Editorial This is the time of year when we look back at some of the…
Is the end nigh?
Whilst the comment that here in Bulgaria, the last week of January always feels like it’s the “coldest of the year” might appear to be taken from a meteorologist’s diary, it is pretty much a fact; more or less. It’s about this time when the government announces its annual “scheduled unscheduled” school closures due to an unforeseen (no name) flu epidemic. Thus, January 2022 is following the same path as previous winters with a winter flu and schools being closed: situation normal then. Except that is, winter flus over the past decades had no name and no media frenzy or commercial interest behind them, now it has, still, but the momentum is waning.
That said, there is overwhelming public feeling now that “enough is enough” surrounding the actions being taken to restrict people’s lives; the pubic generally have had enough and want to be able to go to shopping malls, visit restaurants and to be able to travel for business, for holidays and to visit family. The human cost of such restrictions can never be measured but they are considerable.
The current winter flu virus, we have been forced to continue to call Covid 19 when actually it perhaps should be Covid 21 or 22, is less severe than many over recent years. The unanimous consent when people are allowed the speak their mind, is that after 2 -3 days of getting the flu they are fine and ready for work etc again. Kids, over the years would not be held back from attending school from much worse flu bouts, yet in the minds of those furthest away from reality, paranoia prevails. Statistics have a habit of reflecting self-interest and here in Bulgaria over the decades there has been many golden nuggets of statistics, aka nonsense. All it requires is for people to sit and think through them and form their own opinion.
Currently the figures for Bulgaria show 32,600 deaths with Covid (note the “with” and not “from” Covid); so, anyone entering hospital due to some other serious or life-threatening illness has probably a 50/50 chance of contracting Covid if they are kept in there for any length of time. If the worst comes to the worst, their relatives suddenly find them listed on the you know what list. However, the figure that is most curious is the one that supposedly reflects how many people have contracted Covid in Bulgaria since its onset i.e. 891,000 (as at 25th January) is worth breaking looking at closer.
Many have had Covid but how many really are reflected in these figures? Taking a sample from our contact group, the feeling was that in a normal year the percentage of people who go to their doctor when they have a runny nose and sore throat i.e. a winter cold, is anything from 1 – 10%. When asked about their sense of what the percentage was for people who are actually documented as having Covid, the figure of between 10 – 20% seemed to be a consistent consensus. The fact is that in the real world, many responsible people home tested and took all the quarantine precautions requested of them if they showed a positive result. So, if 10% equates to 891,000 people (the figure as on 26th January who (quote) have been confirmed as testing positive in Bulgaria, then that would indicate that 8.9 m people in reality have been in contact with the virus! That’s out of a population of less than 7 million! So, if 10% is unrealistic and it is more realistic to use 20% as a more accurate figure, this still calculates to some 4.4m having already had the virus! There is also another point to consider here, many people have had the latest variant both without even having a clue that they have had it, such is its strength (or lack of) and also it being the second time they have been infected. Just out of comparison, the UK at the same time worked out that it believes that 97% of its population have anti-bodies which have been obtained either via vaccinations, booster or catching the virus – even all three! The more people that have been in contact with Covid then the more immunity they have. The bottom line being that the portrayal of such figures in the media is a best, nonsense and at worst fabricated to suit the narrative.
Taking common sense and logic into consideration one is inclined to ask why would you continue to try restrict activity any longer? There is no sense. Across the EU, the numbers won’t be far behind those from the UK. Vaccinations are not designed to stop the spread of a virus, they are designed to protect and to stop people getting seriously ill and people have had the chance for long enough to be vaccinated, hence let life resume to somewhere close to what it was.
History will show that the real experts, not those driven for personal attention and benefit, said long ago that the current episode will likely follow that of the circa 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic which lasted around 18 months and which gradually ended either after people had been exposed to it or it became less life threatening. For us here in Bulgaria, the sample figures shown would echo the same sentiment i.e. the vast majority of people are now protected one way or another and the rest have had their chance. Let the real life commence.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Bulgaria
Not too soon
Most regular travellers these days are familiar with EU laws on compensation for cancelled or delayed flights or where boarding is denied due to airlines overbooking. Now there is a rather eye-catching addition: passengers are now entitled to compensation if their flight is brought forward by more than one hour!
The EU Courts reasoning in this decision is that such scenarios may result in serious inconvenience for passengers in the same way delays, cancellations and overbookings cause. The amount of compensation is measured in the same way as those for delays etc are calculated i.e. between 250- 600 Euros depending on the distance of travel.
The Night Train arrives
The new Nightjet train has commenced service on the route made famous by the Orient Express, Paris – Vienna. Paris – Berlin is scheduled to start in 2023 and the plan/hope is that night trains will soon become commonplace linking cities such as Paris, Copenhagen, Madrid, Rome and Stockholm.
It should be pointed out that the Nightjet operation is more of a luxury sleeper service rather than a standard train service offering couchettes. No doubt the prices will match the offering.
Its worth noting also that such services are very much on the EU green agenda as the EU tries to get people out of the skies and onto other forms of transport ie. Rail.
AA to use AI
American Airlines is not renowned for the quality of service its customer service agents provide (like most other airlines, sadly). To help these much-maligned employees, they have now developed a piece of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that is monitoring calls and that can detect anger and frustration on the part of the callers.
Obviously, it will be a much used piece of software!
Bags of sense
Sometimes, some of the simplest ideas are so good that one wonders why others don’t emulate them. A sample case is the system operated at Milwaukee Airport where passengers, if they are flying to warmer climates and away from the Tundra esque temperatures that prevail around Wisconsin at this time of year, can leave their bulky winter coats, hats and gloves at a special cloakroom and then collect them on their return to the airport. Heavy coats and the like equates to extra baggage weight which invariably means extra cost.
This winter will be the third in a row the airport has offered the service but surprisingly no other airport is known to have copied this winning formula.
Istanbul tops it
Istanbul has been gaining rapid momentum in its importance as a significant European aviation hub over the past decade or so and the opening of the new Istanbul Airport has only aided that process. The airport was also the busiest in Europe during November where the decline in passenger traffic was down a mere 30.4%. Second busiest was Paris CDG with a 50.8% decline followed by Madrid third, Amsterdam fourth and London Heathrow fifth busiest.
German national carrier Lufthansa will be breathing a huge sigh of relief after Ryanair announced it is to close its operations at Frankfurt’s main Airport from the end of March. Ryanair will continue to fly to Frankfurt Hahn Airport which is some 120 kms from Frankfurt itself.
In announcing the news, Ryanair was not shy in giving the reasons why it is halting operations. Its statement stated that “competition in the German market has been massively distorted by the 9 billion Euro handout of State aid into Lufthansa whilst it continues to cut its fleet, connections and jobs. Efficient operations and competitive airport fees provide the foundation from which Ryanair can deliver long term traffic growth. This is impossible at Frankfurt following the German government’s decision to increase its passenger taxes and the airports decision to increase its already high and uncompetitive fees”.
What state officials don’t realise is that travel and tourism, regardless of the type, stimulates cities, regional and country economies. Making it easier and cheaper for people to spend more money is less about capitalism but more about economic business sense; sense that most politicians and state servants have a distinct lack of.
Current gossip indicates that the new Italian National Carrier, ITA, was the subject of an approach by Lufthansa who wish to take a stake in the new operation of between 15 – 40%. The airline is the successor to the perennial financial black hole that was Alitalia and just why suddenly any airline or airline group thinks it can reverse a persistent loss-making market into a profitable one is an interesting concept.
That said, from a Lufthansa perspective, Italy is apparently the most important market for passengers outside of Germany and with the industrial north of Italy being the economic powerhouse of the country, its proximity to the Lufthansa hubs at Frankfurt, Vienna, Zurich and Munich make these hubs a potentially ideal transit point for Italian originating passengers. For this to work a good network of flight to these hubs from secondary Italian cities would need to be in place.
Just to balance the things out, it has also been suggested that BA/Iberia run IAG Group is also registering an interest in the Italians. One questions why the interest now but not when it was Alitalia in possession of the operation?
WHO tweaks the message
The World Health Organisation is trying to change the world now that it has the temporary ear of governments across the globe and has tweaked “Its” message to governments across the globe.
It has modified its recommendation on international traffic bans asking to lift or ease them saying “’they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to economic and social stresses”.
One can’t help but think that the WHO are one of the reasons the world is in the state it is in today thanks to its past (in) actions, so this statement is akin to shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted. The added question also being will anyone in future go to the stable anyway!
In these times of excessive, indeed paranoiac attention to political correctness, it’s amusing to see such attention is not prevalent across all of the globe, thankfully. The takeover by Indian mega conglomerate Tata of Air India could certainly be seen as allowing Tata to enter the aviation sector and take on the loss-making national carrier with a blank piece of paper. As far as cabin crew are concerned, getting their names listed on the aforementioned paper requires them to not only “present a good image” but also achieve a decent BMI! For anyone who doesn’t know what BMI is and immediately thinks of British Midland Airlines, fitness freaks will know it actually stands for “body mass index”; or putting it another way, how fat you are.
Needless to say, this hasn’t gone down well with the trade unions but as it stands, the unions don’t have too much of a leg to stand on. Oppose the take over and you will likely be unemployed.
The cabin crews will rightly say it’s not about appearance, its more about whether they can do their jobs and ensure the safety of their passengers. In reality their employers want staff to be seen as reflective of the company image which means be viewed in a positive light. This reminds me of observing a US based crew whilst checking into a hotel in Frankfurt. The first impression was that they must be a crew of a special senior citizens flight as they were all “aged”. What was more eye opening was their body size and the question came to mind of how on earth some of them would fit down the aircraft aisle! One can imagine the safety issues surrounding cabin crews who cant fit down the aisles in an emergency.
A new lick of paint required
If you buy a new car and you suspect the paint job is a bit dodgy then you will be furious. So imagine what the scene is at Qatar Airways as they become embroiled in a huge legal battle with Airbus over what they claim is a dodgy paint job on its fleet of new Airbus A350 planes. The argument is so severe that Qatar has been forced to ground the fleet due to what it is calling paint surface degradation and the safety issues surrounding it.
Obviously, Airbus denies responsibility and is standing steadfast in its arguments and has thrown the ball back at Qatar by cancelling Qatar’s order for 50 new Airbus A321 planes! To which Qatar is now saying “but you can’t do that” to which Airbus’s retort is “we have done”.
So, whilst the story seems like a poor TV sitcom, the lawyers involved in the case which is being heard in the Courts in London, will no doubt be making a shed load of money. No doubt now the toys have been thrown out of the pram, the parents will pick them up and everyone will be friends again. Especially with a few sweets being exchanged between the parties.
Less equal less
You needn’t be a rocket scientist to work out that with less travel and less flights in 2021 than in the previous year, indeed for many years, there has also been less commercial airline accidents and also less fatalities. However aside of rocket scientists, consultancies thrive on such news as its their day job.
Just for the record, in 2021 there was 38 plane accidents, 4 of which were fatal and 81 fatalities. This compares with 2020 figures of 40 accidents, 5 of which were fatal and 299 deaths. The figures equate to 1 fatal accident for every 5.3 million flights.
Just for the record, the four fatal accidents in 2021 were operated by Indonesia’s Sriwijaya Air, South Sudan Supreme Airlines, Russia’s Aeroservice and Malu Aviation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Try naming these airlines in a pub quiz.