27 March 2010

KLM Retires Last F50 Ending 50 Years of Propeller Fokkers

After More than 50 years of faithful service the last propeller driven Dutch produced aircraft will leave the KLM fleet. Much has changed. KLM is now part of the French based group Air France Group, and Fokker no longer makes any plane.

Here is to those fine planes and to Anton Fokker's vision.


Acknowledgment to Airliners.net and Aerofavourites.nl for these fine images.

Alliances - Good or Bad. DoT vs DoJ Debates

I am not a strong advocate of cartels and oligopolies - they do distort competition and harm the consumers.

I also don't buy the big is always beautiful argument. Small and Nimble are things I admire.

I was very interested to read the Editorial Piece "Taking Sides" in Travel Weekly analyzing the DoT vs DoJ argument on Alliances and the new inner Alliances of the big 3 players mostly on the Transatlantic and now coming to the Transpacific.

In the current versions of the US House of Representatives bill on the FAA Authorization for 2010 and 2011 - there is a provision to sunset these agreements within 3 years. The Senate's version does not agree and this more radical provision has been left out.

I do believe that there is a strong sense of empathy from both Houses for the consumer protection. With the airlines clearly on the mend and fares rising, the sense of worrying about the health of the airlines is waning and the greater focus on main street and the downtrodden consumer will see the DoJ Consumer Protection view be the ascendant one. Will the Senate version prevail will be an interesting debate?

At this time - I would put it at even money. Come April when the bills head for conference - much will depend on the current economic climate and the anti-big establishment sentiment that seems to be rising in Congress.


26 March 2010

Some Light Fun For Friday

So you think airlines are boring?

Think again.

Have a look at the dueling Youtube videos from a pair of US based Low Cost Airlines.

This is funny..............


If its not on the home page type "US LCCs are fun!" in the search box.


25 March 2010

S1451 - Less the HR915 But Still With Interesting Quirks


These are the Senate and the House bills for the FAA Authorization for the next 2 years. For Travel there are a mountain of things in here. In the House version for example there was a provision that would have sunset anti trust immunity for Airline Alliances. And a provision that would have given extra powers to Flight Attendants. The Senate version passed this week (23 March) and now goes for conference with the House version that passed way back last May 2009.

One interesting amendment to the bill would require the airlines to offer an opt in option of having flight delays provided to users by text or email.

However what is interesting to me - given my current interest in Ancillary Revenues is the requirement as outlined in an Amendment by Sen Menendez the Junior Senator from New Jersey which would require full disclosure on fees.

This disclosure requirement would create of course more bureaucracy for everyone. But doesn't the government just love that anyway.

So stay tuned - this bill is due for its final reconciliation next month.

We shall be watching!


EU and US Agree on OpenSkies2

After several months of sometimes tense negotiations - the USA and the European Community have reached agreement on the framework of OpenSkies 2 according to Reuters.

This is healthy for everyone.

The basics include expanded ownership on both sides. Open Market access has been expanded, however the thorny issue of cabotage has not been resolved and will have to wait for another round.


NEWS FLASH: Iberia to Hold Off Signing Final Merger Docs

I am not one to normally put out a news story - preferring to comment. But this is a fresh off the wires story that I have been following for some time.

According to Aviator.Aero the board at Iberia has decided to hold off "indefinitely" their final merger approval with British Airways.

In the Aviator.Aero news letter of today March 25th 2010 the following story appears.

"Iberia (Spain) board of directors to hold off signing merger agreement with British Airways indefinitely."

More details (or a retraction) as this story progresses. So far it has not appeared on their website either and no one else has picked it up


Should US Airways Be Given Exemption At PHL?

Hoping to slide in the request for an exemption for their operations in the heavily congested north east USA, US Airways is hoping to be exempted from the upcoming performance based customer charter due to arrive next month.

So the question is should the airline (based in sunny Arizona) be excused the delay rules. Remember that several airlines including American Delta and Jetblue have requested exemptions for JFK and Continental has requested the same for EWR based on the current situation (one runway is out at JFK) and in general for the ATC congestion there.

The new DOT rule states that if domestic flights sit on the tarmac for more than three hours with passengers aboard, airlines face a fine of up to $27,500 per passenger. Thus airlines will be more likely to cancel a flight rather than paying heavy fines.

Note that at the present time the US DoT has not ruled on these requests. The new regs come into force next month.

In my opinion there is a case to be made for the current JFK situation until the runway resurfacing project is complete. But whether the others are eligible - that is a different matter.


E Clear Assets - just US$100K

In what must be a shock to a lot of people the UK based bankruptcy administrators for failed credit card processing firm E-Clear have uncovered just £72,000 after months of investigations into the controversial credit card processing firm and said the situation was “looking bleak”.

Remember this is the company that in effect brought down 2 major players in the UK - the Globespan Group at the end of last year and previously in September 2008 XL Leisure.

For an industry as heavily regulated as the travel business is and supposedly the UK banking regulations are tight - this is really quite shocking.

Let's just hope that there is something positive that comes out of this. For now - it would behoove any transaction based player to check into your credit card processor. There could still be some scary stuff out there and let's hope you are not caught out like the hundreds of employees who lost their livelihood and those who lost real money - investors and creditors alike.

24 March 2010

Court To BA - Pay Up!

Some of you may recall that I did a post in December about the case of BA's fare guarantee not.

Well thanks to Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal - I was reminded of this. I am actually pleased to see that someone actually took the challenge and sued BA in court. AND WON.

I think there was a degree of arrogance from BA that Scott is way too nice to actually state but he does quote the evidence. Quote: British Airways says it should have been obvious. "Anybody who knew anything about travel knew that was totally out of whack," says BA spokesman John Lampl."

So now the case of caveat emptor is no longer sufficient according to BA anyone who buys a fare has to be an expert in fares and therefore must be fully armed with the arcane nature of airline airfares when buying any ticket. I am sure many of the readers of this blog can quote many a case where the fare paid on a cents per mile basis was even below that of the tickets in question.

Sadly the case where a Mr Dutta sued BA in court was only small claims and therefore there really is no precedent established as a result. So the fact that the government has blessed that airlines are not to be bound by the contracts they get into and the customers are - gives distinctly a one sided nature of the agreement. Still if the purest looks at it - perhaps its a bit like health insurance. Now you have to buy it....


A Woman! What Is The World Coming To?

Congrats to the board at Easyjet for hiring a highly competent manager in Carolyn McCall. I think this is the perfect foil for a certain pair of Irishmen who must be classed as the Orange's competitors.

However with no Aviation background this will be a challenge. There are few clues as to how she will rule at the house that (now Sir) Stelios built. She is known as a forceful manager and perhaps that is what is needed after the steady if somewhat undramatic style of her predecessor Andy Harrison.

There are many challenges she faces. An increasing chance of confrontation in the market between Ryanair and U2. Head to head battles with BA. As the airline has been quite successful in moving to a hybrid model - they have captured additional revenue and boosted yields from their customers. However they also face the challenges of no access to LHR and some other airports. I do foresee that during her reign U2 will make a major foray into an entrenched airport and challenge one (or more) of the weaker legacy EU carriers. I think that there will still be the guarded dance between FR and U2 with them both continuing to avoid head to head battle.

Also look for setting an eye on longer haul, brand franchising and less boardroom brawls that have been somewhat of a distraction.

And for anyone who thinks the Professor is a misogynist, the headline is a less than subtle joke that we have not had a EU CEO in airlines for some time - Barbara Cassini was the last one if I recall - and I am sure someone might correct me otherwise. I am really happy to see the old boy network get some female flavour. Let's have more people like Ms McCall irrespective of gender... it should (always) be about the competence which is good for all.

23 March 2010

IATA;s Answer to Global Warming....

Thumbing through another masterful piece of PR from IATA (full of green footprints) I happened across list of some of their strategies for reducing the carbon footprint.

So admirable goal but somewhat questionable execution.

Just take a read for yourself. Particularly Page 4. But let me save you the bother - here is what it says as an example of a technology solution to global warming:

"Less energy-consuming lighting and in-flight entertainment"

IE more air rage with bored pax in the Y cabin.

Oh yes - and I know I am taking it out of context but if you are going to indulge in puffery they you will have to accept the consequences....


ARC Blasts CASMA and Issues Challenge

At the CASMA conference this week in sunny Quebec (actually there is still snow on the ground), Mike Premo of ARC laid down the gauntlet. The organization needs to get a life. It also needs to get behind the needs of the airlines and adopt a very proactive stance on the subject of Ancillary Revenues.

He pointed out a number of home truths that the organization needs to take to heart. But while this might easily be the pre-eminent take away from his speech – the important underlying message of his speech was that the whole travel industry needs to provide infrastructure of ancillary revenue.

Clearly there has been a lot of posturing in recent months on the topic. But the core issue is that the distribution channels – led by the legacy GDSs are not moving fast enough to meet the needs of the airlines. Earlier this week Amadeus (as reported in Travel Weekly Australia) laid out a timeframe of when they will support Ancillary Revenues "bookable via agent desktops within three years". Well get with the program people! – this is not going to be fast enough. In 3 year’s time the airline business cycle will be back at the top and looking at a coming down turn.

Having spent considerable time with airlines and their PSS vendors – I believe this “dog in the manger” attitude of the traditional GDSs is doing a major disservice to their paymasters. The stalling has to stop and the GDSs need to suck it up and deliver the capability of selling ancillary revenues via merchandising soon or face the consequences. Surprisingly at least one public event middle management representatives of the 3 legacy GDSs tried to outdo themselves in how their companies are hard at work on AR and as clearly stated by one of them – they will deliver their platform “by the end of the year” (eh hmm that was in 2009).

Mike knows that he can support the sale of ancillary revenues via the agency channel. He is clearly losing his patience. And he is not the only one.


Ultimate Irony

BA leases Ryanair Planes and Crew

Tony Ryan must be spinning in his grave – FR is leasing 4 planes and crew to BA on short haul European routes to cover the short fall of capacity as a result of the Flight Attendants strike against the UK former national carrier.

To compound matters Michael O'Leary - freely acknowledging that "he was not always entirely supporting of what Willie Walsh is doing" and clearly haven't always been on the same side calling BA a "big pension deficit on wings" - MOL has called for an end to the strike.

If this isn’t irony – I don’t know what is.


Photo Courtesy of BBC/UK

22 March 2010

Should We Vote?

I am very nostalgic when it comes to airline brands and Marques. Professor Henry and I are big fans of the former Braniff.

So it comes as something of a Hobson's choice that Republic has to decide which brand to retain - Frontier or Midwest.

The answer is pretty obvious but still there is a certain sadness about which one will be consigned to the scrapheap.

Republic itself was a relatively short lived airline brand that was formed from the merger of Hughes Airwest and North Central in 1979 to 1985 when it was sold to Northwest and gobbled up, you can actually still see some of the RW and NC coded aircraft mostly DC9s that Delta will phase out.

The new Republic Airways has grown rapidly from a contract services carrier to a full branded presence acquiring in quick succession Frontier and Midwest Express. The latter grew out of the airline division of Kleenex Maker Kimberley Clark, the former a born again brand of the scrappy airline out of Denver.

And there really is no contest. So no point in voting. Perhaps the question is whether the Republic brand would be placed on many aircraft. Nah - not a good idea - stick with a name that has value.


Finally in the Air - And It Really Is Sexy

OK so I am somewhat of a kerosene junky - but I think I need to get a new habit. Not jetfuel - but Rocket Fuel.

This aircraft has to be one of the sexiest things in the air.

Clearly Sir Richard thinks so... so head over to the Virgin Galactic Website and check it out.

I reprint the picture here because it is just a beautiful machine.


Will Other Airlines Place Their Eggs In the Social Media Basket?

Australian LCC and Qantas group airline Jetstar has announced that it will increase its spend in Social Media in the next financial year to 40% of its total marketing budget. Jetstar head of marketing and public relations, David May, in announcing the change to the Australian media said they had “tested the waters” of social media during 2009 with huge success. He continued that the fragmentation and rapidly rising costs of traditional media on and offline it became clear to the airline that social media was the next obvious medium for marketing.

Some experts have predicted that Social Media spending will account for nearly 20% of all airlines marketing spend in 5 years. Of course that challenges a degree of belief. How will they actually spend the money?

Having armies of people watching Facebook or Tweeting like mad. Given that Social Media marketing costs should be significantly lower than traditional spend the greater bang for the buck is sounding more like we will have a new class of SM Maven who will be texting and blogging and posting away. Either way we will very soon have target fatigue.

I shudder to think what this will look like. We will be deluged with messages of little or no relevance. "Flight 101 took off with one guy who has baggy pants and a snake" would be the equivalent message on a slow news day.

I think we may just retreat to advertising for some straight forward sanity.

But then I am just one person who doesn't want to drink from a fat pipe of Twitter feeds.


PS thanks to who ever posted this clip from Snakes on a Plane.

A Pleasant Surprise - An App That Did Better Than I Thought

I know I have a low expectation of technology - been working in it way too long. Hence this is why I am long in the tooth. But over the weekend I finally got round to testing a new app - Award Wallet.

I have tried many different frequent flyer programs and frankly they all suck. But this one JUST might do a good job. it might also replace my current way of taking care of my itineraries - but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

I spent 2 hours loading all my frequent flyer information manually. Tripit has a better and easier way of doing this for itineraries but it doesn't work much of the time with my trips on Delta. But Award Wallet got the info on my trip on KLM into which I had put my DL skymiles number. And low and behold I got the whole trip. I was really pleasantly surprised.

However my joy was not complete. I cannot change my seats on the Delta flights even though I am a squillion miler and I can see the itinerary. I have to do that manually.


I could berate KLM and Delta but it would do no good. Some person figured out that it would be too much work to have an active 2 way link between the systems so no we are not going to allow that....


Anyway - if this is the standard for how itineraries can be managed then I think that Tripit and Co have some new tricks to learn.

Now the bad news. If you want to really take advantage of it - I have to pay for the upgrade. Like many of these sort of applications - they want me to pay for it. Hmmm sorry - not going to happen. I can have access to the real thing in the raw flesh and no it is not worth it to me - you will have to prove that you are better than say ExpertFlyer before I could even consider this. Expert Flyer has a much broader set of functions for booking award tickets. But I have to pay $5 or $10 per month just to start. But I don't know how much I will/can spend on Award Wallet.

I should also tell you that the app did rather upset me - I was spammed many times with invites. So the process was not without pain.

But we have hope that there can now be apps that can actually start to take some of the drudgery out of the process of managing my trips.

So I hope that the other players in this space can sit up and take notice.


I Am Not Paranoid - They Are Watching Me!

It seems that Social Media has been the theme of late in my posts - its probably timely and definitely worth spending time considering.

I have lots of issues about Social Media and still remain unconvinced that my life is better as a result.

That said I am a blogger so I must be contributing to it. Which leads me to a good story that has come out of the EFF - Electronic Frontier Foundation. Under the FOI - US Freedom of Information Act they managed to discover that the Feds have been using Social Media to spy on the populace. So here is the link to the document and it includes a nice long presentation by the Feds on how to use Facebook etc to discover activity good and bad.

The attitude I have to this - is if you put something into the public domain then you should accept the consequences. Not quite sure what the Latin equivalent of that is akin to Caveat Emptor

Since both Facebook and Google's Buzz have created far more lax rules about your personal data - each of us has to be vigilant as to what is going where. It seems that once your data is available in public it is no longer protected even if you think it was. Remember that almost all sites carry disclaimers allowing them to change their policies at any time. So if the site carries a disclaimer that says "We will never sell your information" don't take that to mean they wont get some pecuniary gain from using it or passing it on overtly or covertly or even inadvertently to others. Oh yes and do remember they don't have to tell you if they change their policy. And finally yes it is your obligation and responsibility to know if they do and when they do as they have no liability whatsoever for messing and abusing your personal data.

So by now you should be completely paranoid like I am.

Its enough to make me want to return to the quill....


Kulula to FIFA - Hokey Cokey!

Hats off to Kulula for making Airline ads fun again.

The latest version is packed full of images that are going to enrage the fat cats at FIFA.

This one will run for a while


Travelport's Travelport Opinions - What The World Needs Now?

Dionne Warwick's 1960s song is probably appropriate in this age of Social Media. But if I can carry on mixing metaphors - we could be looking for love in all the wrong places.

Travelport has been pushing its new social media vehicle "Travelport Opinions (tm)" for some time now and recently started to push it very hard. So I decided as the professor to investigate it further.

I signed up (oh dear just what I need more spam). The tool is quite nice and hats off to Vinivi for the tool. I actually like it. I was quite impressed that there is a large number of users - over 1200 now.

However when I started to dive into the details - a more cynical person than I might have some issues with it.

So lets start with some statistics.

Of the top 15 users (ie off the top page of members) 11 of them are Travelport employees and one is from the platform provider.

Indeed 303 are listed as Travelport employees. A further 25 are listed as Vinivi staffers. Presumably there are others who didn't declare their affiliation.

The point scheme seems to be something of a self fulfilling prophecy as the users clubbing together creates a homogeneous group around the obviously largest single group namely Travelport employees.

Based on my evaluation and reviewing some of the stated reviews - all of the self interest questions immediately bubble up to the top. IE if you thought that Tripadvisor was bad then imagine what TravelOpinions can do with biased reviews. I checked and sure enough there are a few in there. I wont bore you with the details but just look at some English hotels.

So yes the world needs more love but in the Professor's humble opinion it doesn't need another self interest vehicle


21 March 2010

More Reasons To Be Afraid - Very Afraid

I have written before about how things on Facebook and other Social Media services can comeback to haunt you.

Just lately I have disabled Xobni because it made MS Office 2010 beta unstable. So I turned it on for a little bit and then tried to investigate some of the newer connections I have made. It is somewhat scary what is now appearing IN CONTEXT about the business relationships that I have.

Tools like Xobni (that's inbox spelt backwards) and Gist are really diving deep to provide the user some context about their relationships. However this is somewhat scary stuff as to how much does become available.

Not to be outdone MS Office 2010 will have this functionality built in. The hooks are already in - I can now click on a name and get data about someone. It also seems to be a learning engine so that those people who are new can be highlighted as to their social media footprint.

So this is your warning - time to clean up facebook and any other social media footprints you may have and make them clean. When Office 2010 rolls out in June - then it really wont be the end of anything except your ability to control it.

As any college career guidance counselor will advise you - clean up your digital dirt before it gets seen. Now that advice has to be expanded to not even letting things get out there to start with. On the Web EVERYONE can hear you scream, pole dance, smoking a joint etc etc..... It also makes mistakes and captures erroneous information - intended or otherwise.


US Transactions Remain Down But Improving

US Transactions as measured by ARC Tickets issued remain down. They have not returned to the levels of 2006/7/8 but are better than 2009. In looking at the 2010 numbers we can see that the trend is upwards. Y/Y numbers look encouraging.

Drilling into the numbers we can see that there has been healthy increases of the TMCs.

In fact they are now doing better than the OTAs in improved yields. This has good news for the agencies and also indicates that the OTAs improvement while still positive could possibly have run its course. There does of course remain a degree of revenue/yield pressure.

I think we can see that the airlines will start to review how their cost structure looks in the light of an improved transaction picture but with a still diminished yield.

Next month will be interesting - given the late Easter again it should show improved yields given the extra days of sale.


Constant Connection Destroying Communication

In reading my sunday newspaper - came across an article about Constant Contact. This gave me some pause for thought. So I started to think of how many ways I am actually connected - it is rather frightening. On this week's episode of the Office (NBC On Thursdays) Dwight says to Michael that he wants to be contacted on any one of his 6 numbers. Geez - I am just as bad. I have actually more than that:

Skype - 1 number
Truphone - 1 number
Mobiles - 3 numbers
Land Line - 4 numbers for the office + 1 number home
Universal Mailbox - 1 number
1 Fax number

UGH that's 12 numbers that exist in the POTS world.

Not to mention the various websites, email accounts and other personas.

So are we over connected and less communicative?

Food for thought on Sunday


PS no prizes for guess what the image is - but ping me if you don't know....

Social Media Needs Organizational Relevance

Social Media has become part of the fabric of our over communicated world. My fellow TNoozer - Siew Hoon has an interesting piece on her blog.

When the web was young - I was very happy that we were finally getting contextual structure to the process of advertising. Being an old ad geek from the 1970s and 80s - the emergence of a truly metric'd media environment was like a dream come true. Too bad it got screwed up almost as badly as the old ad world. So now we have shades of truth that we can show can prove just about anything.

Just when we thought it was getting at least comprehensible - along comes Social Media. Most companies embraced SM with a passion but not from the same base as traditional media. Many companies today run their Social Media in a different silo from their advertising. For example I understand that Southwest puts Social Media in the hands of its PR team. relevance

We thus have silos that don't talk to each other. These silos can be understood as being separated because the medium/media are new and in many cases not manageable in the traditional formats and metrics. eMarketer has done a nice bit of research on the subject that I encourage you to read. It shows how diverse the silos are. particularly pointing to the likely result of disconnected and obtuse messages being delivered into the market - we know already that this is confusing the user community. At the PhocusWright session in Berlin earlier this month - the session moderated by Kevin May - PhoCusWright@ITB Bloggers Summit Workshop 2: Brand Management, Fighting Fires and Finding Fans Through Social Media - indicated how this can really get screwed up. The move to real time communications has changed the way companies and brands adjust. But the message of the squeaky wheel getting the attention most of the time did emerge. That is scary if Social Media is the customer feedback mechanism and is then disconnected with the rest of the brand.

If masters of the brand do not address this and bring Social Media into the overall brand management process then lord knows what we will get. A Corporate version of Chat Roulette perhaps?