#flygskam (FlyShame) Reality Check

All the industry discusses #flygskam (flyshame), but even given sound studies disqualifying the topic, our own lobbyists fail to organize a concerted response to the case. Let’s have a reality check…

There were some reports recently on German television and in the media. German “Welt” (TV + newspaper) reported “Green (party) Demands: Climate Sin Domestic Flight? Abolition Hardly Saves CO2“.

The use of ships to travel from Scandinavia or Britain to Europe or crossing the Mediterranean I think I don’t need to remind of the extreme emissions of cruise and other ships?

Rail Greenwashing

But there was another article even more to the point: “Where there is a will there is not always a train“. But there are some issues that are unrealistic. The numbers of German Rail are biased and greenwashed. They claim to use only “Green Power”. But in fact, published by the German Federal Environmental Agency, their power comes from the public grid and no matter what “deals” they do, it is grid power. And on the grid, in 2018 only 16.6% has been “Green” (Source). The energy industry accounts for 85% of all Greenhouse Gases of which 98% CO2, the remainder being mostly Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) (Source). So in fact, the amount of greenhouse emissions by German Rail are considerably higher than advertised. As a report from 2018 shows, we talk about up to 83% “dirty energy” on the “green” energy companies… So if we increase the “public” German Rail assumption of 36g per km (greenwashed) and adjust it to reality, we talk about +200 g/km. Suddenly the published 201 g for flights is not so bad at all!

But what also needs to be taken into account is the emission per passenger. Be it rail, in average used 22% only, whereas those passengers are mostly commuters, filling up the trains above their limits in the rush hours. That is not only true for the commuter but also the long-haul routes. This year, the long-haul trains’ punctuality was only 69.8%. For 2018, German Rail reported 16 routes operating above capacity – passengers finding no seat being just another annoyance, half of the delays are a result of those overused routes. That 20% of the trains are in (often unscheduled) repairs, toilets and air condition known to be out of service just being others. Just a reminder, the average load factor of flights according to IATA is about 85%.

e-Mobility: Battery Greenwashing

Given the devastating destruction of the natural environment in Lithium mining, I do not understand that politicians push forward battery-based e-Mobility. Using fuel-cell technology we can use the existing gas stations infrastructure. Refueling takes only about five minutes! And given a broad use will lower the prices and make the technology available on smaller cars too. They can even power scooters, so don’t tell me it doesn’t work for a compact car!

Instead they promote an ecologically catastrophic technology with a completely missing loading infrastructure…?

Ground Sealing

Memmingen Airport (FMM)There is an important advantage of air travel to both rail and road that is frequently not addressed. The issue of ground sealing!

For an airport, about 2,500 x 45m are typically “sealed for the runway, in total about 3,000 by 400 m are required for a regional airport, of which only 25-30% of the ground are “sealed” by infrastructure, 70-75% being grass areas. So we talk about 400,000 m² of an average regional airport being “sealed.

A highway with four lanes is about 31 m wide with about 24 m being sealed. A 50 km highway such seals about 1.2 million m², so three times as much as a single airport. Highways are known to be an insurmountable obstacle for wildlife.

rail bridgeFor Rail we talk about a minimum of 12 meters sealed width for 2 tracks, up to 20 meters on high speed train routes and and average of about 15 meters. So on 50 km of rail we talk about 600,000 m² of sealed ground. Before we start talking about the railway stations…

I don’t have the number, not even for Germany, but it might be an interesting comparison for the aviation industry to compare the total ground sealed for highways (not talking about cities) and rail, compared to airports. I think that will be a devastating result for the ground transportation modes.

My hope on rail is that hyperloop we will not seal more ground, but will be established underground.

Bio-Kerosene

Image: Carbon Engineering

Yes, I am a big fan of the CO2-tax. If it is used to compensate for bio-kerosene! So far, all eco-taxes are abused to cover up for growing demands of the policos for their “other agendas”. But did you know that the German air traffic accounts for less than 0.3% of the CO2-emissions in Germany? (Source)

National Geographic last year reported about a development by Canadian Carbon Engineering, using CO2 with hydrogen (H2) to create artificial kerosene (and gasoline). Whereas there are industry sources to provide excessive CO2, hydrogen can be created using solar parks. The resulting bio-kerosene is an independent power storage. As the CO2 from burning that bio-kerosene equals the amount that was used from the environment, it is a completely climate neutral solution. And using solar energy for the electrolysis and the power needed for the processing, there is a power loss, but that is ecologically irrelevant.

But… Why do the media and politicos actively neglect those developments? Why do they go for dirty Lithium?

Summary

So what is the reality check for #flygskam (flight shame) vs. the “green rail”? Green rail is a myth, the power consumption not close as “green” as they say. Considering the ground sealing also favors aviation. And should we in aviation invest large scale into bio-kerosene, lowering the prices to competitive cost levels, replacing crude-oil-based fuel… A CO2-tax such might be an enabler for the conversion. If our lobbyists would show balls, which I’m afraid from experience, they don’t have.

But sustainable transport, including air transport is acknowledged as an important factor in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to develop regions, counterbalancing inequalities and disparities!

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

I think it should not be aviation bashing, nor should we greenwash rail, but we should develop a sustainable transport network for everyone. Connect individual transport to rail, hyperloop or flight. It is the mix we need, not enemy stereotypes! And we need funds to support strategic projects selected, not the ones having the biggest lobbies. And “batteries” are no solution but a pest! Lithium mining destroys the planet!

#flyshame is out! Flying is a vital service for a global world. To disqualify it with false facts does not help to make our world a better place.

#railshame is my new buzzword!

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome…

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The Crystal Ball: Aviation Reloaded

The last weeks, I read a lot of articles about the future of aviation, changes, ideas and how “creative minds” evolve the business model (i.e. Forbes). Evolve. Not change. So they jump short! There were quite some ideas – 30, 60 or more years ago, that are still good, but the politicos clinging to the status quo delay the necessary change.

Now this week a study I saw on TV (in German) questions if we can still stop climate change. Given the melting at the poles, white, reflecting ice is replaced by black residue and dirt, heating up the poles and speeding the ice melt.

Planning the start of a “new”, different airline model, I know I can’t yet start the change, but yes, I can promote it. And ready myself for it. And do what I, me personally, to make the airline as “green” and sustainable as possible.

So that said, what do I see for the future of “Aviation”?

The Electric Flight Bubble

Zunum 50 seat electric plane
Zunum 50 seat electric plane (concept)

As much as I liked Zunum. The use of batteries in my opinion is a bubble. The economic foot print of batteries is catastrophic. Read about Lithium mining, it’s horrific. Also Lithium is in limited supply and the abusive use without proper recycling shrinks that supply further.

Either some smart minds come up with an eco-friendly, high-energetic battery, or I see that as an interim bubble that will keep some people busy, but has no substance for the future of aviation. Or transportation.

Just mentioning, using electric is no issue for trains though, as they do not rely on batteries.

Hydrogen, WIG + The Offshore-Airport

Hydrogen powered Wing in Ground

My answer is more the development of solutions based on hydrogen! As part of my research on the viability of the H2-WIG (2008), I found “electric” completely insufficient even on short flights, the batteries not holding long enough. But given existing H2-engines (Mazda, BMW) and the ability to catalyze from water using solar energy, the business case made so much sense that we discussed it with Maldives and Virgin Green Fund. Until Lehman busted the idea!

Discussing that project, I learned also about the idea of the “Offshore-Airport”. Global hubs usually are connecting airports, the minority of passengers ending their flights there. What if you develop a “floating” airport, using aircraft-carrier-sized connected pontoons. By sheer size they stabilize so that aircraft can safely land even during a storm and very rough sea. From the Offshore-Airport, you could connect the neighboring harbor cities with the WIG.

As I wrote this, I was referred to an article about Liquid Hydrogen Powered Aircraft, so I am not the only one thinking that.

Long Haul Ballistic Flight

Ballistic Flight

Another idea, I think originally got published by Arthur C. Clarke or Robert Heinlein, was ballistic flight. Using an electric catapult, like on a modern aircraft carrier, just much, much larger … You can shoot off ballistic aircraft virtually around the globe, creating a network of strategic global connections. In fact, I recall those having been built with large hills or mountains to give the “bullet” the upward angle into high altitude and the catapult to be “common use” likely needs some kilometers of launch run to reduce the G-Force on the passengers.

Hyperloop

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.

As trains, Hyperloop has the opportunity to use electric power without batteries. I assume Hyperloop will use magnetic propulsion and connect large centers. In the very long term, there will be Hyperloop routes taking over train routes between secondary centers. But trains, as well as Hyperloop will require a fixed routes. So they will not and cannot replace regional flights or individual transport very quickly. But in a hundred years?

It’s a start.

The nice thing about that concept is the tunnel system, allowing hyperloops to operate weather independent at high speed underground, connecting the cities.

Side note, the concept of Hyperloop resembles rather closely with the concept visualized by Roger Leloup for his Yoko Tsuno comics back in 1972. And there’s Science Fiction books (from scientific fiction) addressing magnetic tunnel rail long before that.

Regional Transport and The Last Mile

Ohmio Lift connected "train"For regional transport and the last mile, there was a recent development in Christchurch, New Zealand. The development of autonomous transport (called Ohmio Lift), that can be combined with additional such vehicles into “trains”.

If you have “cars” like this for 4 or more people with seats and baggage space or for short hops with standing passengers holding i.e. onto poles, depending on the demand, you could pick up the passengers on fixed routes or centralized parking lots at their homes. Once entering the transport grid, integrating on busy routes into “trains”, connecting to the hyperloop station or regional airports. On regional routes, entering a “highway”. Approaching “home”, the vehicles automatically detach into individual transports connecting the hold point for the traveler, then picking up someone else or returning to the garage for servicing or waiting for the next peak demand.

Autonomous Flying

Drone Co-Pilot

Way before another century is over, I expect pilot free flying. Given that drone operators can operate military drones on the other side of the world, those drones taking off, flying and landing completely autonomous, what does that mean for civil aviation? Air taxi drones are in the making.

Sure, I predict the next step being the removal of the co-pilot from the cockpit, replaced by a drone-pilot. Followed by redundancy of the pilot-in-command. Giving the entire aircraft to the computers, once the systems become fail-safe, with a back-up for the rare cases needed by a drone-operator. Getting a classic cockpit view sitting far away in an airline operations center.

#flygskam

After I addressed Greta Thunberg in Cognitive Dissonance Resolution last March, since #flygskam (FlyShame) evolved. And I was asked to address it.

Cruise Ships air pollutionIn my opinion, it will be a short-lived circus, once we start to bring them back to reality. Because the reality check shows the hypocrisy of their arguments. Yes, take the ship to travel, as if they wouldn’t be known to pest the air with their Diesel engines…? Take the train. Where trains are available, that is. If not, sure you take the bus. Compared to the latest aircraft with contemporary engines, that will not be so eco-friendly either. Yes, I’ve seen those “fake statistics” that don’t take the secondary effects into account, like ground sealing building highways, the cost for lithium mining, for recycling.

Related imageAside the time it takes to travel.

What about the rural exodus? More and more people move where they find work. But they also want to travel home to meet their family and friends. Would they want to take the bus, loosing precious hours? Or would they want to fly quickly home for a few days? Yes, I recall the “Mediterranean Völkerwanderung”, friends of mine traveling by car to Italy or Yugoslavia or Spain… The good ol’ time of the “Bully” Volkswagen bus.

Logo Erfurt-Weimar Airport (the "Green Heart of Germany")It reminds me of my time at Erfurt-Weimar Airport, the “green heart” of Germany. Where the PTBs (powers-that-be if you know me) didn’t support the scheduled service they paid, but flew from Berlin instead, where they didn’t fund setup of a reasonable route (ERF-AMS) but simply cancelled the ERF-MUC flight without a replacement, such taking the airport of the public aviation grid. The “green heart of Germany”. Overgrown with moss.

There is a need and demand for contemporary air travel. And once more, let me remind you of the map image I keep posting, the overlay of purchasing power and airport locations in Germany. Sure, a hen-egg issue, but if you don’t start, you’ll never reach your destination.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Quo Vadis Aviation

The Endless Runway concept

Side Note

Dear Readers. I’ve spend a quite large amount of my “free” time on qualifying myself on online-PR, -marketing, SEO, SEM, SEA. All those buzzwords that I summarized a bit in the new SEO-optimized page Unhyping Online Marketing (SEO SEM SEA). So I didn’t have spare time to focus on the topics but made note, what to address in the upcoming blog posts.

As I told a friend, it mostly scratches on the surface only, where I could pour some salt into open wounds. Most fun for me was to make that article SEO-perfect, though it does make it a bit hard to read… And it became so much, that I decided to put it in a page, not a blog article (post). If you didn’t read it yet, if you’re in marketing or online, you might want to after reading this post.

What did trigger is the statistics on active users vs. leechers. I know a lot of you read, though most of you I don’t know who you are. I sure do appreciate anyone “outing” themselves to me that they read my blog. Send me a mail to juergen at barthel eu if you don’t want to comment in the blog.

Quo Vadis Virtual Airlines?

Many new airlines come without business concept. What is the business model? What is the USP? Have you made a sincere SWOT analysis? Know your internal and external strenghts, opportunities, weaknesses and threats? Or do you believe with a small, leased fleet, paid maintenance, some commercial off-the-shelf software and some flights in summer to the secondary holiday destinations you can stand up to the existing big airlines? What’s your niche and is it safe and sufficient enough? Else, you simply build up a market for the big ones and find yourself pushed aside – another “victim” to the ongoing consolidation. Nothing new. Nothing unexpected.

There is the saying about how to make a million in aviation. Start with a billion. While I believe with a billion you can achieve something, the usual “airline startup” is 2-20 million. One or two leased A320 or B737. I call them mayflies. They fly one (high) season, maybe two. Then they have no more funds to sustain another low season and “fail”. A failure with prior announcement.

Regional Airlines vs. Low-Cost

Regional Do328 and Low Cost 737, 2009 at Erfurt Airport

Discussing “Regional Airlines” and “Low-Cost Airlines”, all the “experts” keep separating the two models. What they fail to see is the role of low-cost airlines in the regional aviation market.

“Regional Airlines”

The common “definition” of regional airline is to fly small aircraft, up to 100 seats. Often in a mixed fleet. Always at a high cost per seat. So the tickets by nature are and must be more expensive.

“Low Cost Airlines”

Different from Regional Airlines, the Low Cost airlines fly Airbus A320- or Boeing B737- family aircraft with 150 to 200, recently implementing even larger A321 and B737-9/900 with up to 240 seats.

Regional + Low Cost

Both airline types have something in common. Both fly point-to-point. Both classically focus on short and medium haul.

Both also establish some connecting services as their hubs. And airlines like FlyBE try to reduce the cost by using a single-type-aircraft fleet like FlyBE’s 54 Dash 8 Q400, though they have some other aircraft too. Air Baltic converts to a single-type A220-300, their CEO expressed even adding the A220-100 would complicate and increase the cost base. But the choice of aircraft defines the choice of airports and routes. Which leads to the next topic of this article:

The Passenger Airline Food Chain

30+ years ago, when I started in aviation, there was a very clear “food chain”. First came general aviation and holiday charter flights, feeding the demand for certain commercial routes or holiday destinations. When those flights became successful enough, they lost to regional airlines providing scheduled services at fixed times between A and B. The larger holiday charters lost to scheduled airlines and network carriers, taking over those lucrative routes. At the end of the food chain were the large network carriers, connecting smaller cities to their hubs and through the hubs connecting to the world.

Then came the Low-Cost carriers. And everything changed.
… Everything? Really?

The Rise of the Low Cost

So the model of the Low Cost Airlines was to use a single type aircraft fleet, such minimizing the complexity to operate the fleet. Be it exchange of broken aircraft, be it flight crew training (cabin and cockpit), maintenance, etc. Using the highly effective new Boeing 737 models, later also the A320, they focused on one thing. To provide the lowest cost per seat and such undercut the prices that the network carriers with their far higher complexities asked for.

They did not bother about the complexity of hub-services or – god beware – “interlining”, requiring baggage transfer, the need to secure the connection for the passengers, they connected secondary airports point-to-point. Just like the regional airlines, but at lower cost. All they did in fact, they cannibalized the upper end of the regional airlines and also competed with many regional flights of the network airlines. Given their USP of a very, very low cost per available seat kilometer (CASK) or mile (CASM), they covered their niche well and ate away from the profits of both small regional airlines, as well as the large network carriers.

An overlay map of GFK Purchasing Power map Germany with the German airports from Wikipedia.Regional Airports vs. large Hubs

In the past, there was a clear distinction. Regional airports were small airports that were connected to the global air traffic networks by being connected to the hubs. So a regional airport only served a few scheduled flights, plus vacation charter. I had this concept also at the Erfurt-Weimar airport (ERF) 2009/10. Where they did not even understand their Munich flight they subsidized would connect them via Munich to the world. Cirrus Airlines as the operator was “Lufthansa Partner” without code-share into Star Alliance, not even with other airlines in the Lufthansa Group, so all the airport looked at was the few “Lufthansa connections” they could offer from their airport via Munich. Of which some even didn’t connect. In consequence, the locals did not look at those few connections, but focused to fly from Berlin or Frankfurt, both three hours travel time by train. Or they even took the train to Munich. If you know the added time you need in Berlin and Munich to get from the train station to the airport, you understand why I got upset. Simply to date my example of a gross misperception and belittlement of the airport’s value. Even worse, on my first day at the airport, I had to read an article in the main local newspaper that one political stakeholder promoted Arab stakeholders to come to Thuringia. By flying to Frankfurt and taking a bus (four hours minimum). Instead of flying via Munich…

Working with regional airports, my experience is a very strong tendency to short-sell themselves, belittle the own region. It is not made any easier that there are virtually no regional statistics about travel demand and the IT “solutions” are being biased to make big airports bigger and neglect the small airports. As I explained in the December 2017 article about the bias of route viability analyses.

Evolution of regional hubs

Especially in Europe, the political strategy about aviation is “thinking small”, new airports like Berlin are planned too small from the beginning. Airports that were planned for growth, like Munich when moved from “Riem” to “Erding” face political opposition to execute the expansion, adding the originally planned runways. Even London, instead of a bold move to establish a new airport, decided to just add a new Runway to London-Heathrow. A move that will quickly face the same problems Heathrow has today, of inheritance in terminal structures, slot constraints, a limit to the expansion. Should Boris Johnson in the recent turmoil follow Theresa May, there are some hopes that he revitalizes the “new airport” idea for London.

Postillon 24: The ruin is partly in a miserable condition.A necessary step to compete with the new “global hubs” in Istanbul, Dubai, etc., build to size of about 150 million passengers. Berlin? Build to 27 million passengers, when finally ready one day. Current news questions the next opening data in October 2020… As German “Postillon24” satire site published 2015: Archaeologists discover historical ruins of unimaginable dimensions in the south of Berlin (link to Google translated page in English)…

With the large hubs increasingly slot constrained, i.e. Amsterdam simply “out of slots”, the only way is to bypass those airports and increasingly fly to smaller cities. An example can be American Airlines, adding Dubrovnik on the Balkan Adria to their destinations. Sure, the low-cost airlines have a history understanding the value of point-to-point services between smaller, “regional” airports. Basel, as a first base of easyJet evolved into a major hub for the low-cost airline. Business case given, the operation of a regional hub can make sense… And didn’t we joke about easyX when Air Asia X flew to London-Gatwick with majority of travelers connecting onto easyJet…

So far, many of the “low cost airlines” (i.e. Eurowings, Norwegian) focus on larger airports as their hubs; Düsseldorf, Cologne, Barcelona and the likes. Their decision makers obviously are not bold enough to leave the beaten path and go new ways. Ryanair moved into Frankfurt, but it’s said they are not doing well there. Wizz and others establish small bases in regional airports and then grow them, benefiting both the airport, the region and commerce in the regions. Given the slot constraints on the “mega hubs”, we will see a lot more development of regional airports, point-to-point services and hubs. For those airports and their regional development stakeholders, one of the main tasks is to change the perception from “feeder airport” to a bold understanding of their own values and needs – which directly served regional routes make sense? I know, this is a recurring topic on this blog…

The Future of Airports

My friends at Passenger Terminal World, also doing the Passenger Terminal Expo, recently collected views on the future of airports. Personally, I found those views rather conservative. Very focused on the adjusting the status quo, no bold jumps at all. But for several years, some bold ideas keep resurfacing of which I’d like to address two.

The Circular RunwayThe Endless Runway concept

The Circular Runway on first sight is an intruiging concept. You could land anywhere, never a “runway overrun”, never the wrong wind direction and while one plane takes off on the one side, another lands on the other. But.

There are some questions that I believe this idea will never make it to reality. Usually, there is a given wind direction and airplanes take off and land against the wind. So instead of a straight runway you have a circular one that allows to take off and land exactly against the wind. While the remainder of the runway remains unused. A nice to have? Or a lot of sealed ground for no gain?

The other setback is if you exceed the capacity. Adding another circular runway? If need be crossing runways use less space and allow parallel operations. # And they can be started with one runway, adding as demand requires.

Given both those issues, I think will be good reason to stick to the existing straight runways.

Drive Through TerminalDrive Through Airport Terminal

The Drive Through Terminal is also an interesting concept that the designers invented for large airports. But in fact, there are a lot of setbacks from such a terminal that make it less ideal for such airports, but more ideal for regional airports. What I like is the possibility of weather independent operation thanks to the roof, as well as the guide rail system to transport the aircraft from arrival to departure.

The first problem is on large airports that there are airline using differently sized aircraft. So you have classic terminals and drive-through ones only for certain aircraft? On regional airports and low-cost airports, the terminal could be optimized for standard aircraft from 70 seats up to A320/B737 families with up to 240 passengers. Should there be a larger aircraft, it can be handled on the apron.

The other problem with the proposed design is the ignorance of what any airport operations manager can sing of: Disruptions during the turnaround. Once the airplane enters the process, there are now ways to replace the aircraft (see image left). On a small, regional airport, that can be overcome rather easily using one or two lanes only, allowing the aircraft on any stop to be “extracted” or “added” into the “line”.

The third issue is the issue of parallel handling, supporting connecting flights. While the first aircraft boards, the other just comes in. But what I think can be a practical approach is to have drive through in a two step process. Disembarking, embarking – go. If there is a problem, on both “stations”, the airplane can be pulled out backwards or front. Several airplanes could be managed in parallel.

The last issue is the passenger facilities, including and not limited to contemporary airport cities

Summary

There are a lot of ideas out there, but the main hurdle is the conservatism. Airplanes to date are serviced on the left, boarded on the right. A relic. But to change such requires not only different airports but also different airplanes. I doubt I will live to see such a change. Other issues can and should come. So I see the rise of the regionals, also the drive through terminal.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

Back to the introduction. I’d love to hear from you. You can out yourself on mail, WhatsApp, Viber, here in the comments, that you’re one of the frequent readers of my blogs. It is motivational, believe me. And if you haven’t read it yet, you might want to smile about my SEO-optimized summary of three months studies: Unhyping Online Marketing (SEO SEM SEA)
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Goodbye Karl Fisch – Hello Karl Fisch?

It is with serious regret that I just learned (a little delayed) about the retirement of Karl Fisch, author of the first ever YouTube video that went viral having a lasting impact on my life. It became the first ever thing I blogged, when I moved over the first articles I wrote elsewhere to the FoodForThought-blog: Shift Happens Narrated. The post contains a short summary of what led to the story, it is the most-read post on my blog ever and keeps being read 5-10 times every months.

Three years ago, Karl wrote an article on his blog I recommend reading; The Shifty Years.

I hope you understand the respect when I quote another famous author for the farewell. May life treat you and yours kindly!

So long and thanks for all the Fisch (Original wallpaper by redditor RWalsky)
So long Karl – and thanks for all the Fisch!

So Long Karl … Thanks for all the Fisch … And I hope it’s not the last I’ve seen of you! Shift Happens.

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Purchasing Power & Airports (2019)

For many years, I use a graphic overlay in Germany in my presentations. I think it speaks for itself.
The influence on airports to purchasing power. Yes, it’s a hen-egg question, but a fact that politicians should think about. Here’s the latest. May it be useful for you too…

GFK Purchasing Power vs. Wikipedia German Airports

Sources: gfk.com + Wikipedia
Updated April 2019

P.S.: Europe

Again, I’ve been asked many times, why I use the German map and not the European level. Unfortunately, for the European Map, the sources use different axis to look at Europe, so I couldn’t get the overlay done. It is much easier on a “national level” and my home country is Germany and Kolibri in Albania currently only contains one airport… On EU-level, the purchasing power is very rough, not reflecting the airports’ “local impact” to the economy.

Maps of GFK Purchasing Power Europe 2018 and Wikiepedia Busiest Airports in Europe
Click to Enlarge

If you want to have a look at the national maps of GfK, national maps are available for many European countries, I think most if not all of the EU28. Should you need help to create a rough overlay, I’m happy to help, but will charge for it.

CheckIn.com GfK Map Layer

I had the idea long time ago to use CheckIn.com data, being based on OSM, to overlay with the GfK map for Europe, but could not get this done myself, so it would be involving substantial cost licensing the GfK data for a GfK layer and to implement that into the CheckIn.com maps, but that cost is and was not sponsored by anyone.

Yulia would be happy  to take it up with GfK and make you an offer. GfK charges € 500 to € 2,000 per country per user – per year. Europe “complete” is offered at € 16,000. Per year! 2016 they did imply in a personal contact the possibility to use the data in CheckIn.com. To implement the data into CheckIn.com, Yulia assumes another € 1,000 for CheckIn.com’s MapMagician to develop the layer. Can be more if the data does not compute with our OpenStreetMap (OSM) compliant data sets. But in total not more than € 20,000 Yulia assumes. Contact Yulia (at checkin.com) if you’re interested to sponsor the development.

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Cognitive Disonance Resolution

Working this week with a group on topics like P.R. and Corporate Strategy, there are some basic rules, again resurfacing on my conscious thinking…

Two topics were in hot, heated discussion these days, especially when we talked bout Cognitive Disonance: Greta Thunberg and Boeing 737MAX.

Greta Thunberg

Not only in the big cities around the globe, also in towns like Brunswick (Braunschweig), the movement Friday for Future is a root movement. Following the example of a little girl from Sweden, kids go demonstrating around the world to promote the need to counter climate change. In Germany, formerly pacemaker of “green development” the government is way behind their own targets, let’s not talk about the Paris world climate targets. In Tirana, the city “stinks” from car gasoline fumes. Scientists believe it’s not five to, but five after twelve already! We can only reduce the impact, no longer avoid it.

So now, surprise surprise, that kid in Sweden went on the street to demonstrate against the political powers that be (PTBs) ignorance. That action triggered a cord and other kids around the world thought it a good idea and joined in the demonstration. Demanding action to secure their future. And all those PTBs can respond with is that they’d be truants? Their only reason to go on the streets is to be skipping school? That’s all you can come up with? Sure there are the one or other camp-followers, but mostly those kids have genuine concern about their planet.

But their activity provides a good example for cognitive dissonance. They put a finger in a wound that most of “us” adults have long found our way to suppress. Because the information does not compute. We know we kill the planet, but let the others start saving it. What can I do?

My personal answer is to support the kids. To not “look away” and “blame the others”. In German history, our people looked away, the blamed others. It caused a holocaust.

Michael Jackson sang about “The Man in the Mirror” to make a change.

In Germany we had a barrel-burst campaign “You are Germany” – what do you do to make things better?

Interesting, what discussions are triggered, discussing cognitive dissonance resolution and how different nationalities and cultural background result in totally different approaches. In Germany, a typical approach is to dissect good ideas and find faults. Can’t tell you, how many “friends” in the past year told me that KOLIBRI.aero cannot work. It did very often remind me of that favorite quote by Lazarus Long (a Robert A. Heinlein character): “Always listen to the experts! They tell you it is impossible and why you can not do it. When you know that: Go Ahead!

Boeing B737MAX

Another very good example and discussion topic this week about cognitive dissonance resolution was the Boeing B737MAX.

Our industry always promotes Safety First. But I have a lot of examples that our industry works on the limits, hoping for the best. Be it my recent post about disruption management or the managing of airport turnaround (A-CDM), we all know that we do not work efficiently. But cognitive dissonances often result in ignorance, suppressing conflicting information. We know the truth, but we suppress it, give ourselves explanations to justify the shortcomings.

Now there was another crash of the Boeing B737MAX after Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in Malaysia half a year ago (29Oct18). While there are also “supporting reasons”, as usual a chain of events that leads to disaster, I personally believe it was mainly the ignorance of Boeing engineers, developing an MCAS, not informing pilots about such an important design change. Combined with a semi-religious faith in their technology. But I believe computers are there to assist us. I remember the Air France flight 447, where the instruments showed wrong data, switched off the computer, in result the flight stalled and crashed into the the Atlantic. We also should be reminded about the “unsinkable” Titanic.

After the recent crash in Ethiopia, there were calls for grounding of the aircraft instantly, given the similarity to Lion Air 610. It is noteworthy and was discussed very controversial, that our own minister responsible for aviation voiced against a grounding, only to be overruled by EASA. But neither America, nor Europe responded “safety first”, but focused on the commercial impacts of a grounding instead. Meanwhile even the U.S. under Donald Trump confirmed the necessity of the grounding and aviation sources expect that grounding to take on for several month. Which does remind again of the pioneer in jetliners, the de Havilland Comet, loosing three aircraft in nine months, which lead to understanding of metal fatigue on the air frame called by the way the metal was connected using bolts – creating micro-fractures.

Oh Gawd... Helpdesk: Final Level. Pray
Boeing MCAS development

Now Boeing implements a new technology to cover up for the new behavior and instead of being transparent, they hide. Then the sh** hits the fan in Malaysia. The event now shows that Boeing did not operate “safety first”, but mismanaged it by delaying the necessary update. A result of cognitive dissonance resolutions? It must not be, so it is not? That backfired now and is a rather pathetic expression of professional disaster management. That the U.S. and Boeing had to be “convinced” to ground the aircraft has proven a big mistake. Today, the media reports that the Ethiopian officials confirm a very similar situation and “many parallelisms” to the Lion Air crash.

We cannot and must not operate on the Principal of Hope! An airliner recently posted that we need a crash to change something. I disagreed, but Boeing did itself and our industry a major disfavor to the reputation of aviation safety. Media today also refers back to the 787-incidents and grounding resulting from batteries catching fire. What I do not understand is that following Lion air Boeing P.R. obviously did not develop a “worse case communication plan”.

From Wikipedia: “On March 11, 2019, in response to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents, China was the first country to order all 96 of its 737 MAX aircraft grounded. In the days following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, airlines and authorities around the world suspended the operation of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft (or in many cases all 737 MAX variants) one after another, contrasting with the usual coordinated approach. Two days later, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration […] became the last in the world to ground the aircraft, reversing its previous stance. Boeing eventually recommended the grounding to the FAA.”

It must not be! It cannot be! So it is not.
Cognitive Dissonance Resolution at work…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Aircraft-on-Ground, Disruption Management …

… and the Ongoing Demise of Small and Mid-Sized Airlines

P.S.: While I wrote this article, Germania, an airline that I know from the beginning of my career, who’s team I booked at American Airlines to Seattle to pick up their first 737s, an airline I have had a personal attachment to, went into insolvency grounding all aircraft after many years of financial losses. The demise of Air Berlin 2017 brought easyJet on their home-apron in Berlin in force, no longer some competition, but clear one-on-one. Such the chance to establish lucrative routes in Berlin evaporated. Instead of benefiting from the demise of their largest local competitor, Germania had to sit aside, watching the threat growing.

Germania did, what they had to do, they focused on niches. Niches that were too small, to fragile to give them safety. Routes they developed well always threatened to be taken over by their competitors operating with lower cost. Erbil, under threat of war, Beirut, …? They announced a base in Pristina (Kosovo). They ordered A320neo, in an attempt to stay somewhat competitive to their competitors like easyJet also introducing the modernized aircraft. Else they operated tourism charter flights – which are in great demand in summer, but one after another airline in that market files for bankruptcy at the end of the season. And Germania published financial troubles as early as August 1st, 2018. So they could not do what needed to be done: Generate enough money in summer to succeed across the harsh winter.

You cannot succeed if you play it small, if your cost is not competitive to your competitors. Not the small virtual airline competitors, the other “day flies” lasting one summer season, two at best, but the big ones. The easyJets, Ryanairs, Wizzes, etc. It’s not fuel cost development that kills you. It’s bad management. It’s a strategy without USPs or with very weak ones – there’s reason, the other airlines don’t bother the routes Germania did.
And as I outlined in an article I published on LinkedIn, this was no sudden issue, they lost money for years!

As it is being said, the unexpected increase on EU261-expenses, the “EU passenger rights” also had it’s impact on the financial situation. If you sell a ticket for € 100 and you must compensate € 300, it does impact your revenue. So back to the topic – flight disruptions.

Having worked last year on the business plan for KOLIBRI.aero as well as on projects related to Airport and Airline Operations Control Centers, flight disruptions have reappeared as an ongoing topic of increasing concern. And my experience doing a study a few years ago at delair together with Zürich Airport (ZRH) about the impact of the deicing forecasting and management tool on Swiss (airline) operations at Zürich became a strong source for my advise to airport operations managers.

Image ©2010 Flughafen Zürich

When working with ZRH “Ice Man” Urs Haldimann on the study, I also got some feedback from Swiss. While managing the deicing in winter is not that much a problem, neither airports, nor passengers understand the rippling effect to the schedule. And often enough, not the airline’s own managers. That in the evening in warm Mallorca, the flight may be late, because of a deicing delay in the morning. So while higher force is accepted for the flight cancelled in Zürich, very often, the airline is required to pay EU Passenger “compensation” multiple the price for the ticket. So a major delay can be far more costly than just related to the immediate flight.

The harsh winter 2013/14 in North America (as likely this recent one) became known in the deicing industry as the Polar Vortex. The accumulating delays forced JetBlue into a “two day network reset”. Crews and airplanes were anywhere but where according to schedule and crew planning they were suppose to be. It took the better part of two days to relocate aircraft and crews back to the planned position, also to make sure the crews received their legally due rest, to then start the new day with a fresh start. As needed as that decision was, imagine the impact to passengers on flights that are booked usually 80-90%.

Disruptions can also be thanks to airport closures for other reasons, delays can be caused by as trivial as a broken baggage belt, a common thunderstorm or a ground handling crew doing a coffee break in the wrong time window – all things I experienced in my professional life. Flight crew duty times and technical delays are more common. Did you know that the Top 10 of “punctual” airlines have 15-20% of their flights delayed? That means 1 out of 5 flights is lateTo “celebrate” such achievement is beyond me, I honestly feel embarrassed that our industry cannot do better! Don’t come with the typical “explanations” covering for the incompetence to do better. Needless to mention that this is about “departure delay”, whereas passengers truly don’t care about those as long as the flight arrives on time, right? I was recently on a flight that left “on time”. Doors were close, the aircraft was sitting at the gate, waiting for it’s slot in the deicing and departure.

More recently, Primera Air, Azur Air or Small Planet Airlines closed down. Cobalt Air followed shortly after I published the blog post. At least for two of those airlines the cause was said by their respective CEOs to have been “unexpected” cost for delays and disruptions. Though not reconfirmed, rumors have it such were also the cause for the financial troubles Germania faced in Mid-January 2019, filing insolvency early February (see P.S. above). “Refund portals” organizing refunds for delayed passengers result in higher number of refunds. Small fleets with no spare aircraft causes the ripple-effect to sometimes swap over into the next day(s).

Lesson learned from my research about Zürich delays: It very often is cheaper for the airline to cancel the flight to make sure the further aircraft “rotation” (planned flights for the remaining day/week) are not impacted. Especially if i.e. winter operations allow for “higher force” reasoning of the cancellation. While the airline can show goodwill and help the stranded passengers, in such situation they are not legally forced to add the legal, excessive passenger compensation for delays. It also in fact reduces the overall passenger upset. And Zürich can predict the delays!
What I expected quite a while ago is the information of upcoming delay situation to the inbound planned airlines. The example I keep using: Once Zürich (or any other airport) learns about arrival-, turnaround- or departure-delays would inform KLM before their flight leaves, that it would likely develop delays in Zürich and may have an excessive delay departure, maybe KLM would cancel the flight?
The concern: But if those airlines cancel their flights, then the flights will leave early, so KLM could operate on-time…?
Ain’t that shortsighted? Oh holy dear Saint Florian – don’t burn my house, take the neighbor’s one…
So what would be needed would be a bonus/malus system. If an airline “volunteers” for the sake of the overall operation, to cancel a flight in such a situation, maybe it’s relatively empty, could be merged with the following flight – the airline gets a priority the next time, so the full flight gets an on-time departure. An airline deciding not to join that system will never get prioritized and take what they get – including the delays.

Another ongoing discussion is the promotion of the big players for “SaaS”, Software-as-a-Service, more commonly known as “Cloud Computing”. What in my experience lacks of one vital thing, the fallback for a “line down”. There have been three cases that I (just me) know of last year, where line-down caused major flight delays. Because there is no fall-back in place.

Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy
Delta takes weather seriously, with a team of 20+ in-house meteorologists (Photo by Darren Murph / The Points Guy) . Taken from Daniel Stechers LinkedIn article.

That problem is multiplied by data silos. As Daniel, VP at IBS points out, there are too many screens an operations manager in the typical airline Operations Control Center (OCC) or also in the AirPort Operations Center (APOC) have on their desk, using old-style Gantt-charts, weather maps and other “sophisticated tools” that show them what happens out there. Very little tools that analyse the data automatically, giving you decision support on a disruption. Or warning you of potential disruptions giving you decision support how to avoid them.

While we do need to replace those multiple screens with dashboards, highlighting what to look at, I disagree to some extend with Daniel’s implications, as I believe we will need to be able to expand from the problem, onto the relevant Gantt charts, graphs, tables and maps. Worse in my eyes is the underlying reason for those screens, as they are clearly attributed to data silos. And if the left tool does not know what the right does, if the airport, the ground handler, the airline have different “realities”, no wonder we have friction that results in ineffective operation causing “issues” and delays. As I mentioned in my article about APOC, OCC, NMOC five years ago. And if I ask about interfaces and am told “XML” or “ASCII”, we talk about triggered “push” or “pull”, but not about a live interface. Another data silo.

Coming back, to close this FoodForThought-article, let’s come back to Germania and other airlines which we have lost recently. If you have no assets (aircraft leased or sold/leased-back which is the same), if you outsourced everything (to which I include “cloud”), if you don’t have “spares” for covering up disruptions, you make a very good business case on the old joke: “How do I become a millionaire in aviation? I start with a billion.” Or the other one: “Saving, no matter the cost”. It’s called a “virtual airline”. And I predict we see increasingly those virtual airlines to fail, as they lack size, assets and revenue (RASK) to compete with their competitors.

Food for Thought
Feedback welcome

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CheckIn.com turned into side business

Almost three years since our launch, we could not make CheckIn.com a full scale business.

We knew that targeting airports would not justify the development and were confirmed – airline use is more than 10 times of what airports use our tool. Unfortunately, the majority use is access to our free data. Approaching the existing users, they have no money for such information, though they confirm the value in their day-to-day life. Even a SVP Network Development of a large airline, praising me for the unique value of our tool, knowing from the analysis we keep maintaining for him, that many airports use false “facts” for their catchment areas, confirms he compares with our data as an indicator to the quality of the airport data.

But nevertheless he expects the airports to deliver the (biased) information. “In the end, it’s a look in the Crystal Ball”. Expressing the fact that he does not understand the value of good data, even for the look into that Crystal Ball. Garbage in – garbage out.

Unfortunately, only the network departments of the smaller airlines frequently access our airports, but we suffered some painful losses on the larger airlines of which two have started to use our data. The large airline having recently expressed some interest and receiving some “combined” analyses, now having turned down the discounted flat offer we made. Such we decided to unregister the company and run it as a personal side business only. Yulia takes care of that, I will focus on other projects and only help on demand.

If you need know how in airlines, airports, specifically corporate strategy, marketing and distribution, disruption management you might want to talk to me…

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Primera Air, Azur Air, Small Planet Airlines – and the dying continues

After the demise of Air Berlin, forced by Lufthansa and incompetent if not corrupt politicians, we lost Monarch last fall, but the dying continues. This months we’ve been all “shocked” by the demise of Azur Air (Germany), Small Planet Airlines (Germany) and now Primera Air.

Interesting: None of those airlines had any relevant material assets. Working with leased aircraft as most airlines do today, it minimizes the cash-flow. And aircraft are almost not available for purchase, large aircraft leasing companies and the largest airlines dominating the market. No, neither Primera, nor Air Berlin “owned” aircraft. They were all leased.

Whereas Air Berlin struggled, there was an inherited business model that even ambitious CEOs could not overcome. What was Air Berlin? A holiday charter airline? A low cost airline? A network carrier? While Air Berlin tried to be all of that, they failed to be either “properly”. In a competitive, over-saturated market a death sentense.

Now all those airlines have operated Airbus A320 and/or Boeing 737. An aircraft in surplus, a saturated market, flooded not only by the aircraft makers but also by lease offers from the low-cost airlines seeking utilization for their own surplus. And while everyone wants aircraft in summer, the eroding revenues do not pay enough for those airlines to survive the winter. I learned so long ago, an ice cream shop needs to create enough revenue to survive the winter.

And while aircraft lessors add more and more Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 to their fleets, airlines are established without a long-term concept based on clear USPs, those airlines lease the aircraft out in summer and … oops. And then they go broke and the aircraft lessors sit suddenly on their assets without income. Even scheduled airlines like Volotea ground their aircraft in winter.

Even if the airline operates successful, after usually seven years, their leasing contracts expire. And then they understand the need to invest into more modern aircraft, so they do not extend the leasing contract but return the aircraft to the lessors. Who now need to find “other markets” to take their aircraft… Often below cost to minimize the losses!

In consequence, the aircraft financial funds are known to suffer from year 7, often generating losses over their typical 10-year duration. KPMG earlier this year said the average return on aircraft fund are 4%. While some do better, many smaller ones fault. Another consequence is deteriorating market value for Airbus and 737 aircraft, also usually starting seven years after the aircraft is sold into the markets.

source Wikipedia
A320neo family orders & deliveries (source Wikipedia)

So one of the reason for failure is the attempt to compete in a shark pond, using the same aircraft than the competitors, copying their business model and trying to find a small niche – that upon success is quickly threatened by the big fish.

Primera Air as the most recent failure tried to convert “in a rush” from a safe holiday charter airline operating secure routes for Primera Travel Group, into an – as aero.de said – copy of Norwegian, flying with the smaller A321neoLR across the Atlantic. But also trying to fly a mixed fleet of A321neo and Boeing 737-800, while having orders out for two A321neoLR and 18 Boeing 737 Max 9. As small newcomers do have problem getting access to the new aircraft like the A321neoLR, of which most go to the largest aircraft leasing companies to be placed into the existing fleets of their large (safe) airline customers. Why would they prioritize newcomers that threaten their existing clients they have long, very long relations with?

But which “newcomer” airline can wait for 10 years (at current production rates) for an Airbus or Boeing they order??? Can you plan what is in 10 years?

Then we come to the flight crews. While pilots usually are either type-rated on the Airbus A320-family or Boeing 737-family, a mixed Boeing/Airbus-fleet either requires respective crews for each aircraft or the cross type-rating. While pilots usually pay for their flight training, in return, they require high salaries in order to pay off for their – substantial – investment. Even Ryanair now faces the consequences of their “outsourcing” and slave-kind payments of their pilots. While I keep seeing their pilots recruiters immediately jumping on Primera Air but also trying to convince pilots from South America or Asia, if they don’t change their attitude to their pilots, they will keep having problems. Their recent announcement to close the base in Bremen and Eindhoven and reduce the base in Weeze are simply puffing. As Ralph Anker showed in his Anker Report. Behind each and every dropped route or base are airports, suddenly deprived from services. And pilots and crews, suddenly forced to find work elsewhere, likely move. Ryanair is the airline that does not care. Europe’s favorite airline? I doubt.

Summarizing, I come back to the point I keep emphasizing. Ever since easyJet (1995) and Wizzair (2003) I have not seen a new airline that had a USP and a clear concept. What is your USP? For the investor, the traveler and yourself? Or are you just another copy, trying to cash in?

I believe A320 and B737 families will hit a brick wall. Investing in those aircraft or airline models trying to operate a few of them is high risk. At best.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

Side note: Taking all those “natural thoughts” into account, in a team of experts we’ve developed a business model, that now seeks funding. With a unique concept, multiple USPs and under- if not unserved markets. But that does not work with small money. If you want to do it right and lasting, you need to do it right. And invest. Not just building “an airline”, but focusing on development of assets, as a side-effect securing the returns on the investment. If you know potentially interested investors, let me know and I’ll establish the contact to Kolibri. Or refer them to my call for investors.

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