Monday, 13 October 2008

Technology and Airlines

I like to surf couches. I do alot of my "addictive learning" from a couch, whether it is reading, watching TV, surfing the web or what have you. I also like to surf couches in foreign countries - am very good at that. So, while surfing the other day, the beeb (BBC) had a program on Airlines and how the airline industry is changing. The one thing that spurred this post was that now that Airlines are going a-wall, they have introduced some new on-board services such as mobile phone usage and internet usage.

What the airlines are trying to do is create new ways to generate revenue, in a feeble attempt to save the ailing airline industry. (I am a big fan of Ryanair and Easyjet). Before I delve into why this is completely and utterly outrageous, notably from a technology expert standpoint, first a few things about the air transport business

1) Air regulations are changing : they are opening up the skies so regional airlines can go international. The United States and the UK agreed to loosen the restrictions on across the Atlantic flights, allowing for local airlines in the US to fly to the UK and vice versa for UK flights. This kind of de-regulations is restructuring the business of airlines, which began to happen when American Airlines and British Airways struck a deal on having joint flight routes and collaborative flights. i.e. You can fly to London on AA and return on British Airways or something of the sort (am not the expert) but the jist of the idea is that they created somewhat of an unfair competitive advantage because of their size...
Bu this is also good in a way, that as much as bigger airlines can compete in smaller regions, so can smaller , low-cost, airlines can compete in bigget markets. Although in some areas some airlines get more advantage and drive out other airlines from the business, but the regulators are aware of that. BAA, who controlled Heathrow , Gatwick and Stansted, has been forced to sell of its rights of control to two out of the three. (Surprise surprise, they decided to keep Heathrow- otherwise they are just trying to get onto the list of 100 worst business decisions in history. Duh- Heathrow is the busiest airport in the world).

2) Taxation - taxation currently is high for airlines, and some destinations are just too costly to fly to because of high taxes, leaving only the mega airlines flying there. Not to mention that mother countries for these airlines, also play a role in taxation, giving such companies as Emirates, where taxation is almost non-existent, a competitive advantage. (Taxation, as Ian Angell in "The New Barbarians" to which I am a follower, is one of the issues that will need to be re-thought completely. Well, if Halliburton moved its headquarters to Dubai, that must mean something, right?)

3) The Credit crunch. People are feeling the money decrease , so they are traveling less, but, bad economic situations are always a driving force for people to travel more, and let loose on some pressure.

4) Low cost airlines. Just simply brilliant. Travel, is now commodotized. It's like riding a bus. I don't care about the movie or food on the plane. It's a two hour flight and I can review my papers and check my emails, or catch a quick nap. Just get me to where I need to be, fastest and cheapest.

5) Oil and Fuel prices. I hate oil debates- oil isn't the catalyst that makes the world go round. Yeah everyone was complaining about high energy prices. Yeah right, look at the price now. Well, if that's the case, please peg the price of the ticket to the oil prices. But, of course, once ticket price goes up, its a nightmare bringing it down again, even if energy prices drop. Greed never drops, like I said in my post of September 24th, 2008.

Anyway, enough preemption. These greed companies said they are going to to introduce new ways to derive revenue from passengers, such as allowing the use of mobile phones on the plane at a cost of 2£ per minute, or the use of the internet for a similar high cost as well.

That is outrageous.

I never switch off my phone when I fly. So sue me. It's an absolute rip off. Technologists have known for years that mobile frequency hardly interferes with the airline radio frequency, or any other frequency. Bottom line is, that with satellite communication, both mobile phones and flight radio transmission use the same technology except on different frequencies.
What I am saying is, that we could always use our phones and internet on the plane except they didn't allow it giving us all this security mumbo jumbo. So now that the airlines are in crap, it suddenly is possible? The technology didn't change, they just decided to rip us off. I tell you what i will do, which is what I also do when I get on a train that asks for me to pay for wireless internet. I'll plug my phone into my laptop and GPRS , and screw their Wi-Fi. You think i can't do that on the plane?


I am perfectly fine with airlines thinking of ways to make money. Low-cost airlines have been doing it for years. At least, they had the decency to give us the choice of buying the duty free perfume or not. Meals are not included, but available. Hungry, pay up. Not like the legacy airlines who sell you a movie and a meal for 10 times the cost. They are doing it again, yet this time, phone and internet, on a New York to London 7-hour flight, aren't the complimentary meal, its' a necessity and charging 2£ a minute, is just plain rubbish.

....and don't sell me the technology hazard story.

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