Tag Archives: British Airways

The pope’s mobile is on the clock

 

Hickory Dickory dock, the pope ran up the clock,

The clock struck one, and hit his bum, Hickory Dickory dock.

An old rhyme slightly adjusted and gives light to a joke that mattered, it is old and it goes like:

Q: Why does the pope kiss the ground when he arrives?
A: You’ve never flown with Alitalia have you?

That is where we are, the clock is counting down; Alitalia is on its last legs and merely has two weeks left. As sources report that EasyJet pulled out of the race and even as Delta is still on board, someone needs to be found for the remaining 40% and that is the hard ball, consider on how much of an issue Alitalia is when people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will not take a shine to it, it might be too harsh to call Alitalia a money pit, but that is what is amounts too. The flight market is close to saturated, even as we all needed to fly (quite literally) 20 years ago, the companies started to figure out not to give their profits to the airlines. On a global scale close to 9750 planes were in the air last year at any given time, transporting up to 1.3 million people. The operative part is ‘at any given time‘, so how much travel is required nowadays? In 1998 I was flying close to 21 weeks that year, giving trainings and doing consultancy round the clock, at times living from a suitcase with added support from my laptop giving IT trainings and software training. I circled the planet twice that year, from Amsterdam, New York, Atlanta, Sydney, Singapore, Istanbul, via Munich and back to Amsterdam. I thought it was great and as long as the profits were outshining the costs, my bosses kept on sending me to more locations, it was all fine by me. These days are over, even as we see more and more airports expanding to ‘facilitate’ for more passengers, we see a dangerous curve, Stockholm Arlanda is expanding to facilitate for 40 million visitors a year. The numbers give us that the top 25 carriers facilitated for 13,718,655 passengers and if they are all tourists, that would be fine, yet the business side is not adding up. You see 15 out of the 25 had a decrease the went up to 27.3%, the lowest 10 were below 4.5%, still they were all still decreases and the largest increase came from Riga, Latvia.

Now consider that on the other side, on the airline side, apart from the element where we see that Alitalia had no operating profit between 2009 and 2015 with added low points of well over minus a quarter of a billion, the setup of airlines seems to be too odd.

I do get it, a nations having a national airline is a matter of pride, we get it, but at what cost? The airline has about 100 planes as part of the mainline fleet and the cost of doing business is just too high, there is no decent chance that whomever owns the airline might do so, so that they can say that they own an airline, it seems the weirdest of reasons, but from the financial view that is as much as we are going to get and the bad news is not done at this point.

You see, the work I used to do can be done remotely more and more, when 5G is totally here, we can see the shift where the classes can be given remotely with a phantom screen and with the presentations running in the background, the speed will enable us to give individual service to all the participants in up to three locations at the same time, almost like remotely run classroom software with camera’s in all locations. At that point we will see even less traffic required implying that the business classes on these flights will be close to a thing of the past.

The more immediate and difficult part is that none of this is the fault of Alitalia. Yes, we can look at the scandals and the past sting operations, yet the foundation is not that, it is the need of people to travel. In that light the traveller will be the one using their local airline (like many would), some will select airlines for their service and there we see groups of people seeking flights by Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Emirates. So these airlines are also poaching local travellers as they have shown and proven themselves to be a cut above the others. When it comes to business and tourist Italy, we see decline of both and falling harder, yet Italy is still the destination to several countries, namely Germany, France, UK and US as the largest four. These four add up to 23%; the rest is from all over. So, what makes me the specialist? I am not; I am merely using common sense. 100 planes, in an age where their power is tourism and we are going into the summer season, but that setting is a stage that represents merely 18 weeks out of 52, the numbers and the economy do not support the fleet, or so it seems.

when we consider that Rome Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino supported 42,995,119 passengers last year, there is a decent case that I am seeing it wrong, but that is from all airlines, beside Alitalia, we see Air India, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, United, Etihad Airways, Thai Airways, Asiana Airlines, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, Air China, Lufthansa, Ethiopian Airlines, Finnair, British Airways, SWISS, EL AL Israel Airlines, Air France, Saudia, Ukraine International, Jet Airways, Air Canada, Egypt Air, KLM, Kuwait Airways, Brussels Airlines, Aeroflot, Korean Air, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, China Southern, Iran Air, all flying to Rome, now we see a different picture, even as the airport needs the space and growth, we see no decent numbers on how the Alitalia flights are doing, some sources were giving me ‘No Data‘ and that is fair enough, but it makes a much stronger case that unless there is someone with deep pockets that Alitalia is on its last legs and in its final stage of a mere two week notice until it shuts down. Planes would be auctioned off and the lot to be repackaged for other management styles. And I do believe that the end is not in sight, Alitalia is not the only one in such a sordid state of affairs. I believe that the business case of airlines should have changed a long time ago, and it will get worse soon enough, as the oil price goes up, so do the prices of flights. You see the one element we seem to ignore is not the drop in non-tourist passengers. It is the fact that one barrel of crude oil only facilitates for up to 4 gallons of jet fuel, the turnaround is that high, 42 gallons can only make 4 gallons of jet fuel, after that it boils down to gasoline, diesel and other items, so when the barrel goes up in price, the impact is seen quite fast. Consider that a flight from Rome to New York takes 9 hours and 40 minutes (or 2,088,000 seconds), now consider that a 747 needs 1 gallon a second, so if the oil goes up by $1, the maximum cost of a flight would go up by 2 million times the price increase and we can only get 4 gallons bet crude oil barrel making it an optional increase of $500K per flight (which is not completely true as diesel and gasoline would need to bear part of those costs too, but with only 4 gallons to the barrel, jet fuel would take the hardest hit).

That part counts too and as such tourist numbers would go down to some degree, especially from America. These are all still mere elements in the hardship calculations, but the elements are starting to add up, more optional other choices, more localised incentives and less options for Alitalia, that is the sad reality for Alitalia. As far as I was able to see, the press (the non-Italian press) did not take a look at these elements. Even as the BBC did look at one element “At the time the Irish airline was struggling to contain the fallout from a pilot shortage, which led to the cancellation of flights for about 700,000 passengers“, the abundance of competition, as well as the dangers of fuel changes were not looked at. Yet there are other sources, Bloomberg (at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-18/easyjet-drops-from-alitalia-bidding-in-setback-to-government) gave us a month ago that Delta is “exploring ways to work with Ferrovie dello Stato and maintain our partnership with Alitalia in the future“, yet I am not convince that they are in it with their heart and soul. Merely a stage where their accountants can optionally see plans for the Alitalia infrastructure and options to give Delta a streamline boost and let Delta grow in other ways accepting Alitalia to some degree for some time, yet how that ‘for some time‘ develops will remain an unknown. Part of it is seen with “Delta would take a 10 percent stake, which would double within four years if certain business goals are met“, yet these business goals are not really heralded by any party. In that regard Lufthansa was open and clear by stating that Alitalia needs to shed 40% of the workforce and that is where the cost of the Delta business goals are likely to be seen as well and that 40% will remain part of the problem. The Italian government would had to euthanise 40% of the workforce in a time when it could not afford to do so and that is the issue to the larger extent. If that knife is thrust hard and deep Alitalia might be around on April 30th, yet at present that is not a given, the pressured parties are not willing to get to that point until the 11th hour and at that point it might just be too late, because in the end the airline is not the only player, the airports will try to make sure that their part of the equation remains safe and there are plenty of airlines offering to ferry people to these locations making the equation unbalanced and unrealistic for the bookkeepers of Alitalia, a sad story for an airline that only recently made it to its 10th year.

 

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Opposed to Fry

The Guardian placed an interesting piece regarding Stephen Fry. This is a good thing, it is always nice to see the point of view of a truly intelligent person, even if I do not entirely agree. This is what happens in an intelligent world, one gives a good point of view and the second person opposes it, or agrees with it. In a true interactive dialogue, the problems of the world could be solved in such manner, which is why it tends to be really sad when politicians avoid that approach slightly too often. The article (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/28/stephen-fry-facebook-and-other-platforms-should-be-classed-as-publishers) gives a few nice gems to start with: “Stephen Fry has called for Facebook and other “aggregating news agencies” to be reclassified as publishers in order to stop fake news and online abuse spreading by making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites“, this is a good start, but here is also the foundation of my disagreement.

You see ‘Facebook and other “aggregating news agencies”‘ gives us a point, in my view Facebook is not an aggregating news agency. It is a social media outlet and as such, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, Reuters, CNN and a whole host of other providers push their articles to Facebook, often just a small eye catcher with a link to their web page. People can use ‘like‘ and ‘follow‘ and as such the news appears on their time line. This is mere facilitation. Do not get me wrong, Stephen Fry makes good points. In my opposition I would state that it makes more sense to go after the tabloids. Until they clean up their act with the innuendo and their not ‘fake’ but ‘intentional misrepresented‘ news, news that is miscommunicated in such ways to create emotional waves. They need to lose their 0% VAT option, that should be reserved for ACTUAL NEWSPAPERS. You see, these tabloids also use the social media as a projecting outlet. In all this Facebook merely facilitates. The second quote is “Fry accused social media platforms of refusing to “take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”“, I find it a lot harder to disagree with, although, when was the last time tabloids were actually truly fined to a realistic amount, an amount where the fine is set to the revenue of a week of published papers? You see when you have 2 billion users, you will get waves of fake news, or false information. There are no numbers, but consider that with 2 billion users, you are looking at 250 million to 1 billion added events per day, how can this be policed? Now, algorithms to police the use of certain words and that could help to some degree, yet the abusers of the social media system are getting clued in too. So they are getting good at avoiding triggering the software by avoiding words that flags them. In addition, when it is done via fake accounts, how can anything be stopped?

Fry makes a good case, yet I think he is not seeing the scope and amount of data involved. In addition, we see “At the moment, they are evading responsibility for their content as they can claim to be platforms, rather than publishers. Given that they are now a major source of news for 80% of the population, that is clearly an absurd anomaly“, he is completely correct, yet the users of Facebook have the option to not watch it or to not accept it on their timeline. Doesn’t that make it a choice of freedom for the users of Facebook? I have in the past needed to block content from a ‘so called‘ friend, merely because of the amount of BS he was forwarding. It was fixed with a mere click of the button. This is not an opposition towards the point Stephen Fry is making, but an answer on how some people could deal with it. In this equation we have the number of people on Facebook, there is a variable that takes into account the amount of BS we get from tabloids, and you better believe that they are active, via ‘stories’ and via advertisement. The advanced options of granularity that Facebook advertisements offers is the reason why those tabloids want to be there and the tabloid group outside of the UK is massively larger than the disgusting size of the UK tabloids is and they are all offering their links on a global scale.

Can Facebook be held to account? Well, to a certain level they can, you see, the actual propagator of events needs a Facebook account. When information is limited to an audience, the impact is lessened. So as Facebook users can no longer send information to friends of friends, only to friends, we have lost an iteration, this could be the difference between 500 people getting the news (fake or real) or the impact that this news goes to 250,000 people, when the addition is that newsmakers can no longer forward it over timelines, but only to the one subscribed timeline, we will soon see a shift on the wave of messages. In addition, not only is the damage contained (to some degree), but as forwarding any post becomes an instance, there would be a much smaller list to police and the users forwarding the post would no longer be the facilitator, they would become the publisher. Facebook is kinda ‘off the hook’, but the user is not, they could to some degree be held to account for certain actions. It makes the events a lot more manageable. In addition, it could limit impact of events.

So here we see the optional solution to some degree. It must be clear that it is to some extent, because it merely drops the impact, it does not take it away. Stephen follows it all up by also making reference to the British Airways IT fiasco. We now see “Fry cautioned that the world’s reliance on digital systems would also inevitably prompt a cataclysmic cyber-attack and bring on a “digital winter for humankind”“, there is certainly a danger and an issue here. The question becomes which issue is in play? As we see Reuters giving us: ““Many of our IT systems are back up today,” BA Chairman and Chief Executive Alex Cruz said in a video posted on Twitter“, we need to realise that even as Terminal 5 was designed to deal with 35 million passengers, in 2015, the numbers give us ‘Terminal 5 handled 33.1 million passengers on 215,716 flights‘, this gets us the average of 91,000 passengers a day, for 590 flights. So there would be an issue for 3-4 days I reckon. That is just the one day impact. The issue that plays and the caution of Stephen Fry is that as we are unaware of why and how it happened, there is no guarantee that it will not happen again. One of the Guardian articles gives us: “The glitch is believed to have been caused by a power supply issue and there is no evidence of a cyber-attack, the airline said. It has denied a claim by the GMB union that BA’s decision to outsource hundreds of IT jobs to India last year was behind the problems“, which has two parts one is the power supply issue, which is a bit of an issue, the second one is outsourcing. The first one is weird, that is, until we know where that power issue was. If there is a server farm, the server farm would be an issue. At this point, the backup systems should have been working, which should if properly set up be in a secondary location. power issues there too? There are several points where the issue could impact, yet with proper setup and tested solutions, the impact should not have been to the degree it was. That is, unless this was done by the same team who ‘tried’ to give the NHS a new system about 5 years ago, if so then all bets are off. The outsourcing sounds nice when you are a union, but that would merely impact the customer service as I personally see it, so until I see specific evidence of that, I will call it a bogus claim by GMB.

The Stephen Fry issue was neither, he merely stated ‘digital winter for humankind‘, which is an actual danger we are facing more and more. You can judge that for yourself and test it. You merely have to switch off mobile data and Wi-Fi from your mobile for 24 hours. 99.992% will not be able to do that, we are that relying on getting fed digital information. We will offer a host of excuses; like ‘I need to be reachable‘ or ‘people need me non-stop‘. I see it as all bogus mentions of the fact that we are digitally too dependent. If you give these people the additional limitation of ONLY using the e-mail and office programs, the chaos is nearly complete. We are all 100% digitally dependent. That means that any damage to such an infrastructure will bring us distress. We then see “An extinction-level event … will obliterate our title deeds, eliminate our personal records, annul our bank accounts and life savings” which is only part of the quote, but this part has already been arranged for the people of the world, it is called Wall Street (remember 2004 and 2008).

The final part to address is the part we see combined in the article. “Fry also addressed the rise of big data, which has seen private companies competing for and using the personal data of millions for corporate gain, the gig economy of Uber and Deliveroo; the inability of governments worldwide to keep up with technological progress; and live-streaming services like Facebook Live allowing people to broadcast acts of violence and self-harm“, the three elements are:

  1. Rise of big data
  2. Keeping up with technological progress
  3. Live streaming towards violence and self-harm

There is no issue with the rise of big data, well, there is but the people are in denial. They are all about government and the optional alleged abuse of that data, whilst they give the green light to places like Facebook and other instances to do just that, and now they get to sell aggregated data. Yet, when we use a certain data property, where every person is 1, like a social security number or a insurance policy number, when every aggregated fact is founded on a population of 1, how aggregated are you then?

We know that governments are not technologically up to date. You see, the cost to get that done is just too high. In addition, governments and other large non-commercial organisations tend to not push or pursue policies too high, which is why the NHS had its Ransomware issues. We see Labour and socialistic parties on how it all needs to be about people programs, whilst they all know perfectly well that without proper infrastructure there would be nothing left to work with, they just don’t care! They need their image of creating jobs, whilst spending all the cash they have and pushing the government into the deepest debt to keep whatever lame promise they make and the next person gets to deal with the mess they leave behind. The lack of long term foresight is also the Achilles of IT, any IT structure needs a foresight of what is to be done next, by living in a fantasy ‘at the present’ setting, is why some politicians go into denial and in that case IT systems will falter over time and no one is set into the field of ‘let’s get this working properly’, the NHS is the clearest example, but not the only one, or the last one to buckle.

The live stream is the larger issue that has no real solution, that is until the numbers are dealt with. As larger facilitators get a handle of what is pushed online, resources open up to resolve certain issues. There will forever be a risk that certain live streams get through, yet the chances might be limited over time. In that, until the laws change, there remains a problem. Part of it is the law itself. The fact that a rape was streamed live, in it watchers saw Raymond Gates, who was accused in the attack and charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual battery and pandering sexual matter involving a minor. That person ended up with 9 years in jail, whilst he ‘enjoyed’ media limelight attention for many months. Marina Lonina, the person who filmed it all got ‘caught up in the likes’. The New York Times stated: “The defendants each face more than 40 years in prison if convicted“, yet in the end, yet the girl filming it got 9 months, the man doing the act got 9 years (source: CBC). So as we see, it seems that the act of live streaming is rewarded with an optional implied sentence reduction of 39 years and 3 months. So if the governments want to make change, I would suggest that they clean up their justice departments and get some proper convictions in place that will deter such live stream actions. In addition, if Marina Lonina would have been convicted with at least the 8 years in addition, so that she and the actual penetrator served the same amount, there might be a chance that live streaming of self harm will fall. There is no evidence that it will, but you get to solve the matter in small steps. Take away the ‘benefits’ of being merely the camera man or girl, the amount of events might drop too.

So here is my view and opposition of the parts Stephen Fry offered. He made good points and raising awareness of issues is always a good thing, especially if they are made by a person as renowned as Stephen Fry, but in all this dimensionality is still a factor. The response against issues (which I blogged earlier) on ‘tough new laws on extremist and explicit video‘, yet in all this, many transgressors will not get convicted and making it the problem of the facilitator, whilst the governments know that the law falls short is just blatantly stupid on the side of the governments. In the end, these people are not stupid, this track will continue for several years, whilst those politicians with: “the rules are not yet public and now enter what is known as “trialogue” – discussions between negotiators from the EC, the European parliament and the Council of the European Union“, gave rise to my ménage-a-trialogue label as this becomes a new EC gravy train which ends up coasting a boatload in lunches, meetings, hotels and flights whilst not resulting in any actual solution. Do you still think Brexit was a bad idea?

OK, my bad, this was not about Brexit, but the issue of laws and free speech have been on the agenda for the longest of times as ‘Strasbourg on March 24th, judges, journalists, lawyers and activists discussed the challenges facing the protection of free expression in Europe‘, there we saw that Helen Darbishire stressed on that event that “it is necessary that the judiciary in individual countries become more aware of European jurisprudence and standards“. If it is true that many countries are establishing regulations, transparency of public information is still far from being a reality. Yet when we consider that freedom of expression can be positive or negative and any hindrance of it goes via Strasbourg, the limitations faced cannot be pushed onto large corporations that facilitate. As the government leaves the field open to tabloids and even make them VAT exempt in the progress, a facilitator that comes with editors, writers and photographers, how can you push the blame onto a facilitation service that has been largely automated? And the worst of all, the governments pushing to place the blame in the other isle know this very well. As long as the debate goes on, they are ‘working on it‘ making the issue even worse.

So even as I oppose Stephen Fry to some extent, it was good and really interesting to read parts of his view (I was not at the event, so the Guardian might not have given me all he said), and as I read his view, I contemplated the views I had and tested them, that is what the views of an intelligent person does, they allow you to test these views against the views you have, which is awesome any given day of the week.

 

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