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Is BA getting green? October 19, 2009

Posted by supersonicswan in Supersonic.
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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?


Willie & the unions October 15, 2009

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It is a mesmerising story; one which beginnigs nobody remembers and one that never ends even if the public would love it to do so. Even watching Frodo climbing that mountain in his quest to bury the ring in the third part of the LOTR series wasn’t nowhere near as exhausting as seeing the action develop in the W. Walsh v. Unite & Co. case.

A quick update on what’s on this time: after catching up with his finance boys Willie realised that BA has lost £401m during the last financial year and drew to a conclusion that some money-saving measures would do the company well. Asking the employees to work less, take unpaid holidays or even work for free, didn’t do any good. Probably because Willie didn’t give up on his own salary (which actually could have made a difference & surely would put him in a better light while asking his staff to do the same). Determined to cut the costs, Willie announced that some job axing will be necessary; also,  that some 3000 of the crew will have to go part-time. And to top it up, Willie also envisages pay freezes and pay deals cuts  for the reminder of his cabin crew as well as completely revamped deals for new hires.

Uffffff… Brave move,  Mr Walsh.

“In a letter to cabin crew members of Unite, joint leaders Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson said the changes, due to be imposed from November 16, constituted a “fundamental attack” on jobs, wages and career prospects.” (Sky News)

And one more:

“Instead of looking to make discussion or negotiations work, (BA bosses) prefer to force through changes even if it puts them into dispute with most of their workforce.” (Sky News)

Talks started on Wed but United is already prepared for a strike ballot. It doesn’t come as a huge surprise as strike occurence at BA roughly corresponds with all major holidays and festivities, and Xmas is around the corner. They could even squeeze two actions in!

Am I being sarcastic? Not at all.

Coming from the country of “Solidarnosc” and Lech Walesa, maybe I should bear more understanding for unions. But all I’ve ever learnt about them is that as soon as they form there will always be somebody that will play them for their own goals.

To sum up: the last thing I believe is that BA’s unions are actually acting in the best interest of the company’s employees. It’s not a high rocket science to figure out the better solution is to let some ppl go, save up some money, restructure the company and then possibly rehire at least some of them. The worse one being to press for preservation of the status quo that prevents BA plc. from any changes bringing in only more debt. I imagine firing your employees is not the funniest part of the job but it is still better to shave some jobs than close the shop and leave everybody on the street. And Unite seems not to understand it.

Which side are you on in this debate? Do you think BA’s management should opt for the hard stand or give in? Is Unite ready for an open discussion or just sticks to its’ dogma? Is BA able ever to even its labour relations with these enjoyed by JetBlue?

We deliver October 13, 2008

Posted by supersonicswan in Subsonic.
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How many times have we come across this statement, comrades? Countless, huh? Lately, the most remarkable one was sounded by Mr Willie Walsh just before the over-advertised opening of the T5 at LHR. Unsurprisingly, soon after the immense T5-drama took off the very first comment of Mr Walsh was – we will deliver.

Hence, my honest attachment to these words which uninterruptedly attracts me to them and makes me want to say – prove it! Yesterday, while working on a completely different issue, I found out about a motto that drives the management of Athens International Airport. Not more, not less but WE DELIVER!

This time the recipient of the delivery are all airlines operating to and from ATH. The campaign was started only this year so it’s hard to say in which way it affected/may affect the concerned carriers. Generally, the concept is not too bad. Fresh, innovative with plenty of ideas of how to expand your business – that’s how they want to be seen at ATH & that’s rougly what airlines would like the airports to be. However, I’m not so sure about the posters’ layout, especially that hardly legible font. Of course it is eye-catching, although I would not suspect airline management of being so badly superficial as to get themselves caught by these posters.

Anyway, if you don’t fancy the idea of deciphering the posters, the campaign also contains a lenghty spot that doesn’t actually convey any important message. Ok, maybe it does. I had a feeling that after completing such a difficult task as inventing this campaign, all the Greek can do is take some time off and go for holidays. You can find the spot here.

Despite me being a deeply sarcastic animal, it is highly positive that folks at ATH are innovative and try to attract attention in an unusual way. One might say, it’s nothing new (vide: Fraport or Vienna Airports). But I say, there are thousands of airports that don’t even do that much!

And since ATH opened in its new location (Spata) in 2002, the traffic was going up. This year, due to the unfavourable market conditions, the year on year benchmark is in red – it will be interesting to see if an agressive campaign is able to change this pattern. For your watching pleasure a little chart below – feel free to analyse it in your spare time!

I know, there’s not much to analyse. You can e-mail me begging for a more detiled version.