

For those who need to make an exit even quicker, ASA offers to ferry them from Bangkok to U-tapao by helicopter, which takes about two hours and costs about US$2,500 per hour.

ASA charges about 510,000 baht for a two-hour, 50-minute charter jet flight from U-tapao airport to Singapore on one of its small private jets, Scott Stammbers, the Bangkok-based general manager of ASA, said.

Nok Air, which operates scheduled domestic flights, has made two Boeing 737-400s available, each capable of carrying 147 passengers, for charter flights.

One Nok Air flight, chartered by a US oil company, was due to leave U-tapao late last night for Singapore.

Nok Air charges about 1.8 million baht for a charter flight from U-tapao to Singapore.

"We are not taking advantage of passengers in need, as somebody suggested. The price we are charging is reasonable. Don't forget we have to fly the aircraft back empty," Nok Air's chief executive Patee Sarasin told the Bangkok Post last night.

ASA has made six private aircraft available at U-tapao for charter, while four can be rushed in from the company's Singapore and Kuala Lumpur bases, an ASA executive said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Civil Aviation announced that 10 domestic airports, capable of handling wide-body aircraft, have been authorised to take international commercial flights.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thailand clears airlines to use naval base

Thai aviation authorities gave airlines the green light to use a naval base in the east of the country after protesters blocked off both of Bangkok's airports.

Several planes had already landed at the U-Tapao airbase following the seizure by demonstrators of Don Mueang domestic airport on Thursday and the main Suvarnabhumi Airport on Tuesday night.

"It's already begun,'' said Chaisak Angkasuwan, director general of the Civil Aviation Department. 

"Many flights have landed there and I have authorised more than 20 airlines to utilize U-Tapao airport.''

Chaisak said he had asked immigration and customs to reinforce their staff at U-Tapao, which is located in the eastern province of Rayong and operated by the Thai Navy.

China’s carrier plans worry region

Friday, Nov 28, 2008, Page 8

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Chinese Major General Qian Lihua (錢利華), director of the Defense Ministry’s Foreign Affairs Office, said China has every right to build aircraft carriers, without confirming whether it had decided to do so. This enigmatic remark stirred fresh speculation about China’s intentions in developing or acquiring the carriers in light of its economic rise.

China’s intention to build up its own aircraft carriers, viewed as an essential component of building the “blue water” navy able to deploy beyond its coastal waters, has not surprised China watchers. In fact, China has already invested decades of effort in its bid to acquire or develop a monstrous warship. 

In 1975 Admiral Liu Huaqing (劉華清), vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, highlighted for first time that China must establish its own aircraft carrier battle group(s) to secure sea lines of communication and protect national sovereignty. 

Liu said the goal of developing aircraft carriers was not to start an arms race with the US or the Soviet Union but to meet the requirements for a potential military struggle with Taiwan, settle potential conflicts in the South China Sea, protect its maritime resources, enable China to keep up with regional powers such as India and Japan, give the Chinese navy a decisive edge in future warfare, and participate in the world peacekeeping. 

China has purchased four decommissioned carriers: the Melbourne (1985), the Varyag (1998), the Minsk (1998) and the Kiev (2000) from Australia, Ukraine and Russia respectively. Only the Varyag, now docked in Dalien, seems to be a candidate for refurbishment to operational status after photos seen in December 2005 appeared to show activity on the deck to apply new coatings consistent with aircraft operations. 

Some specialists, however, believe that these four carriers — which are different in terms of function, designation and structure — must have been used to expedite China’s research and development capabilities in developing its own model. 

There have been many reports regarding China’s aircraft carrier intentions. In October 2006, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that Russia had signed a US$2.5 billion arms sale contract with China to deliver 48 SU-33 fighters, which the Sukhoi Aviation Bureau designed specifically for carrier operations. 

In March last year, a Beijing-backed Hong-Kong newspaper reported that China could have its first aircraft carrier by 2010. Rick Fisher, vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center and an expert on the Chinese military, concurred with that report. He believes that “before the end of this decade, we will see preparations for China to build its first indigenous aircraft carrier.” 

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last month that the People’s Liberation Army was training the first batch of 50 cadets to become naval pilots capable of operating aircraft from the mock-up carrier at the Dalian Naval Academy. 

All this is evidence that China has a more ambitious and impending timetable than many might think. An aircraft carrier is perceived as a potent symbol of national power, and China is expected to finish building its first aircraft carrier within two to five years. 

Such a scenario is cause for concern in East Asia, especially among countries that claim sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, and will definitely have a great impact on other countries in the region — India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and of course, Taiwan — as well as the US. 

The case of Taiwan is especially noticeable because if the Varyag can be transformed into China’s first aircraft carrier battle group, it would have a great impact on Taiwan’s defensive operation. 

By then, Taiwan’s operational forces would be kept at bay because China’s aircraft carrier(s) could sail off Taiwan’s east coast, beyond the radius of action of fighter jets. This could not only deter foreign forces coming to Taiwan’s aid, but also allow China to attack Taiwan from both sides. 

Subsequently, Taiwan’s “forces reservation” at a preliminary stage in east Taiwan, where it reportedly can protect more than half of its sophisticated fighter aircraft, would also be challenged by China’s new capabilities. 

Although submarines are believed is the best deterrent to aircraft carriers, Taiwan only has four submarines — two World War II-era subs from the Soviet Union and two Dutch subs imported in the 1980s. These outdated subs are obviously ill-suited to deter China’s new carrier equipped with the state-of-the-art weapon systems supported by Russia. 

To remedy the cross-strait status quo tilting in China’s favor, the US must review the hold-up on its offer to sell Taiwan eight submarines. After all, any policy disregarding the Taiwan Relations Act would endanger the equilibrium in the Taiwan Strait and increase the likelihood of war that would involve the US. 

An aircraft carrier is also a long-range power project weapon. Such a weapon in China’s hands could serve as augury for China’s rise and to determine if its intentions are hostile. 

Some specialists have said that growing Chinese international stature and self-confidence also means fewer releases of human rights activists, less reticence about openly pursuing its military development, and increasing defiance when confronted with criticism. 

The US, India and Japan would also be anxious about the prospects of carriers, about how they will be used in the Chinese fleet and what impact they will have on China’s foreign policy. 

China’s military actions in recent years are particularly alarming. In April 2001 China ignored international law in holding a US EP3 flight crew for 12 days; in November 2006 a Chinese submarine surfaced in the vicinity of a US Navy aircraft battle group in the East China Sea; in January last year China launched its anti-satellite weapon without a public notice, putting at risk other nations’ space assets. 

Even as cross-strait relations are thawing, China has not hesitated to deploy cutting-edge YJ-62 guided missiles with a maximum range in excess of 400km along the southeast coastline opposite Taiwan. These missiles are a military threat and hostile gesture toward not only Taiwan but toward all of China’s neighbors. 

This is clearly at odds with China’s claim of peaceful rise or peaceful development. In fact, improving Sino-American strategic relations are conditioned upon China not challenging US global leadership, a position that Chinese leaders have repeatedly stressed. China’s rigorous military reach-out, however, is now being interpreted otherwise. The more China’s flexes its military muscle the more defiant it may become. 

To mollify its neighbors’ worries, it would behoove China to explain the purposes and intentions behind its carrier-building program. The more transparent China is about its military and security affairs, the less other nation’s militaries have to assume the worst and respond accordingly, leading to potential misunderstandings, miscalculations and an action-reaction cycle of military preparations, to the detriment of all sides.

Bombardier's China plans grounded

Bombardier Aerospace's plans to expand into China hit a snag Thursday when the Civil Aviation Authority of China [CAAC] announced it would halt all future aircraft orders until the country's overcapacity issues were resolved.

China's airlines have not been immune to the global downturn in the aviation market. Since the start of the year, they have reported a combined loss of $758-million, after being bogged down by costly mergers, waning demand, and high fuel prices that were followed by hefty losses on their fuel hedges.

The International Air Transport Association released its October traffic figures Thursday and said the Asia-Pacific region, of which China is the largest individual market, has seen the total number of passengers drop 6.1% during the month compared with a year ago.

To keep its airlines aloft, the Chinese government granted a $541-million bailout to the parent company of China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd. on Wednesday, and is rumoured to be preparing similar packages for Air China and China Eastern to help them through these difficult times.

Lui Shaocheng, the CAAC's head of policy and research, also said the government was considering lowering fuel prices and cutting taxes for the airlines. In the near term, he said, no new aircraft would be ordered by the state-owned airlines until the current overcapacity issues were resolved.

But he did say that existing aircraft orders would be honoured.

Benoit Porier, Desjardins Securities analyst, said the news was not good for Bombardier. The Montreal plane and train maker has anticipated demand for about 2,000 regional aircraft over the next two decades from the Chinese market, accounting for 15% of the expected global demand in the 20- to 149-seat market.

Bombardier has also partnered with the state-owned AVIC I to that end, which will build parts for its new 110- to 130-seat CSeries aircraft, including its centre fuselage.

"We had previously anticipated that a Chinese customer would place a significant order for the CSeries aircraft," Mr. Poirier said in a note to clients Thursday. "However, with the Chinese carriers' poor passenger traffic and profitability figures, and the announcement by the CAAC, we believe an order from a Chinese customer will not be placed in the short to medium term."

China Southern and Shanghai Airlines had been rumoured to considering sizeable orders for the plane, but Marc Duchesne, Bombardier's spokesman, said Thursday no CSeries order has been placed by Chinese carriers.

"We're constantly in discussion with potential customers, including potential Chinese customers," Mr. Duchesne said. "Whenever we sign a deal we're legally forced to announce it. There's nothing announced as of today."

Bangkok Airways cancels Laos services next year

Bangkok Airways has just announced that it will be dropping four services to Laos in the next week, with Pakse Airport, Luang Prabang Airport and Siem Reap-Angkor Airport affected.

From the 1st of December, 2008 international flights Bangkok -Pakse and Bangkok-Luang Prabang (PG943/944) will be cancelled, their respective flights into Siem Reap will also be dropped.

Not giving any explanation the airline, in a joint statement with subsidiary Siem Reap Airways, sent out the notice to wholesaler and industry partners on Monday.

Thailand's airport closure costing billions

Airport closures to cost B134bn

Up to B215bn possible if seizures prolonged


The financial damage from the shutdown of Suvarnabhumi Airport could range between 134 billion and 215 billion baht if the current political standoff is prolonged to December, according to a study by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the university's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, said the airport closure had already created huge damage to tourism and exports.

But if the airport reopens within this month, estimated damage to the overall economy would be 73-130 billion baht while the GDP growth for this year could still be between 4.5% and 4.8%.

However, it is possible that the Thai economy will nosedive further until the first quarter of next year in the absence of economic stimulus such as planned investments in state megaprojects.

The centre forecast that economic growth next year may decline to just 2-3% if the country cannot resolve the political turmoil.

''Whenever economic growth is only 2%, unemployment would increase to one million,'' Mr Thanavath said.

Sauwanee Thairungroj, the university's vice-president for research affairs, said the most urgent measure was for Thailand to open the airports as soon as possible because around 80% of foreign visitors fly into the country.

The latest UTCC survey of the tourism situation among operators nationwide on Wednesday showed that 71.2% of the respondents viewed that the situation would cause a reduction in tourist arrivals and 47.89% believed there would be cancellations of accommodation and package tours.

''It is necessary for the country at this moment to have a government and employment. If we don't have a government, we cannot stimulate the economy so small and medium-sized companies would die first. Consequently, unemployment and crime will be rampant,'' she said.

Santi Vilassakdanont, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), estimates economic losses from the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport will exceed 10 billion baht in the short term.

''The damages are seen in exports as products cannot be shipped overseas. As well, tourism, which is in the high season, is badly hurt,'' he said, adding the disruption of business activities could lead to higher unemployment.

''I think the best way to solve the crisis is for the two camps to step back and compromise for the sake of the economy,'' Mr Santi said.

About 10 electronics manufacturers face difficulty as they cannot ship products overseas, he added.

Kattiya Kraikan, president of the FTI's electronics, electrical and allied industry club, said the sector was losing about two billion baht a day in lost exports.

''Electronics products such as hard-disk drives and integrated circuits (IC) need to be delivered by plane, which normally takes three days, to the global market compared to more than a month via marine transport,'' he said.

''Our clients have been waiting for the deliveries and we might lose their contracts if the protest is prolonged.'

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thailand's Suvarnabhumi airport closure brings Bt1 billion daily air cargo losses

BANGKOK, Nov 26 (TNA) - Air cargo service is expected to lose some Bt1 billion daily as a result of the seizure of Bangkok's international airport, according to a senior industrial sector official. 

Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) deputy secretary-general Thanit Sorat said the temporary halt of air cargo services carries high-value damages despite being – so far --only for one day. 

Air transport goods are high value shipments and require being transported with urgency. 

They include critically-required components such as electronics and automotive parts, or perishables such as fruits, vegetables and seafood needing stable cold storage and punctual delivery. 

Damages to the transport sector notwithstanding, the seizure of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport critically affects Thailand's image on the whole, including the country's ability to deliver tourism and the performance of its overall economic system. 

As Thailand currently faces the ongoing world economic crisis, the present incident emphasises the possibility of other impacts occurring, such as further unemployment. 

Mr. Thanit said also that patriotism could be expressed without violence and all parties' rights should be respected. The rule of law cannot be enforced in the country. Resolution requires sacrifices from all parties, and all agree that a coup would not be accepted. 

One way would be to give back power to the people, and have a new election, but before the House is dissolved, Mr. Thanit said, all parties which were the government, and all critics such as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and other parties must agree that if there is a new election, they must accept the elected government no matter what party it represents. Otherwise, the same problem would continue. (TNA) 

Thailand's U-Tapao Airport to serve commercial flights instead of Suvarnabhumi

BANGKOK, Nov 27 (TNA) - Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation will issue licenses to all airlines to transport passengers to and from U-Tapao military airport to solve the problem of stranded passengers after the shutdown of Suvarnabhumi Airport by anti government protesters, according to Chaisak Angsuwan, the department's acting director-general.

He said any airline ready to use the facilities at U-Tapao, 140 kilometres southeast of Bangkok, can inform the department directly.

Land facilities for air transport services at U-Tapao Airport will be provided by Thai Airways, the national carrier.

Meanwhile, Muslim pilgrims who want to travel to perform the Haj, or pilgrimage, to Saudi Arabia can leave from U-Tapao as well, he said. The department will also provide transportation from Bangkok to U-Tapao.

Meanwhile, about 400 Muslim pilgrims from Thailand's three southernmost provinces, who have been left stranded at Suvarnabhumi Airport during the PAD takeover, are leaving for U-Tapao to depart for Mecca after being approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. (TNA)

Cambodian government shuts down Siem Reap Airways

The temporary measure follows a blacklisting earlier this month by the European Commission on any flights to European Union countries

Photo by: Tracey Shelton
The Siem Reap Airways offices on Street 214 in Phnom Penh.

THE government has slapped a temporary flight ban on domestic carrier Siem Reap Airways amid concerns over its safety standards, Chea Aun, director general of the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, told the Post on Tuesday.

"The government has decided to stop flights temporarily and replace them with [flights from] its parent company, Bangkok Airways," said Chea Aun.

He added that air service was needed to cater for foreigners, diplomats and tourists, and that the length of the ban would depend on the company's response to questions about its safety record.

"Everything depends on the company. If they are to [resume] operations, they need to follow necessary safety requirements," Chea Aun said.

Siem Reap Airways issued a statement to travel agents on November 20 announcing the airline's suspension of service and assuring all travellers that their reservations would be honoured.

It added that all previously scheduled Siem Reap Airways flights would be picked up by Bangkok Airways, which would accept all tickets issued for the banned carrier.

The statement said Bangkok Airways would operate four daily flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap according to normal flight schedules and beginning on November 22, effectively the start date of the temporary ban.

A statement by the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said the government had granted permission to Bangkok Airways to operate the Kingdom's main domestic air route.

Bangkok Airways flights would operate in the same time slots as previously used by Siem Reap Airways, the statement said. It added that the route would be serviced by 138-seat Airbus 319 aircraft.

Bad for business

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodia Association for Travel Agents, said the ban was bad for the image of Cambodian air service.

"We have not discussed this with the airline yet," he told the Post. "We need to know exactly what happened.... We would like an explanation of what has occurred and when the problems will be fixed."

Siem Reap Airways is a division of Bangkok Airways used exclusively for flights between the capital and Siem Reap, home to the Angkor temples and a major tourist hub.

The European Commission last week announced that it would blacklist all flights from the carrier for not meeting international safety standards.

The European ban prevents Siem Reap Airways from providing air service to any European Union country.

The EC acknowledged in its blacklisting that the carrier currently does not provide air service to any European Union countries.

Vietnam Airlines cancels two int'l flights to Thailand

    HANOI, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam Airlines has canceled two international flights on Wednesday from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Thailand due to thousands of Thai protesters blocking the entrance to Bangkok's Suvarnabumi Airport, the Vietnam News Agency reported on Wednesday.

    The Hanoi-Bangkok Vietnam Airlines flight coded Vietnam 831, scheduled to take off at 9.30 am (local time), and the other Ho Chi Minh City-Bangkok Vietnam Airlines flight coded Vietnam 851, scheduled to depart at 11.30 a.m. (local time) were canceled because of violent disturbances by Thai protesters at Bangkok's Suvarnabumi Airport.

    The cancellation of the two flights was aimed at the safety of passengers.

    Vietnam Airlines will keep close watch on Thai protesters movements reported from Bangkok's Suvarnabumi Airport and will soon inform passengers who had booked tickets on the canceled flights of the replaced flights to Bangkok scheduled on Thursday, said Vietnam Airlines' spokesman Trinh Ngoc Thanh.

Airlines ponder options as blockade threatens hub status


The shutdown of Suvarnabhumi Airport by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters is not only costing carriers billions of baht each day but also driving airlines away from operating through Thailand's gateway.

Bangkok's status as an air hub for Southeast Asia could be ruined as international airlines see Suvarnabhumi as an insecure port of call that may endanger their aircraft, assets and paralyse their daily operations.

Some may turn to Bangkok's rival airports such as Singapore's Changi Airport or Kuala Lumpur International, where security and incentives are not issues of concern.

"This turmoil will be remembered by airlines, and some may say they have had enough and go elsewhere," said Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive of the low-cost carrier Thai AirAsia.

Air traffic through Thailand could slump anyway because of the ugly incident that has highlighted the absence of the rule of law, coupled with the worsening economic global recession.

Aside from watching their businesses completely shut down on Tuesday night, airline managers are concerned about the safety of their precious assets: scores of aircraft were forced to park on the tarmac.

Suvarnabhumi, one of Asia's busiest airports, handles more than 400 flights a day and accommodates more than 100,000 passengers.

Airlines reported extensive financial damage yesterday due to the cancelled flights, let alone the headaches in handling thousands of stranded passengers.

Thai Airways International (THAI) reported 500 million baht in daily revenue losses, while Bangkok Airways had 35 million baht dry up, according to industry sources.

"We can handle that if the airport is closed for only one or two days," said Narongsak Singapore, the acting THAI president.

The closure is yet another blow for airlines, already struggling to keep themselves afloat in a dismal economic environment. Airlines are offering waivers for ticket conditions including refund, cancellation, penalty and postponement fees for those who were supposed to travel during the closure.

Ask the pilot

Leave the claw hammer at home, don't hog the overhead bins, keep cellphone chatter to a minimum and other tips to help smooth out your holiday travel experience.

By Patrick Smith

Nov. 26, 2008 |

Thanksgiving weekend is nothing if not a circus of ritual. To some of you it means pretending to enjoy football, overeating and socializing with relatives you can't stand. And if you're one of the millions of Americans expected to fly this weekend, it also means some quality time at your local Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, crowded planes and gorging on the meatlike succulence of a Chick-fil-A sandwich  after the agent announces a three-hour ground stop on all flights east of the Mississippi.

For the second straight Thanksgiving, President Bush has authorized the opening of a limited number of military-only flyways for passenger aircraft. The gesture, which a year ago was touted by Fox News as a "gift to the American people," is intended to reduce delays during what is annually the busiest weekend for air traffic.

Last time it pertained only to a pair of military corridors located off the Eastern seaboard along the busy north-south corridor connecting the Southeastern United States with New York and New England. This year's program will include opening corridors in several other regions, coast to coast. (Fox, though, has toned it down, calling it merely "The marquee item in [Bush's] strategy for reducing air traffic congestion.")

There are two ways to look at this:

On the bright side, this particular initiative, unlike others of the outgoing administration, is unlikely to kill anybody or add billions to the deficit. As for the impact on flight delays, however, I hate to be a wet blanket, but allow me to say what I said in 2007: It will have roughly the same effect as, say, organizing a group prayer or rubbing a plastic airplane for good luck.

There is not, despite what the media, trade groups and politicians continue to assert, an airspace crisis in this country. There is, more accurately, an airport crisis. The logjam is localized on and around airports themselves, not between them or high overhead. Freeing up chunks of en-route airspace is mildly helpful but does little good if approach patterns, aprons, taxiways and runways are saturated. In some cases, it makes the problem worse.

To that end, it warrants mention that three major airports in America opened additional runways last week. Seattle, Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles all inaugurated new slabs of pavement just in time for the big push. True, there are other locations in more desperate need of real estate (LaGuardia, JFK, Newark), but certainly this will help -- a little.

If indeed delays are down this weekend, trust that it will not be due to Mr. Bush’s magic airspace wand, but rather to a lack of storms, a bit of increased capacity at O’Hare, Dulles and Sea-Tac, and perhaps a lower-than-usual number of fliers. The Air Transport Association predicts that holiday boardings will be off about 10 percent from 2007 -- the first such decline in seven years.

That's still a lot of people -- more than 20 million between now and Christmas -- so may I suggest a few common-sense recommendations to help the travel experience flow more smoothly for you and those around you? Most of what makes flying a tolerable or miserable experience is out of our hands -- and, as a rule, this column stays away from the "travel tips" format, but, hey, it's the holidays, and some of our bad habits have been bugging me.

1. Security sense

Looking around the average TSA checkpoint, noticing the overflowing bins of confiscated items -- soda bottles, knives, tools -- you'd swear that every one of the 2 million or so Americans who flies each day is a first-timer. Are there really that many people who don't know that oversize liquids and sharp tools are verboten on aircraft? What, you mean I can't fly with a gallon of antifreeze (I saw it), my favorite claw hammer or a replica handgun? Since when?

Or perhaps you are well aware of the rules and are rolling the dice in hopes of sneaking through with that extremely dangerous, 4-ounce tube of toothpaste? Not all of us can blame you, but every time a guard yells "bag check," about 50 people look at their watches. You've just added three minutes of queue time for everybody behind you.

And yes, you need to take your shoes and coat off. Do it quickly, please, before you get to the metal detector. Schnell!

The rules are tedious and wasteful, but we're stuck with them. Leave your contraband at home, pack your legal-size toiletries appropriately and have your stuff ready for the conveyor belt. The lines will move faster.

Note: If it should happen that you are allowed to pass with that claw hammer, I recommend it be used for something other than carpentry or assault. Specifically, those CNN Airport Network monitors are, by all measures, in dire need of, um, er, repairs. Sure you'll be carted off to Guantánamo in leg irons, but millions of Americans will thank you. 

2. Cellphone chatter

Make your call quickly and quietly. You know who you are.

I'm going to make my first million by coming up with a system that allows people on airplanes to place automated calls to their loved ones with the push of a button. Press 1, and a call is automatically placed to your spouse or partner, with a prerecorded message that says: "Yeah, hi, we just landed. Just pulling up to the gate. Should be off in about 15 minutes."

Press 2, and the message continues: "Sure, put her on. [pause] Hey, Sweetie, it's Daddy. [pause] Really, all by yourself? [pause] Oh, hey, that's really great. I'll be home in an hour, can you put Mommy back on?" 

3. Bin hoggers beware

We've been over this before, but some of you haven't gotten the memo. When boarding an airplane, try not to put your carry-on bags in the first empty bin that you come to. Use a bin as close to your seat as possible. It drives me crazy when I see a guy shoving his overstuffed Tumi into a bin above Row 6, then strutting to his assigned seat in Row 57. I know it's tempting, but this causes the forward bins to fill up quickly. Because airplanes are boarded back-to-front, there is often no space left for those with seats in the forward part of the cabin. They are forced to travel backward to stow their belongings, then return upstream, clogging the aisle.

Then after landing, the same thing happens in reverse, only now it's worse because everybody is moving up the aisle en masse, hurrying to get off. Heaven help the poor soul who has to navigate rearward to retrieve his stuff. I was that soul on a flight not long ago. Although I was seated in the very first row of economy, I was the last person off the plane. 

4. Getting sleepy 

I am pretty sure I read somewhere that 99 out of 100 pediatricians recommend dosing your infant or toddler with Benadryl prior to flying. One study reveals that it will not only prevent your offspring's hundred-decibel shriek from shattering the windows of a 767 during one of those cute little temper tantrums, but will make your baby even smarter and more adorable than he/she already is. Really. Honest. A few milligrams of Benadryl does not equate to child abuse. Take my word for it. 

4. Take a walk at LGA

If you're going to be delayed, there's a decent chance it'll happen at LaGuardia. With enough time, consider a trip over to the Marine Air Terminal, the former docking point of Pan Am's "Clipper" flying boats during the 1940s. It's the circular building with the flying fish motif and rooftop cupola, adjacent to (and connected to) the Delta Shuttle. A beautiful pair of Art Deco doors leads into the rotunda. This is one of aviation's special places, home to James Brooks' famous “Flight” mural. Completed in 1940, the 235-foot mural traces the history of aviation from Icarus to the flying boats. The style is a nod at socialist realism, and at the height of '50s McCarthyism, in a controversy not unlike that over Diego Rivera's mural at Rockefeller Center, it was seen by some as socialist propaganda and painted over. After an extensive restoration, it was rededicated in 1980. The rotunda has wooden benches and is always quiet -- a good place to relax, free from public address announcements and those infernal CNN monitors.

If you're hungry, the MAT is also home to Rocco's, a cafeteria-style place with good greasy-spoon food and absolutely no corporate affiliation -- one of a dwindling few indie restaurants to be found at a major airport. The walls are decorated with historic photographs from the MAT's heyday. 

6. A sense of perspective

Some of you will have a hard time believing this, but when it comes right down to it, flying isn't so awful. All things considered, it's something of a bargain. For about the same price you were paying 25 years ago, you will be carried thousands of miles, at hundreds of miles per hour, in near perfect safety, on a journey that, even when everything goes right, can take many hours. (These are the same trips that once took days or weeks by land or sea.) I cannot excuse negligent service or incompetence, but in the context of what you are doing, where you are going and how much you are paying, perhaps the hassles of air travel are not as outrageous as they seem. Just a thought.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Do you have questions for Salon's aviation expert? Contact Patrick Smith through his Web site and look for answers in a future column.

Cambodia's Siem Reap Airways suspending operations

Cambodia's Siem Reap Airways is temporarily suspending operations, two weeks after it was put on a European Union blacklist of banned carriers over safety concerns.

A spokesman for Thai parent company Bangkok Airways says from Bangkok that Siem Reap Airways has halted all domestic operations between the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and the tourist city of Siem Reap.

He says flights have since 22 November been operated by Bangkok Airways with ATR turboprops.

The spokesman says Siem Reap Airways' international flights to nearby destinations will meanwhile be suspended on 1 December.

He says the grounding is a voluntary one and it comes around two weeks after the European Commission added the airline to its list of banned operators. Siem Reap Airways does not serve Europe but the European Commission said the airline "does not operate in compliance" with Cambodian safety regulations and does not meet ICAO standards.

"Significant concerns have also been expressed by ICAO with regard to the ability of the Cambodian civil aviation authorities to implement and enforce the international safety standards," the European Commission said in a statement on 14 November.

The Bangkok Airways spokesman says Cambodian authorities are seeking to resolve the issues that led to the ban and Siem Reap Airways hopes to resume services in the near future.

Specific reasons for the ban have not been disclosed but Cambodian media have reported that it was due in part to aircraft registration issues. Siem Reap Airways' ATR, Airbus A319 and Boeing 717 aircraft are wet-leased from Bangkok Airways and are registered in Thailand.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Travel advisory for M’sians visiting Bangkok

Travel advisory for M’sians visiting Bangkok

Malaysians going to Thailand for business or leisure have been advised to exercise caution and constantly monitor the situation in view of protests in Bangkok.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said they should contact the Malaysian embassy in the Thai capital should they find themselves in difficult situations due to the protests.

Latest reports from Bangkok said hundreds of anti-government supporters tried to block roads leading to Suvarnabhumi Airport today as they continued with their attempts to topple the elected government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat who is due to return home from attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Peru.

The airport was closed for departure flights but remains open for incoming flights.

The Airport Authority of Thailand made the announcement as the People Alliance for Democracy (PAD) gave an ultimatum to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat to resign without any conditions.

Malaysia Airlines was also forced to cancel four of its scheduled flights between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on wednesday.

At the airport, PAD supporters were seen roaming at the passenger terminal and inside the duty-free shopping zone.The reports quoted police as saying that several people were injured, including at least two by gunshot, when pro-government supporters and those of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) clashed near Don Muang Airport.

Abdul Rahim, who spoke to reporters after officiating at the Asean Ladies Circles of Kuala Lumpur Charity High Tea and Fashion Show here, said the tense situation in Bangkok was confined to specific places.

“Hotels and tourist spots are not affected and it is business as usual for the people in Bangkok. The citizens there are not affected and are carrying on with their daily lives,” he said.

– Bernama

Tourists stranded in Bangkok

THOUSANDS of bemused tourists were left stranded on Tuesday in Bangkok after anti-government protesters stormed the terminal of one of Asia’s busiest airports.
‘There are a lot of people with sticks and baseball bats. They looked ready for a fight. We don’t know what’s going on,’ Belgian Ben Creemers said as People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) supporters rampaged round the US$4 billion (S$6 billion) new terminal.

Airline and airport officials simply melted away, pulling down the shutters and deserting their posts at the approach of members of the PAD, the street movement that has occupied the seat of government since August.

‘The flights are cancelled. That’s all we know. The passengers don’t know what’s going on. We’re the airline and even we don’t know what’s going on,’ one attendant at the Thai Airways check-in desk said.

Security officials cancelled all flights out of the airport, which is the gateway for 14 million tourists a year, after the latest attempt by the PAD’s six-month campaign to oust Thailand’s elected government.

‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ said Australian tourist Steve as he wheeled a trolley of suitcases through one of the exits to the futuristic Suvarnabhumi airport building, which opened in 2006, days after Thailand’s last military coup.

’ We were going home and suddenly everything came to a halt,’ he said, with a disconsolate shrug of his shoulders.

For thousands of travellers, there was no information about the situation at the airport, which serves 125,000 passengers a day. Its name in Thai means ‘Golden Land’.

There were chaotic scenes as the airport’s public address system blared out barely audible warnings for people to leave ‘for security reasons’ even as thousands more passengers entered the building.

Information screens continued to display flight information as normal as though the PAD protesters, armed with stakes, baseball bats and, in one case, a samurai sword, were not even there.

‘It’s all very exciting,’ said Carl, one Australian tourist who appeared to be taking it in his stride. ‘It’s some sort of protest. We want to go home, but we’ve no idea what we’re supposed to do.’


Siem Reap Airlines suspends all flights.


Siem Reap Airways has suspended all flights on it’s International and Domestic routes. The suspension come hot on the heels of the EU ban on their flights within European Union members states air space.

Parent company, Bangkok Airways, are operating flights on the main trunk route in Cambodia between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. They are also operating between Bangkok and Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.

As we approach the peak season this will undoubtedly cause disruption for passengers and customers who have booked flights with Siem Reap Airways are advised to contact their agent immediately for advice. The airline had a schedule of flights in Cambodia, Thailand and to Laos. At this time it is not known if tickets can be transferred to other airlines or if refunds will be available.

Source TTR weekly

Thailand's One-Two-Go to fly Dec 5


One-Two-Go Airlines is preparing to resume flights on Dec 5, after being grounded since July 22 for safety and operational deficiencies. Executives of the privately owned budget carrier, which suffered one of Thailand's worst air crashes, yesterday confirmed the re-launch and have begun accepting reservations.

The airline recently passed a series of rigorous audits by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of various aspects including safety, quality assurance systems and organisational structure.

The DCA suspended One-Two-Go after discovering substandard safety and management practices, and falsification of documents by some pilots who had misstated their proficiency.

The suspension coincided with a wave of litigation in US courts against the airline by relatives of victims of the Sept 16, 2007 Phuket crash. An MD-82 jetliner operated by the carrier crashed in strong winds and heavy rain after attempting to land at Phuket International Airport, leaving 89 dead and 41 injured.

One-Two-Go is re-starting its flights cautiously on a limited scale in order to gauge market reaction, given the image problems it has been facing.

It will initially offer seven daily flights between Bangkok and five major domestic cities _ Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket, Hat Yai and Nakhon Si Thammarat. The flights will be operated by MD-80 series jetliners with 172 seats.The carrier has seven of these rear twin-jet aircraft in its fleet which can operate a lot more flights than what it currently has planned.

''We want to see how passengers react to our relaunch and to proceed from there,'' a senior One-Two-Go executive said.

The airline continues to maintain its ticket-sale terms, procedures and offerings as before its grounding about five months ago.

Its tickets are marketed at fixed prices inclusive of fuel surcharges and other extras, with prices dropping on a sliding scale depending on how advanced the bookings are.

For instance, a one-way ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai costs 1,950 baht if booked three days prior to departure, 1,650 baht if booked 14 days in advance, 1,350 baht for 30 days and 1,200 baht for 60 days.

Suvarnabhumi Protesters stop airport operations

Anti-government protesters gesture during a rally ...Anti-government protesters gesture during a rally at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport November 26, 2008. Anti-government protesters stormed Bangkok's main international airport and gunfire broke out on the streets of the Thai capital on Tuesday as a campaign to oust Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat turned violent. REUTERS/Kerek Wongsa (THAILAND)
9:44 p.m. ET, 11/25/08

Protesters storm Bangkok's main airport

Departing flights canceled as the political crisis takes a violent turn
The Associated Press
updated 9:50 p.m. ET Nov. 25, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thousands of protesters occupied Thailand's main international airport Wednesday, halting all flights in a blow to the country's already-fragile tourism industry as they pressed their demand for the government's resignation.

The airport takeover was one of the boldest gambles yet by the People's Alliance for Democracy in its four-month campaign to topple Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom it accuses of being the puppet of a disgraced fugitive predecessor, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra.

The alliance vowed to bring its campaign to a final showdown this week, and violence has spiked, including streets clashes between supporters and opponents of the government Tuesday that included the first open use of firearms by the anti-government protesters. Police said 11 government supporters were injured, some with gunshot wounds.

Early Wednesday, assailants threw an explosive at anti-government protesters camped out at a separate domestic airport in Bangkok, injuring at least three people, police said.

As many as 500 stranded
Demonstrators — some masked and armed with metal rods — had swarmed the international Suvarnabhumi Airport overnight, breaking through police lines and spilled into the passenger terminal.

The airport was fully shut down early Wednesday, with incoming flights being diverted to other points in Thailand including Chiang Mai and Phuket, and as many as 500 passengers remained stranded, airport director Serirat Prasutanont said.

"We have to close the airport because of (alliance) protesters blocked the entire airport," Serirat said.

"However, we are trying to negotiate them to allow outgoing passengers stranded by the protest to fly," he said. "The incident has damaged Thailand's reputation and its economy beyond repair."

The alliance said the airport would be shut down until Somchai quits. The prime minister was scheduled to return late Wednesday from an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru and would land at a military airport, officials said.

The protesters appeared intent on forcing the military to intervene and bring down the elected regime. Army commander Gen. Anupong Paochinda has repeatedly ruled out a coup, though he has also said the army "will keep peace and order to protect the public and uphold important institutions like the monarchy."

The alliance has staged a number of dramatic actions in recent months. It took over the prime minister's office in late August and twice blockaded Parliament — one time setting off street battles with police that ended with two people dead and hundreds injured.

Support for alliance is waning
Support for the alliance has been waning in recent weeks, and the group appeared to be edging toward bigger confrontations — involving fewer though more aggressive followers — in hopes of creating chaos.

"They had been losing steam and have so far failed to achieve their goal. Now, they are openly creating instability and provoking a military coup," said Thitinan Pongsidhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

Their brazen tactics could backfire if a majority of Thais begin seeing the disruptive tactics as a threat to the country's economy which depends heavily on foreign tourists.

The airport blockade is a fresh blow to Thailand's $16 billion a year tourism industry, already suffering from months of political unrest and the global financial crisis. Suvarnabhumi is the world's 18th largest airport in passenger traffic, handling over 40 million passengers in 2007.

The anti-government protesters are mostly better educated, more affluent, urban Thais demanding that the country move away from a Western-style electoral system, which they say Thaksin exploited to buy votes. They instead favor a system in which some representatives are chosen by certain professions and social groups.

They are vastly outnumbered by Thaksin's supporters in the rural majority, who delivered his party two resounding election victories. Their loyalty was sealed by generous social and economic welfare programs for previously neglected provincial areas.

The anti-government forces are well organized, and have the behind-the-scenes support of elements of the military and parties close the royal palace, the country's most influential institution.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Royal Sky Aviation Center's Cirrus SR-20-G3 aircraft

Cirrus SR-20-G3 aircraft picture 
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