Friday. 25/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tyler Brûlé

Kia ora-voir?

Once upon a time, the civil-aviation industry spoke of flagship routes where national carriers flew their colours on exotic tarmac, showed off their newest aircraft and demonstrated a bit of soft power in emerging markets and former colonies. While many city pairs and round-the-world services weren’t exactly profitable, the appearance of gleaming metal and colourful tailfins helped cement the reputations of many of the world’s biggest carriers.

But it’s no surprise that, in a constantly challenged sector, many such routes have disappeared. From next October another will become part of Commonwealth aviation history: Air New Zealand will no longer fly to London, a destination it’s served in one form or another since 1982. Citing better returns by operating direct nonstops, the carrier has said that New York’s Newark Airport will replace Heathrow and become its latest destination.

For sure, the Los Angeles stop between London and Auckland was always a pain but, rather than retreating from Europe, Air New Zealand should be looking at ways to better serve it. Why not a route via Bangkok or a hop through Hong Kong, as the carrier has done in the past? New York is exciting but there seem to be stronger links to London than the Big Apple. Or maybe not? Kiwis have certainly begun to look at cities other than the UK capital for work abroad so perhaps the decision is legitimate. Nevertheless, the ties that bind the Commonwealth will be a bit more frayed 12 months from now.

Elections / Argentina

Salvage operation

Argentina heads to the polls on Sunday with the country’s economy barely registering a pulse. It’s not the first time that the nation’s finances have been in a state of tumult: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailed them out in the early 2000s and the recent reoccurrence of crippling inflation and capital flight has prompted the IMF to intervene again. President Mauricio Macri has struggled to contain the crisis and it looks likely that voters will plump for his 60-year-old left-wing rival Alberto Fernández. The former strategist has considerable experience, having worked for two former presidents: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her husband and predecessor Néstor Kirchner. Fernández will need all of his nous to bring Argentina’s economy back to life.

Transport / Austria

Positive signals

National strike action will bring trains – not to mention planes and coaches – to a shuddering halt in Italy today. Perhaps there are lessons to be gleaned from Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB), which this week revealed a sharp increase in ticket sales. We’ve been watching ÖBB’s investment in overnight rail links and better rolling stock with admiration and it seems the public are sold too. Bookings of regular-seated and overnight services surged 11 per cent year-on-year to the middle of this month. The international routes already include Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia and Poland, with new destinations – including connections between Amsterdam, Brussels and Vienna – slated to arrive by 2021. Shaky, parochial and overpriced providers in the UK, France and Italy should take heed. Reliable connections, clean cabins and a range of routes are still the ticket to keeping customers happy and sales on track.

Transport / The US

Push the boat out

Debates about the future of transport often centre on driverless cars, drones or other for-now-fanciful propositions. So it's refreshing to see Miami-Dade County doing something practical and floating the idea of easing congestion with new passenger-ferry routes. Currently the island of Miami Beach and the city proper are connected by traffic-choked road bridges but the new scheme would offer a much-needed alternative to cars, Ubers or private boat rental. Hurdles remain high, however: the tender, location of terminals and likely delivery date are still undecided. However, if the scheme does take to the water it’ll be worthwhile; in fact, more cities should look beyond driverless dreams and focus on getting cars off the road to tackle gridlock.

Art / Zürich

The imitation game

The Kunst Zürich art fair opened yesterday in a clutch of former warehouses next to Zürich-Oerlikon train station. Its showcase of paintings, sculpture, digital art and photography from 29 of the city’s leading galleries has been a staple of Zürich-based Alex Schlesinger’s schedule for the past 15 years – but not this time. Instead Schlesinger has transformed his gallery space on Tödistrasse into a temporary booth, slyly mimicking the format – and rigmarole – of erecting an exhibition space, while gearing his own efforts towards selling. “I’ll show like I would in a booth,” says Schlesinger. “When presenting like this, I give visitors the possibility of discovering something.” If you want to discover something for yourself, his show and the art fair run until Sunday.

M24 / Monocle On Design Extra

Seeing double

We visit Baltimore’s Post Typography to learn how founders Nolen Strals and Bruce Willen grew a successful design and branding agency from their beginnings as collaborators in the city’s music scene.

Monocle Films / Georgia

Tsinandali tunes

The first edition of a Georgian festival that’s bringing together musicians from the Caucasus to discuss their shared future.

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