Category Archives: InNews

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InNews: The “Explosive” Emirates Beat Up

If you’re one of the 1,102 people who recommended the article entitled “Emergency Exit door opens in explosion on Emirates Airbus A380” earlier this week, I hope you did it with some sort of disclaimer about the article containing almost no factually correct information. As most frequent flyer or aviation blogs and forums have quickly and correctly pointed out, the article was basically a massive beat up of one “terrified tourist’s” perception of the event.

So I thought it would be an interesting exercise to do some actual fact checking, you know that thing that a long, long time ago on a distant planet that resembled earth journalists did before publishing a story?  So, here’s my quick dissection of the article (which you can read here providing haven’t realised what a disgrace it is and taken it down) with a few facts thrown in. Granted, my story isn’t as interesting, but hopefully even from this arm chair blogger it is a little more accurate.

Myth # 1: Door Opening Mid Flight. “Emirates A380 door opened mid-flight”. I’m sorry but this just doesn’t hold water for a few reasons. Firstly, anyone who has ever watched an aircraft door open or close will have noticed that the door is actually a bit bigger than the hole in the airplane’s fuselage. When the door opens and closes it swings into the cabin first, then sort of rotates a bit before extending out again. This design feature makes it near impossible for the door to be “opened” while the aircraft is at altitude. The higher pressure of the cabin inside pushes the door towards the lower pressure outside, making a snug fit into the fuselage and no room for the door to just fly off. A few locking mechanisms probably help too.

Myth # 2: “Massive Explosion”. The tourist claims “hearing a massive explosion” and feared a “bomb had gone off” when the “superjumbo blew open at 27,000ft”, after which the crew stuffed the hole with blankets, pillows and gaffer tape.  Explosive decompressions do happen, but when they do, you don’t fix them with a few blankets and pillows. Also, when they happen, the crew make a rather sudden descent to lower levels, oxygen masks fall from those panels above your head, you fit them within about 15seconds or you start to loose consciousness. Given that the tourist didn’t need the mask, the plane didn’t rapidly descend, and everyone remained conscious, I’m going to say that this wasn’t a “massive explosion” nor was it like a bomb going off.

It’s probably best to demonstrate this with a few pictures that I found on the internet of actual explosive decompressions. The first being that of a Qantas 747-400 that had an oxygen cylinder explode and punch one hell of a hole in the cabin, depressurising the aircraft and resulting in an emergency landing.



The second, a little more drastic and possibly the most drastic you’ll ever see that landed to tell the tale, is an Aloha Airlines flight which lost a massive section of fuselage. The common theme with these two images is that blankets and pillows didn’t really help fix the problem. Thus I’m going to say that this wasn’t a massive explosion.



Myth # 3: “We’re going to go down”. Perspective time: If those planes I showed above landed, then a broken seal, which is what Emirates and Airbus say was the likely cause of a “whistle” coming from one of the doors, was not going to bring down the A380. There have been many reports of getting ice build up around doors where seals have broken in the past, but in themselves they don’t risk the aircraft’s integrity. The crew may have put blankets and towels to reduce the noise levels, similar to what a hotel did to me one day when the wind was whistling under it, but it wasn’t done to keep the door from blowing off or to keep the plane flying. Perspective again, if an actual decompression had occurred, the plane would have descended and landed pretty quickly, however as it didn’t, it was just as safe to continue to the next port, land as usual and fix the problem there.  The flight is only a couple of hours anyway.

Myth # 4: Private Pilot’s don’t fly an A380 for a reason. I’ve done some flight training before too, yet put me in an A380 cockpit and I’d almost guarantee to not know pretty much anything (other than there’s lots of pretty cool tech in there). Yet, any pilot, no matter how new they are to flying should have an elementary grasp of aerodynamics and understand that the pressurised cabin isn’t what’s keeping the plane flying anyway. Thus I’m a bit confused as to how our terrified private pilot tourist was so terrified if he knew from basic flight training, that all the things he says were going on to bring the plane down, really weren’t happening. Perhaps the CAA should get him to take his theory exam again before he flies.

Myth # 5: The Magical multilevel curtain barrier. Emirates Airbus A380’s have business and first class on the upper deck, and economy on the lower deck. Thus its pretty much impossible to close a curtain between the economy and business cabins as they are on separate floors. This myth doesn’t really need any science behind it and casts doubt as to if the passenger knew what plane he was on.

Myth # 6: The image of an A380 on the ground attached to the story looks more like a ceremony or something than an investigation.

Fact # 1: Eventually the article does quote some facts from both Emirates and Airbus spokesmen, which basically disprove everything that was said before. Of course before the writer presented actual facts, it had to pull the heartstrings of the now terrified readers with a history of the passengers previous medical conditions and the chest infection that he suffered as a result of the incident, both of which were pivotal to the cause of the incident.

I don’t pretend that what I or others like me write on a blog like this is always going to be 100% accurate, but lately I’ve found that it’s often people with a passion about a topic are putting out decent articles on issues, while the established media are just pumping out whatever error ridden rubbish they think will sell a few papers to the ignorant. Meanwhile, I made a grand total of 6 cents yesterday from my blog, while this article, which many readers will have read half of and taken it as fact, probably made thousands in online advertising alone.

The media love an aviation story, and with the Dreamliner still grounded I guess they were struggling for something to keep people afraid of flying and interested in reading their stories about how “terrified tourists” holidays were ruined by airlines negligence. However they get away with it because people keep reading it. So, next time you read one of these “Aircraft Disaster” articles, think twice before you share, like or tweet it, as its most likely just adding to a whole heap of ignorance and scaremongering around something that is one of the safest and highly regulated modes of transports around.

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InNews: The Future of the Credit Card Surcharge

Considering giving your credit card a workout and booking a holiday in the next few months? You might want to consider what your chosen airline will be charging you as the new credit card surcharge. In November last year the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) approved a revision to the card surcharging restrictions which have the effect of only allowing business to charge what they call the ‘reasonable cost of acceptance’. My understanding of this is that instead of being able charge whatever surcharge they sought fit, they can only recover the amount it actually costs to accept the payment – e.g. what the bank charges them, although there seems to a bit of wiggle room as to what costs can get captured in this statement.

The aim of this change by the RBA is to reduce the sometimes excessive or random credit card surcharge that shows like “Today Tonight” and “A Current Affair” loves to run stories on, showing how a family’s holiday was ruined by the extra fees charged. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to airlines, but anyone who accepts cards as a form of payment in Australia. Who hasn’t cringed at some merchants fees at some time or another?

I’m in the process of planning a trip to Europe, so I thought it would be interesting to have a look at how the changes would affect the overall cost of my airfares; hopefully helping me decide if it’s better to buy before or after these rules take effect on the 18th March this year. After spending a decent amount of dough to maintain status last year, I intend to fly Qantas or more likely a Qantas codeshare flight operated by Emirates, so most of my analysis is based on these airfares, but the principles should apply to any airline you choose to fly with.

Firstly I looked at what it would cost me under the current rules, which for Qantas is pretty simple with a flat rate charge at different rates for domestic or trans-Tasman, and International flights at $7.70 and $30AUD per person per booking respectively. Virgin Australia are the same, however to get across the Tasman will instead cost you $10, and if you’re lucky enough to book an international flight in a currency other than AUD, there doesn’t appear to be a credit card charge at all. I’d be interested to hear if that’s an error as it doesn’t seem right.

I also found it interesting that if you search for Virgin Australia fees, the page it brings you to is titled “Fees for Optional Services”. Although technically true, the reality is that most people will use a credit card and it wasn’t that many years ago where everyone was pretty much forced to use credit cards as the only form of payment. The current fees, as of when I looked at them for the main Australian airlines are shown below (however for up to date fees and rules, check with your airline)

Current Credit Card Surcharges

Airline Domestic Trans-Tasman International




Virgin Australia




Tiger Airways




$8.50 – $12.50

Given these fees are per person per booking, it doesn’t matter how many people are on the booking, the fee will increase accordingly and thus it can be easily turned into a percentage of the airfare. If your airline charges a flat rate fee per booking, not per person, my comparisons below won’t work if you add more than 1 person.

Knowing what it will cost me under the current system was pretty easy with just a few clicks on the airlines website providing all the details – they don’t plaster them on the front page, but they hardly hide them in uber fine print. Thus it would be hard to follow the tabloid claims that these are “hidden fees”. The hard part comes in at working out what the fees might be under the new regime, as no airlines I could find have published what they are going to do. Just as banks do after the RBA drops interest rates, I’m sure airlines are waiting for someone else to make the first move.

Checking a few banks websites for their merchant fees didn’t help me too much, with so many variables such as volume and value affecting how much they charge. Thus, I thought it would be best to use what the RBA think these costs would be, which they estimated at 1-2%. Being slightly cynical, I chose to use the upper end of that scale, as it makes sense that if business can charge more, they probably will.

Selecting some random dates about a month away I went looking on the Qantas website for the cheapest airfare available, a flexible economy ticket and a business class seat on three routes to test how the new charge would compare to the older fare:

  • Melbourne to Sydney
  • Melbourne to Singapore
  • Melbourne to London.

Calculating the “new” surcharge based on the RBA estimate, I found that if you bought the cheapest fare on a trip to Sydney or Singapore you’d be better off with the new process, saving about 50% on the domestic hop and about 30% on the trip to Singapore. Unfortunately, that’s where the savings end. If you need flexibility on your ticket, want to fly in a premium cabin, or want to fly further afield than our Asian neighbours on a cheap ticket, it will cost you more under the new scheme; and in some cases, a lot more!

Depending on what your travel habits are will dictate whether you perceive these as good or bad changes. If you primarily fly around the golden triangle routes of Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane on cheap tickets, you’ll probably save enough to buy yourself a coffee, but probably not a coffee from an airport vendor. That 50% saving sounds impressive, but 50% of $7.70 doesn’t leave you with much. Similarly the $9 saving on a thousand’ish dollar airfare to Singapore doesn’t suddenly make it affordable to everyone nor would it probably make you suddenly consider flying to Asia.

These new measures start to hurt if you fly in the premium cabins, with the $30 credit card surcharge for a business class fare to London could theoretically jump to just shy of $200. Some might say if you can afford a six grand airfare, you can afford another $200; an argument I’m not overly comfortable with. It would make sense if airlines considered waiving or reducing the percentage amount for premium cabins to make them sound more attractive and not overinflate the price for these cabins that are, according to Qantas anyway, a struggle to sell in the current economic climate. Of course just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean it will happen.

It will be interesting to see just what airlines set their credit card surcharges at, come March 18. Will they use the basic percentage fee (as exampled above), or will they try and calculate the total cost of all their “acceptance costs” over a year and divide that by the number of bookings they expect to sell to remain at a “fixed” price surcharge. There seems some latitude in the RBA decision as to how it is implemented, and only time will tell how much more, or perhaps less we will be paying for the optional convenience of paying with the method of payment business and banks almost forcefully encouraged us to use not so long ago.

Either way, I wouldn’t bank on these changes making any of your post March 18 travel materially any more affordable, thus I’d probably book upcoming airfares based on when you’re going to get the best price for the airfare and cop whatever surcharge is around at the time. Or as the airlines would say, you can always avoid this fee by paying with cold hard cash, as long as it’s not real cash and more so a direct deposit from your bank to their bank.

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InNews: 787 Dreamliner Grounding


My Take on the 787 Dreamliner Grounding Situation:

As anyone who watches any news or reads any online aviation media would be aware, which if you’ve ended up on this blog you probably fall into the latter category, earlier this week a 787 operated by Japan’s ANA made an emergency landing in Takamatsu. I’m not sure if I can pronounce that correctly but at least I tried, unlike most western media who just reported in landed in Western Japan. The “facts” of the incident have been covered in depth by many respectable and not so respectable media outlets, however I thought I’d launch my latest blog article type InNews, with my take on the current 787 situation.

You’ve all seen them already, but I found the evacuation videos that appeared online and in the media to show a very calm and orderly evacuation, with quite a lot of smartphones filming the whole thing. To me it all seemed a little too calm; I’ve seen people in more of a hurry to get off a normal flight than this evacuation.

Thus it seems that there wasn’t much panic on board, which you don’t want in an emergency, so well done to the crew for such a calm evacuation. Given how calm it all looked, I guess the sceptic in me wonders if they should have done a full evacuation, instead perhaps maybe have called for some stairs first, then if things went to shit, do a full evacuation. In comparison, after the QF32 A380 incident over Singapore, the passengers were kept on the plane for quite a while, over an hour I believe, despite an engine that couldn’t be shut down and large fuel leaks.

Those passengers were eventually all deplaned via stairs, in what appeared to be a much more dramatic situation. If you read the book on that incident, the thought process of the captain regarding the risk of evacuating the A380 versus the risk of taking a wait and see approach are explained quite well.  Of course its easy to make these calls while sitting safely behind a computer watching the event play out on YouTube, I’m sure sitting in the cockpit with presumably fire alarms sounding, my decision making process may have been less optimistic. I’m not trying to second guess the safety of those on that plane, or make it out to be a very minor incident after all fire on a plane is unpredictable and rarely ends well if out of control.

Anyway, back to why the 787’s got to be where they are now. From what I can tell, Japan, or just ANA and Japan Airlines, pretty much immediately grounded all 787’s which lets face it, most of the world’s 787 fleet are with either ANA or Japan airlines anyway, so that action took out most of the world’s fledgling 787 fleet.  So later on the FAA grounded all 787’s registered in the US, which is just the United fleet (all 6 of them). Most other airlines or aviation authorities followed the FAA, which is generally the way it works, and the remainder of the world fleet are now sitting around on the ground while Boeing scrambles to work out what’s going wrong, and what they can to do prove to the FAA, and world aviation community that these birds are safe to be flying again.

I’m no engineer or aviation expert, just a humble lounge chair enthusiast, but to me the main issues with the 787 are the Lithium Ion batteries catching fire, and then throw in a few fuel leaks, which I guess when things are catching fire isn’t that great and a few software issues with the brakes have pushed the regulators to rethink the 787, and sort these issues out on the ground. These are issues indeed, which need to be fixed, but who hasn’t been delayed at an airport somewhere before because their aircraft has gone unserviceable, or who hasn’t had a recall notice of some kind on their new car.

The fact is, that new things, be them airplanes, cars, computers or your phone, have issues when they first launch – that’s how innovation works – you build something, you test the crap out of it, but even after you cover off 99.9% of all bugs, once the consumer gets their hands on it, stuff is going to go wrong, and you need to fix it. The only luxury we have with most goods, is that failure generally happens on the ground and not at 35,000 feet, making it a tad safer to identify and fix – however on the same note, there have been quite a few car’s recalled completely as well after a few have been involved in serious or fatal accidents.

Most mainstream media reports seem rather fixated on the plane being built mainly from composites, rather than metal, yet these issues that have caused the grounding don’t really seem to stem from the structure of the aircraft – just some components of them, mainly the battery. The fact is that when something goes wrong with a new airplane the general population and media love it! It’s a high profile story that sells newspapers and increases TV ratings, making it easier to sell advertising space on those channels. It happened with the A380, 777, A330 and probably the 747 and even earlier the 707, it’s just that the further you go back, the less instant the media was, yet I’m sure they still sold hard copy papers with stories about any issues that came up.

Will the 787 be flying again soon? You bet. Too many people have spent too much money for this to be a permanent problem. Will this happen again when Airbus launches the A350? Probably. Although airlines are trying new things, making planes lighter, more efficient and even more computerised, they are also making them safer. From what I’ve read online, systems have detected these issues, and alerted the crew to them, before they’ve become much bigger issues.

It wasn’t that long ago that you could freely smoke in an airplane. Nowadays smoke detectors detect the person trying to sneak a smoke in the bathroom, before the butt has a chance to start a fire in the waste bin. The point I’m trying to make here, is that yes, it appears there are more issues being discovered with each new aircraft that gets developed, but these issues, generally, have been detected earlier than they would have previously been, and thus been able to be fixed before they become major disasters.

If the 787 were cleared to fly again tomorrow, would I go on it?  I’ve wanted to try out the electronic window dimming for a while now anyway, but even that aside, I would. Why? There are risks involved in everything in life, most of which aren’t regulated to the same degree that aviation is. Thus, if something is going to cause me injury, statistically speaking, its less likely to happen on a cleared 787 – especially with all the attention its getting at the moment. Thus I guess I’m a numbers guy, and the way I add up those numbers, its still safer to jump on a 787, than it is to do many activities we do every day without thinking twice, as Melbourne Metro’ humorously list in their “dumb ways to die” video, of which flying on a 787 isn’t listed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first article in the new “InNews” section of . I’m not going to make the mistake of committing to writing one of these on a scheduled basis, as I’m likely to run out of time and not get to it. Instead, when stories that interest me in the Travel or Aviation sectors pop up, I’ll add an article on here. To finish up, what do you think of my take on the 787 grounding? Would you fly on one? What’s your take? Leave a comment below and follow @carlousmoochous on twitter for the latest posts on this site.

Note: The Feature Image is a compilation of screenshots from various media outlets news stories. Unfortunately I live way too far away from any 787 to take my own photo this time. Thus, no ownership is claimed, if you want your image removed please let me know.