Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Qantas can't add up - emails wrong fare price for London flights.

Given the difficulties it has had with its budget, you would think that Qantas would be hard at work on its mathematics capabilities.

Apparently not.

Today I received two emails. One with very low prices for London fares in all classes other than economy, in fact making it cheaper to go to London than to go to New.

Nine hours later it issued this correction:
Yep, in the space of 9 hours your economy fare to london got $4 more expensive, your Premium fare got $303 cheaper, your business fare got $1086 more expensive, and first class will cost you a whole $6 more.

Wish I'd booked in business to London this morning. I could have saved over $1,000.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Your chance to live on a plane!

AirBnB and KLM seem to have teamed up to offer you a chance to stay on a plane at Schiphol Airport at the end of November 2014.

Not sure it looks like my cup-of-tea. I was thinking more of a retro stay with swan chairs and cocktails.

Read the fine print to enter

Better get in quick - stay dates are 28, 29 and 30 November 2014

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Does late arrival give you more of a chance of an upgrade?

I arrived at the Sofitel Melbourne, Australia a week or two ago around 8pm. I had booked a fairly standard room for a single Tuesday night. On checking in, I got an upgrade to a suite. I could have had 5 of my best Melbourne friends round for dinner, given that the suite had a dining room table seating 6, and a lounge with enough room for the same.

You can see the size compared to standard rooms on the fire exit map (or room envy map as I think of it).

I think I have only stayed at one other Sofitel this year (in Brisbane, for a night), but I do have a Silver  Le Club card.

So, is it the status (lucky to be near the top of the tree that evening), or the late arrival (stuck all the other pax in standard rooms, and only had better rooms left) that got me the upgrade?

Also - why is it that you always get upgrades, when your travelling alone, and for a stay of less than 12 hours, or is that just a kind of Murphy's law?

I might just start flying out on later flights and see . . .

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pay me not to use Knee Defender - don't throw me off a flight

If you havn't noticed the great debate about the Knee Defender - which stops the person in front of you on a flight reclining their seat, and got two passengers thrown off a flight in the USA recently, then read this article in the NYTimes.  People get awful upset about this stuff - but here is a kind of economically rationalist view:
"The economists Anne Case and Christina Paxson advanced the theory that tall people earn more because they have higher I.Q.s. Taller men on the dating website OkCupid receive more messages from women and have more sex partners than their short counterparts.

Instead of counting their blessings, or buying extra-legroom seats with some of their extra income, the tall have the gall to demand that the rules of flying be reconfigured to their advantage, just as everything else in life already has been. Sometimes — one Upshot editor who shall remain nameless included — they even use the Knee Defender to steal from their fellow passengers.

Now that’s just wrong."

Read the full Josh Barro article here: Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me

Nick Xenophon gives a great summary of the decline of Qantas

Independent Senator from SA gives a great roundup of the Joyce years at Qantas.

Joyce has earned $22.2 million as chief executive and in the 2012-13 financial year his $5.1 million package matches the combined salaries of the Cathay, Singapore and Air New Zealand chiefs. Shareholder value seems inversely proportional to Joyce's pay packet. Qantas shares today are worth 40 per cent less than when Joyce took over.

 Read the full article: Qantas chief Alan Joyce has plenty of questions to answer

Qantas and Alan Joyce - worse than expected, and that's just their financial performance

Qantas today reported an underlying loss before tax of AU$646 million - with a statutory loss after tax of AU$2.8 billion, but Alan Joyce is not to blame.

It was all the other airlines fault, for being more competitive and putting too many seats on the market. Oh, and fuel got more expensive (wasn't it more expensive for all airlines?). Oh, and we did some restructuring, and sacked people and had to pay them out - which cost us quite a lot of money - but really that is a saving! Oh, and less people decided to fly (with us), so its really their fault. Oh, and we did save quite a lot of money by giving people shittier meals and less service (Ahem!) I mean more efficient service.

Let me do some translation from Alan Joyce's opening remarks about underlying results:
  • 'The cumulative effect of two years of market capacity growth outstripping demand,'
    = we put on too many flights that no one wanted to travel on in an attempt to beat Virgin
  • 'A record high fuel cost of $4.5 billion, up $253 million on the prior year, and'
    = compared to other airlines we got our fuel hedging strategy wrong?
  • 'Weaker demand due to an environment of lower consumer confidence, with reduced activity by business, particularly the mining and government sectors'
    = we fiddled around with other stuff while consumer demand burned
He goes on to say that that 2.6 billion write-down is really just an accounting thing now that they are doing a corporate restructure in line with the legislative changes so that they can have greater foreign ownership, and the amount is soooooo big because they bought the aircraft when the Australian dollar was low, and now its high, but since they're not planning on getting rid of the planes, this doesn't really affect anything (so it means they will keep those old tired planes?).

Now - I have a lot of sympathy for Alan Joyce, he took over an airline that had kind of been coasting because its management was more focused on selling to private equity, and making a lot of money for themselves rather than bringing the airline in to the 21st century. But he has been there quite a while now (CEO since 2008), and along with the board, made some very bad decisions. The airline seems bent on contraction, rather than finding a way to expand. It has become way meaner to both its staff and customers on its path to becoming leaner.

Have a chat to any Qantas staff member who engages with the public, and you will only see eyes raised in disbelief at management decisions, and hear polite but none the less derisive comment about Qantas public pronouncements. So whatever they are doing, and whatever they are saying, they are not bringing staff and their customers with them.

Over the pas year I have travelled a lot with Qantas. They gave me Gold Status, and so in return I have remained fairly faithful - but the recent changes in the Frequent Flyer scheme - effective lowering of points and status credits on most of my regular routes and fare catagories has made me question their loyalty to me. I havn't flown with them longhaul international for years on the basis of cost and service. I am about to do so next month. I'll tell you then what I think all this 'transformation' means for the international customer.

Further Reading:

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Which of these Apps accepted my Hotel Booking info: Tripit, TripCase, Kayak or WorldMate ?

I sent this, emailed to me by my travel agent, to tripit, TripCase, Kayak and Worldmate.

Only one of them came back to me with the booking details recognised: KAYAK

All the others came back with messages like this:
Or this:

 But only KAYAK came back with this:

So, I guess KAYAK wins the prize.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Australian Domestic Airlines - ontime Arrival

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics recently published its June airline arrival statistics.

So to save you the drudgery - here are the major findings:

Want your flight cancelled ?
- Travel on Tiger or Qantaslink, or
- Travel on the Canberra / Sydney route

Want to arrive on time ?
 -  Travel on Qantas or Regional Express

Want to Depart on time ?
- Travel on Qantas or Regional Express

On the whole, on time arrivals and departures as well as cancellations are worse than the same time last year.

For the full report, in case you have an insomnia problem, you can download here

Friday, 15 August 2014

OOOPS! I'm flying with this potential clown airline in September

Authorities are investigating how a Jet Airways aircraft dropped more than 1500 metres in airspace over Turkey while the pilot was reportedly asleep.

An aviation regulator is looking into whether the co-pilot was also dozing as the Boeing 777-300 travelled from Mumbai to Brussels last Friday, the Times of India reported.

Apparently the pilot was taking a “controlled rest”, which means napping as allowed. The co-pilot, who was supposed to be in charge during this time, claimed she was busy on her tablet and didn’t notice the aircraft had lost altitude.

The pair were unaware of the situation until they received an emergency call from an air traffic controller asking why the plane had moved from its assigned flight level of 34,000 feet (10,363 metres).

The change in altitude meant the 300-passenger jet was flying awry in busy airspace.

Read more: SMH

Monday, 11 August 2014

Best and Worst American Airlines 2014

USA Airlines are not known for their spit and polish. In fact they are more likely to be remembered for their lack of service, than anything else. It's odd that the self proclaimed 'best country in the world' has some of the worst airlines in terms of customer service, ontime arrivals, cancelled flights, mishandled bags, and customer satisfaction.

For the 3rd year running airfarewatchdog has compiled the statistics - and here they are in summary:


Top 3

  1. Delta
  2. Virgin
  3. Alaska

Bottom 3

  • American
  • US Airways
  • United



Top 3

  1. Delta
  2. Alaska
  3. Virgin America

Bottom 3

  • American
  • US Airways
  • Jetblue



Top 3

  1. Alaska
  2. Delta
  3. Virgin America

Bottom Three

  • Frontier
  • Southwest
  • AirTran


Top 3

  1. Virgin America
  2. Frontier
  3. JetBlue

Bottom 3

  • US Airways
  • Southwest
  • AirTran

BUMPED! (denied boarding)

Top 3

  1. JegBlue
  2. Virgin America
  3. Alaska

Bottom 3

  • Sowthwest
  • Airtran
  • United


Top 3

  1. JetBlue
  2. Southwest
  3. Delta

Bottom 3

  • American
  • US Airways
  • United
See airfarewatchdog for complete details

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

British Airways make Pam Ann unfunny

You may know Pam Ann from her international live shows, or from her website or video's.

British Airways has employed her to front a little ad campaign about the quality and the training of their staff. Unfortunately, they have succeeded in making her less funny than she really is, and have just reinforced the usual view of BA staff being a bit stuffy and self serving. Or have they?

Here she is in all her glory: Pam Ann

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Make your Qantas Points worth 5¢ not 0.05¢

The value of Qantas points (and most loyalty scheme points) varies with what you buy with them.

With Qantas, you are way better spending them on flights than anything else.  Your points will be worth somewhere between around 2.5¢ and 5.4¢ per point.

If you spend your Qantas points in their shop on stuff, like headphones and the like, then you precious frequent flyer point is worth less than a cent - in fact about 0.69¢.

So - in short buy a Qantas ticket, preferably an upgrade for best value (although these are not guaranteed) or a seat at the pointy end.  In fact the best bet might be a round the world business class fare - which will make you points worth around 4¢ each. From the SMH:

Finally, consider what for many is the ultimate trip – flying around the world in business class. This costs just 280,000 Qantas points (plus around $1000 in fees and taxes). The cash cost of this junket would be north of $10,000, so you're now clocking up close to a solid 4 cents per point. You’ll be able to fly in business class comfort right around the globe with Qantas and any of its Oneworld partner airlines in the Oneworld alliance, such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, American Airlines and South America’s LAN/TAM.

This jaunt is as ideal for a honeymoon as it is for celebrating your new-found ‘empty nest’ status or retirement.

And with the right choice of credit cards to earn frequent flyer points on your spending, you’d be surprised how quickly those 280,000 points come within reach.
If you want to read a more detailed breakdown, go to David Flynn at the SMH, or Australian Business Traveller

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Now your smartphone will literally open doors

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is placing a $550 million bet that hotel guests increasingly will use smartphones to choose rooms, check in and even unlock doors. WSJ
The company plans to announce this week new technology intended for its 4,200 properties world-wide. Targeting younger travelers, Hilton is aiming to leapfrog competitors that already have rolled out new services like turning mobile phones into room keys. Guests already can check in and check out with a few punches on a smartphone or tablet-computer screen at all of Hilton's hotels in the U.S., the company said. By the end of summer, travelers will be able to see the location of and select their own rooms by mobile phone at six brands, from the midscale Hilton Garden Inn to the luxury Waldorf Astoria. Next year, Hilton says, arriving guests can begin using their smartphones to unlock the doors to their rooms, rather than waiting on any lines clogging the front desk to pick up a key. That feature will be available at most of the company's hotels world-wide by the end of 2016.
Starwood is also testing phone-based room keys and expects to launch their program at all W Hotels by next year. Other major chains have similar plans.

Source: JMG and Gizmodo

Friday, 27 June 2014

Sydney Airport Chaos

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting a power outage at T2 at Sydney Airport.

T2 is where Virgin and Jetstar depart from (among others)

It seems like the problem is a Sydney Airport responsability, and not the fault of the airlines.

More information here plus photos

Sydney Airport is now reporting that the power has been restored

Monday, 26 May 2014

QANTAS - new all-in-one APP

Qantas have just released a new App - at least for iPhone, that claims to be all-in-one.  I have about 3 Qantas apps already on my phone, and it has annoyed me for some time, that there is a separate one for frequent flyers, and one for getting your portable check in code, and another for something else.

I'm downloading it as I write, and will trial it as soon as I can.

Will report back soon.

In the meantime have a look at Australian Business Travellers report

Sunday, 27 April 2014

New App tells you what airlines owe you when they stuff you around

When an airline bumps you from a flight because of overbooking, or when you flight is outragously delayed, there are rules about what an airline owes you,

If you have ever been in this position and had to work out who owes what to whom between airlines, airports, insurance companies, credit card providers, and travel agents, then here is an App that might make it all a bit simpler. No longer will you have to wade through T&C's fine print, or wait on a phone line, while someone somewhere says they may have to 'escalate' your enquiry - and that is if you can actually get someone to answer your call.

AirHelp - a site and phone app might be just what you need.

I'm about to try it, but in the meantime - read this from TechCrunch,
or if your up for it download here from iTunes

Oh - and remember although the App is free, they take 25% of the compensation - but given the time that can be wasted in sorting this kind of stuff out - maybe its worth it.

Thanks Isaac for the tip.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Qantas is now firing its Frequent Flyers

In one of the biggest overhauls of its frequent flyer scheme in years, Qantas punishes people who try and find the cheapest fare booking with either Qantas itself, but especially with its One World parners. Here's the Qantas 'simpler and fairer' sales pitch.

Earning Miles
Remember that 1,000 point guarantee - gone! Now your earn is more related to your spend.  So if you buy discount economy - your going down. In most other categories - you stay the same, or improve.

Status Credits
Not much of an apparent change here - except if you travel with partner airlines where your earings will be roughly halved. For instance if you travel World Traveller Plus (business class) on British Airways - Sydney to London via Bangkok (as I did last year) your status point earn is halved from 240 to 120 points

Status Bonus
You used to get a percentage increase in the points you earned according to your FF status - now, not so much - unless you are high status, travelling at the pointy end - the rest will loose.

FF Tricks to cheaply increase or retain your high status
There used to be a trick where you would get an any seat reward - for nearly the same number of points as a classic award, but still earn status credits and FF points. Obsessed frequent flyers used to use such tricks to do 'status runs' to top up their status credits to retain or attain their FF Status. Its been an open secret, even if increasingly harder to find. OK it was an anomaly - but one that i think very few new about, and even fewer used. It was also a kind of nice 'those in the know' secret. Well its gone.

How it affects me
Ok - I fly about once or twice a month - usually domestically, about half for business and half for pleasure. Twice, and sometimes three times a year I do some long-haul about half in business, and half in economy. And I always search for the best deal, balancing cost, convenience and quality of service/airline. Last year, I blagged my way to gold status with Qantas, on the grounds I was nearly there, and if I had received one of their 'twofer' offers on status credits (offered to my partner, but not to me), I'd have qualified.  I've since enjoyed the free access to the club - treating my 89 year old mother to the quiet space and snacks in the lounge, and seem to have successfully booked exit row seats on virtually every flight.  Those seats were always blocked off on line when I was a mere Silver FF.

Well - I'm most pissed off at the downgrading of status credits on partner airlines. For me it was useful to find the cheapest fare on a one world member, and still earn status credits with Qantas. I value FF points, but not as much as I value the perks of seating selection, prompt counter service, and access to Qantas and partner lounges that Gold and Platinum status brings.

Ok - so I might not see the Qantas lounge in Sydney for too much longer - but when I move to Virgin - as I surely will, at least I'll be able to drown my lack of status sorrows with a nice glass of something and some bocadillos or raciones at the bar of Movida @ The Airport.

Further Reading
as usual, Australian Business Traveller covers all these aspects extensively, with news stories at the SMH, or you can see over at Crikey if you agree with Plane Talking that 'Australia’s frequent flyers get kicked into the real world'

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Malaysian Airlines Plane missing between KL and Beijing

Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is currently missing somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. The Boeing 777 was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew. It was traveling at 35,000 feet when it disappeared from radar screens. Although nothing is confirmed, it appears the flight is lost. Rumours that it made an emergency landing elsewhere in China have now been denied. Majority of passengers were from mainland China.

Malaysian Airlines Statement
Live Coverage at The Guardian Australian Edition

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Qantas to dump CEO Joyce ?

According to the Australian Financial Review, the Chairman of Qantas, Leigh Clifford - formally one of the CEO's greatest supporters prevaricated when asked about Alan Joyce's future. In the midst of awful news for the company including record losses, and intentions to slash more than 10% of staff, Clifford apparently failed to support Joyce's future saying 'I'm not willing to engage in that debate at the moment. At some later date, I may be willing to talk on those matters'.

If you can't get your chairman to make an unqualified statement of support for you as CEO in the midst of a crisis - then it might be time to make sure your bags are packed for a quick exit.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Qantas - 5000 jobs to go, $252 loss

Alan Joyce is a mathematician.  Pity, since what Qantas needs in a CEO with leadership, management, and customer service focus.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott - Could I please not have my tax dollars wagered against this failing enterprise via a capital guarantee?

Crikey/Plane Talking