The Airlines Will Lose This Battle

“Our sense is that almost all fares are higher now since airlines have raised fares and fuel surcharges because of the massive run-up in jet fuel prices over the last year,” said Tim Wagner, a spokesman for American. “Where fares may not have risen as much, or proportionately, the reason is simply going to be because we are competing with carriers that have not raised their fares at the same rate.

[From Airlines raise nonstop fares sharply for summer]

Put another way, the big carriers are competing against efficient airlines on popular routes and sticking it to consumers on routes that don’t have competition.

For 7 years I have been hearing airlines complain about one thing after another, all while taking billions of dollars of taxpayer bailout money, and all along the way they use this as an excuse for why they cannot make money, while at the same time they have decreased their performance benchmarks and increased the degree of frustration that the average traveler experiences. The major carriers have decreased the amount of maintenance they are doing which leads to more mechanical delays and cancelations, have stripped every possible amenity from the travel experience, and are generally feature surly and pissed off employees.

Fuel prices have gone up and I don’t think reasonable people will hold it against the airlines for raising fares, but that assumes that everything else about air travel has stayed the same, which of course it has not. Also, it’s statistically evident that airlines are using the lack of competition on some routes to disproportionately raise fares in order to remain competitive on other routes and that is anti-consumer and simply not fair.

I’m done with United and the other big carriers, and I have no qualms about them simply being liquidated in order to make way for better airlines to use those gates and takeoff/landing slots. The Federal government and the FAA carry a lot of blame here as well because in their quest to promote the U.S. aviation industry they have taken the stance that maintaining the status quo is critically important and that’s why we have weak Federal oversight and no real passenger rights. Furthermore the FAA is a non-revenue generating entity and that means they can’t deal with the infrastructure issues that are very much part of why U.S. aviation sucks and pilots make do with better technology in the cockpit but little improvement everywhere else.

Leaders at UN food summit tone down menu

Zimbabwe’s illegitimate president Mugabe will be at the UN food summit and considering that he is harassing and outright banning aid groups in that impoverished country from delivering food and medicines to those in need, well I think the only equitable solution is to take away any food put in front of Mugabe at his summit and then beat him when he goes for the dinner rolls.

Perhaps mindful of accusations of hypocrisy levelled at them six years ago, world leaders tightened their belts this year and were offered a far more modest menu of pasta, mozzarella, spinach and sweetcorn at the equivalent fixture.

“It does not look good if leaders discussing global starvation are seen to be dining lavishly,” an FAO official said. “At the last summit in 2002 we did not give enough thought to the menu and were open – unfairly, in our view – to the charge of hypocrisy.”

[From Leaders at UN food summit tone down menu over fears of hypocrisy – Times Online]

RivalSoft and NewsGator Partner on Integrated Content

I wrote about RivalMap back in April, focusing on how we were using it and why it is valuable to my team. What I didn’t tell you then is that our early experiences as a user, which were a result of my work with Andrew going back to before I joined NewsGator, led to an interesting partnership opportunity that is being announced today.

“The addition of an automated news service, which makes use of NewsGator technologies, adds a new level of functionality to RivalMap,” said Kris Rasmussen, fellow Co-founder of RivalSoft. “RivalMap now brings together relevant news and feeds in one place where they can be harnessed collaboratively. RivalMap is tremendously valuable for companies that need to monitor their market and identify important updates and trends.”

[From RivalSoft Announces RivalMap(TM) 2.0 and Partnership With NewsGator — New Web-Based Service Dramatically Improves How Companies Maintain Market Awareness]

The backstory is that we were using RivalMap and I mentioned to Andrew that having integrated news feeds would make clipping and tracking content a whole lot easier. Not surprisingly he said, to paraphrase, “yeah we have heard that from almost everyone” to which the opportunity to take advantage of NewsGator’s APIs for subscription management and content pulling was born.

What I really like about the RivalMap integration is 1) it’s a proof point that our APIs are complete and functional as the RivalMap team built this with little input from us and 2) integrated content in applications really does add value, I know because my last month of using the beta version with the content engine has been marked by dramatically richer usage of the service.

The RivalMap integration is also really smartly done. Rather than embedding a traditional RSS feed reader with clipping capabilities in the app, what they did was build a subscription management feature that you can use to add a specific feed URI to begin pulling content from, or search for feeds using keywords.

They have also taken advantage of our Smart Feeds, which are essentially persistent search feeds we publish based on a keyword or multiple keywords you provide. For example, a Smart Feed for “NewsGator” will pull in content dynamically from a wide range of sources, including the 2.8 million feeds we poll in our network to Twitter, FriendFeed, and Linkedin messages. It’s a very powerful feature that casts a very wide net across more content sources than any individual could track on their own.

The content presentation aspect is simple and to the point, it displays content from each data source and then collectively. What’s interesting is that the more I use this feature area the more I see small turns of the screw that can be made to make it even better and more broadly integrated into the app which leads me to conclude that integrated content is not just a bolt-on feature for content intensive apps but rather a deeply integrated strategic set of functions that form a foundation for services like this.