Thursday, August 27, 2009

AA to change out engine mid-flight

Ed Silver, partner at Hudson Crossing here. While Tom is on vacation drinking Ouzo in Greece, I've taken the liberty of stealing the keys to the blog. Please don't tell Tom when he gets back.

Today, as reported in "
The Beat ~ a travel business newsletter" AMR Corp has signed a letter of intent with HP's EDS division to implement a new platform for "reservations, pricing and ticketing, inventory, flight information and check-in." AA will be migrating away from the system it first helped create along with IBM five decades ago.

Hudson Crossing will be pondering the impact of this news for a while, but an airline moving platforms is like brain surgery on the wing of a 747 in a thunderstorm trying to land at LGA! It is no easy task and AMR is to be applauded for this forward thinking change.

More to come soon on the reasons behind this, and what we think it means for customers of AA.

Monday, August 24, 2009 Lives Again

Orbitz has reincarnated yet another brand of online travel days past today: This time around, is a search site akin to TravelZoo's Super Search or BookingBuddy. Input your dates, click several sites and a multitude of windows open displaying search results.

Lodging isn't, however, limited to just hotel rooms. Vacation rentals, B&Bs and even campsites (we found one for $4 - wonder what the margin is on that!) are also listed under separate tabs.

Comically,'s old tag line "Get a Room" has been retained which is the URL of founders Dave Litman and Bob Diener's new venture, That should be interesting.....

Friday, August 21, 2009 Gets a New Look has a new look! A long over-do re-do of has cleaned up the user interface and toned down the jarring red of the old site. It appears to only be running on certain servers thus far so you may need to visit a few times before you get the new site.'s phone number has been splashed prominently all over the site - five places alone above the fold! In addition, the welcomerewards program has really become the centerpiece of the site, taking top billing in the largest font on the page. Both are great differentiators for Deals have also been migrated over to the right hand side of the page and brought up above the fold.

The search results pages have also been tuned up nicely as well. Once a user selects a hotel, they are now driven right to the booking/room type selections rather than the old "summary" page which gave information on the property and forced users to scroll down to book.

We are sure there are other enhancements as well - this is just a first pass. Now we need to go back and refresh our browser some more so we can get the new site rather than the old site!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Travelocity Gets a Guru: How Will the Gnome Feel?

This morning, Travelocity announced the purchase of Indian portal Travelguru. Interestingly, the press release calls Travelguru "India's leading hotel distribution network" which it may very well be. Adding 4000 hotels, most of which are independent, non chain affiliated properties is a major coup for Travelocity and for Sabre, particularly if they are able to expose this new inventory in the Sabre GDS. Adding hotel inventory in India is, in a word, hard. The extremely limited presence of the large chain hotels makes adding inventory a slow, manual process that requires lots of feet on the street. It appears Travelguru has solved this issue.

But Travelguru is more than just hotels. Interestingly, it is also an air meta search player and a pretty good one at that. A far cry from the traditional OTA model (and much less the GDS model) Travelguru actually send consumers to other sites to book low margin air tickets. A pretty interesting strategy for dealing with a low profit item. Travelguru's meta search is provided by IXIGo, a separate entity.
Is this a precursor to a larger shift by the Gnome away from the GDS powered, air-centric OTA model here in the US? Time will tell.

Oh, and we wonder how long Expedia's white label product, WWTE will power hotel searches outside of India! It is kind of a throw-back to the days when powered Travelocity's hotel product! Do these icon etc look familiar?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Orbitz Adds "Street View" Google Content to Hotel Product

This morning, Orbitz launched new mapping functionality which leverages the highly acclaimed Google "Street View" product to give consumers a peek at the hotel before they buy. This is a great way for consumers to take a look (from an un-biased source like Google) at what the hotel actually looks like - curb appeal anyone? Finally, you'll be able to tell if a Starbucks really is "next door" or down the street a bit.

This is an interesting application of the Street View and much more interesting than the typical, basic mash-up of Google maps that several sites (Hyatt and Starwood, for example - although Starwood has since removed it) have added lately.

Take a look at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square:

Google isnt perfect, however - witness the view for the Waldorf=Astoria:

Talk about porte cochere! We may have just picked a bad example - many others worked just fine.

You'll have to look hard to find Street View - it is hidden in tiny letters on the upper right of the "map" tab. Once you find it, it is pretty cool.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Slot Swap: When the Dust Settles, Who Will Lose - We bet Cincinnati

We haven't yet discussed the current New York slot swaps yet because we wanted to take a little time and digest. For those of you not paying attention, this airline game of Wife Swap (a TV show, really) has got Continental and AirTran trading a few slots at Washington National/LGA for Newark and a huge transfer between Delta and USAirways at New York LGA and Washington National.

The Continental/AirTran deal is fairly straightforward. AirTran gets more slots at airports where they have a decent presence and need to continue fending off Southwest. Continental picks up a few slots at their super hub at EWR and, most importantly, removes a low-fare competitor from the market. Without the need to match pesky AirTran's fares not just to Atlanta but to many destinations beyond, Continental will be able to dramatically improve their pricing power at EWR. Yes, they'll still have to match JetBlue and may opt to match fares from other New York airports but it certainly cleans things up for them.

Delta and USAirways is a much more interesting deal which will allow each carrier to fortify their existing strongholds. USAirways has been relegated to serving smaller, second tier markets from New York LGA for sometime. They have not had the international presence or business market presence to command corporate deals in the New York marketplace. These smaller markets such as Norfolk, Buffalo and Richmond have been served largely with Dash-8 turboprop aircraft which have become increasingly difficult to operate in and out of LGA due to the constant Air Traffic Control delays - all in all, a relatively poor use of valuable LGA slots.

Meanwhile at DCA, USAirways has the opportunity to dominate the preferred airport in the nation's Capital. Not only will USAirways be able to build additional connecting traffic but they will be able to dominate the local origin and destination market. Having fellow Star Alliance partner United as the dominate carrier at the other major airport, Dulles, certainly helps as well as it enables frequent fliers to pool their mileage earning across both carriers to gain status etc.

The one thing that has not been discussed is where Delta is going to get the aircraft to operate the additional 125 flights to/from LGA. Delta has promised to operate regional jets vs. the Dash 8 turboprops that USAir currently operates. (A few flights today are also operated by Colgan Air for USAir using 19 seat aircraft)

Delta certainly is not going to go out and acquire new aircraft for these flights. Our rough estimation is that around 30-40 aircraft are required to operate these flights based on an average flight of around 90 minutes, standard aircraft utilization etc.

There is probably one place where Delta can easily come up with the aircraft: Cincinnati. Long rumored to be on the chopping block and already dieing a slow death, we expect that Delta will pull substantial resources from CVG to operate in New York. A great posting by our friends at Cranky Flier details Delta's current regional jet operations at CVG - currently expected to be around 180 weekday departures in November, down from a high of nearly 400 in 2007. Those 180 departures (leaving a handful for the traffic CVG naturally generates) could easily fund the 125 new departures from LGA.

We expect the final de-hubbing of CVG to be accomplished by moving the lion's share of these aircraft to the New York LGA markets if and when the slot swap is approved - and we are confident it will be approved.

Sorry, CVG - wish we had better news but our bet is that your hub is going the way of American Airlines in Nashville and Raleigh/Durham or USAirways in Baltimore or Pittsburgh. The upside for the industry is that this rationalization will remove substantial capacity - something which is desperately needed. A New Way for the UK to Search for Aeroplane Trips

TravelZoo property has quietly launched a UK version of their meta search site. For curious US users, simply click on the flag in the upper right hand corner. UK users are redirected automatically.

The site features the same functionality as the US based version but offers different OTA partners including TerminalA and Ebookers.

In addition, Fly has managed to include numerous low-cost carriers including easyJet, Flybe, Wizz and SkyEurope - many if which have often declined to participate in broad distribution plays in the past. Alas, no word on the biggest hold-out, RyanAir.

The meta-search march continues....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Rest for the Weary: Virgin America Announces Florida Flights and JetBlue Follows

Yesterday, Virgin America announced new flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to begin on November 18th. Virgin's press release was officially dropped this morning.

Not to be outdone, today JetBlue announced new nonstop service from, guess where, SFO to FLL. (As an aside, JetBlue already offers FLL nonstops from Long Beach, just down The 405 from LAX) And just to make it fun, JetBlue will start the route one day sooner, on November 17th.

The dogfight continues...............

Monday, August 10, 2009

AA Drops SFO-SNA Route - Score One for Virgin America!

Waaaay back when we started this little blog, we predicted that the likely loser in the Bay to LA war heating up between American, Virgin America, Southwest and United was going to be American. Over the weekend, our prediction came true. Without fanfare (closing routes is never as exciting as opening them!) American pulled their San Francisco-Orange County flights effective November 18th.

To be sure, it will still be a tough, tough market with 3 carriers battling it out (particularly when one of them is Southwest.) Who will blink next?

Will Frontier Get a Little LUV?

Southwest today announced a formal $170m bid for Frontier Airlines, topping a bid by Republic Airlines of nearly $109m. In the announcement, Southwest gave a high level overview of their plans to operate Frontier that sounds quite similar to our post last week in which we detailed a likely scenario.

As we expected, Southwest will maintain service to all existing markets and add several new ones by rationalizing service in overlapping markets. Of particular interest is Southwest's plan to gradually reduce Frontier's airbus fleet as they take delivery of new 737s. The naysayers were concerned about fleet integration - we said it would never be an issue because Southwest would never integrate the Frontier fleet - they would just slowly fade away. Nice to see that Southwest agrees with our prognostication.

Southwest says they will keep about 80% or 40 aircraft in Frontiers fleet. That sounds like the small, 120 seat A318s will be leaving soon, leaving the larger A320s (with 162 seats) and the A319s (with 136 seats) in the fleet for now.

And now what of Republic? Do they really want to market their own airline? And what will do they do with Midwest Airlines - surely that operation isn't quite so swift without the heft that a Frontier/Midwest combination would have allowed for.

The auction is Thursday - we'll see what happens but our bet is that Frontier gets a little Luv...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Logo for Starwood Hotels and Resorts?

We've noticed a new Starwood Hotels and Resorts creeping into various uses. Just this morning, we saw an email from United cross promoting Starwood with a new logo in use. Yesterday, we caught site of this new logo in an industry magazine.

Here is the old logo:

And here is the new logo that we've noticed:
Certainly a lot cleaner and more modern design than the bold typeface in the prior design. And "Worldwide" is missing - a simplification for sure.

Interestingly, this logo is not featured on the website or the Starwood Preferred Guest ( website.

Will we see more of the Starwood brand now that there is a new logo? In the past, unlike the Hilton Family or the Marriott "umbrella brand," Starwood has been relatively quiet in using the overall brand outside of the travel trade and the loyalty program, SPG. Maybe now that Starwood has so many brands they are ready to make a broader push with the Starwood name?