An Inside Look

In case you missed this article on Southwest Airlines Network Operations Center, Training Cabin, and Listening Center.  A rare behind the scenes look with amazing pictures and narrative
Check it out on CNET
Hat tip to David Gray for sharing.


Google Hotels balances speed with accuracy

Tnooz has an article describing Google’s need to balance speed with accurate pricing data in it’s integration of hotel rates within Google Maps.
This tool is designed to rapidly engage a Google Maps user with hotel pricing. Google has chosen to use cached rates with no live inventory searches In order to ensure the speed of results which made Google the leader in search.
While this may expose users to more frequent pricig errors, this decision will most likely not damage the impression of accuracy amongst individual users. Google will benefit since they are simply a gatekeeper for the rates. Users that find sold out rooms or rate discrepancies will more than likely be frustrated with the final point of sale rather than Google.
I liken a Google’s cached-rate with no availability to the advertised rates promoted via other email campaigns. Since this is likely tone a growing entry point for direct hotel channels I would not be surprised if this forces revenue managers to rethink the speed at which they update their rates.
Read more over at Tnooz.

Categorized as Air

Tnooz: Be careful when volunteering for oversold flights

American has been fined $90,000 due to failure to disclose the true cost of using vouchers they give away at the station. Appears that these vouchers couldn’t be redeemed online – only over the phone with a fee.
Read more at Tnooz

Categorized as Air

Tarmac Delays Down Significantly After New Three Hour Rule

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported that tarmac delays have reduced significantly from June 2010 compared to June 2009.
As a reminder, this is a month in which the three hour rule is in full effect.  The three hour rule “prohibits U.S. airlines operating domestic flights from permitting an aircraft to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours without deplaning passengers, with exceptions allowed only for safety or security or if air traffic control advises the pilot in command that returning to the terminal would disrupt airport operations”.
The full report is available here.  Below are a few highlights:

  • There were only three tarmac delays that lasted than 3 hours.  Of those, only United Airlines flights departing out of O’Hare during a thunderstorm sat on the ground waiting to depart more than 3 hours.
  • Cancellation rates remained flat at 1.5% compared to 2009.
    • Comair (Delta Connection), American Eagle, and Pinnacle (Delta Connection) led the pack in terms of cancellations with Comair canceling 4% of flights
    • Continental, Hawaiian, and AirTran were stellar in their cancellation rates with Continental as low as 0.1%
  • Passenger involuntary bumping due to overselling decreased to a rate of 1.06 per 100,000 compared to 1.43 in Q2 of 2009.
  • Complaints were up a whopping 89.7 percent year over year.
  • All on-time performance data should now be available on carrier’s sites
Categorized as Air

What Would a Government Mandated Fare Fee Table Look Like?

It’s no surprise that our federal leadership has taken interest in the broadening fees-based services that airlines are charging Customers. There’s bound to be some concern when over $2.7b in baggage fees was generated in 2009.  Almost 20 carriers are charging for the first and second bag these days, with JetBlue and Southwest Airlines being the notable exceptions.
Its not just the baggage fees that cloud the total purchase price for air travel.  Once you pile on cancellation fees, change fees, and transfer rules you may find that a passenger’s out of pocket price at booking can increase considerably once they’ve finally taken to the skies.
It’s still difficult for customers to accurately compare the cost of travel across carriers, even though the Department of Transportation provided guidance back in May 2008 requiring that “air carriers should place a notice regarding the above-described additional baggage charges on the first screen in which the carrier offers a fare quotation of a specific itinerary selected by a consumer.”
For,,, and Orbitz this guidance is translated into a hyperlink  paraphrased as “Additional baggage charges may apply”.  That little link can turn into a price difference of hundreds of dollars for a family traveling with checked luggage.  At no point is the Customers informed of the potential increase in purchase price on the itinerary qutoation screen.
The recent furor in the House over feess may require a more explicit description of the potential additional charges.  Imagine if the carriers are required to fully disclose the potential “all-in” price for the trip.  Let’s take a look at what that may turn out to look like….
Fee Advisory Example in Browser
The key components for this advisory would be the following:

  • Change Fees
  • Cancellation Feeds
  • Carry-on Baggage Fees
  • Checked Baggage Fees

A more advanced notice could include the following:

  • Lap Child Fees
  • Unaccompanied Minor Fees
  • Overweight Luggage Fees
  • Reservation Assistance Fees
  • Check-In Fees

With the recent concern over these fees, don’t be surprise if you see something like this appear in your favorite carrier’s booking flow.   Although carriers may be upset to display this data – believing that it will cause abandonment – it should only impose a minor impact to their booking rates as the fees are now stabilizing across the legacy carriers. Additionally, this should reduce the sticker shock and pain that occurs at the stations.
I’ll continue to monitor the situation from the house to keep you in the loop.
(1) US Department of Transportation.  Disclosure of charges for checked baggage.

Better watch your wallet when checking your bag – fees have increased over 1500% since 1990

It’s amazing how the airline industry has quickly converted the concept of free checked luggage into a new revenue stream through additional fees on coach fares that include baggage.  With over $2 billion in baggage fees in 2009 alone, and over 20 carriers reporting bag fee collection, it seems as though this revenue train has no plans on stopping.
More interesting is how quickly this new line of income has grown.  Below are a few stats of Baggage and Cancellation Fees from 1990 to 2009 based on data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

  • In the last ten years…
    • Baggage Fees Increased 1566%
    • Cancellation Fees Increased 467%
  • From 1990 to 2009….
    • Baggage Fees comprised only $119,737,000 in 1990.  By 2009, that number had increased 2186% to $2,728,850,000
    • Cancellation Fees comprised only $50,764,000 in 1990.  By 2009, that number had increased a whopping 4575% to $2,373,019,000.

Baggage and Cancel Fees 1990-2009 Graph
Baggage and Cancel Fees 1990-2009 Graph