Air NZ Customer Service

I was going to blog about 3D Bio-Plotting today and if this is of interest to you, bookmark or subscribe to the RSS feed. This is going to be a very exciting disruptive technology that has the potential to have a huge impact on our life expectancy and the health industry.

In my last blog I wrote about how John Donahoe, CEO of eBay has a good understanding of what business eBay is in and it isn’t helping people buy and sell things online, or about their recent purchase of Red Laser for comparison shopping.

I wonder if Air New Zealand really understand what their business is at times. If you read their Vision Statement and Guiding Principles, it doesn’t say anything about the travel experience, or about the social relationship with customers or being the facilitator of people’s dreams. In fact a lot that Air New Zealand does is about that, but at times they seem to lose track of that and of course their major focus is on delivering a dividend to their share holders. The bottom line is people do business with people, like me. Individuals who have feelings, not just bums on seats as they say in the hospitality business.

In What Would Google Do, by Jeff Jarvis, still one of my favorite books, this is what he says about airlines:

Air travel’s business model today is based on overselling seats, billing us for checking bags, charging us for pillows and pretzels and just about everything they can think of but air………………. Does that sound familiar. I know it is hard to run an airline profitably, but as someone who has traveled around the world at least a dozen times, there have been many years where I spent 4 months of the year travelling, I understand that traveling is stressful and tiring and little things like being stuck in transit at San Francisco Airport for 8 hours because the Air NZ counter doesn’t open till 90 minutes before the flight and they don’t have an interconnect deal with their partner Lufthansa can be frustrating. They don’t engender loyalty, which I can assure you cost them a lot of money from me from time to time. I have also declined the two invitations to take out an Air NZ Platinum American Express Card. Why would I support an organisation like that, which doesn’t put me first?

Anyway, I started this blog because of frustration over my latest experience with Air New Zealand. Now I have to say that all the people I have spoken to at their service center have been friendly and polite and helpful to a point. But they fall down on some simple things like detail.

So here’s what happened. Last year my wife an I booked flights to Sydney to attend a wedding in Hunter Valley. Prior to the wedding, we were told that my father in law had weeks to live as he had a recurrence of cancer that he was not going to beat. We had to cancel the flight for which we paid $944.20 including taxes and Air NZ said that due to compassionate grounds they would hang on to our money and allow us to rebook at a later date within 12 months, which we thought was reasonable.

I re-booked in January for a trip at the end of this month (I have flown with Air NZ a number of times since then including a trip to Rarotonga in October). I gave my credit card details for the $150 re-booking fee (for 2 of us). Yesterday I went to print off the tickets and organize travel insurance and there was no email. I rang the call centre to find out why and after being transferred and disconnected and waiting a while to speak to someone again, I was told that the flights had been cancelled because they hadn’t been paid for. I was flabbergasted. I gave her my credit card details on the spot, but on checking yesterday, my card account had not been debited. I have already paid in advance for accommodation and we had both applied for leave etc and made arrangements to meet friends over there etc.

Anyway, the nice friendly chap I spoke to went and spoke to his supervisor and apparently, they can still get us on the same flights, but it would now be more expensive for the transfer fee of the tickets. They wanted to talk to the call center person who arranged the booking for us and she is not back until Monday, so they will get back to me on Monday or Tuesday.

So here’s the thing. I have no certainty for one or two more days that I will in fact get those flights and I may have to pay more for my tickets than the extra $150 which in itself would mean that we are paying $1,094.20 for 2 return flights to Sydney from Auckland, at the same time that Flight Center is offering one way tickets for $79 plus taxes (including one bag) at their travel expo.

I can’t believe that the supervisor couldn’t have just authorized the deal on the spot and taken my credit card details once again. What does it cost them for their time to document the discussions, chase the previous consultant who I believed had booked my flights, confirm back to the consultant who I spoke to yesterday and then have him ring me on my mobile to hopefully tell me they will honor the arrangement we had made in the first place. My cost is of course stress for myself and my wife as to whether we will be on the flights booked, that we won’t lose the money we prepaid for accommodation and so on, and it certainly sours our anticipation of a nice little holiday.

On top of that Air New Zealand have had the use of just under a thousand dollars of our money for free for a year. Wouldn’t it have been cheaper and more expedient to just say, sorry, something has gone wrong here, we can’t explain it, but if you will give us your credit card details again, we will send you a confirmation email in around 15 minutes. We hope you enjoy your trip with Air New Zealand. Then I would be writing a blog saying how wonderful and caring Air NZ was, even after they had clearly slipped up. It’s been my experience that often its not the problem but the way it is dealt with that makes all the difference. Frequently when a company has a problem and deal with it well, they will end up with more loyal clients than they would have had if the problem had not occurred in the first place.

OK, I’ve had my vent and will let you know if Air NZ fix things for me or not.

In the meantime, what about your experiences with airlines. What do you think of their visions and their customer service? Do you feel they have a good balance between customer service and shareholder satisfaction? Are you loyal to a particular airline? Why?

The practice of dumping excess fuel from aircraft

Qantas has had some bad press lately, having to abort several flights due to engine or other malfunctions. The most recent was when a flight to Buenos Aires from Sydney returned to Sydney yesterday after smoke was detected in the cockpit. A few days earlier a Qantas flight from Perth to Melbourne returned to Perth not long after take off due to engine trouble. In all 4 Qantas flights have been unable to reach their destination in less than 2 weeks.

In the overall scheme of things, this is of concern, but what it got me thinking about was that every time a plane gets turned back to due a malfunction, they dump most of their fuel because it would be dangerous to try to land a plane ‘heavy’ with aviation fuel, especially when there are already technical problems with the flight. Obviously the fuel itself adds weight and restricts low altitude manoeverability, but also represents a major fire/explosion risk.

With the price of fuel, I’m sure that airlines take as much as required to cover contingency plans and civil aviation law will also dictate rules around this. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about how much fuel is dumped from aircraft around the world on a daily basis and what the consequences might be.

According to an enlightening article in Wikipedia  only large aircraft, fitted with fuel dumping systems have the ability to dump fuel. It is not universal. It also says that they generally dump fuel at high altitude which means that most of it dissipates before it hits the ground.

So is it safe? The Institute for Southern Studies found that fuel dumping was behind crop damage in Tennessee. They say that most of the fuel vaporizes and doesn’t reach the ground, yet the net is full of news stories about problems caused by fuel dumping. Of course it could be considered far less risky than an explosion on impact and in my research, there was far more evidence of massive losses of oil at sea from ships.

I found it really difficult to get any sort of statistic of how many fuel dumps happen around the world daily, I know its a lot because of the number of PA’s I have heard from the flight deck on my travels. I’d be interested if anyone has any statistics on this. One thing I do note is that in New Zealand we don’t have problems like acid rain and we have very low flight density. Yes, I do understand that most acid rain comes from heavy industrial pollution.

Anyway, just something I’ve been thinking about. Yes, I would still fly Qantas without hesitation.

A Qantas 380 Dumping Fuel in Flight

Is Vehicle Tracking (Fleet Management) an Invasion of Employee Privacy?

An interesting story originating from the Sydney Morning Herald last week, and doing the rounds in New Zealand, says that ‘Privacy Experts’ and Unions are saying that vehicle tracking systems used by companies are an invasion of staff privacy.

It goes on to talk about a former Telstra employee who committed suicide shortly after having a vehicle tracking system attached to his company vehicle. The employee was being treated for depression and the story infers that his suicide was in part a consequence of Fleet Management equipment being installed in his vehicle.

Over the last decade I have been in various ways involved with Vehicle and Personal Tracking technology and only once have I come accross a company that wanted it to be able to check up on the honesty of their staff.

There is no question that some companies have found a sudden increase in profitability and decrease in vehicle costs since they put FM systems in place, but monitoring staff integrity was not the reason the system went in. This particular company wanted to know which vehicles were close to clients that needed urgent service so that they could allocate the nearest vehicle to provide a quality reponsive service.

A few years ago I met the CEO of a rapid response plumbing firm. They guaranteed a minimum response time for people who needed a plumber in an emergancy. He was able to manage this as a consequence of using Navman Wireless technology to locate the nearest vehicle to the job.

They also wanted to compare time based service contracts to the actual time the vehicle was parked at the client site. They wanted to know if they had under or overquoted because there was sometimes a gap between the sales person’s enthusiasm to win a contract and the reality of the job being done.

What did happen was that a number of staff people whom they had suspected of taking liberties with the vehicle on the job and after hours, left the company within a month or so of their own volition.

I am against (and it may well be illegal) tracking people and their vehicles without their knowledge. The only people able to do that should be the Police and even then, only with a legal warrant produced through the courts.

On the other hand there are many potential benefits. In the courier and freight industry, Fleet Management means that people can easily apply track and trace to good being picked up and delivered without needing additional staff to place calls to drivers.

In the security industry it means that security guards on patrol can confirm the safety and location of their staff and also provide clear evidence to clients that their premises have been visited when they said they were. It can also mean that these people can be backed up in an emergancy. This technology is used internationally to track and protect the safety of VIP’s such as politicians in government vehicles.

Another area that is becoming popular is using this technology to keep track of a personal vehicle’s location. For example, when Dad lends the car to his son or daughter who is just popping down to the shops or a mate’s place, who could be boy racers. There have been a number of occassions where a stolen vehicle has been recovered with the thief still inside, such as the case earlier this year. Sometimes a car is irreplacable such as a classic, or sports car. Insurance money can’t always allow someone to recover the time spent in restoring or bulding a vehicle. This technology can also be used to secure trailer water craft and motorcycles which are often easy targets for criminals.

Another area which is becoming very popular and which I have written about a number of times before is tracking elderly people. With the Baby Boomers living longer and being more mobile, there is a growing population of elderly people, some of whom are sprightly of mind, but less of body and at risk of breaking hips or other body parts, while others are sound in body but suffering onset of Alzheimers Disease or other forms of dementia and likely to wander off and not remember where they live. Whether it is the Retirement Village or Rest Home, or their children, this common problem becomes much easier to manage if you can send a text message to the device they are carrying and receive one back with the nearest street address to their current location.

I think tracking is a great thing for unions to use to help them shore up membership and totally endorse them helping people out when it comes to unethical practice on behalf of the company they work for. However, in most cases FM (Fleet Management) is about providing better service to a company’s clients, being able to stay competitive in a time of heavy traffic, high cost of petrol and consumers who expect cheaper prices.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course

Thanks so much for your support:)

It’s a little bit funny

On wednesday night I was ready to go to A Songwriter Speaks to hear a presentation and some music from Dave Dobbyn and others courtesy of APRA of which I am a writer member. Then at about 4:45 I got a call saying that thre were 4 comp tickets available for Elton John’s first gig in Auckland for 10 years. Well sorry Dave, but I’m sure I’ll be able to see you in Auckland again within the next 10 years and sorry APRA for not using the tickets you kindly sent me.

Well the concert was great and I agree with everything said in the NZ Herald review, in fact it really stole my thunder and it’s great to see a nice review in the paper that doesn’t spend time aggrandising the reviewer and tells it how we all saw it. What a great night.

Elton flew in from Sydney in the late afternoon, came to town, did his sound checks, relaxed did the gig and within an hour was back on his plane to Sydney. Given that this is his 3rd trip down here in 3 years (I said not in Auckland remember?) I guess all I can be is grateful that he took the time to pop down and share with us. As he said, it is such a long way to come.

We love Elton down here (who doesn’t) and he always gives a great show and although he didn’t talk much, he took the time to do autographs for everyone in the front row of the stage which was awesome in these paranoic days and kudos to security for not getting carried away, which you see overseas all the time.

As to the music, it was awesome, it was a wonder I could play at my own gig last night after shouting and singing for almost 3 hours. There was some virtuoso piano playing which was awesome to listen to and watch on thebig screens. How does he play so well with his little hands? One of my favourites was his 10-12 minute rendition of Rocket Man and the others were almost everything he played.

I mustn’t forget Davey Johnstone, the awesome guitar player from Scotland, now of Los Angeles, who’s stage collection of guitars made my 6 look puny. Davey has played with Elton for many years as well as on the Tommy show. He ha also featured on a number of Elton John Albums including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 2001. He has worked with a Who’s Who of artists in the past. He even merits his own page in Wikipedia. He first played with Elton as early as 1972 on Honkey Chateau which was Elton’s first number one album in the US.

Amongst the guitars that caught my attention at the show were a Fender Strat and a Fender Tele, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Flying V, 2 double neck guitars that I suspect might be Rickenbakkers, one tuned for slide and the other including a 12 string. Then there were 4 (I think accoustic guitars including a 12 string and a nylon string and then there was the banjo. I told my wife that I have some buying to do, but first of all I had better sell some songs. Anyone looking for a new country song?

Elton John aka Reginald Dwight is a legend. He’s been around and started performing before I was born and I’ve been around a while. I could tell you what I was doing and where my life was at when a number of his songs were released and I’m sure you could do the same with songs like Rocket Man, Daniel, Song for Guy, Candle in the Wind……… I don’t need to mention them all, you know them. Of course Bernie Taupin was a major factor in his success he has continued to write and reinvent himself and is still current in my book with recent works including work on Lion King, Billy Elliot and loads more including loads of benefits, the tribute to Princess Diana and some awesome DVD’s and specials.

What impressed me more than anything was that at 61 years old and having been through so much in his life, his voice is as strong as ever, capable of bellowing out for 3 hours, his keyboard playing is if anything continuing to develop, especially creatively. Watching him on stage, other than his acrobatics being a little more subdued you wouldn’t have thought him more than 40 years old.

Thanks Elton, for coming down to New Zealand again, you have adoring fans aged from 8 to 80 and you will always find a warm welcome and big audience, even at the crazy prices they charged. One final footnote on the Vector Arena. The accoustics aren’t great, but the sound engineers did a brilliant job. It’s hard enough to make sure people get good sound throughout a major venue, but even more so with such challenging accoustics. Kudos guys.

Seth Godin et al

When I was at Song Summit Sydney organised by APRA a few days ago many speakers made suggestions of books to read as well as blogs and other sources of data. One speaker suggested that all song writers who want to market themselves should read Seth Godins Blog.

Now I’ve been a subscriber of his for quite a long time, but don’t read every one of his blogs, I suspect that he doesn’t read any of mine, but anyway, today I decided that I should check out his recent postings to see what was new and found a sage bit of advice, which is “Write like a bloger”. This is great advice and I can attest to it’s value.

Many people love to pontificate and show off their literary prowess by using the longest and most obtuse language and jargon they can think of and it makes their writing boring. Over the years I have written as a freelance journalist and magazine columnist, mostly about technology and of course there was also my book Unleashing the Road Warrior. I always wrote in a conversational manner and I frequently got positive feedback including pone calls, emails and letters to editors in the publications I wrote for. The result of my writing style was:

  1. People felt like I was talking to them and many people feel like they know me even if we haven’t met, with the consequence that when I spoke at conferences and seminars people would come up and talk to me because I was acessible.
  2. People understood what I was talking about and were able to find the information they needed.
  3. I got a lot of business out of it as well as opportunities to speak and present at events all over the world.

I am still in the technology world, although the majority of my writing these days is about my other passion, which is songwriting and I hope eventually to do this full time. All I need is my first number one hit:) In songwriting the same thing is true. Your writing needs to be accessible to your target market. If you are writing for a teenage audience, your language needs to fit the way they think and talk, but it does of course also have to be authetic.

When I wrote my song ‘Another Stretch in Iraq‘ I wrote it for Americans who had served or were serving and I spent 6 months researching the topic. Yes, I used some phrases that weren’t exactly as you speak them and I used some metaphor, but we do that in speech anyway don’t we, I don’t think I’ve opened a can of worms here. I picked up some jargon like MRE, which is short for Made Ready To Eat or is otherwise known as rations. A lot of people won’t get that, but the they aren’t my target audience for the song. The proof was in the pudding.

When I played this song to a live audience in the USA last year the reaction was amazing. One guy co-incidentally known a Mack came to the stage after I played the song with tears in his eyes. He said he had served in Desert Storm and his son was on furlough in Hawai and about to head back to Iraq for another stretch. He said that listening to the lyrics took him right back to the front, so to speak. Even though I had never been there, I had done my homework and made it real, I wrote’ in Seth Godin’s terms, “like a blogger”, and when people listened to the song, it was almost as if they were talking to themselves.

The important thing which I think Jimmy Webb said in his presentation at S3 was to know your market and to write to it. A great song is one that people listen to and totally relate to. They should feel like they own the song, as if it was written for them, or in fact almost as if they wrote it themselves. Then they are in fact relating to themselves.

The thing is that you are the most important person in the world, although my wife says that she has to be the most important person in my world, but if I don’t exist in the first place then she can’t be important to me. Let me put that another way. If we had a party on the weekend and I came to see you with a pile of photos that were taken at the party. Now unless you were incredibly attracted to someone there, which photos will you spend the most time looking at ? (now I don’t want to get involved with genderalisations here (yes I know that word doesn’t exist, but this is my blog right?) but which photos are you going to spend the most time looking at? your own of course).

So my goal as a songwriter, which was ultimately the purpose of this blog is to write commercial songs, i.e. hit songs and part of my method in doing that, in writing like a blogger, is that the person who sings along with the radio or performance feels like the song is theirs, that it is about them, that they own the experience that the song is about.

By the way, if you happen to know an artist or A&R person looking for a new song, please point them in my direction:)

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course

Thanks so much for your support:)

Sydney Song Summit S3 2008

When you spend a lot of your own money to go overseas to a songwriting conference it is a major leap of faith and this week my faith was rewarded with an amazing conference in Sydney, sponsored by APRA and PRS. I have a new notebook full of ideas which I am hoping will have a huge impact on the future of my career as a songwriter. I am now motivated more than ever, not just to write songs but to write Number One Country Music hits.

I had tears in my eyes through personal presentations by Paul Williams and Jimmy Webb. The latter amazed me when I realised how much his music influenced me. I didn’t realise how much of an impact the chord progressions on songs like By the Time I Get to Phoenix and McArthur Park had on me. I must check out his new album.

The highlight by far was a one hour speed presentation by Ralph Murphy of ASCAP. I learned more about Hit Song songwriting from him in an hour than I have in the last year and I have totally made a personal commitment to use it. It does mean more research and work than I anticipated but I have to admit that much of it was work that I had been procrastinating about anyway. One of my weaknesses is MySpace and communicating with my network. Not that I’m going to stop doing that, but I have to remind myself that this is not just a hobby, it is my future business.

So here I am in the Business Class Lounge at Sydney Airport, an hour early because I didn”t realise that Daylight Savings started this morning. Anyway, here’s to an awesome music year for me in 2008.

Second Time Around

Last night one of my girls was on a dating site looking for a possible partner for one of my friends who’s husband died after playing a game of football. He was one of the good guys who died young.

So she is one of a huge number of people who is looking for love, 2nd time around. Most people have different reasons, the most common being a marriage break up. On this particular site there were over 10,000 men online looking for ……….. well various things I guess, but ultimately for a new ‘life partner’. I put that in inverted comma’s because it is no longer the norm for people to have one life partner even though most of us contend that we are monogamous, I think it has come to mean one partner at a time.

In my youth it was already becoming commonplace for marriages to break up and for people to start again and of course there are the elderly where typically the woman has a much longer life expectancy than the man, so naturally is going to want some new male companionship in her dotage.

Back in the day when life was simple, you stayed on the farm or at your job for 40 years and earned a gold watch, life was more about survival and getting enough money to be comfortable. The pace of the world was relatively slow and people were comfortable with that. Relationships were ‘until death do us part’.

Today life is fast, the world has grown smaller and there are opportunities to taste and try many things. Our standard of living is far higher leaving us comparatively with greater disposable incomes, and the world is our oyster. This opens us up to many more temptations and we go through many cycles of life. We move to new towns, cities or countries, we experience new cultures, we have many jobs, our social groups expand and for a much larger percentage of people, relationships fade away. They die for lots of reasons, but I think the fast pace of life in the 20th and 21st centuries is a major factor. As they say, change is the only constant.

Last year, one of the schools I went to, Auckland Alternative School had a school reunion. One of my old school mates who now lives in Australia was asking if his old girlfriend was coming and although he is in a relationship, that was the factor that would determine whether he was going to come, no one knew what had happened to her and neither of them came. The reunion was advertised on Old Friends which is also a site well known for people looking to find the old school girl or boyfriend.

Of those that did attend the reunion, only a few of us were still in long time relationships, most had split up and were single again or in new relationships. Whilst I have been in a long term relationship, married for many years, I had previously come from a 7 year relationship and I am my wife’s second husband. So I fit the mold as well.

Anyway, next month I am attending Song Summit Sydney S3 which is the first event of its kind for song writers in Australasia. I have applied to perform to a panel of songwriters, publishers, managers, broadcasters, producers and A & R professionals, which the blurb says is ‘not for the faint hearted’. Like American Idol in a way, but hopefully more constructive.

I’ll be performing my new song Old Flame, which to bring this blog to it’s conclusion was motivated by seeing my old school mate and so many other people, looking for that old girl or boyfriend that they lost track of, that could have been ‘the one’. When I look at websites like Old Friends and track the number of people who want a 2nd chance, I am amazed at how many there are. I hope my song goes down well and that they like it’s construction, because I think it is very topical and many will relate to it, which in my book is a key criteria for a good song.

If you’d like to hear it, check it out on my MySpace page and let me know what you think.