Australia floods leave tourist industry in peril

The terrible floods in Queensland, Australia, have destroyed thousands of homes, done billions of dollars of damage, and have left at least a dozen people dead. Queensland is a major coal exporter, and with the rising waters hampering shipments and flooding mines, world coal prices have risen. A major consumer of Queensland coal are Asian steel mills, which are already feeling the pinch. This has led to a rise in steel prices. That’s a double dose of bad news for the economic recovery.

Another Queensland industry has also been hard hit–tourism. The tourists have fled along with the residents, but it’s the long-term effects that are more harmful. If rising coal and steel prices hurt the economic recovery, that’s bound to hurt the tourism industry pretty much everywhere. Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, is the center for Australia’s Gold Coast, a major draw for Australia’s $32 billion tourist industry. Floods are damaging popular beaches and will require costly repairs. Coastal and riverside hotels and shops are being destroyed. The Brisbane Times reports that toxic materials washed into the sea could have an effect on delicate coral reefs and fish populations. With snorkeling and scuba diving such popular activities on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, this could do long-term damage to tourism.

Meanwhile, airlines are worried about how this will affect them. Virgin Blue has already seen its shares drop by 3.4 percent today because investors fear there will be a drop in bookings. Qantas shares also dipped slightly. Airlines are issuing fee waivers for passengers who want to change their flights to, from, or through Brisbane.

It looks like Queensland residents will suffer from the flood long after the waters recede.

[Photo of Brisbane sunset courtesy user t i m m a y via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Woman loses sense of hearing from screaming child on Qantas flight

We’ve all been there at some point – you board your plane, and a child starts crying, with no intention of stopping until the plane lands. Thankfully, most parents are able to soothe their little ones, but for one passenger on a Qantas flight, things were not that simple.

In January 2009, 67 year old Jean Barnard was walking down the aisle back to her seat, when a three year old boy leaned back over his armrest, and screamed so loudly at her, that blood came out of her ear, leaving her deaf.

Now, this is where the story takes an interesting turn, because Ms. Barnard sued Qantas claiming “the plane’s cabin and cockpit crew failed to take all the necessary precautions to prevent the accident that resulted” in her injury.

I’m not an aviation specialist (though I do pretend to be every now and then), but I’m at a loss as to what the crew could have done to prevent this accident. Unless of course locking toddlers away in the luggage hold is considered an appropriate solution. the airline simply can’t be held responsible for actions of a passenger, especially a three year old.

Sadly, Ms. Barnard showed the often notorious American way of dealing with large companies, because she spent over a year in court, up till the point where Qantas gave in and settled in a confidential agreement.

The case stinks even more, because lawyers for Qantas discovered that Ms. Barnard admitted to wearing a hearing aid before the incident and uncovered an email in which she said the kid was lucky she did not stomp him to death.


Man threatens to crash Qantas Jumbo using mind power

Forget bombs strapped to your genitals – the newest threat in aviation security is now “mind power”. At least according to one slightly deranged passenger on Qantas flight QF31 yesterday.

During the flight from Sydney to Singapore, the passenger got up and announced that he was going to bring the flight down, using “the power of his mind”.

The threat was taken seriously – and the passenger was restrained. According to the flight crew, there “may have been some alcohol or drugs involved”.

Upon arrival at Singapore Changi Airport, the man was arrested, where is still being held pending an investigation. It is unknown whether he’ll use his amazing mind power to break out of jail.

Seven injured as Qantas Airbus slams passengers into the ceiling

A Qantas Airbus A330-300 flew through what airline staff referred to as a “severe meteorological incident”.

The “incident” was actually bad turbulence, and it was so severe that the plane plummeted, sending passengers into the ceiling.

The flight was en route from Hong Kong to Perth when it hit the turbulence. Because the drop was so sudden, the flight crew did not have the time to warn passengers to be strapped in, though it does underline how important it is to have your seat belt buckled at all times.

It isn’t hard to see some similarities between this flight and the recent crash of Air France flight 447 – especially since both were on the exact same type of plane.

Planes often rely on information from other aircraft on the same route to report on turbulence, but if the route is not very busy, it may be hours between reports.

Bad turbulence can cause severe injuries, a collection of some of the most recent incidents involving bad turbulence can be found in the gallery posted below:


More crazy stories from the skies

Airline complains about fees?!

Like all airlines, Qantas is looking to cut costs. And, it saw an opportunity by forming partnerships with some of Australia‘s airports. If all were to go according to plan, Qantas could make a dent in its annual airport costs of $544 million (AU$700 million). While some airports are willing to play ball, others (like Sydney and Brisbane) aren’t … leaving an airline to complain about fees, for a change.

Taking a page from the playbook of (in)famous Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, Alan Joyce (top dog at Qantas) made a rather hostile public announcement, “Airports are very, very good at earning revenues out of everything you could imagine – if they could charge for oxygen at the airport they probably would.”

Joyce and Qantas recently came under fire for charging up to $124 (AU$160) exit row seating and calling it “giving passengers more of an option.” He also says that Qantas is following the trend rather than blazing the trail when it comes to additional fees.

Qantas is facing a loss for the second half of its fiscal year, the first time this has happened since the SARS outbreak in 2003.

Whether Qantas gets relief is immaterial … all that matters is that it’s found a way to pass the buck.