June 2010

Not everyone agrees with BMI winning Best Airline Website at the Travelmole Awards, but then again, you’ll always have a few dissenters on any such award. Other Amadeus customers, this time in the Middle East, were instrumental in the decision at the 6th Pan Arab Web Awards. I see Mario Segovia getting his photo in that last link, but no mention of his name in the article, so I’ll fix that omission here. Well done to all.

Moving from one Gulf region to another, the BP oil slick has got me thinking about Affinity Shopper and similar types of technology driven inspiration websites. From a story in the Washington Post.

Before taking the plunge into Gulf of Mexico waters, see what’s going on underneath them. The Diving Equipment & Marketing Association recently launched a Web site, http://www.gulfstatediving.com, with updates on diving and snorkeling conditions in areas threatened by the oil spill.

With some airlines and travel agents doing the matching of affinities to destinations, are they also taking the responsibility when something like an oil spill happens to update which destinations are showing up in searches like beach or diving?

Food for thought when thinking about how to really make travel inspiration websites as relevant to potential customers as possible.


Social business is much bigger than social media, but in order to set the scene in a slightly amusing manner, let me start with a cartoon.

A while ago I mentioned I was thinking of writing something on social business, but I’ve never really got around to giving this topic the respect it deserves, and unfortunately today is not that day either. The more I think about it the more I realize that this is a topic way too big to try and do properly in just one blog post; but I hope to at least get you thinking about this concept and if you are interested to do some more reading on the subject from the real experts – for example, people like my friends at Headshift, or one of the many other firms specializing in this area.

A while ago I saw a site quoting AIIM Industry Watch with the following claim.

71% agree it’s easier to locate “knowledge” on the Web than within their internal systems.

In a small way, this statistic kind of got me thinking in the direction of a few good recent pieces by people far more knowledgeable than me on the subject of social business.  The first was a presentation Lee Bryant did a few months ago titled Social on the Outside needs Social Business on the Inside and the other was Dave Armano writing on Social Business Planning: Aligning Internal With External. I’ve copied Armano’s illustration below.

Skeptics might say that social business is just social media consultants trying to get an even bigger piece of the corporate spending pie, but I do not agree. Social media really makes it much more difficult to hide what previously you wanted to keep hidden, or to manage external communications at a speed and in a manner of your own choosing. In the past I tried answering the question, are there companies where social media makes little or no sense at all – and if so, are airlines such businesses, and that was really a forerunner to the bigger issue of how the internal structure of a company needs to be aligned with how the company wants to be perceived externally. It is just so much harder these days than in the past to sustain a gap between the two.

One of the tech companies frequently mentioned when it comes to the subject of social business is Atlassian. I’ve got a friend who works there and he speaks more highly of the company than just about anyone I know working for any company. I’ve also heard a few other people talking recently about one of their products called Confluence, and enterprise collaboration tool. What was especially interesting for me, given my own employment, was the Sabre case study on Confluence from Laks Krishnamoorthy, Director at Sabre Holdings

Some teams use it strictly for uploading materials and just as a communication vehicle, while other teams are using Confluence as their “religious” portal. They’re putting everything in it for their teams—their project plans, their rosters, the status of their nightly builds. These groups automated that process so that it feeds into our Weekly Report automatically. Our architecture team uses it fully to publish our enterprise architecture documents.

Moving away from social business completely, but still on the topic of Sabre, this video interview with their chief architect Chris Bird was also interesting, as towards the end he gives an insight into the rationale for their recent purchase of Calidris. Once again, probably more of interest to me personally than virtually anyone else reading this, but thanks for reading anyway.

I was alerted to this story earlier in the week which is interesting for a couple of reasons –  but first I’ll run with the quotes.

“I filled in our details and the passenger details. It asked us to select the seat numbers as well. “Finally, I went to the last page where it asked for my credit card details … I did everything and we were all excited. “I clicked at the bottom and I thought that the payment had gone through and suddenly this message popped up saying ‘this is a duplicate of the original booking’.”

Initially Jetstar were saying they would compensate people affected, but then in a foll0wup story in the New Zealand Herald, all does not appear quite so rosy.

Jetstar said staff were contacting those affected by the glitch and honouring their bookings. However, seven people contacted the Weekend Herald to say they were frustrated the airline had not been in touch. A Jetstar spokeswoman said yesterday that the airline had been contacting passengers – emphasising they were dealing with customers who had “already contacted us”.

Here are the two reasons why this is interesting. Firstly, if it works properly, then detecting duplicate bookings in the booking engine before ending the user session is a nice piece of functionality. Normally with revenue integrity processes, duplicates bookings are detected and corrected after the event; although in this case it appears there was no original booking at all, or else the only thing people would need to complain about was reversing the second charge on their credit card.

Secondly, it is somewhat interesting as if there was no original booking, or even worse no record of the attempted booking, then how would Jetstar know who to contact. Sometimes internet booking engines can be set up to do a pre-book procedure, but I am not familiar with what options are avaliable in a Navitaire New Skies implementation. If it relies on people contacting the airline with no proof of the error, then I’m sure the first article would have seen all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork to claim a cheap fare that they were not even aware of at the time. I’m not suggesting this is the case with the people mentioned in the Herald story, but as an airline, how would you sort of the genuine claims from the fake claims.

In hindsight, maybe it is better to honor none, and say that if the booking cannot be completed fully on the website, then consider yourself as having missed out. Your airline needs to be careful of being caught in any bait and switch type claims, but assuming this aspect can be managed, then I’m wondering if Jetstar wishes they had never agreed to retroactively honor these low fares in the first place.

Saw an interesting story on Travolution about Lastminute working with a company called Maxymiser.

Richard Spencer, customer experience manager at lastminute.com, said: “As is the case with many e-tailers at present, improving conversion rates is a key focus for lastminute.com, however, being able to sustain the increase in conversion uplift was pivotal to us. “Multivariate testing is now widely recognised as a methodology for increasing online conversions, and it has been proven to deliver an excellent return on investment.

According to Sitespect, “While A/B testing allows you to test just one factor at a time, multivariate testing enables you to test many changes simultaneously.” I was having a conversation this past weekend with someone working in a quant role at a large market research firm and we were discussing how clients commissioning research rarely care about statistical methods, so it was a nice change today to see some buzz words being bandied about by Lastminute.   

Lastminute are planning to focus on landing pages, and this leads me to one seldom mentioned benefit of search by attributes products using a large cache. Adding large date range data encompassing a wide selection if prices is a good way of increasing relevance of the landing page and thus boosting the ranking of your airline website in organic search engine results. Maybe they can use this idea as one step in the mutivariate testing?

In the past week or two I’ve noticed a couple of very interesting things in the area that I think is becoming one of the hottest in travel – how to inspire travelers and influence them earlier in the travel buying process. The two innovations I am referring to are Kayak Explore and TripAdvisor Trip Friends. Both are trying to become more relevant earlier in the purchase process, but both are coming at it from very different angles. In some ways, travel inspiration and reinventing travel search are two terms that are starting to converge; Kayak are using a technology driven cache based approach whilst TripAdvisor are relying on the wisdom of crowds and a more human search to inspire.  

I’m trying to think how the recent moves from Kayak and TripAdvisor affect their positioning on the above diagram. I did get a couple of good comments when I first published this diagram, so I’m also trying to see if I can incorporate those ideas into any subsequent work in this area. First thoughts are that TripAdvisor are moving in a south westerly direction on the above map, and Kayak may be moving south, but I need to do some more analysis before I’m ready to change the initial diagram. Regardless of how the competitive landscape is changing, new initatives leading to company repositionings will continue to make this a very interesting space to watch.

I received a call from someone last week asking for ideas on a website redesign in the B2B space and it really got me thinking about how powerful a good demo, video or customer testimonial can be. In the past I’ve referred to a good demo built by specialist company Autodemo for Amercian Airlines and recently someone at work showed a video done joinly by innovation specialists IDEO together with Air New Zealand. It may be six months old, but I could not recall seeing this video before. I do remember a while ago the economy sleeper idea getting Air New Zealand some publicity, but this video is interesting in part because it briefly touches on the concept of economy class bunk beds.

I know this blog is supposed to be about innovation online rather than innovation in the cabin, but I am not sure they managed to totally kill the concept of economy class bunk beds. Maybe one day someone will come up with a way to make it work. It may be “undignified” as the spokesman from Air New Zealand claims in the video, but so is crawling over someone to get out of a window seat when the person in the aisle seat is sleeping.

Regardless of whether or not you think economy class bunk beds is an idea that will ever fly, there is no doubt that the video is a very nicely put together piece of content for the IDEO website, and one that really gets across how they work with a client on fostering innovation.

In January this year I wrote a detailed piece explaining why revenue integrity was important for airline direct sales channels, and not only for enforcing compliance within the travel agency community.

Then I saw the article below in Business Week and it got me thinking again.

An Ohio roller derby skater who used the team name “Sadistic Sadie” has admitted in federal court to illegally obtaining more than $400,000 in airline tickets while working for United Airlines.

Mercedes Stafford, 34, of Cincinnati pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Covington, Ky., according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors say Stafford created fake numbers for tickets that are issued to passengers when a United Airlines flight is canceled or delayed, to allow passengers to travel on another flight. The Cincinnati Rollergirls team member then used the fake tickets to obtain real tickets that she used for herself or provided to family, friends, teammates and others associated with roller derby events, court records state. United honored the tickets, whether they were used on its planes or other airlines.

I’d had this post sitting in the vault (ie. draft folder) for maybe a week ,unsure whether to post it as is or try and expand upon the idea – but then today I saw Jet Blue were running with it. Maybe the title of this blog post should have been changed to Which airline has the most out-there blog. I can’t see too many other official airline blogs running with a story like this on a competitor!

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