Budget time – EPL booms as transatlantic travel dies

Brussels Palais de Justice.jpg

After all the talk of falling numbers, the European Petrochemical Luncheon (EPL) saw a record March turnout in Brussels on Thursday.


An EPL spokeswoman told me that in the end there were 95 registrations, which was even an increase on last year’s 90, and that some people had said it was because they weren’t able to go transatlantic. On Thursday afternoon, there wasn’t a seat to be had in the Hilton lobby, and the staff in the café and the smoky bar were run off their feet. We retreated to the lounge on the 24th floor which is nice and airy, with free drinks and patisserie and a splendid view out over the golden dome of the Palais de Justice, still swathed in scaffolding after ten years.


Since everyone was watching the pennies, there was some creative managing of travel budgets. Two of my dinner companions told me that they had shared cars for the four-hour drive from Germany, to get around their company’s ban on flights to EPL. At the cocktail party there was some speculation that they had saved a princely €30 a head by doing so, but that can’t be true.


I too took the budget option, choosing a BMI flight which was fractionally cheaper than BA. Terminal 1 at Heathrow was deserted now that BA has pulled out – and the plane was empty. However, I hadn’t appreciated that there was no lounge and not even coffee on the plane included in that price, so had to forgo my usual three fatboy breakfasts.


I even cut out the Brussels taxi driver, and discovered that it’s just €5 to go by train and metro all the way from the airport to the Hilton at Avenue Louise. Predrag told me that he had had a mad driver from the airport, driving at speed and on pavements through town, and that the journey now costs €45 – which at the airport exchange rate of €1 = £1 is real money.


Hot topics at the EPL were Hilary Clinton, who was staying in the Hilton with her entourage, and when the styrene “bubble” would burst.


Click here for Madelon’s news article on the confusion in the styrene market.

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