Malicious acts surpassed accidents as the chief cause of airline deaths worldwide in 2015 for the second year in a row

By Joan Lowy


WASHINGTON _ Malicious acts surpassed accidents as the chief cause of airline deaths worldwide in 2015 for the second year in a row, according to an industry tally.

There were only eight accidental airline crashes last year accounting for 161 passenger and crew deaths the fewest crashes and deaths since at least 1946, reflecting continued improvement in safety technology and aircraft design, according to Flightglobal, an aviation news and industry data company.

That tally of 161 accidental deaths is far outpaced by the 374 killed when a Germanwings airliner was deliberately flown into a mountainside in the French Alps last March, and a Russian airliner packed with tourists that exploded over Egypt in October.

In 2014, the toll from a Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared and another that was shot down over Ukraine was 537 deaths compared to 436 accident deaths that year.

Those tallies are for all types of airline flights, including cargo, positioning, training, and maintenance flights. There were just 98 paying passengers killed last year. It’s a vast improvement from the 790 passengers killed in 2007, and the annual average of 1,289 passengers killed in accidental crashes in the 1970s.

“In recent years, airline safety has improved very considerably to the point where, typically, there are now very few fatal accidents and fatalities in a year,” said Paul Hayes, Flightglobal’s director of air safety and insurance. “However, flight security remains a concern.”

Although some years are better than others, the fatal accident rate has been improving for many years. The global fatal accident rate for all types of airline operations in 2015 was one per 5 million flights, the best year ever. The previous best year was 2014, with a fatal accident rate of 1 per 2.5 million flights. Airline operations are now about four or five times safer than they were 20 years ago.

A big reason for the improving record is better engineering: Today’s airliners and aircraft engines are far safer than earlier generations of planes. They are more highly automated, which has reduced many common pilot errors. They have better satellite-based navigation systems. They are made of stronger, lighter weight, less corrosive materials. And they’re equipped with safety systems introduced in recent decades, and repeatedly improved over time, that have nearly eliminated mid-air collisions between airliners and what the industry calls “controlled flight into terrain” pilots who lose situational awareness and fly their planes into a mountainside or into the ground.

The aircraft improvements are due primarily to lessons learned from crash investigations that are taken into account when new planes are designed, said John Goglia, a former National Transportation Safety Board member. As older planes are replaced with newer planes, aviation becomes safer, he said.

“We’re now up to about the 7th generation of jet airplanes,” he said. “We know the first generation DC-8s, 707s had a higher accident rate than the second or the third or the fourth generations, and it just moves on up.”

But more needs to be done to weed out disturbed pilots and guard against acts of terrorism, experts said.

The Germanwings case is especially perplexing, said John Cox, a former airline pilot and aviation safety consultant. Pilot Andreas Lubitz managed to conceal his problems even though airlines are continually evaluating pilots for signs of trouble. Pilots evaluate each other as well.

It’s not known what caused Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to disappear while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but many aviation safety experts theorize that it was mostly likely the result of deliberate acts, probably by one of the two pilots.

“Pilots from day one are so ingrained with protecting the passengers, with learning skills to deal with unanticipated events … and evaluated on how well you deal with stress,” Cox said. “Those who don’t do well with it don’t survive as professional pilots.”

The Islamic State has claimed credit for a bomb suspected of blowing apart a MetroJet A320 over Egypt. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Russian Buk surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-held territory in Eastern Ukraine, according to Dutch crash investigators.

Terrorists “have been probing nonstop since 9-11 and every once in a while they find a way to get through,” Goglia said.

The new frontier in airline safety is a managerial philosophy known as SMS, or safety management systems, he said. Airlines are systematically gathering data on safety trends, and encouraging pilots, dispatchers, mechanics and others to report problems by promising there will be no retaliation for mistakes. The information is then shared across the industry in an effort to spot problems before they lead to an accident.


Questions Arise Over Canadian Oil Sands As It Lays Out 2016 Spending Plans

CanOilSandsCanadian Oil Sands Ltd., fighting a hostile takeover bid by Suncor Energy, has laid out spending plans and performance targets for next year that it says demonstrate shareholders are well-served under the status quo.

Throughout the heated takeover debate, Suncor (TSX:SU) has cast COS (TSX:COS) as a risky investment as a stand-alone firm, given the likelihood of a prolonged oil price downturn.

But on a conference call Dec. 1, 2015, COS CEO Ryan Kubik said with major project spending complete and cost savings taking hold, the company is poised to enter 2016 in good shape.

It’s expecting capital spending to come in at $295 million next year. In October, it estimated 2015 spending at $368 million.

“Canadian Oil Sands is becoming more resilient and will emerge from this oil price downturn even stronger,” said Kubik.

At least one investor on the call wasn’t convinced.

Robert Cooper, with Calgary investment dealer Acumen Capital Partners, expressed frustration at COS’s share price performance and dividend growth compared to Suncor. And he wondered why COS turned down a higher friendly offer in the spring.

At the time that Suncor made its all-stock hostile approach on Oct. 5, 2015 it was worth $8.84 a share. An earlier friendly attempt was valued at $11.84 as of March 31.

Based on Monday, November 30’s  close, the offer is now worth $9.23 a share, or $4.5 billion.

suncor_syncrude_logoCooper said COS should be trying to negotiate a better deal with Suncor.

“I really want to know, after shareholders have really got their face ripped off in the past year, who’s looking out for them?” Cooper asked.

Kubik responded that his company is much more sensitive to swings in crude prices _ on the upside and downside _ than Suncor.

COS says for every US$10 per barrel increase in oil prices, cash flow is bolstered by about $300 million.

The company expects to generate $338 million in free cash flow next year. It is basing its 2016 assumptions on US$50 U.S. benchmark crude, versus about US$42 currently.

COS’s main asset is its 37 per cent share in the Syncrude oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray, Alta.

Suncor is much bigger and more diversified, with a huge oilsands footprint as well as refineries, gas stations and offshore platforms. Suncor has a 12 per cent stake in Syncrude, meaning it would own just under half of the mine if it’s successful.

Kubik added shareholders should “take comfort” in a process underway to seek another bidder. A COS adviser has said 25 parties have expressed some degree of interest.

On November 30, 2015, the Alberta Securities Commission allowed COS to keep its so-called poison pill, a defensive tactic to buy time, in place until Jan. 4.

In an interview, Cooper said he wasn’t impressed with how Kubik responded to his questions.

“I think that’s a standard non-answer answer,” he said.

Thanks to the Suncor bid, COS has seen a boost in its share price, which has surged above $10 at some points since Suncor’s hostile approach in October.

If Suncor walks _ which it has threatened to do _ the stock will drop back to $5 or $6, said Cooper.

He acknowledges another suitor could emerge, but so far the most likely one _ Syncrude partner Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) _ has been silent.

“The reality is you’re really worth what someone’s willing to pay for you,” said Cooper.

“There’s a real risk that Suncor does walk. As a Canadian Oil Sands shareholder, you’re going to get a swift kick in the shins.”


Paris air travel proceeds, but some cancel future visits as subdued mood prevails

By David Koenig


Even as airlines operated a normal schedule of flights into and out of Paris, travellers with future plans to visit the French capital reconsidered their options after a series of terror attacks. Some quickly cancelled their tickets, a worrisome sign for the travel and tourism industries.

Joe Nardozzi, a 31-year-old New York investment banker, and his wife won’t be taking the wedding-anniversary trip they planned later this month.

“I have no interest in losing my life over a trip to Paris,” he said.

Travel agents said some clients called to cancel trips, and one advocacy group for business travellers predicted that corporations would let frightened employees do the same.

Decisions by companies and leisure travellers could hinge on whether the Paris attacks are seen as a one-time event or the vanguard of a stepped-up campaign by Islamic radicals. Islamic State, the group fighting in Syria and Iraq, also claimed last month that it bombed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, although investigators have not determined the cause of the crash that killed 224 people.

Still, some Americans cancelled upcoming trips after seeing coverage of the terror on Paris streets.

Blake Fleetwood, president of New York-based Cook Travel, said about 10 customers out of the roughly 30 with trips booked to Paris told him they want to cancel. He and his wife might do the same next month.

“It’s a terrible situation,” Fleetwood said. “It’s going to hurt the travel industry, the hotels, the airlines, the restaurants.”

Tourism to the French capital already took a big hit earlier this year from the attacks in January that killed 17 journalists, police and shoppers at a kosher grocery. The Paris tourist office said the number of hotel stays fell 3.3 per cent in the first three months of the year, a drop it blamed specifically on the January attacks.

The situation had just begun to improve, with summer visits by U.S. travellers, who are Paris’ biggest group of foreign visitors rising significantly.

The new attacks targeted neighbourhoods in Paris’ trendy east side, which Paris tourist officials had specifically mentioned in a recent update on tourism in the capital.

Kevin Mitchell, who runs an advocacy group called the Business Travel Coalition, expects some worried corporate travellers to cancel trips to Europe.

“These companies have to continue to do business,” he said, “but for some period of time they’ll give employees a lot of leeway about travelling to Europe and Paris in particular.”

It’s not just Western visitors who might avoid Paris after the attacks. Egyptian college graduate Aya Sayed has always dreamed of strolling the streets of the City of Light.

“I would be too afraid to go because I don’t want to be mistreated because of my headscarf or ethnicity,” she said. “Who knows what they might do to us now?”

Consumers with travel insurance that includes terrorism coverage can probably recover the cost of a trip to Paris, according to Squaremouth, a policy-comparison website. But even policies that cover terrorism may only apply to trips scheduled in the next week or month and might not apply to travel in other parts of France or Europe more broadly, a company spokeswoman said.

Wendy Perrin, who writes about consumer topics for TripAdvisor, encouraged people to keep travelling in a post on her Facebook page.

“The answer is not to stop travelling … The answer is to keep travelling, to make friends around the world, to be a thoughtful ambassador for your country,” she wrote.

Even travellers who go to Paris are likely to be in a less celebratory mood. Toronto residents Mark Hutchison and Ashleigh Marshall planned a big night out during a Paris stopover on their trip back home from Tanzania _ “go to a restaurant, go to a bar, have a glass of wine,” Hutchison said. Instead, they decided to hunker down in their hotel with a bottle of wine once the sun went down Saturday evening.

“It’s a lot to take in,” he said of the deadly attacks. “You can’t make sense of it.”



Gift Giving Guidance That Won’t Turn You Into A Grinch

Gift Giving Guidance That Won’t Turn You Into A Grinch

TORONTO, Nov. 12, 2015 /CNW/ – With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to decide who’s on the “nice” list this year. A recent TD survey found that when it comes to purchasing gifts for loved ones, instead of battling the busy malls, more than seven in 10 (72 per cent) Canadians surveyed do at least some of their holiday shopping online.

While online shopping may have its conveniences, there can also be the impulse to splurge and overspend. The TD survey found that over one-third (37 per cent) of those surveyed who do most of their holiday shopping online are more likely to say they spend more than they would in store.

“Buying gifts for the special people in your life is one of the best parts of the holidays, so it’s easy to understand how people get carried away when adding items to their online shopping cart,” said Frank Psoras, Vice President, Credit Cards, TD Canada Trust. “The survey found that forty-two per cent of Canadians surveyed who do their holiday shopping online do not follow a budget. Making a plan and tracking each purchase is an easy way to help manage temptation. That way, there should be no surprises when you see your credit card bill at the end of the month.”

To help savvy shoppers plan their online holiday shopping without breaking the bank, TD worked with Cathie Mostowyk, online shopping expert and president of Shoestring Shopping Guide Inc., to help create and share a list of some simple budget-conscious shopping tips:

  • Pick your price: Canadians love a good bargain. The TD survey found that 57 per cent of Canadians surveyed shop online looking for better pricing. You can use online shopping to compare prices so you can help ensure you get the best deal without having to face a crowded mall.
  • Sign up for savings: Sign up with your favourite retailers for their email updates. They often send out information about upcoming sales, or special pricing and offers for their subscribers.
  • Maximize rewards: Think about taking advantage of loyalty rewards. For example, there are a variety of redemption options available to TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite* credit cardholders, including redemptions for travel purchases as well as for brand-name retail merchandise and gift cards.
  • Consider international expenses: If you’re like the 39 per cent of Canadians surveyed who shop online for the ability to shop with international retailers, make sure you factor in duty taxes, exchange rates, and consider the return shipping costs, as those costs can quickly add up.
  • Cut shipping costs: Many stores offer reduced or even free shipping with a minimum dollar amount spent. Think about how many people you can cross off your list from one retailer – it can help save you time and money.

Mostowyk adds, “Start your online shopping early to ensure items are still in stock and you’re not hit with rushed delivery expenses. I also recommend checking return policies to ensure you can either return in-store or with free shipping, if necessary.”

The TD survey also found the top reason (70 per cent) Canadians surveyed shop for holiday gifts online is for convenience. Psoras notes it’s no surprise that the majority (86 per cent) of those surveyed also use credit cards as a quick way to pay for their purchases.

“Redeeming your loyalty rewards for your holiday gifts is one way you can help stay within your budget, while making buying gifts easier and giving yourself more time to spend with your loved ones this holiday season,” says Psoras.

For more information, tools and resources on budgeting, visit:

About the TD Bank Group Life in the ‘Anatomy of an Online Shopper’ Poll
TD Bank Group commissioned Environics Research Group to conduct a custom survey of 6,149 Canadians aged 18 and older. Responses were collected between January 20 and February 8, 2015. All of the statistics used in this report are based on the Canadians surveyed including a subgroup of 4,411 Canadians who indicated that they shop online.

About TD Canada Trust
TD Canada Trust offers personal and business banking to more than 11.5 million customers. We provide a wide range of products and services from chequing and savings accounts, to credit cards, mortgages and business banking, plus credit protection and credit travel medical insurance, as well as advice on managing everyday finances. TD Canada Trust makes banking comfortable with award-winning service and convenience through 24/7 mobile, internet, telephone and ATM banking, as well as at over 1,100 branches, with convenient hours to serve customers better. For more information, please visit: TD Canada Trust is the Canadian retail bank of TD Bank Group, the sixth largest bank in North America.

SOURCE TD Bank Group

For further information:

Jamin Robertson
TD Bank Group


Court Sets Mileage Rate at 50 cents / km for Independent Medical Exam Travel

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, finding a Defendant should pay 50 cents per kilometer as reasonable mileage money when a Plaintiff is compelled to travel to see a defense selected physician.

In the recent case (Nieman v. Joyal) the Defendant wished to have the plaintiff examined by an occupational therapist int he course of an injury lawsuit but could not agree on various terms including appropriate conduct money. In finding 50 cents / km is reasonable Master McDiarmid provided the following reasons:

[28]        A careful reading of Rule 7‑6 reveals that it refers to an order that the person submit to examination by a medical practitioner, and then the court is permitted to make an order respecting any expenses connected with the examination. No specific reference is made to the Schedule 3.

[29]        It seems to me that there is no difference in principle between the reasonable expenses of a plaintiff attending his own doctor, such as was awarded at 50 cents a kilometre in several of the cases, including the ones of Justice Stewart and Justice Schultes, and a plaintiff attending an independent medical examination, especially where the plaintiff agrees to attend an independent medical examination located in a different city.

[30]        Accordingly, I order the following:

1)    the plaintiff is to attend to be examined by Gary Worthington‑White, an occupational therapist, on a date to be agreed upon by the parties, with liberty to apply if there are difficulties;

2)    the defendant must provide conduct money as follows: firstly, mileage for 730 kilometres at 50 cents a kilometre, which is $365; secondly, overnight accommodation for one night at $175; and third, meals in the amount of $75. I apprehend that there will be at least four;

I know that it is approximately three and a half hours’ driving time from Burnaby to Kamloops, and it seems to me that what is reasonable here is that if the appointment ends before 4:30 p.m., it is reasonable for the plaintiff to drive home. So this is the next part of the order:  If the appointment ends after 4:30 p.m. on the date it commences, the defendant must promptly reimburse the plaintiff for one additional night’s accommodation and $12 additional meal allowance;

3)    if there are parking expenses not included in the hotel accommodation, those are to be promptly reimbursed upon being provided with the invoicing;

4)    the plaintiff can submit actual meal expenses, including alcohol, less whatever he has received in his allowance, as costs and the registrar can determine the reasonableness on assessment; and

5)    any notes recording any history or observations and data, including test results, are to be provided by October 31, 2015, or at such other date as may be agreed upon by counsel, if the presently‑scheduled examination does not go ahead.

[31]        It does seem to me that the plaintiff has been largely successful here, and so the costs of this application are to the plaintiff in any event of the cause.

#IBM: Three Ways Cognitive Computing Will Help the Insurance Industry

#IBM: Three Ways Cognitive Computing Will Help the Insurance Industry

By Christian Bieck and Craig Bedell, IBM

The insurance industry is facing a broad range of disruptive forces: changing demographics, volatile economies, sophisticated fraud attacks and rapid digitization of the industry.

At the same time, empowered consumers are demanding more from their insurance providers. Yet the traditionally conservative insurance industry has been slow in recognizing customers as individuals and providing personalized products and services.

In a recent IBM Institute for Business Value survey, 41 percent of respondents said that they changed insurers because the companies were too slow to react to their changing needs. That number is likely to grow as more customers become accustomed to faster and omni-channel service in other industries, such as retail.

To be successful amid such chaos and change, insurance leaders must be smarter in how they approach data. While the digital age has brought a massive amount of data brimming with potentially useful insights for insurers, organizations still struggle to unlock the full value of all that data.

Welcome to the age of cognitive computing, where cognitive-based systems can help bridge the gap between data quantity and data insights.

Intelligent machines simulate human brain capabilities to help solve society’s most vexing problems. They can build knowledge, understand natural language and provide confidence-weighted responses. And these systems can quickly identify new patterns and insights — capabilities that the insurance industry has never had before.

For the insurance industry, cognitive computing has indeed arrived, and its potential to transform the industry is enormous. Already, cognitive systems are using digital agents to help insurance underwriters make better decisions about their customers.

Our new research indicates that insurance industry leaders should focus on three areas to deal with the technological, economic and societal factors that are disrupting the industry today. They are:

1) Engagement: Cognitive systems can fundamentally change the way humans and systems interact. They can significantly extend the capabilities of humans by taking advantage of the systems’ ability to provide expert assistance. They provide advice by developing deep insights and providing this information to people in a timely, natural and usable way.

Because they are able to engage in dialogue with humans, cognitive systems can understand customers based on past communication and behavior. They use evidence-based reasoning. Today, these types of cognitive systems help insurers offer engaging and personalized interactions with consumers.

2) Discovery capabilities: Some discovery capabilities have already emerged. By using insights into customers’ behavior, providers can send personalized offers to individual consumers. Advanced cognitive capabilities have improved the bottom line by reducing operational costs.

In the near future, cognitive computing could scan images and contents of all legal and claims documents, and cross reference this information against each of the 50 states’ laws in the U.S., which often differ from state to state. In addition to improving costs, this process would help insurers better make better risk assessments and calculate premiums.

3) Decision capabilities: Cognitive systems aid in decision making and reduce human bias by offering evidence-based recommendations. They continually evolve based on new information, outcomes and actions. Current cognitive systems perform more as advisors by suggesting a set of options to human users, who ultimately make the final decisions.

These systems are helping insurance professionals make more informed and timely decisions. In claims management, they can greatly reduce processing times by instantly recognizing relevant passages from documents and communications.

Future applications might help underwriters assess the individual risk of each customer in a more personalized manner by combining weather data, geolocation data and other sources through mobile and newer technology.

The benefits of cognitive computing are not realized in a single “big bang” when they are initially rolled out. Instead, cognitive systems are evolutionary and provide increasing value over time. For the insurance industry, cognitive systems will enable insurers to be more nimble, more innovative and connected to their customers.

Christian Bieck is the Global Insurance Lead for the IBM Institute for Business Value.

Craig Bedell is a Global Insurance Industry Executive for IBM

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