Friday, July 20, 2012

The Permanent Bag Tag, a Skyteam project

The Q Bag Tag is a permanent electronic bag tag designed to facilitate a faster and easier baggage check-in at domestic airports. There's no longer a need to attach a temporary bag tag each time you fly domestically - just drop your bags and go. What's more, if you check-in online or with your mobile before you arrive at the airport, you'll be able to go directly to the Bag Drop.

With a sleek design by Marc Newson, each tag contains world-first technology that synchronises your details on your boarding pass or Qantas card with your baggage using the RFID chip technology.Q Bag Tags can be purchased for $49.95 or 7,000 Frequent Flyer points.

Introduced by Quantas earlier last year, this idea of a permanent bag tag is now pushed by Skyteam. The alliance wants to make it a project for all its companies with a proof of concept financed by 75 000 € from AFKL. It would be the first time that a marketing idea and product development is done jointly as an alliance wide project.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Privatization of Aer Lingus

Transport minister Leo Varadkar has admitted that the Government is powerless to prevent the loss of Aer Lingus's valuable slots at Heathrow Airport as the sale of the Government's 25 per cent stake hits turbulence.

"There is very little we can do to protect the Aer Lingus slots at Heathrow Airport," he told the Dail last week.

"At the time of privatisation, having a golden share might have been a good idea -- but there is nothing to prevent the company from leasing out the slots.

"This could be done by the board at any time. The sale of the slots would just require a special motion."

Access to prime-time landing slots at Heathrow Airport is seen as massively strategically important for Irish interests.

Early morning and early evening landing slots at the airport make it easier for firms to do business here -- given that many travellers from the US and elsewhere connect to Ireland from Heathrow.

Aer Lingus is the third-biggest owner of slots at the London airport hub.

"It is clear that airlines across Europe are consolidating. If Aer Lingus has a buyer in the future, probably the best way to secure access to Heathrow Airport is to have a buyer that wants to feed that airport, rather than one that wants to use the slots for another purpose," Varadkar told the Dail.

"It seems that the British government is changing its position on building a third runway at Heathrow Airport, which means we may find there will be more slots in the future than we thought."

Last month Ryanair unveiled a €694m bid to take over Aer Lingus. It is seen as an attempt to increase revenue and get to the long haul market as Aer Lingus has flight to the US East coast.

The Government is planning to sell its 25 per cent stake in the former State airline -- although not, if it can help it, to Ryanair.

However the "anyone but Ryanair" strategy stalled last week as IAG, which owns British Airways, ruled out a bid for Aer Lingus.

Turkish Airlines, which had been linked with a bid for Ireland's former national carrier, also denied suggestions that it was eyeing the stake. Etihad owns a 3 per cent stake.


End to Ryanair debit card tricks as budget airlines forced to include payment fee in ticket price

Budget airlines including Ryanair and easyJet have agreed to include the cost of paying by debit card in the headline price of tickets - ending a scam that made it almost impossible to pay for tickets without a charge.

Aer Lingus, BMI Baby, Eastern Airways, easyJet, Flybe, German Wings, Jet2, Lufthansa, Ryanair, Thomas Cook, Thomson (TUI) and Wizz Air have been forced to undertake the changes after an Office of Fair Trading consumer law investigation.

By December this year, the airlines will have to include the price of paying by debit card in the headline price of air tickets. They will also have to explain any additional fee for paying by credit card up front so that charges are not sprung on passengers at the end of a lengthy booking process.

The OFT estimated that debit and credit card surcharging in the airline sector has been costing consumers £300million a year.

Airline regulations means that ticket prices have to include all unavoidable charges. But in some cases, airlines were making passengers take out obscure payment cards if they wanted to get the advertised rate without an additional charge.

Main offender was Ryanair, which insisted passenger pay via the little-used Vise Electron card, and later by its own branded pre-payment card, if they wanted to avoid a £6-per-person charge.

Consumer group Which? made a 'super-complaint' over the use of these tactics in February 2011 and the OFT began investigation later in the year. The OFT today confirmed that debit cards were the online equivalent of cash, and should therefore be able to be used without a charge.

The results and enforcement action today are particularly embarrassing for Ryanair.

At the time of the Which? complaint, the Irish budget flier launched a public attack on Which?. It called the consumer group 'Which, Who or What magazine', and described it as a 'useless and irrelevant "consumer magazine"' that was bought by 'less than one man and his dog’.

In a bizarre press release, Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said at the time: 'Before making "Super Duper Complaints" the clueless clowns at ‘Which, Who or What’ magazine, should conduct some basic research. Ryanair does not levy any credit or debit card payment "surcharges". Even our administration fee is avoidable by passengers who use our recommended MasterCard Prepaid.'

He concluded: 'If it wasn’t for dentist waiting rooms or doctors’ surgeries it is doubtful whether anyone even reads the useless and frequently inaccurate "Which, Who or What’ magazine”.'
But officials agreed with Which? and decided that Ryanair and the others did have a case to answer.

In its case notes published today, the OFT said the airlines were 'engaging in prohibited unfair commercial practices', as well as committing 'breaches of professional diligence' and breaking airline regulations that require flight prices to be presented inclusive of all unavoidable charges.

Clive Maxwell, the OFT's chief executive, said: 'This is a great outcome for the millions of people who buy flights online. It is important that the cost presented when they search for a flight is realistic and that they are not surprised by extra charges. Otherwise it is harder for them to shop around for the best deal.'

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: 'Over 50,000 people supported our campaign to end rip off surcharges so it's good news that debit card surcharges will be displayed in the headline price of flights - as long as the airlines don't use this as an excuse to push up their prices.

'It's also important that credit card charges are clearly displayed throughout the booking process and the OFT should make sure that all companies are taking these steps, not just airlines.'

The OFT came to agreement with the airlines after making it clear failure to comply could trigger court action. Each of the airlines will enact the changes according to a timeline agreed with the OFT, with all changes completed by 1 December.

Following recommendations from the OFT last year, the Government has also announced plans to bring forward legislation to ban excessive debit and credit card surcharges  across the economy.


United Airlines personalizes online prices based on estimated customer willingness to pay

IN MANY types of face-to-face retailing, it pays to size up your customer and tailor your offering accordingly. In a 2006 study of Fulton fish market in New York, Kathryn Graddy of Brandeis University found that dealers regularly charged Asian buyers less than whites because the Asians had proved, over time, more willing to reject high prices, and readier to band together to boycott dealers who ripped them off.

The internet, by allowing anonymous browsing and rapid price-comparing, was supposed to mean low, and equal, prices for all. Now, however, online retailers are being offered software that helps them detect shoppers who can afford to pay more or are in a hurry to buy, so as to present pricier options to them or simply charge more for the same stuff.

Cookies stored in shoppers’ web browsers may reveal where else they have been looking, giving some clues as to their income bracket and price-sensitivity. A shopper’s internet address may be linked to his physical address, letting sellers offer, say, one price for Bel Air, another for Compton. Doug Bryan of iCrossing, a digital-marketing consultancy, explains that the most up-to-date “price customisation” software can collate such clues with profiles of individual shoppers that internet sellers buy from online-data-aggregation firms. All this is fairly cheap, he says.

One of the few big online firms to admit to using such techniques is Orbitz, a travel website. Its software detects whether people browsing its site are using an Apple Mac or a Windows PC and, since it has found that Mac users tend to choose pricier hotels, that is what it recommends to them. Orbitz stresses that it does not charge people different rates for the same rooms, but some online firms are believed to be doing just that, for instance by charging full whack for those assumed to be willing and able to pay it, while offering promotional prices to the rest.

Allocating discounts with price-customisation software typically brings in two to four times as much money as offering the same discounts at random, claims Ravi Vijayaraghavan of [24]7, a Bangalore-based firm that develops and operates such software. One way to do this is to monitor how quickly shoppers click through towards the online seller’s payment page: those who already seem set on buying need not be tempted with a special offer. Firms like [24]7 and RichRelevance, another price-customisation software firm, from San Francisco, are somewhat keener to talk about their software than the internet retailers who are trying it out. Mr Vijayaraghavan names United Airlines, for example, as among his big clients, but the airline declined to comment for this article.

Andrew Fano, a consultant in Accenture’s Chicago office, reckons that at least six of America’s ten biggest web retailers are now customising prices in some way, but it is hard for shoppers to spot when this is going on. If they knew, many would feel that it is “pushing the boundaries” of fairness, notes Werner Reinartz, a University of Cologne marketing professor and consultant to two Fortune 500 companies that use customisation techniques.

Mr Reinartz preaches caution lest companies be dragged through an ordeal pioneered by Amazon in the autumn of 2000. Word broke that the internet giant was selling DVDs at differing prices, to see which web browsers happened to be favoured by shoppers least concerned about cost, former executives say. The resulting backlash prompted it to refund those who paid more, and Amazon now declines to discuss its pricing system.

Users of price-customisation software have so far been reluctant to peep at potential customers’ social-media pages, for fear that this would provoke a privacy backlash. But the operators at the call centres [24]7 runs for its clients are beginning to scan Twitter for gen on the shoppers they are talking to—and sometimes, says Mr Vijayaraghavan, their tweets give useful hints about whether a discount is needed to clinch the sale.