Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views: 10 December 2022

This week Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield touches on flight delays and the prospect of full use of mobile phones while flying.


A friend isn’t taking her family back to spend Christmas with their extended family in Victoria because the flights added up to $9000. Demand for flying has pushed up airfares ahead of the Christmas holidays — and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is very aware of that. A spokesperson said this week: “Domestic airfares have soared well above pre-pandemic levels, and the extra revenue from more expensive flights has led Australia’s three airline groups to forecast a profitable financial year after three years of significant losses.” That’s all recorded in the ACCC’s latest Airline Competition in Australia report. The quarterly report reveals that the average revenue per passenger, an indication of average airfares across all fare types, was 27 per cent higher in October 2022 than it was in October 2019. ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey says: “Airfares have risen due to strong demand for travel and constrained supply as airlines have scaled back their schedules in response to high jet fuel costs and operational challenges.” The report shows that, of the different fare types, discounted economy fares have increased most. With fewer flights and strong demand, airlines don’t need special fares to fill planes.


The Airline Competition in Australia report also shows how flight cancellations and delays rose this year. Nearly 31 per cent of all flights were delayed in October, compared with the long-term average of about 18 per cent. Jetstar, Qantas, Rex and Virgin Australia collectively cancelled 9.3 per cent of domestic flights in July, which reduced to 2.9 per cent in October.


Airline passengers in the European Union will soon be able to use their phones fully during flights. The European Commission has just ruled that airlines can provide 5G wi-fi aboard planes, along with slower mobile data. It could mean that passengers no longer have to put their phone on airplane mode and will be able to use all features, from calls to streaming music and video. EU member states have until June 30, 2023, to have the 5G frequency bands available for planes. EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, says: “The sky is no longer a limit when it comes to possibilities offered by super-fast, high-capacity connectivity.”


Since 2008, the EU Commission has reserved some frequency bands for aircraft to offer wi-fi, which has relied on a satellite connection. Airplane mode has been important because of fears that phones could interfere with automatic flight control systems. The US has higher power settings for 5G and some still have concerns that these frequencies could interfere with flights. In January, the 10 biggest US airlines stated their worries about C-band 5G signals, between the two wi-fi bands, which are at 2.4GHz and 5GHz. In July, the FAA said the rollout of 5G C-band coverage near US airports wouldn’t fully start until 2023. “If there’s the possibility of a risk to the flying public, we are obligated to restrict the relevant flight activity until we can prove it is safe,” a spokesperson for the FAA said.


Reader Dean Clair recently flew from Vienna to Reykjavik, having booked through Mytrip, a booking company that the Skyscanner website directed him to. The flight was with Wizz Air. Dean says: “There was a slight problem with the booking. However, when I finally got through to Wizz, they said they could not do anything as I did not ‘own’ the booking and that the booking was ‘owned’ by Mytrip. It was a nightmare to change and a nightmare to try and get through to Wizz airlines which are a budget European airline. My advice to readers would be to not use companies similar to Mytrip and to book directly with the airlines. That way you definitely ‘own’ the booking and can deal with them directly. This will save you a lot of hassle, which I unfortunately learnt the hard way whilst I was in Europe.”


Recently Indonesia’s Parliament approved a new criminal code that bans sex outside marriage. It carries a jail term of up to a year. The new laws take effect in three years and will apply equally to locals and foreigners living the Muslim-majority country, and to visiting holiday-makers in Bali. But for prosecutions to start, a complaint has to be filed by the children, parents or spouse of the accused couple. There has been comment that although under local religious beliefs, having sex outside marriage is considered a sin, but not a crime, the criminal code is now being based on one religion. There are also six blasphemy laws in the code, including apostasy: renouncing a religion.


I’m interested to see that so far during the World Cup, Portuguese player Cristiano Ronaldo has gained the most Instagram followers, with an extra 12.38 million, while Argentina’s Lionel Messi has gained 11.11 million. Percentage-wise, the World Cup player who has (so far) gained the most followers is South Korean striker Cho Gue-sung, who increased his fan base by 7580 per cent, as he added 2.312 million followers. Other big winners are Bilal El Khannous, the youngest player in the Moroccan team, and Mexican players Kevin Alvarez and Luis Chavez.


As you will gather from this edition, I was in Argentina on the way to Antarctica. And, as I write in these pages, there have been moments in the last two years when, in lockdown at home, then only able to go to local parks, then to the regions of WA, it seemed impossible that I would ever see South America again. With low staff levels in the travel industry, new people having to be trained and use increasingly digital systems, huge workloads, and lots of people travelling, travel is bumpy — as you will also see through the stories in these pages. But it feels adventurous to be out in the world again. It feels adventurous to be in South America . . .


. . . which reminds me that in the book Elsewhere, written as I cleared out my mother’s house and left the family home for the last time, I wrote: “I trundle Casey (my faithful suitcase) down my mother’s driveway, the compressed best of her past life inside him, to go on to assignment. It feels so odd — as if my mother is there with me, following me through my extraordinary life. When I come to check it in for flight, I see him disappear on the luggage belt and a terrible sadness floods me. Casey, containing remnants of my mother’s former life, vanishes through a hanging curtain of rubber strips on the conveyor. And then I pull myself together. I hum the Indiana Jones theme tune. I march down the departure lounge. I am fine. I will be fine. But I will never take my life for granted.” I will never take the adventure for granted.


Glasgow stars in new Indiana Jones film. It was partly filmed in Glasgow and some of the scenes have been shown for the first time, in the film’s trailer. The city was dressed up as an American street during the summer 2021 filming of the movie Dial of Destiny. It will be hard to miss the clip of 80-year-old Harrison Ford riding a horse through “New York” and on to subway tracks. The horseback chase was actually filmed in Glasgow, where a body double for Ford rode through the parade scene. (When I need a body double, I’ll call Chris Hemsworth. Yeah, sure.)

Play the theme tune…