06 September 2008

IFE troubles at Delta

When Delta first started its video on demand system from Ratheyon many years ago, the company supplier paid penalties to refit their client’s planes several times to get the system to work. That system, as one Ratheyon engineer who was riding as a support trip duty told me – was built on a Windows NT 3.0 server. UGH! I experienced this many times!

Delta tried again with a new system which it designed to compete with JetBlue's LiveTV service. Rolled out across the Song Fleet – when that idea died, they used it as the basis for a systemwide IFE service. And from a functionality point of view its really quite nice. I love the fact that you have in seat power and live TV as well as a decent selection of movies. Web access would be icing on the cake but that is coming - very soon to a MD88 near you.

However now the problem is that the system is unreliable. The system is built on a Linux Kernel – this is a picture I have seen a very large number of times. I have taken over 20 flights this year on the domestic Delta fleet and every single time I have flown on one of the 757 or 767’s configured with the service they have been problems. In talking to several of the flight attendants several of them have remarked that yes indeed it does happen frequently. One FA even said it was the majority of the flights she was on.

This would not be if you had to pay for it.

I only hope that the latest version does not need resetting as often as the current release.


PS - An earlier version of this post made it seem like I had to refit the planes. I apologize for this mistake. I have however had to get my seat's IFE reset many times on many different flights.

05 September 2008

It didn't really sell on eBay

The politics of over the top seems to be politics as usual. So rather than try and be partisan - I have been looking for good aviation and travel stories during the conventions.

I found 2. So in this case the Reps win 1.5:.5

The tie is that the TIA had a big bash for Dems and Reps in Denver and St Paul respectively. In the case of both of them - the events were off limits to the media. (So no I didn'g go to either and wasn't invited). However the St Paul event was actually held at the Carlson Company's corporate jet hanger (and you thought they just had a little plane!).

The other story also focused around corporate jets - in the now famous Sarah (don't say I am Michael's daughter Nudge Nudge) Palin claimed to have sold the Governor's corporate jet on eBay at a profit.

Truth comes out that actually it didn't sell on eBay and it went for a loss. Plus the guy who bought it claims now he wants 50K for unplanned maintenance. However in fairness just offloading it was definitely a profit since they got to keep some money rather than having the asset costing many thousands of dollars per month just sitting there doing nothing.

If you have something I can put out on the Dems that is equal to this please let me know asap.



Dislaimer - I am not a registered Republican or Democrat.

Single Image Product for Airlines becoming history

One of the ubiquitous characteristics of the airline distribution model is that despite a lot of different elements - we could pretty much rely on a single image of inventory in GDSs and airlines. Indeed it was built into the so called "Full Content" contracts.

However over the past several years there has been a growing trend towards the use of cached availability and O&D based pricing services. I wont bore you with the complexity of the technical details but the impact has been an erosion of the illusion of a single image of product and inventory of the airlines.

The rise of the meta-search engines has resulted in a massive increase in the number of hits to websites which in turn either demanded massive GDS and CRS transactions to be generated (by up to a factor of 64) on OTA and Airline.com sites or the deployment of cached availability solutions which made real time a thing of the past.

While fortunately this made little impact on the consumer - behind the scenes costs for providing services from technology rose significantly for no increase in revenues irrespective of who was paying for the technology. However now we are seeing cracks in the facade.

With the reduction of cheap seat inventory due to the global cut backs particularly for OTA type users - the meta search engines are beginning to show increasing number of different prices from those that you can book.

There is no empirical way to test this without actually exacerbating the problem. However from the limited tests we have seen - there are some significant differences occurring particularly during peak travel periods at peak booking periods.

This is not going to get any better. The model for providing the service is left to the GDS in many cases (either something like a System User mode or a pure GDS Mode) or to a 3rd party availability cache. As more airlines go to a pure O&D model or Itinerary based pricing determined by point of sale - the disconnect between these search facilities will become wider.

Something is going to break and not in a nice way.

You have been warned that someone is watching this closely

Uh Oh - 787 to slip again

So its back to the old routine. Despite stringent denials - the 787 program is going to slip again. This time insiders are saying its just a variety of things rather than anything major. Probably prudence all round.

Of course a strike could slow things up even further. Right now a slow down in deliveries worldwide by both Boeing and Airbus would probably be welcomed. At lease by the desert where so many planes have been headed this week


02 September 2008

Big United Climbdown on Meals to Europe

Well this was going to be a bridge too far as we all knew. I think that clearly the efforts of Professor Mrs O'Leary and others resulted in a huge climb down by United on charging for meals across the Atlantic.

Clearly UAL's business products still fails to excite people who are paying the freight.

Here is the text of the letter released to UAL's premium frequent flyers: It is entitled:

Open Letter to Our Valued Customers

Policy announcement:
meal service on flights to Europe

Dear Mr. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne,

Thank you for your direct, candid feedback on the test we had planned to launch in the fourth quarter for food choices on some of our flights. We heard you and have decided not to move forward with the test of offering customers buy-on-board options in United Economy on certain trans-Atlantic flights. We will continue to offer complimentary hot meals on those flights.

The response from you and many of our corporate customers, even before we launched the test, told us what we would have undoubtedly learned had we proceeded – you value our hot meal service in economy class for international flights.

In this environment, where higher costs driven by volatile fuel prices are now the norm, we must continue to tailor products and services so that we provide you with choices and competitive fares. As such, we will continue to be proactive in testing new ideas.

On October 1, we will proceed with the test of new, complimentary options for United Business customers on three-cabin aircraft used for domestic routes, which represents 16 daily flights. Customers on these flights will receive complimentary fresh sandwiches, salads, breakfast, snack boxes or snacks, depending on the length of flight and time of departure. They will also continue to enjoy complimentary beverages, including beer, wine and cocktails. We will evaluate the results and determine next steps by the end of the year.

It's also important to note that full meals will still be served on our p.s. transcontinental flights.

Thank you again for your feedback. We will continue to listen and make changes that enable us in this environment to provide you with the choices you value.


Graham Atkinson
Chief Customer Officer "

Good enough or just a PR whitewash to a bad plan? You be the judge

UPDATE "Chrome" to be released at 1800 GMT

According to a new post on Wikipedia Google's Chrome Browser will be released shortly:

"The beta for the Windows version is due to be released at 18:00 GMT, September 2, 2008. Mac OS X and Linux versions are under development and will follow the Windows version"

Blog Entry #600 - Easyjet reduces GDS "Fee"

Easyjet is going the other way from Ryanair with its intermediary policy on bookings.

Effective almost immediately the Luton based carrier will reduce the surcharge it has been applying to GDS based bookings by nearly half: from a current fee of GBP 5
(€7.50) per seat (depending on the number of seats booked), will now be set at a fixed fee of £3.30 (€4) per seat.

With the lowering of the pound against the dollar - this is a significant development.

despite trying to jab one in the eye of Ryanair at the same time - Easyjet's policies are the same - just the response is not so draconian as FRs.

So on this occasion of the 600th blog entry for The Professor's Wisdom - I think this is entirely appropriate. Why?

It solidifies two trends we have been commenting on for a very long time:

Trend 1 - The airline distribution model in particular GDS is broken and needs reforming.

Trend 2 - The low cost carrier market is splitting into Pure type LCCs and HVCs - High Value Carriers who are Type 1 coming from LCC going up into looking and performing like a Legacy Carrier, and Type 2 which is a legacy carrier operating like a LCC.

So be it...


Browsers and Geeks

Not quite a new game but with all the subplots of a good Dungeons and Dragons game!

So Firefox is already out with its new Browser 3.X, opera is out with an impressive 9.5 and now Microsoft is out with IE8. Safari is also pretty good.

I have been playing with all 3 on several machines and they have their differences. At the moment IE8 is not stable enough and doesn't give enough reason to switch. It has weird quirks which they better sort out pretty soon. Most of them are JavaScript related and interpreted to UI stuff. Its pretty nasty some of it - especially in forms management.

But now a new player is arising. Uh Oh - Google with its own browser. its called Chrome and the geekiest among you I know are already playing with prelim copies prior to its release today (Tuesday).

For those who don't want to admit being too geeky but want to sound REALLY smart - here's a little trick. Go to the following address and you can download the comic strip with the whole story to it.


For now if you type www.google.com/chrome - you will be dumped on the Search standard screen. But some time during the day it should work

Its supposed to be good so my REAL nerdy friends say. Either way - there will be a lot of people playing with it. Don't look for a lot of productivity out of your people over the next few days



01 September 2008

Frankfurt Court Rules Ryanair cannot cancel some tickets

The Frankfurt court - without ruling on the legality of screen scraping - has ruled that the Irish based airline cannot cancel flights booked via a third party website www.cheaptickets.de.

For the protection of the passengers this is a good thing. For the rule of law - the jury will still be out.

BTW if Ryanair does cancel any of these bookings - then it is subject to a fine of 250K Euros and up to 6 months prison for contempt. Remember that is not for the cause, but for disobeying the court. So far its 15 all.

Thanks to Professor Alex for this.

XL Group Struggles - day of reckoning is very soon

Britain's XL Group that includes several holiday concerns - has been operating in the shadows behind other groups happy to occupy a niche that was the traditional middle tier of Britain's Holiday market. However the consolidation at the top of the market and the global economic trends of a down market and high price of oil have not been kind.

The group last month canceled a number of long haul services on some of its older 767s to the Caribbean. Now it is in a fight for its life. Even the demise of Zoom wont help.

Urgent (read desperate) talks with its bankers are underway.

31 August 2008

A Great Tool for Outlook

I have been playing with a new tool for MS Outlook. Its still in beta but i do recommend it.

Like many people - I live in email. So Microsoft Outlook for all its faults is a pretty useful tool. I depend on it.

Professor Christopher has recommended this and I now pass on the same to you.

www.xobni.com (yes that's inbox backwards).

I hate Microsoft search - it is such a piece of crap. Yet this tool makes it unnecessary.

And of course the price is great. Unlike many apps - i actually recommend that you stay and watch it load. Its quite funny.



A Good Read - Michael O'leary

As a Professor - I really like to study the why's of the travel industry - in particular I seek out what makes the people behind the stories tick.

The current crop of LCC "heroes" from Stelios to Tony Fernandez all make for interesting chaps.

I was looking in my local library when I came across a book by Alan Ruddock (an Irish chap). It's entitled Michael O'Leary: A Life in Full Flight.

I recommend it because it is not a sycophantic tome but a well collected story told reasonably objectively about the rise of Ryanair. It could have easily been written about the company rather than the person - but we have to admit that the man makes better copy!

It does provide a good backgrounder as to the motivations of FR. Clearly I am a fan of the theoretical model that powers it but rather than seeing what they did right - it is a strong lesson in what others have done wrong and why the legacy carrier model is (in my humble opinion) a flawed/broken one. In light of the recent debacle at Ryanair over the lack of Fuel Hedging - it can now be seen that this was a decision that was actively arrived at by MOL rather than he wasn't paying attention. That makes the mistake seem all the more like hubris, his Ego notwithstanding.

I recommend the book as a lesson to why things happen. However if you are looking for a blue print of what makes Ryanair so successful then you have to dig deep. Only when you finish the book do you come to the conclusion that FR has no secret formula. As the back cover says:

"Too many business guys get caught up in the Ego bullshit, all you have to do is work hard, make a few quid and everybody wins."

Yes - that really is the secret. But, the Ego did drive it so as usual MOL was spinning it his way. Think about it.



EC Starts Anti-Trust Investigation Into BAAABI

And rightly so.

I have already made my case that this is not a good thing.

Check here for my logic - read this post again:

BAAABI's argument for immunity at LHR - not so fast boys

The lawyers must love this stuff


Gustav and Hanna make traffic tough - some suggestions

Chris Elliott and his folks have put together a little advice for air travellers - I suggest a visit to his site would be a good idea if you are flying anywhere domestically USA and the Caribbean from today through next week.

Remember that even if your flights are no where near the storms, they could be impacted.

Since I shall be in Florida next week - I am going to be paying close attention to this.

Cheers and good luck to the people of New Orleans