Route Planning Events

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

aviationconferencesWhile “the world” meets at World Routes, we received inquiries, why CheckIn.com is not there.

Sure, there are “obvious” reasons, but when it boils down, you need to prioritize where your money comes from. So while World Routes is an important event, I believe in the reasoning behind the split into multiple Routes events.

World Routes for the global players, regional routes for the regional players. Whereas at Routes Europe earlier this year, the “regional focus” is blurred already, attracting “foreign” long-haul airlines. As CheckIn.com currently focuses on Europe, Routes Europe is a must go for us. So we will be in Ireland next April. As an airline client requested Russia before North America, we won’t be ready for Routes Americas in Vegas in February.
If we get North America up in time, it may make sense to look at World Routes 2017. May make sense.

Likely still not, as the focus of the event is the networking between airlines and airports. As close as we are related to the aviation network development industry, we are secondary, we are supplier. World Routes is simply too busy, too packed, to give us a lot of opportunity to promote our services. That’s much more focused and such reasonable at the smaller (and targeted) events.

ConnectAviation2017Right after Routes Americas, there’s the second (annually first) European event which we now have as a “must go” on the agenda: Connect°

Which motivated the question, why or how that event differs from Routes Europe and why I believe this is even more valuable…? The answer is rather easy. Where Routes attracts all those big shots, it is already becoming a “major player event”. Many small airports and airlines expressed towards us that they feel uncomfortable at Routes, even on the Routes Europe. Too big. Too big-focused.
Connect° and Karin Butot focus the event to the small and mid-sized players. So if you look for big traffic and big routes, go to Belfast. But if you focus on small airports, regional airlines and more local business, you’re very likely better off at Connect°.

So if you want to meet us…

22.-24. Feb 2017: Connect°, Ajaccio, Corsica, France
23.-25. Apr 2017: Routes Europe, Belfast, Ireland

Or call us to make an appointment elsewhere.

P.S.: Have you registered for CheckIn.com access? Registered users enjoy free access to basic airport data for more than 570 airports in Europe, including an isochrones map and the population in it! Free as in “no charge” and “free to use” (as is).


Food for Thought
Comments (and Likes) welcome!

1 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

My Routes Sales Pitch

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

A post on ASM VP Nigel Mayes on RoutesOnline triggered this FoodForThought. His thoughts about a how to give the perfect routes presentation … Focusing on data. Which is a perfect example of what you see at Routes and what will not make the difference.

IcebergPrinciple
Successful Selling is Emotional

In any given sales training I attended, in many of the keynotes or presentations I gave on the topic, I focus on three facts I can boil down to one:

  1. The Elevator Pitch
  2. Successful Selling is Emotional
  3. What’s your message?

Or in one: What is your USP? The USP is the Unique Selling Proposition. It’s what makes your product different, why someone should choose to buy from you and not your competition. But more important, the new concept of the ESP: The Emotional Selling Proposition!

In my presentations, I never focus on the numbers. Say what? But with CheckIn.com you’re crunching numbers big time!!! So what?

I’ve never sold the numbers. Not selling software, nor selling airline tickets, nor selling airports, nowhere. Simply: Nowhere.

Selling is emotional. 10% of the sale is facts. Some say 15% (1/7th). I believe less.

Facts are facts, they either sell on their own, or they don’t. Not much influence on the facts.

When I sold competitive software, the data crunching was important. But not to come with facts, but how to load them emotionally? Because where I sold was, where I could establish the emotional link. Trust. Faith. Sure you got to have your numbers. You got to issue an RFP, very often under legal rules, making sure the procurement team is unbiased and takes what is best for the company. Often under stupid rules like “cheap = best”. You get what you pay for, right? But then, there’s the “finale”. If you’re in the final round, emotions jumps into the game. Suddenly the soft factors get more important. Three finalists competing. All qualified. Who fit’s my need the best???

HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing
HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing

The job of the sales manager. Be the face of the company.

There are three phases:

  • Phase 1: Establish the contact
  • Phase 2: Know your [Numbers / Tools / Services]
  • Phase 3: Close the sale.

Phase 1 and 3 are all about emotions. They are about Sales Management. Phase 2 is where the number crunching work is. That’s for your engineers to support your sales manager!

An attractive sales lady or gentlemen without experience, right from university sells mostly to men. Emotional. Good for the initial contact and the closing. In between, you don’t need sales, you need the engineers, the number crunchers. Phase 2 is not “sales”. But I also learned that you better call the graduate not a sales manager but either a junior sales manager or a customer manager. Face to the client. They can learn the process. They should be the face to the client (at all times). They should not be exchanged, or your client looses a big part of his/her emotional bonding to your company. But they must work in tandem with the company’s experts! And they have to learn enough of your product before you remove the “junior”.

Many companies make the mistake. Engineers trying to sell. They go for numbers, technical gadgets, hardly ever they understand the emotions that make the customer buy into them. Do I need to be able to know deicing management or shall I better understand the principles behind it and leave the fine-print to the engineers? Talking to deicing experts with 20 years experience, I caught them with emotion. With emotionally loaded facts. Want to buy? Here’s the dream, the overall picture that I know we can make a reality. Let’s call in the engineers, they can explain you in all detail how the individual puzzle piece works. Want to make the sales manager an engineer? Bad idea. Want to make an engineer a sales manager? Bad idea. Engineers are usually number crunchers. Only very few understand the emotional concepts in selling. Recently, in marketing groups there’s a hype about the step from USP to ESP from the unique to the emotional selling proposition.

shifthappensnarratedThe first-ever post on this blog was Shift Happens. As valid as it ever was! Today, most jobs and products are new. Experience helps to adapt and understand the USP. But being good in Sales & Marketing is not about expertise in the product. It’s about expert in emotional selling proposition!

A friend recently asked me for help on a new start-up. I had a look at their website. I did not understand what they’re doing. I got what business they were in. But what’s their USP? It’s been done by engineers… You got to be one to understand.

So let’s look back at my first three points. Lots of words on the website. But what’s it all about? I didn’t know. So we come down to my first point: The elevator pitch. Can you catch a potential client’s or investor’s interest in the first 30 seconds to two or three minutes you have with him in the elevator? Or on a conference floor? Three sentences. Why should he talk to you? What’s your product, what makes it different? What’s the value? “Return of Investment” is an issue. Emotion is also one! Apple sells more on emotion than anything else! So we’re back on 2.: The emotional side. And come down to the third issue: What’s your message? In three lines or 30 seconds? If you can’t boil your USP down to the elevator pitch, how do you think your prospected clients will ever understand it? If you can do it in 30 seconds, you have 19 minutes to talk about it and bring the emotion home. Okay, realistically you have two to three minutes at a Routes scheduled meeting to bring home the pitch. Rarely at once, beyond 30 seconds the risk to be disrupted increases expotentially

If you focus your sales pitch on “Know your numbers”, you miss out the 90% emotional side of selling.

My advise for airports intending to sell successfully at Routes: What’s your message? Most important thing we did at Erfurt Airport was the image video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srzk2WbTcgY

No voice. Just music. Emotion! Renaming Erfurt to Erfurt-Weimar? Emotional. Weimar transporting “history” and emotion. Everyone heard about Weimar in history class. What’s “Erfurt”?

ERF2006-15
2010: Promoting emotionally

The final point I focused on in my presentations and consulting with airports: Focus on incoming! Everybody knows, you know “your local market”. But in aviation, you have two markets. Show you know what attracts people to you. Incoming. No, I never understand how Thuringia Tourism at ITB 2010 could promote Hungarian historic composer Franz Liszt, when they just had a great number of gold medals from the Olympic winter games. The politicos in Erfurt never understood the need to focus on incoming, nor the need to promote emotionally.

Though I should have been warned: On my second day there in March 2009, Thuringia Tourism GM Bärbel Grönegres was in Abu Dhabi and promoted medical tourism there to fly to Frankfurt and get the train or a bus to Thuringia. Instead of the existing flight service via Munich. The state development agency LEG had delegations fly from and to Berlin, with train connection from and to Erfurt. We made a 99€ special available to LEG, which they never made use of. How do you want to sell the flights, if the politicians paying for them don’t use them? Result: Instead of replacing Erfurt-Munich (three hours drive, very good train connection) with the recommended Erfurt-Amsterdam, they simply decided to not extend my contract and terminate scheduled services.

So make sure you have your own PTBs behind you (the powers-that-be). State development, tourism, industry, politicians. And not just because they have to, but because they believe in your sales pitch. It’s a team effort. And a team is not a group of people who must work together, but it’s a group of people who trust each other. Emotion.

Emotions are key to successful selling. If you hire a sales manager, find someone emotional. Someone creative. And don’t make them an engineer, you likely have enough of those already, right?

Jobs-quote
This just applies as much to Sales people as to engineers…
2 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

What’s Your USP??

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

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!

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Keeping Face

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

changeflightsJust screening all those wisdoms my friends keep sharing on LinkedIn and Facebook, here one from own experience…

People do not want to admit mistakes.

Developing online booking tools back in the 90s, when no-one (especially not Amadeus, Sabre, etc) believed in it, I learned that lesson good: Business travelers wanted to make the bookings with their travel department. But they wanted to CHANGE the booking themselves (online). Asked, why that is, it was simply that they considered the need to change a booking a “mistake”. No matter if the change was enforced to them. It also showed how important it was to them to keep face with their travel arrangers.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

1 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Unique Selling Propositions

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

USPDuring my initial business education, more than 30 years ago, the General Manager of the company hosting me for the practical part told me: “Someone else always can sell cheaper”. At the time, concepts like “USPs” (Unique Selling Propositions) had not been “common”, but it practically was about how to position for success.

You Get What You Pay For
You Get What You Pay For

The mantra in the aviation industry is to be always the cheapest. The mantra in procurement / purchasing is to buy the cheapest. In Germany, we have two different words for “cheap”. Billig and preiswert: Billig is cheap. Preiswert is “worth the price”.

Another old saying is “You get, what you pay for”. And yet another saying I heard in procurement is: “Save money, no matter the cost”.

But my friend Richard told me some 15 years ago that there is a psychological price. He also told me that IT (what we both worked in and now work again in) is the first thing that procurement “saves” upon, as they don’t understand its value.

So if it is not the price, what could it be?

HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing
HAM: Hamburg Airport Marketing

A unique identity could be one. For airlines: When I started in the industry, I could distinguish airline crews by their uniform. Today, the differences in the uniforms are so minor that flight attendants of different airlines standing in one group can not be distinguished any more.

For conferences, I keep refering to Hamburg Airport Marketing. From afar they can be identified. And even promoting Hamburg big on the shirts, it doesn’t look “cheap”, but gives identity! It can be even worn at the “business casual evening event”. And believe me, if you look for the Hamburg team, you do find them!

Though for some reason inexplicable to me, many sales managers deny to wear uniform, much less some easily identifiable wardrobe as that. They seemingly prefer to blend in with all the other black ties. Though why you want your company and products and yourself to “blend in” instead of standing out, is simply beyond me 🙂

If you can establish a unique identity, your customers associate intuively with your product, you increase your reseller base, as they will remember you when opportunity arises. If your reputation is bad, all you can do is to undercut your competitors in price. If that is your USP, I’d say you may have the problem with the fact that always, someone else can produce cheaper.

Quality is a good USP. And quality comes in many aspects. Part of quality can be friendliness – in the beginning of my career, at the time with American Airlines, we got “beaten in” that we always have to smile when interacting with other people. Not just customers, but also our own colleagues. As the saying goes “Formal courtesy between husband and wife is even more important than it is between strangers.” [Lazarus Long] – I found this especially true in companies. If you treat your own people bad, you will treat your customers likewise. Unfortunately, service is something that button sorters (accountants) don’t understand. Friendly Service does not have a price tag. Just if you don’t have it, you will pay the price. In lost customers.

BethuneQuote

Service is also how you manage with problems. Can you truly afford your customer(s) to be upset, just to save some money? Even if you do not pay, you got to talk to the customer and explain. Do not write. And don’t “outsource” your customer communication or you will loose them.

Time is also an essential difference maker. Why else would airlines reduce the prices if you connect making a detour through their hub (connecting airport), compared to a nonstop flight? In IT, time to delivery is of essence. Too many companies succeed by selling you dreams, but failing to deliver. Leading to the next Soft USP:

erf_you_dont_have_to_be_the_presidentHonesty. I was tought early in my life to never lie if possible. Bend the truth, better tell some truth that makes the people believe you lie (and proof them better later). When Obama visited Erfurt, press asked. All I communicated was “The Pilots’ Union said that Obama’s 747 cannot land in Erfurt”. What I did not tell them, that the Union’s “experts” had missed the fact that Air Force One is usually not “fully loaded” and has the advantage of some (so public sources say) 20% higher engine power. When it came to Erfurt, I had never lied. And ever since had a good standing with them. Honesty creates trust. If you lie once, you’ll have a hard time to recover.

These are sure just examples. But it strikes me odd, how many companies, especially in aviation, do not have an understanding of their business culture and their USPs. But if you don’t communicate that to your own, how do you think your customers will learn about them?

Samsung-S5-vs.-iPhone6A final example for this article today shall be Apple. I loved Apple. Past tense. They made the first smart phones. All others copied them. Now they struggle and their answer is “me too”-products. What was their USP?

I took the iPhone6 into my hand and decided: Too big. My iPhone 4S does all I need. Intuitively and without some double tab on home to be able to access the upper screen.
If I want to watch video, I use my tablet (did I mention I shunned the iPad and got a Windows-Hybrid?).

So Apple lost a customer. Because they evolved from the pioneers to the ones limping behind. It would be time for them to reassess their USPs, their business propositions and their strategy. Then maybe they might find that they left frustrated customers behind with their “bigger is better” and instead made their phones expensive Samsung-clones, just without a “Mini”.

Sell, sell, sell. But if you do not know what you sell, all you do is lower the price until someone buys. I predict that fate even for Apple. But if you can explain the differences, if you can explain the quality, you hardly need to sell. The people buy. Though that requires management to understand and support that, to drive, not being driven.

Hmm… None of the business plans and their revisions I worked on took less than several weeks to come from an idea or product to a sales strategy for the different “customers”. Capital investors, buyers, suppliers, partners. And to answer the main three questions (beyond the idea) that all business plans contain:

  1. What is the business case?
  2. What is the USP?
  3. What is the risk and opportunity (so-called SWOT-analysis)?

Once you can answer these three questions, you have your sales strategies, your elevator pitches, you understand. Then all you still need to do is: Communicate it to your people! Spread the word.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

2 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

Thoughts about Networking

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

UpsideDownAcademic – Epidemic

During my vacation, I just had another discussion with a “senior manager”, showing how little many of these highly paid people understand about the value of networking. It often seems to me that this is nothing they ever learned during their university times…?

People buy from people, not technologies.

No matter, how good your product is, no-one will believe it, if they don’t believe they “know” it.

The Wrong Questions

I had some questions and statements (Q) repeadetly the last years and think it might be wise to share my answers (A). If that stuff is voiced that often, you may be faced with the same smart people…

Q: “It’s very much about being at the right point at the right time.”
A: And the right point is the mind of the someone who thinks about buying. If you’re not in the mind, you won’t come to mind and you won’t sell.

conferencenetworkingQ: “Why should I go to this event, I can talk to them on the phone.”
A: Do you know, how many phone calls that someone gets every week, from people trying to enter their mind and memory? At these events, like-minded people meet. With the possibility to speak longer with people and face to face, trust can be established. An important factor for purchasing decisions.

Q: “Why should I be active on LinkedIn?”
A: For one, there are a lot more people on LinkedIn than you likely ever meet on trade shows. If these people are allowed to attend trade shows in the first place…

Q: “Then why should I attend trade shows – the people I seek to meet are not there!”
A: Because even if they themselves are not there. Their colleagues who are allowed to go will tell them. If you leave some impression.

Sales-meets-Marketing
“Wow, I had five real promising meetings today” – “Don’t worry, I didn’t sell anything either”

Q: “Is it better to have a stand or not?”
A: That depends. Can you attract people to your stand (it does require a catchy stand design and/or an established brand awareness). In my experience and for conferences with exhibition: If you are alone, skip the stand. Meet your audience face to face. Conferences are not about sitting around, but to meet and to talk to people! What I recommend though is that you use accessories that show who you are. Be it a cap, a polo-shirt (or light jacket) with logo or a catch phrase that attracts the right people to you, be it a bag – under all those black-ties, you got to stick out showing “Here I am!”
Interesting side note: I know a lot of sales & marketing people being too proud to “show off”. If you don’t want to show off (your product) you maybe got the wrong attitude for the job…

Q: Hey, I got invited for a speaker slot. I can present my product there.
A: If you can have a speaker slot, don’t use it to sell your product, but make sure you provide lasting value for your audience. If they are interested, they’ll be interested in your product. And after you paid for some of such slots, the organizers (if they’re worth their money) find you valuable and maybe even worth-while to invite or even pay you next time…

These opinions of managers do remind me too much of an old quote: “If you don’t try, you cannot win”.
But have they understood that they sell to people having their own priorities, agendas and opinions?

On the other side, I’ve received a nice graphic on LinkedIn lately I’d like to share with you. I like the first point very much, as I believe that you simply got to become a trusted partner to succeed, which is why it’s vital to build up “trusted networks”.

selling

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

The Right Perspective

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

inside-outNew Airport Insider recently published a blog by one of who they call the “Generation Y”, students, getting ready for the travel and aviation industry. What triggered my attention there was a very basic, though very common misperception, what I call “the inside-out-look”.

What’s wrong with that?

That is rather easy. If you provide flight services, you fly both directions. Worse, if you subsidize any airport, you likely do it to attract commerce to your region (tourism is commerce too). You likely don’t do it to make the people in your region to take their money elsewhere. As such, the focus of airports and politicians alike must be on the outside in, or as we say in the travel industry; the incoming.

In the example, which is very common, the French author considered “rail” a competitor to flight. Which is true on the inside-out-look, or outgoing, but it’s simply missing the point once you look outside-in.

crowdedtrainsAside of Germany, France and a handful other nations, train is usually no issue. Within these countries, train is very competitive on the local market, especially the high speed trains like French TGV or German ICE. But now I go abroad. Into another country. I go into any travel agency, even in France or Germany and ask for international travel. Give me a guess: How often will they offer you train, even i.e. Paris-Frankfurt? All they intuitively look for in phase 1 is “flight”. Is the city the client wants to connect to bookable on the GDS (Global Travel Booking System)? If not, the agent (hopefully without showing you) rolls the eyes, curses you and starts looking up how the f*** to get you to that godforsaken town you ask for…
noflights
Offline Airport

In short: If you have an airport “nearby” with scheduled services that link you into the global aviation networks on the GDSs (connections are important), you are visible. Else, you’re an annoyance. If there is an airport “nearby”, travelers may take train, bus, rental car or taxi for the remainder of the trip.

pickupLikely, not knowing the language, maybe not even the local alphabeth, it’s going to be a taxi or a car from a large (global) rental car company offering navigation system. Or a personal pickup…

Later, the train may become a competitor. But that’s another story. To trigger global commercial interest, an airport is a strategic answer.
But not just the airports, but also the connectivity by scheduled flights, which can be booked in the GDS, connecting the airport to the global aviation networks! Second lesson, most local-minded politicos miss to understand with their inside-out-look…

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!
0 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post

My American Airlines Story

“Our Heads Are Round so our Thoughts Can Change Direction” [Francis Picabia]

As many of you know, I started my career with American Airlines. That I left due to a mobbing supervisor was one of the “mistakes” I do happen to regret in my career. Though looking at American today, I am not so sure if I’d be a happy employee either.

As Air Transport News summarized World Low Cost Airline 2013 congress: “In the current cut-throat market conditions with the so-called legacy carriers cutting jobs, renegotiating staff contracts, the concept of customer loyalty to a brand is becoming obsolete as the lines between full service carriers and low cost ones are getting blurry and price has become the key factor for customers when it comes to choosing a short haul flight.”, they make a common mistake, as I strongly believe that brand is not becoming obsolete, just neglected.

AA-logohistory
AA logos during the times
AA. No question.
AA. No question.

When I started with American, it was the world’s largest airline. We were Proud to be American, we received frequent training to always smile at the customer and “customer first”. We also received monthly video updates from the senior management about strategic plans and news, we were a big family. Reminder: That was the World’s largest airline. In all those years, in fact in the past 80 years, the American aircraft was easily distinguishable by the eAAgle on the tail with it’s double A. In many movies, AA aircraft could be identified simply by the silver body with the blue/white/red stripe, even without the logo or the name on the body not being visible. From far away and even in bad weather, the aircraft was easily distinguishable by its prominent AA on the tail.

blank nose
blank nose

The new aircraft at that is a greyish color, reminded me on my first encounter too much of the U.S. Military Airlift Command, with bright colors being the name on the side of the body and the colors of the American flag on the tail, very similar to U.S. Airways and with very little profile. And the main identifier, the “AA” is gone for good…

American (new) - US Airways - American (traditional)
American (new) – US Airways – American (traditional)

The staff is “just another airline”, I did not receive much of a smile at all, neither on the ground, nor in the air. Having been the pacemaker in aviation technology, inventing SABRE, enabling global bookings long before Internet, Frequent Flyer Program and Yield Management, technical problems found me at a loss. British Airways, partner of AA in the Oneworld Alliance was unable to issue the Boarding Pass for the connecting AA-flight – all being booked under AA flight number. Baggage being checked through to Vancouver, I received one boarding pass for HAJLHR, then in London the next one for LHRDFW and because the onward flight was beyond 24 hours (I made a 23hr-stop to meet friAAnds), I only got my third boarding pass to Vancouver in DFW. My baggage they could handle, but to issue the boarding passes for the entire trip was a technical problem? I’m at a loss, find that even questionable on a legal level…

Robert "Bob" Crandall
Robert “Bob” Crandall

Discussing my experience with friAAnds and stAAf I met during my trip, I found that the AA-spirit is gone. Ever since Bob Crandall left, the button-counters took over, who had no vision, but claimed they’d know how to make money. Trashing the high values I encountered in my time when Bob Crandall was in charge, staff is an expensive and expendable resource, service is a theoretical concept of questionable value, people just fear for their jobs and working for American competes with working for anyone else. And now AA is under Chapter 11, “restructuring”. Well, a good result to turn the world leader in aviation to a patient under Chapter 11, right?

Image by Wirtschaftswoche
Goodbye Lufthansa

What is my personal lesson about this? I believe that brand is underestimated. Be it American to drop a recognized, gradually developed brand of 80+ years, dropping the “AA” which was a core in 40+ years of AAdvertising, or be it Lufthansa, “outsourcing” European flights to “Germanwings”, with no visible relation to its mother. And wondering, why passengers show no longer any brand loyalty flying within Europe.

And it confirms lessons that I learned many years ago. My “boss” during business education in a large whole sale business told me: “There is always someone who can do it cheaper”. So price is not a differentiator for a sustainable business.

Richard Eastman
Richard Eastman

And my friend Richard taught me: “Price is psychological”. It is about what is the buyer willing to pay for what reasons. And “cheap” is mostly not the main value. Brand, service, loyalty, identification are very important drivers. Why would one buy an Apple iPad? There are cheaper tablets out there, some of them possibly even better. Why do I buy a Windows-based Ultrabook convertible replacing my Laptop and my iPad? Why do I choose brand X over brand Y? Believe me, I could buy “the same” for half the price, but my experience with the brand is good, why should I go “cheap” on something as important as my IT?

Airline Managers focused on the Return-of-Investment and the Shareholder Value but without a vision are followers, they do not make good managers.

Any good business started with someone believing in an idea and taking a risk. Once you loose that entrepeneural spirit, you become a follower and start loosing.

Food for Thought
(comments welcome)
3 - click to show Jürgen you liked the post