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Is BA getting green? October 19, 2009

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One of definitively positive aspects of my otherwise quite average university is that lecturers go the extra mile and get us out there to meet some really interesting people from within the aviation industry. As I write this, it’s been only a couple of hours since I got back from one of such outings. As it happens with ” the world’s favourite airline” ‘s homebase, it took an awful amount of time to get there and come back. But it was worth the hassle.

Firstly, since I’ve never been to the famous T5 before, it gave me an opportunity to have a closer look inside. And I must say, it’s an impressive piece of architecture. Even more so, if compared to other terminals at LHR.

Secondly, we got a very nice and relatively informative talk from an ex-alumni who is now working at Waterside trying to crave out a sound environmental strategy hand in hand with Mr Walsh.

A lot of this mostly Q&A session was related to the ever popular dilemma of whether to further develop LHR or to build a completely new airport in the Thames Estuary. With valid arguments on both sides and even more inbetween, this problem makes you wish for a sudden shift in politics towards dictatorship. After decades (the Estuary option surfaced as far back as late 1960s during existence of the so called Roskill Commission) full of debates, public enquiries and protests in January 2009 the first option seemed to prevail with the third runway at LHR being cleared by the labourist government. However, as the Labour Party’s political appeal started to deteriorate proportionately to the state of the eonomy, it has become clearer and clearer that it would be the Tories who will take over sometime around June 2010. The Tories of course are not some huge supporters of the 3rd runway (exactly up to what point it forms part of the political game to win over more votes, it’s hard to say) and being so they’ve already announcedthat any approvals for the 3rd runway will be scrapped as soon as they win the June elections. BAA, the spanish-owned airport operator, did in turn react very reasonably announcing it would not lodge any planning applications prior to the elections. Hence, the whole project has been grounded once again and with the Tories being the most likely winners the situation is unlikely to change.

On the other hand, there is London’s mayor Boris Johnson, a strong believer in the Thames Estuary airport’s propensity to succeed. His campaign in favour of such a solution took off some time ago but it keeps hitting the headlines every now and then. Although Boris encounters some fierce opposition (which surprisingly doesn’t focus on the location itself but on a more general credibility of the project in the british political environment), he is getting quite serious about it, having commissioned a feasibility study (that atually didn’t prove anything against an estuarian airport) and apparently had also held some kind of preliminary talks about funding options (with a potential investor coming from the Middle-East area).

Now, from what I’ve heard today, BA obviously supports the third runway very eagerly. Only for different reasons than I thought. The official line seems to be efficiency improvements due to increased joint capacity of the three runways. Fair enough, less fuel would be wasted while in the holding pattern or in a queue prior to take off. Mind you, it doesn’t even mention any increase in the overall number of flights and focuses exclusively on the benefits assuming more flexibility with a constant number of movements. Somehow I can’t force myself to believe BA wouldn’t like to see their number of slots at LHR increase as soon as the additional runway is finished. It’s more – if BA wants to remain competitive it would do them well if they had more slots. You see, that’s what airlines do – grow.

Assuming BA wants to do the same, how come one of main issues they hold against the Thames Estuary airport comes down to the fact that a new airport wouldn’t stop aviation from growing? I find it at least slightly contradictory. Nice try, though.

The truth (or a part of it) is that BA has invested a lot of money into improvements at LHR (like the T5 for example) and the last thing they would want to happen is a huge state-of-the-art airport being built on the other edge of the city and the competition transferring to the Isle of Sheppey.  And in the process they might appear that little bit greener.

What is your position on the LHR vs. Thames Estuary airport dilemma? Do you think Boris is a visionary or a daydreamer? Do we need more airport capacity in the Greater London area at all?

Red Bull Air Rage? October 15, 2008

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I know it’s a belated comment but I just came across that videos (see below) while reading the Airplane Blog and it’s more – they were posted under the title “Get The Red Bull Air Racing Player For Your Blog”. So I do, partly:

More to be found here.

Generally, it’s P.C. to get orgasmic about Red Bull Air Race. Indeed, guys from Red Bull did a great job and the race itself is a phenomenal come-back of air shows. The basic concept was easy – take the Formula 1 racing style and apply it to little jets. Then focus on publicity and make it all look extreme cause it is easy to sell anything labelled this way.

I had the pleasure of watching London’s show in August this year (watch highlights) and I sadly have to say it disappointed me. You’ve got planes performing at high speeds between spikes and making loops etc. – nice…but just the way Formula 1 is. The sound of powerful engine is cool for first say, 20 minutes. Then it becomes boring and another 20 minutes down the line you’re just about to start begging for an accident to happen. Plus it’s wise to get your tickets in advance and show up early at the site.

Still, RBAR videos are a nice watch. Extreme is always nice to watch.

What about making a next step and allowing volunteers for joy-rides, huh?

Cheap & chick October 11, 2008

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Once upon a time there was an airline – a big player to figure out the dimensions of risk posed by rapid growth of Easyjet and Ryanair but also the gains that could have been achieved if they dared gambling in the low-cost casino. Mr Bob Ayling, the CEO, did.

The budget air transport market in Europe in mid 90’s did not look like it does now, there was much more of a scope for innovation. Either was any of the two established LCCs as large as they are nowadays. Also, the cheap fares were reasonable and everyone was yet to start undercutting the fares down to sick lows. Which currently is often the case.

Ms Barbara Cassani was appointed head of the operation ‘Blue Skies’ and later became CEO of Go Airlines Ltd. It might be that this choice explains everything, which is the feeling one gets during the lecture of “Go – an airline adventure” written by Ms Cassani with a little help from Mr Kenny Kemp.

The fledgeling airline did stand out. A fresh, somehow fundamentally simple and straightforward logo; dynamic, modern retro TV spots with brilliant music; colorful aircraft interiors and designer uniforms for staff. Easy to notice who was in charge.

It’s not the place to ponder about the likeliness of Go being still in service. They are not. But I enjoy going back to their marketing ideas exactly because of their simplicity. No dull business people travelling on their companies’ expense in first or business with classical music in the background. No Ryanair-style controversy either. Just pure movement making you feel like getting on one of Go’s planes asap.

But hey, check them out:

…and one more (sorry, can’t help it – they’re sooo classy!)

For more, browse youtube.

Forza Sindicati!!! September 25, 2008

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Few deviations of nature provoke such a deep feeling of repugnance in my mind and body as Alitalia and its unions do. Probably because they give a clear example of why the power of unionists should be drastically reduced.

Not that exclusively the labor movement is to be blamed for the pitiful state in which the Italian carrier has been for years now. One might say that Alitalia’s most serious disfunction was its origin which naturally forced the airline to be in the very centre of Italian politics. So Mr Berlusconi & Co. could play their games for quite a long while. After that however, the bad boys from EU stepped in and said: “eat up your spaghetti, siesta is over“. The Italians weren’t even allowed the ritual espresso this time…

At the point when the EU decided about unlawfulness of any further subsidies, Alitalia was losing some 1million EUR per day. If I’m not wrong that was around 10-11 months ago. In June 2008 the company lost some 50 million EUR plus, which gives almost 2million EUR loss per day.

Last spring there were rumours about AirFrance-KLM taking over Alitalia. Later on I heard about Aeroflot being interested in same scenario which was materialised in Mr Putin meeting Mr Berlusconi. As coffee doesn’t mix well with very strong spirits, they did not take it any further. Then I read that Turkish Airlines were contemplating the takeover move. Most recently, talks with an Italian consortium CAI collapsed thus drastically diminishing any chances that were left for the airline to stay afloat.

Obviously, we are well advised to skip the Russian & Turkish dilemmas on whether to save the poor Italian or let them burn in hell. Since the very moment AF-KLM pulled out, it was clear no foreign investor will let anyone get them bugged down. Why? Because the unions don’t understand that half a loaf is better than no bread at all. And employees support them in a ridiculous expression of utmost ignorance.

Even during negotiations with CAI, the unionists would protest – against their company’s survival, against their own future and work posts. Protesting against lack of govermental support but rejecting any ideas for restructuring.

The ailing air carrier – nowadays losing more than 2million EUR daily and operating with a provisional licence – is desperately looking for a new buyer. The administrator placed avertisements in Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica but also in the Financial Times. Alitalia is cutting flights due to not being able to buy fuel. Italy’s civil aviation authority ENAC is expected to withdraw the carrier’s licence this week if no cost-cutting measures are undertaken.

CAI’s proposal was rejected by unions because it involved 3000 jobs being cut. Owing to this concern, this week we may see Alitalia’s 19000 employees lose their jobs. Any help is not likely to come – everyone is waiting to snap the restovers at a lower price.