PUNCH BAG

Trying to ignore the latest developments in the White House in this column is like leaving an alcoholic friend outside a pub and telling him not to enter. In other words: a mission impossible, which by the way wouldn't be a bad signboard outside the WH.
Also, the developments in Washington are changing at such a fast pace that, again, it becomes a mission impossible. And, although air cargo and logistics have not yet been directly affected by any executive orders there are, nevertheless, a few closely related items in this issue which readers may find to be of interest.
While freight performances are generally stabelising after last year's end surge, e-commerce continues its spectacular rise, notably in Asia where, spurred by the bizarre annulment of the TPP, Trump's isolationist policies are accelerating China's drive to become the world's leading economic power. Happy reading.

Nol van Fenema

CLIFFHANGER

- It looks like the isolationist policies of the orange clown in the White House are already beginning to bear fruit: US$185 million in lost revenue for the U.S. travel industry in just two months, to be precise.
That's what analysts at least estimate the industry has lost due to alarming lower visitors numbers since Donald Trump's election and the subsequent introduction of the 'failed' Muslim travel ban.
So much for creating jobs by making "America great again" and good luck to investor Warren Buffett who reportedly has invested heavily in U.S. airlines stock. We reckon the "Oracle of Omaha" could be in for a rude shock when this trend continues.
Interest in travel to the U.S. has "fallen off a cliff" say travel companies, which are reporting sharp declines in flight searches while average room rates have been dropping by as much as 38% in Las Vegas and 32% in New York City, just to name two destinations.
Newspaper the Guardian noted that research by flight app Hopper shows how flight demand to the U.S. has fallen in 94 of 122 countries. One notable exception is Russia, where flight search demand to the U.S. is up 88%.
Search engine Kayak has experienced a 58% drop in searches for flights from the UK to Tampa and Orlando, for example, and a 52% fall in searches for Miami. Searches for San Diego are down 43%, Las Vegas 36%, Los Angeles 32%. Although ticket prices remain steady for the moment, one doesn't have to be an 'oracle' to predict that lower demand will ultimately force prices down. And when sales are down, jobs will suffer.
And when jobs are lost? Right, you just blame Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Travel to U.S. is "falling off a cliff" - courtesy Denver Post

HOLLOW RHETORIC

- Finally, the rabbit is out of the hat, folks. in the ongoing (and recently intensified) war of words between American, Delta and United (3US) and Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways (3ME), one of the U.S. parties has finally disclosed the real reason for their futile attempts to block foreign carriers from what they perceive as their home turf:
It's not about abuse of Open Skies agreements. It's not about "illegal" subsidies. It's not about the loss of American jobs.
It's about a crumbling hub-and-spoke system of the three U.S. legacy carriers, as American's CEO, Douglas Parker admitted during a conference in Washington last week.
And why is it crumbling? Because Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have “taken away” the India market and if they were allowed to continue to add capacity, Dallas-Paris would be next “and our hub-and-spoke system starts to fall apart. It’s that serious,” Parker was quoted as saying by Air Transport World.
Serious?? In plain language, it's simply called competition, an activity the Gulf carriers have elevated to art, but which the legacy carriers are trying to kill with political means, innuendo and outdated, incorrect statistics. That is, after having benefited from massive consolidation in the U.S. airline industry and having secured antitrust immunity, which allows them to set prices and capacity together with foreign carriers that were once competitors.
As they want to preserve their dominant market positions, the 3US have been trying to enlist the Trump administration to protect them from competition. The 3US claim they are “highly confident” that Trump and his cohorts will address the issue. We're not so sure.
Not because the Trump administration has its own problems with crumbling structures, but because there are other parties in the U.S., such as the U.S. Airlines for Open Skies (USAOS), a coalition of Atlas Air Worldwide, FedEx, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways that view the cowardly fight of the 3US distinctly different.
According to USAOS, “the legacy carriers claim to support Open Skies and competition, but the reality is their demands don’t match their rhetoric." Instead of going through traditional channels to address alleged subsidies, USAOS said the legacy carriers have made political demands that jeopardise the benefits of Open Skies agreements.
Adding to the growing discontent over the uncompetitive attitude of the 3US, U.S.-based Business Travel Coalition describes the situation as "sadly ironic given that the record profits of the Big 3 have positioned them to competitively respond in the marketplace. Instead, they have chosen to seek to block increased PFCs (passenger facility charge), sit on scarce slots with small aircraft and secure government protection while weakening U.S. Open Skies policy. Shameful."

American CEO Doug Parker: crumbling hub-and-spoke

EARPLUGS

- Not that the place is high on our bucket list, but we hear that Horsens in east Jutland (for the uninitiated, that is in Denmark) has a major seagull problem. So much so, that a local hotel, Teaterhotellet, is providing earplugs to its guests against the screeching of the feathery menace which has descended on this little town.
“Horsens mid-town is unfortunately plagued by seagulls these days and they can be quite noisy,” a note in the hotel’s rooms says. “So here are some earplugs. We hope you have a comfortable night.”
Hotel manager Frank Panduro accuses the local municipality of not dealing with the problem as he points to the city of Aarhus where last year a similar seagull problem developed and the city council decided to let hunters with air guns deal with the problem. The gulls are not so bad at the moment, Panduro says, but in the summertime breeding season the noise can reach fever pitch.
Hence the earplugs. There are no mini-bars in the rooms of Teaterhotellet and the hotel has no swimming pool or fitness centre. "But we have earplugs," enthuses Panduro.

Earplugs against feathery menace

WRONG PLANE

- As the following story shows, Chinese can have an incredible sense of humor, sometimes at par or even better than their Western counterparts. Read on.
Last month, when winter was still in full swing in China, Lucky Air, a small airline based in Kunming, Yunnan Province posted a blog with photo on Internet, allegedly showing three men shoveling snow off a plane belonging to the airline at Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport in Central China's Henan province.
The blog reported that its flights were delayed because workers had "dug the wrong plane out of the snow.”
While the blog went viral all over China, a worker at the airport by the name of Shi Shufang, said the post had left them confused because he had noted that actual snow at the airport was not as heavy as that shown in the picture.
When he called the airline to check, they told him that the blog was just "a humorous way of easing passengers' anxiety about flight delays," Shi said. Snowfall caused 99 delays and 137 cancellations at the airport in Zhengzhou that day, a local media report said.
We admit it's borderline humor, especially if you aim to ease anxiety among passengers who are about to fly in such foul weather, but writing this story under a palm tree in Singapore, all we can say is: "well done Lucky Air, you made my day."

Damn, wrong plane.

URINE IN THE HOLD

- And now, boys and girls, we want to discuss a rather delicate matter which has come to light at British Airways, although we fear the matter is more widespread, pardon the pun, and involves practically every airline in the world.
We're talking here about the practice by baggage handlers of peeing, weeing or plainly urinating in aircraft holds, because the lads can't be bothered to trek back to the airport building to use a toilet. We hope you get our drift.
Quick on the ball to spot a good story, British media - with one under the headline "It's not weesy-jet", reported last month that BA's baggage handlers were ticked off for relieving themselves in the massive belly holds of B747s, a practice the airline fears, could "burn" holes in the fuselage, because urine is highly corrosive and engineers are said to have discovered several areas of flaking metalwork on the inside of planes.
Understandably, BA's public relations folks were quick to add that there is no suggestion any aircraft were in danger. But one more compassionate BA source was also quoted as saying: “Basically the guys were taking a leak in the hold when they were caught short. You can understand it."
As is usual with this kind of a chuckling topics, Brits were quick to respond with comments, like this one from "Mark", who queried "Is this why my bag is always wet at baggage collection?" or from Peter Pan, who suggested "How about placing a mobile porta-loo on the tarmac near the plane then removing it when the plane is unloaded/loaded."
Not a bad idea, Peter, not bad at all, because when '"you have to go, you have to go."

No BA aircraft in danger because of weeing handlers

WICKED

- Talking about shameful behaviour, we hear that a recent Emirates flight from Seattle to Dubai was delayed for over six hours after it was unable to use a spare part made available by Delta Air Lines.
Emirates located a replacement hydraulic part, which costs only about US$300, at Delta’s SeaTac maintenance base and it was fitted to the B777 and the aircraft cleared for use.
However, after finding out the Delta spare part had been installed in the Emirates plane, a senior manager from Delta’s Atlanta base ordered the part to be removed and returned. As a result, the flight was further delayed until Emirates sourced a replacement part from Alaska Airlines.
“It is sad, in our view, that any airline would deny such standard technical assistance to another carrier based on orders from headquarters that had nothing to do with maintenance or cost, but seem clearly to have been intended to inflict harm on the airline and its customers,” an Emirates spokeswoman said.
Come to think of it, there are some "bad dudes" at Delta. Punch Bag readers, no doubt, will remember that these folks also tried to disrupt the inaugural of Qatar Airways in June last year when the airline started service to Atlanta.
Upon arrival, an A380 full with dignitaries, guests, media and regular passengers, could not dock at Atlanta Airport's only A380 gate, because a Delta A320 was using it. Qatar Airways CEO Al Baker described the lack of service "wicked", probably as wicked as an earlier decision by Delta not to renew its sponsorship of Atlanta's famed Fox Theatre, because the venue hosted a Qatar Airways party celebrating the start of service from Doha to Atlanta.
But topping Delta's pettiness with Gulf carriers by a large margin were of course the comments by former Delta CEO, Richard Anderson, who infamously linked the carriers to the horror attacks of 9/11 in a CNN television interview in 2015.

Emirates Boeing 777 at Sea Tac

PARACHUTE PARCEL DELIVERY

- Although delivery drones will remain a niche market for several years, according to a recent report by U.S.-based research group Gartner, a new patented Amazon package delivery system could create a boost for this still expanding market.
The patent (number 9,567,081), which has been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last month, envisages a system where packages fitted with "pneumatic actuators, electromagnets, spring coils, and parachutes" will be forcefully ejected at their final destination from a drone, while it continues its flight.
Amazon engineers argue that this would make the delivery process faster and also mean that you don’t need a landing site for the drone, but other experts point out that packages dropping out of the sky are likely to present some unique logistics and legal problems, not in the least in densely populated areas.
The parachute parcel delivery system is just one of the many patents that have been granted to Amazon as the online retail giant has been on a drone and transportation spree over the past year. In December, the company was awarded a patent for delivery of packages from a giant airborne warehouse that floats some 45,000 ft in the air and is recharged and restocked using smaller aircraft that shuttle to the dirigible.
Sounds fantastic and surreal?
One of the patents that was awarded to Amazon last year was for a system that would allow drones to land and hitch a ride on a truck. UPS earlier last month demonstrated just that, so look out for your floating warehouse in the sky and while you're at it, duck for the parachute parcel delivery.

Amazon's floating warehouse