BA’s return to Yorkshire – Short Haul or Long Haul?

BA has returned to Leeds-Bradford airport (LBA) after abandoning most regional airports in the late 90s with the advent of low cost airlines. With this story there are some over hyped soundbites from press conferences being battered around in the local and national media which are then reported as “news”.

Don’t get me wrong, I dont think BA coming to LBA is a bad thing, I just think it has to have a sense of perspective and analysis which seems to be absent from most of what I’ve read. Claims like how Yorkshire was cut off from the world prior to this announcement and dubious estimations of how this service will benefit the region since we’ll now have a quick route to the capital West London. We’re told fares will start from £42 but the region already has excellent train links. Is this really the mode of transport people will use to go down to London? I doubt it. Unless you live north of Yeadon and need to get to the West side of the M25, you’re better off getting on an East Coast (Or the excellent Grand Central) train and arriving in under 2 hours, centre to centre.

Flights to London from LBA have been attempted before by FlyBe . However the difference has been that whereas FlyBe has been a point-to-point journey just to Gatwick, BA will offer connections to their worldwide network via Heathrow’s Terminal 5. This means you’ll just check in once at LBA and your luggage will be through-checked to your final destination. This has to be a great thing right?

It is, but its not necessarily new. KLM has been doing this for years, they provide excellent regional connections and via their terminal at Schiphol, they offer connections to their worldwide network. In other words, LBA’s connections to the world were already in place prior to BA.

BA has a strong brand, although this has diminished over the years in the regions with its absence (known as London Airways due to their skeleton presence in regional airports) and also especially with the media’s addiction for bad travel related news (Ash clouds, bad weather, new terminal openings..). Fares and pricing to  worldwide destinations from LBA on BA will be important for leisure and business travel and could be the deciding factor of whether this route is successful. LBA is currently well served to most important European destinations adequately via no frills airlines, so the long haul destinations will have to be pitched right to penetrate the market. Having a look at sample economy fares in Feb 2013 are around £500 to New York, £900 to Johannesburg and £1300 to Sydney, for *both* KLM & BA. So, very similar.

One downside for LBA in this whole discussion is its proximity to Manchester Airport (MAN). MAN has a much wider range of airlines departing from its base and significantly, it attracts a lot of the American, Middle Eastern & Asian airlines. On the Sydney route, for example you would pay under £1,000 to fly with young but thriving Etihad whereas there are some real savings to be made to Johannesburg where fares are under £600 for Qatar Airways – one of the world’s 5 star airlines and one whose economy class has been rated the best in the world. Travelling east with one of the middle eastern airlines also breaks up your journey evenly between two medium haul flights, rather than a short hop & a long haul which is what you get with BA.

LBA itself has borne the brunt of bad news since its privatisation, ranging from sky-high taxi fares, minimum £2 charge to drop off/pick up and introducing charges to use the trolleys (one wonders what the airport tax element of the ticket is used for). Walking across the tarmac in the rain to the plane on departure and (due to its location, high winds are frequent) turbulent landings on arrival all add up to not a very pleasant travel experience.

In summary, BA will have to make their fares competitive, coupled with a big marketing push to remind people they’re not just Heathrow-centric and reinforce the brand. LBA have their part to do, to listen to their passengers and plough some investment into improving the airport (note: I don’t mean more duty free and perfume shops).

Otherwise in 18 months time, we’ll have another story bemoaning the loss of our air link to the capital.

Radio podcasts – What to listen out for?

I’ve been a radio listener for many years. I’m even old enough to have delved into the shortwave world, listening out for “exotic” transmissions from various parts of the world; For example Voice of Russia and the Radio Netherlands Worldwide used to have a very active English fan base and their programs gave a view of those countries normally hard to penetrate for outsiders. During visits to Pakistan in the 90’s I used to listen out for Urdu programmes by China Radio International (their accents were terrible) and the Russians plus the occasional Door Darshan from India (Indo-Pak rivalry was at its height in that decade so satellite TV was frequently jammed). At home, James Whale kept me company during those nights of revision in the mid to late 90s with his humorous but sometimes bizarre shows (he frequently used to have Omar Bakri on, wierd).

Fast forward the noughties and the present day, the Internet has bought us information from all corners of the world but it seems we’ve not got enough time to absorb it all. Still, here are some of the podcasts I currently subscribe to, maybe it will inspire you to take some time out of your hectic daily lives and have a listen.

From Our Own Correspondent

I’ve been listening to this program for years now, although not always as regularly as I’d like to. Its been presented by veterans like Kate Adie & Owen Bennett Jones and is a digest of news stories picked up by BBC Correspondents across the world. Amazing BBC correspondents like Frank Gardner, Mike Wooldridge, John Simpson and one of my all time favourites which we dont get to hear much of these days, Mark Tully. The thing that’s kept me going on this program is the sheer detail and intensity of the topic dealt with by the foreign dispatch, sucking you into the situation as if you were present with them and compacting their gems into those chosen few minutes.

Friday Night Comedy

If you’re a fan of Have I Got News For You then you’ll enjoy this show presented by Sandy Toksvig which goes through the issues of the week from a humourous angle. The chemistry between the teams works really well and its a great tongue-in-cheek look at the current media stories. Its called topical for a reason, you know..

Money Box

Paul Lewis’s show about financial affairs is a must listen to anyone interested in consumer finance. He deals with topical issues on his show and doesnt shy away from getting the answers to difficult questions from the guests that are on. In particular he’s helped get greater coverage on the mis-selling of PPI and continues to be the real consumer champion.

What the Papers Say

If you happen to be away from the news for a week and need a round-up, this is the show to listen to. What attracts me to WTPS is how they invite regular columnists/editors from the big papers who then take a pop at the parties from their own political spectrum. Recent hosts have included Fraser Nelson, Mehdi Hasan, Kevin Mcguire & Andrew Rawnsley. The mock voices they use to read out the story add a spot of humour to the show leaving you with a grin!

You can get all the links for the programmes in podcast format here

Halal Hysteria: A response

There has been a fair bit of talk about Mehdi Hasan‘s piece in the New Statesman on Twitter & blogosphere with regards to the consumption and methods of acquisition of ritually slaughtered meat in Britain. Specifically, the article goes on to effectively call the critcism of Halal meat and its consumers veiled racism/”Islamophobic” (Personally I don’t like that term, but thats something for another day).

On the whole I agree with Mehdi, the notion that Daily Mail/Express readers have a sudden regard for animal rights does not hold ground and the author of this blog agrees this is  yet another way of having a pop at Muslims in general.

However, the purpose of this article is specifically more about Muslim’s response to some issues by that fast-becoming-popular line of “Why not the Jews?””. This is ugly & divisive and needs to stop. It makes Muslims look like the only response to any problems in our country is why arent you picking on another minority!

“Why only pick on Halal?” is not the answer to this problem, rather we need to get our act together and to bring Halal issue into the mainstream in more of a positive light.

Mehdi has quoted Gerald Kauffman “..picked on two small minorities who share the way in which the meat they eat is killed”. To quote Gerald completely “He has picked on two small minorities who share the way in which the meat they eat is killed. Indeed, when Muslims first came to Manchester and Leeds and wanted their animals killed in a halal way, they went to Jewish slaughter houses in order to do so.”

On the whole I agree with Mehdi on his work towards trying to get Muslims to engage in local issues in politics rather than their (forefathers?) country of origin and he should be commended for this.

Matt’s article on the response to this is a good read if you want more.