- Always allow extra time to get to the airport and ALWAYS get several opinions of how long it takes to get there – guaranteed that they’ll always be different!
- Download and print your e-tickets – at many airports you won’t even get into the terminal without them. Copies on your phone will generally be rejected especially by military security
- Make sure your bags are screened BEFORE going to the check in desk – often porters will by-pass the screening lines, but check-in clerks regularly send people back whose bags are not screened
- Make sure your carry-on bags are tagged at the check-in counter or at some airports they will not be allowed to go through the terminal screening
- Security is a never-ending process – take everything electronic out of your bag and make sure your boarding pass is always in your hand and is stamped when you go through each screening point (the thwack of a rubber stamp is just one of the magic sounds of India)
- Some airports even require you to show your boarding pass when you disembark!
- Airports are the worst places to change currency - make sure you arrive in India with cash, especially 10-rupee notes. Cash is king across India
- The air may seem stifling in some cities, especially if you’re stuck in traffic – take a bandana in your carry on to help reduce the dust you breathe in
- Be aware of where you are – use a GPS tracking App and remember hotel, airport and restaurant business cards are your best friend
- Don’t drink the water on the aircraft (or on the ground) – always check bottle seals and have tissues and hand sanitizer handy (toilet paper is generally not provided on some domestic flights)
- The view from the top is not that great: Having flown over it at 30,000 feet and swooping 20 metres over the top of the rock, the view is really like the view from most parts of the outback – hazy, flat and often a little bland.
- The best views are looking AT the rock not from on it: The rock’s majesty is its scale and constantly changing colours. Ironically, the best view is from the dirt mound behind the backpacker’s bar where with a wide-angle lens you get the perfect sunset view of Uluru AND Kata-Tjuta, (or as they were colloquially known, the Devils Marbles)
- The climbing path is basic and dangerous: It’s not your well maintained National Park walking trail, the path is narrow, extremely slippery and is a difficult climb. There is only a flimsy chain for a handrail and the slightest amount of dew or rain makes the rock as slippery as an ice rink.
- You need to walk around the rock with one of the local elders: The local elders provide a wonderful insight into Uluru and also show you things that the climbers can never see. They also will show and let you taste some of the local bush tucker. It’s this experience that provides visitors with a true understanding of Uluru and the traditional owners’ unique history.
- New York (JFK) to London (Heathrow) $1.16 billion
- Melbourne to Sydney $861 million
- London to Dubai $796 million
- London to Singapore $736 million
The landscape is stunning and a visit to Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Loch Ness. While visitors of the steep shores stare at the shadows and ripples in the deep Loch, a local company is attracting attention with its ‘monster cruises’ Departing from the sleepy village of Port Augustus on the southern edge of the Loch, the cruise takes you out into the middle of Scotland’s second-deepest waterway. While nobody is yet to see the famed monster, guests on the cruise are often treated to some high-speed jet flypasts as the Loch is a waypoint in the RAF’s low-level fighter training area.
Next Thursday (June 6) will be the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Around the world, numerous events will be staged many involving classic vintage aircraft, including a mass flyover of DC-3’s and C-47’s in the skies over Normandy. Around 2,500 Australian Air Force personnel flew alongside British RAF Squadrons in the 1944 campaign that was the largest mobilisation of Allied Forces
Fried chicken is a staple in some southern states of the USA and ‘Nashville-style’ chicken is the new fast food trend that’s sweeping across the world. The classic dish douses fresh chicken in hot lard which is rolled in a cayenne pepper coating before being fried in a huge steel pan. The chicken is served after being dusted with more pepper and spices. The fiery, taste-bud tingling chicken is the ‘hot’ trend in LA and is also popping up on menus in Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK
Qantas has opened the doors for applications to join its Pilot Academy. The Toowoomba based facility will train pilots who will be deployed primarily on QantasLink operations. The call for applications is the start of a new era of pilot opportunities with the airline. Meanwhile training costs are set to increase with a number of airports, including Melbourne's Moorabbin which this week annouced an incease in landing fees.
Hop on Hop off buses are great for taking in the sights, but in Dublin, you can board a vintage double-decker bus and be taken on a grand tour of the city while enjoying high tea with all the trimmings. If your desires are not so classic, there’s also a G&T vintage bus tour, where onboard you’ll learn about the art of Gin making and taste a selection of classic tipples. Bookings and details: www.dublinlive.ie
Australian air safety regulator, CASA has prompted a crackdown on passengers using carry on devices like inflatable pads, tray table slings and day-bed converters. The regulator has required all airlines to lodge their updated procedures following several in-flight incidents. Each airline must publish what it will and won’t allow onboard, however the regulator has deemed that all cabin items must not become a risk in turbulence, evacuation or depressurisation. CREW TIP: Most Australian airlines will not allow blow up pads or day beds, nor can any item be attached to seats or the cabin interior. Inflatables are banned because of the risk of explosion in a depressurisation
Air Vanuatu will launch its thrice weekly, non-stop service flying Melbourne to Vanuatu on 18 June Scoot will fly you to Thailand from $179* one-way or escape the cold and head to Hamilton Island from $175* one-way. Details at melbourneairport.com.au
Reviews of a spate of near miss incidents around Tasmania's Hobart Airport have prompted air safety authorities to consider reclassifying the airspace around the southern city. However the change is likely to reuslt in greater risks, especially for commercial flights. The change from class C to class E airspace will enable light aircraft flying between 4,500 and 12,500 feet above the airport without the assistance of Air Traffic Controllers to provide separation between the VFR aircraft and commercial jets. Hobart airport is one of the fastest growing facilities in Australia catering for more than 2.5million passengers annually.
Red Bull has announced that its famous high-performance Air Race series will not continue beyond the current season. The event that is the ‘F1 of the skies’ will come to an end in Chiba Japan on September 8. Launched in 2003, the series has attracted some of the world’s best pilots including former FA-18 pilot, Australian Matt Hall who has been the runner up on three occasions.
It started after governments could not agree on a deal to build a twin isle aircraft and in the 50 years since, Airbus has racked up almost 20,000 orders and shortly will deliver its 12,000th commercial aircraft. The company celebrated the milestone this week with a formation flypast above the French city of Toulouse. In an ironic repeat of the company’s beginnings, the 50th anniversary celebrations were delayed for several hours due to adverse weather.
The kangaroo route to the UK has been a traditional pilgrimage for cricket spectators but data on global booking systems show that Australian cricket fans are preferring armchairs to airline seats. Although there’s 47,000 more people travelling to the Cricket World Cup throughout June and July, the bulk of travellers are coming from India. South Africa and Pakistan have seen sharp rises in cricket-related travel bookings while travellers from Australia have fallen by 2.9%
Tiqets.com is the world’s largest ticketing platform for cultural attractions. The Amsterdam based business has confirmed its new frontier is Japan with more than 50 major attractions signed up to use its online platform. The popular Enryaku-Ji Temple near Kyoto and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo are just two of the leading attractions and more than 100 venues that will be promoted, ticketed and communicated in the lead up to next year’s Olympic Games. Unlike conventional ticketing agencies, Tiqets also provides a unique mobile platform that assists visitors to gain a better understanding and a positive cultural experience.
Over the years airlineinsider.com.au has highlighted ways to charge your phone, avoid mini-bar charges and stay safe in hotels. Sometimes, flight crew end up in unexpected places requiring some creative ‘workarounds’ when the usual hotel facilities are lacking.
Draw the curtains: use a coat hanger with trouser clips to hold wayward curtains together
Drying clothes: hang them from the ceiling fan or in cold weather, rig up the hairdryer in the wardrobe
In-room dining: When there’s nothing available but the leftovers in your bag, the hotel iron can become a makeshift warming plate
No English TV: Plug your phone into the TV USB and with Wi-Fi you can enjoy your favourite Netflix movies
No music: Put your phone in a corner or in a coffee mug to amplify the sound
No hand sanitizer: Put the TV remote in a plastic bag before you use it
One of the few remaining Qantas 747s will make its last flight this weekend. VH-OEB, a 747-400, will operate as QF 73 to San Francisco - leaving Sydney for the last time on Sunday evening. After disembarking its passengers in the US, the plane will head south to the Arizona desert joining an ever-growing number of red tails with the classic white kangaroo subtly bleeding through the paint layer.
Built in the 70’s to accommodate the workers at the nearby Chernobyl power facility, the ‘model’ city of Pripyat was designed to create a new era of housing. Unfortunately, in 1986 following the melt-down of the Chernobyl reactor, the entire city was evacuated overnight. Today, the buildings and facilities stand as they were when they were hurriedly abandoned, but you can now visit the site as part of what is promoted as ‘nuclear’ tourism. Visitors done the classic white suits, masks and wear a radiation tag while the tour guide keeps an eye on the Giger counter. If the levels exceed safe levels of exposure, the tour is quickly concluded.
70 years ago this week the first ejection seat was successfuly tested. Designed and manufactured by Martin-Baker, the first ejection was made in 1949 when pilot Joe Lancaster safely ejected from an an Armstrong-Whitworth AW52 fighter aircraft. The term eject, eject eject is still the command briefing given to passengers of military aircraft adding another 'e' word that you never want to hear!
More than 1 in 3 Australian travellers have expressed concerns over flying according to travel insurer Insure&Go. In their annual survey of more than 1,000 travellers, the fear factor is most apparent amongst 18-39-year-olds, where a huge 59% expressed their fear of flying. Older passengers expressed fewer fears. The higher level of concerns follows recent incidents with many passengers also raising concerns about the Boeing MAX issue
The change to the northern hemisphere summer has seen many international carriers redeploy larger aircraft from Australian routes tightening up the excess capacity that saw lower process during March and April. The aircraft type changes also mean in some cases a return to less fuel-efficient planes and a rising jet fuel price. While airlines ‘hedge’ their fuel purchases, expect between a 5-8% rise in prices in coming months. The continued downward trend of the Aussie dollar is also likely to add another 1-2% to the overall price offerings
Rising tensions in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf have prompted many carriers to prepare alternative flight paths in the event of military actions. Airlines already are burning extra fuel avoiding Pakistani airspace, and the threat of US action against Iran would mean even more detours. This week saw the US government issue warnings to airlines advising of the risks of being wrongly identified when flying in proximity to Iran. The Iranian government countered with a statement arguing that that the US warning was incorrect. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are not affected by the US warning, so aircraft transiting through airports such as Dubai are unaffected. PILOT FACT: Aircraft have active and passive identification, and no sensible Captain will accept a flight vector that takes the aircraft over war zones
Cheaper travel has seen unprecedented growth to the point where there are now more places than ever discouraging tourism. Not only are tourist numbers impacting the infrastructure and the environment, but the rise of the less sophisticated traveller has also resulted in a new classification known as the 'bad tourist.' At an industry forum this week, ‘bad tourist’ behaviours were rated revealing some surprisingly stupid actions.
· Selfie stupids: leaning over balconies and cliffs with reports one person hanging upside down from the top deck of a sightseeing bus in London
· Animal aggro: not satisfied with just seeing wild animals, tourist guides report a rise in the number of people jumping over barriers to get up close to the wild animals at zoos and reserves
· Opposite actions: museums are reporting a rise in incidents where visitors are ignoring the ‘don’t touch’ signs and deliberately getting hands on. One prominent gallery in France has had to replace the masters on display with copies after a tourist was caught picking off the thick paint from one 200-year-old canvas
· Eco-ignorant: protecting the environment is not a new concept, but the rise in eco-ignorant travellers has seen rubbish being thrown over the side of small charter boats. One incident at a panda research centre in China’s Chengdu saw a group of tourists flatten a grove of bamboo around the panda pen to get a better view
· Toilet terrorists: A whiskey distillery in Dublin experienced the ills of this type of traveller when a small group mistook an exhibit at the distillery for toilets. Other reports at the forum indicated a rise in tourists relieving themselves anywhere they can. An airport in Western China even displays signs directing people not to urinate on the carpet. Inflight, Airbus has an optional sticker that shows the do’s and don’ts of an aircraft toilet that is more like a set of gymnastic instructions
QantasLink will add extra services between Bendigo and Sydney adding an extra 100 seats a day each way. The move is rumoured to boost further chances of the long-awaited pilot academy being located at Bendigo
The skies of Toulouse in France will be beamed around the world as Airbus celebrates its 50th anniversary on mAy 29 with a flypast formation featuring every aircraft it makes. From the tiny A220 to the A380 & the huge Beluga transport aircraft, visitors to the home of Airbus will experience a once in a lifetime view as the formation makes a low-level run across the city.
Australians can skip the long immigration queues at the UK’s Heathrow Airport. With most flights from Australia arriving in the early morning, being able to avoid the queues and use the smart e-gates is a bonus!
Held over the June long weekend (7-10 June) the King Valley Balloon festival north of Melbourne is a celebration of food, wine and large flying balloons. The balloons take off from a field opposite the Brown Brothers Milawa winery throughout the weekend with a feature event being the night glow spectacular on Saturday the 8th where all the balloons assemble for a stunning on-ground tethered light show. CREW TIP: It is cold (very cold) so rug up and book your tickets in advance. Details: https://www.brownbrothers.com.au/event/night-glow
With an App for almost everything, when travelling you only want those that will work for you. Try these top favourites
Google Lens – just point your phone camera at a building or landmark to find out all the details
Pack Buddy – put in your destination and date and the App will tell you what to pack (or not to pack)
Google Translate – a must for serious travellers (tip: practice the words first)
Timeshifter – bet jetlag and help your body clock the Apps tells you when to sleep what to eat
CityMaps2Go – downloadable so you can use them on the run without WiFi or chewing up data
Trip Journal – thoughts, pics, videos and anything else can be captured to create a great journal
Inflighto – see your flight and details and get delay info before the airlport does!
The deal is you walk in and walk out and tread lightly, but the iconic ancient Indian city in Peru is about to get more visitors thanks to the construction of a new international airport at nearby Chinchero. Visitor numbers trekking across the Inca terraces is rising by almost half a million people every year, and the prospect of more visitors and a nearby airport has outraged locals. Visitors currently travel by bus and hike to the site. However, the current airport at Cusco only has limited jet capacity and is limited to narrow-bodied aircraft. The new airport which will accommodate wide-body jets will be just 20 minutes from the Sacred Valley site.
China has developed a high-performance engine for space and ultra-high-altitude flights that uses methane as the primary fuel source. The methane-powered jets were tested this week and produced sustained thrust able to launch a rocket into space. The technology also enables operations in the low-pressure oxygen starved altitudes above 50,000 feet
First there was the digital tower replacing the paper slips and now NASA and the US regulator the FAA, are testing a system that will automate many of the control functions normally handled by an air traffic controller. The new system also includes provision for additional airspace classifications that cover drones and autonomous traffic such as low level flying taxis. A similar test is being conducted in Finland while Brazillian aerospace manufacturer, Embraer is at the forefront proposed control systems for ultra-high altitude aircraft
New Zealand will be the first country to recertify colour blind or colour deficient vision pilots from 31 May. Pilots who have until now been grounded with the condition will be required to conduct a series of inflight and simulator tests. The condition affects around 8% of all men and less than 1% of females and means that a person cannot distinguish between some spectrum colours, predominately within the blue-green spectrum.
Those who insist on posting images of their meals on social media will be flocking to a new site called Aeroplate. Designed for both passengers and crew, Aeroplate allows users to post their meal pics along with a review. The App is already gaining a large following with reviews and ratings of more than 100 airlines and airports around the world. Details: https://aeroplate.global/survey
Middle East carrier Qatar Airways has boosted its sponsorship equity in the FIFA Women’s World Cup which gets underway in France next month. The airline has invested heavily in a television commercial that promotes the dreams of women athletes. Twenty-four qualifying teams will compete in the event which is staged across 9 French cities. Australia’s Matilda’s are tipped to be amongst the finalists despite drawing early round matches against Italy and Brazil
When it comes to airline safety, it’s fair to say that Indonesia does not have a stellar reputation which is why the Indonesian government’s direction to reduce domestic air fares by between 16 and 23% came with the caveat that safety must be maintained. The country is one of South East Asia’s base economies and in recent times has felt the impacts of reduced tourism and rising fuel prices. Garuda, Lion and other Indonesian carriers all have confirmed they will implement the government’s direction which will come into operation before the end of Ramadan which is traditionally the busiest time of the year
Parked on the outer apron at Hong Kong Airport is an ageing 767 that was abandoned by a failed Russian airline Trans aero in 2015. Arriving from Moscow, the aircraft disembarked its passengers and was just left at the gate after Trans aero halted operations due to financial difficulties. Since that time, the 27-year-old 767 has been racking up parking fees, and now the Airport Authority is cutting its losses and putting the jet up for sale. Proving that airport parking fees even for planes is high, the Airport Authority hopes to recover around US$800,000 for the aircraft which has no manuals, documentation and requires a million dollars in engineering work to regain its air worthiness certificate.
There was a time when airline executives posed with celebrity chefs spruiking gourmet delights served at the pointy end of the plane. Today, however, it seems flying fast food is the new first with UK carrier Jet2 offering a menu from Nandos. The spicy onboard offering features the fast food chain’s signature Peri-Peri sauce. The same airline recently made headlines with its all vegan inflight offering and was the first to offer pop corn – popped inflight
The original trailblazer of the big three Middle Eastern Airlines, Emirates, has posted a massive 69% decline in profits after a year of higher than expected fuel prices, declining passenger numbers and a stronger US dollar. The result is the airline’s worst in more than a decade and comes following earlier decisions to cancel its forward orders of A380 super-jumbos. The airline has also reportedly cancelled its forward orders on Boeing 787-10 series.
Stand up paddle boards are common in most waterside tourist locations, however visitors to Vancouver can experience a new kind of paddleboards that glows in the dark and can light the waters of the Bay with colourful led lights. Created by a local tour operator, the ecofriendly boards are quickly finding their way to other destinations and include a transparent board that is perfect for exploring coral and calm water reefs at night
The Statue of Liberty has been the signature of America since it was built in 1886 however following 9-11, access to the statue and the observation deck in the crown has been limited leaving many of the 4.6million visitors underwhelmed. A new museum on the site, however, opened this week providing a fascinating insight into the building of Lady liberty by French workers, including some the statues hidden secrets.
Melbourne Airport has purchased Terminal 1 from the Qantas Group for $355 million. The deal provides a 10-year lease-back of the terminal for Qantas Domestic services; however, since the relocation of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar to the budget T4 terminal, much of the space has been surplus. As the terminal adjoins the existing international facility and has accessible land to the north, speculation is rising that the connection to the Victorian Government’s proposed Airport Rail Link will be via T1. The Airport Corporation’s potential role in the rail link project is the subject of increasing debate, with some concerns that the rail link could be constrained or controlled by the private sector ownership of the Airport and CBD station nodes
In recent weeks there has been a spate of incidents where passengers have put themselves in danger simply because they didn’t follow crew directions, misunderstood the commands or in some cases, just chose to ignore them. In one incident, Air New Zealand offloaded two passengers who refused to watch a safety video, while an Aer Lingus Captain directed passengers to “disembark quickly.” when fumes were smelt in the cabin while the aircraft was docked at the gate. This caused some passengers to open the over-wing exits and walk out onto the wing where they had to be rescued by ground crews. More extreme, the loss of some lives following the crash of the Aeroflot jetliner is being attributed to passengers in the aircraft’s forward section stopping to gather up their hand luggage. If you hear the word “evacuate” said three times, then the direction is simple, leave everything behind and GET OUT. In the event of a fire, you will have less than 90 seconds to survive.
Street food is everywhere, but nowhere is it more diverse than in Asia, particularly at ‘cross-roads’ destinations like Hong Kong where eastern and western influences, spices and techniques melt into an exciting and vibrant food scene. While the Hong Kong skyline is dotted with Michelin starred restaurants, the city streets after dark come alive with vendors selling every type of cuisine, often cooking in little more than a doorway with their customers seated on milk crates or plastic chairs along the footpaths.
Hong Kong’s top seven street foods: Chilli Pork Dumplings, Curry Fish Balls, Egg tarts, Dai Pai Dong (spicy noodles, seafood & meats, usually in broth), sweet & spicy squid tentacles, egg waffles and the signature of Mong Kok, ‘stinky’ tofu.
CREW TIPS FOR STREET FOOD ETIQUETTE
· Street foods are generally OK to eat as competition amongst vendors is usually is so fierce that the vendor can’t afford to get a bad reputation or lose their spot on the street.
· Pick a busy stand and don’t be afraid of going a few streets away from the tourist areas to eat with the locals. (Any stall run by a Grandma will always be good!)
· If you buy drinks, make sure you return the empty bottles to the vendor as many gain extra income from recycling deposits.
· Take small notes and change – street food vendors are not ATM’s and most will be cash only.
· Most vendors will be happy to ‘tailor’ a dish to suit your taste for a small charge.
· Best experience: late night steaming dumplings while sitting on the street with a blizzardly cold beer!
The world of airlines is a world of acronyms and abbreviations that determine everything from where you sit to where you land. Some raise eyebrows such as the standard code ‘WC’ for premium economy which is also the symbol for toilets on your house plans. None are more confusing than the international airport codes. These 4-digit codes where the country is the common first letter followed by the airport designator were created in an era of telex machines and simple computers, and while they were once the preserve of the airport backrooms, they are now in the public realm. Such is the focus on the airport designators that there is now a push to enable some of the 500 airports in the system to ‘recode’ their designator just like a personalised number plate on a car.
Some unfortunate examples include:
LAX - Los Angeles International
BAD – Beijing’s new Daxing Airport
FUN – The island of Tuvalu
SUX - Sioux City Airport
OMG – Omega Airport, Namibia
LOL – Lovelock City, Nevada USA
DOH – Doha
ROT – Rotorua New Zealand
POO – Brazil’s Poco De Caldas Airport
It is a myth however that there was an African airport with the code WTF, (that was the code used by West African Transport Airlines based in Senegal)
The issues surrounding the release of the ground hold on the 737-MAX aircraft continue to be more about politics than passenger safety. This week the predominately American Airline Pilots Association announced that it would not seek mandatory simulator training for the use of Boeing’s controversial MCAS system. The Association's announcement comes as MAX aircraft rolling off the assembly lines are taking up almost every available parking space around the Boeing manufacturing facility. The political intervention has seen US, EU and other regulators disagree while behind the scenes, more gaps in the mandatory reporting rules have appeared, including an admission that problems with the system were identified 13 months before the first 737 MAX incident.
Qantas’ 747’s has bailed out stranded Jetstar passengers, Qatar have covered Alitalia and BA helped out when WOW collapsed. There’s no doubt the willingness to lend a hand is alive and well, and it was demonstrated this week when UK Premier Team Norwich City had a spot of trouble with their victory bus which failed to proceed in the centre of the parade. Thankfully, a near empty ‘Hop on Hop off Bus was nearby, and the star players quickly jumped aboard to continue the parade and celebrations
Jetstar and Tiger are amid a baggage blitz where anyone turning up with extra bags are being slugged up to $100 for an overweight bag being checked in, and $75 for an overweight carry-on bag. The two low-cost carriers are also charging rates according to the distance travelled with international and trans-Tasman travellers hardest hit. Interestingly the 7kg carry on limit which was set to limit injuries and comply with the loading specifications of overhead lockers is a saleable item with Jetstar offering an extra 3kg starting at $30 if you pay at the time of check-in. Those trying to sneak through however will be charged between $60 and $100 depending on the route and your bag will end up in the hold….or more often, sent on the next flight.
Pakistan’s ongoing conflicts with nearby India has seen its airspace virtually shut down. While the Pakistani government is foregoing lucrative overflying fees, the real cost is being borne by the airlines who are required to take longer flight tracks and carry extra fuel. The fuel burn ratio of most jets means that for every five extra tonnes loaded, a tonne of fuel is burned carrying it. Additionally, the changed flight paths mean that alternative airports need to be programmed into every flight management package and some ‘ETOPS’ restricted airlines have been required to operate using different aircraft.
Everyone remembers their first love. But there’s also the first heartbreak, the first break up, or even the first time you discover betrayal and the Museum of Broken Relationships is the place to exhibit those items that tell the story of heartbreak. What started in Zagreb as a concept art installation has become a ‘world-brand’ with travelling museums popping up across Europe and the USA. Now, the artefacts of lost love are about to go exhibition in Shanghai’s city centre, and since the announcement, curators have received thousands of items from the love-torn locals including letters, trinkets, Tamagotchi’s and even an axe used to chop up an ex-lover’s apartment!
Ramadan Mubarak! The holy month of Ramadan is underway until June 3, and the religious protocols mean that travellers to predominately Muslim countries will experience a different view of the day to day life. Between sunrise and sunset, the faithful abstain from eating so many restaurants and food stalls close during the day which means that it’s a good idea to plan ahead and take a packed lunch from your hotel. The upside, however, is that the day’s fasting gives way to Iftar which means that every night there are feasts and celebrations. The evening meal is often staged in special Ramadan ‘iftar’ tents while all around the cities come alive. CREW TIP: It’s always polite not to eat in open public places during the day and after sunset, don’t be afraid to join in the community feasts and activities as showing hospitality is part of the religious observance. Fridays are the traditional worship times and shop, and restaurant closures are more widespread - so plan ahead
Northern Europe’s largest airline, Scandinavian, has had more than 500,000 upset passengers this week after its pilots walked off the job in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions. After a week where over 4,000 flights were cancelled and a huge backlog of freight that will take weeks to clear, the industrial dispute has returned to the table and the planes to the skies. CREW TIP: Always book flights using codeshare or affiliated airlines. In the event of delays or cancellations, the airline is responsible for making sure you have food, transport and accommodation
Menu cards, pre-dining drinks or cocktails and large portions of local fresh ingredients are the hallmarks of Qatar Airways’ upgrade to the economy food and beverage offerings. Called ‘Qsine’ the airline’s new economy offering is designed to close the gap between the economy Y class and the premium WC cabin products
Fiji Airways have struggled since breaking away from Qantas; Now the Pacific airline has leased two Airbus A350-1000’s providing extended range capacity. CREW TIP: Keep an eye on Fiji Airways which has some potential extended routes!
Biometrics are on the rise and are in use at many airports, but a trial has just been completed in Sydney that will shortly see the traditional boarding pass being swapped for a smile on domestic flights! The Qantas trial involved 5,000 ‘volunteer’ passengers, and according to the crew the system provided faster boarding. The scope of the system also extends to check-in, security screening and potentially passport control
Sydney or Melbourne to London non-stop is the holy grail of ultra-long-haul. But while the debate between aircraft capability and financial viability rages, in the background the main proponent, Qantas, is putting the pressure on the air safety regulator to increase the statutory 20-hour tour of duty limit for flight crew. The airline has targeted 2022 as the latest commencement of the service, however this is before the expiry of the current industrial agreements which reinforce the regulations
Red Bull Air Ace, Matt Hall has been signed up by flight management software company Lockr. Lockr provides a highly specialist electronic package that manages a pilot’s day to day operations. Matt Hall is a three-time world champion and operates several different aircraft which a major benefit of the software package
In what has become a continuing series of places discouraging tourists, Dutch tourism authorities have launched a campaign to reduce the number of tulips that are being trampled by selfie seeking tourists in search of the perfect picture. The impacts on tulip farms has resulted in the publishing of a tourists’ do’s and don’ts list.
Most people have heard of the Blue Grotto on the Italian Isle of Capri, but across the Mediterranean on the Greek Island of Xante is a more dramatic example of natural reflections at the Blue Caves. Accessible by boat, the caves are best experienced in the morning when the colour is a cobalt blue. Unlike Capri, you can swim and take your time inside the limestone caves that are just a short distance from the town of Agious Nikolaos.
Airport security agents in the USA have screened 108 million people in the first weeks of spring at the US’s three largest airports. The average wait time in the queue to be processed was 23 minutes.
Data from travel industry surveys have again identified the growing demand for authentic travel. Leading the research has been Australian based company ‘Inspiring Journeys.’ Topping the list of most popular experiences are nature-based tours and activities involving relaxation and pampering.
Qatar has included Morocco’s capital Rabat to its network with a thrice-weekly 787 service. The route approval further cements Qatar’s relationship with Royal Air Maroc and strengthens Qatar’s competitive push against Emirates.
Airport hotels have come a long way from just somewhere to sleep when your flight is cancelled. TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK Airport has a plane for a cocktail bar and soundproof windows made up of 7 layers of glass, but the latest addition will get you even closer to the action on the busy runways. The hotel this week gave the green light to what will be the world’s best observation deck with an all-weather bar and a 60 x 20m heated infinity edge swimming pool. The pool is ‘swimmable’ all year despite New York’s bitter winters.
While the idea of bringing your pet onboard has met with a firm no from most airlines, some Middle East carriers including Qatar, Etihad and Royal Jordanian Airways make exceptions for pet falcons. The precious birds are tethered and are carried aboard by their owners. Champion falcons can cost more than the average family home and even in economy are specially catered for inflight
An outbreak of violence and unrest in connection with the tiny Pacific nation’s elections sent many tourists packing, but according to locals, it’s back to business as usual. The Solomons isn’t one island it’s actually 992 and is regarded as the Pacific’s hidden holiday gem. The capital, Honiara offers all the things you would expect in a city but the magic of the Solomons is found on many of the smaller islands with small beachfront hotels and overwater bungalows like those found at high-end destinations like Bora Bora and Tahiti - but without the high prices. No visa is required from Australia and getting there is easy with Solomon Airlines who code share with Qantas. Virgin, Fiji Airways and Air Vanuatu also operate flights to Honiara which is just 3 hour’s flying time from Brisbane. Details: https://www.visitsolomons.com.sb
Airbus has announced the finalists in its search for the next generation of ideas with students from 11 nations being selected as finalists chasing the 45,000-euro first prize in the ‘Fly Your Ideas’ competition. The ideas covered defence and commercial aviation and included wireless switches, aircraft seats that convert to wheelchairs and advanced satellite imagery to combat illegal fishing. The competition was first won by a team from the University of Queensland in 2009 while Melbourne’s RMIT University picked up second place in 2013 and 2017. This year’s finalists will head to Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse in June to demonstrate their ideas on real aircraft. Their progress can be seen on the Airbus website https://www.airbus-fyi.com/
Greater brand awareness is the focus of US carrier United’s new livery. The strong graphics have been designed to stand out both in the air and the ground. It’s the first makeover of the airline’s drab grey image which has been unchanged for almost a decade. The paint job will coincide with several changes to the inflight product
Seasonal fleet adjustments have seen Qantas redeploy A380’s onto the Hong Kong routes giving passengers the option of first class. Typically serviced by A330’s, the choice of 4 classes of travel will up the competitive ante with other carriers consistently keeping return flights to Hong Kong below the A$500 mark. CREW TIP: The greater capacity of the 380s will see prices stay low so don’t waste points on economy bookings.
Better known for its defence systems and stylish ‘Falcon’ business jets, French company Dassault has teamed up with mining giant BHP to deploy its cutting-edge avionic and defence technologies underground in BHP mines around the world. The high-tech systems are expected to streamline exploration work and open new markets as part of the joint venture
Travellers to Abu Dhabi must put Warner Bros World on the list of things to do. The massive indoor theme park boasts six themed areas with 29 state of the art rides rivalling the likes of Disney and Universal Studios in LA. The park brings everything Warner Bros to life and is next door to the remarkable Ferrari World and the massive Yass Island Waterworks. Abu Dhabi is the home base for Etihad Airlines. CREW TIP: Before you book the connecting flight, check out the options for a 24 or 48 stopover, including bonus offers
While Tasmania’s west coast and Par Avion Airways are opening the doors for visitors, the popular Freycinet region on the east coast is looking to limit tourism. The region’s centrepiece, the stunning Coles Bay is the subject of a bitter campaign where long term locals and owners of beach shacks and cottages are opposing new developments stating that the region cannot sustain additional visitors. A town meeting this week called upon the Tasmanian government to put a cap on the number of tourists
Ninety minutes south of Sydney is the Illawarra which is famous for the beaches of Wollongong and the annual Wings over the Illawarra Airshow. The show has grown over the years and with it the number of specialist groups including the Historical Aircraft restoration Society that convinced Qantas to donate a retired 747. Billed as Sydney’s Airshow and Australia’s ‘Osh-Kosh’ the show includes the largest gathering of warbirds and private aircraft in Australia. Details https://www.wingsoverillawarra.com.au
Gladstone library in Wales is a busy library with almost half a million books adorning the 1900’s building, but it also offers the chance to stay on after the library closes at the end of each day. For around A$80, you can rest up with a good book in one of 27 comfy bedrooms where the walls are lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves holding items from a collection first started in the late 1800s. With all that reading material the rooms don’t have televisions or DVDs.
While Australians and New Zealanders can move between the two countries without visas, from October this year, New Zealand will introduce an Electronic Travel Authority system that will require would be travellers to complete an online form and pay a small fee, before they fly. The approval is valid for five years and is automatically linked to your passport. The new system is expected to speed up processing on arrival into New Zealand and facilitate seamless transfer with the proposed expansion of the US pre-processed entry system
Boeing and the US government continue to talk up the return of the 737-MAX to the skies. In the latest twist, Boeing announced this week that they expect the software “fix” to be completed across all aircraft by July, a move that was endorsed by the US aviation regulator. Despite the positive talk, other regulatory authorities remain unconvinced that a software upgrade can be rolled out without practical pilot training and certification
Qatar Airways this week announced that its engineers would be trained on new Rolls Royce engines for its A350-1000 fleet using virtual reality. The huge Trent XWB engines have to be broken down into several sections before being transported or to undertake maintenance. The cost of training on the new engines is huge and is compounded by the fact that there are not too many of them lying around. The engineers will don VR headsets and can even hear the oil, lubricants and bolts as well as ‘feeling’ the parts through special gloves. This innovation is the first of its kind and means that engineers can pull the entire engine apart without having to take a real engine offline.
Hogwarts Express which is featured in the Harry Potter movies is not a fictional train – it exists, and from April to October each year, visitors to Scotland’s Fort William north of Glasgow can board the famous train from the Harry Potter series. The train ride includes the Glenfillan viaduct which is the magical bridge between the real world and the ‘Potterverse.’ The Jacobite steam train is run by West Coast Railways and is a superb way to explore Scotland
Hong Kong is pushing hard to boost tourist numbers, and again full-service airline fares have dropped below $500. Not to be outdone, China Airways is offering return flights from Australia for $397 - be quick the China offer expires on 22nd April.
Beijing Daxing Airport or ZBAD is officially one of the largest airports to be built and has opened its doors showing the sheer scale and potential of the facility. As Airline Insider previously reported, the Chinese government has mandated that a number of airlines currently flying in and out of Beijing will be required to use the new facility
You’ve seen them on television chasing storms across the USA, and now you can join them with Silver Lining Tours offering arrange of tornado hunting tours. The tours include specially equipped vehicles, meal and accommodation. The vehicles are built for comfort and include some of the most sophisticated radar technology available. Prices start at around $2,500 for a 7-day chase. https://youtu.be/3jKwtQnqTn
Hobart’s ‘Dark MoFO’ festival is a big event staged by the now world renown MONA gallery. Getting to MONA is now even easier with Tasmania’s Par Avion offer helicopter transfers that take in the best views of the city and the Derwent River. You’ll fly to MONA, enjoy the gallery and fine food and then take the ferry back to Hobart all for just $299 per person. Par Avion uses an Airbus Squirrel helicopter for the comfy flight
Qantas will launch new direct seasonal flights between Sydney and Sapporo, meeting a growing demand from Australians wanting to travel to the popular Japanese ski holiday destination. To coincide with the peak ski season, Qantas will fly three times per week to Sapporo's New Chitose Airport between December 2019 and March 2020 using upgraded A330 aircraft.
Home to just under 50,000 locals, Croatia’s Dubrovnik is a victim of its own success as an estimated 1.2 million fans of the hit series ‘Game of Thrones’ visit the country. The influx of tourists has prompted local authorities to join the list of places saying ‘no’ to more tourists. Fans will recognise the medieval walled city as ‘Kings Landing’ in the hit series, but for locals already struggling with overcrowding, the loss of traditional markets and access to town features are taking the shine off the more than 250 million euros that the visitors bring. CREW TIP: Croatia is beautiful, but avoid the peak season where overcrowding is so bad that you’ll want to stay at home!
For decades, ‘Buck’ the bear has been keeping watch over the field in the middle of Adelaide Airport. The cuddly bear who first appeared as part of an observation training exercise for Air Traffic Controllers is moved around the runways by airport staff and has become a famous attraction for passengers. Today, Buck has turned farmer, converting around four hectares of the airport’s grassed areas into fields of lucerne as part of a trial to make the airport greener.
Over the summer period, the lucerne has been harvested and sold, but tests also showed that the crop lowered air temperatures across the adjoining taxiway by around 3 degrees. The reduced temperature assists aircraft which suffer engine performance losses in high ambient temperatures, prompting researchers to plan for more crops along the runway
US domestic airline JetBlue is expanding adding London as a new destination from its Boston and New York bases. The airline will use single aisle long-range A321 aircraft for the flights which will commence in early 2021. At this stage, the airline has not advised which airport in London it will use. The main Heathrow Airport has little capacity for additional landing slots suggesting that JetBlue will use either Luton, Gatwick or Stansted airports
It started as a punk ‘up yours’ answer to hipster craft beers, but eccentric Scottish company Brewdog have since made their mark brewing beer in some of the strangest places; on trains, on boats and even in the back of a NASCAR at high speed.
To celebrate British Airways’ centenary, they wanted to create a beer onboard a 747. But…. the project hit some serious turbulence even before getting off the ground when the brewers wanted to install a propane gas system onboard the 747 to heat the barley mash. The answer from airline’s engineers was a very swift “no way”, and it looked like the project was dead until one of the crew suggested the stainless steel ‘Corey pots’ in the galley which are normally used to make coffee.
The result was ‘Speedbird 100’ a pale ale, craft beer that was brewed at 38,000 feet above the Atlantic while travelling at around 800 km/h. (does this make it the fastest beer on earth?) The beer will be launched officially on May 1st. Click on the image to see the video snapshot of the journey!
American Airlines Flight 300 followed ground directions at New York’s JFK airport a little too closely this week. The aircraft departed with part of runway sign after tracking off the centreline and hitting the sign during the take-off roll. Aside from a case of acute embarrassment, there were no injuries, and the plane returned landing safely
Newcastle Airport started life sharing the Air Force’s Williamtown runway and since then has steadily grown to be one of Australia’s emerging ‘gateway’ airports. Plans to upgrade the airport to handle larger international aircraft have received a boost with the development of a dedicated aerospace facility on a 72-hectare site that adjoins the airport. Called ‘Astra Aerolab’ site works have already commenced. The facility will bring together leading-edge aviation, aerospace and defence companies as well as being home to an innovation hub and education precinct. Located across the runway from the Williamtown RAAF Base and with some parts of the site having direct airside access, the facility is already attracting interest.
Qatar took the unusual step this week of rebuking claims that it is using its acquisition of Air Italy to ‘backdoor’ access to aviation routes, particularly into the USA. Mindful of the litigious sensitivities of some airlines, the Middle East carrier slapped down claims from what it described as the “US Big 3” stating that it would not be code sharing with the Italian airline or using its stake to manipulate fifth freedoms which grant countries air travel access rights. The growth of the small Middle Eastern nation’s airline has often raised the ire of other carriers, particularly in the USA and Europe
Private jets have long been associated with rock stars, but British band Iron Maiden have taken it to the next level trading up their smaller Boeing 757 for the larger 747 Queen of the Skies. The plane is flown by the band’s front man, Bruce Dickinson who said that that their new 747-400 means everything the band needs is on the plane. Iron Maiden leases the aircraft from Air Atlanta Icelandic, and they have named the plane ‘Ed-Force One’ after the band’s mascot Eddie. The ‘Ed-Force One’ callsign has been known to jolt a few nightshift air traffic controllers as Dickinson radios inbound to their airspace.
Virgin Atlantic is finally upgrading its fleet with its new A350-1000 set to turn heads with a stylish cabin configuration that is all about luxury. Business class has been renamed ‘Upper Class’ and features a new take on the sky-bar with an area called the ‘Loft.’ Featuring a huge 32-inch screen, comfy lounges and room to spread out, the Loft is the largest communal space on any airline, including the larger A380. The airline will take delivery of 12 of the aircraft over the next 3 years. The first aircraft has been named ‘Red Velvet’ and will make its debut on the hardworking London to New York route. CREW QUIP: Junior pilots have already nicknamed the aircraft ‘Cinderella’ – saying it has several ugly sisters and will be required to do all the hard work!
Boeing’s woes continue with airlines around the world turning their backs on the 737 MAX aircraft. Further confusion has arisen in recent weeks as some 737 passengers check the seat-pocket safety card and immediately become distraught. The cause of their distress is that some airlines have the same safety card for Boeing 737-800’s as the Boeing 737 MAX. On average, airlines will replace safety cards on an almost daily basis, prompting many to consolidate aircraft variants onto the one card. The confusion caused a flood of concerns on social media for US airline Southwest and Norwegian Air both of whom use the same safety card for their entire 737 fleets.
Tower Hill in London is by anyone’s standards a desirable address just across from Tower Bridge and some of London’s top attractions. But St Katherines Dock is offering a new level of luxury accommodation with what it deceivingly calls a ‘houseboat’ – The ‘houseboat is not your Murray river weekender variety; basically think something akin to a Sydney ferry with 5 bedrooms and luxury bathrooms spread amongst the decks and casual areas which are fitted out better than most 5 star hotels. The rate is by negotiation, but on ‘check in’ a 1,000-pound security bond will be debited to your credit card
Calling for the engineer to fix a problem at the gate usually also meant a long wait for aircraft parts. However, an Air New Zealand 777 this week departed LAX with a spare part that was produced using a high-tech 3D printer. The part, a seat bumper, was arranged by Singapore based tech company ST Engineering which sent the specifications to LA Based Moog industries where it was printed, certified and delivered to the aircraft for installation ‘at the gate.’
The system uses secure electronic encoding to ensure that the parts retain their design integrity and is expected to grow in popularity as the cost of maintaining huge warehouse inventories increase. (An A380 has just short of 4 million different parts, including specialist nuts and bolts)
Canberra made news this week as the world’s first drone capital. Google subsidiary, ’Wing’ received approval from the Australian aviation regulators to operate large scale commercial drone delivery service. Although the trials first commenced in 2014, the regulator, CASA, issued the company with what is effectively an airline operator’s certificate highlighting the battle between technical innovation and traditional regulations. The approval comes as the US aviation regulator announced it intends to certify the company to provide a similar service in the USA. Thankfully, the drones cannot operate within 5 kilometres of airports
The days of the 1940’s pin-up girl adorning the nose of Virgin aircraft are over. British airline; Virgin Atlantic will retire the flying lady for people in lycra outfits, including men. The pin-up girl characters were made famous by painter Alberto Vargas, and the original scantily clad woman whose body suit unfurls to become a Union Jack flag has been an icon of the airline since its startup in 1984. The airline will launch the new icons on its Airbus A350-1000 fleet later this year
As reported last year, Dubai International will shut down its main southern runway for 45 days commencing on April 16. The runway gets pounded 24 hours a day from some of the world’s largest jets and needs rebuilding. The project leaves only one operating runway which has resulted in many flights being reallocated to different terminals or to the nearby Al Maktoum airport. If you are transiting through Dubai between April 16 and May 30, check the boarding gates carefully and give yourself plenty of time
The restoration of a classic Spitfire is surging ahead with a little over 100 days to the start of a commemorative around the world flight. Coinciding with D-Day commemorations, the journey is the longest for the single-engine aircraft that was at the forefront of air combat in many countries. Catch the latest at https://www.silverspitfire.com
The investigation onto the 737MAX issue stepped up this week with Boeing admitting its stabilising system; MCAS was at fault in the recent crash of an Ethiopian aircraft. As reported by Airline Insider, the system's reliance on only one of the angle of attack vanes mounted on the nose of the plane created false airspeed readings resulting in the flight computers acting contrary to the pilots’ inputs.
The preliminary findings of the crash investigation are likely to see regulators call for full recertification of the 737MAX design.
Seoul in South Korea is a vibrant place, except in the monsoon season where the outgoing street vibe heads indoors. Creating colour even on the greyest of days is a new form of street art that uses hydrochromatic paint which is invisible when dry but when splashed with water becomes opaque colour. The pain has been used to create murals and colourful scenes on roads and laneways that appear when it rains and then vanish when the sun returns
Accommodation disruptor, Airbnb is transforming the iconic Louvre in Paris for one night into a luxury hotel. One lucky guest will experience the museum like no other person with a curated tour, a sumptuous dinner, drinks is a luxurious Persian lounge and a private concert in the private apartment of Napoleon III. The evening wraps up with a once in a lifetime bedroom underneath the iconic glass pyramid. To be in the running go to Airbnb.com/louvre before April 12 and say why you’d be the perfect guest for Mona Lisa
Qatar added more trophies to its bulging cabinet this week picking the PAX International award for ‘Best cabin interior and passenger experience at the prestigious function in Hamburg Germany. The airline also bagged six major Trip Advisor Awards including World’s best business class and Trip Advisors’ Travellers’ Choice Award
Qantas billed it as the ‘lower deck passenger experience’, but the option of fitting an aircraft with sleeper pods in the cargo hold has not been a hit for Airbus who launched the design late last year. The concept which allows a passenger to ‘book a bunk’ for part of the flight is yet to find a single customer despite a range of marketing options including gyms, meeting spaces and kids play areas.
Accessed from a ladder type staircase in the main cabin, the product may remain just a concept as price sensitivities along with aggressive marketing of premium economy seating dominates the market. A further issue is the costs of heating and air conditioning the general cargo hold. Airbus A380’s currently has a 12-bed pod under the main deck which is used as a crew rest area.
While the passenger pod might be a non-starter, Airbus has attracted a large amount of interest with its new business class seat design. The ‘sofa-seat’ is exactly that and does not require the heavy structures and motorised recliners that add weight and cost to aircraft. The design is just like a comfy leather sofa and has the added benefit of reduced maintenance.
Investigations continue into engine issues experienced by a Jetstar 787 en route from Cairns to Osaka this week. Descending through 15,000 feet into Kansai Airport, the aircraft experienced thrust issues with both engines Powered by General Electric engines; the issue first appeared as the thrust ‘rolled forward’ on the number two (right) engine after which the number one engine experienced similar issues. The uncommanded surges are believed to be as a result of the flight management computers which automatically reset ignition sequences and control the thrust. The aircraft remains grounded while a review is undertaken. The issue has only arose on one of the airline's 787 fleet.
Brunei’s decision to introduce Sharia law has been met with condemnation around the world and a cascade of boycott calls. The decree by the country’s ruling Sultan prompted Virgin Australian to immediately sever interline travel agreements with the tiny nation’s flag carrier Royal Brunei Airlines. Other airlines have since followed and in a major blow to Brunei’s tourism industry, several leading Travel Agent Groups, including STA Travel, will not facilitate bookings for travel to Brunei.
Qantas Air Italy is spreading its wings using the peak summer season to launch a direct service between Milan and Los Angeles. The destination is the third northern USA city which also includes New York and Miami.
Bareboating is a growing trend that sees people hiring a luxury sailboat or catamaran in locations such as Australia’s Whitsundays, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Bareboating that’s anything but bare, and the floating hotel room means that you can drop anchor and explore as you please. Cruising the 74 islands of the Whitsundays on a luxury catamaran ranges in price from $2,500 – $3,800 per week for a boat that sleeps 6. The boats come with an inboard engine and everything you need for a luxury holiday. Some include a skipper for the first few days or offer a familiarisation sail and then regular radio & ship visits throughout the week. CREW TIP: See Sailchecker.com, and eBay for bargains and during the slow season, you’re better off negotiating at the marina
West coast USA is now on daylight saving time and with the summer comes the return of baseball. Staged as an event, going to a baseball game is recommended for visitors but beware the ticket scalpers and the pricey tickets that you book online before you arrive. At the ballpark, compare the cost of food and drinks to what you pay at the footy! In fact, most drinks are refillable for free and food prices are rock bottom. Hot dogs are an art form and are politely passed to you right along the row, even if there are 30 people between you and the vendor! CREW TIP: Discount tickets for good seats are usually available locally or through the hotel concierge desk
Disney opens up for the season with the Star Wars experience (remember pre-booking is a must for May), but with record crowds expected all Disney parks will from May 1 ban smoking, vaping and carrying large eskys. If you’re planning on taking the little ones, check the permitted sizes of prams and strollers as new restrictions also apply. If your pram is oversized, you will have to either return it to your hotel or pay to check it into the cloakroom.
Airfares were anything but fair at the Senate Inquiry this week where the Australian Consumer and Competition commission admitted it couldn’t control process of airlines, especially those in regional areas. The Senate committee was told that just because a price is high doesn’t mean it is illegal and if the market will bear such a price the ACCC’s only recourse is to act if there is collusion between airline operators. Admitting defeat, the commission’s spokesperson said that if the only pie shop in town charges extremely high prices for pies, it’s not the concern of the Commission
With 9 different manufacturers in the race for the title of being first into the market with flying drone taxis, Chinese manufacturer, Ehang this week test flew its drone taxi in Vienna. Able to fly at low altitude for around 40 kilometres, the drone taxi is comfortable, smooth and quiet. Ehang, flew several journalists around a football stadium as part of its announcement to commence manufacturing mid next year. While the manufacturers are racing ahead, regulators and city planners are struggling with the huge task of creating safe regulatory regimes
NASA has pressed the ‘go’ button on a new supersonic aircraft which will be designed and built by Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will utilise QSST which stands for quiet supersonic technology enabling the aircraft to travel at supersonic speeds over land. Currently, regulations require supersonic aircraft to fly at sub-Mach speeds over land even at altitude. This restriction was one of several constraints that made the Concorde financially uncompetitive. Echoing the rapid development timeline of the 747, the contract requires Lockheed Martin to deliver an operational prototype by 2021
With most of their aircraft grounded and several 737’s being repossessed, time is running our for a rescue deal for the debt-ridden Indian airline, Jet Airways. A last attempt bid offer closes next week although pilot unions claim that some staff are yet to be paid. The pilots have set a deadline of April 14 to be paid or they will walk off the job- a move that would certainly spell the end for the airline. The woes of the airline have also impacted Middle East carrier, Etihad who holds a substantive share in Jet Airways
Qantas commences operation between Bendigo and Sydney this weekend bypassing Melbourne Airport. Operated by QantasLink, the airline has invested in a new, purpose-built terminal at Bendigo Airport which recently underwent a major upgrade. The 50 seat, Q400 turboprop aircraft provides full onboard service and will operate six days a week reducing the commute by two hours each way.
Strahan in Tasmania’s south-west is the gateway to the island’s environmental wonderland. But getting there has been a major barrier, often involving a day’s driving. Tasmania’s local airline, Par-Avion has announced a new service that takes you from Hobart Airport to Strahan in just under 50 minutes. The flight will commence on May 13 with three services per week tracking over some of Tasmania’s most spectacular scenery.
Travelling to Brazil in South America just got easier with the Brazilian government announcing that passengers travelling on Australian, Japanese, Canadian and US passports will no longer need a visa. The change takes effect on June 17 and enables a stay of up to 90 days, which can be automatically extended to 120 days in any 12-month period. Since the 2016 Olympics, the country has enjoyed a 35% boost in tourist numbers
Video has emerged of a naked man trying to board a flight in Moscow. The man checked in for the Ural Airlines flight as normal, but just prior to boarding, stripped off in the departure lounge and proceeded to board the aircraft. When arrested, the man claimed that flying naked “improved the overall aerodynamics.” Tests confirmed the man was not affected by alcohol or drugs and that his actions were simply out of his heartfelt belief that flying naked “helps to improve the airflow through the aircraft.” The incident was one of a dozen stranger than normal passenger behaviours, including the arrest of United Airlines passenger for urinating on luggage. CREW TIP: If you can wear it on the street, you can wear it on the plane!
AirAsia has announced another Australian route, this time flying direct from Perth to the Indonesian island of Lombok, prompting local hotels to create some stunning deals. Lombok is the natural rival to nearby Bali and boasts magnificent beaches and enchanting scenery. Leading the deal race is the five-star Wyndham Sundancer Resort which is offering a one-bedroom suite for just $1 for the first night, with subsequent nights costing just A$130. The deal runs from June 9 making it a perfect, low cost, winter escape. AirAsia flies from Perth to Lombok direct four times a week.
Australia’s top end is the new hot destination and visitors are venturing well beyond the big sky landscape of Kakadu, preferring the unique remoteness of East Arnhem Land. Guided by the local Yolngu people who are the traditional owners of the area around Gove, the local people have formed their own tour company called ‘Lirrwi’ and offer a range of tours and cultural adventures in the pristine land.
CREW TIP: Like with Uluru, always choose the tours owned and operated by the local indigenous people. Wherever possible, ask for tours led by the members of the tribe who almost always have amazing stories and insight.
Daylight saving has started in the USA, and many parts of the northern hemisphere are gearing up for a busy summer. With the change of seasons, there is a raft of changes to airline schedules and aircraft types as capacity is moved from the southern hemisphere to the north. Air China, Emirates, Etihad and United are reducing the number of flights, while other airlines are swapping high capacity aircraft such as A380’s for smaller 787’s and A340’s. CREW TIP: Double check the times of connections if you’re travelling over the next three weeks, double checking the time shifts as Australia ends daylight saving and other countries start. By convention airline schedules always quote local time. If you’re selecting seats, remember that the aircraft type is subject to change
As well as extending interline arrangements with Qantas, Cathay Pacific has defied the Chinese Government and acquired budget carrier Hong Kong Express. The deal will up the competitive ante with several mainland China-based carriers. It is also expected that the Chinese Government will promote other airports away from Hong Kong including reinstating some of the subsidies that saw ticket prices tumble in late 2017
It’s peak hour in Japan with all eyes on the magical Cheery Blossoms. If you’re heading to Japan, the national weather service is keeping tabs on the spring blooms with a weekly forecast of where to see the best blossoms. Website: https://sakura.weathermap.jp/sp/en.php
Airspray entrants don’t usually come from Russia, but Nordstar Airlines has its eyes on some Asian markets with its smiling panda livery. The rise in themed aircraft continues to increase.
Iceland’s happy go lucky budget carrier WOW Air has hit hard times with all aircraft grounded as the company faces financial pressures. The ultra-low fare model has struggled in recent months, and the grounding of flights on Thursday impacted many US travellers who were stranded. WOW's aggressive pricing and promotional flights to locations showcasing the Northern Lights attracted significant bookings on the US market
Boeings woes with its workhorse 737 MAX continues with the US regulator, the FAA now facing further political scrutiny. The aircraft type remains parked in most jurisdictions around the world. The extended delay in recertification has seen one of the largest fleet owners, Southwest, temporarily send 15 of its aircraft to the Victorville desert boneyard. The headaches for Boeing continued this week as Airbus sealed a $35 billion deal to supply China with 290 A320’s and 10 A350 widebodies. In announcing the deal, the Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that an extra 7,200 new aircraft are needed in China within the next two decades. (that’s almost 7 planes a week!
Advertisements are all over trams, trains and buses and now Jetstar is adorning both the exterior and interiors of its aircraft with promotional advertising. The first campaign to be rolled out promotes Launceston in Tasmania featuring scenic images stuck to the bulkheads and overhead lockers and a call to action aimed at enticing the 900 or so people that step aboard the aircraft each day. While most passengers are indifferent, several safety professionals have criticised the move claiming that the visual clutter could affect obscure safety-related signage in an emergency.
One for the calendar: In May & June the Thailand tourism department is hosting ‘Amazing Thailand’ a promotion which will run in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. With the events, expect some specials just in time to escape the wintry chills!
Japan’s ANA is reversing the trend and rolling out new A380’s to cope with the surge in Japanese travellers to Hawaii. The first jet has featured a huge whale motif, while the second 380 will roll out of the Toulouse factory on Monday (25/3/19) featuring an emerald green vista of the Hawaiian Islands.
Last year Sydney airport took a step forward with a dedicated public viewing area near the ATC tower called Shep’s Mound. It’s been such a success that images from the site have gone viral around the world and many regular Captains and First Officers now make a point of waving as they pass hoping to be featured on the plane spotters’ websites! Rumour is now about to look like fact with 3 east coast airports about to add camera ports to their airport boundary fences. Sadly, one Australian capital city airport, however, is bucking the trend and this week installed spikes on a concrete plinth to stop photographers from standing on it.
One month out from Anzac Day and the US, UK and Australian governments have upgraded travel warnings for Turkey. The increase in threat level was fuelled by recent emotive political statements by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s proximity to trouble spots like Syria and Iraq has always meant that travellers need to be aware of the risk of terrorism. Increased security arrangements are being deployed for the Anzac commemorations, and Turkey’s new airport at Istanbul has robust security processes. Unlike towns and villages in the areas near the Syrian border, tourism is a key economic driver for may parts of Turkey and most international hotel groups are well equipped to provide care for their guests. Security at Anzac Cove will be even tighter this year so visitors are reminded to be patient.
CREW TIP: Always check the Australian government 'Smart Traveller' website before leaving for countries where political or civil unrest is likely.
Melbourne’s second international airport Avalon continues to grow and to overcome the issue of no terminal aerobridges, the airport has commissioned its first ‘Aviramp’ – a mobile ramp system that means the end of aircraft stairs. The system adjusts to suit a variety of aircraft types and provides better protection for passengers boarding or disembarking an aircraft. A further benefit is that the Aviramp avoids the usual bottlenecks of passengers struggling to climb narrow stairs.
It’s one of the smaller entities in the Middle East, but in aviation terms, Qatar is one of the world’s giants. This week Qatar took delivery of its 250th aircraft, an Airbus A350-900. The airline has continued its aggressive growth in passenger, cargo and executive transport adding additional passenger routes on an almost weekly basis. The airline recently acquired a stake in China Southern extending its push into Asia.
This anomaly occurs because the working with children accreditation regimes are state-based while a crew member’s airside security accreditation is under federal law.
The federal checks disregard what are called ‘spent convictions’ which are jail convictions of less than 30 months from a previous decade or 5 years if the offender was a minor. The state checks, however, consider all convictions and, in some instances, also require the employer or airline to have rigorous procedural and reporting regimes.
Despite the differences between state and federal laws, there is a requirement where responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied minors is assigned to each person along the journey. A child can only be handed over to another staff member, parent or carer on arrival provided that the crew member responsible for the child is satisfied that the bona fides of the next person are genuine.
This means that in the event of a delay or diversion, the child cannot be left alone or handed over to a non-authorised person.
Typically, unaccompanied minors will board last with the responsible crew member and usually will be seated in the last row away from other passengers. If you are collecting an unaccompanied minor, they will usually be last off the plane and will only be released to the carer nominated by the carer on the documentation. (note images in story supplied)
Ensure that the person collecting the child at the end of the flight has current identification that matches the paperwork
Include a change of clothes in the child's carry on bag in case of diversions or onboard spills
If parents are separated, some requirements apply for international travel
The airline MUST ensure that the child is in the safe care of an appropriate adult AT ALL TIMES!
While Boeing has had better months for the 737MAX, Boeing has continued to roll out its 787’s. The 787 and the 777X is manufactured at various locations around the world including Melbourne. Getting all the parts together for final assembly requires some serious heavy lifting which is why Boeing has built the ‘Dreamlifter’ – a huge air freighter that can carry wing and fuselage sections back to the main assembly line near Seattle. The aircraft literally ‘wags’ its tail to open the huge cargo cavity.
Airlines have tended to focus on the business and first-class offerings, but US Carrier, JetBlue is making economy travel more comfortable with a complete revamp of its economy cabins. The changes include wider seats, more legroom, better cushioning and improved personal storage. Inflight entertainment also gets a lift with more channels, a new high definition screen and the ability to have ‘picture in picture’ functionality which is great to watch a movie and keep an on the real time 3D flight path map. JetBlue also offers free fast Wi-Fi on its flights.
Drones and congestion busting personal aircraft might not be so far away as tech giants continue to invest heavily in new transport technologies. Recently released by Airbus is its ‘Citybus’ autonomous shuttle designed to fly high above the congested urban and city streets. Powered by batteries and carrying up to four people, the Citybus passed its ground tests this week. Initially piloted, Citybus is scheduled to start operational trials within the next two years. Five cities have been earmarked for the trial, including Sydney and Melbourne. https://youtu.be/g9ioUBtMBXg
Boeing’s 737 is the world’s workhorse aircraft, and the new ‘MAX.’ version has been the focus of attention following two recent tragedies. At the heart of the issue is not the design of the aircraft, but the processes that allowed the manufacturer to convince the regulator that the changes to the approved design did not warrant recertification and training of pilots. To summarise, Boeing added two larger, heavier engines to its 737-800 design. The larger size and mounting changed the characteristics of the aircraft and rather than recertify, Boeing elected to install software that was intended to correct the change to the flight dynamics.
Unfortunately, the manufacturer did not inform the world’s pilots, and in the case of Lion Air and the recent Ethiopian incidents, the new software relied on a single vane, (even though the aircraft has two) worked against and overrode the pilots’ control inputs – when the pilots tried to bring the nose up, the software pushed it down. Fixing this issue will now require a new software patch, updates to the aircraft certification and retraining of all pilots worldwide. It is a watershed for the role of regulators worldwide and a poignant red flag for an industry that justifies short cutting safety logic for a commercial advantage.
Long before government’s make the call, pilots flying over political hotspots cast a cautious eye on flight paths and alternative landing sites. Such has been the case with Venezuela during the past few weeks where political upheaval has now prompted the US government to withdraw its diplomatic officials from today (16/3/19). Venezuela has closed its borders to Columbia and Brazil, and most airlines are withdrawing from operations into the country while overflying aircraft are warned not to descend below 26,000 feet. If you are travelling to Brazil, steer clear of the northern borders. CREW TIP: Political troubles can erupt anywhere, even in so-called safe countries. In times of trouble do not to wait for advice from government departments; just get out quickly. If you are ever caught in strife-torn situations, use cash, NEVER use credit cards and convert local currencies to either US dollars or Euros
Despite the plethora of celebrity chefs and exotic ingredients, there are several menu items that airlines have learned are staples. These ‘comfort foods of the sky’ include Qantas’ First class steak sandwich (a small piece of steak, relish & rocket on a bun), Sichuan's ‘egg rice,’ American Airline’s ‘Biscoff cookies and Cathay’s ‘cup noodles.’ Last year when US airline Southwest stopped serving its signature peanuts, there was passenger outcry while British Airways were inundated with complaints when it stopped serving biscuits on its short domestic sectors. Despite the rise in inflight and lounge dining, the world’s most popular airline menu item remains the humble cheese and crackers
Office workers in Melbourne’s CBD towers had a great view of the rehearsals, but Saturday and Sunday will see the full flyovers from FA-18’s, The Roulettes display team and the huge C-17 transport aircraft as the Grand Prix shifts into top gear. The Roulettes routine will seem a little faster than usual as it will be the first ‘official’ display using the new, high powered PC-21 aircraft. (the last outing of the traditional PC-9’s was at the Australian International Airshow two weeks ago)
With upstream floods exceeding 9 metres, the water is flowing into the dry red centre filling lakes and estuaries including Lake Eyre creating Australia’s famed ‘inland sea.’ As the water moves across the parched centre, the landscape explodes with colour and wildlife making it a must-see. With roads cut and many towns isolated, the best way to experience nature’s magic is from the air. Going to places that others can’t is a speciality for SeaAir who between April and September operate small tours to the outback as well as their charter services along the Queensland Coast and Islands. Flying in a spacious Cessna Caravan, the tour takes in Birdsville, Innamincka and the majestic Charlotte Plains Cattle Station. SeaAir’s senior and highly experienced pilots will also fly low over the stunning outback landscape, and on-the-ground travel is in fully equipped 4WD’s. CREW TIP: Before you go read ‘Flynn of the Outback’ the amazing story of the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Services, John Flynn
Airlines have traditionally controlled what is shown on an aircraft’s entertainment system. Movies are ‘modified’ and news is edited, usually under editorial arrangements that prohibit stories that may alarm passengers. Although inflight wi-fi is diluting this form of ‘inflight censorship,’ this week Virgin’s inflight news carried details of the crash of the Ethiopian Airways 737 prompting Virgin to lodge a complaint with the national broadcaster. The furious letter of complaint from the airline has raised the ire of some passengers who believe that the airline does not have the right to censor what information they receive while inflight.
GPS it seems is in everything, so news of a potential ‘blackspot.’ on April 6 has users of ‘older’ GPS devices concerned. These old devices use a ’10 bit’ systems that effectively resets after 1024 weeks. The same issue occurred in 1999 where many systems lost geospatial references for around 10 seconds. Since that time, the growth in GPS functionality has rapidly increased. Newer versions of the GPS chips have a cycle of 157 years. CREW TIP: Board your flight in complete confidence and ignore the inevitable reports that will suggest not flying on April 6. Modern aircraft use GPS in conjunction with other inputs including radar, ADS-B/C and ground-based navigation aids that determine the aircraft’s position and flight navigation. Since 1999, most avionics systems have been updated, and the number of satellites orbiting the earth has doubled.
Prescription and over the counter medications vary from country to country, and the restrictions regularly change. While most medications are universally accepted, some countries have restrictions on codeine and other products including anti-depressants. Sites like the government’s ‘smart-traveller are helpful (currently offline), and each airline has information on their websites. CREW TIP: Keep the medication on the original packaging. Take a copy of the prescriptions with you along with a letter from your Doctor for medications which may have restrictions. Always carry enough medication for the trip. If you require daily medication, make sure it's in your carry-on bag and take note of the time zones. Most heart-related medical incidents inflight occur when passengers don’t realise that they have not taken their medication.
Airline operations require the aircraft to be turned around quickly. Once turnarounds were a luxurious hour where cleaning catering and any ‘on the run’ maintenance could be carried out. Today, some airlines have reduced turnarounds to 20 minutes which means that the ‘Precision Timing Schedule’ (PTS) lists those activities that are not essential for flight operations. One of the first items to be cut is cleaning and some airlines are forgoing turnaround cleaning altogether. Even international flights are sometimes subject to cleaning shortcuts. For example, an Australian A380 or 787 shuttling between London might only get a cursory wipe over with onboard equipment only sent to the catering centre for proper cleaning at the end of the cycle on arrival back into Australia. CREW TIP: Keep antiseptic wipes in your carry-on bag and wipe everything, especially the tray table and entertainment control
The long-awaited opening of Disneyland’s Star Wars ‘Galaxy’s Edge’ is scheduled for May 31, but while you can see it just by entering the theme park, the expected demand has meant that during the first-month operation you’ll have to make a booking to access that section of Disneyland. Details and how to book here: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/star-wars-galaxys-edge/
The Mach Loop in the UK is famous amongst plane spotters for up-close images of high-speed fighter jets, but if you're headed to the desert in California check the map Rainbow Canyon in the Death Valley area. From the ridgetop, you look down into the area pilots call the ‘Jedi Transition’ and can get dramatic close-up shots of fighter jets with after-burners glowing hugging the terrain.
Emirates is fighting back the competition by increasing the connections to London with a total of 11 flights between Dubai and London as well as additional flights direct to UK destinations. Watch the website as the airline has capacity to fill in the lead in the northern hemisphere summer.
There’s not a lot of profit in airlines, yet there’s a never-ending line of start-ups that want to have a go. Last month we reported that Japan was about to get a new low-cost carrier after it registered the domain name ZipAir. ZipAir was originally a Canadian airline, but the attest incarnation is owned by Japan Airlines. Interestingly, Japan Airlines already operates Jetstar Japan under the Qantas ‘franchise.’ However, it is understood that ZipAir would target those routes currently services by rival ANA’s low-cost airline ‘Peach.’ ZipAir operates 787-900’s which says that there’s more on the radar than just Japan’s domestic market.
If you remember the days of Dr Strangelove and recall the classroom discussions about ICBM’s, then a trip to Arizona is a must to visit the last remaining Titan Missile Silo. Fifty-four silos operated between 1963 to 1987 and this last remaining silo has preserved the operational aspects of this cold war hot spot. The silo is open to the public and has preserved many aspects including the control panel where by turning a key and pressing a button would send a nuclear missile skywards and 30 minutes later detonate within the then Soviet Union. www.titanmissilemuseum.org
This week a US Air Force aircraft took off from Avalon bound for its base in the USA. What made the flight unusual was that there was no pilot onboard with the aircraft being controlled by a person sitting in an office in Nevada the other side of the world. The remote-control officer requested departure clearance at Avalon and then ‘flew’ the unmanned aircraft across Australia towards the USA. The world of automation also saw the successful trial of a fully automated helicopter and Australia announced a trial of automated Air Traffic Controllers would take place later this year.
For those still in disbelief that robots cannot take over, try a stay in Japan’s Henna Hotel in Nagasaki where humanoid robots are the receptionists, waiters, concierge and porters. The hotel is almost totally controlled by the robots with some human oversight - just in case one goes rogue
Lithium batteries are in just about everything, but new laws have imposed tighter restrictions on the shipping of lithium cargo. The changes have reinforced the existing ban on cargo containing lithium batteries being shipped on commercial passenger flights and now impose limits on the number of lithium batteries that can be handled by cargo freighters plus the amount of charge in each battery. Worldwide, electronics manufacturers are now restricted to a maximum 30% charge in all lithium batteries which are sent by air, which means that when buying a new device, the first thing you’ll need to do is to place it on change.
Singapore’s Changi Airport continues to be a destination within itself with the opening of its newest feature ‘The Jewel’ scheduled for opening next month. Located in front of Terminal 1, it features a 250-metre long trampoline that gives you the feeling of flying through the canopy of a 15,000 sq. metre tropical rainforest. The Jewel also features the world’s largest indoor waterfall and a ‘cloud park’ where kids can play amongst real floating clouds. The Jewel also has layers of shops and restaurants and is a must see if you’re travelling through Changi Airport.
Being an Australian farmer is a tough gig, and it’s great to see so many initiatives to raise funds to help communities affected by drought. One event scheduled for early April is a charity 747 flight from Brisbane to Alice Springs. Ironically, the $799, 9-hour fundraiser is being promoted to raise money for drought relief however it is being advertised with the inclusion of a major water cannon salute on arrival into Alice Springs.
China’s plague of 100 Yuan notes continues to grow with the fake bills now being an everyday game of pass the parcel. If you’re travelling to China, especially Beijing, beware of the flood of fake notes. CREW TIP: Most fakes will be swapped in markets and shops – when handing over a 100 Yuan note watch it closely, often a trader will say your genuine note is a fake and with sleight of hand give you back a note that is fake. Do the roll test to check – if the pattern edges don’t match you’ve been stung
Next to your passport, your credit card is the most important thing you’ll carry when travelling; however, more frequently people are incorrectly being charged by hotels, car hire companies and even Uber drivers. Often the charges take months to be reversed leaving some people stranded with little or no money. CREW TIP: When using credit cards for hotels and car rentals, protect yourself by travelling with 2 or 3 cards that have low-value limits. This stops large charges being processed and minimises the risk of being ripped off.
The great debate over carry-on baggage took another twist with Qantas announcing from March 25 that passengers can take an extra 3 kilos, taking the limit for one bag to 10 kilos. In fact, passengers can take 14kgs into the cabin as there is provision for a second item weighing up to 4kg. The move is aimed to align Qantas mainline flights with Jetstar’s optional ‘baggage upgrade’ which has reportedly provided a hefty cash boost. Despite the increase, carry-on weight remains an issue with a rise in crew and passenger injuries from overweight bags and overhead lockers. American Airlines have this week grounded fourteen 737-800’s after overhead lockers kept popping open. CREW TIP: If you can’t carry it – don’t take it!
Last year we reported on the progress of China’s newest hub, the massive Beijing Daxing Airport. The Chinese government this week continued the nation’s push to expand air services from Beijing Daxing approving a total of ten new routes to Russia, Egypt, South East Asia and Korea. The new airport opens in September this year and despite being China’s version of Dubai, the airport code ‘ZBAD’ still remains its only handicap.
Qatar continues its push to be one of the world’s leading airlines this week announcing a revamp of its economy offerings, including new seating and entertainment. The new Economy Class experience features a seat with an innovative 19-degree recline system, additional legroom, dual trays, 13inch 4K widescreens and type ‘C’ fast charging USB port. The airline’s new in-flight dining experience ‘Quisine’, offers new retail-style tableware, a menu offering more choices, plus upsizing with 25 per cent larger main courses, 20 per cent larger appetisers, and 50 per cent larger desserts.
The much-awaited rollout of the Boeing 777X steps up a notch with the debut of the world’s largest twin-engine jet on March 13. Seating up to 400 passengers, the aircraft is expected to dominate the ultra long haul market with fuel-efficient features such as retractable wingtips. Powered by two huge General Electric 9X engines, the aircraft will offer a larger cabin interior and one of the most ‘green’ operating signatures of any commercial aircraft. The debut from the Seattle factor is expected to attract a worldwide audience on social media live streams.
Cargo freighters are the workhorses of the sky and at the International Cargo Conference this week regulator, IATA reported that the 24-hour average statistics had seen a rapid increase. According to IATA in any 24 hour period, around the world cargo aircraft will fly 40,000 tonnes of freight, 21 million parcels and 898 million letters
Construction work for Sydney’s second airport at Badgery’s Creek has been underway for several months, and this week the Australia Government announced that the new airport would be named after pioneering female pilot Nancy-Bird Walton. Due to open in 2026, the airport will operate in competition with the existing Sydney Airport. In a repeat of the incident while unveiling Qantas’ first A380, also named after the aviation legend, the placement of the hyphen in her name caused great debate. FACT: Her name, Nancy-Bird was a nickname given to her by her husband.