Sunday, March 25, 2012

We are the UK

Travelling, from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi, out of Terminal 4 is not a stellar travel experience.
T4 has very little to offer passengers. Seating areas are not comfortable, connectivity is not the greatest, restaurant options are limited and shopping is lackluster.

I am all for thorough security checks, but when the line of people waiting for additional inspection of their bags exceeds 5 at any one time I start to wonder about the validity of the extra effort.

I went through security, as usual laptop out in a bin and my iPad stayed in my carry on bag. It seems the person manning the x-ray machine had problems with what he saw, which is good; much better than  the usual slouching sleepy eyed operators. My bag got flagged and was side tracked to the side for special additional security checks.

I had to empty it, well most of it. It got swabbed, multiple repeated swabs of different items and the inside of my bag and then one test. Finally, my bag and its contents went back through the x-ray, the discussion seemed to center around the cases I keep my glasses in.

Finally, I was thanked for my patience and asked to pack my stuff. It is your iPad, she volunteered, it should have been out in the bin. Oh, but nobody requires an iPad in a bin for x-ray not even the States. We are not the States, we are the UK.

Forgive me my mistake, but couldn't we just have taken the iPad out and run it again with the bag through the x-ray like everyone else in the world, instead of keeping me and others waiting for 15 minutes and in some cases even more to find nothing at the end, maybe the guy at the x-ray requires more training.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Airline Scene in Bahrain

I was in Bahrain at the beginning of the month after almost 9 years. The place has changed, malls, highways and newly developed areas reclaimed from the sea in the usual Bahrain way. I had a good time, doing business and meeting friends and relatives and did not feel unsafe at any time during my stay.

However, some things never change in Bahrain and that is stories about Gulf Air. Well, there are several stories being bandied around one of them is that the CEO will be leaving by the end of the month and the other is that some business interests have aligned with some political figures in the government to promote Bahrain Air as a replacement of Gulf Air.

Both Gulf Air and Bahrain Air had a hard 2011; in addition to the Arab Spring in key markets and problems in Bahrain, the rising fuel costs and Eurozone woes; the government banned flights to Lebanon, Iraq and Iran for a few months, all key markets for the airlines.

The future of Gulf air is being debated by a Parliamentary ad hoc committee that is reviewing options (keeping the status quo, dissolving the airline, selling it off to a strategic partner or downsizing it) presented by the government. Downsizing seems to be the preferred option provided it does not affect Bahrain nationals, a prime objective at all times. The Labor Union representing Gulf Air employees is very powerful and nothing will move forward without their express or tacit approval, a fact that should always be remembered.

Bahrain Air, a privately held airline, has the same woes as Gulf Air and could probably do with some government support.

Whether Bahrain Air can replace Gulf Air, the short answer is no; Gulf Air has a greater international
presence and operates far more international routes to Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Far East.

Another option is to merge both airlines?!

Only time will tell what the outcome will be,  but as everything else in the region, never a dull moment.

In any case, it was an enjoyable visit and I look forward to visiting again soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Canada's Aviation Competitiveness Revisited

In a recent development, the United Arab Emirates and Canada entered into nuclear cooperation talks that could see Canada become the main supplier of the UAE's nuclear reactors. A sign of thawing relations that went sour last year over additional flights for Emirates and Etihad to Canada. Canada in an attempt to protect Air Canada refused the UAE carriers additional flights in October 2010.

On a different tack, last week IATA called upon Canada's policy makers to improve the country's aviation competitiveness including the reduction of the tax burden (read story here). This time the comparison is between Canada and Australia
- Direct GDP contribution 2.2% Canada vs 2.6% Australia
- Indirect GDP contribution (tourism and other activities) 2.8% Canada vs 6.1% Australia
- Passengers travelling to Canada 71 million vs 78 million to Australia in 2011 taking into account that Canada's
  population is 50% larger than that of Australia.
- The contribution to tax revenues is 19% higher in Canada than Australia not including the effect of the fuel tax
  which is double in Canada

However, there is a silver lining, British Columbia is removing the provincial tax on international jet fuel starting in April. This is a sign that Canada is starting to view aviation as a strategic asset and not just a tax revenue stream. Clearly the promotion of a competitive aviation sector will yield better results for the economy is terms of contribution to the GDP and employment. The protection of Air Canada at all costs against all competitors whether national or international has been the mainstay of the government's policy. This is similar to the Indian government's aviation policy that is based on the protection of Air India, and we can see the state of the aviation sector these days. It is approaching a melt down.

However, business considerations do come into the decision making process related to aviation matters. On the basis of the possibility that Qatar Airways may purchase the Bombardier C Series aircraft, Qatar Airways was awarded traffic rights 3 weeks after they were rejected for Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

So, at the end UAE carriers may still get their traffic rights, but Canada still lacks a vision for its aviation sector.

Related Blogs
Government Policy and The Airlines
Politics and The Airlines
Canada's Air Transport Competitiveness

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Abu Dhabi Air Expo

Abu Dhabi Air Expo otherwise known as the 1st Middle East General Aviation Exhibition was launched by Abu Dhabi Airport Company (ADAC) and held at Al Bateen Executive Airport on 6 to 8 March 2012.
This exhibition, as stated on the website, is "mainly intended for owners, pilots, enthusiasts and professionals in the general aviation field, who come from all over the Middle East,.."  Logically, this exhibition rounds up aviation expos in the UAE; Dubai Air Show an all encompassing international air show, MEBA the Middle East  Business Aviation show and finally this General Aviation Exhibition.

General Aviation in this region is slightly different to that in the USA, Europe or Australia; it is restricted here to flying schools, aero and sky diving clubs. There are not  the thousands of pilots/owners of small aircraft used for personal use; mostly due to the cost, regulations and regional security concerns.
Business and Corporate aviation is sometimes referred to as General Aviation. MEBA was not exactly very happy with this Air Expo and that explains their lack of presence and participation.

Did we need the Air Expo? does it really matter it has come and gone. ADAC has done a great job at organizing the exhibition, of course there were the usual teething problems associated with doing something for the first time.

But to answer the question above; YES we do need such an exhibition and it should not only be aimed at professionals but at the general public especially the younger generation. There is a massive global shortage of aviation professionals in the coming decade and unless we start rekindling the enthusiasm for aviation in an upcoming generation, the industry and especially in the region will suffer.

Kudos to ADAC for taking up the task and I actually look forward to the next one.


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