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26 May 2022

Opinion from Adrian Leopard & Co

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Reservation deposits – blessing or curse? But what about the empty chairs and empty tables? And how would you feel if you discovered your pilot did not have a licence to fly the aircraft?
Adrian Leopard 327

Reservation deposits – blessing or curse? But what about the empty chairs and empty tables? And how would you feel if you discovered your pilot did not have a licence to fly the aircraft?

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Is the trust we place in our regulators justified? Pakistan CAA clearly has egg on its face

It is probable that the general public have little clue about the damage that no-shows can cause to restaurants and hotels. Unfortunately, this is not just an occasional problem but might almost be said to be endemic. What is difficult to know for certain in why no-shows take place and probably everyone has done it at some time or another, even if only because one of the party does not feel very well. Amazingly the public does not even really feel the need to telephone the restaurant and cancel. This would help the restaurant no end.

For a restaurateur the problem of no-shows can have a very material effect. Firstly, very little food in restaurants is prepared from scratch at the point when the order arrives in the kitchen. To do that would be virtually impossible unless the kitchen was very “un-busy” but more to the point it would mean that meals would take potentially a very long time to prepare. In the UK, people who attend restaurants are frequently extremely impatient and do not like to wait at all.

Of course, the further issue is that if food is not pre-prepared the restaurant would also lose the economy of scale which makes its meals affordable at all. Knowing what you can prepare in advance and have ready versus what needs to be cooked specifically to order is one of the most important and skilled aspects of commercial catering. So when a restaurant manager looks at the table bookings schedule, he can give the chef a good idea of numbers which will enable the chef to prepare accordingly.

Unfortunately, it is now becoming clear that there were massive no-shows for restaurants when they re-opened after the lockdown. The whole issue is doubly important now because of the fact that the number of guests has had to be reduced at any one time due to social-distancing so if 25% of those who booked did not turn up, a restaurant has a real problem. It is also really important on special days like Valentine’s Day, Mothering Sunday and times when restaurants can realistically hope to be fully booked, especially since days like that are very unlikely to produce walk-ins as people like to get special occasions fixed up in advance.

There is a solution open to restaurants, one which does not go down well with customers and that is to take a credit card number with the booking and advise that a no-show will incur a charge of, say, £10 a head. This is a slightly intimidating policy but why should it be? If you really intend to turn up, no problem. If you cancel by the specified time, again no problem. If you do not like the idea at all, does that mean you are in the bracket which might just not show up? It is not unknown for people to book two or three restaurants for an evening, and then decide on the day which one they will go to and forget the others.

If you book a hotel room, it is almost certain that you will be asked to confirm your booking with a credit card and be subject to a no-show fee unless you cancel by the requisite date. This is normal and seems to attract little adverse comment. Wherein lies the difference? However, it is a fact that when faced with requests for a deposit, many diners withdraw the booking.

But be warned – a poll amongst restaurateurs shows that the need to take deposits is growing, especially with the need to book tables to get in at all while numbers are reduced. Time to get used to the “new normal”.

Moving on, how much do you like flying? Well, how would you feel if you discovered that the pilot flying you was not actually licensed to fly the aircraft in the specific conditions? Well, there is a story you may have missed which has just surfaced and that is in relation to Pakistan International Airlines, PIA. It appears that the problem was uncovered during enquiries into the crash of PIA flight 8303 on 22nd May 2020. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority estimates that 30% of licences may be faked or otherwise have been fraudulently obtained; false degrees are inter alia part of the problem and a number of PIA pilots have already been dismissed with a load of others being stood down pending enquiries.

However, before you settle back into your armchair thinking that you will not be flying PIA, the problem does not stop there. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, has ordered its member states to bar Pakistani pilots from working in their countries and now to supply details of Pakistani captains to be provided to them. EASA has also now suspended PIA’s authorisation to fly in the EU for 6 months from 1st July and the Express Tribune has reported that approximately 40% of the licences issued by the PCAA are either falsified or otherwise not International Civil Aviation Organisation compliant. The situation is described as of “grave safety concern”.

Aeroplane licensing is a very complicated business. But flying permissions are very carefully regulated, supposedly, from flying with a private pilot’s licence in visual flight conditions all the way to being an air transport pilot with a type rating for the specific aircraft being flown. It takes years to achieve all of that and a big wallet is a great help as well! Readers will no doubt remember the sad case of the footballer who was killed when the private aircraft he was in as a passenger crashed into the sea north of Guernsey where the pilot was not correctly rated for the conditions, let alone licensed to carry fare-paying passengers.

The question perhaps is that if you have a Pakistan issued air transport licence and you want to fly with a British airline, you will need some sort of validation. Is the British CAA going to check the underlying validity of the various qualifications leading up to the issue of your licence?

Caveat emptor.

Adrian Leopard 09-07-20

Photo Alex Holyoake

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