Random thoughts of an economist

香港什麼時候可以追上歐盟對航班乘客的保障?

Posted in Economics, teaching, Travel by kafuwong on August 7, 2017

 

兩個月前,和家人去了捷克布拉格旅遊。坐的是奧地利航空 (Austrian Airlines)。去程在奧地利的維也納 (Vienna) 轉駁到布拉格。整個旅途十分愉快。就是回程時有一個小插曲。

回程當日,於航班起飛前兩小時便到了布拉格機場辦理登機手續。辦理登機手續和安檢都十分順利。找到航班閘口,便在附近流連等上機。誰知先是宣布航班改登機閘口,接著是航班延誤,最後竟是因機件故障將航班取消。家人於是和航空公司了解情況,並極力爭取適當的安排和賠償。結果,航空公司安排我們坐另一航空公司,轉飛德國的慕尼黑,然後轉駁回港。

轉航班的事安頓後,我便發信息給布拉格的老友,報告情況。老友提示,歐盟在航空延誤有清楚的條例規管,包括對於航班延誤的賠償方案。

的確,根據歐洲法律 (Regulation (EC) 261/2004),如果您的航班延誤至少三個小時或取消,您有權獲得賠償。當然有例外。如果延誤的原因是航空公司無法控制的,譬如惡劣的天氣或機組人員罷工等非常情況,航空公司就不需要為此作出賠償。

不要以為此法例只適用於歐盟的航空公司。原來,所有從歐盟機場起飛的航班(不管是那一家航空公司),和抵達歐盟機場並由歐盟航空公司經營的航班,都是受規管的。即是說,就是在中國註冊的航空公司從布拉格直航到北京的航班也要遵守這個條例。

要注意,航班要延誤到達您的目的地最少超過三個小時,你才附合資格獲得賠償;還有,賠償額與延誤時間和飛行距離是掛鈎的。下表總結了這個關係。譬如說,如果飛行距離不超過1500公里,延誤多於三個小時,賠償額是250歐元(以現在1歐元兌9.21 港幣計算,約2300港幣)。

延誤時數 飛行距離 賠償額



三個小時以上 1500公里以下 250歐元
1500 到3500 公里之間 400歐元
1500公里以上,歐盟與歐盟機場之間的航班 400歐元
三到四小時 3500公里以上,歐盟與非歐盟機場之間的航班 300歐元
四個小時以上 3500公里以上,歐盟與非歐盟機場之間的航班 600歐元



我們從捷克布拉格回到香港,足足比原定抵港時間延遲了五個多小時,飛行距離肯定超過3500公里。回到家,我輕易的在網上找來一封申索賠償的樣本信,補上我們航班和個人資料,透過航空公司的投訴網頁發給航空公司。隨後三個星期與航空公司跟進了兩個電郵,每人5340港幣(600歐元以當時兌換價折算所得)就存到我們的銀行戶口。(注意,除非乘客是兒童,否則航空公司只會把賠償金存到與接受賠償人客同名的銀行戶口。)

歐盟對飛機乘客有如此保障,逼使航空公司盡量避免延誤。那香港呢?網上搜查,發現2012年,謝偉俊議員曾經在立法會就航班延誤的賠償安排發問。當日官員的答案是這樣的:『一般而言,航空公司會按照其商業考慮及既定程序,作出賠償或其他補償安排。據了解,國泰航空公司有內部指引處理航班服務受阻時的跟進,盡量減低對乘客構成的不便。一般而言,該公司會根據每宗事故的情況,例如延誤的時間長短和原因,作出安排。同時,航空公司亦會考慮個別乘客的情況或需要而決定跟進工作,包括提供酒店住宿、安排轉乘其他航空公司的航班,以及在特殊情況下,給予乘客應急津貼。』簡單而言,就是政府沒有規管航班延誤的賠償問題。2015年,消費者委員會的《選擇》月刊461 期 (2015年3月) 在標題為『認識廉航收費模式免招損失』的文章比較了廉航在航班延誤提供的補償方案,竟然有航空公司沒有遵守《蒙特利爾公約》,給予受影響的乘客任何賠償。實在令人震驚!

飛機已經成為香港人的重要交通工具之一。香港是亞洲區重要的航空樞紐。要保持這個航空樞紐的地位,準確的航班時間尤為重要。航班延誤也實在對乘客帶來不便和困擾。對延誤作出賠償實在是合理不過。

我希望香港能效法歐盟,訂立對飛機乘客清晰統一和合理的最低航班延誤的賠償額以及各種對乘客的保障。個別的航空公司當然可以在這個最低保障之上稍作調整。立法需時。在訂立相關法例之前,我盼望政府至少應該有系統地向公眾提供有關資訊,方便乘客查閱和在需要時追討賠償。

參考資料:

  1. “How to claim flight delay or cancellation compensation – and the circumstances in which you qualify”

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/holidays/article-2271213/How-claim-EU-flight-delay-compensation-EC-261-2004.html

  1. 『廉航投訴飈140% 有票不保證上機, 延誤取消乘客自理 致電索償先付百元』

http://paper.hket.com/article/566498/%E5%BB%89%E8%88%AA%E6%8A%95%E8%A8%B4%E9%A3%88140-%20%E6%9C%89%E7%A5%A8%E4%B8%8D%E4%BF%9D%E8%AD%89%E4%B8%8A%E6%A9%9F?section=005

  1. 『9 間廉航 延誤安排及賠償表一覽』

http://travel.ulifestyle.com.hk/DetailNews.php?id=ADsRYhEqA3IMIg&p=1

  1. 『認識廉航收費模式免招損失』《選擇》月刊461 期(2015年3月)
  2. 『立法會十一題:航班延誤的賠償安排』(2012年2月15日)http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/201202/15/P201202150160.htm

(文章曾在《眾新聞》發佈,日期: 07.08.17)

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以獲得器官捐贈的優先權做誘因

Posted in Economics, Hong Kong, teaching by kafuwong on August 6, 2017

等待器官續命或改善生活素質的病人有增無減。每隔一段時,新聞報導又傳來某某年輕病人因等不到器官捐贈而去世的消息。聞之傷心。那些沒有受廣泛報導,器官衰歇,每天在依賴藥物和機器維持生活素質的病人相信為數不少。

成功移植器官,除了可續命,提高病人生活素質外,也會大大的減低醫療系統的負擔。移植器官的技術已經成熟, 缺的就是器官。

在類似香港的自由經濟體系,解決器官供求問題,自願性是必要條件。在這個自願性的前提下,器官市場是最直觀的解決方案。價格可起鼓勵供應的作用。讓價格自由浮動,理論上價格會調到供求平衡為止(供過於求,價格會下降;求過於供,價格會上調)。伊朗就是一個成功的例子(聽說伊朗的活腎的供應是不缺的)。為什麼伊朗那麼成功,其他自由經濟體系就沒有採用類似方案呢?恐怕是牽涉到各種的道德、公平性和政治的考慮。

排除器官市場,供應就要靠捐贈了。活人器官捐贈是有的,但因為器官捐贈對活人捐贈者的身心健康有可能做成長遠負面影響,活人器官捐贈是少得可憐。有的話,基本上都是來自親人(零星的例外當然是有的。)

剩下的就是死人器官捐贈 。在這方面,政府是不遺餘力的。雖然在政府大力鼓勵下,同意於死後把器官捐出者的數字確實增加不少。可是實際成功的捐贈個案還是少得可憐。癥結是,同意於死後捐贈器官者的遺屬不同意。現時器官捐贈要先得到死者死前的同意,還有遺屬於死者死後的同意。一部分遺屬思想傳統,要堅持保留死者全屍。另一部分遺屬在哀傷之際沒有心情去處理一個和自己利益沒直接關聯的議題。要得到遺屬的同意確實有困難。這就是為什麼政府努力推動器官捐贈多年,進展卻不大的原因。

對症下藥之策是把是否同意捐贈死者器官的決定和死者親屬的利益連成一線。我建議政府制定政策,給捐贈器官的直系親屬一個他日獲得器官捐贈的優先權。因為把關捐贈器官決定的一般都是死者的直系親屬,我們針對直系親屬便足夠了。

優先權是一個保障,是一個不牽涉金錢的誘因。不牽涉金錢就避免了像器官市場的道德爭議。捐贈器官這回事就好像死者於死後送一份禮物給直系親屬一樣。沒有類似器官市場的只有富者才得到器官移植機會的不公平性。

至於實際如何定優先權,我建議是在現有的器官輪候冊的計分制度裡,為器官捐贈者的直系親屬額外加分。至於加多少分,如何管理等等,就要另外找專家研究提案了。

總的來說,有了這個誘因,遺屬就更傾向同意捐出死者的器官。實際上,有了這個誘因,會有更多人願意死後捐出器官。一個誘因誘發兩個同向的決定,樽頸鬆綁,供移植的器官就有望大幅增加了。

以上的建議理論上簡單易行,不牽涉額外資源,爭議性估計不大,希望政府認真考慮一下。

(文章曾在《眾新聞》發佈,日期: 19.04.17)

Need some incense, sir?

Posted in Economics by kafuwong on January 10, 2017

Stepping out of Wong Tai Sin MTR station towards the Wong Tai Sin Temple, you will see a line of four persons trying to sell incense to tourists.  If you are like most tourists, you will walk pass them and go to the point of interest – the Temple.

Unlike most tourists, I was not in a hurry.  In my recent visit, I paused to observe how they did business.  Initially, I wanted to know how often they were successful selling incense and the characteristics of the sellers who were more able to persuade.  Yes, there was a person with only one hand.  I would assume that more people would buy from him.  Nonetheless, I did not stay long enough to see any successful sales.

Initially, I thought the four persons would compete against each other for business.  To my surprise, they did not circle the potential customers at the same time to compete for business.  Instead, they took turns.  They organized themselves in a line.  The one in the front would approach the passer-by.  After the attempt, success or not, he/she would move to the end of the line.

The business appeared organized.  The obvious advantage of such arrangement is to avoid vicious competition and potential conflicts among the salespersons. That all salespersons circling the potential customers at the same time to compete for business can be understood as an outcome of non-cooperation, an inferior outcome.  That all salespersons lining up to approach potential customers one by one can be understood as an outcome of cooperation, a superior outcome.

What caused the cooperation?  Economists have studied repeated games and found that cooperation (which yield better outcome) is more likely in “infinitely” repeated games.

Now, think about the several local dominant players in specific sectors.  Have you ever wonder why they appear cooperative?

Coming home for dinner, honey?

Posted in Life by kafuwong on January 9, 2017

The telephone rang.  I picked the phone.

“Are you coming home for dinner?” My wife asked.

“What time is it?”  I replied.

“It is already six thirty.”  She said.

“Gosh.  I should be leaving office soon.  Should be home for dinner by seven thirty.”  I said.

“Good.  Dinner will be ready by seven thirty.”  She said.

It was eight when I opened the door.  My wife said, “We just started fifteen minutes ago.  Almost done.  Your son and I decided not to wait any longer.  We did save some for you.  All in the rice cooker.”  I could tell she was annoyed that I was late — again.

That was a normal day.  My wife was home taking care of the household chore.  That included cooking a dinner for the family.  In a normal day, I would be late for dinner.  In fact, even if I got home early, I would continue to do my work in the study — until I was told dinner was ready.  Even with the dinner-ready announcement, I continued to work for some time (kind of to finish the things at hand) and would show up late at the dinner table.  My wife was not happy.

In recent months, our roles switched.  My wife is now working full-time.  I stay home to take care of the household chore.  That includes cooking a dinner for the family.  Now it is my turn to ask whether and when she will come home for dinner.  Just like me in the past, she is often late for dinner.  I feel annoyed.

Yes, I feel annoyed by my wife’s being late for dinner.  I am even more annoyed by my being late for dinner when my wife was the cook.  Today, I start to understand how much I was hurting my wife back then — but only when finally we have a role switch.

Because I have been through it, I am more sympathetic of the hectic schedule of my love ones, and thus try to be more tolerant and supportive.

Are you well educated enough?

Posted in Democracy, Economics, Information by kafuwong on November 5, 2016

Saw a line from the Economist about elections in democratic countries like the United States.  

We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.

When the election result is not to our liking, it is easy for us to BLAME THE OTHER voters that they are not educated well enough.  Wait a minute.  Is it so easy to be educated well enough?

Show me an orange and an apple. I can make a choice between the two. I can do so by look at their shape, size, color and smell.  That used to be a simple choice in the old days.  I might make a wrong selection occasionally but I will learn from my mistakes over time.  

But, nowadays, if it is known that most people chooses orange (or, are predicted to choose orange), the apple owner may decorate the apple so that it is more appealing to the consumers. By changing the shape, size, color and smell, say.  When most people now choose apple, the orange owner may decorate the orange so that it is more appealing to the consumers.

The competition can continue. More decoration techniques are invented to FOOL the consumers. The consumers are however ultimately interested in the taste of apples and orange. Fooled by the decoration, we as consumers may end up buying a bad apple.

To be a wise consumer, we need to understand the tricks of the decoration and thus be able to uncover the real thing.

And, that is not easy!  Certainly very costly!

不要關心贏輸

Posted in Life by kafuwong on August 26, 2016

一位朋友分享網上奧運的感言。

里約奧運會落幕了!

中國女排打了8場,贏了5場,輸了3場,冠軍!

塞爾維亞打了8場,贏了6場,輸了2場,亞軍!

美國女排打了8場,贏了7場,輸了1場,季軍!

總結:
人生呀,關鍵不在於你贏過多少次,而在於你在什麼時候,什麼場次贏了什麼對手!

這跟人生一樣,年輕時允許失敗,可以積累經驗教訓。越往後就越失敗不起了,因為後面都是淘汰賽,一旦失敗只有出局!

平時的小敗不要緊,祝各位都能在關鍵鍵时刻贏出!

閱後有點感概。看上去,文章的前設是人生的目的是要贏。如果人生是為了要贏,那就要懂得在關鍵時贏。平日的輸是培養日後贏的養分。那平日能從輸中學習就十分重要了。

哈哈哈。說到尾都是為了贏。能不能不談贏輸,只純粹為了享受打球的樂趣,把贏輸看成是副產品呢?我懂的。女排球員心底是想贏的。但人生的比賽是比甚麼?要贏甚麼?由女排的輸贏推到人生的輸贏,強調輸贏,我感到不安。

一樣米養百樣人。有人沒目標。有人的目標是見步步行步。有人有清晰目標。有人就是天天要贏。父母,老師都教下一代要訂好目標,要上進,要賺錢,要贏。追求贏的文化,在香港這類的大城市一點都不缺乏。走進縣城(如我近期探訪的福建永春縣),人是慢活的。你問縣城的人,“你追求什麼”,“你有想贏什麼”。大部份可能就是見步行步,沒有目標的一類。很希望賺錢,很要贏的朋友,都已經去了城市裡找機會。城市裡就是堆滿了為賺錢天天拼搏的人。對於香港人追求贏的文化,我當然是理解的。

然而,我真心的希望球員能為享受打球的樂趣而打球,學生能為享受學習得樂趣而學習。至於收入多少和贏輸勝負,就算是享受之外的副產品吧。

My dear books, good bye.

Posted in Economics, Life, Uncategorized by kafuwong on July 21, 2016

As I prepared my departure from HKU, I started to sort out things that I wanted to take home, and what to discard.

As I did not have to pay for the usage of my office space, I had kept a lot things that I had rarely touched.

Now, leaving HKU means that the usage of space at home to keep these stuff will become costly.  Like most people living in Hong Kong, I cannot afford to keep everything I have accumulated during my 14 years at HKU.  

I asked myself repeatedly, “Is there anything I cannot live without?”  “Is there anything I will likely use in the near future?”   Most of the stuff in my office do not pass these tests.

Mostly books, I decided to give away.  There are a lot of books that have sat on my shelf for a long long time and had rarely been referred to.  Time to say good bye to them.

Now, in retrospect, I should give them out long long time ago.

A long break, I need.

Posted in Life by kafuwong on July 13, 2016

No.  I have not reached the age when my employer would push me out of the door.

Yes.  I still have value to my employer.  He still wants to keep me.

It is my choice to take a break — a long break, possibly.  There does not seem to be a mechanism for me to take a long break  — say a year or two — from my job and return afterwards.  Allowing anyone in my institution to take such a long break might cause difficulty for my employer to hire a short-term replacement.  With such anticipation, my natural choice is to resign.

In my case, I would not call it a resignation.  The good old contract arrived my desk a while back and I simply had decided not to sign.

A thought on how to evaluate whether education expansion helps improve mobility.

Posted in Econometrics, Economics, Hong Kong, Statistics/Econometrics, teaching by kafuwong on September 11, 2015

We often see reports comparing the median income of university graduates over time. The sad news is that the median income of university graduates are often found declining over time. One common conclusion is that the expansion of university education has not helped improve social mobility. And, university graduates seem to be doing worse than before.

While median income is easier to compute, I do not think it is the right measure to address the question of social mobility, or how university graduates nowadays fare when compared to the previous cohorts. A correct measure is some form of median income with an control of the expansion of university education.

Imagine the following hypothetical situations. Suppose that we have a stable population structure. Suppose 20 percent of high school graduates can attend university ten years ago. Imagine we end up with 20 persons achieving high school level and 5 persons achieving university level. The median income of high school graduates was X1 and that of university graduates is Y1. Y1 is usually higher than X1, reflecting the difference in ability of the two groups and added value of education.

For the sake of illustration below, let’s assume that the 5 university graduates have incomes of 12100, 12200, 12300, 12400, 12500. Obviously the median income is 12300. That is, Y1=12300. Let’s further assume that the top 5 earners of high school graduates earn 8100, 8200, 8300, 8400, and 8500 respectively.

Today, due to the expansion of higher education, 40 percent of high school graduates can attend university. Following from the example above, we end up with 15 persons achieving high school level and 10 persons achieving university level. Suppose then the 10 university graduates have incomes of 11100, 11200, 11300, 11400, 11500, 12100, 12200, 12300, 12400, 12500. Let’s denote the median income of high school graduates as X2 and that of university graduates as Y2. Note that the median income X2 is based on a smaller group size while that of Y2 is based on a larger group size. We can easily imagine that X2 will be lower than X1 because we can imagine that the top five earners (“more able”?) were removed from the original high school group and put into the university group. And Y2 will be lower than Y1 because the university group includes the “less able” ones.

Thus, if we compare the change of median income by education groups, we are bound to see a deterioration in income in BOTH GROUPS. Some would conclude that education expansion is bad.

Wait a minute. Obviously, the five persons who achieved university level because of the education expansion achieve a higher income. (11100, 11200, 11300, 11400, 11500) versus (8100 8200 8300 8400 8500). A substantial improvement in social mobility (as measured by income) due to the education expansion, isn’t it?

That is, we are evaluating whether education expansion is useful, we should focus on these 5 persons who had not the chance to study university but now have the chance to do so.

If we still insist on using measures similar to median income of the university graduates across time to conclude whether university graduates are doing worse than better, we need to make an adjustment. From the example above, we probably should compare the top 25 percentile income level today to the median income 10 years ago!

Generalization based on the sample size of one

Posted in Hong Kong, Statistics/Econometrics, teaching, Water by kafuwong on July 21, 2015

Recently, lead in water has occupied headlines of major newspapers in Hong Kong. Experts are consulted. Some experts appeared to mis-speak carelessly. The most laughable statement was made by a medical doctor, who is a consultant of the “Hong Kong Poison Control Network”. He remarked that lead poisoning can be caused by chewing on a pencil, among many other causes. It was so laughable that it is widely circulated on the internet.

Admit it, most of us do not know why this statement is laughable. OK. It is laughable because pencils (called “lead” pen in Chinese) do not contain any lead in the writing core nowadays. Although the writing core of some early pencils were made of lead, it has since replaced by the non-toxic grahpite. (http://pencils.com/pencil-history/) And, the statement came from a consultant of the “Hong Kong Poison Control Network”.

In fact, at least supposedly so, nowadays even the paint cover of pencils should not contain lead so that most pencils are safe for chewing (not encouraged).

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Internet is a powerful tool. A friend appeared excited about the lead poisoning from pencil chewing story that he added a catchy title to his sharing of the news report about the doctor’s statement: “If you cannot trust doctors, who can you trust?”

It is this catchy and exaggerated statement that caught my attention. I have to admit, I like it.

Nevertheless, the statement is clearly too much a generalization based on the sample size of one. That “specific doctor” may not be trustworthy on this specific issue, but it does not mean that “specific doctor” is not trustworthy on other issues. Certainly, it does not mean that other doctors are not trustworthy.

Beware of similar generalization from a small sample of observations.