Here's your chance to join the fray and be heard. You can respond to my columns and share your own opinions and insight.
David from the UK writes : I can add some more information to your Ryanair comments.
Ryanair is undoubtedly efficient, and I'm not knocking them. however, one of the major reasons for their success is also a non-unionised workforce, which insures that paltry salaries and benefits are paid to staff. You'd be appalled by how little gate agents and other operational staff earn.
in addition, the reason Ryanair is not offered on online websites like Travelocity is that Ryanair has decided to withdraw from BSP (the non-US equivalent of ARC) in the UK, and to sever distribution through the GDS, like Sabre (which powers Travelocity).
Eventually, the connectivity to the GDS and to other websites will be simplified with XML coding, and will check for availability from a broader range of travel suppliers.
Take a look at www.easyvalue.com and the 'flightfinder'. it's been overwhelmed by requests right now, but is trying to check across 30 websites for the lowest cost flights in europe (most from UK).
David's response : I had guessed that the reason Ryanair didn't appear on any of the travel websites was due to non-participation in any of the CRS/GDS systems. I recently saw something suggesting that it now costs as much as $4-5 per segment booked via a CRS, and when you're talking about such rock-bottom fares as Ryanair are offering, clearly it is just impossible to pay these sorts of fees. Southwest in the US has also withdrawn from many of the CRS systems because of what it claims to be the prohibitive cost of participating. CRS fees are driven (to my knowledge) solely by the issue of making as much profit as possible, not a 'cost recovery' issue, and so I don't think XML will alter their costs at all. But it will almost certainly make it easier for third parties such as Travelocity to directly access inventory in supplier systems, and maybe then we'll see a collapse in the huge CRS fees that are currently charged.
When the airlines divested themselves of their CRS divisions, I had initially thought them to be stupid, because they typically made vastly more money from the CRS fees than they did from selling tickets! But now that the near monopoly imposed by a small handful of CRS vendors is drawing to a close, perhaps the airlines actually sold at the perfect time, at the top of the market.
As for the issue of their non-unionised workforce, I do know that this is a very strongly felt issue to many people (either plus or minus) and I'm not brave enough to venture too far into that fray right now. But I will observe that the major airlines and airline manufacturers have laid off over 250,000 people in the last weeks, and several have closed down for good. While of course, for the people involved, the more money one earns, the happier one is, it seems to me there are two overriding considerations - it is better to have a lower paying job than a non-existent job, and the people that accepted the positions at Ryanair did so freely, knowing what the rates of pay would be, and they also remain free to apply for higher paying jobs at the other airlines if they so wish.
What I find most interesting is that Ryanair have evolved the airline model into the razor model - ie, give away the razor (ticket) so as to profit with the razor blades (ie related and ancillary services). As a traveler, I'm very happy with that as a business plan!
The easyvalue website does indeed appear to offer a very exciting extension beyond that of traditional airline/CRS driven websites. Definitely worth checking out.
An ex-Marine fighter pilot (Vietnam) who preferred not to be named responded to my newsletter this week. Upon reading the article in the newsletter about pilots ordering passengers that they 'don't like the look of' of their flights, he suggested that such pilots should change their uniform and now wear a white sheet and matching peaked cap.
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Copyright 2001 by David M Rowell.