news & views

MH017

Posted on the 18th of July 2014 by Christopher Goddard, Managing Director

The tragedy of MH17 today will undoubtedly be a turning point in the aviation industry.

First and foremost, any reasonable thinking person would feel for the families and loved ones of all of those who perished. This indiscriminate loss of life will go down in human history as a black mark on our generation. And the reason I say “our generation” is because is some very very small way, we, the travelling public, must shoulder some of the burden.

In no way am I excusing the actions of the perpetrators of this crime and they should be rightfully condemned for their actions. Justice should act with a heavy hand once those responsible are found however, the broader question that needs to be asked is, why was that aircraft flying in that territory anyway.

The answer unfortunately is quite simple – economics.

The economic pressure that comes to bare on today’s aviation industry is unprecedented. Airlines are finding as many ways as possible to recoup costs. This can be in such inane ways as charging for baggage, charging for food or charging for seat allocation. On numerous occasions however, airline executives have gone on record stating that the biggest expense in their business is fuel. Saving fuel saves them money.  They initiated the “fuel surcharge” as another mechanism to bolster their income streams and we should be rightly critical that if they are recouping these costs, why in the world are they putting the lives of their passengers and employees at risk?  It would seem, based on today’s events, that fuel surcharges have not gone far enough to recouping the necessary costs.

It is reported that travelling over Ukraine airspace saved the airline approximately ten million dollars a year in fuel.

Another factor is that competition in the market is intense. The advent of low fare carriers has made legacy carrier adjust their entire business model – something which they are not really geared to do. They will try and save money in any area they can. The colloquialism of “cutting corners” comes to mind and this is where I think the travelling consumer must ponder their involvement in this absolute tragedy. We want the bargain. We want the airfare to be as low as possible. We want to spend our hard earned cash on a holiday and not on getting to a holiday. By the consumer constantly pushing for lower fares and with low fare carriers constantly espousing their bargain basement fares, we must acknowledge that airlines will of course be looking at ways to minimise the low fare impact.

Could anyone have predicted this situation?  Absolutely not.

Does our constant need for lower and lower cost consumables contribute to events such as today ? I will let you decide.

The human spirit has a remarkable way of dealing with tragedy and no doubt we will again process this awful situation, reconcile with the unfairness of it all, vocalise our anger at the perpetrators and then slowly, ever so slowly, return to our normal lives. I simply ask that as we return to that normalcy, remember those who lost their lives and their families and remember that each time we want lower and lower cost items, someone, somewhere in the world is having to pay that cost.