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on 20 October 2003
i've used this book as research for my dissertation, but actually found it a compelling read that would entertain people with only an inkling of interest in the budget airline industry
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on 20 May 2002
Simon Calder has done a marvellous job investigating what no frills flying is really about. He reveals how air mavericks like easyJet, Ryanair and Go fight it with the big boy i.e. BA. Upon finishing this book, the reader will realise that running a no-frills airline is so much more than making passengers pay for that pack of sandwich mid air.
No Frills : The Truth Behind The Low Cost Revolution In The Skies does not delve directly into the operational strategies behind Europe's three (now two with go's acquisition by easyJet) most successful low-cost airlines. Instead, it first sets the background behind the whole idea of no-frills flying. The book explains the origin of the no frills concept, the numerous attempts by various entrepreneur and its fair number of failures.
Having prepared the reader with sufficient background on the industry, Simon Calder goes in depth on each low-cost airline. He keeps the reader entertained by revealing the amusing skirmishes and tussles behind the scenes. The charismatic and eccentricity of industry figureheads such as Branson, O'Leary, Jeans, Webster, Stelios and Cassani have indeed made Calder's job easier. EasyJet's orange and Branson's stunts aside, this book confirms that, shying lassitude rewards the industry.
The book is suitable as both, leisure reading material or as a source of inspiration to the budding entrepreneur.
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on 17 November 2004
An excellent book, splitting out the various no frills approaches into chapters. Recommended for anyone looking to go into the industry, lots of useful facts for interviews! Or would make excellent reading for a Business case study.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 23 September 2005
Having lived and worked in Dallas since 1976, I am among those who heavily depend upon Southwest Airlines for both business and personal airline transportation, and, who feel great respect as well as affection for its former CEO, Herb Kelleher. It was thus with special interest, indeed eagerness that I began to read Calder's book in which he carefully examines each of those European airlines which are obviously in great debt (both philosophically and operationally) to "Herb" and his unique airline. It is important to remember, however, that imitation may be the highest form of flattery but there is far more involved in approximating Southwest's success than many may assume. According to Kelleher, "You can get the same airplane. You can get the same ticket counters.  You can get the same computers. But the hardest thing for a competitor to match is your culture and the spirit of your people and their focus on customer service because that isn't something you can do overnight and it isn't something you can do without a great deal of attention every day in a thousand different ways. That is why I say that our employees are our competitive protection."
That is precisely why David Neeleman and his JetBlue associates continue to commit so much of their resources to identifying, interviewing, hiring, and then training new "crewmembers," NOT "employees" nor even "associates." Long before Neeleman went to work for Southwest, he recalls a conversation with Kelleher. According to Neeleman, Kelleher said "I don't care about my shareholders." Neeleman was shocked. What did he mean? Was Kelleher really serious? "Because I just take care of my employees. I know if I take care of my employees, they'll take care of my customers, and my customers will take care of my shareholders." Presumably Michael O'Leary (then deputy chief executive of Ryanair) has comparable memories of his own conversations with Kelleher, especially during his (O'Leary's) visit in Dallas (1991). As he explained to Calder during one of several interviews, "Once we saw what Southwest was doing we thought this could be the way forward. We're imitating Southwest: selling at the lowest possible price to the maximum number of people. We've been replicating that successful formula now for the last twelve years with tremendous success." It is noteworthy that in 1991, Ryanair was (in O'Leary's own words) "hovering on the verge of bankruptcy. In Spring 1991 I thought it would be a miracle if we were still in business three months later." In 2001, Ryanair was more valuable than the biggest airline in the world.
In this volume Calder, explains how that extraordinary turnaround was accomplished. He also examines with equal rigor other airlines and their CEOs, revealing sometimes similar but often different strategies and tactics with which they compete against each other during what Calder characterizes as "the low-cost revolution in the skies" above the UK and continental Europe. All of these airlines (e.g. Ryanair, easyJet, Buzz, Go) have obviously been influenced by "the Southwest way." That said, of greatest interest and value to me is how extensively Calder takes his reader "behind the scenes, where the decisions that change the way we travel are taken, and scores are settled." The reader may conclude that "the no-frills runway is more like a school playground; but to traditional airlines, and even some train operators, the no-frills carriers represent a potentially deadly threat." It will be interesting to see which of the no-frills airlines throughout Europe and Asia prosper, which struggle, and which fail. It will also be interesting to see how the traditional airlines respond to the on-going, always volatile, and inevitably unpredictable "revolution" now in progress. Perhaps Calder will share his thoughts about all this in another book which (obviously) cannot be written for several years.
Those who enjoy this book as much as I did are urged to check out Kevin Freiberg and Jackie Freiberg's Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, James Wynbrandt's Flying High: How JetBlue Founder and CEO David Neeleman Beats the Competition, Jody Hoffer Gittell's The Southwest Airlines Way: Using the Power of Relationships to Achieve High Performance, and Gordon Bethune's From Worst to First: Behind the Scenes of Continental's Remarkable Comeback.
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on 25 July 2003
I think this book is excellent! It is very informative and gives all of the history related to low cost carriers! I couldn't put the book down until I was finished it all!
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on 1 February 2004
A good introduction to the history and operating environment of low-cost carriers, but without offering many greater insights beyond what's already known to the travelling public. The early chapters, offering potted histories of several low-cost airlines is (to my mind) nothing more than a cobbled together cut-and-paste summary typical of a Sunday newspaper.
That said, this is a lively read, and despite its praise for low-cost carriers which at times borders on the blinkered this is a good start for the amateur enthusiast or an industry worker. Just be aware that the book's publisher is Virgin - so don't expect a complete balance!..
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on 18 July 2002
Good summary of how the low-cost operators were born, and the reasons for their phenomenal success; I've often wondered how Ryanair and Easyjet make any money out of charging their cheaper fares (and I mean, CHEAP-as in, 50p to Dublin from Stansted...)
Surprised to find that some airports even PAY the likes of Ryanair to fly to their locations; 7% of Ryanair's revenue comes from selling their (expensive) in-flight sandwiches......and so on.
Suitable book for those with a reasonable level of interest in TRAVEL.
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on 8 July 2003
What a splendid read this was. There I was chortling in seat 17A on the BA flight to Yerevan (read my review of the Lonely Planet Guide to Armenia elsewhere folks) - sorry had to get that one in....
Loads of real trivia thrown in (did you know the last plane to leave Croydon Aerodrome before the War in 1939 was a Lufthansa plane?Or that the first postwar flight from Heathrow was goiing to Buenos Aires?)combined with real swash buckling tales of the airline pioneers. The glamourous Barbara from Go, the embittered hero of the Skytrain Freddie Laker tracked down to a casino complex in the Bahamas, the true originater of no frills success- a bloke called Herb in America and that bloke with the Italian name who set up Debonair.
All this is written in an engaging style & I related directly to the tales of traveling hardship to save a few pounds- who hasn't spent half the night awake to get to Stansted for a flight full of Aussies to some weird locale in the interests of discovery & travel BUT and here is the thrill-on a ticket at an absurdly low price. I particularly enjoyed the knowing put downs ('Not even RyanAir would describe Antwerp as Brussels South'
The final part of the book shows the real enthusiast at work as your pilot across the pages even recommends target destinations for your very own start up airline (Dresden would you credit)
This whole book seems so wonderfully of its time (is that what zeitgeist means?). Surely things can not go on as they are with RyanAir serious about making their profits on sandwiches & a flight to Ancona cheaper than the airport parking but in the meantime enjoy the experience. And if you get stuck because your plane hasn't got the equipment to let it take off into the light mist at the end of the runway then you could always buy this book to while away the hours of delay. Or alternatively you could just sleep & use the money saved for a return ticket to Lubeck.....
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on 16 January 2006
I think that this book is very much overrated. The author dwells heavily on Sir Freddie Laker as if his was the only airline to offer low fares before Southwest came on the scene. Had he done some more research or asked around in the travel industry he would soon have come across the name of Loftleidir Icelandic Airlines, now Icelandair. This company pioneered low fare services across the North Atlantic many years ahead of Sir Freddie. I don't want to tarnish Laker's reputation but he wasn't the first. Loftleidir started low fare services from the U.S.A. to Europe via Iceland in the mid 1950's using obsolete Douglas DC-4 aircraft. The airline's route from New York to Luxembourg was especially popular with the young American university students backpacking through Europe. It was known as the "hippy airline" receiving writeups in the international press of the time. Loftleidir was such a thorn in the side of the big IATA carriers on both sides of the North Atlantic that its services were capacity restricted in the U.K. and Scandinavia and restricted in other ways elsewhere. I also found many chapters written more for tabloid readership than for a responsible book on a very interesting subject. I expected more from someone who is said the be an expert in his field.
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on 26 May 2003
I am a dull person. I like stories about planes & airlines & airports & the aviation business.
But I need no longer bore you with the details of the rise & fall of Go, the low cost airline or with details about what was the last plane to leave the old Croydon aerodrome before the war (turns out to be Lufthansa don't you know) or where the first flight from Heathrow was going (Buenos Aires wouldn't you believe!) because the author tells all this story in a most entertaining fashion neatly interweaving narrative with assorted quotes from the main players in the no frills airline industry & calling upon years of journalistic experience & quite apart from his own low cost flight experiences which balance the delight of a low price with the weariness of that early morning start.
This is a great read for anyone stranded waiting for that delayed Ryanair flight back to rural Essex (oops sorry that would be London wouldn't it).
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