Quo Vadis Airline & Travel Distribution

Michael Strauss of Pass Consulting, developer of an “aggregator” system for travel distribution systems addressed his thoughts on why the NDC (IATA for “New” Distribution Capability) is already “old” (it’s XML, not contemporary JSON for one) and why we still need the GDS.

I find all those developments Michael addresses to be “baby steps”. And is it 18 months already again since I questioned the very same thing? Quo Vadis OBE?

Carefully tiptoeing around, while I still wait for the first airlines to make the bold step, leave the tangle box, cut the spider webs, dust off the past and make bold moves embracing the possibilities “digital” offers us. The likes of a C.R. and R.B. Smith back when they gave birth to what eventually became CRS,, GDS, PSS. Or Louis Arnitz (and myself) making Internet-Amadeus-booking reality, when all the GDSs told us, this is impossible and tried to protect the holistic, old way. Good, GetThere launched about the same time, but when we started, all it’s infancy could was to take a Sabre-entry and return the GDS-output. But yes, that gave us the idea.

1.44 MB = 0.00144 Gigabyte or 0.00000144 Terrabyte. Those thoughts tell me how old I became…

Now we are “surprised” that Cytric bypasses the GDS-side of Amadeus, linking directly to Altea (Lufthansa direct link). I just happen to wonder if Louis Arnitz also fondly remembers that “white paper” he wrote about “Mozart” (what later became Cytric). Few people remember the evolution from “Woodside Travel Trust” (today Radius) “Hotel Disk” (3.5″ ‘floppy’) to eHotel or that eHotel has been a spin-off of what became Cytric… It just tells me, how the GDSs keep the thumb on the thinking of our self-proclaimed experts. A battle they can’t win if they don’t embrace (carefully) those changes you so nicely summarize. Working on an airline’s business plan, I just emphasized that I see the future of travel distribution with Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Amazon. Individual like a book. Common as a book.

20 years ago (!) my friend Richard Eastman emphasized disintermediation at ITB Travel Technology congress. And that it is about packaging what the traveler wants.

Voice recognition like “Alexa, book our vacation”. GDSs? Aggregators? Airline seat? Car Rental? Hotel transfer? Restaurant? Or …

  • “Jürgen, this is Alexa, I believe you wanted to go to that “new movie”, they show it tonight at the cinema here in your vacation area, shall I book you two or four tickets?”
  • “Jürgen, this is Siri, there is a Pink Floyd revival concert in xyz, I could book you and Yulia two flight and concert tickets in four hours as well as the babysitter for the girls?”

Things I would have overseen…

Richard emphasized, the consumer does not want to bother about all those detail. They want an offer. And consume. GDS? Aggreggators? NDC? …?
Hey Richard, that was 20 years ago we discussed and envisioned those things. Ain’t it faszinating, how our industry keeps stalling…?

Food for Thought!
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Which Network???

At the recent Hamburg Aviation Conference one of the speakers questioned all those airport different apps. And it reminded me of my issue about a common login process for the airport wifis. But then he questioned, that all those apps simply don’t make it to the users first screen. Initially 16, meanwhile on the larger phones more like 24 apps fighting for the attention of the user.

Then my friend Erica forwarded me that Wired-article, addressing the increasing problems the news-industry has with their advertising-driven business model. Which reminds me of those magazines I happen to read. And I simply thought, what they do wrong from my very personal point of view.

What is the advantage of Google, Facebook and those new players? If is their ability to intelligently and dynamically associate my interests and provide me with the information I am interested in. To show me that on the first page. Without omitting other possibly interesting information. Even the advertising is targeted (which requires mass). And we happen to believe that intelligence.

Until we switch to the time-line view. In Facebook with /?sk=h_chr – in LinkedIn no such URL-tweak since Microsoft took over, but if you use the browser you can hover your mouse on the … on the right above the first news, selecting “Recent Updates”. Yes, I use Google, but I understand they also mix advertising in. But…

Ow-my-gawd, but I’m German, what about my personal data and stuff?

That was another topic we discussed in Hamburg. Travelers and readers are willing to give personal information … If. It. Makes. Sense.

No, I do not want to drop my pants for a general news headline or another “case study”. And I do not like to use “real data” when someone asks me to download this nice new study they did. Have Feivel Mousekewitz on your mailing list bouncing? Good chance I’ve accessed data without seeing the need why I should add myself to a mailing list of yours. Oh yes, and I assign “custom e-Mail” to many of those and it’s wondrous who sends me advertising and how quickly on many of those “trusted business partners”!

And I do not want to get another app. Ages ago, I decided to limit myself to 10 newsletters and two or three social networks. Facebook I use mostly privately. LinkedIn for business. And LinkedIn being “difficult” both in Russia and China is an issue of concern. Google+ I dropped. I use airline apps on my travels, in fact only to get the boarding pass into my phone’s “wallet”. I used some apps for airport information, just recently learned about FLIO and try that now. But pay? Or apply profile? What’s in it for me? I like TripIt to take track of my travels, though since it was acquired by Concur and Concur by SAP it’s anything but perfect. Same as with Skype and LinkedIn since they got part of Microsoft.

But yes, it is a constant fight for space on my first smart phone screen. Or for my PC’s Windows start menu (which I customize for the sake of finding what I “need”). Yes, I’d like a single (trusted!) app to do it all.

I use phone (1), messages (2, SMS, iMessage), Facetime (3) and Viber (4, video calls), mail (5), calendar (6) and address book (7). Camera (8) and camera library (9), eBook-Reader (10), Musicplayer (11), Videoplayer (12). Maps/Navigation (13) and weather (14). Facebook (15), LinkedIn (16), browser (17). Twitter, Skype, WeChat, etc. are on the secondary page. I use Shazam (18) to identify songs I hear somewhere. Threema (19, secure messenger), Trello (20) and PayBack (21, shopping loyalty card). Amazon and IP-TV were moved to secondary pages too. A single (trusted) general news source (22). And AirVideo (23) for at home access to our video archive. My phone only has 24 spots, so the last one is used “ad hoc” as needed. For Hamburg Aviation Conference they asked to use Slack (which did not make it to my permanent apps). Routes has its own App. Where would I put “airports”? Even as a frequent traveler, I have either Wallet on the first page for travels. Or maybe FLIO. There was a time I had four or five screens. I have two left. A third if you consider the “travel” folder with all those travel apps I only need on occasion.

Want to make it to my phone? What shall I remove for the sake of your app?

So I think, the airports must ask themselves, it it truly makes sense to bet all their money on their app. Or if they should look for an aggregator, providing their information from a single app. If I travel i.e. from Berlin via London to Belfast, that I do not need three apps, but a single one. If I use the commercial lounge in London, same app. If I want to use WiFi inflight and enroute, same app. But that requires common standards. Which brings me back to Data Silos and the need of common interface standards I addressed in my last post and will address at PTE.

We need common interface standards.
We need to tear down the silos.
We need to communicate.

Food for Thought!
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Quo Vadis OBE?

Last week, I had a discussion with one of the companies developing online (travel) booking technology, followed by an exchange with one of the techies at the TMC, the travel management companies. The latter you can still call corporate travel agency, just a new name for old (and useful) business. It triggered some memories. And questions.

Back in 1995/96, I was the GDS expert behind the development of the first corporate web-service allowing to book flights using the Amadeus GDS. Facing the “it’s impossible” from the GDSs. Using screen scraping where today’s players have the luxury of APIs. The pioneering days and I miss them. Back in those days, I had an example I use in my discussions to date talking about “change management”. The technology did not trigger much interest. The break-through was a function I fought for, which my boss and the head developer disqualified as “toy”: The seat map.

seatmap

To be able to select and see “your” seat is to date one of the most used (usually the most used) optional functions travelers use when booking online. As in the example, the “default” often assigns you a seat in the rear of the cabin, while you may (as many business travelers) want to sit up front. But. To date, only very few airlines show the seat map in the process, it’s still mostly a “click here”. And none of those nice tools uses the traveler preference to pre-assign the seat intelligently following the interest of the traveler. My preference is aisle, up front. if possible the seat next to me not being used. If the flight shows full empty like the above example I travel with Yulia, I book A/C, with the kids I book A/C+D/F, so leaving the middle seat intentionally free. If the flight is full, I try the same, as far back as I can. Because if they need to sit in the middle, travelers prefer to do so up front… Logic rules in fact, but not one of the systems implemented such an auto-selection, so I keep using the seat map and keep being upset about the seat I should have swallowed from automatic assignment…

nokidsNow last weekend a post emerged about kids-free zones, just triggering the question, why those systems to date cannot manage prioritized seating. Exit rows and seats meant for baby bassinets or passengers needing extra assistance (for medical, not for financial reasons) are sold at premium charge, where they were blocked to gate assignment in the past (for good reason). Families struggle to be seated together when all the seats have been pre-reserved. Passengers arguing when they loose their early booked “nice” seats in the process, ending up on the least-preferred middle-seats. And none of the airline systems has a process in place to automatically reassign such seats in advance of the flight. So much that could be done to improve the process, but the systems, even the airlines’ own still are down to the pre-Internet management of seats on the GDS/CRS.

October 6th, easyJet promoted:

flight booking max day range

262 days. Triggering my comment “Sometimes I miss the good old days when we argued why flight bookings should be expanded from 330 to 360 days… And wondering why the “newcomers” did never invent a possibility to even “waitlist” beyond. Why not?” Because the brunt of bookings comes in short notice, it’s only a niche, flight plans change, it’s the way it is… Yeah, I know all those meak, user-ignorant reasons. And yeah, I keep asking the question. A “wait list” is no guarantee you get what you want. It’s an expression of interest, if you fly, I want to fly with you…

Another “logical question” is the user-centric implementation of the process. Discussing the issue of “virtual agents” and online support chat, one of the very early discussions I had with my friend Alex was the question to understand, when the virtual agent reached it’s limit and to redirect the discussion to a real agent… Alex is a former colleague I very much like; he was the master mind behind Virtuoz virtual agents (around 2002), speech recognition (2013), which Facebook acquired 2015 and today he’s one of the parents of Facebook M, the artificial intelligence development at Facebook.

virtualagentescalate

Flight bookings are still the core of “online travel booking”, followed by hotels, travel expense, rental cars or rail. But to date, the complexity of air travel limits those tools mostly to be useful for simple bookings like A to B and back. Nevertheless, since my days (~15 years ago), the processes to request more complex flights are there. Fill out a form, the system runs a “best price” and that’s it. 15 years ago, a friend of mine being VP IT at one of the TMCs and I defined over some lunch meetings a process to split the process in such case, create the PNR with the request, the recommended flights and send it to a travel agent for a required review. Because in these cases, any experienced travel agent with their business intelligence can really “do” something, make the booking much better fitting to the need of the traveler. Today, the process exists, but split completely. All bookings go via messaging and are manually processed by a travel agent (I had that at SITA, being one of the global tech-leaders …), or book online. But that’s optimized to the existing corporate and travel agency processes, it is not user centric. 15 years after I moved on.

The only “major” changes are the integrated travel expense reporting we also started already back then and some minor improvements on the part of flexibility in the travel approval process. All else: Minor minor. Very small. In my view simply limping behind on industry developments, forced by increased differentiation, i.e. on airline’s ancillary revenues (ooops… buzz word…). Having a look at what we have today, speaking with the makers of these technologies, I’m sorry, but in my opinion, they stalled. The fun of the pioneering days is over, now changes are very, very little, incremental and it’s mostly fixating the existing processes.

What do you think?

Food for Thought
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Cloud vs. Security. And the Internet of Things

The Travel Industry and the Cloud

GDShosteddistributionBack in 2000, in my presentation at ITB Travel Technology Congress, I addressed the changes e-Commerce brought to our distribution. Aviation and travel have a very strong history in what we today experience as “new”, call “cloud computing”.

Aviation has been a pacemaker in pre-Internet e-Commerce. Since the invention of the first “computerized reservation systems” (CRS), based on American’s ground-breaking development of the “Semi-Automated Business Research Environement” (Sabre). Read the Sabre-History for more. Thanks to the global SITA communications network (yes, those guys I temporarily worked for last year after they acquired my employer), aviation appreciated near instantaneous communication ever since I started working in aviation back in the late 80s. What we call e-Mail today, we called “Queue Messages” back then. To date, bookings, called “Passenger Name Records” (PNR) are created and maintained “in the cloud”. Whereas the “cloud based server” is either one of the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) and/or the airline’s own CRS.

Airline IT-managers celebrating this as the next big thing simply sell you old wine in new barrels. In the mid 90s, just about 20 years ago, the last “dummy terminals” were taken out of service, replaced by PCs with more sophisticated interfaces. Which were meanwhile very much replaced by web-clients working in standard browsers. The only difference being that those browsers often still use closed networks (such as SITA) for data transport instead of the Internet. Aside the obviously more reliable and stable data speed, this directly leads to the next question:

Cloud Security

amadeus 4 tiersWhere the GDS and CRS frequently work in a closed environment reducing the danger of hacking and other insecurities, recent developments make those services available through Internet links. Being a commodity, this is much cheaper. But it also opens the communication to a number of security issues. It needs complex security layers to avoid hacking or other unintended communication disrupting those large host systems. And this is also important to understand. “working in the cloud” is “clouding” (disguising) reality with fuzzy, hip wording. All it is is communicating through the cloud (word used to disguise “the Internet”) with servers that are not local but “elsewhere”.

Amadeus Datacenter Munich
Amadeus Datacenter Munich

The cloud servers of Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Amadeus, Worldspan or Sabre. Where the “Sabre” computers have been sold to HP and Sabre uses “commercial services”, Amadeus still has it’s own and also publishes quite some diagrams and images I frequently refer to.

But a fact in all such cases: If you believe it’s your data, this is a self-deception. You got to trust the company where you store your data to be trustworthy. Whereas recently there are quite some concerns about governmental insight into data. As I mentioned back in 2008, it’s questionable if a national government demands access to data without guarantee that this confidential commercial information does not reach the company’s competitor in that country. The example was not Russian, but American. Who watches the watcher?

owncloudAs I mentioned in my ITB presentation 2004, there’s possibilities to use alternate services from the Open Source developments. With cloud computing, you’re no longer required to use commercial services: I recently shifted all my personal data, especially calendar and contacts from Google into my OwnCloud. I trust my friend maintaining my own server. It’s in a huge computer center but my friend secures it against “unfriendly” or unauthorized access. And I hope what I have is not interesting to the server center operator to have someone physically accessing my server to steal data. A theoretical possibility. It’s a (semi-constant) assessment, on who to trust.

I also mentioned in my 2013 blog about Big Data, “The first, Big-Data-experts came up with, have been personal profiles, coming from a variety of different sources. That Google and Facebook still offer me young Russian ladies for marriage is a good sign that they are way off even that goal.” It’s a simple question on big data. From the same post: “And as the amount of data grows faster than the processing power, the real problem is predictable.”

Open Data

As much as you want to keep your personal and commercial data in some areas private, there was a mantra in the 90s “My data is my capital”. It was the time the Internet started to make data available to everyone and who “owned” the data could sell it expensively. To date the value of the GDS, the OAGs, Albatross, CH Aviation and other such data collecting companies. Whereas it is relatively easy to process aviation data as most of it is very clearly standardized. But as much as the data processing adds some value, it’s life cycle is ending. More and more “common data” becomes available openly. Where that i.e. started with OpenStreetMap, meanwhile the basic cadaster (land registry) data like street data, administrative boundaries, etc. are made openly available. Others still try to charge horrendous amounts, but they become a minority and will become extinct soon. The value is no longer in “owning” the data, but in meaningful analysis and use of it.

NextVue2Having been pacemakers in e-Commerce, aviation today is light years behind other industries. U.S. tools showing aircraft in-flight on maps like Harris Corp. (Exelis) NextVue does not have access to Canadian data as NAV Canada wants to sell it. Expensively. Not exchange (to also have access to U.S. data). It’s mine. Such, planes not traveling to/from the U.S. airspace simply don’t show. And the NAV Canada data is very often “a problem” for webservices providing such information in other markets. Dear NAV Canada, this is your wake-up call. The same for many other government owned “businesses”. Open Data is here. If you don’t come along, you will find yourself bypassed before long.

The same experience I had in my past years working on Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). As long as our industry does not learn that it is in the benefit to the entire business and industry to share work data at reasonable cost. Base data is freely available today. But it’s fascinating how much of the base data we get from the “official sources” (like IATA, ICAO and the likes) is of lousy quality requiring manual review and updates.

That’s aviation. Believe me, working with data from 33 countries in Europe so far, basic data like population on municipality level, associating that to commercial or openly available map data from the same country’s cadastre … It’s a challenge. Many countries where the name of a city is not unique, but a municipality may have three four different names in the country. Not to mention that there are duplicate municipality names even within the same state. Open data is needed, but I think it might be something if a country could decide on unique naming for a given municipality and if EuroStat and the national statistics offices could agree on a unique identifier. And make sure their data matches. Else, a lot of people in the world will have a full time job to repeat the stunt we did. And other such data correcting others did. Again. And again. And again again.

The Internet of Things

Big Data is like teenage sex. 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...The last weeks the messages on LinkedIn, hyping the “Internet of Things” (IoT) are “exploding”. At this point, it’s very much like “Big Data”. Because just like big data, the concerns mentioned above apply. As long as everyone does something different and there is no common understanding about how to connect the IoT, it’s a lot of smoke and distracting noise, but not too much on real results. No matter if it’s global players announcing their understanding of IoT. As long as they don’t agree and establish open standards, IoT is a buzz word with not much substance.

As an example from another industry, more common to us all: For many years I have a look at “house IoT”. It would be so nice to be able to have the thermostats and blinds being programmable. Unfortunately, all makers of “intelligent” thermostats have their own “standard”, making it impossible to mix them. So if you want to buy, you got to select the system. And you’re stuck with it… That’s like the times of VHS vs. Betamax or DVD±R, where you usually selected the wrong technology…

Babelfish
Babelfish

Just as “video tape” or “DVD” came, evolved a standard and then became household normality, the IoT will need to develop common standards to allow common tools to exchange information with them in a default way. And not have 150 different “interpreters” trying to talk to all those devices in their language…

Food for Thought
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Redundancy

DLsystemcrash
Image: 103.7 (CBS.com)

New York Times Headline: Delta Malfunction on Land Keeps a Fleet of Planes From the Sky

Voicing that opinion in combination with the related incidents for many years, this is just another example that we rely solely on cloud technologies without proper (working) backup or fallback systems.

Talking about “system failure”, it might not be related to technology here…

Raid1No matter if it was a power failure as initially stated or a malfunction of a power control module, it shows that Delta IT did not do basic precautionary homework. No backup power, no working (tested) system redundancy at a different server location. So one server location (Atlanta) fails and down goes Delta…? I can understand if a home location fails on backup and redundancy, but no serious company should rely on a single location. Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) is a common precaution and on distributed systems can also operate at geographically different locations in order to assure that during an outage at one location, the other location seamlessly takes over.

The secondary system may be slower, less responsive, but it provides the backup.

And Delta cannot claim that to be the first time. The first time I had a similar case was with Northwest (now Delta) back in early 1990, where Northwest was one of the only flights leaving Frankfurt on time during a system outage, as we issued boarding passes by hand, based on the passenger list printed the evening before… I think that was the last time no individually traveling passenger had to sit on the middle seat alone…

Another example I keep referring to was the time in the later 90s, early 2000s during the infancy of online travel booking, when Lufthansa hat to shut down Expedia. As Expedia inquiries for flight availability paralyzed Lufthansa operations. Because from the old logic of the airline CRS (computer logic), the booking process prioritized operational processes. Expedia’s uncached availability requests to the Lufthansa hosts flooded the Lufthansa system to the point where no operational requests could be processed. Good night check-in, good night passenger manifests, good night operations.

In 2004, a system crash paralyzed Lufthansa, which I addressed in my blog about the St. Florian’s Principle: Oh Holy Dear St. Florian, don’t burn my house, take the neighbor’s one.

Those are just major ones, which became noticeable to me. Business Insider reports more cases with JetBlue, American and United. So now it’s Delta. But taken the speed of IT development and the increasing complexity of the systems used, I doubt it takes a long time to hear  about more such crashes. Time for the airline IT to do it’s homework and make sure the host system (CRS) is redundant…

Food For Thought
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Ethics in Tourism

There is quite a discussion in Germany these days about Tourisms and Ethics, ever since German politician (Klaus Brähmig of Merkel’s governing party CDU) called for a boycott of travel to Egypt and other “non-democratic” countries. It also comes up on Lufthansa’s latest move to not charge a “service fee” on their website.

Shift Happens NarratedAll in all, I am being questioned by many friends about topics, that make me wonder, how you could call Germany “social market economy” and not what it is: Capitalism! But that is not just in Germany, we talk about a global trend. If you believe in Capitalism, the world is good. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class erodes one way or the other (likely “the other”).

There was this video in 2006, I referred to ever so often: Shift Happens Narrated. I did not yet find a good update with 2011 figures, but believe it, it get’s worse.

Is capitalism the right answer? Everything that makes money is good? Do we learn from Exxon Valdez, Deep Water Horizon or the recent gas leakage in the North Sea? Obviously not.

MonsantoRecent reports claim that the international hydra Monsanto intentionally spreaded gene-manipulated (GM) corn crops in Mexico – against the law and in attempted secrecy. This way, they try to get a hold on Mexican farmers, who will in return be charged the “license” fees for using GM corn of Monsanto origin! There is no way, the corn could have reached the fields in a natural way, where it was found. Is everything allowed if it brings money?

Lately (2010), a strong movement forced a political acknowledgement to the Human Right to Water! Do you see the little blue planet picture? But people starve to death, simply missing access to clear water! The consumption of bottled water in Germany exploded from 12.5 l in 1970 to about 130 l in 2006! Did you know that multinationals pump water in areas where the local people face a dry period? This happened even in Michigan, USA – it is not limited to third world countries. That is anti-social, unethical and simple capitalism of the worse kind.

And despite the growth of Solar Power and other alternative energy possibilities, our governments build atomic power plants where we don’t know how to get rid of the waste products, they support building of dirty coal power plants, emitting more Carbon-Dioxide than thousands of old cars could, simply dancing to the whistles of the energy lobbies. They let Greece go into a major crisis, simply to give the banks time, to move their foul papers to the state. Don’t believe it? There is extensive German coverage on Monitor, a bi-weekly report by public television channel ARD in it’s dossiers.

All that said… What about the travel industry?

wigMany years ago, there was a question about the difference of a Tourist to a Terrorist. With tourists, there are no bombs involved, but the results are even more devastating… Yes, this is exaggerating. But thousands of divers ruin the coral reefs around the world. Thousands of tourists skiing the alps (or Rocky Mountains) have a devastating effect to that natural preserve. Aircraft exhausts are in high altitude, having a worse effect than ground time. But even back in 2007/08, when I was involved in the feasibility study for a WIG, all development I hear about is “less kerosene”, bio-fuels replacing kerosene (with unknown new side-effects), but that project stalled with the world financial crisis and seems to be of a low priority. Coutries like the Maldives could replace their entire local aircraft fleet and replace by a clean alternative.

I hear a lot about the “reduced noice levels” of aircraft, but in the discussion about the night flight ban in Frankfurt, I asked publicly, where there are hard facts about this? How did the noise levels reduce and why are the airports then paying new millions every year in counter-noise-modifications in their neighborhood?

Many meetings could be replaced by professional video conferencing, but our managers keep the “need” to meet for their routine meetings “in person”. Trains focus on high speed route networks in competition to air (and that makes sense), at the same time neglecting the local traffic – how to commute from a small township to the bigger town for work?

Yes, I love aviation, I am an airliner by vocation. But yes, I have a soul and yes, I question the tendency to keep status quos without need. The feasibility study provided figures that such a solution would pay off within maximum three years, then it’s a cash cow. It could revive the old harbor cities (the ones on the seaside). But such revolutionary developments are opposed by the “old school”, all the investment going into the airport infrastructure.

Responsibility begins with each and everyone of us. We are supposed to be Christian’s, but Christian behavior would call for social behavior and I cannot see such. The question is: Where will we be in 100 years? Watch the “Shift Happens” video again:

flat-earthName this country

Richest in the World. Largest military. Center of world business and finance. Strongest education system. World center of innovation and invention. Currency the world standard of value. Highest standard of living.

… England … In 1900!

How did travel develop in the past 100 years. People traveled by ships, horse carriage and some railroad systems. Just a 100 years ago, Titanic sunk. Today it takes less than six hours to travel from Frankfurt to Boston. In the 60’s, American Airlines and IBM invented Sabre and revolutionized the distribution of airline seats. I was with American, when they started to provide Sabre terminals to the first travel agencies in Germany – which have already gained experience with the START-system, accessing the Lufthansa “Res”-system through a pre-windows environment! In 1996, as the “GDS Coordinator” I was primary element for the development of the first Internet Booking Engine for business travel (air, hotel, car). We had “e-Mail” (called “SITA-Telex”) in the late 80’s, no one spoke about “Internet” then. But I also introduced the “Internet” and the new “World Wide Web” to the Airline Sales Representatives Association back in 1994, recommending i.e. Continental Airlines to register their domain name for a few bucks quickly. They sure ignored my recommendation and for years used “www.flycontinental.com” instead.

GalileoCRSIs that “you”?

What is our business? Is it to manage a GDS? Many travel agents (seem to) believe so. Then we are database operators. AN20MAYFRAHKT18 – that is a database request. Is your business to issue tickets? Then you are no longer needed, as eTicket is the new standard.

What was “your business” 100 years ago? It was not to book the air ticket and the hotel. It was a complete consulting, how to get Grammy from her home in Middlesex to Aunt Cathy, who emigrated with her husband to this new colony Swaziland in the South of Africa. Could she use some of the new airplane-routes? Where could she use trains? Where were carriage routes? What vaccinations would she need, where would she stay overnight, what could she do on the multi-day-stops en-route?
Or you booked the summer seaside. If you lived in England, you were lucky, you could book one of the “packages” offered by some “Thomas Cook”. Else, you had to read a lot about the “common” spas, recommend and explain you client the advantages, book the trip, the hotel, the treatments.

And yes, it was expected from you to be knowledgeable about the countries, their political, cultural, economical and social systems. If you traveled to an Islamic country, what are the rules? Why to be careful and patient about cows in India. And to know that India was British colony. Sometimes I wonder, how many of the people selling “Seidenstraße” ever learned some detail about Marco Polo. Venice, Genoa have been the center of the world those days – the “seafaring nations”. Frankfurt, London, Atlanta, Peking are the centers today – of the “airfaring” world. What are “nations” in a globalizing world? But U.N. is a toothless tiger. Lybia, Tunesia and Egypt were (as Kuwait) some years ago immediately targets of military – for the sake of crude oil. But in Syria thousands are slaughtered, but they are not a capitalist necessity, so the world looks and doesn’t do.

Ethical DilemmaAn old saying says: Don’t talk about ethics to a hungry man!

Ethics begins with myself. Do I fly or drive – or do I take a train? Is the trip necessary? Can I achieve the same outcome with a video-conference and e-Mail? It is also about: Is this to the best of my employer – or do I justify the trip, simply because I want to see someone – or get somewhere. And it is about: Can I help to make this world a better place?

Yes, companies are about making money. But if only money rules, we adore the Golden Calf again. How un-Christian can we get? Talk to me about Ethics in Tourism. Yes, we got to survive. But at all cost?

The travel industry prospers, but for some reason, the employees do not participate. It’s all about money. Is it?

 

Food For Thought

And as usual, your comments – private or in the blog – are appreciated…

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