Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Shareholders against the planet – knowingly or unknowingly

Stelios Haji-Ioannou (right) is founder and major shareholder (about 34 per cent) in easyJet, the budget airline. When he established the airline that challenged incumbent “full-service” airlines back in 1995, climate change was not well understood in business circles (though as we know, the science was maturing and the Earth summit had taken place 3 years’ earlier in Rio). Easyjet is now a very large airline with over 300 aircraft and a market capitalisation of £4bn.

In recent times airlines have become environmental villains responsible for almost 3 per cent of all carbon emissions (and about 12 per cent of all emissions from transport). The low-cost model of easyJet and others has encouraged travel and made it possible to commute over long distances. This has been regarded as a good thing economically. A global pandemic, however, sees airlines at the forefront of a new battle against another invisible enemy, Covid-19. That market capitalisation has collapsed, and the 300 aircraft grounded indefinitely. Easyjet – along with other airlines – may well seek state aid to support the business through the crisis.

The question of state aid for airlines – major contributors to climate emissions and hence climate change – puts the Government in a difficult position. Neo-Liberal Governments like that in the UK are generally opposed to state support. Indeed they do not even protect strategic industries and businesses from foreign buyers. So any support eventually given to scheduled airlines serving a free market (I accept that some airlines serve niche, fragile and social markets such as Logan Air) will challenge neo-liberal ideology and raise questions about ministers’ proximity to business leaders in the industry. Cash transfers to easyJet would lead to Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic receiving similar. That would be difficult to countenance.

The management at easyJet now has an added problem. Knowing full well that their industry is a problem in the carbon economy, there are two – what one calls – mitigating policies. One is more effective that the other, but neither are a solution. The first is offsetting; in the easyJet case, that involves committing to planting trees, though there are many offset schemes that involve investing in developing countries’ own mitigation policies. The second is buying a fleet of more efficient aeroplanes. Easyjet has opted for a fleet of Airbus A320 Neos and they are arriving in batches.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou is not, seemingly, very happy with this. He is now calling for the whole order to be cancelled. He believes, with some justification, seemingly, that the order threatens the solvency of the company. Moreover, as Nils Pratley in the Guardian writes, the company may need to be recapitalised: “Haji-Ioannou says he would support a rights issue – as he should given that his family has collected £620m in dividends since 2011, including £60m this month – but he is vowing to make his backing dependent on an Airbus cancellation. Given the size of his shareholding, he has some clout.”

So here is the conflict of capitalism laid bare. Without the new planes the company will see carbon emissions increase and probably be subject to some regulation or tax (or both). The company will also lose considerable customer credibility on anything it says in the future about caring for the environment. But with the planes, at best shareholders will have to recapitalise, at worst, the company goes under. Plus, very rich man determines the future of the planet. Which side are you on?

Picture: Audiopedia

Just when I thought there would be no more cigarette advertising

Then Lucky Strike emerges with an old campaign.  The “show the packet and then write something nonsensical” campaign is back. Eine für Länger. Als Eine Nacht seems to defy translation. One for longer. As a night? Even native speakers make no sense of it. This is no fun. Where are the beautiful people with cigarettes? Where are the people in bathtubs? The zest for life and inevitable death? The attitude? Come on, if cigarette advertising is back, make it interesting.

Left Luggage Facilities, Köln Hauptbahnhof

There was a time when the left luggage facilities at Köln Hauptbahnhof were the coolest anywhere in Europe with their wacky underground storage mechanism. No more. A brief update, they have been replaced by more conventional storage lockers, though compensated by making them multi-coloured (left).

A sad passing.

Lucky Strike inanities persist

As observed in my previous post on not-so-Luckies, the current campaign shows an unattractive packet of cigarettes with some silly statement that one is meant willingly to waste time with. So, here (left), something like “make a compliment. Simply.  A stranger.”  Oh yes!  That is what cigarettes do for you. Only smoking strangers are willing to share your lethal habit and smell like an ashtray.

Let’s try another one (right). “Newly fallen in love. In 11 minutes. Offline…” I’ve no idea with that one. 11 minutes to smoke and fall in love with those that you have previously complimented in the cold and wet smoking shelter provided by your employer?

Thank goodness for JPS (left). Really simple until…one looks closer and there is a picture of one of the earlier advertising posters with those lovely young people slowly killing themselves whilst waiting to get into a festival of some kind. Interesting.

 

Deep leisure time

I’ve had quite a busy year. Many of us have. I am, at the time of writing this, in a short period of wind down and reflection. Only in these times is it possible to see things that one does not usually notice. First of all, wonderful interventions that humans make for other creatures that make a huge difference to them but requires just a bit of broad thinking when it comes to design. The picture on the left is a swallow looking after its young – it is mid-August, so I assume it is the second brood. But if you look carefully, this is a human-made thing. And what is more, it is in an underpass that carries a cycle- and foot-path underneath one of the busiest stretches of railway in Munich. Somebody consciously put it there.

Next, graffiti. In Germany there is a lot of official graffiti in underpasses and the like. This is not official (right), but it is on the side of a school. And what a school it must be when whoever sprayed it thinks that unless you read James Joyce’s Ulysses then one has not lived their own life (or a better translation than that). The point remains, how wonderfully bizarre, even if it is ironic. The School, incidentally, is the Bertolt Brecht Gymnasium in Pasing, Munich. That might have something to do with it?

Then there’s toilets. I was cycling along, actually looking for one. And here it is (left). It has an electric door opening to a spotless pissoir that is cleaned each time on leaves. Not good on water consumption, but jolly welcome.

In Munich, I have a favourite park, Nymphenburg Schloss Park. It is a castle with just the most amazing grounds. The trees are wonderful – basically, a collection of the former Kaiser. But that aside, this is real sanctuary. But where there are trees, there is an abundance of other flora and fauna. Dragon flies are just extraordinary and easy to find in the park. This one has large fans at the tips of its wings. Look more closely and one can see that this one is having a meal. Even more extraordinary, the camera on my mobile can capture this.

 

Lucky Strike plasters Germany Summer 2019

Ok, the summer winner is Lucky Strike. Everywhere one finds their inane slogans. Here (left) “Tell. A Story. With six words”. As if I have nothing better to do. OK. I rise  to  the  challenge. “Smoking  these  brings  premature,  painful death.” Or BAT knowingly sells addictive and lethal products.” Do I win?

Come on Germany – or at least the Government – fall into line with the rest of Europe and end cigarette advertising, at least on the streets.

Travel advice – missed connections on Deutsche Bahn

We all miss connections on trains and have to work out how to manage the journey. Natives know roughly how to negotiate their own railway system – I think I am reasonably good with the UK system, though by no means all-knowledgeable – but when we travel beyond our borders, it can be a bit daunting when things go wrong, especially at the end of the day when there are no more trains going to one’s planned final destination.

So, on 27 July 2019 I was heading to Munich from Hastings in the UK. That involved four different train operators: SouthEastern Trains, UK; Eurostar; Thalys; Deutsche Bahn (DB). The bookings had to be made through each individual train operator. Using ticketing agents makes it more expensive. They do not optimise on price. When booking one has to ensure changing time between trains and some delay wiggle room. For example, the Eurostar was 25 minutes delayed leaving London and accumulated further delays en-route; for example, waiting to enter the Channel Tunnel. I’d allowed myself 75 minutes changing time at Brussels Midi (left). About right for the middle of summer when it is really busy.

The train was making good progress towards Köln where I was going to change again at 1955 on to the ICE to Munich.  Changing time was 45 minutes. Owing to a power failure at Aachen, we were delayed by 150 minutes. That was my connection lost. So, what’s to do? The Thalys train manager was at the end of her tether. It has been a tough week with record-breaking temperatures and any number of delays as the infrastructure struggled to cope. I felt for her.

Here’s my advice, get a “Bescheinigung” (right) from DB. At Köln, there was an information “Schalter” on the platform (Gleis 4) where it could be issued. Essentially, this confirms that the connecting train was late (although it was a non-DB train that was late, it was late because of a DB infrastructure failure) and that it is possible to travel on a non-booked train at no extra cost. DB conductors are quite strict with tickets, so take the argument away from them, especially when our language skills are not the best. I eventually travelled on the 2230 Köln-München train. Arrival München Hbf 0602. Not the most comfortable experience as it is not a sleeper service, but it got me to my destination.

Happy rail travelling.

Summer 2019 cigarette advertising, Germany

The current crop of cigarette billboards in Germany are interesting. JPS continues its “death is better value than you might think” campaign (left, apologies about the shadow; confirms it is summer, I suppose). JPS is a curious brand that seems not really to know what it stands for. For example, elsewhere in this blog are examples of JPS and young creative people as well as JPS innovative packaging.

Then there is Winston. Not a regular high-street advertiser, but when it is there, one wonders about the campaign managers. The latest, “for short journeys, for long journeys” is particularly fatuous. That aside, the packaging now carrying acute warnings about the effects of smoking on health seems to suggest that blindness is a badge of honour. Maybe, another interpretation from the one probably meant, blindness is the short journey and the longer journey is death? Especially if one goes for the bargain 36 cigarettes for 10 Euros?

By contrast, Camel persists with the primary colours campaign (seemingly the “Let’s Camel” campaign) and has moved away from the “Do your thing” nonsense. So, Camel eschews the health impacts by focusing on the top of the package. The tagline seems pretty meaningless “spontaneously simply ride into the blue” – rather literal, I know, but it sometimes works with German. In line with Winston and JPS, there are 35 cigarettes for a tenner.

I found another example of this campaign on one of those circular billboards which point out to the road. These can be hazardous to photograph for obvious reasons.

So this one (right) tells us that it really really tastes good. Having never smoked, I cannot vouch one way or the other for this claim. It is still deadly. Echt!

At last, something to smoke

 

It has been a quiet time on the cigarette advertising front. Those halcyon days of the Gauloises couple in the bath and the Pall Mall happy couples through the seasons. seem to have left us. The only narrative advertising at the moment is JPS (latest left). It’s couples again, one female, one male smoking, the other two watching them kill themselves. This time we are stuck in a queue on a dirt track of some description in Germany (check out the number plate); though there is some bunting on the side and a small roadside tent to suggest this is some festival thing. They have a cool box being used as a seat.

That is genius in comparison to West’s latest advertising. In-your-face West (right). Pretty  meaningless. “Gute Aussichten- Top Preis” Good view/outlook? This is all about price, though. 35 fags for 9 Euros. Red or silver. Made for good times, apparently.

And then there is…Down to Earth rolling tobacco. New up on billboards – though this one of an evening is obscured by a blue van. The campaign approach is not to disguise the harmful effects of tabacco; indeed, quite the opposite. They seem to be proud of their product’s contraceptive properties. Or even its carcinogenic qualities.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the following historical background to the product:

The company was founded in 1982 by Bill Drake, author of The Cultivators Handbook of Natural Tobacco, Robert Marion, Chris Webster, and Eb Wicks, a plumbing contractor who took out a loan to finance the startup. In January 2002 the company was acquired by Reynolds American and is now a wholly owned independent subsidiary of Reynolds American, which is in turn 42% owned by British American Tobacco. Japan Tobacco announced in September 2015 that it acquired the right to sell Natural American Spirit products in markets outside the United States.

Just when I thought cigarette advertising was over in Germany…

…JSP is back with its “young people sitting outside” campaign. This bunch are seemingly moving house and having a cigarette in between the heavy lifting. As usual, two are smoking with the others looking on. The strapline does not make any sense to me “Mach den Umzug zum Umtrunk” – is that not something like “make the move to drink?” Whatever, it was not worth waiting for.