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Clipping The Airlines' Wings Would Do Us All A Favour: John Humphrys

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Clipping The Airlines' Wings Would Do Us All A Favour: John Humphrys

Old 25th Nov 2001, 14:35
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The Guvnor
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Angry Clipping The Airlines' Wings Would Do Us All A Favour: John Humphrys

From today's Sunday Times.

John Humphrys: Clipping the
airlines' wings would do us all a favour

The death of the airline industry was announced in those dark days following September 11. If not the death, then at least the end of its extraordinary growth. The new fear of flying would see to it. For once it seemed that the gloomy forecasters had it right. Americans stayed at home. If you were brave enough to cross the Atlantic you could
travel in roomy comfort — even in the ghetto of economy class.

Each bulletin brought news of another airline going bust. Those national carriers that managed to struggle on cancelled so many orders for new planes that Boeing sacked thousands of people. So did the airlines. Some said they were pulling a fast one. They’d been losing so much money that they were already in serious trouble and they were blaming the terrorists to try to squeeze compensation from their governments. My, but it’s a cynical old world.

There’s no denying that it has been a tough time for the airline industry. Six thousand people who worked at Heathrow — one tenth
of the workforce — lost their jobs. So what, pray, are they doing announcing a new terminal at Heathrow? Have they gone mad? Here we have an industry on its knees and the government blithely announces that it has accepted the recommendations of a planning
inquiry to go ahead with a massive project that will cost a fortune and blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who live near the airport.

No, they have not gone mad. The terminal will be built because an inquiry was persuaded that it is needed. It was right. However much
the most badly managed airlines may bleat and whine, air travel is not on its knees. Its death has been prematurely announced.

Unless, God forbid, there is a repeat of the New York horror, it will continue to do what it has been doing for half a century. It will grow and grow and grow. And that is a crying shame.

To say its growth has been extraordinary is an understatement. In its first year Heathrow handled 63,000 passengers travelling on 2,000
flights to 18 destinations. Last year it handled 62m passengers travelling on more than 1,000 flights a day to 220 destinations. In the next 10 to 15 years it is estimated that the number of people travelling through all British airports will double. By the middle of the century this figure may increase tenfold.

That is great news for the industry and especially for the only people who are making any money at the moment, the low-cost operators, but it’s bad news for almost everyone else.

We all smiled at the silliness when a European court ruled last month that our human rights included the right to a decent night’s sleep and that right was infringed by night flights. But there is nothing funny about aircraft noise. Studies show that children who live under flight paths suffer from poor memory and have greater difficulty learning to read. And it’s no good saying that people knew what to expect when they bought their houses. Many did not.

Over the years people living near airports have been consistently misled with false promises about the number of flights.

We all pay a price for air travel. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says aircraft are responsible for a sizeable chunk of the pollution that causes global warming. The more flights, the more fuel burnt, the bigger the contribution. The new generation of sonic cruisers that will fly in the stratosphere at 45,000ft are going to damage the ozone layer, too. So that will add to the risk of skin cancer when we finally flop on to the beaches we have flown halfway
around the world to get to.

Ah . . . the beaches. What would all those foreign countries do if we stopped flying to their beaches? The World Travel and Tourism
Council estimates that foreign holidays of one sort or another account for no less than 11% of global GDP. It has produced scary
figures showing how many jobs would be lost and how different countries would suffer if there were even a modest fall in tourism. I

The estimate assumes that we would stop spending the money. I can’t help feeling that we might spend it on something else instead.
We might buy things from shops — things that have to be made in factories. Or we might even spend a bit more on holidays in this
country. I wonder how many people have never been to Scotland or even God’s own country on the other side of the Severn Bridge.

Good for us, maybe, but not so good for some of the world’s poorest countries. We are told they would be in great trouble without all that revenue from foreign tourists. Again, I wonder. The most popular holidays are still package deals, and a great appeal of package deals is that you know what they will cost you. You know because almost everything is paid for in advance.

You end up in a compound (optional sentries and watch towers) where you eat, drink and make merry. The food and the booze may well have been imported by the owners of the compounds. Hence there is no incentive to go and risk a gippy tummy by eating something dodgy at the bar in the village nearby. So the local economy gets nothing out of it — except a few jobs at rock-bottom wages for the young women who clean the rooms.

A couple of years ago the Gambia got fed up with it and tried to ban all-inclusive holidays. Most of its holidaymakers were British. They simply went elsewhere — many of them to the Caribbean, where they found what they wanted. Last year the Gambians backed down. Holidaymakers can now enjoy all-inclusive packages there with the added bonus that high perimeter fences keep out all those young hustlers who try to sell them things. Can’t have the locals spoiling our holiday, can we? And if each guest in those air-conditioned hotels uses more water in a week than the average local family would have used in a year . . . well, there’s always a price to pay.

But, of course, travel broadens the mind. Maybe real travel does. Modern tourism narrows it. The old cliché of the Red Barrel- swigging lout on the Spanish costa dies hard. Some years ago the king of Spain remarked wryly that the British ought to give Gibraltar back now that we had taken over the Costa del Sol.

Flying is not the great liberator that we had imagined it would be. It has made possible a new kind of cultural imperialism. It pollutes the atmosphere. It makes life hell for people living under flight paths.

And yet we still treat the industry with an exaggerated respect and grant it concessions enjoyed by no other industry.

Fill your small car with petrol to drive to your granny’s and most of the bill for it goes in fuel duties. Governments defend the tax by saying we should use cars less to protect the environment. Fill a vast jumbo with fuel to fly a bunch of businessmen across the Atlantic and the airline pays not a penny in tax. So much for the environment.
It takes a mighty large fleet of family saloons to do the damage of one jumbo.

A tax on aviation fuel might mean fewer passengers. Good. Those businessmen would be better off staying at home and using a telephone or e-mail or video conferencing anyway. We could probably double our business productivity if we put to better use all the time spent by all those middle-ranking executives in airport lounges and business-class seats. We might even use some of the money raised to improve public transport on the ground.

Ah, but we must protect the airline industry. Why? Industries exist to do us good. We don’t exist to do them good. If anything was symbolic of our absurd approach to air travel, it was the return to service of Concorde. The media coverage was hysterical.

Yet Concorde is a monster. Beautiful, yes, but still a monster that allows a few clapped-out pop stars and overpaid businessmen to save a couple of hours at great cost to the environment. Our cost.

By all means let us admire its beauty. So let’s plonk it on the spare plinth in Trafalgar Square where it can do no more damage. And let’s park some of our outdated attitudes to the airline industry alongside
Old 25th Nov 2001, 15:18
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Hear hear, Mr Humphrys. A superb piece of work.

I vote for the world-wide imposition of an aviation fuel duty at levels equivalent to those on car fuels. This must be concomitant with world-wide removal of all duty on booze and fags.

No need, then, for a terminal 5. No more will my wife's hairdresser and her aircraft refueller boyfriend (sorry ... partner) be able to afford their drunken orgies in Antigua. Flying will become one of The Guvnor's 'privileges and not rights'. Good show!

We can keep the good old pound, and spend it in dear old Blighty.

Mrs tilii (that's right ... we are actually married ), an environmental scientist, tells me that our current progress will inevitably lead to these things in any event. Why not cut the corner and save ourselves the heart-ache?

Again, well done Mr Humphrys.

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: tilii ]
Old 25th Nov 2001, 23:32
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Mr Humphrys is right, of course.

But businessmen will continue to fly because eye to eye negotiations can’t be replaced with video conferencing, holiday travellers will continue to fly because their holidays are affordable, people will continue to be impressed by the appeal of flying, whether on Concordes or on more modern machines, and governments will continue to support the airlines because although aviation is global, airlines are not.

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: Gantenbein ]
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 00:47
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Mr Humphrys

If you read this site then I would just like to say that you sound like another bitter sad old failed pilot turned journo.

As with any form of journalistic media you report should have been neutral and informative.
But as a "lower than a snakes belly" journalist you are incapable of fair, honest and balanced news.
You reverted to type and contrived a biased and ill thought out story just to waste yet more paper.

I as an unemployed pilot require T5 and increased slots and night flying at LHR and any other airport to stimulate demand.

Lets have a look at some of your ill conceived comments.
"Ghetto of economy class". How dare you some of us don't have big TV wages or work for TST and have to pay for our own tickets.

"And yet we still treat the industry with an exaggerated respect and grant it concessions enjoyed by no other industry". By the way, I subsidise you and that outdated monolith the BBC with my unjust TV licence and the Beeb has been protected long enough from the harse real world.

"A tax on fuel might mean fewer passengers" Good! You really are stupid and arrogant as this will mean 1000's more of unemployed aviation personnel. What would you say to them when they can't afford Christmas for their nearest and dearest or can't afford the mortgage?

Oh and by the way here's somthing even a failed pilot like your can understand.

Have you considered that a package holiday is all that some can afford or that All Inclusive and sitting inside a compound is some peoples choice.

Heathrow is the worlds busiest International airport and along with Concorde (how dare you criticise something you not worthy of looking at) is something Britain can be proud of. We should build up to Terminal 10 and put down another 5 runways and fly all night. Why? well because there is a demand and it creates employment for 10,000's of people.

Your a horrid little man commenting on a very complex industry which you failed to get into. In Other words FOXTROT OSCAR and just keep giving us bad news every evening on TV to a world that needs chearing up (how can you live with yourself).
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 00:58
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Have another beer, flaps to 60, and be cool. If you mean what you've said above then you are a sad git. Your profile suggests that you are no such thing, so why the venom?

Humphrys is entitled to write whatever his editors are prepared to put to print. If you don't like that, why don't you write to the Sunday Times. Let's see if they'll print their reply. Should make a good read.
Old 26th Nov 2001, 01:32
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Flaps to 60

I'm sorry you're not working at the moment, the strain and worry must be terrible. But your abuse does no credit to either you, or our industry.
Just because people hold views with which we stringly disagree doesn't make them stupid.

You may not agree with John Humphrys (nor do I) but he's none of the things you accuse him of being. He's not just a newsreader and, whatever faults he may have, he's certainly not stupid. Try listening to him doing his day job - taking evasive politicians apart on the 'Today' programme on Radio 4 in the morning!

[ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: virgin ]
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 02:19
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W.r.t. 'Just because people hold views with which we stringly disagree doesn't make them stupid'

Really ?!
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 03:15
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As a pilot I do sometimes feel guilty for the 18 tonnes of Co2 my machine pumps out on the way to Rome.....

Tilii, if your other half is right about global warming etc then it is very worrying. CH4 had a programme on this subject and they reckoned the cycle would be self perpetuating & unstoppable within 50 years.
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 03:16
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From your profile I assume that you are an Airline Pilot. You have obviously seen that I am a flying instructor who is waiting for thier big break.

On September the 10th things were looking rosey maybe in the not too distant future I too would kiss the sky above the clouds. One day later the whole world changed. The fact is people are not travelling and Mr Humphrys is not helping.
Yes I mean what I said and if that makes me a sad git then consider me the saddest (BTW your git comment was just as venonmous as mine to JH but I'm big enough to take it).


If I earn £100 this week I will be lucky so yes the strain is very intense and it is affecting my marriage.
Maybe I was a bit strong but you can see from the above why. Mr Humphrys has been stupid, to involve his personal opinions on a subject he seems not to have properly investigated. He has thrown lots of figures into his article but no facts. If 1m people read it how many will be convinced by his vitriolic remarks that flying is bad and decide not to travel.
He is excellent at taking politicians apart and his articles in TST have been average but I am just sick to the highest at yet another fame and scoop hungry journo having a "pop" at aviation which puts passengers off and therfore my chances of flying something a little bigger than a C150.
Think about it. How many jobs have been lost because of Bad Press? Remember Excalibur? Had the press and TV not made that report about the tech MD11 at MAN then maybe just maybe they would still be around. Remember C4's report on the BA pilots. Yes they were wrong for drinking but how fair was the rest of the report. As if that was not bad enough they then hounded them out of thier next job. Did they not pay enough for thier mistakes. I have no respect for journalists because to them why should the truth spoil a good story. and I firmly believe that if JH and all the other story tellers were to give aviation some good press for once then I will be employed now.
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Old 26th Nov 2001, 03:47
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flaps to 60

Your assumption is right, and I did not know you were looking for your first break. I offer the following for you to ponder:

    FWIW, I wish you well in your future endeavours.

    [ 25 November 2001: Message edited by: tilii ]
    Old 26th Nov 2001, 04:00
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    Mr. Humphry is one of the new elitists. He thinks he knows what's best for everybody else . . . only if it doesn't affect him. Why should common people be able to have affordable vacations where they can relax and enjoy themselves? Why should he be concerned with the thousands good jobs associated with the aviation industry, not to mention the tourist industry in the UK? Sure! Tax all the oil as a method of consumption control! Taxes on petrol in the UK aren't high enough yet, right.

    Foolishness like the drivel he wrote doesn't deserve dissemination. What an idiot.
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 05:27
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    1) I have been trying for a number of years now to get a job, came close a couple of times but learnt from the experience each time. Of course the airline industry is cyclical and I truly believe that things will sort themselves out next year.
    It is not bitternes I suffer from but pure unadulterated frustration.

    2) I am also accutely aware that being a pilot is not a bed of roses. Maybe I will get cheesed off flying but I'll make sure I have a damm good time up till then.

    3) Totally aware that obl (refuse even to put his initials in capitals) is to blame for current situation but Mr. Humphrys is not helping with his self interest attack on what is a beleagured and needs a friend industry.

    4) Honestly, no offence taken I've been called worse both on these forums and in life. I have a thick skin and know that I will get worse when I do eventually start airline flying.

    5) This is a particulary bad week some have been better some worse. Like most instructors we want to be where you are but if I have to take the shyte that goes with it then so be it. Don't get me wrong I enjoy instructing and I'm learning plenty.
    At least I get to fly and I'm in the right environment. As for the missus the problems we are facing are that she is as hacked off as I am about MY situation. She puts up with the stop aviation has up till now imposed on our lives. We have a very strong relationship and I would only trade her in for a B777 type rating. Joking apart she is quite literally the wind beneath my wings at the momment.

    6) My intention was not to defend a badly run airline but to highlight the fact that the press may just have pushed it over the edge with an inaccurate and sensationalist report.

    tilii, thank you for your advice and good wishes. You never know I might end up as your co-pilot one day and from this thread I think many good humoured debates could take place in the bar. And as for being cool,I'm captain cool except when it comes to the anti aviation press.
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 10:19
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    A bit off the topic, but as for the US media: you folks who receive CNN or watch other US channels have some idea of how the media here (or there?) repeated the same shocking videos many, many times. For weeks they have tried to have much of the public believe (quite often by implication, innuendo, distortion etc) that there could be anthrax anywhere and everywhere... Walking through airports which have tvs, one could only see CNN and everytime you looked, "the war on terror" or "US at war", "attack on ther US" etc. This was airports' "entertainment" for those waiting to board a plane. Not just in Detroit(KDTW), where you often must pass so many gates between flights. I was fed up with it soon after 9/11.
    So many of our "experts" have never "worked", that is, worked outside of the university office or lecture hall, except changing a flat tire, or mowing the grass. My First Officer on a trip last week has such a father-in-law who thinks he really knows our jobs, but has only taught aviation in a classroom, or at times visited a simulator or ridden on a cockpit jumpseat.

    The US media's unlimited thirst for higher ratings, which equals more advertising revenue ($$, francs, pounds, marks, schillings, yen... ), has contributed very much to the public's fear about airline travel. No matter what our FAA and US airlines do right or wrong regarding airport security, the public feels helpless and is very gullible, often believing almost anything they see on tv.

    Flaps to 60: I'm glad you are flying often and building valuable experience. Despite your frustration, at least you are also the PIC (when you later upgrade to captain on a bigger plane and first return home, a wife might say "you are the captain, but I'm the general"). The pay and living standard might be worse if you instructed over here. No matter what your higher pay is later, believe me, it will disappear fast, some of it will simply evaporate.

    [ 26 November 2001: Message edited by: Ignition Override ]
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 15:09
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    This article might help you understand the myth of media.

    Humphreys is infact one of the few who stand outside the "Agenda Setting Group", although he seems to be banging on the door to be let in occasionally....
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 16:00
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    I read Humphries article in the times and have to say i thought it typical of his rather low-brow output. Although JH does a lot of high profile interviews on radio 4 his whinging, sanctimoneous, negative always-moaning style is typical of many journos these days. The format is nearly always the same and while it sounds inquisatorial in reality it is never pressed hard enough to really make the pips squeek! Naughtie does a better job. What Humphries ignores is the fact that air transport is growing at a fearsome rate so new facilities are required. Its underinvestment in public transport (as detailed in a full two page spread in the same copy of the times) that got this country into the sorry state its in with regard to transportation. The current crisis in aviation is just that; current. It will blow over soon and the industry will be in better shape than ever with some of the dead wood cut away. Humphries short term outlook, dont do a five year project (like T5) because of a short term problem such as we have on our hands at the moment is typical of his sensationalising, and patronising manner. If he has nothing useful to say he should keep his smug trap fuggin shut!
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 16:32
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    Is it any wonder these articles are written when airlines show such a scant regard for the enviroment.
    Aircraft flying round in circles burning fuel because it is cheaper than sitting on the ground at their departure airfield.
    Wasting tonnes of fuel and causing pollution by ferrying fuel throughout the world.

    The airline industry is not exactly grabbing the initiative so far as the enviroment is concerned.
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    Old 26th Nov 2001, 16:32
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    Yes, JH does make some illfounded observations in this article.
    The theme however, touches a very valid point; How long is the exponential growth in aviation going to be globally sustainable in EVERY sense (not just environmental).
    There is a day of reckoning coming for any industry completely dependant on the turning of black gold into noise and pollution.
    ....or so said the prophet of doom.
    A third runway at LHR would go a long way to reducing that noise though......
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    Old 27th Nov 2001, 03:45
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    I guess that Mr Humphry's is going to walk to his next war, insurrection, disaster, famine, **** up. Alternatively journalist's can all stay at home (or in the pub if they prefer), and do there work by watching the telly. We never should have left the comfort and safety of the tree's. Save the planet, hug a journalist.

    Harry hates journalists, car salesmen, estate agents, lawyers, environmentalists, nimby's, politicians, and so called freedom fighters.
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    Old 27th Nov 2001, 03:59
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    John Huphreys has got it exactly right. Bring back the days of flying boats, lounges, bunks, daytime only flights, quality hotels overnight, passengers with manners, style, class, etc and we shall make progress. up until then NOT!!!!!!!!
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    Old 27th Nov 2001, 04:19
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    John Humphreys is obviously an idealist. If he wants to point out everything that is wrong with the world he would be busy writing from know until the sun runs out of hydrogen. So what? Aviation is what it is and it will continue to be a valuable part of the global economy. Perhaps no other sector as a whole contributes more to global commerce than aviation.
    As for emissions. Even extreme environmentalists concede that the overall effects of aviation is minniscule compared to the overall global industrial vomiting of exotic gases in to the atmosphere.
    To those who live near Heathrow ( or any other airport); move.
    Any thinking person knows that we are racing toward extinction on this planet. Aviation will have a very amall part in that.
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