Richard's blog

Travel operators throw tantrum (part 94)


The Federation of Travel Operators is upset at the Chancellor's decision to return Air Passenger Duty to its pre-2000 budgetary level. It's decided to sue the Government under the Human Rights Act, complaining that the tax is unfair and mean and that the Chancellor is a bully and stole all its candy.

Some agents are so upset, they're refusing to co-operate over the Government's plans to greenwash the carbon offsetting nonsense. The new code only recognises schemes which might actually reduce carbon in some way, shape or form - whereas the airlines would much rather go for the cheaper option of planting a tree somewhere - if, indeed, they can be bothered to do anything at all.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?


Hundreds of homes will be destroyed, noise levels will increase and the oldest community in the UK could be wiped out if plans to expand Lydd airport get the go-ahead. Sound familiar? Well this time, it's not just people who'll be affected - it's birds!

Over 60 species have been sighted at Dungeness nature reserve, the oldest RSPB reserve in the country, which is under threat from the airport owner's plans to increase commercial capacity from 5,000 to half a million passengers per year.

Beat the congestion charge...

Tags: from France.

It seems that the growth in cheap travel is fueling a rise in people jetting over from France and Spain to the office each morning. The Daily Telegraph spoke to a Mr. Saunders, who commutes across the channel to an on-line mapping company in Hampshire. "It's amazing, we're still pinching ourselves, we've transformed our lives completely".

Plane Stupid thought we should cover the other side of the story, and phoned a few villagers in Bangladesh. "It's amazing, we're still pinching ourselves, they've transformed our lives completely" they said. "Our crops are dying, goats are starving and it looks like there'll be another serious drought this year - and all so some tosser can live and work in different countries."

Green entryism at Metro

While the Guardian pushes cheap flights and the Indy lets travel columnist Simon Calder rant on about the need to expand airports, Metro seems to have been infiltrated by environmentalists.

Article after article on cheap flight nonsense get juxtaposed with photos of daffodils in December or floods and storms in the developing world. Clearly one of their interns is a secret Earth First!er.

Congested thinking

As this is an aviation-themed blog, I try to keep my ranting focused on issues relating to aviation and climate change. But today, I'm breaking this self-imposed rule to vent spleen on the pompous residents of West London and their allies in the knee-jerk media. That's right: it's congestion charging.

An article in the yesterday's Evening Standard by Valentine Low sumarises perfectly the stubborn stance taken by these ill-informed hacks. Low starts by name-dropping a few select friends and relatives for whom 'Red Ken' has made the borough of K+C nothing more than a ghetto. "Two of my son's friends... were removed from school after their parents were offered a place at a school nearer their home", he says; "the clincher was the knowledge that... they were going to have to fork out far more than they could afford just for the pleasure of driving their twins to school".

Low continues, describing a family with four children and how they've had to move into the zone (and closer to school) to qualify for the 90% reduction. 'Melissa' is quoted, tears no doubt falling thick and fast, as she describes the sheer nightmare of juggling kids, rugby kits and an urban 4x4 down the King's Road at 8:30am. He quotes a further friend, scarred for life as she has to admit taking her children on a bus (yes, a bus! shocking).

Now, much as I love reading about the suffering of Mellisa and her progeny, there's a serious side to this - and one which links back to the aviation debate. Firstly, Low assumes that the lifestyle changes his cabal have had to impliment are unintended. In Valentine's world, Livingstone never realised that the extension would penalise people who choose to live 5 miles from a bus route and send their children to school in the next borough.

Nonsense. The charge is entirely about reducing the distance and frequency you drive - particularly unnecessary school runs brought about by ill-thought out living arrangements. If you want to live a lifestyle which relies on excessive consumption of fossil fuels, then expect to pay.

Secondly, if Melissa or anyone else living on the King's Road chooses to give birth to four children, that is arguably their choice - even though her carbon footprint increases with every child. But there is a caveat - children cost money, and it is not an acceptable arguement that legislation unfairly impacts upon you because you chose to have a certain number of offspring.

No one complains when a trip to Alton Towers costs more for a family with four children than for a family with two. So why are people so surprised that the effects of measures designed to reduce your impact upon the earth's resources have a greater impact upon larger families? You made your bed, now lie in it.

What's this got to do with aviation? Well, the future will need to hold more of these measures if we are to reduce the effect of aviation on the climate, as, short of a deus ex machina techno-fix, we're going to need to reduce the existing capacity - meaning flying less than we do now, and closing regional airports, not expanding them.

That will impact upon your life - especially if you bought into the whole low-cost lifestyle, and either emigrated or bought a second-home abroad. So yes, if your parents or children live in Spain, you'll see them less. So yes, I am saying you can't nip over to Malaga for the weekend. And yes, choosing to fly will cost you.

Ken's charges are just the beginning. There's more to come, and like the residents of K+C, we will simply have to learn to deal with it.

Interweb hijinks at Grauniad

Oh, the joys of webvertising. You're engrosed in an article about the threat posed to the ice caps by global warming, and are just learning that scientists think that it may be too late to save them (regardless of how many MPs jet off to see them - stand up Mr. D. Cameron).

Now someone in the Guardian's marketing team clearly thought the public needed an advert to break up the tedium of an article about - eugh - science, so they've reminded us that Guardian Unlimited Travelshop lets us "Compare flight prices and hotels from over 120 providers". Great! Now to book my trip to the Maldives - after all, they won't be around for long once those icecaps melt...

Turns out the ad is on rotation - you can also get ads by Lloyds TSB, and a video of a man in a room full of snakes. Here's a screengrap.

This just highlights the fundamental contradiction in having ads for products interspersed with news - particularly when this means car and flight ads juxtaposed with articles on climate change. But the Grauniad / Observer's editors seem not to have grasped this yet. Here's the Observer's reader editor lamenting the abuse they got from their ridiculous article on the top 10 places to see before climate change destroys them. And here is the juxtaposed advert making a mockery of their non-apology.

And finally...

It's goodbye to loudspoken Ryanair idiot Michael O'Leary, who will be stepping down to "spend more time with his family".

Doesn't that usually mean he's been sacked?