June 17th, 2009
07:32 PM GMT
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So British Airways is asking its staff to volunteer to work for upto a month for free. (The Chief Executive has already said he is working in July for no pay!)

It all seems a bit topsy turvy. After all normally, I turn up for work. I do my job. I get paid. I go home. that natural order has been changed by BA's new suggestion. In a moment of generosity, it has even agreed the staff can spread the loss of wages over six months.

BA has had an existing scheme inviting staff to take a month unpaid leave for some time. The airline says this latest development came about because some staff wanted to part but their work wouldn't allow them to be out of the office for that long. Bingo. Now you can still help out. Come to work. For Free. BA is quite clear. This is a voluntary scheme. No-one will be forced to do this. I believe them.

What I find tricky is how this will work in reality. Some staff will want to justify why they couldn’t take part ? Others will join in because they feel they have to.

There will be BA managers who will view staff unfavourably if they didn’t take part especially when promotions are up for grabs. I can hear the private whispers…..He wasn’t a team player. She didn’t pitch in. I Did my bit  It will create two tiers – those who pitched in…and those who didn’t.

It has overtures of, "Daddy … what did you do in the war?"

Would you work for free to help out?



June 16th, 2009
01:06 PM GMT
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PARIS, France - There have only been two commercial orders of note so far for either Airbus or Boeing here at the Paris Air Show. One was Qatar Airways’ firm $1.9 billion order for 24 Airbus planes (new engines are included in that value) from the A320 family. 

The showpiece at Le Bourget is a major shop window for aircraft manufacturers.
The showpiece at Le Bourget is a major shop window for aircraft manufacturers.

Vietnam Airlines also placed an order for 16 single-aisle A321 planes and options on two A350 XWB - a plane not yet built and rival to the Boeing 777.

That's it. Nothing has been heard from Boeing yet, though it tends to lag behind the French plane maker when it comes to orders in Paris, where Airbus likes to make a splash in its own backyard.

Both aircraft manufacturers have barely made a dent in their order book this year because new orders are offset by so many airlines delaying - or in some cases outright canceling -  orders. Until the show Boeing had no new net orders and Airbus had more than 11 for 2009.

And yet in my interviews with the men who sell the planes, John Leahy of Airbus and Scott Carson of Boeing, show them to be in buoyant mood. One of them even joked to me that there is trouble if they are both of the same mind.

That's because they say new plane orders follow GDP growth - and it looks as if the economic tide is turning. It’s also the case that financing appears to be getting easier to source. Boeing says it has not had to finance as many of its customers as it was prepared to do. But it has been helping airlines find financing when they couldn't.

That too, is getting easier, and since the rationale for newer, lighter, more fuel-efficient planes has not changed, airlines are expected to pick up business replacing fleets once the credit crunch and recession ends.

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Filed under: Air industry


June 16th, 2009
07:12 AM GMT
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We have entered the economic twilight zone – where all is not as it seems….and where one day’s good numbers can be a mirage to b e destroyed by the next day’s reality.

We always knew it would come to this – when we would be in that tricky economic area where things are still getting worse – but not as fast. It is like the skier going down the slope who is still descending but slowing down.

Some call it glimmers of hope. Others call it Green shoots – Here we have our QI Traffic lights – where the colour is the sign of what is going on.

We are now clear of the static red – when things were so grim that there was seemingly little hope.

And we have not yet hit that magic area of Green – whether it be weak – it still tells us things are getting better.

We are stuck. Right in the middle. Waiting. With signs suggesting neither one way or the other. Just waiting.

The economic twilight zone – it won’t last forever but that’s where we are today.

Are you in the Twilight zone? And how does it feel?



June 15th, 2009
06:00 PM GMT
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June 15th, 2009
02:39 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China – How many of us have day dreamed of getting even with a back-stabbing colleague or a bullying boss?

Sticking voodoo dolls with pins.  Throwing darts at their photos on a board.  Playing a practical joke.

Here in Hong Kong, we have another fine option - hexing our office enemy with a shoe.

Under a bridge in the crowded shopping district of Causeway Bay, frustrated locals visit little old ladies who offer to curse that nasty co-worker (or anyone else giving you hell) for a bargain price of U.S. $6.  These geriatric mystics are busiest during the lunar "Waking of Insects" holiday, which marks when animals end their winter slumber.  However, "beating petty people," as it's known here, is now attracting those burned by the recession.

I recently visited one of the clairvoyants, Mei Ngan Leung.  She asked me to write a name down on a flimsy strip of paper.  She chanted a few words, took out a worn leather sandal, and beat and beat and beat the sorry-looking slip before torching and tossing it into a pail.

Who did I curse? Watch the segment on CNN.com.

The curse, Leung told me, will cause my enemy to change his behavior, to disappear from my life, or just leave me alone.  The hex, she said, cannot be undone and could, if the gods will it, last for eternity.

I'm not encouraging bad behavior, but I'm interested in hearing how YOU deal with the office pests.



June 12th, 2009
04:08 AM GMT
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HONG KONG, China - It appears Lisa Johnson Mandell has struck a chord.

The number of reader responses to my original post has nearly matched the 100 paid participants to her recent workshop in Hong Kong on “How to Snare a Millionaire.”

The overwhelming response online – which makes for fascinating reading - has been akin to this from “Dee”: "I’d hate to be desperate enough to chain myself to a millionaire through marriage, in a hope of finding security other than one I could just as easily provide for myself."

But a few of the writers – and some of my male colleagues – have wondered about the reverse. "The recession has caused more men to lose their jobs than women," Mandell told me.  "I anticipate a lot more men looking for sugar mamas."

So, in the interest of fair play, here is her advice for finding a female white knight.  Men, she says, need to follow similar rules:

Be eye candy.  "Cougar is a popular term," she explains.  "Sometimes you know they have had their starter husband and they're tired of the guy on the same footing who wants the younger hotter woman.  They want somebody who is young and hot themselves." 

Be a good listener.  Apparently, women like to air their grievances.  "It's called 'baggage dumping'," she says.

Be her caretaker.  "He needs to be the one who can do things for her that she can't do herself," Lisa says.  "Those things are different for men and women."

Don't talk about money or children.  Don't discuss problems, period, she says.  Not until the sixth date - or the sixth month if you can wait.

Don't talk about ex-lovers.  "SUCH a no no," Lisa says.  Otherwise, she explains, you might be inadvertently sending the message that you are not yet over your previous (possibly plebian) honey.

Trying to snare a millionaire is a practical tactic to survive the recession, Lisa told me, for both men and women.  In addition, she believes the financial strategy could just save your marriage.  "Fifty percent of all marriages break up because of financial issues," she reasons.  "I see nothing wrong with starting a marriage without that particular hurdle.  I mean, you are starting out with better odds."

That is, unless the couple starts to bicker over how to spend those millions. As “Kennedy” writes: “Okay, well after the marriage, what are the do’s and don’t’s for keeping and/or maintaining the millionaire?”

That’s the million-dollar question for all couples.



June 11th, 2009
08:07 PM GMT
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There have been two major stories today that we have covered. The failure of the G8 to keep its aid pledges to Africa on the one hand, and Ronaldo being transfered for $130n from Man U to Real Madrid.

We had a long debate about these stories and how to cover them. I argued strongly that they should be juxtaposed – two faces of the world – the hundred million dollar transfer contract for Ronaldo and the poverty and lack of money from G8 countries to meet aid pledges to Africa.

There is no direct connection between these two events – except of course, what they say about us all.

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has a rough rule of thumb – to be effective their programmes operate on the basis of saving a life costing five thousand dollars.

By that raw number alone the ronaldo transfer fee would save probably 26 thousand lives. That comparison becomes even more extreme when you think the same amount ofmoney would buy 26 MILLION mosquito nets.

It wasn't long before some of senior people suggested I was being unfair making comparisons between governments with aid and companies making profits.

Yup – perhaps this is unfair. It is not an either or situation – and if the money wasn’t spent on Ronaldo it wouldn’t be sent to Africa. I am comparing apples and organes

What I am interested in is what is says about us as a society that can accept both situations and not bristle at either. Market economics may be the best way to run an economy – but it does sometimes produce some very distasteful results. Is it offensive?



June 11th, 2009
02:34 PM GMT
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Tonight’s profitable moment – KLM has asked its pilots to volunteer and help the company out. More than a 100 of them have signed up for extra duties on their days off. They will work the Lost Baggage department, or check in passengers. They will work in the back offices helping with the paperwork. It should save KLM millions of dollars that would be spent on temporary staff during the busy summer months.

So We asked you tonight what would you do to help your company. Surely in this day and age – it’s all hands to the pump. No-one should be too proud to do any job surely.

Which then made me think what would I do to help out my company. Surely there must something more than just standing here talking on the television. Perhaps a bit of light dusting after the show is over? or maybe running the vaccuum round at the end of the day.

The issue is not whether we will help out our companies but whether they will take advantage of our goodwill. Of course we will all do our bit to save colleagues' jobs – but to do our bit to make shareholders happy when perhaps your own pay and conditions are under threat? Would you do that?

How far will You go?



June 11th, 2009
07:49 AM GMT
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June 10th, 2009
10:26 AM GMT
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In the past year there has been an explosion in malicious and criminal behavior on the Web, according to David DeWalt, president and CEO of McAfee.  "It went from a hacker in a basement, to organized cybercrime to now, literally, terrorism and other forms of organized geopolitical attacks," he said.

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