20 November 2010

Is AA Just Posturing? I don't Think So.

I read in one of the Beat organs - that Mike Platt believed that AA and Travelport will ultimately settle.

According to a blog post by former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt, GDSs "want to be sure that they preserve their near monopoly over unbiased content within the business travel sector, and they are prepared to pay to do so.

In my view they are not posturing and AA is determined to break the Gordian knott. But we have to consider that there are more than a single cost/price set of issues.

The GDSs have failed to keep up with distribution evolution and they have instead resorted to paying the market to keep quiet via the GDS incentive payments. As Mike correctly points out in his Blog - that is like a red rag to a bull. The airlines hate the incentive payments.

The GDSs on the other hand now seek to legitimize the payment of incentives to the agency community which is as simple as robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Making themselves out to be the heroes in all this - it seems that they have conveniently forgotten that they are the ones driving cost upwards.

There are several Airlines who clearly do not like the idea of Travelport forcing participation. What seems to have been lost in the noise is that GDS De-regulation has been in the market for several years and the behviour of the GDS has not changed for the better.

So the last question then... will AA roll over? Somehow I don't think so.

Thus we have an interesting fight on our hands. I know where I am putting my money


Expecting A Bumper 2011? Guess Again

One of the things pundits do is to guess (er I meant predict) the coming activity.

There are a number of factors as in everything that will give us a view of what the next year is going to look like. So as we enter the last 50 days of the year we can start to see that 2011 is going to be a year of uncertainty.

Lets start with the political scene. The USA will have a government that will have a hard time working together. Two houses with different leaderships. Not a good representative of smooth harmonious government. Coalitions will be the order of the day and shall we say that makes for cautious government, this affect the USA, The UK , Oz not to mention France and many other nations. We have the PIIGS (notice the extra I). We have the bailout donor nations suffering big time with austerity measures to cover the cost of the banking system bailout. In my view this will create a vacuum into which different players will step.

On the Geopolitical stage - we will see a rise in tension in different spots of the world. China will start to flex her muscle in this vacuum. Terrorism is raising its ugly head. Just look at this week's panic over the test device in Namibia.

The EIU - Economist Intelligence Unit also believes that we face a year of slowing growth and well complicated conditions. Interest rates have to rise. The ripple out effect of the banking mess will continue to affect broader portions of the economy as loans become harder to get and cost of money rises significantly.

So brace yourself... its going to get pretty tough...

I have 6 Months To Decide if I want the New iPad

Rumour and Speculation - but here it is anyway.

The next iPad will come in two sizes - standard 11 and small 7 inches.

it will have 2 cameras front and back.

It will be faster

I might want one


So Long, Farewell....

I can't sing so I wont trouble you with the rest of the verses from the Sound of Music.

This week someone decided to say goodbye and I decided to say goodbye to someone.

MySpace Gave up the ghost and cut its loses and will now be just an affiliate of Facebook. This astonishing turnabout shows the volatility of Social Media in the face of the newer juggernauts of Facebook, Twitter etc. So Digger can kiss his $580 million he paid for it in 2005 goodbye.

Now I am saying goodbye to WAYN. I cannot say I was ever really engaged in the site but the number of spam communications - er I mean messages about those nice teachers who want to meet me - particularly those from Brazil - has become a tiresome bore.

So I have opted out.


Self Service Now the Norm in the UK

A good piece from etid this week on the HRS UK Corporate Survey.

The UK Economy is definitely struggling. And this seems to be borne out by the behaviour of cost containment by UK Corporations.

Its ugly out there people.


ARC October/YTD Very Nice for Airlines - Not So Great For OTAs.

So everyone can stop moaning - for now anyway.

ARC numbers show a boost in both transactions for probably now the 18th month since the historic lows in Feb 2009.

The latest data shows a strong increase in transaction (Up nearly 11%) and value (up 19%) year to date. As ARC is showing almost negligible ancillary revenues for the agency channel - we can be assured as we have seen from the Q2 numbers that Q3's numbers will be a bumper crop revenue wise. If there is any airline showing less than 20% sales growth year to date then they are clearly falling down on the job. But the trend is downward for growth. This should be taken into historical context that the end of the year the growth tapers off. This is why we should always look at the first part of the year for significant growth in the USA market.

However there is an interesting anomaly. When one looks at the segmentation of the data. Have a look at the total traffic. Growth for all sectors except corporate has slowed to almost nothing. Corporate Travel as represented by the mega agencies (Amex, CWT, BCD and HRG etc) is the only segment with monthly transaction growth.

That should spell further bad news for Expedia and its generalist OTAs and further distance Priceline from the pack in market value terms. As we can see from the chart immediately above. The OTA share of growth started the year well but has dropped to almost zero in the 10th month.


Travelport Tiptoes Into Mobile in ZA

One of my spies in South Africa alerted me to the latest from Travelport there,
Travelport Mobi - seems like a nice basic app for travelers.

I thought you would like to know.


Google - Guilty, Beguiling, Gullable or Just Plain Evil?

Meanwhile back at Streetview...

I am struggling to comprehend Google's actions in the Streetview affair. But worse I am struggling with the manner in which the various governments have acted in this affair. Particularly two countries (USA and UK) specific actions have demonstrated the need for greater oversight and full pursuit of the protection of the individual.

There is no disputing the facts. So we know that Google's people - both full time and part time contractors under direct orders from a company led team deliberately captured personal data and invaded 'electronically' people's property and captured information about them systematically with forethought, prior notification and any consideration of the consequences of their actions.

Google first denied that this had happened at all. Then they denied that it had happened deliberately calling the act "accidental". They further denied that any personal data had been captured and/or stored but then determined after they had been found out that indeed - yes - personal information had been captured and stored AND processed.

Google is an internet giant and it behaves like any typical corporate entity does - it tries to use its large scale to provide information to itself about its customers. It fiercely guards that information it has captured as proprietary company information. Privacy laws are inconsistent across legal jurisdictions. The laws are not clear in almost all geographies. A loop hole Google has consistently and willfully exploited. In the past companies have used general information or small scale unique personal information to target customers with advertisements offers and the like. Where Google has changed the game and is unique is the nature and scale of its actions.

Consider these statement of facts.
Disclaimer here. I believe these statements to be fact and am very willing to retract any of these statements in part or whole if someone can prove that they are individually or collectively false.
1. Google collects and correlates information from an ever widening list of touch points. These touch points are the most comprehensive data ever collected about individuals in the history of mankind, more than any government, corporation and individual has ever done.
2. Google correlates that information to an individual entity and can so identify the customer. The extent of this correlation is more comprehensive than any other entity - government, corporate or individual has ever been capable of or has actually executed.
3. Google refuses to stop collecting information about individuals and only offers very limited opt out of legally or mandated sections of the information that it collects.
4. Google has agreed - only when forced and as far as I can tell, never openly and voluntarily - to limited occasions when it will not use some subsection of this information it has collected.
5. Google has every intention and will never stop expanding the reach of its data gathering efforts irrespective of the laws of any land.
6. Google has every intention and will never stop expanding the ability to use this garnered personal information.

Since it was found out - Google has consistently stuck to the story that the gathering of the data and the invasion of privacy was accidental.

However the evidence does not bear this out. Indeed as I have argued previously Google continues to hone its skills in collecting personal and individual data and turning it into proprietary company owned and controlled information for the express purpose of dominating the market(s) with its power.

Google's core thesis in these actions are that no harm no foul - therefore since no one was damaged in this accidental collection of data that the process is therefore quite legal. In reality this is only hard to prove in the legal sense.

The UK's position on the subject is interesting. It demonstrates that Whitehall's process of dealing with data is once again flawed. Mr David Smith - The UK Deputy Commissioner for Information is the point man on the subject. As the BBC reported:

excert follows:
More training

Mr Smith admitted that the UK had conducted a much more basic investigation.

"We spent less time searching than others did. If we had searched for days and days we would have found more," Mr Smith said.

Following this audit, the ICO ruled that "no significant breach" had occured.

But following publication of the Canadian data commissioner's findings, the ICO changed this to a "significant breach".

Mr Smith said that the ICO had intended all along to base its final judgement on the findings of its counterparts.

"It is not a good use of the data protection authority to duplicate more in-depth enquiries," he said.

"We have based our decision on the findings of other data authorities. It was exactly the same type of information found by them," he said.

Following the ICO's ruling, Google has promised to offer privacy training to its staff.

Other data bodies and groups around the world are still investigating its capture of wi-fi data.

End Quote.

Google has offered only to delete the data "within 9 months" and also to provide unspecified training to its staffers.

Google has not offered to delete any meta data. (Definition of meta data here in this context is data about data). So after it has deleted the raw data it will still hold and presumably use this meta data.

What to make of all of this?

There are specific actions that can be taken.

Firstly write to Google and tell them what you feel.
Secondly contact your government local, national or indeed any government entity that is affected by Google. Note that in many cases existing laws have been flouted (in my opinion) and therefore there are cases to be made for challenging Google's actions under existing laws not just information laws.
Thirdly - be vigilant and if you see something that you think is bad, tell your elected officials.
Fourthly - pass on your thoughts to others so that they know about Google's behaviour and how you and I think about them.

Google has benefited mankind enormously. That does not excuse their individual illegal and immoral actions. How you view Google's behaviour is a personal view. But don't just be passive about it.

While we get the Government we deserve - Governments have a legal and moral responsibility to protect the rights of the individual. In the case of data gathering and use - all Governments must now step up to the challenge that faces us. Only when Google is constrained can we be assured of our own freedom of information.


19 November 2010

The Gory Details Of QF32 Accident

Taking a breather from the heady spat - the Travelport/AA battle - to go back to the QF32 A380 incident.

I am using the word incident - one of the folks in Oz is far less circumspect Read this story and then you can realize that the 466 souls on board the flight are rather lucky to be walking around today. Particularly those people who were sitting in seats 17A/18A and those directly below on the main deck. Strangely enough 17A was my seat number on one of the flights I took on the A380. Hmmm I guess I too am lucky. That makes it pretty personal.


With special thanks to one of our Aussie reader Professor Gill for sending me the link.

Have a good weekend everyone

Expedia does a Mini Google in Buying Mobiata

Mobiata who develops both its own suite of Mobile apps and provides a number of white label tools has agreed to be acquired by Expedia.

So while I may be stretching the scale issue - there is a strong analogy between this acquisition and Google+ITA.

2011 will be the year of the mobile when we see adoption but this is the year when the deals are being done.

This is a significant one. The logic for Expedia buying Mobiata is not just in the pool of talent as Dara put it yesterday but in the breadth of the platform and the existing relationships with the infrastructure and the customers they have. It shows that Expedia was clearly wrong footed on Mobile.

So this makes mobile travel more interesting.

As a shameless plug (not something I do on a regular basis) I am part of a consortium who own the most appropriate URL - ping me if you would like to know more.

Reflections from PCW17: November 2010

My catchword for the conference was maturity. The presence and the absence of it.

In the online space - it is very clear that the world has become conventional - not quite boring but definitely maturing. The VCs were talking about conventional metrics for Online and in general things that are in the Travel space.

Somme of the selections for innovation bore the hallmarks of the length of the long tail. They were niche plays. Surprisingly (in my opinion) the two plays that are truly impactful didnt make it to the finals of the Innovation Summit. The winner has applicability in a fairly small sector of the market.

The absence of maturity was probably demonstrated by the spat between AA and Travelport. While I profess to be biased in favour of the airline's choice in the mater - in standing back and looking at the issue - Travelport's timing and actions were in my view ill advised and now AA is punishing them for it. It reminds me of those TV court room dramas where the bad guy says something on the stand that "opens the door" to the "stuff" that the judge had previously disallowed. The Judge despite the protests says "I'll allow it" and then the good guys win. The battle here will be long and hard and the GDSs now have an uphill battle.

PCW as usual puts on a good show and congrats to Philip and his not inconsiderable team. Some of the comments around the conference attendees were the usual gripes about the cost. However as one influential person confided to me - the number of retread presenters/participants who are not as relevant to the current state of play. This may bias the opinion making that so many come to the conference for - and for the less convoluted version - in my view more new blood is required. But you cannot fault the fact that this is the only conference of its type where the networking and information sharing is done on such a relevant basis.

Not surprisingly PCW has become the time to show off. It creeps into mainstream media. TP in its response to the AA Source Premium surcharge PR release even used the event.

I will put out some more insight into specifics of the show - or head over to TNOOZ for the best coverage.

With thanks to dingers soap box for the interesting image.

17 November 2010

New Ancillary Revenue Stream - Your own dot com

Now this is an interesting one.

Tiger Airways who is the closest adherent to the purist low cost model as espoused by Ryanair has just announced that it will spin out the website - Tigerairways.com as a separate entity.

So after you have spun off your MRO, Frequent Flyer program and your catering business - why not your website...

Nothing like selling the family silver.


AA Appeals For CASMA

Don Bender over at American Airlines (who seems to be having and interesting day!) on the AA Distribution Blog yesterday put out an appeal for the industry to get behind CASMA as it embarks on its fourth decade.

Have a read and do what you can to support it. For those of us around the industry have have witnessed the decline of CASMA from being a leading forum on distribution to being a vendor scrum.

So his appeal and Jim Davidson's earlier this year are both timely and opportune.

Now its up to the rest of you to support these efforts.


15 November 2010

The Real Googleplex Grows

The Googleplex in my view has always been an online phenomenon - since I don't live in Silicon Valley I have not been paying much attention to the state of Google Town.

Well it seems that GoogleTown South (Aka Mountain View CA) and GoogleTown North (Aka Kirkland WA) are both growing in leaps and bounds.

Check out this story from the SJC Mercury News.

Personally the last time I was near SJC Airport - I had a quick look and saw both the 767 and the 757 planes parked.

The 757 had a familiar registration which I then check up and was formerly the plane of one Paul Allen. Often used to fly him to watch Monika Seles play as well as some times flying some of his teams around. Now it is resplendent with Winglets. (I am sorry I could not find a picture of both planes together).

The Google Air Force now comprises the 767 and the 757 plus 3 Gulfstreams.

I dont think Microsoft at its height had that many planes. (Discounting Vern Raeburn's efforts of course).

Soon we will be able to measure the size of both the real and the virtual Googleplex. That gets a little scary.