Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thai Protests Spread, Shut Airports

By James Hookway and Stephen Wright
Word Count: 578

BANGKOK -- Waves of antigovernment protests spread beyond Thailand's capital Friday as clashes between police and demonstrators intensified, forcing the closure of several regional airports and disrupting rail services.

The escalating political confrontation threatens to destabilize the popularly elected government of Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and could begin to undermine the country's economy, especially the vital tourism sector, which is vulnerable to any prolonged disruption of air travel.

The latest round of demonstrations began Tuesday, when opponents of Mr. Samak attempted to seize a state-run television station and about 30,000 protesters took over a number of government buildings, including ...

Thailand protesters shut airports

Hundreds of Australian travellers remain in limbo in Thailand after protesters seeking to overthrow the government have forced the closure of three airports.

The resort island of Phuket was the first airport to shut its doors, followed by Krabi and Hat Yai in the country's south as protests spread across the country on Friday.

Jetstar diverted its Sydney-Phuket flight to Bangkok on Friday night.

A spokeswoman says Australian passengers booked on the return flight, from Phuket to Sydney, had been provided with accommodation as they wait for the airport to re-open.

The spokeswoman could not specify how long the 265 passengers will have to wait.

"(Passengers) in Phuket have been accommodated, if they haven't been able to remain in their hotels that they were already staying in," the spokeswoman told AAP on Saturday.

"Once we've got the advice from DFAT

(Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and the airport is open then we will know that we can operate out.

"That's the situation until we have advice that we can operate out."

More than 5,000 protesters invaded Phuket International Airport on Friday, storming its two runways and preventing passengers from going in or out, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

The low-cost carrier flies between Sydney and Phuket three times per week.

The airport protests came as thousands of activists have laid siege to Bangkok's Government House calling for Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign.

DFAT updated its travel advice for Thailand on Friday night to highlight the risk posed by the political unrest, on top of long-standing warnings about the threat of a terrorist attack.

"There are on-going large political demonstrations in Bangkok, a number of which have been disruptive and have blocked access to key buildings and roads," the department warns.

"The demonstrations have also affected access to some airports including in Bangkok, Phuket, Hat Yai and Krabi and disrupted some rail and air services."

Thailand's southern provinces continue to have a "Do not travel" rating, while for the whole country tourists are urged to show a "High degree of caution".

© 2008 AAP

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aviation transport: Everyone loses



Jetstar Pacific closed some air routes and cut down a number of flights.

VietNamNet Bridge – In the face of the fuel price crisis, airlines must make dramatic changes to survive.

Will private airlines die young?

Sometime ago many companies noisily asked for the government’s permission to establish private airlines. But now the situation is quite different, with the first private airline announcing it will delay its first flight.

The first private airline of Vietnam, Vietjet Air (VJA), received a business licence in late December 2007. This was a great event at the time and the public hoped that the presence of this airline would help diversify and enhance competitiveness in the local aviation market.

A short time later, the second private airline, Air Speed up, was licenced. Mekong Air and some other individuals also submitted applications to the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration to ask for permission to set up private airlines or ask for the agency’s consultancy.

However, neither of the two first private airlines of Vietnam has become operational. Recently, VJA even stated it will delay inauguration of its first flight from December 2008 to 2009. VJA has also fired its foreign Chief Executive Manager and many employees.

“Highly rising fuel price is a hindrance for VJA. We are working on a new business plan,” said VJA General Director Nguyen Duc Tam.

According to the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration’s regulations, two years after an airline receives a licence, if the airline hasn’t conducted a flight its licence will be revoked. VJA still has over one year to conduct its first flight.

Some experts say it is lucky for VJA that it is not flying yet. According to Luong Hoai Nam, General Director of Jetstar Pacific, doing aviation business at this moment is like throwing money out the window.

The second private airline, Air Speed Up, is trying to change its name.

If the fuel price crisis prolongs, the future of private airlines in Vietnam will be so dim that they may “die young”.

Everyone loses

Meanwhile, not only newly-established private airlines are facing difficulties.

Last year many foreign airways asked for permission to open air routes to Vietnam, for example Nok Air (Thailand), Hong Kong Airlines, Lion Air (Indonesia), Cebu Pacific (Philippines). But some of them have closed their routes to Vietnam. Nok Air put an end to the Bangkok-Hanoi air route while Cebu Pacific closed the Manila-Hanoi route.

Chief of the Aviation Transport Department of the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration Vo Huy Cuong said small airlines of Taiwan like Evar Air, China Airlines, Unie Air, Manderin Air plan to reduce the number of their flights to Vietnam.

Vietnam Airlines, the national air carrier, has had to cut 10-20% of its permanent spending. “Vietnam Airlines’ future policy is making alliance with a foreign airway,” said an official of Vietnam Airlines.

This airlines reported pre-tax losses for the first half of 2008 of VND83 billion (over $5.18 million). This is the total loss of Vietnam Airlines Cooperation, in which there are tens of subsidiaries which don’t offer flights.

Jetstar Pacific, which has a much smaller scale than Vietnam Airlines, said it suffered similar losses. As a low-cost airline, Jetstar Pacific has already cut spending, so to reduce losses this firm must reduce air routes and numbers of flights. It has given up the HCM City-Hue, Hanoi-Hue air routes and didn’t initiate HCM City-Da lat, HCM City-Buon Ma Thuot and HCM City-Cam Ranh routes. In general, it has cut up to 30% of its annual plan. Nam said the firm would have to postpone its plan to increase its fleet to 14 aircrafts by this year’s end and to 30 in 2009.

Geoff Dixon, Chief Executive Manager of Qantas Airlines, said last month that this is the largest crisis in the world aviation industry. Around 20 airlines worldwide have gone bankrupt this year.

Many big Asian airlines have announced losses, including Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific. Others like Qantas, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, etc. are considering closing some air routes and reducing the number of staffs. Even Singapore Airlines, the world’s second-largest airway, has also seen a profit reduction of 15%.

Some airlines are thinking of merging and making alliances as a solution, like the case of KLM and AIR France; Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines’ American Airlines; British Airways and Iberia Airlines.

The oil price has fallen recently but experts still warn that the crisis of the aviation industry is a reality and airlines must change to survive.

Government’s help

The Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration seemed to be very cautious when it proposed the government set a limit on licencing new airlines, with only 2-3 new airlines licenced till 2010.

The agency’s cautiousness is practical, which may be learnt from Indonesia, which licenced up to 36 airlines in a short period of time, most of which were private ones. In 2007, some accidents occurred with aircrafts of Adam Air and Garuda, killing hundreds of people. The European Union has named some Indonesian airlines on its blacklist. This situation resulted from the loose control of Indonesian management agencies.

Besides issuing policies to facilitate the development of Vietnam’s aviation industry, the government allowed airlines to raise the ceiling air fares for local routes, and reduced the import tax rate on aircraft fuel from 15% to 5% and 0% at present.

When fuel prices highly increase in the international market, the Finance Ministry permits airlines to collect fuel surcharges on local routes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

AOT to invest US$2.3 billion more into BKK Suvarnabhumi

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Airports of Thailand (AOT) is gearing up to invest a further THB77.9 billion (US$2.3 billion) into the development of the second stage of Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Stage two was given the go-ahead at a meeting of the Board of Directors, and is scheduled to be developed between 2009/2014.

In a statement the AOT said that the goal of the second phase of development was, “to increase the capacity of SA [Suvarnabhumi Airport] to accommodate continuously increasing air traffic volume in an adequate and effective manner, thereby maintaining Thailand as Southeast Asia’s aviation hub.”

AOT continues saying, “The implementation of the plan has been essentially based on the hypothesis that low cost carriers (LCCs), both domestic and international, would operate at Don Mueang Airport on a voluntary basis, thereby increasing the capacity of Suvarnabhumi Airport to handle 60 million passengers until 2018.”

This plan for the country’s new gateway hub still requires approval from the Thailand Transport Ministry and the government.

At the moment, Bangkok International (BKK) sees some 45 million in passengers a year.

Jet fuel provider cuts annual revenue target

Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services (BAFS) has revised down annual revenue targets from five percent to between two and three percent, as a result of the aviation crisis caused by rising oil prices, the Nation newspaper reported.

The revised annual revenue targets for Thailand's largest jet refuelling provider followed the company's second quarter operating results.

BAFS saw its second quarter revenue fall 1.6 percent year-on-year to US$15.7 million, while net profit dipped 18.9 percent $849,000.

One-Two-Go, Orient Thai still grounded

Orient Thai Airlines and its budget carrier One-Two-Go have been grounded for another two months for failing to bring pilot training up to standard. Aviation Department director-general Chaisak Angsuwan said yesterday the two airlines had failed to correct shortcomings since they were first suspended for 30 days on July 22.

The suspension period had therefore been extended for another 30 days, from Aug 21 to Sept 20.

If the two airlines continued to fall short of the required standard their operating licences would be cancelled, Mr Chaisak said.

Neiother airline had sent their MD-80 pilots for refresher training as required. They had failed to produce operation management and flight safety manuals, and to introduce a quality assurance system.

Mr Chaisak said the investigation into the crash of One-Two-Go flight OG269 at Phuket airport on Sept 16 last year was caused by a combination of human error and bad weather. The plane crashed in heavy rain and high winds while trying to land, claiming the lives of 89 passengers and crew and injuring 41 others.

Company chairman Udom Tantiprasongchai admitted yesterday the airlines had not sent all their MD-80 pilots for re-training.

He said there were more than 60 pilots, so they had to wait for their turn. This would take at least another 30 days.

All 10 of the airlines' Boeing 747 pilots had completed their retraining.

Orient Thai now operates only one daily flight from Suvarnabhumi airport to Hong Kong.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sky-high fuel prices shake up Asia`s private airlines

Bangkok (ANTARA News) - For a while it seemed that nothing could take the wind out of Asia's booming aviation industry.

Despite the prophets of doom, the 9/11 and Bali terrorist attacks didn't have a significant long term impact on air traffic in Asia, nor did the SARS outbreak, the 2004 tsunami, nor even two years of rising plane fares due to escalating fuel costs.

Until this year, that is, when the combination of record high oil prices, inflation and a slowing global economy has finally started to take its toll on Asian carriers.

"What's happened this year is we seem to have reached a tipping point at which the oil price shock is acting on economic growth and we're seeing a global slowdown, and that makes it harder for airlines to pass on the costs," said Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines.

With fuel oil up from an average of 73 dollars a barrel last year to a peak of 147 dollars in mid-2008, Asian airlines have seen their fuel bills jump from representing 30 per cent of total costs last year to 40-45 per cent this year, Herdman told DPA.

Their failure to pass on the rising fuel costs to ticket fares fast enough has manifested itself on the bottom line, which is getting sticky with red ink.

Thai Airways International has announced a 276.8 million dollar net loss for its second quarter, its worst performance in 10 years.

Cathay Pacific reported a loss of 84.5 million dollars for the first six months of 2008, a 125 per cent drop on the profit of 329.2 million in the first half of 2007.

Even China's booming aviation industry is starting to feel the pinch. Although 2008 figures for the state-run airlines are not yet available, industry sources predict mounting losses.

China Eastern, Air China and China Southern all saw declining traffic in the first six months of this year, in stark contrast to the past five years of rapid growth.

India is seeing a similar falloff.

The number of people travelling by air dropped nearly 13 per cent to 3 million in July, recording the sharpest fall since the boom in the country's aviation sector from 2004.

Despite a string of mergers last year, including state-owned carriers, Air India with Indian, top private carrier Jet Airways with budget airline Air Sahara and Kingfisher Airlines with Deccan Aviation, the airlines posted a cumulative loss of 938 million dollars over the financial year ending March 2008.

Indian aviation ministry officials said the losses could double to 2 billion dollars this year, almost a third of the estimated 2008-09 global aviation losses.

Even growing domestic markets can't keep the airlines in the black. Vietnam Airlines, for example, reported a 15 per cent increase in passengers in first-half 2008, but still posted a 5 million dollar loss.

To survive, Asian airlines are doing what all airlines do when the times get tough: raising fares and cutting costs by laying off staff, reducing weight loads and dropping their least profitable routes.

Fewer routes is bad news for the tourism industry as a whole.

"If the airlines start dropping off routes, everyone is going to suffer - the airports, the hotels, you name it," said John Koldowski, head of research at Pacific Asia Travel Association.

Taiwan's two leading airlines, China Airlines and Eva Air, have raised their fuel surcharge four times already this year for international routes, and plan to cut a combined 35 international flights per week starting in September and have canceled some destinations.

"Unlike the 9/11 incident or SARS, which had short-term damage to aviation, rising fuel prices will be a long-term problem," said Chen Tien-tzu, an official from the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

The skyrocketing oil prices have even been putting the squeeze on Singapore Airlines, Asia's most profitable carrier, which saw its net profit for the April-June quarter fall 15.4 per cent year-on-year.

The airline, which became the world's first to fly the Airbus A380 in October last year, gets 40 per cent of its revenue from business class passengers and recently introduced business-class flights to Los Angeles and Newark, New Jersey.

Higher fares or not, SIA chief executive Chew Choon Seng said he does not see any indications "of corporate travel fading away."


Harder time

Asia's plethora of no-frills airlines, which tend to rely more on leisure travel, will have a harder time weathering the storm.

Already Hong Kong's Oasis, Thailand's One-Two-Go and Indonesia's Adam Air have folded their wings this year.

"No-frills carriers tend to go for the leisure travel and that is more volatile when the economy turns down," said Herdman. "I think we are going to see some more casualties in terms of carriers not surviving the downturn."

One of the key ingredients for survival in the new era of high oil prices will be whether or not an airline has invested in new fuel-efficient aircraft.

That, at least, is good news for aircraft manufacturers.

"The paradox is that at a time when the industry is going through a crisis, the reality is that Boeing and Airbus are selling everything they can make," said Herdman. (*)

Phuket hotel occupancy rates stand at 55% this month.


Andaman News NBT (VHF dial) + FM90.5 Radio Thailand at 8.30am & perhaps relays/repeats on local Cable TV channel 1, broadcast to Phang Nga, Krabi & Phuket provinces, & possibly FM108 Mazz Radio 7.30pm in Phuket, Tuesday 26 August 2008 & http://thainews.prd.go.th/newsenglish/ Send comments to AndamanNews@yahoo.com

The number of tourists visiting Phuket this month, August, is reported to be picking up a bit from last month and stands at around 55%, according to Tourism Authority of Thailand or TAT Deputy Director in Phuket Anoma Wongyai. Australian, Asian and Middle Eastern tourists dominate the visitor numbers during this low season period. Anoma said a HongKong airline will start service to Phuket with 8 flights per month in September. She also revealed that TAT received complaints and concerns from travel agents on the cut down of flights to Phuket, which resulted in a decline in their clients. The ceasing of One-Two-Go Airline and reduced flights of Nok Air to only 2 days per week plus Thai Airways low season schedule seem to affect domestic travel. Anoma said Thai Airways sometimes adds non-scheduled flights to meet demand on special occasions.

Thai Air Force to buy 19 Gripens from Sweden?

Griping about the Gripen

The House armed services committee has the air force's newest fighter squarely in its sights, writes Surasak Tumcharoen

ACM Chalit: Rejected all criticism of the Swedish jets and the plan to buy them.

Although the military has already signed the 19-billion-baht deal to buy six JAS 39C/D Gripen combat aircraft from Sweden, a group of civilian MPs are arguing the contract should be cancelled.

They say the ageing US-made F-5 Tiger fighters which the Gripens will replace could be refurbished and upgraded for far less, and continue to do an adequate job.

The House armed services committee chairman Somchai Phetprasert raised the issue.

He said the the public was aware of the purchase of the first six of the multi-role jets, with the first scheduled for delivery in 2011.

The order was placed and signed for by air force commander-in-chief ACM Chalit Phukpasuk, he said.

The Gripen jets use shorter runways for landing and takeoff than the American planes.
The Gripen-JAS 39C/D multi-role fighter.

But it was not so well known that the air force planned the gradual procurement of a dozen of the Gripen jets, not just six, with the additional planes due to arrive after 2013.

Under the government-to-government agreement, the Swedish manufacturer, Saab, will initially deliver four one-seat and two two-seat fighters under the 19-billion-baht deal. The budget had been approved over a five-year period, with 10% to be paid in the current fiscal year.

The JAS 39C/D aircraft have a 27mm Mauser cannon and can carry US-made Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and Maverick air-to-surface missiles. They reach a speed of Mach 2 and have a combat radius of 800 kilometres.

They were destined for deployment at Air Base 71 in Surat Thani province, where they would replace the F-5 fighters.

The House committee chairman, who was a police colonel before he entered the political arena a decade ago, said his committee might bring up the Gripen jet purchase for debate.

They would not concentrate on the earlier question of whether the deal breached Article 190 of the constitution because it did not receive prior approval from the House of Representatives.

Mr Somchai said his committee would focus on whether the Swedish jets were compatible with current air force facilities, equipment and personnel.

Did the deal include maintenance and spare parts for the planes after 2013, when the five-year purchase deal was complete, he asked.

Mr Somchai said it also remained to be seen how cost-effective the Gripen fighters would ultimately be, given the incredibly high price of US$93 million each.

That compared with only $42 million for each of 26 Gripen fighters ordered by South Africa.

Mr Somchai said most air force pilots and crew were trained in the use of American weapon systems, software and aviation technology. Many had undergone intensive training courses in the United States so they fly the US-made aircraft deployed at various air bases nationwide.

Besides the ageing F-5 jets, there were the F-16 Falcon fighters which, according to the House committee chairman, many senior air force officers believed were even more reliable than the Gripen fighters.

He called for the rebuilding of the existing F-5s, especially the squadron deployed at Air Base 71 in Surat Thani province, which is to be decommissioned.

He said other aircraft throughout the country would also gradually be taken out of service because of lack of funds for maintenance and repairs.

Mr Somchai feared the cost of maintaining the airworthiness of the Swedish aircraft would be a far bigger drain on the tax purse.

When testifying before Mr Somchai's panel at parliament, air force officers had admitted that existing repair and maintenance programmes for the F-5s would have to be terminated to meet the costly payments for the Gripen aircraft, along with some logistic support projects.

Support programmes for the F-16 fighters, the most modern combat-ready planes in service with the air force, might also have to be downsized.

Mr Somchai said the US was not happy with the decision to buy the Gripens, and he doubted the Americans would continue to supply missiles and other weaponry for the Swedish jets in the years ahead.

Air force chief Chalit Phukphasuk, however, has rejected all criticism of the Swedish jets and the plan to buy them.

The Gripen jets use shorter runways for landing and takeoff than the American planes, ACM Chalit told Bangkok Post earlier this year.

"Gripens are more suitable for operations over the sea," said ACM Chalit.

The fighters would be the frontline protector of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. They would also be available for use in the far southern provinces where an insurgency has raged since 2004.

"The Gripens will provide air cover for the Thai navy," he said.

"They will not be here as part of an arms race. They will be here for defence purposes."

Pilot error, poor weather blamed for 2007 Phuket air disaster


BANGKOK, Aug 26 (TNA) -- An investigating committee has concluded that the low-cost One-Two-Go Airlines jetliner which crashed nearly a year ago killing 90 passengers while attempting a landing at Thailand's southern island resort of Phuket was due to pilot error and poor visibility, a senior Transport Ministry official said Tuesday.

Aviation Department director-general Chaisak Angkasuwan quoted the committee report as saying that the aircraft accident September 16 should be attributed to the failure of the pilot and co-pilot who did not follow proper safety measures.

Poor weather at the time of the accident was another factor, according to the committee report.

The budget carrier with 130 people on board crashed and burned while landing at Phuket Airport. Both pilots also died in the accident.

The MD82 aircraft skidded off the runway after touching down on a flight from Don Mueang airport in Bangkok, and crashed into the treeline beyond the end of the landing zone, bursting into flames. (TNA)

General News : Last Update : 19:33:00 26 August 2008 (GMT+7:00)

Archives

Pilot error, poor weather blamed for 2007 Phuket air disaster

Monday, August 25, 2008

As fuel price rises, Vietnam's airlines scale back ambitions

Hanoi - Vietnam Airlines, the state-owned carrier that dominates domestic air travel in fast-growing Vietnam, ought to be sitting pretty these days. With the country's gross domestic production growing 7 per cent a year or more, rising disposable income and a burgeoning tourism industry, Vietnam seems a promising place for an airline to do business.

Indeed, Vietnam Airlines carried a record 4.43 million passengers in the first half of 2008, up 15 per cent over the same period in 2007, with revenues growing 28 per cent to 733 million dollars. But over those six months, according to a July 15 announcement, the company made a net loss of 5 million dollars.

Like airlines around the world, those operating in Vietnam are feeling the pinch of high fuel prices. But airlines in Vietnam face an added burden as well: price controls.

"Domestic carriers in Vietnam are subject to fare caps set by the government," said Ted Walters, an aviation consultant in Vietnam.

Those fare caps currently limit the price of an economy ticket from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to a little over 100 dollars.

The combination of volatile fuel prices and regulatory limits on tickets have put the brakes on what looked to be a year of ambitious expansion in Vietnam's airline industry.

Vietnam's first privately owned airline, VietJet Air, had been scheduled to debut late this year. But those plans have been shelved indefinitely, and the company has postponed leasing its first aircraft, two Boeing 737s.

VietJet Air's business plan had forecast oil prices of 70 dollars a barrel in late 2008. Even after falling rapidly in recent weeks, oil Monday stood at 114 dollars a barrel.

The country's sole budget carrier, JetStar Pacific, also had big plans this year. The company was formed in 2007 when Australia's Qantas bought an 18 per cent stake in Vietnamese state-owned budget carrier Pacific Airlines and added its own JetStar budget brand.

But by the time JetStar Pacific debuted at the end of May, CEO Luong Hoai Nam said it was not profitable due to high fuel costs. The company announced Friday it would end service between Ho Chi Minh City and the coastal resort city of Nha Trang effective September 5.

JetStar Pacific Chief Operating Officer Daniela Marsilli said the Nha Trang route had been a temporary one geared at high summer tourist demand, and that there were some bright spots in the outlook for the airline industry.

"The positive news, for an airline, is that the fuel surcharges came into effect last week," Marsilli said. Airlines had pressed for months to be allowed to tack fuel surcharges onto ticket prices, and the government granted the request on August 8.

Meanwhile, JetStar Pacific announced Friday it would launch three new international routes, to Siem Reap, Singapore and Bangkok. And Marsilli said the airline is gradually trading in its older Boeing 737's for new Airbus 320's, which will save some 4 per cent in fuel costs.

But the fare caps remain in place, meaning companies' ability to pass on fuel price rises to customers is limited. The fare caps do not apply to business or first-class tickets, but while that could allow Vietnam Airlines, it does nothing for budget carrier JetStar Pacific.

Beyond rising fuel costs, airlines have been hit by macroeconomic instability in Vietnam, where the year on year inflation rate hit 27 per cent in July. A rapid fall in the black-market value of the Vietnamese dong in May led some banks to fear a currency crisis might be in the offing, discouraging international investors from backing airline ventures.

Airlines must pay for jet fuel in dollars, while their revenues in Vietnam are in dong. Were the dong to fall rapidly against the dollar, the business might become unsustainable.

The industry has also suffered from slower than expected growth in tourism to Vietnam this year, due in part to excessively optimistic price hikes.

"A lot of hotels which were riding on a very good season last year just boosted up their prices in the hope of having another good season," said George Ehrlich-Adam, Vietnam general manager of tour operator Exotissimo. "Some hotels went up 40 to 50 per cent, and the outlook for the end of the year will be pretty flat, or even down in occupancy for some hotels."

Vietnam's inflation problem means tourists might opt for other Asian countries, where inflation has not been quite as bad this year.

"The compounded effect of higher hotel prices, plus airfares, plus inflation in Vietnam, which added costs to food and transport - right now I would say Vietnam is in not such a rosy situation," Ehrlich-Adam said.

Incident: Jetstar Asia A320 at Angkor Wat on Aug 21st 2008, drifted on runway

By Simon Hradecky, created Saturday, Aug 23rd 2008 10:16Z, last updated Saturday, Aug 23rd 2008 10:22Z

A Jetstar Asia Airbus A320-200, flight 3K599 from Singapore (Singapore) to Siem Reap/Angkor Wat (Cambodia) with 144 passengers, drifted to the edge of the runway while landing in Cambodia, but did not depart the paved surface. Both left hand main gear tyres were damaged in the incident and needed to be replaced.

Passengers reported of a possible tail strike as well.

The airline said, that the aircraft landed in heavy rain and cross winds, two tyres were damaged. The tyres needed to be flown in.

The passengers, bound back for Singapore, were brought to hotels until a replacement aircraft arrived the next morning and delivered the passengers to Singapore with a delay of more than 24 hours.

The drifting airplane has been repaired and returned to service in the meantime.

No Metars are available from Siem Reap. The nearest metars from Phnom Penh don't show rain or significant winds.

Air disasters timeline

A chronology of some of the world's recent air disasters:

2008

24 August: A passenger plane crashes shortly after take-off from Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek, killing 68 people.

20 August: A Spanair plan veers off the runway on take-off at Madrid's Barajas airport, killing 154 people and injuring 18.

Wreckage of the Spanair MD82, 21 August 2008 [Pic: EFE]
Three days of mourning was declared after the Madrid air disaster

2 May: South Sudan's defence minister is among 22 people killed after engine trouble causes a plane carrying a military delegation to crash about 400km (250 miles) west of Juba.

15 April: Some 40 people die when a DC-9 skids off the runway while attempting to take off in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma during heavy rain, smashing through a wall and into a busy residential area.

24 January: Nineteen people die when a Polish Casa C-295M military transport plane crashes in the country's north-west, carrying officials who had attended an air safety conference.

2007

30 November: All 56 people on board an Atlasjet flight are killed when it crashes near the town of Keciborlu in the mountainous Isparta province, about 12km (7.5 miles) from Isparta airport.

16 September: At least 87 people are killed after a One-Two-Go plane crashed on landing in bad weather at the Thai resort of Phuket.

17 July: A TAM Airlines jet crashes on landing at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, in Brazil's worst-ever air disaster. A total of 199 people are killed - all 186 on board and 13 on the ground.

5 May: A Kenya Airways' Boeing 737-800 crashes in swampland in southern Cameroon, killing all 114 on board. The official inquiry is yet to report on the cause of the disaster.

1 January: An Adam Air Boeing 737-400 carrying 102 passengers and crew comes down in mountains on Sulawesi Island on a domestic Indonesian flight. All on board are presumed dead.

2006

29 September: A Boeing 737 carrying 154 passengers and crew crashed into the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, killing all on board, after colliding with a private jet in mid-air.

22 August: A Russian Tupolev-154 passenger plane with 170 people on board crashes north of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.

9 July: A Russian S7 Airbus A-310 skids off the runway during landing at Irkutsk airport in Siberia. A total of 124 people on board die, but more than 50 survive the crash.

3 May: An Armavia Airbus A-320 crashes into the Black Sea near Sochi, killing all 113 people on board.

2005

10 December: A Sosoliso Airlines DC-9 crashes in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, killing 103 people on board.

6 December: A C-130 military transport plane crashes on the outskirts of the Iranian capital Tehran, killing 110 people, including some on the ground.

22 October: A Bellview airlines Boeing 737 carrying 117 people on board crashes soon after take-off from the Nigerian city of Lagos, killing everyone on board.

The crash site of Mandala Airlines flight A330
The Mandala crash in Medan in Indonesia killed more than 100

5 September: A Mandala Airlines plane with 112 passengers and five crew on board crashes after take-off in the Indonesian city of Medan, killing almost all on board and dozens on the ground.

23 August: A Tans airline Boeing 737-200 crashes on an internal flight in Peru, near the city of Pucallpa. There are 40 people reported dead and 58 survivors.

16 August: A Colombian plane operated by West Caribbean Airways crashes in a remote region of Venezuela, killing all 160 people on board. The airliner, heading from Panama to Martinique, was packed with residents of the Caribbean island.

14 August: A Helios Airways flight from Cyprus to Prague with 121 people on board crashes north of the Greek capital Athens, apparently after a drop in cabin pressure.

16 July: An Equatair plane crashes soon after take-off from Equatorial Guinea's island capital, Malabo, west of the mainland, killing all 60 people on board.

3 February: The wreckage of Kam Air Boeing 737 flight is located in high mountains near the Afghan capital Kabul, two days after the plane vanished from radar screens in heavy snowstorms. All 104 people on board are feared dead.

2004

21 November: A passenger plane crashes into a frozen lake near the city of Baotou in the Inner Mongolia region of northern China, killing all 53 on board and two on the ground, officials say.

24 August: Chechen suicide bombers destroy two Russian airliners carrying a total of 90 passengers and crew on domestic flights out of Moscow.

3 January: An Egyptian charter plane belonging to Flash Airlines crashes into the Red Sea, killing all 141 people on board. Most of the passengers are thought to be French tourists.

2003

25 December: A Boeing 727 crashes soon after take-off from the West African state of Benin, killing at least 135 people en route to Lebanon.

8 July: A Boeing 737 crashes in Sudan shortly after take-off, killing 115 people on board. Only one passenger, a small child, survived.

26 May: A Ukrainian Yak-42 crashes near the Black Sea resort of Trabzon in north-west Turkey, killing all 74 people on board - most of them Spanish peacekeepers returning home from Afghanistan.

8 May: As many as 170 people are reported dead in DR Congo after the rear ramp of an old Soviet plane, an Ilyushin 76 cargo plane, apparently falls off, sucking them out.

6 March: An Algerian Boeing 737 crashes after taking off from the remote Tamanrasset airport, leaving up to 102 people dead.

19 February: An Iranian military transport aircraft carrying 276 people crashes in the south of the country, killing all on board.

8 January: A Turkish Airlines plane with 76 passengers and crew on board crashes while coming in to land at Diyarbakir.

2002

23 December: An Antonov 140 commuter plane carrying aerospace experts crashes in central Iran, killing all 46 people aboard.

German air crash, July 2002
The 2002 collision in Germany was blamed on air traffic control
The delegation had been due to review an Iranian version of the same plane built under licence.

27 July: A fighter jet crashes into a crowd of spectators in the west Ukrainian town of Lviv, killing 77 people, in what is the world's worst air show disaster.

1 July: Seventy-one people, many of them children, die when a Russian Tupolev 154 aircraft on a school trip to Spain collides with a Boeing 757 transport plane over southern Germany.

25 May: A Boeing 747 belonging to Taiwan's national carrier - China Airlines - crashes into the sea near the Taiwanese island of Penghu, with 225 passengers and crew on board.

7 May: China Northern Airlines plane carrying 112 people crashes into the sea near Dalian in north-east China.

7 May: On the same day, an EgyptAir Boeing 735 crash lands near Tunis with 55 passengers and up to 10 crew on board. Most people survive.

4 May: A BAC1-11-500 plane operated by EAS Airlines crashes in the Nigerian city of Kano, killing 148 people - half of them on the ground.

15 April: Air China flight 129 crashes on its approach to Pusan, South Korea, with over 160 passengers and crew on board.

12 February: A Tupolev 154 operated by Iran Air crashes in mountains in the west of Iran, killing all 117 on board.

29 January: A Boeing 727 from the Ecuadorean TAME airline crashes in mountains in Colombia, killing 92 people.

2001

12 November: An American Airlines A-300 bound for the Dominican Republic crashes after takeoff in a residential area of the borough of Queens, New York, killing all 260 people on board and at least five people on the ground.

8 October: A Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) airliner collides with a small plane in heavy fog on the runway at Milan's Linate airport, killing 118 people.

4 October: A Russian Sibir Airlines Tupolev 154 en route from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk in Siberia explodes in mid-air and crashes into the Black Sea, killing 78 passengers and crew.

11 September: Two passenger planes hijacked by Islamic militants are rammed into the World Trade Center in New York. A third is flown into the Pentagon and a fourth crashes south east of Pittsburgh. In total more than 3,000 people are killed.

3 July: A Russian Tupolev 154, en route from Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains to the Russian port of Vladivostok, crashes near the Siberian city of Irkutsk, killing 133 passengers and 10 crew.

2000

30 October: A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747 bound for Los Angeles crashes after take-off from Taipei airport in Taiwan, killing 78 of the 179 people on board.

23 August: A Gulf Air Airbus crashes into the sea as it comes in to land in Bahrain, killing all 143 people on board.

25 July: Air France Concorde en route for New York crashes into a hotel outside Paris shortly after takeoff, killing 113 people, including four on the ground.

17 July: Alliance Air Boeing 737-200 crashes into houses attempting to land at Patna, India, killing 51 people on board and four on the ground.

19 April: Air Philippines Boeing 737-200 from Manila to Davao crashes on approach to landing, killing all 131 people on board.

31 January: Alaska Airlines MD-83 from Mexico to San Francisco plunges into ocean off southern California, killing all 88 people on board.

30 January: Kenya Airways A-310 crashes into Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, en route for Lagos, Nigeria. All but 10 of the 179 people on board die.

1999

31 October: EgyptAir Boeing 767 crashes into Atlantic Ocean after taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on flight to Cairo, Egypt, killing all 217 on board.

24 February: China Southwest Airlines plane crashes in a field in China's coastal Zhejiang province after a mid-air explosion. All 61 people on board the Russian-built TU-154 flying from Chongqing to the south-eastern city of Wenzhou are killed.

1998

11 December: Thai Airways International A-310 crashes on a domestic flight during its third attempt to land at Surat Thani, Thailand, killing 101 people.

2 September: Swissair MD-11 from New York to Geneva crashes in the Atlantic Ocean off Canada killing all 229 people on board.

16 February: Airbus A-300 owned by Taiwan's China Airlines crashes near Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek airport while trying to land in fog and rain after a flight from Bali, Indonesia. All 196 on board and seven people on ground are killed.

2 February: Cebu Pacific Air DC-9 crashes into mountain in southern Philippines, killing all 104 people aboard.

Vietnam air traffic speeds up, goes big


02:26' 24/08/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge - Passenger traffic on key routes to and from Viet Nam could grow faster than the world average, Airbus senior marketing analyst Susana Martin-Romo Pozo said at a recent press conference in Ha Noi.

The Viet Nam-Frankfurt route, for instance, could increase as much as 10.2 per cent, while world passenger traffic is forecast to grow 4.9 per cent on average, Martin-Romo said.

"The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus sees a need for the superjumbo A380 in Viet Nam in the next decade, driven by exceptionally strong traffic growth," she said.

The aircraft A380 operates long-haul routes with a capacity of 525 passengers.

It burns less fuel, and is relatively environmentally friendly and quiet.

The A380 was the solution for airlines in Viet Nam to meet business and tourist demand, Martin-Romo said.

Sean Lee, Airbus head of regional communications, said the company had recorded strong sales and that 754 orders for new aircraft had been placed by the end of July.

These included 10 A350 XWB and 10 A321 aircrafts ordered by Vietnam Airlines and 10 A321s booked by Vietnam Aircraft Leasing Company.

So far, Vietnam Airlines and Vietnam Aircraft Leasing Company has ordered a total of 45 kinds of Airbus aircrafts, of which 13 had been delivered, according to Lee.

Lee expressed hope that Vietnamese airlines would order more Airbus aircrafts, and expected a total of 80 by 2020.

(Source: VNS)

Thailand's gloomy airlines

August 25, 2008 - 7:03AM

High fuel costs have battered Thailand's aviation industry, leaving flag carrier Thai Airways groaning under its losses while smaller operators struggle to survive.

Oil prices jumped above $US147 per barrel on July 11. They have since climbed down but remain volatile, casting a cloud over an industry that had seen a fleet of new players taking off.

Thai Airways International blamed fuel costs, as well as a massive foreign exchange loss, for its 9.23 billion baht ($312.06 million) loss in the second quarter - its worst quarterly showing in a decade.

The airline's shares have lost half their value since March, plunging from 31.50 baht to 15.20 baht on Friday.

''The main reason was the sharp rise in the price of jet fuel by 73%, causing the company's fuel costs to rise sharply,'' Ngamnit Sombutpibool, the airline's vice president of accounting, said in a statement.

The airline, majority owned by the government, has repeatedly hiked its fuel surcharge - now at $102 per passenger - but still failed to rein in costs.

Thai Airways now plans to ask 400 staffers to take voluntary retirement, while trimming back its fuel-intensive long-haul flights, cancelling its direct flight to New York and making changes to its Los Angeles service.

The carrier's low-cost sister airline Nok Air has been battered even harder, suffering losses reported at around 100 million baht.

''Last year we expected oil prices of at most $US110-120. But the prices rapidly jumped higher. By that time it was too late to raise ticket prices to catch up with the oil prices,'' Pinyot Pibulsonggram, the company's vice president of marketing, told AFP.

Aside from fuel prices, the company has suffered from an ambitious expansion of its fleet. The plans were made years ago when demand for low-cost carriers looked brighter, he added.

Nok Air has suspended three routes and is slashing its flight schedule from 70 to 20 a day, Pinyot said. Ticket prices are up 20%, staff salaries have been cut by 25%, and 200 workers have been fired, he said.

Pinyot insisted that Nok Air's finances were likely to turn around in August.

''Our loss in July dropped significantly and we already saw profit showing in the first half of August,'' he said.

''But our big challenges currently are to regain trust among our customers and business partners and to help customers understand our need to raise ticket prices,'' Pinyot said. ''We can no longer call ourselves a budget airline.''

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport studying relocating security points

According to a report in yesterday’s Bangkok Post, Airports of Thailand (AoT) is studying a plan to relocate all security at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport from the airport’s departure gates to the front of the airport ahead of immigration checks.

The newspaper says that AoT’s new acting President and Suvarnabhumi Airport Director Serirat Prasutanont is awaiting details of the new plan this week and if approved, this could be put into place as early as October.

If it is, then Bangkok Suvarnabhumi would join many other airports who have adopted similar configurations around the world to ensure that all passengers entering the airside zone are subject to security checks.

The newspaper says that the plan has already drawn criticism from some (unspecified) sources who believe it is primarily aimed at increasing space for commercial activities and also the time that pre-screened passengers will have to use these facilities.

But quite why that should be a bad thing is not clear at all and especially considering that the new configuration is already a recommendation that has been suggested by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).


Tony Fernandes: the airline chief of Asia

By Chris Pritchard

KUALA LUMPUR: "This is my favourite part of the job," confides Tony Fernandes as he hefts a suitcase onto a trolley.

"I earmark at least three hours a day to be away from my desk."

In his trademark uniform of blue jeans, red Air Asia T-shirt and company baseball cap, Malaysia-born Fernandes spends some of this time meeting passengers in the departures hall (happily posing with them as they take we-met-the-boss souvenir photographs) and glad-handing travellers as he strolls along the aisles of departing flights.

It's celebrity stuff - and the 44 year-old airline chief executive clearly enjoys it.

"I get to meet passengers and chat with staff members I might otherwise not see," he says.

Inevitable comparisons are made with Sir Richard Branson, high-profile boss of Britain's Virgin Group. Fernandes, by the way, counts a Virgin stint among previous jobs.

"Fortunately, I've got a great team," he says. "This frees me up to be the public face of Air Asia."

Fernandes has other business interests, too. These include control of a budget hotel brand and a consumer finance operation.

He leads me to his office in Air Asia's headquarters above Kuala Lumpur's bustling Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, which the airline dominates.

The purpose-built low-cost facility, l5kms from Kuala Lumpur International Airport but sharing the same runways, is already bursting at the seems. Officials expected it to be adequate for many years but now plan a newer terminal.

Air Asia's office is open-plan - with Fernandes working from space in a corner.

"There's only one door in and one door out," he points out.

He describes Air Asia's corporate philosophy as "flat and without hierarchy". For instance, no-one gets a private office and business cards omit job descriptions.

Fast-expanding Air Asia is one of South-East Asia's biggest airlines. Its 79 mostly Airbus aircraft (more than 100 others are on order) head to 72 regional destinations. Among these are Thailand's Phuket resort cluster and Cambodia's temple city of Siem Reap.

Modelled on Europe's Ryanair and the United States' Southwest Airlines, the low-cost carrier's bright-red aircraft are a familiar site at South-East Asian airports.

Air Asia serves destinations up to four hours' flying from Kuala Lumpur.

Longer-haul flights are operated by sister airline Air Asia X which presently goes only to China and Australia, where it uses the Gold Coast airport. Melbourne and Perth will be added in November.

Flights from the Malaysian hub to Britain are planned for next year.

According to Fernandes, Air Asia X will fly to most Australian state capitals within two years.

However, it prefers cheaper secondary airports - where these are available - rather than cities' main airports. Optional bus transfers take passengers to city centres.

Fernandes, an accountant, is a former music industry executive credited with discovering and nurturing some of Asia's biggest stars. His move into the airline industry was widely dismissed as doomed to crash.

Rather than start from scratch, he took over a small and ailing carrier that was losing money. He picked it up for a nominal fee and, in seven years, has turned it into a highly successful operator.

Fernandes concedes "high fuel prices are a worry. I can't claim they aren't. We're certainly looking at ways to try to save money".

However, he insists, Air Asia won't scale back expansion plans.

"What's more, we don't, at this stage, intend raising fares."

In the current tough climate, "some airlines will go to the wall - and some have already done so".

Worst hit, he predicts, will be small carriers with only a few aircraft or routes.

The key to success, Fernandes maintains, is market share.

"People want to fly and we provide a way for them to do so affordably. We get them to their destinations affordably without losing money.

"Don't tell me people are going to stop flying. They'll fly if prices are low."

Fernandes is scathing about other airlines' strategies.

"They concentrate on the pointy end: business and first class.

"I think this is in part because it's an industry - like the music business - driven by big egos.

"But what about all the people who travel in economy?"

Another of Fernandes' gripes is that airlines don't generally build the destinations they serve.

"Emirates is an exception," he maintains. "The airline markets its destinations very well.

"We do the same. We pick places other carriers ignore and then develop them."

Indeed, many queues at Kuala Lumpur's LCCT are for flights to places in Indonesia, for instance, where tourists didn't go in large numbers but now do.

Air Asia's holiday arm sells low-cost packages to these destinations, including hotels and activities.

"Tourist industries have developed quickly in places that have suddenly seen themselves becoming part of our network."

In Fernandes' view, "there's a huge market in Asia of people who haven't previously flown - we give them an incentive to travel."

Smaller low-cost carrier Tiger Airways, based in Singapore but with a domestic operation in Australia, is among targets for the airline chief executive's criticism.

"They don't have that many aircraft," he notes.

"But they opt to divert attention from their home market in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries with 600 million people - and I'm not even including the rapidly-growing Chinese and Indian markets - and focus instead on Australia, a small market of 20 million people.

"It seems to me a very strange business decision."

Air Asia's aim - using Air Asia X - in Australia is both "to bring Australians to our hub in Kuala Lumpur so as to feed them into our Asian network and to send Asian tourists to Australia combining our network with Air Asia X".

"From next year, Australians will be able to go all the way to Britain using Air Asia X, through Kuala Lumpur. The route will also be popular with Europeans heading to Australia."

While Air Asia X seats are assigned, those on Air Asia aren't. But passengers can pay for priority boarding to choose seats before others board.

Payment is for what travellers use or consume: to check in baggage (a charge applying only on Air Asia X) as well as for, food, drink, blankets, pillows and bus transfers to city centres.

A traveller's tip: buy some Malaysian currency before travelling. (Other currencies are accepted but not at the best exchange rates.)

Fernandes explains his airline's philosophy as "getting people from A to B as inexpensively as possible but obviously not at a loss. We want them to keep coming back. Anything other than the flight is optional - if you want it you pay a reasonable but not exorbitant price".



IF YOU GO

Air Asia X (1300 760 330, www.airasia.com) flies from Gold Coast Airport (and Melbourne and Perth from November) to Kuala Lumpur, connecting there with Air Asia's regional flights.

* The writer was a guest of Air Asia.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Global Air Aims To Transport 50,000 Muslim Pilgrims From Thailand And Indonesia To Jeddah, Madinah

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 (Bernama) -- Global Air Tourism Airline, a wholly owned company of Global Industries Incorporated Sdn Bhd, is aiming to transport 50,000 Muslim pilgrims from Thailand and Indonesia to Jeddah and Madinah next year.

Global International Travel and Tour Sdn Bhd, the parent company of Global Air, has signed an agreement with Alnur Thailand, a representative of Haj Organiser of Southern Thailand, for the purpose, said Global Air's managing director/chief executive officer, Zamri Ibrahim.

"The agreement is for Alnur to buy 5,000 passenger seats from Global Air's aircraft for the haj pilgrimage from Southern Thailand to the Holy Land this year via the Bayan Lepas International Aiport in Penang," Zamri said at a press conference after the signing of the agreement with Alnur here today.

He said Global Air was in the final stage of negotiations with the organiser of Haj and Umrah in Indonesia as well and that the response had been good.

Besides Indonesia, the company is also in final stages of discussions with Republic Guinea and China to provide flight services for those wishing to perform their haj this year.

Zamri said Global Air will be signing a deal with the Afghanistan government this month to fly 30,000 pilgrims from Kabul and Kandahar to Jeddah and Madinah this year.

"We will be leaving to Kabul the latest by next week to arrange for the signing of the agreement with the Afghanistan government," Zamri said.

On the tourism side, Zamri expects 100,000 tourists from China to come to Malaysia annually through its joint efforts with a tour agent from China, East Star International Travel and Airline.

Dong Hoi-Ha Noi flight route to launch

HA NOI — Vietnam Airlines is set to launch a new domestic flight route from Ha Noi to Dong Hoi with three flights a week on September 1.

The flight route, carried by the ATR-72 aeroplane, will depart Ha Noi at 8.30am and Dong Hoi at 10.40am. Tickets prices will range from VND600,000 to VND800,000 (US$36-$48) each way.

The flight takes one hour and a half every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An get fifteen minutes of fame


14:30' 17/08/2008 (GMT+7)

Da Nang City

VietNamNet Bridge - Famous spots in Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An will be captured by Thai airline PB Air (PB Air), e-card company Krungthai Card Public Company Limited (KTC) and First Class TV channel, announced the Da Nang Culture, Sport and Tourism Department.

A film crew will visit tourist sites, three renowned hotels and various restaurants to promote tourism and cuisine in the area.

The cities’ close up is part of a tourism promotion programme designed by PB Air to introduce Vietnam ’s central region to Thai audiences and develop direct flights from Bangkok to Da Nang .

Meanwhile, Da Nang sent brochures and other print advertisements to Matka Expo 2009, an annual tourism fair for Northern Europe, which will be held in Finland from January 15 to 18 next year.

In addition, the Da Nang Centre for Tourism Promotion also asked the Finnish Embassy to help tourism companies in Da Nang reach Fnnish tourist by introducing them to Fnnish tourism companies.

According to statistics from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, more than 6,000 Finns visited Vietnam in the first six months of this year, a 60 percent increase in the same period last year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Suvarnabhumi Airport Handled 21.21 Million Passengers in the first Half of 08

Friday, 15 August 2008

Suvarnabhumi Airport outpaced its main rivals in Southeast Asia, Singapore Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), in terms of traffic in the first six months of this year.

According to official figures released by the individual airports, Suvarnabhumi handled 21.21 million passengers, compared to 18.7 million at Changi and 13.4 million at KLIA.

The three airlines still made headway in spite of the global aviation slowdown characterised by skyrocketing fuel prices and declines in traffic.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, however, had disappointing year-on-year passenger growth at just 1.94%, which compared to 5.4% at Changi and 7.4% at KLIA was extremely low.

Figures from Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) for the first half of this year showed continued growth in international traffic and a slump in domestic volume.

International passenger traffic through Suvarnabhumi from January to June rose 8.17% to 17.57 million while domestic numbers shrank 29.4% to 3.64 million.

Total aircraft movements contracted 2.33% to 130,492, with international traffic up 5.03% to 100,423, and domestic throughput down 26.41% to 30,418.

However, the fall in domestic passengers and flights should not be interpreted as a sign that overall domestic volume through Bangkok had decreased, AoT analysts said.

Aot also noted that 48% of all domestic traffic through Bangkok went through the old Don Mueang airport, which now serves non-connecting domestic flights.

Freight volume through Suvarnabhumi grew 7.74% in the first half to 623,927 tonnes including 610,910 tonnes for international and 13,017 tonnes for domestic freight.

AoT foresees a ''moderate'' upturn in passenger traffic in the second half, buoyed by the traditional high-season surge that starts in October.

The expected increase should result in single-digit growth at Suvarnabhumi for all of 2008, with international traffic growing and domestic volume remaining flat at last year's levels.

In 2007, Suvarnabhumi Airport handled 41.21 million passengers, 33.29 million international and 7.91 million domestic, with 261,592 flight movements, 194,457 international and 67,135 domestic.

By the end of the year, 44 million passengers, should have come through Suvarnabhumi airport pushing the airport to its 45-million capacity.

AoT analysts said the extent of the impacts of high fuel prices had not yet been clearly seen. ''Definitely there will be some impact in curtailing the growth in traffic volume though the general outlook is for a continued increase in traffic for the year.''

Analysts at Tisco Securities have reduced their forecast for passenger growth at AoT's six airports for next year from 6% to -0.6% to reflect the slowdown in global and domestic traffic.

AOT shares closed on Friday on the SET at 38.75 baht, down one baht, in trade worth 34.17 million baht.

Thai Airways loses 9.23 billion baht in second quarter

BANGKOK (AFP) — Losses at Thailand's flag carrier Thai Airways International spiralled to 9.23 billion baht (274.3 million dollars) in the second quarter, the airline said in a statement Thursday.

The figure is the biggest quarterly loss in a decade, due largely to soaring fuel costs, and far higher than the same period last year when the airline lost 417 million baht.

"The main reason was the sharp rise in the price of jet fuel by 73 percent, causing the company's fuel costs to rise sharply," Ngamnit Sombutpibool, the airline's vice president of accounting, said in the statement.

An unexpected depreciation of the company's new aircraft and financial losses caused by a weakening of the Thai baht against the dollar have contributed to the company's bad fortunes, Ngamnit said.

The airline plans to lay off 400 staff, mainly through an early retirement programme, which would cost about 700 million baht and be paid for by reduced investment, the company's president Apinan Sumanaseni told The Nation newspaper.

"At the meeting yesterday, the board also approved plans to reduce direct flights to Los Angeles and other routes to cut losses," Apinan said.

Thai Airways' total operating revenue in the second quarter was 50.29 billion baht, up 13 percent year-on-year, while its operating costs were 54.74 billion baht, up 20.3 percent from the same period last year, the statement said.

The airline lost 6.99 billion baht in the first half of this year, including 5.69 billion baht lost on foreign currency exchange.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The airlines need help right away

COMMENTARY

The airlines need help right away

BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA

The world's airlines, including those in Thailand, are on the brink of a catastrophe. The situation, triggered by skyrocketing oil prices and consequential slowdown in air travel demand, is becoming more destructive for the industry than all the past crises - Sars, terrorism and war - combined. High oil prices are pushing carriers into uncharted territory.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) dramatically altered its profit forecast for global airlines when oil prices began to spiral in April. Instead of making a US$4.5 billion profit as projected in March this year, the industry is bracing for a massive loss of $6.1 billion if crude oil stayed at $135 a barrel in the second half of this year. In the last six months, a total of 25 airlines have gone bust or entered into bankruptcy protection, while many are struggling desperately for survival, and the list of airline casualties is becoming longer.

Airline business confidence slumped to new lows in the second quarter of this year, following a steep decline in the preceding quarter, with airlines' chief finance officers now expecting further deterioration in the next 12 months.

The global industry has done a decent job in helping itself to streamline - improving fuel efficiency by 19%; cutting non-fuel unit costs by 18% and distribution costs by 25%. There have also been deferrals in investments, reductions in workforce and curtailment of operations.

Nevertheless, all these efforts are meaningless in the face of a tripling of oil prices since 2006, with a two-fold increase in the last year alone.

Indeed, there is nothing much else airlines can do to lower their costs further to weather the perfect storm. A concerted effort is urgently needed to keep this vital part of the global economy, involving 32 million jobs, 2.3 billion travellers and $3.5 trillion of global business, functioning. Governments, industry business partners and labour must recognise that this is a global crisis and all have a critical role to play.

This is an issue for Thailand as well. Airlines are an engine for national prosperity and failure amongst them would send shockwaves throughout Thailand's tourism industry. Last year, the Kingdom recorded 14.46 million international arrivals (+4.65%) and revenue of 547.7 billion baht (+13.57%). Within the country, it recorded 83 million domestic trips with revenue of 380 billion baht (+4.15%).

This year, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) projected 15.48 million international arrivals, up 7% over the projection for 2007, with tourism revenue projected at 600 billion baht. The domestic target in 2008 is 83 million trips, up 1.23%, and earnings of 385 billion baht.

Next year, TAT expects 16 million international arrivals and 630 billion baht in tourism revenue. The domestic target is 87 million trips and earnings of 407 billion baht. All these projections will never be achieved if some 90 international airlines, which ferry the bulk of foreign visitors in and out of Thailand, are forced to reduce or suspend flights.

Every day there are more than 97,500 international passengers and over 20,000 domestic travellers passing through Suvarnabhumi Airport. The capital's principal airport, one of the busiest in this region, handles about 550 international flights and 170 domestic services daily.

So it is absolutely sensible for parties concerned like the state-controlled Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) to provide extraordinary relief, as is being sought by the Airline Operators Committee (AOC), a coalition of international airlines operating in Thailand.

Some of AOC's requested temporary assistance is for AoT to: Waive or cut landing and parking fees by at least 50% for 12 months; a 30% reduction of 400Hz electricity and aircraft air-conditioning charges; review the current boarding fee of 25 baht per passenger; review the concession fees imposed on ground handlers as those fees are actually on passed to airlines. The adoption of this relief package alone should result in a 15% cost savings for airlines. Furthermore, airlines should not be made to pay overtime wages for immigration and customs officers at Suvarnabhumi.

Neither should they be made to shoulder the cost of printing the immigration cards, known as TM6, for passengers. If these cards are provided by relevant government units, such as the Thai Immigration Bureau or TAT, it will save 45 million baht a year for the airlines.

Besides, air navigation service providers also have a part to play in helping airlines reduce their fuel usage by allowing aircraft to reach the optimum altitude as quickly as possible so as to reduce fuel burn, and for continuous descent arrival. Shortening routes will also help.

Boonsong Kositchotethana is Deputy Assignment Editor (Business), Bangkok Post.

Wednesday August 13, 2008
Bangkok Post
General News

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bangkok International Airport leading region in air traffic

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport outpaced its main south-east Asian rivals, Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport, in traffic throughput for the first half of 2008.

The main international air facility for Thailand handled over 21 million passengers during the period, as compared to 18.7 million at Changi Airport and 13.4 million at Kuala Lumpur, according to data supplied by each of the three airports.

All three showed increases in traffic despite the slowdown in global aviation that has been caused by skyrocketing fuel costs and a decrease in customer demand. Suvarnabhumi had the lowest passenger growth, however, with a year-on-year increase of just 1.94 per cent, as compared to 5.4 per cent for Changi and 7.4 per cent for Kuala Lumpur.

Airports of Thailand (AoT) figures show continued international traffic growth, but a downturn in domestic volume for the January to June 2008 period.

International passenger traffic at Suvarnabhumi for the period rose by 8.17 per cent to 17.57 million, while domestic numbers dropped by 29.4 per cent to 3.64 million.

The decreases in domestic passengers and flights are not an accurate representation of the total volume through Bangkok, however, said AoT analysts. They clarified that 48 per cent of Bangkok domestic traffic passes through the older Don Muang Airport, which is now the hub for most all of the country’s domestic flights that do not connect to international services.

www2.airportthai.co.th/airportnew/sun/index.asp

Vietnam needs A320 Captains for 3 year contracts

  • Job Role: Flight Crew
  • Job Hours: Full-Time
  • Location: Vietnam
  • Job Position: Contract
  • Company: Parc Aviation
  • Salary:
  • Posted Date: 11 August 2008 12:00:42
Parc Aviation, on behalf of our clients, require A320 TRE Captains for a 3 year assignment with Vietnam Airlines.

This is a great opportunity to experience one of our most sought after and exciting contracts. We also have new and improved terms and conditions for successful candidates.

There is a choice of 3 different Roster patterns 6 weeks on duty /2 weeks off duty, 5 weeks on / 3 weeks off duty and 4 weeks on / 4 weeks off duty.
Interested applicants must have the following minimum requirements:

In order to apply for this positon you must meet the following minimum requirements
-TRE Rating and Experience on A320/1, ideally have minimum 2 Years experience as TRE
- Current ICAO ATPL
- Current A320 Command Type Rating
- Current Class 1 Medical
- Valid Passport
- 1000 command hours on A320 aircraft
- 3000 Hours in command on turbo jet
- 6000 Hours total time
- Age 58 or under at start of contract
- Ideally last actual (NOT simulated) flight within last 6-8 months


Roster pattern of 6 weeks on 2 weeks off duty with a commuting Air Ticket provided in VN network - Y Class to upgrade to C Class if seats available.

Please quote FC1798 in all correspondence

Duration:
Til 14th Sept 2010 with extension

Start Date:
Immediate

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Robot plane sweeps over UK fields

By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News

UAV (Qinetiq)
The robot plane can stay aloft for about an hour on battery power

The first flights have been conducted of an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to monitor UK farmland.

The robot plane flew over fields in England and Wales to map the nitrogen levels in soil, to determine whether fertiliser applications were needed.

The UAV missions were part of a joint research project between tech firm Qinetiq and Aberystwyth University.

Pilotless vehicles are likely to become an increasingly common sight if the airspace can be freed up.

"You don't need to put pilots in a vehicle where you are only collecting data, providing you can do it safely," said Jonathan Webber, the programme leader of Qinetiq UAV Services.

"That's going to drive savings in weight, which will drive savings in fuel costs. So where you see normal routine data-gathering operations by manned aviation today, I would see that gradually being transferred over to UAVs in the next 20 years."

'Green' map

British skies, though, are notoriously congested and the Civil Aviation Authority has yet to agree how everyday, autonomous, unmanned flights can be fitted in among the busy air corridors.

Nonetheless, the Qinetiq-Aberystwyth project gives a glimpse of the UAV future.

It used a small plane - with a wingspan of 2.5m and weighing less than 7kg - to make field maps near Hereford and Aberporth.

NDVI maps can help farmers to decide where to put their next fertiliser application

Battery-powered and carrying an optics and downlink pod under each wing, the vehicle swept back and forth across farmland on missions that could last just over the hour.

"Control of the vehicle is completely autonomous, pre-programmed," said Mr Webber. "It has a back-up so we can take control of the vehicle if we need to and fly it manually."

The data sent down from the UAV was used to build up a Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for the surveyed land.

"It tells you the difference between 'green crops' that are photosynthesising and bare ground," explained Alan Gay, a senior research scientist at Aberystwyth University

"The more dense the crop, the less fertiliser you need to apply."

The information is useful because over-application of a fertiliser can result in pollution when it runs off into water courses; and, of course, under-application will result in lower than anticipated yields.

"We know you can get good maps of this sort from manned aircraft but it's so difficult to get an aircraft to the field you need it in, at the time you need it there; and it's also very expensive," said Mr Gay.

"UAVs can operate much more flexibly."

Data-driven

Robot planes are becoming well established above the battlefield, monitoring enemy positions and even firing on enemy targets; but their civil and commercial applications are also on the rise.

US meteorologists are flying them into storm clouds; and Italian volcanologists are studying active volcanoes from the safety of their aerial robots.

Mr Gay said the UK team would like next to use remote sensing to gather vegetation information on upland farms, to advise livestock-holders where best to graze their sheep.

"We can see UAVs extending a long way because we know that it's useful for monitoring forestry and detecting disease in crops," he said.

"We can see quite a sea-change in farming, to it being based on real measurements rather than being based on some guesswork."

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk

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