Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
The security scare for the airlines is perhaps a bigger problem, both short and long term, than either fuel price increases or an international outbreak of hostilities.
There was a time when one could check-in comfortably 30 minutes before a flight, even long haul, and be at the gate before it closed. London City, and others boasted 10 minute check-in with many a passenger claiming even less time by way of helpful airport staff. As the airlines” competitor Eurostar introduces this 10 minute scenario Ryanair is now 40 minutes at Stansted and woe betide anyone even a minute late. And you still have to battle your way through security, opposed by staff that are unaware of the term ”user friendly”. That”s not Ryanair”s fault. BAA, as well as other airports, needs to put this department through a social graces course.
Two hours seems to be the norm now for long haul at major airports, with three hours recommended and many a passenger turning up four hours ahead of a four hour flight, extensive media coverage and second hand tales of woe making passengers very nervous of missing aircraft.
The reason for the long check-in period from an airline point of view is easy to see. With aircraft getting larger (can you imagine what will happen with two 580-seat A380s on adjoining gates) and now a requirement from some countries to check the passenger list prior to departure more time than ever is required if the ”plane is to meet its slot time. Remember if the ”plane does not get away on schedule it may well then have to wait in a queue for take off, arrive late with the inevitable consequences at the other end. BA is thinking of a cut-off of 45 minutes for long haul flights, with standby and any sub-load flight or airline crew subject to the same rules. The passenger list is then subject to interrogation with up to 22 agencies concerned in the case of the US. And what of the quality of the people at the other end checking the would-be passengers. How good are they? Let us hope that they are better than the Washington security staff (see story below). The days of a rushed transfer to catch a flight are best forgotten.
Biometrics is seen as a breakthrough, a way of positively identifying people from their unique characteristics, such as fingerprints and retinas. But nobody is quite sure what biometrics means and it will take time to agree an international standard and equip airports. Compulsory visas are another way of trying to control frontiers but this can be very defeatist. If the US goes ahead with plans for British tourists to travel with expensive visas it is America (and its travel industry) who will be the biggest losers. People will not be prepared to pay (or be bothered) for a US visa. The largest incoming tourist market to North America will be destroyed. There are plenty of other places to go in the world.
The losers and winners are easy to see. The US tourist industry and carriers with the largest aircraft will be hit the hardest. Operators of smaller aircraft will benefit by suffering less delays and those carriers (of whom only Lufthansa is presently active) with specialist business class only flights. The winners are the airports who will have even longer for passengers to spend money on food and in the shops