Posts in category Gulliver


Business and financeGulliver

Climate change might prevent airlines from flying full planes

THIS summer America has experienced some of the most intense heatwaves in decades. In parts of southern Arizona the mercury has climbed to a sweltering 48°C. That has had an impact on the state’s infrastructure. Last month, a single day’s heatwave grounded dozens of planes. As global temperatures climb higher, such incidents are likely to increase.

Climate change could have a dramatic impact on aviation across the world, according to a recently released paper by a team from Columbia University and Logistics Management Institute, a consulting firm. The researchers predict that as early as the middle of the century, some 30% of flights departing during the most blistering parts of the day will not be able to take off at their maximum weight because the hotter, less dense air will not provide enough lift.

Of the 19 airports examined, Dubai and LaGuardia in New York are expected to see some of the worst effects. During the harshest…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Restrictions are lifted on the last airline affected by America's laptop ban

JUST like that, America’s laptop ban is all but over. Four months ago the Trump administration announced that travellers from ten Middle Eastern countries would be barred from taking electronics larger than a mobile phone into plane cabins, citing security concerns. In the past few weeks, the government has been gradually freeing carriers, including Emirates, Etihad and Turkish Airlines, from the restrictions. On July 17th, it lifted the ban on the last remaining airline covered, Saudi Arabian Airlines.

That represents a shift by the Department of Homeland Security. John Kelly, the department’s chief, had at one stage suggested that the laptop would be extended across the world. But at the end of last month it was instead decided that America would demand a slate of tighter security measures at all airports with flights into the country. Mr Kelly said at the time that around 325,000 flyers each day, on 2,000 flights from 280 airports in 105 countries, would be subject to a more “extensive screening process”. That would include…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

United Airlines is testing a novel way of bumping passengers

IT IS a classic traveller’s dilemma: you are waiting in the boarding area for your flight, and an airline employee asks over the loudspeaker if anyone is willing to be bumped in exchange for a voucher. You like the idea of sacrificing the unimportant meeting you were scheduled to attend in return for a few hundred dollars of travel credit. Then again you do not fancy explaining this to your colleagues, or sitting about in an airport for three hours waiting for the next flight.

Now imagine that instead of having to make this decision just before you board, you could do it do it several days in advance, in the comfort of your home. Changes the equation a bit, does it not?

United Airlines is contemplating a new scheme along these lines, called the Flex-Schedule Program. If a flight is overbooked, or looking like it might be, United will contact passengers who have signed up to the scheme up to five days ahead of departure. They will be given the option of switching to a less popular flight on the same day between the same…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Why the spectre of a hard Brexit has European airlines so worried

PILOTS are taught that a too-hard landing is better than a too-soft one. A plane can absorb more shocks than one might think, but a runway is only so long. But when it comes to Brexit Britain’s government seems to differ. And as the deadline for Britain’s secession from the European Union approaches, the spectre of a hard Brexit has some airlines scrambling. For carriers with big operations in Britain, the terms of Brexit cannot be cushioned enough.

Of most concern is that a hard Brexit will involve Britain leaving the European Common Aviation Area. Europe’s open skies fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, whose yoke the country must be free from, insists Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister. That in turn would bring into question the right of British carriers to fly routes within the EU. The most pessimistic within the industry, including Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, say that unless a new bilateral agreement is agreed, there is a real prospect that flights between Britain and the continent…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Donald Trump’s effect on tourism has not been as bad as feared

A FEW months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the headlines about travel to America were dire. “US Travel Industry Fears a ‘Lost Decade’ Under Trump,” Bloomberg warned. “Trump Slump Could Take a $1.3 Billion Toll on US Travel Spending,” the travel-news site Skift stated. “US Travel Industry Fears Trump Slump,” reported The Hill, which quoted the executive director of the Global Business Travel Association saying that the president’s early policy agenda “is unlike anything…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Who is writing politicians’ letters complaining about the Gulf carriers?

CONGRESS is sick and tired of unfair competition to America’s airlines from the three big Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. So on June 28th, 17 representatives from the state of Illinois wrote a letter to the secretaries of State, Transportation and Commerce complaining about the subsidies these airlines receive from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Illinois is home to one of the America’s biggest hubs, O’Hare International in Chicago. Nearly 25,000 people in the state are employed by American Airlines, United and Delta.

The letter followed similar ones from congressional…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

The boss of Qatar Airways ridicules American carriers for their aged flight attendants

GULLIVER is rarely fazed by what happens below the line of his posts. Receiving the occasional shoeing from readers—sometimes insightful, sometimes not—goes with the job. And he has certainly found his views swayed by well-reasoned arguments he finds there.

But he was truly gobsmacked at the discussion that ensued from a piece last year about the sexualisation of flight attendants. The post noted a few of the seedier airline hiring practices, such as asking potential recruits, some just 15, to take part in a bikini competition, or carriers refusing to employ married women. It then concluded with what seemed to be an an uncontroversial suggestion: female cabin crew should be chosen for their abilities, not for their allure.

It turns out that such woolly liberal thinking is merely the product of the bubble he lives in, according to some readers. “A mixture of silly puritanism and pseudo-egalitarianism,” said one. “Boo hoo why do pretty…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Why British Airways customers might enjoy a strike by flight attendants

HOW do you best judge the success of an airline? One obvious way is to ask whether lots of people fly with it, and if it makes pots of money for shareholders. Judged on these metrics, few can quibble with the direction that British Airways is heading. Last year 42.1m people flew with the airline, nearly 10m more than in 2011. In 2012, IAG, the airline’s parent firm, posted a loss of €716m ($816m). In 2016 it made a profit of €1.9bn.  

Shareholders, then, have little to grumble about. One of the ways that the airline has prospered is by focusing on its costs. When Willie Walsh, himself an avowed cost-cutter, moved from the hot seat at BA to running IAG in 2011, he appointed Alex Cruz from Vueling to carry on his work. As befits the former head of a budget carrier, Mr Cruz has continued to strip many of the frills from the once full-service airline.

Passengers and staff are not so happy with the changes. The airline has suffered four computer failures over the past year. The last one, in May, knocked out many…Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Screeners at Minneapolis airport are reported to have a 94% failure rate

TWO more airports have joined Abu Dhabi in having a laptop ban lifted. On July 5th passengers flying from Dubai or Istanbul to America were told that they will once more be allowed to take large electronic devices into plane cabins, rather than having to stow them in the hold, which they have been required to do since March. That will come as a relief to passengers of Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Etihad who have been forced to fly without their laptops and tablets. It follows a change of heart by John Kelly, America’s homeland security secretary. On July 28th, Mr Kelly’s department decided again to trust foreign airports with screening laptops for hidden explosives, so long as they upgraded security. Other airports affected by the ban are expected to pass muster in the coming days and weeks.

That is good news. But America would do well to get its own house in order as well. Fox 9 Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

America lifts its laptop ban on Etihad

TWO not entirely unrelated pieces of aviation news have come out of the Gulf in the past few days. The first is that America has lifted its laptop restrictions on Etihad. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) imposed a ban on large electrical devices in the cabins of planes flying from ten Middle Eastern countries in March, including from Abu Dhabi, Etihad’s base. Officials, it seemed, had got wind of a specific terrorist threat, possibly similar to the attempted downing of a jet in Somalia in 2016. On that occasion a passenger detonated a small explosive concealed in a laptop that was placed flush against the cabin wall. (Disaster was probably only averted because the man detonated the device too soon after take-off. The terrorist, who was sucked to his death through the resulting hole, was the only casualty.)

After months of mixed messages (at one point John Kelly, the homeland security secretary, suggested that the laptop ban was “likely” to be extended worldwide) last week the DHS Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Flyers may soon have their books and magazines screened

TO THE many invasions of privacy that have become commonplace in air travel—the pat-downs, the hand swabs, the shoe removal, the endless rummaging through luggage by security agents—one more may soon need to be added: the examination of reading material.

Last month, America’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) ran tests at airports in California and Missouri that required passengers to remove all books and magazines from their carry-on bags and put them in plastic bins to be x-rayed. John Kelly, the homeland security secretary, said that the agency “might and likely will” impose that requirement at all airports. “What we’re doing now is working out the tactics, techniques, and procedures, if you will, in a few airports, to find out exactly how to do that with the least amount of inconvenience to the traveller,” he said.

The agency’s concern is that dense papers can block x-ray scanners, or could potentially be used to conceal weapons. A TSA spokeswoman Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

El Al can no longer ask women to move seats on religious grounds

ONE of the more unsavoury airline practices has now been outlawed. In 2015 flight attendants on El Al, Israel’s national carrier, asked Renee Rabinowitz, an 81-year-old holocaust survivor, to move seats after she boarded her flight in New Jersey. An ultra-orthodox Jewish male passenger had objected to having to sit next to her. Haredim, it was explained, are forbidden from close contact with females who are not relatives.

Ms Rabinowitz is not alone. As this blog has reported on several occasions in recent years, haredi men flying El Al regularly refuse to take their seats next to female passengers. And El Al staff, if the men cannot be accommodated elsewhere on the plane, will sometimes ask the “offending” woman to vacate her seat.

At the time, Ms Rabinowitz Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments
Business and financeGulliver

Etihad allows flyers to bid to keep adjacent seats empty

THERE are few things that airlines will not now put a price on. Even so, Etihad Airways has come up with an intriguing idea. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier is offering flyers the chance to bid to keep adjacent seats on a flight empty. Passengers can suggest the price they are willing to pay to block up to three berths, and the chance to stretch out a bit.

Anyone who regularly suffers the ignominy of economy-class flying knows that there is no finer feeling than discovering that a flight is half empty and that there is no need to sit cheek-by-jowl with fellow members of the hoi polloi. Most travellers can recount with glee a journey in which they found they had an entire row to themselves, could raise the armrests, and sleep soundly and horizontally for the duration of the flight. It is surely the only time that it is preferable to have a booked ticket in the middle column of seating. (A particularly pleasing Continue reading

Read more 0 Comments