Closed in winter
I think F S Jessop (letters 24 Jan. – I think) has some good points to make. His observation of ‘no demand, hotels close - no demand, no flights - no demand, no winter activities available’ is valid, but which comes first. I would suggest, as I have suggested before, that the Tourist Board start the ball rolling by advertising ‘Winter Majorca’, together with all the activities which are available here, on UK TV and in newspapers and magazines.
In this weekend’s UK national newspapers, the travel sections had several pages of destinations, but not one made any reference to Majorca or the Balearics. As you are aware, I have little knowledge of how tourism works, but I am sure there has to be more than constantly quoting statistics, which often contradict each other, and going to trade fares. Do they talk to the hotel groups? Do they talk to the airlines? Do they get out and see what is available in winter?
I spent two nights at Lluc Monastery last week, and yes the weather was sunny, but it was fabulous in the Tramuntana Mountains and very good value for money. Add to that the recent rise in popularity of cycling and the wonders of Palma, and surely that can be used to launch an advertising campaign. Julia Blunn, the airport manager here for the TUI Group, who wrote a very good article in Sunday’s MDB, and David Carson (Letters to the Editor 21 Jan.) who is a Professor Emeritus in Tourism Marketing, would no doubt be useful to the Tourist Board. All this depends on whether, or not, the ‘Establishment’ wish to develop tourism rather than maintaining the status quo so that hotels can close for the winter period. I use Henry Fairlie’s description of establishment, meaning not only the government centres of power, but the whole matrix of official and social relationships within it.
Getting to and from the UK in winter
To clear up the points which F S Jessop raised regarding my recent letter, I will reiterate that in order to make a very complicated subject readily understandable, I used very broad generalizations when quoting costs, fares and passenger numbers over a range of possible routes. In order to give a comprehensible account of what is involved in operating an airline, my figures were very simple and taken over a five months winter period. F S Jessop used just one specific return flight over two specific days (Palma - London Stansted - Palma) to quote a 25% discounted fare of £45. In fact over a two weeks period in early February, and ignoring the higher fare period of the school half terms, the lowest fare I could find was £52 with an average of £98. These fares are before any extra charges for extra leg room, early boarding, seat selection, hold baggage or extra baggage weight (Ryanair only allow 15 kgs) or profits from ‘on board’ sales.
Taking a low average of theses extras increases, the effective average fare is increased by at least £15 each way or a total return fare of £128 and this, according to F S Jessop, is for a full aircraft. Add to this the additional return fare to Glasgow and the average return fare becomes £205; travelling via Bristol to Newcastle the fare becomes £270.
My quoted average fare of £94 one way, or £188 return, was based on the aircraft being only 65% full, i.e. 117 passengers on a 180 seat aircraft. If my aircraft was 85% full (this is the average load factor for all Ryanair flights), then the return fare to Glasgow, or indeed anywhere else in the UK, comes down to £144 and that is without taking all the extras into consideration which, of course, would further reduce the fare. It gets more complicated the further one looks into the situation.
The other problem which further complicates travelling for passengers who use Stansted, Gatwick, London City, Bristol or Liverpool (the only five winter destinations from Palma), for onward flights to their preferred destinations is that unless the passenger is fortunate in having someone who can drive them to the airport, they are subject to the timings of onward flights or train services. I assume that F S Jessop’s view that flights via Heathrow (London) are the best way to travel to other UK destinations is a ‘slip of the pen’. Heathrow has no direct flights to Palma. Therefore I assume that London City, London Stansted, London Gatwick were his intended London airports.
The UK destinations of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds Bradford and Birmingham are served from Barcelona with flights from 3 to 5 times per week. Barcelona is served by 10 return flights per day from Palma making the average return fare from Palma to a UK destination between £200 and £280. Holders of a Balearic Resident Certificate can expect a reduction of about £35 on these fares.
Good idea for Scotland
Les Cash’s (letters 25 Jan.) made a good suggestion for easyJet introducing a service from Glasgow or Edinburgh to Palma via Gatwick with through passengers staying on board and their hold baggage remaining in the hold. That would be good but I doubt if easyJet, or any other low cost carrier, would consider this or something similar. Airlines schedule their aircraft to achieve the maximum revenue and allowing hold luggage to remain on board is not in their best interest.
Easyjet charge between £22 and £42 per 20 kgs bag for a return flight and Ryanair between £30 and £70 for 15 kgs. Excess weight is charged at £10 kg by both airlines. The actual cost of checking in, loading and unloading the bag is about £8 return and the cost in fuel of carrying a bag is about £2.20p. Enough said.
Reducing landing charges at Palma
Karen King’s recent letter appeared to agree with the Ryanair proposal to reduce landing charges at Palma and, along with that, an increase in flights and reduction in fares. The latest landing charges available indicate that for the type of aircraft used by most low cost airlines the charge would be some £650; this is for using the runway and the local air traffic control services, there is no fee for take offs. Assuming the normal 85% load factor that would equate to £4 per passenger but it is very unlikely that an established airline would get more than a 25% reduction which in turns gives just £1 off the fare. The landing charge here at Palma is very much in line with other European airports. Whether Ryanair, or anyone else, would pass that onto the passenger is debatable. If Ryanair with 300 aircraft were to get a similar discount from every airport from which they operated, that would earn an extra £67 million per year. Easyjet have 200 aircraft so would only make £45 million!!
The Balearics own airline
An article in MDB reported on a feasibility study being carried out ‘to give the Balearics their own airline’. The body in charge of this is MES and Biel Barcelo of the Barcelo Group of hotels is their spokesman. Although the study is primarily to look into inter island services, it was also reported that it would look into international flights during the winter.
If this is in fact the case, then what progress has been made in the intervening eight weeks? A feasibility study was carried out some time ago looking into the possibility of such an airline providing services between Palma and the UK. This study was completed, by one person, in seven days. The study can be revised at any time to reflect changing conditions; so why the delay on the MES study which, presumably, is being carried out by a people who have considerable knowledge of airline matters and easy access to the various authorities.
The problem with operating a small airline, using under six aircraft, is that if successful, other larger airlines will poach the routes and undercut the fares, thus driving the small airline to reduced profits or most likely into debt. Having achieved this aim, the larger airlines have a monopoly and will be free to reduce services and vary fares as suits them best. It is therefore essential that the Balearic government and local enterprises, which are most likely to gain by such services, have a substantial stake in any new airline. Even if the airline operates initially at a loss, the overall effect in terms of hotel occupancy, restaurant and bar trade and increased employment, will hopefully offset the investor’s loses. The past failures of just about every wholly owned government airline would suggest that a government involvement of 49% and local enterprise involvement of 51% would be the way forward.
A further consideration is that an airline’s base airport, in this case Palma, invariably give 100% discount in landing charges, and possibly good discounts on other services, until the airline starts to make a profit. All this is subject to lengthy discussions with the airport authorities and as such as not be included in the UK services feasibility study.
Hugh Ash and the Jews
I always look forward to Sundays and reading Hugh Ash’s comments in the Bulletin, because he is one of the few writers who brings common sense to any topic.
His views on the Jews leaving Europe made me sad and I cannot imagine how much of a loss it would be if they were hounded out by anti-Semitics.
Though Hugh didn’t say as much, to me it seems much of this is the result of immigrants coming from the east and bringing their prejudices with them.
Much more has to be done to educate them and make them understand only goodwill towards other faiths is the way a multicultural society can survive in harmony, because hatred is never the answer.
For the last 12 years of my career I was lucky enough to work for a Jewish-owned business and I was treated with wonderful respect and generosity. In that time I met many Jews and I have only warm memories of them for their many kindnesses.
I really cannot understand anyone being anti-Semitic.
Great piece (again!) on Sunday by your guy, Hugh Ash.
Can I suggest a sequel and he looks at the vile, vicious tirade of anti-Semitic bull**** pulped out daily by the Arab media, which the Holy Joe Lefties of the West conveniently overlook when screaming abuse at the Israelis.
I’m recently back from a study trip to Egypt and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears at what I saw, read and heard on local TV, radio and the papers.
All the age-old anti-Semitic lies are trotted out daily, like Jews killing Arab kids to steal their organs and that debunked Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the fantasy ‘Jewish plot to take over the world’ – is a best-seller.
This is the kind of online garbage that helps push gullible kids into the clutch of Islamo crazies and if we’re going to stop more home-grown terrorism we have to stop this Jew-hate filth first.