1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
While European airlines have had a better year so far than in 2004, it would be hopelessly wrong to claim all was well with them.
While some are making decent profits, like BA and Air France KLM, others, notably the smaller ones, are still enduring losses. Fuel costs are at their highest for years, adding millions of euros to budgets and forcing all airlines to keep a rigid eye on their costs. To top it all, it is an industry burdened with overcapacity with too many carriers chasing too few passengers.
The senior executives must look with envy at the almost unalloyed good news emanating from the railway industry. Trains in 2005 seem to be riding the crest of the wave – and mounting a growing threat to the dominance of air travel in parts of Europe.
Just this week, the French rail company SNCF and its German counterpart Deutsche Bahn (DB) signed a cross border deal to extend high sped services from Paris to Frankfurt and Stuttgart by 2007. Then a train journey to either city will take just under four hours – not comparable to the current respective flight times of 85 minutes and 80 minutes but add on the time getting to the airport and inevitable waiting and the train becomes at least a possibility.
The prospect of the completion of the high speed link on what is one of its most lucrative routes between Madrid and Barcelona in 2007 has already led Iberia to consider setting up a low cost air route between the two cities.
And what will happen to air services between Paris and Amsterdam when the high speed link opens between the two cities in 2006? Or to those between Madrid and Lisbon when their high speed link opens in 2010? High speed trains have destroyed or seriously damaged air routes over longer distances.
Even in Britain, notorious in recent years for a train service which was seriously unreliable, the new Pendolino trains on the finally upgraded West Coast Main Line are reaping rewards for their operator, Virgin Trains. Passenger numbers have leapt by 29% since they were introduced last year.
There has long been a compact area of north west Europe where air links have been vulnerable to a good, reliable and fast train service. What must now be worrying the airlines is that that area is getting larger by the year.
Perhaps the best example is SNCF's TGV service between Paris and Marseille, a distance of 1000 kilometres which takes three hours but where the rail company estimates 50% of travellers go by train.
But others like Berlin-Hamburg and, to a lesser extent, Rome-Florence have become more train oriented since journey times decreased.
But important though journey times are, this is not the only aspect which is moving in the favour of trains.
It is now possible to buy through tickets from London to Cologne via Brussels using first Eurostar and then the Thalys service. This is almost certainly to be extended to Amsterdam and Frankfurt.
Most major European train operating companies now offer online booking and some, like DB, also offer business travellers the facility to print their own tickets at home or in the office.
A growing number of stations now provide ticket machines where travellers can pick up their tickets and some major companies, like BP and the BBC, have their own ticket printing machines on their premises. All methods save the tedium of queuing.
The next step is certain to be ticketless travel and in the UK this summer, three train operating companies will be conducting a three month trial on its feasibility. It's complicated - at least in the UK because of the large numbers of train companies - but the basic technology exists.
Eurostar which is moving down the same route is convinced it will work and fully expects passengers walking into its new terminal in St. Pancras in 2008 will enjoy ticketless travel.
The airlines may then just have a bigger fight on their hands.