WE all remember the Webjet ads. The pompous couple belittling agents as they quaffed expensive rioja and dined, in all probability, on quails eggs. The smug, self-satisfied women mocking a consultant as they decided which dresses to pack.
Now, low and behold, Webjet has not only been accepted into the rank and file of AFTA, but its chief commercial officer Shelley Beasley is on the board.
And that is how it should be.
In all honesty I found criticism of Webjet’s acceptance into AFTA, and Beasley’s subsequent election to the board, somewhat daft. There are surely bigger things to worry about. As irritating (and inaccurate) as the ads were, have we not all moved on?
Let’s be clear about a few things. Webjet made those commercials several years ago now, when they sat outside AFTA. Compared to the world in which we currently live, it was a different era. What would be wholly inappropriate of course, is if Webjet revived the ads. Now they are in the fold so to speak, it must act with a heightened sense of respect.
It is also worth noting that bricks and mortar agents have never been reticent about criticising their online competitors. Whenever travel is disrupted, and when plans go awry, agents are quick to press home their customer service qualities while bagging the online sector’s perceived lack of care.
Additionally, there seems to be an underlying belief that Webjet, and other pure-play online players, are somehow detached from the travel industry. They are not. They are a travel agent as much as any offline agency.
But there is a more fundamental issue here, and it’s one that was articulated by AFTA CEO Darren Rudd. We are in extraordinary times. Businesses are barely surviving, thousands of travel professionals are losing their jobs. Now is surely the time to set our differences aside and attempt to collectively get through this wretched pandemic.