Sunday, 13 April 2014

SeaWorld trainer dies in killer whale attack in Orlando


Dawn Brancheau's sister Diane Gross said SeaWorld ''was her dream''
A trainer at the SeaWorld park in Orlando, Florida, has died after being attacked by a killer whale.Witnesses said the orca had jumped and grabbed Dawn Brancheau by the waist from a poolside platform before dragging her underwater.
Guests were evacuated while fire crews tried to rescue the 40-year-old, but they were unable to revive her.
The killer whale, Tilikum, was also reportedly involved in the death of a female trainer in Canada in 1991.
Other orcas were also said to have attacked trainers at SeaWorld parks in 2006 and 2004.
'Shaking her violently'
Chuck Tompkins, SeaWorld parks' head of animal training, was quoted by Reuters news agency saying: "She was rubbing the killer whale's head, and [it] grabbed her and pulled her in."

Eyewitness Wayne Gillespie: 'The tail was thrashing hard'
SeaWorld said an investigation was under way into Wednesday afternoon's death of Ms Brancheau, a trainer with 16 years' experience.
Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office, said early accounts indicated she could have slipped and fallen into the tank.
He said it was too early to tell if she had been attacked by the 12,000lb (5,450kg) orca.
But witnesses told a different story.
Park visitor Victoria Biniak told a local TV channel that the trainer had just finished explaining to the audience what they were about to see.

Keiko the killer whale, star of Free Willy
The killer whale (Orcinus orca) is largest species of dolphin family
Known as orcas, they roam all the oceans, from the Arctic and Antarctic to tropical seas
Can specialise in particular prey: salmon, sea lions, seals, or walruses, even large whales
Considered under threat due to pollution, loss of prey and habitat
Despite its savage reputation, there have been very few documented attacks on humans
After success of 1993 film Free Willy, the movie's star Keiko was freed near his native Iceland
At that point, she said, the whale "took off really fast, and then he came back around to the glass, jumped up, grabbed the trainer by the waist and started shaking her violently. The last thing we saw was her shoe floating."
Audience member Eldon Skaggs told AP news agency the whale had "pulled her under and started swimming around with her".
A male spectator who witnessed the tragedy gave CNN a similar version of events.
Brazilian tourist Joao Lucio DeCosta Sobrinho and his girlfriend were at an underwater viewing area when they saw the whale with the trainer in its mouth.
The entertainment park, known for its killer whale, seal and dolphin displays, was closed after the incident. SeaWorld in San Diego also suspended its killer whale show.
Tilikum is said to have been involved in previous incidents, the BBC's Andy Gallacher reports from Florida.
A SeaWorld spokesman said the orca had been one of three whales blamed for killing a trainer in 1991 after she had fallen in a pool at a marine park in British Columbia, Canada.
Naked man
After the whale - nicknamed Telly - was sold to SeaWorld Orlando it was involved in a second incident when authorities discovered the body of a naked man lying across his back in 1999.
Officials later concluded the man, who had either crept into SeaWorld after closing time or hidden in the park until it closed, probably drowned after suffering hypothermia.

BBC's Andy Gallacher: Reports say this whale has a dubious past
There have been incidents involving other whales at SeaWorld.
In November 2006, a male trainer escaped with a broken foot after he was bitten and held underwater by a female killer whale during a show at SeaWorld's San Diego park.
In 2004, another whale at the company's San Antonio park attempted to bite a trainer, but he too escaped.
Though called a killer whale, the orca (Orcinus orca), is actually the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family.
Animal rights group Peta says it has long been asking SeaWorld to stop taking wild, ocean-going mammals and confining them to an area that, to them, is "the size of a bathtub".

Security 'bad news for sex drive'

Security 'bad news for sex drive'
Couple kissing
Differences in sexual appetite may be driven by evolution
A woman's sex drive begins to plummet once she is in a secure relationship, according to research. Researchers from Germany found that four years into a relationship, less than half of 30-year-old women wanted regular sex. Conversely, the team found a man's libido remained the same regardless of how long he had been in a relationship. Writing in the journal Human Nature, the scientists said the differences resulted from how humans had evolved.
For men, a good reason their sexual motivation to remain constant would be to guard against being cuckolded by another male
Dr Dietrich Klusmann
The researchers from Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital interviewed 530 men and women about their relationships. They found 60% of 30-year-old women wanted sex "often" at the beginning of a relationship, but within four years of the relationship this figure fell to under 50%, and after 20 years it dropped to about 20%. In contrast, they found the proportion of men wanting regular sex remained at between 60-80%, regardless of how long they had been in a relationship. Tenderness The study also revealed tenderness was important for women in a relationship. About 90% of women wanted tenderness, regardless of how long they had been in a relationship, but only 25% of men who had been in a relationship for 10 years said they were still seeking tenderness from their partner. Dr Dietrich Klusmann, lead author of the study and a psychologist from Hamburg-Eppendorf University Hospital, believed the differences were down to human evolution. He said: "For men, a good reason their sexual motivation to remain constant would be to guard against being cuckolded by another male." But women, he said, have evolved to have a high sex drive when they are initially in a relationship in order to form a "pair bond" with their partner. But, once this bond is sealed a woman's sexual appetite declines, he added. He said animal behaviour studies suggest this could be because females may be diverting their sexual interest towards other men, in order to secure the best combinations of genetic material for their offspring. Or, he said, this could be because limiting sex may boost their partner's interest in it. Professor George Fieldman, an evolutionary psychologist from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, said: "These findings seem to fit in with anecdotal studies and his explanations seem plausible.
"The rational for why a woman's sex drive declines may be down to supply and demand. If something is in infinite supply, the perceived value would drop."

Ukraine crisis: Casualties in Sloviansk gun battles


There was heavy gunfire as armed men took the police station in Kramatorsk

A Ukrainian officer has been killed in a gun battle with pro-Russian armed men in the eastern city of Sloviansk, the interior minister says.

Both sides suffered a number of casualties, Arsen Avakov said.

Pro-Russian forces took over Sloviansk on Saturday and have targeted at least four other cities, prompting Kiev to launch an "anti-terror operation".

Kiev and Western powers accuse Moscow of inciting the trouble. The Kremlin denies the charge.

US officials said on Saturday there had been a "concerted campaign" by forces with Russian support to undermine the authorities in Kiev.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned of "additional consequences" if Russia failed to make efforts to "de-escalate" and pull its troops back from Ukraine's border.

A man gestures while pro-Russian protesters gather at the police headquarters, while a military helicopter flies above, in Sloviansk April 13 Ukrainian forces used military helicopters in the their bid to shift the Sloviansk protesters

A pro-Russian protester holds a shield at a check point, with black smoke from burning tyres rising above, in Sloviansk April 13 Protesters burned tyres and bolstered their defences before the government operation began

But Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kiev government was "demonstrating its inability to take responsibility for the fate of the country".


The question that everybody is asking right now is what will happen next? We've heard about diplomatic moves - Russia, the US, the EU and Ukraine are supposed to meet later this week to try to defuse this crisis. But that looks like it's under threat.
The ultimate question is what Russia's next move will be. The Kremlin says it has "interests" in eastern Ukraine, where many Russian speakers live. And Russia had already warned Ukraine not to crack down on these militants.

He had warned earlier that any use of force in eastern Ukraine could scupper crisis talks due later this week.

Ukrainian officials were due to meet counterparts from Russia, the US and the EU in Geneva on Thursday.
'Shooting to kill'
On Saturday, armed men took over police stations and official buildings in Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Druzhkovka.

Unconfirmed reports suggested official buildings had also been taken over in two other cities - Mariupol and Yenakievo.

Similar accounts emerged from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk on Saturday of armed men dressed in camouflage arriving in buses and storming the police stations.

A pro-Russian supporter holds a Soviet flag in front of the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine April 13 Pro-Russian activists have blockaded the security services' office in Luhansk

Pro-Russian activists occupy the regional police office in Donetsk, April 12 In the regional capital, Donetsk, several public buildings have been occupied

Pro-Russian demonstrators also continued their occupation of the main administrative building in the regional capital Donetsk, which they have held for one week.

Crisis timeline

  • Nov 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych abandons an EU deal
  • Dec: Pro-EU protests erupt
  • 20-21 Feb 2014: Dozens killed in Kiev clashes
  • 22 Feb: Mr Yanukovych flees;
  • 27-28 Feb: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Crimea.
  • 16 Mar: Crimea voters choose to secede in disputed referendum: Russia later absorbs region
  • Apr: Pro-Russia activists take over government buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine

A protest leader told the BBC that the activists in Sloviansk took action to support the Donetsk sit-in.

BBC reporters in Sloviansk said the gunmen were well-organised and quickly established control throughout the town.

Checkpoints had been set up on the main roads into the town.

Mr Avakov labelled the actions a "display of aggression by Russia".

Announcing the operation to clear the activists, he warned people to stay in their homes in Sloviansk.

"The separatists are shooting to kill without warning against the approaching special forces," he said,

He later said Ukrainian forces had been attacked at a checkpoint on the way to Sloviansk, and at least one officer had been killed and five others wounded.

An unknown number of militants were also wounded, he said.

Witnesses at the police station say there is not yet any sign of clashes, and the centre of the town is quiet.

Eastern Ukraine has a large Russian-speaking population and has seen a series of protests since the ousting of Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Ukraine map

Are you in eastern Ukraine? Have you been affected by the unrest? You can email your experiences to using the subject line "Ukraine".

Or send us your experiences using the form below.

Send your pictures and videos to or text them to 61124 (UK) or +44 7624 800 100 (International). If you have a large file you can upload here.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Dubai rents rise despite new supply

Dubai: The upward pressure on Dubai’s residential rents continues to mount even as new homes are getting delivered in higher numbers — in the first three months of this year, rentals were up by 7 per cent over the fourth quarter of 2013. On a year-on-year basis, Dubai’s tenants may have seen a 23 per cent increase on average in what they are paying to their landlords, according to an update put out by consultant JLL.

Apartment rentals — and the most worrying for the vast majority of the city’s tenant base — recorded a 26 per cent annual gain, while those for villas were slightly muted at 12 per cent. The JLL forecasts, however, suggest that the pace of rental increase might be slowing down.

If it has to slow down appreciably, more of the immediate property supply needs to get into the hands of end-users. In the first quarter, around 1,800 units were handed over in the city and a further 24,000 are expected for the full year, based on JLL estimates.

In all, 39,000 homes are to be delivered in the next two years, which would be a 9 per cent increase over the existing total stock of 365,000 units in Dubai. The question would then be whether this represents a sufficiently large base to keep medium-term rental increases in some sort of check.

“Dubai’s momentum from 2013 has carried through into the first quarter of 2014,” said Craig Plumb, regional head of research at JLL.

For those tenants considering a shift to buying their own homes, the continuing sales value gains is a constant niggle. For instance, “affordable” residential communities went through some of the sharpest increases in asking prices. Sports City saw an upturn of 41 per cent on an year-on-year basis, according to JLL, while International City and Discovery Gardens were higher by 35 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.

Values in the prime locations of Downtown and Marina were up “only” 24 and 21 per cent respectively during the same period. In fact, trends indicate that in Marina, JBR and The Palm, prices are now near or already on par with their 2008 peaks.

“There are a lot more potential end-users in the market now interested in properties across the entire price spectrum whereas earlier they were mostly found in the Dh5 million plus bracket,” said Chandrakant Whabi, CEO of Acrohouse Properties.

“There is a lot more activity taking place in the Dh2-4 million property price category and that can be put down to those tenants seeking a home of their own. By getting in now, they also seem to be hedging against further value increases that would make it difficult for them to buy.

“For many, it could be that they had enough of being pushed around by landlords - that can prove an overwhelming sentiment driving future demand trajectory.”

Comments (33)

  1. Added 17:36 April 8, 2014
    The landlords are increasing the rent as per their wish and they are trying to justify that it is as per the rent index .There is no index to know whether the tenants can afford it or all the people working in different sectors and companies have sufficient income to pay.every year there is 5,10 15 even more percentage hike in rent and the salary remain same how this will balanced.
    ibrahim, Dubai, India
  2. Added 17:16 April 8, 2014
    In our Old Villa in Satwa, wherein we rented a very small partition, we received an increase of 20% without any renovation or a drop of paint to clean the walls, or an insect spray to kills the bed bugs, cleaning of water tank for maybe 20 years ,in short no, other changes but the increased of rent and DEWA bills. the moment expo winning announced-the ff day we received the noticed of increase in rent by 20 %...Miserable situation for us with meager income. Please consider our situation too.
    CORAZON TARCENA, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates
  3. Added 16:22 April 8, 2014
    There are lot of good works and foresighted actions happening in this place in the growth path. I hope the authorities will defenitely look into the aspect of unfair huge rent increases by land lords as well. The middle class people suffer due to huge increases of rent. Even in very old buildings without any modern facilities, the same standard of rent increase is used. But, there is no corresponding increase in salaries (except for the few lucky ones). Hope the authorities will look into this and rectify the loop holes.
    SA, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  4. Added 15:16 April 8, 2014
    Is there anyone who read this and takes action?.In Al Nahda sharjah I am paying 35,000 and now the rent will increase between 55,000 to 65,000. What type of an increase is this?. Owners says take it or leave. My Question is where is law? Simply now i am living with my family (Wife & Three Kids) i am spending almost my full salary here, if i will unable to servive, i will send my family to my home country and i will start to live alone here in this case definatly i can save money.In 2020 visitors will come for visit but what about residence visa holders they are living now i think no one thinking for us?.This will only promote to people to share flats/Villas, which is again against the rule and may be some serioues issues will arise. There should be some standard to rent the flat. Some rules and conditions to control the rental increase. Is there anyone who can help to control all this?. Please i have request to govt they should make strict rules regarding rent.
    Asif, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates
  5. Added 15:07 April 8, 2014
    As per RERA, the landlord is allowed to increase from 10%-20% depends on the area prices which are placed by RERA themselves. if the landlord is increasing any dhs above the 20% limit. you can go file a case against them and they will get into trouble. Been there done that. Dubai has order and laws, people just need to know them and follow them.
    Amer, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  6. Added 14:33 April 8, 2014
    As per latest reports from my friends, there are lot of vacant buildings and flats available. But every one thinks it will be rented out only at higher rate. But the problem is if we take these rents , we cannot pay at the end. there is no salary increase or benefits for last 5yrs.
    JACK, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  7. Added 14:30 April 8, 2014
    In my opinion, yes landlords are greedy, specially owners of freehold properties who are themselves expatriates and have invested in property to make a profit. But the main driving factor behind this rent increase nuisance are the greedy real estate brokers. Seems they have not learnt any lesson from 2008. They are the ones who, in their endeavor to extract greater commissions from owners and tenants alike, keep showing greener pasture to the landlords. I bet you if RERA takes matters into their own hands by passing a law by way of which all properties for rent and sale can only pass through RERA and eliminate the real estate brokers from the equation, the rental market will definitely be corrected and brought to the position where it should be.
    Nasir, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  8. Added 14:00 April 8, 2014
    Think there is something inherently charecteristical and unique to property market in UAE particularly Dubai when it comes to what determines pricing.. it doesnt have a corelation between supply and demand but rather appears to have other factors influencing the ups and downs ( although rent going down is far from a possibility) such as rumour milling, sense of insecurity in jobs so a new tenant's first priority is to settle down whatver may be the cost, a strong perception that an expatriate tenant cannot easily win the case against a landlord or real estate holdings company etc.. In spite of being considered a tax haven , it is a paradox that more than half of the salary of an expatriate worker goes towards hiked up rents. You may have had lived in an apartment for 20 years but there is no way you can own it , another reason perhaps the most important reason for such a situation exists here
    Ismail Mohd, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  9. Added 13:56 April 8, 2014
    Why are thee people complaining.. why can't they just celebrate the winning of Expo 2020 on the streets in the evening, go to work in the day time ...spent the hard earned money in the evenings.... so that life in Dubai is like Alice in Wanderland!!!
    Bhakthavar Khan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  10. Added 13:44 April 8, 2014
    I laud the UAE for winning the Expo 2020. However, can someone please explain to me why the landlords are increasing their rents phenomenally and giving Expo 2020 as an excuse. The Expo shall take place only 6 years later and how this has any bearing on existing rents, is beyond me. Some action should be taken by the government to curb this.
    Seema R, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Driverless cars inch their way closer to reality


  • Image Credit: Dana A. Shams/Gulf News

Cars that drive themselves? A few years ago, this would have been science fiction. Not so far-fetched now.
Aircrafts have had a autopilot for a long time now. In fact, a lot of the technology such as cameras, sensors, radars and imaging systems required to build truly autonomous vehicles are already available.
Multiple experimental vehicles are being tested for varying levels of operational autonomy. Google’s technology has driven a Toyota Prius over 300,000 kilometres around the US without a single technology caused accident. General Motors, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW and Volvo are all testing their own full or partial autonomous systems.
Volvo has launched the ‘autonomous valet parking cars’ in Europe. Nissan recently committed to launch an ‘Autonomous Drive’ system by 2020. The transition is inevitable. We do expect it to happen in a building block form like advanced driver assistance systems, park assist systems, or integrated vehicle health monitoring and autonomous systems
Moving from Point A to Point B involves planning and decision-making about mode of transport, routes, times, safety, comfort, weather, luxury and convenience. However, it is a fact that a significant percentage of road accidents stem from human errors. Making vehicles autonomous globally could be around $300-400 billion of economic impact if you take into account loss of human life, their economic impact to the society and the allied claims.
There is a lot to be gained by removing humans from driving. There is no reason that technology cannot make roads driver-free as seen in cases of trains/locomotives and aircrafts in autopilot mode.
The question is can we make it affordable, safer and easy to use and bound by regulations which itself is evolving? Nevertheless, the sheer number of people around the globe who will be affected by autonomous vehicles is staggering.
Apart from the primary technology required to actually build a road-safe autonomous vehicle, we can safely foresee huge regulatory and infrastructure challenges. Autonomous vehicles make more sense only if the infrastructure also enables it. Just like electric vehicles required an ecosystem of charging points that could quickly charge a vehicle without bringing down the grid, new infrastructure requirements such as intelligent traffic lights, smart lanes with sensors and automated parking infrastructure will accelerate the adoption of autonomous vehicles.
Countries conform to their own traffic rules and implement their own safety regulation. Any autonomous vehicle system must be ready to be tested and certified on any safety regulation around the globe. This is a massive challenge. Companies must be ready to programme and tailor their intelligent drive systems for different geographies which suit different cultures.
Also, such vehicles bring in a certain amount of threat to personal privacy. Autonomous vehicles are built with advanced sensing and tracking capabilities and are constantly monitored. While this feature is intended to complement vehicle performance, we cannot overlook the fact that this may create new security concerns and lend itself to commercial misuse.
Finally, there is the challenge of customer adoption. Will consumers adopt something that will change a fundamental way of life? Can someone give up driving as a passion? This final hurdle could well be the biggest one, but at the same time, everyone can enjoy the pleasure of being seated in the driver’s seat calmly without getting ruffled by the chaos of traffic.
Fuel efficiency has always been a USP for the automotive industry. Autonomous vehicles can provide better fuel efficiency because they are equipped with intelligent technologies that enable this.
Safety is one segment where autonomous vehicle can make their biggest impact. By eliminating human intervention altogether, autonomous cars with the proper intelligent infrastructure can reduce road accidents significantly.
Additionally, autonomous vehicles are believed to have the potential to shorten travel time and improve traffic flow. They can free up valuable driving time and enable car owners to complete other tasks while on the move or merely enjoy the ride.
How will the industry change? Technologically speaking, would a driverless car look like the cars of today? For instance, in a completely driverless car, do we need a steering wheel? Companies also need to think about how other innovations like fuel cells and nanotechnology can complement such autonomous vehicle even while reducing the cost.
Whatever the changes the industry can expect, we can safely assume that the role of ‘intelligence’ within such cars will be significantly greater than what they are today. Automotive companies must partner with companies that can help develop, test and implement this intelligence into the vehicles. Or could this create a new industry by itself?
The automotive industry has already been adapting to this change. It started with the inclusion and integration of electronics and Artificial Intelligence into cars.
Next-generation cars include electronics in everything from braking systems, engine system, power train, body controls to infotainment, enabled with advanced driver assist systems integrating with multiple types of sensor inputs, radar and image fusion and analytics. System architecture, aystem integration and system testing would be more challenging than ever before.
For autonomous vehicles to become a reality, these requirements will only increase. What is needed is a more agile automotive ecosystem that must create and adopt technology faster than before.
— The writer is the head for integrated engineering solutions at Tech Mahindra.

Oil markets swim in calm waters


The oil market has rarely been so quiet. Benchmark Brent has traded in a narrow range of $5 either side of $110 per barrel since the summer of 2012.
Price volatility has fallen to some of the lowest levels since crude futures markets were established in the early 1980s.
Oil prices have rarely been so stable for so long since the 1973 oil shock ended the long period of calm in the 1950s and 1960s and ushered in the era of OPEC dominance. Measured volatility in front-month Brent futures prices has been below average continuously for almost two years. For much of this time, volatility has actually been below the 25th and 10th percentiles of the 1988-2014 distribution.
Annualised volatility so far this year is running at 15 per cent or less, compared with an average of 30 per cent since 1988. Large daily price moves have become increasingly infrequent. Even major supply disruptions from the North Sea and Libya have failed to move prices.
Crude has moved into a new era in which confidence about plentiful shale oil from the US is more than enough to offset political risks emanating from the Middle East and production problems in other regions.
French mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, the leading expert on volatility, argued that commodity markets, like other financial assets, swing between a mild state and a wild one, alternating between periods of low and high volatility. But the oil market has been stuck in its current calm state for such an abnormally long period that it seems safe to infer that something fundamental has changed in the way oil prices trade and behave.
It is not hard to find the explanation. The period of high and rapidly rising prices between 2004 and early 2012, briefly interrupted in 2008 and 2009, has produced a profound “regime change”.
From the demand side, consumption of liquid transport fuels has peaked in the developed economies as automotive engines become more efficient and petroleum-derived gasoline and diesel are being partially replaced by biofuels. On the supply side, high prices have spurred development of shale and reversed the previous trend towards growing dependence on conventional oilfields in the Middle East and OPEC member states.
It has decisively altered the medium-term outlook in the minds of many producers, consumers and traders and reshaped what they consider to be the normal range for oil prices, something Paul Stevens at Chatham House calls traders’ “bands of belief”. One result is that there is now almost no discussion among market participants or in the media about oil and other fossil fuel reserves peaking or running out.
Controversy about speculation in the market has almost entirely disappeared as oil prices have stabilised. Another result is that investors have largely lost interest in buy-and-hold commodity strategies that relied on oil and other fuels becoming progressively more scarce and expensive.
The number of hedge funds specialising in oil has begun to fall, and institutional investors are allocating a smaller share of their portfolios to commodity-based products. Trading activity has shifted from banks, hedge funds and mutual funds specialising in trading outright prices to merchants and the trading desks of the major oil companies, which are expert at locational and quality arbitrage.
At a more global strategic level, the influence of traditional oil exporters around the Arabian Gulf is declining as alternative supplies become more available, now and in future. Political risk and other sources of supply-side risk are diminishing as oil supplies become more geographically diversified.
It is no coincidence that the oil market in 2014 is beginning to resemble the markets of the 1950s and 1960s, because that was the last time the US, with its large, stable and non-monopolised oil industry, was the marginal producer in the global oil market.
Oil markets are inherently cyclical. The long-term behaviour of oil prices owes more to Hyman Minsky (“Stabilising an unstable economy”) than Francis Fukuyama (“The end of history and the last man”).
The current calm will eventually sow the seeds of its own destruction as complacency grows. But in the meantime, the market appears firmly settled into a new era that is transforming the role of everyone involved in the production, transportation, refining, risk management and consumption of oil.

Heathrow losing top international passenger slot to Dubai

London: Heathrow is losing its top slot as the world’s busiest international passenger hub to Dubai, which the airport says reinforces its case for a third runway to protect UK competitiveness.

The number of passengers passing through the UK’s main air hub in March was down 2.8 per cent on March 2013 to 5.8 million, of whom 5.3 million were international, the airport announced on Friday.

Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said the decline was in line with expectations and largely because of Easter moving from March to April in 2014.

However, in March, Dubai reported higher international passenger numbers than Heathrow over a two-month period for the first time.

The Middle East hub that is home to Emirates Airline and flydubai said the expansion of the two operators was behind a rise of 11.7 per cent in its passenger traffic to 5.68 million in February from the same period last year. For the first two months of the year passenger numbers rose 13.5 per cent to 12.08 million.

The comparable figure for Heathrow for the past two months was 9.8 million international passengers.

Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports chief executive, said he expected Dubai International to overtake Heathrow in terms of international passenger numbers by 2015.


Heathrow is the world’s third biggest airport by total passenger numbers and was still the largest when measured by international passengers last year. However Matthews said Dubai’s forecast “shows that the UK will soon no longer have the world’s number one airport for international passenger traffic”.

“We want Britain to continue to compete globally against the best hub airports in the world, but without a third runway Heathrow’s comparative decline will make the whole of the UK a less attractive to do business.”

Stephen Furlong, airlines analyst at Davy, said it was not just Dubai that was threatening Heathrow’s position as the pre-eminent long-haul hub. “There’s Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Munich and others,” he said. “They’re all growing and some exponentially.”

Matthew’s comments come shortly after Gatwick published research arguing that it was the most appropriate site for another runway because the rise of low-cost airlines in Europe meant that the biggest demand was for short-haul flights.

The Airports Commission, set up by the government and chaired by Sir Howard Davies, in December shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick as potential locations for the UK’s next new runway and both airports are keen to be selected as the most suitable site.

The commission is also examining a proposal by Boris Johnson, mayor of London, to build a new hub in the Thames estuary.

Underlying basis

Furlong said that while the decision on where to build London’s next runway was political, “on an economic basis it’s hard to argue that Heathrow shouldn’t be allowed to grow”. “At the end of the day the long-haul hub for the UK is Heathrow.”

Heathrow’s 3 per cent passenger growth to 72.3 million last year was flattered by fewer people flying out of the airport in the run-up to and during the 2012 London Olympics. On an underlying basis, the number of passengers rose 2 per cent in 2013.

Gatwick, the UK’s second biggest airport, has said its passenger numbers rose 4 per cent to 35.4 million last year.

On Thursday, MPs said that the Christmas Eve flooding at Gatwick — during which 11,000 people were affected by delays and cancellations — should be a “wake-up call for airports across the UK” in tackling disruption.

“Disruption of whatever nature should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first,” the transport select committee said in a report.

Among Heathrow’s emerging market destinations, traffic to Mexico was up 19 per cent, China 11.67 per cent and Turkey 7.2 per cent.