10 January 2009

Alaska's Apology - A Little Hollow?

I really like Alaska Airlines. Their service is much better than the other guys. So when they fall over - it seems that normally you can forgive them an indiscretion or two. However I do think that they really messed up over the Xmas period with the bad weather in Seattle. So should we all forgive them? Yes normally except they do somewhat say that they are better than regular humans. It is the "ALASKA" can do spirit. Absolutely - their people are good - but their management seems to have made some blunders lately.

So when you see the apology:


Think that this weather is normal in Alaska so surely they should have been able to accommodate this in Seattle?

In my personal view Alaska should either change its name or live up to its own image of itself. It further should do something in the form of compensation for all the people who suffered because they made blunders and misjudged the situation.

Just my personal opinion. In future - Airlines should take more responsibility for their performance.


09 January 2009

Caution Descends on Dubai.

There may be a clue as to whether FlyDubai will be late or not. It also may be a clue to the long term projections from Emirates. If you read this little piece you will see why...

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has formally announced this week that it plans to postpone the construction of the 49 kilometre so called ‘Purple Line’ rail link between the current Dubai International Airport and the upcoming Al Maktoum International Airport until there is "adequate demand."

Such a delay would definitely mean that Emirates is ratcheting back its growth or it is intending to move all of its traffic to the new airport. Given that they just spent a squillion dollars on the new Terminal 3 and quite a while building it - i doubt they are going to be rushing into things.

So if you are hoping to connect between the 2 new airports when the new one opens... better hire a helicopter or sit in traffic for quite some while.

Still the new airport will be quite the marvel.


08 January 2009

Reminder Jan 12th Deadline Approaches for ESTA

Just a reminder to all Non-US Citizens and Residents...

US Department of Homeland Security confirmed the new Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA), which includes new entry requirements for the US permitting visa waivers for up to 90 days, will be fully implemented on 12-Jan-09 (SMH/AP, 08-Jan-09). Approximately 300,000 ESTA applications were approved through the online process by Nov-08, with less than 0.5 5% of applications refused.



07 January 2009

Bovine Air - I just had to share

This is from Professor Alipio. I am sorry but I do not
know the origin of this cartoon - but for all of us who
travel a lot - this is just perfect.


Commodity Prices Collapse - Impact on Boeing?

One of Boeing's largest suppliers is Alcoa. Yesterday they announced a massive cut back on their capacity and a big reduction is resources, exploration and plants with cutbacks also in Staff.

This could have a big impact on Boeing that is still struggling with fasteners made of Aluminium. The last cut back in the Aluminium market resulted in the failure of the supply chain to Boeing for the 787 program. So a cut back now could have a major impact.

Let's hope not.


Being Green - Just as Dead as a Dodo?

I saw a piece by Chris Elliott in MSNBC. One section in particular caught my eye:


Being green is perhaps a bit passe this week...

So how about what Chris said: here is his piece:

Don’t allow a travel company to cash in on your conscience.
Being green shouldn’t be a reference to the color of your money. But it often is. Several airlines, including Air Canada, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America, now offer programs that allow you to offset your share of carbon dioxide emissions from a flight — for a small fee. Sounds awfully tempting. But it’s absurd. Think about it: Would you be willing to voluntarily pay an extra $30 to your pharmaceutical company to clean up one of its toxic dumps? If anything, you would think twice before buying another one of that company’s products. Which is exactly what travelers ought to do when faced with an offset option: run to the competition. Travel companies should be offsetting their own carbon, not guilting you into paying yet another surcharge for it.

I really agree with him - although I do choose to offset but not to the vendors. I offset through Terrapass.

So think carefully before you buy the Green BS. With oil now rising again will we hear a new noise around Green or will it be lost in the GFC (Global Financial Crisis)?

You be the judge


Two OTA CEO changes in One Day !

So not content with the blockbuster news at Travelocity that Michelle was leaving - we now see that Steve is out at Orbitz and Barney is in at Orbitz.

It is a strange day. Does this mean Dara is quietly leaving also?

This is too much for me to handle today


Farewell Michelle Peluso

A Sabre droid takes over - congrats to Hugh Jones on his promotion.

As a personal reflection - I always thought that Michelle gave a human face to Sabre and to the Travelocity product. She was passionate about - and remains so I am sure - the consumer. The resulting Travelocity product shows that.

Let's hope that Sabre continues her legacy.


BA: "Only through delivering fundamental changes"

BA has started to deliver a series of messages about just how dire the situation is at the carrier and for their part of the industry in general. In the latest edition of BA’s staff newspaper CFO, Keith Williams, warned further restructuring was required to cope with the downturn. Its not a "may" it's a "when".

The airline has already axed 450 of its 1,400 managers and Williams said the latest shake-up would be ‘far-reaching, reshaping our company from top to bottom’. This puts Willie Walsh's job on the line and ups the stakes for the current management team. With BA's comparative performance against its peer legacy competitors down throughout 2008, and decidedly poor when compared to the LCC community - only radical change will do, the shareholders deserve nothing less.

Williams added: ‘Only through delivering fundamental changes can we achieve the small profit we are targeting this year and emerge from the crisis as a strong global player.’ Clearly BA has a low opinion of itself - perhaps right if we look at the progress in comparison to LH's global expansion. for the CFO of BA to openly state this is an admission perhaps of how far BA has fallen behind and needs to catch up.

I hope the boys and girls at Waterside are paying attention. Business as usual is not an option


GDS Warn: The End Of The World Is Nigh

Oh give me a break....

Scaremongering is the last resorts of scoundrels and cads. Believe me or believe me not?

Here is a good article by Travel Weekly. http://www.travelweekly.com/article.aspx?id=184466&ad_id=5732

The GDS predict that the world is about to come to an end unless the airlines conform and jump to the GDS tune. What the GDS are specifically asking for is a set of standards that the airlines confirm to for all ancillary services and the way they are charged. Hmmm in whose life time are they hoping that this will happen?

Complicating the issue is that various consumer advocate groups are weighing in and so is legislation. In the EU of course there is already legislation covering this - a consumer's bill of rights and a set of legislation is likely to appear this year (2009).

So I think the GDS need to get a life and either they have to conform to the airlines needs or they will be road kill. Everyone agrees that the Ancillary Revenue models are not going away. What ever it is - bundled, unbundled, partially bundled, at POS, at Airport, In-flight etc etc - this is now a steady state. While I personally dislike this behavior and have railed against it - we have to accept that this is now an accepted practice.

So getting the airlines to conform - well that is not going to happen. Can you just see a meeting where all the airlines sit down and try and describe their ancillary revenue goals, aims and tools... I would suspect that at the very least an anti-trust lawyer would have a cow.

What is the likely outcome?

A smart GDS will figure out how to provide merchandising tools for the airlines to use. The more tools provided and the ease with which it can be adapted into a production environment with direct and indirect distribution - then the better it will be adopted.

Interestingly what we are seeing is the further blurring of the lines between the PSS (the airlines core res system), the GDS and the distribution tool such as the IBE (Internet Booking Engine). An example of this is how Sabre should have been the company to provide the tool for Frontier's new system - but it could not be done fast enough - thus F9 went to Datalex and got the work done. OK - that was an airline direct solution. Who is doing the GDS indirect based solution? So far despite a lot of noise - no one has a satisfactory solution. I suspect that we will some some attempts pretty soon. Just don't hold your breath if you are expecting the GDS companies to step up fast to this position. Rather we will see more obfuscation emerging - I can just describe that as GDS whining.

Am I right? You be the judge.

If a GDS, or anyone else would care to respond - then please feel free.

Cheers and stay tuned

06 January 2009

Flight Attendants Sizewize at Air India Effective

Air India has first grounded and now fired 10 FFAs.

Its rules on size/weight that is applied to its Flight Attendants have been upheld by the Indian High Court in Delhi.

So after refusing a ground assignment - the National Airline of India fired the 10.

So clearly they are trying to make sure that their flights are as fuel efficient as possible and not carrying unnecessary surplus weight.

Could there be other airlines who have similar rules but have not enforced them? When oil was $148 pbl that was an issue. At $50 pbl not so much


Why I Like the F9 Interface

Frontier's new simplified system for air booking is a wonderful thing.

For sometime I have been a big critic of the other displays particularly the ITA Software based displays as being way too complex.

I like simple.

Here is a good example of 3 different interfaces which illustrate my point.

the new Frontier display is very nice and the new Southwest display is nice - both have issues (Frontier has some bugs - WN is now hiding its cheapest fares making my jump through extra hoops to get to the cheapest fare).

Air Canada's display is just plain horrid.

Try this yourself at home - chose a high traveled city pair for each airline (I recommend DEN-SEA for F9 - same for WN and then chose YVR-YYZ for AC).

Congrats to the boys at Jim Young and his team at Frontier and Datalex for delivering something in a hurry. Now just fix that entry bug


Airlines Still Cutting

I like Ben Mutzabaugh's blog at USA today. its a good useful source of info. He and Scott McCarthy are the only two I read on a regular basis.

So one of the pieces he did recently on Airline Capacity cuts is a good indication that things are going to be much worse before they get better.


This is a good interactive map - enjoy it.



So I will have a sandwich and 60 minutes of flying please....

Low Cost Carrier Models have proliferated - so far we have seen models from potentially standing up (Ryanair rumour) to Flying Pets, to ... buying by the minute.


I kid you not - is a potential airline in South Africa who will charge by time. If you think about it as airlines have recently gone for "Time on the Wing" or "Fly-by the hour" models it makes sense to extend that to the consumer.

Don't bank on it working full time though before someone figures out a way to handle it. I don't think this will be any time soon. But the idea might catch on in ZA where they have a nice market for LCCs - Kulula, Mango (daughter of SAA) and Onetime. Nationwide went out last year so there is room for one more...


The strange case of the napping pilots….

OK so if you are working for a few trips a day going from A to B - and lets say you drive. If you feel sleepy - you turn up the AirCo, you open the car window or you get up and walk around.

So what happens if you are flying 50 pax and 2 Flight Attendants?

Well it seems that 2 Go! (Subsidiary of Mesa Group) Pilots did that on a 1 hour flight from HNL to ITO. They actually overshot and had to make some changes. So much so that first they were found out - when ATC had to wake them up, and then when they tried to cover them up.


Were the passengers in any danger? ... actually possibly but then I am not an expert. Just suffice to say - that before you get on any Mesa operated flight - perhaps you should ask if the pilots are sleepy or not.

It seems that this was not an isolated example - the airline's chief pilot was apparently not aware which makes me even more nervous.

Don't you think?

BA Once Again Leads Declines at EU's Big 3.

Latest Traffic Results for November 2008

Airline Group / RPKs
Air France–KLM / -0.8%
British Airways / -5.9%
Lufthansa / -1.2%

Now they are all down.



Virgin Bails on Gatwick

Virgin group is going to bail out of its attempt to be one of the buyers for London Gatwick. Not even Branson’s magic can raise the sort of funds necessary… however as BAA’s parent Ferrovial struggles to restructure its debt – VS may be playing a waiting game… Virgin Atlantic reportedly (30-Dec-08) cancelled its bid for London Gatwick International Airport after failing to secure sufficient financial backing. Two consortia, led by Hochtief AirPort and Citigroup, are left in the bidding process and early offers are expected to be posted in Jan-09.

Meanwhile more carriers are bailing on LGW - perhaps easyjet might be a good buyer or Stelios himself.


BA warms to India - again

British Airways is reportedly re-considering acquiring a 25% stake in India’s GoAir with company officials expected to meet in Feb-09 (Economic Times, 05-Jan-09). Rumours of a franchise agreement surfaced in late 2008, after BA assumed that acquisition was not allowed. At year's end the Indian Government re-formulated the rules for foreign ownership. In these new rules while Foreign airlines are currently barred from holding direct or indirect stakes in Indian airlines, there is now a provision for foreign ownership as I have written before. GoAir plans to increase its fleet to 35 aircraft by Mar-2011 from the current six. It plans to add 20 aircraft this year and add another nine in the following two years.

So if they failed with QF, are struggling with IB, going nowhere with AA then perhaps India might be a good training ground.

Given the massive spree from LH - the boys and girls in Waterside better get a move on.


BABI deal hits a snag

Meanwhile back at the ranch - in London and Madrid the BABI (remember them? AA is off to one side for now) the British Airways and Iberia deal has hit a Pension Snag.

Iberia appointed pension consultants, Mercer, to review British Airways’ pension scheme, which is up to GBP1.7 billion in deficit (abtn.co.uk, 30-Dec-08). A report on the pension scheme will be issued in Jan-09.

Hmmm trouble in Paradise... but wait don't order yet... see the following blog entry on Go.


Air Anschluss approved – LH looks North and East

As Austrian’s sale is approved – the German march for European hegemony appears to be unabated with LH eyeing both SAS and LOT next.

Austrian Airlines seems to be all done bar the shouting: "We are pleased that it has proven possible to reach an agreement between ÖIAG and our alliance partner of many years, Lufthansa. The strategic concept removes our structural weaknesses, such as a lack of international sales strength and disadvantages in purchasing. Together with our own measures, this will enable the almost total retention of our network strength. As a result, the benefits for our customers can be retained. None of this would have been possible - even with a great deal of additional capital - had we tried to go it alone," Alfred Ötsch, CEO said on 4th of Jan.

Looking northward, Lufthansa International Director, Karsten Bentz, stated that “after the German and Italian markets, Scandinavia is the most important for Lufthansa”. Lufthansa has reportedly been in talks with SAS, rekindling speculation about a planned acquisition. Confirming this Bentz is also quoted as saying: "We want to take an active part in the consolidation that is taking place in the European airline industry, and that subject is often the focus of Lufthansa management meetings." Meanwhile to the east, Poland’s Treasury Minister, Aleksander Grad, reportedly stated the government may increase the capital of LOT Polish Airlines if no investor other than Lufthansa bids for it.

So LH's has laid out its stall - what about BA and AF/KL?


Despite fewer flights - longer US delays

Scott McCarthy in the Wall Street Journal has some bad news for the US Air Traveler. Despite a massive reduction in flights particularly at the last 4 months of the year - delays worsened for the whole year.


So while the US airlines were trumpeting their on time performance - it seems that actually their performance worsened during 2009. This does not bode well for the next time we have upturn in travel. It does however bode well for FAA's attempts to control slots at constrained airports like LGA and JFK. Interestingly my colleagues over at www.airportbutler.com have some sample data on this and should definitely be looked at as a resource for this.

The only silver lining was a slight improvement in the improvement of "on time" but the delays were longer. Last year, 75.4% of U.S. passenger airline flights arrived on-time, according to FlightStats, up from 73.5% in 2007. While improved over 2007, 2008 still was worse than airlines performed in 2006 or 2005 said McCarthy.

Of course he doesn't know that the airlines -insidiously - were leaving early to make their ontime performance look good. I could use a descriptive term for this behavior but I am far too polite for that.

Beware... Obama can use this information to fund some improvements in the ATC. But will they do this wisely?