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British Airport Authority told to sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh airports

England's British Airports Authority (BAA) was told by the country's Competition Committee that it has to sell Gatwick, Stansted, and Edinburgh airports. The watchdog group has pointed to a lack of competition as the reason for advising the sales. "Under separate ownership, the airport operators including BAA, will have a much greater incentive to be far more responsive to their customers, both airlines and passengers."

BAA was bought by Spanish company Ferrovial two years ago. The Competition Committee's criticism of BAA might look like a bid to bring ownership back to the U.K. However, that is not likely to happen. BAA put Gatwick on the market in August. The top bidders thus far are German and Australian companies. Virgin Atlantic is also trying to organize a consortium of investors to make a bid.

The Scottish airports and Stansted remain in BAA's hands for now. The organization responded to the watchdog's report by saying that there was no compelling evidence proving that the airports, especially Stansted, should be sold.

Adultery can get you jail time in South Korea

It is a news headline you'd expect to see in a theocratic Islamic nation in the Middle East: "Actress given 8 months in jail for adultery." But, this time, the headline could refer to the case of South Korean actress Ok So-ri.

The Korean adultery law was created in 1953 and has been upheld despite four major challenges over the past two decades. In Ok's case, the judges denied her arguement that the current law was an invasion of privacy and had "degenerated into a means of revenge by the spouse, rather than a means of saving a marriage." Despite the possibility of a two year sentence, Ok was given a eight month suspended sentence. Her lover, a Korean pop star, was given a six month suspended sentence. Neither will spend time in jail. The judge's reasoning: adultery is damaging to the country's social order.

According to the BBC, a recent survey showed that 70% of men and 12% of women have admitted to having sex outside of marriage. Ironic, especially given Ok's statements about the law being used by spouses for revenge.

[via SMH)

Man sues United, claiming alcohol service caused him to beat his wife

A man on a flight from Osaka to San Francisco had too much to drink. Soon after landing, he started beating his wife. After he ended up in police custody and sobered up, he didn't sheepishly apologize to his wife. Nope. He decided to sue United for serving him too much alcohol, which, he alleges, caused him become violent. The man, Yoichi Shimamoto, was arrested by police at a customs checkpoint after he struck his wife in the face half-a-dozen times. The suit alleges that United's cabin crew served him wine at 20-minute intervals throughout the flight and that he was so drunk that he could not control himself. Shinamoto and his spouse are seeking $100,000 from the airline as well as more money for pain and suffering.

United responded to the suit, saying "We believe that a lawsuit that suggests that we are somehow responsible for the consequences of a passenger's physical assault on his own wife is without any merit whatsoever."

[via Today in the Sky]

Pilot tells passengers "I am not qualified to land the plane"

A Flybe Airlines flight from Cardiff to Paris had to turn around because of fog at Charles De Gaulle Airport. The fog did not force the airport to close. Rather, the pilot, a man with 30 years of experience, had never completed low-visibility training for the particular aircraft that he was flying.

Passengers on the flight were stunned when, 20 minutes shy of De Gaulle, the pilot got on the PA system and, instead of announcing the imminent arrival, said the following:

'Unfortunately I'm not qualified to land the plane in Paris. They are asking for a level two qualification and I only have a level five. We'll have to fly back.'

And fly back they did. The bizarre incident is nothing if not humorous, but I doubt the passengers on the flight were amused.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said that such a situation was rare, but not unheard of. "There are different classifications of aircraft and when an aircraft is updated, pilot's who have flown an older version have to completely retrain."

2010 World Cup will not be moved from South Africa

It could have ended quite badly for South Africa. The first African nation to host the FIFA World Cup almost didn't get the chance. Earlier this year, FIFA prez Sepp Blatter, the most powerful man in soccer, told the media that his organization had an alternative plan should South Africa not be ready to host in 2010. He cited concerns about security, infrastructure, and construction projects as the reasons for having a plan B.

But yesterday Blatter opened his mouth again. This time he had good news for South Africa: "There definitely is no plan B or C. The only plan is to make the South African event a success." The tournament will undoubtedly be a huge boost for South Africa's tourism industry. Security concerns and lagging construction projects are still problematic, and there is still the risk that bad press during the event could kill any buzz the World Cup could bring to the country. But Blatter's promise not to move the tournament is a huge step for S.A., which can now focus on hosting duties, not on kissing FIFA's ass.

[Via AFP]

Delta offers buyouts to 75,000 employees

Despite promises that job cuts will be minimal as a result of the Northwest/Delta merger, Delta recently offered buyouts to 75,000 employees. Delta CEO Richard Anderson explained that the airline needs to make the cuts because of the economy: "To deal with the effect of the recession, we are moving quickly and decisively to decrease system-wide capacity by 6 to 8%." This could be bad news for Delta employees. Severance packages are offered in lieu of lay-offs, but if not enough workers opt for the buyouts...

Northwest and Delta have hinted that their merger will lead to an unspecified number of job cuts. The Delta buyouts might allow Northwest employees at hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit to rest a little easier. Delta is offering buyouts to its own employees instead of swooping in to Northwest hubs and giving their own workers the best jobs. The only thing that is certain is that the drama is far from over.

[Via Today in the Sky]

Tossing shoes: How to insult (or avoid insulting) someone in the Middle East

You've probably seen this clip or at least heard about what happened. For entertainment's sake, here it is again: President Bush dodging a pair of shoes flung by a disgruntled Iraqi journalist.

Hitting someone with a shoe or even pointing the soles of your shoes at someone is considered an insult in the Middle East (and in many other parts of Asia as well); feet are the lowest part of the body and considered unclean. It is unclear if President Bush understood the meaning of the shoe throwing incident. I guess if you launch anything at another person's head, you don't think too highly of them.

Throwing shoes seems a bit impractical to me - after all, what are you going to wear when it is time to run away? Here is another Middle Eastern cultural no-no that could have been employed: shake hands or wave with your left hand. Next to the feet, this appendage is considered the dirtiest. For desert nomads past and present, the left hand is used for cleaning oneself after nature calls. Therefore, waving or shaking a left hand is traditionally considered unclean.

On the practical side, Bush's latest misadventure in the Middle East has highlighted some cultural dos and donts that travelers headed to the Middle East might find useful. Remember: don't throw shoes, don't wave your left hand, and don't be named Bush....There, you're good to go.

Monaco abandons man-made island plan

The nation of Monaco was planning to follow the lead of Dubai. The gigantic man-made island called The Palm recently opened in the ridiculously wealth emirate. Not only did The Palm (which is shaped like a palm tree if seen from the air) bring publicity to Dubai, it also drastically increased measurable shoreline of the city.

Monaco had similar designs. As the world's most densely populated country, it would have benefited from the added area. However, the nation's ruler, Prince Albert II, has announced that the current state of the global economy makes such a project inappropriate. Monaco's financial situation is not as dire as many other countries, but the Prince wants Monaco to focus on other infrastructure projects such as hospitals, housing developments, and a new yacht club.

Albert did not rule out restarting the man-made island project at a later date. But, for now, it will just be business as usual in Monaco.

JAL's CEO takes bus to work and eats at the cafeteria (even when the press aren't following him)

Every couple of days here in Minneapolis, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland is on the television telling the thousands on Northwest employees living in the Twin Cities not to worry about losing their jobs after the merger with Delta is completed. Judging by the number of strikes and employee complaints NW has experienced over the past few years, I'd say no one takes him too seriously. If you you headed a company that performed so poorly and you still made Steenland's salary (before perks), you wouldn't be worried about anything or anyone.

Perhaps top execs at US airlines could learn something from JAL CEO Haruka Nishimatsu. After major lay-offs three years ago, Nishimatsu cut all his perks and then slashed his salary. In 2007, he made $90,000. A tidy sum, but much less than many of JAL's pilots make. He takes public transit to work and eats lunch next to the plebes in the cafeteria.

Perhaps you could chalk up Nishimatsu's approach to cultural differences between the US and Japan. But his explanation of the rational behind cutting his own perks and salary makes perfect sense to me.

"We in Japan learned during the bubble economy that businesses who pursue money first fail. The business world has lost sight of this basic tenet of business ethics."

Is this ethical approach working? JAL is faring reasonably well. Compared to US airlines, it is quite successful. So you can be ethical and successful? Amazing.

Your ticket was expensive and your plane crowded, but at least you took off on time

Is there an upside to the fact that the airline industry is struggling? Perhaps you can feel smug knowing that the CEOs of legacy carriers will probably be taking home six-figure bonuses this year, instead of the usual seven or eight digit haul ("Ha, greedy bastards finally got what they deserve," you might say to yourself).

But all you smiling, glass-half-full folks out there can take comfort in this: airlines have the highest on-time percentages they've had in a long, long time. According to USAToday, 86% of all flights were on time during the month of October. That is compared to 78% during the same month of 2007.

A plane is considered on time if it reaches its destination within 15 minutes of its scheduled arrival time. I assume they mean less than 15 minutes later than scheduled; although I'm sure there is the odd person out there who might be put off by arriving 15 minutes early.

So look on the bright side of air travel. You may have to spend more for your ticket and your plane is bound to be crowded and, perhaps, noisy. But at least you have a good chance of getting where you are going on time.

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