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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 10:07 GMT
Airlines fly into New Year

Boeing in flight Some airlines think it is safer to stay on the ground

The world's airlines say they expect to fly smoothly into the New Year - but their passengers aren't taking any chances.

Many airlines have cancelled flights due to lack of customer demand, while others say they are keeping planes on the ground just to be on the safe side, because of the unknown effects of the millennium bug.

British Airways says it will have just 15 flights in the air at midnight compared with more than 30 last New Year, while Virgin is not flying across midnight GMT.

Into 2000

"It's considerably down across the UK," said a spokeswoman for Britain's Civil Aviation Authority. "It isn't a Y2K problem, it's lack of interest really."

"People want to be at home, not messing around in airports on New Year's Eve of all times."

Elsewhere in the world, the story is the same.

Airlines of the Gulf Arab states cut New Year's Eve and New Year's Day flights because of lack of demand. Qatar Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kuwait Airways have all changed their schedules.

"Most people don't want to fly. Not because of fear. They don't want to be in a plane that night," said Camilo Luna Pimentel, coordinator of the Y2K project for Mexico's two dominant carriers, Mexicana de Aviacion and AeroMexico.

Bugged by the millennium

Other airlines have decided that the risk of millennium bug chaos is too great.

Iran has cancelled all New Year flights at the country's airports. Earlier Iran blamed sanctions by the US for delay in making US-made equipment Y2K compliant.

EgyptAir has arranged for the last plane before the millennium to land at Cairo airport at 2100 local time on 31 December while Nigerian airports will be closed to traffic on Friday night.

Macchu Picchu Visitors to Peru have fewer flights to choose from
None of Argentina's airlines plan to fly during New Year's Eve.

At least six international carriers - AeroMexico, American Airlines, Spanish flag-carrier Iberia, Germany's Lufthansa, United Airlines and Brazil's Varig have cancelled flights to Peru.

In Paraguay, flights have been suspended for the changeover period.

Paraguay has at least one advantage over other more modern countries. In Asuncion airport, 60% of the equipment works without computers.

Airlines are ready

According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), 91% of its 185 member states were Y2K ready at the end of November.

Those states account for 99.5% of international air traffic.

The global airline industry has invested $3bn in squashing the millennium bug.

It isn't a Y2K problem, it's lack of interest really
UK Civil Aviation Authority
"We expect it to be a rather big yawn," William Gaillard, a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association ( IATA), the world airline industry group said.

IATA has monitored the preparations made by 265 airlines, 2,000 airports and more than 180 air traffic control organisations.

"We are satisfied with the progress we've seen. Everyone at both airports and air traffic control systems has taken the subject very seriously, made the right investments, made the right efforts," Mr Gaillard said. "We don't anticipate anything extraordinary happening."

ICAO admits there is a possibility of smaller events such as local power or equipment outages for radar, navigation and communications.

"Some of these may be normal outages, but that evening, we expect that it will be difficult to determine whether it was a Y2K failure or just a normal failure," Mr Brian Bowers, a consultant on ICAO's plan said

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  Business
Retailers braced for bug
29 Dec 99 |  Business
Business braced for Y2K bug
12 Dec 99 |  Business
Airline to give Y2K update
18 Oct 99 |  Business
Firms 'already hit' by Y2K bug
20 Dec 99 |  Business
Airlines flying in formation

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