01 January 2010

Body Scanner Yes or No?

For my first blog of the new decade I thought I would fix on the issue of security and the body scanner debate. So I am going to dive into the fray on this one.

There is quite simply the implied consent rule.

We do everything around this every day. As far as air travel is concerned we explicitly believe that we are being protected - in the same way that we believe that police are responsible for law and order. The issue is not whether you like this situation or whether you approve of the police - you accept their role or accept the consequences.

To this end - we really have little choice other than to accept that the best possible solution is being utilized for our safety when we are traveling. This relates to not only air travel but indeed any form of public transportation can be so governed.

In my humble mind there is no conflict with privacy or profiling of individuals and indeed (almost) any other tool that will ensure our safety while flying.

Refusing the use of Whole Body Scanners on the grounds of privacy is frankly ludicrous. You accept that you have no privacy when you walk into say a Doctor's office and the nurse examines you with our without your clothing.

To simply discard this imperfect but the best we currently have technology on the grounds of some possible misuse of privacy makes no sense at all to me. Ensuring the proper use of the technology and preventing unauthorized use of the technology for nefarious ends (which is the reason the current nominee for the head of the TSA should stand down - read the Washington Post )is clearly something that can and should be managed.

So are you clear on the subject?

I am


30 December 2009

The Professor's 2010 Crystal Ball Gazing

As the old decade draws to a close now I have to dust off the old cloak and the all rusty ball and decide what is going to happen next year.

General Travel Trends: Modest growth of both traffic and yields. Leisure will move ahead even further. This has significant impact on airline and hotel product offerings. One surprising trend will be that Intermediaries will gain market share vs Direct which will benefit GDSs in the short term. Increased use of corp video and personal video conferencing tools will be finally proved to reduce airline traffic. I predict someone will publish a study on this effect. Google will continue to make more money out of Travel category than any other player. Green wont be a big deal in 2010 as the recriminations from Copenhagen (aka Hopelesshagen) continue. Some countries will now apply unilateral green policies. Fuel will rise. Inflation will start to bite. Travel Industry employment will remain low. Airline deliveries will continue to see deferments.

Winners and Losers in airlines. surprisingly Southwest will struggle with its business model. It has reached the end of the current low cost model and it will morph into a hybrid airline. One US major will unveil a lower cost "simplified" domestic product and will be instantly matched by the others which will stimulate traffic probably in first quarter. UA and CO will move even closer together. US will start to look around feeling a little out in the cold. Look for perhaps a relationship with part LH owned jetBlue. DL will further consolidate and shrink a little further but will complete its partnership with JAL after the venerable carrier goes through its bankruptcy re-org. FR will have a moderated growth year - U2 will see a major challenge on some of its turf by a (former) legacy carrier. Look for one LCC based merger to take place in Europe. Consolidation will continue in India with another carrier losing its corporate identity. China will recover. Virgin Blue will continue to struggle. All LATAM carriers will continue to grow - look for at least one carrier their to switch allegiance in 2010. Trend of the year will be Merchandising although some airlines will get this wrong in spectacular fashion.

In Hotels. Pegasus will continue to struggle Synxis will continue to grow. PCLN will further solidify its growth. Look for a major merger in hotel distribution coming from an Asian base. Expedia will try to clean up its act in hotels and improve yield which will upset some of the major chains at least one of whom will have a major spat with the Bellevue travel giant. Look for Expedia to become the world's largest agency in 2010-2011. Orbitz will improve but corporate parent Travelport will offload a dismembered GTA.

In Distribution the big news will be the Q2/3 IPOs which will go out with modest success. The Money Venture Men will be happy. The poor debt ridden rumps left behind will continue to be unhappy. The allure of the cash flow will continue to seduce the uncanny investors all of whom will regret their buy in after about 6 months. The Term Full Content will have new meaning. Most major carriers will have adopted Opt-in content deals which will compromise the legacy GDS model. A lot of people will focus on replumbing XML based infrastructure. Merchandising at the point of sale will be a major trend. The Term OpenGDS will come to have more meaning. Look for major players to build bilateral relationships as opposed to traditional multilateral based links. Financial fulfillment will emerge as a major trend with EMD becoming a household word. Look for a degree of consolidation among corporate agencies. There will also be continued failings among smaller/mid size players as the shakeout grows. Search will continue to drive everyone crazy but teams will start to look to address the high cost of search. Twitter's light will grow dim as more commercialization and ghost/fraudulent usage grows.

Cool Stuff? The new iTablet (and clones) will start with an instant following. It will be the product of the year. Someone will finally do a mashup of all the "There's an App for that" different applications to create a viable first generation Personal Travel Assistant. Look for "Virtual Extension Reality". We have already had time shifting now we will have reality shifting with "Augmented Reality" being but a version 1.0 of this stuff.

So what will the end of the year look like... better than this one.

Happy New Decade from the Professor.

With special thanks to CBS, Demi, and the old guy for the image use.

29 December 2009

Is Merchandising Anarchy?

According to Chris Elliott it just might be if you read his headline catching post on MSNBC's blog.

So I think this should be a wake up call to everyone associated with merchandising to ensure that some of the advise is taken to heart AND accommodated.

Specifically if I can synthesize it down - I would say that everyone has to be crystal clear in the process of what is included and what is not.

The EC is likely to develop a set of rules that differentiate FEES and TAXES as I noted on an earlier post.

So before anyone starts going off the deep end and creating merchandising opportunities that are convoluted, please remember to think about the customer.


Second Decade of the Millenium Review

Dateline: Tuesday December 31st 2019. No one would have believed you if one could have predicted 20 years ago what we have seen this past decade when we were pre-occupied with Y2K and the millennium?

Sir Tony Blair was rehabilitated and elected the Head of the United Nations. He was a surprise compromise choice after the two term Al Gore whose tenure was historic in a global climate agreement in 2017, the first Caucasian Secretary General since the disgraced Kurt Waldheim. After 16 rounds of deadlock – Blair was elected in 2019.

The final round of GATT - known as the Havana Round after the Havana conference in 2017 – resulted in true harmonization and real teeth in worldwide global commerce. The most significant accomplishment was achieved last year 2019 with the Worldwide Agreement on Tax. Known commonly as WAX.

2020 next year will be a leap year which means also an Olympic Year – to be held in Mumbai. After much controversy over the selection of Mumbai over hotly favoured Cape Town

The Microsoft company was split into 4 separate companies early in the decade marking the then biggest company breakup in US corporate history. Of the So Called Teen Bills (after the late Philanthropist and Microsoft Founder Bill Gates) only three survive. The Operating System business became free ware in 2015 and is now mostly a standards and maintenance organization. Office Solutions and Corp Systems were re-merged into Corp Services Corp. The Universal Arts Company (after its merger with Electronic Arts and Universal-NBC) became the largest Entertainment Content Company in the world. Google Electric itself a merger of Google and the former GE has become the leading infrastructure company after the forced divestiture of their media interests.

Airframers: The Boeing Power Series engined 797 Narrow Body Family finally appeared and has been met with universal acclaim as the last in the conventional start of the art in aircraft design. The corresponding Airbus Bombardier A500 Series narrow body aircraft which first flew in 2018 is still hotly favoured to be the aircraft of the next decade with its controversial design and advanced technologies particularly in the use of hydrogen fuels. Airliners are now threatened as a species with the adoption of CommLink (see below). The heavy burden of environmental and security charges as well as the continued milking of the travel business made it the cigarette revenue source of its time. The last of the fewer than 50 Airbus A380s built will be retired as gas guzzlers sometime in the next 2 years despite having such few hours on their airframes. With most having been converted to freighters after the oil crisis in 2012. The two year delay in redesigning the 787 after the delamination incidents early in the mid sized Boeing model was matched by a corresponding delay in A350 which had a rather serious overweight problem. Both Boeing And Airbus Bombardier now have essentially just two product lines – the narrow body and the wide body. The last 777 rolled off the line in 2015.

For Airlines – the two Global Airline Alliances remain the focus of the regulators. Skyteam and Star now comprise more than 60% of the world’s total passengers. The Term GAA becomes a common term for all that is wrong in customer service. With the merger of Singapore Airline, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic into the Virgin Airline Group under one common brand – they are now the largest single airline brand worldwide. Ryanair finally softened its stance after Michael O’Leary retired his chairmanship in 2018 he had left the day to day running of the European arm in 2014. Its long haul operation was not a success and it was abandoned in 2016. The long haul part was finally merged into a revived Aer Lingus. Southwest and Easyjet merged their infrastructure businesses but retained the individual brands. Air Asia’s spree of buying second tier airlines worldwide seems to continue unabated but is seen as a bottom feeding exercise in a declining market.

In hospitality after a hotly contested merger battle for the hand of Intercontinental Hotel Group – they merged with Hilton. In Quick Succession Marriott acquired Hyatt and then at the low end the Choice Group. The JW Marriott Group is still vying with Hilton. The third member of the Troika is Carlson Accor Group.

In Distribution Jim Davidson finally retired after 8 years of running mega corp AmaLogix. John Martin an industry unknown from Banking is the youngest head of an Open Distribution Company (ODC which moniker replaced the archaic term GDS in the early part of the decade). He heads the multi-faceted Sabreport group.

With the huge adoption of CommLink – the virtual meeting business – and the high cost of fuel, total travel finally peaked in 2017 and has fallen 2 % in the last 2 years of the decade. The Travant Group which emerged from the spin out of Google’s once secret Troogle project and the merger with the hotel switch company and the remnants of the non-content components of the largest Travel Company in the world Expedia. The largest second largest travel company famous for its kiosks and tour operating business is now the Thomas Cook company (formed from a merger of Thomas Cook, American Express Travel and JTB).

In Travel Tools – the OTP – Open Travel Platform and its subsequent offspring UTP – Universal Travel Platform standard (itself built on the OML standard) was widely adopted as the master standard by which all players in the value chain would communicate. With the adoption of the Havana Round and UN mandated via IATA on WAX (see above) simplifying global government revenue harmonization processes – financial fulfillment has been vastly simplified. The abolition of the financial clearing houses of BSP and ARC (remember them!) further reduced the cost and simplified the way in which consumers purchased travel. The sunset of the use of non-electronic money in 2018 has also further simplified process. Fraud however remains a constant problem particularly after the global bank clearing brownout that occurred in 2013.

And that’s the way it is on December 31st 2019. Have a good new decade. This will be Professor Sabena’s final posting – he has pleasure in announcing his retirement this day.

Enjoy and Cheers

With thanks and acknowledgement to GreenAviation and Design Q for the images.

28 December 2009

Its Official!

The Professor is NOT on the no fly list (well at least today) and as far as he can tell is not on any watch list.

I am a newly certified Global Entry participant. So for the next few years I can use those new fangled machines. this means I am held to a higher standard than regular travellers.

Let's see how good this gets

However for the rest of you who want to join - pay your dues (its not cheap) and click here: (Hint they don't make it easy!!!)

What The Secretary Really Meant

I have taken the liberty of putting in thought bubbles into the US Dept of Homeland Secretary's Official Statement:

Statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

Release Date: December 26, 2009
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: 202-282-8010

"I am grateful to the passengers and crew aboard Northwest Flight 253 who reacted quickly and heroically to an incident that could have had tragic results. PHEW WE DODGED THAT BULLET THANK GOD THE PASSENGERS WERE ON THE PLANE - LORD HELP US IF THEY HADN'T BEEN THERE The Department of Homeland Security immediately put additional screening measures WE THINK THEY ARE SECURITY MEASURES BUT JUDGING FROM OUR HISTORICAL PERFORMANCE ANYTHING GOES AT DHS into place—for all domestic and international flights—to ensure the continued safety of the traveling public I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE WHEN PLANES FALL OUT OF THE SKY SO PEOPLE'S HOUSES ARE EXEMPT FROM THESE NEW MEASURES. We are also working AND THIS IS A FIRST FOLKS closely with federal, state and local law enforcement on additional security measures, as well as our international partners AL QUAEDA HAS RECENTLY BEEN AWARDED GOLD STATUS ON OUR LIST OF PARTNERS on enhanced security at SOME airports and on flights OR AT LEAST THE ONES WE THINK WE KNOW ABOUT BUT WE DO HAVE A TENDENCY TO LOSE A FEW LIKE THAT NORTHWEST FLIGHT THAT OVERFLEW MSP.

The American people should continue their planned holiday travel and, as always, be observant and aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious behavior or activity to law enforcement officials. IF YOU ARE NOT AN AMERICAN THEN TOUGH COOKIES I DON'T GIVE A DAMN AND I HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU WHATSOEVER.

Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVE BEEN SLEEP WALKING OR IN A COMA FOR THE PAST 10 YEARS WILL THIS ACTUALLY MATTER. These measures are designed to be unpredictable YUP LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE HERE AT THE DHS - EVERYDAY IS SOMETHING NEW. HECK I CANT EVEN FIND MY OFFICE ON SOME DAYS, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere INCONSISTENCY IS A HALLMARK OF MY ADMINISTRATION I DONT INTEND LETTING ANYONE HAVE A PREDICTABLE TRIP PERIOD. Due to the busy holiday travel season, both domestic and international travelers should allot extra time for check-in. OH YES AND THAT INCLUDES YOU MOTHER"


... After The Horse Has Bolten

So This week's Stupid Airline Tricks award goes to the DHS and the TSA.

Their knee jerk response includes such wonderful things as no inflight maps and no announcements of landmarks and anything that could be used to give the passengers on the aircraft some reference point of where they might be.

A possible source of the official instructions can be found here. It is allegedly signed by Gale Rossides.

Er excuse me - i think on my itinerary it tells me when I am due to arrive. Also last time I checked we are surrounded by time pieces. But I didn't see anything in these instructions about giving up watches or banning watches from flights. I can just see the goons at various airports around the world removing Googlemaps, Google Earth, Atlases and maps from people's computers and carryons. Does the word cras come to mind?

So thinking like a conspiracy theorist - I think this is a sinister plot by the AFA to enforce passenger behavior on airliners. But I digress. I further think its possibly an attempt to not point out things that are obvious.

These rules (which carry an expiration date of Dec 30th), don't seem to offer much in the way of additional security. About the only thing it is going to do is to limit the spread of H1N1 or other communicable diseases as most US airlines don't bother to have clean blankets on board these days.

The TSA needs to get back into the game of thinking what is wrong with their elaborate schemes. They have developed a solution which has fundamental flaws in it. That needs to be rethought.

Oh and one more thing. At Schiphol they have the Air Blown Scanners are designed to detect PETN. However they are set up so that there is only one per gate. Thus if you leave from the H (low cost terminal) gates there are 3 scanners and the PETN based scanner is only on one. Not sure that is really a good idea.

If the US was truly interested in solving the issue of bringing chemicals onto the plane then it would would have long ago mandated a system of either 100% manual search or 100% scanner inspection.

But don't get me started on the multiple layers of the so called security that this chap passed through. This was exactly the same as the situation on 9/11. There was the ability to link the terrorists to at least one bench warrant for them. This shows that the central plank of the security namely not just identifying the real or potential bad guys but not letting them onto the plane is still a failure.

This breakdown means that this weeks Professor's Stupid Airline Tricks Award goes to the ladies Administrator Rossides (TSA acting) and Secretary Napolitano (DHS Secretary).

Now don't just sit there - do something!


You Are Only As Safe As......

In what must be a stunning admission of the obvious US Dept of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.”

If you go to the TSA website and read the complete guff that is there (I particularly like their Myth Busters section - it is rather inadequate I would say).

Of course after more than 8 years since 9/11 and countless pointers and incidents that have occurred before and since - we still do not have a secure system.

I recently travelled to 5 airports in South America. Liquids BTW are allowed through domestic flights and still between some countries. Over the past year I must have been through an airport over two hundred times or probably more. I have watched innumerable security devices that don't work and staff who either don't have a clue or are remarkably disinterested. The TSA is probably no worse but decidedly not best in class in this respect. There are many others who are better at doing this kind of work.

One statistic I would like to see is the amount of absenteeism for whatever reason for TSA employees. Saying (as the website does) you have improved considerably from prior years only shows how bad it was before. We must accept that the government is not going to be good at doing this any better than anyone else. So we are somewhat condemned to a mediocre system. We however as system users must fight for a better level of quality. It is not a temporary situation - we have to fight for it on every trip at every stage.

The current US Government solution has been based on a layered approach to the issue of security. This approach is still probably the best we have. However you have to ask yourself is it adequate? More importantly are all the elements for a formal layered system in place? In my opinion it is clearly neither. I liken the approach of the management (by the Dept Of Homeland Security) of this layered approach to that of the US financial ratings agencies. They only realize there is a problem when someone else points it out to them, even though to the common man it is blatantly obvious.

So I will (probably misquote in words but the context is clear) quote Rafi Ron who was the head of Tel Aviv Airport security - he now runs his own security firm in the DC area. He stated on a panel I ran in 2002 - "You are only as safe as your fellow passengers are alert and will let you be safe".

Judging by the events of the past few days on NW253 this was the case.

So ask yourself the one question. What would you have done? Clearly a lot of other people on the NW flight just sat in their seats petrified. Only a few passengers decided to take action. If you can believe the news reports, the crew were not the people to take the terrorist to the secure seat. It was the passenger who jumped him. That shows that we still have a lot of issues as to how the system could work.

Next time you listen to that pre-flight briefing announcement consider that one phrase actually rings very hollow. It goes something like this "... Remember the Flight Attendants are here for your safety".

Safe travels everyone.