Airport Development

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

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
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Unique Selling Propositions

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

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 ūüôā

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
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Thoughts about Networking

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

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
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What is ‘Low Cost’?

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

An interview in ATN with Girma Wake, Chairman, RwandAir triggered a question that spooks around for quite a while now.

Wake-GirmaATN: Are you afraid that this new environment will bring more low-cost carriers or do you believe that this model does not fit into the African environment?
GW: I personally believe that low-cost carriers in the African sense will be very difficult to achieve. First, because the cost of fuel in Africa is high, second there are limited  secondary airports in Africa, we all fly from the same airports, and third there are few countries where the traffic density is large enough. If you are paying more for everything, handling, fueling, overflying etc, how can you be a low cost carrier?
So the question will have to be modified, may be not so much on the low-cost aspect of it but considers the issue of flying smaller airplanes to smaller airports covering smaller destinations bringing passengers to the major hubs. Such a model will probably work but the low-cost model as it works in Europe and America will take some time to develop in most parts of Africa.

Can a regional carrier with small airlines operate low cost? Can a long haul carrier operate low cost? Why can’t the big ones operate low cost?

InterskyJust my idea on that: I truly believe that a small carrier can operate a low cost model. In the beginning the carriers operated large narrow-body like 737-800 or A320 with some 185 seats. More and more, they also operate smaller aircraft like the 737-700 or the A319. And the time the prices were really low are gone as well. In the end you have to cover cost of operations as well as secondary cost like marketing, call center, claims and refunds, taxes and the likes. Not to forget the kerosene as a main cost block, forcing the models to slowly converge. Did I mention Intersky’s regional low-cost operations?

German DLR recently made a study on the fare levels. Comparable flights turned out i.e. an average fare incl. taxes/fees (selected days) like

Ryanair (FR) 78,78
Easyjet (U2) 97,44
Germanwings (4U) 144,33
Air Berlin (AB) 158,64
Wizz (W6) 69,99

With “low cost” and “traditional” airlines offering about the same price levels, it is about cost of operations and you got to cover your cost – low cost or “old model”.

IHS actually reports on the importance of low cost carriers for the smaller regional airports. With cost savings programs reducing services (and service), the “old carriers” loose quickly ground to the ever-expanding, young and hungry competitors. Where Lufthansa services about any German airport in the past, today Turkish Airlines offers more services to German Airports from Istanbul than Lufthansa from Frankfurt! easyJet (with a large base in Berlin) today operates more aircraft (199) than Air Berlin Group (153). And easyJet has 166 aircraft on order plus 100 options (Air Berlin Group 55 orders).

But easyJet can be booked in the GDS. There website even supports to book multiple flights connecting, which I did myself to the U.K. lately (via LGW). As I keep saying: The difference between Lufthansa or Air Berlin and easyJet is NOT that they are only bookable on the Internet (which is simply not true), but that easyJet doesn’t have legacy systems and processes – for easyJet, they focus on the business case! Where “airline sales” often gives special rates to portals and travel agency chains, easyJet does not see a benefit to sell low. They focus to sell high. So if you negotiate with them, you don’t negotiate competing the cheap fares. Also repeating myself: Anyone can sell “cheap”, you need no sales manager to do that.

And two remarks closing: Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet is known to understand and promote “service” as a unique selling proposition (USP). And WestJet with its Christmas Miracle had clearly a promotion for the WestJet trade mark in mind. While the “established” airlines keep diluting their own trade marks: What again has “Lufthansa” to do with “Germanwings” (Swiss, Austrian, …)? Ain’t they competitors?

Post Scriptum: ANNA.aero just announced axing of Ryanair, mostly of regional routes.

Ryanair_Cuts__2013-14

You should not rely on Ryanair for anything more than a door opener to make your airport known… And as an airport and region, you should have a strategy to sustainably place your airport on the “road map” of the global aviation network. That requires a strategy, incoming, route feasibility studies and all that common homework.

Food for Thought
Comments welcome

In memoriam: Airline Sales Representatives Association Frankfurt e.V

asra

Having addressed “Airline Sales & e-Commerce” in presentations between 1994 and 2007, I became honorary member in 1999. I have tried to raise awareness for the changes our industry faces but now regretfully have to accept the official disbanding of the association effective August 1st, 2014.

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Global Economic Centre of Gravity

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

A Wake-Up Call

Frankfurt Airport at night
Frankfurt Airport at night

If you ask yourself, why Germany and Europe and their Aviation Industry stumbles behind on a global scale, ask our politicians! Ask them why new airports are being built in Turkey (+150 Mio. passengers) and Dubai (+160 Mio. passengers), triple the capacities of Frankfurt (56 Mio. passengers), more than double that of London-Heathrow (70 Mio. passengers). Each! More even than all London Airports together have – and they operate at their limits, new expansion stalled in bureaucracies. And ask them, why German Airlines go bankrupt (Augsburg Airways, Cirrus Airlines, Contact Air, OLT, …), struggle to survive (Lufthansa) or are already steered by Arabs (i.e. Air Berlin, Darwin Airline) … Our answers? “Air Passenger Duty“, night curfews, stop of 3rd runway in Munich (instead of Transrapid), Capital Airport disaster in Berlin, etc., etc.
There was a time, when German Lufthansa was the measure of all things. Without Lufthansa, i.e. the Boeing 737 would never have been build, nor become the most successful airplane type of all times.

Emirates A380 Hub Dubai
Emirates A380 Hub Dubai

Today the big shots are called by the Arab airlines, Emirates wiht 39 Airbus A380 just ordered another 140 of that mega-airplane, their fleet of 200 aircraft triples with more than 400 new aircraft on order. And Lufthansa’s Star Alliance partner Turkish Airlines doubles the fleet, adding almost 200 to the existing 200. And as mentioned, Istanbul gets another airport (they have two already) for another 150 million passengers, three times as many as Frankfurt manages today.
Lufthansas order list may look similar, but most of the aircraft needs to replace older generation “gas hogs”. And with 10 A380 and another four on order, with 29 747 with just 10 new on order, Lufthansa is in no position to play in the same league as an Emirates.

Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports
Germany Purchasing Power vs. Airports 2016 [updated 2016]
What many oversee is the commercial impact of aviation. As I show for many years now the correlation of economic centres in relation to airports and their size, there is simply also a historic development giving a warning example.

As Carthage and Rome have been the centre of the world in there time, as was Genoa (Columbus) or Bombay. Always the metropolises where strategically located at trade routes. And as shipping (the one on the water) got competition by rail, street and aviation, developments in aircraft construction shot airports like Shannon or Anchorage into the insignificance of history.

train-vs-planeMy former boss compared this with the old American railroad tycoons. Their self-conception was to build rail tracks and operate large iron horses, not the mass transport of people and goods. As the first aircraft were developed, they belittled these developments. As the World Wide Web developed, Microsoft belittled this development and to date limps reactively behind current developments (the Windows 8 Apps are simply uncompetitive compared to their Apple paragons).

Merkel-PutinAnd currently, the politicians of the “industry nations” miss to set the right tracks for the future. Would Moscow get the Russian corruption in check, no politicians would dare to challenge the authoritarian regime of this resource rich country. Just as they handle China with velvet gloves, knowing exactly that money rules the world and in the end, if they want to “profit” from the business, they dodge their high moral and ethics first… And aviation is simply a punching ball for them, screaming “noise” and “pollution”, no matter the major, largely unsubsidized developments in quieter and fuel efficient aircraft… Yeah, don’t think, just hit’em and milk’em!
For aviation, it is finally about moving people and goods from A to B (as efficiently as possible). And who believes the thousands of aircraft seats ordered in the Middle East would fly empty… Where does the traffic flow? Minimum growth in Europe. A graph by the CEO of Turkish Airlines given when he took seat of chairman of the European Airline Association AEA pinpoints it:

global economic centre of gravity 1971-2031

At the same time Lufthansa impairs it’s cooperation with Star Alliance Partner Turkish Airlines, with the reasoning that they would “unfairly” pull longhaul passengers to their hub in Istanbul. “Obstinacy” you call that I think. Because factually, in the current political sludge and struggle for survival, Lufthansa has nothing substantial to counter such developments

Cash cow - milked dry
Cash cow – milked dry

Aviation in Europe: Lufthansa and Air Berlin have rested too long on their successes, Western politicians simply understand aviation as a milk cow they can drain, ignoring the negative repercussions to commerce of their decisions against aviation development. Even Ryanir “stumbles” and frantically tries to reshape the own, aggressive business model, replacing it in fact with a core-different business model. If that will succeed? I doubt it.

Feeder for the Hub (FRA)
Feeder for the Hub (FRA)

My expectations: One global hub will remain in Europe. With Easyjet and current focus by Norwegian, London has a good chance, if they get their capacity problems managed. London isn’t dependent on the drip of British Airways as are Frankfurt (Lufthansa) or Paris (Air France), being tied to these airling operators for the better or worse.
Passengers from or to Europe then will fly with regional feeder services into the real global hubs in Moscow, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi or Dubai. As a hub to South America Portugal could position itself, but also Madrid and Morocco (outside the EU) are showing ambitions, a prophecy being rather risky there.

The traffic and commerce streams are changing. And I have concerns about the ability of the industry nations politicians to realize that the world suddenly bypasses them. And when they wake up, it will simply be too late.

Food for Thought
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Ground Damage

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

roiJust reading with great interest in Ground Handling International (October 2013 issue) an article starting:
“Can we ever hope to rationalize the slightly surreal situation that sees a poorly-paid ramp agent driving an expensive unit of GSE around a multi-million pound aircraft? Alwyn Brice considers ground damage solutions”

Reading “[…] drew our attention to the fact that an insurer has no obligation to conclude a deal with a handler if he (the insurer) feels that the risk is poised too high.”
Just a reminder: Insurances are modern betting companies. Here, they bet that the ground damage stays long-term below the insurance fees. Insurance wins. If you mess up their risk-evaluation, they get rid of you as quickly as (in-)decently possible. Unfortunately, they rather frequently happen to tell their friends (the other insurances) about you. And yes, that’s the case for insurances anywhere.

That said: It is in the “common” interest to have experienced, reliable staff operating. One approach can be, to demand that in the contract. Just not yet part of any contract I’ve seen.

Ground Damage
Ground Damage

And every time (airline) managers tend to “outsource” existing business parts, they most times do know their new “partners” provide lesser quality for less money, safe on salaries and training quality – as the airline sure tweaked their operations already to cost effectiveness (within internal quality levels). The only the ground handler can become cheaper is to compromise quality. What worries me often, is the nonchalance with which security and safety are as such willingly put at stake by senior aviation managers “for the sake of business” (cash).

Not to misunderstand me. There are business cases that make outsourcing reasonable, I know General Sales Agents (GSAs) and Ground Handling companies serve a purpose when there is not enough “own business” to justify own staff. And in such cases they can provide better quality by consolidating business and having the advantages coming with the larger scale of operations.

Food for Thought
waiting for comments

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My American Airlines Story

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

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)
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Heresy

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

Writing last week’s blog, I was confronted again with my criticism of church. For the ones of you who don’t know: I believe in God. Being maybe not what church tells us, but “some higher entity”.

geocentric-theoryResearching on “heresy”, I sure stumbled over Galileo Galilei. Church-accused of heresy and put under house arrest for the remainder of his life, we nevertheless all know today that church was wrong and our world is not the center of the universe.
Galileo’s approach taking Augustine’s¬†position on Scripture, can be interpreted today as the reminder that the bible was written by people who never heard of contraception, Internet or space flight … Trying to interpret things they could not understand they used metaphors.
So I believe the Bible and especially the life of some Jesus of Nazareth to have a good ethic and moral message, but written and rewritten in centuries after Christ lived, from hearsay, tales and songs, church only declared Christ to be son of god a good 435 years later.

I also deny to condemn people with other believes to hell, as it was Christ who died on the cross to take the sins of humanity¬†until the final day of judgement at the end of the world. Being a Jew himself, I doubt that he made or wanted any differentiation between confessions: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing”.

And he might have known of some religions, but I am sure the people later interpreting his life never imagined Australia or the Americas. Though isn’t it important to believe in God? Looking at the different churches and religions that raised from the Old Testimony and believing in the same God, they are their worst enemies. Thinking about Manitou as the god of the Indians, his “ghosts” as the angels, I don’t see, why it should not simply be a different understanding of God and his angels, stemming “naturally” from a different history. And in fact, they understood their position as a caretaker of nature, not rulers and destroyers (what blasphemy).

It’s not about church, or the Bible, it is about being a good man. If you interpret the Bible (or the Koran or any other religious foundation) to justify murder, war or theft, you are evil and have a sick understanding of what Christ, Mohammed, Buddha or whoever you believe in wanted.

Is it heresy to question interpretations of church? Is it heresy after millenia of proven mistakes they made? Didn’t church fall in with the Third Reich and condemn Jews happily to death? Did they not enrich themselves by stealing their money? Did they not commit murder and sanction war – in history to date? Are they not accused through time and again to abuse children? No, I do not believe in church. I believe there are many decent people in the churches. About the system I agree with Lazarus Long:

“The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history.”

And yes, by the way: “The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.”

Food for Thought
comments welcome

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Alexei Navalny vs. Edward Snowden

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

NavalnySnowdenTo make this very clear… This is not against U.S. or Russia or Germany, we have enough problems everywhere. It is a case to point the mirror to the U.S. and Russia.

Is it truly necessary to prosecute Edward Snowden and to mess internationally (not just with some South American President) on all diplomatic levels to catch someone who has done what he believes to be right at the risk to never see his home again? “Exile” was a punishment in the past and exile is what Snowden chose.
Snowden obviously had a point, even in the United States, many citizens think he did “the right thing”. And is that not what America claims to be all about? Spying friends is certainly not what it is all about and even as a historic friend of the United States and it’s people, I don’t like the witch hunt I see here.

Now comes Alexei Navalny and the United States, in the midst of a global diplomatic crisis expresses their disgust with the court ruling? As wrong as it is, I think the United States currently has to start looking into a mirror. Dear Michael McFaul, Ambassador of the U.S. in Moscow: “We are deeply disappointed in the conviction of¬†@Navalny¬†@Snowden (and @Manning)¬†and the apparent political motivations in this trial.”
What did become of that “Land of the Free and the Home to the Brave” I love so much? Big Brother? I liked Tom Clancy’s “NetForce”. But Prism goes far far beyond it!
A country that supports such control of citizens and friends alike has to allow the warning cries from Germany – we have a history that tells stories about abuse of information and publicity. Not just Gestapo, the East German Stasi has tried just the same. What makes you better? The government? The Weimar Republic was not a bad government, but do you know what comes tomorrow? There are stories about one J. Edgar Hoover, about whom Wikipedia says:

Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover
Pres. Truman + J. Edgar Hoover

Late in life and after his death Hoover became a controversial figure, as evidence of his secretive actions became known. His critics have accused him of exceeding the jurisdiction of the FBI. He used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders, and to collect evidence using illegal methods. Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting Presidents. According to President Harry S Truman, Hoover transformed the FBI into his private secret police force; Truman stated that “we want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI NSA is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J. Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressmen and senators are afraid of him”.

In the wrong hands, who knows what might have become of the United States? Listen to Truman. Mr. Obama, today you are the president.

On the other side, we have some Alexei Navalny who dares to threaten Putin and to research and make public illegalities in Russia. It takes a lot of bravery and civil courage to do so in Russia, even more unfortunately in a Russia of some Vladimir Putin. Whatever good he may have done for the country in his past, he sticks to power too much to my liking at the risk to not end up an icon just as one Nelson Mandela (as he still could I believe), but closer to one Joseph Stalin. At the same time ruining what one Mikhail Gorbachev and the people of Russia had achieved with Glasnost. Though with greedy politicians and industry managers in the “West”, there is not much danger, anti-democratic countries may suffer from commercial repercussions, right? And Putin might have a “good reason” for his doing, though even with good motives, I think he’s in danger of messing it badly.

The question is also more of a Christian dimension: “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

JesusSin

Who is the United States, with a war in Iraq based on the lie of “weapons of mass destruction”, with Guantanamo and witch hunts against Bradley Manning or¬†Edward Snowden, with an NSA mass-trampling on privacy concerns that the illegal attempts of data collection by Google, Microsoft or others become a child-game in comparison?

Who is Germany, recently having delayed again ratification of the signage of the United Nation Convention against Corruption? The country that does not take a stand for what’s good but who’s government yields to the lobbies?

But being “bad kids on the block”, we are still democratic countries. The ones who can make a stand is us. The people. I can decide to dislike and talk about Edward Snowden. I can condemn the NSA, no matter how much I do believe Barrack Obama to be a “good man” or how much I do love America. We have the saying: Power Corrupts. Absolute Power corrupts absolutely. But we, the people still can raise our voice, we can blog and talk and discuss and stand for what we believe in. And in the end of the day, we make mistakes as anyone else. But at least I can look into the mirror and say: “I like this guy”. And if we are lucky, we do what you Barrack Obama said you would want to become the President for: To make a¬†Change.

And I don’t think Angela Merkel is in a good position to do that right now. Slave to the lobbies, pampering Putin for Russia’s natural resources and wealth and, as she does for China, not any more democratic than Russia these days. Neither is Obama, for what I am immensely sorry!
But I am.¬†And not throwing any stones, I can beg: Obama: Stop the Witch Hunt! And I can beg: Putin: Don’t end up the man who reinstated dictatorship in Russia!

You’re both good, decent men! Show it!


This article today calls me to pull out my favorite Lazarus Long-quotes once more:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure “good” government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare–most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the “backseat-driver syndrome.”

Food for Thought
Comments welcome!

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You Don’t Have to Be…

Juergen is one of the very few people, I really mean, VERY FEW, people that understand both airlines and airports.

ERF You Dont Have to Be the PresidentIn 2009, I had the honor to be part in the handling team to prepare for the short visit by President Obama in Thuringia.

erf_pope2011_1In 2011 the President was followed by the Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, also visiting ERF and Thuringia, the heartland of the ‘renegade’ Lutheran church. Being the ultra conservative he is, he rejected the offered hand of the Protestant church.

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all of history. [Lazarus Long]

P.S.: God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent-it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills. [Lazarus Long]

Food for Thought…

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