24 July 2009

Hotwire Says Deals Ending Soon. Hogwash!

Chris Elliot has an interview with Clem Bason who is the president of Hotwire.com. In this Bason says deals are ending and you have never had it so good.

I beg to differ. Judging from the publicly available data for forward projections - I don't think that the deals are ending soon. I think we have to get through a pretty bleak fall/winter/spring season before we start to see any shoots of any meaning.

OK so this is a blanket statement and does not apply to all markets but for bargain hunters - there is clearly an open season here on just about everything. You can still get a round the world ticket for under 600 Pounds which puts everything into perspective.

Just because Hotwire is suffering - doesn't mean that the market is actually hurting. Hotwire's business model is under threat - just like that of the rest of the Expedia group. Priceline is still eating their lunch.

Agree? Let's have that discussion in 8 months time.


London Calling - Why BA is Hurting

Excellent piece from Anna.aero on BA and its markets.


I always thought there was a reason why the BA impact was so severe. Now we can see from those fine people at Anna.Aero the data to back up the gut feeling.

Having fought off the enlarged US-UK Open Skies onslaught last year BA- in the end had to look at its fortress home market and see that the carrier was more vulnerable to the GFC than just about any others.

That said - we can now see that certain other airlines are also impacted. KLM/AF are down 20.5% in GROSS revenue in Q1. That is astounding.

We are not at the bottom yet folks...


Compared to Others, UK Travel Sites Suck!

For a long time I have thought that many of the leading sites in Travel really dont do a good job. Having worked with a number of teams where Usability is a religion - I have come to join that jihad.

Now comes some evidence that the TUE - Total User Experience - is less than satisfactory for travel sites. Not only this now - for the first time an independent study has actually tested travel against other categories.

A disclaimer - the study size is small and the level of the sites compared are small, and it covers the UK market only - however I think that this is a level of study that is demanded on a broader scale. The UK is clearly not the best proxy for the USA but there are similarities.

So to sign up and get a free copy of the study (its an 18 MB Powerpoint )- go here:


And BTW you need a UK phone number. If you dont have one just enter numbers in the UK format which can be found here:


Best of luck.



21 July 2009

United Refuses To Put In Seatback Videos

In the column of strange and possibly bizarre behaviour, United Airlines is defending its decision not to have Seat Back Video system on its Economy Classes.

OK - having just done the great experiment (RTW in Coach/Economy/Tourist Class) - I can tell you that on a 14 hour flight you had better have a seat back entertainment system or else your passengers will get unruly and PO'd.

Now I really like the people at United. Especially since today they managed to eke out a profit in Q2. I am pulling for them to be a survivor in the current mess.

However there is just no excuse for this lack of product service.

Their VP for Pacific - Jeff Mueller is quoted in the Australian trade magazine Travel Today as saying the following:

"I imagine it will be of
importance to some
people but you need to
look at all elements of
the product."

He then is quoted as highlighting the other "attributes" of the product:

Its network in the US, membership of Star Alliance and “generous” loyalty scheme all
attract business, Mueller stated in the article. “Our loads in economy have been strong,” he added. “We have also invested heavily in lie flat beds in first and business class and refurbished the economy cabin.” He continued: “We have very
strong relationships with industry partners and corporates and have a great deal of loyalty. We see that as a very strong asset.”

So if you happen to be sitting reading this on paper or downloaded on your laptop in Y class on a UA long haul flight - I am sorry. But I really don't think that these other "features" make up for the lack of seat back video.

Common United - give the poor passengers a break.


Me Thinks He Doth Complain Too Much - MOL.

OK so MOL is taking his battle to the streets again. And we all know that the tax issue is a burning one - so far the acceptance level makes most airlines look like lambs.

That said however RyanAir has again threatened to reduce the fleet at STN from 40 aircraft to 24. (One down from last year's winter of 25).

So the winter slow down seems to have worked because apart from the fuel hedging FR did just fine thank you.

Does he protest too loudly?

You be the judge


The Spending Down Turn Impacts Across The Board

By now everyone knows that while the passenger numbers have been falling the revenue numbers are even worse.

So three key indicators have recently confirmed this. If we look at the USA market as a proxy for the whole world (I will come back to this), it shows that all aspects of travel are down.

1. Passengers are down
2. Fares are down
3. Amounts that people spend are down.

This is now across the board with average spend down reported by the US - TIA at 22%. With regard to airfares - they have been falling since September of 2008. For passenger spend, May 2009 marks the seventh straight month in which U.S. travel and tourism-related exports were lower when compared to the same period of the previous year, having declined in November 2008 (-4%)for the first time. This shows that the fall off of bookings that started with effect from September 2008 didn't work themselves into the tourism spend till November of that year.

This should give us some clue as to if - or hopefully when - we can see an uptick. So far those indicators are not there. As an aside - there is a common held belief that freight precedes passengers with regard to economic cycles. I have not actually been able to find (mostly because I have never looked) to see if this was true historically. But I do know that freight traffic is STILL falling. Both Air and Sea/Land.

In economic terms there is still too little demand for the available supply. However the economic cost of cutting more supply works to the point of actually increasing the costs.

It is at this point that tourism stimulation is required by all concerned. I read an intro by Trailfinders' Mike Gooley CBE. He clearly states that travel is at its lowest ever. I agree. But its not enough.

I don't want to dampen people's spirits nor be the naysayer - but so far I cannot find any evidence of an uptick. I have previously predicted that we will see some stabilization come September. I do believe by that time that the worst of the cuts will have worked their way through the system. One indicator however may give us cause for concern. A recent survey by WWF as part of their one in five campaign has attracted a growing number of people to reduce corporate/business travel.


So there you have it. Save the Planet or Economic Poverty.... It may get as stark as this.

And what do you think?

20 July 2009

Today's Cigarette is a Mobile Phone?

If any of you have had a chance to see the excellent series Mad Money - you see that most folks look very cool holding a cigarette. And a lot of them do it throughout the show. I love this stuff. Back when neckties were really thin, and women wore their hair up in tight buns, long before PC became a watch word... ah those were the days.

I have been considering the issue of frequency of usage of our respective devices. With the diminution of TV viewership and increasing time slicing by recording devices - I asked myself a question - what is the "non-physical sustenance" product that we touch more than any other?

Up till the early 1990s - there was no other product that was touched or consumed more than the Cigarette. My father was in the tobacco business all his life and he was a master marketeer of the product. He lived and breathed his company and his product creation. Today - it remains one of the top world brands. But its use has been superseded by what product?

Why the answer has to be the mobile phone of course. We touch it, we play with it, we use it, countless surveys have shown that if you were to be left with only one thing - it would be your mobile. (OK for Americans Cell Phone).

Here is some great research on how people use their phones and what they would like to use it for. I do suggest that before everyone rushes to create expensive and (in many cases completely useless) mobile applications - consider what people really want and then consider the reality of the medium.

Here is a link to the research: http://www.lightspeedresearch.com/pdf/lsr_pr_meandmymobile.pdf

While the research was primarily from a UK perspective - the study is in fact multi-country.

Worth the read.


Teenage Angst And Flying

OK - Hands up those who have been to See Harry Potter VI?

I wont spoil it for those of you who haven't but many of the reviews have focused on the issue of Teenage Angst which is a theme through the movie. Also many of the actors... well they look like they could be in their 20s!!!!

It seems that the topic of Flying and the angst part was a driving force of a UK Teenager who managed to fool a whole number of people into thinking he was starting an airline and had just enough with false websites and even a real receptionist - to convince some quite respectable commercial adults into supporting his fraud.


(The Times link doesn't seem to work and I don't feel like supporting the Fox News hijacking of the URL.)

Amusing... but it does raise the issue of how much or how little we now need to have to create an impression of size.

And yes there really is a Professor slaving away in a basement somewhere. I just like not to reveal my identity in open forum. But a lot of you know who I am anyway!


Out With A Whimper - Videotext To End

So the announcement was made previously that the Teletext service would end in 2012 along with the completion of UKs switch to Digital TV. However service provider Teletext has accelerated the end of the analogue service in the UK to January 2010.

While the announcement affects really only the public Teletext service - it means that support for the closed Videotext service really cannot occur past this date.

So the once almighty and omnipresent Viewdata (aka Videotext, Prestel, CEPT 3 etc etc) has finally been killed by the web. It will likely also hasten the end of many of the smaller UK agents who relied on the service.

for those of us who tried very hard to kill it and then even more to actually get it to work on top of GDS systems - this will come as a moment of nostalgia. Send me your reflections and at some point I will compile a collection of them.

So onto the web. I wonder if we will ever have a time when we watch the end of closed user functionality based systems - such as a GDS for example?

Now that's an interesting thought.