16 January 2010

Is Clickfraud Getting Smarter

I have often thought that click fraud is one of the rather insidious sides of the web. Over time people have come to accept it rather than address it in a comprehensive manner. Why? Because the biggest player(s) actually benefit from it.

So let's look at the latest version that is going the rounds. The hidden spam bot.

For a detailed view of this rather nasty behavior go and read Professor Ben Edelman's blog. It is a very detailed explanation of the issue. I cannot independently verify it because I am not an expert in this area but it seems credible to me.

At this point I think the more people that know about this stuff the better.

Clearly Google needs to step up its game and work harder. It also needs to be a lot more transparent to the whole community about its efforts. I recognize that this may not be what everybody wants but in the end the web is about transparency.

Couple of points. If you want to know a company who (it is alleged) are some of the perpetrators of this particular type of bad behavior then according to Ben's blog it is a company called Trafficsolar.

There are two side bits to this. McAfee and several other spyware/malware companies have given Trafficsolar a good bill of health. Ben Edelman has previously been associated with Microsoft.

All that aside I think it is very important that websters should have an appreciation of the nature of this new form of clickfraud.


15 January 2010

JAL To Ditch 747 Fleet and 1/3 Work Force

In the restructuring plan - JAL plans to drop it gas guzzlers and focus on a much smaller fleet. Dropping 37 (current numbers) of the 4 engine planes. At one stage JAL operated the world's largest 747 fleet.

As noted I believe they will also drop the A300s left over from JAS but that has not yet been confirmed

They now have a noted leader in Dr. Kazuo Inamori. He founded Kyocera, DDI (now KDDI) His website also lists his founding of numerous other enterprises, and he established the Inamori Foundation and created the Kyoto Prize, a prestigious international award. He also serves as president of Seiwajyuku, a business leadership association dedicated to nurturing business owners and entrepreneurs. This website introduces Kazuo Inamori and his wide range of ongoing activities.

He is well known both inside Japan and outside.

He now has the task of restructuring the national icon. He will carry the necessary support of the Government and of course his prestige will be very important in order to effect the level of changes necessary.

Things are looking good for the program - however the battle for the international partnership remains an undecided element. With the old CEO Haruka Nishimatsu gracefully bowing out the deal will be re-evaluated.

The OneWorld alliance has sweetened the pot now valued at up to $2billion and at last Qantas and CX have joined AA and BA. However the numbers do not look good for OneWorld. The benefits of a DL/Skyteam alliance far outweigh in traffic terms the value of the OneWorlders in my opinion.

With the contentious issue of the pensions out the way and the banks in line - the way is now paved for a smooth court arranged administration trip through bankruptcy.

So down to the wire, but it is looking much healthier for a leaner JAL. Will it be smarter? Let's see and hope it happens.


14 January 2010

The Annual Professor Sabena Promise and Disclaimer

I was reading Siew Hoon's Blog and it jogged my memory (as well as other recent events) that I should remind the readership about the conditions of use of the blog and certain other - well smart things.

Firstly this is a blog. It is a place for opinion and reporting. I try when ever possible to the best of my ability to make it clear which is opinion and which is fact. Usage of the blog is for personal information and intellectual stimulation only. Your use of the site and reading the blog is on the STRICT understanding that you read this for your own purposes.

So here are the disclaimers and promises I make:

1. I promise to do the best I can to provide information and comment that is valuable
2. I promise to report facts and where possible to provide access to the source material if it is publicly available
3. I promise not to attack people personally.
4. If I point out something that I think is stupid - I reserve the right to highlight this behaviour.
5. I will act ethically in the grand old tradition of newspapers - however I am not a trained journalist (as you can tell by my terrible grammar and atrocious spelling. I also apologize in advance for my puerile punctuation).
6. I will publish all comments provided they are not overtly commercial, are relevant and also adhere to the same standards herein.
7. I promise to respond to most private emails - please address them to professorsabena@gmail.com.
8. I provide a limited use onward license with prior express permission required from me.
9. I promise to try to keep you amused. Hopefully to keep stimulating you to think.
10. I promise to celebrate the great business of Travel.

What do you promise?

1. Not to sue me this is a condition of use of this blog
2. Acknowledge the blog if you republish and give credit
3. Note to be abusive to other readers
4. Comment when you feel strongly about something

Thanks for reading and have a nice day.

The Professor Sabena Security Solution

Oh Best Beloved

I have decided to give the world the benefit of my wisdom on the subject of security. This is a tiresome subject and we need to bite the bullet and provide a solution that cannot be beaten.

I have commented on body scanners. However I recently had a briefing on the cost of these things. Man they are not cheap. For a medical scanner which has a fully loaded and then some cost attached to it the commercial cost of a scan is $600-$3000. Let's say its a cool grand a pop. So we can safely assume that the body scan is AT LEAST the commercial cost (this is the Government after all. And further that there are about 750 million US travellers. So that means the cost to provide scanning is 750 Billion per year. (Remember this is for scanning alone).

So I have a better idea. Lets all travel naked. Let's face it we all undress in front of each other every day when we travel. I think this has distinct advantages.

1. No further need for those embarassing pat downs - that should reduce the number of TSA employees by about 50%.
2. Further as there will no longer need for a sex offender check for TSA employees it will reduce the cost of certifying each TSA employee by a significant amount. True the current certification process might still let through other offender types but this is a cost saving.
3. There will be a significant saving in latex gloves which is both cheaper and better for the environment.
3. We can simply the scanners required.
4. Only cavity searches as a secondary search criteria will be require. Since more will be possible - the cost per cavity per search will also fall.
5. The airlines will be required to provide hygienic seats which will improve the quality of air travel.
6. Being naked will reduce the inhibitions between passengers who will now be able to talk freely between each other which will reduce the need for expensive In Flight Entertainment systems (IFE) which in turn will reduce reduce payload weight(along with the nearly one ton of clothing each plane carries each trip) thus saving the planet and reducing our dependence on foreign oil
7. Flight attendants will be happy because they dont have to worry about keeping passengers in line.

So I think you can see the Professors idea is a really good one. So if you like it - its my idea alone. If you hate it then its not really my idea but that of the American Association for Nude Recreation for whom this post is a public service. With special thanks to the Dutch Blog And Then Some For the opportunity to bring this to your attention.

Thank you for your attention.

13 January 2010

Growth Not Just Shoots - But What Level?

ARC has just published its December numbers allowing us to get a view of the full 2009 picture. There are a number of interesting trends that can be deduced from looking at the numbers.

Go the website and check out the numbers for yourself (what you think I work for free!!!).

Here are some trends that I would like to draw your attention to:

1. Intermediary traffic actually increased from the middle of the year. The clear trend turn occurred in about July when we saw the numbers finally bottom out.

2. Yields are also showing positive. In fact all ARC numbers were up in December. (Year on Year). Admittedly from a low base. Percentage wise it was the strongest December in a very long time.

3. My spies report that January in some markets has come out swinging. New budgets on the corporate side and a general improvement in outlook is resulting in positive activity on both sides of the Atlantic and its pretty broad. Asia remains a little less steady though.

Finally the upturn has FINALLY spread to the shipping market. Transpac spot rates on surface shipping rose by 10% in one week this month.

While for most people who read this blog this may not seem to be important - just remember that Shipping leads air freight and air freight leads passenger numbers.

IATA (those kill joys) are saying that the recovery will be slow. I believe that they are right. However they are toning down their most recent projects to lower numbers than any one would like. One thing is for sure - surplus capacity will not likely to be used as a tool in this recovery.

(Allegiant and Ryanair exempted!!!)


JAL Stock Almost Worthless, BA Steps Up Noise

BA is offering benefits to JAL valued at between $164-240 Million - surprisingly roughly what the DL arrangement will deliver. However examination of the deal shows that it contains something that JAL doesn't really want. Not that BA has a lot of cash to dole out anyway given its pension deficit.

For example slots at LHR. Especially since JAL canceled one of its flights to LHR in 2009 to save money - so it already has a daily slot available!!!

Still the offers are getting tempting. With the cash deal now gone, OneWorld partners are scrambling to secure the ailing (see stock charts!!!) carrier. However noticeably quiet in all of the conversations has been Cathay Pacific. Actually the Hong Kong based carrier stands to gain if JAL exits the alliance.

So the battle continues. But I stand by my prediction that DL will win bar some last minute squeaking. And there does seem to be a lot of it...


12 January 2010

Changing of Old Guard at Amadeus c. 2011.

David Jones has signaled his (second attempt) at retiring.

He has set 2011 as the date for him to leave Amadeus and ride off into the sunset at the end of a long and some might say illustrious career.

He will be replaced by the current deputy CEO Luis Maroto who will become the 4th 1A CEO and in keeping with tradition adds another nationality to the list of CEOs. (Dierter Farber was German, Jose Tazon a citizen of Mexico and David is clearly British!)

An anointed one from the Night of the Long Knives when the team of King and Marshall re-crafted British Airways as a modern carrier - he has held a number of senior positions inside the Travel Industry.

Maroto has been with Amadeus for more than 10 years joining as Director of Marketing Finance. He came to the Madrid based GDS from Bertelsmann. He was promoted to CFO in 2003 and last year when David replaced Jose Tazon he was elevated to the Deputy slot. He holds a degree in Law from the Complutense University, Madrid, an MBA from the IESE Business School/University of Navarra and further postgraduate qualifications from HBS and Stanford.

Jones of course has much to do before he heads out. There is the small matter of the IPO. This time it looks like the timing is right. The Stock Markets are looking favorably on this type of business. HOWEVER the storm clouds on the horizon are not insignificant. There are challenges aplenty for the cash cow GDS business and the other lines of business are not achieving their financial goals. Clearly the appointment of Maroto will be focused on cleaning up the balance sheet and putting a little lipstick on in prep for the next trip to the public markets due this year. The early decision of Jones's retirement is a clear signal to the financial community.

Best wishes to both of them


Its All Over Bar The Shouting

So the die is cast for JAL. The rather less than public wringing of hands by their CEO has not stopped the inevitable filing which is now expected in days for an organized Bankruptcy for the venerable Japanese carrier.

The likely impact.

Parking of the A300s and likely some of the 747s will happen in my opinion. Whether the MD80/90s survive will be debatable. Frequencies will be paired initially on some key routes. Look for Japan Europe to get a significant ax. Non-Tokyo international Services will also see an ax. Cargo will take yet another hit. Other candidates include the 767-200s.

The pairing of the staff numbers will likely cause a strong reaction among the staff but an acceptance of the issues will emerge pretty quickly. The latest numbers being discussed is approx 16,000 or one third of the current work force. Look for swinging cuts in the HQ areas. The current CEO will likely step down with a formal turnaround artist brought in - possibly a non-Japanese.

The new Alliance will likely follow pretty quickly especially now the cash issue is off the table - Delta and Skyteam look like a shoe in now.

JAL is going to great lengths to brief their corporate customers to keep them happy. Until the uncertainty is resolved any contention will be a cause for booking away from JAL - we could see plating away from the direct 131 code in the near term.


11 January 2010

In Case You Missed - US Opinion on Scanners

So which do you prefer - the pat down or the body scanner?

The overwhelming percentage of people according to a USA Today/Gallup poll believe that a Body Scanner is appropriate. When asked for the preference between Body Scanners and Pat Downs - there is again no contest.

To read the paper's story go here. I urge you to read the comments - they are coming fast and furious.

The poll was based on people who have flown at least 2x in last year.

So perhaps we can now put this debate to bed and concentrate on fixing what is clearly broken.

The Republicans are likely to hold up candidate TSA Administrator Souther. So the Obama Administration needs to get another candidate and press for resolution of the leadership of the front line of security defense. Security is not a political football. We need leadership and decisions now to improve the security that in my view is systemically broken in the USA.

Last week in my first trip of the year - I watched the spot check pat down by the TSA at a gate. I was not singled out but others were. Frankly the issue of profiling by race alone cannot work but other forms of profiling can and should be deployed. And yes - people should be subject to a clothing search if there is the potential for such an act.

Pat downs alone are not adequate clearly!

Yours in fear..............

Are US Airlines Cheating?

After 9/11 the US Administration brought in its now famous code system for security threats.

The code level has never been raised more than Orange. Which is where it currently sits for Air Travel and Yellow for all other alerts.

After the implementation of the original code at yellow for air - it was raised to orange. When this happened the airlines instituted a policy that allowed a customer who felt that his/her security was in danger they could change their travel plans without penalty.

Well here we are more than 8 years later and the threat level is still stuck at ... Orange. I am not questioning the threat level.

However the airlines are refusing to allow changes to an itinerary if a customer feels threatened? I phoned each of the main US airlines for a domestic US trip and all the bit 6 said they would not let me change.

Are they being just a tad naughty and cheating now?

You be the judge....


10 January 2010

AAPA Takes Another Body Blow - Too Much?

AAPA may need to rebrand itself. Air NZ has just joined QF in announcing its exit from the organization.

Currently there are 17 airlines in the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines comprising the following carriers:

Air New Zealand
All Nippon Airways
Asiana Airlines ·
Cathay Pacific Airways ·
China Airlines ·
Dragonair ·
EVA Airways ·
Garuda Indonesia ·
Japan Airlines ·
Korean Air ·
Malaysia Airlines ·
Philippine Airlines ·
Qantas Airways ·
Royal Brunei Airlines ·
Singapore Airlines ·
Thai Airways International ·
Vietnam Airlines

As of now there are two defections QF and NZ meaning it can only be called Asian Airlines. With no representation from the sub-continent or China - it is not a really representative body. However its current head - Andy Herdman is a skilled operator. He also was head of Abacus for a while outside of his roles inside Swire/CX.

Let's hope that they get their house in order and bring in a more representative regional body.

It will be an uphill struggle. Politics is usually at stake here. The website states that the latest statistical data is from 2006!


Rant For The Day - Twitter Again

OK so this is not really a rant its more of a rant-ette...

I have not had a good rant(ettte) about Twitter lately. However it does irk me that almost every time I try to use it - the system is down. Over capacity etc etc.

On my usual round of talking to friends colleagues etc etc I have been subtly asking about how people think. Oh yes there are a lot of zealots out there and probably an even greater number of Twitter Luddites. However I do get a sense that Twitter is a small but occasionally necessary evil. It can have good value but on the other hand it just adds up to more digital noise and useless junk.

So I started to think about how other people think about it. I came across a very good article in Webpronews which is a pretty reasoned article.

I think its time we put Twitter in its place. Conventions come and go. But if we are to take advantage of Twitter then Twitter itself needs to step up and police it better than it does today.

So my suggestion of the week is a Tweet-o-meter. If someone doesn't like a Tweet then they can flame it by hitting the Tweet-o-meter. This will then be added up that if this person gets constantly flagged with bad tweet-o-meter hits then the ability to push Tweets becomes restricted. The more Tweet-o-meter hits negative the more restrictive the use by the offending party. This in my view will instill a sense of discipline into Tweeters. Once they pass the threshold they become a Twit because he or she has become (–noun Informal) "an insignificant or bothersome person."

And of course no one wants to be labelled a Twit... do they....


Altea Outage in OZ - Long Term Impact?

Qantas, the first user of the full Altea airline reservation system suite from Amadeus, suffered a major outage (as it turned out "outages" is more accurate as it kept going up and down) on 3 Jan 2010. This follows a separate outage in September and a "meltdown" in November as reported by the main Sydney newspaper. This outage apparently continued on Jan 6th. Of course no official word on the outage on the QF website. A spokesman for QF claimed that there was intermittent outages for about an hour.

There is a good synopsis from Tim Hughes. The approach taken by Tim indicates how the attitude of the regime change (from old school Dixon) to the current team (ex-Jetstar Irishman Joyce) will affect the future of the mainline airline. With QF now open to foreign investment (under the terms of the recent Australian Government White Paper on Aviation) the winds of change are now likely to sweep in.

So if I may I will pick up on the point Tim was making. QF is heading down a very different path than the one outlined by Geoff Dixon and we can be assured that the old cronyism of the dominant market player is not likely to be tolerated by Joyce and his team. However whether the rank and file get that is another matter. Clearly the customer service functions were clearly unprepared for it and the event went from bad to worse. The twitterhea that ensued was ample to say the least.

I will draw the analogy between Ryanair (that moves a heck of a lot more passengers) who handled multiple outages in August of 2010 including peak times and how they dealt with the problems and QF. I fully accept that FR is a different animal. But they coped with the issues and moved their passengers efficiently.

For Amadeus - not everyone is smiling - this must be a big black eye. QF has been their shining example how well they do. Altea has many issues not least of which is the time taken to implement and the cost of the system - both in operating costs and implementation costs. I have spoken to several airlines who went through the pain of the cutover process and almost all have been less than enthusiastic about how it went. Again we know that it is a very unpleasant experience going through that cutover process. I have personally lived and worked on two major res system cutovers. They are a nightmare. For potential users of Amadeus Altea Suite - even some who have already signed up - there is a lot of disquiet about the whole process. Given the hiccups that occurred in November and December with TAM, they are right to go back and make sure that all the contingency plans are in place. Some airlines are seriously thinking of running for the hills though!

For QF and Amadeus - I see some of this wind of change occurring sooner rather than later. Amadeus can kiss goodbye any chance it had of capturing Jetstar. Amadeus will not be quite so central to their future and QF will likely start to cast its net a little wider to other systems to help it transform from the legacy and stodgy old line business of the former regime into a much more nimble player. CEO Alan Joyce has made no bones about the fact that QF mainline must shape up or the routes will go to Jetstar. Amadeus should be under no illusions that it affects them too.

Now they have a lot of repair work to do.


With special thanks to the SMH and DT.com.au for the images