Since posting about the Bow Tie Model late last week it has become my most viewed page ever – more than three times as popular as any previous post. Thanks to great word of mouth from existing readers, and thanks also to tweets from Dennis and Alex and a post from Tim – apologies if I missed anyone. But rather than reflect on past work, one should never forget the saying that yesterday’s newspaper is today’s fishwrapping. Considering that, what topic is on my mind today?  

I thought the old practice of having to confirm a flight was dead. But I’m impressed with US Airways resurrection of this procedure. After only recently finding out about it, I’ll even go so far as to say that other airlines should also rethink it. How can this be, especially when I make my living out of reducing back office inefficiency and by reducing the need for inbound and outbound non-sales calls. Why would any airline want customers to contact them when the fare has been paid in full and the ticket has been issued?

 The clue comes from this USA Today article. From what I can gather US Airways allows passengers to avoid the dreaded middle seat by paying an extra amount starting at $5 per segment and then getting a window or aisle seat near the front of the plane. These  are refered to as “Choice Seats” but from the story in USA Today, one man claims he paid $10 per passenger assuming they would all get exit row seats and instead they were shunted from existing allocated seats in row 8 into identical seats in row 15 after paying $10 per person for Choice Seats. The response from US Airways:

It’s unclear why Tait was offered the option of Choice Seats at all, since his original seats in row 8 are normally considered Choice Seats, says US Airways representative Valerie Wunder.

I’d be wondering too! But don’t underestimate the beauty of what they are doing here. OK, so implementation needs a bit of fine tuning, but I have to give full credit to whoever thought of this. The invitation to upgrade was made in an email asking the passenger to reconfirm his flight. With everyone in business so paranoid about being called a spammer these days, cloaking an upsell opportunity under the guise of an essential pre-boarding email is very creative indeed.

That said, I’m still very much in favour of adding a pre-selected check box near the end of the online booking flow asking passengers to opt in for promotional emails specifically related to that journey, but there will always be a need to send some essential emails to every passenger between booking and departure. Using these emails to generate ancillary revenue can be done a lot smarter than just sticking ten to twenty links near the base of the message selling everything from hotels and rental cars to purchasing vacation homes, SIM cards, credit cards and everything in between. Are Ryanair reading this? Hard to be critical when they make so much per passenger on ancillary revenue, but even the best can always improve.

Finally, and on a different topic, I’ve copied below what I will refer to as the “choke on my coffee” quote from the weekend. It comes courtesy of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce: 

He says the company is also trying to get better value for money when it comes to information technology systems. “We spend around 3.5 per cent of our revenue on IT,” he said. “Jetstar [100% QF owned LCC subsidiary hosted in Navitaire] spends less than 1 per cent of its revenue on IT, [but] probably has better systems because the systems were designed for a new start-up carrier.”

I’ve got enormous respect for Ross Love and James Goth, (and of course Qantas) but that quote has Boston Consulting Group written all over it.

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