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British Airways Trying to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Stop Walkout; Greece Asks EU to Commit to Action Plan

Aired March 18, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: It's a case of put up or shut up. Greece tells Europe, put your cards, and your money, on the table.

Talking it over, British Airways trying to reach a last-minute deal to stop this weekend's walk out.

And the battle of the bread rolls. Gulf Air puts me through my paces as a flight attendant.

We have an hour together. I'm Richard Quest, and I mean business.

Good evening.

The Greek prime minister is telling Euro Zone leaders, lay their cards on the table or risk loosing the game. George Papandreou told the European parliament he wants to see concrete action and a concrete plan on Greek debt. He says the markets need to know what exactly the European Union, Euro Zone would do if Greece did need a bailout, which he still says they don't. He says he hopes a decision will be made at an EU summit next week.

And this is the crucial point tonight. The prime minister made it clear that if the EU doesn't act, then he may be forced to turn to the IMF.


GEORGE PAPANDREOU, PRIME MINISTER OF GREECE: We are, as you know, in cooperation, both with the ECB commission but also with the IMF and they have stated very clearly and Dominique Strauss Khan, also has made this very clear. That what we have taken as measures would be sufficient to qualify for IMF aid, if necessary.


QUEST: Now that, of course, reference to IMF aid, Mr. Papandreou says his country's drastic austerity measures won't work unless borrowing costs do come down.


PAPANDREOU: You have taken measures which have cut wages and pensions, and new taxes and so on, and that money, then goes to the interests of those that are loaning to you, rather than going to the implementation of a program, and the prospect of growth and prosperity. So, this is what we are saying. Within the Euro Zone, where we have one currency, we should have similar types of loans. I'm not saying the exact same loans, types of loans, but similar so that we can be competitive.


QUEST: Little doubt that what the prime minister said today put the cat, well and truly, among the pigeons. John Defterios is -


QUEST: Well, I mean, the truth is, that he raised the IMF issue. He said, put up or shut up, an we know now that the German government is more minded to allow for the IMF to get involved.

DEFTERIOS: Yes, I would call it a lot of shadow boxing taking place, before the EU summit next week. You can see the Greek prime minister is taking a position now. I spoke to one of his, one of his close advisors, this evening who basically said he wasn't setting a deadline, saying that we have to have it by next week or I turn to the IMF. But they would prefer to get a decision at that summit next week. And for it to be bank guarantees.

They don't think it is understood that they don't need a handout at this stage. But bank guarantees, which would - it if was in the bank, then Greece could borrow in the market at a lower interest rate. They were mentioning to me tonight, on the phone, that it is costing them another 1.5 percent of GDP as it is right now, because of the higher rates they are paying, which is close to 6.5 percent in the open market.

QUEST: Now, let's just pause for one second, there. Now, last week, on this program, last Friday, you will remember we had President Trichet of the European Central Bank. Listen to what he had to say about why the IMF is not the right organization to get involved.


JEAN-CLAUDE TRICHET, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK: The problem of the IMF-as expertise, is not disputed, what is absolutely necessary in Europe is that the peers, the governments that are responsible, because they are in the Euro area, that are responsible to survey the behavior of their fellow partners in the Euro area, will not be weakened.


QUEST: If you add in President Trichet, the cat is now become a lion amongst the pigeons.

DEFTERIOS: Yes, in fact, one of the other discussions I had today is with Miranda Xafa, who is now with IJ Partners, out of Geneva, but a former executive board member of the IMF, who basically said, look Europeans need to give an answer and she thought, specifically that Papandreou should not leave the meeting in Brussels without an answer. If he does not get an answer a week from now, then he should just basically say they need to go to the IMF.

And there is another debate here, Richard, it is that it is not so bad to go to the IMF. She was discussing the special drawing rights. If you are borrowing at 6.5 percent in the market right now and paying a fortune over the market rate, and you went to the special drawing rights, they could qualify you for loans at 2.25 percent, which would be a cost savings. And then they would have the mechanism in which to rebuild over the next three to four months. But this is a very high stakes game. You have advisors stepping in. You have different consultants saying one thing. You see-


QUEST: Is it a bailout? Is asking for guarantees, a bailout?

DEFTERIOS: Well, those are the rules that need to be established. If you put the money in the bank, and it is a guarantee which lowers interest rates, some would argue that it is not. I know you are not in that camp. But this is what needs to be debated-


DEFTERIOS: -over the next five or six days.

QUEST: All right. All right, John. Stay where you are. We are going to talk more about this. Don't go away just yet.

Greece's debt has played out like a Greek tragedy. That much you know. Taking you back to November, the new socialist government unveiled its final budget, which was a plan to cut the country's public debt to around 9 percent, that's the deficit. The plan did not impress. Three top ratings agencies, Fitch, Moody's and S&P downgraded the debt.

February, outrage at the austerity measures, 24-hour general strike, and the country at a standstill. Nasty clashes between police and protestors. The people's demands not met. Under pressure from the European Union, Greece announced a further package of budget cuts on March 3, designed to save $6.5 billion. And then this week the EU leaders set up the framework to help the country overcome its debt and deficit.

Let's talk about this. Joined now from our CNN London newsroom by Vanessa Rossi, who is a senior research fellow at the International Economics Program at Chatham House.

So, Greece wants the governments to guarantee, basically, that they will-that they will stand behind it. Is that a bailout by any other name?

VANESSA ROSSI, INT'L. ECONOMICS PROGRAM, CHATHAM HOUSE: Not technically a bailout. I think there is an issue about avoiding strictly a default, and certainly Greece wants to do that, because having a default, if you really find no option to renew your loans, would cause technical problems in the market and cause further disruption for funding. So, that has to be avoided.

The issue of the bailout, is really do we need to get some kind of backing to get the bankers back into help fund Greece, which is not a bailout, if that the way it is done. But I think that the initial problem that we faced a couple of months ago was that Greece really didn't have a credible plan. The Euro Zone has now backed the latest plan and said it believes it, and that it is capable of doing this, and that it will deliver the reductions in deficits which are needed. And that seem to hold off the market. At least there was funding in the last few weeks, which seem to suggest that the banks were coming back in again. Now we seem to be back to square one again, partly because I think there is larger funding coming up. So Greece needs to get the money for that.

QUEST: Right. Let me just interrupt you. I mean, one of the reasons we're back to square one, is because X number of weeks into crisis, Vanessa, and nobody has managed to actually grasp this nettle, negotiations but no solutions.

ROSSI: It is quite incredible. I mean, we remember saying just some weeks ago that the first thing that had to be done was to get guarantees about the funding. And that wasn't just from week to week. This was actually looking ahead to very chunky funding that needed in April and May. If Greece could have go assurances that that funding would be there from the banks, it would roll over loans-


QUEST: So, why call it-

ROSSI: This problem would have gone away.

QUEST: But let me interrupt you. Forgive me, but we need to grasp this. Why are the other European countries playing with fire when they know that the Euro Zone and the euro itself is in jeopardy?

ROSSI: Well, I think that they clearly muddying the waters by not giving clear signals from week to week. Whether they are doing something or not doing something. Every weekend we have a new story as to whether Greece will agree a package, or the IMF, or whether Germany will give loans or not. This is not helpful. We need to be clear about what will be done. But in terms of the Euro Zone, they're problem is that they feel that they are being outwitted to put money on the table. And they are not really prepared to do that. They don't have any mechanism to do that.

QUEST: OK. Stay where you are there. I'm going to bring back John Defterios, Johnny D, with me here.

Listen, Vanessa is pointing out that the arm twisting of the European- of the Euro Zone countries, and what are you hearing from those other countries?

DEFTERIOS: Well, it is quite fascinating. This is a very tight window, which is one point we should make here. The 25th and the 26th is the summit. You go into April, Greece is rolling over 20 billion euros of debt. They need to get that done and get a clear signal before they try to go back to the markets again. That is what the other countries are talking about right now. Let's not leave it because of constitutional problems in Germany, or domestic political problems, and roll this over to April, when Greece has to go back to the markets again.

QUEST: John, many thanks, indeed.

Vanessa, last to yourself: Does this get worse before it gets better?

ROSSI: Well, the simple way in which it could have got better was to get those guarantees in place, and to make sure the guarantees tided Greece over, through April and May. Because then you could actually begin to see whether the Greek plan is working. But if we are not going to get that, then the chances of Greece actually ending up with a technical default in April escalate. And that is why the markets are getting quite scared. Quite understandable.

QUEST: Well, let me use the B word. Will there inevitably-and I happened to be one of those people who think guarantees is a bailout by another name-will there inevitably be a bailout of some description or another.

ROSSI: I fear that the way this has gone from week to week, and with the lack of guarantees from the banks so far, that they are going to end up going to the IMF, which is effectively a bailout. But not such a terrible solution and maybe they should have just done that in the first place and got on with it.

QUEST: Vanessa, many thanks, indeed. Come back and talk to us more- help us understand what's happening, as you always.

ROSSI: Very happy to help you out.

QUEST: Lovely, always to have you on Vanessa, joining us, Vanessa Rossi.

Now, most of the Europe's main indices were lower. Hardly surprising after what you have heard us just talking about. Greece, of course, may be unraveling, and the IMF, they all helped to fuel the retreat. Banks were under pressure. Citigroup downgraded the global financial sector to neutral, from overweight.

Look, let's not overstate it. The FTSE was flat. U.K. public borrowing figures were better than expected, $19 billion in February. Well, below economists' expectations. Now it comes a week before the U.K. finance minister will give his budget. And they now actually believe, some believe he may actually hit some of the targets.

You are up to date with the business news tonight. Becky Anderson, good evening, Becky on the news front.


QUEST: Now, when I come back in just a second-because we are going to take a break-both sides in the planned British Airways strike are at the negotiating table today. And BA's boss, Willie Walsh, has been busy writing letters to some of his most-valued customers. The weekend walk out's latest in a moment.


QUEST: Now, we have talked a lot over the last few weeks about the strike at British Airways. And last-ditch talks to avert it have taken place in London. And so far there is no breakthrough.

The chief exec, Willie Walsh, met the joint leader of the Unite union, Tony Woodley, it was an effort to halt the walk out, which is due to start on Saturday. Mr. Woodley said that Unite would call off the strike but only if BA resubmits a settlement offer it made last week, before the union actually came up with the strike dates. BA has always refused to do that, so far.

Around 12,000 cabin crew are set to walk off the job over cuts in crew levels, and extended working hours. British Airways plans to fly 65 percent of its normal schedule during the strikes. And believes up to 50,000 passengers will be carried by its charters, or other airlines.

As the airline continues to drum up support for its cause, this time it has appealed to its most elite customers. BA has e-mailed around 1,200 premier cardholders asking them for their support. Now, the e-mail doesn't give specific details as to what they should do. But here is the crucial pit of the text. It asks them to be an ambassador-excuse me-for BA, wherever they can.

And look at this: They want them to use their considerable influence to support its business. The letters asks elite flyers to consider the harm it will do to the profits in the current climate.

We need to talk more about this. I'm joined now by Randy Petersen, who joins me via broadband. Founder of Flyer Talk, an online frequent flyer community. Randy is with me and he joins me live from Colorado.

Are you surprised, Randy, tonight that BA has roped in the prem cardholders?


RANDY PETERSEN, FOUNDER, FLYERTALK: No, I'm not surprised. Actually other airlines do the same thing, because in a premier card, those are big influence people for British Airways They are often maybe the corporate head of travel management for a multi-international corporation that maybe oversees 10s of 1,000s of business travels. They also maybe celebrities who, in certain circles, could put out a good word for British Airways.

And a premier card, unlike their normal tier card, silver and gold, they are really-I mean, they're invite only. You can't do anything to get one of these cards. British Airways will pick you to give you one.

QUEST: Now, let's talk about that. Because when we talk about these "invited-only"-all airlines have an-or most airlines-have an invited only level. And frankly, I've never heard so much discussion around our newsroom, about how you get one of these cards and the advantages once you've got them. So, you tell me what it is like?


PETERSEN: Well, it is like winning the lottery, actually. And most of it, actually, British Airways' partner, American Airlines, they are super, invite-only level concierge's key is featured prominently in the new "Up In The Air" movie, out there with George Clooney. But in essence they pick you. What you really get is hand-holding. When you arrive late for a flight, someone will meet you. Someone will take you down a secret stairway, and get you to another plane, real, real, quickly, so-

QUEST: But do you get that Holy Grail? The free upgrade? Do you basically-


QUEST: --sit at the front whatever you have paid?

PETERSEN: No, honestly, most of the time it is really just about making sure your flight is never disrupted. For instance, in the premier card from British Airways, you get the gold-tier level status, if you will, but you really easy access. In fact, someone will walk you to the Concorde lounge, the Concorde room, there at Heathrow. So those types of things, rather than any bonus miles or anything else, it is really just personal service. And frankly, that is more valuable than anything else these days.

QUEST: Because, of course, the people who have got prem cards and gold cards-well, Uber gold cards, they have already got-they have more than enough miles and more-Randy, you and I could talk about this for hours to come. Unfortunately, I need to move on. Randy Petersen, many thanks indeed. He'll be joining us many more times in the future to talk about these issues.

But now, what are the other airlines doing? The other airlines have not stopped. They are making hay, at BA's expense. Obviously, Virgin Atlantic, which is a long-haul carrier, founded by Richard Branson. It said bookings have increased as a result of the strike at BA; 3 percent in December, the month BA's cabin voted. It was up, so they are doing extremely well.

The problem, that Virgin tells us, is that the planes are already pretty booked, because-and here is the interesting thing-although it is not quite Easter, a lot of the private schools in the U.K. are on holiday over that strike.

RyanAir, the low-cost, from one side, from the sublime to the ridiculous, they are offering special fares. They are offering-BA, they are doing all sorts of things to try and attract people onto their-onto their-onto their planes.

And this is the web site, from BMI, it used to be the old British Midland. Now if you look here. We'll have to just bare with it for just one second. There you go, up it will come. "It's No Go at BA." And of course, these are the routes that they compete against. "It is all go at BMI." That is what it is all about, the battle between the various airlines at the moment.

When we return, and later in this program, remember yesterday, having a go at being a flight attendant? Today we find out whether it is Isha or myself, who wins the challenge.


QUEST: It is judgment day. My colleague from "BUSINESS TRAVEL", Ayesha Durgahee and I have coped with simulated emergencies at sea, cold coffee at 30,000 feet, and all of that along with the pressure to keep smiling. So, after keeping calm and carrying on at the Gulf Air Academy, in Bahrain, it was time to find out who won our cabin crew challenge. And I can tell you, it really all came down to who was able to do this-(BELL CHIMES)-the best.


QUEST (voice over): Never before has our attention been so focused on what the crew are about to do. Within moments, one of us will be doing this for real. We depart Bahrain and climb to 35,000 feet. A toss of the coin to see who works the first leg to Dubai.

(On camera): First or second?

AYESHA DURGAHEE, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: I think I'll let you go first.

QUEST: Go and have a seat.

(voice over): The flight is just 55 minutes, which means 25 of them to serve all the passengers.

(on camera): Breakfast, sir. I beg your pardon.

I'm sorry, sir. This is your breakfast. You enjoying that? Thank you very much.

Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), your final destination? Your Highness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want my food, now.

QUEST: There is always one.

Oh, no, they can't do this to me. They've done it to me.


QUEST: All right. I do a full bakery.

What would you prefer?


QUEST: She put him up to it. She put him up to it.

Sir, may I offer you some Arabic coffee.

DURGAHEE (voice over): We looked the part, and it feels like we've been doing it for years. Well, sort of. With a 50-minute turn around, we're back up in the air and it's my turn.

(On camera): Would you like some bread? OK. Where do I put the bread?

(voice over): So, far so good, no tricky customers for me.

QUEST: I'll have a white roll, the one right at the bottom.

DURGAHEE: Did you order coffee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She got confused with her tea and coffee orders.

DURGAHEE: Sit down please, we're at the at the top of the set now.

(voice over): The flight is over and so is the challenge. Time to find out who won.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, done. Both of you, congratulations to you both. I was very impressed with you. Richard you have a very good cabin presence. You are very bubbly in the cabin.

And Ayesha, excellent service skills, very graceful and elegant when you were offering to the guests. It was very, very close, but I have to say, who wins the challenge, as in who would make the best flight attendant, at this date, I'd have to say, Ayesha.

So, congratulations, Ayesha, you have actually won the challenge.

QUEST: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard, you know what this means?



QUEST: I know exactly what this means. It means I have to clean the plane. Oh!


QUEST: Blisteringly difficult to do. I don't know how they do it. All of up in the air, I tell you. And all I was most concerned about-look if you want to see more attempts-my attempts to use these, it is on "CNN BUSSNESS TRAVELLER". It is at the times, that you can see, on your screen, when we are up in the air, and the flight attendants.

When we come back, in just a moment, seriously stuff back to the life line, America's long-time unemployed. A new law of $18 billion for the jobless, some say it is a stimulus package, too far. Good evening.


QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, this is CNN.

President Obama says much needed help to America's unemployed is on the way. The president has just signed a multi-billion dollar jobs bill into law on Thursday, that some critics call an unnecessary expense. At less than $18 billion it is a relatively small amount of money, compared to the original stimulus package. Earlier I talked to Maggie Lake, in New York, that with that small amount, it was more politically than economically significant.


MAGGIE LAKE, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you could say that, Richard. I mean, certainly the administration incredibly relieved that they finally got Democrats and Republican lawmakers to agree on something. But they do feel it is needed for the economy as well.

If we look at some of the details, you are right, the $17.6-billion figure, much smaller than the $85 billion they had originally hoped for. It is targeted a little bit differently than some of the other stimulus we saw. Employer tax breaks for hiring and investment, targeting at small business. That was very key in terms of getting some of those Republicans onboard. And once again we see the emphasis on infrastructure, funding for highway and transit programs. That has been a consistent theme in many of the stimulus programs.

The administration is hoping that this does bolster this very fragile economic recovery we have going on. But even President Obama admits that it is not a silver bullet.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The solution to our economic problems will not come from government alone. Government can't create all the jobs we need, nor can it repair all the damage that has been done by this recession. But what we can do is promote a strong dynamic private sector, the true engine of job creation in our economy. We can help to provide an impetus for America's businesses to start hiring again.


LAKE: So, it is a small step. A small victory that they are hoping to build on, there is some talk already among Democrats that they would like to see another one of these, sort of smaller targeted jobs bills, as we head into that all important mid-term election, Richard.

QUEST: Now, is there a feeling that there is no advantage one way or the other in opposing these stimulus packages of -- of size, unlike -- unlike the health care or the other major pieces of legislation on the table?

LAKE: Yes, absolutely. Very difficult for -- for Republicans, for anyone that's facing a race, or even if they're not, to going back to their constituents and say I voted down this jobs bill.

However, there were some people who voted against it simply because some are concerned that they're not effective. We've heard that all along -- they don't create the jobs that -- that are promised.

And, more importantly, the other thing that's starting to really come up among the opposition is -- and they're getting more passionate about it, is concerns over deficit spending. And we heard from one Republican who's been very vocal on this front, Judd Gregg, who said this is not a jobs bill, it is a debt bill, and warned there'll be no tomorrow for our children as we add this debt onto their back.

I heard him make another comment, Richard, that really sort of summed up how these deficit hawks feel. And he said, you know, we talk about systemic risk, we talk about systemic risk, the biggest systemic risk to our economy is this Congress and the runaway spending.

So there's a lot of concern heating up about that, especially as we talk about some of these other reforms that you mentioned, including health care.

QUEST: Just -- just finally, briefly, Maggie, it is still worth remembering -- and I can't remember the details, but a large part of the original 787 debt stimulus package still has to kick in this year, doesn't it?

LAKE: That's right. And that's what some of the people who oppose -- some of the critics worry about, is that we haven't seen the full effect of that and we're wracking up the bill. Let's -- let's sit back, take a little time, see what works and what doesn't, you know, what's effective. Let it work its way through the economy. Maybe we're already recovering and we don't need this extra bill.

So that's what they're really concerned about.

QUEST: Maggie Lake joining me there from New York.

The market in New York is open at the moment.


QUEST: Ooh. It's up just 39 -- 38 points, 10771. We seem to be very much in this range. You and I have talked about this quite a bit over recent days. We need to understand the mechanisms behind why we can't either break up or down, out of this range of roughly 10700.

And joined from New York, Tom Porcelli is the U.S. market economist at RBC Capital Markets.

He joins me now.

Tom, we are hide bound at the moment, aren't we, in this relatively narrow range.

And I'm wondering, what is it going to take to break us out?

TOM PORCELLI, U.S. MARKET ECONOMIST, HBC CAPITAL MARKETS: I think part of the problems is the fact that, from an economic perspective, we're also very range bound. I think the economy is ultimately going to drive markets, whether it's equities or fixed income. But the fact is a lot of the data continue to come in very uneven. And so until we see a break out in economic data, I think markets will also remain pretty range bound.

QUEST: Which is driving things, is it the market or is it corporate earnings?

Because each quarter, we -- I mean let's face it, earnings season is not as bad as the pessimists would have us believe, but absent that last bounce that we got late last year, there's been no real reaction.

PORCELLI: Yes, no. And I think you have to remember that -- why earnings have been somewhat better. Part of that is because of a lot of cost cutting. And a lot of cost cutting, what that ultimately boils down to is companies are just very reluctant to hire. You know, even though things are beginning to improve in that -- on that front, the fact is we're still losing jobs. And -- a lot of this kind of -- you know, these -- these better earnings that we're seeing are, indeed, because of companies still being very cautious about their costs at this point.

And again, a huge portion of any company's costs relates to jobs.

QUEST: Tom, as -- as I look at the numbers, let's just say, for example, the Fed, earlier this week, with these interest rates. Now, it's -- it was quite clear that there is some CAPEX expenditure. There is companies starting to invest again. So we have got that on the plus side.

The unemployment numbers are not grim, as grim as might be.

Which numbers are you looking at to the future?

PORCELLI: Yes, I think, you know, what we've said all along is that ultimately what's going to drive this recovery is going to be the consumer. And, ultimately, what drives the consumer is going to be jobs.

So what we're looking at are more the high frequency economic data, like jobless claims. And what we notice -- and I think you're absolutely right -- is that, in fact, layoffs are, indeed, abating. There's no doubt about it.

But there's another series within that report, within this kind of bigger claims report. It's called continuing claims. And what we see from continuing claims, when you also add in extended benefits, which is this, you know, kind of extra category that the government has put in place for people that are having a very difficult time finding work, is when you look at both of these categories combined, what you see is that people that are laid off are having a very difficult time finding work.

So, ultimately, for us, it's going to come down to jobs. And it's great that CAPEX is rising. And, in fact, the Fed did mention that as -- as kind of on of these positives, there's no doubt.

But what -- what you would also notice from that -- their FOMC statement is that things aren't really improving that dramatically on the jobs front.

QUEST: So...

PORCELLI: And that's what worries the Fed.

QUEST: Well, you're -- you're right on that. And then -- then we come to the -- the wonderful statements, don't we, exceptionally low interest rates for an extended period.


QUEST: We could probably chorus in that together now.

When do you believe we will have...


QUEST: -- we'll actually see a change in that language?

PORCELLI: Well, the change in the language will probably wind up occurring, if not at the next meeting, then the meeting after that. So let's just call it two meetings from now. Once they change the language, that basically gives them the cover to -- to really start to talk in a slightly more hawkish tone and really start to prepare the markets for the eventual raising of interest rates, which we think will happen officially toward the end of this year.

QUEST: Right. So -- so you're still forecasting -- I mean let's face it, from a 0 to a 1/4, I mean I shouldn't think by, what, by the end of this year, you're not going to be much beyond what, 1, 3/4, 1?

PORCELLI: Oh, oh, yes. You know, by the end of the year, we'll probably have 25 basis points extra on top of, you know, the -- the 0 to 1/4 basis point range that we exist in now.

So, yes, it's -- it's going to be -- at first, it's going to start from a very slow process -- in a very gradual sort of way.

They're cognizant of what happened with Japan, you know, back -- you know, after they came out of their sort of lost decade. Japan acted entirely too fast and, of course, put the -- put themselves back into a recession.

So the Fed is cogni -- cognizant of that. And, as a consequence, they would really want to go, initially, at a very slow pace.

QUEST: Tom, lovely to talk to you on the program.

Please, a standing invitation.

I do hope you'll come back again and help us understand...

PORCELLI: I appreciate it.

QUEST: Many thanks, indeed.

Tom Porcelli joining us from RBC in New York.

Now, when we come back in just a moment, a World At Work -- a man who's proud to attend to your every convenience. The convenience behind the bathroom door -- the surprisingly satisfying job of keeping the lous (ph) spic and span.

Good evening.


QUEST: Welcome back.

He is the person who puts the comfort into your comfort break -- the toilet attendant. Now, what might seem to be a distasteful job to some, it actually turns out to be a proud profession to others.

One of the beauties of our World At Work series is that we really do take you to all sorts of careers, professions and jobs. And tonight, we'll meet the man who makes you feel like a prince every time you need to visit the throne room.


KWOK FOON YIN, TOILET ATTENDANT, MARCO POLO HOTEL (through translator): I go to work at 8:00 every morning and get off at 5:00 p.m. I'm responsible for cleaning the bathroom, clearing all the dust and mopping the floors. Sometimes I help to move furniture in the hotel.

I'm 59 years old. I found the job by answering an ad in the newspaper 17 years ago.

What I'm doing now is all about service. You have to really courteous, no matter how bad the customers behave. We have to show our hospitality. I do think that I'm accustomed to the dirtiness of this job, because we're older and experienced, we're not that afraid of dealing with a mess. We don't feel so disgusted by dealing with bathroom issues.

Most young people find it really difficult to deal with. If they try to work in this field and serve really poorly behaved customers, that's why young people cannot work very long in this position. But for older people like me, we're generally more patient and experienced, so we can handle it. That's why we don't mind doing the cleaning and we are still sincere in this kind of job.

The main reason I stayed in this job is because I really get along well with my colleagues. The boss treats me well and I feel happy working here so I'm going to continue.

I think the best part about this job is that I can earn a fairly stable income. They pay on time and the hotel provides me with a free lunch every day. I get paid about $670 U.S. a month. So this stable lifestyle already makes me happy.

The tips vary. Sometimes I get up to $10 or $12 U.S. per day, while other times, I might just get $1 or $2 a day. It really depends on my luck that day. But I actually earned more in tips before the hand over in 1997. Since then, the tips have decreased.

I get to interact with many people from other countries. The Japanese are very disciplined and always wait their turn. The Americans are very polite. They say, "thank you," before I even provide any service.

I've been told the job of toilet attendant doesn't really exist in some other countries. It's probably just because the culture is different. They probably don't need it. But in Hong Kong or in Asia, people are used to getting this kind of service. Most visitors coming to Hong Kong know about this service, so they won't be surprised.


QUEST: Fascinating. The World At Work brought to you.

And one of the most important things that we do on this program is to reflect how you earn and how you spend your money. Our World At Work has taken you from those people who put up posters to those people who are flight attendants to the World At Work you saw now, and, of course, many more.

Send us your pictures and your stories of your world at work. There are a variety of ways. You can find us on Facebook at questmeansbusiness. You can e-mail me straightaway at That will arrive in this computer here. Or Twitter. The Twitter address, that much you know already, it's @richardquest.

The World At Work -- well, what about if your world at work -- to complete the metaphors -- is all about your world at work of weather?

And that's Jenny Harrison at the World Weather Center.


Yes, it's -- it's a hard slog. Yes. I've got a lot to tell you about.

I'm going to start out, actually, with the concerns in the United States about the flooding across the Upper Midwest. Now, you look on the radar and think it doesn't look too bad. We've got a few showers pushing into the Carolinas in the last two years, a little bit of activity coming out of the far north and the northwest.

So why is this such a concern?

But I can tell you why. It's really due to the amount of snow that is sitting on the ground. A huge amount of snow sitting there. And more, in fact, this winter than there was in 2009. Rivers are already well above normal. And, of course, the ground is frozen solid.

So when you've got ground frozen up to a meter, any of this snow that is going to melt really doesn't have, pretty much, anywhere to go.

Now, all of that snow, when it turns to liquid, the equivalent could be as much as 25 centimeters or more. These are the areas we're talking about -- North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and also to the south of there. And in particular, Fargo. This is the town that really is at threat. It's at the highest stage flood levels in terms of the warnings. And this is what the National Weather Service in the United States are actually saying. So they're projecting the rivers should reach their peak at 38 feet -- the flood levels at 38 feet.

Now this red line above it, that was the record last year. That was 40.8 feet. So that is getting on to 12 meters. And that is why the concerns are so high. It is why thousands -- hundreds of thousands of sandbags have already been down -- laid down in place to hopefully protect all the homes, the businesses. And that, of course, is the area we are really talking about.

Now, the temperatures, of course, haven't helped. We've seen quite a sudden thaw because of how mild it's been. This is where the mild air is pushing to next across the Northeast.

And so -- and Wales, they've got some more rain and some snow pushing in. Maybe it's sort of a good thing. Let's hope so. Because the cold air also pushing in behind that system. So it should or could, hopefully, prevent some of the spring thaw.

You can see how the temperatures shift into the Northeast as we go into Friday and in the Southeast very nice. It should hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, when it comes to the delays, nothing too much across the United States if you're traveling to or from. Just Denver. You saw that snow pushing through. And that's really the main city impacted by that.

Then we go to the opposite extreme. Look at these temperatures right now. These are the current temperatures in Paris -- 17 degrees. The average by day at this time of year is 11 degrees. It's mild in the southwest, 17, as well, in Lisbon. And that's because of the position of high pressure. And, of course, that is set to change. You knew I was going to tell you that.

But the mild area is still in place as we go into the weekend. In fact, those temperatures continuing, too, above average in the southwest. And then, of course, we're going to see the spring thaw really continuing to set in across much of the East and the Southeast.

The U.K., meanwhile, some rather heavy amounts of rain coming in. But, again, we've got some areas desperately in need of some rain.

And you can see apart from that, again, a fair amount of cloud across Central Europe, but generally dry. The winds are going be quite brisky -- brisky -- brisk. And that is what it could lead to, the delays, whether it's Amsterdam, Dublin in the morning and afternoon hours. The same story across into Copenhagen and elsewhere. Just lots of green boxes.

So just be prepared for your brisky conditions -- Richard.

QUEST: Is it -- never mind my brisky conditions.


QUEST: Ms. Harrison, I need to know, look you had -- yes, I can hear you chortling in the background as I got to (INAUDIBLE)...



QUEST: As I got...

HARRISON: (INAUDIBLE) watch it again and again.

QUEST: As I got to grips with silver service. Now, come on, you -- you must have done your fair stint as some point as a -- as a waitress. I've done it as a waiter.

Did you ever -- did you have to do this?

HARRISON: I never have and I never have done and I would love to have actually had a go at being a flight attendant. I would. I'd love it. I'd love it. Maybe I'll ask if I can do that the next time I fly. No, I've never done that. You look like you've got the hang of it now, a bit too late.

QUEST: No, no, no, no. I assure you, there's nothing hanging about this, in the sense of my trying to pick something up.


QUEST: All right, next time I get a chance to -- one thing I do want to ask about, on a more serious note, this unseasonably warm weather that some parts of the world are -- are enjoying, the Gulf Region. Other places are getting it, as well. We've got a nice spring in the U.K.

And I'm just wondering, is this El Nino?

Is this all to do you -- is this global warming or is this just an aberration?

HARRISON: You know what?

The mild temperatures, we can't really put that down to El Nino. What we can put down to El Nino is the fact that, as I mentioned, in the U.S., we've got this flooding risk. A third of the country under a flood risk, very high alert, because of the amount of rain you've seen over the last few months. So El Nino tends to produce heavier amounts of rain, Richard, which is a lot of moisture, a lot of warm water. All that gets picked up.

So we can't really connect it to the temperatures. But you know what happens, the temperatures, we get the averages and then we're going to get cooler weather and that is how you get your average mean temperatures.

So just enjoy it. That's my -- that's what I'll say to you, just enjoy this mild weather. It won't last forever.

QUEST: I've been told off by Jenny Harrison at the World Weather Center.

That was her polite way of saying shut up and enjoy it. All right. It wasn't that polite.

All right, many thanks, Jenny.

Many thanks.

Now, remember the real estate bubble?

Then we had the dot-com bubble?

Now the champagne bubble may be about to burst.

What's fizzing that particular market and is it about to go flat and many more puns that will have you groaning when we have that report after the break.


QUEST: Champagne sellers around the world have very precious few reasons to crack open a bottle of their very product, the bubbly. Sales around the world apparently are going flat.

Now, you may find that rather surprising, because if you think about the odd celebration or New Year's Eve and everybody cracks open the bubbly.

But apparently, it's not continuing and at a time when people may be drinking more premium products, one has to ask why is the most premium product of them all not doing so well?

Sasha Herriman has been gauging the mood at a London tasting fair.


SASHA HERRIMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the largest annual gathering of champagne tasters in the world. In this room, the more than 70 producers. And between them, they're cropping more than 10,000 bottles of champagne.

How much does something like this cost?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the retail shelf?

The price is 160 pounds.

HERRIMAN: Can we taste this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course, if you want to.

HERRIMAN (voice-over): Producers and traders meet in Central London every year to taste the market's latest offerings. But this year, they've got a lot to speak about. That's because French exports, their pride and joy, have dropped 28 percent. Shipments to the U.S. have slumped nearly 30 percent and to the U.K., they've dropped 15 percent. And considering the Brits are traditionally the biggest drinkers of champagne outside France, drinking the same amount as the U.S., Germany and Belgium combined, that's a big deal.

ANDREW HAWES, U.K. BOLLINGER AGENT: And the last two years have been challenging. There's been a fall of -- in each of the last two years. There was a -- post-September 2008, there was a fall of 8 percent in shipments into the U.K., in 2008. And that's been followed by a fall of 15 percent in -- in 2009.

So, essentially, we've had a fall of just under a quarter.

HERRIMAN: And it's the top end of the market that's the first to suffer.

So my chance to taste what you could be missing again.

(on camera): Right. You guys have had your glasses. I didn't have one.

Can I try it?

Can I try a glass of champagne?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course.

HERRIMAN: Wonderful. Wonderful.

Do I help myself?

(voice-over): And again.

(on camera): And what would that retail at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would retail around about 60 pounds in -- in the U.K. (ph), High Street.

HERRIMAN: Can I try some?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course.


HERRIMAN (voice-over): Figures show there's still an appetite for champagne, but it's a question of getting a bottle to suit your pocket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Champagne is like music, one day you want Guns and Roses, the next you want Mozart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'd have to go with Rouen. I think I would definitely have to go with that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, good point. Yes. (INAUDIBLE). It's one of those champagnes you can't -- you can't sort of count as your favorite because it's so special.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like so many different champagnes. And there are certainly different champagnes for certain occasions.

HERRIMAN: And those in the industry are looking on the bright side.

FRANCIOSE PERETTI, CHAMPAGNE BUREAU: The last time we had a major global recession in the '90s, the U.K. market dropped by 40 percent. So we are actually quite happy and very proud of the British consumers.

HERRIMAN: They can toast that, at least.


HERRIMAN (on camera): Cheers.






(voice-over): Yes, three times. You see, even in a crisis, life must go on.

(on camera): Now, how often do you get to drink something like this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately, nearly every day.

HERRIMAN (voice-over): Excuse me. Rewind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately, nearly every day.

HERRIMAN: A tough job, but someone has got to do it.

Sasha Herriman, CNN, Central London.


QUEST: And Sasha Herriman can now be found lying under her desk at the corner of the newsroom, where she will be until, of course, the next bottle arrives.

The markets that are open and doing business -- the New York market closes in just about an hour and five from now. While we've been on air, it's not been hugely exciting, just around up 43, a tenth of a -- four tenths of a percent. And the numbers holding pretty much where they have been. No major influences on New York today.

The European markets, at the moment, a quick look at how they have traded. London was flat despite depressing economic news. Frankfurt and Paris were both lower.

Those are the markets.

You are up to date.

And when I come back in just a second or three, there will be a Profitable Moment. And, once again, it will be on Greece.


QUEST: Tonight's Profitable Moment.

We have talked before about it. We need to talk about it again -- the misery of the Greek tragedy. The sage of Greece's financial crisis that just rumbles on.

Will the Europeans finally come up with a standby agreement or won't they?

Is the Greek government planning to go to the IMF or isn't it?

Does Greece need a bailout or doesn't it?

Weeks into this mess and there remains distressingly more questions than ever before. And what's worse, those questions don't seem to be answered. The damage continues. Just today, the spread between Greek bonds and German bunds rose again.

Now, I'm not for a moment questioning the sincerity of those involved. The Greek prime minister is doing a Herculean task trying to put things right, ensuring his people don't suffer more than is necessary. The German and French leaders are fighting on matters of principle.

And yet there's no end in sight. And the euro is being held hostage by this crisis. An inescapable truth is now clear -- the euro system is flawed and it needs drastic repair before the next crisis.


I'm Richard Quest.

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

"AMANPOUR" is after the headlines.