Climate change to intensify transatlantic turbulence

Scientists are predicting that changes in the Earth’s climate will ultimately increase the levels of turbulence experienced by transatlantic airline passengers and increase the cost of tickets, according to reports today.

Reading University scientists have been studying the North Atlantic corridor, the main flight route between North America and Europe for 600 flights per day. With the help of a supercomputer they have been plotting the expected changes to air currents above 10km in altitude, including the jet stream. Global warming has already caused these winds to intensify and become less stable, and this phenomenon is expected to intensify still further over the coming years.

The net result of these changes to the atmosphere is that by the middle of this century, transatlantic flights will be bumpier, and the extra fuel that airplanes will need to battle against or fly around the stronger currents will force an increase in ticket prices.

In a report by BBC News, Reading University’s Dr Paul Williams said, ‘It’s certainly plausible that if flights get diverted more to fly around turbulence rather than through it then the amount of fuel that needs to be burnt will increase. Fuel costs money, which airlines have to pay, and ultimately it could of course be passengers buying their tickets who see the prices go up.

‘The probability of moderate or greater turbulence increases by 10.8 percent. Moderate or greater turbulence has a specific definition in aviation. It is turbulence that is strong enough to bounce the aircraft around with an acceleration of five metres per second squared, which is half of a g-force. For that, the seatbelt sign would certainly be on; it would be difficult to walk; drinks would get knocked over; you’d feel strain against your seatbelt.’

New Euro rules give more rights to air passengers

The European Commission is set to introduce new rules that will give more rights to air passengers.

The Commission has laid down new rules that make European airlines more liable for a range of customer services issues, including long terminal delays, runway delays and lost baggage. Scheduled for implementation by 2015, the new rules will put the onus on air carriers to reroute passengers with a competitor airline if they have been delayed for more than 12 hours and no alternative aircraft can be located.

Delays on board the aircraft due to congested runways are also addressed, with a ruling that when such delays last an hour, the airline has a responsibility to provide toilet facilities, drinking water and air conditioning, and if the delay extends to five hours, passengers must be allowed off the aircraft.

Other amendments that address issues that have long been a bugbear to passengers include the right to use the return part of round-trip ticket without having used the outbound; where a name is incorrectly spelled on a ticket it must be amended free of charge; and an explanation for any delay must be issued no later than 30 minutes after the aircraft’s scheduled takeoff time.

Financial compensation becomes due to passengers on EU or international flights shorter than 3,500km when they are delayed by more than 5 hours; on flights of 6,000km that are delayed for 9 hours; and for flights of a longer duration that are delayed by 12 hours.

However, airlines only have to pay for a maximum of three nights hotel accommodation for extended delays, and with regards to complaints, they have a week to acknowledge receipt and a maximum of two months to provide a formal reply.

Siim Kallas, EU transport commissioner, was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying, ‘It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper. We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong. We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting.’

The proposals will be subject to approval by EU member states.

Air Travel Will Not Replace Online Communication, Says Study

Social media may be changing the way people communicate, but it will certainly not replace air travel, a verdict that comes as a relief to Airbus, an aircraft manufacturer.

A survey conducted by the company, for which around 1.75 million respondents were questioned, revealed that in the future people will still be keen to travel by air, and meeting with others physically will not be replaced by online communications.

By 2050, around 63 percent of people worldwide will be flying more than they are doing currently, according to the survey results. While 60 percent of respondents do not think that social media will replace physical meetings between people, around 40 percent of respondents feel that air travel is now becoming quite stressful, and round 96 percent demand sustainable or ‘eco-efficient’ air travel.

Charles Champion, the executive vice president of engineering, at Airbus, said, ‘Aviation is the real World Wide Web. The results of the survey show that there is nothing better than face-to-face contact. The world is woven together by a web of flights that creates ever-expanding social and economic networks: 57 million jobs, 35 per cent of world trade, and USD2.2 trillion in global GDP.

Since we launched the ‘Future by Airbus’, we have engaged with people in 192 countries in a dialogue about the future of air travel. This resulted in our revolutionary Airbus Concept Plane and Cabin, which offer a glimpse into some of the innovations that could meet evolving passenger trends and environmental considerations. It’s clear that people are really excited about the future of sustainable flight and we want them to be part of shaping that future.’

 

Spainair facing legal action after leaving thousands of passengers stranded

The Spanish government has launched legal action against airline Spainair after it stopped operations on Friday, cancelling 220s flights, which left 22,000 passengers stranded.

The airline according to the government, has violated Spain’s aviation regulations, and legal proceedings could lead to Spainair facing fines of up to €9m (£7.5m) for two ‘serious infringements’.

Development Minister Ana Pastor has confirmed the action after the airline – owned by a consortium based in the northeastern region of Catalonia – stopped its operations due to a lack of funding.

Officials revealed that the decision to close was made after the regional government – which holds a controlling stake in the company – announced it was unable to fund the airline.

The Catalan government named the ‘current economic climate’ and ‘European legislation concerning competition’ as the major factors which influenced its decision.

Last week Qatar Airways pulled out of talks to buy a stake in the airline, which according to the Catalan regional government destroyed Spainair’s only rescue plan.

The company has been searching for new investors since November and reports revealed that Qatar Airways was interested. The company employed around 2,000 staff and used the services of around 1,200 ground staff.

For some years the airline had struggled to compete with low-cost carriers operating in the country.

In 2010 the airline reported an operating loss of around €115m (£96m) and only survived due to finance provided by the Catalan government and private investors.

In Brussels, the European Low Fares Airline Association has announced that any of its members – including Ryanair and Easyjet – that fly overlapping routes with Spainair, would offer stranded passengers special discounted fares, which are subject to seat availability.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

2011 revealed to be safest year for air travel

With just two weeks left of 2011, figures have shown the year to be the safest for air travel since records began.

 

A study by the International Transport Association (IATA) has revealed the number of fatal air crashes fell from 23 in 2010 to 22 this year, as a result the number of deaths have dropped significantly.

 

Last year 786 passengers and airline crew members were killed in air accidents, however the figure dropped to 486 this year.

 

Gunther Matschnigg, senior vice president for the safety, operations and infrastructure at IATA said: “As of the end of November, global safety performance is at the best level recorded, and is 49 per cent better than the same time last year”.

 

Figures for the IATA date back to as far as 1945, when the collation of records began.

 

European flying has been exceptionally safe this year, as no fatal crashes have occurred on European soil so far this year.

 

North Asia is the only global region to have an unblemished year.

 

Accident rates have dropped in every region of the world, apart from the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States – Russia and the former Soviet republics), where records show 1.39 crashes per million take-offs have occurred.

 

However in 2010 the region reported a crash-free year.

 

In 2011, the global accident rate stands at 2.16 crashes per million take-offs.

 

According to statistics Africa remains the most dangerous continent in which to fly. This year, the accident rate for the country stands at 3.93 crashes per million take-offs, however this is an improvement when compared to last years figure of 8.26.

 

Until the 30th November, Africa had held an unblemished fatality record.

 

Mr Matschnigg added: “Overall, African performance is 52 per cent better, that is a great achievement”.

 

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Less than 23 per cent of all air passengers cite terrorism as a cause for concern

Terrorism is no longer the most worrying aspect of air travel according to a survey released by Travel Daily Media as part of its ‘2011 Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey’

While less than 25 per cent of travel professionals cited terrorism as their major fear, the majority 54.2 per cent cited technical safety followed by 42.4 per cent who said they were more concerned by turbulence or adverse weather conditions.

A further 33.9 per cent cited pilot/crew proficiency.

Polling just 23.7 per cent, terrorism was the fourth largest source of concern.

On the subject of current airport security measures, exactly half said they believed these to be ‘about right’.

More than a third however, still believe that airport security is ‘too stringent’ (28.3 per cent or ‘much too stringent’ (8.3 per cent). Only 13.3 per cent thought that security at airports is ‘too lax’.

Continuing the theme of airport security, it is interesting to note that 48.3 per cent of respondents were in favour of full-body scanners, while 46.7 per cent supported biometric data collection. Interestingly, 20.0 per cent believe that racial profiling of passengers should be adopted. The most preferred method of airport security however, is behavioural profiling, which was selected by 56.7 per cent of respondents.

Overall, the majority (88.4 per cent) of respondents said they feel ‘safe’ or ‘very safe’ when travelling by air, and almost the same number (88.3 per cent) have never cancelled or postponed a flight due to safety concerns.

The respondents’ peace of mind was affected however, by the airline they were flying with. More than three quarters (76.3 per cent) said they would definitely reconsider using an airline if it had a poor safety record. A further 23.8 per cent said they may consider such an airline depending on price or flight times, while 5.1 per cent said they said no concerns of this nature.

Unsurprisingly, the major full-service carriers were selected among the most trusted airlines, with Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas and Emirates taking the top five positions.

Despite the fact that many of its airlines have recently come off the EU aviation blacklist, Indonesia clearly still has some way to go if it is to gain the trust of flyers. Indonesian carriers accounted for more than a fifth (21.3 per cent) of airlines respondents felt least safe flying with. Low-cost carriers were cited by 11.5 per cent of respondents.

Travel Daily Media Managing Director & Editor, Gary Marshall said it was heartening to know that, as the world marks the 10th anniversary of the terrible events of 9/11, that such pointless acts of terrorism are not affecting confidence in air travel.

“It is also interesting to note that most people now accept the increased safety measures at airports, and are embracing new ways of keeping our skies safe. While the aviation industry can always improve its safety record, the measures we are taking now will only serve to boost aviation security and consumer confidence, ” he said.

The Travel Daily Aviation Safety Survey was an online poll conducted throughout the month of August 2011, and gathered the views of 244 travel trade personnel from across the world.

The largest share of responses came from Southeast Asia (34.4 per cent), followed by Europe (24.6 per cent), the Middle East (13.1 per cent) and Australia/NZ (9.8 per cent).

Most respondents were experienced flyers, travelling by air more than 10 times per year (36.7 per cent).