27 August 2011

Google Chairman Delivers Public Caning To Britain

Outspoken (and now kicked upstairs)Google Chairman Eric Schmidt delivered a public tongue lashing to Britain's education system on its lack of focus on Computer Science.

While I usually dislike his points of view, I have to agree with him. Britain's focus on teaching in just about all sectors is a farce.

Successive governments have screwed the once proud system to the lowest common denominator. The standards of everyone was effectively lowered with the implementation of GCSEs and constant adjustments of the rules results in ineffective results with great soundbites. Read a rather disheartening set of stories in the Grauniad.

Sadly with education now saddled with incredible overheads and bureaucracy and corresponding cost - we are unlikely to see any meaningful changes from the public education system.

But take heart, Google is going to give you money to learn how to produce videos.

Just what the country (with the most CCTV coverage of any nation) needs.

Farewell Steve And A Deep Sense Of Thanks

Steve Jobs announced his exit from the management but not the soul of Apple. Notwithstanding the appalling pictures of him on TMZ (if they are to be believed) Steve’s impact on our lives has been deep and far reaching. I wont dwell on his many accomplishments but take from his work one thing.

Innovation is fundamental to our being.

Innovation and true advances are not achieved by consensus and SWOT analyses. They are driven by people who think and work hard. Who are contrarian. They are delivered by passionate people who believe even though perhaps every ounce of their being tells them it is – well wrong or worse even stupid. Something drives innovators. Steve was the epitome of someone who can make that happen. What Steve did was to be truly his own man. He made his own rules. He didn’t care about standards. He didn’t care about what people thought. He only cared about what his ego drove him to do. And this in our homogenized Googlesque world was iconic and – well different.

So from the bottom of my heart – I just want to say thanks for inspiring lots of people, me included.

I am not an Apple lover. I still use a WINTEL based PC. Sure I have an iPod and an iPad, I hate many of their commercial terms – don’t get me started again on the iPhone’s business model. But I respect and admire Apple enormously.

Steve – get better soon and again, thanks

Expedia Tries to Breathe New Life Into TAAP. Can this Drive Growth?

Expedia has undergone something of a transformation recently.

Earlier this year it reversed a long held tenant of using GDSs for its air supply chain access.

Now it is pushing partnerships of all sorts as a way to solidify growth in the face of a huge onslaught from its now #1 competitor Priceline a company that has trashed Expedia in almost every metric except overall volume.

Will Expedia's new approach win?

TAAP its Travel Agency Affiliate Program has been largely a tepid and tentative approach to a marketplace that doesnt trust the Bellevue based behemoth.

In its latest efforts it is offering it deep supply chain proposition to Chinese Travel agents. However here - it essentially only offering something that would not give a competitive advantage to an independent Chinese agent. With its investment in the #2 online Travel Agency eLong not making any dents in CTrips market lead - Expedia is still struggling here.

TAAP has not done a lot in the other markets where it has a footprint. In my view China will not fare any better.

Sabre's Mobile Study Sends Message To Mothership

Sabre has updated its mobile traveller study.

While the study sample size is in my view woefully small and the questions leave a lot to be desired (bundling of search and buy for example), it has some interesting messages for dear old mother Sabre GDS business and Sabresonic PSS business. I found the comments put forward by the head of the STINGroup Chris Kroeger interesting. A case perhaps of physician heal thyself. Here are the quotes that seem to me to make Sabre want to change some of the things that it does.

“Our survey shows that business travel today is personal. Travelers want the same functionality and convenience from their business travel tools that they have in their daily lives. People use travel services on their smart phones everyday and for every trip – before, during and after they travel,”

“The corporate travel industry needs to keep pace with the services and apps that travelers can access in their personal life and incorporate those into the world of managed business travel.”

“One of the biggest trends we see in the survey data is travelers’ desire for local business information and offerings based on their location via their smartphone or tablet,”

“Travelers will look for this information from suppliers, travel management companies and technology resources such as online booking tools like GetThere. Smart and savvy travel management companies will use technology as a way to fill this need and improve customer support and solidify customer loyalty. ”

“Today’s business travelers expect transactional capabilities from their mobile devices including buying air extras and in-flight amenities,”

“Tomorrow’s business travelers will move from physical passports, wallets and credit cards and will expect their mobile device to fill those needs as continued advancements in mobile payment, commerce and banking make it easier to electronically transact via mobile devices.”

Looking at this tells me that as a current Gatekeeper, The Dallas based company needs to look carefully at three major changes:

1. Providing content to its customers.
2. Mobilizing its applications
3. Removing onerous commercial terms to its users and suppliers alike.

So Sabre - consider this - the advice was free, the impact would be profound.

OK Break over back to the marketplace....


26 August 2011

Really Proud Of Your Social Status?

I have been skeptical of the personal side of the social web.

Its a lot of fun. We get badges on FourSquare. We get to broadcast to the world how smart we really are....

Oh yea?


I have been playing a game with myself this summer. Let me see how social I can be and the impact.

OK I can officially tell you it's a bust. I am a great believer in social commerce. And that does cross the line into my private life. My family hate it and all my relatives question my motivation. They tend to fall into three buckets:

Bucket one - Yes - way to go prof well done we want to be like you (this BTW is the minority)

Bucket two - Huh? what the FUBAR is he talking about...

Bucket three - this is so silly and dont include us in this (oh but do keep doing it so we can make fun of you privately.

Bucket three is by far the most numerous of my extended family.

Gowalla, Facebook and FourSquare have been the beneficiaries of my experiment. And no I have never made mayor. (I nearly got in in Neuchatel in Switzerland). And I am approaching Mayor status in America which I just found out is 0.7 miles from where I live.

http://pleaserobme.com/ and other sites are out there urging caution. And rightly so. Interestingly the maturity of the environment is mercifully saving us from people telling us about the social habits and their (er hmm) bathroom habits.

The automatic social web is perhaps the scariest. A change in status on Skype used to be only viewable by people I know on Skype. Not any more. It cascades out. The number of different places your status updates now appear are frightening. AND the speed with which it can happen is amazing. But then I get updates conflicting with updates that come via different interfaces. So actively maintaining my social web is well ridiculous and pointless.

So this marks the end of my social experiment.

I am now happy that I know enough to be dangerous.

Do you? Or are you still inviting that home invasion you always wanted. Insurance companies must love this.


and a tip of the hat to Mobile Social Local blog for the image.

25 August 2011

Lufthansa Close to Offloading Majority Share in IT Subsidiary

Lufthansa Group IT daughter company - Lufthansa Systems (LSY) has been the subject of much speculation as to its future following the decision in in 2005 to move its reservations functions to Amadeus ALTEA or the STAR Alliance Common IT platform.

With the loss of its anchor customer (parent Lufthansa and satellite airlines) for reservations – LSY embarked on an independent effort to replace its aging Unisys based platform known as Multi-Host with a new generation product based on Unisys’s Air Core Environment platform. However this project was abandoned and LSY never proceeded with any customers for the Unisys based system. You cannot find any current reference to this system called FACE on the LSY site but there are still historical references: http://www.lhsystems.com/resource/document/pdf/news/keydata_2004.pdf Instead the Frankfurt based company has concentrated on its line of Airline Solutions, Industry Solutions and Infrastructure Services.

There was much speculation that Lufthansa would want to align its IT services business with that of its part owned Amadeus company in which LH still retails a sizable share. The Financial Times and other news outlets are reporting that LH Group will offload the majority share in LSY. However it appears that the leading two contenders according to these news reports are TCS (India’s Tata Consultancy Services ) and IBM’s T&T Group .
The likely scenario is that the winning bidder will retain the name LH Systems but own a majority stake 51% leaving Big Yellow with 49%.

UK Airline Traffic Faces Bleak Future

I watch traffic trends. Finding what trends are possible is like a treasure hunt.

One of the trends I have been watching is the decline in traffic in the UK. The recent recession pushed the largest adjustment in traffic (read fall) since 1950. But even absent this dramatic worldwide event - the market for travel in the UK has undergone a radical change in the past 15 years.

Just looking at the headline numbers you miss the fundamental shifts in traffic patterns. The massive growth and subsequent maturity of the LCC model produced a huge boom at Stansted and Luton (both one runway locations) and the regions. Only one major runway has been added to the main UK airports in the last 30 years. That was at Manchester. Efficiencies in air traffic and ground control have absorbed the increased travel. Remember when runway separation demanded 2 mins between each movement. The massive growth at Stansted made a huge difference to the UK. Thanks Ryanair and Easyjet.

But the future looks really bad. The current government reversed the previous Blair government in abandoning not 1 but three major airport projects which would have in effect increased capacity in the SouthEast of the UK by 30+%.

While the focus of the DFT's UK Aviation forecasts was to look at the effect of Carbon emissions - it had to have a baseline. That looks pretty bad. Consider their conclusions:

The updated forecasts also incorporate the latest economic growth forecasts, the latest oil price projections, reflect the entry of aviation into the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the Government’s policy not to support new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

The number of air passengers using UK airports is forecast to recover from the recent downturn, rising from 211mppa in 2010 to 335mppa in 2030 (within the range 300mppa to 380mppa), and to 470mppa in 2050 (within the range 380mppa to 515mppa).

The central forecasts indicate that, with no new runways, the three largest London airports will be at capacity by 2030, and that all further growth beyond 2040 will occur at regional airports.

The impact will be muted somewhat by the growth of rail connections to Europe. Remember that each Eurostar train is the equivalent to 2 747 full flights leaving.

One impact I dont think they have considered is the value of Cross Rail which in turn could add capacity to the market in the UK. By enabling additional traffic to little used airports which are viable. Such as Southend and Manston's massive runway complex. Further Cambridge Airport (1 hour from Kings Cross) could also be added to the pool. So there are several options that the Government refuses to acknowledge as viable choices.

Virgin Atlantic is right to sound the alarm. HM Government must address the lack of capacity and infrastructure in order to enable a vibrant UK economy.

I refer you to Aerotropolis as a good thought provoking book that can stimulate that a strong central government can do.

OK Chaps - time to wake up and smell the Coffee. And you don't have much time before it goes stale.


22 August 2011

Outstanding Profits for Flight Centre

Confounding just about everyone - Flight Centre has been able to record worldwide profits at another record. While sounding a loud note of caution for the 2011/12 financial year with “crossed fingers and toes” the Brisbane Austalia based company has reported a record annual pre-tax. $213.1 million.(Aussie dollars are currently worth more than the greenback).

Read it and weep fellas


Social Web Activity Changes, Declines

The ever evolving web has seen so many radical changes in our social structure that it is hard - especially for old Geezers like the Professor - to keep up.

I wonder openly if I am just special or just others. For some time I have felt like I cannot keep up. For the past 2 months I was not able to keep my email inbox below my optimum numbers.

It seems that we are all suffering from information overload. The result in my view is that there is far less activity in what can be loosely described in the pleasurable parts of the web. (And no that does not mean spending time on porn sites!).

I actually like sometimes to check out what people are doing in different sectors not just the Travel industry. To see how players are evolving their businesses. How the consumer reacts to the changes in a particular site. I love the Wayback machine it gives such perspective to what we are doing today. But sadly the amount of open time I have available to do this has fallen.

It would seem that I am not alone. According to the GlobalWebIndex “Wave 5 Trends” report, social network usage growth has all but stopped among 16- to 24-year-olds in the US, and in a few countries usage within this already-saturated group is actually declining.

I recommend checking out their global chart and the signing up for their reports.

I believe that the world is experiencing a maturation of sorts and that the "fun" part of social networking has been replaced with repetition and utility.



How Effective Are Coupon Ads Online?

OK so this may not be quite so relevant to Travel but its interesting all the same - but bear with me.

Couponing seems to be all the rage these days. As I have opined before I am not a fan of Groupon and Living Social. I do believe however that Couponing has its place.

So check out this article in eMarketer.

One of the most relevant portions of the article is the assessment of the effectiveness of Print at Home coupons.

For tactical purposes and merchandising the redemption and importance of these tools should not be sniffed at.


So You Think The Consumer Is Stupid? Guess Again

I have this strong belief that Web Advertisers are just like traditional marketeers - you treat the customer like he is - well - an idiot at worst - at best not that smart.

However I don't share this view. In general I believe that consumers on the web are smart and getting smarter.

And we better pay attention to it. Because if we don't then they will switch off. Just like they have done in the past with other advertising channels that treated them the same way.

Well it seems that there is some evidence to support my supposition.

Check out this article from eMarketer (yes - I do like their stuff). This report is relevant from two perspectives. One that it demonstrates (at least to my tiny mind) that the consumer is getting smarter, but also that the consumer is well aware of what is going on.

Treat the consumer with care. At least with respect.


Looks Like The Professor Called It Wrong. DL Goes For Boeing

Its not a done deal yet but it looks like Boeing is going to go mostly Boeing. With AA splitting its big order - Boeing will get Delta a mixture of 737-900s and 737 REs that now carry the designation that mirrors that of the 787s and 747s So it will get a bunch of 737-9s.

The exact composition should be announced as early as tomorrow


The End of the PC Era - Worldwide Shipments to 2017

In-Stat has just published a study on Tablets.

You have to pay big bucks for the study itself but a few highlight items.

• Shipments will read 250 million units by 2017.
• In the consumer segment, tablets are competing against all CE and computing devices, not just PCs.
• Despite similarities in system hardware and software architecture, usage models among mobile devices vary by device type.
• The combination of mobile applications, new semiconductor technology, and the full Internet experience are key factors in empowering the tablet market. Big Data will lead to a massive move towards Cloud based environment to support a range of Apps. This in turn will lead to a raft of poorly designed applications and bootstrapped businesses sitting on top of the current infrastructure. Will Travel be ready for that?
• The 9-inch to 11-inch form factor is forecasted to be the dominant tablet form factor with 56% of the market in 2017.
• iOS and Android are forecast to maintain over 90% of the market share with Windows as a distant 3rd. Farewell WebOS and Symbian - where to RIM?
• Not supporting one of the leading OS platforms is likely to lead to the failure of several companies in the tablet market due to lack of application support. This is pointed at RIM more than anyone else.
• Wireless operator business models could have a tremendous impact on future tablet demand. Thus far the Wireless operators have managed to control the market and force some tough conditions on the user community such as the abandonment of the All you can consume data models in the USA.

Oh we better get to understand what this means.... THINK ABOUT THIS. And now act accordingly


Sabre and AA - inch closer to a deal?

Both Sabre and AA sent separate notes to their stakeholders today extending the current agreement due to expire in 9 days for a further week.

Sounds like the lawyers are working over time.

At the same time AA is not letting the grass grow under its feet with the announcement of its second "relationship" (my quotes) for Direct Connect and the launch of a corporate portal.

Sounds like there is a lot of overtime being put in at both company locations and their partners.


PS I tried to find an old AA Sabre Logo but could not locate one. So if anyone out there has one - please send it to me! Thanks

BA+QF surrender supremacy on Kangaroo Route

With no fanfare British Airways and Qantas have quietly acknowledged that the Kangaroo route belongs to someone else.

In the past 10 days they have both cut a direct flight each from London to Sydney. Last week QF announced that it would still have the same level of frequency because its partner BA would make up the difference. Today according to e-tid - BA itself has axed one of its two LHR-SYD directs.

Looking at the market shares on the route - we can see that there has been a significant trend away from the traditional carriers. SQ has also seen its share slipping on the route.

A rearranging of the world order on the Northern Europe to SE Asia and Oz has been going on for some time. The Gulf Carriers have been grabbing market share faster than anyone else.

At the height of the economic crisis - a RTW fare for about 500 quid existed. However this is not all the fault of the airlines. The fast rising Aussie dollar makes Australia less of an attractive proposition than other cheaper destinations. Couple this with the pretty dramatic fall in the UK economy and passenger traffic and you can see why BA and QF are making smart decisions to cut traffic on this route.

Still I am nostalgic for the time when this used to be the symbol of the Empire. My RTW this year just may be the last one on a OneWorld ticket.


21 August 2011

Nike vs Shakespeare

There are many schools of thought on the web about the use of language. Some decry the shortening of the English Language (sorry for those of you who are not native English speakers - I am not good at the subtly of other languages). Yet others decry the over use of words in explaining things.(Prof: Yes I am MORE than guilty of this).

But a very interesting comment from Gerry McGovern this week on the absolute crap we get in our in boxes daily. Drivel driven announcements of less than useful value.

Last week I wrote about the Qantas marketing spin on their new direction. Gerry's column picks on more.

So here is a thought.

Decide if you are Shakespeare (in which case dont impose that on me) or if you are Nike (short sharps stuff I can use).

These days information overload demands Nike.


Global Entry Program Gets Added Benefits

For those USA citizens who are enrolled in Global Entry System - it is being expanded.

Two new benefits are now being trialed.

The first is that Global Entry certified people (yes the Professor is one) can use the new expedited TSA security lanes being deployed at certain US airports.

The second is that The USA/Canada Nexus program is being integrated into the Global Entry program. Currently available at YUL, YYZ and YVR. This will speed things through those bottle necks

This should ease some travel hassle.

Here is the text of the Announcements:

We are pleased to announce that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is partnering with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on a new Department of Homeland Security initiative announced July 14, 2011, that qualifies some passengers for expedited screening through U.S. airport security checkpoints.

This pilot program will be available to U.S. citizens who are members of CBP s Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI Trusted Traveler programs. The pilot program will provide expedited screening through TSA checkpoints via dedicated screening lanes.

Additional information will be sent out prior to the pilot s implementation, explaining more about the program and the necessary steps you will need to take in order to participate.

For more information and the latest updates, please visit www.tsa.gov or contact TSA at (866)289-9673.

Additionally, CBP would like to announce the availability of Global Entry kiosks at select Canadian preclearance locations. Global Entry kiosks are now available at CBP preclearance at the Vancouver International Airport and at Ottawa s MacDonald-Cartier Airport. Global Entry kiosks will be placed at Montreal s Trudeau International Airport and at Toronto s Lester B. Pearson International Airport by September 2011. The placement of Global Entry kiosks at Canadian preclearance locations is the next step in the integration of the Global Entry and NEXUS Trusted Traveler programs.

The integration of the Global Entry and NEXUS programs began in December 2010, when CBP published a Federal Register Notice announcing that NEXUS members could participate in Global Entry. With the deployment of Global Entry kiosks to Canadian preclearance, Global Entry members will be able to take advantage of the program when returning home from Canada. NEXUS members will have the option of using either the Global Entry or NEXUS kiosks in preclearance. Further announcements will be made as necessary.

The Professor Weighs in On US Tax The Rich Concept

A small disclaimer - its Sunday and I often think about larger scale things on the weekend. Today my thoughts turn to the current conundrum of taxes. I was triggered by a Facebook "like" from an old friend of mine. So Professor CP - this is all your fault!

There are many problems with the US taxation system.

1. Its too complex
2. It is very costly to run
3. It is probably unfair
4. it doesn't collect enough

We face a future where our efficiency has in fact caused us to eliminate the very thing that we all depend on. Jobs! We have approx about 30 million unemployed, underemployed or otherwise able bodied but non-taxpayers in the USA.

The USA is no different from many other countries where the concentration of wealth has occurred. USC's Bill Domhoff writes extensively about this.

In the USA unlike emerging markets - there is a majority of mature wealth owners who are no longer actively "earning" new money. So their old money is being used to preserve rather than necessarily grow.

So here is a radically different approach to taxation that I believe everyone can live with and support.

In my concept - it is easy to introduce and easy to calculate. It does not cost much to administer and It is fair. It will increase the coffers of the US Treasury.

My concept is as follows: A flat tax after the social charge of an individual has been paid. The problem of the usual tax rate is that the rich are taxed for being - well rich. My concept is to acknowledge that there is a charge based on the current tax laws to cover that equalization. However over a certain amount the rich have paid their contribution back to society. But we still need their tax revenues. Both on their cash flow inbound and on their assets. Thus I want to recommend a simplistic tax approach.

Tax everyone at one of the following rates:

10% for all income over $1 million after you reach $1,000,000 in gross taxable income


1% of your total net worth is you have a net worth over $2 million.

Which ever is lower.

Then we can adjust based on the level of taxation necessary to support our respective live styles and social needs.

There are many things necessary to ensure equality of contribution to society. We can never solve all the world's ills. but I believe that society has to both incentivize the rich to spend their money and what money is not being actively spent should be "encouraged" to be used productively in the economy.

Consider if the money that went into the stimulus package had been used to spend rather than increase and build more secure capital structures. Interesting no?