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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS

British Airways Braces for Cabin Crew Strike

Aired March 17, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN INT'L. ANCHOR, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Bracing for impact, British Airways bolsters its strike contingency plans. The unions tighten the screw.

Break ups and good-byes, Google looses friends in America and gets ready to leave China.

And buckle your seatbelts. As I find out whose got what it takes to be air host supreme.

I'm Richard Quest. We have the next hour together, as I mean business.

Good evening. British Airways is, tonight, fighting back as cabin crew are preparing to walk off the job at this weekend. The airline is strengthening is contingency plans and all of this as the union Unite, drums up serious support from across the Atlantic. Unite now has the backing of is U.S. counterpart, the Teamsters, which boasts more than a million members. And as you will hear in this hour, other unions around the world are also saying they will support the BA strike.

So, both sides mustering all the strength they can ahead of the strike which starts this Saturday. BA says that is plans to run full on, or at least a major service, are starting to pay dividends, and today announced a bolstering of the schedule. Come and have a look. Join me in the library.

The strike plan now, from British Airways, they have increased the number of flights they say they plan from 60 percent to 65 percent of passengers they believe will be able to be flown. And they are going to do it in a variety of ways. Crucially, 4,000 more passengers, the airline says, will be accommodated on the strike day. That is up, so we did have 45,000 passengers. Now they believe 49,000 to 50,000 will be able to fly on it.

So, what they have done into this, is they have reinstated some of the canceled flights that they had less than 24 hours ago, or 48 hours ago, that they said they would not be able to run.

Now, how are they managing to do it? This is how they are doing it. They say that a lot more members of the crew have said that they will work on strike days. More staff have agreed, or have let the airline know that they are prepared to go to work. More staff means more flights, hence they say that the airline believes that the union strike could be crumbling. Also, BA has managed to charter more aircraft, although they won't tell us how many, more than the 22 they originally said. And 60 other airlines are now accepting BA passengers. BA obviously paying for the tickets, so it is an expensive business.

But it really doesn't matter, because with all of this, this is the number that we will be looking at, over the strike days, to see if they do manage to do it.

Now, the union, from their point of view, they say they are-and they have been talking-to the U.S. Teamsters, which of course is their equivalent in the United States. And the object there is to gain international support for the strike.

Jim Boulden is with us.

And, Jim, if the Teamsters, representing 1.5 million people in the U.S and Canada, decide that they won't handle BA planes-well what does it mean?

JIM BOULDEN, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I wish I could tell you what it means. I have talked with the Teamsters. I have talked to the international labor organization, I talked with some other labor experts, and each one of them says, look, first of all the Teamsters, you have laws and you have regulations. They are not striking against British Airways. They can't.

(CROSS TALK)

QUEST: So, any action by Teamsters, or others, comes under the old line of secondary picketing-

(CROSS TALK)

BOULDEN: Yes. It could be "lawful assistance, where possible", that is the quote from one of the international labor groups. And what it mean is, legally, there is not a lot they can do. But one-

(LAUGHTER)

BOULDEN: Yeah, OK, here we go.

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: Here we go.

BOULDEN: As one person said to me on the phone, you can write a letter, that's where we start, right? That's the bottom.

QUEST: Dear-

(LAUGHTER)

QUEST: I don't like this.

BOULDEN: You set up picket lines and then you have to see who crosses the picket lines. That could be a little bit interesting, if you think about it, with the Teamsters. All the way up to, you can call a health and safety meeting. That could take an hour. Your members could be at the meeting, instead of doing what they maybe-supposed to be doing. So, we don't know what they're going to do.

QUEST: I'm certain that there could be a spring cold.

BOULDEN: We don't know.

QUEST: But for British Airways, with United States, which is their single-largest market. They have already cancelled the flights to San Francisco, to Los Angeles. How serious is this worry that the Teamsters might get involved.

BOULDEN: Well, the two of them are meeting today. The Unite Union and Teamsters meeting in D.C. And they said that we might have a statement to make later tonight. We'll have to see if there is a statement about that. And there could very well be that the Teamsters take actions that will disrupt British Airways if, in fact, they can do that legally. We don't know yet. But every country has different labor laws. So every country, as the labor people have been telling me, you could see different levels of cooperation from the other unions.

QUEST: OK. Were you surprised today when BA announced an enhanced schedule?

BOULDEN: I was surprised that they reinstated flights they had already cancelled, because presumably people who were on those flights have already been moved. So, I wasn't sure-

QUEST: Right.

BOULDEN: -the reason why to reinstate a cancelled flight since we already knew that flight was cancelled.

QUEST: But would you agree, Jim, that this is basically a bitter, nasty dispute, where neither side seems anxious to come to the table and solve it. Whatever they need-

BOULDEN: They both wanted to prove a point. They both now have to prove a point, don't they? And for British Airways they are saying, look, we could even get people who we thought were going to strike, and they are still going to work for us.

QUEST: I'll be at Heathrow on Saturday. You'll be there on Sunday. We'll have full coverage as you would expect, here on CNN.

We were talking about the Teamsters, but unions in Europe are also rallying around the union, Unite. Gabriel Mocho is the secretary of the Civil Aviation Section of the International Transport Workers Federation. That is a very long-winded way of saying the global grouping aviation union. He joined me here in the studio and I asked him if he was specifically asking his unions to support the strikes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GABRIEL MOCHO, SECRETARY, CIVIL AVIATION SECTION, ITF: We represent 643 unions in total, 240, civil aviation, specifically, unions, in 123 countries. That makes up 700,000 aviation workers. And we are-our unions are supporting the strike.

QUEST: So, to the workers in these other unions, are you advising them not to handle BA aircraft down route?

MOCHO: It is not necessary to advise them.

QUEST: But it is, it is, with respect.

MOCHO: They are-they are reacting, because they have been following this conflict since November, when the measures were imposed.

QUEST: So you would expect other union members to refuse to cater, refuel, handle, or whatever it may be, BA aircraft down route? You would expect that?

MOCHO: It will all depend on the possibilities (ph) of each union, in each country, and the legal requirements. Some unions can do it. According to the legislation in each country, some unions cannot do it. Bu they are showing their support and they will show their support during the strike, because of these measures, and they have been following this conflict. These measures, these new working conditions have been imposed to the cabin crews in British Airways. You have done the training, you know what it is, you know how hard it is. And to be imposed, new conditions, to deliver that service is really difficult for them.

QUEST: But at the end of the day, this is a dispute between BA and its workers. So what relevance does it have to bring in other unions, in other airlines, or other aviation authorities around the world?

MOCHO: Yes, we have heard that-

QUEST: Other than to escalate the dispute?

MOCHO: We have heard that it is supposedly wrong to internationalize this dispute, but this is missing the point, really. Because on one hand, British Airways is a global airline; they have been in the One Alliance for the last 11 years. They are merging with Iberia, in Spain. So they are a global airline. And they are going to have a global response.

QUEST: But you are-but you want to internationalize this dispute. You are actively internationalizing it by this action.

MOCHO: We are an international federation. And also, Unite has had, in the past, has supported a lot of different activities in other unions. So the unions want to be backed, supporting Unite, to bring back that solidarity.

QUEST: What if-as it may happen, this weekend, that we hear from British Airways that more workers are going back. It is not as clear cut as one union versus the other, but a lot of workers may well go back to work, and BA may able to operate quite an effective schedule. Surely then you need to reflect the views of those workers who have gone back to work as well.

MOCHO: Well, there has been two ballots, already. And in the two ballots, our workers have supported, with the majority of votes, the union's position. And unfortunately last Friday the was a proposal on the table that could have ended up this conflict. And the union was ready to give it back to the members and ballot it, and know their opinion, but the company didn't want to hear the workers. And that is a problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: And we'll have full coverage of the strike as of when it gets underway and the rama-ramifications, if I can say the word. Fionnuala Sweeney now, good evening, at the CNN News Desk. Please bring us up to date in the world events.

(NEWSBREAK)

QUEST: In just a moment, the high stakes of face off, and it is on the Internet. The battle to be number one, appears to be how many friends you have. Well, guess which site wins? In a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Now it is all about making connections and Facebook, apparently, has more friends than Google. Last week, in the U.S., more people logged onto Facebook than visited Google. A surprising result which still remains the number one search engine.

Maggie is in New York.

Good evening, Maggie. Now, when I heard this-I mean, I use Google a million times a day, as I suspect you do, and others do, along with other search engines. I barely go to face book, so I was interested by this.

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, yeah, I'm not sure I believe you barely go to Facebook, it is because you are too busy Twittering, I'm sure.

(LAUGHTER)

Listen, you are right though. We know Facebook is popular. I mean, I'm there! So, you know, this well-established. But Google is a verb. And we do use it a lot. I mean, we may use it more at work than other people do. But it was really surprising. I mean, it just is a testament to how quickly things are changing. Check out this chart. And that really tells the story. As I said, we know Facebook is popular. It is the speed of the growth that is astounding.

Last week more Internet users in the U.S. visited Facebook than Google's homepage for the first time. They have done it on a day-to-day basis, but the first time they did it on a weekly basis. That is off the charts growth for Facebook, and-and the U.S. isn't even the biggest. Facebook says 70 percent of its business is outside the U.S. And it just opened its first office in Asia and India. So, this isn't just a U.S. phenomenon. That chart tracks U.S. but we can sort of establish that this trend is global.

QUEST: Right.

LAKE: And it is really catching the eye of a lot of people.

QUEST: OK, now, let's dig right into the deep water here, Maggie. Because I'm not sure what the significance of this fact actually is. Because it is not as if people go to FaceBook for one thing, and Google for the same thing; they go to the two things for different purposes. So what is its importance?

LAKE: Yes, because where the eyeballs go so we assume the money goes. We certainly know that has been true for Google. They have a really proven revenue stream. The theory is that with Facebook growing so much with the kind of audience it is pulling in that advertisers are going to be as attracted to that. Now, we don't really know yet, because Facebook is a private company. We know they just turned a profit last year. But we don't know what the profit was. But analysts say they think the revenue is there.

QUEST: Right.

LAKE: If you go on Facebook, if you have been a user for a long time, you are noticing there is more advertising. And of course, the big pay day would be an IPO. Listen to the valuations here. And this is just based on the audience they are getting, Richard. Some people say if they were to do an IPO the value would be somewhere between $11 to $59 billion. That is why it matters.

QUEST: Well, that put me in me place. All right. So,$59-thank you. No, you are not going yet. Google in China-so $59 billion? So why is it having this almighty row with the Chinese and threatening to pull out.

LAKE: Right, Google, we are talking about now.

QUEST: Yes.

LAKE: This is a really closely watched story, because of the business, the politics, all coming together. Listen, Google has said, at the start of the year, that it wants to operate without censorship. If it can't, it is going to leave. The Chinese have responded saying, if you are going to play here you need to play by our rules. And we have kind of been at this standstill. There is a sense that we are going to have some resolution soon, but we are not hearing much from Google. We are not hearing much from China.

It is sort of an agonizing wait to see who blinks first. And we just don't know what day we are going to get that or what the resolution is going to be. But an awful lot of businesses, of users, are sort of hanging on the balance waiting for the outcome on this one.

QUEST: China may not be speaking, Google may not be speaking, but other people are speaking. Maggie, many thanks, indeed. Maggie is in New York. Twenty-seven companies, specifically, that sell advertising to Google, to the Chinese site, have written an emotional open letter to the head of the company's China operations. They are demanding to know what is gong on. The letter was posted on a Chinese state TV website. And I'm going to read it to you.

It says, "When we ask Google for a response we are told to wait. We can no longer wait." The companies also say they might seek compensation if Google dot.cn, is shut down. Google says it reviewing the letter. If Google exits from China, it could cost the company $600 billion in annual revenue, according to some estimates. As Emily Chang reports, the cost to millions of Chinese Internet users, if Google goes, may be even higher than that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EMILY CHANG, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After weeks of talks with the Chinese government, there is still no official answer from Google to this question: Will it stay, or will it go? But speculation is, it doesn't look good.

JEREMY GOLDKORN, BEIJING-BASED WEB SITE OWNER: I don't think they will be able to persuade the Chinese government to let them run an uncensored search engine. It is just not going to happen.

CHANG: In January Google threatened to close its Chinese operations, citing government restrictions on search results and a series of cyber attacks. A Chinese official recently said Google would have to bear the consequences if it violated China's laws.

(On camera): If Google does leave China, this would be yet another foreign Internet company that has not succeeded, following in the footsteps of eBay, Yahoo. What does that mean?

GOLDKORN: It is a very, very tough environment for foreign Internet companies. It is really not easy. Nobody has had a real success.

CHANG (voice over): Jeremy Goldkorn runs a Beijing-based web site, that follows the media and the Internet in China.

(On camera): What would the Chinese Internet look like without Google?

GOLDKORN: Well, for the majority of users it probably won't be a huge difference. But there are a many local alternatives.

CHANG: Other alternatives include market leader Baidu, SoGo and SoSo.com.

(On camera): How are the alternatives different than what Google might provide?

GOLDKORN: Well, I believe Google is search technology is still the best.

CHANG (voice over): One "netizen" recently wrote: "This is a painful decision, my Internet life depends on Google. I use it to search, e-mail, read-it's irreplaceable. "

But a state-run media poll showed, "90 percent of people don't care if Google leaves".

(On camera): What do you think of this concept of "Chinternet"? Where if Google leaves, the Chinese Internet will look increasingly distinct from the global Internet?

GOLDKORN: I think that, you know, that has already happened. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have been blocked, it means that web sites, which are a major part of the international Internet, that in other countries people are dependent on, are just not available here. It does feel increasingly like a Intranet, rather than an Internet.

CHANG: What kind of message does this send, about the Chinese government's current kind of war on the Internet? Have they won?

GOLDKORN: Well, I think, many people would say they have won, and they have been winning for a while.

CHANG (voice over): Emily Chang, CNN, Beijing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Now it is Ireland's national day and one company is trying to make sure that when you think St. Patrick, you think Guinness. The president of Diageo North America, joins us from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, in just a moment. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, I'm Richard Quest.

Now, we have been talking a lot this week about aviation. And, indeed, if you have been watching CNN "BUSINESS TRAVELER" you will know there is a great deal more to be talked abut this. AARTA, earlier this week, announced that things were looking marginally better in the industry. Perhaps some blue sky ahead for the beleaguered airlines of the world.

Gulf Air, in Bahrain, is one airline that could do with all the help it can get. The airline, which has struggled and had numerous chief executives over its 60-year history, lost $500 million last year. Now, despite trying to attract more passengers, with such things as chefs and nannies on board, Gulf Air has found it difficult to compete with larger, well-capitalized, rivals such as Etihad, Emirates, and Qatar Airways.

So, Gulf now has a new strategy. As the carrier's chief executive, Samer Majali, told me in Bahrain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMER MAJALI, CEO, GULF AIR: It was doomed. It wasn't going to work. And really Gulf Air had to find its own new strategy and its own markets for the future. The funding requirements to have carriers of that size, both the initial funding requirements, and the continued funding requirements, are just beyond the capabilities of Bahrain as a state.

QUEST: Do you believe that is a major breakthrough? In that admission of acceptance, you can now actually move on and restructure properly.

MAJALI: Absolutely. I think we are redefining the role of the airline. We are looking at new destinations. We are building up a new network. And with our new airplanes (ph), and continuing with all the other airplanes over the next year. And there will be growth. However the growth will be in the right direction, rather than, in my view, the wrong direction as what happened in the past.

QUEST: You used the phrase, "right sizing". And that is very different from downsizing, isn't it?

MAJALI: Yes, absolutely. I mean, downsizing is actually a very difficult thing to do and make it work. Because you, once you downsize your operation, you are spreading your overhead over a far smaller business. And that is why it becomes very, very difficult to sustain. So, right sizing means that you start to expand into places where they give you a better revenue stream. And you use the right airplane to do so.

QUEST: All right. So the new direction? Describe for me what is the core of this strategy.

MAJALI: Today, Gulf Air is the largest Middle Eastern network, in terms of the number of regional flights. And that is a position that we want support and increase. So we will be looking for new routes, both primary and secondary destinations in the Middle East, places which are underserved at the moment, in this very large region.

The long range operation will remain, however, it will be rationalized in line with the very strong regional operation that is being built up.

QUEST: If it doesn't work, and-is this the last gasp for Gulf?

MAJALI: This is the opportunity. I don't want to say the last chance, but the opportunity to get it right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: According to some views, Mr. Majali has between, I don't know, two to four years, to get it right.

Now, it was my turn to try and get it right, when it comes to being in the air, when I became a member of cabin crew for a day. Safety information and those dreaded bread rolls. See how I did, in a moment, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Good evening, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. I'm Richard Quest. This is CNN.

The European markets, they ended on a high note on Wednesday, after a boost from U.S. and Japanese central banks. Both keeping interest rates on hold, and of course, as you know, because we talked about it last night, those rates will be held at exceptionally low levels for an extended period. Added to an upbeat mood when it said it is no longer considering an eminent downgrade of Greece's credit rating. Now at the finish, these are the numbers you need to know. The 100 and the CAC currant, gain almost a half a percent on the session. The DAX climbed nearly 1 percent.

Banks are in focus, a judge has ordered UBS and JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and Debtva (ph) Bank to stand trial. Now this is all in Milan where they are accused of fraud, linked to the sale of more than $2 billion in derivatives, to the city of Milan. The allegation is substantially that the banks helped the city of Milan to not only cover up transactions, and massage the books, but also to substantially cover up the fees that were paid for it. The banks that have so far made statements on this have all denied this and said they will fight the charges.

So, the markets, the Dow Jones, up 31; that is just 0.3 of 1 percent, 10,718. You are getting a picture of the last few weeks, we have been in this narrow range, between 10,500 and 10, 800, up a bit, down a bit. So, that is the environment for New York, at the moment.

Stephanie Elam is in New York, where today must be amongst the most important days of the year for Diageo. They are the company that pours out 2 billion pints of Guinness around the world every year. It is, of course, St. Patrick's Day.

Stephanie, I assume you have not been imbibing the black gold, but you have got the man there, who actually makes it.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is true, Richard. There are two reasons why I'm not. A, because I'm working, and B, I'm pregnant. You just shouldn't drink when you are pregnant. It is just not a good look.

But there are a lot of people who are hoping to leave the trading floor today, maybe go and indulge in some of the beverages that are made by the Diageo. And joining me now is Ivan Menezes, and he is the president of North America for Diageo. Thank you for joining us here on the floor.

IVAN MENEZES, CEO, DIAGEO, NORTH AMERICA: Thank you and Happy St. Patrick's Day.

ELAM: Yes, so this is like a major holiday. How important is St. Patrick's when it comes to Diageo?

MENEZES: Well, we enjoy all holidays that are tied with celebration, but St. Patrick's is a specially special, because we have three wonderful brands, Guinness, Bushnell's Irish Whiskey, and Bailey's that are very Irish and very core to the company.

ELAM: I wonder though, is it really about Guinness, because I feel like that is the one that gets the biggest push, at least here in New York City, is that the case?

MENEZES: Oh, whatever you like. So Guinness does exceedingly well all around the world on Saint Patrick's Day. But after dinner, Bushmill's on the rocks or Bailey's on the rocks, we -- we've got one for everyone.

ELAM: OK. But the truth of the matter is, though, when you look at the overall sales that you have of the -- the products for Saint Patrick's Day, how does it compare to the rest of the year?

MENEZES: We definitely see a surge in our Irish portfolio. Guinness does extremely well, as you would expect, around the world, on Saint Patrick's Day, as does Bushmill's and -- and Bailey's. But we -- most weekends and holidays and -- whether it's Thanksgiving or Christmas or Mother's Day, we tend to do well when people want to kick back, relax, celebrate.

ELAM: Yes. And -- and I think the question, too, though, is -- is the discretionary spending.

Are people spending more this year after all we've seen in the economy?

MENEZES: Our category is -- is resilient and -- and we have a base of business around the world. In the emerging markets, it's very buoyant right now, in Latin America and Africa and Asia. In Europe, it's a little more subdued.

But people are drinking at home more than going out to bars and restaurants. But overall, the consumption of our products -- beer, spirits and wine -- remains relatively stable.

ELAM: All right, well, I know Richard has a question for you. And you -- I believe you can hear him -- so, Richard, go ahead.

QUEST: Yes, a quick question, Ivan.

When you look at the products -- Stephanie, you'll know this very well from our coverage -- people trading down -- trading down in brands from premiums to less premium -- are you seeing that trend?

Is it hitting you?

And when do you expect it to reverse?

MENEZES: Richard, we've seen, I would say, in the developed markets, premiumization has slowed down a bit. In the emerging markets, it's alive and well. Overall, in beer, spirits and wine, we see the trend profit premiumization continuing. It's got a bit subdued in the U.S. and in Europe. But when you track our brands over history, over recessions, wars and the like, eventually, they come back.

QUEST: Right.

MENEZES: And even in this -- even in this recession, our premium brands are doing well, brands like Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff and Bailey's are still holding up very nicely.

QUEST: All right, many thanks...

ELAM: Maybe that's because they're drowning their tears...

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: Absolutely.

ELAM: -- or the tears...

(CROSSTALK)

ELAM: -- all the sorrow. Maybe that's it.

QUEST: Hey, Stephanie, I'll tell you what, listen, you may not be able to have a wee dram at the moment, but I'm sure if you ask him nicely, he'll give you something to wet the baby's head at the appropriate moment.

ELAM: At the appropriate moment, exactly. I'll keep that in mind, Richard.

QUEST: I did not just (INAUDIBLE).

All right, Ivan, Stephanie, you're having far too much fun on the New York Stock Exchange.

Many thanks, indeed for joining us.

If Stephanie wasn't expecting, well, who knows what might be happening on the New York Stock Exchange, with a wee tipple.

OK. We'll be up with more in just a moment.

QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.

Good evening. Thank you for being with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Now, as B.A.'s cabin crew gear up to walk off the job this weekend on strike, we've been finding out on this program what it's like to actually be a flight attendant.

I challenged our own Ayesha Durgahee from "BUSINESS TRAVELER" to see which one of us could make the grade as an in-flight face of an airline. We pitched up at the Gulf Air Academy in Bahrain and we found out that being a flight attendant involves just a lot more than service with a smile and have a watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUEST: Round one -- safety. The safety demonstration is the first thing all trainees learn.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like this?

That's it.

QUEST: Some last minute tips before the test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the emergency exits are clearly marked and the cabin crew will now indicate these exits to you.

QUEST: I've seen this done a thousand times, but it's harder than it actually looks. Cabin crew on all airlines perform this many times a year. Gulf Air has 1,400 cabin crew. And under the rules, they must retrain to become recurrent every year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pass your arms through the strap and place the last (INAUDIBLE) under your head.

QUEST: OK. Well, thank you, ma'am.

Oh, I beg your pardon, ma'am.

Could you please put it on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm wearing them.

QUEST: Next up, the evacuation procedure -- what to do in an emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ayesha, just show me how you brace now. Very good. Richard, can you perform it for me and interlock your hands, yes?

QUEST: This is where we have to be calm and take control.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A man goes bang, bang, bang. Oh my god, what is happening?

QUEST: Heads down! Hold your ankles! Keep...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god. Oh my god. I don't want to die. Oh my god.

QUEST: Get back. Go back.

(CROSSTALK)

QUEST: Go that way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go that way.

QUEST: Go that way.

So we've learned how to tell the passengers what to do. We've seen what happens when something does go wrong. Now we have to practice leaving the aircraft in a hurry -- and I mean in a hurry.

(voice-over): We should be able to empty the plane of 293 passengers in 90 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This way. Jump on the slide. Jump on the slide. Jump on the slide. Jump on the slide. Jump on the slide. Jump on the slide.

QUEST: In a real situation, anyone who hesitates -- don't ask -- they get pushed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, guys, we're done. I'm going to meet you in the pool within five minutes.

QUEST: Now for the part that flight attendants only retrain every three years -- the wet drill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) are off. (INAUDIBLE) are off.

QUEST: If the plane ditches on water, you need to be able to shield passengers from the rain, save and drag them to safety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Let's go.

QUEST: Day or night...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just put your hand on the life jacket. Push it down and just relax.

QUEST: Round two, dinner service.

Etiquette and elegance -- at 35,000 feet, everything has its place, right down to where you put the salt and pepper box. It's the passengers, though, you need to watch out for.

(on camera): Would you care for some bread, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I have some (INAUDIBLE) bread?

QUEST: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I also have a garlic bread and some (INAUDIBLE)?

QUEST: Of course.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a brown bread.

QUEST: A brown bread. I always say you can never have enough carbohydrates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have some (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And a plate, please?

QUEST: Ma'am, leave enough for the (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like a date?

QUEST (voice-over): You have to mind your Ps and Qs right from the start. Serving Arabic dates and Arabic coffee is a sign of hospitality here.

(on camera): The chef says that the lamb is very good.

(voice-over): And when speaking to passengers, polite and helpful -- always at their eye level.

No matter how difficult passengers are...

(on camera): Oh, just wait.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

QUEST: No.

(voice-over): Patience is a virtue.

(on camera): Yes. Yes and a drink, please. A drink.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what have you got?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got...

(END VIDEO TAPE)

QUEST: Don't miss Thursday's big finish. After those Herculean efforts, we will show you who won and, also, you get to see just how bad my silver service really was.

OK, the weather forecast now.

Jenny Harrison is at the CNN World Weather Service -- so, Jen -- and, Jenny, there are still some very unpleasant storms and things out there at the moment.

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QUEST: Hmmm. We appear to...

JENNY HARRISON, CNN METEOROLOGIST: -- and we've seen the rain push across into the southeast.

Nothing elsewhere, so you think why is there a threat of flooding?

Well, I'll tell you why, because of the amount of snow, in particular, across the Midwest -- more snow this year than there was last year. Rivers also above normal. And because it seems so very cold, the ground is frozen at about a meter deep. So this is a picture when it comes to the threat of floods and in particular how high that threat is, as I say, across the Midwest, in particular the Dakotas -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. So these are these four states here.

And it's to do with the amount of snow that's there. We've got some very mild air in place right now. So this is the liquid equivalent of that snow should it melt. And it is going to melt. And it could be melting extremely rapidly. And in particular, one of the towns at severe threat at the moment -- at about the highest risk -- is Fargo, which sits along the Red River, just there on the border between Minnesota and also, of course, North Dakota.

Now, this is what we're talking about. This is from the National Weather Service. And last year, the rivers [peaked at a record 40 feet and the National Weather Service are actually saying that it could be peaking at 38 feet this year. So that is why there is so much concern.

Significant flood warnings, of course, are in place. There's going to be a little bit of rain with some snow pushing in over the next couple of days. So what that means, of course, is some more moisture. But it might also bring in some slightly cooler air, which would be a good thing. It will halt the freeze for a time being.

But for now, the temperatures are staying on the mild side, 18 in Chicago and milder than that looking across the north with that warmer green shading.

These are two storm systems. Tomas, of course, we know, the damage it has caused across into Fiji. And now we're watching Ului. Tomas is moving well away from both Fiji and also New Zealand.

This system beginning to move. It's been virtually stationary for the last few days. Winds still very strong, over 180 kilometers an hour. And then look where it's heading in a couple of days, toward that coast off Queensland. Very large, very powerful, slow moving. It means some very, very high and dangerous swells and also waves along that coast.

Of course, the surfers will love it, but it will also be very dangerous.

This is the wind forecast, the winds beginning to really pick up. They have done already. The rain is still a little way away and you can see the accumulation again, kind of line with the forecast. So it's going to be dry, but it will be windy with that dangerous surf.

In Europe, Richard, it is quiet and mild from the west.

QUEST: And I will settle for that any day of the week -- quiet and mild from Jenny Harrison.

Many thanks, indeed.

See you tomorrow.

Now, as we come to an end tonight, a Profitable Moment.

On this show, you've seen both sides of the world of the flight attendant. You've heard about the strike at British Airways. It's getting nasty and now has international dimensions. And you've just seen my training to be a flight attendant on "BUSINESS TRAVELER."

There's little doubt the flight attendant's job is not always pleasant -- long hours, many time zones and being nice when you least like it.

Well, I'm not sure I'd like to do it everyday. According to ARTA, the situation for airlines may be getting better, but it's a relative situation. Airlines are still losing billions of dollars.

The B.A. strike is about more than chicken or beef, tea or coffee. It is fundamentally about how an airline is to be run in the post-recession world. And the cabin crew who feel that their work on board is not being well appreciated. This weekend strike really has no winners at all for airlines, crew and passengers.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Wednesday.

I'm Richard Quest.

We have a brand new program, "MARKETPLACE AFRICA," coming up in just a moment.

But whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.

I'll see you tomorrow.

END