Primera Air, Azur Air, Small Planet Airlines – and the dying continues

After the demise of Air Berlin, forced by Lufthansa and incompetent if not corrupt politicians, we lost Monarch last fall, but the dying continues. This months we’ve been all “shocked” by the demise of Azur Air (Germany), Small Planet Airlines (Germany) and now Primera Air.

Interesting: None of those airlines had any relevant material assets. Working with leased aircraft as most airlines do today, it minimizes the cash-flow. And aircraft are almost not available for purchase, large aircraft leasing companies and the largest airlines dominating the market. No, neither Primera, nor Air Berlin “owned” aircraft. They were all leased.

Whereas Air Berlin struggled, there was an inherited business model that even ambitious CEOs could not overcome. What was Air Berlin? A holiday charter airline? A low cost airline? A network carrier? While Air Berlin tried to be all of that, they failed to be either “properly”. In a competitive, over-saturated market a death sentense.

Now all those airlines have operated Airbus A320 and/or Boeing 737. An aircraft in surplus, a saturated market, flooded not only by the aircraft makers but also by lease offers from the low-cost airlines seeking utilization for their own surplus. And while everyone wants aircraft in summer, the eroding revenues do not pay enough for those airlines to survive the winter. I learned so long ago, an ice cream shop needs to create enough revenue to survive the winter.

And while aircraft lessors add more and more Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 to their fleets, airlines are established without a long-term concept based on clear USPs, those airlines lease the aircraft out in summer and … oops. And then they go broke and the aircraft lessors sit suddenly on their assets without income. Even scheduled airlines like Volotea ground their aircraft in winter.

Even if the airline operates successful, after usually seven years, their leasing contracts expire. And then they understand the need to invest into more modern aircraft, so they do not extend the leasing contract but return the aircraft to the lessors. Who now need to find “other markets” to take their aircraft… Often below cost to minimize the losses!

In consequence, the aircraft financial funds are known to suffer from year 7, often generating losses over their typical 10-year duration. KPMG earlier this year said the average return on aircraft fund are 4%. While some do better, many smaller ones fault. Another consequence is deteriorating market value for Airbus and 737 aircraft, also usually starting seven years after the aircraft is sold into the markets.

source Wikipedia
A320neo family orders & deliveries (source Wikipedia)

So one of the reason for failure is the attempt to compete in a shark pond, using the same aircraft than the competitors, copying their business model and trying to find a small niche – that upon success is quickly threatened by the big fish.

Primera Air as the most recent failure tried to convert “in a rush” from a safe holiday charter airline operating secure routes for Primera Travel Group, into an – as aero.de said – copy of Norwegian, flying with the smaller A321neoLR across the Atlantic. But also trying to fly a mixed fleet of A321neo and Boeing 737-800, while having orders out for two A321neoLR and 18 Boeing 737 Max 9. As small newcomers do have problem getting access to the new aircraft like the A321neoLR, of which most go to the largest aircraft leasing companies to be placed into the existing fleets of their large (safe) airline customers. Why would they prioritize newcomers that threaten their existing clients they have long, very long relations with?

But which “newcomer” airline can wait for 10 years (at current production rates) for an Airbus or Boeing they order??? Can you plan what is in 10 years?

Then we come to the flight crews. While pilots usually are either type-rated on the Airbus A320-family or Boeing 737-family, a mixed Boeing/Airbus-fleet either requires respective crews for each aircraft or the cross type-rating. While pilots usually pay for their flight training, in return, they require high salaries in order to pay off for their – substantial – investment. Even Ryanair now faces the consequences of their “outsourcing” and slave-kind payments of their pilots. While I keep seeing their pilots recruiters immediately jumping on Primera Air but also trying to convince pilots from South America or Asia, if they don’t change their attitude to their pilots, they will keep having problems. Their recent announcement to close the base in Bremen and Eindhoven and reduce the base in Weeze are simply puffing. As Ralph Anker showed in his Anker Report. Behind each and every dropped route or base are airports, suddenly deprived from services. And pilots and crews, suddenly forced to find work elsewhere, likely move. Ryanair is the airline that does not care. Europe’s favorite airline? I doubt.

Summarizing, I come back to the point I keep emphasizing. Ever since easyJet (1995) and Wizzair (2003) I have not seen a new airline that had a USP and a clear concept. What is your USP? For the investor, the traveler and yourself? Or are you just another copy, trying to cash in?

I believe A320 and B737 families will hit a brick wall. Investing in those aircraft or airline models trying to operate a few of them is high risk. At best.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

Side note: Taking all those “natural thoughts” into account, in a team of experts we’ve developed a business model, that now seeks funding. With a unique concept, multiple USPs and under- if not unserved markets. But that does not work with small money. If you want to do it right and lasting, you need to do it right. And invest. Not just building “an airline”, but focusing on development of assets, as a side-effect securing the returns on the investment. If you know potentially interested investors, let me know and I’ll establish the contact to Kolibri. Or refer them to my call for investors.

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Long-Haul Low-Cost? Supersonic? Quo Vadis?

While we work here on a business plan for a new airline, we did discuss and disqualified many of the existing airline models. Is that negative? Or realistic?

These days some news hit me in short succession, that make me rethink the assessment my friend Ndrec and I made when discussing possible, viable business models for a new airline.

I did the picture above a mere year ago. Meanwhile Niki is gone too, as is Virgin America. Mighty Norwegian being said to be likely acquired by IAG shortly. We have “new” players like Blue Air. But the question for any new business case must be:

What is Your (E-)USP?

Now Ray Webster, former CEO of easyJet opened the Routes Europe Conference with a keynote:

“I don’t see long-haul low-cost as a viable model. Operating a small aircraft across the Atlantic is not efficient, and low-cost carriers aren’t going to fill a 787 or an A380”

Ray Webster, former CEO easyJet

Even students traveling on longer flights do want more services the longer the flight gets.

In contradiction to that assessment, Eurowings now opens up New York-services, taken over from the late Air Berlin operating from Düsseldorf. We all looked at Norwegian, though their “success story” also seemingly was bought on the cost of revenue, the airline now is said to be acquired rather shortly by British Airways/Iberia holding IAG (also owning Aer Lingus).

Whereas I simply do not understand the “brand strategy” of either Lufthansa or IAG…

  • IAG: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, Level, Vueling … Now Norwegian adding to the mix of “it’s not me”?
  • Lufthansa Group: Air Dolomiti, Austrian, Brussels, Eurowings, LGW, CityLine, Swiss, Sun Express. Also “it’s not me”?

The work on a business plan for a new airline was triggered last year initially by some investors, going down the same “me-too”-dead end using old, inefficient Boeing 737-aircraft. Cheap to get, but their fuel consumptions renders them virtually useless.

BlueSwanDaily believes in the future of Supersonic… Are you kidding me? Yes, I believe supersonic will come, but expensive niche for the rich and wealthy. No real change to the Concorde business model.

I myself worked out a “green” concept a few years ago, but we’re neither getting there… The project got grounded in the wake of Lehmann Brother’s and a world financial crisis and the original interested investors gone never took up speed again. [Update: The Korean Wingship seems a ready-to-go WIG, though using conventional fuel, no green hydrogen or battery powered e-engines]

So we looked at models that differ from the existing ones. Where are unservered or underserved markets and why are they not served well? One issue sure is the airline analysis tools misleading their users to “established routes” and airports.

So we started with the original intent of a small scale operation. And recognized why so many such projects are doomed. There is a pilot shortage hovering on the horizon, Ryanair running pilot acquisition as far as South America and Asia. Most airlines do not value their workers but drain them.

And having discussed the very same issue again yesterday with friends who must relocate in the automotive industry as a direct consequence of overpaid managers, back again, using old images:

Maybe. Just maybe. I believe Ndrec and I came up with a sound business idea, which requires far higher investment than we originally envisioned. Coming with a round and sound business plan paying off that major investment in 10 years safe. Because we do have a unique selling proposition (USP). Because we do have an emotional USP. Because we thought it through and instead of failing at the first obstacle, we save cost from day one and make this a company to work for?

And working on that, we learned a big deal about the faults of the airlines we see in the market. And it boils down to the normal questions: What’s your (emotional) USP? What makes you different, why should the intended consumer decide to use your product. We see too much “me too” in the market. Buy your market share in the B737/A320 shark pond?

30+ years ago, my training officer told me that joke:

A man starts a business selling screws.
His friends questions him: “You buy
the screws for 1 €, you sell them for 95c?
How do you want to make money?”
“Oh, the quantity does it!”

My training officer told me to look after yours. Not only in the company, also your supply chain. Make sure you have long-term suppliers selling you the quality you need for a good reputation.

Later I learned the same lesson from space shuttle Challenger, management ignoring their own experts warning them of the temperature being below safety specifications. Shuttle Columbia dying of a piece of foam worth a few cent perforating the heat shield. Of Concorde crashing from a “minor” piece of scrap metal.

I’ve paid very high (in hard Euro) for another lesson. Starting with a sound idea (regional airlines’ franchise concept to share cost and operate a larger scale of operations), it turned out later that the stakeholders did not look for a franchise, but a means to start their own small operation and “share” the cost with the other small players. Clearly understanding the small operations to face obstacles they cannot overcome on their own. Could not. Cannot. Will not. A costly mistake I made. But lesson learned!

Then at delair I learned about airline disruptions and how our industry uses historic processes to “manage” somehow. How airlines use manpower instead of intelligence to cope i.e. with a winter storm.

With Ndrec, I found a seasoned manager understanding the need to either do it right – or don’t do it. And we got surprised how much money we save if we do it right! Not short term, there we need more to invest. But then very shortly, within less than 10 years. Now we reached the point of the reality check: Will we find solvent institutional investors helping us to pull this off? Cross your fingers.

For all those other airlines out there… Do your homework. First and foremost: What’s your USP? What’s the business case?

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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Changing Roles

As many of the readers of this blog know, I am somewhat personally attached to that little airport in Central Germany, Erfurt-Weimar.

Last week I was taken into a discussion by Thuringia’s Minister President Bodo Ramelow, about how to stop the down-spiral of emigrating Thuringians. Which reminded me about the likewise discussion we had in 2009 shortly before I joined Erfurt Airport with the task to stop their downward-spiral on their passengers.

Real Life Example

What I was faced with was an extremely negative image of the airport within the region. And a lot of demands on how to do business from amateurs in the industry, politicians, tourist offices, etc.

First day at work, the GM of Tourism Thuringia, Bärbel Grönegres was quoted in the local newspaper (TA, 02Mar09), having visited the United Arab Emirates to promote medical tourism to Thuringia. Having a Munich-Erfurt flight by Lufthansa-Partner Cirrus Airlines at the time, she recommended the Arabs to take a flight to Frankfurt, to be picked up with a bus for a +3 hour tour to Thuringia. Tourism material did not contain reference to the airport. Questioned about the reason, her reply was “Who knows, how much longer we will have that flight”. Ever since, that became a prime example I use for “negative thinking” or “calling for disaster”.

The next winter, the Thuringian Olympic athletes brought home a record number of medals. But at the following ITB, it was more important to promote Franz Liszt, who lived a dozen years in Weimar. The fact that the Russian-Orthodox chapel, Grand Dutchess Maria Pavlovna who’s invitation brought him to Weimar has built and got buried in is under direct protectorate of the Russion Orthodox “pope”, the Patriarch, such making it a pilgrimage site for the Russian Orthodox church has completely failed to trigger any support by Weimar or Thuringia Tourism. Air Berlin reported it to be a “known reason” for a substantial part of their Russian Berlin-passengers to add Weimar to their travel plans.

In order to promote the government-funded route, after fierce discussions, Cirrus Airlines agreed to offer a low-cost ticket at 99€ return, having only about 6€ after the high taxes on the ticket. That offer was made available especially to the Thuringian government offices and the state development agency (LEG). Nevertheless, LEG planned and executed delegations traveling with the train to Berlin to take flights from Berlin, instead of promoting the route. The same also for the ministries and ministers. Even the responsible minister taking flights from Frankfurt and Munich instead of using the PSO-route he signed responsible for. During the months we’ve actively promoted that 99€-fare also to the industry and the travel agencies and also had it largely available, not one of the flights used up the 99€ tickets allocated to them. Being at the verge of a bankruptcy, Cirrus Airlines finally ceased to operate that route in December 2010.

By the time, working with the local industry associations, political parties I have been able to increase the passenger numbers by about 20 percent. In fact, to date, the airport is far from the 320 thousand passengers I left them with. With Weimar being the neighboring but historically better known city internationally, I pushed forward the renaming to Erfurt-Weimar with the attempt to improve the incoming for the airport. Paid almost completely from the limited marketing budget. A strategic decision executed after our parting-of-ways in December 2010 after my two-year contract was not extended in the wake of the retreat of Cirrus Airlines. A strategic decision though made obsolete by the “political” decision by traffic minister Christian Carius to not replace the route as I recommended with an Amsterdam-service. Sad decision indeed, as with our parting ways, the discussions with KLM were simply discontinued (KLM calling my number reached someone speaking German only, I was gone) and despite their interest in a PSO (public service obligation) financial route support, we had discussed flights based on mere startup incentives and marketing support.

Opposing myself ongoing subsidies, to demand a route but to leave the (substantial) risk completely with the airline is neither the answer. Whereas comparing the CheckIn.com-data about airport catchment areas with the data provided by airports we found that data to be completely off-set in a majority of cases. It caused us to make basic data available for free. But if the data provided by the airport is not hard, but guesstimates or outright lies, when the airline starts a flight based on that data, the airline takes the risk. To not only does the airport sneak out of the responsibility, they increase the airlines’ risk – is that a game? Or serious business?

Fraport Bulgaria’s more than doubled “population within two hours” can not result from the “drive time off-sets implied by Fraport Bulgaria investigating the discrepancy.

Changing Roles

Now since I started in aviation 30 years ago, the market has drastically changed. In the good old days, there were (often highly subsidized) “national airlines”, used to promote the country. Back in my early days, the airlines were the executive for the tourist offices and also worked closely with commercial development agencies. But ever since, those national airlines have either adapted or went out of business. The emerging “low cost” airlines virtually evaporated the income of the airlines, competition becoming fierce.

As I keep emphasizing with my updated image of Purchasing Power and Airports, there is a relation between a strong airport and the regional purchasing power. It is indeed a hen/egg issue, but if you are a small airport in a weak region, maybe it makes sense to consider how to attract travel (tourism, commerce) to your region. Not how to drain your region of the money by sending the population to the Mediterranean for vacation, but by having incoming, scheduled services, by adding point-to-point routes and to attract low cost airlines.

If we do not talk about PSO (Public Service Obligation) where the government pays for basic flight services, if you build an airport and wait for airlines to find you, keep on sleeping (and burning money). So if you are a small airport and you have little to no money, what can you do?

Having an airport is not enough any more.

The airport is part of the region’s infrastructure. As such, it needs to be integrated into a political and commercial strategy. Whereas in the example of Erfurt-Weimar, the airport is being kept as a scapegoat, being challenged in one sentence for the aviation noise (a good joke with so few flights) and for not having flights. A political punch-ball.

Other, successful airports like Memmingen in Southern Germany are integrated into and understood as a strategic value for the regional development. In fact, Memmingen is not politico-owned but owned by more than 60 co-owners from the region’s industry. Such, instead of being a scapegoat for political power games, everyone in the region understands the need to actively support the airport. Anyone harassing the airport confronts everyone in the region. A political suicide!

At Erfurt, I was asked to establish flights to Moscow. One company. 10 employees. Even with a small (expensive) 50-seat aircraft and weekly flights only (which are usually not sufficient for commercial demand), we talk about 40 seats by 52 weeks in two directions or 4.160 tickets to sell every year. But for a decent offer that is useful to the industry, you need at least twice weekly flights.

Leaving that task to attract airlines to the airport alone, at the same time running blame games and scapegoating, the airport cannot justify such flight. But what if the state development agency and the chambers of commerce, on demand by the political PTBs (powers-that-be) qualify the demand from all those small and midsized companies? Not on a low-cost, but with reasonable ticket prices. Not at prime time at the maximum risk for the airline. Maybe instead of a weekly, can the region sustain a double or even triple-weekly flight making it interesting for the companies in the region? Are those companies willing to support the launch period by committing to use the flight, even if slightly more expensive than a flight from Frankfurt or Berlin? Keep in mind, the people have to get there, you also pay for gasoline/parking or rail. Transport to those hubs is not free either. And the longer check-in times make them even less attractive, right?

Interesting approach. I’ve talked to several smaller airports where they agreed that their chamber of commerce and regional development agencies “pre-purchased” tickets at the cost of the average ticket price needed to cover the operational cost. Then they to sell it to their members. Not covering the full cost of operations, but simply taking their share of the risk! Why should they not, if they believe in the numbers and data they provide to the airline to promote their business case?

Then talk about Tourism. Given such flight, are the local tourism PTBs ready to promote such flight in the outlying region? What about other promotion? Don’t leave it to the airport! Is there a joint concept by the political PTBs, the state development and commerce PTBs, the tourism PTBs on what flight they want, how they will promote the flights?

“We have an airport”. That’s nice. But not enough.

And for a Minister President even only on a state level? You better think about a strategy. Or close down the airport. Having flight to summer vacation is not enough. It drains money from your region into those destinations. What’s in it for you? Why do you fund an airport? No scheduled services? No incoming? Do your homework.

Changing Roles

It’s no longer the job of the airline to promote your region! They simply don’t have the funds to do that. It’s not their business case.

It is the job of the political, commercial and tourism PTBs to qualify what they finance an airport for and come up with ideas and business cases for airlines to take the risk to fly there. And no, a “business case” is not necessarily paying subsidies. If you have a good business case that the airline will make money on the route by flying paying passengers, I can rest assure you that the airline will prefer that over subsidies that are usually associated to political nightmares.

Compiling sound numbers is a good start… And yeah, I might be willing to help you with that.

Food for Thought!
Feedback welcome…

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The End of the Airport Passenger Fees?

Inflight Shopping

As I outlined in my summary on the Hamburg Aviation Conference, my friend Daniel expressed his believe that within 20 years, there will be no more passengers fees.
At the same time, Michael O’Leary was recently quoted that he expects in very short time they will offer the flights for free.
But flying costs money, no matter how good the aircraft engines become, terminal construction and maintenance, ground handling, air traffic control, gasoline, pilots, cabin crews, aircraft, insurance, it all needs to be paid. And no matter how effective you calculate …

… someone has to pay the bill.

Airlines lower their ticket prices, covering the “loss” with “ancillary revenues”. While those “ancillaries” have been understood as services previously bundled (inflight meal, baggage, flight insurance), they meanwhile extend quite into “inflight shopping”.

At the same time, traditionally airport landing fees, split into the landing and passengers, covered for the airports’ cost of operations and development. This basic, sensible model is now threatened. It will change. But how. When the airline and airports fight for the revenue of the passenger – I believe both will loose.

Airport Duty Free

So currently it is a fight between airport and airline for the money of the traveler. I hear airlines expressing their anger about the airports increasingly draining the pockets of the passengers pre- and post-flight. And the airports upset about architectural changes enforced by the evaporating aviation income, forcing them to add shopping in arrivals halls and rebuilding terminals for improved shopping, i.e. forcing the passenger through the duty free store. Or how to speed up the check-in process to increase the dwell time of the traveler to spend more money shopping. And the shop owners about the increasing pressure to cash in on the passenger in order to pay the expensive rental deals with the airports. And, and, and…

And no, it does not help to imply that the politicos should provide airports similar to train stations. Yes, it is true, airlines bring business to the regions. Airports are important infrastructure. But in the end … someone has to pay the bill.

Source firewalkeraussies.comWhat we will need is a serious, joint discussion about the future business model in aviation. At the moment there is no discussion. There’s the airlines, the airports and business models that cannot work. And we need to have the politicos and the usually government-controlled ATC (and border control, security, etc.), we have to have the ground handlers, the shops and all other players on the table. You can’t reconstruct all the small airports. We don’t need a fight. We got to work together for a sustainable business model. ERA, AAAE, IATA, ICAO, this is your call.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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Hamburg Aviation Conference 2017

As I attended to be interviewed about the stuff we do at CheckIn.com, you can click the image to view the video on Facebook.

Reviewing the recent Hamburg Aviation Conference, the aviation conference addressing new developments and ideas, it boils down to a “known issue” for the future of the aviation industry:

To tear down the walls.

Data Silos … and it’s not new.

As outlined here in Food for Thought and have been asked to address at Passenger Terminal Expo, there were a lot of very fancy ideas and outlooks where we want to go. About any session addressed the “data silos”. There are a lot and I mean a lot of good ideas and developments taking place as we speak. But all of them are isolated ideas and developments. Look at what airline X does. See here airport Y.

Just one of the many statements at Hamburg Aviation Conference on the topic:

“The check-in process is a totally disjointed process” [Peter Parkes]

Remember my posts about Checkin 2015 and the follow up Check-in 2020?

The underlying line I hear, though not really addressed, just mentioned, is the data silos. Even when being mentioned, it was mentioned as something that “naturally” has to happen. But without it, all or most of those wonderful developments remain what they are. Silos. Be it an(other) airport-silo, an(other) airline-silo, silos being disconnected from the other silos within the same company.

But. This. Is. Not. New! Together with Richard Eastman, from 1996 I emphasized the conversion from a whole sale model to a consumer driven model and the disintermediation in aviation distribution: Everyone deals with everyone. The example Yesterday / Today to the left is from my presentation at ITB in 2000.

On the floor, there were many discussions that there is a need in “change managers”, as there are all those fancy solutions and understanding of the need. That again reminded me of my question, why after 20 years only 20 airports implemented A-CDM – in my opinion for the very same reason. Everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…

There were quite some discussions about the data silo issue and airports and tech companies telling about those very new and fancy solutions they develop. But when I look across to other airports, airlines or tech companies, I find they just build new Data Silos.

It’s not about Data Silos …
… but about Silo Thinking

Data Silos are simply the result of the real problem.

It’s about “who’s data is it?”. It is about the decision makers and stakeholders unwillingness, inability and misconception about a collaborative approach: “Give me your data but don’t date touch mine”… The very same as on the A-CDM side of our business.

The point when the aviation industry reinvented itself and evolved into e-Commerce was back in the 60s t0 80s, when the rise of the CRSs required standardized messages to exchange through the aviations teletype (telex) network. The birth of what today is AIRIMP. Nowadays, IATA works on “New Distribution Capabilities“, though there are fundamental issues when you compare airline sales to Amazon. Where Amazon works with warehouses and even opens own shops, the airline seat is one of the most perishable goods – something Amazon for good reason touches very differently.

The second large move was again forced, when in the mid 90s to 2000 the Internet forced the players to “get online”. Since 1994, I preached the need for airline sales to embrace that change.

I mentioned A-CDM and TAM as a starting point to tear down those walls, but I see a lot of not invented here responses.

Else … The Passenger Journey

Some of the really good ideas in the dead lock of silo thinking, where about one of the new hypes: The Passenger Journey.

When talking about the customer, how do we identify that very customer? By e-Mail? I just happen to change my employer at times. And I get a new address. I currently run three “main addresses” and use different ones for the various social networks. If you identify me by e-Mail, I use a different one when I travel for business than what I do personally. I’m two customers. Data Silos.

There was quite some talk about the need of the “passenger journey”, but also how fragmented that journey is. No wonder, the passenger being split to “airport customer”, “border control/security”, “airline” and the exchange of the traveler from one to the other complicated by Data Silos.

Around 2000, I mentioned in my annual presentation about Airline Sales & e-Commerce for the Airline Sales Representatives Association, that Google was said to identify a unique person within 20 searches, based on IP geographic area, typical questions, etc. That was what … 17 years ago? And we don’t even have a single source of truth for a passenger in aviation. Very often we have separate profiles even within an airline – for GDS/CRS (old legacy tools), check-in and operational processes, but separate for social network contacts. A customer contacting via Twitter or Facebook is (in my experience) usually not associated to the passenger profile! Some examples to the contrary, usually on the large and newer players (i.e. Norwegian, easyJet). Is this a premium customer on the social network or is it a first traveler? Is it someone enroute or at home? Data Silos.

At lunch we talked about another example. I may be a prime customer (“frequent flyer platinum”) at airline A, but I have trouble, getting recognition at airline B. Because it is not about being a frequent traveler, it’s solely about revenue. You are not with us, we don’t want youThat a good treatment of the frequent flyer on your competition might entice him/her to your own product is beyond the decision makers in most if not all airlines. Data Silos? Silo Thinking!

Else … Global WiFi access

On the “customer journey”, every stakeholder forces the customer to change Wifi on the way, use an app for the airport, the airline, the other airport, etc., etc. I mentioned that back in my Check-in 2020 blog.

Whooops. And my friend Stephan Uhrenbacher has to tell me he had an app developed that does it all: FLIO. But… Unfortunately the providers don’t want this, they oppose it and fight to not make this happen. And the airport WiFi is hardly in the control of the airport, but of “some provider” the airport just pays. So they want their log-in processes and pages and have no interest in “usability”. That being true especially on the U.S. market, where in addition the “free WiFi” very commonly fails and then the users complain about FLIO and not about the free WiFi provider of the particular airport. Stephan promised me, the idea is not dead, but yes, the task is not as easy as it might sound. Thanks to Data Silos.

Else … Ryanair, Air Berlin & Lufthansa

Kenny Jacobs in his very interesting interview announced they complained legally about the Lufthansa/Air Berlin merger, saying that is what it is, being called a “lease” business or whatever. As such, Germany remains a protected market with Lufthansa dominating 62% of the domestic travel.
Side note: That also goes in line with the trade press reporting the remaining Air Berlin being not sustainable. Questioning if Air Berlin is now simply bled dry, leaving the commercially loss making parts in the remaining company, accepting the bankruptcy as a logical end to it. I happen to agree with that assessment.

He also  announced they will feed to Aer Lingus and Norwegian on an “interline light” model but with baggage thru-check. Another step from Low Cost to classic operations model. As I kept emphasizing in my Airlines Sales & e-Commmerce presentations. Low Cost will only need a business case to provide “classic” services. Also nice to remember that ANNA.aero article a year ago (right).

Ryanair develops inhouse, for speed and prioritization of development. Ryanair decided to stop looking at other airlines what they do on their digital strategy, but they look at digital pacemakers, Amazon, Facebook, etc. to learn what they can do to attract the customer.

WiFi onboard? Consumers want to use their own devices on board. But the bandwidth inflight is not sufficient for mass communications. He believes the speed to come up in two years, but then the bandwidth demand will also increase. Yes, for long haul, but on regional flights not a real issue he believes.

User Centric Design

Konsta Hansson of Reaktor.aero had an interesting look into user centric design, not to decide for the user what he needs, but find out what the user needs and leave out the rest. He questioned if a check-in is a given need – or just a legacy process. Using RFID and e-Passports, I strongly agree with him.

Question I’d have and could not answer is based on the assumption that “check-in” is obsolete, how would you really refresh processes from the existing legacy processes to a completely digital process? And how do you manage the necessary change management with stake-holders like government bodies? Data Silos.

Who’s Customer is it? A Revenue Issue

Shall the passenger be shopping in the airport or in the airplane?

My three friends Stefan, Daniel and Marjan were on stage, discussing the different models the airports have to decide upon about their revenue stream for the passenger, called “ancillary revenues”. Daniel emphasized that within 20 years, the revenue for the airports no longer comes from the airlines. But (declining) from the in airport shops and (increasingly) the aerotropolis.

With Ryanair talking about “free tickets”, keep in mind, there is nothing such as a free meal. Someone will have to pay the air ticket somewhere in the process.

Summary: Start Moving

There was a lot of visionary ideas about where to go, but rather little about how to get there. The above concerns were quickly voiced but not identified as concerns. Steps taken are taken by individual stake holders (technology companies) and less on a development of common standards. So we have fantastic ideas, but we all keep develop our own individual standards = Data Silos. And worse: Silo Thinking!

We talk about “passenger journey” but the solutions are neither user centric nor easy to use. There was recently a story on LinkedIn titled Brand suicide case study: British Airways I strongly recommend… It is a good example about Data Silos, Silo Thinking and not specific to the named airlines. The same story unfortunately is true for most airlines. What we need is a management effort to Tear Down the Walls!

Food for Thought!
Comments welcome

… and if you happen to have a job for me looking after this, please keep in mind I am a job seeker!

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10 Years “Shift Happens” – review

shifthappensnarratedMy first ever blog post in the new WordPress blog was Shift Happens. That was 10 years ago. Now in honor of it’s 10th anniversary, Karl Fish took a look back on his Blog The Fish Bowl.

The best video is still this one on YouTube and I’d love to find a decent update, but to date, it’s unmatched and I urge you to watch it.

10 years have gone by and still our children don’t learn for their lives, about compassion, tolerance and respect. They don’t learn to apply the rule of three to compare 200g of product X with 800g of product Y. They don’t know how to socially interact without a screen. They can chat for days but not structure their ideas. Crowdfunding, couch surfing, big data and hightech, but they are still asked to use “printed” information for their diplomas, WiFi is not available in many schools. And if you’re poor, the school neither enables you access to all that new high tech. Nobody’s left behind?
Yeah. But they know how to calculate mathematics that their parents left to calculators and for the past 10 years our smartphone app does.

So we don’t produce enough children in “the West”, so population shrinks and more people get older and fewer young will have to look after them. But instead of making our kids smarter, we limp behind the average school in Asia. And the U.S. industry recently published that they depend on their Asian employees for new developments…?

verwandert.deI had a student I made my assistant back in Erfurt. When I left, her fellow colleagues degraded her back to “student” (cooking coffee, assisting their work). She left aviation. A loss to our industry!
Her business uses Blog, Facebook, Social Networks.

thenomadoasisSame for Celinne Da Costa, traveling the world “couch surfing”. Exotic. And I’m asked, how that can work. With smart tech, an online world and a device to write and share the written, with paid-for articles and speaking. And I know more people doing that! Are our kids ready for this?

We set-up CheckIn.com. Us in the middle of nowhere in Braunschweig, Germany. Our mapmagician from Berlin, our server admin in Frankfurt, the algorithmic genie from Texas. Will we ever set up an “office”? I doubt it. But still most (relatively old) managers stick to “workplace”. Even relatively young Marissa Meyer, taking her post at Yahoo ordered an end to ‘remote’ work as all staff are told to be in the office as part of a new era of collaboration. Old thinking. She’s a “role model”? I’ll teach my girls better. I promise!

Karl Fish closes his review pointedly: “In 2006 I was worried that we were preparing students for our past, not their future. In 2016, I still am.”

Food For Thought
Comments and opinions welcome!

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Evil Russia and Propaganda

Since being (happily) married to Yulia, I am more frequently approached about Russia and the ultimate evil represented by Putin. Recently, with the Crimea crisis and Turkey, the discussions become more frequent, so I thought to make some statements in a single blog of which I used some before either here or on Facebook or LinkedIn. They keep coming up.

First of all a quote from Robert Heinlein’s Lazarus Long:

DemocracyAutocracy

Initially there was a wording in Wikipedia (meanwhile removed / I can’t find it any more) calling Russia a “democracy Putin style”. Then came the  Crimea crisis.

European Interests: Maidan
European Interests: Maidan

Coup d’Etat vs. Referendum: What’s Democracy?

The Crimea Crisis. Where an elected government was removed by a “people’s coup d’Etat” (Kiev), with lots of reports that tons of Dollars floated around Maidan. And active political support by Europe and America. I have personal Ukrainian friends who told me stories about the dollar flooding there. And using the plural intentionally: Not just one.

UkraineReferendumUSreject
US politics: Rejecting the Referendum

And then, there was a democratic referendum on the Crimea, which the Western nations instantly denied it’s legality.It’s also interesting to note that most Eastern Ukrainians did not initially want to leave the Ukraine, but they did not want to become European either. Why does that nowadays remind the Russians of Scotland or Catalunya? Maybe they have own reasons to want to leave Britain or Spain? And they are allowed? Or will the British or Spanish also apply military intervention to force them? Like Europe does in the Ukraine? What’s Democracy? A religion? If you don’t believe me, I kill you? The first killing shots in the Ukraine came not from the “separatists”, but Kiev was and is to date the aggressor. Despite all that our press says, even they admit it. With very little words and questioning every one of it: Propaganda. And even German state television NDR named it: Propaganda! If you understand German, it’s interesting to listen to the tiptoeing of the interviewing journalist trying to trivialize her harsh, clear statements. Propaganda.

WikipediaPropagandaIt’s interesting to see the Western-dominated Wikipedia’s wording, approving the coup against a democratically elected president but at the same time condemning any actions by the Crimean, Eastern Ukrainians. Condemning the Russian support that they have been asked for by those regions. It’s not that Wikipedia does not mention it. Propaganda is more subtle. It’s in the wording and the amount of explanation you give or keep. It’s that exact example that makes Russians (people!) question “Western democracy”. Or the neutrality even of a trusted source like Wikipedia – it’s written mostly by Americans. With the best intentions. But in the political environment they work from. It’s hard to fight off that subtle, omnipresent propaganda…

Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov
Saboteur or patsy? The Russian Security Service parades ‘captured’ Ukranian Yevgeny Panov

Mission ImpossibleTwo weeks ago, a Ukrainian sabot
eur
was caught on the Crimea and confessed on Russian television. In return, our (European) politicians feed the press that there’s no proof and the Kiev government is right to increase the military activities in the Eastern Ukraine. Putting the fox in charge of the hen house…? Reminds me of those (U.S.) Mission Impossible movies: “As usual, should any members of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary of State shall deny all knowledge of any of your actions.”

EUbufferRUMy personal interpretation: When the elected president tried to sign a strong bond with Russia (still independent), Europe tried to force Ukraine to side with Europe instead (dependency), forcing it into an unmanageable situation. When they messed up they stuck to their self-invented stories not to confess their mess-up. And the mess up will remain unresolved for European politicos now fight the deamons they let loose.

My idea for the Ukrainian people would be to force peace and a status quo to both sides. And organize peaceful elections. And commit to them. That would be democratic.
Or make them a neutral country as they were, in between the two blocks. Together with Belarus and the Baltics a buffer zone.

But that would be both against the interests of the PTBs… It won’t happen.

ECB Euro Bet
The Euro Bet
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.

European Separatists

Again: Think about the Brexit. I’ve been asked (on several occasions), why Britain is allowed to elect “out”, but Scotland, Gibraltar, Catalonia or Crimea aren’t. In all cases, there’s big money involved and political interests by the PTBs (Powers-That-Be). But where’s the democracy? And thinking about it, why does Merkel and her CDU in a core country of democracy still have neither signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption, nor do they approve of the basic democratic tool of national referendi? Are they “democratic”? Or capitalists?

Think about Greece. Russians are very much aware that all the money goes to the banks and not the people. Their press tells them the reasons why: Our politicos saving the banks but not the people. Is it Propaganda? Or simple truth?
And such they have a very different view about the situation Russia. The situation is improving for the people. And all setbacks are tightly linked to Western attempts to dominate. Are they wrong? Or do we, do our politicos fool ourselves in the attempt to justify our / their own immoral actions and decisions?

Putin-quote-GMO
No Gen-Manipulated Organisms in Russia

Democracy or Capitalism

A fan of German political TV reports Monitor, I can only confirm that our politicos largely do not follow the interest of the people but that of the Lobbies! Russians rightfully ask, why they should not allow Putin to help his friends, when he looks more after his people than those Western politicos do? There’s no need to fight for the right to water or against the draining of entire landscapes like the ones by Nestlé in Michigan, California  or elsewhere. Interesting how little reports we get in the Western news channels about these issues, ain’t it. The same about Monsanto’s contamination of crops in Mexico, endangering the natural biodiversity of corn in Mexico; Ecowatch reports 59 indigenous species of corn already endangered by such Monsanto contamination!

armstrong-doping
Doping Legend: Lance Armstrong

Olympics

The Western dominated countries once again tried to remove the Russians from the Olympic Games. Whereas the Russians believe the U.S. to be the center of steroid doping in the world. Now Chinese, Bulgarian and Polish athletes have been found doping, but there is no kin liability applied to those countries as it was to Russia. CBS reports on those three cases. In all of them state doping programs are considered to be likely in place German news reported.

The same for the case of Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana and her new world record on 10,000 m running – the former world champion, Chinese Junxia Wang, having admitted doping just last February.

NATO expansion 1990-2009

NATO Expansion

Look at the NATO. And the promises that were given, though not written down. To not expand militarily into former “Soviet” areas. Now suddenly NATO moves rockets and in the Russian believe nuclear warheads into Poland and the Baltics. Just miles from St. Petersburg and Moscow! Compare the distance between Cuba and Florida or Washington and then think back to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Wonder why Russian people believe in the Western hypocrisy?

Wag the Dog
Wag the Dog

I’m repeatedly reminded about the 1997 movie Wag the Dog. Where during elections the U.S. powers make up a war in Albania to influence the election. Is it a comedy? Movies like that, Homeland or Enemy of the State are simply too close to the perceived reality that Russian people take them as “comedy”.

Simply try to look at it from the other side when the press and especially our politicos tell you something. Why should Russia, Turkey or any other state trust us? We’re only about money. No soul.

Putin’s arguments may be propaganda, but he does it better than ours. He’s the victim, we’re the bullies. And we give the Russian people all arguments they need to believe just that.

export-importThe Arabian Spring

It’s the same for Arabia, where yes, the Arabian Spring was something theoretically good. But see how it destabilized the region? We all pay for the “unfinished business” in Syria. If you talk to Russians, it was the West that wanted to run a coup d’etat there, to weaken Russia and deprive it from a friendly harbor for their fleet in the Mediterranean. For the same reason the West wanted to deprive the Crimea to Russia. Aside of the oil.

I’m personally ashamed that our country is one of the big weapon developing and exporting countries in the world. After the Nuremberg Trials, we must be aware that the deaths by the weapons we produce are burden on our souls. We are “Christian”? We may be. Our politicos are not. We’re Accomplices. Our politicos sell their souls. For money. Besmirching ours.

TurkeyPutinObamaTurkey

Having recently discussed online with a Turkish friend living in Turkey, I could not answer some questions. Don’t get me wrong, we agreed Erdogan is a danger. We agreed the “cleansing” based mostly on denunciation and suspicion is dangerous! Taking control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power is how Third Reich happened. Beware. But our propaganda would make it worse.

Turkey would be victim to power games between Russia and Europe/the U.S. – and why did that remind me of that “joke” showing up 2015 on the social networks?

If Gülen is behind the attempted coup, would America or Europe act any different? If AFD would be found attempting a coup d’etat with the support from Russia, how would Germany, Europe or the U.S. react? Double values.

We’re afraid Turkey will become Sunni country soon. With repressions on other religions. Will this be bad for the country? Bad for it’s people? A clear Yes. Not for the Sunnis. And funny as it is, in the wake of the Turkish demonstrations pro Erdogan in Cologne, many of my friends in Germany currently argue that if Turkish are not happy with the rules of democratic Germany, they should emigrate to a country of their liking (here: Turkey). But isn’t that exactly the line of argumentation Erdogan follows?

Summary

But we bend our own rules. We constantly break them. For the sake of profit. Germany’s Joseph Goebbels was a propaganda artist. Today mostly more subtle methods are used by industry and politicians to steer the press and it is very difficult for journalists and us normal people to recognize it and not fall victim to it. With very limited success I’m afraid.

To make this very clear: There is a lot of Propaganda. On both sides.

Food For Thougth
Comments welcome!

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What’s Your USP??

KeyholeI keep telling people that you have to understand your business model, you got to understand your “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP). But then I fall in the same trap. Implying “initial” understanding…

We recently had a discussion on this with […] on CheckIn.com and found them to have a typical misunderstanding, considering us “competitive”… Say what?

So yes, it brings up the question: What’s our USP… And why are we not competitive to anyone? What makes our dashboard “different” (unique)? And why is it so difficult to make professionals understand…?

It seems simple enough.

It’s not the “MIDT”

Current “solutions” focus on flight data (MIDT, etc.). We focus on passenger potentials. And thinking further down the road; our “route level” will focus on commercial relations between the regions, ethnic traffic (VFR, visiting friends & relatives) as well as Tourism (taking into account the hotelrooms per population). We believe (from own airport and route development experience) that flight data is for established routes, but nevertheless require – other – experts to analyze. As they also relate to frequencies, flight times, air fares, reputation, and other “soft factors”.

But we look on the ground.

Own experience: A low cost carrier “cannibalized” a regional aviation route, the regional carrier was forced out. A year later, the route was dead. For the flight profile was on a double daily, small airplane, business travel. The low cost tried triple weekly, big aircraft, low fares, tourists. Sorry, no tourists that route…

So don’t put us in the box “passenger review”. This is new. Our tools are especially useful on routes without any previous flight operations, without comparable flights from neighboring airports. When “MIDT & Co.” leave you in the blind.

The Isochrones People

It’s not really about Isochrones either (though we call ourselves The Isochrones People). Where common Isochrones usually are results of more or less creative guesswork and simply look at how far you get in 30, 60, 90 minutes driving from the airport, their source data is usually on county level or worse, often the figures do not compute with our own findings – not even close. So what’s the source and do you trust it?

Just some examples from public sources, what we had to deal with:

samples

It took us four years (out of five) to compile our data sources, test, throw away, dig into them, correct them (usually very much) and compile the sources in a way we can reuse them without too much work. Because every year there are changes, communities merging, splitting, renaming, …
Find solutions to calculate mass drive times. Where the commercial services limit to 1 million requests a year (at a fortune), we have that number in a few weeks. So we use commercial “standalone” solutions like the logistics industry uses, but still – running a country takes some days of pure computing time.

The Stuntmen

Still having some bugs, using commercial software for the mapping caused the maps to be close to unusable in Eastern Europe. Not professional for sure. So we had to relaunch. Now we use Open Street Map with a mix of their data and mapping data we receive from the countries. Which differ from what the commercial map providers sold us, but “suddenly” and to our expressed delight fit the statistical sources we use. And the bugs we solve one by one.

Wonder why no-one did our stunt before? Wonder why we think no-one (in his/her right mind) will? Above is your answer. But was that really necessary?

Eyesight for the Blind…

From our experience and that of the experts out there supporting us (airlines, airports, and their consultants), we know there is need for understanding the local customer base. And highly expensive, often outdated analyses of questionable quality at exorbitant prices. So yes, we think our services are needed. And if you don’t use them, you remain blind on one eye.

So what’s our USP again?

We’re not just polishing your Crystal Ball as I keep saying. We expand your vision and understanding to what’s truly important. But wasn’t yet available for no-one dared to address the complexity behind it. So trust the airport they know their market? The best you could do. Now we do better. We qualify their impressions with hard data.

And we make it comparable.

And that’s why we don’t compete with the flight data providers. We do something new. We do the other side of business. The hard one ツ

Seen our demo yet? Three airports. Full analysis. Free to use. But we have almost 600 more: https://www.CheckIn.com/

We’ll debut at Routes and hope to speak to many of you. It’s still “brand new” with cuts and edges. We will smooth them out and improve, we promise. But what we have was simply beyond imagination.

Until now. We launched.
Come. Have a look!

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Airport Development

Discussing Airport Development on a general and global scale lately with some renowned influencers in this industry, there were some thoughts, I would like to share today.

playmobilairportWho’s the Customer?

It was rather fascinating to discuss the “customer” issue with airports recently. Though despite we all know that we compete about the passengers, the airline is just as much a customer of the airport as are ground handling companies. As we published in our case study on Zurich’s new deicing management, one of the main cost savings factors, reflecting millions of savings (Euro, Dollar, …) comes from reduction of delay, faster recovery from overall delays or disruptions. With passengers and airlines alike benefiting from “pre-tactical” information.

Keeping the Status QuoWhich Network???

or why only the dead fish swims with the stream? There is a great tendency in our industry today to wait and see “others” and especially “the big ones” to invest in new technologies and try them. And only with many years of delays implement the investment into the own budget plans and maybe get it year(s) later. Be that the use of (free) WiFi at the airports for all customers or CDM developments to the benefit of airport operations – especially under adverse conditions.

IHS Janes Innovation Award 2014Saving, no matter the cost

A common argument against the investment is that the status quo functions. Airlines are i.e. “used” to have major delays during and after winter events. The throughput is lower, flights must be cancelled, after disruptions, the recovery takes time. Zurich having saved +20 million Euros in one season alone by “managed” deicing is a good counter example. With other airports/airlines stalling the implementation of the tool for their airports/terminals “for cost reasons”. Sorry, I will never get used to burning the amounts of money our industry does. We invest into “customer experience” but don’t bother about reducing flight delays.

ACDMsilosCollaboration vs. Silo

The global Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) and the Airports Council International have declared Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) a management matter, joining forces in the promotion of the concept. Now airports and airlines alike keep pointing out that they have no common data. A major U.S. airport disqualifying it with the example that they don’t even get an Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) or Departure (ETD) from their airlines. They learn of arrivals or departures once the aircraft is on approach or on engine start-up or pushback – thanks to kind information by the tower. The operator of a terminal at one major hub tells us, collaboration won’t work at their airport as the terminal operators strongly competing. Yes, there are workarounds possible (considering the controlled apron/tarmac area “the airport”), but as long as airlines and ground handlers keep up such self-understanding, we are a long way from “effective operations” or even a basic management of delays, disruptions and recovery.

Airport Strategy

Strategic Directions?
Strategic Directions?

In the discussion, we also talked about airport strategy. New airports are being build without giving consideration to A-CDM or TAMS (Total Airport Management, expanding A-CDM into the land side), but focusing on fancy design. (New) Nordic airports having trouble with the positioning of their deicing pads (also called “Central Deicing Facilities” or CDFs). Space for an “Airport Operations Control Center” (APOC) being later taken from existing office space, instead of pre-planning the necessity. Airport Operators like Avialliance, Vinci or even Fraport (a CDM-airport) focus on CDM locally, instead of considering solutions that improve the airport group. Just some thoughts on the issue as we discussed it and I joggled down my notes…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

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The +50 = Useless Myth

Okay. So I turned 50 this year. And aside a major C-Check that will make me take additives for lost hardware and discuss health issues with friends and strangers alike? Aside being a dirty old man? Am I useless?

Why should I be?

EinsteinI still will likely work another 15 years at minimum – maybe 20 or more! Many retirees are still fit to work and get bored if they don’t. The majority of students taking up their first new job will be with the company less than five years in the end. Inexperienced and with low salaries companies invest heavily to train them on the jobs they do (or risk to invest into their mistakes). Whereas you can hire experienced people who know their jobs, make less (costly) mistakes and who have a “knowing” touch, usually good for building trust with new customers or prospects.

Not the U.S. ... China. But this graphs looks similar in any "modern" society
Not the U.S. … China. But this graphs looks similar in any “modern” society

Now we also have less and less young people entering the market here in Europe, as well as the U.S. Politicians and commercial bodies paint the picture of lack of junior employees. At the same time, they send their experienced workers home at relatively young age. Or disqualify them as employees as “too expensive” or “less resilient”. It’s the same issue about the demand of an “academic degree” for all employees. Misjudging and neglecting the value of “practical experience”. And yes, that also goes to you Marisa Meyer, whereas I also enjoy similar such personal experience with Lufthansa Group…

Mayer-Paltrow

What really bugs me about this, is that even renowned entrepreneurs and investors often disqualify older entrepreneurs from their support activities, very often, activities address “young professionals”, “under 30” and enjoy other such limitations. The same is true in talks, where “older” entrepreneurs are faced with far higher “expectations” and demands and still don’t get the investment but “hip” high risk investments by teams without any professional experience do. I believe the time to disqualify experience or “gray hair” are over soon. If companies look for good people, they will have to pay more for the few “young professionals” left, who proof to be less loyal and require more mistakes to become experienced. And I know of too many experienced people as well as honor students leaving “bad paid” aviation or not even interested to start in it, as motivation and loyalty are no one-way-street and other industries simply proof more attractive to them than ours.

German Birthrate Image by Welt.de
German Birthrate Image: Welt.de

Oh… And didn’t I just hear Germany became Champion again? In the f#%@ing lowest birth rate in the world!!! Well, that does confirm my own experience about “political child support” by our self-proclaimed “Christian-Democratic Union” led by our Chancellor Merkel. And no, I do not want to talk about “atomic exit”, Greece or “lobbyism” in Germany today. We just have a family tax system that supports DINKs (double income – no kids), but increasingly forces single parents into poverty. With the demographic results shown. So what was that again about 50+? Im now beyond 50. And happy 😀

Food for Thought
Comments welcome
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