Today I had a very emotional discussion about the need for new IT, new processes and all that other stuff the consulting industry keeps telling us, we got to have. Consultants, that have a standing relation inside the aviation company, with constant projects to “improve” and streamline the work.
At what cost?
Having addressed Consulting, Outsourcing, Cloud? COTS or tailormade back in August 2020, we meanwhile discussed over and again the issue of “System Relevant Jobs”. Back in my economics studies, 40 years ago, the general manager of my intern company questioned the increasing “management jobs” by academics, reminding, emphasizing that in the end, it is all about products. Even in whole sale (it was a central logistics warehouse) it’d be a question about benefit for seller and buyer, where the warehouse we worked in distributed the goods to the own satellite stores. He warned, that every intermediary becomes a leech and products becoming more expensive, not cheaper, by adding more and more intermediaries into the pool. His assumption was that 50% management surplus would be viable. And I should mention that he warned about dependencies from “rogue countries”, like China. Cheap but at what cost?
Being very pro globalization in general, he did call it hypocrisy to buy cheap in China, knowing that this is simply based on abuse of work force and stealing of patents and other ideas from other countries – back in the days, China did not much invent themselves, they were known copycats. In Germany meanwhile called “precarious jobs”, that don’t provide decent living, the living standards of workers in China at the time were at best questionable.
System Relevant Jobs
Is your job “system relevant”? If you work in home office, I can tell you the answer is No. If you work in consulting, I can very likely tell you the answer being No. Working in aviation and transport, the answer very likely is No. And if your salary is above average, the answer also very likely is No.
It’s all about leeches. Draining the money out of the really system relevant people, who normally are overworked, but underpaid. Not on the picture are farmers, friends of the family farming, living since I grew up on the brink of bankruptcies over and again. With more and more demands and pay for their products (milk, meat, grain, etc.) being often below the cost of production. Then they get generously state aid, to keep them working on subsistence levels.
The NHS personnel is on strike, the medical situation there in the U.K., also in Germany, being devastating. 24 hour shifts, 3 days “on call” duty?
Logistics drivers, the one delivering all those fancy goods we all buy, paid at minimum wage or just very little above for good feeling? Uber being a gigacorn? Delivery “Heroes”? But the managers in their offices having a “decent salary”? Who’s doing the work and what do we pay them?
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals
There are 17 SDGs. But all statistics show that all of them are actually still deteriorating. And if companies call themselves “sustainable”, they usually focus on the easy SDGs, most times at the cost of the others. Yes, we invest into climate, we buy CO2-certificates. And buy our growing hunger for power from the grid. Sure we buy “green power”… We upgrade our HR Director to “Chief HR Officer” and call it a board position, but only on paper to look good. We invest in R&D to find solutions how we can become sustainable in the future, while we fight the unions and deny salary increases for our workers. We add the (female) position of Chief Sustainability Officer to express our commitment to the SDGs. Oops, we forgot to give her a budget or empower her responsibilities? Examples aplenty…
We need companies to do the right thing. To embrace sustainability and evolve. It’d give them a competitive edge, a USP. When I was a child, it was common that people worked for “Daimler” (Mercedes-Benz) or “Bosch” all their live. You looked after your stuff from post-school training to retirement – often even beyond. Then they became “Human Resources” to managers who turned “shareholder value” from “what’s good for the company” and “long-term thinking” into “what’s good for my bonus” and “who cares about the time after I’m gone”.
A Question of Respect
My “intern” boss (again) taught me respect for everyone. The guy on the fork-lift, the cleaners, truck drivers and “secretaries” (yeah, we still had those). He taught us to set up the coffee when it was empty and not bother the secretaries. To clean up ourselves to make the cleaners’ jobs easier. To think beyond our petty box as “office workers” and value the hard work of the real workers. Also to question, but then also embrace the value of our work. IF we added value.
And in the pandemic, we should have (but obviously didn’t) learn the other lesson. That it’s not enough to sit at the windows “applauding” the system relevant workers that went above and beyond any perceivable “line of duty”, but to pay them decently. To look after them and keep in mind that they also have families to sustain, vacation wishes that go beyond the balcony on an old residential block they only can afford with added state aid.
Beyond White- and Greenwashing
I recently attended a multi-week project by United Nations Climate Action on Circular Economy. And the need for lifecycle-assessment. But it was also mostly #talkthetalk and academic ideas. And I had several objectives that then led to my image about the panacea distraction.
Aside me wondering, of that lady in the image might be an unpaid intern? Another reflection of the value HR managers and their bosses have about the value of training and labor. Any employer not paying their interns should be put in the pillory. For labor abuse!
Oh yes, and that goes in line with midwifes that quit their jobs as governments don’t reduce but add to the legal strains in the job. Or riders asked to bring their own bikes – and repair, all at minimum wage and abusive “time management”. Or airlines outsourcing their pilots forcing them into bogus self-employment without vacation or sick-leave cover, paid wages below their own pilots. Back in my intern-days, there were “personnel agencies” too. But to hire someone for short-term was always about 50% higher cost than employing someone directly. What went wrong there?
Yes I could go on.
Food for Thought
Yes. Comments welcome: Do you agree, disagree, partially, am I right, wrong, do I oversee anything? Have your own examples? What would, could and should we do?
This last week began with a client in North America, continued with a call from a subject matter expert in South America and culminated in two discussions I commented a bit longer on. Triggering this new article talking about “digital in aviation”, pioneering days and the impact of dinosaurs. And why we suffer in aviation from too much #talkthetalk
Not Invented Here, part 1
Last week, I had a lengthy phone call with an airport manager in the U.S. Snow-Belt, asking me about ideas, how to break up the silo thinking that keeps all his ideas about a common airport operations center as a basis for some A-CDM-style development from moving forward. Next winter approaching, he’s worried about repeating the past years’ experience of unnecessary delays. “The airline always knows better” he complained to me. If we offer them solution, it’s not theirs, so it’s being turned down. Communication is faulty and in crisis, everyone works on their own. #talkthetalk
Passengers spend 156 Minutes at AMS
Now give me a break. When I read this “promo” on LinkedIn, is it just me, seeing the fault in it?
As I outlined 2011 and 2014 in my two posts about a contemporary check-in process, contemporary airport passenger processes, to be attractive for the passenger, we need to minimize the wait time, the “ineffective” time spend at airports! It’s the big advantage of regional aviation, to minimize airport spent time.
Planning my current travels, I will spend some time with the family in Northern Germany, in between two events in Switzerland. In both cases, traveling eight hours by train will reflect in several hundred Euros in cost savings, and adds less than an hour on the total travel time door-to-door. As no, the meetings are not in Zürich.
This reminded me of the time we pioneered online travel booking (today Amadeus’ Cytric™). Own story. But as I mentioned back in 2018, compared to those pioneering days, development has almost come to a halt, with just little cosmetics and changes to the functionalities. Very little real improvements.
Working on what was to become Cytric and the first commercially used corporate online booking tool, we discussed:
The Multimodal Approach
Our vision for what was to be Cytric, that we wanted to follow, a vision not existing now, 25 years later, was to enter the home address, the destination address and the system would provide you the best travel options for you to get to the airport using car, rail, taxi, whatever, fly towards your destination and again take rail, taxi, rental car, whatever, to get to where you needed to go.
Back in those days, we already understood that it’s not about the flight. Or rail. The customer, especially the business traveler, needs to go somewhere. Getting to and from the airport, the check-in process and delays, connecting and waiting for the connecting flight, getting off the airport, all adds to the travel time. But even mighty Google only offers me to select one mode of transport, i.e. car, rail or flight… #talkthetalk
Travel Agent or Data Processor?
Speaking about Business Travel Management, we don’t need data typists any more. In the good old days, travel agents were the experts, knowing how to get the traveler from A to B, halfway (or all) around the world… Then came the GDS and the travel agents became data interfaces to the big data accessed through travel computers being connected with mighty servers. Something we call cloud computing today, using “dummy terminals”. Using codes like AN19DECFRAMIA and SS1B1M2 to search for and book a flight. Or similar complicated tools to book a rail ticket.
(And yes, that’s me in the American Airline office back in 1987 at an “ICOT” terminal.)
Then we enabled online booking and all that easy trips anyone can “book” now without any help. But what if you want to combine several destinations? What if you’re not living in Frankfurt or Paris, but in a rural, small industrial town with not many flights? We need the real travel agents again. Not the data processors. We need travel experts, that require strong and ongoing training and some specialization to provide the customer with a solution to their travel needs. That think beyond computer algorithms and understand “cross tickets” or “interlining” or multimodal travel. That take into account getting from and to the transportation hubs. And less conservatism, opposition to change and other #talkthetalk
Total Travel Time
It is why I believe we need regional aviation and we need more of it. Smaller aircraft, connecting secondary cities, offering quick and direct connection. Hubs are good for the global networks. And as I kept and keep emphasizing. Regional airports must not look out, how to get their locals out to the world. But to justify their existence, they need to bring the world to their regions! If that is by car, bus, train and/or flight is irrelevant for the passenger. To offer good connections at competitive cost and speed is the task at hand. And no, there is no reason for #flygskam if you do that right.
We need holistic thinking. Beyond our petty box. And less #talkthetalk
The “C” in A-CDM
On the call from an aviation IT professional it triggered that A-CDM is for big airports only. Is it?
As I approached it back in 2016/17 and shared the learning curve at Passenger Terminal Expo 2017, the first step into A-CDM is and must always be a collaborative approach between the stakeholders at the airport. Systems and IT are secondary. Less than secondary! It is about tearing down siloes in the heads, between the stakeholders. The development of a common understanding of the common goal to optimize the processes for the greater good: A smooth management of airport operations beyond “the operations management”. Overall. Holistic.
And unfortunately, only once you did your homework at the airport … or the airline … the air traffic control, only then you can reach out to integrate with other A-CDM systems. And beyond. Not behind paywalls, but sharing for joint process improvements.
But then I research airports and my birth country Germany, mighty pacemaker in A-CDM, the ANSP (German Air Traffic Control) hides the basic aviation data from the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) is hidden behind a paywall. So other sites, like OpenStreetMaps, Wikipedia, etc. are forced to use secondary sources. Are you kidding me? And yes, even for countries with a truly open AIP, we find some 10% of discrepancies on the data. As those AIPs are published as PDF, not as data tables to quickly update. And the IATA code search is full of airports defunct for years. As they simply “add” but never check… And hide their misery behind a paywall? #talkthetalk
OTA + NDC – Barrel Bursts
An older article addressed NDC, the “New Distribution Capability” as a barrel burst. And reminded me of my project back in 2006/07, when we tried to develop a common database for hotel-information (descriptive) based on the OpenTravel Alliance XML standards that I had originally worked on in the early days. The standard has been so blown-up, that you simply can’t “comply” with a standard set of features, but anyone can pick what they want and that not being the same that others use, we have an overblown “standard” that in practical life allows everyone to be compliant, but still speaking totally different languages.
The same is with NDC. Original idea of NDC was to allow standard packaging of new or unique parts into the package. I recall early discussions when airlines started to unravel their travel packages and thought a way to package their individualized offers with new and unique ancillaries. The demand was to overcome the limitations of the smallest common denominator represented by the classic GDS. Nowadays, the GDS-ability to manage NDC is a key driver… In my opinion, the original intend was completely turned around. It’s now focused on a solution to put anything the airline comes up with in boxes that the GDS can manage.
As a bold example, we had the AIRIMP back in the 80s. To date, it is the smallest common denominator all airlines work with. Even though, a large number of functionalities specified in the AIRIMP are amiss in all those hip online (flight) booking interfaces (here’s the AIRIMP’s table of content). 26 years after we did the first commercial flight bookings on the web. Again a lot of #talkthetalk, tons of bold ideas how to make things better, whereas the basics are not yet covered? #talkthetalk
A-CDM and TAM are in a large part about disruption management. Ten years ago we talked about “situational awareness” to manage disruptions. And I ask the same question ever since. I would like to see a tool that reflects the contemporary visualization of not what hits us now, but to see, how our industry-partner’s efforts impact the setbacks from weather, technical etc. – to identify hours ahead bottlenecks from aircraft delays, crews exceeding their duty hours, technical problems, peaks exceeding capacity, ATC problems, ground problems.
To do this, we must exchange data in large scale. All I see is data siloes and paywalls and a distrust to share data, keeping defunct and outdated processes alive, but no vision of collaboration on an industry scale. That even no matter that the same data is available in island solutions on interfaces like flightradar or the individual airports’ websites. #talkthetalk
The Source of the Most Common Truth
Our main problem is that our Powers-That-Be still consider themselves in a competition. Data is value, so put it in siloes. Where OpenStreetMap enabled mapping solutions, aviation data is still locked away. It takes two months until IATA publishes passenger data, after four months those numbers happen to differ substantially.
Looking at ICAO vs. the national AIP data, there are differences aplenty, worse even for IATA. So instead of working all together to manage common data together, we have different sources with different data. It is what I learned at SITA to be the art to find “The Source of the Most Common Truth”. There are industries living to develop and manage tools to overcome standard industry messages with airlines adding non-standard “features” to their messages, forcing rejects and delayed processing.
Back in 1995, Bill Gates spoke about the Internet about “Information at your Fingertips”. For the aviation, that is #talkthetalk
Status Quo + Outlook
Where aviation in the 1960s to -80s was a pacemaker in global eCommerce, it is now limping behind. Can tell stories about replies from industry bodies when I informed them about factual mistakes in their data. And their ignorance shown by neither directing the report to their PTBs, nor updating the faulty information. Instead of working together to develop the aviation of the future, we have conservative forces in play that hinder real development. Be that about A-CDM, data interfaces, data intelligence. We limp behind and instead of doing, we #talkthetalk.
Sure the same is true on sustainable aviation, but that’s another topic I discussed and discuss in other blog articles.
To overcome this, we must strengthen IATA and ICAO and demand the change from our PTBs. Stop the paywalls, speed up the availability of LIVE KPIs. Once a flight is finished the data must be available. Not tomorrow. All else is #talkthetalk.
My humble opinion. Happy to discuss how we can encourage real CHANGE.
In the recent weeks, there were some discussions about hopes and expectations for 2022. Related to aviation, tourism, Corona and politics… So let me share some expectations here in a (fast forward) look into 2022/23.
And sure, let’s start with
The Pandemic …
In the first year of the pandemic, in the first wave in May, I voiced my expectation already of Corona CoVID-19 as the new Measles. It’s even less, it will be more like the Flu. Get vaccinated one year for the latest SARS-variants. And keep in mind that SARS is in the wild for almost 20 years, it ain’t new! So to take it with the former German Minister for Health Jens Spahn, we will (globally) have 3G; in German Geimpft (vaccinated), Genesen (recovered) or Gestorben (died).
Omicron being good, as it spreads aggressively with a focus on unvaccinated people, who will then be recovered (or dead). Yes, Yulia and I are boostered, the kids are “officially vaccinated”, got their second shot early January, about as quickly as it was possible for 5 to 11 year old’s. Both wanted it, both had friends suffering the infection with side effects.
But now a new variant hits from Portugal, that seems immune to the vaccines or body’s own defense from previous infection. And Germany is hit by another peak. Whereas the infection rates a mere year ago would have called for lock-downs…? But our airlines promote travel without masks… And what happens, if the next variant is a more hostile version again?
… Turning Endemic (in Europe and U.S.)
There was a very good article on Al Jazeera about why the WHO refuses to turn Covid from a pandemic to an endemic state. Including the graph linked here on the impact of existing endemic diseases.
So given we have covered European and North American countries with enough vaccine for anyone who wants to be vaccinated, three, even four times, the times for lock-down will slowly be past. That will have impact to recovery of intra-European and North American air travel.
The only reasoning allowing for lifting air travel restrictions will then be the the hospitalization rates, though I expect those to go down to more manageable levels. Though we have ongoing reports of countries less privileged with vaccine access that report problems:
The next big challenge is the look across borders and out of the “industry nations”. Over and again, news about vaccines that expired in the richer nations were met by the ones of i.e. African countries being delivered expiring vaccines or even ones that were not certified in the donor countries. At the same time, vaccines like the Russian Sputnik were still not “certified”. In turn, my own mother-in-law was denied entry into Europe as she got Sputnik, to visit to take care of my kids in my absence, while Yulia (my wife) works full time too.
Air Travel Industry #testingregime
“Principle Hope” and the Saint-Florian’s Principle dominate our industry: “Oh holy dear Saint Florian, don’t burn my house, take the neighbors one.”
During the recent handball European Championships, the German’s team played. With a mere four players from the core team, all others infected. Airlines and their lobbyists demand to end mask requirements and testing regimes in gross negligence and full knowledge that all those new variants can only spread that quickly globally by means of air travel.
It is my personal understanding that aviation needs to improve health rules and not hide behind the individual, political rules in place somewhere. How expensive would it be to have temperature scanners added into the check-in- and or security-process? And if someone has high temperature, to demand wearing of an FFP2-mask in flight. A mask that should then be provided if needed. They are no longer excessively expensive. A requirement shared by security with the airline, to ensure safety of the other passengers (and the flight crews). We must think beyond the current pandemic, as this is nothing new, just the worst case so far in “aviation history”.
Airports would be well advised to have processes in place to ensure #testingregime for the current and future infections., demanding and assuring the ability for pre-flight testing.
Given the issue of #vaccinationalism, I expect a first “recovery” in the rich industry nations, but also future variants swapping across those countries like Tsunamis from the neglected countries. Again, what happened to #weareallinthistogether? Or #thenewnormal?
This week I got reminded that the next variant-rise in infections that the experts predict for coming fall (again) is so much like airline winter ops. It hits every year again. To the surprise of the airport and airline managers…? Why is it that the mask requirement is liftet in Germany and I still enter shops with a mask? With about 50% of the shop visitors doing likewise – while the others play Russian Roulette?
Airline Loads and Revenue
Also “again”, we had discussed load and revenue just recently. Whereas aviation experts report own experience with flights cancelled on short notice. Which is met by reports from many airports, that airlines register more flights than sensible, with a large number cancelled in advance due to lack of passengers/revenue.
I keep voicing my concerns that airline management must rethink. The KPI “load factor” is useless by itself, even dangerous. The KPI we must focus on is “revenue”. But in the recent IATA Regional Economic Briefs stopped reporting KPIs that reflect on revenue. Likely as they try to avoid “bad news”? Good-weather-mentality. Works well, when there is sunshine, but we are now in a thunderstorm. Even with some brief respite, we’re anywhere but “back to normal”.
Reports I read fed hopes again about a summer recovery in Europe. A recovery now threatened by the new BA.5 variant spreading throughout Europe. And again, what is the airlines’ role in spreading those new variants so quickly across countries? And Lufthansa recently cancelled 600 flights (5%) for lack of staff. A main reason being the infection of their own. Mainly infected “at work”. What was that again about employee health protection? Naaaw, let’s not play it safe, let’s go back to old normal?
Personally, I’m a bit afraid, we are just in the eye of the storm…
Back to (the new) Normal?
Speaking to airline and airport managers, they prioritize no “new normal” which they promoted in the beginning of the pandemic. But they focus to “renormalize” back to the old normal. Which bites them in the butt over and again. Demands are to lift mask and testing requirements. In an obvious ignorance of the pandemic development. In line with political developments, but not in line with the infection rates.
As I asked before: Why do the new variants spread globally in a matter of weeks, if not days. I am quite sure, they are not contracted that quickly by air. Nor by rail, bus of freight. This should have been a wake-up-call for aviation to understand their role in globalization, not only in commerce, but also in health, in the spread of diseases. How many pandemics does it need for us to start “new thinking” and take responsibility?
What about #weareallinthistogether and #thenewnormal? Ain’t this the “safest industry in the world”? Safety first? What happens if we stray from that priority towards maximized returns, we have learned all watching and commenting on Boeing and the Max (and the 787) disaster(s).
There can be reasons to fly an aircraft even empty.
One being to avoid aircraft hibernation. If an aircraft is not used for too long (and that time frame is rather short), the requirements to “reactivate” the aircraft explode the complexity and cost to do it. So it makes sense to consider which aircraft to take into hibernation, which ones may come soon back into service. And rotate the reserves to make sure they are ready to fly when needed.
Another would be to rotate the pilots to make sure they all keep their “type rating”, their license to fly the aircraft. Which also expires just too quickly. And while airlines now recognize the shortfall on pilots that they had either “laid off” (fired) and (or) didn’t support in keeping their type rating, the current feedback from pilots is that airlines still fail to have programs in place to rotate the pilots as good as they could to keep the type-ratings.
The Role of IATA?
I am very much missing the leadership I’d expect from IATA. Not a leadership towards the next disaster, but same rule for all. Like requirements to implement measures helping to identify sick passengers. Standards how to handle such. What if it’s not a single traveler, but a small child traveling with its family? But in the end, I believe if in doubt, a medical flight readiness certificate may be required. But also made available at airports offering commercial flights. Maybe demanding FFP2 mask. Maybe even plastic gloves or a hazmat-suit. What about the ticket? Will it be allowed to rebook. Airlines and/or travel insurances may need special rules for handling medically denied boarding? Maybe that we must add certain insurance as default to tickets?
But looking at the current line of communication by IATA, it does show a frightening ignorance, promoting future infection spread.
All things, the IATA could set up and require. Or ICAO if IATA doesn’t have the balls. #talkthetalk #discouragechange …
Being married to a Russian with close friends in the Ukraine, I would have never, never-ever believed an invasion of Ukraine. And while NATO-expansion threatened Russia – reminding of the political uproar when Khrushchev attempted to base nuclear missiles on the U.S. “doorstep”. Whereas NATO territory in fact is as close or closer to the Russian capital cities of Saint Petersburg and Moscow. That taken into account, there is no reasoning for an invasion of the Ukraine or the claims of a denazification. C’mon, I’m from Germany and Russia is the aggressor, too close to comfort following the propaganda and strategies of the Third Reich.
It became more obvious, when the “special operation” failed to achieve the Russian targets, when they invaded from Belarus towards Kiev and when they leave scorched earth (and hundred of massacred civilians) behind. The entire Donbass region now looks like Donetsk Airport, as does Mariupol.
The streamlining of the Russian media is totally in line with German propaganda. Control the media, promote your side, anyone voicing other opinion is taken to jail. Gestapo like. The next level being Stasi-methods jailing people already if there are unqualified claims of opposition. I am indeed afraid we will see that coming.
So with a focus on the impact of aviation? We are back into cold-war times. No overflying of the Russian territories is #thenewnormal for years to come. There will be exceptions – there are still flights between Russia and Turkey or Russia and China. How that will backfire on long-haul airlines though? There are discussions in the U.S. to ban those airlines from connecting to U.S. airlines. Which in turn would sure be followed by Europe. And then? This war has a big impact on our industry.
The Energy Crisis 2.0
While the aviation industry and it’s Powers-That-Be (PTBs) argue that we must delay sustainable flight in face of the crisis, I am on a complete opposite belief. We must, but we failed, to take the crisis as a chance for overdue change. Instead of investing into sustainable fuels and developments, into optimizing the airspace, our PTB try to go back to old normal. Then finding reasons to delay the change further.
It’s the very same with the necessary transition on ground, in Germany, fuel is subsidized now, not forcing consumption to be reduced, but we keep using more and more energy. Which in turn does result in increasing demand for crude oil, not in a reduction.
All “sustainable investors” come up with is “green tech”. Demanding more power, not less. And we produce more plastic every year, even in this crisis and even knowing we hit the 1.5°C target by 2026 most likely, not even by 2030. As we consume more and more crude oil, wind, solar and even nuclear power being a drop on a hot stone. And while there are ideas aplenty out there, I know of too many projects that happen to fail triggering investor interest.
In my humble opinion, most “impact investors” are greenwashers. It’s beyond cognitive dissonance when they focus their investments on “green tech” but in turn increase the energy demand instead of focusing on solutions that safe and conserve energy. Yes, I can sing not just a song but an entire opera about “green investors” that either look for max-profit under a green umbrella or they look for the next “tech unicorn”. It’s what I said before. If you want to invest into sustainability, pick your industry. Pick your “brown” company and invest into solutions that change that industry. Or. Look at energy consumers and how you can improve their energy consumption. Or replace them. And yes, any of your investments should target a reduction of energy consumption. Which can be, to provide the same service in demand, but having a clear strategy on your energy source.
And we talk about leveling the energy to a sustainable level. Use as much energy as you return. Like Kolibri. Not just launching the airline, but having plans to develop your own sustainable fuel-source. Which can be Synfuel. Which still uses energy and creates CO2, but no more than it takes from the air to create it. A circular solution. Which we assume would trigger the use of SynFuel locally, which works better on a global scale than e-mobility, which has the worse life-cycle impact then. But so far, all “impact investors” we talked to expressed our idea to be very good and worthwhile, but they did not intend to invest themselves. Then they invest into money-graves like Uber or
The Fairy-Tale of Travel Recovery
Just like last year (2021), we will have a careless “Corona summer”. We will very likely hit another infectious peak by fall – all the pandemic experts are warning of that, we better start listening. With BA.5 now spreading and aircraft full of mask-free travelers likely much faster. So here I go early this year with the update of LaLinea Corona extending into 2023.
While most our political and industry leaders lead us from the darkness into deception and back into the cold.
The war in the Ukraine will impact not just long-haul travel, like the reestablishing of the polar route avoiding Russian air space. And that we can not trust in “neutral air space” we learned when Belarus took down a civil aircraft from transit with the sole reason to jail a political opponent living in exile abroad.
We have rules. But I see too many of them “bent” to commercial or political benefit. Rules the international and aviation communities leave unpunished if broken or bent.
So my outlook 2022/23 is kind of bleak. Given our own and our leaders ignorance, the pandemic ain’t over, Putin will continue wreaking havoc (not just to the Ukraine) and the planet will continue warming. And the people who could make a change keep focusing on maximum financial ROI, wearing a cheap “green” mask.
#talkthetalk #greenwashing #cognitivedissonance #cheapexcuses #nochangeleadership etc.
Discussing about the individual impact we make, the topic gains interest. What is your own, personal net-impact to our planet? So I decided to summarize some of the posts and comments I had on the topic on LinkedIn.
In line with previous posts about #lipservices, #cognitivedissonance and #wishfulthinking. And a #realitycheck for others, claiming “sustainability” that they do not deliver upon.
Self-Esteem over Sustainability
A clear article on it was today’s post by SEDO-founder Tim Schumacher Search: “People should only be classed as billionaires when they remove a billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.” referring to the CNBC article questioning the sustainability investments of Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) and Bill Gates (Microsoft founder).
In my comment, I emphasized that we need no ESG, but #sustainabilityaccounting. And much of what I see from these and other investors is showing their response to their conscience, focusing their activities on things they understand, but also things that have an impact to their self-esteem. And there was also this Open Letter to Bill Gates, reflecting on his #cognitivedissonance or #lipservices. I believe it’s simply cognitive dissonance. Keep in mind, these people also live in their social (media) bubble.
Yesterday, there was a report about industry leader/face James Hogan, former CEO of Etihad, caught in the act, trying to circumvent the Corona rules in place. It underlined my post two weeks ago, that we have airlines skipping pre-flight corona-testing regime. A disservice to an industry trying very hard to make flying safe! I’m sure he regrets that idea now, not having considered the repercussions of being caught.
#cognitivedissonance: While flying itself may be safe, passengers aren’t! Anyone claiming flying to be “safe” shall better keep in mind that the virus spreads and new variants keep spreading by travelers. Also and a lot pre-tested passengers are infected but not yet positive, they then spread the virus in their destination.
Then, let me talk about the decision makers at European Investment Bank (EIB). Claiming to be the European Sustainability Bank. In a conference by Geneva Macro Labs, I asked their head of climate office Elina Kamenitzer on her claim that they do green investments: Are there any success stories that proof the impact, the “impact” targets achieved ever since? Well, no. They “have to look into that now.” It’s about time.
I also reached out to my now ex-point of contact in EIB, about a co-investment into our impact plans. With (a cheap) reference to their Roadmap and the decision there to not finance conventionally fueled aircraft (page 102), he disqualified any investments into aviation. In utter ignorance of what I believe he understood (I did remind him), that we have plans that are not aircraft-funding related. But i.e. development into a synfuel-ecosphere. Our plans cover all of the 17 SDGs, mostly with quantifiable targets that we sure plan to exceed on. If you’re convinced to do the right thing, that comes as a natural.
But that ain’t what the bureaucrats at EIB look at, is it?
So back to the article topic:
What is Your Impact?
There is a petition against greenwashing on Change.org I urge you to sign! Discussing on that one, we had several discussions on how to define greenwashing. Whereas family office principals told me ESG would be the role model for greenwashing. A good idea, meanwhile abused. There may be some investors who understand the meaning of it. But not many.
It is the same about claims to be “sustainable”. Another family office principal told me, that out of the 2020 impact investments, only 4% were having clear impact to improve on SDGs. 96% were disqualified as they just claimed without goals and targets but simple claims misreading the causes. Nice if you plan SDG5 Gender Equality on your hiring process, but without clear targets on how to improve. Or if you abuse SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure for your “innovative IT project”.
Only Net Impact is Real Impact
We came to the conclusion that real impact is about net impact. And that “impact” is about reduction of the strain we put on the planet. To reduce power consumption by 10% but planning to increase the total power needs by 30% is intentional abuse of the sustainability claim.
There are many good examples out there, beyond what we plan at Kolibri. But we speak a lot with investors that want to cash-in on us before we launched. And investors, investing little money into small projects, more like a philanthropy, but an impact investment. Paying for a clean conscience, paying for their other daily sins. I just told one of the family office principals. We are looking not for those classic investors. We are targeting the family office space, as there are more investors than elsewhere wo take sustainability to heart. Who focus on it. Who are understanding that an impact investment might not be as profitable as i.e. Bitcoin. But it’s the right thing to do. And
Impact Investment ain’t philanthropy. Do good and make money!
So this time, not just Food for Thought, but a clear question:
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…
“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?
Many 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.
But 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 – 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
Synkerosene 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.
There 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.
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.
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?
While 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?
There 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
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
On 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
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
Global 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.
People 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.
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!
Though 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?
Well, 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.
The “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?
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 nottarget 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 oftendo 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
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.
The 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
In 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.
I 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?
Is 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.
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.
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”…
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.
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
Whereas 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?
Then 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?
Again, 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.
A 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!
The 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).
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
Convincing 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
There 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 neverlease 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?
While 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.
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
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?
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
The 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
Is 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.
There has been an increase in shares vouching for video conferences to replace air travel post-Corona.
Face to Face
There is a lot in a personal conference that is not available in a video call, especially on multi-personal level. Who stands with whom, looks at each other, stands apart, shuffles papers, scribbles notes, shows interest, looks away (and why). Aside the sole focus on the call or conference when you’re onsite and out of your “common environment”. You paid to get there, you focus on the conference and not on your daily chores and tasks.
Call Quality, Disruptions
Then there is the (video) call-quality. Especially on video-calls and webinars these days, even using the best provider to organize it online, the video often enough fails, speech becomes unintelligible, not just users, even the speakers get disconnected. Disrupting the thought, the statement, the information. Surely at the most inconvenient of times!
Lesson Learned 2002
What it does keep reminding me is that for 2002, in the wake of 9/11, we had the very same discussion. And I brought in a video-conferencing-specialist to speak at ITB Travel Technology Congress. And while the big players added video conference rooms to their portfolio, they turned to dust-bins quickly. I know, c’mon, that was 20 years ago. And we simply don’t tend to learn from history. There’s all the young smart-asses leaving university. They have no experience with extensive travel, their live has been virtual, they are still to learn the lessons.
The last issue is emotional, psychological. Which we found out post-9/11 already. There is the factor of “importance” when you are send to travel to meet your client. And I do not speak about the true importance to show your flag at your client. But the perceived importance for the traveler.
A face-to-face is valued a lot higher than any video-call. Have I met the person in real-life? What was my impression? Those are valid reasons to justify your trip to your boss. But especially for middle and lower management, the effect is fare more on a motivational level. To be “allowed” to travel raises your perceived standing. In the company much more important that with your client. The meeting could be sufficiently covered with a video conference, especially when done properly – not via Skype, Viber, etc. But to be “allowed” the expense to travel to the client raises your internal standing, your (imagined) “importance”.
Whereas for the manager of the traveler, that very motivational impact might very well justify the travel expense. So don’t disqualify it. But be aware of it.
Video-Call Will Replace Travel?
Naaaw. No it won’t. I have video calls with my family when traveling, my mom living 600 km away, friends around the world. And especially during the lock-down I keep with my network attending webinars, video and voice-only conference and one-on-one calls. And can’t wait to see all my counterparts in person either on conferences, on business trips and visits. Video-calls replace phone calls. But they don’t have what it takes to replace the real face-to-face.
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