Julian Bray on Aviation Today

17:42 Friday 9th September 2011
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PETER SWAN: The most direct effect of 9/11 has been, for many of us, on the way we fly. Air Marshals and liquid bans are just two of the ways in which the airline industry has worked to combat the threat of terrorism. Well let’s speak with Julian Bray, an aviation expert from Peterborough. Evening to you Julian. Now I suppose, looking at things in a broader sense, it was the fact that September 11th was suicide attacks that was really a bit of a game-changer for the aviation industry. You think that’s fair?
JULIAN BRAY: Yes I think so. And it’s a wake-up call. Because I remember watching that. I watched it all the way through. Because we’d just sat down for lunch, and we were transfixed. We were glued to the television. I think we finally turned off at 10 o’clock in the evening. And it was quite amazing, because in the early stages, there was a lot of confusion. We could see large aircraft going into the sides of the World Trade Centre, and still the Americans networks were claiming they were two light aircraft.
PETER SWAN: Obviously that makes a real difference. How did September 11th really begin to affect the way we travel? Because over the course of the decade, I guess many people have forgotten what it was like beforehand.
JULIAN BRAY: Well it was a lot easier then. Security was fairly lax. Security people tended to know the passengers, look at the passengers, and if you’re travelling business class, or first class, then security measures were pretty scant. And you went through. Luggage allowances were much greater, and there weren’t so many restrictions. There were no luggage restrictions of course, no scanners, and you didn’t have to take your shoes off. That really happened after the shoe-bomber came on board. But basically, what’s happened now is that checks have become slower, there are more checks, and travel really isn’t quite so glamorous. And of course it really hit the bottom line. I’ve worked with a few airlines, and they regard their aircraft as assets flying from country to country. So the value is where the aircraft is. And of course if the aircraft aren’t flying, or the aircraft are subject to delays, then it’s costing them money to have the aircraft on the ground. And all this adds up. And of course you’ve also got to look at the Americans themselves. Only about 15% of US citizens actually have passports. They tended to use identity cards to get to the Caribbean, but now even the Americans, as from the strt of this year, have to have full passports. And as a result, of the 15% who actually have the passports, only 10% actually travel to Europe, would you believe? And of course what’s happened now is that they’re staying at home. This has had a knock-on effect. It’s also affected the cruise industry. Now you’ve probably noticed that a lot of cruise liners from America have been plying their trade, so to speak, around Europe, around the Mediterranean, because the home market has been hit as well. So it is affecting everybody, but it’s been a gradual process. So we haven’t really taken it on board.
PETER SWAN: Yes. As you don’t really, when it’s over the period of ten years. You’ve mentioned a lot of what I suppose you might call negative impacts there. Nut would you say that everything that has happened has been necessary?
JULIAN BRAY: Well not really. But people tend to overreact. The good thing is that everybody has looked at aircraft types, they’ve looked at the specifications, and the aircraft flying now are far safer in aviation terms than the aircraft that flew before 9/11. Simply because everybody has double-checked everything. They’ve put in redundant systems. They’ve also made sure that as most aircraft fly by wire, in other words they have several computers controlling everything, it is a lot safer to fly these days. And of course every instance, there’s an investigation, and they try and learn the lessons from those investigations. And so you actually find that the resultant product that comes out from the aviation industry has taken that all on board. And the Government inspectors and governments around the world have also tightened up their airport procedures. We have better airports now. There’s still a few dodgy ones in the Middle East, where security is a bit lax. But hopefully they’ll be tightened up as well, when everybody’s more aware.
PETER SWAN: How do you see things progressing in future then? Because I’m sure, like any other industry, you don’t stop still where you’re standing. You try and progress all the time. Are there any ideas in the pipeline for perhaps improving the way that all of these systems work, so we can fly a bit more easily and a bit more quickly?
JULIAN BRAY: Well I think that’s happening. Because what’s actually happened of course is that not so many people are flying, as a matter of course. They’re thinking about it. So what is happening now is that people are being choosy. They’re going for the best deals. And they’re thinking about whether their flight is really necessary, which is actually good for the people who are left behind. So it means that a lot of airlines are increasing the seat pitch, which basically means that instead of thirty inches, you’re getting thirty-five inches for your knees, between the front of your seat and the seat in front of you. So that’s better for all of us, for a start. And you find that the in-flight service has changed, as people become more relaxed with it, In some flights for example, you’veĀ  got Air Marshals, and things like that. But all the crew are well and truly trained in security matters, as well as serving the duty-frees and the food, and everything else. But for the passenger experience, it means that the airlines have to work twice as hard to get you onto their aircraft. And they’ve got to work closer. And there’s still a bit of a gap between working with the airports, and the actual airlines themselves.
PETER SWAN: OK Julian. Thanks there for joining us on the show.
JULIAN BRAY: Thank you.
PETER SWAN: That’s Julian Bray, an aviation expert from Peterborough.