Air Travel

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I grovel before my readers and beg their forgiveness. I have not posted for two weeks.  What kind of a spiritual leader am I?!  How can people know what to think of the world if I am silent?!

My only excuse – a lame one – is that I was:

  • finishing my 4th novel (‘Bobby Shafter’) subject only to a final read-through-cum-editing and then proof-reading by my sister Peeje;
  • preparing to travel to Yerevan, capital of Armenia, for a 5-week consulting assignment; and
  • undertaking that travel, together with Mrs SG.

So we are now in Armenia.  Getting here did wonders for my stroppiness quotient.  First of all, having taken the time to select two aisle-seats at the Qantas website for our long overnight flight to Dubai, we were allocated two different ones.  Then, when we asked for interlining of our luggage to our final destination, the check-in clerk had never heard of Yerevan.

We’ve been through Dubai Airport several times and it’s always been difficult to find our way to the terminal for our departing flight. Signage is minimal and directions given by the helpful, friendly staff don’t always work.  The shuttle bus delivered us to a building bearing a big sign that included our gate number, so we got out and looked for it.  That’s how we discovered that Dubai has two sets of ‘F’ gates.

From Dubai to Yerevan we flew FlyDubai, which is a no-frills regional airline. The toilet was free but we had to pay to get a luggage allowance that came close to the one we had on the Qantas/Emirates code-share flight into Dubai; pay to get food and drink on-board; and pay if we wanted entertainment beyond month-old screen-shots of the front page of the local newspaper.

Security is always a hassle and we expect that. But why are the requirements at different airports so different?  Some don’t require removal of laptops for screening and some do require removal of belts.  Some others want shoes, hats and wristwatches to be removed.  Why isn’t this standardised?!  If there’s a sane explanation I’d be glad to hear it.  Anyone…?

Disruptive Technology

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Disruptive technologies are scary.  Uber is one of the scariest, in Australia anyway, because many people have invested 6-figure sums in taxi licences on the assumption that their value can only go up.  Airbnb is another one.  People have invested millions in hotels, meeting all the health, safety, traffic management and other government requirements, only to find that anyone with a spare room is a potential competitor.

My view is simple. In the long run the most efficient way of doing something will always displace the other ways.  Vested interests will howl in pain and rage, and for a while they will hold back the incoming tide.  But eventually, as King Canute found out, they will have to yield.

I remember attending a conference 20+ years ago at which the late James Strong, then CEO of Qantas, argued for a lifting of the ban on Qantas carrying passengers between Australian airports.  The purpose of the ban was to protect the Ansett/TAA duopoly of domestic routes, and it meant that Qantas was flying half-empty ’planes around.  It couldn’t go on forever and it didn’t.  Economic and commercial rationality prevailed – as it must in the taxi and accommodation sectors.

Instead of emulating King Canute, governments should:

  • Create sensible regulatory frameworks for the new technologies, to ensure public safety and payment of taxes.
  • Review the rules and taxes that make it hard for established businesses to compete on equal terms with the disruptors.
  • Ease the pain for the people whose lives and businesses are unexpectedly disrupted, eg by buying back taxi licences.