England plans to sell all its public forests

English environmentalists, hikers, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and pretty much everybody else is up in arms about a UK government plan to sell off all the woodlands managed by the Forestry Commission in England, the BBC reports.

The Forestry Commission manages 18 percent of all England’s forests, some 2,500 sq km (965 sq miles). A portion of the forests are already being sold to raise £100m million ($159 million).

A public poll this week found 75 percent of the public against the move.

The plan will not affect forests in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This is the dumbest idea the UK government has come up with since selling the Royal Mail. Forests are a national heritage, not something to be sold off by privileged members of government to their old classmates from Eton. The government says that environmental and public use rights will be protected but, to use an English phrase, that’s a load of bollocks. Once the forests are in private hands, it will be much easier for private interests to undermine the laws governing them, or simply ignore the laws if the fines come out to less than they’d make turning the forests into shopping malls and housing developments. This is already standard practice in Spain, and it has ruined some of the best stretches of the Mediterranean coastline.

As a hiker who loves England’s woodland, I have grave concerns over what this will mean for people from England and around the world who go to the woods to see some of England’s most beautiful spots. A few hundred million pounds in the government’s pocket will not solve the economic crisis, or save national health care, or pay off the national debt, but it will mean that the heritage of the English people may disappear forever.

[Image courtesy user ntollervey via Wikimedia Commons]

Pakistani pilots to speed up

Late last week, Pakistan International Airlines‘ pilots agreed to bring their slowdown protest to a conclusion. The pilots were upset over compensation, and their fight-back-by-decelerating strategy caused the airline to cancel flights. Sixteen international flights and another 11 within Pakistan never left the ground as a result of the slow-motion show of defiance.

Negotiations have finally paid off, though. The airline is going back to a normal schedule. An agreement on the core issue of pay wasn’t reached, but both sides have set a timeframe by which to find a solution that makes everyone happy (or, happy enough).

If you’re keeping score at home, the pilots cost the airline 450 million rupees because they flew slowly, but the raises they want would cost the airline 640 million rupees (based on a 35 percent raise).

So, the pilots are more than halfway there!

Protesters disrupt service at Stansted Airport

50 protesters from the environmentalist group Plane Stupid forced England’s Stansted Airport to close this morning after they cut their way through security fences and chained themselves to railings and fences near the runway. The airport is heavily used by budget carrier Ryanair, which had to cancel more than 50 flights as a result of the demonstration. The protest began at three in the morning and it was not until 8:30 a.m. that flights resumed.

Ryanair complained about the slow response from security officials:

“It is unacceptable that the travel plans of thousands of passengers have been disrupted because BAA Stansted security have failed to remove a number of protesters.”

Plane Stupid‘s protest was in response to the government’s decision to add another runway to the airport. They have spoken out against the airline industry’s handling of carbon emissions and pollution. I’m no PR expert, but chaining yourself near an airport runway is probably not the best way to get your point across. In fact, I’d way it was plain stupid.

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Flights resume in Bangkok

Gadling has been following the situation in Bangkok over the past few days. Hundreds of thousands of domestic and international travelers were stranded when anti-government protesters occupied Suvarnabhumi Airport, the country’s international hub. Things came to a rather anti-climactic end yesterday (thankfully for those involved) when Thailand’s highest court convicted members of the ruling party of rigging elections held last year. Getting the result that they wanted, protesters simply abandoned the airport peacefully.

In the past few hours, those who were previously unable to leave have been flocking to the airport and to travel agents around the city in an effort to book their flights home. Cleaning and inspection crews have been working around the clock to bring the airport back to international standards. Airport officials claim that it will take two weeks before the airport is fully operational. For now, flights are trickling in. Travelers stranded might have to wait several more days before they can procure a seat on a departing flight.


Galley Gossip: Snacks on the plane

“Diet Coke,” says the passenger after I ask him what he’d like to drink. While I’m filling a plastic glass full of ice, he asks the question I hoped he wouldn’t ask, “Can I get a sandwich?”

“Oh…ummm…I’m sorry.” I make a face, the I’m-sorry face, because I am sorry. Really, I am. I’m sorry I have to say I’m sorry all day long. “We ran out,” I continue, and before I can tell him that we actually ran out of anything and everything edible on the airplane, he asks “What else do you have?”

I take a deep breath, because I really don’t want to tell this guy we have nothing, not one thing, so I make the face again, the I’m-sorry face, and decide to make light of the situation. “Diet Coke. Sprite. Diet Sprite. Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. Orange juice. Apple Juice.” He’s looking at me like I’m crazy, so I make the face again, oh you know the one, and say, “I’m sorry, but we ran out of everything. There’s no more food.”

“What do you mean there’s no more food!”

“We ran out of food,” I say again, as I oh so gently place a can of Diet Coke and a glass of ice on his tray table. What I don’t say is that we ran out of food hours ago, due to the fact the passengers were starving because of the hour and a half weather delay we took on the ground. What this passenger and I do not know, and will not know for another hour, is we’re going to have another hour and a half delay in flight because the airport in New York is closed due to more bad weather . “Sorry,” I say again, and I am, sorry I’m forced to say sorry all day long.

“This is ridiculous!”

I agree, it is ridiculus, but that’s the way it is.

Last week Iva Skoch wrote about Passengers Revolting on a flight out of Beijing that was canceled due to weather. Fifty-two pasengers refused to leave the aircraft, so they slept on the plane for over twelve hours. “The biggest irony,” Iva wrote, “And something I can’t see happening on America’s cash-strapped airlines, the flight attendants kept serving food and drinks to the protesters.”

Well there are two reasons you won’t see flight attendants in America serving drinks and food to “protesters” onboard a canceled flight throughout the night until the wee hours of the morning, when the airline is finally able to get people onboard another aircraft.

  1. No food. At least there’s not enough to serve to everybody onboard. Sorry. These days flights aren’t catered full. Why? Don’t ask me. I’m just the messenger. But I’m sure it has something to do with those silly fuel prices. But who wants to eat airplane food that’s been sitting on an airplane for hours anyway? We’re talking astronaut food, people! We’re talking there’s a reason the fruit in first class doesn’t turn brown by the end of the flight.
  2. No money. Flight attendants aren’t making a dime until the aircraft door has been shut and the airplane has backed away from the gate. Now keep in mind we’ve already worked the first hour of our day for free, which is by far the most chaotic part of flight – boarding. And you’re right, we did agree to work that first hour for free when we took the job, but there’s no way, no freakin way, we’ll work one hour more. Would you?

Which brings me to the point of this post (there is one, I promise) – snacks. I’m talking food. You should bring some the next time you travel. At least something. Anything! An apple, a cereal bar, instant oatmeal, whatever.

I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why should you have to bring your own food when you paid for a ticket? Because you paid for a seat. That’s it. And as soon as you realize that, the better your flying experience will be. I’m sorry (always sorry) but that’s the reality of the situation. Unfortunately traveling today is like a real life episode of Survivor. You never know what’s going to happen next and you never know when you’re going to eat again.

Oh I know it’s inconvenient to pack food. Trust me, I’m right there with you, carrying a white plastic grocery bag full of Jiffy peanut butter to-go, a brown banana, two slices of multi-grain bread, and an old package of instant oatmeal, as I undress my way through security and make my way through the terminal – Just in case! Forget the clothes, the books, the DVD – pack the food! Mechanicals, weather delays, and cancellations do happen, and they happen often.

Take my five hour flight yesterday that turned into seven and a half hours of starvation for the people onboard who didn’t bring food, or purchase food when they had the chance. Me, I had a chorizo and egg breakfast burrito from La Salsa at the San Diego airport early that morning and I was STILL starving by the end of that flight! I actually got down on my hands and knees and dug through a dirty first class cart looking for something, anything, to get me through the last hour. But there was nothing – not one thing to be had. Which is why most flight attendants I know always – ALWAYS – bring their own from home.

Oh hold on a sec, my cell is ringing… “Hello?”

“Flight Attendant Poole?” asks the stern voice on the other end.

Oh no. The company. What now? “Yes, this is flight attendant Poole.”

“Your flight to San Francisco tonight has been delayed.”