8.12.15

A minority in my own town

Today was just one of those days that has to be recorded, I don't know why, but it has to be recorded.

First I took my baby daughter to get her vaccines , a "Hexa Vaccine", which I really, really didn't want to because I read somewhere that some babies die because of it! Which is the exact opposite of what you want to read about a vaccine. 

We were also planning a "Rota Virus Vaccine," which has a chance to cause her intestines to collapse like a -you couldn't make this stuff up- telescope,  However remote the chance, you still don't want to hear about it!

With that in mind I walk into the health center -partially renovated by USAID funds- this morning and process our turn and pay the dues. A few minutes later, we get called into a room, and the pediatrician looks at our paperwork and tells her assistant that there are many Jordanians visiting the center today. 

Semantics dictate that the deduced norm is: not to have many Jordanians on any given day. I laughed and asked, and yes that center was usually overwhelmed with Syrians, because "they are the ones with all the kids." In an instant there was a range of emotions running through me.

I was proud that the center in sweileh is among many that have been trying to offer Syrian refugees in Jordan a chance at decent medical attention while running away from their war-torn country. Immediately followed by a -probably unnecessary- fear from over population or changing demographics,then a second later by need to act. 

I wanted to do something, the war in Syria has gone on long enough, surely these refugees deserve to go home, if only we could do something. Maybe the Jordanian government and people should back one of the sides, perhaps the resistance, or the regime. Anybody, to conclude the bloodshed and help tip the scales.

The resistance shouldn't be helped because we don't want the weapons to reach ISIS, or is that what the regime wants us to think. Are there true freedom fighters? or Are they all just terrorists? The regime has shed thousands of lives, damages countless areas and communities because it wants to stay in power and doesn't believe in freedom, or is that what the resistance wants us to believe. Are there not external forces trying to manipulate the resistance and damage Syria? Are these opposition forces not traitors by conspiring with outside forces? 

I don't know, but it needs to stop!

It was expected with the influx of refugees from Iraq, that there will pop-up some restaurants with a slightly tilted menu, or eateries that cater almost exclusively to a different tongue palette. But to have a waiter in one of the oldest restaurants in Amman (Jabri) call one of my favorite dishes by its Iraqi name Dolmah, was a bit too much, especially since he was Egyptian and the Egyptian name is very similar to the local name. Isn't it time that an inclusive democracy happens in Iraq, or maybe another Saddam comes in and settles the place down, either way, shouldn't Iraqis have a better life than trying to carve out an existence in the foreign cities of the world. 

Later in the day, I walked into the Civil Status and Passports Department(CSPD), in their new(ish) offices, to get a passport for my baby girl, walking up-to the front desk, I show the clerk my paperwork and he asks me one surprising question. "Are you Jordanian?"

Ofcourse, I am, am I not? I mean, the whole deal with this building was to provide paperwork to Jordanians and of-course some minorities who live here, but mainly Jordanians, no?

Well, it turns out that "Yes," is not a sufficient answer, I was further prodded on with " Jordanian Jordanian?" and yet again my head nodding and my feverish "Yes," didn't do it, I had to get asked a third time "Jordanian and a national number" which immediately brought more meaning to the words he was asking. 

See in Jordan, a national ID number gives you a 5-year passport, while those with ties to Palestine and claims on other identities have 2-year passports that require much more intensive paperwork and a much more time-consuming process. Others still have different claims and get different identification documents which could have burdensome procedures. This all warrants more visits to the CSPD.

Obviously, therefore, the majority of people visiting the CSPD would not be "Jordanian Jordanian" as the clerk so eloquently put it. They even have whole floors to their affairs. I felt bad for those too, and I wanted someone to act, if Syria had taken long enough and Iraq needs a solution then Palestine is ridiculous. Maybe then Amman will be inhabited by a large majority of Jordanians and foreigners will be a novelty again and Ammanis will stop their xenophobia and go back to their xenophilia for which they were once famous.

21.11.15

Guest Post - Sustenance of this aviation growth in the Middle East

This post was written for Stick and Rudder Blog

There is a a certain "je ne sais quoi" about Middle Eastern Aviation, Who is the largest operator of the behemoth Double-Decker that is the A380? Emirates. How about the B777? also Emirates. Then what about the B787-9? Etihad will be that guy in a few years. The A350? That honor goes to none other than Qatar Airways. So what does that mean to the region?

That is an audacious ambition, which is new to everybody across the aviation value chain, growth in aviation is usually much more gradual and organic, there is no model to copy from on how to double, triple or quadruple an airline in 10 years, nor is there such a guide for coping with such growth.

Airports

Abu Dhabi home to Etihad with a design capacity of 40 Million Pax (passengers), Dubai home to Emirates is already at 75 million capacity and Doha home to Qatar is planning to accommodate 50 million Pax, and Dubai are already building and operating DWC airport with initially 5 million pax and a long term target of 80-120 million Pax per year. All those airports are all within 200 Nautical Miles of each other.
This is similar to having LAX (Los Angeles), ORD (Chicago O'Hare) and JFK (New York) all fitted in the area between New York and Washington!

All three big hubs in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha, are fairly busy. Dubai being an extreme example of operating near capacity on its two runways. However, keep that in mind, all three airports have only two runways each. Think about that for a second, out of the top 5 airports in the world, only Heathrow and Dubai have two runways each.

Hartsfield-Jackson has 5, Haneda has 4, Beijing has 3. Dubai manged to outgrow Heathrow because of the amount of A380s it has coming in and out and the longer operating hours. Even in the top 10, Paris has 4, the Americans (Dallas and Chicago) have 8 and 9 while Los Angeles has 4, but that is just a different model of airports, you will need to go to the bottom of the top 10 to find airports like Hong Kong or Bangkok where two runways can be used efficiently to move that many airplanes.

The airports are all fairly recent, Doha's new airport having just opened up last year, and Dubai latest concourse is being built, Abu Dhabi's new terminal is still delayed but should open up in 2017-2018 and DWC is still a big question mark, but we are already hearing the airlines complaining that these will be capacity constrained and that satellites will be needed to meet that demand.


Airspace

The three airports will always need top class equipment, Air Traffic COntrollers (ATCOs) and infrastructure that is cutting edge to meet all that forecast demand. ATCOs are already an issue, some parts of the operation is being outsourced to folks like NATS, and their salaries are making it harder to retain them in adjacent countries, which is causing a rise in salaries; this is eventually causing a rise in the charges that these and other airlines pay.
The immediate surrounding region is presently facing pressure to cope with the number and size of aircraft that is moving in and out, Iran and Saudi are being pushed to redesign and work with the airlines to move away from the old designs that were implemented to meet traffic moving between Asia and Europe.

Infrastructure

The nominal infrastructure comprised of Airports, Runways, Navaids, etc... is there because it can be bought; the more important aspects are the process. Weather forecasts in the region are notoriously inaccurate, the disruption management processes are big playbooks, however, when push comes to shove, havoc rules. Processes are the biggest enablers in aviation, and each stakeholders in the value chain has hordes of manuals and checklists that will satisfy any audit or check, but adds no value when you really need it.

This region is obsessed with bigger, better, larger, longer, that it forgets that sometimes just sustaining the status quo is actually a pretty tedious task, doing it with a decent ROI is actually a great feat, that is not what we see in this part of the world. Growth is being done for the sake of growth and for the sake of diversifying investments.

Meanwhile, it is going to be a fun ten years if we remain in the aviation sector in the region.