Thursday, April 25, 2019
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Airlines struggle to reduce global mishandled baggage rate

Mishandled baggage SITA
Photo: SITA

Airlines are have struggled to further reduce the global rate of mishandled baggage without the help of new technology.

The 2019 Baggage IT Insights report by technology company SITA found the mishandled baggage rate had plateaued at about 5.7 per thousand passengers in the past three years after a big fall over the past decade.

The rate in 2018 was 5.69 mishandled bags per thousand passengers, up 2.2 percent compared to 2017.

The good news for passengers, not to mention technology companies such as SITA, is that the first analysis of airlines already using tracking technology shows they are seeing improvements of between 38 percent and 66 percent.

READ: Delta cuts seat recline on some flights.

The rate of improvement depends on the level of tracking introduced and where.

mishandled baggage SITA
Graphic; SITA

One of the “pinch points” accounting for almost half of mishandled bags occurs when baggage is transferred from aircraft or airline to another.

Tracking at key points such as transfers “will go a long way to eliminating mishandled bags,” according to SITA baggage director Peter Drummond.

Drummond said the plateauing of the mishandled baggage rate had come as the number of checked bags had ballooned in 2018 to 4.27 billion.

“More bags makes things more challenging,’’ he said. “Everyone across the industry needs to look beyond the process and technology improvements made in the past decade and adopt the latest technology such as tracking to make the next big cut in the rate of mishandled baggage.”

SITA says total annual mishandled bag numbers have plummeted 47 percent from 44.9 million in 2007 to 24.8 million in 2018,  reducing the bill to the industry from $US4.22 billion to $US2.4 billion.

Delays account for 77 percent of mishandled bags with damaged and pilfered bags coming in at 18 percent and theft at 5 percent.

European passengers are far more likely to have a problem than their counterparts in North America and Asia.

Asia has the best regional performance among the three at 1.77 mishandled bags per thousand passengers followed by the US at 2.85.

Europe is a distant third with 7.29 mishandled bags per thousand passengers, although this has reduced from 16.6 in 2007.

Understandably, passengers are happier if they are not worried about their bags going astray are increasingly looking for tracking apps.

An International Air Transport Association resolution on baggage tracking is now in force but the industry group says it will take time for airlines to implement it throughout their networks.

The airlines are looking at RFID as a low-cost tracking solution and a proposal is tabled for a vote at IATA’s annual meeting in Seoul in June.




Wheeling in the future of aerospace

airbus future of aviation
The Airbus Fly Your Ideas competition encourages students to think about the future of the aerospace industry.

An airline seat that converts into a wheelchair and a rivet-checking artificial intelligence are among the ideas to make it to the finals a global student competition aimed at uncovering the next revolution in aerospace.

The Airbus-sponsored “Fly Your Ideas” competition this year attracted 270 entries from around the world and narrowed them down to seven teams representing 11 countries and eight universities.

The Smart Wheelchair for Air Travel Needs (SWAN)  by Team Move-Ez from the Technical University of Milan aims to make life easier for people with mobility problems.

READ: Innovative new aircraft designed to fly indefinitely.

It converts a redesigned class of detachable airplane seats into smart electric wheelchairs that passengers can control through an app on their smartphone.

“Currently, for people with reduced mobility, taking a plane is still stressful and painful,’’ the Team said on the Accessible Travel Online website.

“Airports and airplanes are still not developed to be fully accessible. SWAN is our idea to solve this crucial problem, it concerns a detachable airplane seat, which can be motorized through our device and controlled by a dedicated app.

“Our goal is to avoid the stressful handling inside the airplane. With our device, the passenger is free to use his personal wheelchair inside the airport and then switch to his actual airplane seat while he is still in the airport.”

A  Solar “Windmill” for spacecraft power generation from the University of Cambridge uses two concentric aluminum spheres to collect energetic electrons from solar wind to generate power.

AirFish, also from the University of Cambridge,  proposes using satellite imagery and video imaging technology to help governments combat illegal fishing and improve the efficiency of fish farming

An Argentine entry from  National University of La Plata aims to provide actionable information to stock breeders on quality and quantity of pastures, the number of animals in paddocks and their health.

From Sarrtland University in Germany comes the Automated Intelligent Real-Time Inspection Exploiting Human-Robot Collaboration.

AIQInspect will assist a human operator to perform rivet inspections by using artificial intelligence and communicating its findings through augmented reality.

Other projects propose wireless switches without batteries and a new way of cooling electric motors using a water jacket or submerged cooling.

The students are competing for a share of a €45,000 prize fund and the chance to further develop their idea in the aerospace industry.

They will travel to Toulouse, France, in June to work in the Airbus innovation and R&D facilities before presenting them to experts.

United video reveals new livery

United new livery
United's new livery. Image: Twitter/United.

United Airlines has released a time-lapse video revealing its new livery ahead of official celebrations in Chicago.

Speculation that the gold in the previous livery would disappear proved correct: the gold and white globe on the tail is now a cleaner, light blue version and the sweeping line along the fuselage is no longer gold.

The new tail. Image: United/Twitter

The most striking changes are the giant united logo on the side of the aircraft and the blue engine nacelles.


UK ePassport gates open soon to 6m additional visitors.

ePassport Uk international
ePassport gates at Heatrow's Terminal 5. Photo: Home Office.

Life for about 6 million visitors entering Britain from the US, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and South Korea with ePassports is about to get easier.

Passengers with the chipped passports from these countries will be able to sidestep the long queues they previously found themselves facing and use ePassport smart gates from June.

Travelers from these countries will also no longer have to fill in a landing card.

ePassport gates are currently available to British, EU and European Economic Area nationals and allow passengers to be processed more quickly and securely.  Registered travelers can also use the gates.

The change, which also applies to the Eurostar terminals in Paris and Brussels, aims to speed up processing at UK airports.

All passengers will continue to be automatically checked against UK Border Force systems and checklists.

READ: British Airways cleverly re-engineers iconic duet.

“The expanded access to ePassport gates and the withdrawal of landing cards is part of our work to transform the UK’s border, providing a quicker, seamless experience for passengers that is built around digital systems,’’ Immigration Minister Carline Nokes said.

“These changes will deliver an improved arrival experience and is further encouragement for people who boost our economy through tourism and business to travel to the UK.”

The UK announced it would ease the restrictions in October 2018 but at that stage only gave summer 2019 as an indicative start date.

The UK government says there are more than 250 ePassport gates operating in 14 ports around the UK.

They are available to travelers aged 18 or over or to 12- to 17-year-olds accompanied by an adult.

While the new rules will be a boon to overseas travelers, there have been murmurings in the UK that the rise in visitors using the gates will slow the journey for locals.

Biometric airport gates are becoming more common worldwide and the number of ePassports is expected to increase by 18 percent in 2019, according to a report by Future Market Insights.

Innovative new aircraft designed to fly indefinitely

aircrfaft Phoenix
The Phoenix in Plymouth. Photo: UHI

It’s an aircraft designed to stay aloft indefinitely using solar power and helium and one that could be a cheaper alternative to telecommunications satellites.

Meet the Phoenix, the first unmanned aerial vehicle of its size to use variable buoyancy to ascend and descend effortlessly and designed to be totally self-sufficient at altitudes as high as 70,000ft.

AT 15m (50ft) long, it weighs just 120kg and a prototype was already been flown in indoor trials in Portsmouth in the UK.

READ our coverage of the Boeing 737 MAX saga

Variable buoyancy is also used in underwater drones and in this case, balances the buoyant helium against compressed air pumped in from outside the aircraft.

Air is also expelled from a vent at the back of the aircraft to propel it forward.

Although the Phoneix looks like an airship, it comes with wings covered with solar panels that generate electricity. This gives it a wingspan of 10.5m.

“The Phoenix spends half its time as a heavier-than-air aeroplane, the other as a lighter-than-air balloon,” says University of the Highlands and Islands engineering professor Andrew Rae, who led the aircraft’s designs

“The repeated transition between these states provides the sole source of propulsion.

“The vehicle’s fuselage contains helium to allow it to ascend and also contains an air bag which inhales and compresses air to enable the craft to descend. This motion propels the aeroplane forwards and is assisted by the release of the compressed air through a rear vent.

“The energy needed to power its pumps and valves is provided by a battery, which is charged by lightweight flexible solar cells on its wings and tail.”

The ultra-long-range endurance aircraft is being developed by a consortium that includes industry representatives and other universities in Bristol, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton.

It is cheaper to build and operate than conventional drones and uses include the release of micro-satellites and surveillance

Rae says it could also be used as a “pseudo-satellite”  doing the same job as a satellite in the high atmosphere at a fraction of the cost.

“Current equivalent aeroplanes are very complex and very expensive,” he says. “By contrast, Phoenix is almost expendable and so provides a user with previously unavailable options.”

The Phoenix team is now exploring collaborations with major manufacturers to take the technology to the next phase.

Aussie tests help FAA approval of US drone deliveries

Drone deliveries FAA
Image: Wing.

The flying burrito bothers are set to hit US communities after Alphabet’s Wing Aviation Wednesday to receive US Federal Aviation Administration certification for drone deliveries of food and other packages.

The announcement by US transportation Secretary Elaine Chao paves the way for the Google parent company to start delivering in Blacksburg, Virginia in association with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation partnership and Virginia Tech.

READ: World’s biggest plane takes to the skies.

The FAA said Wing demonstrated that its operations met its rigorous safety requirements for an air carrier certificate based on extensive data and documentation “as well as safe flights conducted in Australia over the past several years”.

The company conducted trials on the outskirts of the Australian capital of Canberra and generated hundreds of complaints from local residents to local politician Gai Brodtman.

Brodtman called for the trail to be “thoroughly reviewed” after residents raised concerns about noise, privacy, disturbance to wildlife and a perceived lack of transparency and government oversight.

Project Wing earlier this year introduced a new, quieter drone with redesigned propellers. The company said the new version emitted a lower frequency noise compared to what local media described as a “high-frequency wailing”.

The drones flew through the trial without incident but raised questions about drone noise regulation.

The company this month announced it would expand its deliveries in Canberra, delivering items such as food, hot coffee and pharmaceutical products to about 100 homes using the quieter drones.

The FAA said Wing planned to reach out to the local community in Virginia before it began food delivery “to gather feedback to inform its future operations”.

The delivery service will be part of the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program. This is designed to accelerate safe drone integration while evaluating  sticky questions such as security and privacy issues

“This is an important step forward for the safe testing and integration of drones into our economy,’’ Chao said. “Safety continues to be our number one priority as this technology continues to develop and realize its full potential.”

Wing last year announced it would also start a new pilot project in Helsinki and other companies, including Amazon, are also looking at drone deliveries.


Emirates inks codeshare deal with SpiceJet

SpiceJet Emirates codeshare
Photo: Facebook/SpiceJet.

Emirates is poised to increase its reach into India through a reciprocal codeshare agreement with low-cost carrier SpiceJet that will add six new destinations from Dubai.

Still subject to government approval, the deal will add the SpiceJet ports of Amritsar, Jaipur, Pune, Mangalore, Madurai and Calicut to the nine Indian gateway cities already served by Emirates.

READ: Jet Airways grounded.

It will add 67 weekly connections between Emirates’ hub in Dubai to the six cities as well as increased domestic connectivity from Gulf carrier’s nine Indian gateways to points such as Goa, Hubli, Guwahati, Vishakhapatnam and Tuticorin.

The airlines say the deal will allow for a greater variety of travel options on flights from both carriers.

They are planning to optimize schedules to give passengers traveling to and from India more choice and minimum connection times when connecting to Emirates’ European, North American and South American networks.

“Our journey in India has been defined by progressive investment, partnership and growth,’’ Emirates divisional vice president Adnan Kazim said in the announcement.

“ We constantly try to improve and provide our customers with greater flexibility and travel choices.

“This partnership with SpiceJet and the mutual expansion of our network will go a long way in further enhancing the travel experience of our customers in India as well as those heading into India, benefiting travelers and businesses alike.’’

SpiceJet is India’s second-biggest airline in terms of domestic market share. Launched in its current form in 2005, it now serves 51 cities in India and nine international destinations.

It is currently benefiting from the grounding of debt-laden rival Jet Airways and is adding aircraft reclaimed from Jet’s fleet by lessors to expand its operations.

SpiceJet managing director Ajay Singh said the partnership should “immensely benefit passengers traveling on both airlines”.

“While SpiceJet passengers from across India will be able to enjoy seamless connectivity leveraging Emirates vast network across Europe, Africa, America and the Middle East those traveling to India on Emirates will be able to travel to 51 destinations across our domestic network.”


Dangerous coin tossers still a problem for Chinese airlines

coins engines
Staff check an aircraft engine after a 2017 incident that prompted international headlines. Photo: facebook/China People's Daily.

Superstition can be a powerful thing and Chinese airlines are struggling to wipe out the practice of tossing coins at aircraft to guarantee a safe trip.

The latest incident involved a woman detained for throwing six coins at a China Southern plane set to fly from Nanning to Bangkok on Saturday.

The South China Morning Post reported the first-time flier threw the coins to pray for blessings and delayed the flight for 78 minutes while they were located.

READ: Cathay Buys low-cost carrier Hong Kong Express.

“Please don’t be superstitious,’’ the newspaper quoted China Southern as saying on Weibo. “Abide by aviation safety regulations and don’t throw things.”

The incident was the fifth this year and The Post said there had been numerous incidents since a case in 2017 that sparked international headlines when an 80-year-old  woman threw a handful of change into an aircraft engine.

The woman threw the nine coins into the engine of a China Southern flight from Shanghai to Guangzhou and delayed it for five hours while staff extracted the money and examined the engine.

Even a single coin can damage an engine and Chinese authorities have toughened their stance since letting off the old lady with a stern lecture in 2017.

The superstitious practice has also attracted a wave of criticism on social media but is proving hard to overcome.

Other instances this year include a 66-year old woman who was earlier this month sentenced to 10 days detention for throwing coins into an engine for good luck as she boarded a Tianjin Airlines flight between two Mongolian cities.

The plane was delayed for more than two hours as staff searched for the coins and moved passengers to another aircraft.

Also in April, a man was detained by airport security after throwing three coins near a Hainan Airlines plane at the suggestion of his mother-in-law and delaying it for 30 minutes. He was detained by police for 10 days.

Shenzhen Airlines in March settled a lawsuit against and a man who threw two coins at a plane engine in 2017. It cost the man 50,000 yuan ($US7452).

Two-month-old baby dies after inflight medical emergency

Airasia medical emergency baby
An AIrAsia X A330.

A  two-month-old baby girl has died after a medical emergency on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Perth, Australia.

AirAsia confirmed the medical emergency on Flight D7236 Monday morning and authorities in Perth said attempts by paramedics to save the girl were unsuccessful.

Flight crew had already requested medical assistance ahead of the landing at Perth International Airport about 5:35 am.

“Upon arrival, the aircraft was met by a team of medical specialists and the relevant authorities, including the West Australian Police,’’ An AirAsia spokesman said.

“We are unable to comment further on the infants’ medical situation, however our thoughts are with the infant and family involved.”

West Australian police are not treating the death as suspicious but the flight was delayed by four hours while they investigated.

The airline said it was helping guests with ongoing connections from Kuala Lumpur.

The baby was well past the age at which airlines permit new-borns to fly but rules vary from carrier to carrier.

Some allow babies as little as two days old to travel while others insist on a two-week minimum and may require a letter from a GP that they are fit to fly.

Nonetheless, authorities recommended parents flying with young babies take a number of precautions.

They recommend babies be flown in an approved safety device such as an in-flight cot and parents are advised to avoid taking them to parts of the world with diseases against which they are too young to be vaccinated.

For example, the UK National Health Service says babies younger than six months cannot receive a vaccination against yellow fever because of the risk of developing encephalitis, while babies younger than two months cannot take anti-malaria pills.

Mayo Clinic pediatrician Dr. Jay Hoecker also warns about the need to guard against infectious diseases on a plane with frequent hand-washing or use of a hand-sanitizer as well as avoiding contact with obviously ill travelers.

Another problem for which parents need to be prepared is changing air pressure during a flight and the possibility of ear pain.

“To help equalize the pressure in your baby’s ears, offer your baby a breast, bottle or pacifier to suck on during take-off and the initial descent,” Hoecker says on the clinic’s website.

“It might help to try to time your baby’s feedings so that he or she is hungry during these times.

“If your baby has had ear surgery or an ear infection in the past two weeks, ask his or her doctor if it’s OK to fly.”

The Mayo expert says the lower air pressure generally doesn’t affect breathing in healthy babies but parents of infants born prematurely, with chronic heart or lung problems or respiratory symptoms need to consult a doctor.





British Airways cleverly re-engineers iconic duet

Lakme And British Airways
The British Airways Orchestra. Photo: BA.

When Saatchi & Saatchi co-opted the Flower Duet theme from Leo Delibes’ opera Lakmé for British Airways advertising in the late 1980s,  it struck the kind of gold United Airlines had with George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

The re-imagining of the vocal duet by Malcolm McLaren, of Sex Pistols fame, and Greek composer Yanni was linked to “The World’s Favourite Airline” tagline and an advertisement featuring thousands of extras forming a smiling face.

It’s now been transformed again but this time by a British Airways quality engineer with a passion for music.

Lyndon Ooi’s day job involves checking the airline’s planes are technically fit to fly but he is also the leader of the British Airways Orchestra made up of 30 BA workers and some external musicians.

READ: British Airways displays its retro fleet.

Ooi was commissioned to compose a piece for the airline’s centenary based on Lakme specifically for the orchestra rather than the vocalists it traditionally features.

“I felt very excited,’’ he said. “then I thought ‘OK. How can I design this piece?’.

“What came about was this idea of creating 100 bars to represent 100 years of British Airways history.’’

The composition is made up of 10 variations representing 10 significant milestones in BA history. It varies in tempo, rising and falling to cover ents from the formation of Imperial Airways to the opening of Heathrow Terminal Five.

And it does so in fiendishly clever ways.

For example, the theme was transposed from B major to G major so that the first two notes are “B” and A”, representing British Airways.

Years are used as bar numbers starting from 1919, the year BA forerunner Air transport and Travel was formed.

In variation IV, the version is “B” rest “A” “C “as the cello plays “B” “E” “A”, representing the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA) as they merge to form BA.

The time signature 7/4 in the bar 1971 represents the inaugural flight of the first British Airways 747.

The Concorde theme in bar 1976 — the year of the supersonic aircraft’s first commercial flight — rises and falls two octaves to signify Mach 2.

The end piece involves the entire BA fleet as numbers on the diatonic scale with the Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 represented as trills and the final bar speaking to the airline’s soon-to-arrive Airbus A350s.

“It was a real challenge to fit the entire 100-year history of British Airways into the piece but I’m really happy with the final result,’’ Oi said.

“And what a pleasure it was to perform it with my colleagues in the British Airways Orchestra.”

Judge for yourself by watching this video:





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