This week: The UK’s airport dilemma continues, whose B474 are they & more

It’s been a super interesting week this one, with some of the stories from airports around the world having the potential to make a feature movie production. Here’s what we found in our overview:

Well the first story is also the one with the greatest implications for travellers. Maybe not this week, but certainly in the near future due to ongoing capacity constraints. We’re of course talking about the United Kingdom’s decision on whether to expand London Heathrow Airport (LHR) with a 3rd runway. What decision you say? Correct, the decision should have been made last week already but then this week we heard via The Wall Street Journal that the U.K. government on Thursday said it was putting off a decision on where to expand airport capacity in the London area until the middle of 2016, pending further study of environmental impacts.

The Airports Commission, a government-appointed independent panel, this year recommended the city’s primary airport, Heathrow, be allowed to build a third runway over rival proposals that included a second runway at Gatwick, to the south of the British capital. Expanding either airport would be one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects. The Airports Commission said expanding Heathrow could cost £17.6 billion ($26.7 billion). Adding a second runway at Gatwick would cost only £7.1 billion, it said, but deliver fewer economic benefits.

There sure were quite a lot of reactions to the governments in-action. The Financial Times for example wrote that the reaction from business was withering. John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said companies would see it as a “gutless” move. The Institute of Directors said business leaders were “tearing their hair out” at the further delay, while the EEF manufacturers’ group said industry was “fed up and dismayed by the continued excuses and political dilly-dallying”.

Moving on to China where we heard about a rather bizarre incident this week: CBS News reported that when crew members of a passenger plane reported sparks coming from an engine while taxiing at an airport in southern China, eight fire trucks responded within minutes. Then they covered the wrong plane with white foam. The mistake at the Fuzhou city airport (FOC) Thursday was quickly amended and the firefighters turned their attention to the correct plane, but the other one – with passengers aboard – was delayed 10 hours and the entire incident delayed 30 flights, the airport said in a statement. That surely classifies as a late departure!

And finally to our favourite story this week. It all started quite innocently on Tuesday when Malaysia Airports (Sepang), the country’s main airport operator that also manages Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL) put out a notice in the classifieds of a local newspaper to trace the owner of three Boeing 747 aircraft. According to the Malay Mail Online the ad read “If you fail to collect the aircraft within 14 days of the date of this notice, we reserve the right to sell or to set off any expenses and debt due to us under the said Regulations”. It also included registration numbers linking the aircraft to Iceland. LateDeparture’s own investigation showed that the aircraft, however, were no longer registered in Iceland. More and more media outlets broadcasted the story as the week continued.

Then on Friday The Star, that same local newspaper where the initial notice was published, reported that the ‘missing’ owner of the planes had come forward claiming that the company has been in contact with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) on a “consistent basis”. Swift Air Cargo chief executive officer Captain Blue Peterson told The Star Friday that the three Boeing 747s that were featured in newspaper advertisements on Dec 7 belonged to the company. He said  Swift has been the owner of the three aircraft since June 8 this year. “MAHB knows this for we have been in many meetings with them about the aircraft.”

When contacted yesterday by the newspaper, MAHB responded via e-mail: “As we have mentioned before, the issuance of our notice was a legal process for debt recovery. Up to this point, the claims of ownership could not be satisfactorily verified. We urge the rightful owner to furnish us with the required information for verification.”

To be continued – we are sure!

That’s all for this week – safe travels!

[Title graphic of Heathrow’s proposed 3rd runway via Daily Mail]