QF launches NDC platform

Qantas has launched a new “direct connect” technology platform, with the aim of improving the functionality of direct agent channels by giving trade partners access to rich content such as images of cabins and meals, the ability to book ancillaries and providing Qantas Frequent Flyer information and tier status at the point of sale. The new Qantas Distribution Platform (QDP) has been developed in partnership with FareLogix, and has been certified to NDC Level 3 — the highest certification available from IATA. Trade partners are able to access the QDP either via approved partner connections, or by developing their own connection to the QF NDC XML Application Program Interface.

Qantas chief customer officer Vanessa Hudson said the platform was a “key part of a broader digital evolution of Qantas’ booking channels, and an important step in the delivery of the best possible experience for trade partners and customers”. However the announcement didn’t clarify whether the new platform would see Qantas follow other carriers by introducing a fee for GDS bookings, with a spokesperson for the airline insisting it was a technology announcement rather than detailing commercial aspects. The carrier did note that “private and published fares available via the QDP will continue to be made available to approved trade partners via existing platforms”.

Helloworld Asia Escape buy

Helloworld Travel’s appetite for acquisition continued unabated last month with the announcement it was buying 60% of Perth-based Asia Escape Holidays. The company said Asia Escape’s product range was a complement to the existing Helloworld wholesale brands, and also provided the opportunity to offer a “greater mid-haul all-inclusive package range”. There is increasing demand for all-inclusive packages in retail leisure markets, an ASX announcement noted, “and Asia Escape Holidays has considerable expertise in creating and delivering these packages throughout the region”.

Under the deal Helloworld is paying $2.88 million for 60% of Asia Escape’s parent company, Keygate Holdings Pty Ltd, along with an option to boost its stake to 100% in four years time. The remaining 40% is held by Asia Escape managing director Mason Adams, who will become part of the ever-expanding Helloworld senior management team. Helloworld Travel CEO Andrew Burnes said “Asia Escape Holidays is an excellent strategic fit to Helloworld Travel’s existing wholesale businesses and provides the group with a trade focused brand that has the expertise and speed to market to compete in the growing package and impulse buying market for travel throughout the Asia Pacific region”.

Dreamlines takes Cruise1st

German cruise OTA giant Dreamlines last month boosted its global presence with the acquisition of rival Cruise1st. In so doing Dreamlines has established a new beachhead in the UK where it previously didn’t have any operations, and at the same time created what it’s claiming to be the largest cruise-focused online travel agency in Australia. Cruise1st Australia managing director Carl Frier will continue to run the local operation based in Sydney, while Alastair Fernie, who heads up the CruiseAway business purchased by Dreamlines some years ago, will also stay in place and the pair will jointly pursue growth in the Australian market.

Dreamlines said the combined global TTV of both businesses was expected to be more than 400 million euros this year. As well as combining expertise to create unique cruise products and experiences, the companies also said they would expand their distribution channels “enabling suppliers to target customers more efficiently and with even greater effectiveness”. The acquisition means Dreamlines now has a presence in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil and the USA as well as the UK, Australia and Singapore.

Dubai to shut Australian office

There was disbelief across the industry last month when Travel Daily revealed the planned closure of Dubai Tourism’s office in Australia after more than 18 years of local representation. Dubai has had a huge place in the market in recent years, particularly with the major alliance between Qantas and Emirates which saw QF shift its European stopover point to Dubai. Although QF’s one-stop London flights now once again operate via Singapore, Emirates continues to have huge capacity in the market and thousands of Australians travel to Europe via Dubai each week. Julie King and Associates has created great awareness of the destination, with Dubai a key partner for AFTA and the destination featuring in scores of wholesale programs.

A statement from Dubai Tourism’s head office confirmed the closure from August 2018, saying the move aimed to “consolidate Dubai Tourism’s position across key international markets”. Thereafter operations in Australia and New Zealand will be managed directly from global headquarters in Dubai, the statement added, concluding: “This move aims at deepening the direct long-term alliances with key partners in the region including airlines and trade, forging strategic collaborations in line with the longstanding commitment to, and confidence in, the potential of both markets.”

CTM Platinum Travel deal

Corporate Travel Management last month announced the purchase of the NSW and Queensland offices of Magellan Travel Group member Platinum Travel. The $5 million deal does not include the Melbourne operations of Platinum Travel, which continue to be headed up by Magellan board member Carl Buerckner. CTM said the business being acquired was a “renowned Australian boutique agency that has an excellent reputation for customer service and a culture very similar to CTM,” with the deal also providing an opportunity to expand the company’s global executive team by appointing Platinum owner Greg McCarthy as its Australian and New Zealand CEO.

“Greg has an impeccable reputation in the travel industry and possesses leadership skills highly valued by CTM,” the company said. CTM also said the acquisition was in line with a planned strategy for 2019 to boost its corporate SME and events segment. The deal is effective from 1 July, and will see a reduction in the number of agencies acquired by Helloworld under its takeover of Magellan Travel Group. It’s understood that McCarthy will have to repay moneys received as part of the Magellan takeover, which will in turn reduce the overall $32.5 million price paid by Helloworld for the group.

Singapore Airlines to absorb SilkAir

Singapore Airlines is set to consolidate its operations to offer a single full-service brand, with the planned merger of wholly owned regional offshoot SilkAir into the parent company. The rebranding of SilkAir will follow a planned $100 million upgrade starting in 2020, including the installation of new business class seating and inflight entertainment systems to provide a consistent product for Singapore Airlines customers. Currently SilkAir operates 11 A320 aircraft along with 22 Boeing 737s, with the move seeing narrow bodied aircraft join the Singapore Airlines fleet alongside its existing 777s, A380s, 787s and A350s. SilkAir is also in the process of phasing out its A320s to move to an all-737 fleet.

SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong did not provide a timeframe for the merger, saying it would take place “only after a sufficient number of aircraft have been fitted with the new cabin products”. He said there would also be transfers of routes and aircraft between different airlines in the Singapore Airlines portfolio, “consistent with ongoing efforts to optimise the SIA Group’s network”. Once the merger is complete Singapore Airlines will have just two brands, with full service operations under the SIA banner while Scoot, which recently absorbed Tigerair Singapore, will be its low-cost brand.