What to Do If You Can’t Pay Rent?

People getting laid off, more and more fresh graduates walking into unemployment and a job market grimmer that any we’ve seen in recent time. Let’s face it, times are in fact, hard.

With many young adults who are still in school or barely surviving with low paying jobs, income has largely been affected as the pandemic continues to shake up livelihoods across the globe.

The unemployment rate in Malaysia was at 4.9 percent in June 2020. While more Malaysians file for unemployment, the official statistics also show that there is an increasing number of individuals leaving the labor force for various reasons although the Government has relaxed the Movement Control Order.

Money being as tight as ever, evictions are just around the corner for many as rent is still ever present for may who are renting their own place.

So, what do you do if you’re worrying about not being able to pay rent? 

Work out a payment plan.

Don’t wait until the due date to contact your landlord; by giving them as much notice as possible, they’ll be able to meet with you to work something out as you’ll show a clear sign of good faith.

As long as sincerity is present, it’ll be points towards wanting to make something work.

Provide documentations of your financial hardships or even prepare a note from your employer or evidence of your unemployment application.

Apply for relief

Two stimulus economic packages have since been unveiled. The RM20 billion (US$4.6 billion) Economic Stimulus Package 2020 was launched on Feb 27 by then interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. 

The second stimulus package, valued at RM230 billion, which carries the theme “Prihatin Rakyat”, was unleashed by the new Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin a month later on Mar 27. The sheer size of the new stimulus package reflects how rapidly the economic environment has deteriorated within a month.

Make the most of the stimulus by applying for them as a little bit of help could go a long way, especially in these times.

Talk to your landlord

When times are tough, landlords tend to show flexibility. Talk to your landlord and talk about your situation.

Landlords tend to help around with tenants with payment obligations, waiving of late fees and establishing payment plans. You never know about what you don’t ask, so consider utilizing the power of plain communication.

What We Know About the U.S. Covid-19 Vaccine Race

In a letter dated August 27th, Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, said U.S. states will receive permit applications in the near future from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with the CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

U.S President Donald Trump has also forecasted a U.S. vaccine approval by October. 

So, who is in the race of developing America’s Covid-19 vaccine? The three leading drug makers backed by the U.S. in late-staging testing now are Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Moderna

Moderna CEO, Stephane Bancel, said that they should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its vaccine works in November. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company also became the first to publish the blueprints of its study following public pressure for greater transparency. Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine enters the final stage trial this month.

As of September 19th, Moderna had recruited 25,296 volunteers. Among them, 10,025 had received their second dose, 28 days after the first. It’ll take a few more weeks to recruit the full quotient of 30,000 participants and for them to receive their second doses. Only Covid-19 infections recorded two weeks or more after the second dose are counted, to give the vaccine sufficient time to take effect.

Pfizer

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a sign outside Pfizer Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 22, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

Pfizer CEO, Albert Boula said its vaccine could be distributed to Americans before the end of the year, citing that the company should have key data from its late-stage trail by the end of October, which is line with what U.S President Donald Trump’s wants. Currently at phase 3 trials, Pfizer also published the blueprints for its research, soon after Moderna’s move.

While Pfizer is a household name in pharmaceuticals, it’s also a collaborating with a lesser known Biopharmaceutical New Technologies. Pfizer and BioNTech are planning to expand the enrollment of their phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial from 30,000 to 44,000 participants.

AstraZeneca

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

AstraZeneca co-developed a vaccine with the University of Oxford, but the global trials for it were suspended last week after a study volunteer, a previously healthy 37-year-old woman “experienced confirmed transverse myelitis” after receiving her second dose of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca has since announced that it will pause the the trial worldwide. The trial resumed in the U.K. on Saturday but is yet to resume in the U.S. Communications about the patient’s condition has not been fully transparent too, citing a company spokesperson that they “cannot disclose medical information.”

Trump’s claims

Trump said a vaccine could be three or four weeks away, despite cautionary warnings by U.S public health officials about that accelerated timeline.

Trump, speaking at a town hall hosted by ABC News in Philadelphia, defended his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and said a vaccine could be ready for distribution before the US presidential election on Nov 3.

“We’re very close to having a vaccine,” he said.

“If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals. And we’re within weeks of getting it … could be three weeks, four weeks.”

U.S Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden contradicted Trump, warning Americans that they cannot trust the president’s word. The president has since hit back at Biden, accusing him of spreading “anti-vaccine rhetoric”.

Stages of the race

Pre-clinical

The vaccines are usually tested on animals first to assess the safety and also its effects on the immune system. In order to pacen the process, researchers have tested both and animals and humans together.

Clinical Trials (Phase 1)

Vaccine is given to a group of people (usually between 10-50)

Clinical Trials (Phase 2)

Further tests are then administered on hundreds of people. 

Many coronavirus vaccines combine both phase 1 and 2 trials, which means that it is directly tested on hundreds of people instead in its supposing first phase.

Clinical Trials (Phase 3)

Thousands of people across different ages and locations are then given the vaccine; researchers later observe on how many contact the virus then. This shows how good it is at reducing new infections.

Implementation

The trial results are then reviewed by regulators who then determine whether it should be approved for licensing and large-scale manufacturing

Each step can typically take up to two years or more to complete, but the race has since forced some companies to combine or skip steps to accelerate the process. 

Operation Warp Speed

The U.S. government has stood by an “America First” approach to finding a vaccine. The Operation Warp Speed initiative is an effort largely similar in purpose with the mission to get a man on the moon. Launched in May this year, it aims of delivering 300 million “safe, effective’ doses by January 2021; eight of the most promising vaccine candidates has been selected and given a boost by the U.S. government. 

$10.8 billion has been dedicated for vaccine development and procurement while $1.5 billion has been pumped in for manufacturing and distribution.

Gender Reveal Parties in an Attention Seeking Community

Life itself is always something worth celebrating, especially if it’s celebrating the birth of a new one.

However, as wholesome as it is, gender reveal parties are, they play a rather dark role in society and also lately, the environment, as the explosion of colors and release of pounds of confetti in the air has finally taken its toll on our planet.

Over the U.S. Labor Day weekend, two expectant parents didn’t get the party they exactly hoped for as they sparked a wildlife that scorched more than 10,000 acres of land in Southern California.

What was a family event used to navigate gender, identity and life transitions, gender reveal parties has become their own mini-industry over the past few years.

Fueled by a never-ending quest of trying to out-do one another as couples, it also presents a bizarre culture of what is considered an attention seeking culture that we live in.

It can all be traced back to 2008, when blogger Jenna Karvunidis cut into a cake at a party, revealing the pink frosting inside it which symbolizes her having a baby girl. Just like that, the modern gender reveal was born.

In a wild bid to please the world of social media, users may go beyond the extremes such as wrestling alligators or even setting off explosions. So, how did it go from as simple family celebration to these? The reason is an attention economy, which uses the currency of views and likes to make the most out of their time online.

It all aligns with the values of an always-on digital consumer, always scrolling for the next best thing to appear on their feed.

The slightest choice to not having a gender reveal also serves purpose towards social media currency as social media influencer Iskra Lawrence announced on Instagram that she would not have a gender reveal – and included sponsored links to a clothing brand in the post.

Parents sometimes choose to ignore the culture and economics that play to these gender reveal decisions; instead of fuelling and celebrating the mystery behind a baby’s gender, perhaps they should also keep in mind to not fuel a forest fire while at it.

The Impact of 9/11 on Malaysia

Kent Kobersteen, former Director of Photography of National Geographic
“The pictures are by Robert Clark, and were shot from the window of his studio in Brooklyn. Others shot the second plane hitting the tower, but I think there are elements in Clark’s photographs that make them special. To me the wider shots not only give context to the tragedy, but also portray the normalcy of the day in every respect except at the Towers. I generally prefer tighter shots, but in this case I think the overall context of Manhattan makes a stronger image. And, the fact that Clark shot the pictures from his studio indicates how the events of 9/11 literally hit home. I find these images very compelling and in fact, whenever I see them they force me to study them in great detail.”

When the September 11 attacks (usually referred to as 9/11) happened 19 years ago on this day, not only the United States, but the whole world was in shock of what they were witnessing near and far across the globe.

Four coordinated terrorist attacks by the terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States resulted in 2,977 deaths and over 25,000 injuries, not to mention the substantial long-term health consequences that stuck with several other victims as well.

On top of that, with property damage of up to $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage, it is the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and single deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States.

Ever since the attack, September the 9th has been tailored into all of those who witnessed it on that day; many in the U.S. mourn for those that perished while many others still find it hard to believe that such acts of terror is in fact possible.

As the attacks began to be taken personally by countries near and far, it soon became clear that the attacks also shaken even those here in Malaysia who were 14,000 kilometres away.

Here’s how the 9/11 attacks affected Malaysia back then.

Malaysia Responds

Malaysia who has a majority Muslim population, responded by condemning the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, while pledging full support for the US-led effort to combat terrorism.

Both Malaysia and Singapore at that time cooperated with the U.S. through exchange of intelligence information and coordinating security measures against possible terrorist attacks.

Through their powers under the Internal Security Act, scores of Muslims involved in plots to carry out attacks against government and western targets in their regions were arrested; which included 50 people from militant Muslim groups such as the Kumpulan Militant Malaysia which were link to the JI and AQ networks. 

International Relations

The U.S. Administration and Congress appreciated Malaysia’s open support for the war against terrorism, in which help with the strained relations between the two ever since the 1998 sacking, detention, trial and jailing of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Both Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President George Bush agreed about the need to address the roots causes of terrorism such as the suicide bombers in Palestine. Mahathir even went the extra mile to persuade the Islamic world to condemn suicide bombings, but was unsuccessful to getting an agreement from the Organisation of Islamic Conference on a common definition of terrorism that would include such tactics.

However, Mahathir’s condemnation for the Israeli military occupation and suppression of Palestine remained unchanged.

Political Impact

The arrests of four dozen militant Muslims was largely linked to the Opposition Islamic Party, PAS, which put the party on the defensive end while increasing popularity of UMNO as a party of moderate Muslims.

According to Mushahid Ali a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Western-educated Muslim intellectuals also began debating Islamic issues with ulemas to reform rules in regards to women, governing family, governing society and to resist the introduction of the hudud punishment and restrictive practices for Muslims.

Why is Mulan Facing a Boycott?

Disney’s live action remake of “Mulan” has faced a bumpy road this year. The long-awaited film was supposed to be released on March 27th, was pushed to July 24th and is set to be going straight to the streaming service Disney Plus in the United States this month. 

Being one of the countries that don’t have access to Disney Plus yet, it finally had its theatrical release in Malaysia on September 4th and is now available in cinemas across the country.

As one of the first major movie releases since the coronavirus pandemic shut down film production and cinemas worldwide, the $200 million reboot served as a silver lining for many at this time, who grew up watching the animated version of Mulan that came out back in 22 years ago in 1998.

However, a recent unearthing of the lead actress, Liu YiFei’s, Weibo account has led to the movie being called for boycott in some countries such as Thailand, Taiwan and also the United States. 

Liu, who stars as Hua Mulan herself, angered fans last year with comments that were reporting supporting Hong Kong’s police, who were accused of violence towards pro-democracy protestors.

Last year, young people in Hong Kong has led months of demonstrations against a law which would allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China. The protests expanded to include demands for a democratic reform and also an inquiry into the alleged police brutality.

During a period of unrest the Chinese-born actress Liu, who’s an American citizen, shared a post from the government-run Beijing newspaper People’s Daily on Weibo.

“I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now. What a shame for Hong Kong,” it read.

She went on to receive widespread support on Weibo users in China, but that wasn’t the case for Twitter, which is among the many social media platforms banned in China.

The hashtag #BoycottMulan started to trend, more so during the week of Mulan’s release; Twitter users accused the actress of supporting police brutality and also pointed to the freedom she enjoys as an American citizen.

All coming from the happenings of last year, the law behind the initial protest was dropped. 

In April this year, many high-profile pro-democracy activists were arrested by Hong Kong police and a law deemed “the end of Hong Kong” was passed in June – a law that criminalises many things that could pose a threat to China’s authority in Hong Kong.

Prominent activist Joshua Wong has also since called for “everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan”.

In China, although viewers have spotted historical inaccuracies in the trailer, a poll created when the trailer came out showed that 115,000 users on Weibo were satisfied with what they saw.

“China finally has its own Disney princess,” as one user put it.

How Long The U.S. Took to Reach 6 Million Covid-19 Cases

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives during the beginning of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

According to data compiled by John Hopkins University, there have been more than 6 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States

The country’s first case came back in January 21 and it has been a long way from that ever since. Here are the numbers and how it got to what it is today:

  • 99 days to reach 1 million cases on April 28
  • 43 days more to reach 2 million cases on June 10
  • 28 days more to reach 3 million cases on July 8
  • Merely 15 days again to surpass 4 million cases on July 23
  • 17 days to go over 5 million cases
  • It took the country 22 days to reach 6 million cases

Despite Donald Trump’s message of positivity, the White House coronavirus task force report shows a different reality.

Data showed that he was getting increasingly alarming reports compiled by the White House task force. 

“Rather than being straight with the American people and creating a national plan to fix the problem, the President and his enablers kept these alarming reports private while publicly downplaying the threat to millions of Americans,” subcommittee Chairman James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, said in a statement.

On the same day that the report was released , Trump claimed that cases were rising due to increased testing, many states with reports of rising positivity rate disapprove this as it would’ve meant that the proportion of people who test positive compared to negative, which can signal a burgeoning outbreak.

The most recent of the eight reports released by the task force subcommittee is dated on August 9th. The course of the pandemic has since changed, improving in some areas or states and getting worse in others.

As of the 4th of September, the U.S. has over 6.17 million positive cases and 187,000 deaths with the state of California recording the highest infections in the country of up to 727,000 cases and 13,000 deaths.

The Nazi Origins of Adidas and Puma

Welcome to Herzogenaurach, the city where you have to choose whether to be  Puma or Adidas - mattlumine.com

Both Adidas and Puma are some of the most popular sports clothing brands in the world. Both hold big market shares of the sports clothing and footwear market with Adidas having 21% market share in the sports footwear in the US and 10% in Western Europe. Being such big brands both companies have to manage their public image well so that they appeal to the average consumer.

Thus both brands have had to pour millions into covering up their less than pleasant sides such as using child labour in the building of many of their shoes. As well as their modern problems both brands have a past which they have been trying to distance themselves from for decades. Their Nazi origin.

Adolf and Rudolf Dassler

Adidas and Puma both started as the brainchild of two brothers living in Weimar Germany in the 1920s initially working together to create the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Translated: Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). This venture started in 1924 and for a while, the brothers were the only ones in Germany who produced sports shoes.

As a result, the factory would become a key supplier to clubs in the Hitler Youth after the takeover of the Nazis. Their shoes were even used as the official sports shoes for the German teams during the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin.

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The Dassler shoe factory in Herzogenaurach, Germany circa 1930s

The brothers would continue to work with the government leading to both of them joining the Nazi party with a variety of enthusiasm. It was said that Rudolf was a much more adamant supporter of National Socialism whereas Adolf remained unsupportive of the regime. This developed into an ideological rift, increasing the already growing gap between the two brothers.

During the war, the factory was forcefully converted to produce military equipment for the Nazi’s initiallyfocusing on producing the Panzershrek, a shoulder-launched anti-tank rocket based on the American bazooka. Rudolf would try to convince the higher-ups of the Nazi party to allow him to produce patented army boots, a venture which proved to be fruitless. The Dassler factory would continue to produce equipment for the Wehrmacht until the allies pushed in and captured their town.

Denazification

After the end of the war, the brothers’ co-operation would be stifled by the American denazification programme and the persecution of high-level Nazi party members. Rudolf was suspected to be part of this group of high level Nazis and thus was interrogated by the Americans at the end of the war being held at an internment camp in Hammelburg until his release on 31 July 1946 after the investigation into his Nazi background proved fruitless.

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Adolf wouldn’t get off scot-free either. He was also taken into custody by those leading the denazification campaign and trialled for his co-operation. After some deliberation, Adolf was declared to be a Belasteter, the name given to a category of those who profiteered of the Nazi regime. This was considered the second most serious offence at the trials, just below actually being part of and engaging with the Nazi party and thus it carried a 10-year sentence as well as the threat of Adolf being removed as head of the Dassler business. His early co-operation with the Hitler Youth and Nazi membership was used as proof of this high-level conviction.

He would only be saved by the mayor of Herzogenaurach who was half-Jewish and a trusted allied co-operator. He testified that Adolf warned him of a potential Gestapo arrest and hid him on his own property as well as supporting Adolf’s claims of non-involvement with the political side of the Nazi party. As a result, he was reclassified to a lower rank of offender, a Minderbelasteter (Translated: Lesser Offender)which still carried a 2 to 3-year sentence which would lead to Adolf still losing control of his the Dassler business, something his brother Rudolf sought to exploit.

During Adolf’s appeal to lower his status from Minderbelasteter Rudolf would submit a declaration that said that Adolf had organized the production of weapons himself and for his own profit rather than being forced to and that Rudolf resisted the change in production but he wasn’t present to personally put a stop to the change as he was conscripted into the Wehrmacht in 1943. This would be proven false by the financial record of the business which showed a 100,000 German mark loss during the period of weapon production.

Adolf’s wife Käthe Dassler would contest most of Rudolf’s claims successfully leading to her husbands downgrade to Mitläufer (Translated: Follower) meaning that he could continue to manage the shoe factory although some supervision from the denazification board was still required. On 3 February 1947 Adolf was formally allowed to resume his management of the firm.

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Käthe Dassler who would become one of the heads of management of the newly formed Adidas after all of the managerial and sales staff moved to Puma with Rudolf after the brothers split.

Due to Rudolf’s accusations during the trials and his continuous campaign to subvert Adolf from the leadership of the company the brothers would become mortal enemies. Both families became increasingly hostile to each other blaming the other side for many of the problems they faced during the war. Thus came the genesis of Adidas and Puma.

A town divided

The year 1947 gave birth to what we now know as Adidas and Puma. Adolf still having control of the previous Dassler shoe factory sought to rebrand and thus came up with Adi (Adolf’s nickname) and Das (from his last name) creating Adidas AG. Rudolf also wanted to create a brand and took a similar route as his brother initially creating Ruda (Ru from his first name and Da from his last name) something he would later change finally coming up with the name PUMA Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler (Translated: Rudolf Dassler’s PUMA Shoe Factory).

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Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler on the left, Rudolf Dassler on the right

Their hometown of Herzogenaurach would be divided in this bitter rivalry between the two firms. The town developed the nickname of “the town of bent necks” as it was said that everyone would look down to see what brand of shoe you were wearing.

Some took advantage of this rivalry such as handymen who deliberately turned up to Rudolf’s house wearing Adidas shoes which would result in Rudolf telling them to go grab a free pair of Puma’s from his basement. Even the town’s two football teams were split between the two brands with ASV Herzogenaurach being supported by Adidas and 1 FC Herzogenaurach being supported by Puma.

You can’t change history

Although the rivalry between Nike and Adidas is more significant at the moment, the rivalry between Puma and Adidas still exists. With both companies being such giants in a very big and competitive industry it is not surprising that the old town rivalry continues to show itself to this day.

Even though both companies have a dark past their innovations should not be discounted from history. Adi Dassler revolutionised the sports shoe with his “screw-in studs” something that would go down in history as the West Germans performed a miracle comeback against the Hungarians while debuting Adi’s innovation in 1954 winning the match 3–2, permanently securing both Adi and his company a spot in the history books.

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A picture from the ‘Miracle of Bern’ the nickname given to the 3–2 victory against Hungary

Although both brothers were affiliated with the Nazi party their membership should always be put in context. In a time where non-cooperation with the regime could lead to death, the brothers’ collaboration with the Nationalist Socialist becomes much more understandable and even justifiable considering the odds they faced if they did not comply.

When analysing such situations we must always look at the context as to properly quantify its significance. In this context, their membership was not as significant as many make it out to be but it’s still a factor we should take into account when we look at the history of both companies.

By Calin Aneculaesei

Covid-19’s Impact on the Aviation Industry

Air travel is an essential method of travel across international borders without the wasting of too much time; however, as flawless as it is, air travel has unfortunately been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic like never before.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the aviation industry like a wrecking ball as flight cancellations, travel bans and restrictions has very literally put the industry to a steaming halt. On top of that, almost every country around have taken drastic measures such as full lockdowns, shutting down airports and completely sealing off borders to “flatten to curve” and contain the pandemic, making air travel limited to a few that are extremely essential.

Airlines have since grounded most flights, causing majority of their shares to plummet drastically, as to the decline seen during the SARS crisis in 2002/2003.

Flight cancellations

Government regulations in Europe and the U.S. require airlines to refund fares for cancelled flights. In many cases, airlines around the world have also opted to give out vouchers or travel credits that MUST be used by the end of the year (some airlines have extended this window to 2022).

By April, over 80% flight movements were restricted across all regions and research shows that the recovery of passenger demand is set to take at most 2.4 years. The Asia-Pacific region has the shortest estimated average recovery time of 2.2 years, followed by North America in 2.5 years, and Europe 2.7 years

Impact on air cargo

The cost of sending cargo across the Pacific Ocean tripled by late March. At the end of March, cargo capacity was down by 35% compared to the previous year: North America to Asia Pacific capacity fell by 17% (19% in the opposite direction) Asia-Pacific to Europe was down by 30% (reverse: -32%), inter-Asia was down by 35%. 

Lagging the capacity reductions, demand was down by 23% in March, resulting in higher freight rates: from China/Hong Kong, between March 2 and April 6, +158% to Europe and +90.5% to North America.

On top of that, international mail has also largely been stopped completely either due to suspension of domestic service or lack of transportation.

Impact on airlines

Due to sudden huge losses in revenue, airlines decided to hold out against refunding cancelled flights and tickets to conserve money, against government regulations. 

By mid-April, the inactive fleet went up to almost 14,400, leaving 7,635 in operation stood: predominantly in Europe, where less than 15% are operating, than in North America (45%) or Asia (49%); and affecting Narrow-body aircraft (37%) less than wide-body aircraft (27%).

By June 2020, the International Air Transit Association (IATA) projected a collective net loss of $84.3 billion yearly for airlines, worse than the $30 billion loss during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, and also projects that income will remain negative through 2021.

Impact on aircraft manufacturers

Manufacturers such as Airbus went through a reduction in wing production in factories in Broughton, Filton and Bremen, and also reduce working hours for its employees. Monthly production was cut to four A220s, forty A320s, two A330s and six A350; Airbus proceeded to deliver just 122 in the first quarter, 40 fewer than the previous year.

Boeing froze hiring and laid off employees due to a high amount of cancellations. On 21 April, Boeing announced a management structure overhaul. On 27 May, it announced plans to lay off 12,000 employees, while it reported zero new aircraft orders in April 2020.

Impact on airports

By the middle of April, the Airports Council International (ACI) observed a 95% fall in traffic in 18 airports in major aviation markets in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. It was also estimated by the Airports Council International (ACI) that passenger traffic worldwide would amount to less than half of what was previously projected for the year.

Demand for aircraft storage increased to a point where runways and taxiways at airports such as Frankfurt Airport and Atlanta Airport were closed to make room for storage by Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines respectively.

AirAsia Introduces RM30 Counter Check-In Fees

Contactless check-in kiosk at KLIA2

In a bid to encourage contactless check-ins through check-in kiosks and its mobile app, AirAsia has administered a counter check-in fee for selected countries and cities.

The fees are set at RM20 per flyer for domestic flights and RM30 for international flights (or its equivalent in local currencies). 

Travelers can simply avoid the payment by checking in for their flights through AirAsia’s website, mobile app, or airport kiosks instead, while practicing physical distancing at the same time! 

Apart from Malaysia, the fees are also applicable in Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, as well as Taipei, Kaohsiung, and Honolulu. However, the fee will be waived for a selected group of travelers, which includes guests with reduced mobility, Premium Flex or Premium Flatbed guests, as well as guests affected by schedule changes and flight cancellations. 

Those who face system errors are also exempted from the fees.

Payment can be made by cash or credit card at the airport; travelers can also choose to pre-pay them online using the “My Booking” feature on the AirAsia website and mobile app.

  • Log in to your BIG member account and go to “My Bookings”
  • Click on “Modify”, “Add Ons”, followed by “Airport Shuttle, Car Rental, TuneTalk & More”.
  • Click on “Counter Check-In”, and make your payment.

AirAsia Group Chief Operations Officer, Javed Malik, said the fees would help motivate travelers to utilize the airline’s investment in digital technology.

“In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, these self-check-in facilities have become very crucial in minimising physical contact between our guests and staff,” he said in a statement.

To put the pricings into perspective, European budget carrier Ryanair charges 55 Euros (RM270.22) for an airport check-in, which was already in place before the pandemic even happened.

U.S. low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines, charges $10 (RM41.47) for boarding passes to be printed at the airport, according to its website.

To find out more about AirAsia’s counter check-in fees, visit its website or its FAQ page.

How Dolce & Gabbana Lost 98% of Their Chinese Market With One Video

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Dolce & Gabbana is one of the most famous fashion brands in the world. Their clothes have been worn by some of the most recognisable stars on the planet such as Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna.

Firmly established as a top fashion house in the west, their gaze soon turned to lucrative markets in the east, in particular, China. With a population of over one billion, it’s no wonder Dolce & Gabbana were eager to entrench themselves into this market. Especially when it’s reported that 30% of their $1.3 billion earnings in 2017 came from the Asia-Pacific region.

To gain a foothold in foreign markets, companies will usually come up with an ad campaign that introduces them to the local market. One of the most memorable that springs to my mind is when Enterprise rent-a-car entered the UK market.

Their adverts played on the cultural differences between the U.S. and the UK, which helped endear them to the UK public. They were well-thought, funny, and played on stereotypes, but with their tongues firmly in their cheek.

This is a great way to expand your brand into another country, as long as you do it right. Dolce & Gabbana was already well-known in China when they released a series of videos on social media in November 2018.

But what happened next had the opposite effect of Enterprise’s campaign. Instead of bringing the local market on board, they alienated them.

The reason?

Instead of poking lighthearted fun at cultural stereotypes, Dolce & Gabbana overstepped the mark and insulted a whole nation through a poorly conceived ad campaign.

The ad shows a Chinese woman sitting at a table attempting to eat a variety of popular Italian dishes such as pizza and spaghetti. This sounds innocent enough but when you watch the video you can see why it caused an uproar.

The video shows the woman attempting to eat pizza with a pair of chopsticks. She looks confused, prods the pizza to no effect, and then tears a bit of it off and grasps it with the chopsticks.

The second ad is no better, with the woman confronted with a big bowl of spaghetti. Again, she looks at the bowl in a confused manner wondering how to eat it with her trusty chopsticks. Eventually, she twists the chopsticks around the spaghetti and takes a bite.

While the woman is attempting to eat pizza and spaghetti, a narrator speaks in the background. Unfortunately, my Mandarin is limited to two words, so I had to turn to Wikipedia to get a gist of what he was saying.

Yes, this ad campaign is listed on Dolce & Gabbana’s Wikipedia page, that’s how bad it turned out! The narrator is said to speak “with a hubristic and lecturing tone while having sexually suggestive lines.”

Once you’ve watched the video it’s not hard to see why these ads caused such outrage and why it was a marketing disaster. From the Chinese perspective, the videos are patronising and trivialise their culture. After watching it, I felt like it was implying that Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks regardless of how impractical it might be.

From a marketing perspective, I don’t know what Dolce & Gabbana were trying to achieve with these videos. Watching them, you’d have no idea they were a fashion company, you’d assume they were a restaurant or a takeaway company.

I understand what their strategy was. They wanted to show how Chinese and Italian cultures can come together. It was similar to the one that Enterprise employed in the UK. The problem was that Enterprise’s campaign endeared the company to their intended audience, while Dolce & Gabbana alienated it. It also helped Enterprise that British and American culture are a lot closer aligned than Chinese and Italian cultures.

The social media outcry in China was swift, with users accusing Dolce & Gabbana of racism and playing up to stereotypes about Chinese people. To make matters worse, a few days after the company had removed the videos from its social media channels in China, a screen capture of racist comments made by D&G co-founder, Stefano Gabbana, came to light.

In a direct message to an American fashion blog on Instagram, he complained about the removal of the videos and referred to China as the “Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” He also said China was a “country of shit,” in his ill-thought-out message.

Dolce & Gabbana released a statement claiming that their account and that of their designers had been hacked, but by then it was too late. A string of Chinese celebrities severed their ties with the company and others withdrew from “The Great Show” event, which the ads had been promoting.

Instead of entrenching its brand in China, the campaign did the opposite. A report found that sales for Dolce & Gabbana were down 98% in the country from the same period last year. The figures are shocking, but when you consider Chinese shoppers are the biggest buyers of luxury goods, it becomes clear how big of a mistake their ad campaign was.

China has a powerful online cancel culture and Dolce & Gabbana felt the full wrath of it. Whether the company can reclaim its position in the country remains to be seen. What the debacle does show is the importance of understanding your target market and the necessity of navigating cultural barriers.

Dolce & Gabbana fell flat on their face in this regard. Had they constructed their ad with a bit more tact, they may have succeeded. However, the ad had all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

If you want your brand to go global, the message is clear: put out an ad campaign that doesn’t play up to stereotypes and alienate your target market. Otherwise, you could get cancelled, like Dolce & Gabbana.

By Tom Stevenson