Referendum blues

I have got the referendum blues.

This EU referendum is one of the most serious decisions that the British people will be asked to make in their lifetimes, but many people simply do not know enough about the EU to make a properly informed decision.

So instead people are mislead by a mixture of vested interests making random speculations while having to campaign alongside people that they would traditionally disdain.

Cameron and Corbyn on the same STAY side. Bizarre. Boris – who made London a European capital leading the LEAVE campaign. It makes no sense.

The more the STAY campaign postures the more it must tempt people to want to see what might happen if BREXIT wins.

Would property prices really fall 18%? And if you are not a home owner and would like to be, then that might just be good news.

Would the UK enter recession? Who knows. The trouble with this whole referendum is that no one knows what will change and what will not.

Both sides roll out everyone from corporate business to minor celebrities in their cause. The heavy hitters have been out as well – the governor of the Bank of England, US President Barack Obama, the World Trade Organisation – even today the OECD, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have said that Brexit is going to be bad.

But we really do not know – it is just speculation. The arguments are often irrational and polarised.

There is a part of my that is curious to see what would happen. Would the great European experiment come to an end. Would BREXIT lead to a Bigger-Exit?

After all this is a referendum that should never have happened. In 1975 the UK voted to sign the Treaty of Rome and to enter the EEC as it was then.

But Cameron thought he needed to appease the pro UKIP faction in his party before the last election so committed to this referendum.

So the Brits are stuck with a referendum in which it’s almost impossible to sort fact from fiction, which is based on incredibly complicated economic and geopolitical arguments, and which most people have little hope of making a fully informed judgement on.

What a waste. And what a risk.

It may be that Cameron is a natural Brexiteer, but as PM he is now talking of the disaster than will befall the nation if it votes for Brexit. Political expediency.

On the other side Boris Johnson leads the LEAVE campaign not so much because he believes in it but as a leadership challange. Winner takes all in what will be a desperately fractured Tory party. I cannot imagine that Jeremy Corbyn is really pro Europe but he is the Labour leader. His version of the campaign is therefore not to say much about anything.

The debate then, such as it is, has become political posturing between a group of middle-aged men.

Like a school debating society where you have to argue the opposite case to the one you actually believe in.

The latest polls suggest that the LEAVE group have a slight lead – with a likely turnout of about 60%.

So in lieu of an informed debate on the merits or otherwise of Britain’s role in the EU the debate has become mainly about immigration and little else. The Express readers will be out in force.

Despite my curiosity for what would happen if we leave the fact is that something this important should never have got this far.

If we leave, then Cameron will go down in history as the Prime Minister who ruined Britain for a generation or more.

As a nation Britain has always taken a keen interest in what is happening on our continent. Britain has fought on behalf of a free Europe. Britain has always sought to retain our seat at Europe’s top table. Our trade, culture, security political interests have always been closely allied to Europe. It makes no sense to think otherwise. It is a small little island on the edge of a large, mainly prosperous, forward-looking continent.

So why would Britain want to vacate our seat at Europe’s top table. Britain would lose its voice by leaving an empty chair. Irrelevant Britain. Once mighty – now a closed nation of bitter people living off past glories. How sad.

Worse now the debate has started there really is no good outcome to this referendum. Either way it won’t stop the arguments.

The right answer is to stay and play. There will be more to say before June 23rd.



South Africa – lots of questions – few answers

The last week was my first ever visit to South Africa.

I had never wanted to visit through the apartheid years. I was upset when my parents went there for a visit and never really forgave them for that.

But apartheid is past; reconciliation has been led by many who were oppressed.

It is a fascinating country to visit – but the problems are clear to see.

The first problem is simply image. I received countless messages telling me to stay safe, be careful etc.

Yet, everyone we met was unfailingly friendly and welcoming; from the car watchers to the business owners.

But did I feel truly safe? That is a hard question when everywhere that you visit or stay has such obvious security. Homes are like fortresses; protected by walls, electric fences, electronic access gates, cctv and alarms threatening armed response. There are security guards everywhere you go in Cape Town. And of course there are the guys who will watch your car for a small tip.

Yet we walked around most towns without any difficulty or intimidation. That said, we were on the tourist trail and there are some places where it would clearly have been less than wise to stop and explore. We did most of our exploring by day rather than by night.

This was out itinerary for the week – we flew into Johannesberg and connected on a domestic British Airways/Comair flight down to Port Elizabeth. Picking up a car in Port Elizabeth we drove for one night in each of Jeffreys Bay, Knysna, Swellendam, Hermanus and Franschhoek before spending two nights in Cape Town and then back to Dubai.

Total driving distance was 1,100kms.

But that does not do the trip justice so some more details are needed.

Overnight flight before we landed in JNB – easy through immigration and a longer walk to the domestic terminal. Checked in. No queue at security – it was early on a Sunday morning – and then rested for an hour in the Bidvest lounge. The lounge was excellent. Great collection of food and drink and lots of places to rest.

Comair is a British Airways franchisee and it is strange to fly domestic in South Africa on a BA airplane – a nice 737-800. Not very busy.

Port Elizabeth is a very small, quiet airfield. A bit like flying into Phitsanulok in Thailand. It really was that quiet.

Picked up the car and drove to down to Jeffreys Bay. Checked in to our Stone Olive guest house. Next to the golf course. Nice room. Ocean View. Quiet.

Then out to a late lunch. One of the best meals of the week. Kitchen Windows beach restaurant. Great service. Friendly people. Excellent fresh seafood. Bottle of decent chardonnay.

We were asleep by 8pm!

Monday morning we set off for Knysna. Basically a drive down the N2. We had booked a trip around the Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve. Lovely sunny day. Animals out in the wild. Hippo. Rhino. Giraffe. Cheetah. Lion. Crocodile. Wildebeest. Zebra. All sorts of deer.

An open truck – 8 passengers including four Saudis who were trying to ruin the trip for everyone. No respect for the tour guide. Noisy. Rude. The guide got angry with them and they behaved a little better.

At Knysna we stayed in the quirky Turbine Hotel – a conversion of an old power plant on Thesen Island. Lots of clever touches in the hotel. Rooms are small but very comfortable.

Dinner at nearby Sirocco was disappointing. The restaurant has a good view of the lagoon and is alleged to be the fanciest restaurant on Thesen Island. It was cold. The food was dull. And the restaurant near empty. OK; it was a Monday in the quiet season but that is no reason to give up on quality.

A long drive on Tuesday from Knysna to Swellendam via Wilderness and a lunch stop in George so that Tai could go to Ocean Basket. We had our only rain of the week in George and it was cold and windy there.

Again the driving was easy and some of the scenery spectacular.

Swellendam is inland. About half way from Cape Town to George and is the third oldest town in South Africa. Our guest house – Schoone Oordt Country House – was fabulous. We were greeted with drinks and home made cake. The room was large. The pets were friendly. Breakfast was classy. And our car was cleaned and waxed in the morning. It was a rental – it had never been treated that well! Thrifty should be grateful.

Lovely people – nice place to stay. We ate out on Tuesday night at the recommended Drostdy restaurant. Modern South African cooking. Tai ate Springbok and Ostrich. Warm restaurant in a traditional, old building.

Wednesday was sunny again – and it was time for a quick nine holes of gold on the course overlooking Swellendam and beneath the mountains. We almost had the course to ourselves. The scenery was stunning. The golf less so. Rental clubs! Loved the walk and the fresh air.

Then a shorter drive back to the Whale Coast at Hermanus. La Fontaine Guest House. Huge room. Right on the sea front drive. Short walk to town and teh restaurants. Dinner at the Fisherman’s Cottage restaurant. The folks at the next table were from Gstaad and knew all about Le Rosey and I suspect know many of the staff and parents. Dinner was good.

A really scenic Thursday morning drive back inland to Franschhoek; the smalles and prettiest of the wine district towns. We were able to check in early to Maison Chablis – the French influence is everywhere in the village. James made us very welcome.

A very short walk into the village to catch the 11.15 wine tram – one of four wine tram routes that tour around the large and small vineyards around the town. Tasting rooms in each vineyard and many of them have attached restaurants although many were closed midweek in the winter season. It was a lovely sunny, blue – sky day. Some wine, some sunshine. Tai was asleep by 7pm. No dinner for me. But it was a fun day.

20160526_184645 20160526_174917

And on Friday we were out early to drive to CapeTown. But we avoided the fast route and instead took the coastal road. And it was a really fun drive.

We drove through Stellenbosch, and joined the coast near the township of Khayelitsha. Past Muizenberg and down the Indian Coast of the peninsular south of Cape Town through Kalk Bay and SimonsTown down to Boulders Beach – where we stopped to see the penguin colony gathered there.

ABC_3466 ABC_3464 ABC_3440Then we crossed over to the Atlantic side and drove the spectacular Chapmans Peak Road through Hout Bay to finish at 2pm when we checked into the Vetho Villa on Camps Bay. We had the Honeymoon Suite. Huge. Nice balcony. Ocean and 12 Apostles view.


We had to be at the V&A Waterfront by 4pm as Tai had booked us onto CapeTown Helicopters for their 24 minute two oceans flight. Way too much fun.

Cape Town Helicopters 124 Cape Town Helicopters 128 Cape Town Helicopters 130
Pictures from Cape Town Helicopters

We took off and flew down the Atlantic Coast – and crossed the peninsular to fly up the Indian Ocean coast and back into the City. Views that you could never be bored with.

And I got to sit up front with our pilot – Stephen. Flying helicopters is fun! My next hobby!

It was my birthday and Tai had booked dinner in Camps Bay – on the beachfront a short walk from our hotel. The food at ZenZero was a bit uninspiring. But it was a nice evening. Though why leave the restaurant doors open when it is falling to 12C outside.

Saturday was explore Cape Town day. The city centre on Long Street, the cable car to Table Mountain and back downtown through Camps Bay to the V&A.

Dinner was poor Italian at the end of our street. Col’Cacchio Pizzeria – honestly I have seen better looking staff canteens.

And so back to Dubai on Sunday. Cape Town airport is not busy and is very user friendly. Long flight back to Dubai.

So it sounds ideal. However the “but” is big. South Africa has so much potential. But all is not growth and harmony.

The following comments are going to be simplistic; it takes more than a few paragraphs to address the issues faced by this nation. So forgive the simplicity —  this is really just meant as an overview and some observations.

It is only 22 years since the first post apartheid government was formed in 1994.

Wikipedia simply states that South Africa today is a developed country and a newly industrialized country.Its economy is the second-largest in Africa (Nigeria is first – oil), and the 34th-largest in the world. In terms of purchasing power parity, South Africa has the seventh-highest per capita income in Africa.
Poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day.

And the disparity between those who have and those who have not is very obvious and visible. Simplistically, it was not until we reached Cape Town that we saw black people eating in the same restaurant as us.

It also became quickly clear that anyone who might regard themselves as a home or business owner is taking remarkable measures to ensure their security. Homes and business are in gated, secure communities or behind walls and fences; often electrified and always with an alarm system. The private security industry in South Africa is the largest in the world, with nearly 9,000 registered companies and 400,000 registered active private security guards, more than the South African police and army combined.

Nearly 50 murders are committed each day in South Africa. In the year ended March 2014 there were 17,068 murders and the murder rate was 32.2 per 100,000 – about five times higher than the global average.

Violence is less obvious in the tourist areas with serious crime more likely in the townships. But caution is necessary.

Many emigrants from South Africa also state that crime was a big motivator for them to leave; a quick poll of the many South Africans working in Dubai would confirm this.

The Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver has some data on South Africa that is alarming. The good news is that over the next thirty years there will be significant progress and that feels right – the potential is huge:

Infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births – Deaths per Thousand Infants
2016: 51.64
2030: 41.03
2060: 16.07
Life expectancy – Total – Years
2016: 51.45
2030: 57.23
2060: 71.86
HIV infection, rate, percentage of adult population – Percent
2016: 10.78
2030: 8.787
2060: 2.877
Population, aged more than 65 years – Million People (an ageing population will put pressure on health care systems)
2016: 3.141
2030: 4.322
2060: 8.501
Population in urban areas – Million People
2016: 35.01
2030: 43.23
2060: 53.28
Population with income less than $1.25 per day, log normal computation (using 2005 ICP based survey data) – Million People
2016: 5.354
2030: 4.332
2060: 2.234
Population with income less than $2 per day, log normal computation (using 2005 ICP based survey data) – Million People
2016: 13.87
2030: 11.82
2060: 6.812
Of a total population of: Million People
2016: 52.82
2030: 55.26
2060: 60.86

South Africa needs time. After decades of discrimination and apartheid economic and social growth needs to educate and employ the majority black population. It needs to visibly make them richer and safer. But growth has not been fast enough and the wealth has not spread widely enough. And that is all too visible – townships; people sitting around town with nothing to do and no where to go.

The 2008 recession hit South Africa hard. More jobs were lost. But the problems lie deeper than simply racial redistribution. The education system needs to produce more skilled people. The country has instead been importing skilled labour from other African nations. In 2007 four of every five maths teachers in South Africa were from Zimbabwe (source: Africa- Richard Dowden).

AIDS has also taken its toll on the young population. 11% of the adult population are infected with HIV. The low life expectancy is driven by this figure and those that are sick cannot (mostly) afford the retroviral drugs necessary for life.

South Africa is caught in a race between expectation and economic growth. To date economic growth has been too slow; further measures are needed to improve infrastructure, strengthen the business environment, improve labour markets and ensure future spending needs can be financed.

Opening up state monopolies to competition is a starting point to secure additional electricity generation capacity and investment in all forms of transport.

How to finance public spending is an issue. Tax reforms that solidify public finances and make the tax system fairer are required. Encouraging private and foreign investment; creating an SME friendly entrepreneurial environment.

South Africa is in many ways remarkable. A stunning looking country. Rich in resources. Rich in history and culture. Vibrant. Possibly a genuine rainbow nation.

Its transition from apartheid to a modern, liberal constitutional democracy was remarkable; conducted face to face by brave men with a vision and with compassion. Mandela built bridges between peoples. He became the guiding spirit for his nation and the continent.

The current government has lost that vision behind their own individual ambitions and greed. It needs to revisit the 1994 constitution that governs the nation and promotes “the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism and non-sexism.”

With so much at stake it would be a tragedy to lose Mandela’s vision and faith.

I am happy that I last I have visited this remarkable country; but I am happy I left it until now.





The Economist on “The breakdown of Arab states”

defence roundabout 2002DSC_9482

Dubai’s defense roundabout – in 2002 and 2011. The UAE has benefited hugely from an early realization that it’s economy was unsustainable if solely dependent upon oil.

The Economist marked the 100th anniversary of the Sykes-Picot mapping of the Middle East with this provocative editorial. It is a worthy read.

Europe and America made mistakes, but the misery of the Arab world is caused mainly by its own failures. (The Economist – 14 May 2016)

When Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot secretly drew their lines on the map of the Levant to carve up the Ottoman empire in May 1916, at the height of the first world war, they could scarcely have imagined the mess they would set in train: a century of imperial betrayal and Arab resentment; instability and coups; wars, displacement, occupation and failed peacemaking in Palestine; and almost everywhere oppression, radicalism and terrorism.

In the euphoria of the uprisings in 2011, when one awful Arab autocrat after another was toppled, it seemed as if the Arabs were at last turning towards democracy. Instead their condition is more benighted than ever. Under Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt is even more wretched than under the ousted dictator, Hosni Mubarak. The state has broken down in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Civil wars rage and sectarianism is rampant, fed by the contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The jihadist “caliphate” of Islamic State (IS), the grotesque outgrowth of Sunni rage, is metastasising to other parts of the Arab world.

Bleak as all this may seem, it could become worse still. If the Lebanese civil war of 1975-90 is any gauge, the Syrian one has many years to run. Other places may turn ugly. Algeria faces a leadership crisis; the insurgency in Sinai could spread to Egypt proper; chaos threatens to overwhelm Jordan; Israel could be drawn into the fights on its borders; low oil prices are destabilising Gulf states; and the proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran might lead to direct fighting.

All this is not so much a clash of civilisations as a war within Arab civilisation. Outsiders cannot fix it—though their actions could help make things a bit better, or a lot worse. First and foremost, a settlement must come from Arabs themselves.

Arab states are suffering a crisis of legitimacy. In a way, they have never got over the fall of the Ottoman empire. The prominent ideologies—Arabism, Islamism and now jihadism—have all sought some greater statehood beyond the frontiers left by the colonisers. Now that states are collapsing, Arabs are reverting to ethnic and religious identities. To some the bloodletting resembles the wars of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Others find parallels with the religious strife of Europe’s Thirty Years War in the 17th century. Whatever the comparison, the crisis of the Arab world is deep and complex. Facile solutions are dangerous. Four ideas, in particular, need to be repudiated.

First, many blame the mayhem on Western powers—from Sykes-Picot to the creation of Israel, the Franco-British takeover of the Suez Canal in 1956 and repeated American interventions. Foreigners have often made things worse; America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 released its sectarian demons. But the idea that America should turn away from the region—which Barack Obama seems to embrace—can be as destabilising as intervention, as the catastrophe in Syria shows.

Lots of countries have blossomed despite traumatic histories: South Korea and Poland—not to mention Israel. As our special report sets out, the Arab world has suffered from many failures of its own making. Many leaders were despots who masked their autocracy with the rhetoric of Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine (and realised neither). Oil money and other rents allowed rulers to buy loyalty, pay for oppressive security agencies and preserve failing state-led economic models long abandoned by the rest of the world.

A second wrong-headed notion is that redrawing the borders of Arab countries will create more stable states that match the ethnic and religious contours of the population. Not so: there are no neat lines in a region where ethnic groups and sects can change from one village or one street to the next. A new Sykes-Picot risks creating as many injustices as it resolves, and may provoke more bloodshed as all try to grab land and expel rivals. Perhaps the Kurds in Iraq and Syria will go their own way: denied statehood by the colonisers and oppressed by later regimes, they have proved doughty fighters against IS. For the most part, though, decentralisation and federalism offer better answers, and might convince the Kurds to remain within the Arab system. Reducing the powers of the central government should not be seen as further dividing a land that has been unjustly divided. It should instead be seen as the means to reunite states that have already been splintered; the alternative to a looser structure is permanent break-up.

A third ill-advised idea is that Arab autocracy is the way to hold back extremism and chaos. In Egypt Mr Sisi’s rule is proving as oppressive as it is arbitrary and economically incompetent. Popular discontent is growing. In Syria Bashar al-Assad and his allies would like to portray his regime as the only force that can control disorder. The contrary is true: Mr Assad’s violence is the primary cause of the turmoil. Arab authoritarianism is no basis for stability. That much, at least, should have become clear from the uprisings of 2011.

The fourth bad argument is that the disarray is the fault of Islam. Naming the problem as Islam, as Donald Trump and some American conservatives seek to do, is akin to naming Christianity as the cause of Europe’s wars and murderous anti-Semitism: partly true, but of little practical help. Which Islam would that be? The head-chopping sort espoused by IS, the revolutionary-state variety that is decaying in Iran or the political version advocated by the besuited leaders of Ennahda in Tunisia, who now call themselves “Muslim democrats”? To demonise Islam is to strengthen the Manichean vision of IS. The world should instead recognise the variety of thought within Islam, support moderate trends and challenge extremists. Without Islam, no solution is likely to endure.

All this means that resolving the crisis of the Arab world will be slow and hard. Efforts to contain and bring wars to an end are important. This will require the defeat of IS, a political settlement to enfranchise Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, and an accommodation between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is just as vital to promote reform in countries that have survived the uprisings. Their rulers must change or risk being cast aside. The old tools of power are weaker: oil will remain cheap for a long time and secret policemen cannot stop dissent in a networked world.

Kings and presidents thus have to regain the trust of their people. They will need “input” legitimacy: giving space to critics, whether liberals or Islamists, and ultimately establishing democracy. And they need more of the “output” variety, too: strengthening the rule of law and building productive economies able to thrive in a globalised world. That means getting away from the rentier system and keeping cronies at bay.

America and Europe cannot impose such a transformation. But the West has influence. It can cajole and encourage Arab rulers to enact reforms. And it can help contain the worst forces, such as IS. It should start by supporting the new democracy of Tunisia and political reforms in Morocco—the European Union should, for example, open its markets to north African products. It is important, too, that Saudi Arabia opens its society and succeeds in its reforms to wean itself off oil. The big prize is Egypt. Right now, Mr Sisi is leading the country to disaster, which would be felt across the Arab world and beyond; by contrast, successful liberalisation would lift the whole region.

Without reform, the next backlash is only a matter of time. But there is also a great opportunity. The Arabs could flourish again: they have great rivers, oil, beaches, archaeology, youthful populations, a position astride trade routes and near European markets, and rich intellectual and scientific traditions. If only their leaders and militiamen would see it.

flydubai to move to DWC by end 2017…inshallah!

Flydubai will move its entire operation to Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International at Dubai World Central (DWC), by the end of 2017, freeing up space for Emirates to grow at Dubai International.

Dubai Airports confirmed the move in its recent quarterly DWC traffic report. Traffic will continue to grow in part because of the “planned move of flydubai’s entire operation to DWC by end of 2017,” chief executive Paul Griffiths said in the release.

This is the first official confirmation of when flydubai would move to DWC.

It has long been understood that flydubai would be the first major airline to move to DWC. This website has consistently argued that it has to happen sooner rather than later.

flydubai has consistently resisted this move for many very good reasons. It currently operates just a handful of daily flights from DWC.

As the major operator at DXB’s low cost terminal two flydubai is not taking terminal space from Emirates. But most valuable of all flydubai has many arrival and departure slots throughout the day including in the peak morning and late night rush hours. These slots are far more efficiently used by a 400 seat Emirates 777 than by a flydubai 737.

This summer, flydubai’s operations account of 19 per cent of all landings and take-offs at Dubai International, only second to Emirates who account for 40 per cent.

The downside is in access to flydubai’s flights and connectivity between flydubai and Emirates.

As reported elsewhere DWC is remote from most of Dubai. There is no rail access and limited bus service. It is some 70kms from the centrally located DXB to DWC.

For many passengers seeking low fares it will be cheaper and quicker to fly from Sharjah on AirArabia then to pilgrimage out to DWC.

flydubai’s routes include many regional points not served by Emirates. Passengers enjoy baggage handling and visa-free connections between Terminals 2 and 3.

It is unclear what percentage of flyDubai’s customers connect with Emirates but it must be significant and a fast visa free transit will need to be established between DWC and DXB to maintain that model and service passenger demand.

It will be mid 2020s at the earliest before Emirates moves its operations to DWC; so the flydubai – Emirates connectivity will need to be in place for almost a decade.

By comparison, Dubai International can handle today up to 90 million passengers a year and will have an eventual capacity of 118 million by 2023.

Capacity at DWC is to increase to around 25 million passengers a year by the mid 2017 to allow for the flydubai move, up from 5 million today.

An alliance for customers or the start of consolidation?

This week saw the birth of an alliance of low-cost airlines in Asia.

The Value Alliance consists of eight budget carriers from the Asia Pacific. The alliance’s major partners are Cebu Pacific, Singapore Airlines affiliates Tigerair and Scoot, and ANA subsidiary Vanilla Air.

South Korea’s Jeju Air, Virgin Australia Holding’s Tigerair Australia, Thailand’s Nok Air and NokScoot are also part of the alliance.

The alliance is dominated by LCCs controlled by Star Alliance partners.

Significantly, major budget airlines not included in the deal are VietJet, AirAsia, IndiGo, Jetstar brand airlines, and Indonesia’s rapidly-growing Lion Air.

It does appear that the main point of the Value Alliance is to help the smaller carriers compete with these bigger players in the market. It may also signal a move to consolidation between the smaller LCCs, perhaps on the lines of the NokScoot partnership in Bangkok.

It is not a coincidence that the alliance has started withing a month of Southeast Asia´s open skies agreement finally came into effect.

Ratification of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) open skies agreements by Indonesia and Laos in April lifted restrictions on capacity and competition, allowing airlines to launch unlimited flights from their home to any point in the region subject to airport slot availability.

The agreement allows airlines to launch any number of international flights as the market can support. AirAsia, for example, wants more international flights from the Philippines and Indonesia.

The biggest feature of the new alliance is that passengers will be able to use a single booking site for flights on all carriers across their different platforms.

They will be able to make all payments for tickets and fees in a single transaction instead of booking each trip or each leg of a trip on different web sites.

The new allies will not be as close as the members of the three main full-service-airline alliances. There will be no code sharing and no sharing of frequent flier benefits by members of the Value Alliance. At least not yet. Some form of Value Alliance membership card is perfectly possible.

Allowing passengers the chance to book in one place will make all eight airlines more competitive with the region’s larger budget players and it will make the ticketing process more convenient for fliers. However, there is no intent for interlining of baggage or to better synchronize flight schedules.

And there is no intention of undertaking activities – such as interlining baggage – that add to the cost base.

Again, not yet.

While members of Value Alliance stretch from Japan to Southeast Asia to Australia, their combined fleet size of 176 aircraft compares with 199 at AirAsia/AirAsiaX, 123 at Jetstar Group, and 108 each at Lion Air and Interglobe Aviation Ltd.’s IndiGo — the region’s biggest budget airlines.

It is an interesting move. Budget travel has and will continue to grow rapidly in South East Asia. But some consolidation is likely.

The Value Alliance web site is here. It is not yet available for flight bookings.



The not-so-good Wife

My seven year love affair with this tv program has ended. Oddly no one else I know watches it. Their loss.

The Good Wife was classy television. Its last episode aired last night. It was a modern rarity – a network made show that had depth and personality.

22 episode series are hard to do – tv dramas are now 8 to 13 episodes and made by the likes of HBO or Netflix.

In the UK the last Luther series was just two episodes.

The ending was not what romantics were looking for; a slap; an irreparable breach of trust and friendship. Alicia did not walk off into the sunset with her new man.

Alicia finishes seven years with nothing; other than an education and an uncertain future. But it is a future that she is better equipped to manage.

She has no job; she has no friends; she has no husband; her family have all left home.

But in reality she does, at a cost, get what she wants. The chance to start her life afresh. She is not dependent upon anyone.

The great thing about this show is how strongly written it was; with very strong female characters. It had at its heart a feminist beat with a message that was about the importance of charting your own life.

Anyway the following letter is from Robert and Michelle King, Creators and Executive Producers of The Good Wife, on the series finale:

Dearest Good Wife Friends,

“Thank you” is easy. “Goodbye” is harder.

Thank you for an extraordinary seven seasons of support, encouragement, and commitment to The Good Wife. To say that we could not have done this without you is an understatement.

This is the second time we’ve written you about the creative decisions involved with The Good Wife:—the first was with the end of Will Gardner; now it’s with the end of the series. Both goodbyes involved difficult decisions, and if you found some value in the earlier explanation, you might find some in this one.

We wanted this series—a series that stretched over 156 episodes—to have some shape, some structural meaning. So after we realized we wouldn’t be cancelled after 13 episodes, we started to devise a vanishing point we could write toward. That structure, in our minds, was simple. The show would start with a slap and end with a slap. Each slap would involve Alicia. This would be the bookend. She would slap someone who victimized her at the beginning of the series; and she would be slapped by someone she “victimized” at the end.

In this way, the victim would become the victimizer. This is the education of Alicia Florrick.

Alicia’s character, to us, was about change. Each season she made choices she could never have made the season before. So over the course of seven years, she became tougher, more powerful, more cunning. Of course, we loved Alicia for this. Each decision made sense in the moment, and we forgave her or congratulated her each time. Even her decision in this last episode—the one that resulted in Diane being hurt—came out of her parental need to keep Grace from following in her path. She didn’t want Grace to put her future on hold in order to stand by Peter.

But together all these decisions, legitimate as they were, added up to a character who was becoming more desensitized to her impact. She was becoming more and more like her husband, and, ultimately, Diane was the collateral damage.

That we found interesting. Over seven years could you completely remake your character? Could a victim become a victimizer?

(By the way, parenthetically, that’s the cool thing about TV. It allows you to develop a concept that more resembles life. A character keeps changing over the course of seven years, but instead of reading about it in a novel over a weekend, you experience it over the actual seven years—with actors who age along with their characters—except for Grace who seemed to be 15-years-old for a few years. Sorry.)

One theme we kept returning to over and over in the series was: politics isn’t out there. It’s not something that happens in D.C. or on the news. It happens in our offices, our homes, our marriages. That’s why we ended the series the way we did. Alicia is no longer a victim of politics. She is someone who takes charge, someone who controls the agenda.

On one level this is empowering. It allowed Alicia to control her fate. But it also changed her. Ironically, at the exact moment she found the power to leave Peter, she realized she had become Peter.

And that’s tragic. Yes, Alicia’s story contains tragedy. We still love her. And we hope you do too. The ending is supposed to be unsettling. But we don’t think characters need to avoid tragedy to be embraced. We were tempted to have Alicia chase after a man in the end—stop him from getting on a train or an airplane at the last minute, hold him, kiss him. We like those endings. But there was something false about it here. It isn’t who Alicia is. In the end, the story of Alicia isn’t about who she’ll be with; it’s about who she’ll be.

There is hope in the ending too—we believe. Alicia composes herself and marches toward the future. The two slaps to our mind are chapter endings and headings. If the slap that started the series woke Alicia up—helped her overcome her naivety about her husband and the world’s corruption—then this second slap wakes her up to her own culpability. The question is what will she do with that?

Anyway, we should leave it there. We loved writing this series. We loved the comedy, the drama, the tragedy. We loved the lion telephone with Glenn Childs’ voice. Elsbeth Tascioni facing off with Bob Balaban. Moo Cow. Eli’s raised eyebrow. The Sexual harassment video Alicia and Will were forced to watch. Will clearing Alicia’s desk. Cary’s trip on mushrooms. Diane’s weakness for guns. The YouTube videos the NSA guys sent back and forth.

It’s hard to not write for these characters anymore. They seem very real to us—as if we’ll turn a corner at the market and find Patti Nyholm there shopping for diapers; or turn another corner and find Judge Abernathy Feeling the Bern.

We’ve had fun. Thank you for having fun with us. We’ve also felt sad. Drama embraces both. So thank you for feeling sad with us too. And mostly, thank you for allowing these characters into your home every week for seven years.

It’s been an honor to write for them, as well as for you.

With all our gratitude and affection,

Robert & Michelle King


Aviation – the next 100 years

Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport – this will look very different in twenty years.

Sir Tim Clark was asked by Aviation Week  magazine to comment on what commercial aviation developments he expects will occur in the next 100 years.

His disappointing response was little more than a plea for greater open skies, allowing EK and other heavyweights to take an ever more global role.

You can read his article in italics below.

To look forward we should look back. It is just 100 years since the first passenger flights; and eighty years ago an  Imperial Airways Hannibal Class Handley Page HP42 passenger flight was landing in Sharjah. To project forward 80 or 100 years we have to regard the A380 as Hannibal.

I accept that advances in technology do not happen at a linear rate. Short segments of phenomenal progress are scattered among decades of boredom.

We can no longer fly supersonic on Concorde. But inevitably in the next 100 years we will be flying supersonic with the ease that we now fly on a 777.

Globalization started in the 20h century. It really started when we found that we could fly. The fact that the two great wars of the century were called world wars is an indication of the changes that were taking place.

Aviation and globalization go hand in hand. But airports are land-grabbing, ever-expanding, expensive-to-run eyesores. The future will be vertical or stol aircraft. Large transports for a growing population and smaller faster supersonic airliners as the new business class.

More personal travel will be by effectively an airborne family car. Probably driverless. Just tell the car where you want to go and the car will be “driven” by satellites.

We will also be in space – as a place to live and work. Though after five decades of exploration, space remains almost completely closed. More humans have won the Nobel Prize (900) than have flown in space (553).

Space will become crowded. Satellites are still a rarity but maybe in the next one hundred years families, cities, universities or companies will build or operate one.

We will start to locate our species on more than just Earth; this may be our most important engineering challenge but will be part of managing our population growth, our global consumption and our need to explore.

In addition protecting our planet and our species from history’s only real significant threat (asteroid/comet impact) should not be overlooked.

Aerospace engineers and researchers will have a critical role in developing technologies needed to achieve both those goals.

These goals will not to met by governments but my curiosity and creativity; by pioneers and entrepreneurs.

30 years ago Emirates airline was a couple of airplanes flying from a desert city that few people had heard of. Today it is the world’s biggest international airline. But it should not be complacent. In thirty years time the world might look very different.

Oddly in his article STC talks about “he early days, (when) civil aviation was considered a public service to bridge continents. Most airlines were state-owned and others, like Pan Am, were supported as instruments of state power.”

The trouble is that is exactly what Emirates is – state-owned and supported as an instrument of state power. The other GCC airlines are similar; indeed some have far more economic support from their governments than Emirates.

The GCC nations enjoy the advantages of geography – in the middle of the Europe, Asian, African triangle. They also enjoy the benefits of labour laws that offer very limited protection to employees and very limited social welfare obligations. It keeps operating costs significantly lower than legacy airlines elsewhere in the world.

The GCC nations also benefit from state funded infrastructures that allow their airlines to fly at any hour of the day from sparkling, modern airfields. It is likely that Dubai will have a new 200 million pax, five runway airport, before poor old London gets a new runway.

But that is about balancing the needs of a country’s citizens against the needs of international airlines and passengers. The UK’s economy is balanced. In Dubai the widely quoted figure is that some 45% of the GDP is connected to the aviation industry.

Just what if we suddenly all stop flying. We connect to eachother through virtual reality. We vacation on holodecks. Is it possible that a more diversified economy is needed?

There seems to be this presumption (and many people in Dubai will argue it) that their airline should be able to fly anywhere that it wishes. It cannot because their has to be reciprocity of benefits from airline traffic rights.

The Canadians would not grant the UAE any additional landing rights. How does the UAE react; by telling the Canadians to leave the UAE and the air force/logistics base that had been established here to support humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan.

If that is not the state acting on behalf of its airline then what is?

STC continues “we need the courage and confidence to compete in the marketplace and resist the temptation to run to governments for protection and state aid.”

The trouble is as outlined above it is not an even playing field. And the GCC carriers are always going to be government supported/protected if only through creating a pro-aviation environment and minimising overheads.

So the bigger picture for the industry is about far more than “liberalization and deregulation”

This is Sir Tim Clark’s article in Aviation week:

The world’s first commercial flight took off in Florida on Jan. 1, 1914, just two years before the first issue of Aviation Week was published. That bi-wing flying boat carried one paying passenger 21 mi. from St. Petersburg across the bay to Tampa, taking 23 min. to complete the journey.

Commercial aviation has advanced a great deal since then, particularly with the advent of the jet age in the late 1950s and early ’60s. And it has changed the way people around the world transact and interact.

Today, our industry transports more than 3 billion passengers and 50 million tons of cargo annually, supporting over 57 million jobs and $2.2 trillion in economic activity. We are essential to the functioning of global economies where goods and travelers can reach cities on the other side of the planet in less than a day.

Although commercial aviation has not traditionally been perceived as an “innovative” industry, progress is evident in almost every aspect of our sector of aerospace.

In the 1930s, when an international flight could cost over a year’s wages in real terms, who would have thought it possible to fly for under $100? Who could have imagined a choice of over 80 airlines at a single point of departure, which is now a reality at airports like JFK, Heathrow and Dubai? Who could have foreseen the growth of global air hubs in Asia and the Persian Gulf, or that Europe’s largest airline would be a low-cost carrier with its headquarters in Ireland?

Technology, the world’s changing socio-economics and market liberalization have been great catalysts for progress—making possible new airline business models and innovation that benefits consumers, businesses, economies and our industry.

New aircraft and engine technologies have dramatically improved flight safety, flying range, payload, efficiency, as well as crew and passenger comfort, while substantially reducing noise and emissions. Technology has also improved air navigation and radar systems, passenger and cargo-processing systems and affected to differing degrees the complex ecosystem that makes up commercial air transport.

Economic progress and the middle-class population boom across Asia have created a tremendous swell in air travel demand, spurring the start of new airlines and shifting the balance of air traffic flows eastward.

In the early days, civil aviation was considered a public service to bridge continents. Most airlines were state-owned and others, like Pan Am, were supported as instruments of state power. Fares, flight schedules, seating and sometimes even the food served onboard were government-dictated and regulated.

The need to liberalize aviation was soon recognized in the U.S. and Europe, with both continents at the vanguard of opening markets. The U.S. launched its Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 and pioneered the industry’s first open skies air services agreement in 1992 with the Netherlands; this sparked similar efforts across Europe through the 1980s and ’90s, and more recently in Australia, the U.K., Scandinavia, and parts of Central and Latin America.

Fast-forward 20-plus years, and unfortunately aviation is still one of the most regulated industries.

It is ironic that aviation, an industry that physically and literally connects the world, is itself one of the least “global” industries. There is still a strong government hand in matters such as airline ownership, operating licenses, market entry and access, airport slot allocation and even fare structures. The many legacy systems and interests still in place today prevent normalization of the industry to the detriment of global connectivity and economic prosperity.

From the EU to the International Air Transport Association and International Civil Aviation Organization, everybody calls for more liberalization but progress on this front is lagging. Instead, the recent spate of protectionist rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic whipped up by a few legacy carriers and their proxies threaten to move our industry backward.

Aside from liberalization, we should also take a long hard look at the entire airline ecosystem and ask ourselves, why—with the exception of recent years, when oil prices are at historic lows—do airlines struggle to deliver decent profits compared to other industries with similarly high barriers to entry?

Are we ready for tomorrow?

As an industry, we still have quite a bit of work to do to ensure we are fighting-fit for the future.

Innovation, speed to market, the willingness to listen to and ability to deliver on consumer preferences are all critical for success in the coming decades. We need to strip out unnecessary complexity and legacy systems that have become entrenched over the years. We need to build our business around our customers rather than archaic systems, and we need to accelerate innovation—whether that is with new business models, new products or new ways of interacting with our customers and partners.

Also, we need the courage and confidence to compete in the marketplace and resist the temptation to run to governments for protection and state aid.

The best environment to foster innovation is one free of government-imposed restrictions, allowing airlines to compete and contest the marketplace. That freedom should also extend to the absence of state aid to airlines that distort competition—whether through government subsidies, loan guarantees, procurement preferences or bankruptcy codes that wipe clean the balance sheets of some countries’ carriers. Policies that support aviation are a plus; programs that prop up individual carriers are not.

Emirates has always championed competition and liberalization. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of Dubai’s open skies policy for consumers, the economy and the airline industry.

Despite the many success stories, liberalization and deregulation in our sector continues to be difficult, with multiple agendas among stakeholders. In my view, this is the biggest single obstacle to innovation and a healthy industry for the future.

It would be a shame if we were locked into the present and unable to reap the potential of increased liberalization or ecosystem efficiencies. But even if we remained at status quo, the digital age and economic advancement in developing markets will continue to open up new possibilities for trade and businesses and new vistas for consumers, travelers and a globally mobile workforce.

The source and cadence of our traffic flows may change, but overall demand for aviation services will continue to grow as our world becomes ever more interconnected, and it is up to us as individual airlines to identify and serve this demand.

I believe that air travel has a big and even brighter future. The progress that we have made to date is heartening, but we still have a ways to go.

Tim Clark, 67, is president of Emirates Airline.