12 December 2009

Faites Vos Jeux M'sieurs, Dames!

Place your bets.

We have a pool going at the moment on the date of the 787 flight. Given that the invites have gone out from Boeing, rooms around Everett (particularly at the Hilton Garden Inn right there) are fully booked out for the nights of Dec 14 and 15 - you can be pretty sure that this is going to happen.

Just in case you are a betting person for to Paddy's for a quote.

And my nomination... December 21st. Will this be the first time the Professor is actually late rather than early?


10 December 2009

TSA Screening Document Gaff

The TSA announced that it had suspended 5 employees for the screw up in which the TSA's screening guidelines were posted on the web.

The story is now pretty much out there. But what I found interesting is that the TSA seems to have made no attempt to get the document withdrawn. I believe a simple request would have sufficed.

I was able to find copies of the document on multiple sites. However the total instances of the document source was actually very few. It remains the original server that did the unredacting (undeleting of the so called sensitive information) is still holding the document in plain view for all to see. And no I wont be posting a link because I dont wont to perpetuate the actual document. Besides I think I would be in violation of US Code:49 C.F.R. PARTS 15 AND 1520.

For more details on this go to Wikipedia.

The TSA says this is an out of date document. True! But then it remains the majority of the screening guidelines in place are contained within the document that was posted. The publication date was mid 2008 so it cannot be that old.

So our stupid airline tricks award this week goes to ....

The TSA. Some how I believe that the TSA will be a future winner as well.


Easyjet V4,0 = V1.5?

Andy Harrison the Third leader for U2 is to leave in June 2010. Since taking over from Ray Websterin 2005 he has presided over the transition of the airline from pure startup to mature hybrid airline.

However the long running battle between Founder Stelios and first the board and more recently the senior management over expansion plans has probably contributed to what many will consider Andy's early exit.

So the critical question is who the new chap will be and what will this signify to the airline's future direction. Will the next leader go back to the future?

It would seem that the more conservative approach adopted by Harrison will be replaced by an aggressive market footprint expansion. With Ryanair having grown significantly since 2005, Easyjet has pursued profitability over pure growth. There is however an opportunity to grow the airline with over 100 planes on order over the next few years. Y2 has shown its ability to compete as a hybrid carrier and optimize yields better than its Irish larger "LCC Cousin".

I would probably think we are going to see a more aggressive stance to new markets with U2 and even the opportunity to export the business model to other markets.

Stay tuned


No longer Bumping Along The Bottom

The US airline market has finally started to trend upwards.

ARC numbers confirm that that the recovery is under way. I want to caution that this is a slow recovery but it does seem people are getting back on the planes and flying. For the first time this year total ticket prices actually rose Y/Y,

BUT it is very fragile. For example in the run up to the holiday season - some flights particularly across the Atlantic started to trend upwards in yield. The airlines piled on the prices with average available prices on some routes exceeding the magic $1,000 mark. This collapsed with the 21 day advance purchase milestone passing the rates dropped radically.

The airlines and the intermediary community can start to rebuild.

The stock market has responded by boosting airline stocks. United for example has rised from lows in the $2 range to highs in the $9.It will go higher.

Christmas anyone?


08 December 2009

United's Plastic Order

I realize that United has gone through some hard times lately but really only buying plastic planes????

United Airlines is ordering both the A350XWB and the 787 to replace its 747 and 767 fleets respectively. Seriously this is a welcome fillip to the airline industry both for the airline side and the airframe side.

It is also an interesting order that signifies that United will be focused on flying the best plane for the job.

While the order flies in the face of conventional wisdom perhaps this will be the death knell of the single manufacturer model that seemed to be all pervasive in the US Market.

Congrats to the UA team for making the bold decision now.


07 December 2009

ATOL replacement Charge - All or Nothing

The Battle in the UK has raged for some time over the issue of when is a package not a package. it relates to the charges for ATOL protection administered by a legal quango called the CAA who also happens to be the Aviation Regulatory body for the United Kingdom.

With the recent win (now being appealed) by Travel Republic that effectively put a ring fence around dynamic packaging and enabled such dynamic products to be exempt the charge - the formal authorities are faced with a dilemma. What to do about customer protection and how to pay for it?

This seems logical enough. If the UK insists on having a scheme that protects consumers then surely it should implement a straight forward one size fits all protection scheme. Either flat fee or some scale based on the value of the product purchased.

Not so fast. The UK government already did that - its called the APD - the air passenger duty. A somewhat sneaky and clearly unpopular aviation head tax.

As the UK is an island and it is almost impossible to get from the country to another without some form of public transportation (although many have tried!) a comprehensive solution would seem to be the best way forward.

The UK Government will have to come clean and make it a once size fits all - recognizing the vast differences in pricing of the products. And that the APD issues need to be resolved. or they should pull both and put a commercial operation in place to replace ATOL.

There is going to be some head scratching in Whitehall


06 December 2009

New Travel Planning Tools

Amadeus won the Innovators Award at the recent PCW Innovation Summit. So I thought I would also look at some other possible invocations in planning.

I like Yapta's tools for sliding the nuance of travel request. I love Skyscanner's month display - even though they have hidden it where as it used to be so easy to get to.

The vast majority of the world doesn't have English as the native language. I can tell you that there are certain countries where the adoption of English as the second language is sorely tested. Thus the assumption that English is the universal lingua franca is flawed. So are there any tools to help this work?

For some time - Google has had the "free" service of Google translate. Now it has become mainstream. I didn't notice it until I started to surf from a foreign entry point (I have been in several markets where Google's home language is not English) and it works quite well so my friends tell me.

I did a search and came up with this little article from WebNews that points out the possible challenge that Bing Travel will have with Google's Translate features.

There is good news and bad here.

First the bad news. There will be a lot of these tools emerging in recent time. And this could not happen too soon as the consumer loses patience with the current version 1.0 travel planning tools. But there is little consistency and it still requires a lot of customer explicit interaction. What I would like to see is the more lean back type of solution as espoused by Google's translate. IE where the amount of work to be done is less and you dont have to overly involve yourself in the process. Further bad news is that the tools at the back are still sorely lacking.

The good news? These are coming. As soon as someone effectively cracks the L2B problem then we can see a better solution for everything.

Watch out people in the middle - if you dont wise up then you will be toast.

Perhaps this is why Amadeus is investing so much money in these new tools.


Stupid Airline Trick #752

Like many Frequent Flyers - I spend a lot of time boarding aircraft and exiting aircraft. It is a somewhat stressful time (or maybe I am just a worry wart).

So this award goes to the whole industry for their arcane policies on boarding aircraft.

I have several examples so I am not going to pick on anyone in particular because I am just using these as examples of time and effort wasted.
Air France's small boarding gates in Terminal F at CDG. Also the way they board. With special boarding pass readers where someone actually puts the paper into a self service machine.

Lufthansa's forcing you to use self service machines in smaller airports without any corresponding availability of trouble shooter people. Its hard enough for me as a FF - for a little old lady from Pasadena it could be quite intimidating.

Delta's in and out of the Red Coats at ATL. Some times they are there - many times they are not. When things get tough (both dynamically and procedurally) they seem to disappear.

Certain airports premium paid early boarding for LCC carriers. For example CIA in Rome where you pay then get on a bus ... along with the other passengers who didn't pay for it!

Air Asia's boarding herd process. I am sure someone is going to get killed at BKK.

And my favorite one above all - is the stupid boarding from back to front. All the studies show this is not the best way to board. So why do they still do it.

If you would like to trawl through this blog you can actually find a story I did on the most efficient form of boarding.

So for this reason the industry - airports and airlines get the Stupid Airline Trick award.


Stupid Airline Trick #402

So as I am in Brazil this week - I thought I would open the file of the odd, the weird and the downright not quite sane Airline tricks.

Today's award goes to British Airways (why am I always picking on them???) for their Policy at LHR on arrivals lounge.

So I am Silver (thank you I qualified again) on BA's FF Program. As a verry frequent traveler - according to Tripit - I lead my network on the number of miles flown this year. (211,000) And I still have 3 long haul flights to go!!!!

So I chose my airlines carefully based predominately on time and location. Thus schedule and certain amenities are very important to me. I like BA because they provide a service on departure and arrival. They have been pretty innovative in the middle of the legacy carrier pack to customer services. T5 after nearly 2 years is a pretty good product - it still has some quirks. The Showers finally work properly and the service while somewhat indifferent is still a cut above the majority of US airlines.

At the moment I am working with a startup so I have to set an example of flying in the back of the bus when it works. So I was surprised to learn that the Executive Silver allows me the departure privileges BUT NOT ARRIVAL.

One of the keys to airline service is to provide a consistent level of service across the board. This shows how somewhat silly BA is for this policy. Oh BTW to make it even more bizarre - QF will allow you to do this on BA's coach ticket.

So much for the seamless service.

Now consider in context my post on BA's new seating policy and I think you get the picture.

Some customer czar is needed at BA to drive a consistent customer face.

If not then I will continue to hammer BA in this blog.