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September 2015 Newsletter


The way forward

It wasn’t very long ago when the Ryanair’s and Easyjet’s of this world used to ridicule the ‘”traditional’ airlines and would have nothing to do with them or their business model; instead focusing solely on their own lower cost service offering and business structure. As the years have ticked by, the Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) have slowly morphed into a hybrid type of operation having slowly but surely cherry picked certain traditional airlines practices such as rewarding frequent flyers and providing flexible tickets for business travellers. ‘”One size fits all’” may have been the Low Cost Carriers original philosophy, but ‘that was then and this is now’’.
The latest talk – remembering that there aint no smoke without a fire – is that Easyjet and Ryanair will start to provide the feeder traffic i.e. passengers onto the Long Haul routes of BA and Lufthansa. The mere thought of such an idea would have sounded almost unbelievable not too long ago but the marriage of these two opposites makes sense for many reasons. Firstly, the likes of BA, Lufthansa and Air France, are not very good at operating short haul flights; they lose lots of money on them, hence their own attempts to set up their own Low Cost alternatives such as HOP! in the case of Air France and Germanwings for Lufthansa. Secondly, the LCC’s need not just to keep making profits but to achieve growth and the only way of doing this is to start Long Haul flights or to provide a service to airlines that operate long haul flights.
Despite the notion and the rhetoric from Ryanair that one day they will too start to fly to the USA from Europe and to have Long Haul operations, their costs to operate such an operation would mean their own fares would be little different from those airlines that operate the services now. That leaves the best option to achieve growth for the LCC’s to be the option to do donkey work for airlines such as BA and Lufthansa and use their flights not just to carry passengers from Point A to Point B but also to carry (for example) BA passengers to meet their connecting long haul BA flights.
Just how this sits with the First or Business Class passenger who has just paid 5000 Euro for his flight to NYC or Hong Kong only to find the first 60 mins of his connecting flight is with Ryanair or Easyjet is a different question, however it might ultimately be his/her only option!
Of course there are masses of technical issues associated with this such as will Ryanair flights have BA code share numbers? How can a passenger check in with Lufthansa if his first leg is with Easyjet as currently there is generally no ‘”interlining’” or through check in between Low Cost carriers and traditional airlines? That said, it is equally interesting to read that London Gatwick airport may be pre-empting the issue with the launch of a booking service that actually enables Low Cost airlines and traditional airlines that fly to Gatwick to be booked together in a single transaction. This means that the passengers are treated as connecting passengers and passengers get the same service and facilities as those connecting with the same airline. This includes a full service and re-booking if a connecting flight is missed as well as facilitating the connection of hold baggage.
It seems therefore that the parts of the jigsaw to make this unlikely marriage work are already partially in place.
Whatever next?

Mark Thomas
Managing Director
HRG Bulgaria


One of airlines last excuse disappears

The European Court of Justice has ruled that airlines cannot use the excuse of ‘technical fault’ as an ‘extraordinary occurrence’ when flights are delayed. To avoid paying passengers compensation for delayed flights, airlines have long used the ‘technical fault’’ excuse to attempt to avoid paying out, now after a ECJ ruling against KLM this has been put to bed and airlines have one less fabricated excuse to use to passengers.
In short, the ECJ implied that if this were for example a car, then a puncture, a broken fuel pump or a flat battery were all technical faults but they would be common and not ‘extraordinary’. Therefore airplanes are the same and technical faults are not ‘extraordinary’.
Thus from now, anyone on a flight from, or to an EU airport or on a flight operated by an EU carrier, then the airline will have to compensate you if the plane is late due to ‘technical’ issues.


Wizz buys more planes

There seems to be no stopping the onward and upward progress of Wizz Air who have just signed an agreement with Airbus to buy a mere 110 A321 aircraft. The deal is worth around 14 billion USD with the aircraft scheduled to be delivered between 2019 – 2024.
One wonders how many planes Wizz will operate from Sofia five years from now? The Low Cost Carrier already carries more passengers from Sofia than any other carrier.


Olympic battle starting

The potential poisoned chalice of playing host to the summer 2024 Olympics has been narrowed down. The cities who will remain in the bid when the selection is made in Peru in 2017 are Los Angeles, Hamburg, Rome, Budapest and Paris.
The romantic choices are Rome and Paris whilst Los Angeles appeals to sponsors and TV companies. Historically, Olympic Games hosted in the USA have been rather lackluster and indeed drab affairs.
Since when did sportsmen and women and sports fans ever get considered anyway?


Cheaper fares to London?

The good news for local travellers is that Ryanair are coming to town! The bad news for local travellers is that Ryanair are coming to town.
Love them or loathe them, Europe’s largest airline measured by passenger numbers are to commence operations to Sofia from London Stanstead in summer 2016. This is in addition to their successful initial foray with flights to Plovdiv which will also remain.
The potential big loser, Bulgaria Air unless they aim to get immersed in a price war.


Into the lions den
Airbus has set foot into the backyard of rival Boeing by opening a manufacturing facility in the USA.
The new plant in Alabama will initially manufacture four single aisled planes per month (A320) whilst Airbus manufactures a further 42 such planes per month in total at its various facilities around the globe.
With the relatively low labour costs of Alabama, Airbus is likely to increase production significantly there before very long.


Blu + Red = ?

One might ask ‘what’s in a name’? As hotel groups seem to be continuously adding different brands to their brand portfolio, one can easily get lost in the maze of PR blur that surrounds each brand. The latest ‘brand’ to join in the fun in Europe is the Radisson Red which would seem to compete/mate with its sister brand the Radisson Blu.
Radisson intends to open 60 Radisson Reds worldwide by 2020 and then one wonders if it will be the Radisson Grey or the Radisson Pink that follows on in order to satisfy the PR boys and girls desires to segment or attract visitor types to a Radisson hotel.
Just for the record the Radisson Blu in Sofia is a well known landmark hotel that has been serving the city for some 15 years. The Park Inn located off Nikola Vaptzarov, just to confuse matters is also a Radisson brand hotel.


Germany succeeds France

It wasn’t too long ago in the travel industry that the expression ‘strike action’ was closely followed by the word ’France and whilst to some extent this tongue in cheek but nonetheless accurate observation remains in place, France now struggles to compete in the strikes race with Germany thanks to the amount of strikes Lufthansa is churning out. The German carrier has just completed its 13th strike in 18 months.
The German airline is still a profitable company; just, but it’s the airlines actions out of the sky such as imposing 16 Euro booking fees onto the travelling community and the regularity of its strikes that have had a noticeable impact on the Lufthansa reputation.
Not too long ago, no one would ever have asked the question whether Lufthansa are reliable or whether they will go on strike, that question is now being asked more and more by regular travellers. Planning ahead and booking Lufthansa is no longer necessarily a smart thing to do in many peoples eyes, this is something the ‘suits’ at Lufthansa should bare in mind.


Bags to think about

Human behaviour is very hard to predict; we never really know how we would react in a certain situation until we face that same scenario in real life. The recent emergency evacuation of a BA flight at Las Vegas Airport after a fire erupted in one of the engines as the plane was taking off bares testament to human behaviour.
A successful emergency evacuation did indeed occur but it took 5 times longer than it should have done! The main reason was the fact that passengers were stopping to collect heir hand baggage from the overhead compartments.
As luck would have it, no-one was seriously hurt but the engine fire could have escalated faster than it did and the ‘”slowness’” of the evacuation could easily have led to a loss of life. Interestingly, one half plausible excuse for people seeking collect their hand luggage is that the human does, in certain situations, act on ‘auto pilot’ and they follow the same process as they have come accustomed to follow, namely to get up from their seats, collect their bags and get off the plane!
Whilst this excuse seems almost laughable it apparently has merit and faced with an ‘unknown’ situation, the brain automatically kicks into do the things it knows to do i.e. collect ones bags.
The bottom line in this however is that apart from the plane, there was no harm done to any of the passengers regardless of the theory and practice.
It was/is an interesting case study though!


Training for Euro 2016

Bulgaria may not be participating in Euro 2016 being hosted by France but football fans can already buy high speed rail tickets to help them travel between the host cities.
For more details please contact HRG Bulgaria at


Phones find bags

Losing your bags whilst flying between two airports is never much fun, technology is however helping ensure airports reunite baggage with their owners at ever increasingly reliable rates.
Technology is also helping the passengers track their own bags and American Airlines has joined fellow US carriers Delta and US Airways in rolling out a live tracking service for checked baggage.
The service allows flyers to check the status of their bags in real time via GPS, GSM and Bluetooth technology. Passengers input their name and locator (reference number) or the bags tag number on the American Airlines tracking site and they receive updates of where their bag is. The system is not dies-similar to tracking a DHL/TNT type package.
At least this will give passengers an excuse to do something constructive with their mobile phones at the baggage carousel.

Lufthansa to introduce wifi

The end of the world as we know it is approaching for travellers who appreciate the peace and tranquility a flight gives them. For many travellers, the short time whilst air borne is the only time they have to shut themselves off from the trials and tribulations of their land based and hectic world, sadly, Lufthansa plans to change all this.
From next summer the German airline plans to offer broadband access on its short and medium-haul flights. The cost of the service has not yet been decided although with the recent re-structuring of the types of (confusing) fares that Lufthansa offers, this cost may well be included in some of the more expensive tickets.

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