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Laptop ban may boost Air India's traffic, finance head says

Air India may see a jump in passengers after the US barred people travelling by some Middle Eastern airlines from carrying large electronic devices on flights bound for the country, its finance head said. Etihad, Qatar Airways and Emirates, which carry about 19% of travellers flying to and from India, may be the worst hit by the move to ban use of iPads and laptops on aircraft originating from cities including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Cairo and Istanbul. The move may impact about 50 flights a day. Air India, which currently flies to New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco in the US, will boost its international operations including a new direct flight to Washington as early as July, Vinod Hejmadi said in a statement. He didn’t say if the Washington flight was a response to the US move. The US ban coming just weeks after president Donald Trump sought to stop most citizens of several predominantly Muslim Middle Eastern and African countries from entering the US. That move is being challenged in the court. The latest rules also coincide with attempts by American carriers to have the government stem US access for Gulf rivals they say have benefited from illegal state aid. "For many passengers the laptop and iPads serve as their mini office and generally have a lot of official data stored in them," Hejmadi said. Passengers won’t risk losing their electronic equipment after checking them in and exposing them to potential theft or mishandling, he said.
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China Southern said in talks to sell stake to American Air

China Southern Airlines is in advanced talks to sell a stake to American Airlines, according to people familiar with the matter. The negotiations focus on an investment of about $200m by Fort Worth, Texas-based American in China Southern’s Hong Kong-listed shares, said the people, asking not to be identified as talks are confidential. The sale likely would take place through a private placement, one of the people said. China Southern has a market value of about $10b. An investment in China Southern would allow American to strengthen its presence in a market that the IATA predicts will surpass the U.S. to become the world’s biggest in terms of passenger numbers by 2024. Delta acquired a minority stake in China Eastern Airlines in 2015. Under the discussions, American would nominate an observer without voting rights to the Chinese company’s board, the people said. Details of a deal are subject to change and a transaction could still fall through.
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Malaysia Airlines seeks new widebody planes as jets fill up

Malaysia Airlines is looking to lease widebody planes to boost its network from next year and will make a decision on a order of new planes for delivery from 2019 later this year, the carrier's CE said. Peter Bellew said load factors - or how full its planes are - were 81 percent in January and 80% in February and that bookings for April, May and June were looking solid. "My problem now is I don't have enough seats and I don't have big enough aircraft," Bellew said. The national carrier is emerging from a turnaround after twin tragedies since 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery, and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine. He said Malaysia Airlines wanted to lease six A330s or 777s for use from 2018 and a further six for 2019 and that the carrier saw a good chance to get some good rates. "Some airlines in the Middle East and Turkey have grounded aircraft so it's a good time for Malaysia Airlines to be looking for these type of aircraft," he said. Bellew also said he planned to make a decision on an order for 25-30 new A330neo or 787 widebody planes by the end of the first half of this year to replace its A330s from the end of 2019.
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Israel's El Al Airlines swings to loss in Q4, revenue down

El Al Israel Airlines swung to a loss in Q4 as revenue dropped, due in part to a pilots protest that led to costly flight disruptions and a squeeze from exchange rates. Israel's flag carrier reported on Wednesday a quarterly loss of $2.4m, down from a $12.2m net profit a year earlier. Revenue fell to $460.8m from $476.3m during the same period in 2015. The airline in December signed a deal with its pilots to end a year of protests that led to flight cancellations, delays, higher costs and angry passengers. El Al said revenue was also hurt in Q4 by "the erosion of exchange rates of currencies in which the company's sales transactions are conducted against the dollar." The company said it saved $9.6m on jet fuel expenses.
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Laptop ban hits Gulf airlines in battle for business travelers

A ban on laptops in plane cabins bound for the US from some cities could deal a blow to the big, fast-growing Gulf airlines, which depend on business-class flyers stopping over in places like Dubai or Doha for far-flung destinations. The US announced the new measures on Tuesday and Britain followed suit, prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets. The US restrictions apply to flights originating from 10 airports in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Turkey, meaning they will impact major international carriers including Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines, but not US-based carriers, none of which fly to those airports. The British restrictions do not include the UAE or Qatar but will affect Turkish Airlines and UK-based carriers including British Airways, easyJet and Monarch. EasyJet said the UK restrictions apply from Wednesday. The restrictions are especially unfortunate for the Gulf carriers, since a large proportion of their revenue comes from passengers who change planes at their hubs and have other options that avoid affected airports. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have been battling lobbying from major U.S. carriers which have accused them of receiving unfair subsidies, charges the Gulf carriers deny. Tim Clark, president of Emirates, questioned why his airline's hub was on the list. "To suggest that Dubai doesn't have the equal capabilities or better than the Europeans, the Americans and the Asians in terms of search, interdiction and surveillance, I find amazing," he told broadcaster CNN. In an e-mail to Reuters, he played down the impact on the company's business: "Yes, this new security measure is disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards but I am optimistic we'll get through this."
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SWISS converts five Bombardier CS100s to CS300s

Lufthansa subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is to convert five more Bombardier CSeries 100s to the larger CS300. “I can confirm that SWISS is converting its final five Bombardier CSeries aircraft orders from the CS100 to the larger CS300, to produce a CSeries fleet consisting of 10 CS100s and 20 CS300s by the end of 2018,” a SWISS spokesman said. SWISS originally ordered 20 CS100s and 10 CS300s, plus 30 options, so the switch to 10 CS100s and 20 CS300s shifts the majority of the order to the larger type. The change is not unexpected. In June 2016, before SWISS took delivery of its first CS100, the airline converted five CS100s to CS300s. At the time, ATW reported SWISS was considering converting another five CS100s to the larger variant and could ultimately operate 20 CS300s and 10 CS100s. By the end of 2016, SWISS had taken five CS100s and, in January, the airline said it expected to take a minimum of 12 CS100s, as well as the larger CSeries variant CS300, in 2017.
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Suspected drug mule dies on Delta flight from Los Angeles to Sydney

A passenger has died on an inbound international flight that arrived at Sydney Airport. An Australian Federal Police spokeswoman said that members at Sydney Airport responded to a request for assistance after the death of the passenger.
The incident was on a Delta flight from Los Angeles, according to 2GB, with passengers having to remain on the tarmac for 90 minutes after the plane landed at 6.50am on Thursday. The person was a suspected drug mule, according to 2GB. The matter has been handed over to NSW Police, the federal police spokeswoman said.
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Emirates to let travellers keep laptops, tablets until boarding

Emirates aims to let passengers take their laptops past security gates at Dubai International Airport and collect the devices only before boarding as the world’s largest international carrier seeks to minimize the impact of an electronics ban on routes to the US. The state-owned carrier is planning to permit devices affected by the ban within the security perimeter to allow passengers, particularly those flying in premium seats, to use laptops and tablets until the last possible moment, it said in an email. The airline will then take the items for storage in the cargo hold until arrival. Additional staff will be deployed to avoid disruptions to the flow of passengers, especially in the first few days of implementing the new rules, which come into effect on March 25. The US ban, announced Tuesday, prevents passengers on non-stop flights from 10 Middle Eastern airports from bringing large electronics into the aircraft cabin. “This new security measure is disruptive and operationally challenging in several regards,” Emirates President Tim Clark said. “We are closely monitoring the business impact of this new security measure, and we will decide on our strategies and interventions accordingly.”
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Former Israeli airport security boss: electronics ban makes little sense

Even in Israel, renowned for its aviation security, a carry-on electronics ban on flights to the US and Britain from parts of the Middle East and North Africa had a former airport security chief shaking his head on Wednesday. "I don't quite understand the decision," said Pini Schiff, former head of security at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport, pointing to security gaps in the new rules that anyone aiming to smuggle explosives on to a commercial airliner might exploit. Under the regulations announced on Tuesday, electronic devices larger than cellphones are banned from the passenger cabins of planes flying directly from at least 10 airports in 10 Muslim-majority nations. Schiff said that still leaves open the possibility of hiding explosives in a device packed in luggage in the hold of an aircraft, or smuggling a bomb into the seating area of a connecting flight to the United States or Britain. "What can explode in the plane while it's in a passenger's hands can also explode in a cargo hold, because if you put a timer or a barometric pressure switch on it, you endanger the flight to the same degree," he said. Recalling the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 by a bomb that Libyan agents hid in a radio-cassette recorder in the jumbo jet's hold, Schiff said electronic devices like laptops and iPads have long been subject to scrutiny at airports around the world. But Schiff said, "there are airports in the world where the level of screening and expertise of the screeners is not that high, and subsequently there is a level of risk here". As an example, he said the level of security at Istanbul's Ataturk airport was lower than that at airports in western Europe. Not so, Schiff said, when it comes to Ben-Gurion airport. "Screeners at Ben-Gurion attend a course lasting several months until they are certified to operate a screening device. Things are different overseas. I don't want to disparage anyone, but it's different," he said. For departing passengers, the airport experience at Ben-Gurion is a combination of high-tech and thinly disguised profiling.
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Onetime defendant in legendary Lufthansa heist is rearrested

An aging mobster who beat a charge that he took part in a legendary heist retold in the hit film "Goodfellas" was accused Wednesday in a less noteworthy crime — getting a group of gangsters, including John "Dapper Don" Gotti's namesake grandson, to torch a car that cut him off in traffic. Vincent Asaro, an 82-year-old third-generation member of the secretive Bonanno crime family, was ordered held without bail after pleading not guilty to the 2012 arson in federal court in Brooklyn. The new case was a harsh reversal of fortunes for Asaro, who was last seen at the same courthouse raising his arms and shouting "Free!" after a jury found him not guilty of charges he orchestrated the Lufthansa robbery with James "Jimmy the Gent" Burke, the late Lucchese crime family associate who inspired Robert De Niro's role in the film. At the time, the heist was called one of the largest cash thefts in American history, with gunmen looting about $5m in untraceable US currency that was being returned to the US from Germany, along with about $1m in jewelry, from the airline's cargo terminal.
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