Monthly Archives:May 2019

Loyalty to an airline? What’s the point? ( admin posted on May 21st, 2019 )

Airlines have spent the last ten years subtracting value, instead of adding it.It’s a bit like travel bookers talking to each other instead of their customers, but a survey of exhibitors and “business partners” at one of Europe’s biggest travel trade shows this month indicates just how big is the hole that the air travel business has dug itself into.

The survey at the ITB Berlin travel show also offers an insight into the plight of national flag carriers like Qantas, created by government but now trying to survive in a dog-eat-dog corporate jungle.

Among its many findings, only nine per cent of respondents said they preferred to book flights with their national airline and only four cent were willing to forfeit value for money to do so.

In other words, “loyalty” these days barely qualifies for its definition. Value is king and, if the price isn’t right, the customer moves on.

“Customers reward airlines that offer transparent services and good value for money because they feel they are being treated well,” one of the participants, Martin Buck, director of the Competence Centre Travel & Logistics at Messe Berlin, commented.

“If a national carrier is unable to fulfil those demands then it loses its emotional bond with the customer.”

That qualification doesn’t just apply to national carriers: it’s harder than ever for all airlines these days to command customer loyalty.

They shouldn’t be surprised when they have set out to alienate their customers on the value-for-money front in the past decade.

The first big change in the value landscape, triggered by the travel recession that followed the US terrorist attacks in 2001, was a massive devaluation in frequent flyer benefits.

Suddenly “free” flights weren’t free anymore. “Taxes” (which mostly aren’t government taxes at all) and charges were required to be paid for the first time on flight redemptions, meaning a member of an airline loyalty program wanting to travel from Australia to the US or Europe could be required to pay $500 or more to access their “benefit”.

It was always going to come to that because frequent flyer programs are schemes built on unsustainable “contingent liabilities” that airlines amass in a desperate attempt to attract repeat business.

Unfortunately, the changed airline economy since 2001 has also meant that airlines have increase their average passenger loadings per flight from about 70 per cent to around 80 per cent.

Sophisticated yield management IT programs have enabled much more precise revenue control, but the window into which frequent flyer seat redemptions are supposed to fit has become a tiny fraction of the available seat inventory.

The shock of 2001 was only a shock or two away from the global financial crisis of 2007-09, which has spurned a second value downgrade for air travellers: the “ancillary revenue” craze, in which the fare is no longer the actual fare you’ll pay, but just a component of it.

On top of the “fare” you must now add charges for baggage, use of credit card, seat selection, priority boarding and a host of other optional extras.

Thankfully for consumers, most jurisdictions have begun to catch up with the lying epidemic that has accompanied the ancillary revenue craze: in Europe and the US airlines are now obliged to unequivocally state the all-up cost of an air ticket instead of hiding all or parts of it behind asterisks in the small print.

As Travellers’ Check has recently pointed out, the constant downgrading in the consumer value equation has accompanied a further squeezing in the space allocated to economy passengers as airlines increase the comfort for high-value business customers.

But the government’s measuring of domestic air fares also shows the lowest discount economy fares are now around 38 per cent cheaper than they were when stats gathering began in 2003.

And, in the past year, business fares have plunged around 36 per cent as Virgin Australia has become a fully fledged competitor to Qantas at the pointy end of the plane.

As the airline business contemplates another Christmas-New Year season of juicy 100 per cent load factors in industry-speak, it may like to contemplate where the tunnel it is digging will eventually lead.

Is the objective to get the unit operating cost per available seat kilometre to as near as possible to zero? After two decades of a continuous campaign of cost reduction, at what point in a mature air travel market like Australia’s do airline managers start thinking about radical concepts like value adding, instead of value subtraction which has been their preoccupation for a decade?

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Crime Stoppers ‘conflict’ in taxi app battle ( admin posted on May 21st, 2019 )

The ad running on the back of cabs around Sydney, part of a campaign paid for by the NSW Taxi Council. “We believe [the campaign] has been driven by Cabcharge to protect their virtual monopoly” … Ingogo managing director Hamish Petrie.

Ingogo provides Android smartphones with magnetic stripe readers to drivers allowing them to accept credit cards without using the Cabcharge system.

Three grabs of the GoCatch app which lets users pay by PayPal and credit card.

A campaign to convince people to use “Crime Stoppers-approved” taxi booking apps has backfired after it was revealed the key spokeswoman for Cabcharge and the NSW Taxi Council is the company secretary and director of Crime Stoppers NSW.

The campaign, running on the back of hundreds of Sydney cabs and in the media, is now the subject of complaints to the NSW Ombudsman, NSW Fair Trading Minister and the ACCC.

Taxi industry vested interests such as Cabcharge and the NSW Taxi Council, which is run out of the Cabcharge head office, have been waging a campaign against apps such as GoCatch and Ingogo, which allow drivers and passengers to bypass taxi networks like Taxis Combined for bookings and payments.

University of Sydney economist Peter Abelson, who has extensively researched the taxi industry, said that of the 10 apps promoted in the Crime Stoppers campaign, the majority were controlled by Cabcharge-owned Combined Communications Network and its close business affiliates, which in turn control more than 80 per cent of the cabs in Sydney.

The apps that are not aligned with the major taxi networks are an emerging threat to Cabcharge’s virtual monopoly and have been portrayed as unsafe for passengers and even illegal.

Most people believe Crime Stoppers NSW is a NSW Police agency. Its logo is on every police car and media release and appears at every police press conference. NSW Police Force also runs the Crime Stoppers NSW anonymous tip line and appoints several of its directors, which include Assistant Commissioner Peter Barrie.

But Crime Stoppers in NSW, and elsewhere in Australia, is a not-for-profit company that relies on licensing fees from private industry for most of its revenue.

Companies pay to use the Crime Stoppers logo in their marketing. These include security screen maker Crimsafe, which prominently displays the Crime Stoppers logo on its website next to its own logo, and lock maker Lockwood, which has also used the Crime Stoppers brand in its advertising.

While Crime Stoppers campaigns always have a crime-prevention angle, they further – and in some cases are driven by – commercial interests.

Tracey Cain, who has been quoted as a spokeswoman for the NSW Taxi Council since at least 1999 and Cabcharge since at least 2003, has been a director of Crime Stoppers NSW since July 2011 and was appointed the company secretary in September this year.

Her company Australian Public Affairs still handles public relations for both Cabcharge and the NSW Taxi Council. It also handles lobbying for both organisations as well as Crime Stoppers NSW, according to the federal government’s lobbyist register.

A manager of Lockwood owner Assa Abloy is also a director of Crime Stoppers NSW.

Peter Price, director and chief executive of Crime Stoppers NSW, confirmed the NSW Taxi Council had paid a fee to attach the Crime Stoppers brand to its campaign and that Ms Cain had brought the opportunity to the Crime Stoppers NSW board. But he said Ms Cain was excluded from meetings about the deal.

Dr Abelson said there still appeared to be a conflict of interest.

“It’s using a community group or having the front of a community group to protect certain parts of the taxi industry,” he said. “It’s all a bit devious really and certainly not very transparent … I thought it was a NSW Police Force activity and I’m sure that is the public perception.”

Ingogo managing director Hamish Petrie – who like competitor GoCatch was not given a chance to obtain Crime Stoppers endorsement before or after the campaign kicked off – has filed complaints with bodies including the NSW Ombudsman, ACCC and NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts.

He said in the complaints, seen by Fairfax Media, that the Crime Stoppers campaign was misleading and deceptive and the organisation was “masquerading as a public agency while doing the bidding of its commercial sponsors”.

Mr Petrie said drivers using his app must enter their taxi plate, validated mobile number and secure password to log in to Ingogo, and taxi drivers’ licences and authorities were scanned in person at Ingogo’s office.

Much of this detail is provided to the passenger, who must also provide identifying details, and the entire journey is logged using GPS.

“Ingogo can actually assist police and regulators with more detailed information than the [incumbent taxi] networks,” said Mr Petrie.

“It is blatantly clear their fear campaign against apps such as Ingogo is misleading, deceptive and a serious conflict of interest. We believe it has been driven by Cabcharge to protect their virtual monopoly.”

GoCatch and Ingogo have received hefty NSW and federal government grants, respectively.

At an event last week to launch GoCatch’s payment system to rival that of Cabcharge, NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner came out in support of the taxi booking apps.

He told the Australian Financial Review that taxi networks should put up or shut up and should focus on delivering “better value to users”, who would then decide who would be successful.

In November, Fairfax Media reported that the O’Farrell government was considering smashing the virtual monopoly in the taxi industry by removing the law forcing taxi operators to join an “authorised” radio network, most of which are owned by Cabcharge and Premier. A decision is expected early next year.

Cabcharge and its various interests have been heavily lobbying the government against any changes to the status quo, arguing Sydney would look like Kampala, Uganda, and public safety would be in jeopardy.

In its latest available financial reports, for the year ended June 30, 2011, Crime Stoppers NSW earned $138,000 in licensing fees on top of $40,000 in government grants and $20,043 in sponsorships. In 2010 it generated $297,000 in licensing fees.

The organisation’s operations are run by NSW Police and it does not have any employees, but in the 2011 financial year it paid Price $72,667 for his services as chief executive, plus $85,685 to Price’s company First Light Group Pty Ltd.

NSW Police would not comment on the relative safety of the various taxi booking apps, but said in the last financial year there were 25,000 “valid contacts” to Crime Stoppers resulting in more than 17,000 intelligence reports being created.

It said the information obtained through Crime Stoppers directly led to the arrests of more than 270 people, the seizure of more than $25 million worth of drugs and the recovery of more than $500,000 worth of lost property.

NSW Police said information received through Crime Stoppers directly led to the arrest of two women for drug offences at Sydney Airport, including one with 1.5 kilograms of cocaine in her possession.

It said Crime Stoppers information had also led to the seizure in 2010 of a rare marmoset stolen from a wildlife park on the south coast, and in 2009 provided a crucial lead resulting in the arrest of a man wanted over a violent assault of a female police officer at Kings Cross.

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‘Lunatic’ charged over cut Telstra cables ( admin posted on May 21st, 2019 )

A man from Sydney’s northern beaches cut cables which disrupted web and phone services.A man has been charged over allegedly cutting Telstra cables on Sydney’s northern beaches and causing millions of dollars in damage.

During September and November, up to 20 Telstra pits were accessed and damaged, cutting telecommunications to a large number of homes and businesses in the Manly and northern beaches areas, police said.

Police from Manly Local Area Command formed Strike Force Manway to investigate the incidents and on November 27 a man, 25 of Cromer, was charged with a number of offences relating to the alleged cable tampering.

Since that time a further four incidents of malicious damage have occurred in the area and on Friday police from Strike Force Manway executed a search warrant at a home of the same Cromer man, arresting him again.

He was taken to Manly police station and charged with 29 offences including 23 counts of malicious damage, four counts of breaching bail, one count of making false representation to police and one count of resisting arrest.

Police allege the man’s actions caused millions of dollars in damage and disruption to services.

He was initially refused bail on Friday by police and was set to appear at Parramatta Bail Court on Saturday, where a magistrate granted him bail again.

The crime manager of Manly Local Area Command, Detective Inspector Luke Arthurs, labelled the man a “lunatic” who didn’t appear to have a motive.

“I think he’s a lunatic,” Inspector Arthurs said.

“He hasn’t got a motive. He didn’t do it for financial gain.”

Inspector Arthurs said thousands of residents and businesses were affected by the alleged actions, including the Manly police station, which was taken offline for about nine hours.

“We’re talking about thousands of residents and businesses being affected,” Inspector Arthurs said. “The loss of productivity would be in the millions [of dollars].”

Inspector Arthurs said the man cut cables, disrupting internet and telephone services, and that police learnt of this after business owners in the Seaforth area reported the problem.

The man is set to appear before Manly Local Court on Wednesday.

 This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

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Kate: Not so common, after all ( admin posted on May 21st, 2019 )

Kate’s family tree paints a far more patrician picture than many suspected of the royal bride.She is celebrated as part of a modern, enlightened approach to royal succession – a commoner without blue blood, a marriage of love rather than family constraint.

But Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, may have far more patrician roots than once suspected.

Research undertaken by a Melbourne school teacher has found that the Berkshire-bred wife of Prince William, second-in-line to the throne, is related to one of Britain’s oldest and grandest families.

The London Telegraph reports that the 30-year-old is related to William Petty FitzMaurice, the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, who was prime minister from 1782 to 1783.

The Marquess, whose ancestral home, Bowood House in Wiltshire, is one of Britain’s finest surviving stately homes, was instrumental in negotiating the end of the American War of Independence.

The ancestral connection is born from Catherine’s second cousin three times removed, Lady Barbara Bullock. In 1917, Lady Bullock – nee Lupton – married a descendant of Petty FitzMaurice, Sir Christopher Bullock. Principal private secretary to Winston Churchill in 1919, Bullock went on to become permanent under-secretary at the British Air Ministry from 1931 to 1936.

While much has been made of the Duchess ‘humble’ ancestry – with links established from the Middletons to a street sweeper, coal miners and a prisoner – the new family connection tells a different story altogether.

William Bortrick, a royal genealogist and chairman of Burke’s Peerage, told the Telegraph: “Given what a fuss people have made about Catherine’s humble background, this will certainly make an interesting inclusion to the next edition of Burke’s Peerage, which we hope to publish after the birth of the Duke and Duchess’ first child.”

History teacher, Michael Reed, 47, sent his findings to the Duchess in October and received a letter of thanks from St James’ Palace. At the time, Catherine would have been in the very early stages of pregnancy.

“It was kind of you to take the trouble to write as you did and thank you for bringing this to our attention,” wrote Rebecca Deacon, her assistant private secretary.

“Her Royal Highness would have me send you her best wishes, and thanks for thinking of her in this way.”

Mr Reed told the newspaper: “It is a good feeling to know that I’ve unearthed something that may be of interest to the Duchess, her family and the Royal family.

“I could sense from the letter that she was pleased with my discovery, highlighting an aristocratic side of her family.”

Catherine has returned to official duties after a spell in hospital with acute morning sickness earlier this month, while a British nurse at the centre of an Australian radio prank call to the Duchess’ hospital is reported to have blamed two 2Day FM DJs for her death.

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Nikkei soars after Abe’s election win ( admin posted on May 21st, 2019 )

Tokyo stocks soared 1.62 per cent at the open after Japan’s conservative opposition swept to victory in national polls, with promises from its leader to press for more central bank easing.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 index added 158.12 points to 9895.68 at the start of trade, as the yen plunged in the wake of the Liberal Democratic Party’s landslide win over the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

In earlier Tokyo forex trading, the US dollar soared to ¥84.30, up from ¥83.52 in New York on Friday, and its strongest level against the Japanese currency in more than a year-and-a-half.

The euro also soared to multi-month highs at ¥111.10 from ¥109.94 in US trade.

Premier-in-waiting Shinzo Abe, the LDP’s hawkish leader, has vowed to pressure the Bank of Japan (BoJ) into more aggressive policy easing measures in a bid to inject new life into the world’s third-largest economy.

Mr Abe’s central bank pledge has weighed on the yen in recent weeks as traders bet that an LDP victory would hike the likelihood of more easing from the central bank, and see the appointment of a like-minded BoJ governor after current chief Masaaki Shirakawa’s term terms ends next year.

A weaker yen tends to lift local stock markets because it helps make exporters’ products more competitive overseas.

Mr Abe has vowed to bolster Japan’s defences in the face of a territorial spat with China, and boost spending on infrastructure at a time when much of the tsunami-wrecked northeast remains a shell of its former self.

“The election results were very much in-line with market expectations. A relief rally is in order, helped by the stronger dollar,” SMBC Nikko Securities general manager of equities Hiroichi Nishi told Dow Jones Newswires.

“Next, investors will be eager to see the kinds of concrete policy measures that the new government proposes.”


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