26 September 2009

The GFC 101 - Listen Here...

Probably like many people who think they are smart - we really don't understand what created the meltdown we now call the Global Financial Crisis.

This is the suspicion that there was a lot of bad things going on - but exactly what is hard to comprehend.

Well step in NPR (US Public Radio Network) and Ira Glass - This American Life. Episode 390

For a very neat and easy to understand synopsis that really brings home what happened. This is a great piece.

Highly recommended by the Professor.

More Stupid Airline Tricks - When is a Boarding Pass Not Really a Boarding Pass? When It's From Air France.

OK - so I have to go to a Funeral in France. Sad all round but I managed to get a seat courtesy of my German Travel Agent (Thanks Evi!!!)

So she produced the right documentation for me and I have an Air France Record Locator. So after getting the same error and waiting for several hours on the phone with AF (I gave up after 1 hour the first time - the second I was rewarded after a 90 minute wait) - I managed to speak to an agent. I would like to thank her but didn't catch her name - she was very helpful!

So she guided me through the process of issuing a BP online.

Here are the last 2 screens (of 10 that I had to go through BTW). the left one is the final confirmation - the right hand one is the actual print out of my document. So look at the circled items.

I just love the breadcrumb indicator - It says "BOARDING PASS."

Also on the page on the left it says:

Thank you for checking in online
"Your confirmation print is being opened in a PDF file."

The small print reads as follows:

Departure information

* Upon arrival at the airport, follow the instructions on your boarding pass.
* If you wish to print out or reprint your boarding pass later, you can do so before the Check-in Deadline for your flight:
- by entering your electronic ticket number on the Internet check-in log-in screen,
- or directly at the airport, either at a Self-Service Kiosk or by going to the appropriate check-in counter.
* If you have baggage to check, please go to the ""baggage drop-off"" counter before the check-in deadline. Otherwise you can make your way directly to the boarding gate.
* Thank you for using our Internet check-in. Air France KLM wishes you a pleasant trip.

OK so there are three references two of them say "Boarding Pass" and one says "Confirmation". So I guess I would go with the majority. FOOLISH ME!!!

So you hit the print button, and print the formal document but there is a small disclaimer...(the right image) that says:

Reminder, this is not a boarding pass.

OK so AF which is it. Do I have a BP or not? Well we know the answer - its a Gallic Shrug....

Oh yes - a couple of other stupid AF pet tricks...

1. The premium seats are available for $65 each. (See my post from yesterday on BA's new insane pricing).
2. AF's seat maps on DL don't correspond to the real ones.
3. Amadeus does not give you the real AF record locator. It is yet another fake one from the Erding based host.Fortunately the AF agent gave me the correct one.
4. The AF error gave no indication of the problem - just told me that there was a web site error and that they were going to fix it in the "shortest terms" I don't make this stuff up.

Need I go on....

Dear AF+KL+DL+NW - can you get this working a little better for my next time on your new Transatlantic Alliance flight.


Gotta love these guys.... where do they find the people to create these things? I really want to go and learn at these airline schools of disinformation. It would make any propaganda ministry proud.


Quiet Cuts Indicate Prudence at Boeing and Airbus

Latest viewing of the production numbers for both Boeing show that both AirFramers are taking a prudent look at their production schedules.

While Airbus announced a production cut rate from 36-34 aircraft it is still maintaining that the new China facility will ramp up to 4 aircraft per month. Not much in the big picture of things when there are thousands of aircraft on back order.

However as can be seen orders can and do have a habit of evaporating. If we look at the current production environment, it is interesting to look at what is actually rolling off the line.

For the Seattle based (but Chicago HQ'd Boeing its product line is down to just 2 families. It has 767s in essentially trickle mode to support the supposed tanker contract to come, 787s are still a long way off from production mode, 747s are waiting the delivery of the first round of 747-8/9s so that leaves the 777 and 737 stalwarts. For Airbus - A380s have never ramped up, and don't look like doing so any time soon. It is essentially a hand built aircraft with the possibility of the Toulouse line sending a few straight to the desert. 330/340 line is just ticking along benefiting from the failure to deliver the 787 but the 340 is unlikely to make old bones and will quietly sunset despite the recent delivery of the 1000th in the line joint twin/four line. Airbus is being very careful with its narrow body line. Despite the disruptions last year - strike at Boeing and industrial action of the Power8 union opposition - we are seeing continued restraint.

No one wants to take any large quantities of aircraft. Indeed Ryanair who has been taking them at quite a lick (6 in the space of 4 weeks earlier this year) August saw them taking none. A large number of them are heading out on lease and to be parked by the time the end of October comes around.

So no one is being bullish till late 2010 more likely 2011. Actually Boeing's troubles with the 787 could not have occurred at a better time. That said - the production ramp for the new mid size twin will be slow. When the market picks up in 2011 - Boeing will not be able to meet the demand. Airbus on the other hand will be able to with A330s becoming the flavor of the month. With EK indicating a big interest in a large order as their new "off peak" craft - others better start polishing their cheque books.

The cyclical nature seems to be working again but just look at that back log. Makes you wonder.


25 September 2009

The Professor's Readers are "Luddites" when it comes to Twitter

So the latest poll of the Professor's readers was about their attitude to Twitter.

I have left this one up for a long time. I would have thought that the readership was smooth suave and sophisticated. More James Bond than Jummy Cagney, Think Erudite.

Well when it comes to Twitter - the sentiment is that they are Luddites and it would appear - happy to be so.

Latest poll results with 9 days left to go are:

I am a Luddite (57%)

I am a sneek peeker (15%)

I find it useful (15%)

I am a manic Tweeter (13%)

Hmmmm anyone care to explain this?

I will comment on it at the end of the poll.


BA's New Seat Policy Puts You In Control Of WHAT?

So The Professor - who is silver is exempt from the new Seating charges (well a little bit).

I present to you the rules for Silver members. This is the REAL email I received... read it and I challenge you not to reach for the Gin by about half way through.

Sorry last time I forgot to acknowledge Professor Mike who brought this whole thing to my attention.

Drinkies Time..............



Log in



Dear Professor Sabena,

From 07 October 2009 we will be introducing a change to our seating policy. This change will give more passengers the option to choose their seat before check-in for an additional fee.

As a Silver Executive Club member, you can still choose a seat available in your class of travel when booking without charge.

However, if you would like to select an exit row* seat in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus, these can now be selected for an additional charge of £50/$75*. To choose an exit row seat, you will simply need to call us any time between 10 and 4 days before your departure.

If you have an existing booking for an exit row seat, or arrange one before 07 October, there will be no additional fee. Please note, if you wish to choose an exit row seat on or after 07 October then you will need to pay the additional fee, regardless of the date your booking was made.

Of course, if you are flying in any other cabin you can choose any seat at the time of booking.

If you have any questions about our new policy, please visit ba.com/paidseating for more details.

We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon.
Warm regards,

James Hillier
Executive Club Manager


Log in



Contact us

*Exit row seats are subject to availability and to passengers meeting the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority ( www.caa.co.uk). British Airways has the sole discretion to determine whether a passenger meets the requirements to sit in an exit row seat. Passengers with additional needs should contact us so that suitable seating arrangements can be made. Seats may need to be changed, even after boarding the aircraft for operational, safety or security reasons. Seating charges are per passenger, per sector. In some cases, paid seating may not be immediately available on 7th October, please ask your call centre for more information. Refunds will only be provided if we have to change your seat and cannot seat you in a suitable alternative. Please see ba.com/paidseating for more details.

This email was sent to ProfessorSabena@gmail.com. You have received this email because you have opted to receive Executive Club marketing emails from the British Airways Group. If you no longer wish to receive marketing emails, please click here and ensure you submit ProfessorSabena@gmail.com, the email address you signed up with. Please allow 10 days for all requests to be actioned. Clicking through to ba.com from this email will allow us to track your use of our website and enable us to show content and offers of most interest to you. We never share this information with third parties. If you would prefer this not to happen, please go to ba.com through your web browser. To refer to our privacy policy, please click here.
If you have any questions please click here to contact us.

British Airways Plc registered office: Waterside, Speedbird Way, Harmondsworth, UB7 0GB. Registered in England: 1777777.

This email is intended solely for the addressee(s) and the information it contains is confidential. If you are not the intended recipient, (a) please delete this email and inform the sender as soon as possible, and (b) any copying distribution or other action taken or omitted to be taken in reliance upon it is prohibited and may be unlawful.

BA Sets Whopping Charges For Seats

I think everyone knows that BA is having a bit of a hard time. Things have not gone its way lately. So in an effort to drum up some new revenue, BA is going to set new charges for seat assignments. And boy are they going to be expensive. But its very curious as to their stated logic of why they are charging such astronomical fees.

So get this - according to the BBC – British Airways customers will have to pay through the nose from October 7th 2009. Prices range from £10 per person for European economy flights, to £60 (no that is not a misprint) for long haul trips in business class.

BA said it would "give customers more control over their seating options". But they already have control... so how is charging them for it more "control"?

The airline says it currently allows passengers to reserve seats in the 24 hours prior to departure. This is not entirely true. Silver and Gold card holders can reserve their seats at any time in any class. Premium passengers can also do the same. That should take care of at least 50% of BA's passengers.

The new charge - the airline claims are aimed at passengers wanting to reserve seats earlier than this - will be £20 on long-haul economy or short flights in business class, while a seat in an emergency exit row will cost £50. These are staggering charges at best. But this is also not true. Again premium passengers don't currently have this restriction. Ditto for Gold and Silver players. So let me see if I get this right. I can pretty much

This can be booked between 10 and four days before take-off. Currently I can change my seats as a Silver member up to 8 hours prior to take off and immediately after booking. So what am I missing here?

A BA spokeswoman said: "Customers frequently request specific seats, but in the past we've only been able to confirm them 24 hours in advance or on the day. We know people want to secure them in advance and have real control over their flying experience. This will allow them to do that."

Well I am sorry - as any BA FF knows this is also only partially true. So I find it hard to understand why BA would be telling quite a few whopping fibs like this.

BA PR hacks again? I wonder if the Tax man is going to look now at BA’s fees and ask if that constitutes diversion away from the ticket charge.

C'mon BA - you can be better than this....

24 September 2009

Olympic: Next Skyteam Member?

So this is speculation on my part.

Olympic has just filed for some code-share agreements with DL and the DL subsidiary Comair.

However given that the former national carrier is but a mere shadow of itself this is becoming somewhat likely. Its main rival is Aegean who is already on the boards to become a full member of Star by mid 2010. So what is left - not much - Skyteam seems to be the best option. it is already in cooperation with AF so this seems to be the logical solution.

We shall see - but in the event they go this way - then you heard it here first!!!


JAL Hedges Its Bets. Seeks Bailout

So JAL doesn't seem to be impressed with the response for pleas of help from AMR and Delta. Either they will take too long or the plans don't look good.

Either way JAL has gone cap in hand to the Government.

Japan Airlines (latest) chief executive (of many), Haruka Nishimatsu, met yesterday with Japan’s new transport minister, Seiji Maehara, to discuss the carrier’s future. Nishimatsu confirmed to the media that he had asked the new administration for money, though he did not reveal how much.

Judging by its current predicament - it is burning through about $1 Billion per quarter. it has already announced layoffs of about 7000 which is a deep cut for a carrier like JAL.

Things don't look too good.

How Not To Have A Transaction Site

So the winner of this week's really bad website award goes to: SNCF.

I have not had the pleasure of using SNCF for a few years. So I thought it would be streamlined and efficient as France's top travel site.

Boy was I surprised.

FLASH GONE MAD is the result.

One of the longest page sources I have ever seen. It is a dog's dinner of images conflicting elements and the end result... ALMOST completely unusable.

Their management of the different country versions showed me that I could access some content at some times through the different countries but not at other times.

Different results from different country versions too was somewhat disconcerting.

If ever there was a camel - the SNCF site is it.

French gone mad.... Flash gone mad... Web people gone mad. I really hope that people who are regular users rebel and flood the phone lines. Oh but wait - that generates money for SNCF... so perhaps this is a fiendish plot to get people to use toll lines that the Railway company gets money for... talk about ancillary revenue. This coming from the company that operates at a loss. Indeed one of the most heavy loss making entities in the global travel market.

Take heart Netizens - there is always a site worse than yours. Here is an example.


Web Analytics Still Not Very Useful - Drowing in Data

I love data. But I love information more, ultimately it is the power that I get from making that information useful as knowledge. I am sure that I am no different from other folks. (OK I know I am a bit special).

It is interesting to see if in the migration from the conventional marketing world to our new data driven digital world of marketing, there are good enough tools and skills to make that happen. Apparently many players think not.

A study published by eMarketer from the original data by Unica shows that there are significant barriers. One would think that the usual bleet would be about the lack of funds. True but that is only ranked 4th behind three others which the article describes thus:

"The biggest challenge for marketers was integrating Web analytics with other marketing solutions, cited by 46% of respondents. Verifying the accuracy of data was a problem for 41% of marketers, while 32% reported trouble with analytics that were not comprehensive and 29% complained of budgets that were too small. "

So are we drowning in data - YUP! We need better information and for sure we need better consistent metrics. It is the latter that I believe becomes more critical in today's environment but so far it is the least understood and consistency is totally absent.

So what do you think?

Selling Your Airline's Future Capacity - Smart or ?

For many years airlines have run fare sales as a way to generate cash. In recent years this has become so normal that consumers don't even think about it. If you track this sort of thing as the Professor does - then you can see patterns emerging. For example I can almost predict certain airlines' cash flow position just by tracking the frequency and type of their fare sales. Its a bit of fun.... it provides a window into the minds of the revenue chaps.

In recent years airlines have started to sell their future capacity through the sale of Frequent Flyer miles.

Effectively the deal is as follows: Airline X will sell future frequent flyer miles as a currency (with an apparent significant discount rate) that in turn the purchaser can use as an incentive or currency of its own. Example: Delta sold $ 2 Billion worth of FF miles for 3 years when it needed to raise cash. American recently did the same with CitiCorp raising over $1 Billion in the process. This week even BA has started to do this with the offer of a bonus directly to its consumer base. Buy miles now and we will give you a bonus of 25%.

For airlines this has been a safe bet. Why? Well they still control the inventory and therefore they have their finger on the revenue switch. Also the historical perspective notes that the actual usage of FF miles in both the pipeline and miles that will never be used has grown to a Squillion Dollar amount.

Enter the tax man. This has the ability to de-stabilize the whole equation. There are several laws in several countries that effectively provide for a way to tax them. However Governments are going to be reluctant to do any sharp tax implementation. Why? There are two very well known cases of miscalculation. In the 1980s Pan Am attempted to force redemption of its outstanding FF miles. It pushed the airline to a huge loss as the overhang was snapped up by punters anxious to avoid losing their miles. The other famous case of a miscalculation was the sale of vouchers for Hoover and their vacuum products. The vouchers were more valuable than the products and had no restrictions. Bad move all round.

While airlines are on this persistent hunt for "found revenue" this may be one that will come back and bite them hard. I caution because if the customers try and use their miles and find them useless or too difficult - then they will rebel. There is nothing worse than a pissed off customer in today's viral world.

And perhaps this is a point to mention. Airlines always talk about how much they value their brands and what they do to build them up and maintain them. In today's transparent web based economy the ability to obfuscate and hide is vastly reduced. As one punter FF interviewed about the new United bundling program stated unequivocally - that Airline was selling in effect its former rewards for heavy users - its ultra frequent flyers - to anyone who wanted it. And guess what - he was walking - to another airline. With no easy way to measure the long term brand damage that the impact of these revenue "enhancing" tools such as the sale of FF miles you have to think that indeed the airline is selling itself short. Does this mean that Ryanair is right all along and that people only deal in price? I think that this is becoming more of the issue than airlines have come to appreciate.

Selling Britain by the pound? BA is probably doing just that, selling itself and its so previously high valued brand by the pound. The fees it charges for redemption of its FF miles are often GREATER than the total cost of a discount ticket on the same flight. I have documented this frequently. And don't get me started on the 200 pounds to buy a Silver tier membership... So does that make for a good and highly valued brand. It would be REALLY interesting to see how heavy FF flyers feel about their chosen airlines brand service. If you would like to enjoy some vitriol just head on over to Randy Petersen's Flyertalk.


23 September 2009

WSJ on Passenger Delays

Scott McCartney is the latest one to weigh in on the airlines and the stuck for 7 hours problem. His latest Middle Seat piece is a good focus on the problem. It shows that not everyone is waiting for the Feds to make up their mind and action it. The US Airline industry and its regulatory bodies should be ASHAMED of themselves in NOT addressing this problem

However I think SCott didn't go far enough. We all know what we need is decisive action. Everyone seems to be tip toeing around the problem. Even Bob Crandall the old curmudgeon himself proposed a stepped approach. Starting with only mandating a response after you have been trapped on a plane for 4 hours.


This is not hard. The European Commission mandated a set of rules. These are simple and easy to follow. They have survived a court battle and are now well ingrained and understood by the carriers involved.

Simply click on the link above to read the legislation. It (for once) is simple and straightforward. It FIXED the bad behavior. So why wont the US do the same?

That my friends is a good question. Perhaps you would like to address that to Rep Jim Oberstar he can be reached here.

he is the chap you have to ask - and while you are at it - ask him about why he has sat on his hands on this subject for such a LONG time.


Sabre and Skype - Synergy? Naaa!

I don't want to be the chap who rags on Sabre the whole time - but - well - I have to take another swipe at the Texas chaps.

I had obviously missed Dennis Schaal's Blog on the possible synergy that could accrue as a result of one of Sabre's owners leading the acquisition of Skype.

So here are my naysayer reasons:

1. If you really think about it - Sabre and Skype are actually counter technology companies. Skype is about free user based communication - a nextgen Communications Company if you will. Therefore if there is a lot of adoption of Skype then this will alleviate the need for travel. Thus a massive additional adoption of Skype will reduce the global need for face to face communication - thus reducing the need for travel. Speaking personally - it has saved me getting on quite a few planes. So Skype is about disinter-mediating Airlines (and other travel companies) and Telecommunication companies.

2. Silver Lake is not an overly heavy handed investor. It has taken opportunities by bringing it financial muscle to the corporations. As far as bringing its portfolio companies together - that is a bit of a pipe dream. I can't see Sabre adopting Skype in a big way. Its a bit like some of the anti-Microsoft companies who have tried to ban the use of MS Office products. (Just secretly ask an honest Google head about what they think!!!).

3. The acquisition of Skype by Silver Lake's team is not without its complications. So far there are two pretty significant lawsuits that have been filed in the proposed acquisition. Both suits stem from a degree of animosity between the original founders of Skype (remember they originally started Kazaa) and Index Ventures and one of its partners, Michelangelo Volpi.

The latest lawsuit against Index Ventures and one of its partners, Michelangelo Volpi, follows another filed this week by Skype founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, accusing eBay and a group of potential investors, including Index Ventures, of technology theft. So don't think this one is going to just roll over and die quickly. It will be pretty nasty and will likely go a few rounds - that means the actual acquisition by Silver Lake and its consortium partners is not going to happen for quite a while.

In the mean time Skype's current owner eBay will have to soldier on. Even with their 35% residual ownership - they are not going to be very keen to spend money on doing much with Skype.

So sorry if anyone is out there thinking that Skype and Sabre make great bed fellows. I think you might want to hold off on celebrating any imminent prodigy progeny.


22 September 2009

United - Bundling Good, Unbundling Also Good

United Airlines seems to have caught the Ancillary Revenue craze quite heavily.

After offering one of the first enhanced seat products with its Economy Plus product - it then went on to offer Travel Options. Now it is offering a way to bundle certain products together into a package.

Now to some that might seem to be heresy. Essentially allowing a general punter to buy into the elite services as part of the dynamic price of the product. But for UA this might not actually be a bad thing.

Consider that UA is regarded as having one of the least "special" premium products - it is still workmanlike and functional. However the image has been less than attractive.

(Old planes -the last 737 goes into the sunset next month, varying degrees of color scheme etc etc).

So putting together a bundle that can be acquired easily at both the point of embarkation as well as (theoretically) the point of sale, makes this a good offer.

Given the now huge value of unbundled pricing - it makes sense to promote bundling as a way to boost that revenue

And what do you think?



What Frustrates People About Air Travel?

BTC - the Business Travel Coalition and Flyers Rights conducted their hearings on Monday (September 21st) in Washington DC. The backdrop has been the concern about a true passenger bill of rights and the somewhat dramatic stories concerned with passengers being imprisoned on aircraft.

Opinion Research Corp recently conducted a survey of more than 1000 US adults on the subject of what irks them most in air travel. This showed that the issue is not isolated and has become the joint leading cause of Air Travel frustration.

It would seem that Congress which now has 2 bills (Senate and The House) should enact this legislation. Several reports on yesterday's hearings can be found online but here is just one from CNN.

An excellent editorial by Perry Flint of Air Transport World - aptly describes the situation as the last straw.

The US Congress has no excuse NOT to pass Passenger Rights legislation.

So let's get on with it.

Sabre GetThere: Flawed Study on Adoption Exagerates Real ROI of Tool Use

Sabre recently commissioned a study on the ROI for GetThere. The study was conducted by Forrester Consulting one of the Forrester Group of Companies. So we are clear this is compensated work which Sabre controlled. The study purported to show that GetThere had:

# An ROI of 285%, with an almost immediate breakeven point (payback period) after deployment
# Travel savings due to a decrease in overall transaction costs per travel booking
# Travel savings due to stricter enforcement of travel policies and the greater availability of flights on the Sabre GDS
# Labor savings due to the increased productivity of internal travel staff
Total Economic Impact Study - GetThere on Sabre

However I believe the study is fundamentally flawed. The methodology does not take into consideration significant factors that should be considered in the adoption of a tool such as GetThere.

Various studies have examined the relationship between work compensated vs work uncompensated. Most workers particularly Americans now admit to working during their holidays and leisure time staying connected to the office and the corporation turning a 9-5 job into a 7x24 hour job.

And this is the rub of my point. The cost - both real hard dollars and uncompensated time was ignored.

Factor 1: At no time in the study did Forrester consider either the number of hours that had passed from the professional travel booker to the unprofessional amateur executive thereby either depriving the company of the use of productive time (IE doing his job) or doing it outside of his job in uncompensated time.

Factor 2: A further element was not discussed in that the efficiency of the trips booked and the true cost comparison with what a professional agent might be able to get vs the unprofessional executive might miss resulting in potential savings being missed.

Factor 3: Another flaw is the error rate - the number of mistakes made by the average traveller vs those made by a professional travel consultant is not accounted for. Further if the mistake is made by the professional service provider often they have to eat the cost of the mistake. In the self service environment this cost is born by the corporation. It is estimated that more than 2% of all travel is booked erroneously. (Wrong days, wrong locations, inefficient locations resulting in missed appointments etc etc).

Actually not to split hairs but the Sabre sponsored study is flawed in that its calculation of cost savings is slightly off. The study showed a higher number of hours 2080 which didn't account for holidays and days off. Typical corporations allow 10 days of vacation a year plus holidays (9) and then often sick or ancillary days off (4). This accounts for a total of 1896 hours worked much closer to the real number than Forrester's study would indicate. A little? well its a 10% discrepancy.

If the real cost of the executive's time was factored in I believe - and have always done so - that the true cost of misdirected time (Factor 1) was that on average double the time would be taken by the executive at a truly loaded cost of $250 dollars per hour. (Note depending on the corporation this loaded may actually be significantly higher). This would reduce the ROI to negative. In my opinion the time taken to make a reservation using a tool vs the speed with which a professional travel consultant would use to make a reservation would be a significant factor. So for the sake of a simplistic comparison I have drawn together the compensating factors which I believe should be added back into the analysis as a true cost.

The calculation on labor savings in the example given is that the cost of 2 people would now be 4 person's worth of time - times (my reduced) number of hours of 1896 times the loaded cost of $250 per hour. making a total of $1,896,000. This compares to the net savings (Page 20 Table 16 and 17) of the study of (pre-risk adjusted) $1,874,086.

Note that I have not calculated in the other factors 2 and 3 nor the amount of time that is potentially spent by other workers (admins etc) in assisting in the process. There is no factor allowed for executive annoyance. Nor am I claiming that this is a fully scientific study since no time and motion study has been undertaken. However since the study ignores the fact of the cost of the Executive's labour - I believe the total study to be flawed and at the very least the study should have pointed this factor out.

Bottom line - I believe the study needs to be considered in full context. By leaving out the issue of the Executive's time - the study is fatally flawed and the extravagant claims made by Sabre should be toned down significantly.

Consider this next time you are sitting in front of your screen and frustrated with making that booking.....


21 September 2009

EC To Rule Soon on BA/AA

The European Commission is due to rule some time in the next few weeks on the British Airways and American Airlines (oh yes don't forget Iberia) Transatlantic Alliance.

I find it curious that so far the regulatory bodies have not taken too hard a look at this. Well maybe they just might.

With US Congress seemingly leaving this as unfinished business - and therefore tacitly approving the arrangement - it may all be up to the Commission to make a stand on the subject.

However it would not be a done deal. In April this year the Commission announced that it was going to investigate Transatlantic Alliances. So even if they rule this week - as we have seen with the issues of Lufthansa and their various expansionist moves, they can go back and do more investigation.

Frankly I would be really surprised if the Commission allows the arrangement to go through without a further extension of their investigation.

So let's see what happens next... it could be interesting.


Willie Walsh is ............Darth Vadar??? "Daily Telegraph"

None other than the leading British quality broadsheet - the UK's Daily Telegraph had a nice piece on Saturday Sept 19th. They seemed to have fun reading British Airways inflight business magazine "Business Life"

With full acknowledgment to the newspaper here is the text of their piece:


Darth Vader flies BA business class

Is British Airways' magazine business:life carrying a coded warning for the unions taking on the airline over planned cost cutting?

Its first subject in a new series on "unlikely business gurus" is none other than Darth Vader.

Management can learn a lot from the Dark Lord of the Sith, the mag claims. "He created a cult of leadership where many of his underlings were completely devoted to him," the magazine claims.

There's no mention of the company's own supreme ruler, Willie Walsh, in the piece, but you have to think it must have crossed someone's mind as they put the article together. It even mentions that Darth, like Walsh, is a pilot.

"Creating an air of mystery can also help to increase your authority," the piece goes on. "If people can't read your face and don't know what you are thinking, they can experience an uncomfortable sensation that puts them on the back foot. Darth, like any good leader, is decisive, swift to act, has a variety of skills… and is driven by an insatiable desire to succeed."

Welcome to the dark side.


For a full copy of the original article in Business Life - if you are quick - you can find it by going here:

Gotta love those folks at BA. The PR Hacks will have to earn their daily bread again today...


Official: Research Shows Brits Are "Dopey"

In parlance that doesn't mean they are druggies but rather they are either stupid or something worse...

So where do we learn this from? no greater authority than HIM! research a UK based company. I checked their website and so far I have not found that they have any travel specific clients. Although their roster reads like a who's who of retail brands and outlets. From Pepsico to HM Post Office. A lot of beverage and CTN players are listed on their client page.

Anyway back to their research - at today's Advantage Retail Consortium conference their CEO Mike Greene - who I am sure is a nice chap - told delegates that 25% of people don’t know where they are when they go away!!!!

Almost a million book flights or hotels to the wrong destination each year and 1.6 million take away the wrong currency. This is based on UK research where with a population of 60+ million this represents a large amount. I am assuming that the UK is the source of the data. Currently it is estimated that about 125% of all Brits leave the country each year. So this number is somewhat worrying because it is likely increasing as more people move to self service via the web.

OK so hands up those who have ever booked the wrong date/time or destination. Hmmm that would be a lot of us (YES the professor included!).

Greene said this was an opportunity for agents as so many consumers had trouble booking holidays and getting currency on their own. Other statistics from Greene’s research showed that 77% of people plan to travel as much as last year and 72% intend to spend as much.

So does this mean that only Brits are the ones that make mistakes? Far from it - I am sure that despite their interest in bonking on holiday (see my earlier post) the Brits are no worse than any other nation at making mistakes in booking irrespective of the channel used.

So if Brits are Dopey - who is Happy? Who is Sleepy? I can speculate on who is Grumpy too.....


Brits Behaving Badly...

I wish I had thought up this headline.

However the normally sedate (and Greece based) Travel Daily News have today's best headline:

I do not edit or make this stuff up....

Brits Do Give a Flying F***

So apparently a significant number of Brits engage in various forms of "bad" behaviour when they travel. According to a survey from Essential Travel, who is an insurance provider, this includes the following revealing statistics:

15 per cent who admit to a sexual encounter at the airport or on the plane,
20 per cent who also admit to a short-lived holiday romance.
56 per cent who head for the bar after clearing airport security

OK so I am not sure about the efficacy of the study - so take this as presented. Still - it makes you wonder how the Brits compare to other nationalities - er such Americans or even Germans? Carling Black Label anyone....

Generalizing can be very bad!


Hawaiian Air Pilots Vote To Strike

I often marvel at the complex machinations of the Airline Industry. As Bobby Dylan sings - "You Got To Serve Somebody"

So is the case for HA's management and the pilots who work there. HA is now the dominant carrier in the Islands and pretty much to and from there to the mainland. Having seen the demise of its smaller rival Aloha - victim you might say to a series of rather nasty occurrences and greed, and pretty much seen off the challenge from Mesa's GO subsidiary, now they face the consequences of dominant market power.

So the stage is set for a battle royal between the pilots and the management. This should come to a head just around Thanksgiving or even Christmas. I did a quick check and the inventory availability is pulling tight now despite approx $300 RT tickets being available from now till the middle of November.

Of course the big loser in such a battle will be the State of Hawaii's tourism which is suffering probably its worst time in decades.

Let's hope they learn to get along


20 September 2009

Coolest Pictures!

OK - since its the weekend - I was in Sonoma last weekend on a little R&R. So here are two of the COOLEST pictures I think I have taken.

I am at about 500 feet over Charles Schulz airport in a hot air balloon. This is a Horizon Air Q400 taking off.

Thanks to Scott and the Crew for the fun time Wine Country Balloon Tours

If you ever want to do this - its expensive but what a view!!!!

The pictures were taken as we were over the southern end of the runway. If you an aviation buff this is quite a place and to be highly recommended.

For a real rarity - we actually took off and landed from exactly the same field. it was nearly in the middle of the hangers - but - well we are dealing with professionals here.

And despite the wait (2 hour delay waiting for the fog to clear) this was a great trip.


Great Quotes For The Weekend

I found this one... it really just oozes symbolism.

I have come to like the musings of one Mr Tony Tyler of CX. While he may be the Chicken Little of the Airline industry at the moment (or possibly vying with Giovanni Bisignani for that title), he does have a certain turn of phrase.

So here is one of his recent better ones:

Tony Tyler CEO: Cathay Pacific: "We keep waiting for signs of the green shoots of recovery...When we look at the rice-paddy we see only one or two green shoots rising out of the watery mud. Certainly not enough to fill a rice bowl! The very best we can say is that things have stopped getting worse, but a real and sustained business upswing still seems like a distant dream,"

In truth the situation in Asia is far worse than elsewhere at the moment. The double whammy of the GFC and Swine Flu have really hit HKG and CX very hard.


World Peace Day 2009

Let's all hope that peace will reign in our life times.

Think Peace, Always.


The Professor

How To Become Popular - Twitter Style

Far be it for me to tell you what to do... but in the world of virtual Social Networks where your "friends" can be anywhere - the human notion of being popular seems to work just as well in the web world as the real world.

Here is some compelling research you might be interested in from rapleaf as put out on Techcrunch.

All I can say is... there is the old saying - empty vessels make the most noise.

I think it applies on the web too...


USAF Tanker - Depoliticize The Decision

I haven't commented on the Tanker Wars in a while. However with the impending publication of the latest RFP - perhaps it is time to rethink the process.

The Tanker battle has always been a political hot potato. it has been fraught with criminal misdealings and almost constant wrangling

So I have a suggestion for the august people in the US Dept. of Defense and the Congress.

Buy both the A330 and the 767.


Hear me out here - my reasoning is not that crazy. Let's consider this. They are not similar aircraft. The real question is the best fit for the role. So if the Air Force acquires both aircraft in limited numbers now on a lease basis - lets say a fleet of 25 Aircraft each, they could both be evaluated fairly and the USAF would get to start replacing the 600+ aging not fit for much else than the scrap heap KC135s.

Also I think the powers that be in the purchasing office should buy the COTS version. Both are currently deployed in different places and therefore they meet the NATO standard for compatibility. Thus there should be no reason not to do anything else but fly the things. Judging by recent history of US military aircraft purchases - during any life time the aircraft has been so modified from its original configuration that all the likely mods can either by developed with production experience or (as they would be leased) they could be sent back to the manufacturer as being unsuitable. The cost inefficiency of buying 2 aircraft vs one would be more than outweighed by the other cost based advantages. (If you don't believe me just ask the airlines that operate mixed Boeing and Airbus Fleets).

In my view the Air Force would get its capability earlier. The manufacturers could start delivering product and the procurement process could be one heck of a lot simpler and faster. PLUS by taking this path the politicos would be forced to make an assessment based on operational FACT as opposed to political speculation.

End result - a fleet of aircraft doing its job earlier. A cheaper product to buy. Competitive pressures maintained to keep pricing down. More flexibility in deployments. Lower risk for the user community. More resources for the hard pressed men and women who serve in the US Armed forces.

Contrast this with the continued wrangling over which aircraft is POTENTIALLY best. The constant messing with the spec. And a lot of hot air being expended in various parts of the country.

Will this happen? Nah... that's WAY too sensible a solution.

Stop The Noise Please I Wanna Get Off

Tim Hughes excellent blog (The Boot) had an interesting take on Twitter et al. This for me raises the issue of how well we are humans are coping with the value of Social Networking.

I think that we are all suffering from the effect of too much noise. I often wonder if we are actually communicating too much. I believe we spend more time talking that we did say 15 years ago before cell phones became ubiquitous. So email made us write more. Actually the "one to many" capabilities of today's communication tools makes us READ more than we had to - and not necessarily quality reading matter as witnessed by the fall off in readership of newspapers.

I still have the fundamental problem in that from my perspective everyone’s comments regarding Social Media are focused on either the macro/global scale value or an individual binary interaction possibility (I could explain that but I think you get the idea).

On the Global scale everyone seems to be excited about Twitter as a way of generating noise. And that is the fundamental problem . There is TOO MUCH GLOBAL NOISE. I have been tracking my emails and FB comments and frankly I was drowning before in email alone – now I am just underwater permanently. So I am busy canceling email subscriptions and Tweets that I used to follow as being of little or no value to my life long term or worse I have to edit out the things that I used to like in favor of keeping up with things that must be followed (You WILL obey!)

I have turned off so many things that frankly I used to enjoy because now I have to be careful about the physical amount of time taken to read and absorb things. So my concern is multiple.

Allow me to share my thoughts on the fundamental issues that these services and Social Networking tools generate and then see if you are in agreement

1. There is no quality measurement tool. I have no way of knowing whether the info reaching me from someone I follow is germane, in context or just plain old drivel.

2. Any reasonable level of responsibility in people's comments is sorely lacking.

3. The battle for mind share by Twitter, Facebook, Google et al (including Linked-in etc etc) is turning us into victims - innocent wounded non-combatants. I really didn't sign up with Facebook to be spammed, but I am and I am sure that most other people are too. The sheer amount of unnecessary stuff one has to filter out before you reach the nuggets is somewhat challenging.

4. The process of unsubscribing and turning things off is pretty hard and not always effective. The digital footprints that these social networks leave behind with out of date information is scary.

5. The inconsistent time lag between a change one might make and the update reaching all the parts connected is both scary and to some extent dangerous.

6. The lack of ability to fix something that could be wrong...

7. Social Creep! I want to have just the information and relationships that I originally asked for - not all this other creep based noise that arrives in as extraneous digital junk that I have to sweep away.

8. Why is the onus on me to manage it and deal with the junk?

So I can see why some of the people I know are becoming Luddites. I can identify 4 sub types:

Some are the "I don't care any more so I just wont play the game" type (aka the Browned Off Luddite)

Some are the "I hate you and will deliberately work against the system and create havoc destroying the premise and the assumptions of the service (aka the Terrorist Luddite)

Some are the "Help there is nothing I can do" type (aka the Deer Luddite)

And finally there is the "We're not going to take it any more" (aka the Tommy Luddite)

The way I see the problem is its the syndrome of "because it's there". However does just because you can mean that you must either push the digital crap or you must pull it?

If you got this far then clearly I have made an impression on you. But if not then I am just contributing to the noise myself!

OK so now where are my earplugs...........