What a weird week.

I have just heard of the reports that Air Algerie flight ‪#‎AH5017 with 116 people onboard has crashed in Niger.

The aircraft reportedly lost contact 50 minutes after take-off and is likely to be carrying many French passengers.

The MD83 was  flying  from Ouagadougou,Burkina Faso, to AlgiersAlgeria and was operated by SwiftairS A . Swiftair is a Spanish airline which operates scheduled and charter, passenger and cargo flights in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. 

This adds to a horror week in Europe with MH17, Asia with TransAsia 222 and now Africa. More people have died in plane crashes this week than died in the whole of 2013 (265 deaths).

rt.com

rt.com

Not a good week for air travel.

It has been reported that up to 51 people have died  and seven injured when TransAsia Airways GE222 made an emergency landing in post-typhoon weather conditions, ploughing into two homes in the village of Xixi, not far from Magong Airport on Penghu Island.

The twin-engine turboprop ATR 72 was en-route from from Kaohsiung, a city in the south of Tawain to Penghu, an island archipelago off the western coast of Taiwan. There was heavy rain at the airport, the remnants of Typhoon Matmo which had earlier hit the island nation.

There were 54 passengers and four crew members on board. Apparently, the pilot abandoned the first landing and performed a go around. The crash occurred on the second landing.

TransAsia is a privately owned airline based in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. It has 33 destinations in Tawian Southeast and Northeast Asia. This is apparently their eighth incident in the last 12 years of flying. According to Skytrax, TransAsia Airways is not a Star ranked airline. Its customers give it six out of ten. The airline has ten ATRs.

I have wanted to go to Penghu for some time. From all accounts, it is a beautiful place. Today, it is marred by tragedy. As a regular traveller to Asia and as someone who has many Taiwanese friends, I am quite touched. My thoughts to all on board, their families and loved ones.

 

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For those of who have been to Dubai, you will have seen the gleaming towers, spotless streets, stunning shopping malls and clean hotels. Behind all of this are an  estimated 7.8 million immigrant workers- 75 percent of whom are from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. There has been significant criticism of the working conditions of these workers.

Migrant Workers in Dubai

Migrant Workers in Dubai

A charity that works with these workers is Smartlife Foundation, has a mission to “uplift the non privileged members of our community“. I  was taken by a video of the people they work with dancing to Pharrell ‘s – Happy. It really humanises the people who live “behind the scenes” in that country.

 

In a film  that debuted in Dubai’s International Film Festival in December 2013,  directed by Lebanese born Mahmoud KaabourChamp of the Camp  new documentary seeks to everyday camp life is portrayed. The documentary looks at the singing competitions that take place in the labor camps which are organised by workers in the camp to express themselves. The competition now has 7,000 people participating.

These films give a very different view of the gleaming towers of Dubai.

For more information and ways you can help: Adopt a camp Charity  and Smartlife Foundation.
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Malaysia Airlines has revised its passengers list after verifying a further 21 of the 41 passengers whose nationality could not initially be verified.

These passengers were previously unidentified as they were in transit, and had not entered passport control in Amsterdam.
The new breakdown on passengers is:

 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [updated]

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Malaysia Airlines have announced that they are waiving all fees for changes to travel from today until further notice to all MH destinations.

Apparently spooked by the second incident involving a Malaysia Airlines jet in four months, customers are calling travel agents to cancel bookings with the carrier. As I said, earlier today, the airline is already struggling financially. Further cancellations will really put pressure on the carrier and accelerate the need to re-structure the carrier.

All MH flights are operating as per normal schedule.

 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [updated]

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I was very moved by a post today by Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) over at One Mile at a Time. He spoke to a guy in a queue at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. The guy was flying on MH 17 which came down whilst flying over the Ukraine.

Its a very powerful post.

It made me reflect how close we come sometimes to the edge of life? How many contacts do we have with people who we never know their futures?  I was releived to get a text back from one of my friends who is a cabin crew memeber of Malaysia Airlines to say he is okay. We observed this is the second time this year, he has had to reassure friends and family that he is okay.

Lets treat each other with care today. We never know whats in store.

 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [updated]

Malaysia Airlines Passengers by Nationality

Malaysia Airlines have released the nationalities of the passengers aboard MH 17, the plane lost over the Ukraine on July 17:

  • Australia: 27
  • Belgium: 4
  • Canada: 1
  • Germany: 4
  • Indonesia: 12 (including 1 infant)
  • Malaysia:  43 (including 15 crew & 2 infants)
  • Netherlands: 154
  • Philippines: 3
  • United Kingdom:       9
  • Unverified: 41

The company is currently notifying the next-of-kin of the passengers and crew.

Families of passengers and crew contact:  +603 7884 1234 (Malaysia) or +31 7 0348 7770(Netherlands).

For media queries contact: +603 8777 5698/ +603 8787 1276.

The airline is providing regular updates at: www.malaysiaairlines.com

 

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Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 [updated]

NB: As with all my posts, thsi is written in my private capacity and does not represent my employer.

 

Shocked to see that a passenger plane has allegedly been shot down. Air traffic controllers lost contact with Malaysia Airlines flight 17 at 1415 GMT ) as it flew over eastern Ukraine towards the Russian border.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry advisor Anton Herashchenko has claimed that Malaysia Airlines MH17 was allegedly shot down from its 10,000 metres (33,000 ft) height cruise altitude. 

MH17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The Boeing 777-200 had 283 passengers (early reports said 282) and 15 crew members. Amsterdam airport CEO says the flight  had  154 Dutch, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians and six Britons on board. 

mh17 flightpath

/flightaware.com/

 

The Washington Post has a series of pictures of the crash. NB Rather disturbing images.

Tragic situation. And the second tragedy to hit Malaysia Airlines this year after losing MH370.The airline,  which I enjoy flying, is struggling with the financial impact of the earlier loss which compounded its delicate financial situation. It is  weird that MH 17 was lost on 17 July. Strange coincidence which will have conspiracy searchers frothing at the mouth to link to something.

My deepest sympathies to all who have lost loved ones in this situation.

Air France and Lufthansa , British Airways,  Turkish Airlines and Transaero — have both announced they will be avoiding Ukrainian air space, while Virgin said it would reroute some flights. Malaysia Airlines will now also be taking alternative routes avoiding the usual route.

This situation is always something that is bothered me as I have watched the moving maps aboard my planes. How close am I to potential or actual conflict zones? How safe am I as a passenger? Considering how many planes are up in the sky at any one time, the chances of this situation are so remote.  Tragically for 298 people that remoteness vanished today. RIP

MAS’ emergency hotline is +31 70 3487770.

 

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If you are planning on carrying your mobile, laptop or ipad onto a plane to the USA or UK, make sure it is charged.

www.abc.net.au

www.abc.net.au

Under new rules released last week by the US Transport Security Administration (TSA), passengers travelling from Europe, the Middle East and Africa to the US must be able to turn on their electronics at security in order to prove they are the genuine article and not some kind of bomb. The TSA states: During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.

The rule was extended to all air passengers flying into or out of British airports last week. There seemed to be some confusion at some airports but the bottom line seems to be, make sure your electronics work when boarding a plane.

The increased security comes after reports that two terror networks are working together on a bomb that could evade existing measures.

phone

I am always running out of juice, so this one is going to be as important to get right as the “no liquids” rules. Some tips to help:

  1. Charge the phone as long as you can at home or office before going to the airport
  2. Every power outlet I see, I use to charge devices
  3. I have learnt not to be too proud to ask shops, cafes and hotels if I can charge my computer, phone or ipad
  4. As soon as a phone approaches 20% battery, switch it off to preserve power
  5. Keep phone in power-saving mode – turn down brightness, switch off 4G, switch off all notifications, bluetooth and GPS
  6. Carry a fully charged mobile charging device
  7. Have a charger/adapter for international destinations
  8. Don’t watch videos, scan lots of photos or take multiple lots of pictures
  9. Remember that even after you have boarded the plane to conserve power. If you have to connect to another flight or if you have to change aircraft for some reason, you want battery left!

 

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A paper published this week concludes that a cabin dedicated to standing only passengers “has a potential to be applied by low-cost airlines servicing short-haul flight markets.

Sounds like just the recipe for Ryanair, Spirit Airlines and Air Asia! It brings a whole new meaning to the term “cattle class“!

straphangers__271470

F. I. Romli et al in the International Journal of Engineering and Technology, suggest that by installing a “standing seat“, airlines could fit 21 per cent more passengers into a cabin. The distance between seats could be reduced from the usual 30″ to a mere 23″. By removing the overhead bins and placing them on the side, airlines could maximise the number of standing passengers by installing the vertical seats as close to the cabin wall as possible. 

Ryanair-Vertical-Seats-420x0

Example of a “standing seat” known as the “Skyrider”

The low cost Chinese carrier Spring Sirlines has considered standing room sections. They have said “one of their motivations was to make the operation of air transportation more flexible and affordable like using the public bus.”

The authors of this week’s study conclude that “the flight ticket price can be reduced by as much as 17% from the currently offered by the low-cost carrier” and for a “full-service airline, the price difference could be as much as 44% lower for certain flight routes“.

The factors that would count against a standing only seat are:

  1. Safety considerations
  2. Passenger comfort
  3. Passenger interest

 

1. To tackle safety, the authors note that the cabin needs to be evacuated “within the allowable time limits during any emergency cases.” and the “seat” must satisfy design requirements for aircraft seats.

2. The study suggests that the limit for a passenger in this seat would be a three hour flight.

3. The final question is will passengers be attracted to the concept? Jean Medina, spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the US airline industry trade group  said: “Airline customers ultimately determine what works in the market, voting with their wallet every day,…and comfort is high among drivers of their choice.

While researching this post, however, I found a number of polls on websites that asked “Would you stand on a flight for a cheaper airfare?” Overwhelmingly, 70 to 80 percent of respondents said “no“. However, 20 to 30 percent said “yes“. I, know enough backpackers and students who would sacrifice a seat for a hop across Europe, the USA and Asia if it meant saving a few more dollars. Just give them wifi and they would be happy! There may indeed be a market there?

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1406 cnx bangkok airways

Every now and then you get a reminder of what flying used to be like and a glimpse of what it could be like. Porter Airways in Canada is one such “boutique” carrier and Bangkok Airways is another. This was the 90th airline I have ever flown.

Bangkok Airways started back in 1968 as Sahakol Air,  the first ever private aviation company in Thailand.  They have embarked on a fairly aggressive growth strategy in the last three years.  They have some of the cutest ads of any airline in the world!

Booking: 10/10

There is now a crowded market in Thailand, a country with a population of 66 million in an area the size of Spain or slightly larger than California. There are nine registered carriers jostling for market share:

  1. Thai Airways (and subsidiary Thai Smile)- 29% market share
  2. Thai AirAsia – 28% market share
  3. Nokair- 27%
  4. Bangkok Airways- 14%
  5. Orient Thai Airlines  – 1%
  6. Business Air <1%
  7. Happy Air <1%
  8. Kan Air  <1%
  9. Thai Lion Air (started in Dec, 2013) <1%

I will never fly with some of the carriers because of my personal paranoia about air safety in ThailandBangkok‘s reputation amongst my friends, however convinced me to try them.

The airline currently owns 27 aircraft. With codeshares they fly to 24 destinations in Thailand,  Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan and the Maldives. They own their own airports  at Samui, Sukhothai and Trat.

RMAP_Codeshare

Bangkok Airways has a great website and an equally useful app for booking flights (you cannot choose a seat on the app, however).

We booked our ticket through a travel agent because we got a slightly better deal. Unlike many countries in the world where  travel agents avoid selling domestic flights, Thai ones seem happy to assist.

 

Check In: 10/10

Bangkok Airways offer check in via the web or mobile phone from 24 hours prior to departure. Check in was straight forward. Strangely, you cannot use the app to check in.

We were unable to obtain window seats using the web check in so we presented ourselves at the airport. The warm friendly staff got us into the exit seats with no fuss. Others I have spoken to also admire the efficiency and warmth of Bangkok Airways Check in (now I sound like an advertisement for them).

Luggage allowance is one free checked bag of up to 20kg (44 pounds) and one carry on of up to 5kg (11 pounds).

 

Lounge: 7/10

One of the features of Bangkok airways is that all passengers have access to their private lounge with drinks,  snacks, newspapers and wifi. The lounge at Chiang Mai airport was being renovated so we were welcomed into a converted room and given a complimentary snack box. This was better than many US airline lounges!

Photo 2014-06-09 13 27 36

Photo 2014-06-09 13 27 42

Boarding: 9/10

The flight was not full and boarding was pretty speedy. Passengers were greeted in English or Thai on boarding. The welcome aboard was very warm and hospitable. There was plenty of baggage room.

 

On Board: 8/10

Our one class Airbus 320 had 144 Economy seats with a 31″ pitch and  19.8 width except in the exit row! Seats were comfortable but old. The plane itself being ten years old is looking tired and dated. It was clean and the lavatories were spotless, however.

Photo 2014-06-09 14 25 50

The airline is equipping some planes with a Premier Section at the front of their planes. Three rows have the middle seat removed. The airline also has a “Blue Ribbon”  Business Class.

 

Safety: 7/10

A flight attendant visited those of us in the exit row to take us through safety requirements for sitting there.

Photo 2014-06-09 14 29 58

I found the safety demonstration awful. The video intro and outro with dancing flight attendants was cringe -worthy. The rest of the video is very dull.  I would have liked to see the flight attendants on our flight dancing in the same way as the attendants in the video.  None of the crew took positions in the cabin to demonstrate equipment or exit procedures.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lolNJEp116Y

 

Take Off

We took off on time for quite a spectacular take off out of Chiang Mai with great views of Doi Suthep, the mountain next to the city as we climbed. 

 

Meal: 9/10

The airline served one of the most amazing spreads I have seen 0n a 57 minute journey! Check this out:

Photo 2014-06-09 14 50 41

Everything was fresh. Remember we had also eaten snack box food in the lounge! The crew served and packed the meals up in what seemed like record time.

 

Entertainment: 1/10

The airline offered no entertainment on this sector, although eating the meal took up some of our flight time!  There were 14″ overhead LCD screens throughout the cabin, but they were only used for the safety demonstrations and moving map. 

 

Landing

Right on time, we touched down into smokey Bangkok.

 

The Verdict

My Flight Rating: Overall 81% (4 out of 5).

Skytrax: Bangkok Airways has a 4 star rating from Skytrax - and well deserved.

Positives: Check in process, meals
Negatives: No Entertainment on board
Would I fly them again? Yes, Yes, Yes- definitely in the top 20 of my 90 airlines!

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Trip Report: Thai to Bangkok

Bangkok Airways ad declares love

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