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April 2019 Newsletter


The numbers game

Sofia has seen an 82% growth in tourist visitors over the past decade it was announced at the recent AGM of the National Tourist Board with the largest numbers of visitors coming from Germany, the UK, Israel and France. In the past three years, the revenue from tourism has risen by 34%. Another measure is that the numbers of visitors to the city is more than inhabitants of the capital and tourism is now a major source of income for the capital.

Many other cities across the Globe see many more tourists than Sofia and one of them was in the news this past month: Paris. Its rise to the top of the News pages was due to the catastrophic fire at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, arguably France’s most visited tourist attraction. The fire was still burning as pledges of financial help came in from the great and good offering millions of Euro’s in restoration aid. The embers were still glowing whilst that total reached 1 billion Euro. For many though, this seems like rank opportunism; the chance to gain publicity and favour and in effect,” free publicity’ whilst masquerading behind a mask of self-righteousness. The majority of people exclaiming shock and horror and that life will cease to exist as they know it, have probably not set foot in a church for the past decade, plus what exactly are they seeking to contribute to? No-one has any idea whatsoever what the cost of any repair work will be (even with abnormal French labour costs) The Cathedral is owned by the French Government along with 70 others in Paris and hundreds across France. Additionally, surely the facility was insured by its owners, in which case how much will the insurance cover? If it was not insured because the owners (the Government) decided to cost cut, then surely they are the ones responsible for the poor electric wiring and the ineffective sprinkler systems that failed to monitor and control the fire? If the same scenario had occurred in the private sphere, then a prosecution would now be ensuing: except the Government can’t sue itself for inadequacies can it!

The Notre Dame already required around 100 m Euro’s spending on it to bring it up to operational scratch and to meet modern-day safety demands; around 6m Euro’s had been allocated.

This is not to demean the Cathedral as it is indeed a very nice building and brings joy to many, however it is not one of the largest in France, nor is it one of the oldest. The spire that was shown burning to the ground was a relatively new one erected in the 1840’s and the stained glass windows were also relatively new. The Notre Dame is thought to be the 42ndlargest Cathedral in the world but is not a World Heritage Site but is designated as a Minor Basilica along with 1756 others around the world.

Hopefully, the Notre Dame is restored to not only its former glory but to a condition that exceeds the state of neglect its owners had let it run into. The great and the good would be well advised to provide the generosity to other worthwhile causes across the globe, no-one needs the Notre Dame to become sponsored like a sports Stadium e.g. The Notre (Expensive Luxury Good Company) Dame do they! If with our own home it is damaged, we contact our insurers as that’s why we have insurance, isn’t it? If we chose not to have insurance that is at our own risk and we shouldn’t then go begging cap in hand on the street for financial help.

Mark Thomas

Managing Director


Control the controllers

The European Commission is working at its usual snail’s pace in trying to get a grip on the Air Traffic Control systems that control the skies over Europe; though at least it is doing something as opposed to doing nothing as many countries favour.

Apparently, Europe suffered 19.1 million minutes of Air Traffic delays in 2018 which was an increase of 105% on the previous year. At the current rate of growth, by 2040 it is argued 1.5 million flights will not be able to be accommodated due to capacity restraints which will affect 160 million passengers. A sobering threat indeed.

Of course, the finger can quite easily be pointed specifically at the French and Italian’s whose performance as a part of these 19.1 million minutes merits a gold medal. The fact of the matter being that with the French and Italians, their domestic powers do not want to allow centralised European control of their domestic airspace. Unless of course that central command is based in their country; which it would never be as the unnamed countries are the ones who have a reputation for striking for any given reason. The EU being is, of course, a Free Market with a liberalized approach to the movement of goods as well as services, but this does not mean all countries subscribe to this notion.

The proposals put to the Commission includes cross country collaboration and to make better use of automation, adopting new technology and adopting shirt term measures designed to minimize air traffic management delays.

In the meantime, expect more and more delays caused by the French and Italian Air Traffic Controllers.

Remember security!

Thomas Cook has proudly announced that it has launched a ‘’home luggage check in” service designed to beat the queues at airports. Customers pre-book the service and a courier picks the bags up from their homes, usually the day before travel. With the use of technology, the owners are kept informed of their bags whereabouts every step of the way via either SMS or email. A wonderful service:  perhaps.

Whatever happened to that magical word ‘’security” that is rammed down our throats at what seems like every possible opportunity when we travel? Remember that question at check-in ‘” have your bags ever been left unattended?”  To answer “yes whilst I went to the toilet” almost felt like a crime.  So do we assume now that the world has changed and this question is irrelevant?

The point here being that we all want to feel safe but letting your bags go somewhere under the control of someone and knowing they will be taken to the airport sometime is asking for trouble plain and simple. That shouldn’t be the situation but the reality is that it’s a potential security risk no matter how you view the matters. The process may work in some countries but not all should this process become universally popular.

California bottling it

The State of California is leading the way in helping save the planet with a move to ban all plastic toiletry bottles from hotels. It’s calculated that a typical 140 room hotel goes through 20,000 of such bottles every year!  A new bill proposes banning the use of such bottles and replacing them with refillable bulk dispensers. The move suggests 2023 as a date for the rule to apply.

Fuel for strike

A recent strike by fuel tanker drivers in Portugal led to several flights being severely delayed or even cancelled as the airport started to run short of fuel. In such a situation what is to stop litigation?

The airlines can sue the airport with whom it has a contract for failing to provide a contracted service and even the passengers themselves could sue the airline operator for the same. Down the chain, the airport can sue the fuel providers for non-delivery and if they fuel provider sees fit; sue the drivers or their unions for non-performance!

Quite simple really. Though no doubt there would be strikes to argue about the strikes.

Watch for the cliff

Lufthansa seems to be finding it hard work these days as they announced losses of over 300 m Euro’s for the first quarter of 2019. Part of the reason, they argue, is increased fuel costs which saw a 200m Euro rise. In the same period last year, the company made a 52 m Euro profit!

Thus, hardly surprising then when the airlines share price fell 5%. That’s still probably better than Indian airline Jet Airways who have now hit the wall with a debt of over 1 billion Euro. Just how any authority could allow any business to be 1 billion of any currency in debt leave one scratching one’s head. The (almost) funny understated anecdote on Jet’s demise was that the papers commented that ‘’Jets share price fell because of the suspension of operations”’.  Fell off a cliff one assumes.

What law?

A recent serious case of rape involving an Italian man and a British woman on board a Panama registered ship sailing between the Spanish Ports of Majorca and Valencia highlighted the peculiarities (or lack of) maritime law. The bottom line being there appears to be little of it.

The case was taken to the Spanish courts where the man had been arrested (Valencia) but the court there decided it had no jurisdiction over the matter as the vessel was in international waters.  It suggested the case be heard in either Italy, UK or Panama.  Though of course there is no surety the courts in these countries would agree that it has any jurisdiction over the matter.

So the bottom line would thus appear to be if you want to commit a serious crime, do it in international waters as no-one seems bothered about upholding the rule of law. Unless of course, they bring back the concept of walking the plank for the culprits!

Politics kicking in

The latest on the Sofia Airport tender now sees 5 potential bidders for the country ‘main airport.

The five are Manchester Airport Group in tandem with the Beijing Construction Engineering Group. French investor Meridiam with Munich Airport, Swiss based SBB together with Copenhagen Airports, Fraport who operate Frankfurt Airport and Turkey’s TAV Holding together with Aeroports de Paris.

The next phase of the process takes place in May when an assessment committee will open the bids.

EU to help ski instructors

The European Commission says that it has adopted a new common training test for ski instructors to facilitate the recognition of their professional qualifications. The relevant EU Commissioner made the comment that “ski instructors, as other professional and service providers, should be able to benefit from the single market’”.

However, that’s not likely to make it any easier for potential non-French ski instructors in France who has thus far been successfully blocked by the French authorities to protect the French ski instructors home territory. The French will no doubt impose some local laws about language, knowing the names of the flowers on each mountain and the history of each French mountain peak in an attempt to avoid EU laws. Neither will it stop them from having the right to check the ski instructor’s diplomas with the relevant issuing authority; obtaining a translated copy that has been legalised and notarized and signed by the relevant Embassy in Paris on the fourth Monday of each leap year.

eatstaylovebulgariaPlanes “surprisingly” keep flying

Apparently, the world won’t come to an end and planes will still fly across and around Europe with or without Brexit. This is despite the media’s frenzy with creating news stories (we hate to use Fake News as a title as it’s too fashionable). Anyhow the European Parliament has voted to allow UK airlines to operate routes to and from the Uk to EU countries. The same is, of course, applicable for EU carriers.

Just for the record, the rule also allows EU and UK planes to fly over one another’s airspace So that’s one doom and gloom story put to bed.

Make money – sue yourself

It’s unheard of for anyone in aviation to admit liability for a plane (or two) crashing but that is effectively what Boeing has done. They were the manufacturers of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft which has been involved in two calamitous crashes in Indonesia and in Ethiopia. Credit should be given to the fact that they have raised their hands to admit guilt though that hasn’t stopped the airlines own shareholders from taking out a lawsuit against the manufacturer! The Class Action alleges Boeing effectively defrauded shareholders by failing to disclose safety problems with the 737 Max planes. It also alleges it put “profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty”. The honesty bit being quite interesting as after the initial Lion Air Crash in Indonesia, Boeing tried to apportion blame on anyone and everyone but not themselves.

It would seem hard to believe the crazy world of US litigation where a plaintiff is actually the co-owner of the defendant and such an action could, in theory, bankrupt the defence and therefore yield their investments worthless. Or are we missing something along the way?

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