Monday, 28 September 2009

Privatised JAL after public money

I have only ever flown with JAL once and that was not by choice. But I had to get from Kansai to Hong Kong on an Air France endorsed ticket, and they had booked me with JAL. The JAL flight turned out to be an experience I could well have done without. When the surly stewardess came round with the free newspapers she glared at my non-Japanese face and said, “I haven’t got one for you!”, (despite the fact that I lived in Japan and could read some Japanese, not that she bothered to find out). I think in all my years of frequent flying I had never, and have never since, experienced such downright rudeness. JAL was an airline that I then proceeded to forget all about, until recently, when I heard that Japan’s transport minister, Seiji Maehara, has just said that he will not force the struggling JAL to go bankrupt.

So it turns out that the Japanese government has appointed a team of corporate experts to create a restructuring plan for the airline, because JAL’s own draft reconstruction plan has been described as “insufficient”. This crack team will be making recommendations by late October or early November.

So what has forced JAL to come to this pretty pass? Well, the airline has just notched up its biggest-ever quarterly net loss of 99 billion yen ($1 billion) in the quarter up to June, and it is forecast that there will be a net loss of 63 billion yen ($701 million) for the current fiscal year up to March 2010.

JAL was privatised back in 1987, but the company has had to turn to public funds, with 60 billion yen ($668 million) in loans from the government-owned Development Bank of Japan in June, and apparently further requests for cash. So much for the free market economy.

It will be interesting to see how the airline copes in the months ahead.

Newspapers, anyone?

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Are the budget airlines abandoning the regional airports?

So Gordon Brown has uttered the dreadful word "cuts" to the TUC in Liverpool, but he is not the only one thinking of this four letter word. In fact British holidaymakers may find themselves having to make longer journeys to airports, as airlines start to cut the number of regional departures in an attempt to keep costs down.

Budget airline Easyjet recently announced the cancellation of all its routes from East Midlands airport, which is going to be quite a loss to residents of the Nottingham area and thereabouts. Similarly Ryanair has cancelled nine of its 10 routes out of Manchester, which will be quite a blow to people of the north-west on the look out for cheap flights. Ryanair is also cancelling two of its flights out of the little up-and-coming airport of Doncaster, saying that the modest passenger charges of £3 a head are not sustainable.

Add to this the fact that last November Thomson pulled out of Coventry Airport, and Liverpool Airport has experienced a drop in passenger numbers of 20% this year. In fact, during the first six months of 2009, passenger numbers have fallen by a staggering 11% at British regional airports compared with 2008. All this may be gratifying to pressure groups such as Plane Stupid, who have been campaigning for an overall reduction in flying due to green considerations, but it is bad news for those hankering after affordable flights out of their local airport.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Heavy demand for South African domestic flights predicted, come World Cup 2010

England’s victory over Croatia on Wednesday means that England fans will now be eager to get hold of not just match tickets, but also flights and hotels, to follow England to the World Cup finals in South Africa.

England fans hoping to do this will find they face a tough time as there will only be a limited number of seats for the actual matches themselves, and not just that, but the tickets will be expensive too. However on top of expensive match tickets, they will also find that accommodation is a bit scarce, and there may well be problems securing flights between the different destinations where matches will be played.

Kevin Miles, international affairs spokesman for the Football Supporters Federation who will operate Fan Embassies in South Africa, says “Initial estimates show that up to 20,000 fans could travel if, as expected, we secure qualification”.

The matches are going to be played in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Rustenburg, and Tshwane between 11 June and 11 July 2010.

To follow all the matches is going to involve a lot of domestic flights, and the demand for these will be huge. South Africa has a fair number of airlines operating between the major cities, and some of the smaller ones too, with fares ranging from first-class to budget. Flights can be booked online from anywhere in the world, which will be handy for fans making arrangements in advance.

It looks set to be a difficult though potentially rewarding time for football fans, and a profitable period for the airlines of South Africa.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

bmibaby launches budget flights from Manchester to Lourdes

The budget airline bmibaby has announced that it will introduce flights to Lourdes from Manchester Airport by the summer 2010 season, a move which could lead to more than 9,000 travellers making use of this new route each summer.

Situated on the French side of the Pyrenees, Lourdes has long been a popular destination for pilgrims after apparitions of the Virgin Mary were seen by a young woman, Bernadette Soubirous, in 1858. At this time Bernadette discovered a spring which is thought by some to have miraculous healing properties. Since then Lourdes has become a major focus for Christian pilgrimage, with some 5 million pilgrims and tourists coming to this small market town every season.

The beautiful mountains of the Pyrenees form a natural border between France and Spain, and the route will no doubt also prove popular with holidaymakers heading to this region for the great outdoor life and stunning views that the Pyrenees have to offer. The area is popular for high altitude training in sports such as running and cycling. It is also popular with hikers, and has a number of long distance footpaths.

The flights are due to start on April 30th 2010 and will continue to operate through to October 1st, flying on weekdays. This means that bmibaby will be offering 19 European routes from Manchester by next summer.

This is a welcome move that will provide a valuable connection between the Pyrenees and the north of England in terms of budget flights.