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Friday, March 16, 2012

The little things that matter. Example #1: PLUNA

After writing "KLM and Social Media - How to really make a difference to your passengers"I thought I'd search around the web for stuff that can really turn around someone's travel experience. Competition, social media, internet, etc, all can reduce travel into a mere means to an end. Unless airlines try to do something to make a difference on the Passenger Experience end, air travel will be nothing more than a commodity.

So, let's go to a little known almost dead state owned airline that made an amazing turnaround by throwing away ego and pride... PLUNA. From political routes and losses, it has focused on providing what passengers want... or at least their version of what they think the passengers want, and a little further.

On December 31st 2010, this is what they did:
Flight 128 from Buenos Aires to Punta del Este, the last flight of the year, and
 PLUNA decided to give something to the passengers.

Nice? Sometimes, it's the little things that matter! Gotta love the body language expression on the passengers!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Batavia A320 overran at Balikpapan Airport

On Monday 12 March 2012, a Batavia Air Airbus A320-200 PK-YVE peforming Y6-2911 from Denpasar to Hangzhou or Guangzhou (charter flight) via in Balikpapan, landed in Balikpapan and overran the runway at 11:31 local time (03:31 UTC)

It is unclear whether the aircraft was due to make a stop in Balikpapan or had diverted there. The aircraft overran after landing at runway 25. Photos showing the aircraft at the overrun area just beyond the threshold of runway 07 shows the flaps in the up position but cannot be determined if the flaps were retracted after coming to a stop.

Wheels were sunk.
No injuries or damage occured but the airport was closed for at least 2 hours because the aircraft tires had sunk in the softer overrun area asphalt. This was similar to the Lion Air occurence a few months ago, where it overran whilst landing at runway 25 and then was stuck because the wheels had also sunk.

The airport reopened with a NOTAM showing a 400 meter reduced length restriction to allow for obstacle clearance as the aircraft remained in the same position for a few hours.

Photo taken from an aircraft approaching 07 after airport reopened
but prior to removal of the aircraft, making it "interesting".
 All photos were found on the net using. Copyright holders of the photos are unknown.

Follow on Blog Update on the incident can be found HERE

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oops! Accidental Slide Deployed on Indonesia AIr Asia A320 PK-AXI

Ground staff at Jakarta's Terminal 3 got another surprise today when the escape slide from the aft right door accidentally deployed from Indonesia Air Asia's A320, PK-AXI.

After the slide deployed, aircraft AOG-ed, schedules are guaranteed to be a mess!
(Photo by: "ground staff" Terminal 3)

According to information received, one of the flight attendants forgot to check the status of the slide whether it was armed or disarmed, shortly before opening the door. However, I cannot help but ask, when the flight deck announced "disarm slide/doors and cross check", did the two flight attendants at the back really did cross check? The next questions would be, do the cockpit crew normally check whether the door slides have been disarmed or not through the ECAM, before announcing "doors may be opened"? And can the purser check the slide arm/disarm status for each door through the Flight Attendant Panel?

Whatever the cause, the aircraft had to be AOG-ed, slide and container taken off, repack it, and a new slide fitted. The slide itself costs about US $6,000, and then there are extra costs associated with the delay, averaging a total of US $100 - 150 (depending on the airline) per minute!

This is the second accidental slide deployment that has happened at Terminal 3, and also the second occurence at Indonesia Air Asia. A few years ago, a Mandala A320 had the front right door slide accidentally deploying because a flight attendant forgot to check prior to opening the door. At around the same time, Indonesia Air Asia had the misfortune of carrying a hyperactive child on board, who upon disembarking, walked towards the door, only to then run back to the emergency exit rows and open one of the overwing emergency exit windows, causing the overwing escape slide to deploy immediately "with perfection."

If you're an adult and apprehensive on whether or not you can open the window or not, think of it this way, "if a 10-year old can, why can't you?"

KLM and Social Media - How to really make a difference to your passengers!

We've seen enough Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for airlines. Many appear to fail to make their social media presence felt by passengers and the public. As social media become more prevalent, how do you make your social media presence relevant to your passengers?

Here's what KLM did in winter 2010.

KLM concluded their "social media experiment" very nicely:
In the age of social media, doing something that create a real smile on somebody's face is much cooler than attaching a smiley face. But most importantly it seems that indeed an airline could use social media to both surprise and make a small difference to a passenger's day, and we're not just guessing that, we know, because they told us, and their friends, massively.
With the passengers they surprised in winter 2010, they generated more than 1,000,000 impression... on Twitter alone. Not bad!

KLM continued the program through summer 2011, but the site, http://surprise.klm.com only shows that it went up to 18 August 2011. Whatever happened to this program? Is it still on?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Enggang Air to have first aircraft with operational SwiftBroadband

This is not the latest news, but from the first day at Singapore Airshow in February. I thought I'd put it here for fun. We stretched out and strove as hard as we could to get it done... now that it's done, we haven't had time to rest or look back on it... Schedules piling up!
Enggang Air Service ties up with DNK for SwiftBroadband for Business Jets in Indonesia.

Singapore, 14 February 2012.

Leading Indonesian business aviation operator PT Enggang Air Service (EAS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesian Inmarsat-4 service provider PT Dini Nusa Kusuma (DNK). Under the agreement, a SwiftBroadband airborne satellite communications suite is to be installed on one of Enggang Air Service’s aircraft by mid-2012 and become the first Indonesian aircraft to undergo the approval processes required by Indonesia’s civil aviation regulators, before expanding the coverage throughout its growing fleet. The SwiftBroadband suite will provide Wi-Fi internet connection and telephone services to the aircraft passengers.
Enggang Air Service CEO Donnie Armand (left) and
DNK CEO Thomas Widodo during the signing ceremony
(Photo: DNK)

“Our clients are increasingly reliant on staying connected anywhere and at any time, including throughout their journey. The ability to connect to the internet is going to be expected, our clients can connect using their Wi-Fi enabled personal electronic devices such as their Blackberries, iPads, and other smart devices,” said CEO of Enggang Air Service, Mr. Donnie Armand.

“The business aviation sector is enjoying massive growth, but that also means that competition will only grow and closing the connectivity gap on top of our high quality service will put us ahead of the competition.”
Passengers flying on Enggang Air Service aircraft fitted with the service will have the ability to access the internet the same way as accessing Wi-Fi hotspots on the ground, and make calls using the on board telephone system provided.
“This is an important milestone for DNK, and the Indonesian aviation sector. Air travel in Indonesia will no longer be a communications black hole for airline and business jet passengers. The signing of the MOU is just the beginning of a series of work to be done with Enggang Air Service to get it installed and approved by the air transport authority,” said DNK Solutions Manager for Aerospace & Defence Services, Mr. Gerry Soejatman.
“We are currently the only service provider that fully comply with Indonesia’s telecommunications regulations to provide Inmarsat-4 services, we are very pleased to work together with Enggang Air Service as the first Indonesian air operator to want to offer onboard connectivity with us”

After the ceremony. (L to R):
Gerry Soejatman (
DNK Solutions Manager - Aerospace & Defence), Donnie Armand (Enggang Air CEO), Thomas Widodo (DNK CEO), Roland Adrie (DNK Project Manager - Aerospace & Defence)
Missing from the photos are Okki Dharma (DNK Product Manager - Aerospace & Defence) who was giving himself a coffee break and Alex Anwar, our venerable CTO, who couldn't make it to the event due to unforeseen circumstances. I've lost count on the sleepless nights to get it to that stage (which explains how scruffy I looked), but it was worth it. Now, the work continues!

Mandala returning and buries its legend

Just over a year ago, Indonesia's last private-owned regular scheduled airline from the previous century, Mandala, closed it's doors. It was a sad moment for the industry, the only old players on the scheduled markets, were state-owned airlines, Garuda and Merpati.

Mandala A320 prior to it's temporary suspension
(Photo by: Christ Moris)
The radical turnaround in 2007-2009 was successful on the product end. Mandala bucked the trend of the Indonesian airline industry by adopting a hybrid business model. The first few rows of the aircraft was allocated for business passengers, it was literally bringing the European business class model to Indonesia, while the rest of the cabin was what you'd expect from a low-cost carrier. 

Former CEO Warwick Brady (now in Easyjet) greets
Mandala's first A319 after it's delivery flight in 2007
(Photo by: Christ Moris)
It moved from a fleet mix of 737-200s and 737-400s to an all Airbus fleet by 2009. It also attacked its safety problem and reputation caused by years of heavy domestic competition and culminated in being one of (if not the) first Indonesian carrier to get IOSA certification and was in the first batch of airlines to be exempted from the EU ban on safety.

My "jigged" statistics based on limited data was enough to show the market success. It had the highest growth in passenger numbers and load factor in Indonesia in 2009, not an easy feat! It had also the most productive seat in any airline Indonesia, each seat carrying more passengers in a year than any other airline.

The 5 remaining Mandala A320s the day after it's 
suspension (Photo by: Mochamad Aswin)
Unfortunately, these successes were not backed by adequate investment. Cardig and Indigo owned Mandala, the latter reportedly imported Indonesia's first foreign airline CEO, Warwick Brady, intending to use his experience in Ryanair and Air Deccan to turn Mandala into a major Low-Fare and Low-Cost carrier (Low-Fare dominated by Lion, and Low-Cost dominated by Air Asia). Cardig however, wanted to make Mandala into a premium carrier which was against the industry trend at the time. Brady, did his own work and settled on a compromise hybrid model. This did not please Indigo, who then refused to put in additional money into Mandala, and Cardig refused to put in money unless Indigo does so too. This lead to the efficiency drive which needed money for severance pays and restructuring to never making it beyond paper. The end was inevitable, Brady left, and former CEO Diono Nurjadin took over trying to save whatever is left, only to announce in January 2011 that Mandala was to cease operations pending restructuring.

Two Mandala Air pilots thanked their aircraft prior to delivering them back to lessors
(Photos courtesy of Capt. Ditto Arya)

The Cardig-Indigo partnership for Mandala was scrapped, in comes Saratoga Investments and Singapore's Tiger Air, and now Mandala has got it's AOC back and has announced it will start flying on 4th April with a very noticeable Tiger Air influence for its initial routes:
  • Jakarta-Singapore
  • Medan-Singapore
  • Denpasar (Bali)-Singapore

Mandala's new brand is Mandala in title only -
PK-RMN approaching Bali on a proving flight.
(Photo by: Efendi Tanuliadi)
What does Tiger-Mandala tie-up mean?
1. Mandala brand to disappear! This is the saddest part of it all. Mandala is a legendary name in Indonesian aviation, with its 40 years (or thereabouts) brand baggage! The long gone Mandala Wheel isn't going to come back, and the "Mandala Sakura" (as my friends call it) introduced in 2007 isn't coming back either. Instead, see the photo on the left.

2. Mandala's "Cyan Pants Squadron" uniform is to disappear. This goes along with the rebranding. However, I need to get this confirmed.

3. Value-Added Carrier business strategy to be dumped. The 2007-2010 business model relying on the "Business for value" product is not returning as Mandala will align the product strategy with Tiger Air. In 2007-2010 Mandala's product success lies in the product aimed at business passengers, with the business economy product (to which the name eludes my memory), whereby the first few rows are dedicated to business passengers travelling on full fares with lounge access, preferred check-in, and inclusive meals, made it the second choice after Garuda for many companies, and the preferred carrier over Garuda for not so few big companies.

Those who avoid "cheap and nasty low-fare and low-cost carriers" will have to wait and see if the changed Tiger product proposition is that, or has moved towards value-added products (such as Air Asia), or will the ground part of the product reflect Tiger's "not-so-bright" past.

It appears the aviation authorities in Indonesia is prohibiting Mandala from changing it's brand name totally, but it appears that nothing can stop the brand and product alignment with Tiger.

Questions in the public' mind remain:
  • Will Tiger-Mandala be able to compete against Indonesia Air Asia and Lion Air on the low-cost and low-fare market segment?
  • How is Mandala going to resolve the ticket refund issue it froze last year?

This may be the last Mandala brand identity to remain, on the pilot uniforms
(Photo courtesy of Capt. Ditto Arya)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Koito seat saga continues with United (Continental) 737NGs

We expect that most new 737NG deliveries out of Seattle would have the new Boeing Sky Interior, right? Well, we got them, complete with the colour LED sidewall and ceiling lighting that are supposed to "enhance the Sense of Spaciousness", 777-style overhead bins, etc, etc. Well, I'm not going to bother with explaining the Sky Interior, just go and see it here:

Boeing 737NG Sky Interior
(Photo by: Boeing)
Besides, Airbus has delivered colour LED Mood Lighting and touchscheen cabin controls for the Flight Attendant before Boeing did for the 737.

United/Continental 737-900ER with Sky Interior
(photo by: Boeing)
The brochure sure look nice, to enhance the passenger experience, for leading airlines, we expect to see other gizmos such as PTVs and power socket. I'm not going to complain about Lion Air not having that, it's not their business model (not yet anyways), but on Continental/United? Yes promised that. Let's see how it looks:

We see the new sculpted window, the colour LED ceiling and sidewall lights, the 777-style overhead bins.

Oh yes gotta love the blue LED colour... BUT WAIT! Where's the PTV and power outlet? Why is it not there?

Where are the PTVs and power outlets?
(photo by: NYCaviation)
If you ask the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) writers, you get one simple answer: KOITO.

In December 2011, I thought the Koito saga had ended. We all remember and was shocked by Koito aircraft seat scandal that happened in the last 2 years, when they admitted to falsify seat test records for certification. Some screamed "murder", and Koito divested it's aircraft seat unit to save the rest of the company. APEX's Mary Kirby in March last year (when she was still at FlightGlobal) warned in her video blog that all seat manufacturers are scrambling to meet orders from airlines trying to replace their Koito seats immediately.

One victim of this, is Continental. As Continental scrambled to replace the Koito seats for their 737NGs, they selected BE Aerospace seats, and they got them fitted in time for the ones with the new Sky Interiors. Except for 1 problem, whatever seats BE Aerospace could deliver in the scramble order, didn't have certification for power sockets and PTV installations.

Reading NYCaviation's "United Sky Interior Surprise", BE Aerospace said it would take them 18 months for the seats that were delivered to United/Continental 737s with the Sky Interiors to be certified for PTV and power socket.

But don't worry, certification is ongoing and should be complete by end of 2012, and then retrofits can start.

I guess I was wrong when I thought the Koito saga had ended.

Thanks to Will Horton (@winglets747) for his tweet and Mary Kirby (@APEXmary) for her stories on Koito in the past.