Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Look Beyond Orbitz/AA: Delta Pulls Inventory Off Three Other OTAs

The current fight between American Airlines (AA) and Orbitz Worldwide (OWW) and Travelport by default has been well publicized. In a nutshell, after winning a hearing in court yesterday, AA canceled Orbitz' ability to sell tickets on the Orbitz family of websites including Orbitz.com, Cheaptickets.com and ebookers.com. The dispute revolves around how AA distributes inventory to Orbitz, both financially and technically.

To date, AA has been a lone wolf in this area with scant public support from any other airlines. Unlike in many other airline moves where one moves on Tuesday and the rest of the industry follows by Friday (think commission caps, bag fees, change fees etc) AA has stood alone.

Until yesterday.

In an amazing coincidence, Delta Air Lines (DL) yesterday announced that they would pull their inventory off of three smaller OTAs: cheapoair.com, onetravel.com and bookit.com.

Delta has made it clear that they value some distribution points more than others. These three websites generate a significant amount of traffic from meta and click-off search sites such as fly.com, bookingbuddy.com and tripadvisor.com - we can imagine that Delta probably tired of seeing these smaller, less relevant websites listed alongside Delta.com (and other, larger OTAs) as a booking option.

By flexing their distribution muscle and removing inventory from these sites, Delta is making a calculated move that they will be able to continue to sell the inventory currently sold through these websites elsewhere, and in particular, Delta.com.

We would bet doughnuts to dollars (just by the URL names alone) that the vast majority of tickets sold through these sites are low-yield tickets. As anyone in the airline business knows, airlines don't need help selling more $39 tickets to Orlando. There is nearly insatiable demand for low-fare tickets and consumers visit multiple websites in the hunt for these fares - Delta is banking that consumers will still find their low fares elsewhere, and hopefully that will be Delta.com.

And, if those same consumers don't visit Delta.com (or another OTA) there are plenty of other consumers who will those same cheap fares - airlines can fill planes all day long with $39 fares without any help from an OTA.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chasing Delta Medallion Status? Qualifying Miles for Charity Donations!

Delta is offering up to 15,000 miles towards status (not just regular old frequent flyer miles but status miles that push you towards Gold or Silver Medallion status which means free upgrades, no checked bag fees and the like) for donations to three Atlanta based charities.

Donate $500 or more and earn 5,000 status miles (or MQMs in Delta parlayance) - donate $500 to all three and earn 15,000 status miles. Given Silver Medallion status starts at 25K miles and Gold at 50K, this is a pretty good way to get the basic tier or bump up to a higher tier, particularly if you haven't flown much this year. Oh, and there is the tax write-off which, at least for many living in New York and other high tax areas makes the bite pretty reasonable. And, best of all, there is the do-good feeling!

Donation links are below:

https://www.aidatlanta.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=522

https://give.gradyhealthfoundation.o...e.aspx?pid=272

https://secure.mlkmemorial.org/site/...MK0PwE6LHLZPME

Expedia Jumps into Flash Sales - ASAP - A Sudden Amazing Price


Just when you thought there were not enough flash sale sites out there, Expedia has jumped into the fray with a slightly different model. Expedia is calling their program ASAP - a cute moniker for "A Sudden Amazing Price." ASAP offers an even shorter purchase window (12 hours) than industry pioneer Jetsetter.com. In addition, ASAP is open to all consumers rather than the Jetsetter (and others) private sale version which requires registration.

Interestingly, Expedia is promoting ASAP as a short-term program between today and December 17th. Does this mean ASAP is not a long term program? Given the high placement on the Expedia home page and in other places throughout the site, we expect it will be around beyond the holidays...

Monday, November 29, 2010

American Fires Back First Salvo Against Impending Virgin America DFW Invasion

American Airlines announced a new program squarely aimed at Virgin America's impending launch of flights from SFO and LAX to DFW.

The usual bag of tricks includes double AAdvantage miles and double elite qualifying miles. Somewhat unusual is the relatively long earning period - from tomorrow all the way until the end of February.

Slightly more original is the "15 Days of Giveaways" in which American is offering prizes on "mystery flights" between DFW and SFO/LAX free stuff such as 5K AAdvantage miles, Admirals Club Passes and AA Vacations discounts and AAvis car rental coupons.

A more original giveaway by American would have been a week on Necker Island...

Of course, Virgin still offers WiFi on every flight (free right now thanks to Google) and brand spanking new planes - two things, alas, AA can't come close to offering.

That said, penetrating a fortress hub like DFW is difficult for any upstart carrier, Richard Branson or not. American has already announced increased frequency on the LAX-DFW route and these programs will help ensure that AAdvanatge loyalists stay with Something Special in the Air.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brian Clark Joins Hudson Crossing

We are excited to announce Brian Clark has joined the Hudson Crossing team.

Announced at this year's PhoCusWright conference and only slightly overshadowed by the Kayak IPO news, Brian's deep commercial airline and online travel experience will bolster the Hudson Crossing team's rich operational experience.

"Brian’s real-world accomplishments, creativity and strategic foresight are the perfect complement to the Hudson Crossing team" said Tom Botts, Hudson Crossing Managing Partner. “He has distinguished himself as a true industry visionary with his accomplishments at both Virgin America and Fly.com.”

Brian has spent nearly 20 years in the travel industry and was most recently Senior Vice President and General Manager for Fly.com. In this role, Brian was responsible for launching Fly.com in the US and Europe, including the business and financial plan development, product planning and site design, marketing and PR, airline and online travel agency partner contract negotiations, and overall operations of Fly.com. Prior to launching Fly.com, Brian was a founding officer at Virgin America where he was Vice President, Planning and Sales, responsible for all commercial planning functions including route network planning & scheduling, pricing and revenue management, distribution, sales, and loyalty marketing. Brian began his career with US Airways where he held roles of increasing responsibility in revenue and schedule planning as well as operations.

"Hudson Crossing has created an excellent brand and contributed to the success of dozens of travel industry clients over the last several years," said Clark. "I look forward to continuing the tradition of strong industry leadership and to creating new opportunities and delivering superior results for our clients."

Welcome Brian!


Monday, November 8, 2010

And Virgin Jumps in with Free Holiday WiFi as well

Virgin America has joined Delta and AirTran in offering free holiday WiFi via GoGO in conjunction with Google.

We have to wonder where American, one of the first airlines to offer WiFi, is in this game? And we aren't talking just about this promotion.

American started out fast offering WiFi on 767-200s and selected MD-80s and 737s. However, "selected" seems to, unfortunately, be the norm with AA. None of the 757, 767-300 and a good number of the MD80 and 737 fleet are so equipped. Alas.

Dueling Delta and Airtran BOTH Announce Free Holiday WiFi with Google/GoGo

Have to laugh at this one. Delta and AirTran, arch enemies extraordinaire have apparently both been played by Google for the holidays.

In press releases issued minutes apart, both senior marketing types at Delta and AirTran announced free GoGo wifi for the holiday season courtesy of Google Chrome. A great boon for travelers but how ironic Google managed to get both AirTran and Delta signed up for the same deal.

Delta opines about their 540 aircraft that have GoGo installed (including a DC-9 I was recently on!) while AirTran states they are the only major airline with 100% GoGo on their entire fleet.

The promotion dates are even the same - November 20th through January 2nd.

Lets hope we can use Firefox and still get it free.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gnomes in Citi's Future?

Bloomberg reported today that Citigroup CMO Michelle Peluso (and former Travelocity CEO) has hired former Site59 and Travelocity co-conspirator Tracey Weber away from Barnes and Noble.

Tracey joined BN.com only in April after leaving Travelocity where she was COO.

The Gnome never sleeps......

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tripit Gets an Elf - and even a Unicorn

TripIt has taken a Narnian turn by adopting Elfs and Unicorns in their newest product demo, uploaded last night and sure to be a viral hit among travel junkies and fantasy seekers alike.



And in more serious news, TripIt also announced a great new feature for TripIt Pro users which monitors submitted flight itineraries for fare decreases. Using internally developed software, TripIt re-prices user's flights to scan for potential fare decreases. If TripIt Pro finds a user's fare has decreased (in Yapta-esq fashion) and that the consumer is in the black after the airline change fee, an alert is generated complete with sample language to feed the airline reservations agent to process the re-issue.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Virgin: Come Sleep With Me

This morning Virgin Group launched a new website, virginhotels.com which gives a small peak into Sir Richard's long rumored plans to shake up the lodging space. Don't look to book a room just yet - Virgin is still looking for hotels to convert into the Virgin Hotels concept.

Taking a page from Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses, Virgin aims to create "unique spaces where our guests can get some work done, nourish and refresh themselves, meet other interesting people, or just take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city."

Virgin has long operated small, uber-exclusive properties around the world under the Virgin Limited Edition brand but Virgin Hotels aims to bring the Virgin experience to the masses with a four star product in "major urban markets." Those markets just happen to be large markets for Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin lists hotel industry hitters Raul Leal (ex- Desires Hotels) and Paul Whetsell (ex- Interstate Hotels) as leading their efforts as they push into hotels.

Ready to get into bed with Virgin?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TravelCLICK Maximizes: Max Rayner joins as new SVP Product

Max Rayner, who was formerly CIO at Travelzoo (TZOO) until he departed several months ago has resurfaced as SVP of Product Engineering at TravelCLICK. The appointment was communicated internally today. Interestingly, Rayner will remain in the Bay Area where we expect he will grow TravelCLICK's internal IT resources and development capabilities. Given Rayner's title, we are betting TravelCLICK's growth plans include a host of new hospitality products.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where I've Been Joins Private Deal Party w/ Groupon Twist

Just when you thought the world had enough jetsetters, vactionists, voyage prives and tablets, its time for another.

Where I've Been is launching a similar private sale but going one step further than just deals on hotel rooms. By partnering with Groupon, they aim to sell "travel experiences" which include not only hotel rooms but also deeply discounted local attractions such as restaurants, surfing lessons and other important leisure additives. The partnership with Groupon only makes sense given Groupon's founders (Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell) recently invested in Where I've Been.

We also have to compliment Where I've Been on possibly the simplest and cleanest online check-out screen we've come across yet. One page for your name, email, CC number, expiration date and the CID:

And yes, I am checking out with one night at the Bourbon Orleans hotels and 44 Rum tasting tours.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Glassdoor: Employee Satisfaction (or lack thereof) in the Travel Industry

Glassdoor.com, a cool website where "anyone can find and anonymously share an inside look at jobs and companies" has provided an interesting peek at job satisfaction inside the travel industry.

Travel is probably an industry Glassdoor knows something about given the site's founders which include such industry notables as Bob Hohman (Hotwire, Expedia) Tim Besse (Expedia) Ryan Aylward (EzRez, Hotwire) along with a few others who serve on the board who've spent a bit of time in travel: Rich Barton, Erik Blachford and Stephen Kaufer.

And what has Glassdoor, which garners its information from current and former employees, come up with? Might as well start with the OTAs since Glassdoor practically grew up in the OTA world:

The chart above details the approval ratings of the companies themselves and their CEOs as reported by the employees who came to Glassdoor and left feedback. (Hugh Jones isn't rated because of a limited number of responses - probably because he is still new in the role.) Looks like Hotwire is a pretty good place to work - we'll leave it to you to decide if that is because all of these guys left to start Glassdoor or not. (Just kidding, Ryan et al)

Glassdoor's info gets more interesting looking at hoteliers:
The highest rated CEO, Issy Sharp, has just announced that he is stepping down - a real shame according to this report. Bill Marriott and Hyatt's Hoplamazian are just a hair behind Sharp, however.

Not surprisingly, airlines show by far the greatest variability from one to another:

Things appear pretty bleak over at American and American Eagle - with labor strife a way of life at AA, clearly Something isn't Special in the Air. Even US Airways pulls better rankings. Southwest and JetBlue, as usual, prove that they are run more like hoteliers than airlines with ratings like these. (oh, they make money like hoteliers, too)

But the big takeaway? Continental and United - look a the difference in internal company ratings. Glassdoor doesn't have a rating for Jeff, but boy do they have one for Glenn. This is going to be one interesting merger, don't you think?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Travelzoo.com Gets a New Habitat

Today, Travelzoo.com launched a new, fresher homepage. The newly re-designed website offers a much cleaner look and feel and, best of all, the ability to search Travelzoo's deal content.

Previously, finding the deals listed in Travelzoo's weekly top 20 email outside of the email itself was a chore, if not impossible. Now, Travelzoo has (finally) given users a search box (front and center, no less) that allows searching by destination, keyword or using a "deal Locator" that allows you to enter your zip code to find details closer to home - Travelzoo for the staycation set. Mostly theater tickets now, but could this be the start of something bigger - a Travelzoo Groupon model of sorts?

There is also a "where to go now" section on the left that seems to be a destination marketing area. While it looks like editorial content at the start, we think the majority of this content is actually provided by (and probably written by) the destinations themselves - Look at Iceland for example. Thankfully, the deal content on the Iceland landing page is true to the Travelzoo mantra.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wyndham takes a Tryp

Wyndham Hotel Group (NYSE: WYN) has announced that they have acquired the Tryp Hotel brand from Sol MeliĆ” Hotels & Resorts. This must be a little trippy for at least a few Wyndham executives as the old Cendant hotel loyalty program was built around "Trip" as in Triprewards.

It is a great deal for Wyndham as it greatly expands their presence in Europe and South America with an additional 91 hotels while remaining true to Wyndham's "franchise only" model of not owning or directly operating.

Tryp hotels will benefit from Wyndham's sales and marketing efforts, loyalty programs and broad centralized distribution platform almost immediately.

Wyndham gains a new, youthful brand ripe for expansion beyond its current European and Latin footprint. And a nice new fee stream. Tryp isn't as hip as Aloft but it will be a pretty nice additional to the Wyndham brand stable. We are waiting for the first Tryp to open in New York.....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

New Logo for Fly.com

Looks like Travelzoo property Fly.com has created a new, streamlined block typeface logo. This logo replaces the launch logo which looked a little bit like a torch...
Old:






New:

Friday, May 14, 2010

AirTran to Midwest Air Fliers: Give Your Miles to Charity & We'll Match the Donation in A+ Rewards

The continuing battle over the hearts and minds of Milwaukee travelers between Midwest Airlines (soon to be renamed and merged into Frontier) and AirTran (which previously tried to buy Midwest) has taken an innovative new twist.

This morning, AirTran announced a program in which Midwest Frequent Fliers can donate their miles to charity and then AirTran will match the donation with a like number of miles in their own program, A+ Rewards. If you happen to live in Milwaukee and have 50,000 (or more) Midwest Miles burning a hole in your pocket, this is a great opportunity to donate your miles and then get them back again in AirTran's program.

Of course, it is also a great opportunity for AirTran to convert Midwest frequent fliers over to their program while building support in the community. AirTran gets new, hopefully loyal members and local charities get a nice boost. The big looser is obviously Midwest (aka Frontier soon enough.) A brilliant marketing play by AirTran!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WSJ OpEd on UA/CO: Does the Journal Understand the Industry at all?

Read today's Wall Street Journal OpEd here on the impending Continental/United merger and then ask yourself if the WSJ has a clue about the airline industry.

The Journal's points supporting the UA/CO merger are well founded, however their knowledge of the airline industry appears to be quite flawed.

First, United and Continental have limited "overlap" across the North Atlantic. In fact, there are zero routes where both airlines operate head to head. They fly to many of the same cities in Europe of course, but not from the same cities in the United States.

Virgin America is no longer "under attack to provide its 'U.S. citizenship'," this was resolved many months ago with a new influx of capital and the departure of the previous C.E.O. Not was the compliant filed by "Air Alaska" - there is no such airline. Alaska Airline or Alaska Air Group, yes, but not "Air Alaska" anymore than France Air or Blue Jet. Oh, and Alaska Air is NOT a low cost carrier along the lines of Southwest and JetBlue as intimated.

JFK is not able to expand landing slots because there is simply no more runway capacity at peak times - this is why they are called landing slots. Short of adding new runways, as O'Hare has done, adding more slots and, hence, flights is a very poor idea - flown out of JFK lately?

Similarly, airports do not add more air traffic control technology as you suggest - this is not something local airports can go out and buy. It is the responsibility of the FAA to improve our creaky ATC infrastructure - something which must be done soon.

These miss-statements unfortunately leave this opinion grounded.

P.S. - If you are not a WSJ subscriber, simply drop "Mergers in Midair" into the Google and voila, you can view the whole OpEd for free.