Editorial It’s the time of year when we select a news item from each month…
A bit of a mess
The national flag of the Netherlands is coloured red, white and blue and evolved in the 17th Century from the earlier 16thcentury variant of orange, white and blue. The Netherlands is one of Europe’s leading protagonists when it comes to matters of the Environment, to the point that one wonders if the aforementioned national flag will evolve further to green white and blue. The country is going into green overdrive currently with travel the (soft) target for anyone wanting to get their voices heard, even if no-one wants to listen. Rather than everyone working together, the Dutch Government seems to think it is the judge, jury and chief prosecutor in deciding all things green and all things economic.
Starting at the end and working forward, rail operator Eurostar was advised recently that it would have to suspend its rail operations between Amsterdam and London from June 2024 to Spring 2025 whilst renovation work takes place at Amsterdam’s main railway station. Was any consultation made with the affected parties before the announcement: No! However, the Dutch government did suggest that the Eurostar could use Rotterdam instead. This is a bit like saying Sofia Railway Station is closed but you can travel to Plovdiv instead. A technically possible option but no-one is going to do it. Clearly a case of people making arbitrary decisions who have no commercial experience. OK, maybe having no rail service for a year between two of Europe’s main commercial hubs is not the end of the world as people can take the plane and therefore maintain the connectivity between the two countries! However, the Dutch have spent the last two years making Amsterdam Schiphol Airport a hell hole for travellers due to its inability to service the airlines operating there. Staff shortages is the excuse though unlike the Brits they can’t use Brexit as an excuse. Shoddy management is the simple basis for the farce there. Just to hammer a further nail in the coffin of Amsterdam’s attempts for economic vibrancy, the Dutch Government are trying to reduce the total number of flights that operate from the airport as well as banning all private jets, as this doesn’t seem to fit their socialistic perception of the world. Again, no consultation was made with the affected parties who promptly lodged and won a legal case against the Dutch Government.
As the private elements in the world of travel battle to get back on an even keel after the Pandemic, be they hotels, airlines, rent-a car companies or tourist attractions, the last thing anyone wants is barriers that prevent the free market from helping them recover from the financial losses over the past two years or so. People want to travel and people want to work; airlines want to fly their planes and people want to travel in them. Period. The comments from the Dutch Minister who tried to justify their actions included the comment “the decision to reduce slots at Amsterdam has not been an easy one and was not taken only due to noise but due to a broader trade-off between the interests of local residents and the environment on one hand and the airports function as an ariel gateway”.
So, at a guess, one could reasonably assume that the “local residents” arrived after the airport! It would therefore seem logical for them to assume that gradually the airport would get busier and busier as the years passed by. In the same way, anyone who bought a house near a motorway or a busy main road would assume that in the future, the road would also get busier and busier. So, what is to stop homeowners near the motorway or main road from lobbying their Parliamentary representative to request that the numbers of cars using these roads be restricted and indeed banned during the night! Or maybe claim compensation for the noise and environmental stress they are now subjected to. Most onlookers would deem the latter concept to be total stupidity and fit only for congenital idiots, of course the roads will get busier but that will have been considered “when you moved there – surely!” Is it therefore not the same for those living around the airport?
Most of us live in a democracy, the definition of which is “control directly or indirectly by the majority by its members”. Much of what we see, hear and are subjected to today by governments its more akin to an autocratic democracy.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Bulgaria
The Future is Bright
Guessing what the future will look like has never been easy, if it were, we would all know the winning numbers in next weeks Euro Millions Lottery. When it comes to forecasting the demand for aircraft, unknown unknowns can always wreak havoc into the best laid plans i.e. wars, pandemics and the Green agenda. Assuming however that planet earth remains round and the lunatics don’t take over the asylum entirely, the “guess” of how many new aircraft the world will need by 2042 has been made by aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Green party enthusiasts may look away.
The estimate is that by this date, 42,595 new aircraft will be required which equates to a spend of around 8 trillion USD. 75% of this demand will be for single aisle planes and 20% for widebody (twin aisle) planes. The remaining balance is for freight aircraft. Interestingly, 40% of the demand will come from Asia, with China representing about a half of this total, meanwhile North America and Europe will account for about 20% each. The forecast also predicts that 40% of the worlds single aisle fleet will be operated by Low-Cost airlines.
So, if you are looking for a job with a long-term future, look into prospects within the aviation sector. It would appear this sector is not going to disappear anytime soon.
Air Taxi’s Cometh
Paris is set to become the first European city to offer passengers eVTOL transport. What is eVTOL you are asking? It stands for electric vertical take off and landing.
Urban air mobility provider Volocopter are the people behind the VoloCity air taxi project with the taxi having enough space for a pilot and one passenger. Speeds of 110km/h can be reached and the machine has a range of 35km.
The system is set to commence this summer and be fully operational by the time of the 2024 Olympic Games which are being held in Paris; riots permitting. Operations in Saudi Arabia and in San Francisco are also nearing readiness.
Sports Washing Complete
Those tasked with hosting and running the 2022 Football World Cup would never be described as being backward in their claims to be thinking about Planet Earth whilst staging the tournament, to the point that they proudly claimed that the event would be the first carbon neutral world cup. Many people questioned this but equally, the hosts Qatar, as well as organisers FIFA knew that by the time the truth would be exposed, the tournament would be just a feint memory for most people and the PR objectives would have been long achieved by Qatar and the bank accounts of FIFA swelled to record proportions.
A Swiss regulator has upheld complaints from five European countries that challenged the FIFA claims about the event being Carbon Neutral, saying that FIFA should not claim the event was carbon neutral as there was no valid measure to prove either it was or wasn’t and that there was no definitive methods for measuring sustainability nor ensuring sustainability measures have been implemented.
So, in short, a statement of fact from the Swiss that everyone knew about in the first place.
Which is the most useful passport to have in your pocket? The answer would appear to be a Japanese or Singaporean passport, holders of such can travel visa free to 193 countries out of 227 considered in the analysis. Next comes a South Korean passport which gives visa free access to 192 countries, behind these three comes mainly European countries with Germany and Spain tied for fourth place with 191 countries offering visa free travel connected to its passports, next on 190 comes Finland, Italy and Luxembourg and on 189 comes Austria, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden. Following behind these on 188 is France, UK, Ireland and Portugal.
Just for the record, the USA passport gives access to 187 whilst the Bulgarian one racks up 175 and is listed as being in 18th place on a global scale. Back in 2015 the UK in pre-Brexit mode was ranked number 1 and is now 6th. Heading in the opposite direction is the UAE who in 2011 was ranked 65th but by 2023 was sat in 13th place.
At the bottom of the pile sits the Afghanistan passport which gives visa free access to 26 countries, above it comes Iraq on 29, Syria on 30 and Pakistan on 32.
EU and UK Visa
Both the EU and the UK will shortly require visitors to apply for “Travel Authorisations” before they can enter any EU state and to enter the UK. The EU system is called ETIAS and the UK system is called ETA. The UK one will cost the traveller 10 GBP when it starts to be phased in later this year, whilst the EU one will start sometime in 2024 and is slated to cost 7 Euro. The ETA will be valid for two years whilst the ETIAS is valid for three years. By comparison, the USA’s ETSA visa (remember, at the launch it was made quite clear that this visa was not a visa!) now costs 21 USD. It didn’t cost 21 USD when it was launched but neither will the ETA and the ETIAS cost the same in a few years once critical mass has been obtained and the relevant authorities feel confident, they can increase income from the visas.
Stopping the Strikes
Travellers love nothing more (sic) than to once again find that their flight is either delayed or even cancelled due to strikes by Air Traffic Control workers, especially in France, though Greece follows not far behind. Air Traffic controllers appear to be untouchable when it comes to their actions, regardless of whom they impact and how much financial damage their strikes cause. Top marks then to Ryanair who are leading the battle to outlaw such strikes and their campaign to encourage the European Union to protect overflights impacted when air traffic controllers go on strike, has so far generated 1.1 million signatures.
France also has the habit of prioritising domestic flights when strikes are occurring at the expense of overflights. Something that has already been remedied in Greece, Italy and Spain. This being the case, isn’t one argument in support of the European Union that the same rules apply to all? Clearly not to France.
Ensuring maximum revenue generation from passengers is a key focal point of Low-Cost Airlines and that would seem to apply to the type or quality of drinks served. If you are returning with Wizz Air to Sofia from a business trip, short weekend break away or even after a visit to the family and fancy a tipple of Single Malt Whisky, then you are in for a treat. Is it a Scotch Single Malt or an Irish one or is it an American counterpart that’s on the menu? No, its from Albania.
Not that the taste is unpleasant – apparently. It’s more the perception of what Whisky is and where it should be from. No doubt the cost per case was hard to refuse or maybe the retort from the airline is that the aim is to support “local” business.
Holidays Increasing in Price
As the summer season across Europe is about to enter its peak period, analysis of the costs in popular European destinations is starting to feature in the media. The bottom line is that apparently every country in Europe is raising prices compared with last year the only question is by how much?
Prices in Spain appear to have risen the fastest with a 15% average increase year on year and even in Spain, certain popular destinations such as Tenerife and Majorca are seeing 22% and 21% increases respectively. Prices in Crete in Greece are up a whopping 25%. Portugal has seen the most modest increase with a 5% rise whilst Bulgaria is showing a 13% increase.
In case you are thinking it’s cheaper to holiday outside Europe, it may be but prices in Morocco are up 27% year on year!
Testing the Law
Scandinavian Airlines is seeking compensation for financial loses it suffered due to Air Traffic Control shortages in Denmark. The sentence itself is hardly eye catching, however it could have huge wider implications.
The issue revolves around Copenhagen Airport who got rid of 46 air traffic controllers to make the CFO happy during the pandemic. When life returned to normal the airport hadn’t the manpower in place to handle the flights that were now operating.
Strictly speaking the airline will have a contract one assumes with the ATC (Air Traffic Control), who are effectively a supplier to provide XYZ services to the airline, if the ATC fails to do this, then surely, they are in breach of the contract under EU law and would thus be liable to pay compensation. Going deeper the same could be said about Amsterdam Airport and also anything to do with France and the multitude of strikes that are now its national pastime.
It’s always an indication that things are getting back to normal when the number of deaths on Bulgarian roads matches the previous years’ levels. In the first half of 2023, 225 people died, 2 more than in the first half of 2022.
Bulgaria remains second highest in road deaths per population in Europe, lagging only behind Romania. Anyone unsure if Romanian drivers are worse should spend a summer watching Romanian cars on the motorways of Bulgaria and Greece, where the objective of the exercise from Romanian drivers is to make their cars defy the laws of physics.
British Airways have been fined 1.1 m USD by the US Government for not paying refunds during the pandemic. The US Department of Transport said that the airline had ‘not provided timely refunds to passengers for abandoned or re-scheduled flights.’
Between March – November 2020, the BA website instructed customers to contact the carrier by phone to discuss refund options. However, customers were unable to get through to BA Customer Service Agents when calling the airline for several months because the airline had failed (deliberately?) to maintain adequate functionality of its service phone lines. What is perhaps worse though, is the fact that there was no way to request a refund through the airline’s website and the information on the website was sufficiently mis-leading that customers were “’tricked” into asking for vouchers rather than a refund.
A couple of take always from this is that BA itself apologised for the issues saying they were sorry for the delays for ‘our customers experiencing slightly longer wait times to reach customer service teams!’ Does this mean the 5 days it was taking is slightly longer that the 4 days it usually takes? Also, everyone in the industry knew what was happening with the BA servicing and most were of the opinion that this was a deliberate policy; why get rid of the cash from your bank account when you desperately need it? 1.1m USD fine is a small price to pay for the hundreds of millions in cash that was kept from customers, albeit temporarily.