Posts in category Gulliver


Business and financeGulliver

How to ensure Ryanair foots the bill for flight delays

THERE is little doubt that Ryanair takes umbrage at EU261, a piece of European law that guarantees passengers compensation in the event of most flight delays and cancellations. Michael O’Leary, the low-cost carrier’s boss, insists that he complies with the “ridiculous” piece of legislation. But many say otherwise. Indeed, Mr O’Leary seems to revel in refusing to give out compensation; he once told a customer who dared to ask for one “you’re not getting a refund so fuck off”. Last year, when a pilot-rostering mishap grounded thousands of Ryanair flights, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) accused it of “persistently misleading” customers about their rights. Which?, a British consumer group, agreed that Ryanair fell “woefully short” of its obligations. Media reports exposing poor treatment of passengers abounded. Yet, in the past five months, Gulliver has received two EU261 pay-outs from Ryanair. The circumstances surrounding them…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

A hamster is the latest victim in the row over emotional-support animals

THE roster of emotional-support animals that are and are not allowed onto flights in America can sound, at times, like a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. Although the number allowed on for nothing has grown in recent years, airlines—which believe that the loophole is being abused by those not wanting to pay to transport their pets—are fighting back. Only last month a peacock was barred from a United Airlines flight for bending the rules, and for not even being the right size for a normal plane seat. But the debate has now taken a deadly twist. The victim is a hamster.

Belen Aldecosea, a college student, booked a flight on Spirit Airlines, a low-cost carrier, from Baltimore to her home in Florida in November for medical treatment, according to the Miami Herald, a local paper. Concern about a growth on her neck had led her to buy a hamster, whom she named Pebbles, for comfort. She called Spirit to ask if she could bring Pebbles on…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Why United Airlines has got into a flap over a peacock

FEDERAL guidelines in America stipulate that airlines must allow passengers with disabilities to bring support animals onto flights. The rules were originally designed with guide dogs for the blind and the like in mind. Yet in recent years the rules have allowed a host of unusual and exotic animals to board planes for their owners’ emotional wellbeing.

Last weekend United Airlines, America’s third-largest carrier, drew the line at a peacock. A woman arrived at Newark International Airport and attempted to board her flight with the large bird, which she claimed was an emotional-support animal. The Jet Set, a travel show, captured images of the bird as it was denied boarding (see picture). The airline told the Washington Post that the peacock “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size” and that “we explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.”

Service animals, including emotional-support animals, can generally fly for free. As…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

A travel agent is trying to charge fees for sunbeds

IN KEEPING with the trend for charging for things travellers used to get free, it should perhaps come as no surprise that sunbeds are the latest feature of a standard holiday on which travel agents are slapping extra fees. Thomas Cook, a British package-holiday firm, has announced that it will allow holidaymakers to pre-book poolside loungers for £22 ($31) per person. Six days before the start of a trip, travellers will get an email offering them the chance to reserve specific sunbeds. The booking tool will include a map that allows people to see where the sun will shine at various times of day. The experiment will start in late February at three hotels on the Canary Islands and will expand to 30 hotels this summer. 

To some holidaymakers, this will seem like yet another attempt by the travel industry to get money from every source possible. Airlines, for instance, made $82bn in add-on fees last year alone, according to IdeaWorksCompany, a research firm. Over the past few years, both full-service and low-cost airlines have introduced…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

How to board a plane without a boarding pass

EARLIER this month a woman arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago without a ticket, boarding pass, or passport and flew to London. Prosecutors claim she did this by sneaking past officials from the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency responsible for airport security, while they were inspecting other travellers’ boarding passes. She was briefly thwarted when she tried to do the same thing at the boarding gate for a flight to Connecticut. But the gate agent caught her and asked her to sit down. After spending the night in the airport, she took the shuttle to the international terminal—again without the required boarding pass and passport—and got on a British Airways flight to Heathrow, where she was arrested on arrival.

The woman, 66-year-old Marilyn Hartman of Illinois, has done this before. In fact, she has been convicted of criminal trespassing at O’Hare four times over the past few years. Ms Hartman’s lawyers have attributed her behaviour to mental-health issues. She has never appeared to pose…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Why drones could pose a greater risk to aircraft than birds

THE “Miracle on the Hudson”—the successful ditching of a US Airways jetliner into New York’s Hudson River in 2009 after it hit a flock of geese—taught frequent flyers two things. First, it really is possible to land an aircraft on water, just as is shown on seat-back safety cards. Second, and more worryingly, the incident showed how dangerous birds can be to aircraft, particularly when they get sucked into engines. The machines are supposed to be designed to withstand an impact by the feathered creatures. Using big guns, chickens have been fired at aircraft engines in safety tests since the 1950s. But what about drones?

New research suggests that small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can actually be much more damaging than birds at the same impact speed, even if they are a similar weight. The study, published by the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence, a think-tank, used computer simulations to examine the impact of bird and UAV…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Some hotels charge visitors for bad reviews

TRAVELLERS have grown accustomed to annoying hidden fees, from the baggage charges that bring airlines tens of billions of dollars a year to the resort fees that account for nearly a fifth of American hotels’ revenue. But a new one that has popped up in recent years might be the most irksome of all due to its sheer perversity: fees for leaving bad reviews.

Last March, a couple arrived at the suite they had booked at the Abbey Inn in Indiana only to find, they claim, a dirty bed, a foul smell, an insect infestation and no hotel employees on the premises to assist them. Upon leaving, they did what so many travellers do these days. They wrote an online review warning others about the hotel’s shortcomings. Sometimes, negative reviews prompt apologies and compensation from their subjects. But in this case, the couple Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Legacy airlines are facing new competitors on transatlantic routes

EVEN for a global industry like aviation, Primera Air’s business model seems remarkably cosmopolitan. The Icelandic-owned budget airline is headquartered in Latvia, but mainly operates low-cost flights from Denmark and Sweden to sunny places in the Mediterranean. This summer, it will begin long-haul flights from Britain and France to America. The company bears more than a passing resemblance to Norwegian Air Shuttle, another nominally Scandinavian airline with global aspirations. More than two-thirds of Norwegian’s capacity by passenger-km now bypasses its home country, and the rapid growth of its long-haul operations are proving to be a serious challenge for legacy carriers such as British Airways. And its tentacles are spreading around the world. This autumn, the carrier will begin operating domestic Argentinian flights, 12,000km away from its home base.

Low-cost airlines are not new. Ryanair, founded in the 1980s, has grown to become…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

The days of the A380 look numbered

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.”

But less than a decade after it carried its first paying passengers, the age of the superjumbo looks like coming to an end. When Airbus announced its plans to build the plane in 2000, it hoped to sell up to 1,200 of them over two decades. Eighteen years later it has sold just a quarter of that figure, and has…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Turkish Airlines bounces back to growth

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.

There had been just cause for concern about Turkey at the end of 2016. The year unleashed a failed military coup, a resultant purge of dissenters, and a wave of attacks mounted by Islamic State terrorists. When Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport was struck by bombers in June, even transit passengers started to…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Supersonic jets may be about to make a comeback

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. In December Aerion, an aerospace start-up from Nevada, Lockheed Martin, a defence giant, and GE Aviation, an enginemaker, announced a joint venture to develop what they are calling the world’s first supersonic business jet, the AS2. Aerion’s executive chairman, Brian Barents, has said that he hopes the jet will be able to carry up to 12 passengers at 1.4 times the speed of sound—about 60 percent faster…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Are America’s airports the worst in the world?

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. In this week’s print issue, Gulliver’s colleagues from around the globe have reviewed some of the world’s worst airports. These range from departure lounges with no toilets in…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

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

Flying away from BoeingFlying away from Boeing

A YEAR ago Dennis Muilenburg, the chief executive of Boeing, the American aerospace giant, had a big problem. Tweets written by Donald Trump, America’s newly elected president, were hitting Boeing’s share price. Their value was initially lifted by the new president’s promise of extra spending on defence. But in December last year Boeing’s shares fell after a tweet from Mr Trump suggested that an order for new presidential planes worth $4bn should be cancelled. The newly-elected president then picked a fight with its rival Lockheed Martin over its new fighter jet; Boeing’s executives were left in fear of being the next target in his gunsight.

And so, it seemed, Mr Muilenburg came up with a plan: snuggle up to Mr Trump’s “America First” agenda to avoid the flack. Boeing started to stress in its press releases how many American jobs it was creating; it asked to president to unveil the first 787-10 jet produced in February and in April…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Ryanair stops Christmas strikes, but at a cost

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.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, acknowledged that union recognition marked a “significant change” for the company. During a dispute with baggage handlers in 1998, Mr O’Leary said that Ryanair would recognise unions “when a majority of our people wishes to do so.” Nonetheless, Ryanair has strongly resisted attempts by its employees to join independent unions, preferring to…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Donald Trump holds off hitting the Gulf carriers with sanctions

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 alleges 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. But it has not taken off the table the possibility in the future of amending or terminating its Open Skies agreements that allow the Gulf carriers to fly to any American airport they want. A document from an administration meeting in September, obtained by Politico, a news website, states that “additional…Continue reading

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Business and financeGulliver

Why the Trump administration has enraged flyers across America

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. Mr Trump is also scrapping another Obama-era proposal to require airlines to report to regulators how much money they make from add-ons such as paid carry-on bags and seat selection.

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