19 September 2009

Extra Extra: Bumping Has Increased! Passenger Satisfaction Fails to Soar Again.

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to compare the 1970s and 80s Air travel with today’s luxurious and vastly superior (sic) customer serviced product, but it seems to have come to the attention of the US Dept of Transportation that bumping has increased. So says the WSJ. The Wall Street Journal I am sure this comes as new news to many of the Professor’s readers. Perhaps even more shocking is that the airlines are having a harder time in compensating passengers and getting people to give up their seats in an oversold situation.

By now every frequent flyer and the vast majority of everyone else knows that if you don’t have a seat assignment – then your chances of getting bumped are now pretty high. Airlines conversely know that unless they can allocate a seat assignment a passenger is highly unlikely to confirm the booking.

Against this backdrop and that of the “Imprisoned Passengers” of recent fame – the US Congress is still considering whether or not to legislate. However this is the same group of folks (Congress that is) that has once again deferred addressing the issue of consolidation when considering competition amongst airlines.

You have to wonder if the Dept. of Transportation is actually asleep at the switch or the supposed oversight committee in Congress is paying attention. So far the US Dept. of Justice is being far more aggressive in cases of airline related service and competition issues. The recent spat over the CO application to Star Alliance is a good example. Yes once again deferred reviewing Airline Competition practices and set no date for reconsidering it. Thus ensuring that anything coming up in the near future will be assessed (or rather ignored) since there will be no context.

Last Call for Voicing Your Opinion on Pax Rights

Here is the agenda for next week’s conference in Washington DC on Passenger rights.

The Professor will be commenting after the event. Too bad I cannot get to DC due to a conflicting schedule


September 17, 2009
BTC || Kevin Mitchell | 610-341-1850 | mitchell@BusinessTravelCoalition.com
FlyersRights.org || Kate Hanni | 707-337-0328 | kate@flyersrights.org

Airline Passengers Conduct Their Own Hearing in Congress
Air Passenger Rights Stakeholder Hearing to examine legislative proposals to provide passengers with the option to deplane after 3 hours of extended tarmac delay.

• Tuesday, September 22, 2009
• 9:00am
• Room 2200 Rayburn House Office Building
• Only standing-room tickets left. Participants can secure remaining tickets at http://stakeholderhearing.eventbrite.com
• Tickets can be printed out from EventBrite site and presented at the hearing for expedited seating.
• Those registered, but without tickets, may pick up their tickets outside the hearing room.
• No walk-ins will be permitted. (except for press and Congressional staff)
• Aviation Daily
• Bloomberg News
• Business Travel News
• Conde Nast Traveler
• Consumer Reports
• Kiplinger
• The Associated Press
• The New York Times
• The Philadelphia Inquirer
• The Wall Street Journal
• Travel Technology Update
• Travel Weekly
Kevin Mitchell, Chairman, Business Travel Coalition
Opening Comments
Kate Hanni, Executive Director, FlyersRights.org
Hearing genesis, purpose, objectives, sponsors
Airline Industry Passenger Service
Robert L. Crandall, Former Chairman and CEO, American Airlines
Travel Industry Views of Congressional Intervention
Kevin Mitchell, Chairman, Business Travel Coalition
Keynote Address
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Hearing Proceedings
Jerome Greer Chandler,Veteran and Award-Winning Aviation Journalist
Review process; Introduce Questioners and Witnesses
Link Christin, Adjunct Professor of Law, William Mitchell College of Law
Luke Thomas, Founder, LTVenntures; CEO, The Vennture Group
Shawn O’Brien, MD, St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center
Leslie Yourra, Business Owner and Mother
Dave Carroll, Songwriter / Performing Artist
Jay Boehmer, Senior Editor, Business Travel News
Colin Tooze, Vice President, Government Affairs, American Society of Travel Agents
Jennifer Michels, Deputy Editor, Aviation Daily
Shane Downey, Government Relations Manager, National Business Travel Association
William McGee, Contributor, Consumer Reports
Scott Nason, Aviation and Travel Industry Consultant, SDN TT&H Consulting, LLC
Dr. Amy Cohn, Associate Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan
George F. Doughty, Executive Director, Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority
James M. Crites, Executive Vice President of Operations, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Kate Hanni, Executive Director, FlyersRights.org
Kevin Mitchell, Chairman, Business Travel Coalition

17 September 2009

Webjet Acquires FareCrawler - US Bound

Marking another foreign attack at the large US OTA market - Webjet has announced its intention to come to the US through the acquisition of FareCrawler.com and associated brands.

Joining CheapFlights (UK based) in the market for the second tier of players - there is clearly plenty of business to go around. Initially this is more likely to make news at the home market (Webjet is an Australian based company) than in the US. However the bringing of consolidator fares to the online space is a well accepted premise in Europe and Asia/Pac but not so in the US OTA market.

It is not clear if Webjet will set up its own fulfillment organization or continue to use Picasso Travel who currently fulfills for Farecrawler.


The Slashing Season II

Over the past few days more job losses have been announced at several airlines.

Uncharacteristically the latest news comes from 2 airlines not normally associated with layoffs.

Aeroflot and JAL

However between the two of them 9000 jobs will be before the end of the year.

There will be more.


16 September 2009

Cross Border Ticketing – The Final Frontier?

It is one of life’s great mysteries. You can do anything technically on the web, but political and commercial constraints prevent access to products across borders.
Recently the Wall Street Journal did an analysis on the countries of Middle East and Asia looking at which countries did the most internet filtering and the levels of penetration in those markets. Suffice to say there is a lot of government web filtering going on in many markets. The well publicized issue of Google enabling access to information to at least one government is probably the tip of the iceberg of how governments wish to choose to manage their subjects. This is not a good sign.

But in our (travel) business there is too a specialized form of commercial constraint by the powers that be. Some of the reasons are admirable some are not. Protecting the innocent and the weak should be a goal for all. Allowing the global mega brands to dominate all markets is something that should be of concern. However the one that somewhat gets me is the issue of Cross Border ticketing. Now comes evidence that this is not a theoretical issue but a growing problem for companies trying to constrain their products.

I think there is a definite underlying belief that airlines do not want users to know their true pricing. Transparency is a complete anathema to the sale of a legacy airline product. The hoops through which carriers make the consumer jump has contributed significantly to both the cost and complexity of the airline based product. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Carriers will probably jump up and down and say it’s a good thing. Consumers will beg to differ.

According to Forrester, more than a third of all European consumers online have purchased something cross border. Given the difficulty of doing so in Travel probably constrains the number in Travel below the average although I have no direct evidence. Targeting The European Cross-Border Buyer is a paper worth a read.

The European Commission has actually banned the practice of any commercial constraint of purchase in the single European market. However getting an IATA license to issue a pan European ticket is still not a even a possibility more than 10 years after the major expansion of the market. Theoretical yes – actually – definitely not

I do believe that over time – there will be a lessening of the practice. The airline based obfuscation of pricing will have to be simplified. If there is one lesson to be learned from the recent sharp downturn in the global economy – you need to be able to react much more quickly. If you think about it, not allowing cross border electronic ticketing is – well rather silly.


Southwest to Europe, Ryanair to USA – LCCs Spread Wings

These days it seems that Southwest has started to copy Ryanair more and more.

First it introduces priority boarding. Then it starts charging for extras. Now it seems to be following the mouth of Michael O’Leary by announcing that Southwest Airlines plans to open international routes to Europe and South America, although so far there is "no timetable" for the move, Lee Lipton Director-Network Strategic Planning has told this publically at the Routes 09 Conference just ended in PEK. Ryanair is more than a little famous for its CEO describing some of the - er amenities - on the long haul flights he has proposed.

The interesting thing will be a view of what the travel experience will be like. As for the equipment, WN has had a Transatlantic capable aircraft for many years. However none of its 737-700s are equipped for ETOPS. With big and mid size twins regularly serving the Atlantic and Latam markets this should not be a stretch. 737-700Ers and 737-900ERs are already plying their wares in markets around the world and of course light loaded BBJs have this capability as indeed does Airbus ACJs although today no Airbus narrow body is currently flying transatlantic commercially in ETOPS configuration (watch for someone to prove me wrong).

The launch of Air Asia X in 2008 has shown that irregular schedules integrated into a regular operation can work quite nicely thank you. One thing you can be sure of… this has sent network planners scurrying for their slide rules and laptops.


14 September 2009

RIP The World

Having flown in and out of DXB many times at day and at night - I used to marvel at the creation of the various projects in the Gulf. However knowing a little about the topography of the Gulf, I really worried about the impact on the environment - both on the destination of the build and the original source of the sand. This is a major ecological change.

Now this most spectacular project of Man has bitten the dust. A stark reality of the real world not quite living up to the hype.

The Times (of London) was not so sanguine - it savaged the folly of the project.

While it is sad to see what was arguably one of the most interesting of all projects - it is definitely a lesson on the perils of going beyond the boundaries.

All quite sad recently.