24 April 2010

Apple's iTravel May Have a Problem

Just for fun I searched the Apple site for the word iTravel. Seems that someone on the iphone app filed an app called this in October of 2007. They have a website hotelwidgets.com

So before everyone starts using the term iTravel they had better be careful

And its only Saturday!!!


What Does Google Really Want From ITA?

So speculating on why Google wants ITA software ranges from the good to the bizarre.

The usual candidates are its Search Business, its software and its expertise. But I have another idea. In addition to the above - how about it wants to become a huge player in the overall travel space and can do that with the significant library of ITA's Patents

Let me list a two of them...

The Needlebase Patent - United States Patent 7668740

Fare Construction Patent US Patent 6263323

I wont spoil your fun by listing them all - but there are a lot of them. The categories range from payment to user interface to shopping as well as the obvious. And these are but a few. You can be darn sure that right now there are a bunch of lawyers pouring over these little gems.

And there are a whole lot more being filed and in the works.

Think about it.

If you are in the business of travel - perhaps you should be afraid now. If high priced Google patent pit bull attack lawyers get a hold of these - those of us in Travel Technology will have a very miserable life.

Scary?... Yup - now you see why that $1 billion number is not that bad.


PSS and GDS Customers Might Want To Revisit Their Contracts

This is a salutory warning to those who interact with external (typically GDS based and PSS based) systems. This post should be read by airlines, travel agents and third party technology providers to the passenger industry.

In the overall scheme of things the unprecedented events since April 15th of the Volcano should cause those who pay bills to the GDSs for products and services to go back to look hard at their contracts.

If you have a contract that has threshold clauses in it - then definitely pay attention.

Let me pick on 4 customer types:

Airlines - IT Customers
Airlines - GDS - Participating Carriers (PCA)
OTAs - GDS subscribers
Travel Agents - GDS Subscribers

I also recommend anyone who has a signed GDS contract as a third party technology provider should also read this post.

In the next few weeks and months the airlines are going to be getting a lot of extra charges from, amongst others, Amadeus (the bills will come due after the IPO). Amadeus is on the record as saying that the volcano will have minimal impact on their IPO and are steaming ahead with it. What they didn't say was if the impact will be bad. It just may be - as more than one person who reads this blog told me - positive. The airlines didn't cause the mess but they are going to be paying for it no matter what. But all that extra processing is going to be an additional cost for the airlines. All those passengers who were checked in and then had to be "de-boarded" Hmmm that will be interesting to see how that works in those contracts. (PSST Hint to other PSS and airline IT vendors - if you didn't cash in on this gravy train more the fool you!)It is very important that the bean counters examine their invoices from their vendors VERY CLOSELY over the next few months to ensure that all the costs that are in the contract are correctly charged and that the Airline IT guys don't try and slip in some extras in there. I liken this to an unscheduled maintenance on a car. You get the bill and the estimate just doesn't match what you were quoted for!

For PCA based agreements - the cancellation costs that may be accrued needs to be carefully studied. Every airline accounts receivable person worth his salt better be on his toes. Also those nice bill auditors - people like Kale Consultants - should get into the act and make sure that they are poised to check and support their customers - the users.

For OTAs, the big ones at least, they should be OK (GDSs have a habit of turning a blind eye to larger users) - however head back to your contract and look at the threshold clauses. You will like be breaching them. Hitwise and others reported record breaking traffic which translates into a lot of extra hits for NO ADDITIONAL revenue. For smaller OTAs and those whose IBE is provided by a third party - indeed the 3rd party technology providers as well - go check out your contract. I just checked mine and I cringed. Fortunately I had no traffic on it last week!!!

For regular travel agencies whether or not you have an online presence via a booking engine, you need to make sure you have checked your activity. For those bookings that were canceled or re-booked by you - you should be OK. But for those cases where you helped your stranded clients and looked for viable options for them (because you are a customer service operation) and didn't generate additional GDS bookings - you will be hit by a double whammy - additional traffic and several days of no revenue.

With BA and others shutting out inventory, other airlines generating schedule change messages onto queues - there was an AWFUL lot of airline initiated traffic that resulted in extra hits with no corresponding revenue.

If you are one of these people - it may be a good idea to pull out your contract and have a deep look at it. If you are adversely affected - you might want to consider this next time you are sitting round the table whether its for a cold brew or its a hard negotiating session.

You have been warned


BA Blames Others For Res System Snafus

In what must either be a simmering dispute between Amadeus and BA or Amadeus's failure to provide basic functionality to BA Reservations - Willie Walsh went on the offensive with his pleas to having customers be patient with BA as they rush to restore order and get people home.

Knowing a little about the reservations system - it would seem that either a rule could be written to cover how interline, codeshares and GDS based new bookings could use the system at a lower priority for BA's own customers. To wit - BA has an unused letter in its inventory bucket system which could be used to accommodate passengers who had existing reservations. "R". While my solution would be simplistic with a bit of jerry rigging the customers with existing tickets could be ticketed on a priority basis in R notional bucket ahead of any Y seats. only when R's were exhausted for a particular flight would the seats cascade down to open classes of seats. Yes it would take some effort but it would be a solution.

However it seemed all the bright sparks at Amadeus and BA couldn't figure out a system way to handle the customers who were stranded. Result - BA had to shut off all access to its seats for new customers and others alike. Turning it back on again has proved to be a little challenging. With reduced staff manning the check in process there are fewer people around who know how to fix it. Hats off to the boys and girls who work on the line in res who had to work all these queues!

In defense of BA - Willie is right - this whole thing was unprecedented. But airlines spend a lot of time creating and planning for disaster scenarios as existed. Well boys and girls we now have a new one to deal with. And it is likely to happen again. That Volcano could erupt for hundreds of years.

But let's also say that there has been a creeping issue which is now confronting airlines. Lack of Capacity. With an estimated 3-5 years of airframe production capacity now sitting parked in various deserts the reduction and better matched ASKs to RSKs - the capacity of the overall system to match seats in the situations such as we have seen becomes a lot harder. Airlines should go back and look at their scenarios on how they can plan for eventualities such as this. And don't forget that now there is a legal requirement to adhere to newer tougher rules - The EC Customer Protection which came into force in 2005 was enforced by the EC. Regulation (EC) No 261/2004.

For sure - the chaps who design and sell and more importantly manage PSSs should think of how they can deal with situations like this in the future. Welcome back to the world of FIMs and Reaccomodation. And don't forget the Law is going to be breathing down your neck.


The Germans Are Coming (Again)

Deutsche Bahn - German National Railways - was at one time the world's most loss making travel business. Today it is the model of efficiency. The services are pretty good. I recently road the rails with them and was even more impressed than before.

Now it seems they are setting their sights across the waters to the UK Based pan European Bus and Train operator Arriva.

This would mark a significant expansion outside Germany for DB.

DB will be subject to some strict scrutiny not just by the regulators but by other European Short Haul transport operators - I am thinking Ryanair for one. How much of the State subsidies are used to fund these forms of acquisition is a touchy subject in Europe. The quasi government owned or subsidized entities have advantages. Not least of which is the underwriting of the risk in their core businesses. The BBC and its commercial arm BBC Worldwide Ltd (formed 15 years ago from the BBC Enterprises unit) competes with many commercial operators. And let's not forget the Boeing vs. Airbus battle.

So will DB be successful in its bid for Arriva? Probably. This is a business of enormous scale and with significant labour issues. Arriva alone has 34,000 employees.

Watchout... The Germans are coming!


A Week In "Customer Service" Hell

According to my phone logs in and out - this week I have spent more than 22 hours of time "interacting" with Customer Service operations. These ranged from technology companies to financial services to airlines and hotels.

What a thoroughly unpleasant experience. I have come to the following conclusions:

After more than 15 years of full on internet - Customer Service has ceased to exist either by phone, chat and online.

Users have no choice but to use the web as the human customer service is so universally awful.

The damage done to brands is largely self inflicted.

The basic tenants of human decency have been replaced by fake concern and routine lying

Lying is an art form and comes in so many ways.

Perhaps I should have come to earth at a different time. Because the whole experience of talking to these people has been universally bad.

I realize I may not be the easiest person on the planet but trust me on this one - I tried all sorts of different tactics - being nice, being dumb, being assertive, it really didn't matter.

Of the more than 25 people I have spoken to - there was JUST ONE - who actually listened to my problem/issue and then worked with me to resolve it. But she was clearly off her script by that time. But thanks to her - something that had taken days to not resolve with some of her colleagues - she worked at it and (heaven forbid) even called me back to make sure it still worked.

So to all you customer service managers - or Chief Customer Contact Person - YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.


With SPECIAL thanks to Orange (subsidiary of France Telecom) for the image from their article on how to complain.

22 April 2010

CO says "The Economy Rebounding Slowly" - But do we agree with them?

In the first quarter of 2010 - almost all the airlines reported their numbers. I note that the big 6 (WN, US, UA, CO, DL and AA) all had cautious words to say about their performance.

However I am not sure I agree with them. ARC's numbers for revenue/bookings not passenger's flown show differently.

The numbers show a very strong resilience in pick up from January onwards which in turn has shown a gradual rise from the low point of the middle of last year. Indeed March's numbers are at the same level for revenue and transactions as March of 2008 the previous best month on ARC record.

So to say the economy is rebounding in Continental's words "slowly" doesn't quite gibe.

But then I am just a passive observer...


Welcome To Earth Day - Boy Is She PO'd

Mother Nature - (aka Mother Earth) should be happy with us. We are starting to do some real things to address the damage we have done to our environment.

BUT is it enough and is it too late?

Probably not to both questions but here is a short list of some things we can do to change behavior and stop abusing our home. These are all easy and good things to do.

1. Stop using Plastic Bags. At my house we have a bag holder. It used to get filled up, we had to get another one. Now it is rarely filled and the only thing that goes in there is the newspaper protector. I ALWAYS (or at least try to) refuse to get a plastic bag at any retail point. My car is now full of those recycled bags and I put a little note on the dashboard to remind myself - "Got Bags" before I go into a store. This is something you can do.

2. If its less than a mile WALK. Stop using cars for short trips. If its less then 3 miles - the bike it.

3. Reduce the food waste. Try this experiment. At the end of each meal pile all the unused food onto a plate and put it on a scale - then see how much you wasted. Doing this every day for a week see if you can reduce the amount by both cooking less and eating the things on your plate. In my household we have reduced the amount we throw away to almost nothing. Do the same thing in a restaurant. There is no shame in sharing meals or ordering 2 appetizers rather than a grossly filling main course.

These are 3 easy things you can do.

Remember my motto - Avoid, Reduce, Repurpose and Recycle.

This is good for all of us.... try it today


21 April 2010

ARC Numbers - A Robust Q1 - Ash Impact

The numbers from ARC are in for March and I have had a chance to review them. I think they look pretty good. What is interesting is that yields are actually running higher than in a long time.

The headline numbers for the month of March/YTD are pretty encouraging:

So now we are seeing some real improvement lets keep fingers crossed that (absent Ash) the market is on the up trend.

BTW I did a quick back of the envelope job on the total number of passengers affected. So far if we assume that the average plane affected has a capacity of 200 passengers (considering the mix of transatlantic large planes and European single aisle craft - this is a good number). Strangely enough my numbers (average of 1.1 million pax a day impacted) differ slightly from IATA. But I suspect that the word impacted means that some passengers were delayed as opposed to outright lost flights. Air4Casts was also using 1.1 million pax a day that I believe is the right number. So using IATA's numbers that is 7.2 Million passengers in 6 days. Ouch.

The US wont be as badly impacted although this is the largest portion of the international non-continental traffic. But still the global number also affects the GDS. Using the global number of 7.2 Million tickets and some very broad numbers - here is the estimate of GDS impact:

7,200,000 Tix total
3,600,000 GDS Tix
8,280,000 Segments
57,960,000 GDS lost Revenue @$7

Ouch - and the majority of that loss was from Amadeus.


20 April 2010

Ryanair Right To Hold Off Another Day?

Seems that everyone is back in the air playing catch up with their flights. But one noticeable exception has been Europe's largest carrier by passenger numbers. Ryanair.

They have been far more careful than the other carriers. FR has been running a full schedule from their Southern and Eastern bases but the core of the network based in the North of Europe has been shut down for the better part of a week.

They also have a better DOC model and less overhead costs to carry. Thus they can operate more directly tied to their flights and carried passengers.

But did they err too much on the side of caution?

Their stranded passengers might think so, but they might just have made the right decision. Only time will tell. Their numbers will definitely take a big hit because they have less capacity spare to play with.


GDSs Start Modifying Terms and Pricing - Welcome to the New Model that you will pay - Unbundled and of course More Expensive.

"So how would you like your GDS PCA today sir - you can have it anyway you want it as long as its black." (And profitable to me).
"This is a really old bike good for only one thing, it is not modern and can do very little ... I will give you only a few measly pennies.." "What it was your beloved ancestor's prize possession - then take less not more for this old heap of iron scrap...."

For some time now those airlines (that are astute and are tightly managing their costs) have probably noticed that their total flow of money to the GDSs are - well let's not put too fine a point on it - expanding.

In preparation for the ancillary revenue model that are emerging the GDSs are taking different tacks with regard to the cost model. Some are unbundling and others are now "adjusting" their fee structures.

One thing is for sure. The GDSs are determined not to be left out of this gravy train. They are going to be charging a lot of money for ancillary revenue services if they can get away with it. I predict a showdown is coming between the GDSs and the airlines over this. The GDSs are already putting out stories on how much new infrastructure they are putting in place to make themselves ready for AR. Travelport is taking a different tack from its competitors and is sticking well and truly with the IBM model by buying a whole load of new zTPF boxes.

As one IT wag told me several years ago after evaluating the zTPF system - he made an interesting point. For the first time in his memory (he had started with TPF version 2.X) - zTPF was going to run effectively the same Operating System but with no new functionality added. Seems like the old boys in Hursley (near Winchester) are finally being pensioned off.

But I digress..

The issue is going to be how the GDSs price the ancillary services. Will they do it fairly and equitably? And here they stand at a reasonable risk. If they price it at zero or essentially little charges then they will have a hard time in cost recovery. If they price it too expensively - the airlines wont distribute the AR products via the GDS and will resort to new channels and more flexible yet cheaper alternatives like Direct Connect tools.

The Airline accountants (now somewhat dusted in ash) are going to be looking for more places to save money. The GDS better play nice. For the coming IPOs this year - this represents a bit of a threat. The world is not quite as homogeneous as it once was.

Better pay attention to this one chaps... it wont be a nice and easy model. As the old adage goes - "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Think of that when you stand across and start negotiating over that big old iron.


The UK Government vs the Will of Willie Walsh

This whole episode fascinates me. The issues confronting the decision makers are very complex and not easy to discern and that is before making decisions.

It seems pretty evident that BA management took a calculated risk that the government and its various organs could be manipulated if presented with a fait accompli. This is exactly what they did. They carefully planned how they could make the UK airspace open. Considering the evidence in front of them there was a relatively low risk. In my humble and not very educated opinion there was minimum risk at any time to the passengers. If anyone didn't want to take the flight they could exit and not step on the aircraft. Lufthansa decided yesterday to start flights against the advice of their authorities - again with minimal risk. In doing so they forced their government's hand. BA therefore made the same decision (albeit a little more hurriedly. So with 28 or so aircraft that headed north or eastwards - the aircraft duly arrived over UK airspace. Finally some time around 2000 the UK Government and NATs agreed to open the UK airspace. However by then some of these planes were already out of fuel and landing in a wide variety of places - BRU, SNN, CDG amongst others. A few brave souls who had put on extra fuel and had the temerity to wait it out started to arrive to a closed UK Airspace. The first to actually land was BA84 from Vancouver and it circled over the Isle of Man for nearly 90 mins before finally making its way and landing before the scheduled opening of the airspace.

The rest is history.

Now we have the UK government in the form of lord Adonis playing damage control.(As an aside here is a definition...Myth & Legend / Classical Myth & Legend.. Greek myth a handsome youth loved by Aphrodite. Killed by a wild boar, he was believed to spend part of the year in the underworld and part on earth, symbolizing the vegetative cycle...) given his political gyrations perhaps not such an inapt name...

But beware ... the issue of the aircraft and the damage remains an unknown quantity.

So indulge me a little here and let me make a plea to the whole industry. We don't know enough and we are not doing enough to measure the ash cloud and its impact. The one or two empirical evidence sources we have are not enough to draw on conclusively. We should be sending aircraft into the cloud in the same way we have hurricane hunter aircraft. Not enough study of this phenomenon is being made.

For some results taken a few days ago by a German research aircraft go here:

At the very least this aircraft D-CMET and its UK counterpart D-CALM should be up there testing the atmosphere every day.

Clearly the current rules are not adequate and we are not doing enough to coral the issues into cogent decisions.

Whether Willie and his boys are right or wrong is not the issue. It is whether we know enough to let them be right or wrong. To err is human to forgive divine but not over the souls of innocent passengers either today or at some point in the future if an engine that wears out prematurely breaks down.

Cheers - I hope

First Into LHR - BA84

Looks like the Canadians win...

My spies on the ground (Thanks Professor Mike) confirm they hear 747 engines

So who called it?

Congrats to BA for the b*lls to hold the planes in the air for that long.

And best to the pilots and crews of the planes that will arrive at British Airports tonight.


For the Geeky Lot - Volcanic Ash Reading Material

As you can imagine the Professor is wont to follow the world through the eyes of an academic. While I have a day job this is way too good an opportunity to see what else is out there in terms of scientific knowledge.

So in the interests of those of you who are also a little geeky - here are two documents that you might want to read.

The first one is the formal ICAO document on the standards and expected impact of Volcanic Ash. The subject has been studied and is known to have harmful effects. So ICAO (the official UN body on aviation) has reports for each of its major areas. This is the formal contingency plan. So far the adherence to the plan seems to have been somewhat spotty at best - however this is SUPPOSED to be the rule book. Have a fun read here:


The other document is associated with the formal review of an accidental fly through a cloud - as it turned out also over another of Iceland's Volcanoes. The case was ten years ago when a NASA plane inadvertently flew through a cloud that had shifted further than planned and right into the flight path of a NASA DC8-73. it took me a while to find this after I saw a reference to it - but this is the original document from NASA (there is another copy on the ALPA pilot's site also.)


This is a good document to describe the actual impact of what really happens.

Enjoy both of these...


AOL Accounts Hacked

This is probably not new news to a lot of people - but there has been an alarming increase in hacked AOL accounts of late. My metric? the amount of spam from known people with AOL accounts which I have received in the past month.

If you do a google search on AOL ACCOUNTS HACKED the number one entry that comes up is a "how to" guide to hack AOL accounts.

This is very helpful...

Time to use GMAIL or something else.

Yet another sinister plot by Google to strip the world of competition?

You be the judge


19 April 2010

LH to run an extensive schedule tonight from US to DE

So at least one airline has some moxie to run flights tonight.

Despite the prediction that the cloud will cover most of Germany tomorrow, DLH are running flights starting with most of the stuck flights from the US heading east bound.

According to Flight Stats most of the flights are going.

I also have it on personal notice - that Boarding Passes have been issued. So DCS has been updated to reflect these flights.

Stay tuned to TNooz for more updates


So Who Will Decide When Its Safe To Fly? The Answer May Surprise You

At this morning's press conference the European Community was adamant that safety was the pre-eminent issue. There is a lot of noise and hot air (in addition to the ash itself) floating around. As I noted yesterday this is not a question of black and white - it is a question of grey and risk.

Will airliners deliberately be flown into ash clouds - no. But what of the risk of flying into air that has "some" ash particles in it? As I noted in my post yesterday this has been done before as ash is present in the atmosphere at almost all times - the issue is the severity/intensity , location and type. So far there is a lack of good ability to examine the dust from space. (As an aside - this comes at a time when the lack of ability to see what's going on in our planet is becoming clearer). So the ability to track the dangerous particles is pretty apparent. Thus this is not an exact science and we don't have the easy ability to determine what is safe.

So if Science cannot give us anything other than "an indication" then who will make the decision?

One more set of factoids for you. The first empirical evidence of the damage that can be done to engines has been a pair of F/A18s operated by the Finnish Air Force they flew into the dust on Thursday and then had their engines stripped down and the blades examined. Here are some pictures for you to see.

The issue facing everyone as we move from a direct safety issue is the long term impact on the equipment. Aircraft Engines are very expensive. Shortening their life has a double impact. The cost of the engines will rise to maintain and repair them. Shortening their life also reduces the available pool of engines. And here is an important issue. The pool of available engines for spares and replacement is actually quite small.

Not surprisingly the two groups that will make the decision will largely be the following:

Aircraft and Engines are often leased (usually separately) so the owners of these engines will be a key decision maker in the overall process. The big guys include ILFC (part of the foundering AIG group) and other independent companies typically bank like. The other group who have a large portfolio are the aircraft financing arms of the manufacturers. Boeing and Airbus. These two groups will likely take a more conservative approach (ILFC and co) or less (Airframe and engine manufacturers).

The other group that will have the most telling impact on the decision will be the insurance companies. Personal risk and airframe/equipment risk.

So there you have it. The politicians and the airlines can argue all they like - the decision is now being debated in the Aircraft owners and the insurance companies. Lloyds in London must be an interesting place right about now


With Ash Firmly On Horizon For Weeks, Should Amadeus Pull IPO?

Amadeus's blockbuster IPO is going to happen next week if the course is maintained. However we should consider whether (or not) the company should pull the IPO due to the unprecedented impact of the Iceland Volcano.

So let's consider what's at stake here. The total European traffic is down at least 60%.

Here are the latest stats of traffic counts (Flights).

# Thurs 15 - 21,000 out of 28,500 flights flown.
# Fri 16 - 11,500 out of 28,500 flights flown.
# Sat 17 - 5,000 out of 22,500 flights flown.
# Sun 18 - 5,000 out of 25,000 flights flown.
# Mon 19 (estimate) - 9,000 out of 28,000 flights flown.

Amadeus is by far the largest European GDS and therefore will be proportionately adversely affected more than the others. Particularly since the most affected countries are UK, DE, Scandinavia, France and Benelux. This affects all of Amadeus's business lines with its 2 leading ones - Airline IT and GDS being the most adversely hit.

From the position I have of looking at various sources of bookings - I can assure you that the number of new bookings have dropped dramatically. At a time when they should be rising for the summer periods.

However I think we need to face the fact that the restoration of flights will be at a significant reduction of traffic to what we assumed before. This too will have a long term impact on Amadeus. The GDS business will suffer accordingly, the IT business will be impacted a lot less. Amadeus's EBITD looks really attractive based on the current footprint of transactions. That is going to take a significant hit until the issue of the Ash is accommodated and we know how things will turn out. This could last for a period of a few weeks or as long as a few years.

At the very least we have lost a week's worth of flights by the time this is over. That is 2% of the gross annual production. Yes the company can absorb that. But if the adverse situation is greater then we could see a significant curtailment of transactions intra TC2 and inter TC1 and TC3 into TC2.

In my opinion, prudence would dictate that Amadeus should postpone their IPO for at least a month until the situation becomes clearer. This would be the wise thing to do.

For Amadeus to proceed at this point would be somewhat foolhardy or very very brave. Either way its a risk that should be examined carefully. If the IPO does proceed then the punters need to factor in the risk that Amadeus's first year results will be off significantly from prior years. Given the significant backing of the financial community as opposed to the general individual investor - lets hope people are making proper and appropriate decisions with regard to risk.

This is my opinion - what is yours?


18 April 2010

Stupid Airline Trick #49 - Search?

Dearly beloved - yes its the weekend and I have a little time left on my hands as the Ash is causing all my regular work to be placed on hold. So here is an example of the new search from Delta's website. Actually its not that new. It has been this way for about 4 months. And it is frightful.

Delta has decided that we want cheaper rather than practical.

Check out the 4th column.

The Professor's way to look at fares is to review them on 3 separate levels.

Level 1 - Absolute Lowest Fare - known as the Lowest Possible Available Airfare (LPAA)

Level 2 - Lowest Regular Fare - known as the Lowest Logical Available Airfare (LLAA)

Level 3 - Lowest Desirable Fare - known as the Lowest Desirable Available Airfare (LDAA)

From a usability point of view, consumers want the to know the LLAA and compare it to the LDAA. LPAA should only be considered if the customer is truly searching for the absolute lowest. Lowest Possible carries with it the issue of overnights. As you can see in this example even the shortest time option carries with it a double overnight. So would I really want to do this and arrive a blithering wreck? (wait don't answer that...)!

Yet the corresponding request on Orbitz, Expedia et al returns quite similar prices without a double overnight. If you think this is just the Professor deliberately being difficult. I tried the search on a wide number of days to different destinations in Europe (long past the Ash period) yet within reasonable short time periods (IE within 30 days of departure) and I found many instances of this problem in BOTH directions across the Atlantic.

So the advice I have to the web people at DL is - get a life... I realize you might be airline staffers and used to doing connections like this - but for the regular man in the street this is not practical. At the very least give him the option of choosing a shortest time option...


PSST Want The Best Flight Info on the Ash

Then go to Tnooz...



The Results of the Social Media Survey

So you have voted.

The results are somewhat to be expected.

50% of you say you don't understand it and its too confusing.

The other half range from those who occasionally Tweet to SM Mavens.


EU Disharmony Over The Ash. Why The Airlines Should Be Allowed To Fly

That nice fluffy relationship between all the players in this unprecedented situation over the Volcanic Ash from Iceland seems to have dissolved.

The major players are sitting in different corners. The Governments and the ATCs are erring on the side of caution and the Airlines and the now very weary millions of travelers are both confused and in some cases getting pretty angry.

The issue as always is the "shades of grey".

Everyone knows that flying through the ash will result in severed damage to the aircraft's engines. But after the "n" number of parts per million have dissipated that impact decreases to zero. Also the ash is not universal at all altitudes. So the question is WHEN will it be safe to fly the planes and under what rules.

The airlines have decided that they have been waiting long enough and have taken matters into their own hands. Commencing yesterday and continuing today - they have been running some test flights. Air France and its sister carrier KLM along with Lufthansa have all conducted test flights. Further the authorities have permitted some re-positioning flights to take place and BA and other airlines have done this. Both AF/KL and LH are reporting that the aircraft they flew have emerged without any damage.

On both sides of the argument there are good points. The authorities have essentially closed airspace for most of Northern Europe. Was that the right thing to do? Yes absolutely. But can the system run at a lower level of frequency and still be safe? I believe the answer is yes with obviously definitive caveats.

What the airlines want now is to be allowed to start limited service and under an agreed set of rules. Right now the governments are not budging. But I suspect that tomorrow they will have to.

We should point out that every year there are some 50-70 volcanic eruptions. Of which at least 2-3 are of the same type as the Icelandic chappie currently spewing his stuff. Many of these volcanoes erupt for extensive periods of time. Thus the Icelandic event is neither new nor that rare. What is rare is the prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions combined with the severity and timing of the eruption.

For a great resource on this please visit the Smithsonian Institute.

We have to move to a different state. We need to move to a temporary capability that will start to let aircraft fly. This requires the various authorities to agree on the rules. These rules should be related to the data:

Frequency of flights
Current Volcano conditions
Accurate and reliable measurements
Diversion capabilities.

In addition the airlines need to set rules for people to travel. This should include a suspension of the usual rules on DBC and diversion. A certain degree of "at risk" should be exposed to the passengers and they need to be clearly allowed to make their decisions to fly or not. These decisions should not be based solely on their own safety - which should be Government determined - but by the risk of flight delays and possible diversions. If you wish - apply the Ryanair criteria to the flight.

We need to remember that there has and always will be volcanic particles in the atmosphere. The extent to which it represents a risk has to be a standard supported by strong science and hard factual evidence. AS we can see currently at time of writing BA is flying a 747-400 from Heathrow to its maintenance base in Cardiff. To test the conditions.

Let's get back to work.