04 June 2011

Is EasyJet becoming just like JetBlue - A Legacy Airline

Well it just might be...

Now that jetBlue is to all intents and purposes a full service network/legacy like carrier, why not the other hybrid airlines.

JetBlue now full participates in all GDSs and as a result of its agreement with new hosting vendor Sabre - pretty much everything it does makes it looks like a duck.
(as in if walks like and quacks like - it must be one!)

So when Easyjet announced that it would participate in GDS - it said it would come with a GDS fee - effectively making it free for the airline. Just like Gol and Norwegian do, (and many other airlines wish they could do also!) it got a lot of grumbles from the local Corporate agents.

More work for less pay!

Well now it seems that the airline is considering abandoning the fee pass through to the agents. In ABTN I noticed an article that said they were thinking just that.

It currently charges £3.30 per segment, but in its bid to increase bookings, with travel management companies in particular, this fee could be removed, Easyjet's CEO Carolyn McCall told the website.

The move is likely to be popular with business travel hookers, McCall acknowledged, but will only be made if the figures add up.

“We will run the numbers and see whether we can do it. If we can’t, we won’t and if we can we will,” she said, adding that a decision is likely by September.

Well we know the answer. The numbers don't add up. Especially when the per ticket charge from the alternative channels are just much lower. But the agents are still resisting booking, they want to hang onto those precious incentives as long as they can. If the market was free and the agents could actually book via the U2 website easily - this would not be a contest. But since that is not the case - the dilemma exists.

I wonder if someone at the European Commission is thinking the same thing I am?


Who Is the Ancillaries Champ?

Well it depends how you ask the question...

So according to the latest IdeaWorks/Amadeus study there are actually three champs.
By total revenue from Ancillaries

By amount collected from each pax

By percentage per passenger

Now interestingly the US Dept of Transportation decided to take a look at yet another metric which the reverse. IE how much revenue the airlines make from just purely carrying a passenger and charging for the ticket.

That number is also very interesting.

So for your edification I provide all of these elements. So think about how the model has changed.

There is a clear message here - Ancillaries matter to an airline. The message that the GDSs perhaps were not listening to a few years ago. But as you can see this is not a new phenomenon. Ironically it is indeed Amadeus who is sponsoring the study from IdeaWorks. Is there a message here?

This is a trend that has been going for a while.

Happy thinking


Oops ANZ Has To Fix The Boat Anchors

I was very criical of the Air New Zealand boat anchors - aka the new Skycouch seats

It seems I might have been just a tad prescient about them.

Responding to criticism that the leg room sucked - they have decided to take out one row of the new Skycouches and then give a little more leg room in there.

I pointed out earlier that the seats didn't look at all comfortable - even the delightful Mary Kirby had to drape her long legs out into the aisle. Yes - you have to click on the older article to see her picture to see what I mean.

It seems that the airline thinks that a "tall person" was anyone higher than say a Sheep according to ABTN's Alex McWhirter someone taller than 5 foot 7 inches. And that these people had trouble getting in and out of the seat.

The airline was quite sanguine about it, forgetting that the majority of passengers who fly on the airline are more likely to be Homo Sapiens rather than the Bovine genus that most airlines think we passengers belong to.

The airline said In a prepared statement,“Air New Zealand’s innovative new B777-300ER interiors have been receiving excellent feedback since they were launched eight weeks ago on April 1. As innovation requires constant improvement we have actively asked for feedback from customers on every flight.

"Some of the feedback has been around the amount of leg room for tall people in some of the premium economy Spaceseats. Therefore Air New Zealand will be removing one row of premium economy seating from the aircraft to provide passengers with up to six inches more legroom."

I wonder what a typical Maori or Tonga based passenger would have to say about that.

Of course now is an even bigger problem, as Alex concludes in his article "But removing a single row will cost ANZ over 10 per cent of premium economy capacity. So will the carrier have to raise fares to compensate for the revenue shortfall? Only time will tell."

Of course one of the earliest criticisms from the trade was the price being charged - now they will likely have to charge even more.

Hmmm can you imagine there must be some red faces in Fanshawe Street.

This is rather sad because I think there is tremendous opportunity to do a better job in coach for the masses (and yes I am one - I fly Y/M class on more flights than I do in F or C).


Should We Judge The Pilots of AF447 Yet?

Like many people I have read a lot of the reports on AF447's activity before the plane went into the ocean.

The behaviour of the pilot in command is not fully logical. It is easy to judge that the guy made a mistake and was doing something out and out wrong by pulling the plane into a nose up attitude.

However after reading the report from the French Investigators I am not so sure.

It is clear that the the instruments were not providing consistent and reliable information. Even in the best of weathers the Airbus is inherently a plane that needs software to fly it. The A330 is a fine plane. I have confidence in it and have flown and will continue to fly it. In the dark in a storm with little or no spatial awareness possible and confronted with conflicting and non-existing information - the pilots were making safe decisions, conservative decisions. Or at least that is what they thought.

The BEA Report available in English and in French was correctly released to curb speculation. I don't think it gives any definitive answer as to what happened. I opined earlier that this was another example of the pilot away from the cockpit. That was wrong. It was set correctly and he did the hand over correctly.

This one will be tricky to unravel.


02 June 2011

Facing Tough Choices - Boeing Many Need To Go for 737 1/2R

Boeing's CEO was pretty adamant that there will be no public pronouncements of a next gen 737 at the upcoming Paris Air Show next week. However Bernstein Research is reporting that Boeing may have to go for a 737 point upgrade which I am calling the 747 1/2R - to be competitive in the coming few years.

This is not a trivial matter. AS I have written previously the 737 is too low on the ground and will need some major rework to accommodate the much wider chord next gen engines. Thus the cost upgrade to a 737 will be significant and still may not yield an aircraft in a near enough time frame. Airbus has advanced the A320NEO EIS date to 2015. For Boeing to do such a half job - it will need to work hard to meet that date with a 737NEO type project.

There will be some triggers to this - Boeing probably wont like to gave to compete with two players and it continues to offer an older model product. Surprisingly the number of mixed Boeing/Airbus fleets has grown in recent years so there is little brand allegiance. We have many fleets which have A330s and 777s. We also have fleets with mixed 737/A320s in them.

Boeing has recently made a big deal over the Sky Interior with the special lighting. Something that Virgin America and other A320 operators have known about for years. And as a personal note - having flown on both - they really do calm you down. The experience is well worth the extra 100K per aircraft that I believe Boeing is charging.

Of course allowing me to speculate - what if Mr O'Leary really does do the dead and buys one of the new planes. It could really hurt Boeing's business not just for the size of the order (reportedly in the 300 plane number) but also in the halo effect. With Airbus reportedly having won the Delta narrow body fleet replacement battle. There must be a lot of midnight oil burning going on in Chicago and Renton

A story that will run for a bit I suspect.


Battle Lines Drawn - Jetstar Partners with Priceline

The unexpected announcement in the first quarter of a blockbuster deal between Air Asia and Expedia was not going to go unanswered for long.

Now its out - Jetstar for the whole franchise has partnered with Priceline's Agoda subsidiary to provide accommodation services across the airline's network in Asia.

This will significantly enhance the product and let Jetstar compete as many other airlines do as a Travel Portal rather than just an airline product service.

Expect that Jetstar will now start linking to more partners to provide additional value added services on the site.

Strangely enough this will cause a bit of a realignment. As with many JVs or partnerships - there is always a degree of reaction. Expedia may find itself pitted against a number of other entities that do not wish to do business with the Beelevue WA based Travel Mega player. This will help Priceline's position. As to who will ultimately win? At the moment, (in my view) - the Asia Pacific coverage by Agoda is better than Expedia.

Still this will be an interesting cat fight. May mean that the famous Jetstar/Air Asia partnership that was announced at the beginning of 2010 may not produce anything other than some nice plane designs.


With thanks to the Cranky Flyer for the cute image!

31 May 2011

Its a Sharing Caring Day At The PS Blog

Understanding the Social Graph is becoming a must have skill. But I am not fully prepared for it despite having read enormous amounts on the subject.

Trying to comprehend the relationship between the data that gets generated, the real relationships and the way the social platform interacts is not a science but more of an art form. For sure no one fully understands it.

I did read a recent article that goes a long way to help understanding how the sharing habits work. Further how an individual works and how they collaborate, share with different people. However for all the science in here, I cannot help but be drawn to the conclusion that individuals are not going to be labelled or constrained. Further projecting the possible options of their behaviour is not going to be any form of perfect science to predict precise actions.

The thought that keeps popping into my head is that - in many respects we are playing trainer's game IE we are behaving the way that is expected of us.

How does Google see it... predictably the the fiendish Google colyte technicians are treating us like lab rats in the Googleplex. AOL commissioned a study and examined (presumable with some approval) the content of many messages trying to understand how people behave. This is what they learned. This image is from an eMarketer review of the results of this data.

if you still feel a bit bemused by the whole thing you are not alone. The Professor too is struggling with that. But rest assured we are all caring for each other....


Our Society Is Doomed

Sharing Local Deals is now a common practice.

In my view this is a sad trend for the merchants and is unsustainable. Let me paint the basic picture for you.

1. Total consumer spending is relatively flat or even. IE there is not a huge stimulus for people to spend MORE money on these deals. Therefore the behaviour is to divert spending from one source to another
2. The new players Living Social and Groupon etc take a 50% commission from the deals.
3. The reduced price reduces profitability for the local merchants meaning that they must either pay their suppliers or their staff less or work harder to achieve the same standing in place result.

read the whole article on eMarketer and if you are a local vendor - now is the time to weep


30 May 2011

Mirror Mirror On The Wall - Who Is The Stingiest Airline Of Them All?

A new study by Jay and his crew at Ideaworks sponsored by EZRez Software of all people is on the likely chance of snagging a frequent flyer seat

Here is the key stuff you want to know if you are in the USA. IE these airlines have the most FF miles stored up.

For the full report go here to the Ideaworks website.

They have some mind boggling statistics about how many FF miles are really out there.



Hotels Trying to Emulate Airlines And Get Their Distribution Houses In Order

it is no secret (except to some mindless few) that the airlines have done a good job in managing the capacity to allow rises in yield.

Hotels on the other hand have not had it so good. They have been notoriously bad at managing the whole process of their capacity. The conflicting plethora of hotel distribution channels is enough to drive anyone batty.

However they do seem to have a better understanding. Whether they are doing a good job at it - is a matter of opinion.

According to Rubicon (now part of TravelClick) Hotels frequently see their rates undercut on the OTAs. While not intentional - rates on the major OTAs are $31 less than on the hotels websites so says the Washington Post.

Yet on the other side of the coin - GDSs garner higher rates than Brands websites. Perhaps this will explain why most OTAs dont use GDSs as the source for hotels.

Still the time is right for the hotels if they can control their inventory better to boost yields. Tougher to do than an airline. Particularly as we remain in a supply glut with no signs of that dissipating.

So still many options for the consumer. But the hotels need to continue to be vigilant in maintaining a better control on their rates. Let's see if the law catches up with them


Mobile Trust and Privacy 2 - Still Playing on A Small Screen Near You

Golly Gee

We are still seeing adoption of Smartphone Apps by the bazillion.

Yet security still haunts us.

Check out this article on mobile geolocation security. With big brothers getting involved - we are all going to suffer here.

I cannot stand the idea of this data floating around without any controls.

Am I wrong?

Why Do I Still Struggle with Mobile Check-in

OK - I must be stupid. I just cannot get to understand the point of checking in for a useless gimme like a "badge"

Yet it seems that quite a few do. 17% of all mobile smartphone users. This is a figure from eMarketer.

Can someone PLEASE help me to understand this?


OK Airlines Listen Up... I'll Say This One Time.... PLEASE put POWER AC plugs in the aircraft where you have Wifi.

So if you get on a flight and you want to do work... the aircraft has WiFi and you have been working in meetings all day long. So your battery is close to dying...

Then consider this - great WiFi - no seat power. You are screwed.

For an explanation on in-seat power go here to SeatGuru.

So airlines - PLEASE can you eliminate those awful 12-20 Volt DC puppies and stick with pure AC.


Oops Another Delta Porkie Pie. 100% Wifi

Delta currently claims to offer Wifi on every domestic Mainline Aircraft Flight in the Continental USA.

Not so.

There are several ETOPS ex-TWA aircraft that don't have it. So accordingly on the following flight... there was no wifi.

Flight: Delta 1843
Departs: 3:55 pm from New York - Kennedy, New York
Arrives: 7:20 pm at Seattle, Washington
Meals: Lunch

Tsk Tsk Delta.

Note that I did ask the Flight Attendant who checked with the pilot and no - there was no Wifi on this particular aircraft. Further it was the usually scheduled equipment. (VERY NICE SEATS if they worked properly).

A Delta crew member deadheading on the flight advised that there are actually 6 different configurations of DL 757s including the 2 configs of NW aircraft, the exTWA group, the conventional DL domestic and the pure Delta ETOPS planes. There is another group but I was unable to ascertain which they are.


How Stupid Are Americans? When It Comes To Vacation - A Lot Apparrently.

I remember a great series on NPR and Public Television soon after I returned to the USA in the mid 1990s. It described a particular American affliction called Affluenza.

There is a great copy of the documentary on YouTube. or you can also find it here if you have an aversion to things Google.

Americans it would seem dont take all their vacation. But that is true of just about every country. But the USA has less vacation (Holiday) time than most other nations.

A recent article on CNN describes the problem quite neatly. Asking the question Why is America the No Vacation Nation.

One section made me think.

"Working more makes Americans happier than Europeans, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Happiness Studies. That may be because Americans believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success, wrote Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, the study's author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

"Americans maximize their... [happiness] by working, and Europeans maximize their [happiness] through leisure," he found."


According to Expedia sponsored research in their annual Vacation Deprivation study shows that American's leave literally large percentages of their vacation time on the table.

The latest study is from 2009 - the 2010 study has not been released just yet.

So time on this Memorial Day to have a think about it... get out there and PARTY like its something. And yes do take the tine off. We all need it

And we deserve it


Delta's Fake Best Fare Guarantee

This week's stupid airline tricks award goes to Delta Airlines for their fake fare guarantee.

As background for anyone who does not follow this blog on a regular basis.

I play with airfares a lot.
I book a lot of flights
I am a platinum Delta Frequent Flyer

Delta has a fare guarantee that alludes to the fact if you find a fare on another website that is lower then they will refund the difference and give you $100.00 travel voucher. However I the one time I try and invoke it - I find it to be a bit fake.

So let me describe the facts of the matter.

I went to Delta.com and found a fare of $1316.89. It wasn't the absolute lowest (that was including tax $1121.50) but I wanted to arrive earlier - leaving the return to be the default that Delta would offer (including the minimum 11 hour layover in NYC). Oh now - I would not want to overnight in NYC if I could avoid it. Well that fare is $2382.50. go figure.

However I found a lower fare on Orbitz at better times for Total trip cost: $1,292.80 USD. The exact replica for Delta was $1491.80. just under $200 difference where Delta's fare was the greater.

Never mind all the usability issues - e.g. website arbitrarily changing my requests, invalid responses, inconsistent responses for the exact same input query... these are normal for the new Delta.com website, some of which are still carry overs from the old site.

These by the way include -

1. Dramatically different pricing for the exact same query in a different browser windows at different times. I didn't believe some of the prices that were offered. These ranged from a base fare of
2. Stupid itineraries which include offering ONLY flights with connections which require overnights on simple itineraries such as London to Seattle.
3. Hiding the information to get to the fare guarantee data. Yes - you have to go 4 screens deep to find the actual form. And NO ITS NOT OBVIOUS where to find it.
4. Losing the cookies that said I asked for multiple cities not simple return.IE if you select Multi city and schedule and want to change the option to price based search it forgets and then reverts back to simple return.

You get the point. So the final indignity - the logic of Delta's guarantee.

In the case of the proof of the lower fare - you have to book on Delta first then they will refund the difference and give you a $100 voucher. However if you do it the other way round - IE to book on the other site (in this case Orbitz) then they will only permit a cancellation - which you can do on Delta anyway. But no $100 voucher.

To actually apply for the Fare Guarantee - it takes you 4 confusing clicks to get to the form.

Click 1 - click on the Fare Guarantee Logo
Click 2 - figure out on this page where the form is... not obvious but the Help Desk told me where to find it... Click on the FAQs
Click 3 - In the FAQs click on the How do I fill out a claim link
Click 4 - Go to the form.... see I wasn't fibbing was I???

The rub? How can I prove that the fare was there unless I have actually booked it? Almost all cheapest fares are of limited inventory and therefore likely to go fast. So if Delta tried to replicate my work - they would have found it hard and then would dispute my claim. For which I would have no proof.(I checked the form and it doesn't ask you to provide screen shots). So I wanted to be 100% sure that my information was accurate. The only way to do that would be to book the ticket. Sadly that means that I am into the obligation of the remote site. Thus Delta would actually never have to pay out one dime on this program.

Voila - Delta's fake best fare guarantee. So Delta - shame on you!

I realize that this will make Delta mad at me for pointing out the issues in public. But I hope that they will look at this issue and work to address it. Will they? Time will tell.

And a few more little idiosyncrasies - in search by schedule Delta has a best match tool which supposedly gives you the best algorithm for connections. Its really useless and cannot let you find the needle in a haystack. For example for the best fastest and earliest flight arrival - on the schedule display using best match - it is not displayed until Screen 3 of 3.

If you use the search by "Departures" option - it is not strict... the timing of departure is random... further after pressing the sort by departures time - then when you go to the next screen by pressing the screen number or next arrow key - it reverts back to Best Match again so you cant use it anyway. Oh yes and after searching through the options - the obvious thing to do would be to have the next navigation at the bottom of the screen as well as the top... duh no - Delta makes you go back to the top again to navigate to the next option.

And just to annoy you even further - they time you out! And by the way - all this is replicable time after time. Try it yourself if you happen to have the spare few hours and have a drink in your hand because you will need it!

Stay tuned - I will see if Delta will allow my submission for the $100 voucher only.


29 May 2011

Verdict on Google Travel v1.0/Troogle is Sadly Disappointing. UPDATED

So for all the hoopla – the first version of Google Air - AKA Plan Your Next Trip - is a big disappointment.

It resembles a first-gen index service circa 1998. The test has been out there for quite a while. This was all designed pre-ITA and takes advantage of Google's current contracts with existing vendors Innovata and UBM Aviation's OAG. (Although not confirmed by Google I hasten to add!)

Read the Google Blog post for more details on the service.

One has to ask yourself WHY are they doing this? So speculation is one of the Professor’s stock in trade. Make no mistake there is no ITA magic in this display. Also note that it has a function to try and close off competition from the existing meta search and real search companies and to stake out its footprint in air as it has with Maps in Hotels.

So Google is either being:
Ultra Smart

Or perhaps it has ITA and has generated so much noise – maybe it will – like so many other things move on somewhere else and leave the experts to solving the problem.

Google has a history of abandoning things. Some have speculated that this may happen to Air. Personally I don’t think so.

Anyway – have a look at the images and see if you agree – so far as I can see the link to the basic airlines websites was a pretty poor experience. This shifts with the IP address but then it is driven by how badly that airline does the interpretation of the cookies. Even in 2011, the airlines do badly and clearly Google is not providing much assistance. Mind you there are so many people who do this today and get away with it that poor level of service that perhaps Google thinks they can. So the Google policy of not being the best – just being able to out run the other human in the contest with the Lion – probably wont work for them long term.


Welcome To The REALLY Famous OTA Hotel Spa and Art Gallery

Spending a lot of times in hotels as I do - I long for a simple process of checkin and zero obstacles to getting me fast to my hotel.

However I spend even more time on the web trying to get to use websites for travel.

Seems I am not the only one who has such a foul experience.

Read this lovely piece from Gerry McGovern. So apt. Sadly both hotels - in particular OTAs and Hotels are both guilty of behaving in this fashion


Feeling Green and Geeky?

So not often we get to the point of understanding why some things just are... well here is a chance to get educated.

I am afraid that while I am very concerned about the environment there is so much of the reasoning and science that I dont understand. However that does not deter me from trying to figure out the why and how of Greenhouse Gas effect and the long term effects of aviation on the environment.

So here is a VERY geeky piece by a bunch of MIT wonks

If you can figure out this stuff then you are a better person than I - but its worth making the effort


Note to Survey Writers: THINK AND REVIEW PLEASE

I am a travel geek who flies a lot and I stay a lot in hotels around the world. I hope that I can provide feedback whenever possible. However I really get annoyed at different players who think that having paid for the hotel or flight that I MUST fill out a badly designed form written by some junior flunky who has no idea what she/he is doing yet its in their remit to do this thing. Then they manipulate the data into forms that will please the bosses who in turn will crow in public how their product is so wonderful.

Politely BS. (I really wanted to write a different few words here but this is a family oriented website).

I think survey monkey should be banned from the hands of any person writing a survey. But worse I think that the survey tools that are out there are so BADLY USED that we should stop responding to them.

Let me pick on Marriott Hotels. I am a fairly loyal customer of Marriott. I probably give them about 10-15 room nights a year. The most I have ever given them is 30 direct and then a further 45 from different people who I directed there. I say this not to get them to do more for me - but to give some context to my interaction with them.

So after a stay at the Marriott in a major Asian City 2 weeks ago. The hotel is in a great location - but it is a little long in the tooth. Playing trainers game - the place was really tired. The rooms left a lot to be desired. I also attended a convention there.

But what is so stupid and bad. Their survey tool asked me a whole load of totally irrelevant and repeat questions.

The Marriott survey asked me more than 20 pages of questions (frankly I lost count - there were probably more than 100 actual questions I had to answer. The questions were largely not relevant. The design of the survey completely haphazard. The tool was also a memory hog in my browser.


Here is an example of the screens and the stupid questions asked.

Marriott - shame on you. You can do a lot better. Please think more carefully and smack the hands of your marketing dept for putting out such rubbish. Your customers and staff deserve better.

However while I am picking on Marriott - the number of these that I fill out every month are reflective of the same poor thinking. This one just happens to be an extreme example of the stupidity of using this format.


For this Weekend - Think Different- Think About Our Society and Happiness.

From a very personal and selfish place - I seek inspiration from a wide variety of sources. I try and talk to as many people as I can to get a sense of the world at large and of course to continue to better myself. (Excuse the use of "better" as a verb!)

I love to watch TED.com. There is a lot there. I also download podcasts from NPR - the US Public Radio Broadcasting Network.

So here is one for you. And thanks to the chaps at Travelimpact Newswire. It is a speech from Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley.

Here is for me the key pause for thought statement:

"We need to relook at what constitutes true societal progress at the human level in the human context. We need to understand what constitutes real wealth and prosperity and what it is that truly promotes human well being. We need to develop a consensus on the purpose of development beyond the senseless economic growth in a finite world. We need to develop and agree on a new and rational development paradigm."

So think about this.. what does happiness mean and are you contributing or are you just being another of the greedy takers.

Speaking personally I will be happy if I get to neutral. But I have a long way to go


And thanks to the Sabah Women blog for the superb image.