Weekly Roundup, Boxing Day, 26 December 2014

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and the happiest of new years....
Wishing you a very merry Christmas and the happiest of new years….

Good morning

I do hope your Christmas was filled with fellowship, festive cheer, food and drink, and a few presents too.  And, equally importantly, I hope your travel plans were not interrupted by the latest round of winter-weather.  When will we finally get a sufficiently robust air traffic control and airport ground system to be able to cope with these regular-as-clockwork winter storms?

The unreliability of our air travel system is enough to encourage us back into our cars and onto roads that are usually reliably plowed in all but the most extreme of conditions.  Which brings me to the attached article below today’s short newsletter.  It had been my plan to write a piece on Tesla and other electric vehicles – there’s nothing I’d love more than one of the latest generation dual motor Teslas – but that short article grew and then grew some more until becoming way too unwieldy for a light bit of Christmas reading.  However, one of the sub-topics in the full article lent itself to being split off into a free-standing article, and so there’s 2200 words offered to you on the subject of hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.  Toyota is releasing one such vehicle in 2015 (which, remember, is now less than a week away) and Honda will be releasing another in 2016.

If it is good enough for Toyota and Honda, has the technology become mainstream and should we hold off on our Tesla purchases?  Read the article for the possibly surprising but absolutely inescapable answer to that question.

As a ‘stop press’ update, since writing the article I’ve now seen a more substantial confirmation of a rumor that has been floating around for a while – Tesla is about to announce an upgrade to owners of its original, overpriced, and poorly rated Roadster.  This upgrade would see the car’s range almost double, from 220 to 400 miles on a single battery charge.

Let’s hope upgrades to the Model S range are also in the works (but a doubling of S range is much less likely because it already has later generation battery technology than the older Roadster).  My point here is simply that the capabilities of battery electric vehicles continue to improve, making them ever more attractive, and my obscured point is that I’m not so sure that similar improvements are waiting in the wings for fuel cell technology.

And, also, a request.  If you didn’t have time to respond to my last week’s request to help out with my latest survey, please could you do so now.  If you click here, it will generate an empty email to me, and I’ll reply to it with details of this new internet service I’m developing, and will direct you to a short survey that will be very helpful in fine tuning its presentation and pricing.  Many thanks for this much appreciated help.

What else this week?  I’ve been enjoying one of my Christmas gifts on Thursday (the latest set of the Inspector Lewis series – another example of an excellent British drama) so please forgive me for not writing in great length today.  But here are a few pieces below.

  • Aer Lingus Seeks to Remain Independent
  • Straight Talking from an Airline CEO
  • There Must be More than Meets the Eye to This Disgrace
  • TripAdvisor in Trouble Again
  • The First Shall be Last, and the Last Shall be First
  • And Lastly This Week….

Aer Lingus Seeks to Remain Independent

The national carrier of Ireland and the Irish government has repeated resisted and rebuffed advances from Ryanair to buy the airline outright; although Ryanair already owns 29.9% of the airline.

An offer now by International Airlines Group (the parent company of BA and Iberia) has suffered a similar fate.  IAG had sought to buy the company, but with no agreement by Ryanair and with a similarly problematic lack of agreement by 25% shareholder, the Irish Government, the deal went nowhere, other than to excite an almost 20% lift in Aer Lingus’s share price.

We hope Aer Lingus doesn’t eventually succumb to the temptations of an IAG buyout, and if we had to see any company take over the airline, we’d love it to be Ryanair.

Straight Talking from an Airline CEO

Most mainstream airlines have gotten away with crap product and swindling their customers for too long, but happily, those days are over.

Not my words, although you might think so (even though I’d sadly take issue with the last point).  They’re from the slightly quirky CEO of Qatar Airways, and was cited in answer to the question of how his airline can realistically expect to achieve the rapid growth that it plans, as shown by its aggressive forward orders of an extraordinary number of new airplanes.  Currently Qatar operates 148 planes, and has another 252 on order.

He made the comments at the delivery ceremony this week which saw his airline finally accepting delivery of the first A350 to enter commercial service, and we hope its first commercial flight may still occur prior to the end of 2014.

More details here.

There Must be More than Meets the Eye to This Disgrace

A passenger on a United flight was handcuffed, taken off the flight by three police officers, arrested and spent three days in jail before even a bail hearing could be arranged.  That much seems correct and a factual matter of record.

But what was the grievous offense that caused the plane to return to the gate and police officers to board the plane and take her off?  If the story is to be believed, she committed the unpardonable offense of, after the jetway had been pushed back and the front door closed, moving from her seat to an empty row of other seats where she could spread out and have some comfort for the long flight from Seattle up to Alaska.  Since when has that been a problem?

So – when has this been a problem?  Note United’s official response.  It says ‘balance and weight safety regulations prevent onboard seat changes’.

Maybe that’s true in a 10 seater puddle jumper, and while we’re not told what sort of plane it was, video of the altercation suggests it to be a 737 or larger, and most flights I take have the flight crew announcing ‘you are free to move about the cabin’ rather than ‘no-one is allowed to change seats’.

The woman is now suing United for $5 million.  To be fair, it isn’t United’s fault that the prisoner processing and jail/bail system caused the woman to spend three nights in jail (how do we as a so-called civilized country let this happen for a victimless crime involving no violence?), and reading between the lines it does seem she was a bit aggressive when confronted by a flight attendant, but the original issue – wanting to move seats to where there was a row of three empty seats – surely could have been better handled by the flight attendants.

More details here.

 TripAdvisor in Trouble Again

I’m as fast as most others to criticize TripAdvisor and to point out its weaknesses and limitations.  I’m also as fast as anyone to turn to it and use it as a valuable reference source, albeit with care and caution.

But when I read of an Italian anti-trust enforcement action, fining TripAdvisor €500,000 ($610,000) I find myself rolling my eyes in disbelief at the idiocy manifest in the Italian Competition Authority’s actions.  Unfair trade activity and misleading consumers!  Really???  Details here.

Why is it that the government bodies instituted to protect us so often end up doing things that harm us?

The First Shall be Last, and the Last Shall be First

Well, something like that, anyway.  When Carnival Cruise Lines was first formed in 1972, it was a tiny company with only one ship (Mardi Gras), but it named itself Carnival Cruise Lines – note the plural.

Now that Carnival is the world’s largest cruise operator, with a plethora of different brands and a multitude of ships, it is renaming itself.  Its new name – Carnival Cruise Line (and note now the singular).

And Lastly This Week….

Here’s an amusing look not at the great and good of 2014, but of the biggest travel gaffes of the year.  Or, another take on the year that was, the most unlikely conspiracy theories of the year.  And, more generally, a proposed list of the world’s worst airplanes.

If you’d prefer positive look-aheads, here’s a list of what to expect next year in aviation.

Truly lastly, I do hope that 2015 will prove to be a great and good year for you and your family in all respects.  And, of course, if one of your New Year resolutions should include enjoying some particularly fun travel experiences, please do consider our Poseidon Polar Expedition and/or our Scotland’s Islands and Highlands Tour.

Until – and throughout – 2015, I hope your travels will be convenient, safe, and untroubled by weather and other travails






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