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New Philippines flights for Emirates

2 January 2015

Emirates Airline will add two additional destinations to its network in the Philippines in 2016 as it takes advantage of a revised Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) that has provided additional rights to airlines from both countries.

Emirates has opened reservations for a new daily flight linking its Dubai International Airport hub with both Mactan–Cebu International Airport and Clark International Airport (formerly the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport) from the end of March 2016. The flight will operate on a triangular basis and will be flown using a two-class Boeing 777-300ER

Recent air services talks have resulted resulted in Emirates gaining rights for four additional flights per week on its existing route to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, and these will be launched from March 29, 2016.

Cebu will be brand new destination for Emirates, but the carrier previously served Clark during the winter schedule of 2013/2014, ending flights in May 2014 after just seven months of operation. Clark International Airport is located in the province of Pampanga in Central Luzon, around 80 kilometres to the north of Manila.

New Years Eve shock in Dubai

1 January 2015

It was New Year's Eve. Downtown was packed. Hotels, restaurants and bars were all full. The streets were closed. People everyone

Then, at about 9.30pm on New Years Eve the five star Address Downtown hotel next to the Dubai Mall caught fire.

The fire spread up across the facade of the building remarkably quickly. By 10pm the whole of the front of the hotel was ablaze.

Meanwhile at midnight the Burj Khalifa fireworks went ahead while across the Burj Lake the Address Downtown still blazed.

There are plenty of news reports on the details of the fire so I will restrict this to observations about the evening and the following day.

The following morning the Gulf News barely mentioned the fire. The front page picture was of the fireworks; the short report noted that 14 people had suffered minor injuries. "Fire at Dubai Hotel fails to dampen the enthusiasm of revellers" claimed the small sub-title.

Inside on page 5 the paper claimed that "firefighting teams managed to control 80% of the fire in a record time by 10.30pm to ensure the new year party continue."

The Director-General of Dubai civil defence said that the fire damaged only the external interface of the hotel.

The same message was echoed in Saturday's newspaper. With one additional casualty.

The suggestion remains that the fire originated on the 20th floor of the hotel. There have been reports that it started on a lower floor. The Saturday snapshots page show glittering fireworks pictures while carefully avoiding any pictures of smoke or flames.

At midnight the Dubai Media Office @DXBMediaOffice was tweeting as though nothing was amiss. I suspect this was the result of timed auto-tweets. Yet at the same time we had no idea if there was anyone trapped by the flames in the hotel

"Dubai's successful New Year's celebration is testimony to its steadfast commitment to its major projects and initiatives"
"@BurjKhalifa welcomes 2016 in magical style #MyDubaiNewYear pic.twitter.com/IdXR3XKJIw"
"#MyDubaiNewYear ... Burj Khalifa kicks breath-taking firework show pic.twitter.com/OVe4TtcdfG"

If it was safer to set off the fireworks as planned then the authorities should have said so. Otherwise it looked reckless - there was a fire burning next to the tower - or callous; hundreds of people had been endangered and many others evacuated and uncertain about what to do or where to go.

There were fireworks at the Burj Al Arab and at the Atlantis Hotel. Proceeding with those made sense. Continuing with the Burj Khalifa fireworks left my friends and I feeling very uneasy.

A statement from Dubai civil defence on the afternoon of Friday January 01, 2016 stated that "cooling procedures are still underway after the blaze at The Address Downtown Dubai hotel was brought under control and prevented from spreading to other buildings." There were still fires mid afternoon and into the evening.

The statement "praised the exceptional collaboration between all the entities that are part of the Crisis Management Committee and the extraordinary efficiency of the Dubai Civil Defence in controlling the fire and helping avoid serious injuries or causalities (sic). Four fully equipped squads from Dubai Civil Defence units were dispatched to the fire scene, while ambulance teams were rushed to provide instant medical care and first aid on site. Dubai Government responded rapidly to the incident and coordinated efforts to instantly evacuate the hotel’s guests to ensure their safety. Security forces secured the hotel’s premises and surroundings, and re-directed pedestrian traffic through alternative routes."

The statement makes the incident sound routine; it was not. Access for emergency vehicles was near impossible with closed roads and massive crowds out to watch the NYE fireworks.

There was burning debris blowing in the wind onto adjacent rooftops. It seems that it was just luck that stopped the fire from spreading.

There are many different reports of how people escaped from the burning hotel. Were the fire alarms and sprinklers working? No clear answer. Were staff and fire marshalls directing guests and residents. Or was it a panicked free for all.

The good news is that the rear of the hotel - opening onto the Boulevard appears untouched. so the structure of the hotel remained intact and it is likely that stairwells and fire-exits were clear to allow everyone to get out of the building,

But watching from a distance it seems like a miracle that only 15 people were injured.

Our friends in the adjacent Souk al Bahar were sitting down to a romantic dinner for two as the fire broke out. They grabbed clothes and a toothbrush and came to stay in our apartment.

We walked up to the Souk al Bahar on Friday afternoon with our friends. The tower was still smoking and flames in some rooms. There were many modern fire vehicles including water tankers. But not a great deal of activity. It was more of a tourist spot for pictures to be taken.


First pictures of Dubai inferno hotel's ravaged interior: Photos show devastation left by huge blaze as investigators probe cause of massive New Year's Eve fire that tore through 63-storey building Daily Mail

Quick response enable Crisis Management Team in Dubai quell The Address hotel fire in record time DXB Media Office

Was Dubai’s Address Hotel Built to Burn? The Daily Beast

Dubai hotel fire: Inferno at 63-storey Address Downtown hotel near New Year's Eve fireworks display The Telegraph

Emaar to restore fire-ravaged Address hotel to its glory Khaleej Times

Koh Tao debacle: Shoddy work from beginning to end

1 January 2016 The Nation

Thailand’s ludicrous official response to the outcry at the verdict

The investigation into the murder of two British backpackers on Koh Tao was, from the very start, a muddled affair. Yet, despite public revelations of mishandling of the case by the police and widespread doubt about the guilt of the accused, the authorities were caught by surprise at the international outcry that greeted last week's court ruling.

The sentencing to death of the accused, two Myanmar migrant workers, provoked a raucous street protest in Yangon and grumbling in Nay Pyi Taw. Irked government officials claimed the reaction was all a conspiracy to discredit the Royal Thai Police. It would be wonderful if it could be so easily imagined away.

The inescapable fact is that the controversy surrounding the Koh Tao case is only the latest global outcry directed at the Thai police force, whose reputation and credibility now seem irrevocably tainted in the eyes of most outsiders and indeed many citizens.

The Koh Tao investigation was compromised from the beginning, when police failed to properly seal off the crime scene. A rumour that the attack was carried out by someone linked to influential figures on the island was summarily dismissed and investigators quickly focused on the migrant community, refusing to even contemplate the possibility that Thais might have been involved. The police gave no explanation for this shift in focus, which saw Myanmar migrants Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun arrested and charged with the despicable crime.

Respected forensic scientist Pornthip Rojanasunand, who has clashed with law-enforcement officials in the past, was denied access to the investigators' findings. That decision suggests that the police allowed emotion to overrule duty and professional ethics. Dr Pornthip was, however, able to testify subsequently in court that the police had failed to analyse blood found at the crime scene and might have destroyed evidence by prematurely moving the body of one victim.

More doubts were raised over the failure to run comparative DNA tests the female victim's clothing and a hoe that was the purported murder weapon. Pornthip, acting on behalf of the defendants, conducted that test and found that the DNA on the hoe did not match that of the accused.

The court presumably attached more credence to prosecution testimony that the suspects' semen was found on the female victim's body, even though analysis of the DNA samples of three people was, in the view of other witnesses, done too hastily.

Most troubling of all for the police case - and for the police force's reputation - is the fact the defendants, having withdrawn their confessions once a lawyer was belatedly provided, claimed they had admitted to the crime after being tortured. The court did not even take this point into consideration.

In spite of these many doubts and shortcomings, the national police chief, Pol Gen Jakthip Chaijinda, had the audacity to suggest that an unnamed political group had instigated the ensuing protests to discredit his men. Deputy police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan Pingmuang wondered aloud why, of the 126 murder cases involving Burmese in this country in the past year, no others met with protest.

The simple answer is that none of the other cases caught the interest of the foreign press, which stemmed from the fact that the victims in this murder were citizens of Britain, where the news media are not only highly opinionated but also alert to the hazards of Thai tourism.

Moreover, the story evoked an all-too-common narrative - defenceless migrant workers becoming ready scapegoats in criminal probes and the victims of the whims of the rich and powerful. Those from Myanmar know all too well the pitfalls presented by working here, beginning with horrendous labour conditions. The protest in Yangon - which forced the Thai embassy to close out of security concerns - was at core an expression of anger over Thai attitudes and behaviour towards their countrymen.

In what can only be viewed as a bid to save face, Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan ordered a hunt for the "masterminds" behind the protest rallies in Myanmar and Thailand. Rather than making matters worse, he should be pushing for a reform of the police force.

Debating the UAE's future

20 December 2015

In 2014 entrepreneur, author, and Arab Spring activist Iyad el-Baghdadi was expelled from the UAE - he now lives in Oslo. His commentary on Middle East issues is often compelling.

He recently wrote an article for the International Business Times discussing the future direction of his birth-country. It is too provocative to republish here; at least for now. But here is a link to the article.

This should be part of a debate held between all the stakeholders who have committed to the future of the UAE. I know second and thrd generation residents (non Emiratis) who have built business here yet who still re-apply for their two year work visas. They can be removed from the country at any time.

I do think there has to come a time when non-Emiratis are given a greater opportunity to participate in the nation that so many already call home; citizenship; permanent residence; representation. I think that will create a sustainable, dynamic nation. But it will be a big step.

Then and now - Watford FC

18 December 2015

Sunday night's entertainment sees Watford FC entertaining Liverpool, quite a well known football team from the north west of England. Which is as good a reason as any to remember a famous day in May 1983.

Watford were in their first ever season in what was then the old first division. If we beat Liverpool (who finished as champions) in our last game of the season we could finish second.

Martin Patching, with his dodgy knees, scored our first. Luther Blissett got the second after half time. Craig Johnston pulled one back for Liverpool.

There were over 27,000 crammed into Vicarage Road - including me! We finished second - qualified for Europe and had to get our atlases out to find Kaiserslauten.

It was glorious, boisterous, exhilarating fun. More of the same this Sunday would be welcome!
Teams from that day:

Watford: Sherwood; Rice, Rostron, Patching, Sims, Franklin, Callaghan, Blissett, Barnes, Jackett, Sterling.
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Neal, Kennedy, Lawrenson, Thompson, Hansen, Dalglish, Lee, Hodgson, Johnston, Souness.

This was the Watford squad at the end of the 1982/1983 season.
No.   Position Player
  England GK Steve Sherwood
  England GK Eric Steele
  England DF Ian Bolton
  England DF Paul Franklin
  England DF Richard Jobson
  England DF Charlie Palmer
  England DF Neil Price
  England DF Wilf Rostron
  England DF Steve Sims
  England DF Steve Terry
  Wales DF Kenny Jackett
No.   Position Player
  Northern Ireland DF Pat Rice
  England MF John Barnes
  England MF Nigel Callaghan
  England MF Martin Patching
  England MF Les Taylor
  Netherlands MF Jan Lohman
  England FW Luther Blissett
  England FW Jimmy Gilligan
  England FW Ross Jenkins
  England FW David Johnson
  Northern Ireland FW Gerry Armstrong

22 players - 20 English, 1 Welsh and 1 Dutch.

How the top flight of English football has changed in the last thirty years: the 2015/2016 squad follows - as in December 2015 before the mid season transfer window:
No. Player Born Int No. Player Born Int
1 Heurelho Gomes 21 Ikechi Anya
2 Allan Nyom 22 Almen Abdi
3 Miguel Britos   23 Ben Watson
4 Gabriele Angella 24 Odion Ighalo
5 Sebastian Prödl 25 José Holebas
6 Joel Ekstrand 26 Bernard Mensah  
7 José Manuel Jurado 27 Essaïd Belkalem
8 Valon Behrami 28 Connor Smith
9 Troy Deeney   29 Étienne Capoue
10 Obbi Oularé 30 Jorell Johnson  
13 Rene Gilmartin 31 Tommie Hoban
14 Juan Carlos Paredes 32 Alessandro Diamanti
15 Craig Cathcart 33 Lloyd Dyer  
16 Nathan Aké 34 Giedrius Arlauskis
17 Adlène Guedioura 35 Josh Doherty
18 Daniel Pudil 36 Alex Jakubiak
19 Victor Ibarbo 37 Alfie Young  
20 Steven Berghuis 38 Mahlondo Martin  
39 Dennon Lewis  
40 George Byers

EK's A380 plans for 2016

17 December 2016

Emirates today announced it will deploy its A380 to Birmingham (BHX), Prague (PRG) and Taipei (TPE) in 2016.

Emirates’ daily Birmingham flight, EK39/40, will be converted to an A380 beginning 27th March 2016. Emirates A380 services to Prague and Taiwan will start from 1st May 2016. Additionally, Barcelona will be served with a second daily Emirates A380 service from 1st June 2016.

Emirates’ inaugural A380 flight to Birmingham, EK39 will depart Dubai at 07:35hrs and arrive at 12:20hrs and will be operated in a two-class configuration. EK40 will depart Birmingham at 14:20hrs and arrive in Dubai at 00:35hrs (+1).

The daily Emirates Dubai-Prague route, operating as EK139, will depart Dubai at 09:05hrs and arrive in Prague at 13:30hrs. The return leg, operating as EK140, will depart Prague at 15:40hrs and arrive in Dubai at 23:35hrs. The A380 route will be operated in a three-class configuration, representing a 44 per cent increase in capacity.

In Taiwan, Emirates will up-gauge its service to a two-class A380 service, representing a 44 per cent increase in capacity. Emirates flight EK366 will depart Dubai at 04:35hrs and arrive in Taipei at 16:50hrs the same day. The return flight EK367 will leave Taipei at 23:30hrs, arriving in Dubai at 05:05hrs the next day. Taipei Taoyuan International Airport recently completed enhancements making it compatible with the double-decker aircraft.

Barcelona will be served twice daily with an Emirates A380 service, in a three-class configuration. From 1st June 2016, the second A380 service flight EK187 will depart Dubai at 15:45hrs and arrives in Barcelona at 20:55, while the return leg, EK188 departs Barcelona at 22:40hrs and arrives in Dubai at 07:25hrs the next day. The first A380 service to Barcelona was launched on 1st February 2014.

Thailand's Fear of Free Speech

13 December 2015 - The New York Times Editorial Board

Since it seized power in a military coup in 2014, Thailand’s military junta, led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, has become increasingly obsessed with controlling public debate. This reached absurd proportions on Wednesday, when the Thai police announced they were investigating United States Ambassador Glyn Davies for possible violation of the country’s lèse-majesté laws that make royal insult a crime.

The investigation focuses on remarks Mr. Davies made last month reiterating the United States’ concern about efforts by the junta to curb free speech, specifically the “lengthy and unprecedented prison sentences” given to civilians by Thai military courts for violating the same lèse-majesté laws. The government should know that its decision to investigate Mr. Davies only confirms the truth of what he said.

And there is no way his well-founded criticism of the draconian efforts to curb freedom of expression can be construed as insulting to King Bhumibol Adulyadej. In fact, Mr. Davies praised the king in his remarks. But the king is 88 and ailing, and the junta appears intent on maintaining an iron grip at least until after a royal succession.

The junta has come down hard on critics. Media outlets have been raided and journalists, along with academics and politicians, have been sent to camps for “attitude adjustment.” Some of those arrested have disappeared. People have been sentenced to decades in prison for Facebook posts, and the military apparently has plans to reduce Internet traffic to a single gateway it can control.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s once robust economy is floundering, and crime has risen sharply in Bangkok. Farmers – half the country’s population lives in rural areas – are suffering after the worst drought in decades, and a third of the country is living with water rationing.

The junta is also embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Rajabhakti Park, a lavish site it built to honor Thailand’s kings. And, on Thursday, the top investigator into Thailand’s human trafficking rings, Maj. Gen. Paween Pongsirin, announced that he had fled to Australia, where he will seek asylum. He said he feared for his safety after exposing collusion between crime syndicates and Thai authorities.

The best way for General Prayuth to calm growing public frustration, and address the legitimate concerns of the United States and other allies, is to tackle Thailand’s lagging economy, clean up corruption in the military’s ranks and make progress toward drafting a constitution and holding elections for a transition to civilian rule, as the junta has promised. Open public debate is essential to that process.

Qatar's Miami incident - cover up, confusion and a lying CEO

13 October 2015

The preliminary report from the Qatar CAA is here : http://www.caa.gov.qa/sites/default/files/Preliminary%20report%20QR778%20Miami_v3.pdf

There really is no other word for it. Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker has been lieing to the US media about the 15 September take-off incident in Miami.

Al Baker said that instructions from air traffic controllers resulted in the September runway light collision in Miami, despite evidence of confusion in the cockpit.

“It was an instruction given to our pilot by the air traffic control, which he should have refused to accept,” says Al Baker at a media event in New York today. “However, he had enough runway for getting airborne and it was only an unfortunate incident. At no time was the aircraft or the passengers put in any harms way.”

He added that “It was an instruction given to our pilot by the ATC, which he should have refused to accept.”

Al Baker’s comments differ markedly from preliminary findings from the Qatari civil aviation authority on the incident earlier in December.

Investigators found that the captain of the Qatar Boeing 777-300ER chose to depart from the T1 intersection of runway 09 at Miami International airport despite carrying out the calculations for a full-length runway departure and despite a company prohibition on intersection take offs from this runway.

Neither the captain nor the three other crew members in the cockpit realised that the T1 intersection was some 1,000m from the beginning of runway 09, leaving the 342t aircraft with only 2,610m available for the departure, the investigation found.

No where do the initial findings suggest that air traffic controllers told the pilots to take off from the T1 intersection. They do say that the first officer advised air traffic controllers that the intersection was an acceptable line-up point for take off.

ATC is not responsible for where the airliner's captain chooses to take-of from. ATC simply acknowledged the request and expedited the departure in front of a landing aircraft.

The Qatar 777, operating flight 778, continued to Doha even after overrunning the end of runway 09 and striking the approach lights on departure.

“Such kind of incidents happen quite often, either it is a tail strike on the runway or it is contact with the landing lights,” says Al Baker. “It is nothing out of context.”

Al Akbar also said that "At no time was the aircraft or the passengers put in any harms way.” Not true - he needs to read the report.

A CEO that is willing to lie to the traveling public does little to reassure them that Qatar Air has an acceptable safety culture.

Battle of the airports: Singapore v Dubai

12 December 2015

Tai and I were back in Singapore for a day last week.

The only point of this post is to note how far ahead Singapore Airport is of any of its major hub competition.

The original Terminal One has been renovated and is in great condition. Welcoming soft coloured carpeting; plenty if space; short queues at immigration and incredibly rapid baggage delivery.

The only downside - taxi prices have increased significantly.

Dubai - Terminal One is still in appalling condition despite the attempt at renovations. It is as if the airport authority wanted to push everyone to terminal three and Emirates. Oh yes, they do!

When all passengers checking in at Terminal One have to be sent by train to the still unopened new Concourse D there is going to be a serious bottleneck for train access.

As for Terminal Three - the check in area and baggage halls are spacious albeit cold in appearance and devoid of all charm. The concourses - A, B and soon all of C - are over-run with passengers - crowded and confused. Worse - in order to extract every last $ of revenue the authority has allowed stored to be built where passengers should be able to walk. It is a planning and logistical disaster.

Baggage - my last three visits to Terminal 3 have seen my baggage arrive an hour after reaching the gate. Poor.

Taxis - queuing system is as confused as ever. Yet for most people arriving in the middle of the night this is the only way to leave the airport as teh subway is not operating overnight.

Immigration - Good at terminal three with the e-gates. But there are no e-gates in terminal one - expect long queues.

Singapore meanwhile is rushing ahead with a fourth terminal. No one could ever accuse them of complacency.

A Kingdom in Denial

12 December 2015 By Pravit Rojanaphruk Senior Staff Writer for Khaosod English

A society which does not dare look straight at itself is a society in denial.

On Dec. 1, the frontpage of International New York Times in Thailand contained a large, blank white space where there was supposed to be a news article critical of Thailand. Two sentences were printed in that space, however.

“The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal,” read the note printed in place of the news article.

Lighting struck again on Dec. 4, when a commentary on Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau and its wealth were also redacted and replaced with the same note.

(If you think those two incidents are disturbing, they are an improvement for the Thai printer, Eastern Printing, which in September just decided to not print the whole newspaper for one day due to a long, front-page article about the succession of the throne.)

I cannot really blame the Thai printer for censoring news and articles which contain a less-than-flattering mention of HRH the Crown Prince, for the printer is not alone.

When it comes to censoring even the most trivial news and information critical or negative about the monarchy, the mainstream mass media in Thailand is very efficient, though people just don’t see it.

All major Thai newspapers and TV stations subscribe to foreign news agencies such as Reuters, AFP, Associated Press or Kyodo. And every now and then there are news items or commentaries critical of Thailand’s monarchy from these foreign news agencies, and those in charge routinely, automatically and almost unconsciously censor them because they all have decided beforehand that no news or commentary critical of the monarchy is fit for printing or broadcasting, reading or viewing.

This practice is so normal that when Thai media organizations and associations talk about press freedom, they do so without an iota of irony, as they don’t see it as self-censorship anymore.

For those who fail to heed the commandment that thou shalt not spread news critical of the monarchy, they risk ending up in prison.

Forty-year-old Ekachai Hongkangwan, a college-graduate and lottery-ticket vendor, served two years and eight months in prison for violating the lese majeste law for having peddled copies of a documentary news program about the future of the Thai monarchy produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He was released a few weeks ago and told me he’s finding it difficult to get a job as employers are unwilling to hire a lese-majeste convict.

This is a society living in fear if you happen to be critical of the monarchy. Most of them have to hide their true political views more discreetly and secretively than some members of the LGBT community shield their gender identity in Thailand.

It is also a society in a chronic state of clinical denial, as it opts to only consume positive-only news and information about the monarchy. Instead of risking a maximum term of 15 years in prison under the lese majeste law, some resort to gossiping in private among those whom they can trust, or at least believe they can trust.

The gap between what’s reported in the mainstream media and what many, including journalists, gossip about in private is ocean wide and disturbing.

On the flip side of censorship and self-censorship is the manufacturing of overt glorification of the monarchy on mainstream television stations.

Most Thai TV news hosts were given a Bike for Dad T-shirt in honor of His Majesty the King, and asked – in writing or verbally or both – to wear it whenever they’re on air.

A newscaster from a major, free TV channel told me many would only put in on before being on camera and remove it once the broadcast ended.

This is a subtle way of creating an appearance of overt consensus on the glorification of the monarchy.

Why the need to go this far? I have no ready answer for that.

The cost of such a predicament for Thailand is considerable, however.

How can we make a critical assessment of our own society’s strengths and weaknesses if the media and the rest cannot say anything critical at all about the royal institution?

Some may say people are free to gossip privately and cite hearsay. But are these un-rigorous and unreliable ways of communicating really adequate?

The need to be able to frankly talk about our own society, including the monarchy, is even more necessary as Thailand moves closer toward the transitional period in which a royal succession will eventually take place. In reality, it’s expected that there will be greater censorship, self-censorship and arrests under the lese majeste law in the foreseeable future.

We’re heading toward more big blank spaces, censorship, self-censorship, even news blackouts, and all we have are these crude tools called gossip and hearsay. This is definitely not a Thailand that I can be proud of.

This self-denial has been going on for a long time now, far too long even, and the question has become: “How much longer are we going to keep pretending that we’re not in self-denial?”

Emirates 2016 fleet plans

8 December 2015

Emirates has announced its fleet plans for 2016. In total, the airline will retire 26 aircraft, including 12 A330-300s, 4 A340-300s, 1 A340-500 (which we all though had retired last month!), 6 Boeing 777-200ERs, 2 Boeing 777-300s and 1 Boeing 777-300ER. The average age of the Emirates aircraft slated for retirement in 2016 will be 15.7 years. In addition, 13 more aircraft will be retired in 2017 and another 13 will be retired in 2018.

Balancing its aircraft retirement programme, Emirates will take delivery of 36 new aircraft in 2016, including 20 A380s and 16 Boeing 777-300ERs. At the end of 2016, the aircraft retirements and new deliveries will put Emirates’ average fleet age at 5.6 years, dramatically younger than the global average.

Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said, “Emirates has a global footprint as the world's largest international airline, and we have a responsibility to our customers, the communities we serve, and the planet. We are fully committed to flying a modern fleet that is better for the environment, and provides our customers with a superior level of comfort and safety. With the retirement of older aircraft and the introduction of new, more fuel efficient aircraft in 2016, Emirates will continue to lead the industry in reducing the age of our fleet, while at the same time defining new levels of service that our customers have come to expect."

Currently, the total number of aircraft in the Emirates fleet stands at 243. In 2015, the airline received 26 new aircraft, including 15 A380s, 10 Boeing 777-300ERs and 1 Boeing 777 Freighter. The airline has 263 additional aircraft on order, worth over US$120 billion at list prices. Its order book includes 71 Airbus A380s, 42 Boeing 777-300ERs, 115 Boeing 777-9Xs and 35 Boeing 777-8Xs.

When delivered beginning in 2020, the new Boeing 777Xs will come with a variety of fuel efficient design additions making it almost 20% more fuel efficient than previous models. It will also include a range of passenger-focused amenities including larger windows, increased cabin pressure, more humidity, higher ceilings and a wider cabin than previous models.

In addition to reducing the age of its fleet, Emirates argues that it also implements a variety of other environmental practices that reduces CO2 emissions. These include FlexTracks, a programme that plans efficient flight route patterns based on weather conditions; single-engine taxi on the ground; idle reverse thrust upon landing; and fuel-efficient ground handling and transportation equipment.

The trouble is that UAE airspace and the lack of space at Dubai airport means that every night Emirates ahs a large number of airplanes circling in the skies above the UAe for long delays. So while they may be efficient in other areas the reality is that all the upside is wasted by the inefficiency of the hub airport and its airspace.

But Emirates PR machine will never tell you that!

Emirates and Malaysia Airlines in significant codeshare agreement

3 December 2015

Malaysia Airlines and Emirates have announced a new partnership that will give their Malaysian customers access to Emirates international network and Emirates passengers access to Malaysian's extensive regional network. 

Malaysia Airlines has been struggling for the past several years. Legacy issues and competition from Air Asia were damaging. But the real damage was from the loss of both MH370 and MH17; events that Malaysian had little control over.

Malaysia Airlines has a new chief executive, Christoph Mueller, a turnaround expert who is making some radical changes:

•Malaysia is trying to sell some of their A380s and 777s, in an effort to transform into more of a regional airline
•The airline is in the process of laying off over 30% of their workforce
•As of a couple of months ago, Malaysia rebranded and formed a new company, to which they’re transferring all of their assets
•Malaysia is introducing a new business class product on their A330s, in an effort to compete long term

So the fit with Emirates is good. Malaysia transforms into a regional carrier while directing as many passengers onto Emirates as possible. Malaysian does fly daily to Dubai - it is not clear whether this flight will continue to operate.

The detail in the press release stated that under the agreement signed by Emirates’ President Sir Tim Clark and Malaysia Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller, Malaysia Airlines will add its code on flights of Emirates to Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Americas. In return, Emirates will add its code on flights of Malaysia Airlines to domestic routes in Malaysia, South East Asia and selective cities across the Asia Pacific region. The codeshare will be implemented progressively throughout 2016 subject to regulatory approvals.

Further details, especially about reciprocal frequent flyer plans and lounge access will be revealed over time; but the deal will give frequent flyer benefits to members of both EK Skywards and Malaysia Enrich.

Sales under this codeshare agreement will commence from February 1 2016.

Malaysia Airines, like Qantas, is also a member of oneworld - as oddly is Qatar Airways which arguably could lose business from this new agreement.

Time for America to wake up to Trump's nonsense

3 December 2015

Published by The Economist

For anyone unsure what sort of an event was about to unfold in Robarts Arena, in sunny Sarasota, on November 28th, the elephant was a clue. It stood meekly outside the entrance, a long-suffering fairground veteran, with “Trump: Make America Great Again” chalked on its flank.

Had the thousands of fun-seekers filing past the pachyderm, most of them grey-haired and wearing shorts, needed additional clues, there were plenty. There was the carnival chatter inside the arena, a real holiday buzz, rising from tightly-packed rows of seating, a column of mobility scooters and elderly ladies—80 years old, some of them, but still game—wearing glittery stars-and-stripes hats, badges and earrings. There was also the entrance of the ringmaster himself.

Donald Trump, who still leads the polls in the Republican primaries, sprang from his helicopter and asked someone to bring him “six or seven beautiful children” to take a ride in it. (In that crowd, even ugly ones were hard to see.) Then Mr Trump, just landed, launched directly into his speech. It was relayed into the arena, where maybe 4,500 people faced, in bewilderment, an empty podium, long before he entered corporeally. It was like the Wizard of Oz, only louder.

Mr Trump would object to this portrayal. In recent days, he has castigated the media coverage of his campaign for the Republican nomination; at a rally in South Carolina, he spiced up one of his harangues with a mocking impression of a disabled New York Times correspondent, shouting “You gotta see this guy…” as he gurned and aped his crooked arms. He claims to be serious—seriously tough, seriously clever, “the best in the world at finance”, as he told the wrinklies in Sarasota. But Mr Trump is not at all serious. He is a clown, and an increasingly sinister one.

His shtick is to describe a make-believe fallen America, beaten by everyone, emasculated and immiserated by having “the worst government in the world, there’s nobody as bad”. Then he proposes outlandish ideas to make America great again, in Ronald Reagan’s phrase. As president, he would wall off Mexico and make it pay for the privilege, then kick out 11m illegal immigrants and their offspring. He would tax Chinese goods sufficiently to get back millions of American factory jobs filched by those devious Asians. He would seize Iraq’s oil wells and hand their revenues to the veterans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and, hell, Syria, too, he told the crowd in Florida (presumably with drone operators in mind).

Mr Trump’s ability to tell people just what they want to hear means they forget that he was once a Democrat and pro-choice; now he is Republican and pro-life. He used to be anti-intervention, but now wants to “bomb the hell out of” Islamic State. He used to dislike loose guns laws, now he loves them: “Some of those folks that were just slaughtered in Paris, if a couple of guns were in that room and were held by the good guys, you would have had a completely different story.”

Mr Trump can be funny; but in less than two months Republicans must start choosing their presidential candidate. So how come 32% of them, when there is that serious task to be done, say they want Mr Trump? One theory is they are also clowning—that they have not yet made a firm choice, and when they do, it will not be the billionaire builder. But Mr Trump’s persistence suggests this is outworn, and so did his fans in Sarasota. In interviews with over a score, most said they had made up their minds and were for Trump. “I don’t have a second choice,” said Joan Combs, a retired country-club manager from Long Island with glittery flags in her greying hair.

By far the most common explanation for this strange loyalty was that Mr Trump “tells it like it is”. That seems to confuse plain language, which Mr Trump is good at (“Listen you motherfuckers, we’re going to tax you 25%” is how he would talk to China), with plain speaking. He does not go in for that. Not even he could believe the nonsense he spouts. Yet for most of his supporters, Mr Trump’s larger-than-lifeness bridges the credulity gap.

Asked whether they believed Mr Trump’s absurd promises, many interviewees offered the thought that “He’s a rich businessman, so he knows what he’s doing”. Mr Trump’s biggest fans are middle-aged or older, white, rather poorly educated and disposed to be awed by a shouty billionaire. The interviewees included former light-blue-collar workers, retired secretaries and nurses, a plumber, a prison officer, salesmen. When pressed, others in the crowd acknowledged that Mr Trump’s biggest pledges, the wall, the mass deportations and so on, are probably hokum. Nonetheless, they felt they showed that “his heart is in the right place”.

The chauvinism Mr Trump displays when denigrating Mexicans as rapists and Muslims as terrorists is another thing some of his supporters like. “I don’t want any Syrians near me,” was one man’s main reason for backing Mr Trump. “You need to take back Britain from the Pakis before you come over here,” another volunteered, in response to being asked what the message on his T-shirt—“It’s not that all Muslims are terrorists, it’s that all terrorists are Muslims”—really meant.

Most of Mr Trump’s fans would probably disapprove of such rudeness. His racism, and maybe theirs, is of a less obtrusive, don’t-you-be-offended-by-this kind. The ninnies in Washington, not Mexicans, are his main scapegoat; he claims to employ the latter by the thousand, and love them. This helps supporters argue that it is not Mr Trump, bad-mouther of women, Mexicans and the disabled, who has the problem, but rather the politically-correct liberal zealots. “As a Christian there’s lots of things I can’t say,” says Debbie Shiraz. “Lots of things, like ‘Merry Christmas’.”

Mr Trump is trying to rein in his offensiveness. At a rally in Alabama last month he appeared to condone, or encourage, the roughing up of a black protester. But when a heckler in Sarasota began to shriek, he enjoined the crowd, with a pained expression, “Don’t hurt the person!” as she was carted off. Nonetheless, a line has been crossed. If nothing else, Mr Trump’s ugly racism would prevent him becoming president, because he has turned off too much of America. Scouring the crowd in Sarasota, your correspondent found three non-whites. One was an activist from the group Black Lives Matter, who had come to heckle. Another was an elderly Sikh, Dr Steve Bedi, who said he was a “guru in unconditional consciousness and how you can become a tree”, skills he thought Mr Trump might wish to acquire. The third was Dr Bedi’s Jamaican disciple.

The anxiety Mr Trump supporters betray by looking for scapegoats says most, of course, about themselves. Typically members of the white lower middle-class, they are at once jealous of the small privileges that distinguish them from the toilers below, and bitterly resentful of the faraway government that provides their Social Security and Medicare. Remonstrating in hard times, they are the “radical centre”, in academic jargon, who turned out for George Wallace, a populist southern Democrat who ran for president four times in the 1960s and 70s, and for another pair of crowd-pleasers, Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot, in the 1990s. Asked who was the last politician to excite them like Mr Trump, several in Sarasota cited Mr Perot. Mr Trump’s big achievement is to have entered the race with a message already perfectly crafted for this group.

Now, as then, a fear that America is getting weaker, economically or militarily, plays to its members’ fear of loss and change. That also plays to a nationalistic desire for a strong hand on the tiller— for someone, as Linda Miller, a retired accountant, said admiringly of Mr Trump, “to kick ass and take names”.

It may seem odd to come across such bottled fury and despond among the oldsters of the Sunshine State: they are enjoying the retirement, almost an after-life, millions of Americans have aspired to for decades. Yet retirement lends itself to the feelings of insecurity on which Mr Trump preys; it is no coincidence that John Updike sent his great exemplar of the radical centre, Rabbit Angstrom, from whose flabby mouth dripped endless expressions of impotence, anger and glum humour, to Florida to nurse his disappointment. “You are still you,” Rabbit reassures himself, in the fictionalised late 1980s, under the same azure sky from which Mr Trump descended, “The US is still the US, held together by credit cards and Indian names.”

The anxiety of America’s disgruntled centre cuts across the Republican coalition. Mr Trump is picking up some support from evangelical Christians and Tea Party agitators, as well as national-security obsessives: wherever the seam of resentment and anxiety runs. It also goes beyond it. Strikingly, about half of those quizzed in Sarasota once voted Democratic, especially for Bill Clinton. Shamefacedly, one man said he had even voted for Barack Obama.

This suggests that if Mr Trump wins the nomination, he might give his opponent—especially if, as is likely, she is Hillary Clinton—a scare. That prospect is no longer unimaginable; Mr Trump was supposed to have fizzled long ago. Still, the size of his core support, perhaps 30% of the Republican primary, and the opprobrium in which he is held outside it, makes it unlikely. Mr Trump’s lead is chiefly the gift of a fractured field, in which the steadier conservative vote is split between three or four candidates. Mr Trump’s strong ratings, points out Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight, represent the views of only around 25% of the 25% of Americans who identify as Republicans. That equates to 6-8% of the electorate—roughly the proportion who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.

Mr Trump’s hold on American politics has been nasty, brutish and longer than expected. Nothing about it has been pleasant; not even the appearance of the pretty elephant in Sarasota, whose owner, it transpired, was once arrrested for animal cruelty, and whose trainer is in the forefront of a fight for the right to chastise elephants with sharp sticks. Almost none of Mr Trump’s jokes are good jokes. It would be good for America if the end of him, as seems likely, is in sight.

World Air Games 2015 in Dubai

3 December 2015

Dubai is hosting the World Air Games until 12 December 2015. Think of it as an aviation olympics. There are a record number of 1200 athletes from 56 countries visiting for the competition hosted by Skydive Dubai.

Held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council, the World Air Games is an international air sports event organised by FAI, the world governing body for air sports, and inspired by the Olympic Games.

The last edition of the World Air Games was hosted by Italy in 2009

Events include aerobatics, man-powered flying, hot gas air balloons and fuel-filled air balloons, hand-gliders, aeroplane races and landing skills, as well as gliding, aero-modelling, helicopter races and all sorts of parachuting and para-motor flying.

Competitions will be held across four locations in Dubai - Marina Dropzone, Margham Dropzone, Jebel Ali racecourse and Sufooh beach - in addition to activities at Dubai Mall Ice Rink while a medical symposium will be held at Meydan Hotel.

Oddly, for a city built on aviation, neither Emirates nor Dubai Airports appear to be in any way involved in sponsoring or hosting the events.

If Britain has learned anything in twelve years it should be clear that bombing Syria is a mistake

2 December 2015

In 2003 Britain joined the US led war against Iraq.

This website made a mistake in accepting Tony Blair's arguments in support of the war. This website was misled by apparent evidence of weapons of mass destruction and the likelihood of their use.

Such evidence was subsequently found to be false and misleading. The public had been duped.

Twelve years later the long awaited Chilcot report on the Iraq war is still delayed.

Now we have a Tory Prime Minister who has sucessfully courted Parliamentary support to launch airstrikes on ISIL targets in Syria.

In Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, windy rhetoric and strategic waffle have substituted for rational argument. Cameron’s statement to Parliament is loud on values, ways of life and examined consciences. What he does not talk about is that innocent lives will be lost and that airstrikes on ISIL may simply be a call to arms rather than a strategy for ISIL's defeat.

Bombing Syria has nothing to do with terrorism, except possibly to increase the likelihood of it in Britain. It has nothing positive to contribute to Britain’s national security, which is not currently under specific threat. The idea that ISIL might undermine British values is an insult to those values.

The one remotely sensible objective of a resumed British engagement in the Middle East would be to restore a modicum of order to Syria and Iraq. But as long as the governments of neither state, nor of other states in the region, are willing to offer troops to this end, the chances of the west succeeding on its own are minimal – or at best likely to be temporary. So all we will do in contribute to the continuing mess of power politics in the Middle East.

Trying to crush ISIL will win it support and require a land army on the scale assembled to liberate Kuwait in 1991. Cameron has specifically said he would not join such an army, though such pledges against mission creep are worthless. For the moment, there is no such ground force to make bombing strategically effective. All Britain is offering is an ugly bombing party, a gesture and a gift to the arms salesman.

There is no case for this bombing. Ed Miliband the former Labour leader, said in a statement: “I do not think the case has been adequately made that extending British airstrikes will either defeat Isil or make us safer here at home. I fear he is correct.

Fear of the Thai junta now covers economic criticism

1 December 2015

Today's edition of The International New York Times was printed with blank spaces, including on the front page, after the local printer refused to publish an article critical of the Thai economy.

It is the second time in the last 10 weeks that the paper has said its local printer declined to run an article in a country where media freedoms have been increasingly curtailed since last year’s military takeover.

Today’s newspaper was supposed to carry a report headlined "Thai economy and spirits are sagging", a wide-ranging piece exploring the junta’s inability to kickstart the flagging economy and the disappointment felt among many ordinary Thais.

Instead chunks of the front page and page six were blank and carried the sentence: "The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal."

A spokeswoman for the paper gave the same reply when asked for comment.

Eastern Printing Pcl, the paper’s Thai printer, did not comment on why it pulled the piece when contacted. The article was still accessible online in Thailand.

On Sept. 22 Eastern Printing did not publish the entire newspaper because it said the edition was "too sensitive to print".

Today’s piece primarily centred on the stuttering economy.

Thailand has one of the lowest growth rates in Southeast Asia and the junta’s vow to reinvigorate the economy has shown little progress in a country blighted by high household debt, low consumer confidence and disappointing exports.

Earlier this month The International New York Times said it would cease printing in Thailand altogether by the end of the year, citing rising production costs.

It is still available in six other Southeast Asian nations: Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.