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Travelers aren't always welcome, and some people let you know it
By CNNGo staff 13 April, 2012
world's rudest country to travelersTravelers love Paris, but do Parisians love them back?

Travel search site Skyscanner recently released a list of the world’s rudest nations for visitors, naming the countries whose smiley and friendly natives are apparently confined to their promotional videos.

The result, which lists 34 countries, is based on Skyscanner’s online poll, which received more than 1,200 responses from Europe, North America and Australia.

France, the champion of impoliteness

La Belle France was declared the champion of impoliteness, garnering nearly 20 percent of the total votes.

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pilotless plane
We may have to get used to scenes like this.

Boarding a plane that has no pilots in the cockpit -- scary or exciting? Fictional or the future?

This wacky idea has been put out there by aviation experts in Australia who are in the process of introducing what could be the first unmanned cargo flights.

A drones Harfang
Drone technology may be used to fly you to your holiday resort in a few decades.
Australian website news.com.au says unmanned civilian planes could be only a short step away from that, as “drone” technology made famous by the United States military becomes more widespread and advanced.

Instead of being piloted from a cockpit in the plane, associate professor Duncan Campbell, director of the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation at the Queensland University of Technology, told news.com.au that planes could be piloted remotely from the ground.

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LOUISE BURKE, The West Australian Updated July 13, 2012, 7:04 am
Thai take-off

Miniatur Wunderland: Picture for story on Thai Airways A380 Airbus launch in Hamburg. Picture: Louise Burke

A tiny tow truck backs into place and hitches up to the model Airbus A380, its tail freshly painted with the purple, yellow and pink of Thai Airways.

Once lined up on the runway the jumbo gathers pace, engines roaring before taking off and flying high-speed - straight into a wall.

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Substandard construction, inadequate design, cause delays, frustrate millions

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which opened only six years ago on what amounted to a swamp, is approaching a crisis stage with overcrowding and increasingly impaired runways, travelers and officials say.

Designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn Architects of Chicago, the airport was in trouble the day it opened, 25 km east of Bangkok, and has rarely been out of trouble. Its construction was widely believed to have been riddled with corruption and mismanagement. The terminal had to be reconfigured shortly after it opened, with offices having to be closed so the space could be converted into toilets. The facility was designed with a capacity of 45 million passengers when it was opened in September 2006, a year late at that point. It now handles 51 million passengers a year as Thailand’s tourism industry booms.

Although most airports have teething troubles, Suvarnabhumi has become a near legend for frustrated travelers. Some passengers were forced to wait up to four hours for their baggage to appear on the day it was inaugurated. Cracks began to appear in taxiways and runways almost before it opened and have continued regularly. Aviation and tourism executives have warned repeatedly that the government and the corruption-riddled Airports of Thailand, which administers the facility, must work to maintain safety standards.

The west runway closed for repairs 209 times in 2011 and has been closed 55 times since the beginning of 2012. The eastern one has been closed 66 times, mostly to repair existing cracks. The east runway is now expected to remain closed until Aug. 9 while repairs are made, with aircraft backing up overhead in holding patterns for up to an hour and more as they wait to land. In June, Cathay Pacific warned that there could be delays because of the runway would be closed for months of repairs.

“These are not the isolated sort of corrections expected at the opening of new projects. It is only 5-1/2 years old. These are deeply flawed, fundamental systems deficiencies reflective of a broader mentality,” wrote an engineer on the Thai Visa Forum website. “ The Thai government is trying to remedially correct them, which is always inferior to doing them correctly in the first place…Thailand's front door and calling card to the world is suffering signs of obsolescence.”

Officials insist that there are no safety concerns, and that the runways are constantly monitored for faults, hence the frequent closures while the problems are taken care of. There are growing fears, however, that piles which were sunk deep into the ground to support the runways on the waterlogged ground weren’t long enough. Two sinkholes two feet across and two inches deep were discovered in the west runway on July 5, causing apprehension that the soil underneath the runway was subsiding and resulting in a 50-minute closure. An airport official said the sinkholes were caused by water leaks, however. Flights by Thai International and other airlines were delayed, with four diverted to other airports while workmen struggled to take care of the sinkholes.

The subsoil is of major concern. The average Boeing 747-800, weighing nearly 340 tonnes, slams into a runway at a speed of 188 kilometers per hour. An Airbus A380 double-decker weighs in at 590 tonnes. At full capacity, the airport is designed to handle 76 flight operations per hour. Scores of planes land at Suvarnabhumi every day, with even single-aisle jets weighing 100 to 200 tonnes.

“A runway failure of this type should not be misconstrued as the problem,” wrote the engineer on the Thai Visa Forum website. ”A runway failure such as this is a symptom of a much greater problem, caused by a couple of likely sources. The higher probability is that inferior foundations are the most likely symptom… Less likely is an inferior runway slab itself….The key is the foundation.”

Beyond that, the Airport of Smiles appears to be anything but. It has been hit by a multiplicity of problems including power outages, escalators that often break down, inconvenient layout that requires passengers to walk long distances to jetways and many other inconveniences. The terminal’s roof leaks, air conditioning in the terminal is insufficient in Thailand’s baking tropical heat.

On June 22, a power outage took the airport’s control tower, the tallest in the world, out of operation, delaying takeoffs and landings for nearly 50 flights.

“In a country that prides itself on its hospitality, it is an airport that makes you feel unwelcome and unwanted,” one seasoned traveler told Asia Sentinel. “The terminal is miles long and too narrow, making it inconvenient to navigate. The toilets are small, dingy and hidden away. There is no free wi-fi. The restaurant choice is limited and the eating places are also tucked away at the end of vast corridors devoted to Prada and Hermes. It is in my view the worst new airport in Asia.”

One recent traveler on a flight in from Hong Kong said that as the plane circled for an hour, the pilot became increasingly sarcastic and angry with the situation but reassured passengers there was enough fuel.

“Last time I flew into Bangkok I noticed the storm drain beside the taxiway and apron was cracked, broken and twisted,” a passenger said. “It was falling apart, no different really to the state of the storm drains beside country roads after a few years or the concrete canal banks in Bangkok which have been under constant repair since at least 1995 because the concrete quality is so poor.”

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, told The Nation newspaper in Bangkok that the problems at the airport would hurt foreign travelers' confidence if they aren’t solved.

"The government should have clear measures to take care of the airport and air traffic in cases where unexpected situations arise,'' he said, adding that news of problems at the airport circulates around the world quickly, hurting the country's image.
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Cabinet yesterday approved a change to the Land Traffic Act that gives police the right to treat motorists who refuse to take an alcohol breath test without sound reason as drunk drivers.

Government spokeswoman Sansanee Nakpong said the Justice Ministry proposal aims to boost road safety and prevent accidents, and had passed the Council of State Office's consideration. It was approved by Cabinet and would be put to Parliament for consideration soon.

The draft would allow police to use flashlights or light-reflector devices to give traffic signals; to test if a motorists' ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or drug consumption; and to detain suspicious motorists who refuse to take a breath test without a sound reason. She said the draft allowed police to presume some motorists were drunk drivers
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Posted by on in Thailand

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and, more importantly, her advisers have taken the wrong tack on Suvarnabhumi airport.

Asked last weekend about even more flight delays and diversions, the premier tried again to simply wave off the concerns.

She said exactly what Airports of Thailand (AoT) authorities had said earlier. But waving away questioners and repeating "no problem" will not make this issue disappear. There is a problem, and it must be addressed, seriously.

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Suvarnabhumi airport general manager Somchai Sawasdeepon is insisting Thursday's subsidence on the western runway was caused by normal wear and tear.

An aircraft touches down at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday after repairs to an area on the western runway that subsided on Thursday night. During the repairs, hundreds of flights were delayed and 11 diverted. TAWEECHAI TAWATPAKORN

But airline managers yesterday questioned if the airfield had been built with proper civil engineering techniques and high-standard construction materials.

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The tourism industry in Asia-Pacific is expected to be affected by an increase in the UK's air passenger duty as it will drag down the number of European tourists travelling to the region, said the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).

Martin Craigs, chief executive of PATA, said the increase of the air passenger duty to 90 _ from 5 in 1994 _ would hurt sentiment and result in higher costs for outbound tourists from the UK to Asia-Pacific.

The air passenger duty (APD) is an excise tax charged on the carriage of passengers flying from a UK airport on an aircraft that has an authorised take-off weight of more than 10 tonnes or more than 20 passenger seats.

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Tourism operators have called on the government to clarify policies and measures aimed at achieving the target of boosting industry revenues to 2 trillion baht per year in 2015.

Tourism revenue was estimated at 1.14 trillion baht last year.

Business operators attending a workshop chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said the government must be clear about what it plans to do to reach the target.

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Two long-awaited international fashion brands _ Ralph Lauren and H&M _ are ready to debut in Thailand soon.

The American Ralph Lauren brand will open its first flagship store in Thailand at Central Embassy, the new complex at the Phloenchit intersection.

The H&M clothing chain, which has more bargain offerings, will anchor its first store with a two-storey unit at Siam Paragon in October.

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