Airlines, hotels, travel & tourism

Hybrid planes

There has been much talk of doom and gloom recently due to the high cost of oil and the supposedly near imminent decline or exhaustion of oil reserves. One UK think tank (Foresight) even painted a picture of a future world in 2055 where air travel would cease and people would travel to work on bicycles. But if you can run automobiles on hybrid or bio-fuels why not aircraft? One reason is weight. Fuel cells are just too heavy although the advantages – quietness, efficiency and low emissions – means that Boeing and Airbus are both taking the idea seriously. Currently an auxiliary power unit (APU) is used in aircraft to power everything from cabin lighting to pressurisation but the demand for electrical power on board aircraft is increasing due to expanded entertainment options. Moreover, hybrid cars use fuel cells in very different ways. Most hybrid cars use a combination of electrical power (from ordinary heavy-duty batteries) to move the car forward at low speeds and can be charged by the forward motion of the car under petrol power. Clearly this won’t work for planes but developments in fuel-cell technologies and even solar power could get the idea off the ground. As for other fuels, why not? Like most innovation, it’s just a matter of time, money and a sufficiently large crisis.
Ref: The Economist (UK) 11 March 2006, ‘Flight or fancy’
Search words: oil, fuel cells, hybrids

Latest travel innovations

What’s new in hotels? Hotel rooms sold by weight, if you bed down in the small town of Norden in Northern Germany that is.
That’s right, hop on the scales at the Ostfriesland Hotel and pay 50 Euro cents per kilo. This is clearly a gimmick but the idea would be quite interesting if an airline transferred the idea to airline seats where weight is a more serious issue. Budget UK airline Ryanair is already giving passengers a discount if they only fly with hand luggage. Charging passengers by their weight would run into legal problems but there’s no reason why the idea couldn’t be applied to all baggage. Meanwhile, over in New York, the Chambers Hotel is offering guests a psychologist. Simply dial room service and ask for a shrink to be sent up – for US $200 per hour. Beats watching the Fashion Channel. Finally, if you get fed up with the quality of air on aircraft, you can now buy your own air from a company called AirRight. Simply plug the gadget into the normal air nozzle and a curtain of invisible air (is there any other kind?) wafts down to purportedly remove 99.5% of viruses and allergens. Really? One for the air heads perhaps.
Ref: Various including Anova (UK) and The Australian (Aus) See also
Search words: hotels, weight, air, airlines

Floating hotels

Cruising is a booming business. Last year 11 million Americans took a cruise and the number of cruise ships floating from one port to another has increased by 100% between 2000 and 2005. But, while the ships travel the world, their passengers, increasingly, don’t. Most stay on board and spend most of their money there. However, last year Stelios Haji-Ioannous flipped the cruise ship market upside-down by offering cheap accommodation-only cruises in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Cabins cost from US $45 per night and everything else is extra. Moreover, passengers are actively encouraged to leave the ship as often as possible to sample life ashore. The parallel to this business model is obviously the Formule 1 hotel chain but it also taps into trends like user pays or pay-as-you-go.
Ref: The Economist (UK) 28 January 2006,  ‘Sailing in an orange’
Search words: cruise ships, hotels, business models

And finally…

Here’s a nice idea from the Langham Place Hotel in old Kowloon (Hong Kong) – portable room phones that can be used anywhere in the hotel. The same hotel also offers pre-programmed phones (with your own favourite numbers) for frequent guests, family photo screensavers and local radio from anywhere in the world.
Ref: The Australian (Aus) 18-19 March 2006, 
Search words: hotels, phones, radio