Archive for the 'check-in' Category

Low Cost Airline Marketing at AirTran

As I reported earlier in a flight review, I have flown with Atlanta based AirTran about a month ago. Being an airline enthusiast I have kept my eyes open all the way through the booking/boarding/flying experience. I found some of their marketing tools very smart, and some even unrivaled, and have decided to share these impressions and these marketing tricks with you in an article, so here it goes.

A) When arriving to the airport, you may check-in using their ByePass Check-in Kiosks, which offer the possiblity to already purchase drinks for your flight and receive the vouchers, which onboard you can exchange for an alcoholic drink in economy class.
Smart! Less worries for the flight attendants, less change to be carried around, happier passenger who knows while boarding that they will get a nice beer or cocktail, and may sell the drinks easier after all.

B) They offer a few “Rebooking Area“s around the terminal, where you can rebook your flight. The simple, easy to understand text on the huge poster reads: “Enter here to rebook reservation. / Pick up phone. Agent will assist you. / Go to kiosk. Print new boarding pass.
Smart! Sounds very easy, makes the people believe they can do it (it’s simple), and it’s cost effective, AirTran only has to have a few booking agents in a far away, cheap location answering phones, instead of renting high-price ticketing location at the airport, and hire lots of ticketing agents around all locations. And I saw a few people talking on the phone, so it works, too.

C) Business Class advertisements. Even though AirTran is classified as a low-cost airline, they offer business class on all of their flights. A very cool, again simple worded molino I have seen several times around the terminals/gates reads the following: “Affordable Business Class¬†on every flight. / More room. Free drinks. Less explaining yourself to accounting. / Book at airtran.com.
I found it’s a very smart idea to point out a step of a business flight, that most airlines don’t care about: expense reporting to accounting! ūüôā Great way to influence passengers, smart again!

D) At most of the gates, or in between¬†two gates in the waiting area¬†you can find small Coffee Stations, with the following text: “Free coffee. See, we’re always finding ways to save you money. / AirTran.com
Really smart! Another great tool, people feel that a low-cost airline is actually delivering some extra service: coffee on the ground, before the flight (!) which traditional airlines have never offered outside their business lounges. So they pay less, get more, and AirTran makes sure that all passengers realize this with the text shown above. Small costs, big image building, effective!

E) Programs: Co-branded A+ Visa Card, A+ Rewards program for frequent fliers, and my favorite: AirTran U Рspecially designed for people between ages 18-22, offering standby flights, therefore selling the seats which otherwise remained unsold, in the last minute before the flight closes (http://www.airtranu.com). They even give half credits if the student is a member of the A+ Rewards program!
Most of the other low-costs simply do not worry about cargo, but AirTran uses the cargo holds of its Boeing 717 and 737 fleet by offering cargo services to its customers.
Smart again, using all capacity as much as possible, selling unsold seats at the last minute (with AirTran U), thus reducing losses.

F) My “favorite,” dumbest marketing tool, which may still work, though: the Gourmet Pretzel packaging. While onboard, you receive a small package of pretzels. The basic situation is the following: you’re bored onboard, finally receive the pretzels and start to open the bag. But then you take a look at the bag: what exactly will I eat? And you find the following text on the top side: “How to eat Gourmet Pretzels on a low fare airline.¬†(see back for complete details).” – Just in case somebody would not turn to the back, they place another¬†message at the bottom: “Book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.” Just so that you know. But let’s see the back of the package for complete details:

How To Eat Gourmet Pretzels - AirTran

In the same style as any other packaging, they placed the following text on the left top side of the back of the packaet:
Eating Instructions
1. Think about our wonderful low fares at airtran.com as you open packet.
2. Place pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at airtran.com for our lowest fares and no booking fees.

Then comes the Nutrition Facts, which are normal.
Pathetic!¬†I was just amazed how an airline can give their name to such a cheesy, baby-like advertising and marketing tool, it’s amazing. But to be honest, I have read it, so maybe other passengers read it as well, and it may work in the end. But I just find it the most dumb marketing text in the airline business ever…

Of course, everywhere they place the “airtran.com” logo, instead of a simple AirTran Airways logo, so you meet with the website address everywhere and you will¬†never forget it (engines on the planes, flight details screen at the gate, any communication material, pretzels, etc.).

And their slogan is: “Go. There’s nothing stopping you.” Not advertising how great their services are, or how high they fly, but urging people to simply “Go.”, or “travel” in other words,¬†which will most probably include a flight. A flight with AirTran. Good general marketing job guys, only those pretzels…!

by balint01

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Flight Review: AirTran Airways

AirTran Logo 

Route: Atlanta, GA – Dayton, OH – Atlanta, GA
Operating Airlines: AirTran Airways
Travel Date: 30NOV2007 and 02DEC2007

Ticket Purchase

I have bought the ticket through www.airtran.com. The website is very simple, and thus very easy to use, very understandable, clear. It shows you all available fares in a very simple table with all flight details being displayed in small pop-up dialog windows. It is clear which flight is nonstop, and which ones involve a transfer. What is a nice feature that I have not seen before at other airlines’ sites, is that you can have a printer friendly version of the flight search results. So you can print your options and discuss it with somebody or attach it to a business trip plan, etc. Very handy, as mostly you end up with complicated, colorful search results which you can scroll for minutes and may be printed on four pages which then you have to somehow compile to see the actual information. This is a nice added value feature! After selecting your flights you get an overview, that includes the most important fare rules, terms and conditions, check-in information, and the option to add your a+ rewards number (frequent flier program of AirTran) as well to book a trip protection insurance. You also have the option to secure your seat when booking, which is at extra cost, but at an acceptable level I think. I chose 17F for both of my flights for an extra USD 5 for each flight, but could have chosen emergency exit seats with extra leg room for USD 20/flight. You can of course pay by credit card, but you can also use your PayPal account, with BillMeLater or with CheckFree account. In the last step you confirm your payment details and recieve a confirmation mail afterwards.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions 

There is no option to offset your carbon emissions on this website.

Check-In

I wasn’t worried about check-in at all, as I had pre-selected my seat, I knew I will have a window seat, still I received a mail¬†24 hours before the first flight that check-in is now available. I went ahead and checked in, where I could select another seat. (Actually on the way back I did so, as¬†17F didn’t have enough legroom due to some wiring¬†at the bottom of the previous seat.) Online check-in at the website is also straight forward, and fast.¬†You have other choices to check-in, such as the Bye-Pass Check-in kiosks at the airport, and you can also drop your luggage off at the sidewalk check-in areas at the Atlanta Airport so you don’t even have to carry your luggage in the terminal building, they take it away from your right where the taxi can drop you off.

AiTran B717 in Atlanta, GA, USA (by balint01)

1.¬†ATLANTA, GA¬†–¬†DAYTON, OH¬†(FL 702)

Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 (N923AT), relatively new aircraft operated by AirTran Airways – with special sticker: 100th Boeing Delivery
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived at about the right time.
Boarding: Was very efficient, due to the boarding zones -printed on the boarding card- called one by one.
Seats: Comfortable, but not wide enough seats, with small legroom (especially as the bottom of the previous seat had extra wiring)
Flight Attendants: There were 3 of them, they were average looking, all of them seemed friendly.
Meals: Everybody is asked if they want snacks (small pack of pretzels) and a glass of soft drink (Coca-Cola products). For USD 5 you can also get beer, wine, shots or mini-cocktails. In business class these are included in the ticket prize for economy, you may pay onboard, or while checking in on the ByePass Kiosks before your flight, which would give you vouchers.
Entertainment: Free Satellite XM radio with optional headsets (but you can use your own, too) and on-board magazine: Go. Huge SkyMall catalog

2. DAYTON, OH РATLANTA, GA (FL 414)

Aircraft: Boeing 717-200 (N-963AT), aircraft operated by AirTran Airways
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off exactly on time, arrived 10 minutes late.
Boarding: Dayton airport was deserted on this Sunday night, no lines to que, just walk-through to the gate. Same zoned boarding used as in Atlanta, due to the low number of people plane was boarded very quickly.
Seats: As my seat was on the left side of the plane where you only have two seats, it felt a little bit more comfortable. I had a bigger guy sitting next to me, but as soon as doors were closed, he moved elsewhere, so we were both more comfortable.
Flight Attendants: There were 3 of them, average.
Meals: Same small pack of pretzels, same soft drinks as on the outbound flight.
Entertainment: Free XM satellite radio at every seat.

Overall Experience

AirTran¬†just does¬†what air travel is¬†basically about: Takes you from point¬†A to point B. Considered as a low-cost, it still offers free drinks on board which is nice, and I also liked the XM satellite radio. Other than that it does nothing more, nothing less. It’s good value for your money with efficient procedures (online booking, online check-in, efficient boarding). I paid USD 248 for my¬†return ticket, and if I will ever visit my American families in Ohio from Atlanta again, I would take this flight once more.

by balint01

Flight Review: British Airways

We have been considering writing flight reviews for some time, and now finally here is the first one.

British Airways Logo

Route: BUDAPEST-London/Gatwick-ATLANTA
Operating Airlines: oneworld: British Airways and Malev Hungarian Airlines
Travel Date: 06NOV2007

Ticket Purchase

I have bought the ticket through www.ba.com, which was a very nice experience. The website provides you with lowest price options on and around the days you have searched for showing the options in an easy-to-understand, coloured format. After selecting (confirming) your travel dates, it gives you a detailed list of all the available flight combinations, also colored so that you can easily recognize the cheapest option. What I really liked about the flight descriptions, that it explicitly tells you operational information after or between the concerned flights. For example it would tell you “Warning – your connection will involve travel between airports by coach or bus, the cost of which is not included in your fare.” And this text would be displayed between those two flights, where one arrives at Heathrow, while the other leaves from Gatwick. Really easy to understand, and very visual. After selecting your flights and providing passenger details you can pay for your trip with your credit card and upon successful payment, you receive a confirmation email immediately (as expected). The site also takes you immediately to the “Manage My Booking” section, that provides very usefull information and allows you to manage your booking. For example you can save time at the airport by filling out the APIS data (required for entry to the USA) online, you can also add frequent flier number if you forgot to add it at the time of the booking, and can change or upgrade your flights right from here, but can check the online entertainment options, including the movies you will¬†be offered, too.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions 

You can also follow a link from the “Manage My Booking” page to offset your carbon-dioxide emissions¬†with Climate Care (http://www.climatecare.org/britishairways/calculators/)¬†using a pollution calculator. For this particular return flight¬†my emmission is 1,86 t of CO2, which costed me EUR 20,75 to offset. Climate Care has also sent me a British Airways co-branded Certificate to certify that I have offset the CO2 generated by my return flight.
(Being curious I have also checked the Lufthansa website partnered¬†with myclimate.org, launched a few months ago, and to my surprise for the same¬†route¬†it calculated: 1,705 t of CO2, and suggested a compensation of EUR 34. Where the difference comes from, I don’t know…)

Check-In

To be in control of my seats, I chose to check-in online. It opens 24 hours before the actual flight (each flight opens individually). Unfortunately check-in for the BUD-LGW segment¬†was not available on the BA website, as it is operated by Malev Hungarian Airlines. But for the British Airways flight,¬†I could check-in flawlessly, where I got a pre-assigned seat, which I could change while using a seat-map of the actual aircraft that I was going to fly. The process is very straight forward, and easy to understand I think.¬†After the successful¬†transaction I printed¬†my boarding¬†pass on a normal A4 size paper, that included a bar code for later identification at the airport. The website also gave me check-in summary after completing it. Unlike some other airlines, BA did not replace this home-printed paper with a magnetic stripe “traditional” boarding pass at the airport, this was the only boarding paper I used to get on my flight.

Due to the above mentioned situation I also used the check-in desks at Budapest, where they checked me in quickly for the Budapest-London segment, but they had no information of my other already self-checked-in segment. They could not confirm if I actually have 35A as my seat or not, but she said she can not do anything with my second flight (the systems blocks her) and suggested that I look for a BA transfer desk at Gatwick. She could check-in my luggage all the way, though. Upon arrival to Gatwick I contacted BA Ticket desk in the transit area, and the lady there was also very nice, told me that indeed I have 35A, but even though my luggage was checked-in all the way in Budapest already, she does not see it in the system. So I gave her my bag-tag, which then she recorded in their system.

Malev B737-700 (HA-LOL)

1. BUDAPEST – LONDON GATWICK (BA 4450 operated by Malev: MA 612)

Aircraft: Boeing 737-700NG (HA-LOL), new, clean, comfortable aircraft operated by Malev Hungarian Airlines
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived exactly on time.
Boarding: After a long-long queue at the security (airport’s¬†responsibility)¬†I had to rush to the gate, otherwise it was OK
Seats: Full leather seats in both classes, with average legroom
Flight Attendants: There were 4 of them, 3 young girls and 1 older purser. Two of the girls were very good looking, all of them were very friendly.
Meals: We got hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans and a wurst as well as freshly warmed/heated buns. Also got orange juice and tea, could have gotten a wide variety of soft drinks, or wine or beer.
Entertainment: There are LCD screens above the seats per every three-four rows in the aircraft, which play Malev and Hungary PR material throughout the whole flight.

G-VIIF Boeing 777

2. LONDON GATWICK РATLANTA (BA 2227)

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200 (G-VIIF), not so new, at some places worn-down aircraft operated by British Airways
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Boarding: The security at Gatwick was very long, I was happy I had a three hour layover so I didn’t have to run, and I could relax while standing in the line. It was confusing that when finally they put up on the screens that we need to go to gate 55, while walking there I caught the last few words of an announcement saying that passenger flying to Atlanta should proceed to gate 59. It doesn’t sound that bad, but the gates are on two different sides of Gatwick, so it would have caused a running excercise if the announcement proves true. As I wasn’t sure if it was about my flight (there was another flight to Atlanta about an hour after mine) I went to the gate which was on the screens – it was a good decision as that was our gate. After the gate-boarding pass check-in there were seats available for only about half of the passengers, so either be there early or arrive late! Other than that, boarding went smoothly.
Seats: Full leather seats with proper legroom, as comfortable as a regular economy seat can get.¬†Tip: if legroom is important for you don’t get¬†a window seat, as the entertainment cables go on the window seat’s chairleg, which reduces free legroom. It doesn’t really leave you the option to put a laptop bag under the seat in front of you for example.
Flight Attendants: They really did their job of serving meals and overlooking the passengers for security. That’s all they did. No special smile or service, dry English manner.

Main meal on BA2227  Snack Meal on BA 2227

Meals: Not so long after take-off we received a small pack of snacks with drinks and later on the main meal. The choice was chicken or pasta, I took the chicken with assorted vegetables (potatoes, broccoli and mashed carrots). The taste was good, just like that of the standard salad (with fish) and the blackberry pie. The Twix chocolate bar tasted as everywhere around the world.¬†The bun¬†was not fresh and not warmed, not tasty at all. The white wine was OK, but it’s probably not award winning, either. Shortly before landing we got another “meal” which was a small pre-packed sandwhich with a small carrot-cake with raisins and a pack of dried fruits. Drinks were served once again. During the flight if somebody wanted to get snacks or extra drinks, the kitchen in the back of the plane was always “open”.

Dangling armrest on BA   Dangling armrest on BA 2.

Entertainment: Every passenger in economy has their own LCD screen and built-in remote control in the armrest. My armrest was really worn-down and actually broken. The dirty looking plastic cover was living it’s own life, as you can see on the pictures above. It should be dangling around like this, it was annoying. Just like the fact that I tried 2 headphones where each had only one side working, then I put on my own headphones which just worked properly. As it is a Skype enabled one, the flight attendants spotted it and brought a third one to try, which finally worked on both sides! It may only be me, but I always get a half- or non-working headphone set on my long-haul flights at first… On the other hand, the radio stations were OK, and the movies, too. The movies start at un-announced times, all movies starting at the same time. I watched three of them: Die Hard 4, Ocean’s Thirteen and Knocked Up.
Amenities: Each economy passenger received a bag of socks, and toothbrush-toothpaste.

Overall Experience

Despite the minor glitches on the BA flight with the entertainment (armrest and headphones) I would take this flight again, I had a good time onboard both oneworld flights. A big advantage was the convenient schedule (leaving Budapest at 7:10 and arriving in Atlanta at 16:25) and the pricetag: this return flight costed USD 1072, with the purchase taking place exactly one week before the departure (so relatively late).

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

RyanAir Charges For Airport Check-in Desk Usage

RyanAir  RyanAir Рwho are usually the first to introduce new charges in the European low-cost air travel market Рhave 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/‚ā¨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/‚ā¨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/‚ā¨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 (‚ā¨6)) at RyanAir has basically been increased by ¬£2/‚ā¨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/‚ā¨9 from 20September2007!!

by balint01

Cathay Pacific Signs for Amadeus Altea – Who Will Win?

A quote from the news:

Cathay Pacific signed a 10-year contract with the airline IT provider Amadeus. Cathay Pacific and its subsisdiary Dragonair will adopt the complete customer management solution Altea for reservations, managing inventory and departure control.

Cathay Pacific Airways, which already uses Amadeus’ internet booking engine to power its commercial website, has identified IT as a core component of its strategy as it seeks to expand operations and continue to grow in some of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets like China, as well as the US and Europe.

According to Hans Jorgensen, Vice President, Strategic Airline & Partner Programmes at Amadeus: “As one of the world’s most successful airlines, in terms of both profitability and growth, we are delighted that they have selected Alt√©a CMS as their customer management system.”He continued: “We believe that Cathay Pacific’s decision as the first Asian carrier to choose the whole Alt√©a suite of solutions, will be viewed positively by other airlines and catalyse growth for Amadeus in the Asia-Pacific region, as a leading IT provider in the travel industry.”Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair, who together carried 22 million passengers in 2006, join 42 airlines across the globe that have selected Alt√©a CMS.

Who is lucky?

Again a oneworld member that was given the right to implement the full Amadeus Altea solution, probably within a reasonable timeframe (however, the news do not state when the planned cutover will take place, Amedeus first has to deal with LH, AF and KL among others…). Believe it or not it is not the supplier who is lucky here. Amadeus – chosen by the 3 major airline alliances – is on the right track to become the number one IT provider in the industry and thus rule the world of airline IT providers. The airlines need a common platform for passenger handling more than ever. Major IT providers (Galileo, Sabre, Worldspan, SITA and others) gained some market in the past 20 years, but the future will not see them as players in the market if they will not change their strategy. The problem is that free data transfer is more important for airlines than prices. But there is no free data transfer between different GDSes, DCSes and inventories, so the only solution left for them is to pick one and use only that. At the moment, Amadeus is the only one that offers the full suite of airline solutions, in an integrated package, which has been rolled out almost completely already and is working at some airline customers, as we speak.

Amadeus was chosen very rationally by oneworld, then Sky Team and Star Alliance followed them, too. They have already ruled the European market and now they are on the way to Asia.

So how can other providers win some clients for themselves?

There is still a field to play. Amadeus has 2 very tough weaknesses, which can be an opportunity for others. One of these weaknesses is that they do not have the capacity to start more new projects, therefore airlines cannot sign up with them, they would simply not receive a “slot”. This is why I wrote Cathay was the lucky winner here, because there is a huge queue of airlines wanting to adopt the Altea technology. The other weakness is the huge and a little bit chaotic organization. There are too many managers and not enough real working hands, therefore production is less effective. We have been to meetings, where there were at least 20 people sitting and nobody knew what his or her task will be in the project. Of course later about 5-6 people had real tasks. There is one more good thing that other system providers can use: the Amadeus API. You can basically do whatever you want with it – there are a few system providers that already did that actually. You just have to know the system. Summing up if I were one of these providers, I’d put all my cards on offering solutions to airlines that serve their data exchange needs by interfacing Amadeus (as well as my own solution – if I have one) and give them a very similar, integrated solution for GDS, inventory and DCS and I would give them deadlines that are acceptable. I would also provide personal consultancy and good customer relations, in which Amadeus is also not the best due to being overloaded with new customers. If I were another provider on the market, I would also offer some tailor made enhancements/modifications, which Amadeus usually refuses to do – due to the high overload again. But I would also need a working solution to compete with Amadeus, “slideware” presentations would not do the trick… Whoever has that at hand, will win.

By Szafi

KLM – SITA CUSS kiosks

My heart was beating faster, when I read this article yesterday on ATW Online:

KLM became the first airline to offer self-service check-in to passengers at Kuala Lumpur International, using the SITA-installed CUSS kiosks now in operation there. Together with Malaysia Airports, SITA installed 12 CUSS kiosks with 24 more to follow over the next few months. SITA said CUSS check-in applications for both Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific will be placed on the kiosks before year end and the option also will be available to some 40 other carriers using KLIA.

And why was it beating faster? Because Malev was the first airline to offer self-service check-in on SITA CUSS Kiosks at the Budapest Airport. And I was the unlucky project manager who had the chance to manage that project. What was the problem? I’ll try to sum it up:

– I start it with a fact we had no other choice but working with SITA, as they were our DCS provider and they did not want to give acces to the DCS to any other CUSS provider – good start.

This is what we saw:

The promised SITA kiosk

– this was the promised kiosk. It looks good, doesn’t it? There was no problem with the way it looked, however the hardware was provided by a third party supplier, so SITA had no clue how it worked. Therefore every time we had a problem with it, we had to wait more days to get an answer from them. And we had problems.

– First hardware problem was that the kiosks were delivered here after being put together. But here we had to drill them down to the floor and for that we needed to take almost everything out from the metal box and put them together again. For that we needed a special OK from the supplier company, otherwise we could have lost warranty.

– We had many problems with the different readers. we disabled the ATB ticket reader and used only the parrport reader and the credit card reader, however these 2 readers worked with about 50% precision.

– The project was also ridiculous. We had a contact – a Hungarian guy – who was an engineer, understood the software uite well and helped us defining our requirements. We agreed on everything, then suddenly he was “taken away” from the picture, because he gave us information he was not supposed to give out. (I still have no clue what it could be) After he left the project, an American lady took over, who was uncontactable for 2-3 weeks, when it turned out she left SITA or that department in the meantime, but nobody told us about it. In the meantime we were appointed a polish project managaer, who was far enough from the London project center and even further from the developers in Canada, so as we assumed, we always k ew more about the status of the project than him. Besides that his English was awful and he was completely new at SITA, so besides being far from the other project memebers, he did not know them.

– In the end kiosks were delivered after deadline, the software never worked properly, they were not able to correct some of the outstanding bugs even until now, although the installation happened last spring.

So here is what we got:

SITA kiosks in useSITA kiosks in use

By Szafi

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