Posts filed under ‘User Experience’

Airlines ‘Should Charge Fat Passengers More’

CarryingOn didn’t say it, so hold off on the protests for any political correctness infractions, but in case you didn’t see it, this was reported today in the Sky News  http://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/airlines-charge-fat-passengers-more-014228613.html

Seemed a Dr. Bharat P Bhatta, writing in this month’s Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management, suggested it, and offered one of three formats for its deployment:

  • Fare according to weight
  • Base fare plus/minus an extra charge for heavier passengers
  • Same fare if the passenger has an average weight, but discounted/extra fare for low/excess weight below/above a certain limit. This option results in three types of fares: high fares, average fares and low fares.

After reading the article, my mind was racing with blog post possibilities.  But in this day of political correctness I was hesitant to tackle such a heavy topic.  Some confidents warned, “Don’t chance it man, you must ignore the temptation to weigh in”, but throwing caution to the wind I replied “fat chance of that happening, I must engage”.      

In my opinion, this one is a no brainer.

Aircraft fuel consumption is based in large part on the weight an airplane carries.  The more weight the more fuel, ergo the more cost for the airline.  So the rules of economics should hold here.   You bring more weight you pay more and in fact, the airlines have already starting doing this with their checked bags policies, and now it’s time to get to the people. 

But beyond the economics which are pretty easy to defend, there are other more personal reasons. 

C’mon you know what I’m talking about, you’re just afraid to say it.  How depressed do you get when you make you way to your seat and see a seat mate of size (was that the best PC way to say what I just said?).

fatty arbuckle

The guy has put the arm rest up and given he is already encroaching halfway onto your real estate, there isn’t much you can do about it but slink your way in.  It’s impossible to avoid contact, and after not too long you notice that the guy’s body seems to be throwing off the heat of a blast furnace, and you actually start to perspire three minutes into a four hour trip. 

And that’s if you have an aisle and he has the middle, or heaven forbid you have the middle.  What if you have the window and this guy is next to you and falls asleep?   You’re now forced to refuse all requests to hydrate for fear you will have to climb mount fatso to get to the lav for some relief.  Who among you can concentrate on email or your March Madness Picks when you’re thinking “I could be developing an embolism in my leg due to the lack of movement and fluids”.   Now I ask you, is that any way to fly?   No, of course it’s not and it’s time to take a stand!   I say the airlines put a seat with two armrests right next to that thing that measures the size of your carry-on bag.Carry-On-WALKINBAG

If Fatty Arbuckle can’t fit in the seat, he pays for two seats.   Charge the guy a few extra bucks he might call Jenny Craig, and who knows maybe this becomes another way to deal with the obesity problem everyone claims we have here in America beyond another season of The Biggest Loser.   

But this might make too much sense and will surely offend some, so I’m guessing this idea is destined to crash before takeoff.

March 25, 2013 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

Leave it to the TSA to shake a blogger out of his doldrums…..

Ok CarryingOn fans if you’re still out there, I’d like to apologize for not being very active over the past few months. Chalk it off to a bunch of things we won’t go into here, but after observing the recent statements and actions of the TSA, even the Rip Van Winkle of bloggers would be stirred to life!!

It all started when I read that the sequestration forced budget cuts were going to cause chaos in air travel. It seems as if a 4% budget cut would result in everything from forced flight cancellations to reduce the workload on ATC staff, to dramatically longer security lines with a less secure environment to boot, and a quadrupling of the time it takes to clear customs at some of our bigger international gateways.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Chief John Pistole were the ringleaders of a clear effort that used hyperbole to create panic among the masses who use the air transportation system on a regular or irregular basis. They were quickly joined by a chorus of industry insiders and pundits who accepted their predicted outcomes without even the slightest pushback, and then decried the impact on the travel industry.

In fact, in the days after the sequestration started, Napolitano suggested that the lines had already begun to build (this despite the fact that not one screener has been let go, since the law requires that federal workers must be given 30 days notice before a furlough, but we digress from the chaos).

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Well as your might have imagined by now, CarryingOn is not buying any of it.

It’s all political theatre designed to scare us into thinking that what amounts to a rather insignificant budget cut, would mean the end of air travel as we know it.

We’ve written a few times about the TSA and like tracking them because of their entertainment factor (http://bit.ly/YxteVQ),
but for those of you who might not scrutinize them as closely as CarryingOn, here are a few of data points to consider:

• The TSA now employs 62,000 people, 47,000 of which are screeners, and has an annual budget of $8Billion.
• In 2007 some 680 million flyers were screened by what were then 44,000 screeners, but in 2011 only 640 million of us took to the skies, yet there were 47,000 screeners.

If you’re keeping score on that one, a 6.2% reduction in the number of people being screened seemed to require a 6.8% increase in the number of screeners. Now I don’t claim to be a TSA staffing specialist or to know all the complexities of what the TSA does, but I did do a two year stretch at LGA Airport a few years back, when the airline was still responsible for the screening checkpoint (we hired sub-contractors), and I seem to remember that if we had less people coming through the place, we needed less people to handle them. Who knows, maybe the shoes in the bin part causes you to need more people.

The TSA has also said that the only way to manage the required cuts is by reducing staff. Obviously that’s one way to do this, but surely not the only way. Maybe they can cut something else. Like what you ask? To answer that, it’s time for some more TSA fun facts, these provided by a joint report by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Oversight of Government Reform, which showed that among other things:

• The TSA has a warehouse in Dallas, Texas, where 5,700 pieces of unused security equipment sit in storage. The dormant equipment is worth $184 million.
• This equipment storage cost taxpayers another $23 million in depreciation, because nearly all of the 472 carry-on baggage screening machines in the warehouse have been sitting there unused for over nine months.
• The agency spends another $3.5 million every year just to lease and manage this warehouse.

In addition, under the recently renewed labor agreement, TSA employees will see their uniform allowances nearly double to $446 per year (by comparison, a combat Marine Lieutenant receives a one-time uniform allowance of $400). The cost of the increase in TSA uniform allowance is an estimated $9.63 million annually.

If we total this stuff up you could lop $220 million off the budget, which represents close to 3/4th of the required cuts, and not one TSA head was touched in the process! And I’m guessing they could find another $100 million to get to the required 4% reduction without too much difficulty.

But I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on the TSA because they are relaxing the restriction against carrying pocket knives, billiard cues, and a host of other items that make absolutely no sense being onboard.

So while it might take more time to get through security, once onboard at least I can go back to my favorite thing to do on a long transcon flight, whittling wood. I can see it now…..”Hey, look there’s Minnesota Fats in 32C . I’m going over and introduce myself and see if I can trade him my wood carving of Janet Napolitano’s head in return for some tips on how to play a better game of 9 Ball.”

Minnesota-Fats[1] 100_0037[1]

March 15, 2013 at 6:02 am 2 comments

Seems some people would pay more to get off the plane first…..but I have my doubts about this one.

An article in yesterday’s New York Post referenced a research report conducted by Airfare Watchdog.com.   Now before I go further in describing the report’s findings, I feel it fair to add that Airfare Watchdog.com is not some government agency or non-profit that is tracking airfares for empirical reasons or to monitor injustice in the world of airline pricing.   Rather, it is a cleverly named OTA.   But hey, they have passengers and asked 1,000 of them some questions and then turned the answers into a research report that got noticed by CarryingOn and probably many others, so good for them.

Putting the source of the research aside for the moment, I thought it would be fun to conjure up what would happen if airlines actually starting selling this service.   If as suggested in the survey, 1 in 6 travelers would be willing to pay more to exit the plane faster (10% said they would pay $10, 3% would pay $20, and another 3% an unspecified amount), the US Airlines would generate over $790Million annually in ancillary revenue.  That’s a lot of dough and almost as much as the US Government will save under ObamaCare in one year (I’m sure some of you can sense the skepticism in that analogy, but I couldn’t help myself having just celebrated our country’s Independence Day).

But before the industry starts debating whether this new GOF Fare (Get Off First, because we do love our acronyms) can be sold in the GDS’s, let’s consider a few things.   Having often wondered how I would fare in the fictitious Olympic event “Airport Steeplechase” as I dodged, weaved, and sprinted from Gate B27 to Gate E3 to make a connection, I asked myself if I would have paid an extra $10 bucks to get a head start.  Given I’ve missed my fair share of connections, and been put through the “reaccomodation” process, a process by the way, that I liken to being paroled from prison, I would pay the $10.

Now before you say “no way I would pay”, reflect a bit on your worst missed connection and the likely reaccomodation process you encountered….

”Sir, you will have to wait your turn, all these other people in front of you also need our help”, which was followed by,

“Sir, we are working as fast as we can…you will simply have to wait your turn”, only eventually to hear an hour later,

“Sir, I’m sorry but the only thing we have for you is a connection tomorrow morning, and no, there are no hotel rooms available in the area”.

So you would probably pay the $10 too, but before our airline friends start salivating at the prospects of all that new revenue, they might want to consider the practical aspects as well.   In previous posts we’ve talked about the boarding process and how complicated and unruly it has become, but in the case of getting on a plane at least you have referees (in the form of gate agents), a bigger playing field (the boarding area), and some easily identified rules (your boarding pass for one), that help control the process somewhat.

Now envision yourself onboard a packed 757 and having paid the $10 to get sprung from jail (aka the middle seat in Row 38) faster.    Now think about an announcement that goes something like this, “ladies and gentleman, certain individuals onboard have paid for the privilege or exiting first, so I would like the rest of you to sit in your seats while they do that.”    I envision everything from looks of confusion, to stares of hatred, followed by a host of people who didn’t listen, barely understand English, or choose to ignore the announcement, getting up and into their overhead retrieval routine, thus impeding your sprint to the exit.   And what if you don’t end up getting off first after having paid for the privilege?   Is your money refunded?   Is there an arbitrator that rules on such things (“sir, you might not have been first per se, but you were in the first “wave” to exit, so technically we complied with the rules of carriage as outlined by IATA, ARC, the DOJ, EU, and Kevin Mitchell”).    I can just see the mayhem in the aisles, the Tweets on Twitter, and the status changes on Facebook to something like “still in line”, or “just ripped off by the airlines”.

As a result, to save the airlines and everyone else a lot of trouble, CarryingOn is going to recommend a quick death to this idea, because if you really want to get out of a plane before everyone else you can do it today and it works just fine.   After all, it’s not called First class for nothing :-).

July 6, 2012 at 11:24 am 1 comment

Things are not always as they seem…

by Tony

I read with interest a recent article suggesting that the European Union was about to start making foreign airlines pay for their carbon emissions. The program has been widely criticized by many including the Air Transport Association, and the International Air Transport Association, which represents 230 airline across the globe, for many reasons as you will read in the piece.

Now putting the scientific discussion of the impact of carbon emissions aside for a moment, I don’t think anyone would disagree that air transportation is a significant driver of the world’s economy, and beyond the economic impact, has changed the world for the better. But for as much good as it does, air transportation is one of the most heavily regulated and taxed industries, and this new regulation is yet another example. EU officials admit as much and recognize that this program will ultimately cost consumers more (as much as $16US per long-haul flight, according to The New York Times), but they simply suggest the airline pass the cost of their emissions off on passengers, as they do with fuel price increases.

Now anytime CarryingOn hears the word “price increase” we get concerned, but the whole carbon emissions issue really came home for me this past week.

I was flying to MSP on Delta 2119, an 810am departure from LGA. The flight was full, the boarding typical for New York, with lots of crowding and a few “we haven’t called your group yet” boarding infractions, but was otherwise routine. Having logged a few miles in my day, I’m usually not that interested when the various in-flight announcement are made, not because they aren’t important, rather because I know most of them by heart, but on this particular day they caught my attention. Our MD88 aircraft was piloted by Captain William J. Botella, who during his normal announcements also made some very interesting comments that made me think of the EU carbon emission story I had read a few days earlier.

What Captain Botella said was the following:

The MD88 with 130 passengers, would use 2,730 gallons of fuel over the 1,200 mile trip between LGA and MSP.

By contrast, to carry 130 passengers in automobiles (assuming 2 per car, and a 20 Miles Per Gallon vehicle), would consume 3,900 gallons of fuel.

So by flying, we saved 1,170 gallons of fuel, not to mention that we all got there in 2½ hours versus the 20 hours it would have taken had we driven non-stop at 60 MPH (and that doesn’t include a few Waffle Houses stops we would inevitably make along the way).  And the good Captain didn’t even talk about any cargo that might have been onboard, cargo that otherwise would have been on trucks that burn even more fuel.

His comments got me thinking that maybe this air transportation thing isn’t so bad for carbon emissions after all, particularly when you look at it as Captain Botella suggested. Sure, you can take the position that any carbon emission is bad (and again science aside), but does anybody really think we can stop emissions altogether? The answer is no, but in this case maybe there is a different perspective we should take.  One that considers the alternative, because I don’t know about you but one thing I don’t think we need is another tax on our industry, so I’ll close by quoting the old Beatle classic Taxman, which if you don’t remember went like this:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.

… and will add my own new verse to help shed some light on this one as only CarryingOn can.

If you fly today, I’ll tax the ride.

If you will not pay, you’ll have to drive.

If you drive your car, the fumes will flow,

Even more than if you flew you know.

Feel free to sing along, and maybe we all karaoke it with our favorite Congressman.

December 19, 2011 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Want a Great Social Profile? Try a Great Customer Experience.

by Becky

One of the more valuable (and oft-re-Tweeted) pearls of wisdom that came out of the energetic PhoCusWright Conference a couple of weeks ago was from Hilton’s president of global brands and commercial services, Paul Brown. Social media may not be the death of brands, he said during his keynote speech, “but social media may be the death of bad brands.”

Ah, yes! The influence of social media is strong, no doubt.  But the influence of an outstanding customer experience is far stronger. (Not the least of which is because it begets a more positive social media sentiment.) It was fun to see that simple idea so boldly and overtly stated on stage.

Brown said Hilton will aim to avoid rewarding customers who choose passive-aggressive methods of airing grievances, in favor of those who choose private and direct channels, like writing to the hotel.  So, if you have an issue, you know what to do, weary traveler!

November 30, 2011 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

It’s time to call this boarding to order…..

By Tony

On my flight home from SFO to JFK last night I observed what has become an all too common occurrence that I’m sure you have all witnessed as well.  Airlines are reworking the system to get butts in seats faster, but good intentions aside, it can all go south really fast and usually does.  When it gets close to the time to begin boarding, we all tend to start jockeying around to ensure we get the pole position when the race to board begins. I’m not thrilled with the various strategies that I consider somewhat unsavory, like The Sidewinder (master of the ‘End Around’ move, going wide around a row of seats to make a side entry into an already formed line) or The Space Invader (Hi. We all see your blatant invasion of the open space). The Invader is rude but in some ways understandable because the Invader could think you are in a later zone and not in the first heat of the race.  But what I find most upsetting is a blatant infraction by The Entitled One, someone who tries to join a Zone earlier than the one they are designated for.

Today a young man who had on one of those too tight suits and a pair of pointy shoes, made the classic Entitled move. I looked him over and said “no way this punk has more status than me,” but I had just finished an In-N-Out Burger with a Vanilla Shake on my way to the airport, and I was not as fast on my feet as I normally am, so I shot him a look, but let him have the inside track.  Up to the boarding pass reader with his slick smile he goes, only to be stopped with… “Sir we are only Boarding Zone 1 at this point, so you will have to step aside.” Entitled said “oh, I didn’t hear the announcement,” so I said “she probably made 67 of them and you missed them all, did you sunshine?” The woman next to me smiled and muttered something that I didn’t completely catch, other than the last part which ended in “hole,” so I felt somewhat vindicated, but I think we should take this a bit further.

To solve this conundrum once and for all, Carrying On offers the following.  From this point forward I say that anyone caught in a boarding pass infraction should be tracked by the airline AND required to wear a sticker that says “I’m a boarding pass cheater” for the entire flight. If they are caught a second time they should be boarded last regardless of their Zone. Caught a third time, they should be forced to check their bag regardless of its size or the availability of space on the flight.

If you agree let me know and I will put a project plan together to roll this out.   I might even request Government funding under the “if you see something, say something” program.  Either way, I think it’s time we take a stand.

September 16, 2011 at 11:26 am 2 comments

I haven’t gotten to the laundry in a while, and it just kind of built up

by Tony

Not sure if you caught this story, but it goes to show you how far people will go to collect frequent flyer points. Mint ends frequent fliers’ dollar-coin scheme: The U.S. Mint has put an end to a crafty frequent flier rewards scheme.

The scheme was started by savvy travelers back in 2008 when the U.S. Mint launched a “direct ship” program to sell and ship dollar coins directly to the general public in hopes of increasing the use of the coins.

A few frequent fliers got the idea to buy the coins with credit cards to accumulate rewards points, then deposit the coins at a bank and pay off the credit balance.

Word of the strategy spread on blogs, with at least one frequent flier claiming he bought $800,000 in coins on his credit cards to boost his rewards point total.

When the U.S. Mint got word of the scheme, the federal agency contacted anyone who bought more than 1,000 coins within 10 days, asking whether they were using the coins for general use, as the program intended. Although the scheme did not break any laws, Mint officials said they wanted to make sure people used coins as intended.

The coin guys obviously took it to the extreme, but we’ve heard many tales of frequent travelers going on one last seven-leg trip in December on their own dime to secure airline status for the next year.   If you’re like me, you’ve probably pondered how you can leverage this kind of behavior into something more positive for your travel program. And as I pondered this I started to consider the topic of gamification that has been so hot lately.

What looks like a generational move towards gamification (my oldest daughter leads many virtual lives in which she has amassed a great deal of virtual currency), is in fact not that new. Hell, I started “gaming” the system at St. Michael’s School when I was in 6th grade (it involved those candy bars we used to sell to raise money and I will spare the details to protect the innocent).

When you think about it, whether planning a seven-leg journey with just the right amount of legs or miles, or buying coins to collect miles, you are in fact gaming a system, hopefully to your advantage.

Now as you probably know, we’re pretty big on the whole user-centric approach to things at RC, and we’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

How can we capture this fervor that people have to play and win a “game,” into something positive for everyone (the gamer, their company, and the service provider being gamed). I’d be interested to know if anyone has dabbled in this area and if so, how successful it was (or wasn’t as the case may be). Has anyone out there “gamified” their travel program yet? I think this might be one of those transformational opportunities, and would love to hear if anyone agrees.

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Attention travel managers: What’s getting in your way when it comes to managing corporate travel online? http://goo.gl/tQEmf

August 21, 2011 at 8:45 am Leave a comment

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