December 15, 2017

Greek Workers Strike to Protest Shutdown of State Broadcaster

The nationwide walkout shut down tax offices, left hospitals on emergency staffing and was due to disrupt international flights for several hours in the afternoon. Ferries remained moored in ports and trains at depots. Public transit was also disrupted, though workers were running a reduced service to allow Greeks to join a protest rally.

Instead of gathering outside Parliament in central Athens, as they have done for anti-austerity protests since the country’s debt crisis began in the spring of 2010, demonstrators met on Thursday outside the headquarters of the now-defunct Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT, northeast of Athens. Former employees and supporters have gathered there since Tuesday night, when the authorities pulled the broadcaster off the air.

Private television channels continued with a news blackout begun on Wednesday while newspaper staff members walked off the job, too, leaving Greeks to depend on blogs and online social networks for updates on developments.

Though criticized for overspending and, like many European state broadcasters, for compromised independence, ERT was widely valued for its in-depth news coverage, documentaries and cultural programs. Until the government sets up a new, leaner replacement — which officials said should happen during the summer — Greeks must rely on the many private channels that operate around the country. Most of them are owned by wealthy entrepreneurs who are widely believed to influence news decisions in line with their political beliefs.

Six channels provide nationwide coverage and 13 others cover Athens, with more than 150 provincial stations. The quality of their fare varies, though most national channels offer a mix of news coverage, talk shows, cooking programs and films.

People also tuned in to online video channels and social networks like Twitter and Facebook for updates on reaction and followed coverage by dismissed ERT workers who continued to operate an underground broadcast of Greek news through satellite streams.

The country’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers but have seen their influence wane in recent months among Greeks worn down by three years of wage and pension cuts, called on workers to join them in condemning an “unprecedented and provocative” initiative by the authorities.

The civil servants’ union, known as Adedy, accused the government of “methodically and autocratically annihilating the rights of workers and citizens, one by one, for a long time now,” noting that its only aim was to satisfy the demands of Greece’s three main foreign lenders: the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Envoys from the lenders, knows collectively as the troika, did not comment on the ERT shutdown. On Wednesday, the European economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, said there had been no pressure from Brussels for Athens to close its state broadcaster.

“The commission has not sought the closure of ERT, but nor does the commission question the Greek government’s mandate to manage the public sector in Greece,” Mr. Rehn said.

In an address to a business conference on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras criticized labor unions for “striking every time something significant and positive happens.” He defended his decision to shut down ERT, saying that that the organization would soon be replaced with a new, more streamlined and more accountable broadcaster.

Describing ERT as “sinful” and “an emblem of lack of transparency and waste,” he said the new state broadcaster would mimic “the most modern international prototypes.”

Referring to angry protests by ERT employees, he said, “What we are seeing today are the final spasms of a status quo of privileges which is collapsing.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/europe/greece.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

E.U. Considers Emission Fines for Chinese and Indian Airlines

The carriers are accused of not providing emissions data, as required by the European rules, and not participating in a permit system that entitles airlines to emit greenhouse gases in European airspace.

The volumes of carbon dioxide that the European Commission said the 10 carriers emitted through their jet engines in Europe last year was comparable to the emissions from burning about 130 rail cars of coal.

The commission said the eight Chinese carriers could face fines totaling €2.4 million, or $3 million, and the two Indian airlines face total fines of €30,000.

So far the emissions rules apply only to flights within Europe, and European carriers and most non-European airlines have complied. Still hotly debated, though, is the planned expansion of the system next January to include international flights in and out of Europe.

Japan, Russia and the United States, as well as China and India, were among about two dozen countries that protested against that expansion early last year.

The resistance by the Chinese and Indian airlines to even the intra-Europe part of the program highlights the fierce opposition, particularly in emerging economies, to environmental rules imposed by Europe on companies and organizations in other parts of the world.

No airlines have been fined yet for violating the permit system, and the program does not present them with huge costs, at least initially. The system has added less than €1 to the cost of flights from, say, Paris to Rome.

The warning Thursday to the Chinese and Indian carriers derived from their failure to report their emissions to the national authorities and their missing of an April 30 deadline for handing over sufficient numbers of permits to the national authorities to cover their emissions last year. The European Commission, the Union’s administrative arm, which made the announcement, oversees the system.

Connie Hedegaard, the Union’s commissioner for climate action, said there was no excuse for the airlines to ignore Europe’s system.

“It’s not so that when we make our European laws, then we say they count for everybody except for Chinese and Indians — and that is no different in the aviation sector,” Ms. Hedegaard. “It shows how controversial and difficult it is to get to the adequately ambitious outcome we need in global aviation.”

Officials from the Chinese Mission to the European Union did not have any immediate comment. The Indian authorities, and officials at Air India and Jet Airways, the other Indian airline accused of violating the Union’s rules, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The resistance by the Chinese and Indian carriers against going along with even the intra-European portion of the emissions regulations is only one of the snags in the Union’s program, which is the world’s most extensive effort to control greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. It relies on the use of permits for the right to emit at certain levels, essentially requiring producers of greenhouse gases to pay for the right to emit them.

The system was established eight years ago, initially to cover heavy industry in Europe, but it has lately been on the verge of collapse. That is in large part because the weak European economy has somewhat curtailed emissions- producing activity, weakening demand for the permits. Another factor is that the national authorities gave too many permits away to sectors like the steel industry. Prices are currently at levels too low to force polluters to change to cleaner practices.

By expanding the program last year to include airlines, and the greenhouse gases emitted by jet engines, the European Union made its farthest-reaching move yet to protect the environment.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/business/global/17iht-emit17.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

American and US Airways May Announce a Merger This Week

A merger would expand American’s domestic network, particularly in the Northeast and the Southwest, and create a more formidable competitor internationally. The combined airline would jump ahead of United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both of which have grown through mergers of their own in recent years.

The combination would probably bring to an end the wave of consolidation that has swept the industry. Since 2001 there have been five large mergers, reducing the number of airlines to three main carriers, along with a handful of low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, and regional carriers.

These mergers have led to cuts in service to many smaller cities around the country. But they have also created healthier and more profitable airlines that are able to invest in new planes and products. Faced with rising fuel costs, and losing tens of billions of dollars in the last decade, airline executives argued that the only way to survive was to consolidate capacity.

American, which has been in bankruptcy protection since November 2011, is currently the nation’s third-largest airline with domestic and international flights; US Airways is the fourth.

The boards of both carriers are expected to meet some time this week to approve the combination, which then needs to be approved by a bankruptcy judge in New York. A deal could be struck this week or possibly next week, as talks are continuing. A union also requires the approval of federal regulators and antitrust authorities. But analysts expect regulators to approve the deal since there is little overlap between the two networks and no hubs in the same cities.

Even if the deal clears all these hurdles, the merged airline still faces a range of challenges. Airline mergers are often rocky — involving complex technological systems, big reservation networks as well as large labor groups with different corporate cultures that all need to be combined seamlessly. United angered passengers last year after a series of merger-related computer and reservation mistakes, and late and delayed flights.

A deal would be a major victory for Doug Parker, the chairman of US Airways, who began pursuing a merger with the bigger carrier soon after American filed for bankruptcy. His argument — that American could succeed against bigger airlines only if it combined networks with US Airways — swayed American’s creditors, who have a critical say in the company’s future.

The carriers have been discussing a deal for months. In recent days, both sides have moved much closer, but were still trying to figure out how much the merged carrier would be worth and how management positions would be split.

Tom Horton, American’s chairman, who was opposed to a merger for much of the last year, was offered a position as chairman, said a person familiar with the matter but who asked not to be identified because the talks were still under way. US Airways shareholders could end up with about 28 percent of the new airline, and American’s creditors would have 72, this person said.

A merger could be structured to take effect as American exits bankruptcy. The airlines are working for a deal before Feb. 15, when some nondisclosure agreements with American bondholders are set to expire. The timing of a possible deal, however, remains flexible.

The merged company would be called American Airlines and be based in Fort Worth. It would have a combined 94,000 employees, 950 planes, 6,500 daily flights, nine major hubs, and total sales of nearly $39 billion. It would be the market leader on the East Coast, the Southwest and South America. But it would remain a smaller player in the Pacific and Europe, where United and Delta are stronger.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/business/american-and-us-airways-are-expected-to-announce-merger-this-week.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Tuesday Reading: Treating Illness When the Mango Bites Back

August 28

Tuesday Reading: Treating Illness When the Mango Bites Back

Myths surrounding the causes of traveler’s diarrhea, fewer airline seats even for international flights, a test-drive of a new Winnebago and other consumer-focused news from The New York Times.

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/28/tuesday-reading-treating-illness-when-the-mango-bites-back/?partner=rss&emc=rss

U.S. Orders Airlines to State Fees More Clearly

Although the rules do not set limits on how much carriers can charge for items like bags, ticket changes and seats, they do require airlines to more clearly disclose these and other fees in advertisements and on their Web sites. Ads will have to cite the full price, including government taxes that now are often relegated to the fine print.

Other provisions increase the compensation carriers must pay passengers who are involuntarily bumped from flights (from up to $800 to as much as $1,300 for the longest delays). They also require the airlines to refund checked baggage fees if luggage is lost, and require airlines to promptly notify customers of delays over 30 minutes. The provisions impose a four-hour limit on time spent on the tarmac for delayed international flights, expanding a policy that has been in place for domestic flights for a year.

The Department of Transportation proposed these and other passenger protections last June, soliciting public comment on the ideas, and ultimately adopted most of the rules under consideration, despite objections raised by the airlines.

“Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly,” Ray LaHood, the transportation secretary, said in a statement Tuesday. “It’s just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed. The additional passenger protections we’re announcing today will help make sure air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve.”

The government is trying to deal with a growing frustration for travelers: confusing ticket prices and hidden fees.

When the new rules take effect in late August, airlines will have to prominently disclose all potential fees on their Web sites, including surcharges for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations and seat assignments. Although the overview of the new rules provided by the Transportation Department did not specify how these fees would have to be displayed during online fare searches or purchases, the government did single out baggage fees — which have become increasingly complicated — for special attention.

The new rules require the airlines and ticket agents to refer passengers to up-to-date information about baggage charges, both before and after a ticket purchase. Airlines must also include bag fees in e-ticket confirmations sent to passengers.

Another new rule that is sure to spur debate requires airlines and ticket agents to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised price. That would change the longstanding practice of allowing advertisements to list government taxes and fees separately — usually as part of a lengthy, small-print disclaimer.

The Transportation Department also noted that it planned to issue a proposal later this year that would require extra fees to be displayed at all points of sale, not just on airline Web sites. That is another hot issue, as travel agencies have been asking the government to force airlines to share fee data with databases that make it easier for customers to compare ticket prices.

Since the Transportation Department released a preview of the new rules on the condition that the details not be shared until Wednesday, the airlines’ reaction to the policies could only be gleaned from responses they and their trade associations filed during the public comment period last year.

The Air Transport Association, the airlines’ trade group, objected, for instance, to the full-fare advertising requirement, calling the proposal “likely illegal” and pointing out that other businesses like hotels or telecommunications companies were not forced to include government taxes in their advertised prices.

“Given the wide and varied practice of unbundling services and advertising such services, it is not clear why the aviation industry should be treated differently,” the Air Transport Association wrote.

More pithily, Spirit Airlines said in its filing that forcing carriers to advertise prices including additional fees “would be akin to McDonald’s being required to only advertise burgers including the price of fries and a Coke.”

The Air Transport Association also objected to a rule, which was ultimately adopted, that will require airlines to hold a reservation at the quoted fare without payment, or offer cancellations without penalty, for at least 24 hours after a reservation is made.

Spirit Airlines wrote that this proposal would be “like allowing a customer at a grocery store to take home a carton of milk without charge, leave it out in the sun and then bring back the spoiled milk the next day.”

In a concession to the airlines’ objections, the government did limit the 24-hour rule to reservations made one week or more previous to a flight’s departure date. The Transportation Department also decided not to force airlines to incorporate their customer service plans into their contracts of carriage, which would have given passengers grounds for legal action if carriers violated their service commitments. The department also did not require baggage fee refunds when luggage is merely delayed.

Although the Air Transport Association opposed extending tarmac delay limits to international flights, the government adopted this rule, which will apply to domestic and foreign carriers. The Transportation Department cited the extended tarmac delays passengers experienced on foreign carriers during a snowstorm last December at Kennedy International Airport in New York as an “important factor” in its decision.

The airlines have warned that this rule will probably increase flight cancellations. That issue is currently in dispute as analysts, airline representatives and government officials debate whether the threat of hefty penalties for tarmac delays for domestic flights has resulted in more cancellations in the last year.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8415e8ff77692082a2980f03c8866f79