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October 2015 Newsletter

Editorial

Through the 185 previous editorials of our Monthly Newsletter we have refrained from writing any ‘smutty’ stories although some articles may have been contentious. We could not however, ignore a recent (true) news article concerning an amazing piece of aviation entrepreneurship in the world’s oldest industry. Please take this (true) story with a pinch of salt and think of the wider term implications:-

The Mile High Millionaire

Being a member of an airline Cabin Crew, or what used to be referred to as a steward or stewardess, ceased being both a well paid and glamorous job many years ago. Some airlines obviously pay their staff more than others but the fact that an employee has a stable income does not seem to detract some cabin crew from having other part time means to supplement their income.

A female cabin crew attendant for a Middle East Carrier must surely therefore, be on the short list for ”entrepreneur” of the year award after reportedly earning over 700,000 Euro’s by having sex with passengers in the toilets of the aircraft. The airline with whom she was (past tense) employed by has not been named. One is not sure if this is for legal reasons or down to sheer embarrassment. One must also assume she was working in the First or Business Class section of the plane and charged a premium for her services. Otherwise she will have been a very busy person indeed if she was stuck at the back of the plane (economy class).

For anyone who fly’s regularly, having the ability to have sex in a planes toilet would generally require the two participants to be either dwarfs or contortionists!

For those who like to let their entrepreneurial imagination run wild, one wonders if such a revenue generating scheme has previously been thought of by any other traditional or Low Cost Carrier? Strictly speaking the fact that airplanes operate above our heads at 31,000 ft or around 10,000 m, would mean in theory they are not under the legal jurisdiction of any one country and hence would not in fact be breaking the law? Indeed the laws on such professions vary from country to country and equally there appears not to be a common EU law on the subject. If the concept is given to the bean counters of both the Low Cost Carriers and other airlines then no doubt they could come up with a business plan for the notion that would generate them extra income? Equally, from another legal perspective such a service would surely be VAT free as it’s not within the jurisdiction of any one EU country i.e. it’s viewed as an export service as air travel and other air travel services are viewed now.

Just think of the booking options when we book our favourite carriers: hold bags, extra leg room, on board meal, mile high service etc. Mind you, explaining this on your expenses sheet might take some doing.

Or are we being overly simplistic?

 

Mark Thomas

Managing Director

HRG Bulgaria

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The downhill road

Air France executives were in the news recently when striking staff attacked them in advance of discussions taking place to discuss working efficiencies. The French workforce in general have an aversion to making themselves more efficient and whilst the management wanted pilots to work longer hours, as we all know, the French workers have other ideas. Air France had already announced that they were slashing its long haul capacity by 10% and this would require 2900 less workers.

As if to prove a point, in terms of cost per km to operate a flight, Air France cost is three times higher than Ryanair and 20% higher than BA.

If Air France doesn’t act fast the only direction they will be heading is into bankruptcy.

 

Don’t look at the in flight maps!

The on-going conflict in Syria has resulted in many airlines having to divert their flights away from the conflict zone though airlines are often rather vague about the actual routes the take.

This issue was brought very much to the fray after a Malaysian Airlines plane was shot down by a Russian missile over another conflict zone; in Ukraine last year.

Now that Russia has become embroiled in hostilities in Syria, they have resorted to firing missiles from 1000kms away in the Caspian Sea; directly under many airlines flight paths!

One can just imagine the reaction of passengers when their in flight screens show them their current location as the fly east!

 

 

More stack them in ideas

Airplane manufacturer Airbus has filed a patent request for a new cabin design that has passengers stacked on top of each other!

The plans see the addition of a ‘mezzanine’ level which will replace overhead lockers.

The question thus becomes – where will travellers carrying only hand luggage put their gear?

 

Uber and Out

Ride sharing service (aka Taxi service) Uber has suspended its activities in Sofia following a court ruling against it which forbids its operations until it brings its policies in line with Bulgarian legislation.

The Uber service has met similar resistance in other parts of the world as it flirts between being a legal and illegal operation.

However, whilst it claims that ‘Sofia needs such a service” and this sentiment may well be true in cities around the world were taking a taxi is a luxury that few can afford, in Sofia, the taxi fares are rock bottom and affordable to most people and its already hard to see how the extremely efficient and well run local yellow cabs make money with the fares they currently charge. Thus one wonders how much lower, if any, a Uber driver could charge in reality?

Uber claims they had 40,000 users in Bulgaria though this appears to perhaps be fanciful thinking!

Whilst not wishing to take sides in a free marker economy, the existing taxi services provide a vital link in the communications chain for huge numbers of Sofiaites. To have less ”normal’ taxis available if competition from questionable un licenced sources forces many existing drivers out of business, then it does not provide anything positive for Sofia nor its economy nor for its attractiveness to business investors and visitors alike.

 

 

That’s why we have a Co-Pilot

Earlier this month an American Airlines pilot flying 147 passengers collapsed and died whilst at the controls of a flight from Phoenix to Boston. The co-pilot brought the plane down at Syracuse shortly after the pilot collapsed.

What was the talk about pilotless planes?

 

Not us!

The owners of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia that ran aground off the coast of Italy killing 32 people, have denied liability for what happened. The Captain of the ship has already been found guilty of multiple manslaughter charges and is in prison serving a 16 year sentence.

What is strange is that the owners of the ship, Costa Cruise Lines claim that it is not responsible for the captain and his actions even though he was their employee. The denial comes as passengers start legal proceedings to claims for physical and psychological damages caused by the ships sinking.

One thinks that the European Court of Law might think differently to the Cruise Company!

 

BA ends 737

In a story that may be of little importance except to airplane anoraks, it was interesting to read that British Airways have now stopped flying Boeing 737’s. The plane was, for 35 years, the mainstay of the airlines short and mid haul fleet having first entered service in 1980. It has gradually been phased out of service and replaced by the more politically correct Airbus 320 family i.e. European manufactured.

Just for the record, BA has 15 new planes entering its fleet in 2015 including two more A380 superjumbos and 5 fuel efficient Boeing 787’s which are used for Long Haul operations as an alternative to the Boeing 747’s.

 

Ikia First

French hotel chain Accor will be the first international hotel chain to (re) enter Iran with the opening of both the Novotel and Ibis Ikia (no – not Ikea) at Tehran Airport. International hotel chains pulled out of Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Meanwhile on the hotel front, if you travel to the vibrant Belgrade for business or leisure, you will soon have a trendy W hotel as an option. The Starwood (think Sheraton) chains trendy offering will be located in the city’s new waterfront area that is due to be built in 2019 (in theory).

 

Tarantula grounds plane

In the USA, a Delta Airlines plane was grounded due to a tarantula going missing in the cargo hold.

The hairy thing escaped from its container as it was being shipped between Baltimore and Atlanta. The airline grounded the plane and moved passengers to an alternative flight whilst they contacted the owner to ensure it didn’t have a ‘mate’ travelling with it.

 

 

Bust in Berlin

The now infamous new Berlin Brandenberg Airport should have been up and running several years ago but due to some unknown reason, it remains idle. Construction and safety issues had postponed the revised opening until 2017 though there is a huge amount of skepticism that it will ever open. Clearly the truth has never been told as to why the Germans have made such a botch up of the capital city’s new airport. The latest excuse is that the Terminals roof is too heavy: these being the case then why not demolish the whole thing and start again?

As if to second the notion that it may never open, both of the two operating Berlin airports are being given a makeover with Tegel getting 20m Euro’s for improvements and Schonefield is getting 65 m Euro’s and is also about to start work on a new Low Cost Carrier Terminal. This will mean Schoenfeld, in around 8 year’s time, will have 25% more capacity alone than the new Brandenberg Airport has been built for. This excludes the capacity that Tegel currently has.

Hence the notion that Berlin Brandenberg will never open is indeed a very real one.

 

 

Flying High

Wizz Air, who carry more passengers from Sofia Airport than any other scheduled carrier, expects to grow capacity by around 18% across Europe during the next year.

The carrier has also ordered 110 new Airbus 321’s which will start to come on stream in 2019.

The A321’s are the largest plane in the A319/320/321 family, another indication of the expectancy that passenger numbers will increase.