05 June 2010

Technology Bullies - You Know Who You Are

Great piece in Infoworld this week.

The gist is that everyone loves the underdog until he becomes the Uber-Dog. They go on to list 6 companies. The three that affect us most in travel are (in order)

1. Apple
2. Google
6. Microsoft

I would add - the following to that list of people who started as underdogs and became the Uberdog:

Amadeus - well they were not exactly the underdog because they started with huge airline weight behind them but they are definitely the Uber-Dog these days and throw their weight around.

Expedia - Again with Microsoft's weight at the time - they were not exactly the underdog but we definitely started from that perspective against the then giants of Travelocity and Preview Travel.

Anyone for any more?


(With special thanks to its jacky for the use of the pic.

Choice And The US Traveller

Our friends in Chicago/Miami (that is Amadeus today folks) recently commissioned a study on how US Travellers view Ancillary Services.

There is good news and bad news in the study. From a consumer's perspective - the reluctant acceptance that this is the way things are is now there. So 2 years after being introduced - the consumer has now learned to accept it. Doesn't mean they like it. Also I would be careful of taking advantage of it.

So a good study to look at and reflect on. You can find it here.


Teens Vs Adults.... Very Different Behaviours

So you think you know Social Media?

I harbour this sneaking suspicion that Social Media is a communist plot hatched by mad former KGB scientists slaving away in some mine shaft deep in the Urals.

The only reason everyone is using things like Facebook is that we are trying to keep up. Just like the Abilene Paradox - one day we will all wake up out of our 1984 like trance and go... say why did I do that?

Well it seems that teens may have it about right. I try and keep up with some teens and find out what they think. (Alert this is bar stool type research). I have noticed that Facebook and others have become less of an attraction. But teenagers are not just abandoning FB - rather they are lessening their degree of usage. The slow decline is occurring at the less and less use inflection point. But I see no less use of texting. I do see more and more people using Smart phones. Particularly iPhones.

The research from emarketer seems to confirm this fact.

What really is interesting is that the driving force of using the smart phones is not a utility or even the voice side of things - rather it is the fun and "something to do with my hands" sort of use.

If you dont believe me... just sit in a public place - sidewalk cafe - Micky Ds or some other high traffic area. You will be amazed at how many people are either using their phones but surprisingly a lot of people - especially teens touch and handle them. And lord knows its not good to see people using especially texting while driving.

During this week's D8 Conference - Alan Mulally head of Ford had an onstage session with Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. He had some interesting perspectives on processing information while driving. He quoted that "Eighty percent of accidents involve taking your eyes off the road. So we're convinced that the mind has the cognitive ability to do other things while driving as long as you continue to watch the road. So we minimize anything that's a distraction: keyboard, certain confusing apps, etc. We are definitely going to be a gatekeeper with regard to apps because it's crucial that you not be distracted. "

Mulally said the need for a system like Ford's was demonstrated on his drive to the (D8)conference. He saw a woman driving with both arms extended through the steering wheel so she could text with both hands. "I was going, 'Oh, my goodness,' " Mulally said.

I would have thought Holy Crap and just got the heck out of there. Just think if she was driving a Toyota (He didn't reveal the brand of car she was driving nor her age).

So think about it.


03 June 2010

Agents Can Breathe a Little Easier, For Now! But They Must Keep Up - Amadeus Survey.

Amadeus has just released a survey of 800 North American Travel Agents.

I highly recommend that you download it from here.

Focusing on Technology - the answers are pretty obvious. The Facebook juggernaut continues on apace with the agent community. Here is what Amadeus had to say about the survey:

The second trend focuses on the increased role of technology throughout the journey, from the trip planning phase through arrival back home. Travel professionals feel additional opportunity exists for technology to further improve the travel experience in areas including researching the trip (64.6%) and finding pricing/availability information (55.8%). They also expect next-generation travelers to get more "social." Social networking (47.5%) tops the list of what travel agents feel will have the greatest impact on how tomorrow’s travelers research and book travel, followed by user generated reviews (19.8%). Agents are responding to social media’s rise, with more than half (55.7%) indicating that they or their agencies are active in online social channels.

I would think that there is a fair degree of "keeping up with the Joneses" in the agent responses.

It is clear that technology is still a game the agents have to play whether they like it or not. But as the companion survey conducted in Ireland shows:

...the Amadeus survey also showed that agents felt improved travel technology systems were allowing them to spend time being more attentive to customers. But some 54% of leisure agents and 82% of business travel agents said further automation of back office tasks could speed up the time it takes to do them by a quarter.

The Professor's opinion is that this represents the dilemma of most agents. They have to invest in technology to maintain a competitive position. But the true cost of provisioning either from the GDS or 3rd parties is just going higher and higher. Their GDS are not keeping up. My team already estimates than more than 60% of all GDS sourced PNRs are touched by a third party technology system.


02 June 2010

Shock Horror - Hotel Rates Are Sometimes - WRONG

In probably the worst understatement of the decade - BTNOnline has done this shocking expose on Hotel Rates in the GDS. And they found... they can be wrong!!!

You can read the whole article here, and I wont bore you with the details.

However the fact that the hotel rate business is frankly fraught with a lot of junk should surprise no one in the business at all.

What is interesting is both WHY it occurs and what is being done to fix it.

With regard to the former - the real reason in my view is that no one cares about rates that are not tied to inventory directly. Since that is seldom the case - no one cares - literally.

With regard to the latter - this is where rate publishing systems and info pushing systems like EZYield and others are doing a pretty good job of fixing this awful problem.

Controlling the distribution of rates is a terrible mess and is ripe for reform. Until that happens we will get poor search and poor sales processes. It is time for this to get handled.

I believe that the poor process of rate distribution is one of the reasons companies such as Pegasus are seeing such dramatic rises in searches which are largely unnecessary and costly for all concerned.


US DoT Launches Wide Ranging Consumer Facing Rules

In a series of announcements today the U.S. Department of Transportation’s passenger-rights rule-making announced today has a very broad impact and plugs a lot of holes in the current information process. Some might say that this has been a long time coming both in the need for consumer protection and also to recognize that the web really exists. Some might even say this is the other show falling after the de-regulation of the GDS market

The DOT is proposing a wide range of consumer protections ranging from increasing compensation (finally) for passengers involuntarily bumped from flights.

Just as Alaska airlines cancelled theirs - the DoT wants to allow passengers to make and cancel reservations within 24 hours without penalty. this will upset a few. One regulation I applaud (actually I am happy with all of them) requires full and prominently displayed disclosure of baggage fees as well as refunds and expense reimbursement when bags are not delivered on time. it is not clear if those arcane rules will be fixed - er like you wont get anything if we slash, damage or drop your bag - willfully or not. The fair weight of fairness in advertising will require fair price advertising, prohibiting price increases after a ticket is purchased and mandating timely notice of flight status changes.

The rules also require notification of the non-airline ticket charges.

While not as specific nor as strict as the European rules which the US could have copied - this is a step in the right direction.

Let's hope when Congress get their hands on it they don't screw it up too badly.


The Real Reason for New United Merger- Too Big To Fail

Perry Flint who is the Editor for Air Transport World in his editorial this month used an expression I had seen before but have really rather ignored it until the stark reality of hit me. I admire Perry for his insight and I think he illustrated this with the following extract from the above mentioned editorial.

.... proposed merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines, announced ... The latter (event) illustrates a natural, if perhaps unintentional, response .... Create an airline that is too big to fail, because the consequences of such a failure would be a massive and sustained dislocation of the transportation system that would rebound on the political leaders judged to be in charge at the time.

The amount of noise that is still being pushed in support of the merger such as this article in GLG News didn't leave me any option but to comment accordingly:

"I have to disagree with the analysis. My basic objections reach three points.

1. The economies of scale seem to be paramount to consumer freedom of choice

2. The discussion does not take into consideration that the airlines may act irrationally. As we have seen that the airlines do not optimize their operations even when they have the chance to. Thus to assume that they will act rationally and in the most economic efficient manner is not borne out by history or constraints within their own structures let alone within the market

3. This analysis does not take into consideration the disincentive of the remaining market for new entrant players.

I would also like to comment on one other subject.

It is not the US governments responsibility to help the US carriers compete on a global basis. That is highly inefficient economically. Rather the US government should be focused on the domestic market which benefits the majority of the US population (85:15) is the conventional model. To increase competition domestically it would be a good idea to both lift the investment cap - from 25% and 49% effective control - and allow non-US controlled airlines to operate "fairly" within the US market. Provided that reciprocity was fair and equal.

Thanks for reading"

However the objections now being raised in Congress show that there is a valid reason for fighting it now rather than waiting for the next downturn when the resulting carrier just might be "Too Big To Fail"

And what do you think?


(With thanks to the Grauniad for the Jetstar Image)

Where Have All The Low Costs Gone?

I must be having a fit of deja vu or something even worse. I thought LCCs were supposed to be about low cost and eschewing the trappings of conventional airline services such as Big PSS systmes, Interline, FF marketing partners, Interline, Codeshare, Legacy GDS etc etc.

Here are the bigger news items:

WestJet, JeBlue and Volaris are all migrating (or have migrated) to Sabre from Navitaire.
jetBlue is doing a deal with AA and BA for codeshares and feeders.

Gol is joining IATA. It already participates in ARC.

So let's talk about interline...

Not content there:

Air France-KLM and Jetstar sign interline agreement. Agreement covers the 60-odd destinations served by Jetstar, Jetstar Asia/Valueair and Jetstar Pacific, as well as Air France and KLM gateways Paris and Amsterdam.

Jetstar has also announced deals with LH

Virgin Blue are sharing across the Tasman sea with ANZ

Even Air Asia and Jetstar are doing deals with Delta for FF use. Check this out!!!

Am I missing something or is there a quiet revolution going on....

What I find interesting here is that there is a downside to all of this - the use of the more expensive distribution tools such as these things are beginning to drag down the profitability of the LCCs. Yet this week LCC champ Ryanair once again showed us that the true LCC model is very much alive. And very profitable now thank you very much.

Perhaps now that everyone is flush with cash they will spend a little to assess the true cost of these programs.

iPads all round anyone?


Beware - US Falls Behind In Use Of Chip Cards

Great piece yesterday in USA Today of all places.

The issue is that the US bank system has been VERY slow in adopting advanced forms of credit cards and the use of Chip and Pin based systems

Read the article especially if you are going to Europe.

In my experience the most notable of places where it impacts you is in those countries who have long deployed chip and pin. Notably France, NL and Germany. It is not good to think you can roam around at night and get Petrol from an all night station without a suitable card. So just remember that


01 June 2010

Good News For Facebook .. but Bad News For Work Life Mix

For those of you who missed my different perspectives on Social Media and last week's somewhat fizzled QUIT FACEBOOK day - here is some data that might make you want to think again about how you deal with Social Media.

Its bad enough that things are conflicted but that our time on Facebook continues to grow and from the anecdotal evidence the growth is occurring in the work population. It is also spreading into the home life more and more. It will be interesting to see how the US Labor Dept statistics show this.

But if its any consolation. 2nd Life is no longer a threat and Twitter is flattening out. Have a look at the Google Trends data. The first chart is master trends.

The second chart is the search list. I compared the following terms/sites:

2nd Life

Interesting... if not a little scary....


31 May 2010


In case you missed it and as a special service to the whole of mankind - I am publicizing that today is International Quit Facebook Day. The Cringe had a bit to say about this.

And if you want to know HOW to do it go here.

While I don't actually advocate total withdrawal - let's face it what else do we have - MySpace, Friendster oh heck - how about human personal interaction... NAAAAA why would we do that!

So if you think that Facebook done you wrong - and actually I do agree that Facebook has been pretty loose with our privacy, (Here are Facebook's Privacy Terms) then perhaps you should consider curtailing how much data and how much usage of the site.

If you read the terms and conditions, there is one statement that basically is their catch all for their behavior. It reads like this:

"If we fail to enforce any of this Statement, it will not be considered a waiver."

Which basically means (if you are cynical like me) if they don't enforce it - its OK unless they get caught.... Remember it's just a statement so the waiver basically doesn't mean anything.

I was speaking to some University Graduates this weekend and they ALL know about the renaming dodge trick (rename your Facebook pages so that your past indiscretions such as Pole/Vomit dancing and various other nefarious activities are allegedly removed. Just so you know the ids on the photos still retain their original names and yes you can be found. Oh and one more thing - if your name appeared in a search result from Facebook - it is indexed somewhere and yes that Pole thingie picture of you will be out there.............F O R E V E R !!!

Cheers and have a nice happy day....

Apple! Time To Pay The Piper - Addendum

Sorry for the additional post.

I was researching something else and came across this article in the WSJ.


So Apple is going to pursue this type of growth and in fact be a more aggressive player.

Oh dear... what happened to the kinder gentler people in Cupertino?

Apple! Time To Pay The Piper

A milestone in our society and culture occurred earlier this month. Apple became worth more than Microsoft. So now Redmond which used to be castigated as the Evil Empire is now 3rd behind Google and Apple.

Apple has largely arrived in its much vaulted position by avoiding such issues as security and integration into the corporate world. Here is a great article from Infoworld. (How I miss the print edition!)

Well - now it has to step up to that challenge and it better start do it pretty fast. So since I have your attention this far let me have my say on the subject of the iPhone.

I think it is an amazing piece of technology. But I have a very hard time with its model. Unlike the traditional players in the mobile space - they blazed a new model and have been very successful at it. All at the expense of the consumer.

Normally the network operator guys keep their revenues and the handset guys get paid a fee or sell direct. Mostly the former. Thus the network operator has been in control of the market. This was not good enough for Apple. The asked for AND managed to get it - a share of the network revenues from the first customer AT&T. In exchange AT&T got exclusivity. But the price was high. But Apple wasn't content with that - they wanted additional revenue. So they simply applied the iTunes model and created the App Store thereby creating an additional revenue stream.

And just to make sure that they MADE enough money - they ensured that the design of the network usage required additional data access for even basic services such as email and texting. Thus when you are online with your mobile device - the amount of network traffic can be high. Pity the poor people on the Pay as You go model billing schemes. But it is FAR worse if you roam into a different network. Then you pay $$$$ for network traffic. I have seen some staggering bills from people who roamed for just a short time in a foreign country.

Sloppy design by Apple makes this the default state rather than an option. So those Apps might be free to download or low cost but they can COST YOU BIG TIME. King Gillette is probably laughing his head off in the great pantheon of business ideas.

If you hear me speak at conferences - I call the iPhone the devil incarnate for this reason. (In fairness to Apple - Google's Android does much the same thing). I don't just stick with my crackberry because the device is better - no - its because I can manage the cost of the device AND the network.

So Apply - time to start playing nice and being a good corporate citizen. No more cavalier behavior.

Do you think they will listen to me? Naaaaa..........