24 September 2010

Why Can't We Create a Self Ironing Shirt?

....And other questions of the universe have been troubling me for some time. In my head there are questions that never get answered and ones that are almost always there to be slowly chipped away.

One of the key questions I ask myself is do we have good data to make decisions. Those who read the Professor on a regular basis know that I have this progression of data to power.

Data--> Information --> Knowledge --> Power.

One of the critical issues facing our society is the overload of data. How do we create ways for us to comprehend all the data available.
How much of it is useless?
How much of it can be inferred?
How much is qualitatively good?

As lately I have been looking at different ways to refine the process of getting at the relevant information this makes me think about search - I keep coming back to the data driven pure objective search all the way through to the highly subjective desirable results. Search remains a thoroughly unfulfilled experience today. Both in the B2B environment and of course the B2C web based environment. And I doubt highly that Google will make it - sufficiently - better when they acquire ITA as they surely will be able to.

I have no answer - I am thinking about search a lot. Fortunately the Shirt problem is not urgent. The search to the better result however is very urgent. And it is a critical matter.


23 September 2010

Lies, Damn Lies and then there are Fees...

I think we all know what it is like to be lied to. Politicians lie. Pressure groups lie. Advertisements lie.

So it is somewhat bad that respectable organizations such as ASTA align themselves with other organisms that are not telling the truth.

So here is the headline from BTC:


Consumer and Travel Groups Deliver Petition Signatures to DOT on “Mad As Hell Day!” in Support of Secretary LaHood’s Efforts to Require Airline Fee Transparency.

Er... excuse me that is actually a lie.

As I noted yesterday the issue of airline fees is but a small part of a far broader rule making input that the DoT is requesting. Further transparency of airline fees is no better - but definitely no worse than the issue of say special fee conditions that a travel agency has to live with.

While I don't personally like fees - they are here to stay. I am one of the 50,000 people who signed the petition but I was very clear that I was signing the petition for a reason to state that I supported the right of the airlines to charge the fees.

Further I also made it clear in both my submission to BTC and the coalition as well as the DoT itself that the mechanism of making the airline fees "transparent" as advocated by the Coalition was itself highly misguided. IE that making the fees transparent via the GDS channel would create a burden on everyone that was unnecessary. IE the airlines would have to do extra work and the agencies would have to do extra work and the consumer would not be any better off.

Forcing such a process would make every airline rule and regulation required in each GDS. Something that is a backward step - 15 years ago before the internet became so important to our society - yes. Today no.

So I do hope that some people will stop with the misrepresentation and the lies. Also the coalition should stop hiding its intentions and be very clear that it is against fees. Wait... isn't that what it says? Mad as hell about airline fees...

Read the fine print my friends and then decide if you want the government deep in regulating the distribution of airline products. Heck why not re-regulate the industry and re-award mail contracts.

.... BASTA as the retiring DG of IATA says. Let's not waste the government's time for something that is already more than adequately in place.

I really do wish the coalition would stop rubbishing the hard work that agents on the line do. But then I guess the real little people don't matter when you are trying to get media attention.


22 September 2010

Airport Delays? What Airport Delays?

So the great debate can finally be put to bed....

Yes the Tarmac rule was successful. Last month a total of 3 delays. Of course some people are cheating but still the performance during the busy August travel time was a marked improvement.So now airports will be wonderfully quiet places as people will be flying not waiting.

Further this topic of delays is also being beefed up with more regulation. And this leads me onto the other point... The issue of airline ancillary service fees.

This is likely to embolden the Anti-Fee brigade. But caution. The characterization that the Proposed NPRM is all about fee disclosure is out and out wrong.

Contrast the two statements:

This is from BTC:(Today's email blast from Radnor)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is accepting industry comments until September 23 on a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM). DOT is asking for comments on whether airlines should be required to make ancillary fee information available in a timely manner to travel agencies and travel management companies.

This is from the Official DOT Proposed Rule Making

The areas specifically stated in the NPRM.....

mentioned as being under consideration were as follows:
(1) DOT review and approval of contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays ;
(2) reporting of tarmac delay data;
(3) standards for customer service plans;
(4) notification to passengers of flight status changes;
(5) inflation adjustment for denied boarding compensation;
(6) alternative transportation for passengers on canceled flights;
(7) opt-out provisions where certain optional services are pre-selected for consumers at an additional cost (e.g., travel insurance, seat selection);
(8) contract of carriage venue designation provisions;
(9) baggage fees disclosure;
(10) full fare advertising; and
(11) responses to complaints about charter service.

So in fact the wording of the comment period almost excludes the generalized comment on fees. It only specifically allows the addressing of baggage fees (Article 9) disclosure.

For a full view of all the documentation and the right place to comment go here:



21 September 2010

Expedia Rating Cut on Google Fears

Today I almost feel like a regular journalist - the headline was pure Newspaper.

However the issue is that one of the leading Internet Stock Analysts Marianne Wolk at Susquehanna Financial cut her rating for Expedia on the fears of Google entering the Travel eCommerce arena. You can read about her here.

Adding the OTAs to the mix of people threatened by the Google ITA acquisition now makes clearly two. The Meta Search companies and the OTAs.

In my view - there are two more - the suppliers particularly US airlines and the GDSs who are faced with disintermediation.

As you travel around speaking to industry heads - I find this is not something that is well understood as yet but as more people think about the individual impact - no matter how Google spins it - this is a major shift in the balance of power in Travel Distribution.

In my view that represents a major threat to a large number of players. And this is now only becoming clear to them.

If you are further interested - please feel free to contact me ProfessorSabena@gmail.com - notice the irony of the use of Google's mail.


20 September 2010

Has America Turned Socialist?

Americans love conspiracy theories.

The emergence of the Tea Party as an anti-government movement is a trend that will worry some but delight others.

But in reality has America turned socialist and its organizations fallen to Socialism?

The answer of course is that insanity reigns and yes America has become far too Socialist for anyone's sanity. The Socialism I am speaking about of course is Social Media. The adoption thereof has become insane.

Consider now that everyone is on Twitter. Exactly how much time would we be on the darn thing to be productive. Twitter is the ultimate time waster. It has value in selective occasions and occasionally I tweet but only when I have something to say. for the Faithful who read this blog - it seems there are now quite a few of you - it has to worry you as to the volume of stuff you are reading all the time.

If you read the true definition - well at least the Social Media version - aka Wikipedia - then it can apply in a perverted way to the use of Social Media: Socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources.

In my view we are reaching a point of diminishing returns on Social Media. But it is still growing. Recent articles have started to question things such as privacy and the one big bugbear I have which is VOLUME.

Infoworld's Columnist has a great one on this:


It poses the same question in a humorous way. But the volume is no laughing matter. STOP!!!

I for one am getting off some of the insanity.

And thanks to Cowbell A Rays Blog for the image.

The Quick & The Dead - Who Cares About Anything Else?

When it comes to websites - if you want to show how good you are don't dwell on the issue of delight. Give the ADD SOBs who visit what they want and fast.

Of late - I have been experimenting with websites. What happened to 3 clicks to booking. I am tracking an average of 20 clicks from opening site to a decision point.

Gerry McGovern picked on the recent study in HBR - which is to be highly recommended reading.


In my view we are now going to have to deal with speed as a major issue. Gosh it has been years since we had to worry about dogs (ie r e a l l y slow) such as AOL browsers. Now we going to be concerned with an expectation from the user community that travel results will be instant.

And this creates a problem for all of us... except Google. Consider this. If big bad G has cached avails on most airlines then he can serve that up as instant results to a user using free text entries. Everyone else will be at least a click away. Google therefore WILL have an unfair advantage over everyone else in air search.

Think about that....

And the reference to Quick and the Dead (in this case meaning everyone else but Google - check out the biblical reference).Does this give Google a god like quality. Perhaps that is why they chose G as the initial for their name.

The phrase is part of a passage in King James version of the First Epistle of Peter (a book in the Bible) which reads
For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.
1 Peter 4:3-5