All the stuff you never knew you needed to know about life in rural France.....and all the stuff the books and magazines won't tell you.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

So what is classed as being of public utility exactly?

Ryanair AeroplaneImage by aromano via Flickr

I have only used Ryanair once, to fly to and from Stansted and I found it fine..
I was, it is true, travelling light and I had been able to book my ticket in advance, so the whole thing was delightfully cheap.

The staff were great at both ends of the journey too, despite finding some mysterious metal somewhere in one leg which makes me wonder if it is possible to inherit shrapnel with your genes.

I travelled from Poitiers, which is a bit off my regular beat, but it fitted with other plans, and, having enjoyed the experience I was thus dismayed to see in the local rag that there are threats to the continuance of the service.

Ryanair wants a grant of a million euros, I think, for what is euphemistically called 'marketing' to continue using the airport, the money, as always, to come from the consortium running it, who represent the local authorities. Thus, the money is to come from the public purse, a purse already pretty stretched.

Ryanair doesn't have a good press, so is this just another case of greed on its' part?

Well, the guy running the airport consortium doesn't seem to think so.

According to him, it wasn't Ryanair asking to use Poitiers, it was Poitiers asking Ryanair to provide the service and if they go, he can see no other airline who would want to take it on.
They have about 90,000 passengers a year, mostly British, and he points to the beneficial effect of the British who have settled in the area....houses restored, villages kept alive and commerce thriving on their custom, quite apart from the importance of the airlink in the frequentation of tourist sites and theme parks.

He bewails the fact that La Rochelle is a bit too close for comfort, with its' own plans for extending a service to Oslo, and that local rivalries, as so often in France, (that bit is my comment, not his...he's be off in the tumbril for that) come before regional strategic planning.

He's also suffering from a timing problem as he has just asked for public support for a line to order to encourage the trickle of Spanish tourists to become a flood like that of the British before them, so the Ryanair demand did not arrive at the best of moments for this poor man.

I have heard the howls from British immigrants when Ryanair decide to chop a route , and the counter howls of the self righteous who actually prefer driving on French motorways and eating at Buffalo Grills, proclaiming the folly of the first group in moving to an area served by a low cost airline. Perhaps the second group contain those who can afford national carriers too.

Especially with the economic gloom, state of the pound,etc., anecdotal evidence suggests more and more British are commuting to work in the U.K., so for those in the Poitiers catchment area, it would be a blow if the service is brought to an end. The prospect of a drive to Limoges or La Rochelle is not particularly inviting.

Local authority is keeping mum for the moment.

However, the guy running the consortium points to an anomaly.

There is a twice daily service between Lyon, Poitiers and La Rochelle which is fully supported by public money as being classed of 'public utility'.
Run by Airliner, there is about 60 per cent capacity on its 42 seater planes, and it gets 1.7 million euros in support money. The effect of this subsidy is to reduce the average price of a ticket from 700 Euros to 400 euros.
The principal users are managers of big firms - he quotes Alstom and Saft - travelling between their various sites, getting an indirect subsidy of 300 euros a time on their tickets.

So, Ryanair wants 1 million for running its 600 flights with 180 seats and Airliner gets 1,7 million do the maths.

I wonder which group of passengers bring the most economic benefit to the area?
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  1. At a guess, the likes of Alstom and Saft. We just lost an enterprise called SKF (they make bearings) in Fontenay and net lost 300 jobs. In a town of 12000 that is a lot. The direct cost in unemployment benefits will amount to €7,5 million and the lost local tax revenue a further €2 million. On top there is the knock-on effect to other local businesses who, for example, acted as supplers to SKF. It's finger in the air stuff, but a total cost of €25 million is probably not too wide of the mark.

    SKF themselves claim the closure is the result of "infrastructure considerations" so I suppose any service that means firms continue to operate in the regions is probably worth supporting.

    Mind you, this is not a reason not to encourage other services if there is a net financial benefit, though quite why hoards of Spanish tourists would want to visit Poitiers I cannot say. Are they big fans of Futuroscope or something? Since that is now owned by Disney perhaps they could be touched for a few shekels.

  2. I stopped using Ryanair when they tried to charge me for two seats. I explained that I was not overweight, obese, abnormal in anything other than being 6ft 7" tall, and broad of stature.

    They asked me to step out of the queue and speak to the duty supervisor. After 50 minutes I was confronted with a woman who barely came up to my waist, had an attitude that would remove mildew from a wet wall, and had been selected so that I would not become argumentative to a member of the fairer sex.

    They then told me that because I refused to pay the extra £89 I would not be allowed to fly.

    I went across the airport and booked a later flight with Easyjet at no extra cost, was treated with courtesy, and even given a seat near the front so that I could stretch out my rather large frame. I think the kilt might have helped.

    No contest to me... Easyjet it is from here on in. Considering I make on average 2 flights a month, they won't miss my cash, but then again, I won't miss their customer services.

  3. Jon, I have always had my doubts about why managers should always be bustling about from plant to plant given modern communications systems. Don't firms trust their local management, or is it yet another example of inventing something to do to justify their existence?
    Why fly about when you could pick up the telephone?
    Shouldn't think that making managers stick to their desks would bring as firm down, so, no, i'm not in favour of subsidising their airfares.

    No, I don't know what the Spanish would see in Poitiers,either, but I'm not a theme park fan and the area crawls with them, to judge by the advertising hoardings I saw on the way to the airport.
    Buzzards, apes, crocodiles....and that's just the Conseil Regional....

    Jimmy Bastard, sounds as if Ryanair staff were lucky you weren't carrying the slicer in your carry on luggage!
    What a dreadful attitude! I never thought I would be grateful to be a dumpy woman of more than a certain age, but if being six foot seven gives rise to problems like that....
    The staff at Poitiers and stansted could not have been did I just hit a lucky day?

  4. Clearly not having a good day hitting the keyboard, though. Apologies for typos.

  5. What is classed as being of public utility? Could it possibly be "Anything serving the interests of private companies with clout (ie, money)"?

  6. Pueblo girl, that sounds about right.....

  7. Fascinating. I have never flown so thats another thing I dont have to worry about. Sad 'innit!
    Have a good new year.

  8. Grumpy Old Ken, thank you. I must say I think it shows my age that when I had to go to the U.K. I first thought of the train, then, seeing the price of the thing, opted for the 'plane.
    I think younger people just hop on and off them like buses.

  9. Fly - Business travel has two primary purposes:

    1) The collection of frequent flyer privilages;
    2) Keeping other people out of trouble. Never should local management be trusted to paint an accurate picture of what is going on. If you ever really want to know what is happening you have to just arrive, preferably without 'phoning first.

    I turned up in an oil terminal I used to have nominal oversight of on Malta on one occasion to discover that the staff had taken over a couple of the paint sheds and had established a nice little business breeding rabbits for the table.

    They were even giving out recipe suggestions.

    At another terminal in North Africa a healthy industry in smuggled spirits and fags was in full swing. They were lucky it was me that found out rather than anyone from audit or accounting. I just gave them a bollocking ,told them to get rid of the stuff and let it drop. I was never very professional.

    Worth every penny of somebody else's money I tell you.

  10. Jon, that's lovely. I'm sure you have too much human kindness to do the nasty on people.

    Mark you, I think as long as some regular activity was going on, I'd have let them carry on. After all, people tell me that their firms provide gyms, spa treatments, psychiatrists(!), life coaches and ping pong tables, all wasting time and money, while these enterprising guys were setting up a business in the firm's time instead. Positive thinking on their part!
    Looking at some of the firms I've invested in over the years, these guys would probably have done a better job of running them...seem to have the right objectives!

    I know you're joking about the frequent flyer miles, but it has always got my of the several I seem to keep around see business wasting money which eventually I will end up paying either in tax or in prices of products.
    I take your point about a swift descent on the unwary, but you wouldn't do it on a regular basis, would you?

    Well,I suppose it depends on how far away your next holiday destination is....

  11. Managers bustle from meeting to meeting in expensive planes because it gives them a feeling of purpose. Of course, it largely has no purpose but that is beside the point and is not to be questioned.

    I met someone recently who said, 'young educated people take gap years because they know working life will chain them to a computer screen - and meetings of course, if they get promoted.' He was a shrewd observer.

  12. Mark, no, if you want to keep your contract, never question what management is for!

    I think you're right about the world of work, it was much more fun when I was around.

    I was lucky in my working life that I only had to meet clients...meetings with colleagues were rare events with everyone looking at their watches and skidding through the agenda in order to get a decent train back home from London. Wonderful how Liverpool Street and its' schedules would concentrate the mind.

  13. This is really a double-edge sword, isn't it? I remember when Carcassonne airport was opened up to Ryanair - the CCI or whoever dished out a fortune to them so that Ryanair ran a regular service. The airport was dolled up over the years and thousands flocked down to snap up second homes. Those who were grateful that sun and cheap plonk were only a couple of hours away from London are now the ones complaining that the fares are too expensive, the staff are crap and there are too many hidden extras.
    I used Ryanair often from Carcassonne as it was cheap (£5 return when it started and no hidden extras) and it was wonderful as getting to England from there was a major expedition beforehand. It is more expensive now but when my children travelled from Carcassonne to Brussels, Ryanir was still the cheapest and quickest - the SNCF was 30% more and involved a 10 hour journey.

  14. dragondays, I took Ryanair as it was so much cheaper...and out here in the sticks..convenient than SNCF.
    I didn't hear anyone complaining about its' prices or services either, but I did see a range of prices on the website when I booked so I can imagine that Ryanair charges more on flights either side of the weekend.
    Considering what public money gets dished out for - travelling players whose main talent appears to be in obtaining public money to travel - a 'plane service to Stansted doesn't seem an unreasonable cause.

  15. Used them twice, going there and coming back, from the aforesaid airport, but then I am conveniently equidistant between Poitiers, La Rochell and Nantes. But taking it all into consideration, be there at least 1 hr before departure, plus the getting there, plus the flight time, plus the disembarkation, plus waiting for baggage - why not drive and take a ferry? No squeezing into those tiny seats and breathing in secondhand air carrying heavens knows what viruses. Give me a drive through the French countryside anytime!

  16. Trisha...but not, please not, the Buffalo Grill!

  17. I've done a few Ryan Air flights over the years and I know they get a lot of bad press but - for what they charge - I think they do a good job. Having said that, I would much prefer driving myself somewhere instead of all the hanging about at airports.

  18. French Fancy, agree totally. Can also do shopping that way....another way Ryanair works out cheaper!

  19. You'll find this amusing. We've been shipping camera pieces my husband has made all over the world and so far the only package that has not arrived is the one sent to....Paris!

  20. Zuleme, don´t....! The French will start to feel persecuted....all the Brits who identify with the French will feel persecuted....I will get the blame....
    They´ve recently managed to lose a registered letter for me....Customs detained a pair of boots sent from Australia as a present...and a book by George soros could not, for some obscure reason, be sent to France.
    If only my postlady ran things...

  21. Hi Helen,
    missing your blog - hope you are ok xx

  22. Roz, thanks...yes, I'm O.K., Mr. Fly hasn't been so good recently though, thus the silence.

  23. OK, just read the last comment, so no need to ask. My best wishes to both of you.

  24. Pueblo girl, thanks. He's doing a bit better now, thank goodness.