Recently in Airlines Category

Ah - gotcha. I was struggling to articulate what niggled me about British Airway's 'To Fly, To Serve' ad, but seeing a new campaign from American Airlines flagged on eyefortravel kicked my brain into gear.

American Airlines has launched a new advertising campaign which encourages customers "to travel without putting their life on pause"

Now, I like the BA clip. It's grown-up and utterly irony-free, which in advertising is a thing to be treasured; most of all, it's well shot and makes fluid visual use of the airline's long history.

But it's precisely that baggage - pardon the pun - that was getting to me. In the TF,TS universe flying is a big, big deal. Every flight has history upon its shoulders. True as this might be, and nice as it might be to think about in another time and place, modern air travel is already far too much of a big deal.

The experience at airports isn't great - we needn't go back over how or why. In the sky even BA and its fellow full-service carriers are being forced trim some of the frills (goodbye hot towels, meals on short haul flights, etc). Basically, unless you're a denizen of the lounge-to-premium-cabin circuit, the modern passenger experience is a difficult situation to gild - and that makes the hand of history feel a little clumsy.

Here's American's ad:

'Fly without putting your life on pause' may not be as brave, and let's not get into how well it stands up as a point of differentiation. But it does appear to recognise what's really on Mr and Mrs A. Passenger's minds when they set out for the airport.

Heathrow on Twitter: a great start, but will it scale?

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Ok - Heathrow is some 24 hours in to Twitter, and already there's a strong interaction to flag up:

@seany85 said that Terminal 3 stinks:

091023-heath-1.jpg@heathrowairport replied that the facilities team were on the case:

091023-heath-2.jpg@seany85 responded with more details, and mentioned a job interview.

091023-heath-3.jpg@heathrowairport promised to pass on his comments and wished him luck.

091023-heath-4.jpgWhich shows that:

  • Heathrow is using search to monitor mentions (the first message wasn't an @)
  • It is replying (sounds simple, doesn't always happen)
  • It is replying with details of action - not just platitudes
It seems to have missed the difference between 'real' replies and just writing @[username] - meaning it's harder to track back on conversations.

That could be an issue with HootSuite, which appears to be the client Heathrow is using - I have no experience of it. Anyone?

Otherwise, an impressive start. The problem will be volume. As Heathrow - which has a claim to be the busiest airport in the world - starts to gain traction and its follower roster swells, it may find it hard to be this attentive to everyone...

Are TW and its readers still 'predictable' over Ryanair?

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Twitter hosted some inevitable chatter about the Panorama show on Ryanair.

Former Travolution editor Kevin May, never terribly sympathetic to the traditional bad blood between travel agents and Ryanair, tweeted:

utterly predictable responses from press and readers every time ryanair mentioned

Justified? On this occasion, I don't think so - we ran a straight-up-and-down story on the spat between Ryanair and the BBC, and TTG did the same. Theirs generated (at time of writing) only three comments, two of them pro-Ryanair.

But yes, in the past we've probably been too ready to stir up the antipathy we know many agents feel/felt.

For the record, my impression was that our readers had figured out Ryanair's game plan and were tired of the airline getting undue prominence in the media - I can well remember the fatigue and cynicism that greeted the 'pay to pee' story.

The punchline? As a result, I placed the Ryanair/BBC story at the bottom of yesterday's email news alert... only to find it became comfortably the most-read article.

All Nippon Airways is asking passengers to use the toilet before flying, in an every-little-helps attempt to cut its carbon emissions.

I did some rudimentary maths, which is the only kind I know, based on the following:

  • Average adult bladder holds 400-600ml (so say 500ml)
  • A litre of water weighs 1kg, so full bladder weight is around 500g
  • Assume everyone arrives with a half-full bladder, so around 250g

Basing it on an ANA Boeing 777-300, which carries 514 passengers, ANA's weight saving is...

  • 128.5kg, or...
  • The weight of 1.6 adult males (at 80kg each)

Like I say, every little helps. Apparently this will scale up to a five-tonne reduction in emissions every month (across the fleet).

Potential passengers will be relieved to hear that the pre-flight pee is not enforced, merely suggested by staff at the gate.

Perhaps O'Leary's pay toilet idea is actually a brilliant piece of behavioural engineering...

Yesterday I commented on an Alex Bainbridge post about a United Airlines complaint with a difference - the difference being that it's a band complaining about damage to their guitars, and doing it in song.

Alex basically asks, 'What should UA do?' and I have to admit I've found some of the comments a bit depressing.

Some default to 'make another funny video', fuelling the misconception that there is little more to social media than virals and cat humour (which I admittedly quite like, in their place).

Some recommend a whole new set of equipment for the band, which in my own words: slipping into a nasty Old Media habit: high-profile columnist moans about bad service, company gives them special treatment as a result

Is that what we meant when we asked brands to engage? The odd funny video? Selective pieces of 'Brand Theatre' instead of a commitment to open, accountable treatment for every passenger?

If so, we've shown ourselves willing to take entertainment over service and will get the engagement we deserve.

Am I wrong? C'mon, cheer me up...

NB - I'm heading away for the weekend, so sorry if it takes me a while to approve comments. I'll do my darndest.

Oops: Spectator runs BA ad next to BA-bashing column

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A copy of the Spectator? £2.95

Reading Chrissy Iley's vaguely correct but infuriatingly self-important bit of airline-bashing, of which BA bears the brunt? Free.

Seeing it next to a full-page ad for BA? Priceless.

Just had a whistle-stop tour of Munich Airport - note the omg exclusive panoramic pic, taken from the lower tier of the control tower.

Munich Airport panorama from the control towerNaturally, we got a Munich Airport pitch along with the tour - here are the two elements I found most interesting:

It's bidding for non-travelling visitors too

Between Munich's two terminals (the original from 1992 and the shiny new one from 2005) is a covered square that acts as meeting point and venue.

The new Porsche is on display there just now, but in the past it has hosted volleyball tournemants and big-screen sports matches, notably during the 2006 Germany World Cup.

You'll find some bars with beer gardens there too, including Airbrau, the airport's micro-brewery (the weissbier and pretzels come with my recommendation).

Better still, the airport's businesses are obliged to stick to high street rates. We're told the lack of nasty airport mark-ups makes it an attractive shopping proposition for residents of north-east Munich, for whom a trip to the airport can be quicker than heading into the city centre.

It's an odd-sounding scenario, but certainly more plausible than residents of Hounslow popping to Heathrow to update their wardrobe.

It wants to be the best darn hub it can be

We're told that Munich's newer terminal was designed with transfers in mind. Gates are arranged in a kilometre-long line, so it's impossible to get lost (though God help you if you do go the wrong way, as I semi-cheekily pointed out to the PR).

There's a TV screen at every gate that displays the connections passengers need, and, helpfully, each is accompanied by a big left or right arrow.

May sound prosaic, but anyone who has tackled transfers at the likes of Hong Kong, Charles de Gaulle or - shudder - Frankfurt will see the value.

The airport is aiming for a maximum 30-minute transfer time (our Lufthansa rep claimed to have made one in 15 minutes), and has a control centre that monitors flights, sending out 'mini-vans' (don't worry, they mean buggies) to help late arrivals make their connections.

Anything else? Well, the new terminal is modern and light and airy, but that's par for the course in new airport terminals. More notable is the relative quiet - announcements are kept to a minimum in both volume and regularity.

Have they done research on how well passengers cope without announcements, I ask? The PR doesn't quite answer, instead emphasising that announcements are few, rather than totally absent.

In terms of news, Munich has plans for a third runway and terminal, and wants to get ICE train coverage extended to the airport. None of that's dated at this stage, though. 

And yes, if you have 'Heathrow expansion' and 'Crossrail' in your head, you're not alone. Bet these guys finish first though...

I'm in Bavaria with Lufthansa and the German Tourist Office until Sunday June 28 - I'll be posting here (general things) and on the Postcards blog (destination things).

Quote: Amadeus: 'Why not be in every channel?'

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More liveblogging from the Travolution Summit:

Kevin dives right in to the Amadeus v Monarch issue (the airline recently broke with the GDS, causing Kev to say it was hugely important and travel agent Murray Harrold to say, 'No it isn't'.)

Says Amadeus's Gillian Gibson:

"I've never understood why somebody wouldn't want to be in every single channel, unless they're sure they'll get 100% of the traffic anyway."

Update: The CAA has now clarified that figures for both Heathrow and City are percentage point changes, not percentage changes. Read on for a clarification of the difference. News story has been amended appropriately.

We're running a story on punctuality figures from the CAA. They're encouraging, but there's an oddity: take a look at paragraph two...

Heathrow recorded a 13 per cent increase in punctuality, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, and London City a 16 percentage-point improvement

Heathrow's improvement is being measured in percentages, City's in percentage points.

Synonyms? 'Fraid not.

Percentage changes tell you how much a quantity itself has changed; percentage point changes tell you how much a percentage of a quantity has changed. (See further explanations from Tiscali dictionary and PlanetMath.)

Let's take an imaginary airport where 70 out of 100 flights (70%) have run on time:

A 13% increase is 13% of 70, which is nine. After the improvement 79 out of 100 flights run on time.

A 13% percentage-point change means we go from 70% punctuality to 83%. After the improvement 83 out of 100 flights run on time.

This is a gross simplification, and doesn't reflect the complexity of real CAA figures - it's just to demonstrate that the terms are not interchangeable.

So now we have some ambiguity. Is the CAA using two different measurements, or is it just being a bit loose with terminology?

According to aviation reporter Ian Taylor, who wrote the story, it's impossible to tell from the published report whether we are looking at two percentage changes, two percentage-point changes or a genuine mixture. He's trying to reach the CAA in the course of working this story up for Travolution

Are we right to run the story in the meantime? I think so, because a) these are the figures as released by the CAA, and the first job of an online news service is to get them out to you; and b) the per cent/percentage point issue doesn't change the upward trend.

Ryanair: Looking at possibly maybe charging you to pee

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Reuters quotes Michael O'Leary on the BBC (update - watch the original interview):

One thing we have looked at in the past and are looking at again is the possibility of maybe putting a coin slot on the toilet door so that people might actually have to spend a pound ($1.43) to spend a penny

Just been chatting to our ed-in-chief Penny Wilson, who agrees that 'looking at the possibility of maybe' scarcely makes a news story - but it's classic Ryanair nonetheless.

Update 2: Ach, let's do a news story anyway.

"Maybe we can organise sponsored catheters," she added.

It's a brutal way to treat passengers but it scarcely matters - as samdaams and I were saying on Twitter not long ago, Ryanair has established a reputation for doing one thing well, and it's going to ride that horse until it gets thrown. (Two years? Five? Ten? Never?)

Odds on pay toilets happening? Pretty long, I'd say, but you'd be a fool to rule it out.

Homepage image: Darren Greenwood / Design Pics Inc./Rex Features

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