PAGPFT: British Airways and Open Skies (the airline).

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.



February 26 2012



PAGPFT: British Airways and Open Skies (the airline).



HIS is PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed; People Are Getting Paid For This) at its best.




British Airways has made so many businessplan mistakes with its subsidiary, Open Skies (despite the name, an airline). It now plans more.


OS was a business- and first-class-only airline. But it now plans to add economy class – undermining most of what it has been trying to do since BA bought the already-failing L’Avion (despite the name, an airline) and changed its silly name to an English-language silly name, Open Skies, in 2007.


Bizarrely though, BA says OS’s new ‘Eco’ class (yes, really, that’s its name) will offer “access to a premium travel experience”. Er, how is that? Can passengers look into the business-class cabin?


The following is what BA plans for its subsidiary. I quote directly because it is funny on its own (paraphrased for reasons of space):


“From June, Open Skies will have three classes – ‘Eco’ will join the ‘Biz Bed’ and ‘Prem Plus’ – which was ‘Biz Seat’. ‘Biz Bed’ is the business class cabin.”


Note well, ‘Prem Plus’ is not actually ‘premium’; the top class is ‘Biz Bed’. Clearly, the marketing department is an intellect-free zone. But…BA is correct in one comment – “Open Skies is a unique product on the market”.


There is more. “All passengers will get access to priority lanes.” So all OS passengers get special treatment. But doesn’t that mean it is no longer ‘special’?


However, don’t take my word for it…what does the market think of OS? Well, after five years, the OS route network is back to where it started – just one route, New York-Paris.


If BA want my (unpaid) advice, there are two things they must do:


1. Change OS’s name to British Airways. Bye bye ‘Open Skies’.


2. Offer the BA service product. If BA believes there is more demand for premium seats on the route (although this latest move to add economy-class indicates the opposite), then make the first-class or business-class cabin larger. And dump those intellectually shrivelled cabin-class names.



Simple really. If they don’t do these two things, it means they cannot accept the loss-of-face it would mean for BA chairman Willie Walsh, who thinks OS is a brilliant idea. He gets a good salary as well.




The Fox


Trottings: First time in China. Brighton Pier.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings


The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.



February 10 2012



Trottings: First time in China. Brighton Pier.



AM not trying to say Brighton has moved to China. Read on.





[] My first visit to China was 40 years ago this month. I flew in from Addis Ababa as part of the official Ethiopian government delegation (don’t ask).


Bad weather kept us from landing in Shanghai, so we landed in Guangzhou, to a hurried reception for what was an important delegation. After a few hours, we flew on to Shanghai, where I stayed at about the only hotel available for foreigners, the Peace, on the Bund. The river was full of vessels of all types, and the other side was empty farmland. A walk along the Bund with a colleague attracted curious onlookers (actually about 50). We managed to get a sampan to sail on the river (the boatman thought we were sailors going back to our ship, so we got a free tour). On our return, plainclothes police greeted us.


And then on to Beijing via CAAC, the only Chinese airline. We cycled around Tiananmen Square on imported bicycles (don’t ask), but at that time the Forbidden City was indeed that. The following day to the Great Wall at Badaling. The only tourists were domestic ones, and many were in army uniforms.


The following day was the official reception, in the Great Hall of the People where Zhou Enlai met me – but I accept that he may not have remembered me for very long.


More in my extremely-successful book (although not yet written), A Short Trip To China, 1972.






[] I was on Brighton Pier the other day!


The last time I was there, I slept under it – I was a weekend hippy from London. ‘Under’ because of protection from the rain which, as most in the UK know, is a frequent occurrence.


It was there I learned that a pebble beach is more comfortable for sleeping on than a sand beach. That knowledge did not help me much in my life, however – but never mind.


There was not always space under the pier for all those who desired it. That last time for me, our gang got to the pier before Rod Stewart and his gang. Stewart – before fame – was also a weekend hippy from London. In those days he played the banjo, but he already had a group of admirers of his talents. However, the important thing was to get a space under the pier, not play the banjo. So that night, I did better than him, but I admit that since then, he has done somewhat better.


More in my extremely-successful book (although not yet written), Brighton Rocks.





The Fox’s Friends


Outbound China. Malaysia Airlines. Orient Express.

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Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.



February 9 2012



Outbound China. Malaysia Airlines. Orient Express.



IME for some rethinking? On my old favourite, Outbound China, plans for Malaysia Airlines, and names at the Orient Express group.



[] As noted earlier, I calculate around 23% growth for outbound travel from China through November 2011, but a semi-official report indicates 21% for the whole year.


Watch that one, but in the meantime, other data indicates that fastest growth is coming out of Guangdong, or at least Guangzhou.


Over all-2011, China Southern sold 16% more seats on its international routes, compared with 10% more for Shanghai-based China Eastern, and only 3% more for Beijing-based Air China. Airport international passenger-throughput traffic (courtesy ACI), shows 20% growth (Jan-Sep) at Guangzhou, compared with 9% (J-Oct) Shanghai, and 8% (J-O) at Beijing.




[] PAGPFT (pronounced PAG-puffed); People Are Getting Paid For This.


Malaysia Airlines really seems set on changing its business as outlined in December. The plan is so mis-guided, I wonder if it was written by Air Asia – because this will make my prediction that AA will eventually take over MA more likely.


MA’s new airline will operate the narrow-body fleet and shorthaul routes of MA, as well as the now-abandoned Firefly operation. The target is to have all this running before July.


The question is why? Why hive off part of a business that has some of the same customers, the same marketing areas, the same sales/marketing teams? If some of these will be changed, operating costs will increase.


And why base a division on the aircraft type it flies? If a narrow body and a wide body operate on separate routes into China for instance, should they be run by separate companies?


And why shut down the low-fare Firefly? But if the decision has been made, even if wrong, why keep it on as a division of a division?




[] Extracting information in a report on Orient Express in Travel Business Analyst this month, I present a series of name twists that surely need to be resolved one day?

-The company has changed its name to Orient Express Hotels, from Venice Simplon Orient Express. Before, its name sounded more like a train company. Now it sounds more like a limited-service hotel company (that ‘Express’). And where do the trains and the cruiser fit in?

-That cruiser – the ‘Road To Mandalay’, sic – has been around for some time with that name, so maybe could be considered acceptable. But surely somebody should grasp the moment, and change it?

-The train in Europe is still named VSOE. Why not Orient Express? Ditto for the Eastern & Oriental Express in Asia.

-There is still no hotel named ‘Orient Express’. This is needed if the company is to fully challenge companies such as Mandarin Oriental.

-The OEH website is called Orient Express.



The Fox


Trottings. British Airways, London Heathrow.

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings


The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.


February 7 2012



Trottings. British Airways, London Heathrow.



OME PAGPFTs (pronounced PAG-puffeds; People Are Getting Paid For This) following recent flights on BA via London.



[] An inflight announcement on my London-bound flight advised me that BA’s FFP members could use its Arrivals lounge when we arrived at London Heathrow. Wrong. I asked the chief steward, who made the announcement, but he was not able to deliver on his public offer.


I believe it is simply laziness. It is too complicated to say “gold members only” or similar, and most passengers would not be like me and question the steward. They would simply get disappointed if they wanted to get access to the lounge at Heathrow.



[] Two years after I first tried, I asked the crew what ‘Rainforest Alliance’ meant on the coffee cups they served. Well, like the coffee (bad), the response was unchanged – Don’t Know; something to do with the environment, they presumed.


And I don’t know what my experience means, because no crew member I have asked (now about 10, because the first one usually asks another member of the crew), knows. This must say something about BA’s crew training; after all, they probably serve these cups 500 times on a working day?



[] After security check in transit at T5 at Heathrow airport, you have a choice of going left or right for your departure gate. That’s just it. The display boards are at the far right and far left, so you don’t know which direction to go until you get to the boards. I presume 50% of passengers go the right way; the other 50% have to double back in the other direction.


Couldn’t the designers, who hopefully were paid good money for their professional skills, work this out? Not only could they have saved the cost of one display board, but also provide a better service.



[] At the airport, there is a sign for bus transfers (although, as I have noted earlier, management prefers the odd terminology “dedicated coaches”). It reads “Boarding” or “Due”. I now know that “Due” means “Not Here Yet”.




The Fox’s Friends