Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal

The Future of Clean Aviation is Now

I’ve started to write this as a part of my post on Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing, but I decided to take this into it’s own article and only summarize and refer to it. This article addresses the known ideas about clean flying and why I believe there is a lot of whitewashing and intentional delaying. But if you want to go carbon-neutral for a start, the technology is there. Even with the bureaucratic hurdles, we can start flying carbon-neutral within a matter of three to five years. The challenge is the speed we can secure the funding to build the necessary facilities.

Investors interested to turn aviation carbon-neutral, here is our reasoning which technology you should look at. And why helping us making this happen will be disruptive. Not because noone else could do it, but because to succeed you need the right people who want to do it, not the ones considering it disrupting their plans…

Electric Flying

Zunum 50 seat electric plane“But how about electric flying?” you might ask? Yes, how about it? In December 2013, a battery on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner caught fire. It was later attributed to a “design flaw”. Yes, Boeing had quite some trouble even before the MAX-disaster.
In 2016, the Samsung Galaxy S7 batteries happened to explode. It was found that a manufacturing defect in the phones’ batteries had caused some of them to generate excessive heat, resulting in fires and explosions. And as much as they research possibilities, there are no ideas yet how you can “minimize” batteries (size and weight) further without risking them overheating. But given existing battery size and weight, the battery will only allow for very short flights with relatively few passengers. Commercial flying over two, three hours? You got to be kidding…

I find Zunum’s story (their jet pictured here) quite interesting. From Wikipedia: “In November 2020, Zunum Aero filed a lawsuit against Boeing alleging that Boeing tried “to gain access to proprietary information, intellectual property” and then used its dominance “to delay and then foreclose” Zunum’s operation, “in order to maintain its dominant position in commercial aviation by stifling competition”, using this proprietary information “to provide a hybrid-electric propulsion system for a different aircraft design” with Safran. Zunum said that Boeing tried to poach Zunum’s engineers.”

Electric Flight is a nice idea, but without a breakthrough in batteries, in my opinion it’ll be too inflexible a niche market and in best case need 10-20 years of active development to come up with a sizeable aircraft for mass transportation. And then there is the devastating ecological footprint of the mining of the needed Lithium, Nickel, “rare earths”, that experts expect to become a likely killer issue for Tesla – now thinking about battery-powered flying?

Hydrogen

Hydrogen powered Wing in GroundMany of you remember that back in 2008 I worked with investors and potential climate-sensitive customer we worked on a hydrogen-powered WIG (wing in ground). Combining the then existing research platform SeaFalcon with a common hydrogen-engine and refining hydrogen from solar power. Back in the days, we got a viability study funded to work out the business case based on Maldivian Air Taxi. Very successful business case in fact. Then came Lehman and we never further followed up on it, something I regret to date. Back 2009/10, we could have proved the business case for carbon-free flying.

Airbus Zero EmissionBut I also learned the downsides of Hydrogen, disabling it for large aircraft. Say what? Didn’t Airbus not just promote their vision of hydrogen-powered planes? Just the required cooling and/or pressure tanks for any sizeable aircraft sure is a challenge.

On the picture I found it interesting to see the focus on small aircraft and how much of that they already assume to be used for the hydrogen-tanks… Given Corona, I doubt they will give this the focus to keep the development timeline at 2030 (ten years). And I believe this is just another case like Boeing on e-flight, a means to proof failure to justify continuation of “dirty flying”. I doubt their managements real interest in clean flying!

Synkerosene, Powerkerosen, eKerosene, synfuel, powerfuel efuelSynkerosene – Hydrogen reloaded

Since I learned about Synfuel in early 2019, I understood that quickly as true impact, a disruptive technology. Given it’s “circular” nature, it will not provide “clean flying as quickly. But carbon-neutral flying and substantially less side products in the exhaust. Then I was surprised recently that Sunfire had secured a joint venture as Norsk e-Fuel, building an “industrial-sized facility” in Oslo. Okay, their annual output I learned is rather small, only 25% of what we assume as need for an all-synkerosene fleet at our bases, enough for seven regional aircraft.

But yes, we believe that given Synkerosene can transform all existing fleets in a matter of years. Starting with Synfuel for company cars, energy generators beyond emergency, but also as a buffer for the solar power needed for a 24/7 operation will require a large sized facility at our headquarters. Developing the plans and securing the funding for the large-sized facilities needed at the bases, we expect first bases to be 100% carbon neutral realistically within three to five years. But only, if we get it started. If we overcome lip-services, white- and greenwashing but join forces with investors interested doing the real deal.

Now back to the investor who told us this week that we’d not be innovative enough. I don’t care to be innovative. I want to use innovation available to make a change. A real one.

Challenge: Three years to the first carbon-free base. Ten years for all bases to be carbon-free. And looking at 10 years, this will be profitable development! Real IMPACT INVESTING.

The Truth About ZERO-Emission

ContrailSynkerosene is not emission-free. But even Airbus “Zero-Emission” is a lie! Sure there will be emissions, though using hydrogen, it will mostly by H2O, simple water.

Synkerosene is refined from hydrogen and carbondioxide (CO2 + H2). The chemical components of the engine exhaust must be researched and we expect a journey to further optimize the exhaust. Amateurish ideas are a catalyzer. I was also introduced to a team working on a contrail-free engine. If I understood that right, they use ammonia (NH3), but how that then impacts the high altitude atmosphere?

Yes, there are questions that will demand answering. But Synfuel is an answer available now. And it is definitely much better than the crude-oil product. Not only for aviation, but also for all those used cars with combustion engines around the world! And be real, the number of e-powered cars is rather limited, both e- and hydrogen-powered cars are quite a bit more expensive if you don’t build your own infrastructure.

Aviation Beware?

Ryanair precarious staff salariesThere is a very strong force of inertia in aviation about turning “green”. Like other problems in aviation management, such as their disbelieve in branding, the resulting focus on “cheap” as the sole difference and a missing loyalty for partners and employees alike. that, plus missing USPs made airlines a running gag about ROI. But as in all other industries, you cannot expect change and disruptions with blind managers. You need vision.

A real impact investment, with managers that breath “impact” and commit themselves “naturally” to the U.N. SDGs will be countering the greed-driven likes of Ryanair or others, saving on the backs of their employees, their customers, the airports and regions they serve to maximize their evil impact. And their profits. Especially their senior managers’ profits. Everyone complains about Ryanair, then why do people fly them? Why do airports and regions fund their “semi-legal” (illegal) subsidy schemes? Why does no-one divest to stand up to them? Why don’t they name and shame them? Why still investing in them?

Or look at Lufthansa, securing for the group more than 10 billion bailout, grounding Germanwings as they’re too expensive, firing their staff aplenty, grounding airplanes. The bailouts multiple their worth before the crisis, what is left of the formerly proud crane? And guess, one day they have to repay all those debts. At least they use those with professional care. Will they invest into anything “sustainable”? Their government did not bother to require something like that. And accusing the pandemic, I was told they oppose the development of the Synkerosene-pilot in Hamburg. That being likely the reason the German-lead Joint-Venture to develop a first industrial-sized facility chose Oslo instead…?

But yes, at KOLIBRI.aero we have the understanding of the necessity to make an impact. To disrupt aviation to force them to become “green” and sustainable. And keep in mind that for decades, aviation was a growth market. And will be. The demand is there.

Impact Investment or Whitewashing – What is it?

I do believe that we will find family offices and may even trigger the interest of some of the institutional investors. Maybe even EU monetary bodies might understand the impact we can make. And different from existing players, we neither have Corona debts, nor do we have “hidden agendas” or different plans. We want to do this. Do you?

And if you’re no (real) impact investor reading this, but one of my many friends and followers, please share this.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Impact Investing vs. Whitewashing

Impact Investing

Impact Investing

I am very, very happy that I started speaking to Family Offices and regret that the Pandemic forced a reschedule of one event and kept me from attending another this week. But I am grateful to be allowed attending the first Family Office virtual conferences. It’s a rather steep learning curve. I am grateful for any event reference or invitation that I got and hopefully will still get.

European Climate Goals

Given today’s jabbering by the EU Commission (Mme. von der Leyen) that they – wow – will reduce the CO2 to 55% of the 1990-level … Oh wow? Shall I be impressed? Or cry? EU parliament would have been okay with 60% the news say. But even as is, this “deal” is full of small-print and not really worth the paper it’s written on.

We must be better to make an impact. And we better stop lip-services, white- and greenwashing but address the issues we can address today. Or this expert saying we’re way too late is right.

Though this is totally in line with my initial experience about “impact investing”. Lots of talk and lip services, with little substance too. Hard to find the ones that believe that this is something real.

And what industry is more in desperate need for a sustainability makeover. And having the chance for it?

Aviation Impact Investment
… a Barrel Burst?

Zunum 50 seat electric planeWhile we have clear plans to become Carbon-Neutral in realistically in three to five years, you got to start. And an “impact investor” told me this week that we are too little innovative. Really?

The EU plans give airlines 15 more years to fly dirty. Yes, that is a barrel burst! You got to be kidding me. But sure, it’s completely in line with German and European aviation lobbying, managed well by Lufthansa, Ryanair and the likes. Lufthansa, the airline with the single-largest bailout package in Europe but with virtually no ties attached, especially none about job saving or evolution into turning “green” and flying clean(er). And in Hamburg I heard the synkerosene pilot suffered from disinterest by Lufthansa, aside of a single carbon-neutral flight by Lufthansa Cargo. A nice example of greenwashing!

I’ve summarized the possibilities to turn aviation carbon-neutral for a start (and what comes then) into another article Clean Aviation Whitewashing and the Real Deal, which I publish simultaneously with this article. But the Future of Clean Aviation is Now. It just needs someone with a real interest to start the process. No talking, no lip-services, no whitewashing, but the real deal! With a real ROI.

Impact Investment in IT & AI … What Impact?

AI Impact InvestingThere is a lot of buzz ongoing about Impact Investment in IT and AI. Whereas I just wrote about Big Data & AI, feedback from family offices principals recently confirm my assumption. Of one emphasizing that ESG “tools” are usually a means to white- and greenwash family offices’ IT investments. And as I posted that on LinkedIn, got a lot of feedback from other family office principals that IT hardly makes a real impact by itself. It’s simply a profit-focused investment, mostly just improving existing processes or digitalizing them.

There also was a discussion this week about “decision making AI” or “decision support IT”. From my aviation background, I see IT as an important support tool. One that improves productivity, but more important safety. I do not see an IA-tool taking more than a supportive role at the time being. But I see a lot of claims that direction, which I can only consider white- and greenwashing.

It’s a Trust Thing

Use a magnet to find the needle in the haystack
Oops. Didn’t we tell you? We seek the toothpick…

In my opinion, there is no “impact investing” if you don’t find the right managers with a mindset to leave the beaten path and find profitable developments in the industry. For KOLIBRI.aero we don’t just think about carbon-neutral aviation. Or some solar parks. We think beyond! We understand it’s our duty to make an impact. Investing into our people and the regions we serve. To foster gender equality, diversity and to develop a future beyond our own. In turn, KOLIBRI.aero addresses not two or three, but all 17 of the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals.

In the overall plans, there is one issue being in the U.N. SDGs and EU’s TEN-T, regional connectivity at affordable price. Going carbon-neutral is more important on that in our opinion, but there are obstacles that must be overcome, that is a journey. Decently paid, qualified jobs and ongoing, structured training to fight against poverty. Ideas aplenty on how to establish a disruptive airline, that shows how sustainable aviation can be. If you look outside the box. If you embrace “sustainability”, even the notoriously loss-making scapegoat aviation can change.

The Quick and Dirty

If you want to go Fast, go Alone. If you want to go Far, go TogetherOn the other side – and back to the topic of my previous article, Big Data and AI provide quick success stories. So much easier to use those for white- and greenwashing. But real impact investment may not be so sexy, it may take a longer breath. To turn around our world is a journey, no sprint. It’s why even UBS recently confirmed in a webinar that family offices are more likely the ones truly investing into impact. Because they think long-term. About family impact across generations. Not as politicos or banks or “institutional investors” and venture capitalists in quick, maximized returns, happily overlooking the negative impacts for an improved profitability.

… or The Neverending Story

The concept of the Hyperlook has long ago been visualized by Roger Leloup.A German investor this week told me: “There is too little change in what you’re doing.” That investor referred to either air taxi or hyperloop. Whereas I’ve often enough expressed my concerns about air traffic control taking individual mobility into the third dimension and into potential conflict with commercial (and military) aviation. Just thinking about the increasing drone-warnings disrupting airport operations the past year. That is a very long way to go.

The same for hyperloop, which may connect high-density routes, similar to (German) Transrapid in China. Will this be more successful? The concept is around for more than half a century. And I don’t like the pipes over ground, even Roger Leloup planned them underground. I’ve written more than a year ago in the #flygskam Reality Check about it and about the so much smaller footprint an airport has.

… Academic Thinking – Research Forever

Academic ResearchGlobal CO2 emissions dropped by 7%, with 11% in Europe due to Corona. Especially aviation reduced due to the lockdown by 22% global, some regions by 30%. But those are expected to come back quickly (Source).

Now the EU says it turns the European Investment Bank into a Climate Bank. And they will focus on research. Or to give the dinosaurs a facelift. Maybe it makes more sense to look for ideas to apply the research results to the real world? Why is it that German Transrapid only runs in China, European Skype is now U.S. Microsoft, the first industrial Synkerosene-facility is being build in Norway (EU associated)? Examples aplenty. We research but we’re utterly incompetent turning research into practical products.

Others are faster, but we have a PLANPeople should take rail the politicos wrote. Yeah, I can see Merkel spending a day to travel from Berlin to Brussels. An interesting LinkedIn post, and German Tagesschau reports “Strategy falls short of what is possible and necessary”. A carbon-neutral aviation we plan on existing technological solutions for 2025, latest 2027 for Kolibri and by 2030 operating +200 aircraft carbon-neutral.

It’s embarrassing! Why does everyone find reasons not to invest in large-scale change? No, it is not quick, requires industrial site funding, but it’s about real change! Which in turn would apply pressure on the “establishment” to get their butts up and move. Get out of your comfort zone and make a change.

Divesting the Bad, Investing in Sustainability

Scottish Widows For 200 YearsThere are exceptionally good examples recently, like Scottish Widows devesting “bad stocks” in the value of almost half a million Euro. Whoops?

And whoops again. But they work with Black Rock, a company with a very bad reputation, funding most of the dirty stocks in the world. But on the other side, Black Rock may have started their journey to change? Maybe the money divested may be well invested into those change makers?

Corona is a testing time for about everybody. But also an opportunity for new methods and thinking to rise.

Impact Investment for better ROI!

Kolibri - disrupt aviationThough also notable, there is a bad misinterpretation that impact investment would mean low ROI. I think our business concept for Kolibri is looking at very competitive ROI at a residual risk below other investments. But it is so much easier to accuse impact investment to justify one owns look the other direction, right?

Impact Investment ain’t Philanthropy.
Invest into the future and benefit from it!

And as real impact investment gains support and more and more investors look at their investment portfolio and clear out the dirt, suddenly your “max-ROI”-investment in crude oil, guns or other “bad investments” will turn foul on you. Investment into the main investor in “bad business”, namely Black Rock will backfire on your own reputation. So Black Rock will likely recognize the headwinds and start divesting too? Not to be caught in the fray.

Funds, Indices, Shares or what?

Change ResistanceWell, it’s always easy to invest into existing business. Buying in on indices or major shares, you don’t need to understand anything beyond their “performance” and “marketing message”. If they wash well enough, they might appear shining green or white, right?

As if we did not learn the very recent lessons from German Property Group, Wirecard? On a report that week, a Shortseller mentioned that the higher the interests and dividends, the likelier they are on a rush against the wall. So they look at those stocks first. As do greedy investors…

My very personal experience includes working for a company that became one of the “New Market winners” when they entered the stock market. Happened, after a short flash in the pan, they ended up a penny stock.

Grounded Aircraft FleetsThe “typical” aviation investment is aircraft funds. Whereas KPMG valued them at an average 4% return in 2019, look at all those assets now. Liabilities in most cases, because they had and have no USP. And even back in 2019, the big aircraft lessors being well established with the airlines made good returns, but many funds also underperformed or failed completely.

Shareholder value got a very bad reputation, didn’t it? As if all shareholders would believe in Max-ROI? How about some long-term benefits, how about impact, sustainability and a return that is above the inflation rate and what your bank pays? But that is to my experience and observations the normal “manager type” our world suffers from. Maximizing the own short-term remuneration and bonuses, leaving a wreck behind. Back to IT-investments?

… or what?

Another version has a third question: Who wants to lead the change. Whoops, all gone…

Especially thinking about impact investment, we need long-term thinking. Something bank managers, institutional investors and venture capitalists fail to provide. We need people thinking in decades, in generations. We need Family Offices, private investors. And we need company managers, entrepreneurs, founders thinking not in three years at max ROI, but in 10 years and a real ROI, including but beyond monetary. Maybe at a much better ROI than those straw-fire-startups burn up?

What Impact Do You Target?

What’s the “Impact” you want to make? Is Tesla truly the future? Or is it more hydrogen? How about impact on poverty? Why not investing in “developing countries”, poor countries? Giving them the infrastructure and tools to develop themselves. Another German history lesson. While the leading industry nations cannibalized German technology, machines, entire factories, it left a void in it’s wake. A void that was filled with the help of the Marshall Plan leading Germany into the Wirtschaftswunder.

The investments back in those days did not target the surviving companies, but enabled startups. The remains of those funds are known as KfW, Germany’s Bank for Reconstruction.

Impact vs. Whitewashing

My final topic today is to take a look at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or U.N. SDGs.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Good Health & Wellbeing = biotech, right? Every biotech something claims to be SDG3, even the pharma-giants o chem-giant BASF.
Or Decent work and economic growth also used a lot for good argument to be “sustainable”. The Real Estate industry talks a lot about their focus on 9 and 11. Those are just the ones I see a lot “abused”. But also tech companies claiming sustainable under 3 ,4, 5 and 10… Be careful if someone tells you they’d be “sustainable” under consideration of the SDGs.

I like the approach of some family offices very much, that they qualify the real impact. Over time, what is the change. Targets, Milestones. And understanding that real change takes real efforts.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Big Data and AI 2021

Big Data

Big Data

This is a slide from a presentation by Dan Ariely from 2013, which I used first time 2016. Though I wrote also in 2013 my article about Big Data. I used it by chance in a video conference call and it triggered that there is enough new developments again to readdress big data and AI and what’s cooking for 2021 again.

Big Data is Still Like Teenage Sex

Searching for the phrase again, there is a lot of controversy about that slide. Claims that Big Data no longer would be like teenage sex, but serious business. Reading some of the controversies, I can put them all under #wishfulthinking and #cognitivedissonance. Because in most cases Big Data remains a “sales issue”, with little substance.

Aviation + Big Data

Sabre HistorySABRE

Working in aviation, the industry was the leader in “big data management”. SABRE managed inventory and fares from the late 60s, more than half a century now and for the younger ones, that was before the World Wide Web saw the light of the day in 1994.

CheckIn.com

Developing CheckIn.com and compiling the statistical aviation data needed, I wrote about The Numbers Game and other articles, addressing the lack of contemporary data quality in aviation. The current crisis did proof the points. While we have a lot of “flown data”, passenger data triples in with a delay of two months. For CheckIn.com the updates are done on the annual numbers (most on monthly levels). They dribble in slowly until April, very few late-comers in May. Quite a few airports to date have (lame) excuses why they don’t publish monthly figures.

I think this time we got the numbers right ... we just don't know which ones to use.Passenger Statistics

Looking at the different sources, the numbers still differ between airports, ACI, OAG, government statistics (i.e. DESTATIS, EuroStats), you name them. The published monthly numbers often do not sum up to the published total. And we talk about the KPI in the industry, the passenger numbers…? IT’s embarassing that SITA, ACI and others can’t come up with a live availability.

SITA + A-CDM

Eeee...gypt?Looking at A-CDM, SITA keeps talking about the Source of the Most Common Truth. They decide, who knows best. And it often ain’t Mama. My friends at Dubai Technology Partners have a tool to manage the messages that are not standard compliant and also to manage the data discrepancies resulting from those. Excuse me? We have industry players spending time, money and people to manage the airports, airlines and other players not working with consistent data today? Even within the airport, airport operations centers are necessary to make sure the players are working on the same information?

Amazon, Google, Facebook & Co.

Amazon Apple Facebook Google MicrosoftThe only ones I see that manage their big data are actually Amazon, Google, Facebook. Recently learned that for any click on Amazon, they collect some 150 variables on their user. It’s frightening. Then they put you in boxes. Me? In a box? Me, an advocate for #thinkoutsidethebox …

Back in their early days I remember the Google boss said their goal to be not to wait for you to look for a job, but to offer you the right job proactively based on their knowledge of your interests and abilities. Yes, I happen to find that frightening. And by the way, since I cancelled my Prime membership, while I still use it to look for the available selection, but then look on the web for other sources and guess what, so far, there is very little that I needed to buy at Amazon, most I could buy elsewhere, usually with substantial cost savings.

It’s a Trust Thing

Thawte-It's a Trust ThingIn the early 2000s, I was actively supporting e-Mail SSL-encryption, using a service by SSL-provider Thawte. Their motto has settled in me: It’s a Trust Thing. Which is a human thing. And from years of experience I don’t trust “data”. Data does not look you in the eye, it does not understand grayscale, data is Zero or One. Black or White.

Ecosia SearchI use Ecosia as my search engine, doing something good and didn’t regret that yet. I use Tor Browser a lot, not because I have something to hide, but why should I tell companies I don’t know about my preferences? I have an Android phone, but it’s not linked to my PC’s Google and I don’t use the Google Drive – no, I do not trust U.S. companies to keep my data secret. So we use Nextcloud (with OnlyOffice for document sharing). I use LinkedIn still for lack of better option(s), but not just Russia is an example this link is useless. I don’t use Facebook any more, except for linking to friends I might want to inform once we get KOLIBRI.aero running. And you won’t see “Google Analytics” on any of my websites, but Matomo on-premise. Overall, I see the big data giants more hostile than helpful, more for the lazy users, there are better solutions out there having less impact on my privacy.

And then they promote data security, but how comes that we read about the law enforcement officials identifying criminals from WhatsApp feeds? I thought that would be secure? There is very little public discussion how far governments are allowed in their surveillance.

So is Big Data a Good Thing?

Democracy vs. AutocracyIs Big Data really something good? Or is it like the saying from the early 1980s: 1984 was already back in ’77. Just no-one realized it. And yes, that was Pre-Internet.

There are discussions about big data usage in China or in autocratic countries. But didn’t we just learn the past four years how quickly the role-model of Democracy could turn Autocratic, bending all rules? I would really like to replace Putin in the image with Trump. And keep in mind, there were many Americans who voted for Trump for another four years. Yes, we might historically be a bit sensitive on the issue in Germany. At least the ones that don’t deny history.

HackerAs with everything, it’s a question about extremes. In itself, Big Data is not bad, but we need rules, especially ones addressing privacy and limitations. Like what separates the bad from the good? Just because they say so? I keep thinking about the 1998 movie Enemy of the State. As the old proverb says: Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or the other saying:

The Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions
Food for Thought

Artificial Intelligence?

I keep reminding. I have not seen “Artificial Intelligence” out there yet, just IA: Intelligent Algorithms. It’s why I don’t bother about “AI”-developments much. While IA is good and can improve life. But get me right. IT by itself does not improve sustainability, it’s mostly a profit-driven investing.

And I’m sure, my readers have read my 2016-article addressing Artificial Intelligence.

ASRA 2008 brainnodes vs. internet equals AIThe Sleeping Giant?

The funny back-story, that back in 2004, I’ve used that slide to show that the Internet has more nodes with mostly highly sophisticated processors behind, than the human brain has ganglia. So I keep wondering if there will be a “spontaneous” wake-up of “the Internet” without us realizing. All the while the “experts” work to develop their ideas about it.

And then we come to the question again, if a real AI would become a friend (Heinlein) or a foe (Terminator). Given the parents, a foe would be more likely, though my hopes are that our children always outsmart but respect us. Thinking about the normal human behavior in humans shown in about any of the movies on the net, I strongly advise any waking giant to be very careful about strategically revealing itself.

“Here I am, a brain the size of a planet. And all they ask me is to take you to the bridge”…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

 

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Doing the Right Thing

Go Carbon-Neutral This Decade

Go Carbon-Neutral This Decade

“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” [John F. Kennedy, 1962]
“We choose to fly Carbon-Neutral in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too. For there is no Plan[et] B.” [Jürgen Barthel, 2020]
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Thinking Outside the Box is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

Not My Cup of Tea

This week and last I attended two aviation financing conferences by Airfinance Journal, one in Japan, one in Latin America. Then I read an article by National Geographic, demanding that travel should be considered an essential human activity. But that is something I find so very often. Thinking Outside the Box and understanding psychologically different mindsets is Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea.

Airfinance Journal Virtual Events

Airfinance Journal Virtual EventsI am sure you remember my recent blog about why I consider Virtual Conferences a Barrel Burst.

Whereas a conference for me is a place we do networking, for which I am immensely grateful for Airfinance Journal (AFJ) to allow me attending the event. I sure couldn’t have afforded travel to Japan and Latin America. And thanks to their added focus on networking, it turned out some very promising new contacts to discuss KOLIBRI.aero with.

Let us have a look at the Latin America event which ended yesterday.

The Great Pretender

The Great PretenderWhereas AFJ added a virtual networking lounge, there were the same, I’d say ten, people in there, only once the (too small) window showing the delegates forced me to scroll with more than four delegates in the networking lounge.

Saving the delegate list and not counting the dupes I came up with 720 delegates. An awesome conference. 42 of which “filled out” their profile. Only. The others failed to use a free way to promote who they are and what they, respectively their companies do.

I happen to believe from what I have seen that most of the delegates of the online conference were obviously pretenders, signing up, but not showing up. Not even taking the time to log in and fill out their profile. Do they know there are such?

Virtual Networking

Airfinance Journal 2020 Latin America Dedicated NetworkingThen there was a “dedicated networking”, where more than 50 registered for (I think the host said 64). We were seven (plus AFJ moderator, plus one totally unresponsive), so roughly 9 out of 10 having registered for it did not show up. For some reason, being in aviation so long, “no shows” is something I consider exceptionally rude. Not just careless, but outright rude. Because there are people, taking the effort to organize something good and then people simply don’t show? It is extremely frustrating for whoever works this out to provide you a service!

For the few being there, I believe it was better than if it would have been crowded. I just hope I didn’t talk too much!

Overall, it just confirms my assumption that less than 10% of the registered delegates showed up at all. Of which again, how many have been speakers? 21?

Not My Cup of Tea?

Not My Cup of TeaAgain, these two events showed that there are different mindsets at play and it should be worthwhile to understand the motivation behind it.

I’ve seen that before, 20-odd years ago, when I organized the Airline Industry Stammtisch in Frankfurt. Many sign up for the event, to show their bosses, never intending to go there and spend their “valuable” time off elsewhere. Others, like me at AFJ do see the opportunity and value in networking.

Empty CabinA very good and valuable event, especially in Corona times. But it seems, at least from the outside, that most of the “delegates” were pretenders and never showed up on the website, never “participated”. Those people missed out on supporting a good event and torpedoed a valuable effort. From my side, I can only thank AFJ. The next step to improve the events in my opinion will be to automatically add the delegates to the networking lounge to enable messaging. Let them “opt-out”… There’s no e-Mail or other personal information shared, beyond the attendee list that delegates have access to anyway.

And they might want to promote to the delegates to fill out their profile… That’s free marketing and free networking!

Learning Curve?

Airfinance Journal 2020 China virtual eventThe next event coming up in two weeks as Airfinance Journal China, then followed by Asia Pacific. Hopefully the “delegates” are motivated to not only register to show-off to their bosses, but to really attend? And use the networking opportunities AFJ provides?

Because else, such virtual conferences turn to be a barrel burst. And that would not value AFJ but do them a big disservice! Did I mention? Aside failing on your job (or why would you sign up?), it backfires; no-one really likes “Dateileichen” (file corpses).


Of Nestlings and Birds of Passage

National Geographic: Why travel should be considered an essential human activity
Source and Copyright: National Geographic

Then there was that article on National Geographic: Why Travel Should Be Considered an Essential Human Activity

Which is another example of people focusing on their own life style, ignorant to others’ needs, motivation, life style. As I commented right away on LinkedIn:

A dozen years ago, I spoke with a friend/student, trying to convince her to join the aviation industry. There’s three types of people.

  • Nestlings, staying all their life in one place, except for the one or other vacation. A flight of more than two hours takes them to the unknown they fear.
  • Precocials, leaving home to move elsewhere and get settled. They travel for vacation and VFR.
  • Birds of Passage. They go, where live takes them, are open to the new and for them travel is a reward and each destination an adventure they embrace.

If you talk to nestlings, they will oppose your notion that travel would be “essential”. At the same time, they tend to be nationalistic and protective about their local environment. And the first to shut-down borders and travel. It’s those, “thinking different” being “in power” we have to catch and convince. To do that, we must understand their different “gut feeling”.

That said, if you talk crisis these days, it showed (most of) us, what privilege it is to be able to travel. And how quickly such privileges can be taken from us by forces beyond our control. And the lousy standing of travel lobbyists and lobbies with the decision makers.

A Lesson for the Crisis

Crowded Aircraft Aisle during BoardingConvincing the People to Fly Again

In all the discussions, it seems to be common opinion that we must regain the travelers’ faith to fly again. Given the (painfully) slowly sinking-in fact that we never might have “the” super vaccine, we better adjust our communications. We must understand that there are us “birds of passage”, looking forward to new experiences and adventures, but also the ones that are afraid of the new, the conservatives, the nestlings. And some of them being politicos, in my humble experience a lot of them narrow-minded, cover-your-ass-types that do not make a move unless they have to. As seen at the beginning of the crisis. Then they overreact out of fear, understanding they made a mistake, trying to cover up hysterically to distract from the mistake. Or like Trump now was caught in the act, lying to the U.S. people to “not spread panic”. Whereas a healthy panic is good! It keeps us alert. And then we must adapt. It’s called evolution. But that’s something many people are mortally afraid of.

Think Outside the Box

Blame GameThere are a lot of posts and speakers emphasizing that we must adapt to the crisis, think outside the box, then in the next minute turning back on why them keeping the status quo and doing as they always did would be the right thing. As they obviously fail to understand the thinking of their customers, shutting down the crisis, falling back to “safe thinking”. Just as most investors do.

As painful as it was, in fact it was truly funny. A speaker at Airfinance Journal Japan, an aircraft lessor, emphasized the time being right for new airlines. When I approached him, he retreated to the fact that they never lease to start-ups and would never invest in a start-up airline. Oh yes: Cognitive Dissonance at it’s best, right? This is a quite common stance when we talk to “aviation investors”, failing to understand that “aircraft investor” is not “aviation”, but just one piece of the puzzle. We represent an opportunity to place 200 aircraft in 10 years. Which is big business. Once we get the launch funding secured.

Me too … Or doing things different?

A320 B737 Whats Your USPWhile many still focusing “blindly” on “Airbus/Boeing” aircraft investments, they lost and loose money. It’s been a shark pond before the crisis, now that bubble imploded. At Airfinance Journal Latin America event, the best speaker was Walter Valarezo of DAE (Dubai Aerospace Capital), outlining the “abnormal normal” in the market pre-crisis. Now most investors curl up into a ball falling back to “old habits”.

USP is about “unique”. You don’t have a USP if you only copy what the others did. And stick to your modus operandi.

Fortunately there are some – very few but some – who do understand the opportunity, the need to think outside the box. Those are the ones we talk with. Will they help us launch the Kolibris? I guess they will. Let’s see how quickly we can convince them and their PTBs that change is good and our business plans are safe and sound. And benefits a great deal from this crisis.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

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Recommended Reading

“For those who agree or disagree, it is the exchange of ideas that broadens all of our knowledge” [Richard Eastman]

These weeks I have been asked many times about which “older” articles from the blog are the most famous and/or useful ones, which I recommend for reading “first”? So let’s have a look at the archive. Which depends a bit on the topic…

Static Pages

Like the Archive, the “static pages” are classics. I do quote a lot what you find in the Quotes Page. And also from Lazarus Long, a character by famous author Robert A. Heinlein.

Following previous publications of the annually updated graph, I gave the map overlaying the German purchasing power map with the German airports it’s own page. I use that graph frequently to visualize the impact of airports to regional commerce.

If you’re in “online” marketing, I’ve paid a fortune to get myself up-to-speed on “online marketing” and the buzzwords SEO, SEM, SEA., unhyping them.

Social Media College, 3 courses, 100% each

The other static pages are compiled from blog-series, the one being personal with my friend Saphire on philosophical issues, we called SapPhilosophy. The other being the posts during the start and first peak of the Corona pandemic. I keep this, as I happen to refer to this, both as a proof of early sound assessments, but also of mistaken interpretation of the developments.

The First Post

Shift Happens YouTube screenshotTaken over from the predecessor of this blog, I’ve used the first-ever post in honor of one of the best YouTube-videos of all times: Shift Happens (Narrated) is based on a presentation Karl Fisch, a U.S. teacher gave to parents to emphasize the impact of the world wide web and digital world to global change and to the future of his students. While there were others that copied the idea years after, trying to update it, nothing I’ve seen so far matches the original. Still having it’s justification and value.

Frequently Referenced and Visited Posts

There are some posts, I keep very frequently referring to, they are also the most visited posts.

Corona – the New Measles? Or more like the Flu? Recently virologists question that there will ever be a super-vaccine and that the antibodies disappear within three to four months after the infection. And previously infected people reinfect on minor variants of the “Coronavirus”. So there is not “the” Coronavirus… And we know SARS since 2003 – Corona being a variant of a virus we know for many years?

Meteor kills DinosaursEvolution … or why should we save the Dinosaurs? Why should we bail-out the large players that show neither interest in sustainable aviation (beyond greenwashing), nor social responsibility? Lufthansa Group received € 9 billion bail-out by the German government, more by Swiss and Austrian government. Germany has a short work system that allows them to register and send their staff home at 70% pay until business recovers. That was just extended from one to two years. Nevertheless, instantly after they got the bail-out confirmed, they announced to fire 11,000 of their staff. Sure not on the senior management levels. Socially responsible? Or abusing “shareholder value” for “maximizing profits”?
Developing Kolibri.aero we learned that the development of sustainability and social responsibility done right will contribute to the profits.

December 2019

In December, I published two of my better articles it seems:

Why Do Airlines Keep Failingairline money burn was based on my experiencing working on the due diligence of airline startups. The reasons why I call all the cheap “virtual airlines” one-day-flies. They fly one summer, maybe two. Then “winter” hits so surprisingly and they go bust. Or they have high cost but sell cheap. The failure to understand their cost and optimistically compete with the mega-carriers, both classic and low-cost, with a far lower cost base…? Or when an airline CEO on the question “What’s your USP” tells me “We’re local”. While they compete with three low-cost mega-carriers at their home-base?

And The Financial Impact of Air Travel was based on a presentation by Ged Brown of LowSeasonTraveller on why airports need to focus on incoming traffic. Their job is to bring money and value to the region. Holiday flights leak money to the destinations. While they have some value, they can’t, they must not be used to justify the airport operations.

2017 … 2016

I think this time we got the numbers right ... we just don't know which ones to use.On The Bias of Route Viability Analyses, I expressed the shortcoming of most of those fancy “route viability analyses”, being data-driven, based on existing statistical data. But failing miserably when looking at routes that have not been served before. On regional routes. Recently (2020), I registered for a webinar by famous ASM, about their catchment area analyses on route-level. Kicked-out on last minute confirms to me, that they work on more biased data without sound source. As there simply are no sound data on a city to city level, not even region to region. Best commonly available is region (NUTS-3) to country. Northern Italy or South? Rich or poor? South or North-East Germany? What a difference!

The other noteworthy article was on Delay and Disruption Management as the most neglected and undervalued cost factor!

Data SilosIn 2016 with The Numbers Game, I addressed the lousy data quality with what we deal with in aviation. In 2020, the analysts in September base their analyses on data from March! And while the industry celebrates flight services quickly recovering back to normal, they fail to address the plummeting load factors and ticket prices. The few “full” flights have abysmal ticket revenues. Even inside the airline, access to accurate, real-time data is something most airline managers can only dream about. For the industry that once was global leader in cloud computing when there was no world-wide-web, it is simply an embarrassment. And hey, yes you big ol’ IT dinos, I urge you to tear down the walls! But most of them still create more data-silos! Something I also addressed in my more recent post on cloud, COTS or tailormade. Nothing new, we have this problem for years. Also simply embarrassing. Which reminds me of that article Not Invented Here, posted right after The Numbers Game…

And in line with The Numbers Game and Delay and Disruption Management was my post about On-Time Performance and Punctuality League. With quite controversial data from the big players, they simply disqualify each other, don’t they? And c’mon, give me a break. The best ones operating at 85% on-time flights – in aviation +/- 15 minutes? That is again embarrassing. And it did not improve ever since, every year, I keep posting the article when they publish their statistics – still way off each other! It’s the article about KPIs I published the same year and how managers don’t use them to improve, but to threaten. Or justify or cover up for their own shortcomings.

2015 … 2014

There was an SITA enforced outage in 2015, disallowing personal blogs by their employees. Instead, they require access to their employees social network profiles to feed their marketing messages to the followers of their staff. Ever since, I’m afraid I have still friends in SITA but I take their posts as what they are: SITA Marketing. And as they fire large parts of their workforce every year, they have to learn a lot about “social responsibility”. I’ve seen too many excellent people – not just myself – made redundant by their “HR Managers”. In my case, I was told by a VP who wanted to hire me that that is impossible as long as their Senior HR manager doesn’t make himself redundant.

2014 I wrote another article on data silos and silo thinking addressing APOC, OCC, NMOC and A-CDM – a Bigger Picture. The other still valid article addresses the shifting global economic center of gravity. Small, conservative thinking in Europe can’t stand up to developments in other regions of the world.

2013 … 2012 … 2011

In October that year, mighty American Airlines, the company where I started in aviation decades ago was acquired by US Airways, dropping their AA-brand in the process. It might be noteworthy that many ideas we had for Kolibri.aero resemble things I learned to value back in those days. Including to value staff and despise the use of “HR” (see SITA above), showing disrespect for people. People ain’t resources but we have a corporate social responsibility!

The other article from that year I keep to date referring to is about Big Data.

In 2012 I had some personal or also biased articles, but I also did address a core question. Ethics in our industry. If you wonder about my recent articles, the topics are not new.

Emirates A380 Hub Dubai

And in 2011, I addressed the UAE in a still fitting analysis. Today the A380s are a burden, but given the UAE’s rulers different priorities, I expect them to turn that back into an advantage once we recover from Corona. I expect Emirates to become the global long-haul carrier operating the high-density routes like Pan Am back in the days flew around the world.

2010 … 2009

Being Head of Marketing & Communications at state-owned airport Erfurt-Weimar, blogging was forbidden to me, I had to stick to the airport official publications. The airport at the time operated mostly offline and that came from the IT experts at the airport and resulted in one of my last posts in that time period: The Threat of IT and the Internet. As most airports today still try to use social networks and other activities as a “push medium”, just like SITA 2015. No, it did not change much. Most my LinkedIn and other airport contacts still tell me they are not allowed to publish anything on LinkedIn. Living in the past.

The other article will likely explain, why I believe if you want to make money in aviation, you got to change the game. The article is called The Power of Bureaucrats

There are other articles, older than 10 years I still refer to, but that might do for a starter to give you

Food for Thought

As usual, I appreciate your interest a lot, but I take it with my friend and early mentor Richard:

“For those who agree or disagree, it is the exchange of ideas that broadens all of our knowledge” [Richard Eastman]

Your comments are welcome. As yes, I also learn from your posts, your comments, your criticism, your support. Ask me!

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Regional Airports Threatened by Corona?

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

BUND analysis 2020-08 Regional AirportsLast week it started with a analysis by the German Association for Environment and Nature (BUND), hitting the headline news claiming that seven of the 14 regional airports in Germany would be expendable. Which was a welcome story for the media. While I still hope that they come to senses, I am afraid that history shows their sole focus on populism (next election) and hypocrisy. Including their attempts to distract from their failures managing the ongoing Corona crisis.
More articles and posts surfaced this week that airports should be privatized.

Focus on votes reminds me too much on “shareholder value”, being accused to have a sole short-term profit-maximization interest and none for long-term success, sustainability or social responsibility. Same stupid.

Today the headline news is about the Thuringian president of their Court of Auditors recommending the closure of Erfurt-Weimar Airport, building on the above analysis.

Closing Erfurt-Weimar Airport? And others Regionals?

Erfurt-Weimar Airport, Passenger Statistics 2006-2015As you may recall, 2009/10, I’ve been managing Marketing, Press/P.R. and Corporate Communications at the Erfurt Airport, one of the seven now questioned. Which is my example of why German airports fail thanks to populistic airport bashing by the local politicos and most of the media. And an idiotic, short-sighted focus on “outgoing” holiday charter flights. I am adamant about my justified opinion that given a positive support and strategy, the airport would be worth a million passengers and an economic operation. If they’d cash in on incoming.

Back 10 years ago that was the reason I made the name change from Erfurt to Erfurt-Weimar possible from Marketing budget. Just before the shortsighted politicos – lead by then Minister for Traffic (“C.C.”) who saw it more important to invest into streets and highways – decided to “strategically” end all support for scheduled flights, which I had recommended to replace Munich-service with a sole Lufthansa- but without Star Alliance codesharing, with a KLM-service to Amsterdam to be connected to the world. With having compiled justification and statistical data supporting the case.

outside-inAs I wrote three years ago, airports must embrace their changing role – which many airport managers and owners fail upon. And that is simply another example where the Corona crisis highlights the shortcomings. These shortcomings have been there before. We have too many “good weather managers” that keep running a company (beyond just airline, airport) and have no vision for it, no strategy. They handle day-to-day work and live inside their microverse without understanding or concern about the bigger picture.

Should they now close Erfurt-Weimar (or either of the other questioned airports), it is a direct result of the local stakeholders failing to envision, demand and support a long-term sustainable strategy for the airport. And giving the public airport bashing by the stakeholders, I wouldn’t justify scheduled flights to Erfurt-Weimar either. It’s an example how short-sighted stakeholders run an economic driver into the ground. And just an example how politicos don’t think and guide, but brainlessly worship an implied public (voters) opinion and not act but only react to developments (incl. Corona).

CYA in action: Cover Your Ass. Don’t think, don’t move, don’t risk.

Strategic Indecision and Short Sight

USP
Having a USP means you do things different…

As I’ve written in the two Food for Thoughts in December, there is the Financial Impact of Air Travel for the regions and their economy. If you understand and focus on the need for “incoming”, passengers coming into the region, bringing money to the region. Instead of the sole “outgoing” focus we see with most airports in the “developed countries”. And without this, there is no valid argument to invest into the airport, is there? But with a strategy, it makes sense to invest. Not to subsidize!

The other post in December was about Why Airlines Keep Failing, which is mostly the same reason why airports keep failing to live up to their expectations. No strategy, no stakeholder management (politicos, industry, media, public opinion, etc.). Erfurt-based Thuringian state development agency funding travel for delegations from Berlin, instead supporting the subsidized flights from and to Erfurt. Politicos publicly promoting to travel to Erfurt and Thuringia flying from Frankfurt, Berlin or Leipzig, then taking the train. And even with a Biathlon World Cup taking place in Thuringian Oberhof, places like Weimar, Eisenach and the Thuringian Forrest recreation are, travel to Thuringia not coming through Erfurt in their empty heads.

Scheduled Incoming vs. Charter Outgoing

No Flights (Erfurt, 2011)Again ,there is no reasoning to invest into an airport that only looks at outgoing summer charter flights. The money leaves the region and benefits the destination. Why would I subsidize that?

Without a strategic vision to use an airport incoming as an asset to connect the world to the region and cash in on the incoming air travel, it is a logical consequence to shut down an airport and write it off. In turn, you write off an asset for your region. If I call anything short sighted, this is a very good use case.

I keep explaining “seasoned airport managers” that airports need three foci.

  1. Connection with the global hubs and connectivity there
    At Erfurt, it was a barrel burst to have a flight into Munich by Cirrus Airlines as “partner of Lufthansa”, but with only some Lufthansa code-share, but not even Star Alliance. It was why I very quickly promoted to replace that one with a KLM-Amsterdam-service. With very promising talks ongoing until the political stakeholders decided to shelve all support for scheduled flights. A good reason to end my work there. Aside me being told later that the discussions ceased as they called my number, reaching someone not able to communicate in English.
    So connectivity to global hubs with code-sharing and/or interlining must be prime on any regional airport’s agenda.
  2. Strategic Point-to-Point travel
    Depending on commercial and strategic regional relations, direct flights between economic partner regions can and should be established.
  3. Local Support
    With “airport bashing” being too common, it is vital to promote the airport as a partner for the region. As a vital infrastructure to improve commerce and industry, incl. but not limited to tourism!

And yes. Summer charter flights are nice to have, and may contribute to the revenue, but they are commercially and strategically not a priority.

The Kolibri Offer

KOLIBRI.aero is looking for funding of the development of first and further bases. With seven aircraft, maintenance, infrastructure and several hundred jobs a € 15 million funding is needed. No subsidies but a bold investment with minimized residual risk, to be paid back with interest. Investment into local infrastructure will reflect long-term commitment. Further development of profit centers being part of the plans. Should you know airports being interested in such a joint development having regional funds to provide the capital but also demand for the new routes, we are happy to discuss details.
Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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The Force of Inertia and Wagging The Dog

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)

Change Resistance (shutterstock_210479080 licensed)Today I had a conference call and a major topic was Spain and how our (German) governments banned travel again. And publicly justifies under gross neglect of their own rules. Those “development” showing persistence to deny change. And the “Wag the Dog” syndrome, pointing the fingers at others to distract from own mistakes.

The second topic was about the way, aviation “recovers”, the managements’ strategies.

Political Lock-Down on Travel

Spahn Travel Warning not a Ban
“A travel warning is not a travel ban – Health Minister Spahn not discouraging Spain holidays in Tagesthemen.”

This week, our (German) government issued an official “travel warning” for Spain. It is legal requirement that German travel industry must enable free unplanned returns from regions a travel warning is issued for, which in turn also results in tour operators shelving all offers for regions such warnings are issued for. In line with that legal impact, TUI instantly cancelled all flights and packages to Spain.
In clear ignorance of those facts, the German Health Minister Jens Spahn claims that it is still possible to do vacation in Spain, travelers just needing to be careful… Say what?

Wag the Dog (film)
Wag the Dog (1997 film)

Either this is cognitive dissonance, or – and I am afraid it’s that – Spahn and German government tries to distract from own mistakes by “pointing finger” at Spain. It’s the old “wag the dog”. Make up a crisis elsewhere.

Spain is said to be extreme in its adherence to the Corona rules. It is not “Spains” fault if German tourists party and ignore those rules intentionally. And then return with infections. So this is a cloud screen by Minister Spahn and his political cronies.

A German proverb: “Who sits in the glass house shouldn’t throw with stones.” Taken residence for the pandemicfor the pandemic with the family in Germany again, I can assure you, we have our own problems with Corona here and the politicos still fail to follow a clear strategy. Exceptions to their own rules being the rule, not the exception…

The Myth of Aviation Recovery

IATA Load Factors Europe 2020-05The past weeks, I had ongoing disagreements with my friends at OAG, ch-aviation, RDG, Routes, ANNA.aero, etc., etc. Disagreement on the media-focus on recovery of flight services as a sign of recovery of our industry. As I mentioned in my recent blog on Corona Cognitive Dissonance and Whitewashing Statistics, to bring all those aircraft back to the air while the load factors plummeted from ~85% to ~35% (April) in line with evaporating ticket prices, dropping by 20-30%, depending on the statistics source.

Now in May the load factors recovered to ~43%, though from a business travel management company I heard that those loads were “bought”, by lowering the ticket prices even further. And there was a slight decline in available seat kilometers in that month.

For years, I complain about the state of airline statistics availability. Nowhere “real time”, IATA statistics come three months after, the commercial sources report on flights and seats but have no clue about the load factors or ticket revenue. Real time? Really?

In today’s discussion, it was emphasized that airline managers try to survive using the “classic” approaches. First of all: Be cheap. Second: Push flights to the air. By doing that, they have obviously lost all track of their cost of operations. And the conference call group agreed that we will see quite some groundings in Europe ongoing for the next year. As the airlines keep piling up Corona Debt. Even Lufthansa is said to have already started on demanding further bail-out in spring, when they burned up the € 9 billion they recently got.

Time for New Thinking

airline money burnIs it really “new thinking”? Last December, pre-Corona, I outlined Why Airlines Keep Failing. The reasons are still the same, just multiplied by Corona.

Any little startup understands the need for USPs, unique selling propositions. What makes them different? In the eyes of the customers, in the eyes of the investors. They understand the need for profitability. They know their cost. If you have a big war chest (or get it funded by a government bailout), you can temporarily “invest” in competitive routes. Often enough the likes of Lufthansa pre-crisis abused their market power forcing competitors, even so-called “partners” into insolvency. My own experience includes the first German Wings (the remainders then acquired by Lufthansa), Cirrus Airlines, Contact Air (Lufthansa regional partners) or more recently Air Berlin.

And when I wrote about Air Berlin three years ago, I asked “Lessons Learned?” … Hmm. Obviously not. And when I wrote about Why Airlines Keep Failing, it wasn’t any “new rules” either.

And while Jens Spahn emphasized the solidarity inside the company and that Lufthanseaten (what Lufthansa employees call themselves) stand together in crises… What a cognitive dissonance. His “shareholder value” focus is legendary – I don’t believe he ever learned what “loyalty” meant. Given “short work” in Germany, there would not be real need to fire employees. But he and his manager-cronies, the moment they got the € 9 billion warned of 22,000 layoffs being “necessary”. Hypocrite!

Doing Things Right…

If you need some help to map out a strategy to survive this crisis, I could need some paid consulting. The unpaid kind keeps me busy but not the family paid. Which is the same for so many others “made redundant”.

And if you are or know an investor interesting to do things right, we are seeking funding for an Airline 2.0 – focused on USPs and profits. But also on real aviation sustainability (not the typical whitewashing we see in aviation to date). And on real corporate social responsibility. Which starts with your own. Either contact me or come 8-9 December to the Prestel & Partner Family Offices Forum in Zürich at The Dolder Grand.

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

 

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Consulting, Outsourcing, Cloud? COTS or tailormade?

LOTR One Ring to rule them all

A friend last week seriously compared the Corona vaccine research with the need to use their cloud-based solution (Source). But is “The Cloud” a panacea? And what does that question have in common with consulting? Or with outsourcing? COTS or tailormade, DIY or expert job? Consulting, outsourcing or cloud?

The Value of Experience
click images to enlarge

The Consulting Rule

My mantra for many years has been that consulting is a short-term (high paid) business. Either you have a short-term, a peak demand in a certain know-how, then you hire a consultant. Else, you better have or develop your own expertise. To which a consultant may contribute. Most (not all) consultants being in a company for more than a year without helping the company to develop the necessary know-how are leeche(r)s.

Outsourcing

Always listen to the experts! They tell you it is impossible and why you can not do it. When you know that: Go Ahead!For outsourcing, it is very similar. If you have little need for a certain specialization, you outsource to experts and consultants. That can be i.e. tax management in small companies, HR, IT, etc. In this case, it is less about consulting, but about consolidation.

One common example would be the ground handling at your base (should be in-house) or at an outstation (outsourced). Though even at your base, if uncommon in your geo, you might outsource i.e. deicing to the airport, not serving just you, but all airlines operating at that airport using a central deicing pad.

Anything vital to your business, you better have the expertise in-house.

Cloud Computing

Dilbert - Lost CloudCloud computing is another area of (IT) outsourcing. It follows the same rules. So if you are a very small airline, you will likely take Commercial of the Shelf (COTS) IT-solutions. You use some passenger service solution (PSS), an OPS system, the airports’ check-in management system, etc.

But this comes with a benefit and a burden. The benefit being “commonality”, you can likely find experts that learned those tools in their previous company. You don’t need to bother about installation, server-management, etc., you entrust this to the partner. But that can also backfire, if that partner does not have sufficient infrastructure. Most major airline-wide groundings in the past years were not weather, but IT based. A single “outsourced” system not functioning as it should, such taking down the airline’s IT.

Further, you entrust your vital data to “someone else”. And I have seen that against all agreements, how that data was and is being used to do “own analysis”. You give someone else insight in mission critical information. Yes, if you are small, this might be your only choice. If you’re big, why would you do that?

Information Silos

Data SilosThe main reason, I see consulting, outsourcing and cloud computing critical is the development of information silos. Not you own the important information, but “someone else”, someone outside your company. It can be a consultant, it can be a service company or an IT-system.

The second reason is that this information in all my experience is not seamless available to others, be it your own people or other IT-systems used. Especially on IT-systems, even the large players in all my experienced failed on system-independent interfaces to all data. In case of problems, most systems do not allow you an export of the raw data for your own use, much less an interactive data exchange with custom software of your own.

Researching for KOLIBRI.aero about IT infrastructure for an airline, I did not find any given integrated combination of PSS, ops system, CRM, accounting with a common, instant BI (business intelligence) analysis. Speaking to several airlines, their IT managers expressed their own frustration on that situation. Airlines having developed their own solutions, investing big secondary money into interfacing their different added “licensed systems”.

The Cloud Computing Cage Model

SaaS AssimilatedMy first experience with cloud computing was Sabre, Amadeus, but SAP was my personal experience with the SAAS model and it’s most negative repercussion. Good for the software provider, bad for the user. You bind yourself to the ecosphere of the software provider. For good or for bad. To change later is being made so difficult and expensive, it’s virtually impossible. Where the data might still be available, the computing “rules” are mostly not, you have to reengineer from scratch – there is a big consulting industry out there, specializing on such jobs, usually not talking about thousands in cost but millions.

This ain’t a marriage, it’s an “adhesion contract”. Be very aware who you bind yourself to.

One Size Fits All – Does It?

With a hat size of 63 cm, I can tell you that one size does not fit all. A simple truth. If you buy COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf), you get something developed for others. It might do the job, but it’s like Micro$oft Office, a panacea. Remember how long it took until they supported PDF export? Bill Gates took the bet on “America Online” and “Microsoft Network”, rejected the Internet until it was almost too late – they’ve spend a fortune to catch up. And many users could live with Wordpad, never use the abilities of Word. Or use other text editors, Google Docs, Libre Office, … Just an example.

COTS? Or Tailor Made?

Do you need a COTS suit? Or a tailored one? Can you afford the tailored one? Or will COTS be more reasonable?
Can you afford to try yourself or do you need an expert? Temporarily or strategically long-term? There is no black or white.
The choice is yours.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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Corona Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance ResolutionRecent developments and posts really bug me. Don’t the writers of those posts recognize the cognitive dissonance? Yes, we must think positive. But there is a clear distinction between thinking positive and whitewashing or daydreaming. We have a crisis at hand and the “positive signals” aren’t as “positive” as those posts try to make them look like. They look at the marketing messages on the surface but fail to look the slightest bit deeper.

We need positive thinking, but we must also stay realistic!

Whitewashing Statistics

IATA loadfactor 2020Yes, the latest statistics are not there (yet), but we have enough experience to understand that the classic statistics, that I questioned as incomplete and intentionally misleading before the crisis, now in the crisis not only proof insufficient, but even dangerous for all of us, trying to grasp the repercussions to our industry!

Many of our media friends take up the old focus on unrealistic data packages. Yeah, hurray, the airlines add flights, bring the aircraft back in the air. Are. You. Kidding me???

The reason behind is mostly that the aircraft can only be parked for up to three months without the recovery into operational readiness getting substantially more expensive: >100 manhours, replacement and thorough components checks, etc., etc.
So the “losses” from flying empty might well be a cost-saving long-term. Depending on how long the aircraft must be stowed, when the passengers “come back”. But this adds to the “Corona Debt”, that must be funded and some day payed back.

ForwardKeys Average Return FaresThe current IATA Regional Briefing, Europe, June 2020 reports on the beginning of the crisis. Available seats for April plummeted by 95%, the load factors of the remaining flights to 32%! At the same time Gridpoint Consulting analysed the London-Heathrow figures with similar devastating results, an average load factor (2Q20) of 35.5%! And ForwardKeys published some nice figures on air fares, plummeting 20-30% in average.
Now the airlines are reported to bring flights back to the air aggressively. Whereas the German Airport Association (ADV) published in their latest (June) traffic statistics: “Privater Reiseverkehr findet nicht statt”: Private travel does not take place. So those added flights mostly cannibalize the existing, low passenger numbers. Which we will likely see reflected in the next statistics. But keeping the aircraft grounded comes with it’s own bill. Adding to the “Corona Debt”.

So aviation media, please do not simply publish those statistics on how many seats are added to the market, but also check the demand = load factors and the revenue = average ticket prices. It would be worthwhile to look behind those numbers and check the reasoning for those flights. Looking only at the first statistics (increase of available seats) is negative, if the revenue and loads drops further. We need the full statistical picture I was demanding for many years: ASK (available seat kilometers), load factor (how many seats sold) and the average revenue (ticket price). In combination with the CASK, the cost per available seat kilometer) it would allow to understand the real development. And commercial viability, success … or failure! And I do look forward to real “success stories”, a.k.a. “profitable routes”. Routes not piling up more “Corona Debt”.

The Fairy Tale of the Corona Super Vaccine

Yes, as you can see in the archive of my Corona Papers, I also believed what those lying politicos and virologists told us. Though having brought up in a medical household, I looked early behind that cloud-screen. My (published) assumptions were based on a recovery following the common availability of the vaccine – and the treatment. We’ve learned a lot on the treatment meanwhile. And now, like with the face masks they initially called “unnecessary” for pure hidden motives to cover their unavailability, they slowly let the fact surface that:

We must not expect a “super vaccine”!

Corona will turn out more to be like the flu. Okay, not so much like the Measles I referred to earlier. The first infected people in Germany have ceased to have antibodies in their blood a mere three months after their infection. Now they, along with the WHO start slowly telling us the “new truth” (like with the masks), that we will have a long journey ahead, getting used to Corona. And as I kept emphasizing for months already, the time to stop the virus is long over, all we can do – and must do – is to #flattenthecurve. Keep the infections at rates our medical systems can manage. Until the first vaccines are there – to further limit the spread of the disease. Just like we get (or according to statistics mostly don’t) get our yearly flu-vaccination. By which time we will also hopefully by able to “manage” the severe cases with standardized treatment.

But hold it, ain’t that telling, all that lock-down was for nothing???

No! The lock-downs were a vital necessity and still can be! Because the reasons to flatten the curve are still undeniably valid! As I just wrote in the previous paragraph. But we must return to a life that embraces the Corona-virus (and it’s future variants) as what they are. A new “flu”. Maybe more hostile, sure different. But here to stay. And once we will have learned to manage the recurring “waves”, just like the annual flu, we will live on. Without masks if you ask me. Without “social distancing”. And without lock-down. And with air travel and real-world conferences.

Bailing-Out the Dinosaurs

Burning EurosI know, being a German and having taken residence with the family in Germany for the pandemic, I am somewhat biased on what happens here and especially Lufthansa. And that makes me puke. No, I can’t say that nicely.

Lufthansa, with a pre-crisis value of four billion (Source: Fortune) and burning five billion in the first three months of the crisis receives a bailout from the German government of € 9 billion. For a 25% silent stake, not allowing them to influence Lufthansa, i.e. relating to job securities (prime CSR), sustainable developments or a less hostile behavior towards smaller airlines they kept and keep walking over, their latest “victim” Air Berlin. No, lesson not learned. The next they announce is to make 22,000 (twenty-two thousand!) jobs redundant. Quite recently, they had to admit that 25% of the refunds for unflown tickets due to Corona have still not been paid back, the media claiming a 1-billion backlog!

airline money burnI was kind of shocked this week, when German Tagesthemen, one of the main news channel mentioned already that this may not be the end, but just the beginning of an expensive further bail-out series for the airline and it’s many subsidiaries. But if they burned 5 billion in three months, how long can they sustain the drought before they burned up the added nine billion?

Don’t get me wrong! I belief that aviation will recover, but that will go slow and take time. What I see now is activism and lots of wishful thinking, piling up more debt and risking the airlines’ long-term survival.

But I keep my emphasis, that bailing out the dinosaurs is not good for anyone, except the dinosaurs. At KOLIBRI.aero, we have a concept in the drawer to invest € 1.6 billion into an airline with 200 aircraft. Okay, establishing the airline in Germany would be a bit more expensive. But no more than € 2.5 billion. Give another € 3-4 billion as a reasonable amount to add a global network, we could develop a “Lufthansa 2.0” based on sustainable aviation (not the Lufthansa greenwashing), true corporate social responsibility (way beyond Lufthansa whitewashing), looking after our own, but also after the regions we serve and the overall responsibility of a major player. There are others like us out there. I’m sure, given € 9 billion, given only € 5 billion, they could make a change. No Corona debt, but a clear profitable business, paying back the debt within 10 years with (above-market) interest. € 9 billion without any strings attached? € 11 billion for Air France/KLM? And meanwhile Austrian – a 100% Lufthansa-owned subsidiary also received a bailout by Austrian government, though “only” € 600 million and with environmental demands attached. But with another € 150 million to go into equity in Austrian parent Lufthansa (Source: CAPA). Swiss received a 1.25 billion loan guarantee for its poor mother Lufthansa (Source: Reuters).

"We are Listening. And We're Not Blind. This is Your Life. This is Your Time!" [Snow Patrol - Calling in the Dark]

And at the same time, one airline after the other is being grounded, Level’ed. No bailouts for Air Berlin pre-, flyBE early into the crisis. None for Level (IAG), Germanwings (LH Group), Laudamotion (Ryanair). And expecting no real “recovery” of the passenger numbers this year, I foresee a large number of the small airlines with one, two, maybe even five or ten airplanes to fail this year. And I get a lot of feedback that this is the time for KOLIBRI.aero. But we struggle not for billions, to launch we struggle to get funding of a mere € 30 million.

But given feedback from “experts” out there, to start it small as a virtual airline, or “aviation investors” not seeing beyond aircraft leasing? I now have hopes that our invitation to attend Prestel & Partner later this year at their real-world conference in Zurich will open the doors of more visionary family office owners, understanding the opportunity such a crisis provides to a business concept like KOLIBRI.aero. As those bailouts must be paid back one day. If the airlines don’t go bankrupt, once KOLIBRI.aero is kicking their butts.

Kolibri @ Prestel&Partner Zurich December 2020

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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