In Denmark, Shock Gives Way To A Vow To Carry On

Candelight vigil in Copenhagen's Osterbro area on Monday
Candelight vigil in Copenhagen's Osterbro area on Monday
Francesca Paci

COPENHAGEN — Niels Ivar Larson, a Danish journalist and one of the organizers of last Saturday night's debate on Islam and free speech at the Krudttønden cafe, says he's in shock that a terrorist attacked the event and subsequently a synagogue, killing two and injuring five police officers.

"Despite having received threats, Denmark has never been the subject of an attack like this, the worst since World War II," he says. "We knew that this could happen."

He describes it as an eventuality so theoretical that, after having introduced the French ambassador, when he heard the shots ring out, he didn't think about terrorism. "It was just a second, and then I heard shouting in a foreign language — maybe it was Arabic — then we all jumped under desks, and I remembered our colleagues at Charlie Hebdo."

Now, he says, life, at least to all appearances, is continuing the same as always. The locals went about their Sunday the following day, mothers with flushed cheeks pedalling their bikes with kids in carts behind them. The police aren't any more visible, though the atmosphere feels heavy, as though it was going to rain.

Denmark, the idyllic home to 5.5 million people and dubbed the happiest country in the world, has the collective feeling that what happened the last few days is something out of a movie. "No one imagined that it could happen to us," says university student Andreas Skadborg, confessing he finds it hard to believe that his country has suddenly found itself in the crosshairs of the sectarian hatred that is unfortunately marking the new millennium.

The Danish synagogue attacked Sunday morning is a couple of blocks away. In front of the entrance, between the people gathered in solidarity and supervised by a police squad, 52-year-old Jacob articulates the same astonishment. "We're not in France here, and until now the Jews had never felt in danger," he says.

With two people dead and five injured, it's Danish intelligence head Jens Madsen who hypothesized about a massacre eerily similar to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last month. The presumed killer was a 22-year-old who had devoted himself to crime.

The loss of innocence

Krudttønden cafe is in the Østerbro area, one of the most affluent in Copenhagen. At the front of the building, where cameras are stationed, an expanse of funeral candles are lined up. Writer Morten Brask lives a few blocks away. "I talked with my friends, I looked on social networks," he says. "There's a strange atmosphere here, almost as if fear made us lose our bearings. We must stay firm and carry on as if nothing had happened."

The Danes have lost their innocence over the past few years, Brask says. "In 2005, by publishing the cartoons caricaturing Muhammad, the Jyllands-Posten revealed that the tolerance of a "village" like ours can change to completely the opposite in the global village," he says, referring to the daily Danish newspaper.

Culturally and politically, the challenge here is radical Islam, which the young Danish poet Yahya Hassan has denounced for some time now. "It's undeniable that Islamic fundamentalism is now putting our values on trial," says a young man named Hecktor, who's hanging out at a student pub not far away from the city's Christiania district.

His friend Clement Knudsen, who supports the far-left Red-Green Alliance, is thinking about the upcoming general election in September. "This will benefit the right-wing Danish People's Party," he says. "For years, they've been riding on the anti-Europeanism that seduces even anti-racists like me, but now they'll leave the Polish immigrants alone and campaign about Islamophobia: us versus them."

Staying united

Identity is a sensitive subject in Denmark, where the left and right agree on issues such as gay marriage or abortion, in the belief that political issues have to do with the economy and foreign affairs.

"We must be united," booms Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. And insists the journalist Larsen, "We must reject any self-censorship."

Denmark admits its shock but flaunts control — perhaps too much — with everyone ruling out any reprisals against Islamic places of worship. Yet, says Pakistani taxi driver Mohammed, parents of Muslim immigrants who live here are phoning to see if everything is OK.

"I am a liberal and a socialist, but I'm afraid that the EU's contradictions are making us implode from the inside," says 26-year-old Sisdel Jensen. Today he looks back and smiles bitterly. "Our sense of Protestant responsibility conflicts with the cultural differences of people who, in the absence of control, won't pay the price for those who hate our freedom."

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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