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Old March 4th, 2006, 06:38 PM   #121
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Iran purchases four passenger jets despite sanctions

TEHRAN, March 4, 2006 (AFP) - An Iranian commercial airline has purchased four passenger jets to add to its aging fleet of aircraft which is restricted by US sanctions, an aviation official was quoted as saying in Iranian media Saturday.

"A domestic airline was able to purchase four aircrafts worth 150 million dollars, of which two have been delivered," the chairman of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, Nourollah Rezaii Niaraki, was quoted as saying in the daily Tehran Times.

"But due to sanctions we cannot say what make they are. However what we can say is that each weighs around 300 tons and can carry around 200 passengers," he added.

Niaraki added that by the end of current Iranian year (March 20), there will be 130 planes in Iran's passenger jets fleet, though he did not provide further details and and Iran's current number of jets is unknown.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has been subject to tough US sanctions that hinder the purchase of critical spare parts for nearly all the planes in its air force, civilian flag carrier Iran Air and domestic airlines.

The sanctions cover not only American-made airplanes and spare parts, but also European ones, like Airbus, when they use significant elements of American origin, such as engines.

Washington also wants to see Iran subjected to tough sanctions over its nuclear energy program, viewed as a cover for weapons development.

On January 9, several top brass in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards were among 11 people killed in the crash of a Falcon jet in the mountainous northwest. The crash was blamed on landing gear failure.

That disaster came barely a month after a decrepit Lockheed C-130 transport plane -- bought from the United States before the revolution and starved of spares -- crashed after take-off from Tehran and killed 108 people. Engine failure was cited as the cause.
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Old March 6th, 2006, 05:58 PM   #122
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Iran Air says it hopes to buy US planes, but doesn't explain how embargo can be evaded
By NASSER KARIMI
6 March 2006

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's national airline is seeking to buy American planes despite the long-standing U.S. embargo on selling aircraft or spare parts to the country, Iran Air's spokesman said Monday.

It was not clear how Iran Air believes it can circumvent the range of sanctions that Washington has imposed on Iran since 1979, when relations were cut after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 53 people as hostages for more than a year.

"There are different purchase projects, including American planes," spokesman Malek Barzegar Sedigh told The Associated Press.

"I will not give further details because then the Americans could easily thwart the deal," he said. "In the past, the Americans have blocked attempts to purchase their planes in the final hours of the deals."

U.S. sanctions ban almost all trade by U.S. companies with Iran, including specifying the sale of advanced aviation parts. It might be that Iran Air plans to buy second-hand U.S.-made aircraft from a third country.

Iran Air has at least 43 planes in its fleet. Seven are Boeings that were bought before the 1979 Islamic revolution. The others include 28 European Airbus and Fokker planes and seven Russian-made Tupolevs.

The country has long complained about the U.S. embargo that prevents it from even buying spare parts for its ageing American aircraft.

In December, the government blamed the embargo for the crash of U.S.-made C-130 that slammed into the apartment building as it approached Tehran's Mehrabad airport, killing 115 people. The transport aircraft, owned by the Iranian military, had suffered engine shortly after take-off.

Iran has a history of aircraft accidents involving a heavy loss of life. Critics say planes are poorly maintained.

On Jan. 11, a French-made Falcon, carrying a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards and 10 other officers, crashed while trying to make an emergency landing, killing all aboard.

Sedigh indicated that Iran Air was managing to buy parts for its U.S. planes, but at a price.

"The sanctions cause around 35 percent extra expenditure for Iran Air in comparison to other airlines," he said.

In January, Iran's Civil Aviation Organization proposed direct flights between Iran and the United States to travel easier for the thousands of Iranians who live in America. More than 1 million Iranians live in the United States, mostly in California.

"If the two countries reach an agreement, Iran Air is ready to resume its flights to any point in the United States," Sedigh said.

The U.S. aviation authorities have so far not responded publicly to the proposal.
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Old March 10th, 2006, 05:22 AM   #123
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Traveling by Air an Adventure in Iraq
9 March 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The Iraqi Airways flight north to Sulaimaniyah is scheduled to depart at 4 p.m., and in line with the airline's instructions, I'm at Baghdad International Airport three hours early for the security drill. So far so good.

Except that instead of a security check, I and my fellow passengers are made to hang around the terminal for more than two hours, only to be informed that our flight has been canceled. Instead, we are told, there will be a 4 p.m. flight to Irbil, two hours' drive from Sulaimaniyah.

We decide to go for it. Our bags pass through an X-ray machine, we go through a metal detector and are then informed that passengers booked for Sulaimaniyah can't take the Irbil flight. Confusion reigns and the Iraqi Airways agent promises to call the station manager.

About 20 minutes later the manager appears. He tells us that there will be a flight to Sulaimaniyah after all. When? He's unsure. Maybe at 6 p.m.

Take the chance, or argue my way onto the Irbil flight? It's hard to make choices in Iraq these days.

Sulaimaniyah, like Irbil, is in the Kurdistan part of Iraq. I could drive it in five hours, but bombers, kidnappers and highway robbers lurk along the road, and I've already had a white-knuckle ride to the airport along six miles of highway that U.S. soldiers call "RPG Alley," RPG meaning rocket-propelled grenade.

The airport complex is so well defended that Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants are imprisoned there. But getting airborne is a different matter. To avoid missiles, pilots have to execute a steep corkscrew takeoff maneuver at the risk of colliding with U.S. helicopters, fighter jets or pilotless spy planes.

Still, having opted for the skies, I decide to wait for the promised 6 p.m. flight.

The Iraqi Airways agent hands me my boarding card. It's blank -- no flight, seat numbers nor destination.

How do I know the flight is going to Sulaimaniyah? "You can tell from the color," the agent explains.

But all the airline's boarding cards are green.

Annoyed, the agent scribbles "Sulaimaniyah" in Arabic and the city's airport code, SHL, on the ticket. Seat number? There are no assigned seats, he snaps.

I pay the airport tax of 1,000 dinars (about 70 U.S. cents) and head to the departure lounge, which is spruced up with new potted plants and green carpet. Under its French-designed arched ceilings there's a duty free shop and a cafeteria.

Scores of tired-looking passengers lounge on soft gray sofas.

Two Iraqi women have been waiting since 7 a.m. for their 10 a.m. flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It's now about 4:15 p.m., night is approaching, and if the Dubai flight is canceled, the women will have to overnight in the terminal. It would be too dangerous to drive back to Baghdad.

The mood in the departure lounge is one of resignation.

At 6 p.m., the flights to Irbil and Dubai are ready to leave. The two women jump to their feet and rush to their gate. The planes depart.

And our 6 p.m. flight to Sulaimaniyah? No airline or airport official is anywhere to be seen. Uniformed men from Global Securities, a private company in charge of airport security, roam around with walkie-talkies but have no answers. All they know is that no flights operate after 6 p.m., and we may have to stay the night in the lounge.

At 7 p.m., an Iraqi Airways official emerges. Passengers swarm around him.

A plane is on its way from Istanbul, he says. It will land at 8:30.

We are skeptical. What time did the plane leave Istanbul? "We don't know."

How long is the flight from Istanbul? "I don't know."

Is there any way he can find out? "We don't have a way to ask."

That's because after 6 p.m., Iraqi civilian controllers hand over the airport to the American military and are cut out of the loop.

So we wait.

At a little after 9 p.m. a Global Security official, a Briton, sheds some light; Iraqi Airways is determined to fly, but the Americans insist the passengers be searched.

But we have already been searched.

No matter, we're told; maybe one of us bought a sharp object like a pair of scissors in an airport shop. And besides, there are no female staff on hand to search me and the other women passengers.

A little while later, the flight from Istanbul lands. We wait to board. And wait, and wait.

"The plane has no fuel and the fuel truck is nowhere to be found," a security guard explains.

The truck driver, an American with Skylink, the firm that manages Baghdad airport, has gone to bed. He is woken up, fuel is delivered, and we start boarding at 9:45, the repeat security checks having been waived after the captain takes full responsibility for the safety of the plane and passengers.

We taxi on a runway lit by blue lights. A female voice over the loudspeaker welcomes us aboard the Iraqi Airways Boeing 737 under the command of Captain Adel Hassan en route to Sulaimaniyah. Flight time is 50 minutes and we will be flying at an altitude of 17,000 feet.

There is no safety demonstration.

Just before takeoff, all lights are doused and even though it's a nonsmoking flight, a cabin attendant tells us not to light so much as a cigarette lighter.

It's pitch black -- and totally silent.

The plane ascends in a spiral, circling four times. After the fourth circle, we head north into thick clouds.

Underneath, the runway lights fade away. A sigh of relief. We are safe.

At 10:20 the lights come on and the mood relaxes. Two female flight attendants pass around cookies in a basket and serve soft drinks. We're mainly relieved just to be airborne, but there's also a sense of leaving Baghdad's troubles behind, heading into autonomous Kurdistan, where business and reconstruction are surging ahead.

Most of the 40 or so passengers are Iraqi Arabs headed there on business. An Oil Ministry official is going to help the Kurds build an oil depot. Four Chinese businessmen are working with Kurds on their telecommunications network.

After 40 minutes the seatbelt sign comes on and we begin our descent to Sulaimaniyah. Then more bad news. Because of bad weather we are diverting eastward to Irbil.

The passengers break into mocking applause.

After a bumpy landing on the wet runway, we file into Irbil's new terminal. It is about midnight, some 11 hours after I got to Baghdad airport. The staff have gone home and only security men are present.

There's no telephone link between Irbil and Sulaimaniyah, which are in separate provinces of Kurdistan, so passengers can't call families and friends to tell them the flight has been diverted.

A sleepy Iraqi Airways station manager arrives. Rather than find hotels for the passengers, he tries to persuade Hassan, the captain, to fly us to Sulaimaniyah. Hassan says he's too tired; he has been flying since 8 a.m. -- from Sulaimaniyah to Baghdad to Istanbul to Baghdad to Irbil. Besides, he says, Sulaimaniyah lies between two mountains and it's hard to land there in poor visibility.

The Iraqi Airways man asks passengers wishing to fly on to Sulaimaniyah to identify themselves; perhaps a show of hands will persuade the pilot. A few hands go up but to no avail, so the official gives in, but only partially. He'll provide a bus to the hotels of the passengers' choosing, but the airline won't pay for the rooms.

By now I'm resigned to staying in Irbil. Anyway I have work to do there as well as in Sulaimaniyah.

Jamila Mohammed, an Iraqi Airways ticket saleswoman, is not surprised at our adventure. "This sort of thing happens every day," she says.

Iraqi Airways planes are chronically overbooked, she says, and once a Baghdad-Amman flight took off with nine seatless passengers standing in the aisle.

"Iraqis are used to all this," Mohammed says. "We got used to suffering. Even if we have to stay at the airport for three days, we can take it."

Hassan joined Iraqi Airways in 1976 but lost his pilot's job following the 1990 Gulf War and the international air embargo imposed on Saddam's Iraq.

He's back in the air these days with Teebah Airlines, an Iraqi-owned carrier that leases its planes and crews to Iraqi Airways.

Flying to and from Baghdad is stressful, he says.

"It's very scary, because normally when you approach an airport you make a gradual descent, but here all aircraft come to the same point before descending. At times you see five planes on top of each other, leaving and landing, all at the same point," he says.

"Last night, I came to Baghdad and was approaching the runway. Three hundred feet before landing, all the runway lights were shut," he says, laughing. "They said it was power failure. I had to overshoot and go to another runway.

"When I get on the ground I laugh, but when airborne I feel tension. It's very dangerous."

I tell Hassan it's the last time I'll fly Iraqi Airways. He laughs and says: "Good decision."
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Old March 10th, 2006, 11:05 AM   #124
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I feel sorry for that dude, and I thought having my flight delayed for an hour was a long boring ordeal!! Next time I'll think of this guy whenever I have a flight delayed!!
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Old March 16th, 2006, 07:06 AM   #125
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Jordan carrier to double weekly flights to Arbil

AMMAN, March 13, 2006 (AFP) - Jordan's national carrier Royal Jordanian will increase its weekly flights to the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil later this month from two to four, a company spokesman told AFP on Monday.

Four weekly round-trip flights to Arbil will begin on March 26, the spokesman said.

The airline also plans to increase weekly flights to the southern port city of Basra in the "near future" from two to three, the spokesman added.

Royal Jordanian also has two daily flights from Amman to Baghdad, which are increased to three according to demand.

The national Jordanian carrier and Iraqi Airways are the only two companies to make regular passenger flights in and out of war-battered Iraq.

But they need clearance from the US-led coalition forces to land or take off from Baghdad international airport, which doubles as a military base.
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Old March 20th, 2006, 06:18 PM   #126
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Baghdad Intl Airport Closed For Two Days
20 March 2006

BAGHDAD (AP)--Baghdad International Airport was ordered closed Monday and Tuesday for security reasons, the Transportation Ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abdul-Wahab said the closure was "to avoid any violence during the commemoration of the 40th and final day of mourning for Imam Hussein."

Millions of Shiite Muslims have assembled in the holy city of Karbala to mark the end of the symbolic mourning period for Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Authorities have closed in the airport in the past citing the need for security during elections.
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Old March 25th, 2006, 08:53 AM   #127
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US warns Americans against commercial flights from Baghdad

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2006 (AFP) - The United States on Friday warned Americans that government employees have been barred from using commercial airlines leaving Baghdad's airport, expanding an earlier public travel warning.

The State Department announced it was advising Americans "of the US Embassy Baghdad's travel restriction on using commercial airlines departing Baghdad International Airport."

The restriction was issued on March 12, the department said, quoting the embassy's message: "As the result of a recent security incident at the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), the US Embassy is prohibiting outgoing travel by all US government employees on commercial airlines departing BIAP until further notice."

The embassy also encouraged "all private Americans" in Iraq to register their presence.

The State Department said Friday its announcement "supplements" a December 29, 2005 travel warning on Iraq and expires on June 14.

"Travelers should review the Travel Warning on Iraq regarding the dangers of the use of civilian aircraft and road travel within Iraq," the department said.
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Old March 29th, 2006, 02:06 AM   #128
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Armenian Plane Crashes Near Tehran
28 March 2006

TEHRAN (AP)--An Armenian cargo plane crashed outside a city near Tehran on Tuesday, injuring four crew members, Iranian state television reported.

The Antonov plane came down on the outskirts of Karaj shortly after taking off from Payam airport at 1730 local time (1300 GMT), the television newscaster said, quoting the police.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and managed to rescue the crew before the plane exploded in flames, the newscaster said.

Shortly after take-off, the pilot signaled a technical fault and asked to make an emergency landing at Payam, but he crashed before reaching the airport, the television reported.

"Fortunately there were no deaths," the newscaster said.

The newscaster didn't give details about the plane except to say it "belonged to Russia."

Karaj lies about 40 kilometers due west of Tehran. Its Payam airport is used mostly for freight.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 06:04 PM   #129
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Etihad Airways Mulls Stakes In Other Airlines - Report
17 April 2006

CAIRO (Dow Jones)--Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airways (ETAIR.YY) is mulling buying stakes in other airlines as it awaits a decision on its bid for a stake in Luxembourg's Cargolux Airlines International S.A. (CLUX.YY), Gulf News newspaper reported Monday.

The Dubai-based daily quoted Robert Strodel, Etihad chief executive, as stating the carrier had been approached with offers from various airlines that were currently being evaluated. Strodel didn't give the names of those airlines.

Last year, Etihad bid for a 33.7% stake in Luxembourg's Cargolux for more than $130 million, the paper said. Etihad is now on a shortlist for the bid with a decision expected to be taken this year, Strodel said.

Etihad Airways, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, was established in 2003.
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:55 AM   #130
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Emirates pushes Perth-US service
Steve Creedy
21 April 2006
The Australian

EMIRATES plans to use its new twice-daily services to Perth to promote travel between the western capital and the US.

The Dubai carrier will add a another three flights to Perth in September to bring the service to double daily and believes routes to the US through Dubai are a viable alternative for Perth travellers.

"By the end of the year we'll have three services a day to New York from Dubai and then we'll start our expansion into the rest of North America," Emirates senior vice-president of commercial operations for East Asia and Australasia, Richard Vaughan, said in Sydney this week.

"We envisage about nine points in North America.

"There are very good connections, certainly for the Perth market, and putting on the double daily into Perth makes it even more flexible."

As well as promoting the US to Perthites, Mr Vaughan said the airline would also be promoting travel to Perth.

"There is definitely a traffic there," he said.

Emirates officials expect to make a formal request to Canberra for extra flights to Australia within the next two months and are expecting a strong lobbying effort from Qantas.

The airline denies allegations by Air New Zealand and Qantas it is dumping capacity on the Tasman and Mr Vaughan said yesterday the airline had still not decided whether to use the A380s on trans-Tasman route.

The airline will introduce A380s to Sydney in September next year and shortly afterwards into Melbourne.

He said he failed to understand why Qantas and Air New Zealand were so agitated over Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

"The supposed ogre that we are, all we're trying to do is take passengers to and from Australia at a competitive price and with a quality product," he said.

The Emirates executive also said there were no plans to establish the long-rumoured hub in Auckland.

"It's possible to do but currently we don't have plans for it," he said.

"But our market moves pretty quickly and we're geared up to move quickly with it."
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 01:40 AM   #131
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline
Traveling by Air an Adventure in Iraq
9 March 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - The Iraqi Airways flight north to Sulaimaniyah is scheduled to depart at 4 p.m., and in line with the airline's instructions, I'm at Baghdad International Airport three hours early for the security drill. So far so good.
<snip>

I tell Hassan it's the last time I'll fly Iraqi Airways. He laughs and says: "Good decision."

That was a great story. I think I might want to try the flight on Iraqi airways. Hopefully by the time I'm there it won't be on a rickety 737-200 that's maintained in Iraq.
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Old April 22nd, 2006, 05:36 PM   #132
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Qatar Airways bags award

22 April 2006

DOHA — Qatar’s national carrier has bagged the Middle East Finance Deal of The Year Award for the second time in three years at the Annual New York Air Finance Conference, organised by the London-based Air Finance Journal, published by Euromoney Plc.


The growth of Qatar Airways over the next few years, coupled with rising demand for the latest, state-of-the-art Buyer Furnished Equipment (BFE), means that the airline is investing heavily in new equipment. The award-winning facility will finance over $250 million worth of BFE over a four-year period, in a deal struck last year with BNP Paribas, Citigroup and Qatar National Bank. “The facility was established to finance BFE, comprising items such as galleys, seats and in-flight entertainment bought directly from suppliers, for a fleet of 25 Airbus aircraft”, explains Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker. “I would like to thank the three banks involved in this deal for their support. We are very pleased to have been working with such a strong group of banks.”
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Old April 26th, 2006, 12:27 AM   #133
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Emirates Air Competing With Other Carriers
By JIM KRANE
25 April 2006

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Emirates was once a money-losing state-run airline. But that phase lasted just one year, 1986, its second year in business.

In each of the 17 years since, Dubai government-owned Emirates has turned a profit, even as it assembled an array of 92 aircraft -- one of the world's youngest fleets -- and a smorgasbord of 83 destinations.

But Emirates' profits, like last fiscal year's whopping 49 percent increase over the previous year, have been overshadowed by its audacious orders for new jets. The airline plans to double in size by 2012, by spending an unheard of $33 billion on 123 new planes, all wide-body jets for long-haul flights, where it will compete with the top European and Asian carriers.

Emirates is an enigma in the airline industry: a government owned Middle Eastern carrier that receives few, if any, government favors. In the Middle East, not usually considered a bastion of bare-knuckle capitalism, Emirates was born and raised in ultra-competitive Dubai, where 110 airlines compete under an "open skies" policy.

"That's how you hone your competitive survival skills. You don't do it by getting all kinds of protection," said Daniel Kasper, an airline consultant in Cambridge, Mass. with consultancy LECG. "That's a feather in their cap to be able to do this in a market that's as open as Dubai."

On Wednesday, Emirates chairman Sheik Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum is to announce earnings results for the fiscal year ending March 31. Sheik Ahmed said it'll be Emirates' 18th straight year in the black.

Analysts, like JP Morgan's Peter Negline, expect smaller profits this year, tamped down by the high price of jet fuel.

"We wouldn't be surprised to see some moderation in earnings growth," said Negline, who is based in Hong Kong. "But then we see few airlines in our region making healthy profits with oil prices at these levels."

Looking into 2006, Sheik Ahmed predicted more of the same.

"We should see very positive growth, especially in our market -- the Middle East and Indian subcontinent."

Americans who haven't heard of Emirates soon may get the chance to fly with them. For now, Emirates operates just two daily flights to New York, but Sheik Ahmed said the carrier will add a third flight this year.

As Emirates' order of 60 long-range Boeing 777s starts arriving, West Coast and Midwest terminals might soon see the carrier's trademark Arabic calligraphy tail logo.

"With the introduction of the 777-LR, we can talk about Houston and Chicago," Sheik Ahmed said. "Over the next six years, we'll be receiving one or two aircraft per month."

Over the past six years, Emirates' capacity and traffic have leaped by more than 25 percent a year as its network spread relentlessly wider.

Now, analysts say Emirates is gearing up to capture traffic from European carriers like Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa, as well as Asian operations like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific.

A report last year by investment bank UBS said competition from Emirates could spell the end of long-haul flights by less competitive carriers Swiss International, Alitalia and SAS.

Analysts say the airline's growth hinges on political stability, as well as other wild cards such as bird flu outbreaks or slippage in the global economy that would spur messy competition from a growing phallanx of rival Gulf carriers.

"Other airlines have found they've grown faster than they could successfully manage," Kasper said. "When you add that much capacity, you have a lot of risk during market downturns. You can't stop paying bills for new airplanes just because passengers don't show up."

Emirates has used deft management, well-timed purchases, and was poised to take advantage of the energy boom that has turned Dubai into one of the world's fastest growing cities, Negline said.

"There is an element of being in the right place at the right time," Negline said. "But we shouldn't downplay the fact that they had sensible strategies and executed them very well."

Emirates' operating costs are thought to be 40 percent lower than European rivals like KLM, according to UBS. It also benefits from Dubai's investments in infrastructure and zero tax rate, as well as the sheikdom's cheap labor costs. Salaries are kept low by laws that, for now, prohibit unions. Emirates also operates without a less profitable short-haul fleet or legacy costs like pension burdens.

And Emirates looks set to keep its costs down, ironically, by spending around $12 billion for 45 of Airbus' double-decker A380 super-jumbos, the forthcoming long-haul passenger jet with 555 seats in its smallest version. Each A380 is expected to operate around 13 percent more cheaply than a Boeing 747, the UBS report said.

To cope, Dubai is expanding its airport to handle 70 million passengers a year, which could put it behind Atlanta as the world's busiest airport.

Emirates caters to what was until recently an underserved region, with a Persian Gulf airport midway between Europe and Asia. It also consistently brings home awards on its service.

Dubai is a booming destination in its own right -- for Brits, the second most popular beach destination outside Britain -- with guaranteed sunny weather that draws in tourists and delays few flights.

Emirates focused first on Asia. Its debut destination was Karachi. Now, analysts say Asia is one of the industry's few growth markets. Gulf cities rely hugely on expatriate workers from India, Pakistan, Europe, Australia and increasingly, the Far East and North America.

Emirates and other Gulf airlines are cashing in as more workers flow to jobs here, while stealing passengers from European carriers flying to Asia and Australia, and Asian carriers flying to Europe.

Gulf-based carriers led by Emirates are going to form an ever-larger part of the global airline industry, according to research from JP Morgan.

"European carriers have not seen a competitor like this before," adds the UBS report.

AP Business Writer Lauren Villagran in New York contributed to this story.
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Old May 21st, 2006, 07:37 AM   #134
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DXB has a big advantage over the rest of Mid East airports because it is served by strong carriers and it`s the only hub that wins hands down. South-east Asia has many hubs . Singapore, KL, Bangkok, and HKG all competing to dominate the Kangaroo routes
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Old May 24th, 2006, 11:47 PM   #135
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United to offer non-stop flights between Washington, Kuwait City

CHICAGO, May 24, 2006 (AFP) - United Airlines plans to begin offering non-stop flights between Washington and Kuwait City, the Chicago-based airline said Wednesday.

Three weekly flights will be offered beginning in late October, pending approval from the Kuwaiti government. United said it will be the only US airline to offer nonstop service between the United States and Kuwait.

The flights will depart Washington on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evenings and arrive the following day. Flights will depart Kuwait City shortly after midnight on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and arrive early that same morning.

United will employ a 253-seat Boeing 777 that is equipped to also transport cargo, with mail expected to represent a significant amount of volume on these flights.

"Launching service to Kuwait further demonstrates our commitment to expanding our global network, bringing our passenger and cargo customers closer to the world's key economic centers," John Tague, United's executive vice president and chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

"Our business and cargo customers will soon have direct access into the Middle East, where there is strong demand from the petroleum, energy and shipping industries," he said.

United Airlines operates more than 3,700 flights a day to more than 210 domestic and international destinations from its hubs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington and Denver, Colorado.
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Old June 2nd, 2006, 04:31 PM   #136
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Kuwaiti national carrier reports 82 million dollar loss

KUWAIT CITY, June 2, 2006 (AFP) - National carrier Kuwait Airways Corp. (KAC) posted 82.2 million dollars in losses in the fiscal year 2005/2006 that ended on March 31, mainly due to high fuel prices, its chairman said Friday.

Revenues for the state-owned airways reached 868 million dollars, up from the previous year's 760 million dollars, Sheikh Talal Mubarak al-Sabah told the official KUNA news agency.

Expenditures rose to 950.2 million dollars in 2005/2006 from 897 million dollars the previous year, due to high fuel prices and increased maintenance costs, he said.

Sheikh Talal said the airline paid about 81 million dollars extra for fuel in the past fiscal year, almost equal to its losses.

KAC has spent 15 of the past 16 years in the red and accommulated losses to the tone of 1.8 billion dollars in the 11 fiscal years to 2003/2004.

Losses are covered by the state.

Last year, the government paid 790 million dollars to the carrier which represented KAC's losses for seven fiscal years. The amount had been held back by MPs over allegations of mismanagement.

The amount represented about 66 percent of the carrier's capital of 1.2 billion dollars.

The only year that the airline was in the black over the last 16 years was in 1999/2000 when it made a profit of 80 million dollars after receiving compensation from Iraq.

KAC has suffered cash flow problems and a debt burden which peaked at 1.4 billion dollars after Iraq's seven-month occupation of Kuwait which began in August 1990.

It borrowed 1.3 billion dollars after the emirate's liberation in the 1991 Gulf War, but has repaid most of it.

Besides increase in fuel cost, Sheikh Talal cited "tough competition" as a cause for losses after the government allowed private airlines to operate.

The first airline Al-Jazeera, a low-cost passenger carrier, started operations in October while two more airliners, one for cargo and the other a full passenger airliner, are still under establishment.

Kuwait Airways operates a fleet of 15 Airbus and two Boeing 777 aircraft, while total net assets at two billion dollars last year. The carrier employs a staff of some 7,000 people.
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Old June 3rd, 2006, 03:10 AM   #137
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No-Frills Air Arabia Creates a New Passion for Travel in the Persian Gulf
By KATHERINE ZOEPF
1 June 2006
The New York Times

There was a time, not long ago, when the idea of jet travel in the Persian Gulf countries conjured up images of white-robed sheiks accompanied by cages full of squawking falcons and of European oil executives lounging in first-class luxury of a frequent-flier population more at home with a large entourage than a humble rolling suitcase.

How things have changed. Now, in the domed rotunda of the old-fashioned little airport in Sharjah, you are as likely to come across a family of Egyptians returning from a shopping spree in Dubai or a group of young men from the United Arab Emirates off for a week of partying in Beirut. For the last three years, Air Arabia has been shaking up the world of Persian Gulf air travel with the Middle East's first no-frills low-cost airline. Based in the emirate of Sharjah and founded through royal decree by Sheik Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, Air Arabia aims to do for air travel in the Arab world what budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, JetBlue and Southwest have been doing the last decade in some Western countries.

Air Arabia first sprang onto the regional scene in 2003 with a series of light-hearted advertisements featuring cartoon figures with outsized circular heads and stocky bodies, similar in appearance to the characters in "South Park" but dressed in traditional Arab clothing and carrying luggage. Air Arabia's little round men wearing Saudi-style white dishdashas or Levantine sherwal pantaloons and often sporting scruffy cartoon beards danced across billboards and newspaper inserts throughout the Middle East, their startled cartoon eyes popping wide at the news of Air Arabia's cheap fares.

These fares commonly as low as 250 dirhams (about $67 at 3.75 dirhams to the dollar) for a Sharjah-Jaipur, India, flight; or 149 dirhams (about $40 for Sharjah-Luxor, Egypt; or 110 dirhams (about $30) for Sharjah-Tehran caused an immediate sensation, and Air Arabia's little round men are still familiar stock figures. But whether Air Arabia has actually succeeded in changing the way people in the Middle East think about regional travel has been more difficult to calculate.

Air Arabia started with a single Sharjah-Bahrain route. Within six months, it had two new regular routes connecting Sharjah to Khartoum, Sudan, and to Assiut, Egypt. Now, Air Arabia flies to more than 25 destinations, including recent additions like Kochi, India; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Kabul, Afghanistan, and celebrated the achievement of its two-million-passenger milestone this spring. On Web forums like www.airlinequality.com , customers rave about the amount of leg room.

But taking on a staid cultural mindset can be a formidable challenge. For much of the Arab world, the idea of pleasure travel to other countries in the region is fairly new. Political disputes, wearisome visa application procedures and low disposable incomes have traditionally made regional travel difficult for Arabs, something to be undertaken for work and study, or perhaps to visit relatives, but seldom for the sake of tourism alone.

That situation may be changing, analysts say. After 9/11, wealthy gulf Arabs used to vacationing in Europe or the United States began heading to Lebanese and Egyptian beach resorts instead because of a perception that Western countries were growing less hospitable to visitors from the Middle East. Cities like Beirut and Damascus, with their bars and nightclubs and relatively cooler climates, are gaining reputations as summer destinations for visitors from countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Even in poorer Arab countries like Syria, there is a growing class of people with the money and inclination for pleasure travel. The thousands of South Asians who work in the Persian Gulf countries have leapt at cheap daily flights to the subcontinent to make more frequent visits home.

And though it's often outshone by neighboring Dubai or, worse, referred to in travel literature as a bedroom suburb for workers who can't afford high-price rentals in Dubai, Sharjah has quietly been making a name for itself as a family destination, with water parks, wildlife preserves and pleasant beaches and strict policies against alcohol. According to tourism authorities, hotel occupancy in Sharjah has increased 15 to 20 percent the last year, and government-owned Air Arabia has had a major role in the growth.

David Bender, a graduate student in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University who often travels throughout the Arab world, said that while in Damascus during Ramadan last fall, he had been surprised to see billboards over the Syrian capital's main traffic circles advertising special fares to the United Arab Emirates for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic fasting month.

"It's been interesting to see advertisements encouraging people to spend the Eid in Dubai, on vacation; this suggests that there must be a middle class who can afford that kind of thing," Mr. Bender said.

Jyotsna Kaur Habibullah, a spokeswoman for Air Arabia, said that it was not only tapping into an infant market, but also expanding it.

"We are changing the way this region thinks about travel," Ms. Habibullah said. "For the last two and a half years, we've heard this from customers. Many people are telling us that they're able to travel for pleasure for the first time. People who couldn't go on holiday before are now taking holidays for the first time, and people who went on holidays once a year are now taking their families on holiday two or three times a year."

Sami Suleiman, 25, who works for an advertising agency in Dubai, said that when he first heard about Air Arabia from friends two years ago, he started making a list of the cities he wanted to visit.

"It seemed so cheap, so I started thinking, 'Here is my chance to go everywhere, to see all the places I want,' " he said. "I went to Iran. It was only 600 dirhams, very cheap. Sometimes you can fly from Damascus to Dubai for only 200 dirhams."

By industry standards, Air Arabia's fleet is tiny. The airline owns five planes and leases a sixth. Yet these planes are moving constantly, hopscotching among dozens of cities. On a recent flight from Sharjah to Beirut, a flight attendant recognized and warmly greeted a passenger she had met on a flight from Jordan to Sharjah several weeks earlier.

Mr. Suleiman said that Air Arabia's cheap fares have become particularly important to citizens of other Arab countries who have jobs in the Persian Gulf region. Because of their strong economies, the gulf countries are a regional employment hub, drawing workers from all over the Middle East. To Sudanese or Jordanians with long-term contracts in the gulf, Mr. Suleiman said, Air Arabia is a great boon.

"For people who work in the gulf, it's the perfect solution. They can go home to visit their countries maybe three times per year now," he said.

And, Mr. Suleiman added, though Air Arabia, like other low-cost airlines, does not provide meals, "if you're only flying for three hours, you don't care that you have to buy your own snacks."
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Old June 3rd, 2006, 05:46 PM   #138
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Tehran airports to shut down on Sunday

TEHRAN, June 3 (Reuters) - Tehran's two international airports, Imam Khomeini International and Mehrabad, will be closed to all flights between 0430 GMT and 1030 GMT on Sunday, aviation officials said on Saturday.

Sunday is the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual father of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"On the anniversary of Imam Khomeini's death there will be no domestic or foreign flights between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. at Tehran airports," Rajab Mehrjouee, director of Tehran airports, told the official IRNA news agency.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will address pilgrims at Khomeini's gold-domed mausoleum just south of Tehran on Sunday. It lies on the flightpath of both airports.

Some 8,000 police will be on duty at the shrine.

Khamenei's hand was maimed by a bomb attack in 1981, shortly after he had become president.
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Old June 17th, 2006, 05:51 PM   #139
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Kuwaiti airline offers women free flight to elections

KUWAIT CITY, June 17, 2006 (AFP) - A Kuwaiti budget airline said Saturday it is offering free air tickets to all women who wish to travel to Kuwait later this month for the first election in which women can campaign and vote.

"We want to ensure that as many women as possible have the available access to return to Kuwait to vote in these historic elections," Chairman and CEO Marwan Boodai Jazeera Airways, Kuwait's first private airline, said in a statement.

"We are also extending the invitation to women of every nationality to fly Jazeera Airways to Kuwait to observe the historic elections," Boodai said.

Kuwaiti women, who were granted the right to vote last year, are taking part in parliamentary elections for the first time on June 29.

Thirty women candidates are among about 340 hopefuls running for the 50-seat fully-elected parliament.

Women of any nationality can avail of the offer if they travel from one of eight cities from which the low-fare Jazeera Airways operates while seats remain available. The cities include Beirut, Amman, Dubai, Damascus, Aleppo, in addition to Alexandia, Luxor and Bahrain.

The eligible flights depart on June 28 or 29. The offer is valid only for one-way airfare and meals are not provided by the airline.

"We believe its our role to encourage women to come home to vote. Who they vote for is entirely up to them, we just want to make sure that they are given every opportunity to return home, without cost or expense to exercise their democratic right to vote," said Boodai.

The airline, which launched its maiden flight in October, is operating two brand-new Airbus A320s and is expecting delivery of two more within the next two weeks, spokesman Fawaz al-Sirri told AFP.

Jazeera plans to start flying to New Delhi and Mumbai in India from the beginning of next month, he said.

Its tickets to all destinations cost as low as 50 dollars, including taxes, per passenger.

Jazeera was established in May 2004 as a shareholding company with a capital of 34 million dollars, 30 percent of which is owned by a group of core founders while the rest was offered to the public on May 26.
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Old June 25th, 2006, 11:06 PM   #140
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Iran airliner hits debris on landing at Dubai

DUBAI, June 25, 2006 (AFP) - An Iranian airliner with some 91 people on board hit building materials on the runway as it landed at Dubai airport Sunday but all passengers disembarked safely, the civil aviation authority said.

The Kish Airlines flight from Iran's main western city of Tabriz was directed onto a runway that was being upgraded, the authority said.

"Due to a human error," the tyres and a wing of the Russian-designed Tupolev 154M were damaged.

The accident caused fuel to leak from the aircraft but emergency teams were able to prevent a fire breaking out.

Dubai airport, which operates some 550 flights a day, is undergoing an expansion project including the upgrading of one of its two runways.

Forty-three people were killed in March 2004 when a Kish Airlines Fokker 50 went down in an open area between the villas of a crowded residential zone near Sharjah, another emirate in the seven-member United Arab Emirates federation.

The private Iranian airline has a fleet of 11 aircraft, including four Fokker 50s, three Boeing MD-83s, and two Tupolev 154Ms. It operates flights within Iran and across the Gulf to Dubai which hosts a large Iranian community.
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