Full flight, empty town
Yes I would like to report another completely full flight EZY8627 from Gatwick last week.
I was very happy to be back in Majorca. On Sunday I visited as usual the weekly market in Alcudia and was alarmed that not only the supermarket Eroski was closed but the whole town. Every shop in the centre seemed to boarded up for the winter, just a newsagent and a couple of cafes were open. When will Majorca realise that we don’t all want to sprawl on beaches, but enjoy the countryside and all the beautiful things your landscape has to offer?
It would be nice if a few shops and restaurants took note.
Spring and autumn tourism
While your drive for winter tourism is commendable, I do think is is a long way off on a cold, wet day like today when all there is to offer are poorly insulated accommodation with no central heating or carpets. It doesn’t help that the restaurants and shops are closed while the only late night drink you can get is cough mixture from the chemist.
I believe a more pressing issue is that of spring and autumn tourism. The cheap flights and the value for money rooms start at the beginning of April, while all the businesses are open and expectant owners are waiting to do business as the sun beams down. And they wait and wait. Because the tourists do not start arriving in numbers until mid-May, six weeks after the spring offers and sunshine began.
The same applies to the end of the season. The flights and hotels are open until the end of October and, as you said so yourself, the weather is wonderful. However, business owners have waved goodbye to their last customers three weeks earlier.
In summary more should be done to promote the spring and autumn breaks when all but one of the elements of a productive season are in place. But the missing element is the most important; it is the tourists.
The Ryanair in Winter
The publicity given to Ryanair’s recent comments, through the MDB, on the reduction of winter landing charges here at Palma airport has brought a number of comments from both journalists and readers regarding the thorny subject of winter flights. Ryanair, keen as any other airline, to reduce its operating costs, did not say that it would provide more flights if these charges were to be reduced. The conference was essentially a PR exercise, and a very effective one too if judged by the exposure given the following day and by Frank Leaver’s article of today, Wednesday 21st. The conference was aimed, I imagine, at re establishing the airline’s credibility after the past, near, disasters created by the CEO Michael O’Leary; I blush when I recall many of his condescending references to Ryanair’s customers and air travellers in general. After two profit warnings, in as many months, at the end of 2013, Michael O’Leary adopted a low profile and since then Ryanair has focused on building a more acceptable image and regaining its position with the Spanish Aviation Authority; well done David O’Brien, If there are two Blarney Stones then David kissed the right one.
David O’Brien merely said that reducing landing charges would make it easier for airlines to provide more flights. It is all about minimising costs while continuing to maximise income by charging the highest fares acceptable to the market at a particular time. A parallel situation would be if a small town offered Waitrose a rent free large store and free car park, no doubt they would be happy to open a supermarket on that site but still market their products at the same price as their other stores.
Thanks to Ryanair, the subject of winter flights is again to the forefront. It would seem, from all the comments appearing in the MDB that people are more concerned with the difficulties of, and the extra time involved with, having to take an extra flight to Barcelona or an extra flight or rail journey from one of the only four UK winter destinations. In all the letters and articles I have read in the MDB, I cannot recall anyone saying that winter flights are too expensive; and some, over the Christmas period, are expensive. If this is indeed the case then there is no commercial justification for the airlines not to provide a winter service to all, or most, of the normal UK summer destinations, albeit at a reduced frequency depending on demand. In fact this would amount to some thirteen airports in addition to the four already served in winter. To provide one flight per week to each destination would require just one aircraft making two returns flights per day, which is certainly not over utilisation of the available resources. Obviously, should demand require more seats to be available, then two or more return flights would be required to some or all of the destinations thus requiring two or even more aircraft.
How much will all this cost and how much will be saved in time and effort. Considering only journeys from Palma to Newcastle and Glasgow, other destinations will by around the same, the cost of making a two flight trip (via Barcelona or a present UK airport) during mid week, including the extra cost for baggage on the second flight, is about £115 to Newcastle and £80 to Glasgow. These costs can be considerably more depending on the time of the day and the day of the week. In terms of time, and depending on the frequency of flights in and out of the connecting airport or train times, this can be anything from eight hours to fourteen hour on a good day.
Direct winter flights from Palma to the UK, and considering that the aircraft will be only some 65% full rather than the 85% which airlines use to set average fares, the cost should work out at around £94 for a single journey with a time, from Palma to the selected destination, of about two hours thirty minutes. Of course, should the passenger load creep up to 85% the fare could be reduced to about £72.
Another option, not forgetting our friends in Minorca and Ibiza, is to route some flights through one or other of these airports. Unfortunately the cost of adding an extra sector would require thirty six passengers to join the flight at either Minorca or Ibiza and the time would be increased by one hour and fifteen minutes making the whole journey time to the UK in the region of three hours and forty five minutes. However, through passengers would stay on board the aircraft and their hold luggage would remain in the aircraft hold.
Without getting too carried away, another possibility is to offer a ‘super’ class for up to say thirty six passengers. These passengers would occupy two abreast seating, normally used for fifty four economy passengers as three abreast, but as the aircraft, even at 85% full, will have twenty seven spare seats, no revenue will be lost. This super class would be easily converted back to six abreast seating when required. The cost of this ‘super’ class could be provided for around £135 and would include:
Extra leg room – 31 inches rather than 29 inches
Two abreast seating – aisle and window with a table in between
Normal cabin bag plus a smaller bag (computer, brief case or shoulder bag)
Dedicated bag drop at check-in – no waiting so later arrival at airport
Last to board and first off with hold luggage first on baggage reclaim carousel
Normal charge for hold baggage but 25 kgs allowance rather than usual 20 kgs
Free snack plus unlimited coffee or tea
Dedicated cabin crew member
Missed flight insurance – if at the airport within four hours of departure
The cost of those extras which can be added to a normal economy seat booked on other airlines, amounts to about £55. For the £135 super class fare, all the foregoing can be enjoyed plus extra luggage weight, extra cabin bag, two abreast seating, luggage first at baggage reclaim and a dedicated cabin crew member.
The money generated from this super class could reduce the economy fare by £1 to £10 depending on the number of seats sold in super class.
Which airline will offer such a super class? Probably none but perhaps a new Balearic airline, jointly owned by the government and the large hotel groups or whosoever, can provide the answer. But that is another story.
The above suggestions have been explained in, what I hope are, simple terms. The whole subject is very complicated and involved, but I feel that enough has been given to show the possibilities available and perhaps the way ahead
What is Mr Moore’s seeming obsession with attracting a never ending stream of people, of whatever type, to the shores of Majorca come winter, autumn, spring.. oh and summer? He bangs on and on about it, ad nauseam, as if the residents of this island (indigenous or otherwise) want nothing more than to be inundated by even more tourists 365 days a year. The measure of something’s quality - as in that of “life”, is not always determined by some sort of endless need to reassure oneself of one’s own popularity. Mr Moore would be well advised to recognize this, along with the fact that this island already attracts more tourists than almost any place of its size on the planet. Please let us enjoy the cyclical nature of this wonderful island without being repeatedly told how much better it could be if Ryanair were flying a multitude of uninterrupted flights into Palma airport every day of the year.