30 December 2010

The Professor's 11 Resolutions

11 for 11

OK so here goes - these are my resolutions.

1. Do more for others specifically in pro bono work
2. More chill time for me
3. Lose One PED (Personal Electronic Device)
4. Master one new thing well
5. Appreciate more
6. Spend more time in USA
7. Shed personal crap - physical and meta physical - particularly paper
8. Write better
9. Catalog my plane collection
10. Find 10 old friends
11. Add at least one new country to my collection


Farewell to Randy

As the year draws to a close one of the stalwarts of the Airline community is retiring. Read his farewell letter here.

If there was ever someone who epitomized the frequent flyer - it has been Randy Petersen.

As he leaves his baby and takes flight to pastures new - let those of us who have followed him since before Flyertalk was formed.

So here's to you Randy - all the best mate. It wont be the same without you.


Skype Says "Sorry! Have a Buck (not a Quid)"

After last week's outage - the big comms provider is giving something back. I am still pissed at them but this is a reasonable gesture.

Skype is giving you a credit. Take it...




Mama, They Took My Kodachrome Away

Sad day for photography...

Today Kodakchrome will be processed for the last time.

For those of us who witnessed the immersion of the colour photographic experience - this is just a little sad. Immortalized in song by Paul Simon.


29 December 2010

Behavioural Targeting - Bad? Creepy? - er.. Yup Probably

Personally I don't like behavioural targeting. I do find it creepy and well just a little too invasive for my liking. But I put some of that down to two major factors. I am slightly older as a Boomer and also because I have a more European attitude to privacy.

Regular readers will know that I am very focused on the abuse of privacy.

Now we are starting to see some hard evidence of how the rest of the world sees it. Well at least how Americans see it.

In a recent article by eMarketer using data from Gallup and USA Today seems to support the same sentiment that I expressed above. Further it would seem that the more mature

The way you have to read this chart above is to read it in reverse. IE that the 40% is the best showing IE 60% is negative to the idea.

And it would seem that attitudes are hardening - even when "freebies" are offered.

So Far So Good Says AA.

Seems a day to do posts on American.

So far AA says that things are going fine. They sound cautiously optimistic in their online "Thanks" to the Travelling Public.

Seems that American has faith in knowing why its customers fly.


We will have to wait for a bit for the real traffic numbers to come out. But I will be watching for any pointers.


AA - A Different Road

For many years the path to success in the airline business was either based on mega volume or low cost - meaning low fares.

The industry has therefore polarized into these two groups which - with few exceptions - define the world of airlines.

It is doubtful that Alfred Khan who died this week envisaged such a turn of events when he laid out his vision of how the American Air Transport system should look.

For the models in the USA - we have Southwest Airlines championing the low cost model. And we have Delta and new United in the new mega category with their partners AF/KL and LH+NH (and no I didn't forget AC) respectively. So where does this leave American Airlines - once the biggest carrier in the world now a distinct number #5 in the global pecking order (based on RPKs/RPMs).

It seems that AA has gone back to basics as this article from the Chicago Tribune group and reprinted in the Seattle Times - shows. It has avoided the two opportunities to clean up its balance sheet - bankruptcy (which it flirted with a few times) and a merger which would have given them also the chance to emerge with a new fitter financial structure as DL and UAL have.

On the face of it AA looks like it is falling away from the top table. It is fighting a hard battle with Direct Connect. It is the last to the Global Alliance table with its AA/BA/IB/FI/RJ JV. It has an aging fleet. As analyst Henry Harteveldt opined in a media call recently American Airlines was "Nothing Special In the Air"

But look closer and you see a company that is very focused on fundementals.

AA is moving to a lowering the cost of its distribution. A bold move but as many would agree a necessary one to lower those costs it can.
AA is moving to a next generation internal reservation system. Neither DL nor UA are doing that preferring to stick with the current generation products while their international colleagues have more modern systems at the core.
AA is going back to basics and looking at the customer proposition particularly in an area where it has been less than stellar in the past.

The airline is focusing on making the company better faster and more agile than its competitors.

The jury is going to be out for a while but sticking to their guns is something that AA does well. Recall if you will their now retired leader Robert Crandal's jihad against through flight code numbers and airline code sharing. Despite being late to the table AA has turned this into a nice revenue generator.

While AA has been characterized as an aloof player - perhaps we are witnessing a turn around where they will really start to "*move their tail" for you.

(*With acknowledgment to the former National Airlines readers - I do know where that came from!)

A Saber Tooth or a Sabre Blade?

Gotta love those nice people at Amadeus. They like their competition a lot!

Check out one of their moonlighting senior IT guys and his history of the CRS.

Does this mean that Amadeus is trying to re-write history? Well for $119 you too can find out.

Hmmm hope not. I am not a big fan of revisionists. They are up there with Birther Movement folks.


28 December 2010

5 Ugliest Airports - The Street

Oh I love this one...

The 5 ugliest airports in the USA are clearly identified.

In reverse order:

5. LAX
4. PHL
3. STL
2. LGA
1. JFK

Doesn't look like this is going to change any time soon.

So here are my additional nominations for special mention:

Most Useless: PIT
Soul Destroying: DFW
Longest Walk Possible: ORD


Top Ten Tech Flops 2010

Everyone has a top 10 list.

Here is CNN's top 10 tech failures this year.

Topping the list is the iPhone 4 antenna problem.

Here is the summary scoreboard.

Google - 2
Apple 2
Facebook - 1
Microsoft - 1
Gawker - 1
Digg - 1
General Technology that flopped - 2

Hmmm - lets see how travel does.


Alfred Khan - The Godfather of Freedom

As we watch a lot of unhappy people dig themselves out from the snow back east USA and the whole continent of Europe it seems suffered - we should stop and thank the man who perhaps contributed more to the mess than anyone else.

The Bill of Rights had 5 basic freedoms. Back then the physical restrictions on movement of people and goods meant that few could venture outside of their immediate surroundings.

# Freedom of Religion
# Freedom of the press
# Freedom of speech
# Freedom of assembly
# The right to petition the government

Today - freedom to move around is not governed by these physical limitations - they are largely economic ones. The man who contributed most to that in the USA which became the model for the rest of the world was Alfred Khan.

More than three years ago there was a lovely piece in USA Today and I covered it in an early blog post.

So here's to you Professor Khan.

Thanks for giving us this freedom to enjoy travel. I for one and eternally grateful for the possibility.


Read more:

27 December 2010

AA "Nothing Special In The Air"

This morning on the CNBC show "Squawk on the Street" Forrester Analyst Henry Harteveldt demonstrated once again his knowledge of the market and a little of history. Click on the link to hear the segment including Henry's call in.

Its been a busy few days for Henry who is Forrester's point man on the Travel Category. he has been on several shows pointing out the issues surrounding the AA battles with Orbitz, Travelport and most recently Expedia.

His final throw away line was a telling one.

"American is nothing special in the air."

This refers to the 1980s AA ad campaign where AA used the tag line in all its advertising. "Something Special In the Air".
IS AA special enough to ride out this storm? As Henry opines it just might not be the case with his statements making the airlines essentially just a commodity product. And this is where I think there is a core and fundamental battle going on. Whether the airlines are truly a differentiated product or not.

So just for the record - since the Professor is a former Ad man and worked on several competing accounts at the time that this campaign appeared I thought it would be good to see a DC10 flying in AA Colours again. Not to mention some really rather outrageous hair styles - think Melanie Griffiths when she was in Working Girl!

So play the video and enjoy a little nostalgia.


Google's Bonne Annee 2010?

Perhaps the Professor has been too hard on Google of late. I might sound a bit curmudgeonly. Have I been too hard on those nice fresh faced boys and girls of the Googleplex? You decide.

2010 marks a watershed year for Google in the way that 1995 marked a watershed year for Microsoft. But for veracity in this evaluation I have to turn to none other than Robert X Cringely in his analysis of Google.

He cites the following missteps. I will list them for you but you can go and read his analysis here:

Consider if you will the following examples:

China. Per Robert X "In fact, Google came up with 1.3 billion reasons why Chinese censorship wasn't so bad after all."

Nexus One.Now replaced with Nexus 5 which makes you wonder what happened to Nexuses 2 through 4. I loaned a Nexus one for 4 weeks. It was Terrible.

Streetview Wi-Fi spying. "The worst part: Google was doing this without even realizing it. What other data is Google hoovering up that it -- and no one else -- yet realizes?"

Google Wave. Sadly will be incorporated into other Google products

Google TV.

Google's Proposed Take over of ITA Software.

But perhaps the most scary thing of all things emanating from the Googleplex was this analysis in the same article.

"Meanwhile, whenever Eric Schmidt opens his mouth to make another pronouncement about what Google knows about us, he frightens the children and makes even their parents want to hide under their beds. Consider this chilling statement Schmidt made at the last Mobile World Congress in February:

"These networks are now so pervasive that we can literally know everything if we want to. What people are doing, what people care about, information that's monitored, we can literally know it if we want to, and if people want us to know it. END QUOTE.

I leave you to ponder the rest.


So Where You Gonna Spend Those Bucks In 2011?

While many of us - the Professor included - has indicated that we are going to see 2011 as the year of mobile - it seems that the guys who spend money on advertising are not so convinced.

Instead they are hoping to plop down the cash in email and social.

Here is a study graphic from research done by Strongmail. I think there might be a bit of bias in the study.

By now most of us should realize that spending money on Email for customer acquisition is become a losers game. Sure we should make sure we connect with our users but is email the only tool and the right tool for this?

Chatting with an old Direct Mail geek friend of mine he said that their business is up significantly with much growth coming from those who have tried email marketing and failed. He did point to a lack of tools and skills in doing the job which brought new customers to his door and greater throughput via his existing customers.

So lets see if he/they are right next year


Is Google Voice A Substitute for Skype

The December 22nd outage on Skype was not a good day for many of Skype's more than half a billion users.

Most people use Skype personally for individual one:one calling. But increasingly a lot of us are using Skype for collaborative work. I was a big fan of Jabber before the empire of Cisco acquired it and shut down the free service.

But there are some interesting alternatives.

Most people are being directed to Google Voice but Google TALK/VOICE is not flexible and doesnt have many of the features that makes Skype so easy and straightforward to uses. Also we all know that Google is going to capture the information about you and use it for its nefarious ends. So if its all the same to you no thanks!

So what other tools can you use.

Here is a smattering of them with different options.

1. Consider a demo/whiteboard/desktop sharing app. There are several out there with free small crippled versions. I like DimDim and Mikago. of course you can spend a lot of money on Webex and other tools. DimDim and Mikago are lite and simple to use.

2. Consider other IP calling tools - iCall or XJack are good examples. You can also use Vonage for different call types for a fixed monthly or annual fee. In France for example free calling is bundled with almost every plan you can get from the 3 major providers such as SFR and Orange.

3. There are many collaborative programs such as I mentioned in the #1 but here was one I found that is really quite good and offers a lot of features. SAP's Streamwork. We also use Basecamp that has some tools for demo and sharing.

4. There are various dedicated chat programs such as ICQ, MS Live Messenger and even the venerable AIM.

However with Skype - especially if you stuck with it for a long time as I have - now 4 years and counting - then you realize it is a very useful service.


Twitter is Valuable???

Over the past few months my team has been experimenting with Twitter to see if there is something in there of value.

I dislike the nature of the type of 'conversation' that goes via Twitter. Personally I think it is rather unsocial form of media. I find it hard to describe the tool as a form of communication. But it seems that what I think and what some of the rest of the world thinks are rather different.

However along the way I have learned some interesting facts about the service and what it can do as a marketing vehicle.

Let me share a couple of them with you.

Twitter marketing is a real concept. There are a wide number of Tweet based interactions possible. I remain skeptical particularly in having the direct 1:1 communication that has been used to demonstrate its power. However since Google started indexing Tweets and since Bots started pulling tweets into consideration for search results I am more comfortable with it.

One of the key values of Tweets vs Emails is the difference in the capability of access. Emails have become more spam than just about anything else. each and probably everyone of us spends a certain part of our day eliminating SPAM. But so far the direct spam in Twitter is eliminated by only having to look at the results from particular results in a tool such as Tweetdeck. How long that survives remains to be seen

Now the down side. There is complete drivel out there in Tweetland. The shortened message size means that the capability of the user to comprehend exactly what is being communicated in less than 140 characters is just a tough concept to understand.

In my view using Twitter for knowledge acquisition is a mistake. Using it for customer services is at best marginal. But in promotion as a viable tool in place of emaill - there is some glimmer of a view here.

Stay tuned


26 December 2010

Do We Really Need A GDS?

In the recent weeks with the controversy of the American Airlines vs Orbitz and Travelocity spilling out into the open warfare we saw in the days before Christmas.

At one of the events when people get around to imbibing of the holiday cheer, I often get asked what I do. My family tends to roll their eyes because that is just a good excuse for me to wax lyrically about how good or bad the Travel Distribution is.

In one of these chats - after I had spent a few minutes explaining what a GDS was - one academic asked me a question that struck to the core.

If you have a concentration of power in the hands of the airlines and the intermediaries do you really need a neutral distribution system?

Well thought I - that's a good question. So as soon as I got home last night I went and looked for market share information. I have to say I was somewhat amazed that I had not considered this issue before.

For markets of scale where there may be many brands but only a few core providers - why do you need to have a fully neutral distribution system. Further what other markets have similar characteristics and what has become the manner in which product is distributed.

The two markets where this made sense was in automobiles and insurance. Both are complicated products and of significant monetary value. Further both employed an independent intermediary network. IE they didn't largely own the intermediary channels which contributed to the majority of their sales.

Thinking about that made me feel that perhaps we have been discussing the wrong perspective.

What if there was no GDS? What if the links to the hosts were facilitated via a network linkage where the supply was aggregated by both the intermediaries and the suppliers but independently.

In this case if this change was to happen - would the prices of the products come down or would they stay the same?

There is a general measurement when considering monopoly/oligopoly behavior. This is the contestable amount of marketshare. The general sense is that if you have an oligopoly/monopoly but with a large contestable market then the competition will be intense. However the reverse is true - if you have a low contestable share of market then pricing will rise and competition will fall. If the tools available are also not fully examining the whole market - then the pricing tends also to rise.

In our business this is no where more visible in the difference between hotels purchased via the web and those booked via GDS powered travel agents which results in a significant differential in pricing to the detriment of the consumer. Over the years the difference has been of the order 20%+.

Thus from a hospitality point of view the GDS has actually raised the pricing to the consumer. Particularly as the market for hotels has been soft and therefore contestable.

For air this is not the case and the amount of contestable market share is limited given high load factors. Worse this is not going to get any better due to the constraints on supply due to the high price of fuel.

If we look at the market share of the 3 major alliances they now occupy more than 50% of total traffic. When you then remove the Low Cost carriers out of the loop as they dont participate in the GDSs the amount of neutral traffic unaligned falls significantly. Perhaps for this reason we see traditional unaligned airlines like Virgin Atlantic starting to evaluate their options seriously.

Bottom line here folks. Yes we should ask what value the GDSs provide and those who support perhaps are doing so because their vested interests are not aligned with providing the best service to the consumer. Indeed I would argue that the GDS has over time restrained competition and indeed cost the consumer more.

Think about it.

I am sure there will be many who disagree. But unnatural acts such as paying your distributors and thereby bribing them to use your channel is one such element that can only mean higher consumer costs.

Open Competition is healthy even in a lightly contested market space. It does drive lower pricing. The trick now is to see how that can be implemented in a logical and convenient way expeditiously.

There will be players who support and others who don't. And as you can expect there will be a myriad of different strategies which in my view will create different friends and enemies. The lines of demarcation will be fluid at best!


The Professors’ 2011 Predictions

Predictions for 2011

OK So it’s that time of the year again. Let’s peak into the Professor’s Goody bag and see what is going to be there next year?

The big change in my opinion is going to be very simple. Real time instant commerce. So iCommerce has nothing to do with Apple. It has everything to do with how the world REALLY works. The line between online and offline will start to really blur. Further the way that suppliers and intermediaries in travel will work together will become tighter bilaterally not via constraining third parties such as Legacy GDSs. (Of course you would expect me to say that).

And What About this iCommerce?

I1 – Instant – Instant Commerce is about realtime results that are trustworthy
I2 – Interactive – Interactive Commerce is bringing the engine of transaction into transaction as intuitive not as explicit type of things such as explicit search but implied transactions
I3 – And of course its all about me – I! However this is where its not just the usual me – its about my social web and how that inter-relates.

The world will change. Google Instant is going to continue to refine how online commerce is handled. Once the ITA acquisition goes through – then Google will roll out a raft of personalization services that will be hard to beat. However there will be a hard core of people who will develop solutions that will bypass or capitalize on the Instant part of this. Timeliness will be able to address certain issues that annoy consumers like the digital detritus that has been left over from things that you signed up for earlier but cannot get rid of.

OH PLEASE develop a way to remove crap off my weblife. I predict someone will create a Digital De-Detritus system. I can’t wait.

We are going to see Commerce enter our social web in a less brazen way than has occurred thus far. Facebook will become softer about it. However marketers will discover that Twitter feeds can contain real time information that can become a basis for how things can be promoted. The merging of Groupon and Twitter streams will bring an astonishing change to local and global offers. The real trick will be how well intermediaries adopt these tools. And that doesn’t mean forking out huge chunks of cash to Groupon.

PRIVACY. In 2011 there will be a strong push from non-US and older consumers to the abuse of privacy. Expect to see regulatory controls implemented as well as some other legal maneuvers that will tighten up the protection of consumers and their privacy

Mobile. OK Yes 2011 will be the year of Mobile. Finally this is where we are going to see Mobile will come into its own.

Service. We will see service make a comeback as a differentiator. Smarter next gen technologies will improve the customer experience. At least they will be competitive with the call centres in Asia! Self Service will make way for Good (notice I did not say Great) service.

Value Finding

For the past 15 years the focus on search and shopping has been on finding the lowest fares. However as we all know – this is an exceedingly complicated process and there is no easy way to address this. I have a view that there is a long way to go between the words the customer users and what he really wants. This discrepancy results in some rather terrible outcomes for sellers of travel online. Travel is a very complex process. Those of us who have been in the business a long time will undoubtedly find that this is normal behavior. If you have actually sold discretionary travel face to face or over the phone you know the trigger words to use and the better way to guide the customer through the process. That is not easy to do online.

With maturity now breaking out all over the web – the focus must turn to the overall user experience and the success of the “Search” process in meeting the needs of the consumer. This is a VERY hard thing to do and almost no one has done a good job in delivering a good solution here.

Therefore in my mind this needs to become a focus for everyone. Expressing the customer’s desires as a value and then matching the best results to that value. The people who crack this one will become successful. Those who wait, those who rely on legacy tools, those who don’t understand their customers, those who are lazy – will become road kill. If for no other reason than Google is going to go after this concept big time and will do a good job – of that you can be sure. But will it be a great job and will it be enough? Let’s revisit that question in December 2011.

True Innovation?

I love innovation. What will be the one thing that we cannot do without? I predict one thing. Apple will come out with an iPhone Nano. The Simple iPhone for the rest of us. This will come late 2011 or early 2012. Small light and with many of the services that we know and love. Apple will use an innovative approach to enhancing screen displays that will let the user interact with most of his life through the iPhoneNano.


With thanks to Duke University for the rather inspiring image.

A Groupon Christmas

Well I had a Groupon Christmas courtesy of my family. Many different items we received were actually Groupon deals.

I wont say we are a thrifty lot but we definitely look out for a bargain. And these were all pretty good deals.

Over the past few months I have been asking merchants and users what their experiences have been with Groupon.

The general impression I get is that for the merchant it has become a necessary evil. One common concern I hear - and this is anecdotal from non-instant purchase things such as Restaurants is that it has moved the purchase process to a later date closer to the product delivery time.

In Europe in the 1980s the purchase of travel moved from an orderly process to a last minute model. One the suppliers and intermediaries have been trying to move away from ever since. Clearly unsuccessfully.

I think that we should pay close attention to the long term impact on pricing power by the supplier and conventional buying behaviour.

Be careful what you wish for... it may come true.


25 December 2010

Expedia's Actions Strike Fear and Loathing Into Many Suppliers

At first glance - the Expedia decision to kick AA out of the shopping displays was portrayed as a gesture of solidarity with its friends over at Sabre and Travelocity/Orbitz.

However perhaps there is a more sinister reason why Expedia took this action now.

After chatting with some colleagues who are in both the air and non-air space there is a very strong sense of disquiet on the supply community.

If Expedia wins and AA is forced to back down - then Expedia will have demonstrated that is has HUGE power to control the supply chain.

For smaller airlines and hotel chains in particular this strikes fear and loathing on their part. They fear that Expedia will start to throw its weight around with the supply chain and that could really hurt marginal suppliers who depend on Expedia for a large percentage of their business. In the US Market we are coming up on the quiet season when there is much lower volume of transaction. Many of these same suppliers fear that Expedia will now threaten them with punitive action unless they go along with higher yields to the company.

Even if Expedia doesn't prevail - there are few suppliers who could afford a protracted battle with the Bellevue based OTA giant.

Thus many of these players are secretly quaking in their boots over holiday season and looking at Expedia as the Evil GRINCH for stealing Christmas.


24 December 2010

Forrester's Take on AA et al. Video Link

Our fave analyst - well one of them anyway - Henry Harteveldt - was on Bloomberg TV yesterday.

Check out this video.

Henry explains in good terms the issues. While I dont fully agree with him about these issues - we can say that he does a good job in laying them out.

One key issue he brought out is that AA is ALREADY directly connected to Orbitz. But his analysis of saying that the Direct Connect option is the more expensive one is incorrect one.

Still a good session to watch


How To Outsmart Expedia's Ban On AA

Game time everyone - listen up. The Professor's Guide to Buying American Airlines Tickets. A Primer for smart shoppers.

Today's game is how to use Expedia and Orbitz to easily get access to AA in these OTAs. Keep this link however because it will become more useful over time. I will come back and update this page as new changes happen.

Firstly you are already a smart shopper so we are not going to teach you how to suck eggs. We are going to assume that you know a little bit - probably a lot if you read this blog on a regular basis.

The easiest way to book AA is to use those "neutral" sites that have retained AA. For example if you are used to using Orbitz - just click on over to Cheaptickets who still shows AA. (Yes luv its the same engine at the back! so for Orbitz users this will be REALLY familiar)

For example here is a display that (honest 'guv) I just chose at random a route where I know a nonstop would return to me an AA result. Interestingly the AA price was cheaper than the other guys... how about that!!!

But what if you dont want to use any other site than Expedia or Orbitz itself and that despite all that your little inner voice tells you - you REALLY want to use Expedia to see about AA and compare AA's priced. Well you can do that.

Here is how.

Path 1 - see if there is a code share that might cover the route.

AA as with many airlines has code share partners. Unlike United, Continental and US Airways who are clogging our results screens with the same flights - AA has fewer partners. But here is where to get the list:

AA.com's Code Share pages

Print this page and keep it with you at all times. It is much better for International Flights than domestic. So think of this. For Transatlantic flights look for Iberia, Finnair and British Airways options with flight numbers generally in the 4 digit range. For service in the USA try using Alaska as a preferred airline but caution AS fares on AA tend to be higher than AA itself - often significantly so. Again refer to the list and the links from the AA Codeshare home page above.

Here is an example

Look at the BA 4 digit flight numbers they are the AA flights.

Path 2 - Use a Meta/Real Search Site

For this good sites like Kayak in the USA and Skyscanner in Europe provide a way to see things neutrally and still then go through the task of selecting the flight you want on AA.

For example here is the Kayak display for all sites. To eliminate duplication I only requested nonstops on mainline aircraft but all carriers all sites.

Path 3 - suck it up and figure out where to go to get the right flight data.

To do this you can only use Expedia as neither Orbitz.com not Orbitz for business sites are displaying AA right now - although eBookers and Cheaptickets are.

And of course if all else fails go to AA.com. Well heck you were going to buy there anyway weren't you!


Still Time To Donate

Please support the T2Impact/Professor Sabena Annual charity drive.

This year our end of year charity contribution will be to raise money to Sponsor A Puppy For the Guilde Dogs for the Blind UK. If you would like to do this yourself click here:


Did You Forget? Well 2 Years To Go

Did you fly on BA and Virgin between August 11, 2004 and March 23, 2006?

If so then here is your annual reminder to file with the court to get some money back.

Go to the website and get collecting your paper trail proof. If you dont you will be sorry.

In re International Air Transportation Surcharge Antitrust Litigation
Case No. M:06-md-1793-CRB


You may be a member of a settlement class relating to a class action lawsuit in the United States District Court - Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, In re International Air Transportation Surcharge Antitrust Litigation; Case No. M:06-md-1793-CRB, concerning fuel surcharges on "long haul" flights provided by British Airways Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. If you bought a ticket on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic in the U.S. or in the U.K. between August 11, 2004 and March 23, 2006, you may be entitled to a partial refund of the fuel surcharge.
The settlement relates only to tickets on "long haul" flights. All flights on Virgin Atlantic are "long haul." Most British Airways flights between the U.K. and non E.U. destinations, including flights to and from the United States, are "long haul." A complete list of qualifying flights can be found on the website listed below. If you have already submitted a claim, you do not need to do so again. The last day to submit a claim is December 31, 2012. For more information please visit www.airpassengerrefund.com or call the toll free number at 1-877-625-9432. You can also write to Kenneth R. Feinberg, Esquire, Settlement Administrator, c/o Epiq Systems, P.O. Box 19263, Washington, D.C. 20036-9263

'Tis The For Crystal Ball Gazing

Oil is not likely to come down in price to any major degree in 2011.

This post is going to discuss the impact of high oil prices as a factor in 2011.

This one has kinda crept up on us. Oil is now cresting above $100 a barrel. With the severe weather across Europe battering Airports and other uses of oil for transport alike - we are likely to see a peaking and spot shortage of fuels across the northern hemisphere this winter. After when the spring season hits the North it is not likely to moderate to much extent. This is going to have a knock on effect.

I believe that air ticket prices are going to stay high. This will in turn drive the need for Fuel surcharges. I believe the airlines will flex their YQ/YR muscle and raise those rates. Remember that after the peak pricing in 2008/9 the Fuel surcharges only moderated a small amount.

With Fuel consuming a larger percentage of the airline cost base - the amount of available flexibility on airline pricing will lead to restrained capacity growth, particularly among the legacy and high cost carriers of Northern Europe and North America. Those with aging fleets - particularly the US Carriers will feel this pain more than others with younger fleets. This sets up a long term conflict with the aircraft manufacturers. Both Airbus and Boeing have recently upped their short term production rates. But where are those planes going? Expansion in Asia/Pacific who demands keep rising. I saw an amazing statistic that saw Beijing add a higher rate of cares to the city that already has the worst commute (tied with Mexico City). The official Xinhua News Agency said 30,000 new vehicles were registered in the past week alone, at least three times the normal rate.

Airbus actually has more flexibility as it has 3 production lines running in separate areas - China, Hamburg and Toulouse for the A320 family. Boeing is actually running at full capacity on the 2 737 lines in Renton. I spoke with a senior manager there over the past few days and he opined that the current run rate can only be marginally improved without significant changes to the work flow and supply chain. That requires infrastructure change such as more plant or another line. Neither is going to happen any time soon.

The reason I point these out is that China is going to really start competing with the USA as a huge importer of oil for domestic consumption. And the US airlines do not have the resources to significantly reduce their fuel burn rate and cost.

Despite Skype's well publicized outage on December 22nd we are going to see a lot more traffic exit from the higher yielding business travel. But that is not confined to just business travel.

The use of Skype and GoogleTalk is growing fast and we can expect others to adopt similar technologies. This means that we will have SMEs and personal consumers adopt live real time personal and small group interaction via video. The upcoming deployment of 2 cameras in the iPad 2 will mean that Facetime will have a much broader and viable usage.

The growing divergence of meeting cost - real presence rising costs and virtual presence diminishing costs will mean a permanent leakage of the former to the latter.

Bottom line the elasticity of demand will be low and it will be a supply market in the USA. In turn this will favor the supply side. It will also significantly favor non-oil based communication solutions such as tele-presence and other comms based solutions.

That my friends is not going to favor those who are intermediaries in my view.


23 December 2010

The Professor's Xmas Wishes

So what is Santa bringing you under the tree this year?

Well since I bought Tivo during the year - I will have to give it a content boost - probably I will make a netflix subscription.

I wont reveal what I bought as a communal gift for family and friends but I will reveal one tomorrow.

But here is my big wish for 2011.

That we will finally get a way to search and display the true value based price to the consumer.

Boring But really important.

For other wishes... let's hope Google plays nice when it buys ITA.
Let's hope AA et al work it out in an equitable way.


That we are all safe and sound this time next year to enjoy it.

Cheers and peace and love to you and your families this holiday season.

The Professor is working and will be pushing out stuff over the period. Just to keep you all entertained.


Your Fave Complainer

OK so the poll was not well attended but the winner by a mile

Who is your favorite complainer?

Fair Search with 75% of the votes.


How Not To Do A Great Apology

Poor American Honda ...

Either they were hacked or there was unauthorized use of a list by a vendor who was misusing the Honda Email list for owners of Acura and Hondas in the USA.

The intro paragraph immediately sets the tone of the whole mail. I am going to paraphrase what went through my mind when I read it.

"Sorry mate not our fault that we let your personal data get misused - so that makes it alright OK???"

They really did a poor job of communicating what the problem was and what the impact could have been. Further they did an ineffective job of communicating that this was bad or not so bad.

So you be the Judge. But I think they did a bad job. And I REALLY like Hondas - I have 3 of them!

Dear Customer,

American Honda Motor Co., Inc. recently became aware of unauthorized access to an email list used by a vendor to create a welcome email to customers who have an Owner Link or My Acura vehicle account. The data that was obtained included your email address, your name, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and User ID. Your password was not included and no other sensitive information was contained in that list.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. As a company, we believe that all customer relationships must be built on trust. That is why we believe it is important to inform you of this incident. You may be aware of attacks on email marketing systems, therefore we want to assure you that we take the safeguarding of your information seriously and that the appropriate authorities have been contacted regarding this incident. Additionally, we have taken steps to minimize this type of exposure in the future.

As a Company, we encourage you to continue to be aware of the increasingly common email scams that may use your email address to contact you and ask for personal or sensitive information -- Be cautious when opening links or attachments from unsolicited third parties. Also, know that American Honda Motor Co., Inc. will not send you emails asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personal information. If ever asked for this information, you can be confident it is not from us.

Again, let us reassure you that we are taking necessary steps to safeguard your personal information.

If you would like further information on this topic please visit honda.com/info/b

Thank you.

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Expedia's Christmas Gift In Rhyme to Orbitz

Christmas is coming, the airlines are getting fat
Please put a penny in the Orbitz's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a fare ban will do
If you haven't got any content, then God bless you!

So The Professor's Contribution to Orbitz is not coal. I offer this free video with how to make a cheap Xmas Tree for your apartment or office that looks a LOT more expensive than it really is.

On - Off - Now On Again. LH and SK

What happened today... did the whole world just wake up?

Well LH and SK are back in talks. SK's really only viable option is to join the Star Alliance Heavyweight.

However with LO bailing and moving (likely) to Oneworld and into BA's loving arms - there is actually an alternative that no one seems to be thinking about.

SK+FI merge and then become part of the Baaabi Alliance. That would really shake things up in the Alliance world.

Nah - that will never happen...


Shhhh. Wanna Get a Sneak Peak At Google's Xmas Page..

Then Go here


The Trouble With Blackberry

With a huge Shout Out to Professor Eric for sending me this one.

All I can say is even if you are a non-native English Speaker - this will make you smile.

Click here

Cheers and a Goodnight From him

Willie's Appeal for Calm

Following the terrible situation at LHR - BA's CEO issued the following email and advice

I am reprinting it here as advice and at least to give the boys and girls over there a break and know their efforts are acknowledged and valued



Oops EK A380 taken out by Catering Truck


The A380 program has just had its string of bad luck extended.

An Emirates A380 had a very unfortunate incident where a Catering truck had a "wardrobe" malfunction and collapsed onto the wing of the Leviathan.

For more pictures and the rest of the story go here:


22 December 2010

New NZ Seats are not Beds

NZ is making a lot of noise about its new Sky couches.

But lets add a dose of realism to this.

For anyone who has ever tried to sleep in Y class with 3 across seating you know its not a bed.

Indeed using standard metrics the size of 3 seats all together is about 54 inches. Hardly enough to sleep on.

Not So Quietly DL Cuts 3 OTAs

Its not quite mature enough to call it a trend but the US airlines are making their presence felt by pulling content from some channels.

Delta was always the Travel Agents best friend. But since 1995 when it elected to curtail commissions - it has taken on a certain mantle of dislike from the intermediary (mostly traditional) channels.

Now Delta is the latest airline to move out of some sales locations.

And what do you make of all this Virginia?

UA Apollo To Die in 2012/2013

A little break in the AA vs Travelport story was the news that United Airlines has served notice that it will be terminating its contract with Travelport for passenger reservations and airline IT.

According to Travelport they believe the business will go to HP's EDS Airline unit marking a big win for the California based Computer Services firm.

This marks the second time in 2 years that a major US carrier has cut its links to its former child. Last year AA announced it was severing its PSS agreement with Sabre and going to HP's new reservations system called Jetstream.

The announcement also hurts ITA's PSS prospects where it was also bidding for the business. However the only real contest was between the current big 3 PSS vendors. Sabre, Amadeus and HP.

Another icon bites the dust. For Travelport this will mark the 3 major airline loss.

TWA was folded and withdrew from Worldspan hosting
Northwest was subsumed into Delta - which has a facilities management agreement with Travelport
And now United is leaving.

Travelport needs to take its reservations services and give it a shot in the arm. From my personal experience, the hosting system of the old PARS was one of the more flexible and functionally rich hosting environments.


A Day Without Skype - Tough!

Today was a tough day. I had to do without Skype.

I did not realize how much I have come to depend on it.

So please Mr Skype get better soon so I can carry on my life


Spreading Uniformed Junk Courtesy of BTC

BTC Spreads False Information about How Web Users Search For Fares.

Time Out for A Moment Of Clarification.

This really bugs me. There is a complete and utter well dog poo of stuff coming from some of those players who support the legacy GDS - In this case Travelport - in its battle against American Airlines. I am particularly irritated by BTC.

Firstly a disclaimer - I have several clients who can benefit from the move to more direct connect activity by the airlines and yes personally I support that idea that airlines should be free to chose how and where they distribute, similarly how customers search and buy airline product. After all the USA is supposed to be the land of the Free. Thus yes I am clearly biased. However in this case I think I just want to set the record straight so that a reasoned analysis of the situation and the impact can be had by all.

In the latest missive from BTC - it would seem that the message is designed to show how stupid AA is for shutting off $800 million dollars of revenue that AA receives from Orbitz annually. But worse - the impact is accelerated by the importance of Orbitz which is far greater because of its relevance to the consumer in the marketplace.

Here is a statement from the latest BTC PR missive against American Airlines.

According to a May 2010 PhoCusWright report, 87% of travelers start their shopping process on the Internet. What’s more, some 28% of shoppers at online travel agencies (e.g., Orbitz) end up purchasing on suppliers’ websites.

The point: Consumers who start the shopping process on Orbitz before going to airline.com will now completely miss AA offerings and end up on AA competitors’ websites. This could represent a much bigger number than AA is willing to acknowledge.


Clearly the writer has little clue how people search for fares on the internet. BTW the total revenue - I Believe - is not just from Orbitz.com but also from the other OWW (Orbitz Worldwide) sites such as eBookers, and Cheaptickets all of whom (at time of writing) are still able to access AA. If I am wrong please can someone correct me and I will publish a correction asap. Indeed as I noted yesterday AA is even advertising on Cheaptickets. Anyone who is still naive enough to assume that shopping on the web for travel is a simple and fair process has not been paying attention for the past 15 years.

So let's start with an understanding the vast majority of searches on the web start in a specific place. Only 15% or so start in a pure search engine such is Google. Alright so far.

There are a lot of ways to search for information and Google aims to capture a much larger piece of that pie if - as we expect - the Google acquisition proceeds.

People shop in one place and buy in others. To say otherwise is rather disingenuous to the consumer. There are some folks who think that there should be a tax on people who look in one shop window and buy else where. On the web that is possible because a click-through does generate money. But in the real world does Bloomingdales charge people for looking in their shop window and buying at K-Mart? Hardly.

But let's return to the BTC statement.

If you examine the study concerned from PCW - there are other salient facts - that the customer will typically search in a large number of sites before making their decision. That search process is driven by a wide number of factors. To make the assumption that it is linear and that the search process goes in a linear path would be a false assumption. So to assume that:

A large number of searches start specifically with Orbitz.com and end at the AA website would be a bit of a stretch. A very big bit of a stretch.

As the Boomers retire and move out of mainstream - they are being replaced by new generations of consumers - Gen X, Y and Millenials who are far more comfortable in using social media to go straight to what they want or go via places that are nowhere near Orbitz.com.

Over time the relevance of the OTAs as a class and Orbitz as a member of the class has declined as the premier source of travel information.

This is a trend that will likely continue.

My other point is that the consumers are smart and if they feel that they want an offer from AA - they will either go direct to AA.com or to those sites where AA is present. They do this all the time anyway. Just in case you think this is a strange phenomenon - then consider how Southwest is rarely compared with other airlines. And Southwest is the number one US based carrier by passenger numbers domestically.

However let me be clear - there is an impact on AA. I cannot hope to know what is going on in the mind of the folks over at AA but I have to hope that they know what they are doing. This is a calculated risk and one they clearly feel comfortable in making. Also I think Travelport has calculated and made the decisions that they have.

To paint Travelport as the pure victim would be a falsehood in my view. Further for Travelport to have characterized their defense of Orbitz as the champion of the free is a bit of a stretch, particularly since they failed to disclose in public statements their ownership share in Orbitz.

Interestingly in issuing his decision on the subject - Cook County Circuit Court judge Martin Agras clarified things as he stated his grounds for denying the preliminary injunction, ...that Travelport, which controls 48% of Orbitz, “does not have standing to sue on behalf of Orbitz".

However I will agree with the folk at BTC. This is a just a shot in what will be a very long war. There will be casualties on all sides and the consumers will be affected. Ultimately in my view the essence of the battle is seen as purely an economic problem - there is a consumer benefit from buying direct it is cheaper to one side of the purchase. Consider that there is a tax being paid for partial neutrality in search. That tax is one of the issues here but I can assure you it is not the only one.


LoopHole Closes on Cheap Financing - AF/KL files to get one in quick

The major countries have agreed to raise the rates of the cheap guaranteed funding for planes from Airbus and Boeing.

This should end the war of words that have allegedly benefited the emerging Mid East Carriers such as Emirates. The major airlines of Europe and USA complained bitterly that this was unfair.

On the same day that the agreement was announced, AF/KL decided they didnt want to wait and for the deadline - they are going to get as much financing in before the deadline. They filed for a Boeing Aircraft beneficial funding support from Exim Bank.

Frankly I think this is a bit of hot air - but understand that the airlines who not are benefiting are PO'd but be careful what you wish for. Ultimately this could end up benefiting The next gen narrow bodies from Bombardier and Co. Particularly The Japanese, The Russians and the Chinese.

Perhaps these governments may have just shot themselves seriously in the foot


Für unsere deutschen Leser

Travelport American Airlines Surcharge Update (Auf Deutsch)

16. Dezember 2010

Sehr geehrte Travelport Kunden und Geschäftspartner,

der kürzlich erfolgte Versuch von American Airlines (AA), einem großen Reisebüro in den USA die Möglichkeit zu entziehen, Tickets von AA zu verkaufen, hat Travelport dazu veranlasst, verschiedene Maßnahmen zum Schutz von Reisebüros und Konsumenten einzuleiten. Es ist bedauerlich, dass AA sich zu diesem Angriff auf das Reisevermittlergeschäft in den USA entschlossen hat. Wir sehen darin den ersten Schritt des Unternehmens bei dem Versuch, die Transparenz und die freie Auswahl für Kunden weltweit einzuschränken.

Als Reaktion auf die Maßnahmen, die Travelport unternommen hat, um es Reisebüros auch weiterhin zu ermöglichen, auf klare und vollständige Inhalte zuzugreifen und entsprechende Buchungen vorzunehmen, hat AA den Reisebüros in einem Schreiben mitgeteilt, dass Travelport-Agenturen für Buchungen ab dem 20. Dezember 2010 eine Gebühr (Surcharge) in Rechnung gestellt wird. Dabei hat AA klargestellt, dass diese Kosten entweder von Ihnen selbst übernommen oder an Ihre Kunden weitergegeben werden müssen. Durch diese Maßnahme bestraft AA genau diejenigen, die AA wertvolle Einnahmen bringen.
Der surcharge list ist zu entnehmen, dass AA, je nach Land, variable Gebühren erheben wird. Die Abrechnung für die Reisebüros soll dabei in Form von ADMs (Agency Debit Memos) erfolgen. Travelport teilt die Ansicht der Branche, dass die Verwendung von ADMs zu diesem Zweck nicht den Bestimmungen der IATA-Resolution 850m entspricht.
Für den Fall, dass AA seine Pläne weiter verfolgt, möchte Travelport Ihnen die Maßnahmen und Lösungen erläutern, die wir ab dem 20. Dezember auf unseren GDS-Plattformen implementieren werden.
Erstens: Um jegliche Gebühren seitens AA für bereits vorhandene Buchungen zu vermeiden, empfehlen wir, die Tickets spätestens bis zum Geschäftsschluss am 19. Dezember auszustellen.
Zweitens: Für den Fall, dass Sie eine AA-Buchung anbieten müssen, hat Travelport Prozesse entwickelt, die bei Tarifabfragen oder Berechnungen die AA Gebühren inkludieren, so dass Sie Ihren Kunden Reisepreise und -angebote vorlegen können, die diese Aufpreise von AA und damit die Gesamtkosten des AA-Tickets von vornherein enthalten. In den meisten Fällen kann diese Gebühr auto¬matisch, ohne den ADM-Prozess, an AA überwiesen werden. In Europa handelt es sich hierbei um eine gesetzliche Vorgabe für die Darstellung von Tarifen, die durch den CRS Code of Conduct geregelt wird, welchem Travelport entsprechen muss.
• Gebühren werden bei Ausstellung von AA plated Tickets inkludiert - die anwendbare AA-Gebühr wird nur bei AA-Tickets im Preis enthalten und als miscellaneous tax („YY“) ausgewiesen sein. AA erhält diese Beträge automatisch durch die BSP-Abrechnung.
Die Platzierung der Gebühr in die YY Ticket Tax Box entspricht dem branchenüblichen Stan¬dard-Prozess. Es wird daher keine negativen Auswirkungen auf Ihre aktuellen Prozesse geben, auch nicht auf Ihre Backoffice-Funktionen und Reporting. Außerdem verringert sich so auch die Notwendigkeit für Ihr Reisebüro, Ausnahmeprozesse zu schaffen. Die Effizienz Ihrer Arbeit bleibt davon unberührt, und es sind weder irgendwelche „Work-arounds“ noch spezielle Mitarbeiter-schulungen o. Ä. erforderlich.
• Bei Non-AA plated Tickets sind die Gebühren nicht enthalten. Enthält ein Ticket, das nicht auf AA, sondern auf eine andere Fluggesellschaft ausgestellt wird, mindestens ein AA-Segment, wird die Gebühr zwar im „shopped pricing“ mit angezeigt, nicht aber im von Travelport generierten Ticket enthalten sein. Es wird seitens AA ein ADM ausgestellt werden.

Um die Gebühren von AA für AA-Segmente bei Ausstellung auf anderen Airlines abzudecken, ist es wichtig zu wissen, dass diese nicht in den YY-surcharge fees enthalten sind und Sie hier Ihre internen Geschäftsprozesse zur Integration dieser Gebühren in die „Customer Service Charges“ anweden müssen.
Wenn Sie ein Ticket als Nicht-AA-Ticket ausstellen, die Flüge aber von AA durchgeführt werden (Code¬sharing), fällt unserem Verständnis nach die von AA erhobene Gebühr nicht an. Zum gegen-wärtigen Zeitpunkt wissen wir jedoch nicht genau, wie AA bei seinen Codesharing-Arrangements diesbezüglich vorgehen wird.
Zusätzliche Informationen zu diesen Lösungen finden Sie unter „PA1115“ in ASK Travelport.
Wir sind sicher, dass es mit den von uns eingeleiteten Maßnahmen möglich ist, die tatsächlichen Kosten der AA-Buchung zum Zeitpunkt der Kaufentscheidung aufzuzeigen, sodass es Ihren Kunden ermöglicht wird, die Wahl der Fluggesellschaft, die geflogen werden soll, vollständig informiert zu treffen.
Wir möchten uns damit ganz klar zu einem wettbe¬werbs¬fähigen und verbraucherfreundlichen Markt bekennen, auf dem Reisende und Reiseberater die Angebote im Vertriebskanal ihrer Wahl anbieten, vergleichen und kaufen können.

Wir bedauern etwaige Unterbrechungen Ihrer Geschäftstätigkeit – Unterbrechungen, die wir durch die oben genannten Maßnahmen zu minimieren versucht haben –, und wir danken Ihnen und Ihren Kollegen weltweit für die überwältigende Unterstützung, die Sie uns, und unserem Standpunkt in dieser Angelegenheit, haben zukommen lassen.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Kurt Ekert
Chief Commercial Officer

Is Orbitz Cheating? AA still Available On.... Cheaptickets.com

So Judge Martin Agran changed the world a little yesterday. But while I have not been able to find a copy of the ruling there are some interesting facts about the case.

AA was out of Orbitz in pretty short order - I believe about 30 mins.

However as you can see not all Orbitz sites have pulled AA.

See the screen shot from Cheaptickets.com just made. Note the Adsense AA ad at the bottom.

Here it is blown up

So is someone being a naughty boy or what?


AA out of Orbitz - Now What?

Multi Carrier Direct Connect Solutions now in production and available to the international marketplace.

The Professor's position on the Travelport's surcharge is that this is unwise. The US Judge has now allowed AA to withdraw from Travelport/Blackstone owned Orbitz and the fares and availability are now out with effect yesterday afternoon.

So now what are agencies in the international market to do? The obvious answers are to move the bookings to alternative GDSs such as Sabre and Amadeus. Booking directly via AA's business websites can be complicated. Some agencies are booking codeshares with AA as much as possible.

When the customer demands AA either explicitly or as a result of the search for the best results - the agency is duty bound to book the airline. But to offer competitive unbiased search - where can an agency go for a quick fix?

One of our client's LUTE Technologies is offering a fast track implementation multi-supplier direct connect system.

The old model of a single monolithic "one size fits everything" solution is dead.

Check out LUTE and its ability to address high quality content next gen solutions for Agencies.

Then get in touch directly. They are now offering solutions to Agencies and Airlines including BSP ticketing in more than 15 markets.


20 December 2010

Obama Administration Caves On Net Neutrality

Sound of wringing of hands....

The FCC will vote today and allow the components of so many loopholes as to make the net a place where closed players can gain an advantage.

This means that the winners will be AT&T, the Cable companies (esp Comcast), Verizon and Google.

Too bad for the rest of us. Read this piece (and others) in the Huffington Post.

Yours disgustedly

The Inevitable March of The Tablet

It seems that the tablet is beginning to become that ubiquitous tool that seems to be what people are going to use - a lot of.

I was an early adopter of the Windows XP Tablet. I loved its ability to do things that I could not do - nor could others - before. Despite cracking a few of them - I still use two of my Toshibas (I had 3). They were 2 heavy and didn't like using your fingers.

The iPad v1.0 is becoming like that. I see it everywhere. I have played with one and could easily master its use. V4.02 of the OS made a huge difference for the usability of the system.

A good article in the LA Times and syndicated in places like my local paper the Seattle Times discussed how Apple has taken the Crackberry and made it priority number one as their obstacle into the Corporate World.

The latest projections of WorldWide sales of iPads is really a scary number. Especially with Apple projected to capture nearly 70% of all tablet sales by 2012.

Are we doomed???

I hope not - but I am saving my pennies for April when the iPad2 comes out. Wait - did I just admit to that... (Que sound of humble pie eating).


When Delta.com Encounters Turbulence

Delta is currently undergoing some extensive changes to their main dot com website.

But we are still getting errors. So this is what it looks like.

And I seem to get them a lot both when I am signed in and when I am lurking anonymously.


Digital Trends for 2011 - eMarketer's picks and the Professor's align

I like eMarketer... I don't want to sound too praising but it is a great short hand way to get data.

So I was very interested in their 2011 picks.

Trend 1: Apps Invade All Platforms
Trend 2: Content Consumption Convergence
Trend 3: Location, Location, Location
Trend 4: Social Gets Its Share of Marketing Dollars
Trend 5: Real-Time Bidding
Trend 6: Targeting Audiences vs. Content
Trend 7: Online Privacy Debate Heats Up

Do any of these sound familiar?

if you are a regular follower of the Professor's Wisdom - you will know that I have been watching most of these.

During 2011 - I will continue to follow these elements and then some.


Travelport to AA - Its My Party...

The latest missive between the warring parties looks set for a tit for tat battle.

The latest email from Travelport to their technology partners and agency subscribers is as follows:

I provide this as a public service without comment. TEXT FOLLOW

American Airlines Surcharge Update

16 December, 2010

Dear Valued Customer,

American Airlines’ (AA) recent attempt to withdraw the ability of a large travel agency in the United States to sell its tickets has prompted Travelport to take a number of actions to defend travel agents and consumers. It is regrettable that AA has taken action to attack the intermediary channel in the U.S. in what we believe is a first step in its attempt to reduce transparency and effective choice for consumers worldwide.

In response to actions by Travelport to defend the ability of travel agencies to access and book clear and complete content, AA has issued a letter to travel agencies indicating it will apply surcharge fees to Travelport agencies for bookings made on or after 20 December 2010. AA has stated that you will need to absorb these costs or pass them along to your customers. Through this action, AA is penalising the very people who deliver valuable revenue to AA.

AA intends to apply variable surcharge fee levels on a country-by-country basis as identified in their surcharge list and intends to invoice affected travel agencies via agency debit memos (ADMs). Travelport supports the industry in its contention that the use of ADMs for this purpose is not within the bounds of IATA Resolution 850m.

Should AA go ahead with the action its plans, Travelport would like to advise you of the actions and solutions we are implementing in our GDS platforms from 20th December.

First - In order to avoid any surcharge from AA for existing bookings, we recommend ticketing on or before the close of business on 19th December.

Second - In the event that it is necessary for you to offer to book AA, Travelport has developed processes to provide fare displays and quotations that include this surcharge fee from AA so that the total cost of the AA ticket can be provided to your customer. In most of these cases, the surcharge fee can be automatically remitted to AA without the ADM process. In Europe, this is a legal requirement in order that Travelport complies with its display obligations under the CRS Code of Conduct Regulations.
• Surcharges Will Be Included in Price of AA Plated Tickets – The applicable AA surcharge fee will be inserted into the price of AA plated tickets only, generated as a miscellaneous tax (YY). AA will receive these funds automatically through the BSP airline settlement process.
The placement of the surcharge fee in the YY ticket tax box makes use of a standard industry process and there should be no impact to your current processes, including your back-office accounting and reporting. This also minimises the need for your agency to create exception processes. Your agency efficiency levels remain intact with no need for work-around processes, special agent training, etc.
• Surcharges Will Not Be Included in Price of Non-AA Plated Tickets – Should a ticket plated on another carrier contain one or more AA segments, the surcharge fee will be included in the shopped pricing, but will not be included in the Travelport generated ticket and an ADM will be issued by AA.
In order to cover anticipated surcharge fees from AA when tickets contain AA segments but are plated on another airline, it will be necessary for you to recognize that YY surcharge fees are not included and apply your own business process to incorporate the surcharge fee into the customer’s service charges.
Where you issue a ticket plated to a carrier other than AA but where there are flights operated by AA (codeshare), it is our understanding that the AA imposed surcharge fee will not apply. However, it is not entirely clear to us at this stage how AA plans to handle its codeshare arrangements.
For additional information on these solutions, please consult PA1115 in ASK Travelport.

Travelport believes the approach we have taken allows the true cost of booking AA to be shown at the point where the buying decision is made, so your customers can make an informed choice about which carrier to fly. Our intent is to deliver upon our commitment to a pro-competitive and pro-consumer marketplace where travellers and travel professionals can shop, compare, and buy travel in whichever channel they choose.

We regret any disruption caused to your business – disruption which we have sought to minimise as illustrated above – and we thank you and your colleagues around the world for the overwhelming support we have received for the position we are taking in this matter.

Best Regards,

Kurt Ekert
Chief Commercial Officer

80 Posts in 10 days - Can I do it?

The Professor is on a mission to complete my 2000th Post by the end of the year 2010.

So now my mission is 80 posts - that's an average of 8 a day for the next 10 days - allowing for some drinking and frivolity time.

I will of course try to keep them topical and on point. You can slam me if I don't

Topics are welcomed!!!


"Hello Earth to US DoJ and European Commission"

Er Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen - thank you for visiting planet earth today - I realize it is not often you get to chat to mere mortals - but today just might be one of those days.

I would like to draw your attention to something you might have forgotten or overlooked. As mere mortals some of those (of us) in the Republic of USA and the Kingdom of Europe think this is important and hope you will stop drinking the CoolAid long enough to pay attention to us.

I realize that way back when - I think it was in the 1990s - that you thought that Microsoft was bad for bundling the free web browser in with their operating systems called WINDOWS. Well we think that perhaps you might want to look at what Google is doing.

I am talking about the bundling by Google of their Internet (not ours) - with their products.

I submit that if you look carefully at what Google is doing and which parts of the World (formerly) Wide Web Google dominates.

Mobile advertising
Web Advertising

There are many more - but I would submit that any of Google's Bundling is probably illegal. At least it breaks the same rules that you prosecuted Microsoft so long and hard.

So I submit their latest effort

The Google Ce-48 Notebook as a reference platform for their next assault on our lives.

We thank you for your time and hope that you enjoy your next visit to our planet.

Hold That Thought... Frivolous Xmas Gifts - The Professor's Virtual Gift List

So in the interests of public safety and sanity - it is time to send things to your nearest and dearest.

So here is my Holiday Gift virtual List.

To Jeff Clarke @Travelport - The USB Aromatherapy System so he can chill out during the battle with AA

To Cory Gartner and the AA Jedi team - Yoda Desktop Protector so they can continue the battle with the afore named Travelport

To The Spanish Owners of BAA - The Pedestal Fan as they might be feeling a bit of heat right now.

To Both Sets of Lawyers in the AA/Travelport battle - The Paper Shredder so they can save the planet

To the Team @TNooz - the Missile launcher - so they can continue to report important facts and insight.

To Boeing and Rolls Royce - A joint gift, Boeing for the 787 and RR for the Trent 900 and 1000 engines - The Stress Ball may it soothe you.

To PJ and Cloud 12 PR - You need a new hobby - here it is the USB Garden

To My Mail Box - Because you are really starting to piss me off, the Message Light

To the Google Travel Team - Because you have to be a bunch of Aliens out to dominate the human race, The Alien.

To Jim Davidson and his Production team - The USB radio mic - so he can continue broadcasting those amusing ditties.

And to myself - the USB Powered Desk Slippers. Better than a Snugli!

If you want to send me a virtual gift - please do...

Happy Holidays everyone... more frivolity is coming your way over the next few days.


19 December 2010

Groupon+Flash Sales = Local Saviour?

Groupon is claiming to be the local small businesses' newest and best friend indeed savior so they claim. Indeed the growth of Groupon is explosive. And this is not just Groupon itself but all the Groupon Wannabees.

The growth of instant sales is also astonishing. Check out this chart from eMarketer.

The move to real time is one of my hot picks for 2011 (PLUG - The Professor's 2011 predictions will be due early this week).

But what no one is saying is where is this traffic coming from? I opine that there is no time left in anyone's calendar to take on more fire hose drinking. Therefore the switch TO something like these things have to be accompanied by a shift away from something else. I went to see if I could prove my point through GoogleTrends and Alexa. Not really but possibly. Check out for yourself (both images from Alexa for USAToday, Groupon, Craigslist and ebay).

A slightly different picture emerges when you look at search terms.

The long term effectiveness of these tools is going to be interesting. Personally I think the continued growth of community minded services will power the growth. IE a friend suggested using this particular groupon ad. ETC ETC

Happy Hunting

Extra Extra Read All About It - But Where?

So where do we get our news from.

Reliability of news delivery is very important especially with the persistent decline of the Newspaper industry. So just in time is a nice piece on where US readers go for their news.

Newspapers are a mere shadow of themselves and they are about to get another dose of a kicking.

Groupon will take more ad dollars away from them. First eBay, then Craig's List and now Groupon. Will they ever survive? And what when tablets become the major physical medium of choice which seems to be taking hold.

And then there are the bloggers who are now providing "news".

I really miss newspapers. I am not sure they can survive.

I really hope so


Damning The President with Feint Praise.

Its rare to see organizations being so blatant in sycophantically pouring lavish praise both where it is not warranted and inaccurately. Such is the situation over at the BTC who along with TCA is now joined by ASTA. For the Full PR statement go here:


Most political action efforts have a certain degree of puffery to them - but ASTA and CO have made this into an art form. While at the same time praising them for their leadership the 3 organizations seems to take the President and his Secretary of Transportation to task for not beating up on those bad airlines for charging ancillary fees.

This represents a very big switch in the 3 Wise Whiners where previously they were saying they supported the airlines' right to charge these fees now the gloves are off and they are slamming the fees.

And this is where the puffery starts to really come out. So let's play the game with some of their statements:

On the nasty surprise at the airport that is more than the cost of the airfare:

"....that can sometimes double the cost of an airfare upon arrival at the airport"

On the exclusive providers of GDS as ticketing systems:

"....it should require airlines to make all of their ancillary fee information, such as checked bag fees, easily accessible through online and offline travel agencies via the major reservations systems that power those ticketing systems"

On the airlines dastardly plan to undermine the economic health of the USA

"... eliminate the increasing financial burden inflicted upon consumers each and every additional day"

I think you get the message.

But in the interests of full disclosure - I publish the whole document for your edification. As you know I have a motivation to expose some of these outlandish comments, because I can. And I still maintain it is the airlines right to do what they will. It is also poppycock to say that the GDSs should be the exclusive provider of the information. The information is readily available to everyone and disclosure already exists.

What next?

Charging a penalty if you don't disclose the fees on your ballpark tickets forcing all ticket fees to be exposed in say - Ticketmaster. Wait Ticketmaster is already a monopoly in many cases so scratch that example.....

However I checked with all three organizations:

ASTA, BTC and CTA and only found that CTA (which is 3 people) actually put the text out on their website.


ASTA does not

BTC doesn't have anything newer than 2008.

It somewhat makes you wonder how committed ASTA and BTC is to this form of questionable PR.