DEBRA Fox to depart ATG
The APT Travel Group (ATG) has been forced to implement a significant restructure to its business, with the changes seeing the departure of long-time Chief Commercial Officer Deb Fox. The highly respected Fox leaves the company this month, with Chris Hall, MD of parent company Australian Pacific Holdings, paying tribute. “Deb is to be recognised, not only for her significant contribution as a senior leader within ATG, but also as a female leader in the travel industry”.
Hall said the company was resilient and would recover, but COVID-19 posed the biggest challenge in its 90-year history. Fox’s departure is part of a wider reshuffle seeing the group’s brands including APT, Travelmarvel, Botanica and TravelGlo come under a single umbrella headed up by newly appointed CEO for ATG, David Cox. A new management team will be formed with several General Manager roles appointed internally.
“These changes are being made to ensure we emerge from this period financially solid, retaining as many people as possible, and remain a trusted travel agent partner now and into the future,” Hall said.
Airline policy revamp
COVID-19 does not appear to have dampened the appetite for change in airline distribution methods, with several carriers pressing on with significant updates to their relationships with travel agents and other distributors.
Most notably early last month was the introduction of a new GDS fee by Singapore Airlines as it rolled out its new KrisConnect program. Although the new fee is less draconian than charges imposed by other carriers such as Qantas and Lufthansa, the move for non-NDC bookings was seen as coming at a particularly bad time for travel agents already on their knees due to COVID.
Meanwhile Thai Airways appears to have completely turned its back on travel agent distribution as it grapples with bankruptcy, announcing it was reducing BSP base commission to zero worldwide.
HLO capital raising
Helloworld Travel Limited last month bolstered its balance sheet by raising $50 million, saying the additional funding will give it sufficient liquidity for operating and capital expenditure through until the end of 2022 even assuming ongoing disruption. An additional 30 million new shares were issued, with a new institutional investor joining the register along with an entitlement offer to existing shareholders.
CEO Andrew Burnes and Executive Director Cinzia Burnes took up 70% of their entitlements at a cost of $5 million, while other major shareholders including Qantas and Spiros Alysandratos’ Sintack Pty Limited declined to participate. The offer was led and underwritten by Ord Minnett Limited and priced at $1.65 per share, a 16% discount to the prevailing share price at the time.
COVER-More Travel Insurance has amended its cancellation policy and is now set to provide 100% refunds on policies with travel dates 24 March to 17 September. Previously the company was only refunding 75% of the gross amount paid, with the move following concerted pressure from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as well as several Facebook action groups particularly concerned about Flight Centre’s refunds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Customers who had already elected to convert their policy into a credit note will also now have the option of a refund, with the move to 100% also meaning commission on the sales of the policies will be recalled.
Cover-More is adapting its systems to manage the “expected large volume of refunds,” and is now contacting customers about the change.
GBTA CEO goes
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) has confirmed the departure of its former CEO Scott Solombrino, after an investigation exonerated him of allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
The GBTA Board confirmed it had previously stood Solombrino down after receiving an anonymous letter with “troubling claims” but an independent probe noted that “no misconduct or legal wrongdoing” was found. Solombrino and the GBTA Board agreed it was “time for him to pursue other opportunities,” with former United Airlines executive Dave Hilfman appointed as the organisation’s interim Executive Director.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is set to allow ongoing coordination of flight schedules between Qantas, Virgin Australia and Regional Express on 10 domestic routes through until 30 June 2021, with destinations covered including Wagga, Dubbo, Albury, Armidale, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Whyalla & Kangaroo Island.
The move is an extension of an interim authorisation granted in March, with the ACCC recognising “airlines are still facing significant challenges, including exceptionally low demand, due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The proposed authorisation is conditional on the carriers charging fares no higher than those that were in place on 1 February 2020, and the ACCC will also closely monitor the arrangements to ensure competition.
“We anticipate that the arrangements will help support the continuity of essential air services for regional communities on the relevant routes while the pandemic is significantly affecting air travel,” according to ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh.