Archive for August, 2007

Friday fun: Jerry Seinfeld – The Airport

I am sure many of you like Jerry Seinfeld and you most probably hear him talking about air travel and airports in his stand up shows. The following episode is from his sitcom series “Seinfeld”.

The Airport

I hope you will like it, too.

By Szafi

100% E-Ticketing: IATA Places Last Order For Paper Tickets

On 27AUG2007, IATA has placed its last order for paper ticket stocks to be used by its associated travel agencies before the 31MAY2008 deadline for 100% Electronic Ticketing. This means that IATA will only support Electronic Tickets starting 01JUN2008, paper tickets will become collectors’ items!

TAT Type Paper Ticket

The final order was for approximately 16.5 million paper tickets to be supplied by seven specialised printers which are to be distributed among and used by some 60.000 accredited travel agencies in 162 markets worldwide. IATA’s settlement systems issue over 400 million ticket annually. The elimination of paper tickets would not only cut airlines’ costs by USD$9 for every traveller (a total of USD$ 3 billion for the whole industry) but would also mean that air travel – criticized by environmentalists for its part in global warming – would save 50,000 mature trees a year, according to Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Non-IATA airlines, mainly low-cost carriers such as Ireland’s Ryanair and Britain’s easyJet, already have a paper-free ticket system where travelers are registered in computers and present only an identity document at check-in. Now with the pressure from IATA, the traditional carriers are moving in this direction as well.

An interesting statement from the airline body says that China, one of the fastest-growing markets for air travel and host to next year’s Olympic Games, is heading to be the first country in the world to operate an entirely paper-free ticketing system by the end of this year. Just like in many other fields, China has done a very impressive progress in this matter as well, because 3 years ago, when the 100% ET program of IATA was launched, there were no E-tickets issued in the most populated country in the world and now they are headed to be the first country to eliminate paper tickets, before the original deadline!

by balint01

Vatican’s Mistral Air: Sorry, No Holy Water On Board!

According to media reports, a very interesting situation arose when the passengers of the first ever Vatican Airways pilgrimage flight prepared for their return flight to Rome.

As reported earlier, the Vatican has launched a new initiative, which is providing air travel for Catholic pilgrims from Italy to some Holy Sites. You can read more about the first flight in another earlier post as well.

But what happened at the airport in Lourdes is really showing the clash between religious and non-religous life. The pilgrims took the flight from Rome to Lourdes to visit the “Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral”, which is one of the holiest locations in connection with Mary, the mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic world. (The sanctuary lays at the site where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared in 1858.) Pilgrims usually stand in long lines at the grotto, to fill up their bottles with holy water which is said to have miraculous healing powers. Until this point, the story is absolutely OK. But taking these bottles filled with holy water home? Onboard an airplane? That leads to some unwanted airport situations, which the organizers of the flight have probably not warned the passengers about. Those of you who have recently travelled around Europe by air, may guess our point of interest: Bingo! It’s the new EU-wide security regulations, about liquids in carry-on baggage!!

Lourdes Holy Water in Bottle

According to the regulations, you are not allowed to take more than 1 liter of liquids on board, and the size of each container (“portion”) within this 1 liter may not exceed 1 deciliter. Or course, the pilgrims filled up their bottles with holy water from the holy site, and it is also understandable that they wished not to check it in. For some of them, taking the holy water home (to some sick loved ones maybe) was probably the most important reason to take this pilgrimage and the flight. Unfortunate for them, the EU airport regulations are in place and are enforced all over Europe, and the French authorities did not make an exception in their fight against terrorism. All passengers are obliged to respect the rules and not go over the quantities (of liquid) permitted on flights, said Franck Hourcade, an official at the Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyrenees International Airport.

Therefore the passengers were forced to either leave the water bottles behind, or as one of them has reportedly done: drink it on spot, at the security check, right next to the X-rax machines. According to The Associated Press Francesco Pizzo, Mistral Air’s president, said the company must adhere to the international regulations. “There are international rules that state that liquids cannot be carried on board. These have to be respected,” he said. Pizzo further announced that Mistral Air had provided small bottles shaped like a Madonna and full of holy water on every seat for when the pilgrims came back on board. The flight carried 145 passengers on the inagural flight of the new Airline, he said.

by balint01

100% E-Ticketing = 96.5% E-Ticketing!

As AirlineWorld had reported earlier, IATA has extended the deadline for 100% Electronic Ticketing. Not so long ago IATA has also admitted (which they probably knew all along the road) that pure 100% Electronic Ticketing (ET) will never be reachable for the whole market. Here is a quote from IATA (Bryan Wilson, ET Project Director in an ATW Webinar):

“We now understand the real target is 96.5%” *

* for IATA BSP’s (central clearing house solution for travel agents and airlines in most of the major IATA markets around the globe)

96.5% non-paper ticketing

Now the question is this: Where is that remaining 3.5% and how come it will remain Paper Ticketing?

First of all, about 20% of interline journeys (itineraries that involve more than one airline) will remain paper ticket based due to the interline ET agreement not being in place between the two involved airlines (this accounts for 2.4% of the total), about 1% of tickets will be paper tickets as per the choice of the travel agents, and about 0.1% will be accounted for airlines who choose not to introduce electronic ticketing at all. IATA says, this “remaining 3.5% will be satisfied by other means.” This “other means” would actually mean other, non-ET solutions, such as an agent issuing a paper MPD (Multi-Purpose Document), which then later is turned into a ticket by the airline, or some of the airlines deploying their own paper ticket stocks at agencies, who then issue paper tickets for that particular airline. (At the moment IATA centrally deploys the airline independant paper ticket stocks to their registered travel agencies worldwide, so this responsibility would be moved from IATA to the airline that chose not to move to 100% ET, at their own expenses.)

96.5% of airlines involved 

IATA has classified each member airline to a group (that is differentiated by a color) based on their plans/state of ET readiness. Out of 348 IATA member airlines that used the IATA BSP in May 2007:

  • Platinum (100% ET): 9 airlines
  • Green (own ET and interline ET enabled): 156 airlines
  • Yellow (own ET in BSP only – at the moment): 62 airlines
  • Orange (having a plan for ET, including 1st date of ET in BSP): 85 airlines
  • Red (no plan for ET yet): 0 airlines (so all members have expressed their plans by MAY07)
  • Purple (does not plan to implement ET at all): 33 airlines
  • Brown (will use another airline code to issue tickets): 3 airlines

This means 3 airlines will be “hidden” behind another carrier using the same airline code, so they will practically introduce ET, and will have some backoffice accounting work to do in-house. 33 airlines however (almost 10% of all member airlines!!) plan not to roll-out Electronic Ticketing at all! This is quite a surprising number at first glance, but in reality, these are mostly very small, charter airlines who do not sell their tickets via travel agencies and reservation systems, so they can have their own alternative ways to replace electronic tickets and they actually only account for about 0.1% of the total sales. But 321 airlines (89% of the member airlines) will fulfill the BSP (travel agency) enabled Electronic Ticketing requirement by the prolonged deadline of 31MAY2008!! This is a great achievement!

96.5% of all tickets sold at travel agencies

On the other hand, if we look at ticket volumes the situation slightly changes. As you would guess, if a large airline becomes ET enabled, and especially interline ET enabled (is able to sell ET’s that include another airline) with more and more partner airlines, the ticket volume percentage would jump much more! So by MAY2007 the global penetration of ET’s within the IATA BSP’s (travel agency sales) was already at 80.7%! IATA projects this number to grow to 92% by the end of the year. The difference from there to reach the above mentioned 96.5% means 18 million tickets!! Quite a lot if you try to imagine this many paper tickets physically – it would make a really huge pile of paper, even though these 18 million paper tickets only account for 4.5% of worldwide airline ticket sales! By thinking about this, it’s much easier to imagine that by stopping paper ticket issuance totally and moving to 100% ET really can save the worldwide airline industry about 3 billion USD annually. (Not to mention all the environmental impacts…)

96.5% in Interline Volumes

Based on the above numbers, IATA has decided to extend the deadline for the issuance of the last paper tickets at an IATA registered travel agency, due to the fact that it is believed some airlines would not be able to make it by the end of 2007 (the original deadline). Also the service providers are overloaded with interline ET connection requests, which they seem not to be able to handle before the year end. IATA foresees that by the end of 2007, some 2100 interline Agreements will be introduced, which would cover about 75% of all interline connections. In terms of ticket volumes, this means a higher percentage. To get to the desired level of 80% (which would mean 2300 agreements), many service providers and airlines would have to be involved at an increased pace, and the difference would actually be 2.3 million tickets!

by balint01

Vatican’s Mistral Air Took Off On Monday

As AirlineWorld had reported earlier, Vatican started its own Airline called Mistral Air. The charter airline’s aim is to transport pilrims between holy places. It is surprisingly operated by the Italian Post. The first flight took off from Rome on Monday and took pilgrims to Lourdes, France.

The first photos have already appeared on Airliners. Here are some of them:

Vatican AirwaysVatican AirwaysVatican Airways

Ther website is probably the worst airline website ever, but at least they have one (it is available only in Italian). It shows their destinations on a Google map, but I myself could not find the names of the cities. Maybe somebody who speaks Italian will be luckier. Here is the map for you:

Destination map of Mistral Air

By Szafi

Boeing Released Warning AD On 737 NG Bolt Folowing Air China Plane Fire

Following the accident of China Airlines on 20 August caused by a loose bolt moving away from its place, piercing through the fuel tank resulting fuel leakage that ignited and exploded only a few moments later passengers could all leave the aicraft, FAA and Boeing released an Emergency Airworthyness Directive (AD) to all owners and operators of Boeing 737 600s, 700s, 800s and 900s (737 NG – New Generation aircrafts) – there are more than 780 of the affected planes registered to US airlines and another 1,500 flying elsewhere around the world.

In the background information of the AD we can read “We have received reports of parts of the main slat track downstop assembly coming off the main slat track.” Not only the China Airlines case is mentioned. There are references to more cases.

The directive says all owners and operators are responsible “for having the actions required by this AD performed within the compliance times specified, unless the actions have already been done.” The airlines and operators have 24 days for checking all involved aircrafts. It is not a major check though. Malev for example will have to spend a total of only 8 man hours on checking all of their 18 737 NG aircrafts.

The way this check needs to be performed is described in a surprisingly detailed way. E.g: “An intensive examination of a specific item, installation, or assembly to detect damage, failure, or irregularity. Available lighting is normally supplemented with a direct source of good lighting at an intensity deemed appropriate. Inspection aids such as mirror, magnifying lenses, etc., may be necessary. Surface cleaning and elaborate procedures may be required.”

Explanation how the slat bolt needs to be checked

Such ADs released by FAA are officially mandatory for aircraft operators in the USA. Airliner operators all over the world usually consider all those warnings mandatory, which are released by the national Air Safety Authorities of the plane manufacturer’s state. In this particular case as Boeing is a US manufacturer, the FAA warning will be taken over as mandatory by all operators of 737 NG’s, and in general foreign aviation safety authorities usually follow FAA recommendations. On top of the FAA release, Boeing has issued its own warning to all NG operators directly, on 25AUG as well.

For detailed information see FAA’s website.

By Szafi

RyanAir Charges For Airport Check-in Desk Usage

RyanAir  RyanAir – who are usually the first to introduce new charges in the European low-cost air travel market – have published their plan to start charging extra for passengers who use the check-in desk at the departure airports, to check-in for their RyanAir flights.

RyanAir actually plans to simplify the check-in and boarding process, cut costs and increase ancillary revenue with this action. The fee will be £2/€3 to each person using an airport check-in desk beginning 20SEP2007. They also claim that the fee “reflects the cost of airport check-in desk facilities“, but it will also encourage customers to use RyanAir’s Check’N’Go Web check-in service. So basically this is the next step in pushing the passengers towards self-service in as many steps of the flying process as possible. If you think about it:

  • 10 years ago we all required personal assistance while booking our flights. Now we do it ourselves over the internet.
  • 5 years ago we all needed personal assistance while checking-in for our flights. Now we do it ourselves using self-service check-in kiosks, web and wap applications.
  • Until about a year ago, no matter how we checked ourselves in, we required to be assisted in printing our magnetic stripe boarding passes. Now more and more airlines use bar codes for check-in and boarding, so we can actually print a standard size paper ourselves at home and proceed to passport control/boarding immediately after arriving to the airport.
  • Until also about a year ago, we always stood in the queue at the boarding gate and handed over our magnetic stripe boarding pass to the gate agent, who then assisted us while placing it in the machine, which read it and allowed us to proceed. Now at more and more airports they offer self-boarding facilities, where we can either load our boarding passes to the machine ourselves, or just waive the bar-coded piece of paper to the reader, which opens the gate for us.

The last four steps are now encouraged by RyanAir the hard way:

DO IT YOURSELF OR PAY FOR THE ASSISTANCE!!

Airport Check-In Desks

It is funny, that the RyanAir until now used to charge the exact same fee (£2/€3) for its web-check-in service and the airport desks were free. Now it’s turned around, and the passengers are encouraged to take advantage of the early, web-check-in facility, and indirectly are also encouraged to travel with only carry-on baggage (as if you have a baggage to check-in, you are forced to visit the airport desk and then pay the fee…) The Priority Boarding remains an option while checking in online, which again costs £2/€3.According to the low-cost airline: “Ryanair’s Web check-in and priority boarding service has proven very popular among passengers by freeing them from check-in queues and departure gate queues. However, clearly charging for this service has acted as a disincentive. We expect that providing this service free of charge will significantly increase usage,” it added, noting that the new measures “will, we believe, encourage more and more passengers to travel without checked-in baggage.” I think, the service being free of charge will indeed increase usage, but the real incentive will be not paying for the airport check-in desks…

There is one question which is not yet clear for me however: if you have a baggage to be checked-in, how much do you have to pay? In our earlier post we have investigated the charges for extra, checked-in baggages. Now the charge for those (£5 (€6)) at RyanAir has basically been increased by £2/€3, as when checking in a bag, you must use the airport check-in desk… So you should think twice about having a non-carry on baggage with RyanAir, as it will cost you a minimum of £7/€9 from 20September2007!!

by balint01


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