TIME Aviation

Malaysia Airlines to Cut 6,000 Staff in Overhaul

Malaysia Airlines announced the overhaul on Friday to revive its damaged brand, after double passenger-jet disasters

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia Airlines will cut 6,000 workers as part of an overhaul announced Friday to revive its damaged brand after being hit by double passenger jet disasters.

The staff reduction represents about 30 percent of its current workforce of 20,000. A search for a new CEO for the airline is underway.

Khazanah Nasional, the state investment company that owns 69 percent of the airline, said the overhaul includes the establishment of a new company that will take over the existing Malaysia Airlines business and its reduced staff.

The revamp and new investment in the carrier will cost about 6 billion Malaysian ringgit ($1.9 billion).

“The combination of measures announced today will enable our national airline to be revived,” said Khazanah managing director Azman Mokhtar.

The airline will be taken completely under the wing of the government. Khazanah previously announced that it plans to take 100 percent ownership.

A substantial revamp has long been on the cards for Malaysia Airlines, which was struggling with chronic financial problems even before it was hit by the double disasters this year.

Investigators continue to scour the southern Indian Ocean for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which veered far of course while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 with 239 people on board. In July, 298 people were killed when Flight 17 was blasted out of the sky as it flew over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The tragedies have scarred the airline’s brand, once associated with high-quality service. Travelers on recent long-haul flights have posted photos on social media of nearly empty cabins and departure lounges. The airline says passengers fell 11 percent in July from the year before.

In releasing its latest quarterly financial result, a loss, on Thursday, Malaysia Airlines said the worst impact from the disasters will come in the second half of this year.

Khazanah said at a press conference that it has begun a search for a new chief executive for the airline, which is likely to be completed by the end of this year.

Current CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya will continue to head Malaysia Airlines until its new incarnation is established in July next year.

The state investment fund said it aims to restore Malaysia Airlines to profitability by the end of 2017.

TIME Aviation

Phone Call Offers New Clue in Search for Missing Plane

A Malaysia Airlines plane prepares to go out onto the runway and passes by a stationary Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft (top) at Perth International Airport on March 25, 2014 in Perth, Australia.
A Malaysia Airlines plane prepares to go out onto the runway and passes by a stationary Chinese Ilyushin 76 aircraft (top) at Perth International Airport on March 25, 2014 in Perth, Australia. Getty Images

Plane missing since March

Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 turned south earlier than previously thought, Australian authorities said Thursday, providing a new clue to the Boeing 777’s possible location in the southern Indian Ocean.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the new information was based on an attempted satellite phone call to the plane by Malaysia Airlines ground staff. However, the broad search area for Flight 370 remains unchanged, Truss told reporters at a news conference in Canberra, Australia. “Over the last few weeks and months, continuing work is being done on refining the information that we have in relation to the most likely resting place for this aircraft,” Truss said…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Aviation

Here’s What ‘Business Class’ Is Like on Europe’s Ultra-Cheap Budget Airline

Ryanair Launches Business Plus Business Class Service
A passenger passes self-service check-in machines Ryanair Holdings Plc at Stansted Airport in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013. Bloomberg via Getty Images

The low-cost carrier is launching its "Business Plus" service to break into the corporate travel market

Ryanair unveiled its new Business Plus class on Wednesday, a new service providing seating, check-in and luggage benefits as the traditionally no-frills, low-cost carrier attempts to expand its offerings in the business travel market.

Starting at £59.99 ($99.59), Business Plus tickets afford customers a free carry-on bag under 20kg, flexibility on ticket changes, expedited security check-ins and premium seating, according to RyanAir.

With premium seating, customers will be able to select seats from rows 1-5 (for fast de-boarding), rows 16-17 (for extra leg room) and rows 32-33 (for fast boarding), a Ryanair spokesperson told TIME. Other than their location on the plane, premium seats won’t be any different than standard seats, according to Financial Times: no new seats will be installed, no curtains will be drawn, and passengers will still pay for their food and drinks.

“What business travelers want has changed,” Ryanair’s chief marketing officer told FT. “It used to be about the lounge, free snacks and free drinks, but now customers want a reliable value-for-money service that gets you to your destination quicker, and to spend less time at the airport and more in meetings.”

With more than one-fourth of its customers traveling on business, Ryanair is the latest low-cost carrier attempting to demonstrate that low fares and comfort aren’t mutually exclusive. Ryanair unveiled its first TV ad in decades and an “Always Getting Better” PR campaign earlier this year in a move to shed its title as “worst” overall brand for customer service, while Spirit Airlines—known as the “Ryanair of the U.S.”—has taken a more radical approach to winning back customers.

 

TIME Aviation

Sheriff’s Office: Military Jet Crashes in Virginia

(DEERFIELD, Va.) — A sheriff’s dispatcher says authorities are searching for a military jet that crashed in western Virginia.

Augusta County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher Becky Coynter says witnesses reported hearing a loud noise that sounded like an explosion just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Coynter says authorities don’t know whether anyone was injured in the crash.

A news release from state police says officials located the crash site, with heavy smoke coming from the side of a mountain. The statement says state and local police are trying to reach the site. Police did not offer other details.

TIME National Security

American Airlines Flight Diverted to Phoenix

Passengers were able to continue their trips and have reached San Diego

(PHOENIX) — Authorities say a security threat forced a flight from Dallas to San Diego to be diverted to Phoenix.

FBI Special Agent Perryn T. Collier says the American Airlines flight landed Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Collier declined to discuss the security threat because of the active investigation.

American Airlines spokeswoman Michelle Mohr says Flight 362 landed safely shortly before noon and was met by authorities. Mohr says 179 passengers and six crew members were aboard.

She said the passengers were able to continue their trips and have reached San Diego. Mohr said she couldn’t discuss security matters and referred questions to the FBI.

TIME Aviation

Canadian Woman Climbs Airport Fence to Stop Plane

Air Canada
An Air Canada jet takes off over the terminal at the Halifax, Nova Scotia airport on September 12, 2011. Andrew Vaughan—AP

She thought her husband was on board

A woman in Nova Scotia scaled a barbed-wire fence at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sunday in an attempt to prevent a plane from taking off, authorities said.

The 37-year-old woman was spotted almost immediately by employees in the aircraft control towers and stopped by an airline employee. “She jumped the security fence, but she was nowhere near the aircrafts,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Sgt. Al LeBlanc told CNN. “The airport staff and the Mounted Police responded right away and apprehended her.”

The woman had reportedly scaled the 10-foot security fence—sustaining minor injuries in the process—because she believed her husband was aboard a plane that was about to take off and she was intent on stopping it. The plane was rerouted and police said the woman’s husband wasn’t actually on board.

Though LeBlanc told CNN that the woman is unlikely to face criminal charges, the airport is planning on throughly investigating its security measures.

[CNN]

 

TIME Iraq

American Carriers Are Now Banned From Flying Over Iraq

Justice Department Files Suit To Block Proposed Merger Of American and US Airways
An American Airlines jet takes off behind US Airways jets at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport August 13, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. Win McNamee—Getty Images

The announcement comes as the U.S. begins air strikes in Iraq

The Federal Aviation Administration has banned U.S. carriers from flying over Iraq, the agency announced Friday.

The ban was handed down just hours after the U.S. launched airstrikes in the country for the first time since U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq in December 2011. The American strikes were targeting forces from militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which were endangering Erbil, a city that’s home to a U.S. consulate and several American advisors.

ISIS has been taking control of several parts of Iraq, and the armed conflict between it, the Iraqi military and Kurdish forces in northern Iraq has created a “potentially hazardous situation,” the FAA told American pilots Friday. The FAA’s ban allows for certain exceptions if pilots get prior permission from the agency or if they need to divert into Iraqi airspace because of an emergency situation.

The move is the latest in a string of similar restrictions issued by the FAA, which recently temporarily banned U.S. carriers from flying into Israel’s main airport as fighting raged between the Israeli military and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip. It’s not yet clear if European aviation regulators will follow suit and also issue an Iraqi airspace ban, as they did with Israel in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster, which was struck down by a missile last month while flying over violence-wrought eastern Ukraine.

The FAA on July 31 banned U.S. planes from flying in Iraqi airspace below flight level 300, or 30,000 feet. While U.S. commercial operators have historically been allowed to fly over Iraq at at least 20,000 feet, they have been banned from actually landing in Iraq since 2003.

TIME Companies

Share Trading in Malaysia Airlines Suspended

+ READ ARTICLE

(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) — Malaysia Airlines, which has lost two passenger jets this year, has suspended trade in its shares ahead of an announcement.

A notice posted on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange said the airline, Malaysia’s flag carrier, had requested the suspension as of 9 a.m. Friday “pending a material announcement.”

There was no immediate word on what the announcement would be, or how long the trading suspension would last.

The airline has been hit by two tragedies this year. In March, Flight 370 disappeared with 239 people on board aboard after flying far of course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

And in July, 298 people were killed when Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine.

TIME Aviation

How a Dutch Firm Plans to Find MH370 in Seabeds Less Mapped Than Mars

Australia Malaysia Plane
In this map released on July 31, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. AP/Joint Agency Coordination Centre

Australia said Wednesday that Fugro has won the bid to relaunch MH370's search

A Dutch firm is attempting to crack one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries: how Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 carrying 239 people, vanished in an age of surveillance and technology.

The Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) said Wednesday it selected the Dutch technical consultancy Fugro to relaunch the search for MH370 after a month-long tender process that solicited bids the world’s most advanced deep sea searchers, according to the firm’s statement.

Unlike some of its fellow bidders, Fugro historically hasn’t focused on deep-sea recovery, but rather on geotechnical services like underwater mapping for off-shore oil and gas clients. Other bidders like the UK-based Blue Water Recoveries and the Odyssey Marine Exploration specialize in recovering modern shipwrecks or search-and-recovery in deep ocean exploration.

Fugro, which has pursued some underwater search missions in European waters, attributes its win not to advanced technology, but instead to a calculated balance.

“In the initial phases of the search, a number of companies deployed very accurate and very sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicles. The advantage of such technology is that it’s very accurate, but the bad side is that it takes a lot of time to cover a square meter,” Rob Luijnenburg, Fugro’s director of corporate strategy, told TIME. “What we’re doing now is a combination of sufficient resolution and the capability to survey a reasonably large seabed in a relatively short time.”

Fugro had previously worked in conjunction with Bluefin Robotics to develop the Bluefin-21 vehicle used in search efforts during April and May. At that time, officials had suspected the plane’s pinger had run out of battery, and swapped in the Bluefin-21 for the Towed Pinger Locator. Other Fugro missions devoted to search-and-recovery have involved partnerships with the UK to recover helicopters downed over water, and ship recoveries near the Netherlands.

Fugro has already been directly involved in the MH370 search, too. Since June, one of Fugro’s ships, the Fugro Equator, has been working with a Chinese ship to conduct preliminary bathymetric surveys (i.e. underwater mapping of the terrain) around the target area. While radars mounted on the two ships have already mapped nearly 60,000 sq. km—much of that area is in the designated search area—Fugro’s AUS 60 million contracted mission involve only the Fugro Equator and another of Fugro’s ships, the Fugro Discovery. The two ships will each tow sonar scans near the seabed to produce higher resolution maps and possibly locate debris.

“Previous estimates [of the seabed] are very, very rough. The resolution is not good enough to find little bits of pieces of aircraft—that we do with the [towed] sonar equipment,” Luijnenburg said.

The designated search area, about 600 miles south of the previous phase’s area, was decided in June by Inmarsat scientists after re-analyzing satellite data. The area, roughly double the size of Massachusetts, is the latest patch of ocean in what’s been a hopscotch around the largely uncharted South Pacific. Estimates indicate that existing maps of this territory are about 250 times less accurate than surveys of Mars and Venus.

To navigate such difficult underwater terrain, further complicated by treacherous weather conditions, Fugro has connected with experts including Donald Hussong, a sonar guru. Hussong, who was brought out of partial retirement to assist Fugro’s sonar towing logistics, said the two vessels will each be equipped with 9 or 10 km. of cable that will tow scanners about 100 to 150 m. above the sea floor. The existing maps, while crude approximations, will be enough to prevent the sonar from impacting the ocean floor, which could dislodge the equipment.

Hussong estimates that the relaunched search over 60,000 square km. will span approximately 9 to 10 months—a heartbeat compared to the nearly 2 years it took locate Air France Flight 447’s debris, a mere 6.5 km from the center of the search. If the Dutch firm’s towed sonars locate debris, then the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which aided in locating the Titanic’s wreckage in 1985, will contribute two autonomous underwater vehicles.

But thus far, absolutely nothing—not even a suitcase, life vest, or crumpled paper—has turned up. Fugro is hopeful that the wreckage will be located, but the Dutch firm acknowledged that there’s a chance the massive search might yet again emerge fruitless.

“If we have contrast between the hard surfaces of debris and sediments naturally on the bottom [of the ocean], then we should find it.” Hussong told TIME. “If it’s some place on a rocky bottom or the side of a cliff, it’ll be difficult.”

Inmarsat, however, the agency that dictates the search area alongside Australian and Malaysian authorities, remains more than cautiously optimistic that Fugro will solve MH370’s mystery.

“We remain highly confident in the analyses conducted,” an Inmarsat spokesperson told TIME in an e-mail, adding that the scale of the task shouldn’t be underestimated. “The next phase of the search is being handled by those trained in this sort of work and we are hopeful that evidence will be found.”

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