12 January 2008

Read Sheik Rashid al Maktoum's Commentary in the Wall Street Journal

As a keen scholar of the Middle East and the GCC states in particular - Today's WSJ offers an insight into the thinking of one of the world's most dynamic economies.

I encourage everyone to read it - you will hopefully find it illuminating.


10 January 2008

USAF Boeing F-15s found with issues

From today's Seattle PI:

Unauthorized components found on grounded F-15 jets
About 40 percent of F-15s grounded after a crash in November have major structural components that don't meet original manufacturing specifications, the Air Force said Wednesday.
Air Force inspectors determined that 183 of 442 Boeing aircraft that remain grounded have at least one structural component "that does not meet blueprint specifications," the service said.
The Air Force said 60 percent of the fighters grounded since the Nov. 2 accident have been cleared for flight after intense inspections.

This is somewhat scary for everyone because it meant that the primary front line Air Superiority fighter has been grounded for over 2 months. During that inspection time many parts were found to differ from the Blueprint.

While the F-15 is quite an old aircraft dating from the 1970s - it is pretty solid. What is perhaps worrying is that Boeing's process allowed these issues to emerge. What does it say about the current Boeing commercial and military aircraft projects?

To be fair this was a project from MDC not Boeing. But is this a common practise?

Lets hope not


09 January 2008

Death and Taxes - are they inevitable - are they equal?

There is the old saying about nothing being certain in life except Death and Taxes. Probably true.

But are they always imposed the same way.

So until this point taxes on airfares have been largely considered to be evenly applied. If you are based in the UK or another country in Europe they Should be the same no matter what path or routing you take. The reverse is not so true. For sometime now I have been looking at taxes and I remain amazed at the differences in taxes how the rules are interpreted and applied EVEN FOR THE SAME ITINERARY.

If you don't believe me - just try this at home folks. Go to a neutral site (whether its an OTA or a Meta Search) and look at the results you get. If you have enough frequent flyer miles also consider trying to purchase a FF ticket and look at taxes that are applied there.

One of the worst offenders? British Airways for their "Free" tickets. I have often seen taxes of up to $500 roundtrip Transatlantic flight. Yet for the same O&D on a US carrier like Delta the taxes were a mere $50.

So what gives here. Is someone OVER-COLLECTING on taxes. Surely this cannot be right?

And you all know how much I hate paying taxes - just like you do.



Changing of the guard at Carlson Companies - sort of.

In a somewhat emotional ceremony this week Marilyn Carlson Nelson stepped down from the day to day management of the group (one of the largest privately run operational businesses in the USA) in favor of long time trusted CEO of the CC/Accor Joint Venture CarlsonWagonLit - Hubert Jolly.

She gave a long interview to Travel Weekly's Arnie Weissman - http://www.travelweekly.com/articles.aspx?articleid=59873
It is interesting to note somewhat poignantly how there wont be a family member at the helm. Curtis Nelson - her son an one time presumed heir - is now involved in an acrimonious battle for his birthright. At the same time he seems - according to interpreting news reports - to be out of control with at least one drink driving arrest. Having worked with both of them this is not such a surprise.

What is a surprise is how Jolly has become such a trusted advisor and a welcome addition to her personal team. Don't look for Marilyn to go away anytime soon but she will be pushing back from the day to day. In due time we shall see more pieces of Carlson become public and a bigger growth pattern as Jolly makes his personal mark on the business

Good luck to both Marilyn and Hubert. It is good to see a transition of this sort. Others should take note.

08 January 2008

No Virgins on the Picket Line

Fortunately for the brand a marketing nightmare has been averted. At the 11th Hour the Flight attendant's union agreed to a new 2 year pay deal.

Interestingly the Union is called UNITE. So unfortunately the opportunity for such great headlines as:

"Flying Virgins UNITE and strike against Sir Richard" and others will sadly not be appearing in this Blog. Darn it!



07 January 2008

What Happens in Vegas ..... is no more

Las Vegas VCB is changing their slogan. So rather than keep it "in" house with "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas - they want you now to flaunt it.

The new slogan is (drum roll please) "Your Vegas is Showing"

ROLF - LOL................

Forgive me - I forgot where I was for a minute


EK exits Management Contract at Sri Lankan

Wow what 4 months can change....

In September EK said it wanted to extend the Sri Lankan management contract for another 5 years and also up its stake in the airline.

However a spat ensued in November when the airline's ops people refused to bump revenue passengers for all President Mahinda Rajapakse's entourage. The President responded by suspending the work permit of the UK National (Peter Hill) who was the airline's CEO appointed by Emirates.

Now the other show drops and EK is first exiting the management contract and has also put its 44% share up for sale. This is EK's only investment in a foreign airline ever.

Given that Tourism represents the only major form of foreign direct income and the airline is vital to the national interest it seems somewhat short-sighted of the country's rulers to have acted in this manner.

Under EK's management the airline has made significant gains and retained a stable operating environment despite loosing half the fleet to a Tamil Tigers rebel air attack in 2001. The constant threat of hostile operations must have been a big drain on the management team. With the situation now worsening again EK must be thinking themselves lucky.

EK's contract will end in March 31st 2008

Mass Confusion at UK Airports with new bag rules

Congrats to the UK Powers that be and the airlines for not being smart.

As a result you have 2 separate sets of rules to check before you can know if you have the ability to carry on 2 bags.

So here are the T2 recommended rules to live buy.
1. CHECK the airline's policy for the specific airport you are using
2. Don't believe what people tell you - check with the airline via the phone
3. Don't assume that the rules are the same as the USA - they are not.

The following airports from today (Jan 7th) have the ability to allow up to 2 pieces per pax. UK airports that are now kitted out to cope the new regime include; London Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. Easyjet has said only a single piece no matter which airport (specifically this means Gatwick pax are screwed.)

Stansted is TBD as are other UK airports. Changes are supposed to be in place "later this year". Remember that Stansted has absolutely NO PLANS for an IRIS fast track retina scan system. So chances for a 2 bag limit being in place before summer is remote.



06 January 2008

Under the covers - things still not good with the 787

So there I was over Christmas and chatting with some friends who include a number of Boeing workers.

Seems like things are not good with the 787 - yet.

Specifically "partner" quality and the Software interface are the oft cited reasons. To this I think we can add the fastener problem.

A member of the team of guys who is actually sitting there with the bits of plastic (aka parts) delivered was very vocal in his disgust with the program. Nor was he confining his vent on just the subcontractors alone. Boeing was never a good one with its software and it offloaded that group prior to the commencement of the 787 program proper.

For the neophytes (me included) it is normal for any manufacturer to have a staging area where they fix the parts that come in from external vendors or suppliers and make them fit into the final production area. Normally this is a relatively straightforward process. However in the case of the 787 it has turned into a nightmare of almost biblical proportions. It is a worst case scenario.

The production drawings (actually its all in CATIA) don't match the production delivery items. CATIA, the Dassault Systèmes flagship PLM solution is supposed to make this all better.
The material delivered doesn't match the drawings as they exist. Changes in design seem to be occurring all the time so the "production" aircraft configuration is really not "frozen" in the sense we are used to. We wont see that until probably 20 or so aircraft have gone down the line.

The big impact here is that we should take with a grain of salt that Boeing will make the delivery schedule. I think they will be taking a fair amount of time to catch up.

However I have faith in Boeing's ability to fix this. I just don't know for sure if I want to be flying in an early model JAL or ANA 787.

So lets just hope that things work out well all round. However for now... there is one HECK of a lot overtime being put in by a certain number of engineers and key workers in Everett. Best of luck chaps....


So who won in 2007 - Boeing or Airbus

Mass Speculation on who won the 2007 battle.

Officially Boeing is on top with 1423 sales confirmed by the Chicago based company. But wait - dont order (more) yet. Airbus has according to Flight International approx 1399 sales. BUT and this is the big one not included are many of the posted "orders" that Airbus announced during the year. This includes about 650 plus aircraft of all types.

Can Airbus pull one out of the bag here? I think so. So I am betting that Airbus will publish a higher order than Boeing when they announce on Jan 16th.

Anyone willing to take me on?



Webtrends 2008

Borrowed librally from WebProNews and embellished

As rough as webmasters thought they had it with Google over paid links in 2007, we think Google will play rougher in 2008. Their approved acquisition of DoubleClick in the US needs only similar approval from the European Union to be completed.

When that happens, and we think it will, imagine Google making the same PageRank adjustments to sites that display graphical ads to what they deem as low-quality destinations. Webmasters will long for the days when it was just text links getting this treatment.

Here is something we think won't happen - Yahoo isn't going anywhere. Not to Microsoft. Not to Google. Not to Martin Sorrell and WPP, or anyone else. Being second in search market share and having a display ad business that can bring brand names to its pages may not be sexy, but it brings revenue to Yahoo.

Another thing we won't see - Powerset launching to the public. The natural language search engine lost its CEO in November 2007. Though they offered us a peek at the site months ago, Powerset never followed through. Natural language search is hard, kids. Lots of favorable press hype can't counter that. Enough of the won'ts.

We think we will see the first efforts of disenchanted Hollywood writers show up on the Internet as they turn to creating content they control, instead of a studio.

But don't expect a two and a half hour summer blockbusters showing up on the web. We think a short series of 7 to 8 minute episodes with a name star participating, and sufficient financial backing to deliver high-quality production of the shows, could lead to someone becoming the first Tony Gilroy of the Internet.

We also expect Microsoft to reorg its Net brands again and shuffle people up, down, in, and out of MSN and Windows Live. MS always does this - usually in April. The company is stuck with two brands to promote. It makes more sense for Microsoft to promote Windows Live than MSN as a name, so we think the transition to one distinct identity should happen in 2008.

Though it's popular now, Facebook gets its comeuppance in 2008. Someone somewhere will adopt Facebook's old model of requiring .edu email addresses for membership in a social networking site, build up some buzz, and start grabbing members before they get to Facebook. The open platform snafu will really piss off College kids.

Similarly Linked-in and Plaxo however will become more popular for adults. Other wannabe sites like Jigsaw and Xing will also rise.

We predict that Second Life will be a footnote for gamers not mainstream and Advertisers will walk elsewhere.

Finally we (T2) predict that some order will come to content creation in the form of an independent classification which will create a metric. Thus making random UGC less common. We also predict that the UGC will peak probably in 2009 and turn to a steady state rather than being the ascendant and babe of the hour it is now.