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Security staff to go on strike at 8 German airports

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: Security personnel at Germany’s major airports Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg will go on a strike on Tuesday, Ver.di trade union announced on Monday. 

In a statement on its webpage, Ver.di slammed the Federal Association of Aviation Security Companies (BDLS) for not submitting any negotiable proposals on pay rise, despite earlier warning strikes by the security staff. The union said it has decided to expand the planned warning strike at Frankfurt Airport on Tuesday to seven other airports, including Munich, Hamburg, Bremen, Hanover, Leipzig, Dresden and Erfurt.

The security personnel at Frankfurt Airport will stop performing their duties on Tuesday between 2 a.m. (0100 GMT) and 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).

In other airports, local branches of the union will decide at what time the strike will take place.

Ver.di, a major trade union representing around 23,000 security staff, is demanding a minimum wage of 20 euros (nearly $23) per hour for its members.

The next round of negotiations between the union and the employers’ association BDLS is slated for Jan. 23. (AA)

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Hong Kong, The best place to visit in Asia

Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Hong Kong is between October and December. This period boasts comfortable temperatures and reasonable room rates. After New Years, tourism picks up significantly, despite the lower temps, and leads to higher hotel prices and more crowds. Another sweet spot for affordable travel is the short spring. And while summer remains a popular time for tourists, the weather can be stiflingly hot and humid. To protect your wallet, avoid Chinese national holidays and large conventions, when hotel prices soar. Check out the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s city calendar for updated information.

What You Need to Know

Not just a city

Hong Kong is, in fact, a territory made of numerous islands and a peninsula. You’ll spend most of your time on Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and Lantau Island.

Get out of town

While most people only picture Hong Kong as an urban destination, there are gorgeous seaside parks to explore. And with Hong Kong’s sophisticated public transit system, you can get out of the city in no time.

HKTB is your new BFF

HKTB stands for the Hong Kong Tourism Board, an invaluable resource for before and after you’ve arrived. Stop by the HKTB centers in the airport or in the Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry concourse for free information and helpful tips.

How to Save Money in Hong Kong

Take the tram Public transportation is cheap, only costing HK$2.30  (less than $0.30 USD). Keep in mind, though, the trams only accept exact change and are only on Hong Kong Island.

Book your room early While Hong Kong’s attractions and transportation are affordable, the hotel room rates can be exorbitant. Book early and don’t be afraid to stay a little farther from downtown, as long as you’re near an MRT station.

Head to the food court Sit-down meals can cost you a pretty penny in tourist areas, but you can usually find inexpensive options in nearby food courts.

Culture & Customs

Since its reunification in 1997, Hong Kong maintains a complex relationship with mother China. The former British colony continues to operate under a capitalist economy (despite China’s communist ways), has its own currency (the Hong Kong Dollar), and creates its own laws. And due to Hong Kong’s multicultural population and heritage, the official languages here are Chinese and English, not Mandarin. American travelers who have visited other Chinese cities like Beijing will notice a much stronger Western influence in the urban landscape, array of food choices, social practices (like greeting with a handshake) and more English speakers.

What to Eat

If there’s one word to summarize Hong Kong’s dining scene it’s this: vast. Hong Kong boasts more than 12,000 restaurants throughout the city, making it easy to find a place to eat (and a really good one at that). Alongside foodie hubs like Paris, Tokyo and New York, Hong Kong has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. But if your pockets aren’t deep enough to treat yourself to a fine dining experience or two, you’ll find the city’s foodie scene caters to all kinds of budgets without skimping on quality. If you’re unsure where to begin, start with the basics.

Getting Around Hong Kong

The best way to get around Hong Kong is the Mass Transit Railway (MTR). Ideally, you’ll use a combination of the MTR and your own two feet to get places quickly and cheaply. If you take a bus or minibus, you run the risk of missing your intended destination as these two options are difficult for visitors who do not speak Cantonese, especially if you take a minibus. The ferries and the trams offer scenic routes, which you should take when you have time to absorb Hong Kong’s bustling environment.

Most visitors arrive through Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), located just off Lantau Island. While many visitors simply hop in a taxi and zoom off to downtown, you can avoid the cab fare by using the MTR’s high-speed Airport Express. This train takes only 24 minutes to reach the city, and a complimentary shuttle bus will pick up passengers at the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations and transport them to popular hotels nearby.

Check Flights to Hong Kong

Search for the best flight deals across Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak and more.

Entry & Exit Requirements

Unlike other areas of China, Hong Kong does not require visitors to obtain a tourist visa. You will, however, need a passport that is valid for at least one month beyond your intended return date, sufficient proof of a later departure (a return airline ticket will do) and adequate funds to support your visit. These requirements are noticeably less strict than those at other Chinese points of entry. If you venture into one of China’s more restricted areas without the proper visa or the prescribed passport expiration date, you will be in violation of Chinese immigration laws. Check the U.S. Department of State’s website before leaving for Hong Kong.

Courtesy: (travel.usnews.com)

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Indonesia’s Garuda airline brings live music to the skies

JAKARTA: An airline is bringing music to the skies by staging a series of live acoustic concerts at 35,000 feet.

Indonesian national flag carrier Garuda will organise the shows on certain domestic flights in a scheme aimed at wooing millennials.

And the airline hopes it will attract passengers ‘who want a different flight experience.’

Musicians performing aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Bali, a new entertainment service introduced by the airline

The carrier held its first in-flight concert on Wednesday, when two musicians performed aboard a flight between the capital, Jakarta, and the holiday island of Bali.

Garuda said sets would last 10 to 15 minutes on select flights, and there would be a focus on promoting upcoming talent.

While it may prove an unforgettable flying experience for some, it may not be everyone’s idea of a good time.

In 2017, US airline Southwest introduced live shows on some flights to a mixed reaction from passengers.

Some travellers said they preferred minimum human interaction while flying and said music would distract them from sleeping or reading.

Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.

Garuda said sets would last 10 to 15 minutes on select flights, and there would be a focus on promoting upcoming talent

But it has come under fresh scrutiny since a fatal Lion Air crash in October last year that killed all 189 people on board.

Garuda said it had embarked on extensive consultation to ensure the concerts posed no threat to safety or security.

‘If there is the potential of turbulence, the singer will be directed back to sit in his chair,’ a spokesman said. Courtesy: (Dailymail)

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German strike grounds 600 flights affecting thousands

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: More than 600 flights have been canceled in Germany on Thursday due to strike at airports in Dusseldorf, Cologne, and Stuttgart.

In Dusseldorf, one of the busiest airports in the country, 370 flights were grounded as the airport’s security personnel walked out in a pay dispute.

Some 131 flights to and from Cologne/Bonn airport and 142 flights to and from Stuttgart airport were also canceled.

Ver.di, a major trade union representing nearly 1,000 security personnel in three airports, is demanding a minimum wage of 20 euros per hour.

Benjamin Roscher, one of Ver.di’s negotiators, has urged employers to submit a fair and negotiable proposal.

He warned that the Ver.di may hold new strikes if the employers would not submit an improved proposal until the next round of negotiations scheduled for January 23. (AA)

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No more chauffeur service for Emirates airline passengers

DUBAI (Khaleejtimes): Emirates airline has implemented a new rule for passengers using its loyal programme Skywards Miles to upgrade their seats to Business Class and First Class.

The Dubai-based carrier, rated one of the world’s safest airlines for 2019 by airlineratings.com, on Monday confirmed that passengers upgrading their tickets to First and Business Class through Skywards Miles will not able to avail complimentary chauffer drive service from the middle of this month.

The airline said this decision has been taken after a careful review of customer feedback and operational considerations. The world’s largest carrier by international passengers numbers was hit hard by high fuel cost and unfavorableeg currency movements during the first-half 2018-19 with profits nose diving 86 per cent to Dh226 million.

“After a careful review of customer take-up and operational considerations, Emirates First and Business Class Classic Reward tickets and Economy to Business Class Upgrade Rewards will no longer be eligible for complimentary chauffeur drive services. This change is effective from March 1, 2019, when new chauffeur drive service reservations will no longer be available in conjunction with these tickets,” an Emirates spokesperson said in a statement to Khaleej Times.

“Chauffeur-drive reservations completed prior to 1 March 2019 will be not be impacted. Emirates Skywards members traveling on a redemption ticket will continue to enjoy lounge access, and our generous free baggage allowance based on their class of travel and tier status,” reads the statement.

In July 2018, budget carrier flydubai had announced that Emirates Skywards will become the loyalty programme for both the airlines.

Later in October, Emirates launched an on-demand ground transportation booking app called Emirates Skywards Cabforce which is a mobile travel companion that will offer its loyalty members an affordable transportation service in 27 countries and 117 cities across the world.

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Pilot safely land world’s biggest plane after being buffeted by strong winds

DUBAI (GulfNews): An Emirates plane has recently braved maddening winds while attempting to land at an airport in the United Kingdom.

The Airbus A380 was coming to land at the Birmingham airport on Sunday morning amid strong winds that had forced other passenger aircraft to divert to other airports. The winds were moving in the direction of inbound flights.

A video of the incident, posted on Youtube, shows the world’s largest commercial passenger plane being buffeted by crosswinds.

But unlike the other planes that had earlier aborted the landing attempt, Emirates’ pilots managed to touch down safely on a heavily drenched runway.

“This was a day when the wind grew stronger as it moved towards crosswind direction, finally erupting as shown [in the video],” a description of the video reads.

“The avalanche of reverse thrust spray capped the Emirates giant’s performance.”

The clip, shared by aviation website flugsnug, also shows two other planes– UK regional airline Flybe’s Embraer and Easyjet’s A320 — aborting attempts to land at the same airfield due to severe weather.

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Tourists throng snow-covered hill tops in Dir after heavy snowfall

F.P. Report

TIMERGARA: Local tourists on Sunday thronged the scenic snow-covered Laram Top in Adenzai after heavy snowfall on Friday and Saturday. Local and outside tourists, majority of them children and youth were seen on the top to enjoy the snowy environment in a shining sunny afternoon. Most of tourists walked on foot for about five kilometers to reach the Laram Top as the road leading to the 8500 feet high tourists’ destination remained closed due to heavy snowfall three days ago.

“I came from Mardan and wanted to reach the top to enjoy the snow covered area but I left my car some 5 kilometers below,” Asifullah, 20 carrying his niece on shoulders told near the hill top. He said he had come along with family to enjoy the snow covered mountain. The Laram Top is situated at an altitude of 8,500 feet in Adenzai tehsil of Lower Dir, is 185 kilometer from Peshawar and about 35 kilometers from Chakdara town. The top is famous for its coolness and lush greenery even in mid of the summer.

Local tourists from Dir Lower, Bajaur, Malakand Agency, Mardan, Barikot and Odigram Swat like to visit the top for enjoying snowy weather. Youth having ‘sitar’, ‘mangay’ (traditional music instruments) are seen holding musical shows at these spots while other perform dances on drum beats. “We feel safe and we are quite easy here,” said a physiotherapist Navidullah while talking to this reporter at Laram Top. He said that he had brought his friends and relatives in two vehicles from Timergara to enjoy the sunny weather after chilly cold.

Tourists also arrange their own meals. They bring kitchen utensils and gas cylinders to cook meal. “We are enjoying a picnic rather tour,” Mujeeb, 30, an Italy-return Talash citizen said and suggested the government and authorities of culture and tourism department should give due attention towards development of these scenic spots. He said that his friends were busy in cooking rice and chiken and they would go back after having their meal while sitting on the snow. Several families were also seen visiting an adjacent place Sia Sar in Adenzai. Talking to this scribe the visitors said they preferred Sia Sar instead of Laram Top as its road was accessible and was in good condition. “You can reach to top of Sia in your car but you cannot reach the Laram Top in car these days,” Murad Khan said, adding that Sia Sar had a few shops where visitors could buy things of their needs. A local of Kambat in Jandol, Anwarud Din told on contact that a large number of people both from Dir and outside districts had been visiting Shahi and Bin-Shahi spots bordering Afghanistan on North from Timergara. He said that bulldozers were busy in clearing road of snow at these spots.

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Dubai airport’s November passenger traffic falls

Monitoring Desk

DUBAI: Dubai International Airport’s monthly passenger numbers dropped in November, leaving the world’s busiest airport for international travelers needing a record month to meet its full-year target.

The number of passengers using the airport fell 0.8 percent to 6.9 million in November, said operator Dubai Airports on Sunday.

For the first 11 months of the year, 81.4 million passengers have used the airport, up 1.3 percent. That means the airport needs a record 8.9 million passengers in December to meet its previously stated full-year target of 90.3 million.

The highest number of passengers to travel through Dubai airport in a single month was 8.37 million in August 2018.

Dubai airport, the hub for airlines Emirates and flydubai, has seen the rate of passenger traffic growth slow this year after 15 years of strong increases. Cargo handled in November increased 0.6 percent to 237,059 tons, said Dubai Airports.

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Saudi woman ‘trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family’

BANGKOK (BBC): A young Saudi woman says she is stranded at Bangkok’s main airport after fleeing her family and having her passport seized by a Saudi official.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, says she was on a trip to Kuwait with her family when she fled on a flight two days ago.

She was trying to head to Australia via a connecting flight in Bangkok.

She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is frightened and confused. She says she has an Australian visa but her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight at Suvarnabhumi airport.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun told BBC Newshour she was now in a hotel in the transit area.

She said: “I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this… I can’t study and work in my country, so I want to be free and study and work as I want.”

Thai police Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn told the BBC that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun was escaping a marriage. Because she did not have a visa to enter Thailand, he said police had denied her entry and were in the process of repatriating her through the same airline she had taken, Kuwait Airlines. Gen Surachate said he was unaware of any passport seizure.

It is unclear why Ms Mohammed al-Qunun would need a Thai visa if she was in transit to Australia and had an Australian visa.

Saudi citizens visiting Thailand are also eligible to apply for a visa on arrival when entering the country.

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Tourists hunker down as Storm Pabuk lashes Thailand

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT (AFP): Tourists marooned on Thai islands hunkered down Friday as Tropical Storm Pabuk struck the kingdom, forcing airports and ferries to close and bringing power blackouts, heavy rains and massive sea swells. Boats were recalled to shore across the Gulf of Thailand, while three key southern airports were shut until Saturday, leaving tourists who remain on islands now cut off from the mainland.

“Ten thousand tourists are still on Koh Phangan,” said Krikkrai Songthanee, district chief of the island which neighbours Samui and is famed for its full-moon parties. “But I talked to foreigners last night and they are not scared, they understand the situation,” he told AFP. Meteorologists said Pabuk, the first tropical storm in decades to strike during the peak holiday season, made landfall in southern Thailand on Friday afternoon.

The eye of the storm passed over Nakhon Si Thammarat, sparing the tourist islands to the north from a direct hit. “But all tourist islands in the Gulf of Thailand including Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Koh Tao will be affected because Pabuk is huge,” said Phuwieng Prakhammintara, head of the Thai Meteorological Department. It caused a power blackout across swathes of Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani provinces, authorities said, as electricity poles toppled over in high winds and power lines were cut by falling trees. Earlier as it churned through the Gulf of Thailand, Pabuk stirred huge waves up to five metres high (16 feet). Social media videos showed oil rigs being battered by waves, and tankers navigating terrifying walls of water.

A fisherman in Pattani province, near the Malaysia border, died after waves smashed into his boat before dawn on Friday as it returned to dock. Another crew member is missing. They join the only other confirmed fatality from Pabuk so far a Russian man who drowned off Koh Samui on Wednesday after ignoring warnings not to go into the sea. By late Friday afternoon Pabuk which means giant catfish in Lao began to edge across the narrow neck of land between the Gulf of Thailand and into the Andaman Sea, home to the tourist resorts of Phuket and the Similan National Park, a diving paradise.

Tens of thousands of tourists have already fled the southern zone. “It’s very empty… the beaches are deserted,” Pui Suriwan, a Koh Phangan resident, told AFP. On neighbouring Koh Tao, one of Southeast Asia’s most popular dive spots, tourists and residents were bracing for a torrid 24 hours ahead. “I’ve finished buying supplies… there’s no gas anywhere on the island, 7/11 is already running out of things,” a Spanish dive instructor told AFP. “We’re ready to bunker down.” Holidaymakers on Koh Samui, whose airport was shut all Friday, shared videos on Twitter of waves licking the steps to beachside bungalows as the wind speeds picked up.

The storm is bad news for Thailand’s lucrative peak holiday season. The economy is heavily reliant on tourism, with latest figures for 2017 showing the kingdom made nearly $60 billion from the sector. Tourism was hit hard by a boat accident in Phuket in July last year, when scores of Chinese tourists died as their overcrowded vessel capsized in heavy seas. Visitor numbers from China, Thailand’s biggest market, slumped after the accident. Still, around 40 million people are expected to visit Thailand this year.