16 September 2010

Panasonic updates on their technology and philosophy

Panasonic's Neil James describes how the company focus has evolved regarding connectivity and its embrace of more open standards. For industry insiders, this change in approach is revolutionary. The new thinking was matched with real creativity in new products and future thinking demonstrated at the event.

The Googlesphere Is Already Googleopoly

I have written in the past about the nature of Google and how I believe Google is incapable of living up to its stated goal of "Do No Evil."

Much of this is based on my observation of behaviour of the juggernaut. Having worked at a company previously labelled a "monopoly" - aka Microsoft, I believe I can put my views in context that is meaningful.

I am particularly worried by the Google/Verizon view of the future two tier web. The issue of the proposed ITA acquisition allows us to examine Google's behaviour and motivation.

Professor HB sent me a link to a discussion which is one of the more scholarly assessments of Google's behaviour. There is a lot of data you can find at The Googleopoly Site. I encourage you to spend some time looking at it

In particular download this presentation.

What is perhaps the most worrisome is that in every sector where Google has staked a claim it is either the dominant force or the major influencer.

The accepted notion of what constitutes a monopoly in both US Law (The Sherman Act) and European Community Law (Article 102) is as follows:

"A monopoly power is defined as the ability of a business to control a price within its relevant product market or its geographic market or to exclude a competitor from doing business within its relevant product market or geographic market. It is only necessary to prove the business had the "power" to raise prices or exclude competitors. The plaintiff does not need to prove that prices were actually raised or that competitors were actually excluded from the market.

Today, a general definition of a monopoly is where nearly all of one product type or service is owned by one person or group of people within a community or area. Thereby, the sole control of this product or service is given to one party to the elimination of all others within the marketplace."

Note that I am NOT a Lawyer and if someone seeks to take the issue further then I strongly suggest that that you should contact a professional attorney or law firm.

Google's perspective on domination was interesting in looking at the way Google acted in withdrawing from a product area. When it canned Google Wave - it freely admitted that despite reaching more than one million users that was not enough.

Thus for Google only domination is good enough. That my friends is a far cry from "do No Evil" - indeed my view is that sadly Google has forgotten how to do good.

What can be done - or what can Google do about it?

I believe the company should be split up. A breakup is the only effective way of curbing their domination. Our universal dependence on the Internet and Google's domination of the web give them unprecedented power to destroy and do evil.

My previous views can be seen here is several key posts.


Illustrations are Slides 8 and 27 from the Googleopoly VI presentation noted above.

13 September 2010

Governments And Commerce.... Never a Good Combination - Terrible in Some Cases

The whole idea of improved security it designed to make the world an easier place for all travellers. In recent times this has resulted in a backup at the airport security which makes travel a far less pleasant place. By forcing everyone through the same pipe - you mix frequent travellers with newbies.

While everyone accepts the need for additional security screening - there has to be a better way of processing people than treating everyone the same way. There are several programs that support biometric scanners to allow a person who has submitted themselves to an external screening check to use the process.

The US program - called Global Entry - is not bad. improves the flow into the USA.

However their first partnership outside the USA is with the Dutch Privium Service called FLUX - which probably stands for something very bad and smelly... the poor passenger has to pay again through the nose for the service. Now they want 264 Euros.

Not exactly a great deal for saving a few mins at the security gate.

If only they could make it free or of higher value.

Oh I forgot this is the government we are talking about...

You have been warned - its not worth it. And judging by the deserted Privium lounge at Schiphol - the careful Dutch don't rate it either.


12 September 2010

WN WiFi... yes there are some planes flying

Yup that bulge is the WiFi from Row 44


Airline Fees - Real Or Perceived Problem

I love to say that one should be very careful about wishing and wanting something. Be careful what you actually wish for because when it comes true - it might not be what you thought is was.... it reminds me of the 2009 Movie, where a preposterous proposition made for great comedy.

So it would seem is the case of the the pressure groups are are demanding action on the issue of "hidden" fees.

Let's distill the problem.

No one is disputing the airlines' right to charge fees. (Actually that is not true - many would like the airlines not to charge fees. And indeed if you ask anyone the loaded question "do you like fees" you know exactly the answer you are going to get.)

However there is a considerable pressure on the disclosure process of fees. Luddites don't like change.

But in this case they want to have everything delivered in the same manner as the traditional fares and pricing, despite the standard way of notification.

If I may QUOTE from the latest missive from BTC:

"If DOT issues a rule requiring airlines to submit data to travel intermediaries, the vast majority of problems emanating from ancillary fees would be fixed straightaway. Without the rule, we are facing perhaps years of inefficiency and untold attendant damage to managed travel programs. The ATPCO OC fare filing and ARC/BSP EMD processes that would put these fees into the marketplace and facilitate payment have been successfully tested by some 26 airlines and 3 distribution systems and are ready to go."

Not so fast hot shot. The Airlines already provide this information. The issue is NOT one of information provided it is of the execution of the information that is the issue.

Actually there are a number of issues. How do you display in the standard methodology of an agent's workflow the fees? How are they calculated and managed. These are not trivial matters. Having sat and used a GDS screen for more than 30 years I can tell you the amount of complexity is mind blowing to the average consumer. This is why there are so few good travel agents around. Also the technology to easily integrate is not trivial.

If it was just a question of providing the information for the GDSs to implement then this whole issue would be a non-event because they would have done it by bow!

Ancillary services delivered down the standard GDS pipe are NOT easy and the GDSs are having a hard time with it - EVERYONE is. Indeed I don't want anyone to think I am against the GDSs displaying the data - far from it - we all WANT them to do it. But forcing the airlines to disclose in a singular and homogenized fashion is not the answer.

So I say this - let the airlines and the agents do their job. If the GDSs are having a hard time getting to display things in the manner that the airlines want - then let them fix that with the airlines.

Raising the spectre of hidden fees at the airport is politely a load of Bull. The information is highly transparent and available everywhere. In exactly the same manner that the Airlines communicate with their travel agents and the GDSs do the same. The Web and the GDSs are complimentary. This has been the case for years.

Forcing everyone to use a GDSs to get their data - which seems to be the driving force of the Coalition against fees and BTC in particular - would seem to be self serving. What about all the other people who don't choose to use a GDS or an airline website? Are we now saying that this is the only way?

That hardly sounds like the American way.

So if the coalition really wants to prove their point - let them sit down with a Travel Agent and look at all the current complexity of work that an agent does. And where the agent goes for information. And what she/he does to address the challenges of dynamic product changes that are a hallmark of our business.

THEN if they truly feel that the agent is hard done by - perhaps then the Coalition should consider if the forcing of maximum disclosure actually makes a process harder rather than easier for the poor agent on the line that has to implement and do the work.

I doubt that anyone in the coalition has actually bothered to check this with an agent on the line - so perhaps those that are objecting should look inwards rather than trying to find a scapegoat.

Or perhaps the Coalition likes to stare at goats in order to make them fall down.


Sunday Humour - Caution Frivolity Zone

Professor Eric sends me occasionally some interesting plays on words. As a Brit by birth - I love puns and word plays.

So here is his latest missive. These are just funny. For Americans this is where Yogi Berra used to shine. One of his more famous quotes was "The future sure ain't what it used to be".

So read and enjoy... cheers

Subject: A Paraprosdokian
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. Some examples:

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese
Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

I saw a woman wearing a sweat shirt with "Guess" on it...so I said “Implants?"

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for President and 50 for Miss America ?

Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

You're never too old to learn something stupid.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit, the target.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

with a top of the hat to Chris Kavas for the really bad image pun

Discipline Discipline - Key To Profitability

For veteran watchers of the airline business - the latest round of statistics from the US market which makes up the largest source market of travel - must be encouraging and even surprising.

The Professor has been digging into some detailed statistics evaluating the first half financials of the airlines and looking carefully at core data.

Airlines are on a roll and look like they are able to smooth out if not break the cycle of boom to bust.

Let's start with the boom. Almost all airlines have been sounding restrained in their comments regarding the state of their businesses. The common threads are as follows:

1. No double dip in the recession but dont expect a miraculous rise in traffic - this recovery is still very fragile.
2. No big advance in sales - with a few exceptions and across the board the traffic boost in first half of 2010 has been very slight perhaps a 1-2% advance in traffic (ATW says ASMs were flat but RPMs were up 1.6%).
3. with the exception of Southwest all airlines reported significant increase in Ancillary Revenues particularly bags and seats. Southwest while protesting that it is not implementing that it is doing fine without ancillaries is also reporting a significant uptick in its Business product sales which of course is - er - a bundled ancillary package.
4. International flights are reporting a mixed bag. Transatlantic was flat - Asia Pac is up and of course the smaller but growing Latam markets are continuing their 4th year of growth.

Seperate from the airlines reports I have been trying to match how the advance purchase as represented by ARC sales and the airlines flown passengers match up. Here we see something interesting. The market has moved out to a less advance purchase model. People are buying later. And paying for it....

Air travel costs soared from April onwards which caused the growth to slow but eventually the airlines only discounted a few of their total capacity seats and those discounts were relatively minor.

This means we are in for a bumper crop of airline Q3 results. The GDSs can also feel happy because as they continue their unbundling of their product their yields will rise.

What of the future?

The pressure is off the airline vs GDS battle - but its going to heat up again towards the end of the year. All eyes should be on the New United. Currently tied up in their fast track merger, once the dust settles - they must start to evaluate their distribution. Delta too must be thinking along the same lines. with #3 AA already making its moves - the other two cannot sit on their hands on this one.

And here now sits the conundrum of where the market will go. With the big 3 airlines occupying the space where the big 5 used to be - (and dont forget that WN has far less dependency on GDSs leaving only US and AS as in truth needing the GDS service), someone one day is going to wake up and say - wait a minute why am I paying for distribution when I own so much of the market.... and my occupancy levels are approaching max practical levels? There is that Abilene Paradox again...Discipline must move beyond the current capacity constraint across the airline infrastructure. With the added muscle that New United and New Delta have in the market, not taking advantage of this would be tantamount to admitting that airlines are still - less smart than we are giving them credit for. In the past it used to be an either or - Cojones or Brains. Why not both? Only time will tell who wins the next face off.