Thursday, February 25, 2010

Making a Difference

Last night I attended Dubai Geekfest 3.14 (Geek to the power of PI). I enjoy Geekfests for several reasons they are the ultimate in diversity men and women of all ages and walks of life that share a passion for social media (some are real geeks too) and the speakers are always interesting and always passionate about their topics.

We all dream about "making a difference", we work hard and hope that we achieve this goal. A few go out of their way and really commit themselves to "making a difference". I am fortunate to meet such people.

Muhammed Ali J (@malizomg) and Ritesh J (@whitecrayon_) are university students who aim to start "Student Radio". They want to provide students in the UAE a venue and a forum to express themselves and share their issues (the good, the bad and the ugly), their music, and whatever else they want. They so believe in their cause that they are starting it from their own meager resources (i.e. pocket money).

The other is Ms. Susan Macaulay (@amazingsusan) who is passionate about woman's issues. Susan runs a website Amazing Women Rock that deals with women's issues, as Susan puts it AWR is not anti men it is just pro women. Susan seeks to help and inspire women in their journey of self realisation and attainment of their goals. I browsed through AWR and it is an eye opening and enjoyable experience

I am a great believer in the empowerment of women and the younger generations. They are sources of untapped talent and energy that a male centered society marginalize. They are capable of amazing things, when given the opportunity, that will make our lives better.

Kudos to Susan, Muhammed and Ritesh for pursuing your dreams and making a difference

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ancillary Revenues

I was reading a recently published e-book THE ANCILLARY ART Maximizing Airline Ancillary Revenue & Customer Loyalty – Miyuru Sandaruwan which makes interesting reading (click here to download).

When low cost airlines started, they unbundled air fares, they went back to basics and anything else was paid for on demand (food, blankets, newspapers etc..). In the last couple of years legacy airlines started unbundling their air fares, except with a twist, their air fares remained the same, so it was like paying twice for the same thing, with no additional value added.

My pet peeve is Checked Bags. You pay for the bags and you get no guarantees. It took United Airlines 40 minutes to get my checked bag to the baggage claim area in Chicago, considering my flight from Detroit to Chicago was about an hour. Of course my bag was not the only bag in the hold, there were more unpaid for bags in the hold than paid. All these oversize so called carry-ons, ended up in the hold and got delivered at arrival at the door of the aircraft. So on most US carriers you have no baggage allowance when you travel on an aircraft and for sure dishonesty apparently pays.

It appears that the airlines gave up on efficiency and savings and good customer service as a means to improve revenues. Instead they reverted to all these surcharges that amount to paying twice for the same things and the irony in all of this, these ancillary revenues mostly apply to economy class passengers, the mainstay of their traffic, that sustained the airlines as their darlings in Business and First class abandoned them and jumped ship.

Ah well, go figure....

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Right To Screw Up

I was browsing my LinkedIn account (click here to visit) and I came across a discussion topic in one of the groups asking how did I get to where I am today. Well, in 1977 in Jordan, mentoring was not a common thing nor was career path development. I was hard working and lucky, what else did you guys expect.

I was lucky in the sense, I joined at the time Royal Jordanian was expanding and new organisational functions and structures were being put in place. Another aspect, I had a boss who gave me space to grow and most importantly to make mistakes, and I took advantage of that.
I made mistakes nothing catastrophic but I made mistakes in an era when celebrating failures and mistakes was not the norm. I never covered up a mistake but always learnt from one.

In a way, the boss acted as a mentor, not in the traditional sense but rather by taking the time to talk to me and guide me, beyond what was normally required. He used to say, expand the envelope until you step on someone's toes and they holler; stop and back off; then start again until you get to where you want. Advice that I always used.

Later in my career, in all my subsequent jobs, I had, and in some cases created, the space for me and others to make mistake. I enjoyed mentoring younger people. It was never through a formal program but something I felt I needed to do, as a pay back to the opportunities that life gave me.

The ability to make mistakes is what drives creativity, innovation and the ability to experiment without fearing for your job. Some would think it is a privilege that a workplace bestows, I beg to differ. It is a right of an employee to be allowed to make mistakes without fear or retribution and it is the job of a good boss to create that space so mistakes do not get out of hand.

Mistakes are committed by those who extend themselves on the job and are willing to seek positive change and strive for the next step and excellence.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gulf Air...Rocky Path Ahead

Mumtalakat, the investment company of the Kingdom of Bahrain transferred back the ownership of Gulf Air to the government. Mr. Talal Al Zain, the Chief executive of Mumtalakat told Reuters over the phone "Given it's in the airline industry, it is not a high-return investment but more of a strategic investment," and "You will never have more than single-digit returns in this industry." Read the full story here . He also said that Mumtalakat has fulfilled its role in the design of Gulf Air's new strategy that focuses on regional routes.

Agreed it is a strategic investment but if done properly an airline can yield double digit returns.

So, what happened all of sudden to change Mumtalakat's mind. Of course Gulf air is a strategic investment for the Kingdom of Bahrain, but then Mumtalakat is part of the government.

My guess is, Gulf Air is at the point whereas decisions about staffing levels have to be made and implemented. The Gulf Air employee union has always resisted management attempts at reducing staff or transferring staff.

My take on this is, there will be a show down very soon and Mumtalakat does not want to be distracted by labor strife and issues. It would rather have the government take the hard decision of who to support, a newly appointed CEO or bow to popular pressure.

I am sure the CEO will talk extensively with the union representatives to come to an acceptable solution, a hard job for sure and the many people before him have failed miserably.

Interesting times ahead for Gulf Air and the region, I am sure a few airlines will be watching how this will unfold.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Finally Liberalized ... Aviation In Jordan

On 5th of February 2010 the exclusive right accorded to Royal Jordanian (RJ) in 2002 as the sole scheduled carrier in the country came to an end. A new era of market liberalization came into being.

In 2002 and as part of the government assistance in the privatization effort of RJ, it was agreed:
1. For 4 years RJ will be designated as the only scheduled carrier operating under any of the
bilateral agreements signed by Jordan.
2. For the remaining 2 years the government allowed other Jordanian carriers to operate
scheduled flights on any route not served by RJ and a Charter authority for routes operated by RJ.

As of today, 6th of February 2010, and if a bilateral allows for the designation of a second carrier, they any operator can request scheduled flights authority.
What does that mean to RJ and to the industr? In the short term not much.

However, in the medium and longer term it changes the economic dynamics of aviation in Jordan.
1. Potentially increases competition on existing lucrative routes (Dubai, Beirut, Cairo to name a few
2. It changes the economics of the business plan for existing and start ups alike. How so, it adds
a revenue stream and an option that did not exist before "Scheduled Flights" on routes with
a known economic potential, in a nutshell it makes it easier to start an airline, at least on

How soon are the existing operators, Jordan Aviation, Royal Falcon Air Services and Transworld Airfreighter Co., ready to take on RJ on its well established routes. The levels of service will have to improve and commercial structures have to be put in place in order to compete with RJ that offers a "One World Alliance" passenger services and extensive connectivity on a fairly new and modern fleet.

Realistically, the effects of this decision will not be felt for a few more years, but it opens real opportunities and competition on a market that has been the exclusive turf of Royal Jordanian since 1963.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Management By Deception

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them". - (Act II, Scene V) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare . One of the few quotes I still remember from my 11th Grade GCE O Level English Literature. The problem lies with those who have greatness thrust upon them and all of sudden they hold high positions and have no idea of how to act or what to do, a case of little knowledge is dangerous. The more sensible ones will work within their team to go places.

Then, you get the overconfident and cocky types, that think they can outsmart everyone and hence prove their perceived superiority. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive" as Sir Walter Scott said. The journey of deception commences as a policy of divide and conquer coupled with playing the ends against the middle in a sneaky and deviousway goes into gear in an attempt to outsmart a team of experienced professionals. The problem with professionals is that they do not allow anything to prevent them from achieving their goals. So they persevere and plod on which is taken as a sign of weakness and an indication that the policy is working. Little do the powers that be how transparent they are and the amount of contempt they generate. Eventually, the support wanes and the boss fails or the get so disengaged, disillusioned and disgusted that when an opportunity beckons they just move on and go.

Management by deception works for a while because professionals want to succeed and prove mostly to themselves that they are up to the task. Once it is over they move on and the deception disintegrates.

The timeless adage, honesty is the best policy will always withstand the test of time


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