27 August 2010

Google Voice - Blink And You May Miss This.

As part of the continuing public service from the friends of the Party, Mr Winston Smith has asked me to point out to the readers that they must not miss the automatic opt in screen they will be seeing if they access Google Mail (including Gmail) via a web browser.

He went to great pains to point out that this screen is actually visible on all browsers that support Gmail.

Normal Service is now resumed in the happy places we all live in .....

Michael O'Leary On The Record

This is great....

A good view.

Listen to the man himself telling it like it is. this is from a BBC interview recently

Too bad he was not quite as explicit about the long haul "amenities" as he is on Youtube. In case you missed it here it is again.



Google Voice - Did You Read The Fine Print?

Good Day fellow travellers on the planet Googlesphere.

Today we are looking at the new tool given to us from the munificence of the Party.

Wow Free Calls!

This is really cool. BB has really outdone himself this time. I immediately put a sell notice on all my telecom stocks and cancelled my order for Skype Stock for their impending IPO.

I tried using the service. Its pretty darn good.

But... after reading Mr Winston Smith's legal terms and conditions - I might just have a little concern about how I use it. (I am just not sure if this is before or after his little conversations with the party).

I draw your attention to several sections of the agreement that you must agree to before you can add the service. For example:

Google's Proprietary Rights

As between the parties, Google shall retain all right, title and interest to the telephone numbers used in connection with or provided as part of the Services.

I could be wrong but that did not specify which end of the conversation so you are granting to Google all rights to any call you make.

Google has the right to restrict calls or connections to any telephone numbers in its sole discretion. These may include, but are not limited to certain geographic locations, special services numbers, satellite telephony services, and other call forwarding services.

Now last time I checked the laws of the country and their instrument usually called a government has the sole right to restrict who I can speak to. In the USA there is this thing called Freedom of Speech. Quite a few people actually gave up their lives for this right.

This is in stark contrast to no such restriction by Google in who I can reach via their other forms of communication tool - one is called Google Chrome and its a web browser. I don't think Chrome can restrict which sites I can browse. The other is Gmail - I don't think Google has determined who I can and cannot send email to.... but wait they already know that so there is no worry there BB Eric is watching all of us - keystrokes and our actual private conversations.

The longest section of the terms and conditions for this "free" service is covered by the billing statement:

Bill Payment

Depending on the Google Voice service you sign up to, you may be required to pay fees in connection with the Services, as stated by Google. There may be additional fees if you request a change in any Services. Depending upon the level of Services selected by you, there may be charges for calls to or from certain locations, including without limitation payphones and areas within extended calling zones. There may also be applicable charges for any special or enhanced services you use.

Users may purchase prepaid credits to be used for Google Voice services. Google will be under no obligation to offer any refunds or reimbursements for the purchase price of such prepayments. Usage of minutes is billed in one minute increments. Prepaid credits are billed at the time of purchase.

Unless prohibited by law, any outbound calling credit that you have purchased will expire six (6) months from the most recent date of use, and may not be transferred.

... but perhaps I am just being a bit too paranoid today. But I think I am going to check the underside of my car........


26 August 2010

Social Media - Be Careful What You Wish For

For those of you who are not familiar with the rather repugnant voyeurism that people get up to on ChatRoulette... here is a brilliant piece of marketing on YouTube.

At the moment ChatRoulette is down. But I suspect it will return.

This is one of the more seedy side of the web. But who am I to judge?

With a tip of the hat to my nephew Professor St. John for the Facebook post on the subject.


Etihad and Virgin Oz - Best Mates!

Two Old Boys of Aussie aviation have come together to create a somewhat interesting pact.

With an Aussie CEO at the helm of Etihad - James Hogan, EY has been looking to crack some of the stranglehold Emirates has on the lower Kangeroo market. With a significant amount of lift between DXB and across Australia the EK Southern Hemisphere network includes a lot of local and one stop traffic. This has been siphoning traffic away from BA/QF steadily for years.

The radical re-shaping of Virgin Blue and other members of the Virgin Oz family is now underway. EY and V Australia will become new long haul players fed by the Virgin Blue network. In effect this creates a third force in the market driven by players who are hungry and willing to do battle.

This could become very interesting and stimulate some real traffic across the domestic market as well as the long haul network.

With its new CEO (ex QF man) John Borghetti’s plans now become clearer - there could be an interesting casualty in all of this. BA and QF's Kangeroo Route dominance.


Photo from Airliner.net: http://cdn-www.airliners.net/aviation-photos/middle/9/2/6/1214629.jpg

25 August 2010

Delta Still Struggling with New Site

Seems like things are still not quite right with the "new" new Delta Website

This is the welcome screen

Keep pushing guys...

24 August 2010

Wotif Confirms Robustness of Ozzie Market

They may not have a gvoernment but Australia is indicating a healthy travel economy - at least in most sectors.

While Virgin Blue and Jetset are struggling, Wotif, Jetstar, Qantas and Flight Centre are doing quite nicely thank you.

With nearly 300,000 bookings a month going through the Wotif sites - the company is now responsible for about 10% of the Australian accommodation market.

That is a big number is anyone's book.

So while other markets like the UK and the USA are suffering things seem to be ok down under.


Are Travel Agents Being Weeded Out, Again?

I have been thinking that we may be seeing something I don't want to witness. A new wave of travel intermediary reductions.

True the numbers look pretty rose for travel agency numbers in terms of transactions and turnover but what of the number of agencies.

In two markets I think we are seeing a downsizing in the number of outlets. Both the UK and the US are noticing this.

it seems that Travel Weekly USA also noticed it. Here is an exert from August 23rd 2010 edition

Travel Counsellors, a U.K.-based group that had launched networks of home-based agents in several countries, quietly phased out its U.S. venture last month.

Earlier this month, the IT Group network, which claimed a membership of 800 agents, decided to switch gears, shut down and offer its members a new opportunity to affiliate with Vacation.com.

And this week we report eTravCo is shutting down and liquidating, advising its creditors and member agencies that it lacks the funds to cover its unsecured debts.

I am going to keep looking at this...


Please Vote on Google's Net Neutrality Proposal

I am trying to gauge the sentiment of the Professor's readers to the issue of the Google and Verizon proposal on net neutrality.

I am personally against it as I have written before but I would like to know how people who read this blog feel about the topic.

NOTE the poll is anonymous so please feel free to vote as you see fit.


Understanding Data - TED.com

This is well worth the time... click on this link and if you are a data junkie this is really for you.

Since we are all respond to visual stimulus then it is a critical part of what we do. So in this talk from Ted.com - which I highly recommend for brain food you go to frequently - the author David McCandless explains how he turns complex data sets (like worldwide military spending, media buzz, Facebook status updates) into beautiful, simple diagrams that tease out unseen patterns and connections. Good design, he suggests, is the best way to navigate information glut -- and it may just change the way we see the world.

Its all about perspective and context. What I like about it - is that it helps us to deal with the masses amounts of data we are exposed to which in turn we can convert into something useful. I like the idea of using this for knowledge compression when we are drinking from the firehoses every day.

Anyway - ENJOY!


information visualization

RIP Horizon Air 2011

Alaska Airlines is going to shutter branded flying for its Horizon Air wholly owned subsidiary in 2011.

This is according to Air Transport World.

I guess we will still fly Horizon Air planes (once they dump the Canadair CRJ-700s it will be an all DHC8-Q400 fleet) but the rationale for keeping the brand going as a separate entity must be waning.

Interestingly the 2 letter code is QX which is also the tax code for PFC... some accounting people will be happy


Social Network a US Phenomenon? Guess Again

In the USA it has become pretty standard stuff to assume that Social Media was a homegrown thing. Everyone speaks of Facebook as the gold standard - and let's face it - it just is.

But its not the only game in town.

There are some significant other players who have decent presence in their respective markets.

Here is a list of some of the other non-US Social Networking sites you might want to consider and their respective penetration as of the end of 2009.

CHINA: Qzone (also known as QQ) – 200 m users as of 31.01.09 , reportedly 300m as Dec 2009 , Main land China- more that 150 m monthly active users. Also Xioni and 51 are social networking services.

Friendster - 115 m users – 61m unique users per month and 19 billion pages views per month predominantly SE Asia Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India

Google/Orkut - *100 m users – 48 languages – 51.09 m user Brazil , 20.02m users in India , 17.28m user in US.

hi5 - 80m users – 50 languages, main demographics 18 – 34 ( 67% of users ) *15m Mexico, *10.5m Thailand, *7m Peru, *7m Portugal, India, Latam , big interest in developing social games and entertainment content

RUSSIA: Vkontakte - 61 m users- Russian (cyrillic ) speaking world inc. Eastern Europe ,

S. KOREA: Cyworld - *16.2 m users – 33% of total population of Sth Korea , 90% of Sth Koreans in their 20’s are members of Cyworld.

EUROPE: Bebo - 40 m users – languages English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Polish, also Netlog (Italy) and Tuenti (Spain)

GCC: Maktoob- 36 m users, Middle East, bought by Yahoo , Aug 2009 combining 16m Maktoob users with 20m Yahoo users, originally an email service that has extended into social network and news content

NL: Hyves – 9m users ,53% of total population of The Netherlands are registered users

HUNGARY: iWiW – 4m users, 40% of total population of Hungary are registered user through invite only

Facebook itself now claims 500 million users and also has developers in 180 countries worldwide. And don't forget MySpace still hanging in there.

For a good snapshot of Facebook go here.

Brazil - Predicted To Grow Significantly

When the rest of the world was wringing its hands last year - one country that seemed to have moved into a strong position has been Brazil.

Low debt both macro and consumer has freed them from many of the endemic problems of the debt crisis (aka the GFC) last year.

For the Travel category - Brazil has continued to power an increasing number of northbound traffic to the USA. They LOVE Disney and its a right of passage to take a trip to the shrine of Mickey.

Recent studies by OTTI are indicating the US needs to get on its bike and start pitching heavily to Brazilians. South America has the highest U.S. inbound growth rate of any region and is projected to increase by 11 percent in 2010, generating more than 4.3 million visitors by 2014. Brazil, the largest South American source market, is expected to increase 22 percent in 2010 and produce a record 1.09 million visitors. By 2014 the U.S. may host 1.9 million Brazilian visitors, a 113% increase over 2009.

Those are good numbers.


23 August 2010

Who Says You Can't Make Money As A Brick and Mortar Agency?

Flight Centre the Brisbane based agency chain that tends to eschew the online world has reported record profits. A sustained improvement in trading conditions has seen the company record a net profit after tax of AU$139.8 million in the 12 months to June 30.

The result was an increase of 266.5% on the previous corresponding period, albeit off a lower base due to the downturn. Total transactional value fell 2% to AU$11bn, due to lower air yields. Net profit before tax rose 391.5% to AU$198m.

This contrasts pretty dramatically with the US and European traditional agency groups. However it should be noted that FC has operations in most English Speaking countries. So perhaps they do have some secret sauce. Of course that nice deal with Travelport that I wrote about last December might have a little to do with it.

Hey ho - I guess another busy day at the office!

TUI Travel Blames Small Agencies + Dynamic Packaging For Its Woes

The bigger travel companies in the UK are trying to play the blame game according to a recent report in TTG/UK.

After the recent collapses in the UK - there is plenty of bad blood floating around in the market.

Tui’s chief financial officer Paul Bowtell said: “The later booking curve plays into the hands of smaller operators who can pick up relatively cheap distressed airline stock which can they can package up.

“These operators are able to get that stock to market very quickly – they feed on distressed stock and that has an impact on margins at the lower end of the market.” He is not alone other players like Sunvil's Noel Josephides said that the main problem was dynamic packaging agencies who picked up distressed stock at the last minute.

“This is the bane of our lives,” he said. “Whenever you have distressed stock this will happen as the dynamic packagers will move in and undercut us.

Clearly ignoring the fundementals that I laid out yesterday in my post on the state of the UK Market, he said: " I’m looking forward to when all the dynamic packagers have to have an ATOL and we can stabilise the market.”

Given the need for a new scheme in the market following the Loss by the UK CAA of its court battle on the subject, this is not going to happen any time soon. But for the biggest operator to put the blame on the small guys is seems to indicate that TUI Travel is having a harder time of making its scale/size work to its favour.

On the other hand arch rival Thomas Cook UK boss Ian Derbyshire said these smaller operators had not had any “noticeable” effect on its business this summer. He added that the “softer” prices in the early part of the summer were due to weak consumer demand caused by the good UK weather and emergency budget.

... er that and a changing market anyway...

Oh well!


Travel and the Gulf Disaster

an interesting email from the US Travel today.


I will let you decide to read or not... but its worth a look


Shhhh ....Does Sir Stelios Know?

Sir Stelios now ex-board member of the airline he founded, has blown another gasket on the long running battle of the to expand or not to expand. In the London Based Sunday Times yesterday easyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou is objecting to the airline’s use of outside aircraft. Earlier this month, easyJet chartered a Titan Airways Boeing to cover one of its own aircraft that had a technical fault. Sir Stelios has written to easyJet claiming its use of aircraft not carrying the easyJet name and livery breaches its brand agreement.

But Shhhhhhhhhhhh there are actually two of them - both 757s leased in from other airlines.

So Sir Stelios if you would like to look at them - in glorious colour - here is where you can see both of them:

Titan Airways comes without winglets.
Air Finland also has one painted in Easyjet colours.

This is not really a case of a technical fault - it was that they just ran out of capacity and it was clearly planned since it was covered in the professor's blog on June 11th.


22 August 2010

UK Travel Market Still Not Well Or Is It?

There is an unwritten rule in British Travel - that large failures usually go in twos. With the failure of both GoldTrail and Kiss, this should have removed a lot of inventory from the UK market. Not good for the suppliers but better for the Tour Wholesalers.

However there is a more disturbing problem. The UK market is down and its decline is increasing from last year. Unlike most of the other markets in the rest of the world - the UK is having a hard time restoring itself. However this does assume that the markets return in the same form as before.

Actually if you look at the stats they are pretty scary.

Let's look at the last two years (taking mid year 12 month average).
In the 12-month period from July 2008 to June 2009, the number of visits abroad by UK residents, not seasonally adjusted, decreased by 10 per cent when compared with the 12 months to June 2008, from 70.9 to 63.5 million a drop of 7.4%.
In the 12-month period to June 2010, the number of visits abroad by UK residents decreased by 12 per cent when compared with the 12 months to June 2009, from 63.3 to 56.0 million – a drop of 7.3 million.

Now let's look at a comparable statistic - just for scale purposes - lets look at Ryanair. total passengers holding in their stomachs and putting up with all the terrible things that can happen to a customer.

Jul 08 - Jun 09
Total 60.2m

Jun 09 - Jun 10
Total 69.2M

Yes dear readers - you read right. This shows that Ryanair alone now carries more passengers than UK residents who travel abroad. Well while they are not happy about how they travel - the prices are just too good to pass up and away they go to consume that wonderful 50P flights I wrote about earlier.

From this we can show that there is a fundamental shift going on in the market away from the traditional VTO/Charter market. This is not new but the impact of a down economy coupled with the rise of the LCC lift by Ryanair and of course its now many bretheren has been devastating to the traditional players. Time to wake and smell the coffee everyone. Life did change.


US Travel Stats

I have been looking at the recent numbers from different statistical perspectives. Using US Government Figures for Air Travel and sales numbers from ARC, we can see some interesting views of what is happening in the recent 12 months.

ARC's July numbers showed a nice kick in revenue growth Y/Y while down from the peaks in the early months of 2010 – that can be attributed more to the dramatic downturn the previous year. The annus horribillis 2009. Even nicer news for the government – tax revenues are also holding up. So those nasty ancillary revenues are not actually stealing money from the government’s coffers. (And remember that there are multiple forms of taxation now in the US based tickets). Actually the airlines have finally happened on a financial model that seems to be - er - sustainable.

So if it feels a little cramped on your flight - you are right - load factors are at near record highs with those old planes flying a lot longer. Interestingly enough the total number of planes in the US Fleet has returned to about the same number in 1996 - 7500.

This must be good news for the airlines that the yields are holding up - indeed this summer is going to be a bumper one in terms of revenues and profits. Airlines will be paying dividends again and Transportation may actually be a sexy category again.

Everybody should be happy right?

Actually we might want to hold off celebrating too soon. At the very time when the market should be showing growth in real traffic - we are seeing actually a slowing of growth back to levels that existed in the early part of this decade. That means that while the rest of the world is engaging in real growth the US market may indeed be looking at low growth numbers.

On the positive side that means that the market is probably right sized in terms of equipment lift and resourcing.

It also means that the march towards self-service is really paying off. Remember this has seen staffing numbers fall to record lows in total employment and in particular resulting in very high numbers of passengers per employee. Will this mean more incidents like "Chute" Slater? I hope not - and no we should not be pointing to the extra hard work that has to be done - but we can see that the salaries of the airline front staff have indeed fallen. But the numbers where the cuts have occurred have been in customer service staff and middle management. The real employment of staff engaged by the US airlines the numbers have fallen from more than 620,000 in mid 1996 to now to a tad more than 550,000. The Peak was nearly three quarters of a billion staffers. Yet traffic as measured by number of passengers and flights have increased by approx 25%. in this time period to an annual run rate of more than 700 Million US based passengers.

In the same time period we have seen other things happening. I will write more on this in a future blog entry


CheapFlights. Only 50P plus Taxes and... ...More on Ancillaries plus a little humour!

Charlie Leocha in his newsletter today has a survey. He calls it "The Annoying Fee Survey."

I am sorry that Charlie has taken this position because I think he is doing a disservice to the cause of those who want transparency in fees. Of course fees are annoying to a consumer - DUH!

But ask a different question - would you accept fees to be able to choose what you want when you want it - then - hell yes - I would be happy with that. Transparency of pricing IS a good thing. If we can get the right level of detail and a way to display that would be great.

BUT - let's just consider another product category. Cars. In car advertising what is or is not included?

Do you know the off - the showroom price? Never.
Are taxes and destination charges included? Never.
Are all the options displayed in each ad? Never.

So here is a very amusing look at airlines. I am grateful to Professor Eric in BKK for sending me this link.

I will not give anything away except, you can guess which airline is actually the one causing these fine ladies all the grief. And yes they still fly the route - except the airport is not called Tralee but Kerry.