PUNCH BAG

Air cargo in the past few months has enjoyed a splendid run with ever increasing rates and related rising capacity constraints, most of the latter caused by the continuing surge in e-commerce, express and pharmaceutical products. As a result, 2017 - after some meagre performances in the past - is beginning to look like a very positive year indeed. Ever increasing demands for performance improvement, particularly from the e-commerce giants and the pharmaceutical industry, will force the traditional players to rejig their existing business practices and procedures to meet their exacting standards, which in the coming years will dramatically change the entire face of the industry.
As the year draws to a close, Punch Bag wishes its readers a prosperous and healthy 2018 and a continuing upturn of the business. But for now, may we suggest you sit back and relax and spent a few moments savouring the contents of this edition with its usual dose of crazy things that are going on in the world.

Happy reading

Nol van Fenema

CHOPPING BLOCK

- Sources in Washington, DC tell us that a group of lawmakers is circulating a letter which reportedly seems to offer a solution to the ongoing battle between the three big U.S. carriers Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines (US Big 3) and their counterparts in the Middle East Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways (ME Big 3).
As frequently reported in earlier editions of Punch Bag, the U.S. Big 3 are already three years pleading for federal action against the fast-growing ME Big 3, claiming their rivals benefit from billions of dollars in unfair government subsidies.
Ironically, the U.S. lawmakers are offering a solution which has been at the disposal of the U.S. Big 3 for decades, which is to have their claims vetted through a Department of Transportation (DOT) process, which was created in 1974 to prevent foreign governments from meddling in airline competition.
A decision reached under the law would allow Congress and the White House "to develop a fact-based response" to the allegations, "rather than responding to the politically-charged rhetoric," said the letter, so far signed by 13 other GOP lawmakers and two Democrats.
Of course, the U.S. Big 3 have been fully aware of this option but are dead against having their arguments vetted by the DOT, because they are fully aware that their claims are groundless, spurious and misleading and solely based on anti-competitive behaviour.
Instead, they have been lobbying both the Obama and Trump administrations to intervene on their behalf, asking to block the ME Big 3 from gaining access to new routes and to revamp Open Skies treaties with Qatar and the UAE.
Not surprisingly, the lawmakers' suggestion has immediately been attacked by the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, a loose lobby group which represents the U.S. Big 3 and some airline unions.
The spokeswoman for this grouping, a certain Jill Zuckman, who is alarmingly unaware of the massive profits, staff increases and otherwise flourishing U.S. airline industry, keeps repeating patently false claims.
"This is nothing more than an effort to delay and distract from the real issue - American jobs are on the chopping block because of trade cheating by the United Arab Emirates and Qatar," the lady misleadingly stated in a reaction to the latest efforts to resolve this nonsensical issue.
As there is not one American job on the chopping block and the U.S. airline industry is flourishing as never before, it's time for Zuckman and indeed, the Partnership, to either file a claim through DOT or stop their fake rhetoric.

Stop the nonsense, Zuckman

INTRIGUE, ENCOUNTERS & ESCAPES

- So you want to travel in style aboard a custom designed aircraft, while enjoying personalized service every step of the way??
Look no further and contact the Four Seasons hotel chain.
They have just unveiled three unique Private Jet itineraries set to take flight in 2019, including Latin Escape, which is a 16-day adventure for those looking to explore the most exciting natural and cultural offerings of Central and South America.
A customised Four Seasons Boeing 757 will take up to 52 guests around the world on bespoke journeys. The new ultra-luxurious private jet will take guests to nine of Four Seasons Hotels spread across the world, including exotic stops at Hawaii, Bora Bora, Sydney, Bali, Thailand and India.
In addition to 'Latin Escape', two of the most coveted Four Seasons itineraries are also featured on the 2019 roster. 'Timeless Encounters' is a 24-day exploration of lively city centres and remote islands, including a day trip to the Taj Mahal, while 'International Intrigue' covers a journey across nine diverse destinations and includes culturally-rich cities such as Kyoto and St. Petersburg set in dynamic contrast to the untamed paradise of the Serengeti.
A dedicated team, including a concierge, on each Private Jet journey takes care of everything, including all air travel, ground transportation, planned excursions, all meals and beverages and luxurious accommodations at, of course, Four Seasons hotels and resorts.
Not surprisingly, these trips will cost you slightly more than an ordinary flight.
From US$119,000 to US$138,000 depending on the itinerary to be precise. But, hey, you'll travel in luxury through eight countries in three weeks and excursions and food are all included as well as the price of hotel and airfare.
A fair bargain we reckon.

Private Boeing 757…A Bargain

PENIS IN THE SKY

- The news may have escaped you, but pilots who used their U.S. Navy warplane to draw a penis in the sky above the town of Okanogan, Washington, last month, have been grounded,
Using an electronic warfare plane from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in western Washington State, the crew created sky writings in the shape of male genitals in the skies over the rural community, where many residents spotted the specific contrails in the clear blue skies above the town of 2,500 people.
Witnesses took photos and placed them on social media platforms, where they were widely viewed while one local wrote on Twitter: “The most monumental thing to happen in Omak. A penis in the sky.”
However, the Navy was not amused and apologised for what they called "this irresponsible and immature act." In a statement, vice admiral Mike Shoemaker, the commander of Naval Air Forces stated that “sophomoric and immature antics of a sexual nature have no place in Naval aviation today.”
The carrier-based plane with a two-person crew, which created the 'obscene' image, was an E/A-18 Growler, the Navy said. The names of the creative, yet grounded, air crew were not released.

Obscene image above Okanogan

FLAT DISC SURROUNDED BY AN ICE WALL

- We hear that plans by a self-taught rocket builder to launch himself in his homemade rocket above the Mojave Desert in California to prove that the Earth is flat, have been blocked by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
Amateur scientist Mike Hughes, who made his first manned rocket in 2014, suffered the setback last month when he was waiting for permission to lift-off his steam-powered rocket to 1800 feet (548 meters) and from there snap a picture to prove that a conspiracy of astronauts fabricated the shape of the Earth.
Hughes is a 61-year-old limo driver who has spent the last few years building a steam-powered rocket out of salvage parts in his garage. His project has cost him $20,000, which includes a motor home he converted into a ramp.
Hughes, who recently converted to Flat-Eartherism, has meanwhile secured another, privately-owned launch site for his 500mph (804kph), mile-long flight through the Mojave Desert, which he hopes will draw much-needed attention to the movement and will mark the first step in his flat-Earth space programme.
Following this, he hopes to garner enough funding to conduct a journey into the 'atmosflat' to finally disprove the vast intergovernmental, interagency conspiracy shielding us from the truth: that we live on a flat disc, floating in space, surrounded by a giant ice wall.
The second phase of Hughes' mission might involve floating in a balloon up to 20,000 feet (6,100m) above the ground, then rocket-packing himself into space.
“It’s scary as hell,” Hughes said in a recent interview. “But none of us are getting out of this world alive."
Not even to see its edges, it seems.

Flat-earther Hughes and his rocket

FASHION ANYONE?

- Apart from flying passengers around the globe and coping with 'fake news' from U.S. carriers, Middle East carrier Etihad Airways is also very much into Formula 1 racing, not in the least because at its home base Abu Dhabi, the Formula 1 circus each year attracts thousands of visitors to the Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Last month, at the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, the airline officially unveiled the new F1 Grid Girls uniform created by celebrated New York-based Nepalese designer, Prabal Gurung.
During the three-day event, Etihad Airways’ cabin crew was dressed in the new uniform, while it was also seen on TV by hundreds of millions of motorsport fans worldwide, underscoring the aim of Etihad Airways to become the fashion industry’s preferred airline.
In fact, Etihad Airways last year signed a global agreement with WME/IMG as a long-term partner of the fashion industry connecting the airline with the fashion capitals of the world and making it the first multinational, multi-year airline sponsorship supporting the fashion industry.
The airline has even launched a loyalty programme called "Runway to Runway" tailoring specifically to the international fashion community, including editors, designers, models, photographers, stylists, students of fashion, bloggers and fashion industry executives, plus the global community of fashion devotees.

Etihad Grid Girls display new uniform

TRUMP SLUMP

- Just released data from the U.S. Department of Commerce National Travel and Tourism Office in Washington shows that the number of international visitors arriving in the U.S. declined nearly 4% in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2016.
That slump is not surprising according to many sectors in the travel industry, taking into account President Donald Trump's anti-foreigner rhetoric and immigration policies, which have resulted in the coining of the word 'Trump Slump'.
An example of the changing immigration rules, is without doubt the new ‘extreme vetting’ policy with which the Trump administration can force visitors to hand over social media passwords, mobile phone contacts and other personal data.
What's more, travelers from Scandinavia, the UK, Germany, France and other U.S. allies would also have to reveal financial information and be questioned on ideological views.
So much for the "welcome to America" slogans, the U.S. Tourist Office has been displaying for years at the country's ports of entry.
Exemplifying the "Trump Slump", the travel data showed that fewer visitors came from nearly every region of the world, with declines in arrivals from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
According to a report released at the recent World Travel Market London, more than a quarter of UK holiday makers are less likely to go to the U.S. while Donald Trump is in the White House, while 40% of the travel trade say the U.S. is not a country to do business with under the current president.
The findings of the report follow a pattern of a decline in interest among the public over visiting the U.S. since the election. All in all, a drop-off in tourism is predicted to result in 4.3 million fewer visitors this year, which adds up to a staggering loss of US$7.4 billion in revenue for the U.S., according to the Global Business Travel Association.

Fewer tourists to U.S. thanks to Trump

MOUNTAINS OF WASTE

- China’s Singles’ Day online discount sales frenzy last month saw bargain-hungry buyers spend over US$38 billion. The annual November 11 buying bonanza is a regular fillip for giant online retailers like Alibaba and JD.com, but the mountain of trash produced from just one day of conspicuous consumption has angered environmentalists.
Apart from flooding the postal and courier businesses with around 331 million packages, Singles' Day also left an estimated 160,000 tonnes of packaging waste, including plastic, cardboard and tape.
According to a Reuters report, Greenpeace described the annual promotion as a “catastrophe for the environment” that not only creates waste, but leads to a surge in carbon emissions from manufacturing, packaging and shipping.
Although e-Commerce firms have drawn up measures aimed at solving the problem, including experimenting with biodegradable delivery bags and tape-free boxes, a Greenpeace spokesman said the efforts were still not enough.
Worse, China’s packaging waste problems are not confined to Singles’ Day.
Official data shows China’s courier firms delivered around 20 billion orders in 2015, using 8.27 billion plastic bags, 9.92 billion packing boxes and enough sticky tape to go around the globe more than 400 times.
Overall deliveries continue to surge, with the number of packages expected to hit 50 billion next year, up from 30 billion in 2016.
Although China’s State Post Bureau (SPB) issued new guidelines to deal with the problem last year, urging delivery companies to eliminate substandard packaging products by the end of 2020, and to establish a proper recycling system, the online retail giants have taken few real steps to reduce delivery packaging waste, according to Greenpeace.
So, with large sections of China’s soil and water already contaminated by untreated industrial, rural and household trash, it looks like the country's leading e-commerce firms will have to drastically reinvent the way they package their products, or face a growing environmental backlash.

Waste hangover after annual buying spree