Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hubwear city pair winners announced

Follow this link for the city pair competition winners list.

The 33 Biggest Corporate Implosions. Ever - 3 in Travel, 4 tied to the BOOT

Nice piece on HR world covering the Biggest 33 corporate Implosions of all time.

No surprises that a number of travel companies are on the list.

Number 2 - Swissair that crashed post 9/11 and after an expansion spending binge known as the Hunter Strategy

Number 13 - TWA that despite 70 years of operation, a requisite stint in chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection and re-invention as a domestic carrier disappeared through an acquisition by American in 2001

Number 27 - Laker Airways that was the world's first "first long-haul, low-cost and "no frills" airline" in 1977 but was gone by 1982

Strangely Pan Am did not make the list? Personally I have 4 former clients on the list from when I was a lawyer.

thanks to kalimistuk via flickr for the photo

hat tip to Consumerist

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Roamfree Story - BOOT (kinda) makes into the Courier Mail

The comment stream in my original Roamfree post has (almost) led to the BOOT gaining a mention in mainstream press. Brisbane based newspaper the Courier Mail is carrying a story with the title "Roamfree faces online ire from former staff". No direct naming of the BOOT or link. But if they did readers would unfortunately find a number of comments saying "This post has been removed by the blog administrator."

BOOT meetup in London May 12

I am in London on May 12 and thinking of organising a casual drop in/meetup at a pub somewhere central (maybe Smithfield?) after work. Is there any interest out there in InterWebLand to join me for a drink and chat about the Euro Online Travel market after work on May 12?

Monday, April 28, 2008

HotelChatter and Jaunted sold to CondeNet (Conde Nast) - I'm confused is the travel blog business viable or not?

I'm confused. Two weeks ago Gawker Media (one of the top blogging networks) sold the relatively popular travel blog Gridskipper. This was a clear indication that a blog media barron (Nick Denton) believes there was more money in gossip, gadets, games and girls than in travel. This is despite plenty of evidence that Gridskipper is the number on travel blog out there (see Guillame's Nov 07 ranking list for example). This weekend the Sunday Times in London listed Nick Denton as being worth GBP140mm - based on Gawker. Now I think this number is complete baloney but Denton's successful reading of the need for a blog media network is clear. So if Denton thinks there is no money in online travel blogs then surely this is true.

Not according to CondeNet (online arm of Conde Nast). They just bought SFO Media - the owners of travel blogs Jaunted and HotelChatter. TechCrunch has the story and information on the roll up with Conde Nast's In the blogging world I am willing to beton Denton rather than Conde Nast but at the same time if TripAdvisor's roll-up strategy is anything to go by then there is a nice traffic business developing in online travel blog/content aggregation. This is also supported by the raising last week of $15mm in VC funding by Travel Ad Network led by Rho Ventures, Village Ventures (industry standard story here). Travel Ad Network includes in its network LonelyPlanet, Rand McNally, FlightView, Viator, Rough Guides,, HotelsByCity and claims to be the number three traffic network behind Expedia and "Travelport" [sic] (clearly this needs updating for ownership changes at Travelport subsidiaries). So who will have regrets first - Denton ditching Gridskipper or Conde Nast for buying SFO Media? If the Sunday times is right then it probably doesn't matter...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

BOOT to Chair Eyefortravel Sales & Marketing in Travel Asia Pacific 28-30 July. Intro Podcast available

On 29-30 July you can find the BOOT live at the eyefortravel Sales & Marketing in Travel Asia Pacific conference at the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney. I will be Chairing the event and blogging real time. Conference organiser Tom Ellum has put together an introductory podcast with me that you can listen to here. We discuss a number of issues in this show including
  • New emerging marketing channels;
  • Thoughts on for online success;
  • obstacles and challenges search is presenting to online travel;
  • Web 2.0;
  • How are the intermediary power plays changing in the Asia pacific region; and
  • More
See you in Sydney on July 29. You can register here.

CEO Chris Meehan leaves post Wotif Acquisition

Avid readers will be aware of the battle between, AOT and Wotif for ownership of (operators of the franchise in Australia and New Zealand). This battle had Webjet in the early lead only for Wotif to claim a late victory based on a bigger cheque book. AOT walked away smiling, with a nice little capital gain. The deal formally closed on 1 Feb - you can read the full back story here.

News has been beginning to drip out on integration plans post Wotif owning and The latest piece is that CEO Chris Meehan will be leaving the business this month. Chris was caught in a very unfortunate piece of timing. On August 30 2007 Chris was annointed as the successor CEO to Adam Johnston at Just seven days later the Webjet offer hit the news wires and the roller coast ride to Wotif ownership started. It was always going to be the case that a merged/acquired was not going to need a stand alone CEO so just days after be anointed as the new boss, Chris was sitting on a job that was destined to disappear. Tough timing. Am sure after a quick break we will see Chris back in the online world quickly.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wotif guilty of "recreational killing"

We have already discussed's entry into the traditional marketing world with TV (and also bus stop) advertising. I ran one of their commercials recently - the one featuring a creepy child/doll/horror movie motif. Here is a video of the second commercial - a "squid eating competition" (see video below). I raise it because Wotif have caused a stir with this ad and are getting into some problems with it.

Wotif has been cited by Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) in Australia over this commercial. This is the body in charge of ensuring that Australian advertising meets the legislative and industry standards. The ASB have been hit with complaints from viewers that the squid ad (according to B&T Magazine) .
“This is a graphic ad featuring a sadistic act, akin to biting the head off a budgie. It is gross cruelty presented as humour.”... “physically disgusting-cruelty to animals –morally repugnant.”
In the end the ASB ruled that the advertisement represented "recreational killing" and Wotif and its agency Leo Bennett will be forced to go back and rewrite portions of it. What do you think - funny ad or cruel and unusual punishment for cephalopods?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Terminal 5 - how passengers can avoid it and the homeless can find it

Two stories from them mainstream press about Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

New York Times has a quick guide on how to avoid Terminal 5. Is targeted at Americans so will be old news to Brits and EuroCits but brief and interesting nonetheless.

Time magazine takes a different slant altogether - finding a section of society that is actively seeking out Terminal 5. The article - called Heathrow's Down-and-Out Jet Set - tells the story of London homeless (or rough sleepers) posing as stranded travellers to enable them to sleep in Terminal 5. Terminal 5 may not be a good airport terminal (yet) but it makes a great homeless shelter with lots of space, central heating, constant flow through of people, lots of food left behind and clean toilets. Not sure that is what BA CEO Willie Walsh had in mind when signing the cheques to build T5.

photo care of the terminal 5 insider on flickr - though I don't think this is the type of PR he had in mind either

Hubwear: so everyone knows which route you took

Thanks to Peter Topping at Webjet for sending through a link to Hubwear's roundtrip t-shirts. As you see this is the ultimate in travel geek chic with t-shirts showing city pairs. Peter and I tried to come up with the best combination of city pairs for a Hubwear t-shirt. Peter took the early lead with a suggestion of combining the unlikely pairing of Ezeiza Int'l Airport in Buenos Aries and Ladysmith Airport in South Africa (ie EZE LAY). Can you do better? Winner will be sent a Hubwear t-shirt with the winning design care of the BOOT.

Update - last chance to enter. Will declare a winner on Wednesday 30th. If you are reading this post in an RSS feed you have to check out the comments

Update 2 - this little contest got a mention in the LA Times blog section here.

3rd Prize -
simply because it would look so silly on a t-shirt the third prize goes to Nice to Tsaratanana, Madagascar - NCE TTS

2nd Prize -
for the unfortunate imagery and helping be get a link out of the LA Times goes to LA to
Ati Airport in Chad - LAX ATV (just topped Anglesey, UK to Shepparton, AU HLY SHT for this prize)

1st Prize - I felt compelled to give the award to a combo that might actually get worn in pubic (unfortunately excluding a number of hilarious combinations below and Peter's original entry above). So the prize goes to Finley Aus - Barnstable US or FLY HYA. It captures the perfect combination of city pairs, a love of flying and maybe a hint of naughtiness. If "Karen" gets in touch via timsboot [at] gmail [dot] com, then I will organise for a t-shirt to be sent over.

Thanks to all for fantastic entries.

UPDATE - here is the winning shirt

UPDATE - over at the travellerspoint forums that are continuing the thread with more examples such as Barksdale AFB, US to Sembach, Germany - BAD SEX

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Roamfree post and comments policy

I cant believe it. I have been deep in business travel. Have taken the long way round to London. As a result I have not had a chance to look at the blog or my timsboot gmail account since Wednesday. It is now Sat Morning UK time and I have discovered 82 comments associated with my post about redundancies at Roamfree. To put this in perspective my post on BAR in the hotel industry was previously the number one commented with less than 10. Most of the comments are informative and insider tips but far too many are just vitriolic rantings. Seems like the post became a defacto message board for the angst being felt by ex-Roamfree staff over the redundancies.

The point of this blog is an industry news source and analysis forum. It is not a place to make personal comments about anyone.

Recently I made comments open precisely because with my travel schedule the delays in approving comments almost negated the reason for having a comments section. As I post this I am going through the comments and deleting a number - almost all those that talked about an individual and their skills, abilities or character. I have kept those that quote public statements of people or express generic comments. Thanks to all the informed commentators and apologies to anyone that saw a comment that they found offensive (that hopefully should now be removed).

Should I revert to having to approve every comment? Let me know if you think a comment that is still there should not be.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

BOOT on the Road - coming to Europe

Your BOOT correspondent is on the road for the next few days on the way to London. Back on the blog in a couple of days.

Consumerist is on a roll - US Bankruptcy and Merger Cheat Sheet

I love the Consumerist. Check out this fantastic "State of the Air" Cheat sheet. Original post here.

Roamfree Rumour - up to 95 made redundant

Not a good day to be working in the travel industry today. Word earlier that people are leaving BA over the T5 chaos. Now I have heard a reliable but unsubstantiated rumour that Australian based channel manager and online hotel retailer has made as many as 95 people redundant. As I say no confirmation so could be a mistake but my source is good. Any Roamfree people out there want to comment?

UPDATE - 19 April on the road - I cant believe it. I have been deep in business travel. Have taken the long way round to London. As a result I have not had a chance to look at the blog or my timsboot gmail account for about 72 hours. The 82 comments below exceeds by previous record by a factor of ten. Seems like the post became a defacto message board for the angst being felt by ex-Roamfree staff over the redundancies. The point of this blog is an industry news source and analysis forum. It is not a message board or a place to make personal comments about anyone.

I have deleted a number of the comments - almost all those that talked about an individual and their skills, abilities or character. I have kept those that quote public statements of people or express generic comments. Thanks to all the informed commentators and apologies to anyone that saw a comment that they found offensive (that hopefully should now be removed).

Update 2 - I hope all understand that I had to remove some of the posts. It is not because I am a control-freak (which I probably am) or pro-censorship (which I absolutely am not). Instead it is because I am bound by the laws of defamation like anybody else. Additionally I need to keep this Blog focused on what it is - a news, analysis and information source, not a gossip site. That is a little more TechCrunch like than Valleywag (as much as I would love to be as successful as either). I understand completely how the people at Roamfree must feel (those sacked and those left). If someone would like to set up a message board service somewhere for them to continue a discussion without having to fit the format of the BOOT, then I will happily provide a link to that message board (though will not endorse the content).

Update 3 - back to the story. According to the Gold Coast Bulletin (and comments below). The number is closer to 50 than 95.

Update 4 - more news on the story. TravelWeekly also puts the number at 50. Quotes Group executive director Mark Frawley as saying the redundancies came from a merger of and Roamfree Advanced. Not sure how that works as they were the same company anyway. He rejected rumours of a cash crisis. Queensland's the Courier Mail also has the story along the same lines

Update 5 - 27 April Gold Coast Bulletin has an update on the story here. To all the commentators below, this is not the place to make personal attacks on anyone. Please keep your comments to analysis and discussion of the industry. Personal attacks on people will be deleted. As per above if you want to set up a message board somewhere else I will provide a link.

Terminal 5 fall out: two British Airways staff members gone

My heart goes out to Gareth Kirwood and David Noyes of British Airways. According to (registration required) and a statement from BA they have left their roles of Director of Operations and Director of Customer Services respectively "follow[ing] the airline's move to Terminal 5". The hunt is on for a COO to replace the two. T5 was a bad launch for customers but also one for BA staff.

thanks to PeaceLoveHarmony on flickr for the photo

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New owner for Gridskipper

One of the top consumer travel blogs - Gridskipper - has a new owner (sort of). Previously part of Nick Denton's Gawker Media network (owners of must reads Consumerist and Valleywag), Gridskipper will now be owned by Lockhart Steele through a vehicle known as the Cubed network. According to Silicon Alley Insider Lockhart is a former Gawker manager and Denton has an investment in Steele's current operations.

For travel blogs the interesting part is that Denton is indicating that the number one general travel blog is not worth keeping in his network. If Gridskipper cant make it as a business then this does not say much for the editorially driven travel blog business model.

Denton's internal memo explaining the sale (and sale of Wonkette and Idolator) is here on the Valleywag blog

Consumerist: Lonely Planet Writer Admits to Fabricating Guide Book Based On Info From Girlfriend

I love the Consumerist blog. Not sure what to think of Lonely Plant after this story about the shenanigans of guide writer Thomas Kohnstamm - "Lonely Planet Writer Admists to Fabricating Guide Book Based On Info From Girlfriend"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Expedia rumoured to be looking at Farecast for $75 million - NOPE - it was Microsoft and it was $115mm

Expedia is not slowing down on acquisition activity if rumours are to be believed. Picked up a rumour just now on that fare search Web 2.0 player Farecast is the next company to being booking regular flights to Seattle and join the Expedia conglomerate. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is the source of the story on HotelMarketing and is putting the valuation at US$75mm. Farecast Chief Executive Hugh Crean is saying nothing and there is similar silence from Expedia spokeswoman Katie Deines.

Meta-search seems a natural play for a company building up a content ad network and looking to rely more and more on ad revenue. I do not think it would set well with a company that is planning to sell itself to Google but there are few that think that the flight plans will move from Seattle to the San Jose (ie near Google's Mountain View HQ).

UPDATE - good rumour but wrong Seattle based party. Kevin over at Travolution has the story that Microsoft (former owner/creater of Expedia) is the new owner of Farecast for a cool $115mm.

Jetset purchase of Qantas Holidays: maybe good for Qantas online, but really bad for Qantas Holidays staff

I wrote back in 2007 about what successful online distributing airlines should do to stay on top of the online travel game. That post was published in the T-List book and you can find it here. You may have heard that Qantas has merge it's vacation division - Qantas Holidays - with an offline retailer Jetset in a move that could (but only could) be a part of them listening to this advice.

It is a good move for Qantas' online efforts only if they use this sale to "un-cuff" the website from the legacy offline business of Qantas Holidays. That is - allowing to establish online complementary business to air sales without being worried about cannibalising offline sales of a technologically constrained vacation group. I doubt it will in this case.

Even if QF take this chance for expand online plans, it has been very bad news for the Qantas Holidays staff that now find themselves about to be stripped of their Qantas staff perks - mainly access to very very cheap Qantas staff (according to Australian Travel Daily pdf) UPDATE - this may not be true - see below. This is despite the fact (according to the article and relevant Trade Union) that Qantas will end up with 58% share in Jetset. If true I don't see the upside to Qantas in making this decision as it immediately makes a flight risk every single employee at Qantas Holidays but as regular readers will know I am often confused about Qantas actions.

thanks to hoobygroovy on flickr for the photo

UPDATE - 16 April have heard word from the inside that this report on benefits being stripped out is not true. Story from my source is that the flight benefits will be retained. So is this just Qantas Unions crying wolf or is there a good sales job going on inside Qantas Holidays or somewhere in between. As all good journalists say - "only time will tell".

Virgin Blue - Premium economy has not been enough to save the share price

Bad day in the office in Fortitude Valley for Australia's number two carrier - Virgin Blue. Despite efforts to reinvent the brand with premium economy, lounges and more the share price for DJ (their airline code) is at its lowest level ever at 87 cents on the back of dropping profits (SMH story here). To put this in perspective, DJ floated at $2.25 in December 2003 to a valuation of A$2.3billion. In early 07 it reached a high near the $2.80 mark.

If the comments from the DJ management are right, this is not all their fault. Rather (they argue) the sector (ie domestic travel) is softening on the back of global and local economic concerns. Either way am sure it was not pleasant day in Queensland.

Five things start ups must spend their money on

Jeremy Liew of Valley VC group Lightspeed Ventures has an interesting little post on the Lightspeed Venture Partners blog called "Five things startups should not skimp on". Read his post for the full details but his top five things not to save money on are:
  1. Large monitors for better productivity (I would add more than one is even better)
  2. Comfortable ergonomic chairs to keep the team healthy
  3. High Quality Speaker Phones to make sure conference calls go smoothly
  4. Experienced Law Firms for trhe right "i" dotting and "t" crossing; and
  5. Administrative Assistance to keep the entrepreneurs and engineers creating and coding.
Have a read here. Applies to not just startups in the online travel industry.

thanks to veesees on flickr for the photo

Sunday, April 06, 2008

BOOT on the road - back around April 14

As per earlier I am in India this week so blogging will be light on. Am giving Thai Business Class a go for the first time in about 5 years. Will let you know. Thanks to all the tipsters sending advice (both in the comment section of my Bangalore post and in email).

Qantas to the BOOT - what do you think about our Entertianment Guide?

About a year ago I was invited to join the Qantas Customer Advisory Panel. I don't think it had anything to do with the BOOT. I have been a Platinum Frequent Flyer at Qantas since the end of 2000 so I am sure it is related to that not my blog love hate relationship with the flying Kangaroo.

In this panel they send me a survey every other month on some part of the Qantas experience. I hear nothing back as a result of filling the survey so have no idea what they do with my response but am happy to engage in a customer feedback loop with them.

In this recent survey I was asked my opinion on the quality of the Qantas in-flight magazine and entertainment guide. Lots of questions about how I used both magazines and what I thought. However the final question was the easiest to answer. They asked me for a general comment on the quality of the Qantas in-flight entertainment guide.

I had a very simple response - "what use is an entertainment guide when the entertainment system never works! Stop asking me questions and fix your video on demand system". Qantas seems in complete denial about the readiness of their in-flight entertainment.

For those new to the blog the constant failings of the Qantas Audio Video On Demand (AVOD) system is my number one consumer rant.

Expedia / TripAdvisor keeps buying and the network keeps growing.

It is Expedia week here at the BOOT as they are filling the news funnel with story after story.

TripAdvisor is showing no signs of slowing in its quest to become an advertising network. Another acquisition has been added to the ever expanding list of niche travel content companies. is the latest to the following list of TripAdvisor stable-mates:
With airfarewatchdog and Holidaywatchdog in the family, it looks like the TripAdvisor Owl is being voted off the island the animal logo battle that is the Expedia brand family.

If Google is interested in anything in the Expedia family it is this collection of assets - not the transaction parts.

Thanks to Kevin at Travolution is always first out with these stories.

Expedia and the death of the dotcom

A brand refresh has come out of Seattle in the last week or so. Without much fanfare we can see a softening in the curves and tone of the Expedia Brand. As a trusted reader put it "a subtle change in the font, to make it easier to read...more inspiring". Not sure about the inspiring part but I did notice a subtle but I think critical change in the new logo. In the US Expedia site, the logo no longer contains the domain. As well as a font change, Expedia US has in effect changed it's name from to simply - Expedia.

In the early days the ".com" part was critical. It told consumers exactly where they could find Expedia. It also told customers that Expedia was part of the travel revolution. But in 2008, Expedia has the call centre phone number as prominent on the website as the booking engine, has owned a top offline wholesaler (Classic Vacations) for more than 6 years and has joined with Cruise Ship Centers International Inc. to launch co-branded stores (seekingalpha story) - that is right an offline physical location. All of this is clearly telling the Marketing people at Expedia that "dotcom" is dead.

Makes some sense - the US market has crossed the 50% threshold (ie majority of leisure market is online). There is no need to convince consumers that online is good. Online is now just normal. There is no need to include in the logo a mechanism to identify that the company can be found online when in the US market - every single company can be found online.

Expedia in the UK is not yet convinced. They have taken on the brand change but are keeping the domain. But then the UK has not hit 50% (yet). Thanks to a reader for the UK logo comparison picture that beats the pants out of my old versus new efforts with the US logo.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The BOOT goes to Bangalore

Your BOOT correspondent is off to Bangalore in Southern India for work next week. First time in India for either work or pleasure. Looking forward to it though my arm is hurting today from the typhoid shots recommended by the doctor. Let me know in the comments if you have any Indian travel tips (Bangalore in particular).

thanks to the CIA World Fact book for the map

Google to buy Expedia? Nah...surely an April Fool

Yahoo Finance! (with help from Reuters) is reporting that Expedia shares are up on rumours of a takeover by Google. The source of the rumours is list as Susquehanna Financial Group. Apparently the call volume from clients is off the hook. This comes a couple of days after the announcement of integration between Expedia and Google Maps allowing for instant Expedia hotel bookings on the Google map page. What do you think - an April gag or a real chance that Google wants into Travel in the biggest way possible??

UPDATE -looks like founder and ex-CEO Rich Barton agrees that should be a joke. Quoted in the as saying that this deal was a "head scratcher" and did not make sense for Google who "does such a good job skimming all of the really high margin profits from the travel media business". I agree.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

What do Realtors, Lawyers and mystery web types have in common - if Rich Barton is right they are a lot cooler than online travel agents.

Expedia founder and ex-CEO Rich Barton has been very busy since leaving Expedia in March 2003. I talked in June last year of his support of the launch of the lawyer search and ranking site Appears we can add another web investment to Barton's list. In addition to the the real estate re-invention service Zillow and Avvo we have an announcement through Techcrunch that has raised $3 million from Benchmark (another Rich Barton gig). No hints from the site or Techcrunch profile what glassdoor will be doing but there a lot of ex-Expedia types involved. Rob Hohman (ex-President of Hotwire and then Prez of Classic Custom Vacations) is the CEO and Tom Besse (Expedia Asia Pacific) is the VP Product & Marketing. Add in a hint of EzRez through VP of Engineering Ryan Aylward and it begs the question whether or not travel may be back on Barton's agenda. I doubt it.

I presume when not coming up with whatever this site will do that the staff of glassdoor spend their spare time watching movies from Netflix (another Barton activity).

Update - 20 May 08. Still no word on what Glassdoor will be doing but is reporting that the Board of is filling out with a number of heavy-weights including Erik Blachford, CEO of TerraPass and former president and CEO of Expedia, Inc. and CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp’s travel division; Stephen Kaufer, president and CEO of TripAdvisor and former president of CDS, Inc.; and Rusty Rueff, former CEO of SNOCAP, the digital music commerce provider for MySpace, and previous EVP at Electronic Arts and executive at PepsiCo.

Update 2 - Now we know what is cooler - recruitment and job information. News from Techncrunch that Glassdoor is a salary comparisons and employee review site. A little bit like Payscale but with more internal comparison, companies reviews and even some internal bitchiness and border line office gossiping. Detailed review inside the Techcrunch post.