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1. AUSTRALIA AND THE US SIGN COLLABORATION AGREEMENT ON ALTERNATIVE AVIATION FUELS
The Australian Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism and the US Federal Aviation Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue research and development on clean, sustainable alternative aviation fuels.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Australias Ambassador to the United States Kim Beazley signed the agreement during the recent APEC conference which met in San Francisco.
This agreement will enable information exchange, analysis of fuel source supply chains, and joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental impacts.
The MOU will see Australia and the United States exchange information about policies, programs, projects, research results, and publications, and to conduct joint studies in areas such as fuel sources and environmental impacts. The memorandum facilitates analysis of fuel source supply chains and both nations agree to cover the associated costs.
Austrades San Francisco-based Senior Trade Commissioner, Nigel Warren, said we have worked closely with our partners to raise awareness of the dynamic global environment for alternative fuels, promote Australian capabilities internationally, and attract US investment into the Australian sector.
This has been a core part of Austrades Clean Energy Investment strategy and this MOU is a significant milestone in our Clean Energy relationship.
2. Some questions about the Qantas game plan
It seems fair to say that labor and management are adrift in the Qantas disputes, and that the customers, most of whom could be expected to be unmoved by such issues, could also drift away from the airline.
These are some of the issues that affect customers.
The London Olympics: Qantas has transferred half of its daily slots to London Heathrow to connections, really poor connections, with British Airways flights at Bangkok or Hong Kong from early next year.
Putting customers loyal to the Australian quality of the Qantas product onto a British Airways flight is insulting. It is an inferior product according to many travellers, it involves mid trip delays, and for an airline that seeks to leverage its Spirit of Australian branding, this is treachery.
Of course you don’t have to put up with this. What Qantas has done is openly invite its loyal customers to fly all the way to the games on a quality competitor, if they cannot secure seats on the two Airbus A380s Qantas will be flying daily to London via Singapore (one flight originating from Melbourne and the other from Sydney.)
The Red Q Asian mystery: Qantas linked the London reductions, which cut both jobs and its aged 747 fleet, to freeing up the money to invest in a brand new Asia based premium quality flying single aisle Airbus A320s.
The weird stuff: Qantas group CEO Alan Joyce is on the public record as saying this carrier will have full length sleeper seats in first class, and open up new connections between Asia and Europe as well as Australia, yet the A320 isn’t set up to cater for competitive luxury travel and can only fly with a full payload for around 5 hours 30 minutes, which won’t get it from Asia to southern Australia other than Perth and won’t get it from SE Asia non-stop to anywhere in eastern Europe.
Was Joyce really alluding to what this airline might do with some of the Boeing 787s the group has on order?
The business structure of the new luxury Asia based carrier is that it will be a China, Singapore, Malaysia or ‘other’ national flag carrier, meaning 51% owned by the nationals of the chosen state, and that it will take business off existing marquee brands, like Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Good luck!
However the business plan implies that Qantas sees no risk that China, Singapore or Malaysia might expect reciprocity of opportunity to set up similarly structured business units in Australia, thus positioning themselves for the technological future when viable airliner designs become available for non-stop flights between Australian cities and London, Paris and Frankfurt.
This could be a lethal assumption on the part of Qantas.
At the moment we see no signs of progress on the Qantas/Asia venture.
Off-shore labor: Qantas subsidiary Jetstar is already rotating poorly paid and apparently inadequately trained flight attendants through its domestic network, where they can work on ‘tag’ flight rosters that begin and end in Asia, but operate domestic sectors in the middle.
Jetstar says the flight attendants are trained to the standards of the countries of residence. Wake up Jetstar, this is Australia, our country, our standards.
Similar issues arise in the basing of Australian registered A330-200s in Singapore to operated Singapore-Melbourne-Singapore flights using pilots and cabin crew resident in Singapore and paid according to Singapore labor arrangements.
There is a dilemma or two for all parties in these arrangements. There is nothing inherently inferior at all in the standards of quality Asian carriers, many of which employ Australian pilots. The issue is not one of Qantas trying to replicate Singapore Airlines, which would quite possibly be received with enthusiasm by many travellers who have crossed over to that airline. It is a question about obliterating the Qantas investment in Australian based excellence for a lower cost, and much lower quality Jetstar product as an alternative to actually competing with overseas competitors.
Qantas has chosen to avoid the competitive task on routes to Asia and beyond to Europe with modern efficient wide-bodied jets, and done nothing but whinge about losing market share when it fact is hasn’t offered to fly the new growth routes so ably addressed by Emirates, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines among others.
Qantas hasn’t had market stolen from it, rather than having given it up and away.
Jetstar type low cost franchises do make a lot of sense as an investment, yet they are not an alternative to keeping or winning the full service market in either Australia or on its longer haul markets. They create new demand, and grow aviation jobs. But they are no reason to abandon quality, especially where the opportunity resides in reputation and service delivery, rather than in the fare price.
Branding confusion: In Australia Jetstar set out to be a low cost carrier similar in nature to Ryanair. Yet Jetstar today is often undersold by Qantas in terms of available domestic fares, and seems incapable of matching the consistency of low fare offerings on Tiger Airways, which after kicking a huge own goal by disregarding Australian safety regulations for so long it was ultimately grounded for six weeks, is struggling to re-establish itself as a serious offering in the market.
The pilot and licensed engineer unions have tried to engage the public and politicians over the future of Qantas, as well as pursue the material interests of their members.
This is almost certainly a losing battle. Even if the public is engaged and persuaded on matters such as Qantas jets being flown by Qantas pilots trained to Qantas standards, or that critical maintenance is better done in Australia than elsewhere, there is a clear view that what a company does, for better or worse, is its business and that of its shareholders.
This means that if the Qantas strategies for change fail to work as promised, or another private equity bid or asset sale proposal were to arise, the country will look on, wring its hands, and say ‘too bad’, or as happened in the case of the Ansett collapse, start bleating about what happens to their frequent flyer points rather than deal with the human cost of enterprise collapse.
3. Industrial Strike Hits Quantas Airways, AUSTRALIA
Qantas Airways, Australia face industrial action from ground staff, baggage handlers and engineers over pay and labour conditions.
The ground workers’ strike has caused inconvenience to thousands of passengers. A total of 39 flights are being delayed while two have been cancelled. The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers association and the Transport Workers Union are the major workers’ unions battling with the airlines for better pay and working conditions. The past month saw outrages of the Qantas airlines workers through an array of full shift job walk-offs, one-hour strikes, nationwide stoppages, overtime bans and daily stop work meetings. According to Australia Bargains, so far no flights from UK to Australia have been cancelled but passengers should be prepared for disruption to Australia domestic flights.
With the travel plans and flights of 8,500 domestic and international passengers already disrupted, Qantas airways estimate that the work stoppages and industrial action will cause inconvenience to almost 25,000 passengers. International airports across the country, including the Sydney airport, are being affected greatly by the industrial strike.
The strike initiated by the union representing Qantas Airways Ltd. has been successful in gaining the support of more groups of airline workers like cabin cleaners, catering staff, ramp workers and engineers. While efforts are being made to settle the issues between the airlines and the workers, a partial breakthrough has been achieved on pay negotiations.
Qantas is trying to resolve the industrial action by holding several rounds of negotiation meetings. The positive approach has calmed down the workers’ unions and a conclusion can be expected to reach soon. However, the unions warn that several strikes will follow, if the airlines fail to identify the workers’ demands and needs. Nevertheless, all passengers to Australia are advised to stay aware of the inconvenience which the industrial strike may cause.
4. Stranded pilot whale perishes in Duxbury
Three stranded pilot whales were discovered alive on a Duxbury beach by a walker yesterday, but sadly one adolescent male died before the harbormaster could arrive to assist.
“When they arrived they found one already dead and two in shallow water,” said New England Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse.
“It sounded like a boater helped with the other two whales,” LaCasse added.
A team from the New England Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Unit responded to the narrow barrier beach around 8 a.m.
Veterinarians from the aquarium performed a necropsy on the 3,000-pound sea mammal and tested for any condition that may have contributed to its death, LaCasse said.
“Normally, in pilot whales, if you see them in small groups or individually it means there’s usually an underlying health issue,” said LaCasse, who added the blubber layer on the deceased 15-foot whale was a little bit thin.
Pilot whales are typically seen in Cape Cod Bay in pods of 20 to 50 whales, said LaCasse.
Unlike their larger filter-feeding baleen cousins, pilot whales are usually found chasing schooling fish such as mackerel, herring or squid.
Pilot whales are smaller-toothed whales with triangular teeth and as adults can grow to 19 feet in length, LaCasse said.
“We haven’t seen the other two whales, so they’ve most likely headed out to deeper waters,” said LaCasse, before adding that pilot whales are normally found further offshore at this time of year.
Aviation NEWS Reporter
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