Gulliver

Are strikes making a big dent in Ryanair’s profits?

ALL should be rosy at Europe’s largest low-cost airline. Ryanair’s passenger numbers are growing and costs per seat-kilometre flown are—just about—lower than its competitors’. But investors have been sent into a flap by its announcement on July 23rd that its profits in the first quarter fell 20% year-on-year, which sent its share price down nearly 7% on the day. Growing demand for pilots and cabin crew is having an effect. Last September the airline was forced to cancel over 2,000 flights owing to a pilot shortage. To attract enough staff to keep up with its breakneck expansion it has been improving pay and conditions, as well as recognising trade unions for the first time. That decision has already made itself felt: this week Ryanair is cancelling more than 600 flights because of striking...

The case for treating disabled travellers better

TRAVELLING for work can be expensive, uncomfortable and unpleasant, even for those without a mobility issue. But spare a thought for people who do, many of whom get appalling service from train firms and airlines around the world. The latest case to have hit the headlines is that of Tanyalee Davis, a Canadian living in England, who has said that she was left feeling so humiliated that she “wanted to crawl under a rock and die” after a recent train journey from Plymouth to Norwich. Ms Davis, who uses a mobility scooter as she has a form of dwarfism, was forced to move from an unreserved wheelchair space to make way for a pushchair (pushchairs do not have priority for such spaces). When she complained, the guard announced to the train that they would be stopping indefinitely at the next stat...

What really happened to EgyptAir Flight 804?

GULLIVER is not the type of person to kick up a fuss on his travels, least of all when lucky enough to be at the front of the plane. But his patience was pushed to the limit a couple of years ago, when his EgyptAir flight from Cairo to London was blighted by the near-constant stench of cigarette smoke wafting in from the cockpit. Shackled by British meekness and an unwillingness to challenge a flight crew, your asthmatic correspondent suffered the coughs and tried instead to focus on work. Conversations with Egyptian friends later revealed that on-board cigarette smoke is hardly a rarity when flying with the North African flag-carrier.  Naturally, anecdotes such as this provide only a snapshot of an airline’s safety standards. But it is a deeply disturbing snapshot given the stalled invest...

Airbus and Boeing are tightening their hold on the sky

AT A glitzy party in Toulouse on July 10th Airbus, Europe’s aerospace giant, revealed its “newest” plane. But many aviation buffs might find it familiar. It was a repainted C-Series aircraft—originally developed by Bombardier of Canada—a project in which Airbus bought a 50.01% stake on July 1st. Airbus welcomed the aircraft into its family of planes by renaming the CS-100 as the A220-100 and the CS-300 as the A220-300. The message was clear: it is now an Airbus plane. But with Airbus and Bombardier’s arch rivals, Boeing of America and Embraer of Brazil, announcing their own joint venture last week, the skies are running out of competition. The tie-up between Airbus and Bombardier, originally signed last October, initially came as good news for many airlines. Before Airbus swooped, the C-Se...

Politics is becoming a minefield for the travel and hospitality business

TRAVELLERS come in all different stripes. So it is generally not wise for the chief executive of a major airline to say something like this about a controversial presidential stance: “This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with [our] mission and we want no part of it.” But that was Oscar Munoz of United Airlines on President Donald Trump’s now-reversed policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border. He is not the only airline boss to have attacked the policy. American Airlines issued a statement condemning the move as “not at all aligned” with its values. They, along with Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines, asked the government not to use their flights to transport children away from their parents. America’s other major...

The founder of JetBlue is about to start a new airline

TWO decades ago, David Neeleman founded JetBlue Airways, promising to “bring humanity back to air travel.” It has since grown to become one of America’s largest airlines. But stories of poor service and a lack of humanity still abound in the country’s aviation industry. And so it appears that Mr Neeleman is back and preparing to launch a new airline. Airline Weekly, a magazine, reports that Mr Neeleman, with $100m in financial backing, plans to create a new carrier called Moxy. The airline will aim to fill a niche in the American market by offering low-cost direct services between smaller airports, while providing more comfort and perks than the country’s no-frills budget airlines. Get our daily newsletter Upgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks. In some ways...

Do Britain’s railways need a Fat Controller?

ON MAY 20th, the biggest changes to train timetables in modern British history took place, affecting commuters and business travellers across the country. In the weeks beforehand, the train-operating companies had been spinning the changes as good news for passengers due to an increase in the number of services offered. Journalists were being hosted on training rides on the new routes. But in practice the changes turned into the biggest railway-management disaster in modern British history: It sounds more like an episode of “Thomas the Tank Engine” than a day in the life of a modern railway. But on May 25th an express train from Newcastle to Reading took a wrong turn, and got lost in Pontefract, 150 miles away. That might have been funny were it not part of a wider collapse in train servic...

People going on stag and hen dos are disrupting flights too often

NOTE to travellers headed to a stag do: the festivities begin at your destination, not on the plane that is taking you there. This might seem obvious, but many revellers appear unsure. Last week, an easyJet flight from Bristol to Prague was delayed and ultimately cancelled after a group of stags got their celebration off to an early start. The details of their behaviour remain murky, but it led Bristol Airport police to tweet:  Get our daily newsletter Upgrade your inbox and get our Daily Dispatch and Editor’s Picks. Disappointing behaviour of a few who ruined a Friday flight from Bristol Airport, not just for their mates, but for the 140+ whose flight was cancelled as a result of their follow-up actions. It’s an aircraft—not a nightclub. The airline clarified that the flight was del...

Aviation’s most outspoken boss thinks women cannot do his job

THE International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association for airlines, was founded in 1945 to promote the interests of carriers around the world. In recent years the airline cartel of old has been accused of being out of tune with the times, particularly by low-cost carriers such as Ryanair, which is Europe’s biggest. At this week’s AGM in Sydney the message from IATA was as dated as the organisation itself: women were not suited to running airlines. Akbar al Baker, the group’s new chairman and the boss of Qatar Airways, a Gulf carrier, told attendees that “of course”, his airline “has to be led by a man, because it is a very challenging position”. He later apologised for what he claimed was a joke blown out of proportion by the media. Yet this was not Mr al Baker’s first fo...

America’s security profiling at airports should worry frequent flyers

ARE you on America’s newest airport-security watch list? You could be, but you would never know. That is because the list is secret, and no one quite understands what it takes to land on it. News of the list emerged earlier this month, when the New York Times obtained a five-page internal directive from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the government agency that oversees airport security in America. It revealed that the TSA could place flyers on the watch list, which it created in February, if they engaged in behaviour that the agency found problematic. That includes violent altercations with TSA agents. But, more problematically, it appears to extend well beyond physical assaults. “An intent to injure or cause physical pain is not required, nor is an actual physical injur...

Why airliners in Cuba and Iran crash so much

WHEN the dream of a smooth flight turns into the nightmare of an airliner crash, understanding what went wrong is sometimes straightforward. That was the case with a Malaysia Airlines flight which crashed in the summer of 2014, killing 298. This week Dutch and Australian investigators conclusively showed that it was shot down by a missile fired by Russian armed forces. But in other cases it is much harder to apportion blame. Such is the complexity of civil aviation that air-crash investigators spend years sifting through wreckage, recordings and data logs to work out what went wrong. Often technological, human and environmental faults are the main culprits. But another factor can be argued to have caused many of the world’s deadliest air disasters so far this year: economic sanctions. The ...

The sexual harassment of flight attendants is a massive problem

OVER the past year, there have been myriad stories in the press about airlines mistreating passengers. Last April David Dao, a passenger on a domestic United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville, was violently dragged off the plane to accommodate crew for another flight. This month United hit the headlines again when a Nigerian passenger accused it of racial discrimination after she was thrown off a flight. But among the sea of shocking headlines about how flight crews abuse passengers, it is easy to forget that the reverse occurs far more frequently. A new study published earlier this month shows just how common the harassment of flight attendants by flyers is. The Association of Flight Attendants, the union representing American cabin crew, asked more than 3,500 flight attendants f...

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