Tuesday. 24/9/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Clearing the air

It’s not an easy time to be in the travel industry (just ask UK tour operator Thomas Cook, which went bust this week) but it’s especially tricky if you’re an airline based in northern Europe. Here the concept of flygskam, Swedish for “flying shame”, is taking off amid a growing public backlash against the environmental impact of aviation. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has reacted by investing in its image and new planes, firm in its belief that it can be an enabler of democracy and freedom, not just a polluter. “We should never forget the true value of aviation,” CEO and president Rickard Gustafson told Monocle 24’s The Globalist. “Open society is dependent on the fact that people can meet, be inspired by each other.” Good point.

The Scandinavian flag-carrier unveiled a fresh livery as part of a broader shift in a more sustainable direction. The subtle rebrand will debut with the airline’s first new long-haul A350 (delivered later this year) alongside dozens of new A320neos that are joining the fleet. SAS says the new craft will cut fuel consumption by 18 per cent, be quieter and offer better comfort for customers. It’s this, rather than a splash of blue on the tailfin, that will help the airline industry in the dogfight it’s facing.

Diplomacy / The US

Playing politics

Even by his standards, Donald Trump’s reported actions in recent exchanges with Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky are remarkable. The allegation? That the US president threatened to withhold US military assistance unless Ukraine dishes the dirt on former vice-president Joe Biden, a potential adversary in next year’s election; Biden’s son, Hunter, has done business in the country. But the longer the White House lets the story rumble on, the worse it looks. “We have the gist but we don’t have the information on exactly what was said,” says Amy Pope, associate fellow at the US and Americas programme at Chatham House and former deputy security adviser to Barack Obama. “The reason why that’s interesting is that there are transcripts of the phonecalls; if they release the transcripts, there wouldn’t need to be this game about what was promised.”

Aviation / New Zealand

Happy landings?

Air New Zealand bids a fond farewell to chairman Tony Carter and CEO Christopher Luxon, as both men step down from the high-flying Kiwi flag-carrier. Luxon’s next move will be closely followed after six-and-a-half successful years in the cockpit. The 49-year-old has hinted at going into politics with the opposition National party, which will be looking to unseat prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her Labour-led coalition in the November 2020 election.

While Luxon considers a jump to public office, former prime minister Sir John Key moved in the other direction: the ex-National leader joined the Air New Zealand board in 2017. For now, Key and his colleagues must concentrate on finding a new CEO – even though Luxon tendered his resignation in June, a replacement is yet to be found.

Geopolitics / Switzerland & Austria

Split opinions

Social Democrat Martin Sailer has recently revived a somewhat incendiary suggestion in Swiss parliament: that the Austrian region of Vorarlberg should secede from Vienna and become part of Switzerland, either as a new canton or part of neighbouring St Gallen. Though the proposition sounds drastic (Sailer says “visionary”) there is a basis to his outburst: some recent polling says there is up to 65 per cent support for the idea in the region. And there’s a precedent, of sorts: Vorarlberg, the mountainous state to the nation’s west, voted to join Switzerland rather than Austria after the First World War – before being overruled. “From Venice to Florence, there are states all over Europe that are dabbling with secession,” says Mária M Kovács, professor of Nationalism Studies at the European Central University. “It all depends whether there is serious backing – these proposals have now just become commonplace political rhetoric.” Perhaps those cooking up such schemes are best off serving them with a pinch of salt.

Public transport / San Francisco

Driving force

San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has long used older trams from Milan or Melbourne to ply the routes on its iconic F-Market & Wharves streetcar service. However, this nostalgia trip may be reaching the end of the line. A shortage of drivers and the complexity of piloting these older vehicles means that the job is less popular than ever and just one in three historic-streetcar trainees graduate to become drivers. Although the line’s future is uncertain, San Francisco would do well to invest more in the driver-training programme to keep the scheme on the rails. In the meantime, buses could supplement the service – still used by more than 20,000 people a day – to keep commuters moving.

M24 / Monocle on Culture

‘Hustlers’

Robert Bound is joined by critics Anna Smith and Jason Solomons to talk friendship, fraudsters and the female gaze in ‘Hustlers’, the new stripper-heist movie, starring Jennifer Lopez, that is based on a true story.

Monocle Films / Leipzig

Leipzig’s artist studios

Dubbed the new Berlin, Leipzig is home to an increasing number of galleries and project spaces – but the city still has lots of space for inexpensive artists’ ateliers.

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