15 September 2007

Stupid Visa Tricks Stops Brit Pop Invasion. Bush Adminstration Breathes Sigh of Relief

The Bush Administration and its new tool for foreign policy - the DHS/U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services - are doing more for American Isolation than the Hoover Administration or any of the inter-world war policies. New "anti-terrorist" rules are ensnaring artists in today's popular culture of music. British Bands like the Klaxons (very good BTW) and Lily Allen are being denied visas - in some cases even being turned away at arrival airports. Of course this is stupid and of course this was never supposed to happen. But it is.

As a naturalized US citizen - this writer is grateful for the opportunity that I have received. However that does not preclude me from being critical of the current Bush Administration, nor do I agree with some of the draconian regulations that now dog the process of getting even to visit (for a holiday)the good ole US of A. Many countries (Brazil for example) actively cite the US policies for raising barriers for US passport holders to enter their countries. From bitter personal experience I can assure you that it is complicated and expensive to get all these visas. I have to constantly maintain more than 1 passport (yes its legal under exceptional circumstances) for the visas I need.

Lets all just hope that the next Administration brings some sanity to the whole process. Sadly I dont think that this is likely. Personally I resign myself to the unpleasantness of the process and mourn the loss of cultural interaction. Thank god for the Internet. At least its (still) democratic and open - for all its anarchic origins.



Civility disappears from the skies - loyalty suffers


It was really rather a pleasure flying in the post 9/11 world. There was camaraderie and a shared experience of people who all enjoyed a common bond.

Fast forward to today. Shock! Horror! - Southwest described a lady's attire as "inappropriate"! Lamar Muse must be turning in his grave. And the venerable Wall Street Jounal article entitled: Cranky Skies: FliersBehave Badly AgainAs 9/11 Era Fades.

I fly alot. And I can tell you that this is the case. People have lost that ability to demonstrate being nice. But don't necessarily blame the passengers for this. We have LESS service. There are many reasons. Here are a few: Untold thousands and thousands of customer service personnel removed from the system. Packed flights. More connections. Smaller planes. More airport congestion. bad planning by airlines etc etc.

I am afraid I do not subscibe to the position that the airlines are blameless for the ATC mess (as you can probably tell from prior posts). The results are increasingly that there is a long term dissatisfaction which will lead to a loss of brand loyalty. The airlines that are making money now are doing so at the expense of underlying core values. Cranky fliers become disloyal customers who choose against rather than for you. Beware.

13 September 2007

The UK passenger numbers flat ex-LHR in decline

The numbers for Air4Cast for the balance of the year are predicting another banner year in air travel. Yet there is some discouraging news for the new owners of BAA. UK traffic is just creeping along at 2% growth for the whole coutry. Which given the continued rise in regions travel means very real passenger declines at LHR and LGW. With Ryanair pulling back at STN for the winter months we may also see some real decline YoY for that airport too. Contrast this with the overall market and in particular advances at LHR's major competitors with EU in general reporting 6% plus for the year.

OK enough already, the UK government needs to step into the mess and address the rot. Of BA will move traffic from its flagship base to the Continent.

10 September 2007

Galileo/Worldspan Integration Team announced.

OK - So consider this my public humiliation and eating of the hat.

In early 2006 I said that Rakesh would be out of Worldspan and if not then I would be eating my hat if he was not gone by September. Seems I was right with the month - wrong with the year. So munch munch....

The team is pretty much as expected. With Galileo ranks depleted after the Blackstone acquisition it was only natural that the Worldspan team would be used to fill the spaces left. Interestingly Kevin Mooney is named Chief Commercial Officer filling in the combined role and the shoes of Ninan who follows Rakesh out the door with presumably a nice parachute.

Two interesting points emerge,

A) The HQ will remain in the UK. Gordon is not moving! However the commute from Atlanta to Langely shouldn't be too bad as long as the M25 behaves itself. The natural choice for the bulk of the operation will be Atlanta as the old Chicago UA/Apollo HQ in Rosemont was axed in the Cendant days. Parsippany may be in the Garden State but the location is not that good for the new organization. Hence our bet is that Atlanta will be named US HQ. Kansas City will probably be shuttered for good. At some time in the distant future after CITP is fully operational and United is housed in Munich - I think we can then see a rationalization of the mainframe locations. Remember no integration!!! Apollo will finally head into the sunset.

B) Bob Coggin comes in as the Vice Chairman. For him it must seem like old home week. He is very familiar with Worldspan coming from his long stint at Delta. He brings a wealth of experience and a canny mind. Congrats Bob!

The business faces one very big challenge. What to do about the PSS side of the business (aka Airline Hosting). With challenges integrating at least 2 platforms and a number of black eyes for the new IBS based AiRes solution, we expect to see the Travelport business make some moves on this in the next 12 months.

Best of luck chaps


09 September 2007

Last call for paper tickets - the end of the line for paper?

With much fanfare IATA announced that it was placing its last call for paper tickets.

However let us be a bit of a naysayer here. We see there are 2 issues.
A) will ALL the world world's airlines meet the deadline?
B) is the absence of paper tickets really a savings to the airlines?

The answer to A is definitely NO. There will be (and I will eat something vile in public if anyone can prove to me that all airlines meet the May 2008 deadline). Specifically Airlines in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are struggling with this deadline. Some are just accepting that they will be cut off come the end of May. We believe that IATA needs to arrange some accommodation for these (typically smaller and less financially able) carriers. We are concerned that there will be a new class division of "Have" vs. "Have Not" airlines which will last for some time. Be careful IATA what you wish for.....

The issue of B is more interesting. Having spent years involved in the revenue accounting, ticketing and financial fulfillment side of air transportation - we can assure our dear readers that the processes are less than exemplary. The designs and solutions that have been implemented are rather arcane in their design and in some cases diabolical in their complexity of implementation. It is here that the LCCs have provided a lesson and a model to the rest of the Industry. Ticketless - IE a completely different approach that eliminates the need for even a notional ticket (as e-tickets do) - is a far better solution for simplification and reduction in paperwork and administration. We believe that after May 2008 - and independently of IATA - we will see a greater move away from the e-ticket idea to a pure ticketless implementation.

Of course this begs the question - if we have pure ticketless - should IATA have any say or even sponsorship of such systems as BSPs? Given the removal of anti-trust immunity and the general improvement in commercial conditions worldwide, we believe now is a good time to start to think of a Non-BSP world. If IATA was really keen to reduce the complexity of the business then they should set a date (2010 sounds nice) when they sunset BSP.

OK Mr. Bisignani, why not consider this for the future? Why not drive this home. It would result in a far better solution for the world and a significant savings for the world's airlines not to mention a reduction in your own organization which in turn would result in savings to your members.