Friday, January 29, 2010

ERP 101

On Monday 25 January 2010, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409 crashed after take off from Beirut en route to Addis Ababa in the Mediterranean 10 miles off the coast, in bad weather. 90 souls perished, may they rest in peace.

I am not here to discuss why the B737-800 crashed, we will all have to wait for the investigation results.

Civil Aviation Regulations world wide requires airlines and airports to have an Emergency Response Plan (ERP). The plan details how the organisation will handle an emergency, be it a crash or an incident.

The reaction to the tragedy started very well
  • Ethiopian made a press release, followed by a press conference and sending their GO team along with the Emergency Services Provider to the scene of the crash.
  • The Airport opened up its Friends and Relatives Reception Center
  • Search and rescue efforts were underway with participation of several international entities.
For some reason things started to go wrong
  • The media was not managed properly, it appears there were no regular media updates and the media were allowed to talk freely (in the name of media transparency and freedom) to the relatives and friends of the victims.
  • I am not sure what the law stipulates in Lebanon when it comes to notification of next of kin, names were published in the newspapers and on TV, which I personally found distasteful and very wrong, but then this is my personal take on things.
  • Then a senior member of government, The Minister of Transport and Public Works took it upon himself to preempt the investigation and announce the cause of the accident.
  • News report filtered claiming that Friends and Relatives were segregated by nationality and information and care were not provided to all. (click here and here for some of the coverage)
  • Ethiopian Airlines appears to have not taken steps to care for the next of kin or provide them with information in Beirut and a quick look at the website reveals business as usual and almost no mention of the tragedy.
In the times of crisis all stake holders, the government, the airport operator and the airline should cooperate to care for the survivors (if any) and the next of kin, while managing and providing information to the media and the public. It just did not happen.

Our thoughts and prayers for the families and friends in their time of crisis.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In The Image of RJ

I have been closely involved with Gulf Air (GF) since 1996. I went through the years of decline of the airline dealing with maintenance issues.. For years the leadership of the airline was a political issue. We used to joke, every problem with Gulf Air was a diplomatic incident. I saw the airline go from an example of Arab cooperation to the flag carrier of Bahrain. I watched GF maintain a 5 million passengers annual uplft as Emirates, Qatar Airways and others eroded its market share.

Then enters James Hogan who transformed GF into little Ansett. I am not a great fan of the man but he did manage to increase the passenger uplift to 7 millions annually, rebranded the airline new paint scheme, Chef in the Air, Nanny in the Air and Bahrain F1. Then James Hogan bailed out to Etihad, but that is another story. Several CEOs came and went amidst political interference from Parliament, internal turmoil and accusations of corruption.

August 2009 enters Samer Majali, ex CEO of Royal Jordanian. He left RJ with a mid year net profit of 15 Million USD in the worst global recession. He privatised the airline and took it into One World. No small feat.

So, enters the new CEO, and the following events unfold
1. Government declares it can not subsidise GF forever.
2. Iraq operation started a month later (a very lucrative and profitable route)
3. Cut down on several losing routes and reopened new ones
4. A review of the airline structure is done looking at manpower and fleet.
5. A decision made to become more of a Middle East Airline.
6. A decision to sell the 5 A340 owned by the airline.
7. A decision to take delivery of new A320s (20) at the rate of one per month.
8. And lately a decision to lease ERJ170s and look at acquiring up to 10 Regional Jets.

The parallels with Royal Jordanian are so similar. (substitute A340s with A310s and L1011s, EMBRAER ERJ170/190, Iraq operation, route structures)

Gulf Air's legacy should be preserved. Gulf Air has been the dominant carrier in the region for decades and every airline aspired to emulate their 5 Stars service. Further, every airline in the GCC has senior managers who have worked for Gulf Air and contributed to the success of their respective airlines. Similarly every airline in the GCC has several ex Royal Jordanian employees contributing to their success.

Two carriers, different regions may end up with the same model, robust enough to compete with the heavily branded carriers of the Gulf and survive in an ever changing global market.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Copenhagen Revisited

As disappointing as the Copenhagen Summit was and in spite of the Hopenhagen and other green movements grass root efforts, it did outline a few facts:
1. The world agrees that we have a problem of global warming.
2. There is a need to take some action, sometime
3. That countries do put their short and medium interests ahead of the well being of the planet.

Efforts to introduce legislation that preserves the environment are always under attack by the Oil and Coal lobbies and other special interests. Any legislation that involves clean air, clean water or clean energy is always under attack.

All these TV advertisements of the oil companies touting their research and work to produce clean and alternative fuel or clean up the environment and how hard they work to provide us with a better future seem so hypocritical when we hear about the efforts of these same companies to derail legislation meant to promote and legalize their hard work.

I sometimes wonder if the oil and coal lobbies breathe the same air we do or even live on the same planet. We should not let short term profits endanger the long term health and well being of our children and grand children and the way of life that we all claim to defend and preserve.

It is not the existing way of life that we should preserve, at least not the one that promotes dirty energy and waste. It is a new way of life that we should be working for, one as equally good as the one we live now, a way of life that is benign to the environment and the planet, that uses clean energy and promotes efficiency and productivity.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flying Back

Vacation with the family is always great fun no matter how old the kids are. Having survived cold weather ( ranging from -5F to 34F) and a potential BA Strike (could have seriously ruined my holidays). The events on Christmas Day and the ensuing reactions of the TSA were disturbing.

So the trip back had the makings of an interesting voyage.

I usually leave from Detroit's North Terminal to Chicago, the terminal is usually quite with a very short queue at Security (one time I was the only one). Not this time, there must have been about 20 people ahead of me but it took less than 20 minutes to get past security. The TSA were helpful and smiling and a few problems were resolved quickly. I am impressed.

At London Heathrow T5, BA flights to the USA had long queues at the gate prior to boarding due to the 100% security check, and no Fast Track. Flights were experiencing delays and I am sure in a few weeks airlines will tell passengers to show up earlier to the gate.

The Cabin Crew on BA this time actually smiled and were friendly a great improvement from two weeks earlier just before Christmas, when they were all sullen.

One noticeable thing was the IFE, having experienced Emirates ICE, BA and AA IFE products are very bland and outright boring.

All three flights were delayed mostly due weather related problems (deicing). AA sends SMS and/or email updates of the flight status, which is great.

All in all and despite the delays, it was not so bad, it was nice to return to 63F weather almost a heat wave.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Deja Vu

In the last few days a couple of events happened that as far as I am concerned are Deja Vu (already seen).

The first was the "budget alliance" between Air Asia and Jetstar Airways as reported by @Simpliflying (click here for the full details), which is an alliance between Air Asia and Jetstar to pool Ground Handling, spare parts procurement, joint aircraft design specifications and joint aircraft procurement. This is very similar to the ATLAS (Air France, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Iberia and Sabena) and KSSU (KLM, SAS, Swiss Air and UTA) in the 1970s which in addition to what the "budget alliance" is proposing included maintenance.

The second is the demise of the First Class as reported by @RunwayGirl (click here for the full details), this is similar to what a few European Legacy airlines did in the 1980s. The first Class product was removed and some of their aircraft were configured into Business and Economy. Among these were KLM and Lufthansa and a few others.

I wonder what the future have in store for us as an industry which is already Deja Vu

The above two events happened in response to economic pressures, the first was the high cost of operating wide bodies and the second occurred in a period of high inflation.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Happy New Year and a Prosperous 2010

It has been almost a week since the start of 2010 and this is the first blog of the year. I am on holiday and hence a little lazy to write but then I was not sure what to write about. So Tuesday I sat down and wrote my first guest column (click here to read) at SimpliFlying the premier blog in Aviation Branding and Technology.

That actually brought a full circle back to July 2009 when I started this blog. Do I want this to be an aviation blog or a life related blog. Well I am not starting a new blog. This one will serve both.

I suppose it will be a matter of Balance.

Most problems we face are caused by the lack of checks and balances. This has been most evident living in the Gulf, where things are done at extremes. This does not mean it is a regional problem, the global banking system drove the world into recession when they elected to take things to the extreme. Individuals also have the tendency to lose their balance, between family and work and end up with shattered careers and families.

Having balance does not mean being indecisive or weak, it actually means getting one's priorities right.

May 2010 be a prosperous and successful life for all of us.


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