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SAA workers start strike that could cripple airline

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SAA workers start strike that could cripple airline

Workers at South African Airways (SAA) downed tools on Friday in a strike over wages and job cuts that has forced the troubled state-owned carrier to cancel all flights and left its future hanging in the balance.

SAA, which has not turned a profit since 2011 and is without a permanent CEO, says the strike by unions representing around 3,000 of its 5,000-strong workforce will cost it 50 million rand ($3.36 million) per day and threatens its survival.

The unions rejected SAA’s wage offer late on Thursday, and are also striking over the carrier’s plans to cut more than 900 jobs in a bid to stem financial losses and become viable without the state bailouts it has relied on so far, reports Reuters.

SAA’s acting chief financial officer, Deon Fredericks, told the eNCA news channel that the airline, hurt by past mismanagement, could not just close its eyes and carry on.

“We’ll just go deeper down,” he said.

SAA is trying to negotiate much-needed funding from banks, Fredericks told radio station 702, but added the strike would hurt the talks as it would have a negative impact on cash flow. “If we don’t get that funding we will not be able to continue.”

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) called the SAA strike from 0200 GMT on Friday. NUMSA has said it will continue until the unions’ demands, including for an 8% wage increase and job security, are met.

The action is not an attempt to hurt the airline but force the government to intervene so its board and management make the right decisions, SACCA President Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said.

“In our eyes this is an attempt to save (SAA) from its current management and board,” she told 702 on Friday.

Two other unions at SAA representing about 2,500 employees mostly in technical and mid-management jobs said they would go to the labour court to block the airline’s plan to cut jobs.

SAA, which cancelled all flights on Saturday, is among a number of state-run firms that are battling tough financial conditions after years of poor governance and so-called ‘state capture’ – widespread corruption involving billions of rands worth of state contracts during Jacob Zuma’s presidency.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on turning them around.

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New Beijing airport uses cutting-edge blind landing equipment amid low visibility

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New Beijing airport uses cutting-edge blind landing equipment amid low visibility

Beijing’s new Daxing International Airport used its cutting-edge blind landing equipment for the first time on Tuesday morning to safeguard service amid low visibility.

At 6:57 a.m., under the command of the tower controller, an Airbus 330 of Finnish national carrier Finnair landed safely on the runway of Daxing International Airport with visibility below 175 meters.

It was the first passenger flight to conduct a landing with visibility below 175 meters, known as a Category-IIIB landing, since the airport opened to flights, reports Xinhua.

At 7:29 a.m., a Boeing 738 of China United Airlines took off from the runway, becoming the first aircraft to leave Daxing International Airport with visibility below 175 meters.

Daxing Airport used the highest-level ground lighting guidance system amid the low visibility.

The airport opened to flights on September 25. Located 46 km south of downtown Beijing, the new aviation hub is shaped like a phoenix spreading its wings. Its passenger and cargo throughput are expected to reach 72 million and 2 million tonnes, respectively, by 2025, with 620,000 takeoffs and landings.

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Qatar Airways to take 60% stake in new Rwandan international airport

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Qatar Airways to take 60% stake in new Rwandan international airport

Qatar Airways has agreed to take a 60% stake in a new $1.3 billion international airport in Rwanda, the state-run Rwanda Development Board said on Twitter on Monday.

The board said a first phase of construction would provide facilities for 7 million passengers a year in the Bugesera district, about 25 km south east of the capital Kigali. A second phase, expected to be completed by 2032, would double capacity to 14 million passengers a year.

The country’s infrastructure minister Claver Gatete told a news conference that a construction company was still being sought to build the airport, and that once work starts, the first phase would take five years to complete, reports Reuters.

Qatar Airways declined to immediately comment outside of normal business hours.

The plans for the new airport are a modification of those drawn up in 2017 for a smaller facility with a maximum capacity of 4.5 million passengers a year in the same location.

Company and government officials said at the time that Rwanda had signed a deal with the African division of Portuguese construction firm Mota-Engil (MOTA.LS) to build an international airport at a cost of $818 million.

Gatete said the investment from Qatar Airways would enable it to build the larger airport.

“We are looking for a bigger sized airport. That’s why we are looking for a bigger investor,” he said.

Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani is currently visiting Kigali for the presentation of the International Anti-Corruption Excellence (ACE) Award.

Gatete said there was also a possibility that Qatar Airways would help state-run carrier RwandAir to expand, but gave no more details.

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Virgin to deploy A350 in Lagos, unfolds 2020 plans

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Virgin to deploy A350 in Lagos, unfolds 2020 plans

Mega carrier, Virgin Atlantic, has concluded plans to deploy some of its new newest airplanes, the fuel efficient, noise compliant A350, on London-Lagos route beginning from August 2020.

This is due to the strategic importance they attach to Lagos route.

The Chief Executive Officer of the airline, Shal Weiss, made the disclosure when he visited Nigeria.

Weiss was in Nigeria as part of the airline’s strategic growth to reposition and consolidate on its lucrative London-Lagos route. which was launched 18 years ago and to hold business meetings with airline strategic partners.

He told New Telegraph that the airline customers were going to enjoy incentives, stressing that Virgin Atlantic had returned to profitability and ready to launch more routes to South America.

The airline, according to him, is already phasing out its iconic B747 and A340 airplanes, which it hitherto deployed on the London-Lagos route.

His words: “The plans are to retire the old planes like B747 and A340 for the new ones that are coming. B747 by the way has been a fantastic plane. Everybody loves the B747. The passengers absolutely love it especially the upper deck but it has been 50 years that it has been flying and there are new technologies, better planes, more efficient, more noise efficient and we are moving to those. We are not saying we have been operating B747 for 50 years. We retired one actually last week.”

Asked if the carrier was looking at expansion into more cities in Nigeria, the airline chief  said his company was in growth mode not only in Nigeria where they have made some strides but expanding to other cities like Tel Aviv, increasing its flights to Mumbai and opening up services to South America.

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Evaluating Nigerians’ low propensity to flying

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Evaluating Nigerians’ low propensity to flying

Nigeria boasts of population many say is almost 200 million. This, however, does not translate to huge traffic due more to prevailing economic situation. WOLE SHADARE writes

 

Nigeria despite a significant increase in domestic passenger traffic in 2018 by almost 30 per cent, there is still a huge gap in travel demand by Nigerians.

No fewer than 15 million air travellers both domestic and international went through Nigeria Airports in 2018, according to figures released by the Consumer Protection Directorate of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

This story is a paradox of sort, given that the geography as well as the demographic profile in Nigeria favours air travel.

The country has a working population of over 80 million, which, in addition to the fact that there are substantial inter-city distances, should favour propensity to travel by air.

The low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita probably provides some explanation for low propensity to fly.

Pakistan has a lower GDP per capita and still manages to record a higher flight propensity than Nigeria. The number of active domestic airlines is also lower in Nigeria than in other countries, again indicating the low level of demand for air travel.

Dubai, a city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates had 3.137 population. The Dubai airport handled 89 million passengers in 2018.

Dubai, Singapore example

Same with Singapore with a population of 5.6 million but handled 65.6 million passengers in 2018. Infrastructure, security and deliberate plan of making their airports hubs has contributed to the success they and others have achieved over the years.

More than one third of the Nigerian passenger traffic is handled by Lagos alone, and almost two-thirds of the total is served by the three airports in Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt.

Air fares are observed to be on the high side. The most trafficked route in the network, Lagos-Abuja, has an average fare of N30,000 per passenger flight hour. Customer confidence in Nigerian airlines is another reason air travel demand is deemed low.

Airlines in Nigeria, as in several places, are mostly passenger movers, hence, the focus on passenger traffic.

Traffic at the 20 nodes shows that over the period 2007–20182 Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt airports accounted for 76 per cent of domestic passenger traffic at the 20 domestic airports.

Abuja and Lagos are Nigeria’s political and commercial capitals respectively, while Port-Harcourt is a major oil producing city. Clearly, the cost of air fares naturally excludes a large share of Nigeria’s travelling public.

Same travelers

Much of the movements recorded in Lagos pertain to corporate travellers in the middle and high income categories; Lagos houses much of this group in Nigeria given its status as a megacity.

In Abuja, passengers are mostly top government and private sector workers, while Port-Harcourt travellers thrive on the oil economy. The lower middle class where a great potential for market exists generally do not find air fares affordable. They therefore resort to corporate road transport services.

The implication of low traffic densities in several nodes is that many city-pair routes are not commercially viable to the degree that active airlines will increase their service frequencies on these sectors.

Consequently, many nodes in the network do not record sufficiently large passenger movements. Nevertheless, city pairs in Nigeria’s network have great potential for air travel as road distances on these corridors range from 200 km to over 1400 km.

Air transport offers the fastest means of covering these distances as long as airlines keep to scheduled departure time.

Low income

Air travel is one of the barometers to gauge the health of a nation. Whenever a country is doing well, it will reflect on the number of people that travel by air. Nigerian aviation is not a stand-alone. It is part of the bigger economy of Nigeria and contributing to the GDP. It is obvious that aviation is the quickest barometer to check any economy.

A frequent traveler and an airline owner, who preferred anonymity, said: “If you check the Nigerian travelling populace, 70 to 80 per cent of those travelling are business people, as compared to the outside world where only 40 per cent are business people, 30 per cent tourists and the other 30 per cent are students and others.

“In Nigeria if you check the flights going to Abuja, 80 to 85 per cent are on business purpose and once these people don’t have business to do, it is obvious that there won’t be any movement because if you are not going to do business, no travelling. So it is a clear quick indication and barometer for the economy.

“So, if the economy is not performing as expected and businessmen are not moving, the airlines will not find the passengers.

“Once the economy begins to jump, business starts to move; then you see movement in our airports. Where 80 to 85 per cent of the passengers are doing business, most of them are not seeing any business to do now. I guess what is happening in Abuja right now is more politics than business. So it is the politicians that are moving.”

The spokesman of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Sam Adurogboye, recently told New Telegraph that the low passenger traffic was a reflection of the prevailing economic situation, noting that the aviation industry cannot be insulated from the rest of the economic mix.

“Air travel and the aviation sector respond to the prevailing economic situation; just like it affects other sectors. In air travel, there is low season and there is also high season. Even on international flights, there are times seats are fully booked and there are also times of flying empty seats. But safety remains our number one priority,” he noted.

Road transport alternative

Since the availability of alternative modes of transportation that are reasonably close substitutes for air transport diminishes with distance travel, it is expected that the demand for air transport will be less elastic for longer flights than for shorter flights.

Furthermore, international travel tends to be spread over more time than domestic travel, so that the airfare is a smaller proportion of overall trip costs, which makes international travel less sensitive to changes in ticket prices.

In addition, leisure travellers are more likely to postpone trips to specific locations in response to higher fares, or to shop around for those locations offering more affordable fares. Consequently, it is expected that the demand for air transport for leisure reasons will be more elastic than business travel.

Last line

This basic concept of own-price elasticity of air travel in different market segments suggests that if air fares are reduced on Nigeria’s domestic routes, demand for air travel is likely to increase, since these routes are short-haul. the prohibitive costs of air travel exclude several potential consumers of the service.

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S’African Airways shunned by insurers as financial doubts grow

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S’African Airways shunned by insurers as financial doubts grow

Two big travel insurance companies in South Africa have stopped covering tickets issued by South African Airways (SAA) against insolvency as doubts grow about whether the struggling state-owned airline can survive.

While the move is unlikely to push SAA into liquidation by itself, it will hurt ticket sales and exacerbate a cash crunch that left the airline unable to pay salaries on time this month, analysts said.

SAA has not made a profit since 2011 and has been struggling with an unprofitable network, inefficient planes and a bloated workforce, despite bailouts of more than 20 billion rand ($1.4 billion) over the past three years, reports Reuters.

Its financial position worsened dramatically after Nov. 15, when two of its largest unions began an eight-day strike over pay that forced SAA to cancel hundreds of flights.

Banks want additional guarantees from the state before they lend SAA more money but Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has refused, leaving the airline’s finances on a knife edge.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan still wants to save SAA, which says it needs to more than 2 billion rand ($136 million) quickly to stay afloat.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has stayed out of the tussle so far but the longer Mboweni refuses to sign off on guarantees, the more likely it is that SAA will shut down – an outcome an SAA board member said last week was a possibility.

Santam’s Travel Insurance Consultants (TIC) said this week it had stopped its travel supplier insolvency benefit for SAA flights then Australian agency Flight Centre Travel Group said it would stop selling SAA tickets.

The company that administers Hollard Travel Insurance told Reuters on Friday it had also excluded SAA from its travel supplier insolvency coverage, citing the airline’s finances.

Bryte Insurance’s head of travel Anrieth Symon said on Friday it had reversed its position on SAA and would cover its flights against insolvency.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali declined to comment when called by Reuters on Friday and did not respond to emailed questions.

Neither Mboweni’s spokeswoman nor Gordhan’s spokesman answered their phones when called by Reuters.

‘ALL OPTIONS’

SAA said in a memo to staff on Friday seen by Reuters that its board and executives were in intense discussions with the government and that the airline’s leaders were exploring “all options regarding SAA’s future”.

Guy Leitch, an aviation analyst who edits the SA Flyer magazine, said the decisions by the insurers and Flight Centre to drop the airline were hugely significant.

“No one managing SAA, from Minister Gordhan downwards, anticipated the flight of confidence that the strike would have,” Leitch said.

In a letter to clients dated November 28, Flight Centre said its preferred travel insurance provider was no longer willing to cover SAA due to doubts about its long-term viability.

TIC said its reinsurers had instructed it to exclude SAA from its insolvency coverage. It did not disclose the names of its reinsurers.

Ramaphosa’s government has taken a harder line on SAA recently, saying repeated bailouts must come to an end. He is trying to preserve the country’s last investment-grade credit rating and revive growth in Africa’s second-biggest economy.

South Africa’s sovereign debt is rated “junk” by S&P Global and Fitch Ratings but Moody’s still ranks it as investment grade, helping to prevent a spike in borrowing costs typically sparked by a downgrade from all three agencies.

Leitch said SAA’s liabilities exceeded its assets by a huge amount and the recent loss of confidence in the airline would force the government to decide whether to rescue it.

 “This is a high-stakes game.”

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BA flight heading to Abuja loses engine mid-air

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BA flight heading to Abuja loses engine mid-air

…Returns to Heathrow

A British Airways flight heading to Abuja from London on Tuesday returned to Heathrow Airport after the plane lost one of its engines mid-air.

The airline confirmed that BA 083 flight returned to Heathrow and was met by the emergency services as a precaution measure after what it called “a minor technical issue.”

In a mail sent to THISDAY, the airline said, “For your information, the aircraft experienced a minor technical issue and our pilots elected to return to Heathrow. In terms of the emergency services meeting the aircraft, this is standard practice.

“Our aircraft returned to Heathrow and was met by the emergency services as a precaution after experiencing a minor technical issue. Our teams looked after our customers last night, providing them with overnight accommodation. We’re sorry to our customers for the delay to their travel plans. (sic)”

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Aviation

Air rage: Coping with unruly passengers

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Air rage: Coping with unruly passengers

Indeed, air rage has become a global problem. Such unruly behaviour threatens safety and security, adversely affects travel experience of compliant passengers, and disrupts operations that may result in flight delays, cancellations or diversions, writes WOLE SHADARE

 

 

Alarming statistics

The global statistics for unruly passengers is alarming. Before proceeding, there is need to look at global statistics on unruly passengers and the work the industry is doing to prevent incidents and to ensure a stronger international legal deterrent. The 2017 global statistics comes from reports submitted by airlines to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) STEAD database. Not every airline is a member of IATA and not every member of IATA submits data. So, it is likely that the statistics significantly underestimate the extent of the issue. Assistant Director, External Affairs, IATA, Tim Colehan, at the IATA Media Day held in Geneva, Switzerland, said when they look at the incident rate, there was one incident every 1, 053 flights in 2017, adding that this means the frequency of reported incidents has increased versus 2016 where there was an incident every 1, 424 sectors.

According to IATA, there were 8, 731 reports in 2017, which is a reduction of 1, 106 versus the previous year. He stated that the total number of reports submitted could be affected by changes in the number of airlines submitting data to Safety Trend Evaluation, Analysis and Data Exchange System (STEADS). For example, some airlines change their reporting systems during the year and so may not submit data. According to him, “when we look at the intoxication, we see that 562 out of the 2, 454 relate to consumption of own alcohol-for example duty free brought on to the aircraft. We know that the remaining amount relates to mostly to alcohol consumed prior to boarding. “So, what we can conclude from these figures? Well, they show that unruly passenger incidents remain a significant issue. We know that they are committed by a tiny minority of our customers, but like we heard in the example I gave at the start, they have disproportionate impacts on other passengers, crew and the operation.”

 

Resolution

IATA members agreed a resolution in 2014, which set out the strategy and approach-one element of that work with other stakeholders to try and improve prevention and to share best practices internationally. One market, which has seen a significant rise in reported incidents, is the United Kingdom. In the period 2013-2017, there was a 325 per cent increase, with alcohol intoxication identified as a trigger in many of these cases. Many of the cases were focused in the key summer months and on flights to particular destinations. The UK Air Navigation Order already makes it illegal to board an aircraft when drunk or to be drunk when onboard. The penalties are a GBP5,000 fine or two years in prison. But the industry itself has been proactive in trying to prevent incidents. IATA said it was part of a10-week government-endorsed public information campaign called, ‘One Too Many” during summer 2018 that aimed to raise awareness of the need to fly responsibly,

 

Flight diversion

No one knows how many unruly passengers cause flight diversions each year or how many are ordered to pay restitution. However, in some of the most egregious incidents, unruly passengers can face large financial restitution penalties. The fines carry a dual purpose. They help airlines recoup the cost when a flight is cut short and serve as a deterrent to others to think twice before behaving badly on a flight. Unruly passengers have been a problem airlines have grappled with for decades. But in an era with increased focus on safety and security, tighter seating and packed planes, the airline industry feels a sense of urgency to identify potential problems and prevent incidents. The restitution penalties are federal prosecutors’ efforts to put a dent in the problem.

Pay the fine

In a case in July 2018, passenger Bolutife Olusegun Olorunda was ordered to pay Delta Air Lines $9,118 for the cost of a diversion to Tulsa after he verbally assaulted a flight attendant on his flight from Portland, Ore to Atlanta. The issue of misbehavior in the air has gained greater focus in recent years, with IATA pushing for countries to adopt a global legal framework and enforcement policy for unruly passengers, since gaps in governance can mean some people are never punished for misconduct. Association of Flight Attendants union spokeswoman Taylor Garland said a lot of people take prescription drugs to feel more comfortable flying, and they don’t realize the [different] effect that alcohol or drugs can have when you’re up in the air. If an issue with one problematic passenger isn’t tackled quickly, it could escalate into a conflict involving more people and become “a much bigger incident,” Garland said — which is why the captain may decide to divert.

Last line

Globally, airlines are doing their bit to control the menace. Some airlines had requested airports to limit customers to two-drinks before boarding flights and not to serve alcohol in the airport before 10 am. But aviation experts aver imparting and upgrading training to cabin crew and airline staff is the only way out.

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Qantas urges rapper will.i.am to withdraw racism accusation against staffer

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Qantas urges rapper will.i.am to withdraw racism accusation against staffer

Australia’s flagship airline, Qantas, said on Monday it stood ready to offer legal assistance to a member of its flight crew named in a racism accusation by Black Eyed Peas rapper will.i.am on social media.

The U.S. singer had taken a flight about 1-1/2-hours long to Sydney, Australia’s most populous city, from northeastern Brisbane to play at a concert on Saturday, but was met by Australian federal police at the arrival gate.

He said on Twitter he was racially targeted by an airline attendant, whom he identified by name, after failing to put away his laptop as the flight prepared to land, because he had put on noise-cancelling headphones to “make beats”.

Qantas, which called the incident a “misunderstanding”, has requested the rapper to retract his statement, reports Reuters.

“Absent a retraction, and if the crew member wanted to take the matter further, we’d certainly be willing to provide legal support for them to do this,” a spokesman told Reuters in a statement.

Police confirmed they spoke to crew and passengers at the airport, but said no further action was required. “The Australian Federal Police considers this matter finalised,” they said in a statement.

On Saturday, will.i.am said in a post on Twitter, “Is calling the police on a passenger for not hearing (the) P.A. due to wearing noise-canceling headphones appropriate?”

He added, “If didn’t put away my laptop ‘in a rapid 2min time’ I’d understand. I did comply quickly & politely, only to be greeted by police. I think I was targeted.”

As of Monday, will.i.am had not made any retraction on social media, even as other commenters pointed out that the crew member he identified had received threats on social media as a result.

He pointed out that if he were rude to a fan or journalist, he would be publicly named.

“This is what Twitter is for…we are supposed to call out wrongdoings so we can have a safer, more compassionate world,” will.i.am said.

Reuters was not able to contact the rapper through his agency, and he did not immediately respond to a request for comment on social media.

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Last remains of Ethiopian plane crash victims buried, families say little notice given

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Last remains of Ethiopian plane crash victims buried, families say little notice given

The last remains of 157 people killed aboard an Ethiopian Airlines plane in March were interred at the crash site, farmers and families told Reuters, but some relatives were upset they had been unable to take part in the ceremony.

Nadia Milleron, whose daughter Samya Stumo was killed, said an email was sent to some families — but not all — notifying them of the burial just two days before it happened.

“By the time the burial took place I was just wiped out; I was just glad they were doing it. I was tired of it not being done,” said Milleron. “But a lot of people didn’t feel like that. They hadn’t been aware of what was happening.”

Ethiopian Airlines did not return calls seeking comment about why some families were not told in advance.

Families have been begging the airline to fill in the crater left by the March 10 crash, which still contained remains too small to be recovered.

Milleron said on Saturday that locals had been burying remains exposed by rains in small mounds of earth. She herself found a bone at the site when she visited Ethiopia to collect her daughter’s remains in October, which she told the airline about in an email.

The force of the impact meant no complete bodies were recovered; partial remains were tested for DNA and finally returned to families last month.

As the burial took place on Thursday, a U.S. embassy representative present kept Milleron updated by text: “Now they’re laying the coffins down, now they’re putting earth on them …”

“I became a blubbering mess,” she said.

Milleron said the lack of notice of the burial ceremony had raised tensions between the families and Ethiopian Airlines.

“We are looking into taking legal action against EA – not of course to exhume and re-organise the burial, that’s done – but to make sure we secure a leading role in planning for a future memorial,” said Adrian Toole, a British father whose daughter Joanna was aboard the plane.

“EA are clearly on a corporate strategy to ‘tidy up’ the remaining issues so as to get the whole episode out of the public eye.”

Representatives of the airline and of Boeing and some embassy employees were there. The Boeing representatives were on a prearranged trip to discuss community projects, Milleron said.

Boeing manufactured the 737 MAX 8 plane, which nosedived shortly after take-off. A preliminary investigation pointed to a malfunctioning anti-stall system known as MCAS, which was also implicated in the crash of a Lion Air plane in Indonesia five months earlier. All 189 people onboard that flight were killed.

Tesfaye Mulatu, a farmer near the crash site, said he had seen a helicopter arrive and cars bring caskets on Thursday. The crater left by the impact has been filled in, he said.

“Now, the area looks a football field,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Some bereaved families have formed associations and hope to use funds from Boeing to build a memorial. The manufacturer will make $100 million available, with half going to families and half to projects in local communities.

“We continue to offer our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 and Lion Air Flight 610 and we are committed to helping those affected by these tragedies,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said.

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Direct Qantas flight completes non-stop journey from London to Sydney

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Direct Qantas flight completes non-stop journey from London to Sydney

A non-stop flight from London to Sydney has landed, 19 hours and 19 minutes after take-off.

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is believed to have set a long-distance record for a passenger jet, reports standard.co.uk.

It left Heathrow around 6am (local time) on Thursday and touching down at Sydney Airport at 12:28pm on Friday (1.30am UK time).

The flight was conducted to research the effects on crew and passengers of ultra-long-haul services which are under consideration by the airline.

It was carrying 40 people, many of them Qantas staffers.

Those on board witnessed two sunrises, the first to the right of the aircraft as it headed north-east after takeoff, and the second to its left as it flew over Indonesia.

Aside from research, the flight kicked off a year of celebrations for the centenary of the airline, which will officially turn 99 on Saturday.

Qantas Chairman, Richard Goyder said the flight continued the airline’s history of helping Australia engage with the rest of the world.

“Qantas is a national icon because it’s been such a big part of Australian life for so long,” Goyder said in a statement.

“Our founders talked about overcoming the tyranny of distance and through the years we’ve moved from bi-planes, to single wing, to jets to help bring things closer.”

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