UK AXES VISA APPLICATION AND SUPPORT SERVICES FROM BRITISH EMBASSIES ABROAD, GERMAN & ITALIAN LANGUAGE SUPPORT DROPPED. NOT CONSIDERED IMPORTANT!


Sinking ship? UK Visa services being axed from UK Embassies abroad.....

Visa services at British Embassies abroad are being axed!   UK Visa and Immigration Service can certainly pick the ideal time to announced a major change to its Visa Service, the whole operation is being outsourced to Sitel UK. Hopefully they can make a better go of it than Capita  did for the PIP Interviews. 

In addition languages offered are to be cut to just 8. German, Italian, Flemish and Dutch, are excluded which should help the UK exit strategy over Brexit, and email correspondence is now being charged for.

Visa services at British Embassies abroad axed. Someone has clearly not thought this out, just imagine if the Sitel UK computer has suffers a malfunction, just like the BA meltdown?  


This is the notice being sent from UKVI today:
 

How customers and agents contact UKVI is changing. From 1 June 2017 all customer enquiries from the UK and overseas will be handled by a new commercial partner Sitel UK.

The main changes for customers applying from outside the UK are:
  • All phone numbers and opening hours will change.
  • The number of languages offered is reducing to eight including English to reflect current usage.
  • Customers who contact UKVI by e-mail will be charged.
There are no changes to those who contact us from within the UK or to sponsor or premium services.

Charges and paying

Customers applying from outside the UK who choose to contact us by e-mail will now be charged £5.48 per e-mail. This includes the initial e-mail enquiry plus any follow-up e-mails to and from the contact centre relating to the same enquiry.

Phone calls for customers applying from outside the UK will be paid for as they are now, via credit or debit card. E-mails will be paid for by entering card details prior to submitting an enquiry.

Customers who do not have access to a credit or debit card may choose to use a trusted third party such as an agent or sponsor.

Opening hours for customers applying from outside the UK

Our English service phone line is open 24 hours Monday-Friday, with other languages available at times that reflect standard business hours where possible, see table below.


Language Number Opening hours (British Standard Time)
English+44 (0)203 481 1736Monday-Friday, 24 hours
Arabic+44 (0)203 481 1737Sunday-Thursday, 05.00-13.00
Cantonese+44 (0)203 481 1739Monday-Friday, 01.00-09.00
French+44 (0)203 481 1740Monday-Friday, 09.00-17.00
Hindi+44 (0)203 481 1741Monday-Friday, 04.00-12.00
Mandarin+44 (0)203 481 1742Monday-Friday, 01.00-09.00
Russian+44 (0)203 481 1743Monday-Friday, 06.00-14.00
Spanish+44 (0)203 481 1738Monday-Friday, 13.00-01.00

The new contract will see a number of changes for customers, to help the government reduce costs and ensure those who benefit directly from the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution.

Customers should continue to access immigration guidance and information through www.gov.uk.
British Embassies overseas are unable to help with visa related enquiries.
If you have any further questions, check our Q&A.
Regards
UK Visas & Immigration







JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com

BRITISH AIRWAYS COMPUTER MELTDOWN: THE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE SPEAKS TO A REPORTER SHOCK HORROR Julian Bray reports....




Another champion of failure....

BA COMPUTER MELTDOWN SKETCH by Julian Bray.

Perhaps it would have been easier (and possibly cheaper) to offer Willie Walsh boss of the Spanish/Anglo IAG Group (who now own the BA brand), the peninsular known as  Gibraltar rather than put some 300,000 British Airways passengers through the living hell, that is also known as BA Heathrow Terminal 5 and have it repeated at airports all over the world?  

Information Technology (IT) people will tell you that the Spanish Anglo owned British Airways isn't unique in having its services disrupted by a power surge; but it might be the first one to mute for a couple of days its current British Airways Spanish born Chairman and Chief Executive a Mr Cruz (now sporting in a media interview, a natty well trimmed beard and pristine pressed white shirt and a tres continentale double Windsor tie knot) clearly he didn't spend the last few nights in solidarity with his displaced and dispossessed BA customers, crouched on a thin yoga mat in a draughty airport terminal devoid of seating.

 Mr Alex Cruz does seem to have opted over the last few days, for self imposed purdah, only emerging to 'don' (see what we did there?) a new high viz vest whilst standing in his office, for his calming twitter released video to camera. 

Travellers will know is the law in Spain, that all car drivers must keep such a high viz vest on display inside the car, usually draped over the back of the drivers seat, so the Spanish police can always see it!  Expect to see the same on every BA plane sometime soon...

Some of our American cousins  Delta Air Lines suffered an outage in August 2016, when a basic powerline switch box into the company's headquarters failed, grounding flights worldwide.

Exceptionally unlucky, it also happened to Southwest Airlines a few weeks earlier, this time a network router was to blame.

British Airways has more than one data centre, and the same power surge could have damaged two sited close together.  But it does make you wonder how the surge has knocked out the entire BA network but hasn't touched any other brand in the IAG stable of airline brands?
  
 A few years ago BA coughed to the fact that it has data centres on sites adjacent to its Waterside global headquarters near Heathrow. 

The locations were we are told - leaked by suppliers in trade press releases - so we now learn British Airways uses dcTrack across its data centre infrastructure.

Keith Bott, is the BA Data centre service manager - if he hasn't been replaced by a TATA employed IT Tier 2 Visa holding person from India.  

Those data sites, house they say 500 data cabinets in six halls, but no one is saying how ancient ( or legacy ) they are, all very good but you would have expected in any Enterprise set up, a strong link to a viable disaster data recovery centre to be part of the plan?  

Mr Cruz, is saying they still do not know what happened and why the long standing comprehensive BA back up plan didn't work and simply failed to take over and save the day. 

Clearly Mr Cruz has power and vision beyond us mere mortals, as on the TV News he vowed this would never ever happen again? HOW ON EARTH DOES HE KNOW THIS?

A handout from the BA PR office arrives, who seem to have found the data key to dust off and unlock their Remington typewriters, locate the Tippex, ink up the Gestetner (or Banda spirit duplicator) first cutting the skins... (do keep up you need to be over 50 to understand this). Anyway the rose scented purple prose duly wafted off the paper:  

"When the customer disruption is completely over, we will undertake an exhaustive investigation to find out the exact circumstances and most importantly ensure that this can never happen again,"

The computer trade press not convinced, laconically tweeted,  that was probably Delta's intention too -- until its IT systems went down again in January 2017, it stopped 150 flights. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority brightly said "automation issues" had caused the cancellations.

Between ticket refunds and mounting compo. payments British Airways, like Delta before it, unable to rely on its back up systems and alternative power supplies are looking at a black hole of hundreds of millions in their forward balance sheets.

But computer experts the world over (particularly India) are chanting in unison, even businesses that aren't trying to juggle hundreds of planes in the air, capacity filled with humans and exotic fruit in the cargo bays,  would do well to test whether backup, failover and business continuity plans actually work before disaster strikes. 

If your own firm hasn't done so in the last few weeks perhaps now would be a good time to test it? Or at least switch the system on and off at the mains a few times, works for me.

Finally after my Skyped lunchtime slot on the excellent BBC TV News channel, and my minutes earlier home ISDN Broadcast studio delivered series of 18 local and regional BBC Radio live consecutive 7 minute 2-way broadcasts via the BBC GNS service on the BA shambles; the euro finally dropped and movement allegedly detected at BA headquarters in Spain.  No doubt the BBC has back up computer power aplenty, as everyone commented how good the communication channels were... to the extent, a very to the point email winged its way over a data system that is still working from a long standing British airways passenger,  Professor Ronald Barnett. We read, weep and feel your pain Ronald...
   

The Professor wrote:

Very interesting to see and hear you on the BBC news programme today, Mr Bray.  I would echo all you say.  May I add just a few quick points?

I am simply a member of the public and a 'frequent flyer' with BA.  Over recent years, I have witnessed and felt first-hand a decline in its offer to passengers.  

This includes - as well as the charging for food on short-haul flights and the compression of the seat pitch (which latter I didn't know about) - changing the tariff such that it becomes more difficult to protect one's 'silver card' status (even though I travel regularly around the world, I am bound to lose my silver card and so lose access to the One World lounges around the world).   When I lose that, I shall have no incentive to travel BA.  

There are numerous other examples of cost-cutting in the service on-board (even withdrawing the snacks available on long-haul flights, both with drinks and in the galley area, and reducing the quality of the environment in club class (so I have been told!)) and in the level of service in general (phone-calls are put through - with outsourcing - to India call centres, where staff - however willing - are not able to offer the level of service to which one is entitled).

I have spoken to cabin directors and (amazingly) a long phone conversation with the head of its marketing dept, and all sympathise with my perceptions.  And I gather that crew staff have seen major reductions in their conditions of service.  

I used to value flying with BA and did see it as possibly the world's best airline; but no longer.   To me, it has become simply an airline with very many budget characteristics.  Now, flying BA is simple a chore to be worked through.  It offers nothing special at all.  Indeed, quite to the contrary.  (Now, if I can, in flying to South America, I will fly LATAM in preference, for example.)

I gather that Mr Cruz and BA have been subject to masses of complaints from customers these past years but I also gather that those complaints go unanswered - and, more disturbingly, unheeded.

These changes to BA have had and are having an impact on my life.   Something has been lost.  And when I lose my silver card, that will be the end of any loyalty I have to BA.  Very sad.  (A twin sister of mine worked for BA for over 20 years so we have this loyalty to BA in the family.)  For me, the BA brand is now severely dented.

The recent news not only about the power 'outage' but also about BA's refusal to be questioned in public over this latest debacle and the little (or no) information provided to passengers waiting for hours simply fits with the 'budget' character that BA has now assumed.  There is a lack of regard and concern for its customers and for the public at large.

What is surprising is that a large corporation should adopt a set of policies that are bound deleteriously to change its brand, and send it downmarket.  The result is that the national carrier is now in a different and lower division as compared with other major national carriers. (That Mr Cruz is both CEO and Chairman of the Board may help to explain this situation.)

No need to come back to me on any of this - I know you will be extremely busy.  Just wanted to add my twopennyworth to your spot-on remarks.

Very kindly
(Professor) Ronald Barnett

 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Have you seen Alex Cruz?




Alex Cruz

Chairman and CEO
British Airways
 
Alex began his professional career at American Airlines in 1995, spending 5 years at the group with its travel technology arm, Sabre, in London, working with several European airlines.  In 2000, a partner at Arthur D Little, 2 years later sets up an aviation consulting firm.  In 2005, joins Accenture as head of aviation.
A year later (2006) starts up Clickair, a Barcelona-based budget airline, merging with Vueling in 2009 appointed Vueling’s Chairman and CEO. Vueling sold to International Airline Group (IAG) in 2013, Alex Cruz joins the IAG Management Committee. Three years later April 2016, Alex Cruz, Chairman and CEO of Spanish/Anglo owned British Airways.
He was a visiting lecturer at the IESE Business School Madrid and the ESADE Business & Law School in Barcelona.

Born in Bilbao, Spain. He has a degree in industrial engineering from Central Michigan University, an MSc from Ohio State University, and Business Management & Administration degree from Cox School of Business in Dallas.

He is married with four children and lives in .....  London.



JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com

Is Tata Consultancy Services holding out on the new British Airways senior management over a major IT problem?

IS 'TCS/BA SWIFT MRO' UTILISING TCS' PROPRIETY SOLUTION ACCELERATORS AT THE ROOT OF THE BRITISH AIRWAYS WORLDWIDE COMPUTER MELTDOWN?

 Hows my flight doing? This is what greets you on the BA website
at 08:29am Bank Holiday Monday....
Error 404--Not Found
From RFC 2068 Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.1:

10.4.5 404 Not Found

The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent.
If the server does not wish to make this information available to the client, the status code 403 (Forbidden) can be used instead.

The 410 (Gone) status code SHOULD be used if the server knows, through some internally configurable mechanism, that an old resource is permanently unavailable and has no forwarding address.


In September 2010, British Airways outsourced most of its IT and Computing to the Indian firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).


British Airways' Spanish boss Alex Cruz has been blamed for causing the computer meltdown that saw thousands of passengers stranded on Saturday after outsourcing hundreds of IT job to India.
Mr Cruz, who founded - just a few years ago the low-cost carrier Clickair and headed budget airline Vueling before being appointed British Airways chief last year, was accused of replacing highly-skilled British IT professionals with low-cost overseas workers and importing Indian IT consultants on Tier 2 visas to the UK to work on BA software and systems.
Julian Bray told Mail Online: 'I would have expected someone with major international airline experience to be put in charge, rather than someone who has been in charge of two smaller airlines, with an indifferent financial record.
'I don't feel he has the depth of knowledge required to inject radical competitive new thinking into the up-market British Airways brand.
'Cruz is known as being an outsourcer and cost-cutter, stripping out frills and cutting head count, and therefore not particularly suited to an upmarket, people-intensive, luxury-price brand.'
Mr Bray added that it is 'inconceivable' that a single power outage could have caused the meltdown, adding that it is 'ridiculous' that BA didn't have an appropriate backup system in place.

Alex Cruz is a Spanish businessman who was born in Bilbao before being schooled in America.

It was there that he landed his first job, with American Airlines, spending five years at Sabre, its travel technology arm, and another five in the core business. He then moved to the world of airline consultancy, spending some time at Accenture.
In 2006 he founded his own budget airline, Clickair, which operated out of Barcelona. Three years later it merged with competitor Vueling, with Mr Cruz becoming the group's new CEO.
After Vueling was bought by International Airline Group in 2013, Mr Cruz joined the IAG Management Committee.
Three years later he was named the new boss of British Airways, marking a considerable step-up from the smaller brands he managed in the past. 
Mick Rix, national officer at union GMB, also warned that British professionals on an average of £50,000 per year were being replaced by Indian workers allegedly being paid just £10,000.

One new theory rapidly gaining ground is that if something catastrophic has happened within TCS relating to the British Airways worldwide computer system, it could possibly be that Tata has not fully passed on all their proprietary information to their client British Airways, and for that reason BA are not offering their senior people for media interview, as they simply do not know what is happening.  


This theory is strengthened by the simple fact that none of the other IAG (BA's owners) computing systems have been affected and their services are operating normally.

This is what Tata and British Airways said in a formal media release at the time (we have reproduced it in full): 

LONDON, Sept. 29 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- In an industry which does not have a 'one size fits all' solution for its Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) functions, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) a leading IT services, business solutions and outsourcing organisation, has joined with British Airways to launch the industry's most cutting edge integrated IT solution, branded as " SWIFT MRO ."

This partnership brings to the market a tried and tested solution that addresses key MRO industry requirements, including compliance control, inventory management and maintenance operations.

The solution, based on the latest SAP platform, leverages British Airways' best practices with a focus on increasing productivity by minimising manual intervention and increasing process automation - all through a simplified Graphical User Interface (GUI). The solution focuses on eliminating non-value added activities and waste throughout MRO operations.  

Garry Copeland, British Airways' director of Engineering, said, "Having successfully implemented an engineering-wide system based on SAP, we have identified a number of opportunities to enhance the solution and make it significantly easier to implement and use.  Working with TCS, we have created a team that combines MRO industry experience with technology expertise to continually improve the effectiveness of our system, and believe we can offer this outstanding product to the market."

TCS and British Airways are bringing this to the MRO industry so that other organisations can benefit from an end-to-end solution, which is scalable to support both the current and future needs of the industry. The pre-configured solution also provides significant implementation costs savings compared to competing solutions, owing to the use of TCS' propriety solution accelerators.

"Evolving technologies and tougher regulations in the MRO industry mean that engineering and maintenance are becoming increasingly challenging. As proven through the advantages reaped by British Airways, SWIFT MRO will be a valuable tool for all organizations looking to improve functional performance in the MRO area while remaining efficient. Our continued collaboration will deliver continuous improvement to help us keep developing and enhancing the SWIFT MRO solution even further," said S. Sukanya , Head of Travel, Transportation and Hospitality, TCS.

About Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

Tata Consultancy Services is an IT services, business solutions and outsourcing organization that delivers real results to global businesses, ensuring a level of certainty no other firm can match. TCS offers a consulting-led, integrated portfolio of IT and IT-enabled services delivered through its unique Global Network Delivery Model, recognized as the benchmark of excellence in software development.

A part of the Tata Group, India's largest industrial conglomerate, TCS has over 160,000 of the world's best trained IT consultants in 42 countries. The company generated consolidated revenues of over US $6.3 billion for fiscal year ended March 31, 2010 and is listed on the National Stock Exchange and Bombay Stock Exchange in India. For more information, visit us at www.tcs.com.

About British Airways Engineering

British Airways Engineering has a global reputation for engineering excellence and its technical and logistics expertise supports airline operations on every continent, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. BA Engineering's core capabilities are centred on Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777 aircraft, plus the Airbus A320 family aircraft.   The company has also invested in three world class operations based in South Wales that are dedicated to delivering heavy maintenance, avionics and interiors. The extensive maintenance network extends overseas with 'line maintenance' stations established at airports around the globe. Again, these support British Airways and its subsidiaries together with a number of customer airlines.

BA Engineering provides full support for British Airways fleet and a number of other airlines, with around 4,000 staff at more than 100 locations around the world. Fully equipped hangar facilities at the main maintenance bases at Heathrow, Gatwick and Glasgow airports are supported by workshops, technical and design services, and a comprehensive logistics network.

The company has also invested in three world class operations based in South Wales that are dedicated to delivering heavy maintenance, avionics and interiors. The extensive maintenance network extends overseas with 'line maintenance' stations established at airports around the globe. Again, these support British Airways and its subsidiaries together with a number of customer airlines.

SOURCE Tata Consultancy Services

JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com Julian Bray told Mail Online:

British Airways worldwide computer meltdown.. 11 URGENT QUESTIONS FOR THE IAG BOARD. Lack of any meaningful communication by BA management angers stranded passengers



Only a few of these flying today.... computer says 'NO'

These are the 11 urgent questions that need to be put, and fully answered, to an emergency Board Meeting of the Anglo-Spanish FTSE 100-listed International Consolidated Airlines Group [IAG] (owners of the British Airways brand), by stakeholders, shareholders and BA customers:

1. Why did the non - British born CEO of BA,  wait for some six hours before even issuing a bland video holding statement via the BA Twitter account, and repeatedly refuse media requests for clarification interviews? And is he way out of his depth, considering his previous employment record...

2. What happened to the airlines public relations department, do they not have individual  iphones? Were they gagged?

3. Why did Willie Walsh not PERSONALLY step in within the hour, to offer clear leadership, compensation and clarity?

4. Did anyone try turning the computer main switch on and off and check the fuse box?

5. Is the fact that much of the BA computing operation ( says GMB Union) has been shipped out to India, a factor? (It's well known that at the start of Ramadan, people who strictly observe daytime fasting,  tend to be 'somewhat grumpy' and 'not operating at their full capacity' in the early days of Ramadan...)

6. At which point, are check-in staff authorised to hand out bottles of water to thirsty, distressed over-heated passengers? And who physically gives that authorisation?

7. How is it possible in the 21st Century that the UK/Spanish owned airline branded British Airways, did not have immediate access to a back up disaster recovery system, (such as that operated by Fujitsu Systems and others) which should have clicked in and taken over the core function of the 'downed' BA computer within minutes?

8. How much of the current BA computer system is shared with other IAG brands, such as Iberia and Veuling, and if it is, why have they not been affected?


Is this still the legacy computer core of the BA computing system?


9. How much of the current BA computer system is an old legacy computer running software with lines of code, some probably written in the early 1960s' ?

10. How much of the BA centred computing system in percentage terms, is simply a 'smart front end' bolted onto a very old legacy computer core system?

I1.  It has been suggested during the Saturday night/Sunday morning Stephen Nolan Show on BBC5Live that the airline check in staff have no access to the Airport operators digital messaging and not authorised to use the airports  'Tannoy' audio services. Why?

Julian Bray Aviation Expert comments: The Anglo/Spanish owned British Airways has cancelled all flights scheduled to leave on Saturday from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports, after what they claim is a global IT systems meltdown, stretching credibility by citing power management and outage issues.

On Sunday morning BA advised frustrated Saturday travellers, who had not already rebooked, not to travel to the airport, as there would be no seats for them.

BA now advises passengers to first check with www.BA.com. The airline claims to be 'working towards a normal schedule' forgetting the small matter of the many thousands, who have been bumped off flights, or just told to stay away.    

Clearly nothing to do with the fact that the British Airways brand had outsourced much of their computer day-to-day operation to India, in the process issuing P45 to many long serving highly experienced  computing staff in the UK.

Currently the airline is claiming the power outage causing cancellations and delays (legally could possibly be viewed as 'exceptional circumstances' and absolving the airline from liability) could extend into Sunday and beyond, but with any extended delay, both pilots and cabin staff will run out of available hours, and the airline will have to substitute rosters with other pilots and cabin crew who can still fly.

In addition the airline knows full well, it'll take many days to physically recover and return the aircraft, as they are by now all out of position, somewhere in the world, and it will involve many dead leg (ie flying empty) manoeuvres to re-position their fleet.

And some may ask where will they get the pilots from?

Simply many BA pilots will have no regulated flying hours left, the backlog is mounting. Baggage, cargo and special freight is all affected.  Much of it to European destinations could however be trucked by road and still arrive ahead of the 'scheduled' BA aircraft. 

Total meltdown on a major holiday weekend too. A PR nightmare, but seemingly little or no effort being made to publicly inform in real time of what is going on...

Apparently the computer outage has also affected the airlines basic will to communicate with many thousands of intending travellers, causing an inability to hand out water bottles and validate meal vouchers. The passengers pictured forming human snakelike queues  winding its way out of the passenger terminals at major airports.

Clearly the airline needs to rapidly bulk charter (wet lease?) passenger and cargo aircraft and crews from other airlines. It is going to be an expensive operation and someone's head needs to roll..

The airline brand is owned by the Anglo-Spanish FTSE 100-listed International Consolidated Airlines Group [IAG] . .... Sell in May and go away they say... so time to sell perhaps?

UPDATE Midnight Saturday: It is now becoming clear, this is far more than a simple power issue. BA websites, Apps., digital sign systems and operational aircraft loading, flight plans, and baggage computing systems have all suffered a catastrophic failure.

So far some 300,000  passengers have been caught up in this mess. many are now bedding down on hard airport terminal floors rather than being accommodated in Hotels as they are entitled to be. Perhaps if the intending passengers have not been physically and digitally checked in, they arte not liable for compensation?    


Hopefully, the firm will now feel it can fully communicate at an earlier stage with its customers, and change standing operational orders giving its ground staff ( or contractors ) greater authority to declare an incident in order that EC compensation and other refunds can be authorised.

More as we get it...

Update: https://julianbrayrecessionbuster07944217476.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/is-tata-consultancy-services-holding.html 

JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment   Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com  

BROADCAST SECURITY EXPERT SPECULATION GETTING OUT OF HAND says expert....The UK international terrorist threat level is now at CRITICAL but that is only one of three markers...



Julian Bray Broadcaster and Security Analyst writes:

Wednesday May 24th SECURITY UPDATE (2)
 
As the result of a widespread media leak in the USA of vital UK crime scene photographs - some too graphic to show on this blog -it can now be said that Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi almost probably used a Karrimor branded backpack type rucksack to carry his bomb, and simply triggered the device with a switchpad held in his left hand; that switchpad almost certainly fitted with a remote detonation relay.  The  use of a jacket or waistband, as widely speculated by some commentators can now be virtually ruled out.
 
Scene of crime officers recovered fragments of the explosive device lightweight metal casing, you may recall the Boston Marathon bomber used a pressure cooker metal casing for his device.
 
They also recovered a small Yuasa 12 volt, 2.1amp sealed lead acid battery, the type that acts as a power back up for domestic burglar alarms and battery powered emergency lighting systems,  together with a trigger switch attached to a small circuit board.
 
The photographs clearly show the evidence before it was 'bagged and tagged' in the blood stained ticket hall/foyer of the Manchester Arena.
 
The technical skill required to construct such a device clearly indicated that more than a single deranged bomber was involved, most experts agree there had to be a team, suggesting Salman Abedi was part of a wider possibly 'sleeping' terrorist cell, this could have been in place for years, just waiting for the call... 
 
More urgently an expert bomb technician/constructor could still be roaming undetected within the UK.
 
The Crime scene photographs, say reliable sources, were leaked to the New York Times, having first been shared with US intelligence agencies by British investigators. The Home Secretary is said to be 'incandescent with rage' according to one close associate, as she had specifically asked for the pictures not to be used.
Other images, apparently show nuts and posidrive type screws ( packed around the device as shrapnel ) had penetrated metal doors and embedded in brickwork.
 

Wednesday May 24th SECURITY UPDATE:  It has to be of great concern to investigation teams, that some so called 'security experts' - mainly retired military - hired by some overseas broadcast organisations, and broadcasting into the UK, are putting forward some truly wild and alarming speculation, that does not line up with the physical conditions, on the ground in the UK.

For example the police have not so far released any information or pictures on the style or type of the device and have not indicated if it was self detonated by the suspect who died, or if the bomb was proximity pressure triggered or remotely detonated. (clue: Unidentified Explosive Device).

One gentleman in particular, who seems to be flying around several different studios, in the space of a couple of hours, has now gone on record asserting that an explosive jacket was used, elsewhere an explosive belt is the speculation, also the shrapnel used has gone from a few nuts to nuts, bolts, screws and nails.

Simply the speculation if given has to be realistic and proportionate and not just an alarmist, marketing pitch for service options offered by the security expert being interviewed.

Simply many victims and their families are currently going through a nightmare, and deserve some consideration. News editors and producers must bear in mind that when security experts get down to specifics, their view is pure worst case scenario speculation and nothing more.  The current situation is that a widespread all embracing international multi-agency investigation is underway.  


 
 
Julian Bray Broadcaster and Security Analyst writes: The Prime Minister has tonight raised the United Kingdom threat level from international terrorism to CRITICAL, meaning that we can expect some form of international terrorist attack immediately.
 
That is at anytime and expect the terrorist cells already resident to be active within our communities. It is generally recognised that building these terrible devices,  the bombers back up team tend to build several at a time.
 
The basic device will be the same, but variations and booby trap devices may be added to change the delivery and discharge style to suit the target to be attacked.
 
It could also be possibly that the trigger mechanism could be altered from a simple switch to a remote trigger possibly through a smartphone app.
 
This would ensure that if the potential bomber changed his/her mind at the last minute, the device would still be triggered.  
 
The Prime Minister didn't make it clear that she was taking about the International threat level, there are in fact three different threat calculations in operation at any one time.  
 
There are three different threat levels currently in force, each threat level dealing with a specific threat area. Currently the threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism, is set separately for Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).
 
The current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland is SEVERE, however the current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Britain is SUBSTANTIAL; which is one level up on SEVERE.
 
Clearly the authorities are not likely to tell us what they are planning to do in order to counter terrorism but expect to see an increasing use of available armed military personnel, army vehicles and specialist INTEL resources, working under police command and control. 
 
Multiple arrests and those individuals on the current watch lists both national and international can expect a call. We live in dangerous times, re-read that as very dangerous and liable to erupt at any time.
 
The UK Secret Service is in fact quite open and additional information can be found on the MI5 website.  
 
Members of the public should always remain alert to the danger of terrorism and report any suspicious activity to the police on 999 or the anti-terrorist hotline: 0800 789 321. If your information does not relate to an imminent threat, you can also contact MI5.

Current threat from international terrorism

The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is CRITICAL.



Current threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism

The threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism is set separately for Northern Ireland and Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland).
  • The current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Northern Ireland is SEVERE.
  • The current threat level for Northern Ireland-related terrorism in Britain is SUBSTANTIAL.

What the threat levels mean

Threat levels are designed to give a broad indication of the likelihood of a terrorist attack.
  • LOW means an attack is unlikely.
  • MODERATE means an attack is possible, but not likely
  • SUBSTANTIAL means an attack is a strong possibility
  • SEVERE means an attack is highly likely
  • CRITICAL means an attack is expected imminently

How are threat levels decided?

The threat level for the UK from international terrorism is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC).

MI5 is responsible for setting the threat levels from Irish and other domestic terrorism both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain.

In reaching a judgement on the appropriate threat level in any given circumstance several factors need to be taken into account.

These include:

Available intelligence. It is rare that specific threat information is available and can be relied upon. More often, judgements about the threat will be based on a wide range of information, which is often fragmentary, including the level and nature of current terrorist activity, comparison with events in other countries and previous attacks. Intelligence is only ever likely to reveal part of the picture.

Terrorist capability. An examination of what is known about the capabilities of the terrorists in question and the method they may use based on previous attacks or from intelligence. This would also analyse the potential scale of the attack.

Terrorist intentions. Using intelligence and publicly available information to examine the overall aims of the terrorists and the ways they may achieve them including what sort of targets they would consider attacking.

Timescale. The threat level expresses the likelihood of an attack in the near term. We know from past incidents that some attacks take years to plan, while others are put together more quickly. In the absence of specific intelligence, a judgement will need to be made about how close an attack might be to fruition. Threat levels do not have any set expiry date, but are regularly subject to review in order to ensure that they remain current.

How should you respond?

Threat levels in themselves do not require specific responses from the public. They are a tool for security practitioners working across different sectors of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and the police to use in determining what protective security response may be required.

Vigilance is vital regardless of the current national threat level. It is especially important given the current national threat. Sharing national threat levels with the general public keeps everyone informed. It explains the context for the various security measures (for example airport security or bag searches) which we may encounter in our daily lives.

If you have information about possible terrorist activity, call the Anti-Terrorist Hotline: 0800 789 321.

The Anti-Terrorist Hotline is for tip-offs and confidential information. For warnings about possible bombs or other urgent threats please call 999.


Threat level history

Since 2006, information about the national threat level has been available on the MI5 and Home Office websites. In September 2010 the threat levels for Northern Ireland-related terrorism were also made available.

DateThreat from international terrorismThreat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism
in Northern Irelandin Great Britain
23 May 2017CRITICALSEVERESUBSTANTIAL
11 May 2016SEVERESEVERESUBSTANTIAL
29 August 2014SEVERESEVEREMODERATE
24 October 2012SUBSTANTIALSEVEREMODERATE
11 July 2011SUBSTANTIALSEVERESUBSTANTIAL
24 September 2010SEVERESEVERE
(first published)
SUBSTANTIAL
(first published)
22 January 2010SEVERE  
20 July 2009SUBSTANTIAL  
4 July 2007SEVERE  
30 June 2007CRITICAL  
13 August 2006SEVERE  
10 August 2006CRITICAL  
1 August 2006SEVERE
(first published)


JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com

Ryanair cements new long-haul partnership with Air Europa, one of Spain's largest airlines.

 

           
The new agreement will enable Ryanair customers to book Air Europa long-haul flights on the Ryanair website, effectively adding 20 routes from Madrid, to sixteen  countries in North, Central and South America. Destinations include Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and the USA.

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
IAG's low-cost carrier Vueling, along with Spanish flag carrier Iberia.IAG's low-cost carrier Vueling, along with Spanish flag carrier Iberia.IAG's low-cost carrier Vueling, along with Spanish flag carrier Iberia.


To add to the woes of IAG who own low-cost Vueling , British Airways and Iberia, Ryanair said the second phase of its Air Europa partnership will be launched later this year, allowing its customers to connect onto Air Europa flights through Madrid.

Ryanair is also continuing discussions with a number of other long-haul airlines on prospective feed and connecting flight partnerships. It has already announced plans to team up with Norwegian.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, said:  "Ryanair operates over 50 short haul routes to/from Madrid and now our customers can book flights on Air Europa long haul routes to destinations including Buenos Aires, Havana and New York. This partnership is the latest 'Always Getting Better' enhancement. We continue to speak to a number of other long haul airlines about potential connecting flight partnerships and we look forward to offering our 130m customers an even greater choice and range of long haul services in 2018."

The chief executive of Globalia, which owns Air Europa, said the partnership allowed it to "strengthen our competitiveness", doubling Air Europa's connectivity in Europe, adding 53 cities.

Last month, the carrier's finance director Neil Sorahan said Ryanair could halt flights out of the UK "for a period of time" due to Brexit uncertainty hitting demand.
Sorahan warned that there could be "no flights for period of time between UK and Europe" if no bilateral arrangements are made.
  
Sources CityAM, BBCNews, CNS, AP, ENSA,Reuters
 
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com

MANCHESTER ARENA CONCERT 22 DIED AND 59 INJURED UNIDENTIFIED EXPLOSIVE DEVICE DETONATED BY LONE ATTACKER WHO WAS KILLED


+++ 14:00 hrs further updates on
BBCRADIO5LIVE





+++ Breaking News: 11:02am The nearby Arndale Centre, Manchester, a shopping mall, has been urgently evacuated 'with people seen running' A Man arrested, and bundled into a police van +++ A 23-year old male has been arrested in connection with the Manchester Arena Incident. 

EMERGENCY NUMBERS FOR RELATIVES:

0161 856 9400
0161 856 9900

ANTI-TERRORIST HOTLINE: 0800 789321

TALK IN CONFIDENCE

BLOOD DONER
(especially Type 'O')
APPEAL

0300 123 23 23

TWITTER @CCianhopkins

URGENT Police appeal for ANY smartphone images
and video clips, please send to:
or
People affected by the incident and needing assistance, information or advice this morning are advised to go to the Manchester Etihad Stadium Gate 11 where a reception centre ( with food, hot drinks, washing facilities, etc.) is operating.
Click to enlarge image
Julian Bray broadcaster and security analyst writes:

Last night Monday 22nd May 2017 Manchester Police were alerted at 10:33pm to an explosion detonated 'by a lone male attacker' at the Manchester Arena Concert Hall (which is connected to Manchester Victoria Railway Station), in the Ticket Hall area - now known to have killed 22 people, and seriously injured some 59 more. 

The serious injured are being treated at 8 hospitals in the region ( all have declared Major Incident Status and elected ( pre-booked) operations cancelled )  - The explosion was at the end of a concert by the American artiste Ariana Grande, she had just finished the last song 'Dangerous Woman'  of her set and in the process of leaving the stage.  

The capacity (circa. 21,000) audience of families (with many young daughters - which is Miss Grandes fan base) were making their way to the exits, when a muffled single explosion was heard, later confirmed to be an improvised explosive  device (IED), - later eye witness reports on BBC5 Live suggest the explosive device contained shrapnel in the form of metal nuts -  strapped to 'a lone male suicide bomber' who died in the ticket hall area.

Sources suggest the railway station direct access to the Arena did not have event security on duty ( as its railway property) and the lone male attacker used this as his entry point, suggesting that he or his associates, had made a dry-run to possibly scope out the area for any security access weak points, prior to the event.

As a result of the device he detonated. The device killed 22 concert goers and injured 59 more.  

It is not known if the male attacker was acting alone or part of a network, or if other threats are imminent The national threat level ( second highest ) remains unchanged at 'SEVERE'. ie 'an attack is highly likely' the highest level is termed 'Critical'. 

Speaking at 11am, this morning, following the first of two COBRA meetings to be held today, the Prime Minister confirmed the threat level would remain under review, but at the moment is it unchanged at 'SEVERE'. Mrs May also confirmed the authorities now know the identity of the deceased bomber, and that she would be travelling to Manchester later today. 

Repeated Tannoy announcements by Miss Grandes American management urging the departing audience to stay calm, but were severely undermined, by the smell of burning and according to eyewitnesses: 'hazy smoke - smelling like fireworks',  this provoked a rush for the exits, and widespread panic set in, with people screaming and crying, some injured in the scramble to escape the premises. 

Witnesses are now saying on camera, that little or no security was evident, and that not all bags were searched on entering the Arena.   

Emergency first responders were already making their way to the locus of the explosion within minutes of the first calls coming in at 10:33pm on Monday. Many children were severely injured.

Manchester police confirmed that over 400 officers were deployed overnight and additional specialist resources from all over the UK have been called in.

A police cordon has been thrown around both the Arena and the adjoining \Manchester Victoria railway station (the Station is CLOSED) 

General Election campaigning has been suspended until further notice. The SNP in Scotland have cancelled their Manifesto launch scheduled for later today.  A meeting of the COBRA Committee at 10 Downing Street will take place at 9:00am. 

The flag at No 10 has been lowered to half mast.   Airports and Ports are on high alert and extra security measures are already in place.     

The new Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham thanked emergency services who worked tirelessly overnight and to the people of Manchester who opened their doors to strangers and offered overnight accommodation and transport.  Other political figures have overnight been expressing messages of sympathy.  

BLOOD DONER URGENT APPEAL
0300 123 23 23
Mike Stredder, director of blood donation at NHSBT, said:
“We are responding to last night’s events in Manchester.
“Our thoughts are with the people affected by this tragic incident.
“We do have all the blood required for hospital patients at the present time; however, we are always keen to encourage new donors to register and existing donors to book an appointment which can be done at Blood.co.uk or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest session.
If you have an appointment to give blood in the next few days, please do your best to keep it, particularly if you are blood group O negative.”


Press Association at 0800am 23May 2017 reported:

Here is what we know so far about the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena:

22 people have died and 59 have been injured in the blast. Children are among the dead.
  • The explosion rocked the venue at the conclusion of a performance by the American star Ariana Grande. She tweeted that she was "broken" by the incident.
  • Greater Manchester Police said a lone male attacker, who died in the blast, was carrying an improvised explosive device which he detonated.
  • General Election campaigning has been suspended after the attack
  • Theresa May will chair a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee on Tuesday at 9am.
  • Emergency number for anyone concerned about loved ones is: 0161 856 9400


JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com

BREAKING NEWS

European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-18-6423_en.htm European Commission - Fact Sheet Protocol on Ireland and Northern Irel...