Friday, 9 March 2012

The runway that won't go away

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Before Britain’s Conservative Party could form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in May 2010, negotiators from both sides had the unenviable task of reconciling some of their less-than-complementary policies. One issue that required no wrangling, however, was the proposal for a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport, which was buckling under the pressure of operating at 98% capacity. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, had already broken with party tradition by opposing expansion at the airport, and the greener Liberal Democrats had long supported west London's NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) residents. Ironically, this easy consensus has now become one of the coalition's toughest dilemmas...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Still waiting for the tide to turn

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Bahraini flag carrier Gulf Air has made no secret of its desire to cut underperforming routes, nor has it downplayed the impact of the Arab Spring on its operations. Even so, last month’s culling of four more destinations from the airline’s route network – Athens, Milan, Kuala Lumpur and Damascus – caught many observers by surprise. Set against a backdrop of intense parliamentary scrutiny that has at times bordered on enmity, some are beginning to ask questions about its future.

There is no denying Gulf Air had a torrid time in 2011. Bookings fell by 25 per cent in the first five months of the year as regional unrest spooked foreigners and parliament banned flights to Iran, Iraq and Lebanon – fearful that groups like Hezbollah might antagonise the country’s Shia population. Factor in high oil prices, and it is little wonder that Gulf Air’s much-lauded recovery plan, which had targeted profitability by 2013, was aborted in January...