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Article source: http://westislandgazette.com/marketplace/26286

Candidates for Bradford County commissioner state their views

Candidates for Bradford County commissioner state their views

The Daily Review sent a questionnaire to the four candidates for Bradford County commissioner. All four candidates – Doug McLinko, Daryl Miller, Gene Osmun, and Mark Smith – have supplied the newspaper with their answers. Their answers are printed verbatim below.

In the Nov. 8 election, each voter will be able to vote for two candidates for county commissioner. The top three vote-getters in the commissioners’ race will be the next Board of Bradford County Commissioners.

Name: Doug McLinko

Age: 53

Address: Wysox, Pa.

Office sought: Bradford County Commissioner

Political party: Republican

Occupation: Bradford County Commissioner

Education: Towanda Area High School

1. Why are you seeking the office?

I want to continue to serve the people in an honest, conservative, and straightforward manner. I will continue to manage a fiscally sound county government. My campaign is focused on jobs and economic growth for industry, small-business and agriculture.

2. What are your credentials for being an effective elected official?

I have been a Bradford County business owner for more than 25 years, employing hundreds of people and making payroll with my own money. I am a lifelong resident of Bradford County. I have served in many volunteer positions including: Chairman of the Bradford-Sullivan Salvation Army Service Unit, multiple terms as Wysox Chamber of Commerce President, member of the Central Bradford Progress Authority’s board of directors, member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Bradford County’s board of directors, member of the Masons’ Rome lodge, and member of the Wysox IOOF. I have further experience by serving two terms as Chairman of the Wysox Township Board of Supervisors, as a current member of the Wysox Planning Commission, and as a past member of the Wysox Municipal Authority’s board of directors. I have served two terms as your current commissioner, I am the only candidate with a background of both serving many elected and volunteer positions while running our family business for many years.

3. If you are the incumbent, what have you done to deserve re-election?

I campaigned eight years ago as a fiscal conservative and kept my promise. For example:

· I developed the first savings plan in our county, which is now part of our county budget.

· As a result of my work, the county now has a healthy fund balance again, and we maintain an AAA credit rating.

· Our county has one of the lowest debt to taxpayer ratios in the state of Pennsylvania.

· We have replaced key department heads to improve the management of our county government. We also have less full time employees today, than the day I first took office.

· Bottom line: I kept my word.

4. What are the top three issues as you see them?

1) The biggest issue is remaining fiscally responsible and conservative when our country and state face one of the largest budget deficits in history. Our county needs to remain fiscally responsible by keeping spending and taxes low for our citizens.

2) Continuing the growth and job creation for our citizens by encouraging government to provide a “hands off” approach and allow the free market to prevail.

3) The development of the Marcellus Shale needs to be managed to encourage healthy economic growth and job creation, while balancing a safe environment, safe drinking water and safe roads for our citizens.

4) Creeks, Streams, River, which is addressed in these questions.

5. What would you do about them?

1) Marcellus shale: I will continue to educate myself and teach people about the issues. I will continue to be an advocate for Bradford County.

2) Fiscal responsibility: I will continue to maintain the $58 million budget and managing our 715 employees while making sure our taxpayers have a well-run county government: I will continue to be a fiscal conservative and demand that each county department is run with the highest efficiency.

3) Government cuts from state and federal: (and they will certainly come) I will continue to meet with state officials to ensure that we are responsible with the money we get.

6. What is your philosophy about taxation?

Government spends too much money. We need better fiscal responsibility. We don’t need more taxes. Bottom line: spending is the problem.

7. How have you been campaigning?

I’ve been meeting as many people as possible and traveling throughout the county.

8. Do you believe the Bradford County Commissioners should take any particular action to try to change state or federal laws so that there would be more leeway to clean gravel bars and other debris from streams in order to prevent flooding? If so, what action would you take?

I am committed to leading the charge to work to solve this problem as I have since being a township supervisor. I plan on traveling to learn what other areas do that have the same problem we have, for example New York State, to get this terrible policy on our streams, creeks, and river changed. I have talked to the governor personally on what we have experienced, and put the pictures our citizens have sent to us in his hand so he can see the damage first hand on this decades-old failed policy. I have met and talked to the secretary of DEP on many occasions on what we are going through in the northeast that is unique to our area. The “one size fits all” this administration has inherited hasn’t worked and won’t work and is costing our property owners way too much in physical and monetary damage and is inexcusable. I will work with township supervisors, borough council members, and state legislators and continue to travel to Harrisburg and meet with key people to get action. It is time to put people first! I will not give up, we must not give up.

9. What needs to be done to address the overcrowding at the Bradford County Correctional Facility?

There are many reasons why a jail population goes up. First we must make sure that this isn’t just a spike. For example we have 15 inmates serving state sentences in our county jail, we have 17 inmates that need a home plan to go out on parole. Just a couple of issues like these can lead to having high numbers. I called for a justice study over 7 years ago to find out what needs to be done to make sure we are using our cell space efficiently while keeping criminals off the street. Everyone in the justice system worked hard together and much was accomplished. I believe everyone in our justice system does a good job, however they are charged to keeping our streets safe, the prison board runs the prison and the commissioners are charged with funding the prison, the taxpayers are charged to pay for it. I am committed to make sure that I do all I can to use those dollars wisely. We have an excellent warden in Don Stewart and a excellent staff and we will work together to make that facility safe and secure and cost effective.

10. As a commissioner, what action would you take to promote the gas industry locally or to address environmental concerns related to the gas industry?

There is no substitute for taking care of our environment. As your current commissioner, Marcellus shale affects every department in county government. And to think that it isn’t the responsibility of a county commissioner to stay on top of this issue, is irresponsible. I will continue to learn and to invite key decision makers to our county to give them a tour and show them the good and the bad. As I have stated publicly over and over, “we need to get it right in Bradford county to get it right in the state.” Our county is at the front of this gas play. We need to make sure we get the help to keep our well water safe, our roads safe and our environment protected while maintaining job creation and growing our tax base.

11. Do the salaries of county employees need to be raised in order to retain employees, especially in light of the higher salaries offered by the gas industry? If so, where would you get the money to pay for the raises?

Government as a whole should be run smarter, smaller and more efficient using technology to streamline to reduce staffing through attrition, to make sure that you have everyone making a living wage. County workers have a good benefit package with sick time and vacation time, retirement and a good health insurance plan. Taxpayers need to know that their county employees pay their fair share of their health insurance each month and largely are very thankful to have it.

Name: Daryl Miller

Age: 56

Address: Terry Twp., Wyalusing, PA

Office sought: Bradford County Commissioner

Political party: Republican

Occupation: Small business owner

Education: High school graduate with college coursework

1. Why are you seeking the office?

I am running for Bradford County Commissioner to contribute to creating opportunity in our county for future generations. While creating a healthy economic atmosphere, it is necessary to do so responsibly. The country from east to west and north to south is experiencing drastic changes that we have not experienced in decades. Bradford County will be facing potentially adverse budget issues that will require responsible and experienced leadership. I will be an accessible representative and will treat the privilege of holding public office with the utmost of dignity and integrity.

2. What are your credentials for being an effective elected official?

My credentials for being hired by the voters of Bradford County for commissioner is through personal hands on experience. While having taken college courses, real world practical experience cannot be replaced. I have worked hard starting from an entry level position with a local manufacturing company to eventually becoming CEO and co-owner of that same company over a course of 30 years. In those years I was involved in design, manufacturing, sales and management. This encompassed developing cost efficiencies, managing employees, customer service and decision making in order to create jobs and give customers excellent products at reasonable prices.

3. If you are the incumbent, what have you done to deserve re-election?


4. If you are a challenger, what have you done to prepare for holding the office?

Throughout the past several years I have involved myself in the business of the county. I have attended a majority of the commissioners meetings during those years and have educated myself on many of the issues our county is facing. I have observed the developed of the Marcellus Shale play within our county and the many aspects of that business including the issue of roll back taxes. I have spent time with municipal leaders and fire departments to listen to the issues they are facing.

5. What are the top three issues as you see them and what would you do about them?

I believe there are many issues of importance facing our county but three of the main ones at the present that need to be dealt with are:

- Stream maintenance and helping to reduce the frequency and severity of flooding around our streams and rivers. I believe we need to work diligently with our state and federal officials to change the way our small streams and creeks are maintained. We must face the reality that our streams are filling up and need to be properly and responsibly maintained by removing debris and sand and gravel bars that divert them from their original courses.

- Jobs: We need to support job creation that we are blessed to be experiencing in our county. We must attract businesses that will take advantage of the resources we have. This will help our county with long term family sustaining jobs for our area. As an example the power generating plant being proposed for Asylum Township would anticipate creating as many as 60 permanent jobs.

- Taxes: Taxes will become a big issue for our county in the not too distant future because of the ongoing budget issues at the state and federal level. Our county currently receives about 70 percent of its budget funding from the state and federal government. As a result of state and federal cutbacks, our county is beginning to see cutbacks in various funding streams. I believe in smaller more efficient government, thus I will resist the impulse to simply raise taxes to fill budget holes or look around to tax someone else. I will stress efficiency.

6. What is your philosophy about taxation?

My philosophy about taxation is simple, we need to govern ourselves and that governance costs money. However, we must be as frugal and responsible as possible. Taxes are the taxpayer’s money they give to their government to use effectively and efficiently. I don’t believe in the redistribution of or transfer of wealth from one group of people to another. I will quote Thomas Jefferson to summarize more succinctly my philosophy “â?¦a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good governmentâ?¦” Thomas Jefferson

7. How have you been campaigning?

Campaigning for me did not start in January or February of this year. Those who know me know my dedication and love for our county. Part of campaigning is listening to the people I wish to represent. I have spent considerable time listening to and talking with many throughout the county and have attended special events that take place as fund raisers of various groups. Our county is very large but my desire is to work for ALL the people of this county in every corner and I have been trying hard to personally reach out to people in all areas of our county.

8. Do you believe the Bradford County commissioners should take any particular action to try to change state or federal laws so that there would be more leeway to clean gravel bars and other debris from streams in order to prevent flooding? If so, what action would you take?

Yes, I believe that the Bradford County Commissioners should take a role at helping to refocus the state and federal government’s emphasis, (or lack thereof) on stream maintenance. Our county commissioners (of which I hope to be one) should diligently be working to keep the focus on the need for proper stream maintenance in an effort to reduce the incidence and severity of flooding which has been occurring more frequently in our county. I will work with our state and federal legislators in an effort to redirect the regulatory agencies (DEP, Fish Boat Commission, and EPA) toward reducing the risks posed to our citizens from a lack of reasonable and prudent stream maintenance program.

9. What needs to be done to address the overcrowding at the Bradford County Correctional Facility?

I believe that the warden is addressing through the prison board the current overcrowding issues that our county correctional facility is facing. We need to monitor closely all the reasons that are contributing to the current overcrowding we are facing. The last thing we need to do is spend millions of tax dollars building additional cell space if the current problems are temporary.

10. As a commissioner, what action would you take to promote the gas industry locally or to address environmental concerns related to the gas industry?

As commissioner I will support the job growth that our county is experiencing as a result of the ongoing development of the Marcellus shale gas play that is taking place in our county. I also plan to promote our county in an attempt to encourage other businesses to come to our area that will take advantage of the plentiful resource we’ve been blessed with here and bring long term family sustaining jobs to our area. I as well believe that as with any business it should be done in a responsible manner. All business should be conducted in a responsible fashion and all business should be good corporate neighbors.

11. Do the salaries of county employees need to be raised in order to retain employees, especially in light of higher salaries offered by the gas industry? If so, where would you get the money to pay for the raises?

I am an ardent believer in rewarding performance. It is one of the cornerstones of our free market system. I believe that rather than basing compensation simply on the longevity of an employee’s term of employment, we need to develop a method of incorporating performance as a part of any compensation system. Our county needs to be competitive, but simply throwing money at problems seldom if ever solves them. It simply wastes money.

I am a limited government advocate, thus any changes that may result in any salary changes that may occur in the future should not result in the impulse to raise our property taxes. We need to find and reward efficiencies in our government without thinking the solution is always raising taxes.

Name: Gene Osmun

Age: 69

Address: 515 N. Wilbur Ave., Sayre, Pa.

Office sought: Bradford County commissioner

Political party: Democratic Party

Occupation: Director of Veterans Affairs for Bradford County/veteran’s service officer

Education: Sayre High School; B.A. Chemistry, Lock Haven University; M.A. Labor Relations, Saint Francis University

1. Why are you seeking the office?

I continue to have an interest in serving and being involved in local government, and a desire to utilize my background and experience for the benefit of our community

2. What are your credentials for being an effective representative?

I believe that I have some knowledge of local government, at the borough, township and county level, and an awareness and concern for the issues, and how they are affecting our people. I have been working in government offices for over 30 years, as well as having worked in the building trades and private industry, so I have some useful skills.

3. If you are an incumbent, what have you done to deserve re-election?


4. If you are a challenger, what have you done to prepare for holding the office?

I have been reading extensively, discussed the issues with many people, and am working to finish up and complete some pending cases and issues.

5. What are the top three issues as you see them and what would you do about them?

First is immediate attention to our stream and flooding problems to insure against a repeat of the flood, and to get our people back on their feet who were affected; providing the necessary services that we must during a period of state and national belt tightening; and modernization of our operations to keep pace with the needs.

6. What is your philosophy about taxation?

Taxation should be as low as possible, and as fair and equitable as possible. To put it differently, only as much as necessary to do the job well.

7. How have you been campaigning?

I have been utilizing signs, ads, and personal contact in listening to our citizens as much as possible, given the time I have, along with working a full-time job.

8. Do you believe the Bradford County commissioners should take any particular action to try to change state or federal laws so that there would be more leeway to clean gravel bars and other debris from streams in order to prevent flooding? If so, what action would you take?

I absolutely believe it is imperative that our streams must be cleared of debris, gravel bars and perhaps even some islands. We must take a strong, proactive stand on this, having seen the impacts on our communities throughout the county that were flooded and the devastating impact on our people. A massive public works program with the assistance and cooperation of state and federal agencies must be pursued now. I believe a comprehensive hydrological study is needed as soon as possible, so that the right actions can be taken. I saw the results of this, and the 1972 flood, and the problem has not been solved yet.

9. What needs to be done to address the overcrowding at the Bradford County Correctional Facility?

We need to understand the problem, what is creating it, and if it is temporary or appears to be a long-term phenomenon. The traditional ways to deal with this has been to utilize temporarily other counties’ facilities for housing, but that is expensive, but so is expansion. A serious discussion and analysis with all parties, and the corrections board is necessary for a consensus.

10. As a commissioner, what action would you take to promote the gas industry locally or to address environmental concerns related to the gas industry?

My role as a commissioner will be to work cooperatively with the gas industry and the regulatory agencies to insure that the best practices of the industry are followed. We are experiencing perhaps the greatest economic boom in our history, so we need to also assist with educational opportunities, and work toward resolution of the obvious problem areas – traffic, crime, water and housing.

11. Do the salaries of county employees need to be raised in order to retain employees, especially in light of higher salaries offered by the gas industry? If so, where would you get the money to pay for the raises?

I have long believed that the county pay and compensation scales need to be looked at carefully, to resolve any inequities, and to try to make them more competitive. I believe that a comprehensive study with job evaluations should be done to determine how the pay and benefits compare with other counties, other industries and also to compare comparable positions. Training and turnover of personnel is costly, and experience and continuity in government is important. Retention of good employees is desirable. I believe this process would be both cost effective and in our best interests in the long run, and would prove to be best for the organization and the county.

Name: Mark W. Smith

Age: 33

Address: Sayre, Pa.

Office sought: Bradford County Commissioner

Political party: Democratic

Occupation: Bradford County Commissioner

Education: Athens Area High School; Art Institute of Pittsburgh; Center for Creative Studies, Detroit, Mich.

1. Why are you seeking the office?

I have entered this race because, as a taxpaying citizen, I have a continuing desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I believe I can have a positive influence on the future of our county.

Bradford County is changing at a rapid pace and changing times require leadership experience to achieve the public good on behalf of the people. Now more than ever we need elected officials who fight to ensure our county remains a great place to live and do business.

2. What are your credentials for being an effective elected official?

I have had the great pleasure to serve as the chairman of the Bradford County Commissioners for the last three years. I have also served on many boards related to the county such as the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania board of directors and Natural Gas Task Force, the Bradford County Natural Gas Advisory Board and the Bradford County Tourism Committee to name just a few.

I am a taxpayer and resident of this county. I have experience in the field of design, and the understanding of technology that comes with it can be applied to making Bradford County operate more efficiently in today’s changing world.

3. If you are an incumbent, what have you done to deserve re-election?

Throughout my first term as county commissioner I have worked to fulfill the principles and accomplish the goals that I presented to the people in my first campaign. Since being elected I have worked to achieve a more efficient and better run county government. I have opened up county government to make it more transparent and I believe that I have led Bradford County with dignity and respect. Some of the successes of my first term include:

- Keeping our county budget under control in some of the most financially difficult times.

- Guaranteed Energy Savings Project which has made our county buildings energy efficient, as well as numerous other building improvements which include restoring the interior courthouse dome.

- Community Workforce Inmate Program which utilizes inmate labor to improve and enhance communities across the county.

- Internet presence for the county which includes an array of information to make our government more transparent. It also includes social media and an E-mail newsletter with approximately 2,500 subscribers.

- The creation of the Bradford County Parks Advisory Committee which has recently completed a parks master plan for all three county parks. The committee recently met and moved forward with some of its first steps toward accomplishing the long range plans for improving our county parks.

- Working in a professional manner with all the county departments and employees to operate county government with dignity, efficiency, and respect, always keeping in mind our purpose is to serve our citizens and their interests.

4. If you are a challenger, what have you done to prepare for holding the office?


5. What are the top three issues as you see them and what would you do about them?

The recent flooding in our county is on the forefront of many people’s minds. The recovery is ongoing and many people are still in need of assistance. This issue raises both immediate and long-term concerns. As a county commissioner I will continue to work with government officials at every level, county staff, and my colleagues in the commissioners’ office to ensure issues such as housing, stream bank repairs, stream maintenance, and other related issues are addressed.

The development of the Marcellus Shale brings both opportunity and great challenge. There are a wide range of issues that this development presents from social, environmental, and infrastructure impacts. To address these specific issues I would work within the authority of a county commissioner toward bringing into the industries involved in Marcellus Shale the best scientific knowledge to allow economic development while providing the necessary safeguards to protect human health and the environment.

Government spending and taxation is on the minds of the people of Bradford County. We must always engage in responsible spending. In terms of government spending and taxation we must give constant oversight, accountability, and the continued respect of your tax dollars. This is an obligation I will uphold while in office.

Hiring and retaining good employees is going to be a challenge for years to come. I believe we need to continue to seek new and more affordable health insurance opportunities and other benefits and incentives beyond salary to recruit and retain qualified employees.

6. What is your philosophy about taxation?

Taxes are levied to citizens with the expectation that government will provide the needed services and support to the community it serves. I believe it is the ultimate responsibility of an elected official to manage those dollars with great care and transparency.

7. How have you been campaigning?

My campaign has been rather simple. Listen to people and talk with people. I have been attending every single community function that I can. I have been going door to door talking with people all across Bradford County. I have set up a website and I am available via Facebook as well. My website is www.votesmith2011.com.

8. Do you believe the Bradford County commissioners should take any particular action to try to change state or federal laws so that there would be more leeway to clean gravel bars and other debris from streams in order to prevent flooding? If so, what action would you take?

Although the commissioners do not regulate or have direct authority overseeing the issues with streams I do believe the commissioners, as county representatives, have a role in advocating for a long term solution to the problem. We do have access to and can lobby the necessary government agencies for support. I also believe we could play a role in creating a comprehensive stream maintenance program that could be applied county-wide.

9. What needs to be done to address the overcrowding at the Bradford County Correctional Facility?

The correctional facility has been near or at maximum capacity for several months. Although the jail was expanded five years ago it is obvious that with the increased population and increased incarcerations in the county the jail population will continue to be an issue. There is no simple solution. We must look at every aspect of our criminal justice system as we move forward, such as sentencing, prosecutions, probation as well as our existing structure and how to best utilize the space we currently have. Several ideas have been discussed which include a day reporting center for use as alternative sentencing or utilizing the gym area inside the jail for use as a housing unit. The fact is that we are early in the process for addressing this issue. Many avenues will likely be discussed and vetted as the county moves forward to address the issue.

10. As a commissioner, what action would you take to promote the gas industry locally or to address environmental concerns related to the gas industry?

First and foremost a county commissioner should advocate for the needs of their county, especially in regards to the development of natural gas. The impacts are obvious. The gas industry doesn’t need the help of any county commissioners to encourage its development.

I believe commissioners can work to encourage local economic prosperity and diversity. I have worked to encourage and promote opportunities for local businesses with my involvement in the Marcellus Shale Business to Business Expo and our Natural Gas Advisory Sub-Committee on Economic Development.

We can be steadfast advocates for our region by working together for the common goal of protecting our infrastructure, environment, and most importantly our quality of life.

11. Do the salaries of county employees need to be raised in order to retain employees, especially in light of higher salaries offered by the gas industry? If so, where would you get the money to pay for the raises?

Over the last few years the county has already had to raise certain salaries to be competitive with the market place for employees. It is an issue that we will continue to struggle with as wages are higher and unemployment is one of the lowest in the state. We have evaluated the pay of key positions that may need a higher salary on a case by case basis and in those cases have reclassified them to be competitive, while making adjustments in other areas of the budget or trimming back positions that were not necessary.

In terms of reforming the entire county pay scale system I have believed and continue to work towards a performance based pay system. I think the county should operate as any business and that employees should be evaluated on their work and given raises according to their performance.

Article source: http://thedailyreview.com/news/candidates-for-bradford-county-commissioner-state-their-views-1.1225692

OPINION: Calling all USU graduate students


It is a fact — graduate school is difficult. Most of us can identify with being overwhelmed, confused and unsure about many things relating to university policies during graduate school.

Luckily, the Graduate Student Senate at Utah State University aims to alleviate concerns that grad students have regarding university-related topics, such as grants, health insurance, traveling for conferences and other activities. The senate’s overarching theme is enhancing the overall experience of graduate students attending USU.

    On this theme, currently, GSS is achieving the following goals: being the go-to resource for graduate-related USU and community information; serving as the voice for graduate students; providing financial support for graduate students; establishing the GSS as a repository of information on USU seminars; providing meaningful lectures and networking opportunities; continuing to build the Intermountain Graduate Research Symposium and drawing participants from across the Western U.S.

    In order to better serve the unique needs of graduate students, GSS offers several unique grants and awards.

We have designated funds for fall and spring semesters — first come, first serve — for students to travel to academic conferences.

Students must be first or second author on the presentation, as funding is limited. What funding is available should support first and second authors who put the most effort into the research being presented. Importantly, students must apply for funds prior to traveling.

It is recommended to apply at least one month before traveling to ensure there will be funds available and your application will be processed in a timely manner.

Funds of up to $300 are available up to two times for master’s students and up to three times for doctoral students, during the course of your academic career at USU.

Research and Projects Grants applications are currently being accepted for fall semester until Nov. 4.

This grant is specifically designated for graduate students who are not able to secure grant funding through other means and are in need of funds to purchase materials, etc.

Funds do not cover stipends or traveling for data collection, and applications including these items may not be considered for final review. Funding up to $1,000 can be awarded.

Applications are evaluated based on scholarly merit and the impact the research will have on society; applications are reviewed by the GSS vice president for Research and a committee of several GSS senators.

    Enhancement Awards are another type of financial service offered by the GSS. This award is unique, as it is not a research or travel grant.

The purpose of this award is to enhance the quality of life of graduate students and thus logically increase their ability to succeed, while recognizing their outstanding contributions.

These awards are based on scholarly merit, student involvement and demonstrated financial need. Enhancement Awards total $4,000 for each student selected.

The Intermountain Graduate Research Symposium (IGRS) is held annually at USU and is a place for graduate students to present their research at a regional conference promoting a friendly academic environment. This year, IGRS is scheduled for April 5-6, 2012.

Graduate students will be judged on their presentation and will be provided an opportunity to review feedback in order to improve their skills and abilities.

First and second place winners in each conference session will receive a designated prize.

As IGRS is a two-day conference, students have the opportunity to attend multiple sessions and seminars. A small registration fee will be assessed of $25, but it is recommended that graduate students check with their departments and/or advisers to see if this fee can be covered.

    As you can see, GSS is a valuable and important resource for graduate students on campus. Make sure to connect with the GSS Senator for your college — they are there to serve you. 

Article source: http://www.usustatesman.com/opinion-calling-all-usu-graduate-students-1.2662486

Proposed new rules on packaged bank accounts will protect consumers – Which4U

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) wants to tighten controls on accounts with monthly fees.

Packaged bank accounts tend to include add-ons such as travel insurance, mobile phone insurance and breakdown cover for a monthly fee ranging between £6.50 and £40. They have been under review recently as banks are not believed to be doing enough to ensure that the products are suitable for the customer.

According to financial data analysts Defaqto, the number of packaged accounts on the market has more than doubled in five years and almost one in five active adult accounts in the UK is packaged.

Among the FSA’s planned proposals is for banks and building societies who sell these accounts to ensure that customers require the additional policies and that they are adequately covered by them. It is estimated that one third of consumers with packaged accounts make no use of the additional benefits, and that some may not be covered by the policies.

Sheila Nicoll, the FSA’s policy director, said: “For some people, packaged accounts represent good value and convenience. But in other cases, customers may find that the insurance cover they have paid for is useless.

“We are concerned that it may be too easy at the moment for firms to sell customers something they do not understand or need. We want to make sure that packaged accounts are only being sold to customers who have actively decided it is the right product for them.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that regulation to ensure packaged bank accounts are suitable for customers’ needs will lead to a simplified product, and a forced drop in revenue from such account. David Morey, a PwC director, described packaged accounts as “a significant income generator in the UK”. “The FSA’s proposals will help to better define expectations for banks selling these accounts”, he added.

Packaged accounts do hold the advantage of allowing certain clients the opportunity for insurance that is otherwise quite difficult to obtain. But were this type of account to partially disband, considerable attention would towards free bank accounts and separate insurance products.


Why not check out Which4U’s comparison tables on bank accounts and insurance to see if you can find the best value from your products.


By Kate Guthrie

Article source: http://www.which4u.co.uk/bank-accounts/news/14824-proposed-new-rules-on-packaged-bank-accounts-will-protect-consumers

Insurance Quotes Software Recently Added to Popular Insurance Information …

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(EMAILWIRE.COM, October 31, 2011 )
Queensland, Australia — In response to the recent demand for fast and convenient insurance quotes, youronlineinsuranceagent.com is announcing its website that acts as a one stop resource for those seriously shopping for a wide variety of insurance policies.

Until the advent of the Internet shopping for insurance was an exhausting process. Not only did shoppers have to dodge an endless barrage of pushy salespeople but they also had to go through the process of obtaining quotes from each individual provider. Most of the time the process was so monotonous and time consuming that shoppers would just settle for whatever came easiest- never really knowing where to go for reputable insurance resources, and never really taking advantage of their bargaining power as the consumer.

Back then shoppers were under the thumb of the insurance companies, but today that dynamic has completely reversed. Today a shopper can simply go online and receive multiple insurance quotes from a variety of providers. They can then take those quotes and leverage their negotiation power; pitting one insurance company against the other until they obtain the absolute lowest price on the market.

On paper this seemed like a fail-safe process, but while it solved one problem it quickly created another. Today a flood of online insurance quotes websites have hit the market and very few of them provide supplementary advice about actually choosing the right insurance policy. They work under the philosophy that “cheaper is better,” but this isn’t necessarily the case.

“Your Online Insurance Agent” takes insurance quotes a step further by providing advice that goes beyond the first quote. The website stresses that seemingly inexpensive insurance plans are not always the best option: “Some of the more affordable health insurance quotes will be less money each month but could also come with high deductible and high co-insurance costs for the covered person or persons.”

The website suggests that researching beyond the first quote is essential for landing the right plan. It provides a huge database of article and reviews on categories such as affordable health insurance, car insurance, home owners insurance and travel insurance to name a few. “Finding the best insurance quotes takes time but it is also worth the effort put into the cause,” says the website.

Coupled with its new Insurance quote software the website provides shoppers with everything they need to get the absolute best insurance policies on the market. They can obtain quotes easily, research the best policies, and use their knowledge to make the insurance companies fight for their business. To learn more about your Online Insurance Agent, or to get a free quote, please visit: http://youronlineinsuranceagent.com/

About Your Online Insurance Agent:

Your online Insurance Agent was created in 2009 out of the need to provide consumers with an unbiased database of insurance information. The company has recently added multiple quote software to their website to provide quotes to consumers with as little invasive information as possible. The site was created with ease of use as its central purpose, and is expected to be one of the big hitters in the insurance quotes/information niche in 2012.




Article source: http://www.emailwire.com/release/72820-Insurance-Quotes-Software-Recently-Added-to-Popular-Insurance-Information-Website-youronlineinsuranceagentcom.html

Save on Travel With These Useful Sites

5 Useful Sites for Traveling WellTravel can be expensive, and travel planning can be time-consuming. But these five websites can cut down on how much you spend and help you make your time away from home perfect, right down to the view outside your hotel window.

Google Flight Search

If you have exact dates planned for a trip, Google’s airfare finder is a great first resource. One feature that sets Google Flight Search apart from other flight aggregators is that it lets you select multiple airports in an area, which can be particularly helpful if you have a flexible schedule. For example, if you’re flying into San Francisco, most flight aggregators will let you search for “all airports in the San Francisco area.” But this setting would include only SFO, Oakland, and maybe San Jose. With Google Flight Search, you can see whether cheaper flights pass through Monterey or Sacramento, only a 2-hour drive away.

5 Useful Sites for Traveling Well: Google Flight SearchOnce you’ve specified the terms of your trip (you can limit search returns by price as well), Google Flight Search instantaneously offers the lowest prices it can find, and it gives you a link to the airline’s website to book tickets. One disadvantage of using this site, however, is that its flight returns are totally automated, so if an airline sends out an email-only deal, you won’t see that superlow fare.


5 Useful Sites for Traveling Well: AirfarewatchdogThe big advantage that this site has over other airfare-finding sites is that it employs real people to find the lowest prices for airline tickets. This approach really pays off with airlines such as Southwest: Since that airline doesn’t allow its fares to be read by automated flight-price aggregators (such as Google Flight Search), the people employed by Airfarewatchdog manually enter the flight data they find on Southwest’s site and post the cheapest ones for their readers.

Airfarewatchdog doesn’t post the ticket prices for flights that are too expensive, or even regularly priced. Instead, you’ll find ticket prices only for flights that the staff considers good deals. As a result, one day you may not see any flights from SFO to JFK, for instance, and the next day you might see three or four. Finally, Airfarewatchdog is a great resource if you want to travel but you don’t know where. When you select your closest airport, the site will give you a list of the cheapest flights leaving over the next few months–for destinations ranging from Bangkok to Birmingham.

Room 77

5 Useful Sites for Traveling Well: Room 77If you’re a picky person when it comes to where you sleep, or if you’re planning a trip that needs to be just right, Room 77 is a great resource. It lets you preview rooms in select hotels in 32 cities. Although you can’t actually see inside the room via the site, you can see the view from the room’s window, so you can avoid having to stare at the neighboring coal refinery and make sure you get a nice view of the sunset over the river instead. You can even book rooms from the site based on what floor you’d like to be on, how important the view is, and how distant the room is from the elevator.


5 Useful Sites for Traveling Well: GadlingThis travel blog has been around for a while, but lately the daily posts have been more interesting than ever. You can find links to documentaries and travel essays that will thrill even armchair travelers. Gadling also has sections for budget travel and travel tech that can help out with planning for upcoming vacations. The site frequently posts guides to getting around specific cities, and a quick search on the site can give you ideas on how to spend an extra unplanned day on your itinerary. In addition, Gadling posts updates on travel destinations that might be undergoing some turmoil at the time (nevertheless, you should always check the U.S. Department of State’s travel guide if you think you might end up in a questionable country).


Airbnb attracted a lot of attention in 2011, not least because Ashton Kutcher fronted a chunk of the money to get the startup off the ground. The concept is simple: Travelers can rent spare rooms in the homes of locals, or even empty vacation houses, thereby saving money on hotel fees and getting a little taste of the culture in destinations as diverse as Istanbul, Rio, or New York. After the stay, the host and the guest can review each other, so future hosts and guests know what they’ll find when they meet. Airbnb also offers a separate search engine for monthly stays, so you can really get to know an area. Travelers have the option of paying through PayPal, so they don’t have to worry about giving credit card numbers to a complete stranger. It’s free for both hosts and travelers to sign up with Airbnb.

A quick heads-up, though: Over the summer, allegations of a few Airbnb travelers trashing a woman’s home bubbled up, and the company now includes an insurance policy for $50,000 against problem renters. As always, proceed with caution when hosting or renting from other people.

Article source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/242724/save_on_travel_with_these_useful_sites.html

Mission job creation | Myrtle Beach Regional EDC’s spending, progress

The infusion of cash from the county helped bump the group’s budget from $581,800 in the last fiscal year to more than $2.1 million this fiscal year, which started July 1. About $1.3 million of that money goes to non-operating expenses, including $200,000 for payments to another economic development group, the North Eastern Strategic Alliance; $500,000 to buy land and build buildings for prospective businesses; and $600,000 for closing funds to provide incentives. That $1.3 million is part of the $1.8 million the EDC gets yearly from Horry County over the next five years and the remaining $500,000 of that money goes toward the EDC operating budget.

With that extra money, the EDC has more than doubled its staff, attended tradeshows and conferences around the country, met with local businesses and boosted its marketing. The corporation also has set up guidelines for added incentives and is developing a plan for what properties to buy and potential buildings to build.

The goal is to bring at least 500 jobs to Horry County by October of next year – a promise new CEO Brad Lofton’s job rides on.

The economic development process is one that is usually slow, with prospective businesses courted and deals made over time. The EDC needs to speed up the process to bring jobs to the area, Lofton said.

“We can’t afford to sit back. We have got to be aggressive,” he said.

Despite the EDC’s unsuccessful track record, county and state leaders are optimistic that the agency will succeed in bringing jobs to Horry County, where the jobless rate is at 10.5 percent.

“Job creation is the most important thing we can do right now in Horry County to increase the wage base and improve employment,” said Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice. “It is a noble effort and we should do anything within reason to support it.”

County Councilman Gary Loftus said there is more economic development activity now than he’s seen in the past five to 10 years.

“Obviously we haven’t gotten any new announcements, that’s a given,” he said. “But I’m extremely encouraged by the positive activity. It’s refreshing.”

How the EDC is spending the money

The extra money from the county has allowed the EDC to try new strategies to lure businesses and help existing ones expand.

The group is funded not only through the public dollars, but with private money that comes through memberships, which covers the cost of feeding and entertaining prospective companies, the EDC says. Most economic development groups across the state are funded through some public-private partnership similar to Horry County’s EDC, said Amy Love, spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Commerce.

The department has noticed the changes the EDC has made by hiring a new economic development director and getting aggressive, Love said. Lofton started at the EDC in April.

Some examples of how the EDC is spending its money, and what it aims to get from the efforts:

•  Staff | The largest expenditure in the first three months of this budget year, July through September, was on personnel – which includes salaries, health insurance and retirement contributions – and amounted to $84,622.18, according to EDC financial statements.

Several of the increases in this year’s EDC budget were related to having additional staff. The EDC budgeted for additional furniture, office expenses and mileage to account for a larger staff. The personnel budget grew from $313,500 to $437,880. All building operations, office operations and personnel expenses are paid for with public money.

The EDC added a director of recruitment and a director of marketing and existing business and recently hired a contract employee to recruit new business members.

Kelly Stuart, the EDC’s director of recruitment who was hired in mid-August, has been on the road all but three business days in the past month at trade shows and conferences telling company officials and consultants about what Horry County has to offer.

Kate MacArthur, the director of marketing and existing businesses who started in early August, has met with local businesses to find out what their needs are and how the EDC can best support them. Existing businesses have long been responsible for more job growth than new companies, she said.

MacArthur has also been working on additional marketing, including a new website that should be up next week.

•  Marketing | The marketing budget was raised from $77,500 to $119,500, most of which is paid for with public funding, with the exception of the annual meeting, sponsorships and a new initiative dubbed Developers’ Days.

As part of its marketing, the corporation spent $573.33 on several gifts for prospective companies and consultants in the first three months of the budget year, including golf shirts, hats, embroidered beach towels and long-sleeve shirts. Those marketing materials are paid for with public money, as was a new marketing gift for aviation-related companies, a model plane. The EDC partnered with the airport on small planes branded with the International Technology and Aerospace Park logo, which cost a total of $8,455.94. The planes cost about $5,000 to design and cost about $283.33 apiece, including the marketing brochures that are sent with them.

Lofton said the EDC and the airport will be marketing the aerospace park, which is under construction near the Myrtle Beach International Airport, for years so they wanted something creative to send to businesses that might locate there. They will only go to companies with very big potential projects, he said.

“They were fairly expensive so we’re going to be very judicious with who we give them to,” Lofton said.

The EDC has spent about $5,000 of the $15,000 it budgeted for marketing items like the planes or shirts, he said.

•  Incentives | The EDC helped design new incentives for companies that will be funded with $600,000 in public money.

According to the incentives guidelines, a company is eligible to get $1,500 per job it creates, an additional $1,000 per job if it is a targeted industry and another $1,000 if the company locates its corporate headquarters in the area.

To qualify, a company must invest at least $2.5 million in Horry County and create at least 35 jobs that offer health care benefits and an average wage that at least meets the average county wage as of April, which was $534 a week, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At its last executive committee meeting, the EDC approved $110,000 in incentives for a business planning a move to the area that has requested to remain unidentified until the deal goes through.

•  Consultants | Even though the staff has expanded, Lofton and the executive board have decided that they need to bring on some additional specialists for certain tasks.

The EDC executive committee approved, pending a legal review, a $94,000 consulting contract with Strategic Development Group, Inc. to develop a plan for what land to buy, what to build and how to finance the projects. The EDC’s lawyer was reviewing the contract this week.

•  Travel | The EDC’s funding boost more than tripled the budget for prospect development and travel, which will allow the EDC to bring in more companies interested in the area and travel to more meetings that decision makers attend to tell them about the county.

The prospect development and travel budget is $65,000 for this year and the total recruitment budget is $73,500, up from $54,500 last year. Most of the recruitment budget, including the expenses for bringing prospective companies to the area or traveling to meet with them, are paid for with private funds, according to the EDC. The exception is announcements that companies are moving to the area, which are paid for with public funds.

Of that $65,000 budgeted for prospect development and travel, about $4,000 was spent between July and September, Lofton said.

•  Developers’ Days | The EDC has started a new initiative, Developers’ Days, which is an effort to get specialized site selection consultants to the county.

The first quarterly Developers’ Day last month, which brought six site selection consultants that work with technology and call centers, cost $12,431.11 for flights, hotels, helicopter tours, meals, activities and gifts and was paid for with private money.

The total almost matches the amount budgeted for the three Developers’ Days planned for the year so the EDC will look to get sponsorships to fund the other Developers’ Days, which will focus on aviation and marine, Lofton said.

The added funding has also allowed the budget to include $19,500 for existing industry support, an area that hadn’t been a previous focus, and $13,000 for special events, like lobbying and receptions, which also hadn’t been budgeted for in the past. Funding for those initiatives is paid for with private money.

The EDC is after jobs that have been determined to be the best fit for the area and is working to support companies that are already here, Lofton said.

Technology and call centers, aviation and aerospace companies, and marine-related businesses would fit here, according to studies.

About 30 prospective companies have visited Horry County in the six months since Lofton took the helm at the EDC, he said. The EDC has about 14 active projects in varying stages, he said.

Councilman Loftus said he expects results now that the county has given the EDC more funding to make things happen.

“County Council has set the table for the EDC to function effectively, which I think has been lacking in the past,” he said. “We have given them the tools to do some of the things that need to get done. … We’ve just got too darn much going for us now.”

Article source: http://www.thesunnews.com/2011/10/29/2471343/mission-job-creation-myrtle-beach.html

Credit cards offer plenty of advantages to the responsible

Debit cards h??? attracted plenty ?f negative attention lately fr?m consumers wary ?b??t ?n? added bank fees.

S? maybe ?t’s time t? focus more ?n th? benefits ?f credit cards.

Credit cards offer a number ?f advantages over th??r debit cousins ?n? ??n b? pretty ???????nt deals f?r people wh? regularly pay ?ff th??r balances.

Th? credit edge includes generally better rewards th?n debit, free small-term loans ?r grace periods, equal ?f n?t better fraud protection, few ?f ?n? “holds” placed b? rental-car companies ?n? others, ?n? th? ability t? build up a credit history w?th responsible ???.

Th?n here ?r? ??m? lesser-known perks, ??m? ?f wh??h ??n prove reasonably valuable. W?th th? holiday-shopping ?n? travel seasons approaching, ?t’s a ???????nt time t? review th??? benefits, wh??h apply ?f ??? ??? th? credit card ?n q???t??n t? m?k? ???r b??.

Price protection. Th?? ?? a ???????nt way t? minimize post-b?? regret, b?????? ?f ??? ??? ???r credit card t? b?? a upset th?t ??? later see selling f?r less money, many card issuers w??? refund th? ??ff?r?n??, provided ?t’s th? identical item f?r a specific period, typically 60 days. Th??? guarantees usually exclude air tickets, close-out sales ?n? online b???, ???? LowCards.com. Here m??ht b? a refund limit ?f $250 ?r ??.

B?? protection. Th?? provides a type ?f insurance f?r items accidentally h?rt ?r stolen, typically f?r 90 days. It ??n involve repairing ?r replacing ?n item ?r reimbursing ??? f?r ?t. B?t th? benefits ??n b? significant, w?th LowCards.com citing American Prompt’ coverage ?f up t? $1,000 per occurrence ?n? $50,000 per cardmember per year.

S?m? card issuers offer a different wrinkle w?th a “satisfaction guarantee,” allowing ??? t? return a product f?r a refund even ?f ?t’s still ?n ???????nt shape ?n? ?n working order. MasterCard, f?r instance, offers refunds worth up t? $250 within 60 days ?f b??, assuming th? merchant won’t give ??? a refund.

Miscellaneous perks. In addition t? rewards th?t accrue fr?m swiping cards, ??m? issuers provide access t? unusual ?r hard-t?-attend attractions. A? examples, LowCards.com cites periodic free museum admissions (Bank ?f America), ??rt??n theme-park discounts (Learn ?n? Citi), cooking classes, sports tickets ?n? adventures (??m? Chase cards) ?n? presale ?r preferred-seating concert tickets (American Prompt).

American Prompt ???? touts access t? ??rt??n top secret actions ?r experiences f?r Platinum card holders, citing ?? examples grape-stomping/wine harvesting ?n Napa Valley ?n? private portraits/studio tours b? renowned artists.

Extended warranties. Card issuers ?ft?n add a year ?f repair protection ?n ??rt??n items th?t’s ?n addition t? th? manufacturer’s ?wn guarantee.

Y?? don’t automatically need t? register ???r b??? ?n? warranties ?n th? credit-card website, b?t doing ?? ??n m?k? ?t simple t? retrieve warranty ?n rank wh?n needed. Extended-warranty coverage ?? commonplace ?m?n? card issuers, reports CreditKarma.com.

Rental-car insurance. Card issuers ?ft?n provide protection ?n stolen ?r h?rt autos th?t ??? rent, provided th?t ??? decline th? “collision h?rt waiver” ?t th? counter. Th?? ?? a benefit th?t pertains t? vehicle h?rt ?r loss ?n? doesn’t cover health check ?r personal liabilities. It typically supplements ???r regular auto insurance b? paying th? deductible ?r ?th?r unreimbursed costs. S?m? card issuers ???? pay “loss ?f ???? charges imposed b? rental-car companies f?r th? time a vehicle ?? ?n th? shop.

Oth?r travel perks. Various credit-card companies offer additional travel benefits ?n? protections including discounts ?n luggage-forwarding services, enhanced lost-luggage payments, airline baggage discounts, travel-preparation concierge services, trip-cancellation insurance f?r health check reasons ?n? towing-dispatch h???. S?m? ???? provide access t? th? airport clubs r?n b? various airlines.

Many provide insurance coverage ?f ????re accidentally k????? ?r sincerely injured wh??? traveling ?n planes, trains, buses ?r ?th?r public vehicles.

Special deals. Card issuers offer various promotions — involving discounts, enhanced rewards ?r both — ?n ??rt??n b???. An? th?? typically list th??? deals ?n th??r websites, ?? ?t pays t? check fr?m time t? time.

Th? Learn website, f?r instance, currently lists cash-back refunds ranging fr?m 5 t? 20 percent unfilled ?n b??? ?t more th?n 200 retailers, worth up t? $300 total. American Prompt h?? special promotions ?t nine Arizona malls, plus a haggle-free vehicle-buying program th?t comes w?th a low-price guarantee.

MasterCard’s online Marketplace ?n? th? website f?r Visa Signature ???? feature dozens ?f n?t hundreds ?f travel, restaurant ?n? ?th?r deals.

In small, credit-card perks ?r? numerous, valuable ?n? ?ft?n far fr?m obvious. B?t th?? won’t b? cost-effective ?f ??? ??t ???r interest charges mount.

Reach Guile ?t 602-444-8616 ?r russ.guile@arizonarepublic.com.

Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/business/articles/2011/10/29/20111029credit-card-advantages-wiles1030.html

Article source: http://www.zimguardian.com/?p=6451

Travel Troubleshooter: Rental deal had details missing

Q: We booked a Budget rental car in Israel through Expedia. When my father arrived in Tel Aviv to collect his car, Budget would not give him the vehicle without mandatory theft protection and collision damage waiver. Since the policies are mandatory, shouldn’t they have been included in Expedia’s prices? We had two other bookings through Expedia and Budget, which we tried to cancel. We couldn’t. (Expedia said we had an incorrect reservation number.)

We decided to go ahead and book through Budget directly, thinking it would be sorted out at the time of the car pickup. Big mistake. We were unfortunate enough to meet one of the rudest individuals I have encountered at the Budget car rental counter and he refused to honor the direct booking with Budget, only honoring the much more expensive Expedia one.

Can you help us?

? Marissa Barashi, Roselle, N.J.

A: Expedia should have quoted an all-inclusive rate when you booked your car. When it became clear that it didn’t, a quick call to the online agency should have fixed the problem.

Why? Because Expedia’s wide-ranging “promise” says it will help, guaranteeing that, “Whether you have questions about your itinerary or need help resolving a problem with the trip you booked, we’re here to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” (www.expedia.com/daily/highlights/Expedia-Promise/default.asp)

The online agency should have been able to retrieve your reservation through your full name, address or email. I have no idea what went wrong, but it’s pretty clear that Expedia didn’t keep its promise.

Some countries ? and Israel is one of them ? have mandatory insurance requirements. Those should have been noted when you made your reservation through Expedia. I checked the site after bringing your case to the company’s attention, and the insurance requirements are not disclosed until you click on the fine print, under “certain conditional charges.” Expedia can do better.

Budget shares some of the blame for your negative car rental experience. The rude employee you dealt with should have been more understanding of the situation and at least honored the less expensive reservation. If you’re ever in a situation like that again, try appealing to a manager or phoning the corporate office to make your case.

This problem could have been averted if Expedia had given you an all-in rate on the rental. Which is to say, insurance is required, and here’s the actual rate. It didn’t do that.

I contacted Expedia. The company agreed to reimburse you for the additional cost of the mandatory insurance you were required to buy. It also reviewed the details of your rental with Budget and threw in a $100 coupon by way of apology.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Christopher Elliott is the author of the book “Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals” (Wiley, $24.95, 256 pages). He’s also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or email him at chris@elliott.org.

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Article source: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/10/30/4012464/rental-deal-had-details-missing.html

Live: Qantas grounding cripples Australian air travel

Pilots' Union: Joyce is insane (Video Thumbnail)
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Australian air travel has been plunged into chaos following the grounding of all Qantas domestic and international aircraft in response to the ongoing workplace dispute. Get live updates here throughout the day. All times are in AEDT.

  • Latest information: Qantas | Virgin | Jetstar
  • Comments | Poll | Photos
  • Solve this dispute, demands Gillard
  • It’s all or nothing: Qantas CEO
  • Deal or no deal: Joyce rolls the dice

Have you been affected by the Qantas grounding? Are you stranded overseas? Message +61 424 767 764 or email us with information or images.

4.34pm: It’s too early to know how travel insurance companies will deal with the decision by Qantas to ground its fleet, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says.

  • “The decision by Qantas to withdraw all air services is unprecedented,” ICA CEO Rob Whelan said in a statement. “It is too early to determine the impact it will have on the insurance industry and on travellers who hold travel insurance policies. The insurance industry urges all parties to resolve this matter swiftly and provide certainty to the travelling public.”

At Sydney Airport, passengers Ann and Claudio Vasconcelos were caught up in the fiasco of the Qantas dispute while trying get to Brisbane and manged to get a flight only to Gold Coast with Jetstar.Click for more photos

Qantas fleet grounded

At Sydney Airport, passengers Ann and Claudio Vasconcelos were caught up in the fiasco of the Qantas dispute while trying get to Brisbane and manged to get a flight only to Gold Coast with Jetstar. Photo: Dean Sewell

  • At Sydney Airport, passengers Ann and Claudio Vasconcelos were caught up in the fiasco of the Qantas dispute while trying get to Brisbane and manged to get a flight only to Gold Coast with Jetstar.
  • A distraught German tourist who would not give her name is caught up in the Qantas dispute at Sydney Airport.
  • Long queues are seen at the Virgin Australia Domestic Terminal in Sydney on Sunday, after Qantas suspends flights.
  • Qantas Airways personnel talk with passengers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
  • The Qantas check in area is seen empty at Sydney International Airport on Sunday.
  • Qantas workers walk from an Airbus A380 jet at Sydney International Airport.
  • A passenger leaves the Qantas Domestic Terminal in Sydney.
  • A departures screen shows all Qantas flights as cancelled on October 29,  2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Getty Images
  • Qantas aircraft sit parked at the terminal on October 29, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Getty Images
  • Qantas grounds worldwide fleet. Pictures show Sydney Domestic Airport. Three year old Nevaeh Fetoai and mum Rebecca Morrison from Brisbane are stranded with no where to go. Photo by Steve Lunam
  • Passengers in Los Angeles who have been asked to disembark from their Qantas flight on the 19th of October.
  • A protestor holds a sign stating
  • Alan Joyce,  CEO of Qantas on October 18th at the University of Sydney.
  • Qantas shareholder Jack Tilburn arrives at the Qantas AGM at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW,  Sydney on the 28th October, 2011. Photo by Kate Geraghty
  • Qantas board members Brett Johnson (left), Qantas CEO Alan Joyce(centre) and Paul Rayner (right) at the Qantas AGM at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW, Sydney on the 28th October, 2011. Photo by Kate Geraghty
  • Qantas shareholders during  the Qantas AGM at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW, Sydney on the 28th of October, 2011. Photo by Kate Geraghty
  • ALAEA (Australian Licenced Aircraft Engineers Association) Federal Secretary Steve Purvinas speaks to the media outside the venue before the start of the Qantas annual general meeting at the University of NSW in Sydney on October 28, 2011 as protesters hold up placards. Photo by AFP
  • Protestors outside Qantas AGM at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW, Sydney on the 28th of October, 2011. Photo by Kate Geraghty
  • Tony Sheldon the National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union outside the Qantas AGM at the Sir John Clancy Auditorium, University of NSW, Sydney. 28th October, 2011. Photo by Kate Geraghty

4.27pm: The secretary of the international division of the Australian Flight Attendants’ Association says it’s not surprising the dispute between unions and Qantas has led to a lockout of workers.

“I had meetings with my members that finished about two weeks ago where I said that I expected that it would come to this … I’m not quite sure why people are surprised,” Michael Mijatov told AAP.

4.17pm: Sydney Morning Herald business editor Danny John has provided this insightful piece on Alan Joyce’s fractious relationship with Qantas staff.

  • There was already a fair amount of suspicion about Joyce’s agenda and his motives when he took over from the long-serving Geoff Dixon, having set up the low-cost offshoot, Jetstar, which not only undercut Qantas’ rivals but also the long term position of its parent airline.
    While the success of Jetstar earnt Joyce plaudits at the highest levels of Qantas and secured him the top job, it has come at the expense of a warm working relationship within the company.

4.06pm: ABC reporter Latika Bourke has been tweeting updates from inside the Fair Work Australia hearing, which recommenced at 2pm and is closed to cameras. Here’s a selection of her tweets:

  • Civil Safety Aviation Authority was becoming interested in the dispute re safety, says Qantas Exec Lyell Strambi.
  • Strambi ‘it’s a little bit of a blur’ on his conversation with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce about the decision to lock out.
  • Under cross-exam. Strambi says risk assessment conducted did look at the effects of a lock out of staff and accepts considered prior Oct20.
  • Strambi says the AGM Friday was ‘heightening tensions’ because of lots of rumours. Cross examiner asking if mood of unions was being tested.
  • [Cross-examiner] Moses says Pilots will seek a suspension of industrial action for 120 days.

3.54pm: For those of you worried about @alanjoyce (not the Qantas CEO but the Californian student who has been receiving ample hatemail on Twitter on behalf of his namesake) he recently tweeted:

  • Note: @QantasAirways has contacted me with a graceful apology. I should be thanking them for 300+ new followers :) .

3.38pm: Fair Work Australia used to be the Industrial Relations Commission. Its former commissioner, Jack Gregor, has described Qantas’ decision to ground flights as “inevitable”.

  • “When disputes are protracted, every time someone does something to bring it to a head. It is standard practice. It’s not something an employer would not do lightly. It shifts the pieces around on the board. After getting nowhere for ages someone had to do something different.”

Of a similar belief is the secretary of the international division of the Australian Flight Attendants’ Association, Michael Mijatov.

  • “I had meetings with my members that finished about two weeks ago where I said that I expected that it would come to this … I’m not quite sure why people are surprised.”

3.20pm: Fairfax business journalist Malcolm Maiden explains the key issues at stake in what he describes as “a huge roll of the dice” by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce:

  • “Joyce’s gamble is firstly that the pilots, engineers and the TWU will be pressured into negotiating a deal rather than submitting to arbitration. And secondly, he is gambling that if the disputes do go to arbitration, Qantas will be able to show that the pilots and engineers in particular are attempting to lock in work practices that new aircraft no longer require, and extend lucrative Qantas employment conditions down to the group’s discount airline, Jetstar, something Joyce and the Qantas board believe would destroy the economics of the Qantas network.”

3.16pm: A German backpacker has burst into tears after discovering her flight from Sydney to Cairns had been cancelled.

The distraught German tourist, who would not give her name, despairs as her flight is cancelled in Sydney. Photograph: Dean Sewell

The young woman said she had paid thousands of euros for her holiday and would now have to find another way of getting there.

After waiting in long queues at the ticket counters of the other two airlines, she finally manged to get flights on Jetstar from Newcastle to Brisbane then another to Cairns.

‘‘But I have to get on a train to Newcastle and I heard all the trains are full,’’ the backpacker said, before joining the throng headed for the train station.

3.07pm: Strategic Airlines has added four new flights to its schedule. The airline is selling flights between Brisbane and Perth for $499 and between Melbourne and Brisbane for $349. The new flight times are:

  • PERTH-BRISBANE: Flight VC 5501 departing Perth 1.15pm Sunday, arriving Brisbane 7.45pm
  • BRISBANE-PERTH: Flight VC 5502 departing Brisbane 8.45pm Sunday, arriving Perth 00.15 +1
  • MELBOURNE-BRISBANE: Flight VC5501 departing Melbourne 10.30am Monday, arriving in Brisbane 11.40 am
  • BRISBANE-MELBOURNE: Flight VC5502 departing Brisbane 1.00pm Monday, arriving in Melbourne 4.20 pm

3.03pm: Cricket Australia has had to delay the start of a Sheffield Shield game between Queensland and Western Australia due to interrupted travel plans. The match, scheduled to start at the WACA on Tuesday, will now begin on Wednesday. Additionally, the two Futures League matches scheduled to start tomorrow, South Australia v Victoria and also New South Wales v Western Australia, have been indefinitely postponed.

2.50pm: The government wants an end to Qantas industrial action in favour of conciliation processes, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told reporters.

Addressing the media in Perth, Ms Gillard said she feared the damage the dispute was doing to the national economy and that she hoped the FWA hearing would put an end to ongoing industrial action soon.

“I believe Australians want to see this dispute settled. I want to see it settled,” Ms Gillard said.

The government initially applied to terminate or suspend the industrial dispute but it now looks to have hardened its stance, with Ms Gillard repeating that she wanted the dispute to end.

‘‘The government is arguing for an end to industrial action before the commission … (and) after the end of industrial action, for there to be conciliation processes and if they do not work, for there ultimately to be a determination process to end the substantive matters in dispute,’’ she said.

‘‘So we are seeking an end to the industrial action.’’

    2.46pm: Far from a poisoned chalice, Qantas has instead handed Prime Minister Julia Gillard “the greatest opportunity of her prime ministership”, writes Australian Financial Review political editor Laura Tingle.

    2.36pm: Pilots say they have proof Qantas had been planning yesterday’s grounding for days: an email from Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan to all Jetstar staff.

    Mr Buchanan’s email was sent yesterday, telling staff it was business as usual, but the date on the memo was Wednesday, October 26 and addressed to team leaders, telling them they may be aware Qantas had announced a precautionary grounding of its fleet from 5pm on Saturday, ABC Radio reported.

    AIPA vice-president Richard Woodward said the memo showed management knew at the Qantas annual general meeting on Friday they would shut down operations.

    2.33pm: The Qantas dispute by the numbers, as at early this afternoon:

    • About 108 aircraft affected
    • About 447 flights have been cancelled
    • More than 68,000 customers affected since grounding at 5pm (AEDT) Saturday.

    2.15pm: Qantas is not the only airline which has flights grounded due to industrial unrest. Air France has also cancelled about 20 per cent of its flights because of a strike by flight attendants. The strike is affecting mostly short- and medium-haul flights out of French airports, but 10 long-haul flights were also cancelled on Saturday. One out of five flights on Sunday – about 200 flights – are also expected to be cancelled. The strike, in protest against cuts to cabin crews, comes during an extended school holiday and during a long weekend in France.

    2.09pm: In a last-minute interview on his way into the FWA hearing that began at 2pm, ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence reiterated other union claims the Qantas decision to ground flights was premeditated.

    • “Clearly there has been a conspiracy here. Clearly this decision had been made for some time. Nobody believes the decision was made on Saturday and they have been preparing for it for some time.”

    2.03pm: As the FWA hearing gets back underway in Melbourne, another insight into the impact Qantas’ decision is having on travellers.

    • Candice Gallimore and her girlfriend Kylie Dunn were supposed to fly home to Sydney out of Brisbane on a 7pm Sunday flight after attending a wedding.
      Now they have to spend at least two more nights in Brisbane, miss out on pay from their workplaces and fork out almost double what they paid Qantas to get home.
      Ms Gallimore said there were no available flights tomorrow on Virgin or Jetstar and on Tuesday Jetstar was charging $299 per ticket. Virgin’s tickets range from $114 for the latest Tuesday flight to $299 for the earliest flight.
      “‘Qantas said they were going to refund us but we only paid about $100 per ticket,’’ said Ms Gallimore.
      ‘‘The cheapest ticket we can get (to get) back is about $160. I’m missing work and unless I am able to work out of Brisbane tomorrow I won’t be getting paid.
      ‘‘Either way this is costing us a lot of money.’’
      Ms Gallimore said she still had not spoken to anyone from Qantas after receiving a text message saying ‘‘Your flight QF553 has been cancelled, please call Qantas on 1300 659 116’’. She rang the number but hung up after being on hold for 20 minutes.

    1.58pm: No love lost between Bob Brown and Alan Joyce, with the Greens leader describing the Qantas chief as ‘‘selfish”, “arrogant’’ and “high handed”.

    Senator Brown called on the government to ensure there was a negotiated settlement between Qantas and the unions representing pilots, licensed engineers, and baggage, ground and catering staff.

    ‘‘It’s this government’s responsibility to see that there is a negotiated outcome, not a heavy-handed imposed outcome, which will see the loss of Australians out of the critical jobs that we have all come to rely on at Qantas as the airline is effectively re-based overseas,’’ he said.

    Describing Mr Joyce’s decision to ground the Qantas fleet, Senator Brown said: “It’s high handed, it’s arrogant and it’s going to lead to misery for Australian workers who have been with that airline far longer than Mr Joyce.”

    1.48pm: A reminder that the FWA hearing into the Qantas decision to ground its fleet will recommence at 2pm. The emergency hearing of the industrial umpire followed an application by the federal government under section 424 of the Fair Work Act. It went until 1.30am this morning, hearing from Qantas executives, with this afternoon’s instalment expected to see union representatives question management.

    1.42pm: A selection of tweets from @QantasAirways today with information for travellers:  

    • An online expense claim form is now available at http://bit.ly/uY129c.
    • If you’re overseas and have travel plans with Qantas in the next 24 hours international contact numbers are available http://bit.ly/dqaRvB
    • Jetconnect-operated Qantas flights over the Tasman are unaffected by lock-out and aircraft grounding.
    • If you hold a flexi fare then you can cancel your booking via the ‘Manage your booking’ application on http://qantas.com.

    1.38pm: Another sporting team caught up in the fallout: the Northern Territory ten-pin bowling team which has been visiting Rooty Hill for the Ten-Pin bowling championships.

    Coaches June Boukolos and Cheryl Munson said they had managed to buy Jetstar tickets online last night when they heard about the Qantas grounding, but they were worried their baggage may exceed the limit.

    Mrs Boukolos said it worked out to be $980 for two people to fly to Darwin and “we may have to pay excess baggage”.

    The team have been in NSW for three weeks and Mrs Boukolos was anxious to get back to see her husband, who is going into hospital for an operation tomorrow.

    1.32pm: Alternative means of transport are in high demand given the clamour for flights. 

     Sydney’s major car hire companies have been inundated as stranded Qantas travellers attempt to get home by road.

    “Our [car] yard is empty and that’s a first,” said an Avis employee when the Sydney Morning Herald called its enquiries line. “We are experiencing higher call volume than normal,” said Thrifty’s on-hold announcment, which kept us on hold for some time. The Hertz number was engaged and Rent-a-Bomb’s number rang out.

    A group of four disgruntled Qantas ticket holders keen to get home to families and jobs in Melbourne told the Herald they couldn’t get on a train to the Victorian capital until Tuesday. They had been fortunate enough to nab “Budget’s last car” said Bob Shephard. The group had disembarked a cruiseliner in Sydney today at 6am.

    Greyhound buses is also experiencing higher call volumes than normal, particularly for its Sydney to Melbourne and Melbourne to Adelaide routes. No additional services have been added as yet but the company is on standby and monitoring demand every 15 minutes.

    1.25pm: Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has announced Queensland will join the federal government’s application to Fair Work Australia to terminate all industrial action by Qantas and its employees. Meanwhile, Queensland Rail is also adding extra services north of the border.

    1.20pm: For those who missed Alan Joyce’s shock announcement yesterday, here is the full video of his press conference.

    Alan Joyce delivers his shock announcement that Qantas would ground its fleet on Saturday.

    1.14pm: TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon has addressed media outside the Qantas domestic terminal at Sydney airport, accusing Alan Joyce of premeditated action.

    • ‘‘This was a preconceived, pre-planned attack on the Qantas brand by Qantas management. Obviously their intention is to offshore this airline overseas… It’s not the appropriate time for (FWA) termination to be called because there is no industrial action presently being taken by the employees. This is a cynical attempt by Qantas to destroy the economy in one breath and to bludgeon the Australian workforce in the next.’’

    1pm: Jetstar says it will pick up some of the slack from the grounding of the Qantas fleet.

    The budget airline, a subsidiary of Qantas, has put on an extra Sydney to Melbourne service today and says it is exploring options to add more flights.

    A statement from the company said unsold seats on Jetstar flights were being offered to Qantas passengers at discounted prices.

    The airline admitted that limited availability meant overall prices were at the higher end of its normal fare range, but said bookings were already very high leading into this weekend, with average loads of up to 90 per cent.

    12.47pm: Barnaby Joyce says tourism businesses in his home state of Queensland may face closure due to the ongoing dispute. “There is only one thought going through my mind, and that is fix it and fix it as quickly as you possibly can,’’ he told reporters on the Gold Coast. ‘‘This is putting at risk so many businesses, not only the travelling public, but the tourist strips of Cairns, of the Gold Coast …. so many areas of our nation which are reliant on a vital piece of infrastructure.’’

    Senator Joyce also joined joins the ranks of Opposition MPs lining up to criticise the government’s inaction over the dispute. “They knew that Qantas was going to hit the deck, that they were going to ground the planes, so what did they do? They did nothing,’’ he told delegates.‘‘It was just a small fire in the curtains so let it burn for a while and it’ll go out. This is not how you run a government, this is out of control.”

    12.30pm: Out of protocol, the Prime Minister’s press conference has focused solely on the soldier deaths in Afghanistan. We’re told Julia Gillard will address the Qantas crisis in a separate media conference this afternoon, following the Fair Work Australia hearing.

    On Afghanistan, Chief Political Correspondent Phillip Coorey reports that Ms Gillard said the murder of three Australian soldiers and the wounding of three others by a supposed ally was designed to erode the trust in the mission and that between Australian soldiers and the Afghan national army.

    Describing the incident as “a bitter day for Australia” Ms Gillard said the mission would continue as planned. She conceded the deaths – which bring to four the number of Australians killed by Afghan allies this year – would cause Australians to ask “deep and troubling questions”.

    But Ms Gillard said: “This does not change our mission”.

    12.12pm: Julia Gillard has begun her press conference in Perth. She has started by describing today as a “bitter day for Australia” in reference to the three soldiers killed and seven injured in Afghanistan overnight. It certainly puts the Qantas strife into a bit of perspective.

    Julia Gillard flanked by security in Perth. Photo: Andrew Meares

    11.56am: Prime ministers visiting Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting face being stranded in Perth because of the snap grounding of the Qantas fleet. CHOGM media director Daniel Gleeson has confirmed 17 heads of delegations had been booked to fly with Qantas and and that many had already been forced to make other travel arrangements.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron headed out on this morning on his own government jet. Prime Minister Julia Gillard will leave Perth on this afternoon on the government jet, ahead of parliament sitting in Canberra on Monday.

    Mr Gleeson would not confirm where the stranded delegates were from but said CHOGM participants were expected to start leaving Perth this afternoon once the summit was finished.

    As well as the delegates, media representatives and police officers could be affected by the cancellation of all Qantas flights. About 700 of the 1200 accredited media personnel covering the event are from interstate or overseas. Police officers from across Australia and New Zealand were flown to Perth to assist with security for the event.

    11.48am: More than 46,000 votes have been lodged on our online poll: Has Qantas gone too far by grounding its entire fleet and locking out workers engaged in industrial action? So far, 56 per cent of people say “yes”. Cast your vote now.

    11.44am: Famous last Qantas words in Bangkok: ‘Nothing to worry about’. Lindsay Murdoch reports that Claudia Braun was so afraid of being stranded in flood ravaged Bangkok she telephoned Qantas hours before flight QF2 left London for the Thai capital, a scheduled stopover on the way to Sydney.

    But almost 18 hours into the flight, shortly before QF2 was to land in Bangkok on Saturday night, she and 300 other passengers were told the flight was being suspended in the city that is under threat from the worst floods in half a century.

    11.41am: Julia Gillard will be holding a press conference on Qantas in Perth at 12 noon AEDT.

    Meanwhile in Brisbane, German travelers Diana Maus and Annette Moosbrugger are ending their four week Australian holiday with a 13-hour wait in the airport.

    A bad end to the holiday for Diana Maus and Annette Moosbrugger. Photo: Bridie Jabour

    They were supposed to fly home via Singapore and London at 1.40pm (Queensland time) on Qantas but have been moved to a 11.45pm Singapore Airlines flight.

    “I was on a boat yesterday and saw the news (about Qantas) but we didn’t know what was going to happen until we got here,” said Ms Moosbrugger. “We tried to ring the 13 13 13 number over and over but it was busy do we just came to the airport.”

    The pair said they were trying to decide what to do for the rest of the afternoon and night before their flight.

    “This can happen anywhere in the world,” said Ms Maus. “The workers have to do what they have to do for their rights.”

    11.28am: The federal government is livid at the Qantas grounding, with the Prime Minister and several of her cabinet colleagues hitting out at the snap decision by management over the past 24 hours.

    The latest to air his wrath is Assistant Treasurer, and former union heavyweight, Bill Shorten, who has branded the grounding a “radical overreaction” to the standoff between the airline and unions.

    • “In industrial disputes, sure employers have views and unions have views, but what I don’t support is the no-warning nature of what’s happened. Sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry has been grossly inconvenienced by this high-handed ambush of the passenger.
    • “If the unions had locked out the passengers, I would have been equally outraged. But in this case it is the Qantas management that has done, in my opinion, the premature and wrong thing when plenty could have been done in a sensible nature.”

    11.25am: Qantas passengers stranded in Adelaide may have to wait until Tuesday before they can fly out on alternative flights. Jane Hooper, who is trying to get home to Sydney from Adelaide Airport told AAP she waited in a Qantas service queue for an hour today before being put on a wait list that opens at noon.

    • “I have to wait until 12pm (CDT), that’s when they open up the wait list, if I don’t get that it will probably Tuesday before I can get a flight.”

    11.21am: In Perth, Herald Chief Political Correspondent Phillip Coorey reports that Julia Gillard has kicked all her staff off her prime ministerial jet to get ministers back from CHOGM to Canberra for the start of Parliament. The staff have been shunted onto Virgin flights instead after the government block booked a range of seats soon after the grounding was announced.

    John Lee. Photo: Dean Sewell

    11.13am: Two press conferences have just concluded at Sydney Airport. Tourism and Transport forum CEO John Lee said the grounding was having a terrible impact for Australia’s tourism reputation.

    • “This is not only about the future of an airline, it’s about workers and the people who want to fly. There are over a million people involved in the tourism industry, the tourism industry needs certainty. This is not good for brand Australia.
    • “Remember the airlines that have not adapted to change – Pan Am, TWA, Eastern – there are a plethora of airlines who wouldn’t adapt and change.”

    AIPA vice president Capt Richard Woodward said the decision to strand thousands of Qantas passengers was clearly premeditated. He said it was “unnecessary and arrogant in the extreme” and was pre-planned to escalate the dispute at the time of the CHOGM summit and in the lead-up to Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup.

    He also said that Qantas’s actions may be in breach of the Fair Work Australia Act. In terms of whether the pilots association would take legal action against Qantas, he said they were considering their position and that the legal team would be very busy.

    11.04am: So, here’s how the Qantas decision played out: 

    • 64 aircraft in the air at 5pm yesterday, 36 domestic and 28 international carrying more than 7000 passengers.
    • They  completed their sectors and then grounded.
    • 108 aircraft will be grounded in 22 airports.
    • 13,305 passengers booked to  fly Qantas to Australia between Saturday and Monday.
    • About 1310 international passengers due to fly on Saturday are thought to have been immediately affected.
    • Qantas says passengers will have their fares refunded or can change flights.
    • Jetstar, QantasLink and JetConnect are not affected.
    • Virgin Australia has added more flights; Greyhound have also put on more buses.

    Flight screens at Sydney’s Qantas domestic terminal. Photo: Getty Images

    11.00am: The Qantas topic on Twitter is red hot. Meanwhile, the Queensland Airline Industry coordinator for the TWU Peter Paulos has just finished a phone hook up with about 20 delegates from Cairns down to the Gold Coast. Mr Paulos said the meeting was about keeping their members updated and in the loop.

    “There is a lot of anger really for the damage that Alan Joyce is doing to the company and the brand and to the public,” he said. “There’s 80,000 people stranded worldwide, it’s incredible, I really don’t understand it.

    “Maybe Alan Joyce is channelling Margaret Thatcher, I don’t know.” He said the workers were still calm and were not backing down from their “fight”.

    10.49am: Qantas domestic passengers are complaining on TV of not being kept informed by the airline about what is happening. But what is happening to Qantas pilots and crew who have been grounded overseas? Are they now  stranded too?

    One Sydneysider, who is stranded in Hong Kong, has emailed to say Qantas is asking passengers to share hotel rooms with strangers. “Qantas now has the gall to ask people who have been displaced to share accommodation with complete strangers in hotel rooms …  many people are very upset at this.”

    10.29am: Entrepreneur Dick Smith  says he is amazed that Qantas international is still in business. He wrote in the Telegraph: “It’s obvious that unless CEO Alan Joyce is allowed to make huge changes, the whole airline will go broke. I can’t understand why the unions don’t get that.”

    10.21am: The federal government should have staged an intervention in the escalating dispute between Qantas and its unions earlier, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell says. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has called on the federal government to use all of its powers to bring the dispute to a head, and get Qantas aircraft back into the sky “as quickly (and safely) as possible”.

    “Obviously the longer this dispute lasts, the worse it will be for our international reputation,” he told ABC Radio today.

    But Labor frontbencher Nicola Roxon told Sky TV that the industrial umpire – Fair Work Australia – should resolve the dispute, not the government.

    10.19am: Sky has reported that Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has just arrived at Sydney Airport and is thanking staff for all their efforts.

    Deserted … the Qantas terminal at Melbourne. Photo: Wayne Hawkins

    10.13am:  Asked on ABC TV this morning  if there was an “element of up yours” about executive salaries, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the airline was doing the right thing by employees with salary increases. He said the easiest thing for him to do would have been to give in to union demands but that would not be in the long-term interests of the company.

    10.11am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has been asked on ABC 24 about his salary. He said in 2009 he took a 30 per cent salary cut and a 20 per cent cut last year. He said he got paid less today than he did when he ran Jetstar four years ago, adding that he was not the nation’s highest paid CEO. He said his salary was not outrageous and there was a lot of misinformation about it.

    10:08am: “Sixty-eight thousand Australians and the tourism industry have been grossly inconvenienced by this high-handed ambush,” Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten told the ABC today. “There is no case for this radical overreaction. In industrial disputes, sure, employers have views and unions have views, but what I don’t support though is the no-warning nature of what’s happened.”

    10:07am:Flight Centre says it has called extra staff into its outlets to help Qantas passengers come up with alternative travel plans. The company’s managing director, Graham Turner, also took a swipe at the federal government for not sorting out the dispute before it reached this point. “Given domestic tourism’s importance to the Australian economy, the government should have acted sooner to protect this extremely valuable asset,” he said.

    10:06am: Mr Joyce said the airline’s international business was losing $200 million a year and it was getting worse. The airline had to adapt to survive. He said Qantas was one of the strongest airlines in the world.

    10.00am:Mr Joyce told ABC 24 that he felt he had to bring the dispute to a head. He said if Qantas had not taken the action now there would have a “slow roasting of Qantas” by the unions for another year.

    He apologised to customers affected by the dispute but said  he had been “overwhelmed” by the support the airline had received for the action it had taken.

    9.45am: Virgin has announced it will offer 3000 extra seats to help passengers stranded after Qantas grounded its fleet. Virgin is offering special “stranded passenger” fares for people who hold a Qantas ticket to return home within the next five days. The fares are offered at a 20 per cent discount on available “saver” fares on Virgin and Pacific Blue flights, for travel through to Thursday.

    9.43am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce will be interviewed live on ABC 24 at 10am AEDT. Will this give any insight into the intentions of the man who has stopped more than half of Australian aviation?

    9.37am: At the Brisbane Airport, Virgin is doing a booming business as Qantas customers line up to get on one of their flights. Cole and Deena Allen came to the airport and went straight to the Virgin desk to try to get the next flight to Melbourne.

    “We are actually just starting holidays and want to get down to Victoria to see our grandchildren,” said Mrs Allen. “We always book with Qantas because they are so reliable, or used to be.”

    Queues begin at the Virgin counter at Brisbane Airport.Photo: Bridie Jabour

    The problem with being on holidays is you don’t necessarily watch the news. While Brisbane Airport’s domestic Qantas terminal is generally very quiet this morning, a number of passengers are turning up with no idea the airline has been grounded.

    Passenger Jon Casson said he was shocked when he arrived for a flight to Melbourne and was told the fleet was grounded. “I don’t know what the hell Qantas are playing at but this seems a bit extreme,” he said. “The air hostess I spoke to seemed a bit worried too. I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

    9.34am: The airline’s decision has left many flyers venting their anger.

    • “To resolve this at the expense of paying customers on one of the biggest flying days in Australia is quite frankly … bizarre, unwarranted and unfair to the loyal customers that Australia has,” a businessman, who only gave his name as Barry, told Sky TV at Melbourne airport after he was stranded.
    • Zoe Johnson, an Australian living in Switzerland, said: “I’m proudly Australian but it just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth. So many people say, ‘I’m never going to fly Qantas again’, and from my point of view its just feels like a kind of bullying tactic really.”

    Qantas is a member of the OneWorld airline alliance, which includes Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malev, Mexicana, Royal Jordanian and S7 Air. Alliance members often use partners’ routes and flights to shore up their own networks. Cathay has already warned its own passengers of potential disruptions on Qantas connections.

    9.26am: Never one to miss an opportunity, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has laid the blame for today’s industrial chaos at Qantas squarely at the feet of the Gillard government. He said Australia’s international reputation was suffering the longer the dispute dragged on.

    • “When you’ve got tens of thousands of people stranded, who are away from home, and you have tens of thousands who can’t get to work, you’ve obviously got a very serious situation on your hands, this is why airlines are an essential service in a modern economy. This is where the government’s irresponsibility kicks in.
    • “The government has been asleep at the wheel for weeks, they’ve been informed, but not alarmed, but nothing has happened in the meantime … it’s come to a catastrophic head for Australians. This is not a policy problem. This is a competency problem on the part of the government.”

    9.01am: Air New Zealand says it is also considering adding extra trans-Tasman flights to help stranded travellers. The company says it will know what it can offer by this afternoon. A plan being hatched with partners Virgin would see Air NZ replace Virgin flights flying to and from New Zealand, so Virgin can reschedule the flights to fly domestically in Australia.

    8.46am: “The number you have dialled is either busy or has not been answered …”

    We just tried an experiment – we were going to see how long we had to wait on hold on Qantas’ 131313 number, but we couldn’t even get through. Feeling for all those Australians experiencing phone rage about now.

    8.40am: Virgin Australia has responded to the problems plaguing Qantas passengers this morning, offering discounted ‘Stranded Passenger’ fares for those stuck at a port away from home. The fares will cost 20 per cent less than available Saver fares on Virgin Australia and Pacific Blue flights, for travel through to next Thursday, November 3. The airline advises these fares may not be available on all flights. More information here.

    8.37am: Amid all the serious ramifications of this industrial dispute, a bit of humour. Alan Joyce, a Californian student, responds to all the hate he’s receiving on Twitter.

    8.26am: Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has again defended the airline’s stance on Sky News this morning. He says Fair Work Australia would need to order a termination of industrial action from the airline’s unions to get the Flying Kangaroo back in the air.

    •  “A termination stops the lockout, but we have to make a decision about putting the airline back in the air. A suspension may not necessarily mean the airline gets back in the air. If it’s a suspension, we cannot put the planes back in the air without having certainty. A termination gives us certainty, a suspension, depending on what the suspension looks like, does not necessarily give us certainty.”

    Mr Joyce denied that the strategy in grounding the airline was to push the federal government to intervene.

    8.11am: Qantas last updated its advice to customers at 11.20pm last night. The full statement is here, a few highlights below:

    • If your flight number falls within the range QF1400-2699 you are travelling with QantasLink and your flight is not affected by the grounding so you should travel to the airport as normal.
    • Qantas codeshares with a number of airlines, these carriers are continuing their operations as scheduled. These flights have both Qantas and alternative carrier flight numbers eg. QF319 and BA16.
    • Domestic customers: If you are away from home and between flights, Qantas will arrange accommodation, meals and transfers for you. If you are away from home and beginning your journey today, you will need to source your own accommodation.
    • International customers: Qantas will arrange accommodation, meals and transfers for you.

    8.03am: A recent tweet from @QantasAirways. Probably no surprises.

    • Qantas Reservations (131313) are experiencing extremely high call volumes. We’re very sorry for all affected customers.

    7.59am: Members of Australia’s cricket team have been caught up in the Qantas imbroglio as they attempt to return home from South Africa.

    Doug Bollinger, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson, Steve Smith and David Warner were last night having transfers arranged so they could get back to Australia as quickly as possible.

    7.46am: The ABC is reporting that the Qantas grounding has caused chaos at Singapore’s Changi airport, where many passengers are stuck at the terminal.

    The grounding has also reportedly stranded hundreds of passengers at London’s Heathrow airport and Frankfurt in Germany.

    7.41am: Some figures on the grounding:

    • In total 108 aircraft will be grounded in 22 airports around the world.
    • 13,305 passengers are booked to travel on Qantas planes from overseas ports to Australia between Saturday and Monday.
    • About 1310 international passengers due to fly on Saturday were thought to have been immediately affected.

    7.30am: Good morning everyone. We’ll be using this live blog today to try and keep you up-to-date with the situation surrounding Qantas grounding its entire fleet in response to industrial action from three unions: the Australian and International Pilots Association, Transport Workers Union and Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association. A wrap up of the situation from last night:

    • An emergency Fair Work Australia hearing went until 1.30am overnight, before being adjourned until 2pm today.
    • A reminder that QantasLink, Jetstar and Jet Connect are operating as normal.
    • Qantas says it may help with bookings on another airline, and accommodation but only those flying in the next 24 hours should call at this stage. Phone 131313.

    Article source: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/live-qantas-grounding-cripples-australian-air-travel-20111030-1mq0o.html

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