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April 2024 Newsletter

Editorial

Fuel for Thought

SAF (Sustainable Airline Fuel) is one of those words that every self-respecting business feels it has to be associated with. Not necessarily because they believe in it, but simply because it has to be seen to be following the narrative. The idea is that SAF replaces traditional aviation fuels either fully or partly and thus the earth is saved from the world’s greatest source of pollution i.e. air travel. The fact – as both travel people and anyone with any degree of commons understands – is that aviation accounts for roughly 2.5% of global carbon emissions. Cardboard boxes with pizza and Amazon home deliveries probably generate more emissions in the bigger picture of life, but that is not a fashionable nor taxable conversation. Governments in the civilised world are pressured by the minorities into being seen to do something: votes count, but the decisions they make may either be not quite fit for purpose; or they deliberately fudge it, safe in the knowledge that – to put a colloquialism into the equation – that peeing into the wind is not a good idea for the pension.

Not wishing to use any particular country as an example of that, one European government has just announced that it will require 10% of all fuel used by airlines to come from sustainable sources by 2030. However, it also adds that any increase in fares must fall within usual price fluctuations. So, in effect, more expensive fuel has to be used but fares cant increase. Seriously. Actually, fares won’t increase but the taxes will.

Presently, some airlines are offering travellers the chance to feel good about themselves by letting them pay more for the pleasure of knowing that a small percentage of the fuel on board the plane they are using is made up of SAF. Note that this is an extra amount on top of the standard fare. The cost of producing such fuels is far from cheap and aside of this, it may not be incorrect to say that the production capacity globally to produce such fuels would leave even a 10% target as optimistic. Then there is the touchy taboo subject that no-one dare open a conversation which surrounds both the desire and the ability of less wealthy nations to follow this route. A 10% saving on a global impact of 2.5% is small: factor in the likelihood that 75% and more of countries will not even bother with the subject, this means this figure of 10% suddenly becomes 10% of almost nothing.

We have often mentioned the economic realities of the world, part of that envisages the numbers of people who wish to travel and who can afford to travel rising exponentially over the next decades and by 2025, travel and tourism will account for 10% of the global economy. Airlines have hundreds and indeed thousands of new planes on order in readiness for this surge and like with the Covod experience, no matter how hard restrictions on peoples liberty and freedom are applied, human behaviour and human desire will win in the end. This equates to the desire of people to travel.

Turning our noses up at PR stunts surrounding sustainability however does not mean that we all accept that the garden is rosey, it is not, but being pragmatic and realistic is a better way forward as eventually, someone will tell the king he is not wearing clothes. Technology is driving change and efficiencies across many industry sectors and this is true of the travel industry. Planes are now some 25% more efficient than the last generation and the like with cars, technology continues to evolve and continue the drive to even more efficiencies. This continued acceleration of technological advancement will stay with us for generations and this figure of 25% will likely continue to increase with every passing year. More efficient planes may also mean more expensive planes, which in turn equates to increased fares.  At least this will be a black and white process with real measurable and tangible benefits for planet earth and everyone in the food chain, including governments who revel in the increased tax collection.

The last time we looked 25% of a whole (industry) was greater than 10% of a small section within it.  Meanwhile the pizza and Amazon delivery packages mount up, unabated and unchallenged!

Mark Thomas

Managing Director

Jamadvice Travel  |  BCD Bulgaria

Quantity not Quality at the top

Atlanta has retained its place at the top of the pile as the World’s Busiest Airport as it welcomed over 103 million passengers in 2023. This is ahead of Dubai which posted just under 87 million and Dallas with 82 million. London Heathrow was Europe’s busiest in fourth with 79.2 million.

The Atlanta and indeed Dallas figures rely massively on domestic travellers and anyone having travelled to or via Atlanta will not fail to notice its underwhelming terminal offerings which appear to be several decades out of date. That may explain why Atlanta does not have any significant contribution when it comes to the world’s busiest airports for international passengers. In this respect, Dubai took top spot followed by Amsterdam and Paris CDG.

Total air passengers globally reached 8.5 billion last year which is 94% of pre-Covid levels.  It is widely expected that 2024 numbers will reach new heights; geopolitical impacts excluded. The greens won’t be happy!

What happened to the fish?

We usually don’t bother ourselves with articles on hotel openings as they are common place, however one such opening is worth a mention. The Radisson Collection Hotel Berlin (former Radisson Blue Hotel, Berlin) is due to re-open at the end of this year. “So what”, we can already hear? The answer to that originates back to 2022.

On December 16 2022, the hotel’s Guinness Book of Records featured 25-meter central atrium Aqua Dom cylindrical aquarium suddenly burst, pouring millions of gallons of water into the hotel and the street (no mention is made of the fish!). The hotel remaining closed ever since.

When the hotel does re open, the fish tank will be gone and the main feature will be an impressive (looking at an artist’s impression) lobby Living Tree reaching 16 metres high, it will feature 2000 plants from 22 different species and will be illuminated in different ways throughout the day. One wonders what creepie crawlies will be spawned that might find their way into hotel’s kitchens!

 

Lufthansa logo

Last night’s curry

Wizz Air appear to not be overly fazed with their ongoing association with the word crap, it has set itself a goal to power 10% of all its flights with SAF (sustainable aviation fuel) made from human waste by 2030. The move comes after it invested 5 million GBP in a UK renewable fuel producer with the agreement that it will supply 525,000 tonnes of SAF to its UK operations over 15 years starting in 2028.

The question anyone reading this is of course, what the smell will be a reminder of?

Spanish Targets

Spain is attempting to follow France and ban flights of less than two hours duration where suitable alternatives are available via train. The move forms part of Spain’s 2050 climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions. Private jets are also being targeted in a similar fashion to how the Netherlands are ostracising anyone successful enough to be able to afford to hire a private jet.  Spain’s extensive high speed rail network is the second largest in the world after China.

However, whilst challenging the predesignated narrative is not career enhancing, people with knowledge – which rules out politicians – point out that the flight slots abducted at Paris Orly Airport by this “two-hour scenario” have been relocated to other longer routes with higher emissions. Not that this is ever mentioned.

Also, as a by the way, connection flights are not considered in this witch hunt, thus the main hub airports of Madrid and Barcelona will not be impacted (too politically sensitive one suspects).

Venice Tax

Venetians have for some time now been waging a war on tourism. It’s a war that comprises of small battles and one of these battles comes in the form of a new entry tax to the city on selected days during high season. The fee aims to mitigate the impact of environmental damage caused by tourism and fund the maintenance of Venice’s Cultural Heritage. The fee costs 5 Euros per person and will be enforced between 08.30am – 4.00pm. All visitors, including day trippers will need to pre-book their visit through an online platform. So straight forward then? Not.

Those staying in accommodation within Venice do not need to pay the fee but will still need to register via the new system. Residents of Venice and the wider region and their relatives will also not need to pay, neither will people with disabilities, students enrolled to study in the city nor will those visiting the city for health reasons, to visit a sporting event or concert.

So, the list of who doesn’t pay seems to massively longer than those who will pay. One also assumes that people’s ingenuity will re-invent them as a local student or supporter of a visiting football team or simply the long lost cousin of Luigi who lives around the corner. This battle may be one that goes nowhere towards deciding the war.

Mis-reading the room

Ever flown into Donald Trump Washington International Airport?  Obviously, the answer is no but if some Republicans get their way, that’s what Dulles International Airport in Washington will be renamed. However, whilst the politician who is proposing this move is serious, he is probably not reading the room very well! His comments to support this change should provide enough ammunition for comedians the world over. The politician proposing the name change said “in my lifetime, our nation has never been greater than under the leadership of President Trump. As millions of domestic and international travellers fly through the airport, there is no better symbol of freedom, prosperity and strength than hearing “welcome to Trump International Airport” as they land on American soil.”

There are already other airports named after US Presidents; JFK in New York, George Bush in Houston and Ronald Reagan in Washington. Whilst this change is probably unlikely ever to get the nod from the American Senate nor the House of Representatives and indeed from other Republicans, it does reveal how disconnected from reality people are. One Democrat has suggested that if anything be named after Donald Trump, it should be a prison.

Lufthansa Swiss logo

Feeling Good

The race to be perceived as being a “sustainable organisation” is now a fashion that has the dual benefit of trying to save planet earth, but more importantly, generating more work and cost to a business. Of course, much of this work is indeed valuable though much of it is akin to trying to stop a flood with a fishing net. That said, one has to applaud some of the more sensible attempts at reducing waste that feature in our everyday lives.

Air New Zealand has trialled “single use cup free flights” in an attempt to reduce the millions of cups used on its aircraft each year with passengers encouraged to bring reusable cups with them or be provided one by the onboard service. Back in 2019 the same airline trialled edible biscuit coffee cups with passengers able to eat the vanilla flavoured cup like a normal biscuit after finishing a drink. Last year Lufthansa also introduced reusable cups for customers ordering hot drinks on European flights.

The feel-good factor in all this then allows passengers when they return to their homes, to order anything and everything via online shopping platforms where each items is individually wrapped with copious amounts of unwanted packaging and delivered by one of the millions of new petrol delivery vehicles. Still, as long as we feel good.

Going Underground

Decent space available for re-development seems to be in short supply in the better areas of London and that is forcing hotel groups to be creative. We have touched on this before but two new subterranean hotels are in the pipeline in the UK’s capital.

Premier Inn is to convert a subterranean car park underneath the Brunswick Centre in the Bloomsbury area of London into a 207-room property. Meanwhile the PPHE Hotel group has announced its own subterranean plans to develop an underground hotel under its existing Park Plaza Hotel near Victoria Station.

Anyone remember the Emir Kusturica film “Underground’’?  Well worth a watch if you live in this region!

eatstaylovebulgariaSwapping

Two airlines are heading in the opposite direction soon when Scandinavian Airline SAS will leave the Star Alliance Grouping and defect to Skyteam. This comes after Skyteam founding member Air France-KLM took a 19.9% stake in SAS. The transfer will commence on 1st September.

Meanwhile, like a prisoner swap in a cold war movie, “new” Italian national carrier ITA is expected to move in the opposite direction i.e. from Skyteam to Star Alliance, if, and when, the approval is given for its acquisition by the Lufthansa group.

 

The Light Appears – almost

One of the banes in a traveller’s life is the (unnecessary) requirement to remove liquids from your hand luggage when going through security at an airport and even then, the size of any liquids bottle is restricted to 100ml. This came about after a (supposed) terrorist attempt to blow up a plane or planes in 2006 using chemicals that were to be taken onboard in bottles of fluid. This requirement is soon to become history as more and more airports deploy CT security scanners that allow passengers to pass through security without removing laptops and liquids from their hand luggage.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport already uses such technology and more and more airports will transition to this technology during the next year or so. Those airports that are early initiators of the technology report that queuing time is reduced by half when the CT scanners are in place, a more than decent improvement for those who regularly queue 30 mins or longer in security queues.

One side note on this though is that whilst the directives are given to airports to use the new systems, little thought is given into the engineering side of things. These machines are heavy and it is not just one or two that are needed to facilitate the flow of people, multiple scanners are required at main airports and the weight of these can be too heavy for the floors of an airport. Thus, these floors have to be reinforced to take this extra weight and the only way to reinforce them requires the whole area to be shut down temporarily whilst engineering work takes place: where do the security queues go in the meanwhile?

So, the adoption of the technology is the easy part of the equation; fitting it into existing infrastructure is a totally different challenge and it is this that will slow down CT scanner adoption and not the shortage of cash to buy them. The inconvenience faced since 2006 may thus last a while longer, but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel; or is that at light at the end of the queue!

Electric

Electric Vehicle Charging stations across the EU have apparently increased three-fold in the past three years with 630,000 charge points in place at the end of 2023. Perhaps surprisingly, Bulgaria is top of the pile in terms of meeting targets and indeed, the target for 2024 has already been met. Of course, the targets are percentage rather than volume based, but credit where its due if Bulgaria is indeed the top of the class. One assumes that the EU grants for such a project were indeed wisely spent by the country.

Now who fancies a drive to Varna in their Electric Vehicle?

If you’d like to subscribe your friends or colleagues and for all your travel requirements, reservations or for more information about any of the items mentioned in the newsletter, please contact us:

Tel:+ 359 (2) 943 3011;
e-mail:mark @jamadvice.eu

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