RyanAir or, at least, one of the RyanAir higher ups, recently started talking about the "Amazon of Travel". This is, I find, a little hard to imagine. After all, given that Amazon can more-or-less supply pretty much anything from anywhere to anywhere, I doubt very much if RyanAir could do very much with a request for, say, a backstreet hotel in Caracas, with a rail ticket from San Juan De Los Morros.
That, however, is not what I wanted to talk about.
On the Twitter timeline mentioning this, was a remark associated with the "Amazon of Travel" relating to the concept of the "virtual airline". This has, of course, less to do with Amazon as it would be more like the "Diageo of airlines".
Many moons ago, Diageo in another guise, was involved with pubs and tenancies an brewing and whatnot. Someone had the idea that all one needed to do, was to control the brand - and then one can get rid of all those expensive things that tie up lots of money which could be much better used elsewhere. Not to mention, all that operating cost that goes out of the window. Maybe just keep a few plants here and there but essentially, control the brand. That is, of course, if your brand is strong enough to begin with.
Certain airlines could do this. British Airways for example. BA is a strong brand (at the moment). Get rid of everything and just remain the holder and operator of the BA name. All aircraft are rented to (and from) companies, that could then partake in a timeshare in a jet and each company is made up of a complete crew. Each company would bid for routes, timing and the timeshare of the appropriate jet and would be bound by a set of guidelines relating to standards of service and so forth.
Let us say, I start MurrayAir, and let's say I am a pilot. I have my flight deck crew and my cabin crew. The list comes out from the airline of planned operations for next quarter. I bid, say, for the 15:00 flight from London to Rome and back. I reckon that I will use an A320 and I estimate that I will have 75% occupancy. Based on this, I place my bid to operate that flight which would include the timeshare on the A320. Another variation could be for BA to offer operation for the flight and state the income that one would receive for doing so; I decide if I can operate for the money offered and make a profit.
If no one bids or wants the flight, then it does not operate - that is, seats are not offered for sale. If NDC is as flexible as people suggest, then amending availability and fares should be a doddle. Each company could set their own fares and how many seats they would sell, at what price.
The virtual airline, BA, sets and controls the standard of the operation - let's say the minimum standard. For example, BA say that I must at least provide cold drinks and a sandwich. I could offer a bit more if I choose to do so, but the minimum standard is set.
Okay, so the concept needs a bit of fine tuning (a bit??!!) but we have the technology nowadays and enough historic route data to be able to make the concept work. It is really an extension of the bidding process used by some airlines for cabin crew on flights.
It would need a total rethink of how slots are used and how airlines operate. Major disruption, of course, in the travel industry. Then again, "disruption" is what the travel industry craves ..... isn't it?