Monthly Archives: June 2012

Did British Airways pay off Kim Kardashian for her stolen luggage?

I promised this blog that I would update on my customer experience with British Airways and I’ve been hassled by a few people for taking my sweet time. Apologies – rightly, or wrongly, I decided to give them a while longer to respond. And in the meantime I have reflected on the experiences I have seen in the media. I hope you enjoy.

Corporate blogs with poor experiences

It’s not just me that had problems. Friend and blogger Dennis Howlett has suffered at the hands of BA too, and wrote it up in a sequence of 3 blogs on ZDNet entitled “British Airways Customer Failures“.

Is it not time for a fundamental rethink about what these systems deliver? Is it not time for some of the mega brands to recognise that what served them well in the past will no longer cut it?

Friend and colleague – and manager of a very large business unit – Anthony Leaper, SVP and General Manager of LoB Customer Solutions at SAP, wrote a Forbes article entitled “You can’t keep saying “It’s not our fault” forever.“. Anthony is an expert on customer loyalty management and he nails some points home:

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matterwhose fault it is. Every company owns the responsibility for its customers’ experience, whether it likes it or not.

Then you can just take the hilarious “BA is Shite” blog which acts as a content aggregator for this stuff.

But there is a serious point here – Howlett, Leaper, and others – have serious influence. Leaper has influence over the travel decisions of a $18bn business, and perhaps wider. And yet, BA does not take them seriously. Why is this?

Lack of understanding of modern media

After I wrote my last blog “How British Airways Broke This Camel’s Back“, I was contacted by a media employee of BA called Michael Johnson. After a few exchanges, he very interestingly responded:

As much as I would like to keep chatting with you, I’m afraid I need to restrict my contacts to the media and that’s my job…

I had a similar experience with BA’s Twitter handles. They either ignore, or let you know that customer relations will be in touch. But customer relations are never in touch – and even if they are, they say things like:

Checked-in luggage has to pass through various hands on its way to and from the aircraft.  So on the rare occasions when belongings go missing, it is virtually impossible to pinpoint what happened.

And this to me shows a complete lack of understanding of modern media. Most organisations do not now differentiate between different types of influence – be it corporate bloggers, media types or influential social media people. If you influence, you are worth engaging with. But not to BA. Unless of course your name is…

Kim Kardashian

Now she does have 14m Twitter followers to my 2.5k and Howlett’s 9k and Leaper’s 34. But when she lost her luggage and Tweeted:

“Very disappointed in British Airways for opening my luggage & taking some special items of mine! Some things are sentimental – irreplaceable”

Then BA managed to respond:

A British Airways spokesperson said they were looking into the claims.

I tweeted Kim to ask her if she got any response but I’m guessing she did, and they offered her a pay off in return for her silence, because the media went strangely quiet. Let me know if you know anything more on this. It reminds me of when they lost Victoria Beckham’s Louis Vuitton luggage in 1998. Stories suggest that BA paid her £100k in damages.
So what’s the outcome?
Well our frustration is reflected in the stock price – parent company IAG’s stock value is down 50% in the last year from a high of 23.25 to 12.53 today. I have no idea what it will take for them to listen but I, for one, am shopping elsewhere.

How to travel like a pro – 10 tips for frequent flyers

As a frequent traveller it is easy to be scornful of those that don’t travel so often, so I thought I’d open up my box of secrets. This might help you if you are like me, a frequent traveller for meetings and conferences – or also if you are a consultant travelling Monday through Thursday.

1) Shop around for a good carry-on

For me the Zen of travelling is the Tumi International Zippered Expandable Carry-On but others prefer Briggs & Riley. They have a few things in common.

  • Maximum size for carry-on = maximum capacity
  • Ability to carry 2 or even 3 suits
  • Expandable if you need it for long trips (but must go in the cargo of the plane)
  • Expensive (sorry) – $350-$600

But, this is a one-off purchase. Briggs & Riley offer a lifetime guarantee. My Tumi has been going for 5 hard years. The expense will offer you a huge degree of comfort and if you shop around in the sales, you will find one at a 30-50% discount.

2) Choose an airline group and become a frequent flyer

You have roughly 3 choices:

  • Star Alliance: Adria Airways JP, Aegean Airlines A3, Air Canada AC, Air China CA, Air New Zealand NZ, ANA NH, Asiana Airlines OZ, Austrian OS, Blue1 KF, Brussels Airlines SN, Croatia Airlines OU, EGYPTAIR MS, Ethiopian Airlines ET, LOT Polish Airlines LO, Lufthansa LH, Scandinavian Airlines SK, Singapore Airlines SQ, South African Airways SA, SWISS LX, TAM Airlines JJ, TAP Portugal TP, THAI TG, Turkish Airlines TK, United UA, US Airways US
  • One World: Air Berlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines
  • Skyteam: Aeroflot, AeroMexico, AirEuropa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines

Figure out which one serves your home location and destinations best and stick to it. Always log your frequent flyer number. You will get benefits (cheaper miles flights) and upgrades. US Airways are particularly good to their frequent flyers in terms of upgrades, and the One World group has free lounges for Silver members and above.

3) Purchase travelling suits and shirts
This is very budget dependent so take your pick. Austin Reed, Ted Baker, Zegna and Prada all have travel-specific cloths which are a great idea. Avoid linen suits and very expensive suits as they do not travel well. Go for dark fabrics and heavier cloths and you will spend less time with an iron.
The same applies to shirts. Look for “wrinkle free” or “no iron”. This isn’t true but it will reduce the amount of work you have to go to! I prefer to travel with plain white shirts because they match any suit. This improves your combinations.
4) Choose your clothes carefully!
Here is the list of what I fit in my bag (yes, this all fits in a carry-on!):
  • 1 Pair black shoes and belt (I wear the black belt on the plane)
  • 1 Pair tan shoes and belt
  • 1 Grey Suit
  • 1 Navy/Black Suit
  • 5 White Shirts
  • 7 Pairs of Underwear and Socks (Black)
  • 3 casual tops
  • 1 pair denim jeans
  • 1 Washbag (see below)
  • 1 Pair Sneakers & workout clothes (see below)
There is no room for waste when you are travelling.
5) Learn to pack your bag and never check your luggage
Here’s how to pack it:
  • First lay the shoes in the base, toe to heel. Fill them with underwear and socks. Fill your sneakers with the workout clothes.
  • Fit the belts into the gaps
  • Then lay the casual tops and denim on top.
  • At the last minute, put the suits and shirts in the suit carrier and fold it over into the bag.
  • Press down hard and zip it up!
Now you can pack a week’s luggage in a carry-on, you will never need to check your luggage again. This means you don’t have to worry about losing your suit for the next day, or wear your suit on the plane (yuck).

6) Don’t forget your workout clothes

I always pack one set, use them wherever I am and wash them in the shower and hang them out to dry for the next day. It’s not perfect but it’s a reasonable compromise.

7) Be frugal on your wash bag

Remember that you’ve only got a carry-on now, so you have a 100ml (1oz) limit per item and 1 litre (1 quart) overall limit for your wash bag. So go and buy a 1 quart clear wash bag in Acme or Boots and buy travel sized toothpaste, hair wax etc., but always a full sized toothbrush.

I never pack shampoo or soap as I always use the hotel variants. Suit yourself if you want to!

Then I always put my wash bag in my laptop case. This way it is easier to get through security as you don’t have to unzip your bag and you have no worries about spillages.

8) Travel in comfort

First, shower before you fly. I don’t know how many times I have been sat next to someone with bad body odour or halitosis. Don’t be that person!

I always wear loose jeans, smart sneakers, a t-shirt and a jacket. Smart enough so you don’t look out of place if you get upgraded, but not so smart that I’m uncomfortable.

Once on the plane, I always ask the attendant to hang my jacket – which I carry mostly so I have something to wear in the evenings if I need it.

9) Choose your laptop bag contents carefully

You may have to put this under the seat in front of you, depending on the flight, so I pack a small laptop bag with the bare minimum. Here’s what’s in it:

  • Laptop with travel charger and adapter for my destination
  • iPad – great for browsing in the hotel room
  • USB phone charger for iPad and iPhone
  • Adapters for network and VGA display for presentations
  • Camera
  • Noise-cancelling earphones to cut out the screaming kids
  • Washbag
  • Pen (for immigration and customs forms)

10) Learn how to get through security

This is so easy and people make it so hard. Here’s the trick:

  • Put the contents of your pockets in your jacket pocket, take your belt off and put it in your bag and take your shoes off (if required).
  • Get 3 trays.
  • In the first put your shoes, jacket, empty laptop bag and wash bag.
  • In the second, put your laptop and iPad if you have one. And watch this tray because items can  be stolen.
  • In the third, put your carry-on.

Then, when it all comes out, you put your shoes and jacket on, put your wash bag in your laptop bag, then your devices come out to put in it and off you go. Put your belt on later.

Final notes

I hope this helps you – I know it took me some while to learn my formula. What are your travel tips?

Why the HP Superdome is as dead as a dodo

I had a slightly uncomfortable conversation with one of my sales people this week, who told me that one of their customers had just bought a brand new HP Superdome2 and wanted to know if our software would run SAP software. I had to explain to him that the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio no longer runs on that platform.

And in case you think they are being lazy, Oracle will not be developing for this platform any more. In case you think Larry Ellison is trying to screw HP, neither are Microsoft – neither for their Windows OS (the last version is Windows 2008 R2) or for their SQL Server RDBMS. Nor is Linux vendor Redhat.

In case you think there is a software vendor conspiracy, there are now only 5 vendors that sell Intel Itanium based systems: HP, Bull, NEC, Inspur and Huawei. And I hear that over 90% of the CPUs are bought for HP systems. So what’s wrong with it? Let’s see…

HP is paying Intel to keep it alive

When Oracle ceased development on the platform, HP went nuts and sued them for saying that Itanium was dead. It rather backfired when it turned out that HP was paying Intel $690m to keep it alive. Given HP’s precarious state right now, it would be remiss to suggest that this were a winning strategy.

Pace of innovation

The current chip was codenamed Tukwila and 2 years late to market. With 2 year old features and performance. It has under half the performance per core of equivalent Intel x64 and IBM Power7 CPUs as well as 50% more power consumption. The top-end CPU is 185W and 4 cores compared to the Intel Westmere-EX which is 130W and 10 cores. Yes – 1/4 the power per core and 5x the performance per socket.

The next generation CPU, Poulson, was scheduled for 2009 and still hasn’t been delivered in 2012. I think you know where Intel is investing its R&D: the successor to the x64 Westmere-EX platform, called Ivy Bridge.

Resilience, Availability & Serviceability

This used to be the reason to buy Itanium. But unfortunately in many ways, the Intel Westmere-EX has better RAS features than Itanium. Westmere-EX can predict and exclude memory failure, recover from memory failures and mirror memory. Plus Westmere-EX can predict and re-route chip interconnect (QPI) failures and recover. It is literally bulletproof.

Itanium has 2-year old technology in this respect and the pace of innovation in this area is really important because of in-memory computing.

Size and Power

This part is scary. A typical HP Superdome 128-core system is 6’6″ high. An equivalent IBM Westmere-EX 80-core system is 12″ high. The HP unit will use 6kW for the CPUs alone and the IBM will use 1kW. Obviously add some more for memory and other stuff, but you get the idea. Itanium is 1/6 the power performance. And will take up large swathes of datacenter space. And kill a lot of trees.

Angry Larry

Oracle have gone heavily after HP here with their “Cash for Clunkers” programme. Now this is typical Oracle bully behaviour but it is hard to argue with their logic.

HP Superdome customers are facing costly “forklift upgrades” when upgrading from dead-end PA-RISC and Itanium processors and HP-UX.

Now you can trade in your legacy HP Superdome servers and receive a 50% discount on Oracle’s Sun SPARC Enterprise M8000 and M9000 servers—secure and highly available servers for running mission-critical, enterprise database and business applications.

And this has had a dramatic effect on revenue – HP Itanium sales are falling quarter on quarter and are below $400m per quarter – falling from over $800m in Q4 2010. HP is suing Oracle over this but the damage has been done.

Note that a blogger went after Oracle for this with “who’s the clunker?“, but it is an awful article. Notably, the SPARC platform has a 5-year roadmap. The closest thing I can find to this from HP is Project Odyssey, which looks suspiciously like a roadmap to migrate customers from HP-UX/Itanium to Linux/x86, or this one that is from 2009.

Features & Function Comparison

Someone wrote a comparison of HP and Oracle on this which was clearly biased so I thought I would lay down some facts! Lets compare 3 roughly similarly powered systems (by SAP’s application benchmark). Please note that HP have not certified any systems so I had to estimate their SAPS rating based on data available for the SPEC benchmark.

HP Superdome2 IBM POWER7 Intel Westmere-EX
CPU 32-CPU (128-core) 8-CPU (64-core) 8-CPU (80-core)
SAP SD 2-tier benchmark 120k SAPS (940 SAPS/core) 200k SAPS (3125 SAPS/core) 120k SAPS (1500 SAPS/core)
Configuration & Cost 512 GB of memory with HP-UX and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for $1,722,390 512GB of memory, AIX UNIX and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for <$1,000,000 Intel Westmere-EX with 512GB of memory, SuSe Linux and 3 years basic HW and SW support lists for <$100,000
Size and Power Consumption 36U / 9kW 8U / 3.2KW  8U / 4kW
Roadmap 2 more generations of Itanium, the first of which is 3 years late to market. There is a commitment to 2 more generations of IBM POWER and they have a detailed roadmap available here. See the below image to see the focus on x64 roadmap!
Scalability (single-system) 128-cores, 4TB RAM, 240k SAPS 256-cores, 8TB RAM, 700k SAPS 80-cores, 3TB RAM, 120k SAPS

What will be the death knoll?

This is interesting because 95% of Itanium systems were shipped by HP in 2008, according to Gartner. 90% of those that run Itanium for SAP run the HP-UX OS. I’d love to see the stats but from my SAP statistics vs the overall systems sold, I estimate that at least 30% of those are used to run SAP – I suspect this is the biggest single software vendor that runs Itanium.

And SAP hasn’t said so, but they will stop development on the Itanium platform. They have to because the only database that runs on that platform is Oracle 11g (or MSSQL on Windows 2008).

Add to this SAP’s promotion program around its own Sybase ASE database and HP’s financial inability to prop up Itanium and perhaps you will agree that the Superdome will move from an endangered species to a dead duck.