05 December 2009

British Airways's New (Paid) Seating Policy VERY COMPLICATED

I have written before that BA's new seating policy was way too complicated. So one of the Professors sent me the ACTUAL BA Travel Agent Guide for the new seating policy.

Brace yourself....


What are they thinking? I like BA's services in general but they do tend to give me a lot of fodder for this blog because they tend to do some rather silly things.

This is another example of why things need to be simpler. If this is the official guide for the agent - imagine how complicated and confusing it could be for a consumer.

I am absolutely amazed at this. if you would like a copy - email me and I will send it privately to you.

This is a public service of the Professor Sabena Blog.


04 December 2009

So Who The Heck Is it?

Airbus snuck in (a little unsubtly) an unnounced order for 52 A320 class aircraft.

Speculation is rife.

So here is a short list of my candidates!


I probably have it wrong but its nice to purely speculate.
When its revealed who it is - then I will give you my reasons

BTW there is a caveat. I am assuming these are firm orders. Airbus tends to have a habit of having somewhat flexible orders.


When Is A Guaranteed Fare Not One? Ask BA

During the past week we have seen what can happen when an iconic brand is severely damaged by a single event - intentional or not.

One of the integral parts of the Air Transportation system is that the contractual relationship between the airline and its customers is firm and hard.

The customer is required to perform and the agent in the middle (should there be one) is required to ensure enforcement of many complex and in quite a few cases seemingly arcane rules.

This is the basis of the passenger airline system. So it comes as a big surprise to find out that the product you buy as a consumer from the airline is not in fact guaranteed.

The case I am specifically pointing to is British Airways and the infamous $40 fare from the US to India. The details are not in dispute - but 2200 people bought the fare. Can you say Viral!!!!

BA canceled the bookings and offered a $300 compensation credit. Then the DOT stepped in. At which point BA upped the ante and provided additionally compensation for the impact of the canceled reservations with hotels cars etc.

if you would like to read BA's statement on the matter (its quite buried below the fold) click here. But do it quickly I doubt it will be there long.

When the DoT stepped in the Secretary was happy to report:"We are pleased to see that British Airways has accepted responsibility for the fares it published," Ray LaHood said.

I think that both BA and the DOT were fundamentally wrong here. BA for the initial mistake and not honouring its fares and the DOT for creating a precedent and effectively a get out of jail free card for any airline who doesn't like the fares they have contracted for. Chaps this is not good at a time when Congress is agitating for a Passenger Bill of Rights - you have collectively undermined the whole basis of the contract between any airline and the general public with the DOT's blessing.

So Go On Be A .... Tiger

02 December 2009

A380 takes another hit. The Impact EK’s "Hiatus "

The largest customer of the Airbus Behemoth has announced it is taking a breather in A380 deliveries at the end of 2010.

Whether this is a function of the troubles in the Emirate of Dubai is to be seen – however there is one thing for sure – EK is now a pawn in a larger game. The reverberation of the collapse of the Dubai bubble is going to be felt in Toulouse and it is unlikely that Seattle will escape unharmed either.

There is more than the initial list of casualties in the current Dubai World troubles. The issue is going to be the pipeline of future commitments. Consider this – the UAE’s order book of aircraft has been predicated on cheap cash backed by AAA securities. With Dubai’s ability to continue to sustain such ratings it means that there is going to be a significant rise in the cost of money to EK and probably to other entities such as Dubai Aerospace and its various leasing arms. Looking at the disproportionate amount of orders outstanding it will have a long term impact.

Oh yes and another thing – because EK is a healthy business the chances are that it will become a pawn and possibly become collateral for some of the real estate debts is not an unrealistic possibility. In turn this could bring down EK's high value.

Hmm – seems there is going to be tough times all round. The GCC is going to reverberate with this for some time.

30 November 2009

Is TripAdvisor getting sloppy?

Expedia’s TripAdvisor business has come in for a lot of stick lately. Some of which is deserved. Some of which – well it just goes with the territory. But I am going to chastise them for failing to do something that in my mind should be relatively easy and straightforward and thus provide a good service to their customers. I am speaking here about SeatGuru.com

As a frequent flyer (OK so I am not George Clooney) – I depend on the network of committed flyers for information. So I was actually applauding Expedia’s trip advisor when they purchased one of my favorite tools – seatguru.com.

However of late I have noticed that there has been little upgrading of the core content. Sure there is now a lot more digital junk on the site – I can hardly see the real content for the distracting and in my opinion thoroughly unnecessary “stuff” that surrounds it. In the past month I have flown or booked on G3, FR, New RG, AF, U2, AA, BA, DL and CO. in each case I have seen that the Seatguru seat maps frequently do not match either the aircraft or the airlines website version of the aircraft product. When doing the searches the discrepancy widens with some aircraft types not present etc etc.

In fairness to Seatguru – the plethora of seat configurations within each airline is astounding. The airlines are not good at standardizing their aircraft. However this is no excuse for Expedia’s subsidiary for getting sloppy and lazy and not giving more and better information to its users. At the very least the chaps at Seatguru should be on the ball working with the airlines to get valid seat maps out there. If I can see this then they can figure out how to get better quality and be useful to their audience.

In my most recent round of searches here are the statistics:

Total flight segments actually booked – 27 (9 plus 1 where I had to change and throw away a segment, 17 segments that I have to do before the end of the year). Total flight seat maps researched 58. Total mismatch in searches between airline seat maps and Seatguru – 24 (note this included absence of seat maps – 11. . Total mismatch between flights selected and actual aircraft configuration seats 8. Note I didn’t check on the airlines seat maps to actual configuration but I recall just one in which case it was a substituted equipment and I was upgraded (thank you Delta). As you can see these stats are not good.

Mind you I am not a normal flyer…. But these are representative of the airlines that I fly and I am sure that there are many other frustrated FFs out there who share the same opinion. Get with the Program Expedia. If not there will be a lot of people moving to other websites. And yes Virginia there are others. Like ExpertFlyer or seatplans.


29 November 2009

O'Leary to Retire.... Say It Ain't So!

Once again MOL is threatening to retire to the Irish Countryside if media reports are to be believed.

This time he sets a 3 year time threshold. It used to be less... but I digress.

The airline is now mature enough to survive without his positive/negative impact. However there is no doubt that MOL will be a figure in history in the LCC phenomenon.

If he does - what's the betting he stays on to create FR - Long haul


Former Fulfilment Powerhouse TRX Downsizes

It started out life as OFS - Online Fulfillment Services. its first major customer was Expedia. On the first day of operation there were more managers than there were call center agents. Winning the Expedia (Microsoft) business for fulfillment was the launchpad.

It became TRX and had a pretty colourful life. Basically doing the messy part of the travel process for Expedia and the airlines.

It has now morphed into a much smaller organization. Not quite sure what its core mission is but it still is able to make a profit as its last quarter's results show. However how long it should remain public is a huge question. Parent BCD (who also owns the giant BCD Travel) needs to let the business continue in private hands rather than be distracted by the demands of the public scrutiny as a listed company.

As an Online pioneer - let them emerge without the baggage.

Best of luck to them


EasyJet Boosts Yields on Ancillaries, Corporate Travel Increasing

Orange smiles all round it would seem.

Easyjet has been making some headway in the fight on driving yield on their flights. The average flight is yielding more and the Orange Crew seem to be beating the Blue/Yellow crew in this respect.

From the conference call 10 days ago - EZ was able to report the following:

Ancillaries are up 22%, excluding baggage charges.
Baggage charges are up a whopping 62.3%
Business travel accounts for just over 20% of revenue

It is probably the latter that needs to catch the eye of the other LCCs particularly Ryanair.

The take up of Biz Travel can be attributed (and has been) to the availability in the GDS. And this is an important lesson for any LCC. While the GDSs may be an anathema there is logic to providing a well established and simple tool which the TMCs and their corporate clients have access to.

I have made the point before that TMCs tend to be process driven and often at the expense of increased yield. EZ seems to be confirming this. On the heels of improved yields by Southwest as a result of their reappearance in the GDS,

Lest anyone thinks the Professor has gone soft - I firmly believe that the LCCs need to get in front of the standard sources of booking for the Corporate business. But the value of the GDS needs to be weighed carefully. Unless of course you take the extreme view like LH and start charging for access to content.

Yield can be improved by increasing the footprint in front of the TMCs and the Corporate Travel Depts. (CTD)s. Ignore this group at your peril.


Results of the AA Distribution Survey

Well you have an interesting point of view! The absolute majority of you agreed that you believe its about time. Which outweighs the nay sayers 2:1, so thank you all for voting.

Here are the results.

Yes - it's about time


No - what are they thinking


Hmmm - Time will Tell


I really cannot make up my mind now



Stupid Software Tricks - Quickbooks and Windows7

OK - like many people I use Quickbooks. I am not terribly keen to upgrade every year because it seems insane to have to upgrade for this type of service.

So BEWARE if you use Quickbooks - they do NOT support Windows 7 in ANY VERSION other than the latest versions 2010.

I think someone should sue Intuit for being so cavalier in this regard.