Archive for March, 2007
Just picked this up, initially from David, my server guru’s blog. I thought it might stand an airing here.
Any weather phenomena or heavenly body that I encounter always leaves me with a sense of wonder. Viewed from the upper atmosphere where there is very little light pollution or atmospheric attenuation they look so well defined
Hale – Bopp was amazing but this one looks more impressive. Here is the link to the Comet McNaught website with the larger format versions of these pictures and much more. Below is a short extract from the site to whet your appetite.
Comet McNaught swung by the Sun in mid-January 2007. Fierce solar heat turned it into the brightest comet in 40 years; for a few days it was actually visible in broad daylight! When McNaught emerged from the sun’s glare into the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, the tail alone stopped traffic and was mistaken for a brush fire, an explosion, a mysterious cloud and probably many other things never reported. For photographers, it was the photo-op of a lifetime. Now Comet NcNaught is receding into the outer solar system never to return — only the pictures remain. Enjoy the gallery!
We deserve the police service we get, the supermarkets, and the maybe the airlines too.
Michael O’Leary has come in for some flack over the years, he has courted publicity with a style all of his own. As irritating as he has been for the established carriers around Europe, I believe that he has done us all a service – a great service.
If you listen to the people working at the coal-face of any passenger carrying airline you might, in private moments, hear a very jaundiced view of our fellow man. This is not a surprise when you consider that everyone remembers the ‘difficult’ – the kindly and considerate just don’t seem have the same impact on our recall.
O’Leary has a strange take on life but however unusual it may be, he retains a tight grasp on reality. ‘Suicidally’ O’Leary treats ‘them’ (gp) with the contempt he thinks they deserve – and they give him their money and come back for more! They come back for more…. He has got something right then; that idea is affirmed when we realise that he runs one of the most profitable airlines in the World. This leaves me confused for a microsecond – price point must have a influence in the equation somewhere. ‘They’ are getting what they pay for, plus a little bit more.
I used to loath his abusive style and the profanity he spits at the media and everyone else in range, now I am coming to admire his honesty and exceptionally astute mind.
One of my colleagues was present when he appeared as a ‘graduates guest’ on an Masters Degree Course. Naturally he was speaking about the travel industry and airlines specifically. I can’t pass you any pearls of wisdom but what I can tell you is that he characteristically cut through the bull and talked more lucidly than any business speaker my pal had ever had the pleasure of listening to.
Like Branson, the fool on the TV isn’t there to impress you and I with his business acumen, he is there to create an image. The fool is the cloak, the dagger behind it he saves for the fools who believe his act.
Does this make him ‘wrong.’
He treats people appallingly, both customers and employees. That is his style and he doesn’t seem to want to do much about it. In person he comes across as exceptionally confident and that may be part of the strength of the business animal that he is. Would he be as successful as a charming boss with an iron grip, who knows? – ask them at Harvard. Allegedly he has a deep rooted contempt for pilots which gives him friends in the world elsewhere.
Where is he right?
There is little doubt in my mind that some of the Worlds major carriers are fat, lazy, overstaffed, over unionized and greedy – all claims that O’leary makes.
Allegedly, in India, the national carrier is a standing joke among the startups, they are set to thrash the ‘dinosaur’ at every level and there is nothing it can do about it. Companies like Jet Airways and Kingfisher are young, thrusting and hungry, the incumbent national carrier is crippled by indifference, under-investment and now pilot shortages. My words? no, those of an Indian (ex) Captain who I won’t identify but was sat a few feet from me for a ‘long time’ as I composed this post in my head.
Around Europe and the US there are examples where these characteristics are mirrored to a greater or lesser extent, the detail of their ailments may be subtly different, but the mindsets are broadly similar. We might have got away with this sort of size and shape in the past, but the future belongs to the fit, lean and keen.
So if O’Leary and his like want to stack it high and sell it cheap, what do the major carriers have that we can call a future? The guru would point to the ‘full service’ nature of their operations, the quality of their product and the inclusion of the extra touches that the business sector appreciates.
If that is truly the case if we swing our attention that way for a moment, one particularly alarming tendency observed has been the progressive removal of layers of quality from their product and under-investment in critical operational processes which have the effect of degrading the delivery of that ‘superior’ experience. This is no doubt a continued reaction to the cost slashing post 9/11. That crash diet didn’t stop and has become misdirected towards the areas where it is easy to cut rather than those that are difficult. That has left us where we have structures in this business thinking that they look wonderful, but in truth they have a form of corporate anorexia. What is worse, like the poor unfortunates who suffer from this terrible wasting disease, they don’t see the reality of their situation nor listen to gentle whispers of truth from their employees.
No, we either compete head on with Air O’Leary or sell something very differently in the same marketplace. That is the current gamble of the majors in the UK and Europe and the response to the low cost carriers. That makes product devaluation and erosion of the customer experience even more deadly to the survival exercise that has yet to warm up.
As reported by our friends at IAG, Northwest have tried to recall their furloughed pilots and …. the sound of silence followed an empty echo. There have gone elsewhere. Why? well, I shall leave that to Addison to explain but it supports theories that you have read here and probably elsewhere.
There is no magic box of pilots awaiting a call that managers can reach out for to man their aircraft, they are beginning to realise that now.
So here is a message for them, look after those that you have or they may do what everyone does when they are undervalued and abused – walk.
Not easy when your life resembles a game of snakes and ladders, the seniority list biasing the go/stay decision, but you might look to those with just a little seniority, a spot of command experience and some grey hair; they may have their future mapped out by someone else’s training department – if you are not careful.
If you are out there trying to get qualified, don’t hang around. Your job flying job awaits and some companies might soon even start offering incentives to join.
ATW: Northwest about to come out of Chapter 11
The A380 seems to be getting good press and impressing those who see it. It is certainly a phenomena, a little like Concorde in its day and heads are turning and the Yanks (bless them) being total aviation people are seeing it for what it is rather than being too partisan. See the beastie land in JFK here.
Rob Mark at Jetwhine is giving some positive coverage to the event and similar is happening elsewhere.
Let’s be fair, when Boeing introduced the 747 into the light of day there were similar misgivings from the industry, ground handling facilities needed to be redesigned and space allocated to accommodate the new category of aircraft. What does concern me slightly is that few if any US airports seem to have taken the same steps that will enable the operation of the ‘Whale’ when it arrives.
A few more clips on my YouTube homepage.
We all ‘fly for food’ and there is some sharp debate within our airline about levels of pay and the general conditions being experienced in the ‘feeder’ carriers in the UK, particularly those ‘attached’ to us.
The majors have for a while been starting what are essentially low cost operations to feed long haul and satisfy demand. This action is filling a vacuum that would otherwise be fed by startups.
Our quandary is – are jobs being ‘outsourced’ and the potential being created for the undermining of the position of those established in the larger parent airline?
The US experience probably has a lot to teach us here and reading one US pilots forum the subject raises as much debate there as is being generated here.
What is it worth to a newly qualified pilot to get a job that will introduce him/her to the jet and provide a career path to the left seat just as soon as the level of experience and competence has been reached to allow it?
An opinion for what it’s worth….
If this level of aviation is to grow and prosper, the sad truth is that there will always be an exchange of experience for comparatively poor reward. The consequence will be high turnover and high training costs for the operator and a hard working, poorly paid transient existence in a rewarding job. Isn’t that what you expect at the foot of the ladder in any profession?
These are not jobs that we, the major carrier pilots can ‘protect’ for our own junior numbers, their very existence depends on the low cost of the operation. Ramp up the costs and the jobs vanish to a startup as the operation withers.
European Union governments on Thursday backed a deal with the United States that should boost the number of people flying across the Atlantic by opening up restricted routes to new rivals.
The EU said all EU 27 nations had unanimously backed the deal, which will take effect March 30, 2008.
Now for the ‘SLOTTERY’
IAG Addison Schonland’s take on OS.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain has signalled to its European Union partners it will accept a landmark pact with the United States to open trans-atlantic flights to greater competition, diplomats said on Tuesday.
They said London had indicated it would not obstruct the “open skies” agreement when EU transport ministers meet to approve it on Thursday, but would seek a delay in implementing it at Heathrow Airport.
So it looks as though the UK will sign up for the deal.
Speaking generally, whenever two parties are squealing during a dealmaking process don’t you often find that you have reached a suitable compromise point?
Personally I believe that the when written, the history will not be kind to the Brussels negotiators. British history that is.
There is nothing in this agreement that will do much harm to our European friends, nor by the sound of it, to our American ones either.
Lufthansa, Air France/KLM and United seem to be content to watch the change happen whilst laying plans of their own. Virgin and British Airways take a different view of course.
Glenn Tilton, UAL president, chairman and chief executive
“United also confronts the prospect of new competition at Heathrow,”
“However, we are prepared to accept the challenge of new competition in exchange for the long-term benefit of maintaining momentum toward international aviation deregulation.
”And we are prepared to compete on a level playing field — because reliance on protection from competition is not a strategy for lasting commercial success.“
We are still looking for the level playing field that Glenn refers to, perhaps Congress will make the changes necessary to balance up that field because at the moment, it is just a little tilted in favour of the USA.
For British Airways and Virgin, the major question that remains is how will slots be made available to US airlines at Heathrow, will the existing system of slot allocation be junked or revised…. and when?
The BAA has recently been taken over by the Spanish infrastructure giant, Ferrovia. They borrowed a lot of money to complete the purchase and will be very keen to service that debt. Will this little gem impact on the handling of the slot allocation system? If you think you have seen a fight over Open Skies, wait until the row starts over the Crown Jewels – the slots.
Ferrovia boss takes over BAA chairman role.
Airlines Put Heat on for Break-Up of BAA
Well done Sir Richard, nothing like seeing a plan come together is there? In fairness all he has done is meet the existing US requirements, in turn the US has approved an application that met them. Probably through gritted teeth as the opposition must have put up a bit of a fight. Imagine having Jet Blue start up in Europe and publish a list of cities that they want to service.
US pilots are not impressed.
WASHINGTON – The Transportation Department on Tuesday removed a barrier to Virgin America‘s plans to start a U.S. airline, voicing support for its plan to comply with laws limiting foreign control of a domestic carrier.
See what they say at Virgin America.