Gulliver

Business travel

  • Jumbo bet

    The days of the A380 look numbered

    by C.R.

    ASK frequent flyers which is their favourite aircraft and most come up with the same answer: the A380 superjumbo made by Airbus, a giant European planemaker. Able to carry 525 passengers in a typical three-class layout, on two full-length decks, the aircraft still feels spacious, with wide aisles and plenty of headroom. Frequent flyers also admire the freshness of the cabin air, the lighting systems that are designed to reduce jet lag and the quietness of the cabin. “You can hardly hear it take off,” one fan recently told Gulliver. “And I can actually go to sleep on the plane unlike any other I’ve been on before.”

  • Flying to the moon

    Turkish Airlines bounces back to growth

    by M.R.

    A LITTLE over a year ago, Gulliver gave a downbeat assessment of the prospects for Turkey's aviation sector. Having enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted growth of more than 10% a year, Turkish Airlines, the country’s flag-carrier, was grounding aircraft and closing routes amid growing unrest at home and violence across its border with Syria. Concerns about regional security were also making life difficult in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, two other countries that have built aviation empires by connecting far-flung parts of the globe through their hub airports. Yet whereas the Gulf carriers remain in the doldrums, Turkish is gaining altitude again.

  • Reinventing Concorde

    Supersonic jets may be about to make a comeback

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IN OCTOBER 2003, the age of supersonic passenger travel came to an inauspicious end. That month British Airways withdrew from service its last Concorde jet, a Franco-British aircraft from the 1970s that could fly at twice the speed of sound. Since the 1940s executives in the aerospace industry had predicted that the future of passenger travel would be supersonic. But since the retirement of Concorde there have been no passenger jets that can fly that fast in service. Worse still, even conventional sub-sonic jetliners these days fly slower than their equivalents from the 1960s.

    In 2017 the race to break the sound barrier gained new momentum.

  • Air rage

    Are America’s airports the worst in the world?

    by C.R.

    SOME airports are known for being the antithesis of elegance. The reputation of Luton Airport in Britain was famously trashed by a television advert for Campari, a posh drink, in the 1980s. In the clip, a well-dressed man offered a drink of the stuff to a fashion model on holiday and asked, “Were you truly wafted here from paradise?” She replied in her full cockney accent, “Nah, Lu’on Airport!” Its reputation as a place to fly from has never quite recovered since. In August it was named Britain’s worst airport by Which?, a consumer group.

    But at least Luton’s terminals are modern and safe—and that cannot be said of others around the world.

  • Protectionism doesn’t pay

    America’s Department of Commerce imposes a tariff of 292% on Bombardier’s C-Series jets

    by C.R.

    A YEAR ago Dennis Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, the American aerospace giant, had a problem. Tweets written by Donald Trump, America’s newly elected president, were hitting Boeing’s share price. Initially buoyed by Mr Trump’s promise of extra spending on defence, the firm's share price fell in December 2016 when he suggested in a tweet that an order for new presidential planes worth $4bn should be cancelled. After the president elect picked a fight with Lockheed Martin, a rival planemaker, Boeing’s executives were left in fear of being the next target.

    And so, it seemed, Mr Muilenburg came up with a plan.

  • A Christmas miracle

    Ryanair stops Christmas strikes, but at a cost

    by E.M.

    AIRLINES respond to greater demand for travel around Christmas by increasing fares. But this year, Ryanair has found that it is not the only one taking advantage of the desire to be home for the holidays. To avert proposed strikes by pilots across Europe, the Dublin-based carrier offered on December 15th to recognise pilot unions for the first time in its history. The offer came just in time to avert a four-hour strike by Italian pilots scheduled that afternoon. Pilots in Ireland and Portugal also called off a strike they had planned for December 18th. Ryanair may have saved Christmas, but its stock price fell by 8% on the day of the announcement.

  • Pulling his punch

    Donald Trump holds off hitting the Gulf carriers with sanctions

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    WHEN Donald Trump became America’s president nearly a year ago, lobbyists campaigning for protection for the country’s airlines against competition from the Middle East were overjoyed. But they were less happy on December 13th when it was revealed that Donald Trump has decided to hold off on imposing sanctions against the three big Gulf carriers—Emirates of Dubai, Etihad of Abu Dhabi, and Qatar Airways—for what America’s big airlines allege are unfair subsidies that they receive from their governments. For now, the administration will continue discussions with the UAE and Qatar, the trio’s home countries.

  • Excess baggage

    Why the Trump administration has enraged flyers across America

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    FOR a president elected on a populist campaign message, Donald Trump is not doing much to make himself popular with flyers in America. On December 7th, the Trump administration announced that it was withdrawing a regulation proposed under Barack Obama to require airlines and other plane-ticket sellers to disclose baggage fees when customers begin the process of buying tickets. Airlines already have to display checked baggage fees on their websites. But the Obama administration’s proposal would have forced them to do so up front in the shopping process, so that travellers could compare the fees for various airlines and routes when choosing their itineraries.

  • Flying while black

    British Airways’ franchisee in South Africa throws off two black passengers

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IN THE latest—and possibly most alarming—in a recent string of allegations of racism against airlines, two black musicians claim they were downgraded from business class on a British Airways-branded flight in South Africa to make room for a white woman. Thabo Mabogwane and Bongani Mohosana, a South African musical duo known as Black Motion, purchased business-class tickets for a flight on December 4th from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the South African-based Comair, branded in British Airways’ colours.

  • Taking the piss

    How airlines are squeezing more seats onto their planes

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    WHEN Gary Leff, a prominent travel blogger, took his first flight on one of the new “no legroom” planes operated by American Airlines, he found that the experience was not nearly as bad as he feared. American had drawn howls of protest from customers when it announced it was reducing the distance between rows of seats—“seat pitch”, in industry jargon—on its new Boeing 737 Max planes to 29 inches, compared with the 31-inch pitch on its existing 737-800s. So in June it capitulated, and settled on 30 inches.

  • Computer says yes

    American Airlines risks 15,000 flight cancellations after a rostering mishap

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IT IS a challenge for many organisations when too many employees request time off around the Christmas period. But it is a headache for a lot more than just company staff when this happens at airlines. In September, Ryanair had to announce the cancellation of more than 20,000 flights after it messed up its system for allocating pilots’ leave. Due to regulatory changes, the airline changed its holiday schedule from the calendar year to April to December, and then persuaded pilots to take fewer days off during the peak travel season in the summer.

  • No worms for the early birds

    Germans get little in reward for booking their flights early

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    HOW far in advance should you book a flight to get the best price? That is a question that many travellers agonise over. Yet people around the world do not respond in the same way to the incentives they are given.

    New data from Concur, a travel-software firm, compares flight-booking trends from five countries. Their researchers found that the penalty for booking at the last minute is by far the greatest in America. For domestic flights in America, tickets booked fewer than eight days in advance of travel tended to cost 39% more last year than those purchased at least 15 days ahead of time. The equivalent figure for France was 27%, 19% for Canada and 16% for Germany.

  • Runway robbery

    The case for reforming airport-slot allocation

    by C.R. | MADRID

    GULLIVER is back from the 141st Slot Conference in Madrid, a meeting of airlines and airport co-ordinators run by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an airline lobby group. In this week’s issue, he opened the lid on how landing and take-off slots are allocated at congested airports around the world:

    Instead of letting airports decide who would use their runways and when, the system was designed to have schedules hammered out by committees of airlines. In the 1960s, as growing traffic started to fill up some airports, the committees became a way of parcelling out the most prized slots.

  • Taking politics on holiday

    America’s culture wars are spreading to hotels

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    CHOOSING a hotel for a trip is generally seen as an apolitical decision. In contrast, restaurants and cafes have sometimes taken on an ideological tinge, with conservatives mocking liberals for their latte coffees, and liberals ribbing conservatives for their deep-fried everything and well-done steaks. But for most hotel users, location and good Wi-Fi matter more than the ideology of the owners. In some places that now appears to be changing: a trend turbocharged since the arrival of Donald Trump, an owner of an international hotel brand, in politics.

  • Your favourite things

    Hotels are finding out what amenities guests really want

    by A.W. | WASHINGTON, DC

    IT HAS been more than once that Gulliver has found himself putting the incorrect electrical plug into the wrong socket or dock at a hotel—whether it be for a smartphone, laptop or shaver. Since such gadgets have proliferated, the hotel industry too has been confused about what facilities they should offer to service weary travellers. But after much trial and error, hotels finally seem to be figuring out which amenities guests truly value—and which ones are little more than gimmicks.

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