Thursday, 17 November 2011

Fasten your seatbelts! Turbulence ahead for the Aviation Industry

Not so long ago, hopping on a plane was fairly easy. A case of booking the tickets, handing over your luggage, being padded down by security and fastening your seat belts as you stare at the promiscuous cabin crew demonstrating how to blow into a lifejacket. Perhaps the last bit is unnecessary, but in an industry which seems to be dominating the headlines - for all the wrong reasons - I long for the days when travel was far more simpler.

So let's start off with the booking service. A service which is often strenuous, with hidden charges aplenty. In fact, it would probably be easier to find a terrorist then locate the full price of your selected flight, which usually appears just after you have handed over your credit card details. I am not a regular flier, but I do travel every year. Most of the time to mainland Europe, and in the last few years - I have been left delayed, stranded and hungry. For a nation that proudly boasts that it can put up with the odd queue, I can hold my own. But for six hours? That really does take the biscuit!

When you board, a smiling stewardess shows you to the window seat you paid an extra 16.99 for. Our, excellent views - of the wing! Whilst you physically squeeze yourself into the spring-less seat provided, making plenty of contact with the chubby northern chav with the fake tan next to you, you are then subject to a helpless stare at the cost of the in-flight drinks and gifts. Trust me, by the end of the three hours, you are so desperate for a splash in the Costa Del-Sol sun, you would consider jumping out of the plane before it touchdowns on the tarmac.

OK, so the above might be an extreme example, but the basic facts are true. With Ryanair charging for just about anything; whether it be using your credit card, booking online, booking in-store and so on, you're spending money soon goes. Now I detest Michael O'Leary, but I admit he is not the only one to blame. Monarch, Easyjet and Aer Lingus - all who I have recently flown with - offered lame and petty excuses for delays and cancellations. Only one provided me with a food voucher, which barely stretched to a sandwich and a bottle of water.

The planes themselves are a cause for concern to. On a recent holiday, I was so squashed I felt the deep-vain thrombosis hit my ankles as I sat down. Like a game of sardines with 200 other people, all coughing and spluttering, the conditions can be likened to a third-world slum. And what about plane safety? If you have been watching the news over the last few years, you will have noticed a number of high profile plane incidents. Remember the Air France plane that crashed in the Atlantic, with no survivors? Or the British Airways plane narrowly missing the motorway? Recently, Australian airline Qantas has seen a number of its planes suffer faults mid-air. For the companies, it is millions of pounds down the drain, but for the passengers, it is a dent to their flying confidence, and a further strain on their flying loyalty.

But it is not only passengers who are disgruntled. Around the globe, more and more flights are being disrupted as planes are grounded whilst cabin crews take strike action. Qantas staff recently held industrial action, not to mention British Airways - where the number of strikes and staff ballots would be enough to confuse Pythagoras.

I was even more alarmed, shocked and angered by today's news that one airline, Comtel Air, having reportedly not received payment from tour operators, decided to hold passengers to ransom and charge them around £23,000 to continue their journey! What's more, British Airways and Virgin are both being imposed millions of pounds by Nigerian aviation authorities for price fixing selected routes. It just gets better and better.

Solutions? Well, some airlines seem to be bucking the trend. Only this week, Qatar Airways and Emirates announced deals worth billions of pounds for new aircraft's, suggesting that consumers are still going on that all-important family holiday. Airline safety also looks to improve - with a new generation of aircraft, from the Airbus A380 to the Boeing Dreamliner all improving the time, comfort and safety of the flights. And with news today that four major airlines are calling for the scrapping of Air Passenger Duty tax, customers may also benefit from reduced prices in the years to come.

Because, at the end of the day, a flight can be the make or break of a holiday. We do not always want to be dashing for the emergency exits!

Pictures Courtesy of Wikipedia

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