Changing Roles

As many of the readers of this blog know, I am somewhat personally attached to that little airport in Central Germany, Erfurt-Weimar.

Last week I was taken into a discussion by Thuringia’s Minister President Bodo Ramelow, about how to stop the down-spiral of emigrating Thuringians. Which reminded me about the likewise discussion we had in 2009 shortly before I joined Erfurt Airport with the task to stop their downward-spiral on their passengers.

Real Life Example

What I was faced with was an extremely negative image of the airport within the region. And a lot of demands on how to do business from amateurs in the industry, politicians, tourist offices, etc.

First day at work, the GM of Tourism Thuringia, Bärbel Grönegres was quoted in the local newspaper (TA, 02Mar09), having visited the United Arab Emirates to promote medical tourism to Thuringia. Having a Munich-Erfurt flight by Lufthansa-Partner Cirrus Airlines at the time, she recommended the Arabs to take a flight to Frankfurt, to be picked up with a bus for a +3 hour tour to Thuringia. Tourism material did not contain reference to the airport. Questioned about the reason, her reply was “Who knows, how much longer we will have that flight”. Ever since, that became a prime example I use for “negative thinking” or “calling for disaster”.

The next winter, the Thuringian Olympic athletes brought home a record number of medals. But at the following ITB, it was more important to promote Franz Liszt, who lived a dozen years in Weimar. The fact that the Russian-Orthodox chapel, Grand Dutchess Maria Pavlovna who’s invitation brought him to Weimar has built and got buried in is under direct protectorate of the Russion Orthodox “pope”, the Patriarch, such making it a pilgrimage site for the Russian Orthodox church has completely failed to trigger any support by Weimar or Thuringia Tourism. Air Berlin reported it to be a “known reason” for a substantial part of their Russian Berlin-passengers to add Weimar to their travel plans.

In order to promote the government-funded route, after fierce discussions, Cirrus Airlines agreed to offer a low-cost ticket at 99€ return, having only about 6€ after the high taxes on the ticket. That offer was made available especially to the Thuringian government offices and the state development agency (LEG). Nevertheless, LEG planned and executed delegations traveling with the train to Berlin to take flights from Berlin, instead of promoting the route. The same also for the ministries and ministers. Even the responsible minister taking flights from Frankfurt and Munich instead of using the PSO-route he signed responsible for. During the months we’ve actively promoted that 99€-fare also to the industry and the travel agencies and also had it largely available, not one of the flights used up the 99€ tickets allocated to them. Being at the verge of a bankruptcy, Cirrus Airlines finally ceased to operate that route in December 2010.

By the time, working with the local industry associations, political parties I have been able to increase the passenger numbers by about 20 percent. In fact, to date, the airport is far from the 320 thousand passengers I left them with. With Weimar being the neighboring but historically better known city internationally, I pushed forward the renaming to Erfurt-Weimar with the attempt to improve the incoming for the airport. Paid almost completely from the limited marketing budget. A strategic decision executed after our parting-of-ways in December 2010 after my two-year contract was not extended in the wake of the retreat of Cirrus Airlines. A strategic decision though made obsolete by the “political” decision by traffic minister Christian Carius to not replace the route as I recommended with an Amsterdam-service. Sad decision indeed, as with our parting ways, the discussions with KLM were simply discontinued (KLM calling my number reached someone speaking German only, I was gone) and despite their interest in a PSO (public service obligation) financial route support, we had discussed flights based on mere startup incentives and marketing support.

Opposing myself ongoing subsidies, to demand a route but to leave the (substantial) risk completely with the airline is neither the answer. Whereas comparing the CheckIn.com-data about airport catchment areas with the data provided by airports we found that data to be completely off-set in a majority of cases. It caused us to make basic data available for free. But if the data provided by the airport is not hard, but guesstimates or outright lies, when the airline starts a flight based on that data, the airline takes the risk. To not only does the airport sneak out of the responsibility, they increase the airlines’ risk – is that a game? Or serious business?

Fraport Bulgaria’s more than doubled “population within two hours” can not result from the “drive time off-sets implied by Fraport Bulgaria investigating the discrepancy.

Changing Roles

Now since I started in aviation 30 years ago, the market has drastically changed. In the good old days, there were (often highly subsidized) “national airlines”, used to promote the country. Back in my early days, the airlines were the executive for the tourist offices and also worked closely with commercial development agencies. But ever since, those national airlines have either adapted or went out of business. The emerging “low cost” airlines virtually evaporated the income of the airlines, competition becoming fierce.

As I keep emphasizing with my updated image of Purchasing Power and Airports, there is a relation between a strong airport and the regional purchasing power. It is indeed a hen/egg issue, but if you are a small airport in a weak region, maybe it makes sense to consider how to attract travel (tourism, commerce) to your region. Not how to drain your region of the money by sending the population to the Mediterranean for vacation, but by having incoming, scheduled services, by adding point-to-point routes and to attract low cost airlines.

If we do not talk about PSO (Public Service Obligation) where the government pays for basic flight services, if you build an airport and wait for airlines to find you, keep on sleeping (and burning money). So if you are a small airport and you have little to no money, what can you do?

Having an airport is not enough any more.

The airport is part of the region’s infrastructure. As such, it needs to be integrated into a political and commercial strategy. Whereas in the example of Erfurt-Weimar, the airport is being kept as a scapegoat, being challenged in one sentence for the aviation noise (a good joke with so few flights) and for not having flights. A political punch-ball.

Other, successful airports like Memmingen in Southern Germany are integrated into and understood as a strategic value for the regional development. In fact, Memmingen is not politico-owned but owned by more than 60 co-owners from the region’s industry. Such, instead of being a scapegoat for political power games, everyone in the region understands the need to actively support the airport. Anyone harassing the airport confronts everyone in the region. A political suicide!

At Erfurt, I was asked to establish flights to Moscow. One company. 10 employees. Even with a small (expensive) 50-seat aircraft and weekly flights only (which are usually not sufficient for commercial demand), we talk about 40 seats by 52 weeks in two directions or 4.160 tickets to sell every year. But for a decent offer that is useful to the industry, you need at least twice weekly flights.

Leaving that task to attract airlines to the airport alone, at the same time running blame games and scapegoating, the airport cannot justify such flight. But what if the state development agency and the chambers of commerce, on demand by the political PTBs (powers-that-be) qualify the demand from all those small and midsized companies? Not on a low-cost, but with reasonable ticket prices. Not at prime time at the maximum risk for the airline. Maybe instead of a weekly, can the region sustain a double or even triple-weekly flight making it interesting for the companies in the region? Are those companies willing to support the launch period by committing to use the flight, even if slightly more expensive than a flight from Frankfurt or Berlin? Keep in mind, the people have to get there, you also pay for gasoline/parking or rail. Transport to those hubs is not free either. And the longer check-in times make them even less attractive, right?

Interesting approach. I’ve talked to several smaller airports where they agreed that their chamber of commerce and regional development agencies “pre-purchased” tickets at the cost of the average ticket price needed to cover the operational cost. Then they to sell it to their members. Not covering the full cost of operations, but simply taking their share of the risk! Why should they not, if they believe in the numbers and data they provide to the airline to promote their business case?

Then talk about Tourism. Given such flight, are the local tourism PTBs ready to promote such flight in the outlying region? What about other promotion? Don’t leave it to the airport! Is there a joint concept by the political PTBs, the state development and commerce PTBs, the tourism PTBs on what flight they want, how they will promote the flights?

“We have an airport”. That’s nice. But not enough.

And for a Minister President even only on a state level? You better think about a strategy. Or close down the airport. Having flight to summer vacation is not enough. It drains money from your region into those destinations. What’s in it for you? Why do you fund an airport? No scheduled services? No incoming? Do your homework.

Changing Roles

It’s no longer the job of the airline to promote your region! They simply don’t have the funds to do that. It’s not their business case.

It is the job of the political, commercial and tourism PTBs to qualify what they finance an airport for and come up with ideas and business cases for airlines to take the risk to fly there. And no, a “business case” is not necessarily paying subsidies. If you have a good business case that the airline will make money on the route by flying paying passengers, I can rest assure you that the airline will prefer that over subsidies that are usually associated to political nightmares.

Compiling sound numbers is a good start… And yeah, I might be willing to help you with that.

Food for Thought!
Feedback welcome…

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Poor Genius

As you may know following my blog, I am considered an expert in aviation.

At upcoming Passenger Terminal Conference & Expo, I will speak about the need to dear down the walls to make A-CDM a success. Being it data silos or the ones in the heads of the ones opposing change (aka. change management).

At upcoming Hamburg Aviation Conference, the famous aviation think tank, I will be on stage on our work at CheckIn.com. As an example for pioneering work, changing the status quo: That is it … is it?

I work with airports and airlines and get calls on many projects every day, being asked for advise and “just a little help”. But at the same time, the expenses still exceed the income, not talking about a possible “salary” on our work on CheckIn.com. On my airline startup investment, we get a lot of market research inquiries, but we shall develop and deliver that for free for the chance of a future investment.

It reminds me of the old joke on the social networks about asking for free consulting: “If I wanted to work for free, I’d choose to be a volunteer. Not a freelance.” And while all those callers have a well-paid job, they hide behind their company not being able to pay me, but I sure will get their “business” later. Can’t tell you how often I heard that.

I’ve lately being asked to travel to North America. And to Russia. To help on a project. Payment? Oh, if my help works out we may be able to agree on a consulting contract the next time… You. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

As a boy, I loved the biography of the Nobel-price-winner Marie Curie, about whom Wikipedia writes: “She subsisted on her meager resources, suffering from cold winters and occasionally fainting from hunger.” But she did have a dream. And she lived it.

Now it’s time. Not “tomorrow”, not “some day”. I mention on my social networks that I look for a new challenge, paid work. I’m busy all day, work long nights, but that all comes without enough pay, so we dig into our savings – not what I want life to be. Neither my wife, nor my children.

More friends have left our industry this year, not finding decently paid work in our industry. Being seasoned, creative experts in aviation, they now work in other industries paying them their living. If you pay €30K/year for a “manager” position, you get what you pay for.

I keep answering my friends (close and loose) questions, share my experience. Just keep in mind when you ask a freelance for free help, that if you use their time, they have less time to make money and feed their family, their children. And don’t promise “exposure” to “opportunities” that we both know they won’t arise. It might be an idea to not imply that your company doesn’t have money to buy into expertise. You might simply not have asked. Or did you?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

And I wish everyone happy holidays and a wonderful, prosperous, challenging, healthy and fun 2017.

See you in Hamburg (08-09Feb), Ajaccio (22-24Feb), Amsterdam (14-16Mar) or Belfast (23-25Apr). Or elsewhere.

 

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Evil Russia and Propaganda

Since being (happily) married to Yulia, I am more frequently approached about Russia and the ultimate evil represented by Putin. Recently, with the Crimea crisis and Turkey, the discussions become more frequent, so I thought to make some statements in a single blog of which I used some before either here or on Facebook or LinkedIn. They keep coming up.

First of all a quote from Robert Heinlein’s Lazarus Long:

DemocracyAutocracy

Initially there was a wording in Wikipedia (meanwhile removed / I can’t find it any more) calling Russia a “democracy Putin style”. Then came the  Crimea crisis.

European Interests: Maidan
European Interests: Maidan

Coup d’Etat vs. Referendum: What’s Democracy?

The Crimea Crisis. Where an elected government was removed by a “people’s coup d’Etat” (Kiev), with lots of reports that tons of Dollars floated around Maidan. And active political support by Europe and America. I have personal Ukrainian friends who told me stories about the dollar flooding there. And using the plural intentionally: Not just one.

UkraineReferendumUSreject
US politics: Rejecting the Referendum

And then, there was a democratic referendum on the Crimea, which the Western nations instantly denied it’s legality.It’s also interesting to note that most Eastern Ukrainians did not initially want to leave the Ukraine, but they did not want to become European either. Why does that nowadays remind the Russians of Scotland or Catalunya? Maybe they have own reasons to want to leave Britain or Spain? And they are allowed? Or will the British or Spanish also apply military intervention to force them? Like Europe does in the Ukraine? What’s Democracy? A religion? If you don’t believe me, I kill you? The first killing shots in the Ukraine came not from the “separatists”, but Kiev was and is to date the aggressor. Despite all that our press says, even they admit it. With very little words and questioning every one of it: Propaganda. And even German state television NDR named it: Propaganda! If you understand German, it’s interesting to listen to the tiptoeing of the interviewing journalist trying to trivialize her harsh, clear statements. Propaganda.

WikipediaPropagandaIt’s interesting to see the Western-dominated Wikipedia’s wording, approving the coup against a democratically elected president but at the same time condemning any actions by the Crimean, Eastern Ukrainians. Condemning the Russian support that they have been asked for by those regions. It’s not that Wikipedia does not mention it. Propaganda is more subtle. It’s in the wording and the amount of explanation you give or keep. It’s that exact example that makes Russians (people!) question “Western democracy”. Or the neutrality even of a trusted source like Wikipedia – it’s written mostly by Americans. With the best intentions. But in the political environment they work from. It’s hard to fight off that subtle, omnipresent propaganda…

Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov
Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov

Mission ImpossibleTwo weeks ago, a Ukrainian sabot
eur
was caught on the Crimea and confessed on Russian television. In return, our (European) politicians feed the press that there’s no proof and the Kiev government is right to increase the military activities in the Eastern Ukraine. Putting the fox in charge of the hen house…? Reminds me of those (U.S.) Mission Impossible movies: “As usual, should any members of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary of State shall deny all knowledge of any of your actions.”

EUbufferRUMy personal interpretation: When the elected president tried to sign a strong bond with Russia (still independent), Europe tried to force Ukraine to side with Europe instead (dependency), forcing it into an unmanageable situation. When they messed up they stuck to their self-invented stories not to confess their mess-up. And the mess up will remain unresolved for European politicos now fight the deamons they let loose.

My idea for the Ukrainian people would be to force peace and a status quo to both sides. And organize peaceful elections. And commit to them. That would be democratic.
Or make them a neutral country as they were, in between the two blocks. Together with Belarus and the Baltics a buffer zone.

But that would be both against the interests of the PTBs… It won’t happen.

ECB Euro Bet
The Euro Bet
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.

European Separatists

Again: Think about the Brexit. I’ve been asked (on several occasions), why Britain is allowed to elect “out”, but Scotland, Gibraltar, Catalonia or Crimea aren’t. In all cases, there’s big money involved and political interests by the PTBs (Powers-That-Be). But where’s the democracy? And thinking about it, why does Merkel and her CDU in a core country of democracy still have neither signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption, nor do they approve of the basic democratic tool of national referendi? Are they “democratic”? Or capitalists?

Think about Greece. Russians are very much aware that all the money goes to the banks and not the people. Their press tells them the reasons why: Our politicos saving the banks but not the people. Is it Propaganda? Or simple truth?
And such they have a very different view about the situation Russia. The situation is improving for the people. And all setbacks are tightly linked to Western attempts to dominate. Are they wrong? Or do we, do our politicos fool ourselves in the attempt to justify our / their own immoral actions and decisions?

Putin-quote-GMO
No Gen-Manipulated Organisms in Russia

Democracy or Capitalism

A fan of German political TV reports Monitor, I can only confirm that our politicos largely do not follow the interest of the people but that of the Lobbies! Russians rightfully ask, why they should not allow Putin to help his friends, when he looks more after his people than those Western politicos do? There’s no need to fight for the right to water or against the draining of entire landscapes like the ones by Nestlé in Michigan, California  or elsewhere. Interesting how little reports we get in the Western news channels about these issues, ain’t it. The same about Monsanto’s contamination of crops in Mexico, endangering the natural biodiversity of corn in Mexico; Ecowatch reports 59 indigenous species of corn already endangered by such Monsanto contamination!

armstrong-doping
Doping Legend: Lance Armstrong

Olympics

The Western dominated countries once again tried to remove the Russians from the Olympic Games. Whereas the Russians believe the U.S. to be the center of steroid doping in the world. Now Chinese, Bulgarian and Polish athletes have been found doping, but there is no kin liability applied to those countries as it was to Russia. CBS reports on those three cases. In all of them state doping programs are considered to be likely in place German news reported.

The same for the case of Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana and her new world record on 10,000 m running – the former world champion, Chinese Junxia Wang, having admitted doping just last February.

NATO expansion 1990-2009

NATO Expansion

Look at the NATO. And the promises that were given, though not written down. To not expand militarily into former “Soviet” areas. Now suddenly NATO moves rockets and in the Russian believe nuclear warheads into Poland and the Baltics. Just miles from St. Petersburg and Moscow! Compare the distance between Cuba and Florida or Washington and then think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wonder why Russian people believe in the Western hypocrisy?

Wag the Dog
Wag the Dog

I’m repeatedly reminded about the 1997 movie Wag the Dog. Where during elections the U.S. powers make up a war in Albania to influence the election. Is it a comedy? Movies like that, Homeland or Enemy of the State are simply too close to the perceived reality that Russian people take them as “comedy”.

Simply try to look at it from the other side when the press and especially our politicos tell you something. Why should Russia, Turkey or any other state trust us? We’re only about money. No soul.

Putin’s arguments may be propaganda, but he does it better than ours. He’s the victim, we’re the bullies. And we give the Russian people all arguments they need to believe just that.

export-importThe Arabian Spring

It’s the same for Arabia, where yes, the Arabian Spring was something theoretically good. But see how it destabilized the region? We all pay for the “unfinished business” in Syria. If you talk to Russians, it was the West that wanted to run a coup d’etat there, to weaken Russia and deprive it from a friendly harbor for their fleet in the Mediterranean. For the same reason the West wanted to deprive the Crimea to Russia. Aside of the oil.

I’m personally ashamed that our country is one of the big weapon developing and exporting countries in the world. After the Nuremberg Trials, we must be aware that the deaths by the weapons we produce are burden on our souls. We are “Christian”? We may be. Our politicos are not. We’re Accomplices. Our politicos sell their souls. For money. Besmirching ours.

TurkeyPutinObamaTurkey

Having recently discussed online with a Turkish friend living in Turkey, I could not answer some questions. Don’t get me wrong, we agreed Erdogan is a danger. We agreed the “cleansing” based mostly on denunciation and suspicion is dangerous! Taking control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power is how Third Reich happened. Beware. But our propaganda would make it worse.

Turkey would be victim to power games between Russia and Europe/the U.S. – and why did that remind me of that “joke” showing up 2015 on the social networks?

If Gülen is behind the attempted coup, would America or Europe act any different? If AFD would be found attempting a coup d’etat with the support from Russia, how would Germany, Europe or the U.S. react? Double values.

We’re afraid Turkey will become Sunni country soon. With repressions on other religions. Will this be bad for the country? Bad for it’s people? A clear Yes. Not for the Sunnis. And funny as it is, in the wake of the Turkish demonstrations pro Erdogan in Cologne, many of my friends in Germany currently argue that if Turkish are not happy with the rules of democratic Germany, they should emigrate to a country of their liking (here: Turkey). But isn’t that exactly the line of argumentation Erdogan follows?

Summary

But we bend our own rules. We constantly break them. For the sake of profit. Germany’s Joseph Goebbels was a propaganda artist. Today mostly more subtle methods are used by industry and politicians to steer the press and it is very difficult for journalists and us normal people to recognize it and not fall victim to it. With very limited success I’m afraid.

To make this very clear: There is a lot of Propaganda. On both sides.

Food For Thougth
Comments welcome!

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SITA Communications

SITAcommunicationsFollowing the acquisition by my employer delair by SITA, I was not allowed to maintain a personal blog until our parting of ways in February 2016.

With centralized communications, employees are not encouraged to run personal blogs or activities that are out of the control of the company. To my personal believe and in hindsight, it is an example how SITA uses the new communication channels: They’re stuck in the Industrial Age type and hold on to supply-driven information:

eastman

We push, because “mother knows best”.

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