To all animals – don’t fly United

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To all animals – don’t fly United

I had some sympathy for United when guards dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight. Because overbooking happens all the time, and it is the passengers’ fault – because if everyone turned up for their flights and/or never wanted a refund, the overbooking problem would not be there.


And it was the guards, not actually ‘United’, that did the dragging.


But that’s another story.


Here’s another:


I have just learned (via colleagues at Washington Aviation Summary) that of the 24 animals that died in major US airlines’ care last year, 18 were in the care of United. Another 13 animals on United suffered injuries.


Two of the other top-3 US airlines, American and Delta, each reported two animal deaths.


But whatever United is doing wrong (one dog died in an overhead luggage bin), things might get better.


Two senators (one D, one R) have introduced Wooff (sorry; it means Welfare Of Our Furry Friends) to ban storage of live animals in overhead compartments. And there’s another proposed act, also from two (different) D & R senators, and also with a baby acronym, Pets (Planes Ensuring Total Safety).




The Fox. Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.

*Trottings = Trip Jottings



Scoop*! Peach & Vanilla to merge!

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings


Scoop*! Peach & Vanilla to merge!

The All Nippon Airways group plans to merge its Peach and Vanilla airline subsidiaries**, starting this year and finishing before March 2019.


It wants the merged airline to become the leading ‘low-cost airline’ in Asia.


Our comments:


-Neither Peach nor Vanilla is what we define (according to a set of our definitions) no-frills-airlines, see below.


They are an attempt by ANA management to follow an NFA businessplan, but are basically just lower fares and some lower costs. More like an LCA, see below.


-ANA management has shown no clear understanding of the NFA business-model. They thus seem incapable of making Peach-Vanilla bigger than the region’s current biggest, Air Asia, whose various divisions sold about 70mn seats in 2017, according to our counts.


-In 2014 we called ANA’s businessplan for Vanilla ‘soft’***.


-One further indication of this incompetence is the long time to merge these two – 12 months. We believe this should take no longer than three.






*Headline-convenience only; this is not news.


**Peach started flying from its Osaka Kansai base in March 2012 (another mistake; it should have used Osaka Itami airport). ANA’s JV with Air Asia, from Tokyo Narita (it should have been Tokyo Haneda or best Tokyo Ibaraki), started in late 2011 and stopped in late 2013. After that ANA launched Vanilla, also from Tokyo Narita, in December 2013.


***What we said in 2014:

-Its base is Tokyo Narita, the worst choice of three Tokyo airports – best would be Ibaraki, then Haneda.

-It has three destinations in Japan plus Tokyo, plus international to Hong Kong, Kaohsiung (due next February), Seoul, Singapore, Taipei. Generally, a 2-hour maximum flight is better for NFAs – which means Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Singapore, look to be financial risks.

-Even domestic routes seem to be chosen for their length – Japan’s top north or top south.

-Fares look cheap – US$60 (¥6300) one-way for the shortest route, NRT-Sapporo. But they are fixed – no discounts if travellers book early, no higher if they book late. That is bad for Vanilla’s profits.

-Schedules are not standard. It is better to have, say, 10.00 daily departure to Sapporo. Vanilla has different times and different days.

-Its initial publicity noted flight destinations, aircraft types, flight times, etc. But not fares. For us, the essential items to be included in NFA publicity are two only – Route, Price.




*Notes: Our airline-type definitions:

-FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.


-LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a no-frills-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs – cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for example), fewer fare types, may have first and business cabins as well as economy, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. If relevant, usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.


-NFA = no-frills-airline. We believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: shorthaul point-to-point routes; market freedom in terms of fares, routes; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; extremely-low fares when bought at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no (free) service frills; single economy-class cabin; no (free) seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more.


The Fox. Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.




Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

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Trottings: Air Belgium’s flawed businessplan.

Relaunched Air Belgium has delayed plans for its Brussels-Hong Kong flights to April; they were planned to start October 2017.


It plans to start six more routes into China by this summer.


We expect AB’s new businessplan, from new owners in 2016, to fail before year-end. Some of the reasons:


-Frequency/routes. 4/week is not enough for its target market – upmarket. At least daily is needed.


-Routes. AB’s potential customers will fly other to other places as well of course, thus use other airlines. As most upmarket travellers are likely to be members in loyalty programs, they may prefer to stay with those other airlines when they fly to Hong Kong. If AB cannot start other routes itself, it should sign deals with other airlines on selected routes.


-Aircraft. The 4-engine A340 is a good aircraft, but costly for fuel, particularly for a start-up airline. Many would try to operate a 2-engine A350 or B787 on this route if traffic is not enough for B777s A380s etc.


-It has two A340s at present. That is enough for schedule reliability for Hong Kong flights, but at least four more will be needed to operate those other planned routes and to offer schedule reliability.


-Airport. AB plans to use Brussels Charleroi, not good for connections.


-China. AB considers Hong Kong a ‘China’ destination. Although correct in theory, it is not ‘China’ in terms of politics or in airline route-rights. Six by summer is not impossible of course, but looks over-ambitious.


-Sales via internet, but also GDS and travel agencies. GDS and agencies are usually too costly for a start-up because of fees.


-AB plans to employ 100 in Hong Kong this year. That is a foolishly-costly decision. We would think one staff member (Hong Kong Manager), with a handling agent for operations, and a GSA for sales – at least until it is established and/or the first 2/3 years.


-AB’s A340s will have economy, premium, business classes. That is at least one too many, and will also cause confusion, eg is ‘premium’ above ‘business’?


The Fox

*Trottings = Trip Jottings



Malta Treasure Hunts

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


‘Revolutionising’ the way to visit the Maltese islands

Mosta, 25/09/17 – Island Publications ‘revolutionised’ the way tourists and residents toured the islands in 2010 with their Malta Treasure Hunts.


Today, the Mosta-based travel industry publisher has just produced the third edition of Malta Treasure Hunts (the second edition was published in 2013).


Devised, written and illustrated by veteran journalist Terence Mirabelli, this third edition of Malta Treasure Hunts is a 64-page booklet that contains a series of themed hunts that will take tourists and residents alike on a self-guided voyage of discovery around the Maltese islands.


For instance, Gozitan odyssey is a 45-kilomtere long treasure hunt that takes in the principal and offbeat sights of the island. Gozitan odyssey is an exciting tour undertaken by car or bicycle.


Other, shorter, pedestrian, hunts let one discover Victoria, Valletta, Mdina (aimed at children), Birgu, Zejtun, Zabbar, Rabat, St Julian’s as well as the popular resort of Bugibba and Qawra (dubbed ‘Bugiwra’).


For ‘techies’ Sliema – smart therapy is a pedestrian hunt that requires a smartphone. Clues come as QR codes and geographic coordinates.


All treasure hunts are colour coded, denoting levels of difficulty. Green hunts are easy, yellow ones are slightly harder and red ones require (a bit of) thinking and deduction.


Each hunt has a set of questions that sometimes lead to a landmark or require an answer to find a hidden password. Hunts are either circular or linear, meaning they either end where they start or not. A map is recommended for car and cycle hunts, otherwise one is not necessary for the pedestrian treasure hunts. Unlike previous editions, where hunters had to go online, answers are now available in the book – but it does require a bit of working out to figure them out.


No treasure hunt requires the payment of any entrance fees. Some hunts do go past sites, museums and landmarks that may require payment to visit, but entering these sites is at the discretion of the hunter.


Malta Treasure Hunts is the fun way to discover and tour the islands and see what they have to offer”, says Terence Mirabelli – managing director of Island Publications and originator of the hunts.


“The booklet is not intended solely for tourists, but also for residents of the islands. And hunts can be enjoyed singly, with friends, as a family or as a team-building exercise at whatever time of year.


“Moreover, Malta Treasure Hunts is the perfect tool for language students as they can be used as an exercise in English comprehension” Mirabelli adds.


“Producing Malta Treasure Hunts has been so much fun and educational, that I’m already planning a fourth edition”.

Malta Treasure Hunts is available from Agenda bookshops and from other leading book retailers and stationers at €10.


The hunts will also be available individually for download – as pdf files – from from October.


For more information, contact:

Terence Mirabelli

Island Publications Ltd



The Fox’s Friends; TM

Trottings = Trip Jottings

Rethinking Alternative Facts and Fake News

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

Rethinking Alternative Facts and Fake News

I had always thought that the great polemic, started in the US, over Fake News and Alternative Facts was a mental-cum-political deficiency of those currently in power in the US.


I now believe it is something different. It is a Grammatical Deficiency on the part of Trump and the Trump Troggies (troglodytes).


I’ll explain:



Alternative Facts

The phrase is of course absurd. There can only be one fact about something, right? But no.


Rephrase it: Facts Expressed in an Alternative Way. One explanation is a half-empty/half-full cup. If you say ‘the cup is half-empty’, that is fact. That fact expressed in a different way is that ‘the cup is half-full’.


I realised this after reading a report (in Wikipedia, I think) where the report said (something like) ‘the CIA and the US Embassy deny involvement in…’ (the subject is inconsequential for my argument). That is, presumably, factually correct, but clearly the implication is that those two were involved.


Why did the Wikipedia report not add that the Russian Embassy, the Japanese bird-watching association, and the Barcelona football club, also deny involvement? That would be fact as well.





Fake News

My take on this is not so technical. But I believe that Trump meant “(this) is not worth a news item”, or “(this) is not a valid news item”. Perhaps he was speaking as though he were an editor/sub-editor.


But because of his limited grasp of grammar and the English language (read his tweets), he appears not to have the grammatical capability of saying precisely (when it is necessary) what he means.


He meant, if you will, ‘Irrelevant News’ or ‘Not Valid News’. But after he called it ‘Fake News’ the first time, grammatical probity was irretrievable. And the Trump Troggies piled in; perhaps they also are grammatically-inferior beings, or feared challenging the Great White Chief.


But I admit that ‘Fake News!’ is a better verbal counter than “I Am Of The Opinion That This Particular Item Of News Does Not Warrant Such Prominent Coverage”.





Johnson (Dr Samuel, the English man of letters, not the US ex-president or the UK foreign minister) would be turning in his grave. If the man ever existed, of course. Probably Fake News.



The Fox

Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.


Cry For Freedom

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.


Cry For Freedom

I cry. I have lost my long-time ‘hero’ countries.


Broadly, I have liked and admired what the UK and the US stood for, how they went about business, and that they tried to do good for others not just themselves.


I don’t think I was hagiographic – condemning, as most sensible people must – the ridiculous gun regime in the US, for instance. (Including the fact that “it’s in the Constitution” is an argument for keeping it. The clause was needed on the Wild West; it is not needed now.)


I even defended (and still defend) the US decision to go fight Saddam Hussein. The west threatened him with invasion, and then hesitated. If the US had not gone in, today Hussein would be ruling most of the Arabian peninsula.


Back to today’s realities.


Today, I can no longer support my two ‘hero’ countries. They have become Little Englanders, believing that they alone are important and, more worryingly, right and righteous.


And they don’t like foreigners. Theresa May: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” Donald Trump: well, nearly everything.


For sure, the UK and the US can lock themselves in and do everything themselves. It will cost more to buy a 100%-American iPhone, but obviously it can be done. (However, not only will non-American iPhones be cheaper, but possibly better. Because they can make enhancement choices based on what is better; American iPhones will have to choose America first.)


So now my heroes have gone, who is riding to the rescue?


France. Would that it could. It has an admirable socialist culture in its heart, but cannot realise that socialist economics cannot earn enough to pay for that culture. (Socialism as an economic policy does not work.)


Other big Europeans, such as Italy and Spain, are too troubled or politically insignificant (in world terms) to lead.


In the past, perhaps Netherlands, but it is torn at present with a Trump-like political challenge. Perhaps Austria, which has just dumped a potential Trump. Perhaps the Nordics. Although all these are too small to lead.


Then there are three countries that are ruled by Trump clones. Kaczynski in Poland, Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey.


Outside Europe? Perhaps Australia, Canada, although at present politically insignificant (in world terms).


The only countries in Asia big enough to lead are China, India, Japan, Korea. Of course, China wants the honour, but with its Google-banning, wet-drone-stealing, illegal island-building, no way. India has too much domestic work to finish, including a sensitive moslem matter. Japan is parochial and frightened of the world. Korea perhaps, but it is presently in political turmoil.


I can see only one then – Germany. It is more socialist than I would like, but it has shown societal bravery (its refugee problem), willingness to help others (generally not militarily, mainly because many would worry about that), is culturally competent, creative, and liberal, has better bistros than France, and much else.


Meanwhile I’ll go to sleep, and hope this is just a nasty dream.



The Fox

Remember, I’m an intellectual in the parallel world.

Trottings: Sicily shorted

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.


Trottings: Sicily shorted

During a short trip to Sicily, we decided to travel to Taormina, hillside tourist spot on the east side of the island.


We chose accommodation via AirBnB (ABB), not in Taormina, but in Gallodoro, a village even higher up the mountain than Taormina. Although this is also billed as a tourist village, there is little there – apart from a magnificent view, although that is probably how Taormina started.


We were there at the end of the main season, but early September, so just into the shoulder season. The village has two restaurants, but both were closed, not for the season but for that day. Wouldn’t you have thought they would get together, and make some arrangement – maybe pooling revenue? There were still a few summer tourists around. Worse, the villagers – and this has a population of 400 – did not know the restaurants were closed. Even the bar owner did not know.


We also found no 711-type shop, or any other, but fortunately we had stopped at a supermarket before we got to Gallodoro.


The village, as most hillside villages, has many between-houses steps. One came down two sides of ours, close to the apartment. So close that on the balcony, one feels obliged to greet the person. I regarded this as a plus, and the traffic is slight – four people a day?


Parking was just across the street from the apartment. However, the road led nowhere except to the top of the village (same way back), so probably always space. But if no space, there are options further up the street. Ten steps from the apartment is a little square – which could be called Piazza San Nicola, although I don’t think it has a name. At one time, there was a church there, and the shell of the building remains.


The little piazza has a couple of benches, and a railing, and a spectacular view. Down over the village, and where you realise how steep is the hillside. And where you realise that it would take not an earthquake, but just a tremor, to bring the whole village down.


Then further in the distance, the buildings by the seaside from Taormina. And of course the sea and the hillside.


The apartment?


Problems again with what is offered on ABB and what is delivered. I searched for a property that provided WiFi. But in Gallodoro, WiFi was available only upstairs in the owner’s apartment. I blame this more on ABB. They obviously have no system to check what is offered and what you pay for is there. Yet ABB got its full commission on this false-pretences sale.


(I have had this problem before. It is clearly something ABB needs to fix. ABB appears to be unconcerned, as I have had no response on either of these matters. I think that one day this will allow the growth of a rival, as obviously other travellers have had the same experience as me.)


The Gallodoro flat is very good for its price. The view is great, from one room. From the balcony, you have to look out at one side to see the view, because facing the balcony is a bare wall – 1m away and thus blocking any view.


The lounge needs better lighting; there is just one in the centre of the room.


Bathroom. There is a step up, that most visitors will trip up, because the tiling is dark. But not as bad as a trip down. There is a bidet – which I used for its more useful purpose – a footbath.


The shower unit is small. I needed to enter sideways; some overweight Chinese children and American adults might not even get that far. The shower unit is also small once you get inside. Sure I knocked my head, elbows, knees – but it is so small that it is hard to reach as far down to your calf and feet – which makes that footbath in the bathroom even more useful – or bring your leg up.


The shower unit is cheaply made, so does not work well. It is not easy to slide the doors closed. On my visit, the shower-window-screen partly came out of its setting, and one of the shower doors itself out of its guide-railing.


There is no microwave oven; not advertised, but would be nice. But the owners provided coffee, coffee machine (proper expresso style), sugar, salt, and even biscuits; also not advertised, but nice.


There is washing machine and clothes line.




The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings


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