Tuesday, April 28, 2009

USA: FAA publishes Bird Strike Database

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made its entire Bird Strike database available on a public website by April 24. Portions of the database have been publicly available since the information was first collected in 1990, but the public is now able to access all of the database's fields. Over the next four months, the FAA will make significant improvements to the database to improve the search function and make it more user-friendly. In its current format, users will only be able to perform limited searches online, but will be able to download the entire database.

The FAA also plans to work with the aviation community to find ways to improve and strengthen bird strike reporting.

Source: FAA press release of April 22, 2009
Database available here>>.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Namibia: new Tourism Bill on the way

The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), a statutory body to regulate and market the tourism industry established by an Act of Parliament (Act 21 of 2000), has introduced a number amendments to the Namibian Tourism Board Act, 2000 ( Act no. 21 of 2000), key elements of which are
• Fostering of corporate governance by introducing fiduciary duties and responsibilities of the
Board, as well as stipulating Audit Committee and Remuneration Committee as two standing
committees of the Board;
• disciplinary procedures for operators that are involved in unethical business conduct to
safeguard the tourists;
• enhancements of Levy section to allow the Board to appoint auditors to audit books of the
registered clients to ensure that proper levies are being declared to NTB, as at present
operators, currently required by the ACT, (i.e. accommodation businesses), proved beyond
reasonable doubt not to declare correct levy amount to NTB so is the tax to the Inland
• assigning Peace Officer powers to the Tourism inspectors to grant spot fines;
• allowing Board to recruit other staff on part‐time basis to expand inspectorate staff, which
will be cheaper option in the long run;
• provision of Licensed person that will pave the way for licensing of Tour Guides, and
• Introduction of annual renewal fees to increase NTB’s budget income.

Source: NTB; Background report and text of bill available for download here>>.

Monday, April 20, 2009

USA: Starwood v. Hilton on alledged theft of proprietary information

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing Hilton Hotels Corp. and two former Starwood executives of corporate espionage in the development of Hilton’s new lifestyle brand "Denizen Hotels".

Starwood is seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief plus compensatory and punitive damages from Hilton and the individual defendants. The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting Hilton from using or benefiting from Starwood’s confidential information and requiring Hilton and the individual defendants to return all Starwood confidential information as well as to certify the destruction of all materials derived from Starwood confidential information, including plans for the promotion and roll-out of Hilton’s Denizen brand.

Hilton said the lawsuit was without merit and that the company would vigorously defend itself.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

Friday, April 17, 2009

ECJ: Art 22.2 Montreal Convention - material/non-material damage

Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Juzgado de lo Mercantil 4, Barcelona

Case C-69/09 (Walz/Clickair)

Question referred:

Does the limit of liability referred to in Article 22.2 of the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage, signed in Montreal on 28 May 1999, include both non-material damage and material damage resulting from the loss of baggage?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

California: Court extends Restaurant Tipping Pool

In a 2-1 split decision, the California court of appeal for the appellate district that includes Los Angeles expanded the class of restaurant employees who can participate in an employer’s tip pool. Following the decison in Etheridge v. Reins International California, Inc. the tipping pool is no longer dedicated only to restaurant employees, such as servers or bussers, who provide "direct table service" to patrons but includes all employees in the "chain of service"—meaning any employee who contributes to the service a restaurant patron receives.

The issue on appeal was whether a mandatory tip pool, in which tips are shared with employees who do not provide direct table service, violated California Labor Code Section 351, which states: "Every gratuity is hereby declared to be the sole property of the employee or employees to whom it was paid, given, or left for."

It is likely that the case will be brought to the California Supreme Court for review.

Opinion available for download here>>.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

USA: Airline passenger's lawsuit over a tarmac delay dismissed

Plaintiff had filed a lawsuit against American Airlines over a Dec. 29, 2006 flight diverted from Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin because of weather issues. After landing, passengers sat in the plane for 9.5 hours, unable to leave despite overflowing toilets and little food or water.

US District Judge Robert T. Dawson said airlines are not legally bound to provide a "stress-free environment" when a delay occurs, even if passengers are stuck in an aircraft on the tarmac for more than nine hours.

Judge Dawson pointed out that plaintiff and other passengers were given opportunities to get off the plane. The judge acknowledged that she felt she had to stay on the plane because she said she was told by airline personnel she would be "on her own" if she got off the plane, but that did not mean she was imprisoned.

The decision is reviving the discussion on a need for federal legislation.

Source: Travel Weekly; find article here>>.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Commission updates the list of airlines banned from European airspace"

As stated by the EU Press Room, "The European Commission today adopted the update of the so-called blacklist of airlines that are banned from flying into the European Union due to safety concerns. The Commission has imposed a ban on six airlines from Kazakhstan, one airline certified in Thailand, one additional Ukrainian air carrier and on operations of all carriers certified in Benin.
'The Commission will continue to actively pursue a dialogue with everyone involved in aviation to ensure that all aircraft and air carriers conform to internationally required levels of air safety. Air passengers are entitled to feel safe and be safe when their plane takes off,' said Antonio Tajani, Commission Vice-President in charge of transport.
The new list, which replaces the previous one published in November 2008, can be consulted on the Commission’s website. Following the unanimous opinion of the Air Safety Committee, the Commission updated the list and decided to expand the list and impose an operating ban for safety reasons on the following air carriers:
  • Air Company Kokshetau, ATMA Airlines, Berkut Air, East Wing, Sayat Air and Starline KZ (Kazakhstan)
  • One Two Go Airlines (Thailand)
  • Motor Sich Airlines (Ukraine)
  • All airlines certified in the Republic of Benin on the basis of the negative results of an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The Commission noted good progress in relation to the measures taken by Angola in order to improve the safety situation. In particular, it took note of the progress report drawn up by the aviation authorities of Angola on the implementation of corrective actions following the visit of a team of European experts in February 2008 and the publication of the ICAO safety audit report in October 2008.
A report of the visit of a European team of experts to Indonesia in February 2009 showed considerable improvements. The Commission will continue close consultations with the aviation authorities with a view to re-assessing the safety situation at the next meeting of the Air Safety Committee.

Hence from today the Community list imposes a ban on:

All carriers from Angola, Benin, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gabon save for Gabon Airlines and Afrijet, which have exemptions for a small number of aircraft.

Sixteen individual carriers:
  • Afghanistan – Ariana Afghan Airlines
  • Cambodia - Siem Reap Airways International
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea - Air Koryo
  • Kazakhstan - Air Company Kokshetau, ATMA Airlines, Berkut Air, East Wing, Sayat Air, Starline KZ
  • Rwanda - Silverback Cargo Freighters
  • Sudan - Air West
  • Thailand - One Two Go Airlines
  • Ukraine - Motor Sich Airlines, Ukraine Cargo Airways, Ukraine Mediterranean Airlines and Volare Aviation"

USA: class action against British Airways admitted

United States District Judge Nicholas Garaufis of United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied British Airways' motion to dismiss a consumer class action, filed in 2007, which seeks to recover travelers' actual losses rather than a US$1,500 cap the airline uses to limit damages. The court noted and rejected the airline's "extreme position" that it was not responsible for actual losses for lost baggage unless its mishandling rate was worse than 50%.
The suit seeks to represent American passengers who flew internationally on British Airways and had their luggage lost, damaged or delayed between September 5, 2005 and September 5, 2007.

Source: eTurboNews; find article here>>.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Austria: Hospital or Hotel?

An Austrian hotelier let some parts of his hotel to a doctor to run her surgery. The doctor offered health treatments related to cardiovascular diseases to the hotel guests as well as outsiders whereas the appointments were to be made through the hotel recpetion and - as far as hotel guests were concerned - treatments were billed together with the room fee.
Local authorities accused the hotelier of having turned his hotel into a hospital or sanatorium without the necessary licence and imposed administrative fines on him. He appealed to the Austrian Administrative Court. In a decison of Dec. 12, 2008 (Case 2006/11/0093), Administrative Court held that the services rendered by the hotelier would not amount to the typical services of a hospital or sanatorium and there was no evidence that the furnishing of the hotel had been similar to such institutions. The Court therefore repealed the penalty as unlawful.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"First European airlines offering in-flight use of mobile phones thanks to EU-wide ground rules"

According to the EU Press Room, "More and more European air passengers are being offered the choice to use their normal mobile phone to send text messages, browse the web or even make calls on board airplanes. One year after the European Commission put in place common rules for safe use of mobile phones on aircrafts and for simple and non-bureaucratic authorisations of this essentially cross border service, 27 European aircraft have been equipped to allow the secure use of standard GSM handsets onboard aircraft while flying in European airspace. The number of aircrafts enabled for in-flight use of mobile phones is expected to double by the end of the year.
'The possibility to use a mobile phone onboard an aircraft is particularly sought after by business travellers and younger passengers. In addition, in-flight GSM offers are an interesting business model for European companies. This is why a year ago, the European Commission created a legal framework for companies who want to offer mobile communications on-board aircrafts in a safe and simple way in European skies without having to go through 27 different national authorisation procedures,' said Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner. 'I welcome the fact that the first airlines in Europe are now offering in-flight mobile phone use. There are two conditions for a further successful take-up of this new service: first of all, in-flight mobile phone use should not disturb other passengers, for example by leaving ample room for quiet zones during air travel, just like in trains. Secondly, attention should be paid by the operators that prices for these services remain at a reasonable level. If these two conditions are met, then offering on-board mobile phone services can be a bonus for European companies in the competitive global air travel market'."

This release is available in full text.