Thursday, February 22, 2007


I am sure my readers may be wondering what I am talking about in my curious headline. Let me begin by saying that the Indian media, whether print or TV, has most of the time got it wrong when it comes to reporting about Aviation. I have been ranting about this aspect in a few of my previous articles now confined to the archives on my blog. I have often wondered whether the mis-reporting is because of the lack of knowledge of the subject or the media's obsession with the industry termed as a "glamorous" one. Of course anyone in Aviation will tell you that we are in it because of our love for all things flying and has nothing to do with glamour. Most of us know that the glamour tag is only that - a tag! Let me not digress from the topic and come straight to the issue.

I saw a news report on CNN-IBN online recently and apparently it was on TV as well about the impending merger of Air India and Indian Airlines. Great, long time coming and better now than never. That's not the reason for my grouse against the reporting. The news continues to say that the said merger will create Asia's largest Airline! Wow! Another news report says that compared to Asian tigers such as Singapore Airlines, Malaysian and Thai, the merged Airline will be larger with around 110 Aircraft (never mind some of them are very old Aircraft in terrible condition and need to be replaced asap) and with purchases of new jets, the fleet size is going to be around 130. Fantastic I thought, until a quick research on the net showed Singapore Airlines with a bit more than 90 Aircraft currently and 110 on order. You do the math. But that's not the end of the story, there's more to it. And that pertains to China and Japan.

One of the things that a reporter can do these days before cooking up stories is browse the web, collect better information and then say what they need to say in print, online and on TV. Not so in the CNN-IBN case. The reporter makes a sweeping statement that AI-IA will be Asia's biggest Airline when merged into a single entity.

Forget Singapore Airlines and the other 'Tiger' economies of the region for the moment and think China. What did I say? China? Oh right. There is a country called china and maybe they have some Airlines too flying there, right? If the naive Indian media thought that the Airline sector in India was booming, they need to pay attention to the giant next door where Airlines are not only booming but booming a lot louder than any one in India. Like I said, all that a news reporter has to do these days it to simply browse the web and do a bit of research. I will only give two examples here about the size of the fleet of Airlines in China:

1. China Southern Airlines has a fleet of 235 Aircraft and 99 more on order.
2. China Eastern Airlines has a fleet of 186 Aircraft currently.

Here's one example as far as Japan is concerned. Japan Airlines (JAL) has a current Aircraft fleet strength of 232 Aircraft with 75 more on order. That's mammoth.

One must ask these reporters and the channels whether China and Japan are considered as a part of Asia or not. If they are to be considered as a part of Asia, then quite clearly the AI-IA merged entity CANNOT be the largest Airline in Asia. I did put in a comment on the online website of CNN-IBN. Who cares to read or respond?

Is it not time for the Indian media to stop hyping everything about India and especially about aviation in India and creating a myth that does not exist? Is it not time that the Indian media realize that everyone who reads their reporting are not fools and do a bit of research before saying something without basis? One need not be a rocket scientist to do the math or need to be an aviator to read between the lines.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


It's been hectic couple of weeks and I've had no time to blog. I'm not complaining because it's been fun as well. The Chinese New Year is around the corner and in this neck of the woods, it is a big event, especially this year, supposed to be the lucky year of the Golden Pig. very auspicious indeed. For my Chinese readers, I'd like to wish them Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Couple of weeks back saw me head to Bangkok, landing at the new Suvarnabhumi Airport (pronounced by the Thais as Suvarnapoom). The new Airport looks grand and feels grand but there have been more problems here than is normal for any new greenfield Airport. Now, let me not try and compare Indian Airports with Suvarnabhumi because there's really no comparison. But, comparing it with regional heavyweights such as Singapore's Changi or KL's new terminal makes Suvarnabhumi look bad. Sure teething problems are normal but cracks in the runway, taxiways and other problems have forced some of the Airlines operating there to do a re-think and wanting to move back to the old Airport (Don Muang). Now, anyone who has been to Don Muang can see that it is a dump. I've been to Don Muang enough times to dislike using it again for commercial operations.

I am not sure that the move back and forth is going to benefit anyone. Nok Air, a discount carrier in thailand wants to go back there citing cheaper costs. Air Asia, the leading low cost/low fare Airline in Asia is sticking with the new Airport saying that the savings are negligible (if moving back to Don Muang). Anyway, the Airport and the scandals associated with it have received wide but negative publicity.

As for Bangkok, it is a big city, I spent very little time as I normaly do unless I am on vacation. However, there are a few things to note for an Indian traveller coming in on a passenger Airline. if you are coming into BKK, go to the "Visa on arrival" counter first before going to the Immigrations desks. You'd have to fork out Thai Baht 1,000 for the visa fees and you'd need to fill up a form and stick a photograph of yourself on the form. Keep a 1,000 Baht note ready for this. Arrival areas after immigration is rather cramped with shops, taxi companies and tourst representative companies jostling for space. The Thai people are friendly and hospitable but you'd probably find the opposite type at the "visa on arrival" counter.

There are various transportation options at the Airport to get you to down town or wherever else you may going. Bangkok is traffic filled, bursting at the seams, smoky and many areas of it look like any major Indian city and I don't mean it in a complementary way. English speakers are very less and don't expect people to communicate like we do in the rest of South Asia. I particularly mean taxi drivres, bus conductors (yup they have bus conductors issuing faded badly printed paper tickets that you can't read unless you know the language) and water taxi conductors. They have a Sky Train running up and down Bangkok and while it is a good system, it still looks inadequate. Shopping is good if you know where to go. I'll give more details of sightseeing and shopping after my next trip there, hopefully on vacation. I did take the grand tour of the Palace complex and a ride on a water taxi on the Chao Praya river. There's more to do of course and I will leave that for another blog later some day.

Departure hall is huge, humungous, get the picture but still seems a bit cramped! Don't go to the restaurant level before immigration, the food options are not great and the prices are inflated. Instead, you'd be better off clearing passport control and going to the departure areas where there are better food options. For veggies, like yours truly, it's always a challenge here. Like at some of the Airports in India, they'll bus you to the Aircraft instead of using the aerobridge, if the taxiways have not been repaired. There are plenty of aerobridges at the new Airport but many of them cannot be used because of the tarmac conditions leading to them. All said and done, it's a nice place (some of it) and perhaps some people may have a good time there and better time visiting places other than Bangkok. Not my favourite town, though.

Here's wishing them all the best with the new Airport and hope they can get through this difficult period, get their act together and make Suvarnabhumi an important aviation hub. They need this to work, desperately.