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November 2014 Newsletter

Editorial

Rail

On the 14th November 2007, a mere seven years ago, the first commercial passenger train travelled between London and Paris, in so doing it went under the English Channel i.e. that piece of water that had separated Great Britain from Europe. Europe, by definition, was, to British people”over there” (with a hand pointing to the east). The success of this rail network needs no further qualification; the UK has regular rail links to not only Paris but also Brussels and also nowadays Amsterdam. Plans are steaming ahead to have high speed rail links not only connecting the UK to major cities in Western Europe but to also provide the connectivity between all major Western European cities. Good examples of these would be Madrid – Barcelona or Berlin – Frankfurt as well as connecting commercial capitals from different countries such as Amsterdam – Brussels.

It might reasonably argued that in the case of the UK, its economic vibrancy has been helped in no small measure by its ease of access to European markets for its goods as well as for its attraction to a skilled European labour force. For example it is estimated that there are some 400,000 French people living or working around the London area, attracted by the ease of communications with France as well as much more favourable business opportunities than what exist in the socialist inspired French system.

The key word in all this is ‘connectivity’’. Without connectivity any country, city or indeed business is seriously hampered in its economic development. If thus we think about Bulgaria and its connectivity both with the outside world and within it, we note that its connectivity with the rest of Europe is almost exclusively by air, except that is for the haulage of goods which invariably have to be lugged for several days across even non EU countries to reach their audience. Rail connectivity into the rest of Europe plays no part for Bulgarian passengers and little for Bulgarian goods. Within the country, rail travel, whilst improved massively recently with the introduction of some new rolling stock, it still the slowest way to get from A to B. With a rail track infrastructure that limits train speeds to around 80kms per hour, this is hardly likely to change soon. Fortunately, improvements in road connectivity are progressing nicely so this, to some extent alleviates the problem although environmentalists will no doubt have other opinions.

The sad fact is though that it will not be in our lifetime that we will see Bulgaria connected via a high speed rail network to the rest of Europe through Vienna and beyond. The cost aspect will certainly ensure this. By not having this option, it will thus hamper commerce in Bulgaria (and Romania) and its dealings with the rest of Europe. This is not to say that the country, its commerce and the people wont survive, they will, but just think how much easier it would be to have even better ‘”connectivity” with our main trading partners.

Mark Thomas

Managing Director

HRG Bulgaria

 

 

 

 

Fit for scrap

A recent video showing an Emirate superjumbo A380 having a regular ‘service’ threw up more questions than might have been reasonably expected. Commentary revealed that the airline planes to scrap each of its A380’s when they are between 12 – 15 years old. Compare that with say a Boeing 737 which might see 30 years of service and considerably more take off and landings than an A380 by mere fact it does many more journeys of shorter duration.

Breaking this statement down further, it works out at between 100 – 200 USD amortization costs per passenger for a return journey! A staggering fact!

Usually planes at this age are sold on the ‘”second hand market’ but it just might be that Emirates doesn’t want cheap A380’s being sold to rival airlines who may act as competition against it.

 

Review at your peril

A UK hotel recently levied a 100 GBP fine on a couple that gave it a bad review on trip advisor. The action made national news in the UK and forced the hotel to eventually back track on its charge.

However, what this is simply highlighting is the fact that Trip Advisor is becoming a vehicle for abuse in what in effect is a sound idea. People have twigged onto the fact that they can inflate or deflate a product i.e. hotel/airline for their own personal means.

It should also be borne in mind that value for money or perceptions about quality can hardly be compared if you are matching a 1000 Euro a night 5 star hotel against a 25 Euro per night B&B. reviews. Probably guests in either have never stayed in the other type so the question then becomes what in reality is being measured and compared?

 

Into the future!

Brazilian airline Tam changed a flight number recently when a well known clairvoyant prophesized that a plane departing Sao Paulo would crash. He named the flight as JJ4732 which was a Brasilia bound flight and not wishing to take any chances, the airline renamed it JJ4732.

The clairvoyant in question had already predicted the deaths of racing driver Ayrton Senna, Princess Diana and Brazilin Presidential candidate Eduardo Campos.

 

Wheels no good

Venice is considering banning suitcases or bags with wheels due to noise pollution and wear and tear on its famous cobbled streets.

Apparently residents have for a long time complained of the noise generated at all times of the day from such carriage items.

In turn the city authorities have already drafted a new rule which they plan to introduce that requires bags to be transported on air filled tyres.

Could be ’”goodyear” (sic) for porters then!

 

Did they really say that?

In what had to be read twice before it could be believed, Ryanair has won the right to take legal action in the Irish courts against pan European based Online Travel Agencies who (in its own words) offer ”customers misleading low on screen prices which bear no relation to the total amount that customers end up paying”.

Isn’t that how Ryanair made itself famous?

 

Amazon hotel venture

It has long been expected but was slow arriving; no not a Bulgarian train, but rather the step by mega brand Amazon directly into the world of travel. Reports from the USA indicate that in January next year it will start to sell hotels online starting in the major USA cities of  New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Initially Amazon will focus on selling independent hotels that rate 4 star and above on Trip Advisor. This initial launch should perhaps be viewed as a testing ground for a wider attack on the online travel industry and with thee power of the Amazon brand, it can only be a matter of time before all the major players in the hotel sector realize that they ”must’ also be seen on any such Amazon travel venture.

 

Spot the difference

Air France’s recent industrial actions that saw them abandon plans to push forward with developing low cost brand Transavia has resulted in them deciding that from next summer, all of their short haul services will be operated by a new subsidiary called Hop Air France!

If you are confused – you should be. It already has a low cost subsidiary called hop!

So just what the difference is between expanding Transavia and starting Hop Air France is, we would love to know. Except maybe that it was the Air France pilots who were striking and Transavia belongs to partner KLM i.e. it’s Dutch.

One must recall its France and French (jobs) first then all else can be ignored.

 

 

Ryanair orders big

Any doubts that Ryanair has about either its own long term future of the viability of Europe’s economy seems to have been answered with their order for 200 new Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. These are the new generation machines that yield 18% improved efficiency. The total order is worth 22 billion USD but what is more eye catching is that by 2024 i.e. 10 years from now, their fleet will comprise of 520 planes.

That figure will be enough to make the likes of Lufthansa and Air France cringe.

 

Repatriation won’t come cheap

Airlines have agreed to offer passengers left stranded by a carriers collapse ‘discounted fares”. On the face of it this sounds good news but it should be noted that this is applicable to EU airlines only, excludes Low Cost carriers who are not members of IATA and doesn’t actually qualify what their interpretation of a ‘”discounted fare’’ is.

An airlines interpretation of a cheap fare differs differently from a normal human beings interpretation.

There is also a suspicion that this move was done to head off an EU move to force airlines into action and where the rules would be dictated to them.

 

Drones – a new threat

The use of drones has suddenly become very fashionable, if merely for the fact that their use is usually associated with acts of mischief. The latest act saw drones being flown close to passenger planes at New York’s JFK airport.

If a drone gets sucked into an airplanes engine then it can cause even more damage than a bird getting sucked in. The US Airways plane that crash landed on the Hudson River is a prime example of what birds can do to aircraft engines.