Delta and Dubai make holiday headlines

A couple of stories worthy of note happened over the holiday season that is just concluding, and they comprise both good news and bad.

The good news

A Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) captain earned a hearty “Well done!” for his decision to return to the gate at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP) to pick up passengers trying to get to a funeral in Tennessee.

Delta 737 departs Seattle-Tacoma Airport
The family’s flight from Phoenix (PHX) to MSP was delayed by approximately 1-1/2 hours due to bad weather, leaving them only about 10 minutes to make their connecting flight, which was the last flight of the day to their destination. When they arrived at the gate, their plane to Tennessee had already pushed back. It looked as if they would miss the funeral of a family member who had lost his battle with cancer, as the ceremony was scheduled to take place first thing the next morning.

While the mother pleaded the family’s case to gate attendants, the dad stood at the window where he could see the departing plane, frantically waving his arms and shouting for the pilot. The couple told a Phoenix TV station that the pilot saw the man and could tell he’d been crying and was distraught, so the pilot made the command decision to return to the gate to pick up the passengers.

Such moves are not completely unprecedented but happen very rarely. Airlines are loath to reopen doors that have already been closed for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the precedent it sets. But this time, in my opinion, the captain’s show of compassion for that family was the right move, and made what was obviously a trying situation just a little easier to bear. And, while it was the captain’s sole decision, it also reflects well on his employer, Delta.

The bad news

 A severe fire blackened 20 of the 63 floors of the high-end hotel The Address in Dubai on New Year’s Eve. While several people received minor to moderate injuries, no one was killed but developer Emaar Properties nonetheless faces a public relations challenge on a number of fronts.

Several of those fronts have already been beaten back. Early speculation that the fire may have been started by terrorists was quickly dismissed but investigators are looking into whether the fire may have been fueled by a popular but flammable building material.

The British newspaper/website The Guardian quoted industry sources as saying many of Dubai’s high-rise buildings are clad in aluminum panels with a thermoplastic core to give them a modern appearance. Through building codes were tightened in 2013, many skyscrapers built before that have not incorporated the additional measures.

The New Year’s Eve conflagration is the third time in as many years fire has struck one of the city’s tall buildings.

Less than a year ago a fire at Dubai’s tallest residential building, ironically named The Torch Tower, sent flames leaping up 20 floors, showering burning debris into the streets below. In 2012, the 34-story Tamweel tower suffered serious damage after a cigarette butt started a fire.

There have been no fatalities in any of the fires but, with many of the city’s residents living in high-rise apartments and tourists staying in hotels like the five-star The Address, the authorities will want to send reassuring messages that the buildings people live in or visit are safe.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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