21 November 2008

eBookers Founder now one of Richest Asians in UK

Britain’s Richest Asians Magazine has named ebookers founder Dinesh Dhamija the 14th richest Asian in the UK with an estimated £178m fortune. Dhamija sold ebookers to Cendant (now Orbitz) in 2005 and now heads the Copper Beech Group, one of Romania’s biggest residential property developers.

I guess this contrasts with the acquirer of his business who seems to be hitting a lot of snags.


Wide Boys Rule in Canada

This might sound a little strange - but if you are large, too wide or otherwise have problems sitting in a single seat - the Canadians have good news for you. Obese people have the right to two seats for the price of one on flights within Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Thursday. The high court declined to hear an appeal by Canadian airlines of a decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency that people who are "functionally disabled by obesity" deserve to have two seats for one fare.
The airlines had lost an appeal at the Federal Court of Appeal in May and had sought to launch a fresh appeal at the Supreme Court. The court's decision not to hear a new appeal means the one-person-one-fare policy stands.

Unfortunately this doesnt mean that all obese Americans will now have a reason to move to the Great White North - but it will be interesting to see if anyone else adopts this principal.

Clearly Southwest will not be flying domestically in Canada any time soon.

Thanks to Professor Paul for this one


20 November 2008

PhocusWright08 Postscript and Reflection

So Phocus is over for another year. The party's are over and people are on their way home.

The #phocus08 Twitter is quiet - no post for 3 hours.

So what did we learn and what is my take away from it all.

There is little actually fundamentally different. Actually that is good because it shows maturity. The old battles of legacy thinking vs more recent think still emerge. I have to agree with Spike/Hudson Crossing - there are a few fundamentals that can power some changes over the next year. BUT while there are some very worrying issues - there are some fabulous opportunities. And actually these are in places that many people are not looking.

One of the more interesting observations I have is that the world is finally waking up to the real impact of Google. It took a while. Denial is a wonderful thing. The options to create web real estate or not that great but people are going to try. I believe that next year there will be at least one player who is going to go through major restructuring. Spike's prediction of one less OTA is about right. For a few drinks I will give my prediction on that.

Finally - I think the GDS will take a very hard hit next year. The planets are definitely aligned on that one.

So thanks to the PCW folks for their efforts. The show was pretty spectacular - but we expect that. Philip, Bruce and Carol are to be congratulated. This is the watershed moment. We are now in for a period of significant retrenchment.

Cheers till next time... and no I am not going to be a Twit....

Are we condemned to become Twits?

I love Roald Dahl and his stories. One of my favorites is The Twits - Mr and Mrs Twit are two ugly, smelly, nasty people, who spend their lives playing nasty tricks on each other.

I am beginning to think that Twittering is exactly that. A nasty trick played on me to make me devote large amounts of my time following the fire-hose of digital junk.

So I have tried and in the past discarded Twitter more than once. But I think i finally found a reasonable use for it. Following some conference material. But I hasten to add that you really have to be able to understand the context of the posts. So making that work is just too hard for the average person. It also still rests on the basis that I find questionable for all Social Network outputs - which is that the mass consciousness is reliable as the definer of "truth" or reality. We know how well that kind of thinking served Athens and then Rome.

So I will somewhat scale back my vehement criticism of Twitter as being a form of digital diarrhea and say that within reason it can have value. It just doesn't necessarily work for people like me.


Amex: "no alternative to the GDS for air bookings"

Thanks to Professor Tim for letting slide this off his twitter feed.

Charles Petrucelli probably one of the largest traditional players left as head of American Express Travel must have his head somewhere with very little sunshine.

Despite his having had deals with several of the GNEs and direct offers from many airlines to direct connect AND despite having their own desktop initiative... still says this?

I find that the statement must be self serving since Amex cannot seem to execute their independence. So I think we have to take this either as a die hard defense of the GDS model (and its attendant revenue stream to Amex) or a head in the sand, Luddite-style statement that just beggars belief. Its the same logic that GDSs use to promote their channel as delivering higher yield traffic to Hotels and Airlines. Sure they deliver it - but why? And can you therefore make the leap that this is where you should focus your distribution efforts.

So Amex - you had better hope that not too many airlines are listening to your pronouncement, because if they really want to optimize their distribution - then your value is not as strong as it once was and definitely not as invulnerable as you may suppose.

I also guess they really are not interested in the millions of passengers - business folks and vacationers - who book and fly on LCCs daily worldwide.


Waxman takes Energy Committee in next Congress - Environment could be beneficiary

So the battle for the Energy Committee is over and California Rep. Henry Waxman has won the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, unseating Michigan Rep. John Dingell.

The irony is not lost on people. Michigan - Home of Detroit and California - Home of Eco for the USA.

For the Aviation, Travel and Tourism - we really do have to make our impact on the environment part of the total picture. Despite oil now below $50 pbl, that doesnt mean that we can pay lip service to the impact on the environment. We have a direct responsibility in this market to Eliminate, Reduce, or Mitigate the environmental impact of the Aviation Travel and Tourism footprint.

Calling something Green doesn't make it green. Let's hope Waxman establishes a clear agenda and becomes highly proactive in driving a really Green agenda in the next Administration and Congress.


Is Network Integrity Important for an Airline

Ever since I heard the presentation from Air Asia X dissing the concept of network integrity – I have been thinking about this issue. It cuts to the core of Airline mentality – which in my humble opinion tends to be unidirectional. IE they decide you have to accept.

It is a tough choice for airlines – a consistent service product or operational efficiency. The two are not naturally aligned. So the massive costs associated with operating a plane including many which are fixed creates a set of issues that become hard to manage.

But the idea that network integrity is sacrosanct can be equated to the type of operation. So if you are in a leisure market it might just be OK to run a varied schedule. I am not suggesting that you employ a totally random schedule but at least make it logical and explainable to the consumer. Find a way to match demand

This might actually have more importance than previously thought by the conventional wisdom. Think about it.


Wall Street Perspective from Merril Lynch

Great presentation from Mike Linenberg at the ALTA conference. I asked one question which was - are we going to see capacity cuts in Q1 and Q2 next year.

His answer was very deep. It was also interesting to note what he pointed out as a issues and reasons.
I am going to just pick out one aspect of his answer which was that there will be additional capacity cuts. Previously I have pointed out that I think its going to take another 5% cut. He actually predicts in 2009 that there will be 3% system cut and 5% of that is domestic. Where will that come from? Again interesting undertone as to why.

Older Aircraft and Older workers will take the voluntary buy outs and get parked. However there is a silver lining here in my opinion. Those bloated order books might actually work out with a trading of delivery slots amongst airlines to support the US airlines. However none of these actually will work directly within alliances as the big carriers wont likely trade. But the orders for say narrow bodies to India and China might get traded to the USA. Indeed the big capital players like DAE might now be looking at funding the US airline market via a back door. Since they are not allowed to directly invest (beyond 24.9%) and also it is politically unattractive for them so to do, leasing is OK.

And what do you think?


19 November 2008

Easyjet Profit Plunges as Boardroom Battles

Sir Stelios and the Easyjet board are now officially at war. The battle of the use of the "Easy" brand name and control of the company of the airline's founder and largest shareholder group is getting uglier and uglier.

Frankly I am at a loss to understand why the Happy Greek would want to mess with this unless he feels there is a problem. Easyjet's performance doesnt seem to support that. However like everyone else they have been feeling the downturn.

Easyjet's move away from the purist LCC model to HVC has challenges.

Let's hope they make nice and make up before this turns really nasty. Somehow I think this is a soap opera that has a way to run yet


Party like its 1999 - PhocusWright thoughts

Professor Bruce was a little worried about one of my prior blogs on the mood at PhocusWright that I described as "somber".

So a little clarification and then a commentary.

Somber is the description of the mood beneath the surface. There are many people who know that the coming year 2009 will see slashed budgets and restricted spending. Many folks will actually lose jobs and contracts will be postponed or canceled outright. Already I have seen projects that were already approved canceled at the last minute. Others from top drawer and very (currently) profitable companies are being curtailed. That we know. That is something everyone has feared and now knows.

PhocusWright's annual shindig is a must attend event. The chaps at PCW put on a great show and its a terrific opportunity to network and hang out with old friends - even make new ones. This year's effort was no different.

But 2009 is going to be a tough year. So party on guys. Next year's belt tightening is going to impact us all.

However I remain optimistic that things will ultimately get better. But this time next year - there will be a more austere PCW I woould bet.


The Professor will be away for a few days

Posting unfortunately will be irregular as I am on the road for the rest of this week and then next week I am going to sample the slow easy life of a cruise.

Normal service will be resumed after Thanksgiving in the USA.

If I can I will blog a couple of things. Sorry no twittering - just in case you were wondering.


18 November 2008

Jose Tazon resigns - FINALLY

Finally after probably one of the longest farewells in our industry - Jose is leaving Amadeus.

This is very interesting as Amadeus faces some big hurdles coming up and a new management team will need to be brought on board. David Jones of course is also on the way out so that will lead to further reshuffling later - when the ownership issue is resolved and - er that large debt overhang - can go away... then it will be interesting


Bloggers Summit Panel Version 2

This one was much more lively. In fact so much so that I am somewhat drained from the experience.

The audience was different composition, no investors and a more even distribution.

Much of the discussion was focused on the digital junk and the value nuggets. So how do you make sense of blogging and other tools like Facebook and Twitter. While I played the role of the Luddite on the panel (which by the way did get a lot of head bobbing in audience) it was interesting to just think carefully about how much time in the day we do things again. We reinforce this by doing stupid things (me included) like calling and saying - "Did you get that email".

And this had me thinking about things like Trust and Assured delivery. When it positively has to be there - make sure.. you... Fill in the blanks.

So I do hope that we think carefully about the sheer volume of "digital junk" we create. We have a responsibility to help our readers and yes you the audience to see what's good and valuable.

That is a scared trust. I promise not to intentionally abuse it


Hudson Crossing 2009 Predictions

Mike and his team from Hudson Crossing are out early with their predictions for 2009. Interesting - here they are (with a little editing from me.

1. A Major OTA Brand will be sold
2. Luxury Travel will be affected and will tank
3. Corps will lead the investment activity
4. US Airline industry due to reductions will ride out the current storm with lower fuel costs - and no government subsidy.
5. Global Hotels will manage the downturn better but will feel full brunt of the economy in late 2009
6. Online advertising and Media oriented businesses will be the sole bright spot n short term travel investment performance
7. Mobile will begin to emerge converge and finally arrive in travel.

So I can agree with some of these and will speak later about them. In the mean time have a look and a think. There is some interesting possibilities here.


Bloggers Summit Panel Version 1

Panel was very lively with the Professor taking his knocks and brickbats like everyone else.

Two of the panelists were on Twitter which seemed to me to be a commentary on life as we know it. Everything condensed to 160 characters. Oh yes and Twitter went down and has been having outages for quite a lot of yesterday and today.

So Siew Hoon as moderator put took us on a little journey. Asking hard questions like can you make money, why do you blog, what's the value, etc - resulted in a lively conversation which wasn't restricted to the panel - the audience had a lot of input and the exchange was actually quite meaningful.

However - there was clearly a sense amongst the audience which was pretty diverse in composition - that the whole blogosphere was not really something that large companies, particularly airlines, was having a hard time understanding.

So more this afternoon from the same session...


17 November 2008

Hooray! Delta backs down on stupid seat trick

So Delta bowing to pressure from its premier members has dropped the pay for seat assignment that applied to all passengers including Medallion members.

Smart move J W Robertson. VP Loyalty Programs

Now if you want to do good things perhaps you will address my unhappiness over the early departure of your flights that I could not make because of your policy of LEAVING EARLY.

OK enough of my rant - but this does show that consumer pressure can work.

Is anyone else listening?


The Mood at PhocusWright - Day 1, Innovation


Based on purely my virtual barstool research - this PhocusWright is a bit more sombre in mood, actually way more sober than has been seen in a long time. There is still a lot of innovation and a lot of people chasing - well - zero dollars. Most of that got sucked up by HomeAway. But hope springs eternal.

So what has come out so far.

This morning there was a number of players who have been focused on the Vacation Rental market. Hmmm lots of guys chasing a market that might be a particular hard to reach and even harder to monetize.

There was also some interesting products on deals on fares. And then there were a lot of people looking at the itinerary and trip repair.

So what can I infer from this? There are some good stuff out there who are looking at the long tail of things that some of the big travel sites will eventually get round to and either create themselves or buy these guys. More likely the former.

There was a lot of innovation about what you "could" do rather than what you will use because it fully works.

I also saw a lot of people who need to hone up on their presentation skills! And of course there were some REAL pros at this who could have been selling soap.

However it shows that there is still life out there albeit - this is going to be a VERY long winter. I hope these guys can self fund for the next 18 months

Oh yes and Cutest Video (and most annoying product that I have had to unload) goes to Worldmate.(More later on the last parts of the day.


Easy Virgins at Gatwick?

Richard Branson's aim to add airports to his portfolio may get a little "Easier" - at least easier than the current Board Room battle at Big Orange - but that's another story.

EasyJet has joined Virgin in investigating the take over of LGW which has a giant "For Sale" sign over it.

At the same time Easyjet has won a High Court Injunction to get their landing charges at Gatwick reviewed. If they are successful they will have a good amount of money they can get back. This is the first time that a CAA has had one of its decisions reviewed by the High Court.

So who will win the battle for Gatwick?

This is going to be interesting. Clearly HM Government and the former investors in BAA are going to start squirming in their seats. Either way - the Spanish are not going to be happy. Were they sold a pig in a poke? Can they make their money back from the sale?

Its not the revenge for the Armada - that's for sure. The answers please on a postcard or email....


European Tours - Savage cuts at TUI and T Cook

Ouch... this is yet another set of stats you don't want to hear.

TUI group will slash its Tours in 2009 season by 27%. this is on top of Cook's cuts of 15%. The cuts will primarily occur in the packaged short haul (read Spain) markets.

So if this happens - who can benefit from this? Strangely enough there are several sets of winners.

The LCCs will really benefit. Again a little wierdly it will be the non-Spanish airlines. Spanair, Clickair/Veulling and even Iberia are all hurting. Futura and XL (UK) are of course gone and LTE is very sick. So it will be Air Berling, Ryanair and Easyjet.

Also to benefit will be YouTravel.

Chaps its your advantage take it!

OK So no SPEEA but Boeing is not in good shape

A nice piece in the local Seattle PI Newspaper.

Boeing is going to be in a world of hurt with its customers. The noises about the use of contractors that has dogged the 787 program doesn't take into consideration that Boeing supply chain has been suffering of late. The impact of the strike by the Machinists is going to be felt more than the 57 days of actual work stoppage.

So despite the SPEEA agreeing to a new contract Boeing has some significant issues to deal with.

1. A supply chain in tatters.
2. Travel (Remedial) work on upward of 110 737 shipsets (the corrosive fasteners problem) many of which have already been delivered and which now have to be taken out of service and reworked to replace a significant number of fasteners per aircraft.
3. Delays on several major projects:
747-8 (Freighter and Passenger up to a year each)
777 Freighter Delay 3 months
787 some people are saying it will eventually by a 3 year delay before the production schedule meets the expected run rates.
737 delays due to the travel work
4. Lack of engineering resources
5. Issues related to the availability of design resources before Boeing can hope to tackle the 737 replacement
6. Significant reductions in orders and cancellations that are being brought about by airline failures and financial cut backs.
7. A need to ramp up production of the 767 to make up for the delays in 787 program
8. A stronger Airbus who seems to be ahead of their rival in getting their house in order.


So Scott Carson and Co need to roll up their sleeves and get its major programs back under control.


You know its bad when....

The guys at the rental desk greet you wearing face masks...

Welcome to LA - Home of the big burn and this week home to PhocusWright.

During the week (sorry I am only here for two full days) I will be sending comments on the proceedings. Stay tuned. If you are in LA for PCW - then stop off and say hi during the Bloggers Summit