24 hours of travel industry chaos

The past day of travel industry news generated almost a year's worth of headlines. MYLES STEDMAN steps through the major developments, blow-by-blow.

THE travelBulletin team can be excused for feeling like 24‘s Jack Bauer today, as our editors and journalists attempted to navigate what is unlikely to be rivalled as the biggest news day since Australia’s borders closed in March 2020.

Four ASX-listed travel companies and two other major Australian brands have made major headlines in the past 24 hours – some good, some bad – which saw Travel Daily melt inboxes nationwide with breaking news after breaking news.

The feature below chronicles the past 24 hours of news –  although you’ll have to imagine your own split screens and animated ticking clock in the background.

Tuesday, February 20, 15:08 – Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer Jayne Hrdlicka steps down

Virgin Australia dropped the first bombshell yesterday afternoon, announcing a “leadership transition” which would see Hrdlicka depart for an as-yet-unnamed replacement.

The former Jetstar Airways CEO is departing after four years in the role, which saw her navigate Virgin through administration and the COVID-19 pandemic, rebirthing it as a “value carrier”.

Hrdlicka will perhaps surprisingly, not see Virgin through to its initial public offering, with the airline announcing a “global search” for its next head.

Wednesday, February 21, 08:29 – Corporate Travel Management posts record first-half result

Barely an 90 minutes after travelBulletin reporters had begun logging on, Corporate Travel Management announced a whopping 1H result, which saw its underlying EBITDA jump to $100.7 million, from $51.3 million in the prior corresponding period.

CTM’s first half results also came with an ambitious five-year strategy, which would see the company double its 2024 fiscal year profit by FY2029.

The company’s strength extended to its balance sheet, with $131.3 million of cash in the bank and no drawn debt.

Wednesday, February 22, 09:20 – demand for travel underpins strong Helloworld result

Helloworld was the next ASX-listed travelco to announce its results, making public a 117.7% jump in first half EBITDA to $34 million from $15.6 million.

The company’s total transaction value of $2.2 billion was also a hefty leap from the $1.21 billion recorded in the prior corresponding period.

Total revenue increased to $112.3 million from $73.2 million in the prior corresponding period, growth of $39.1 million (53.4%).

Wednesday, February 22, 10:35 – Australian government announces reform of Sydney Airport slots management

The long-awaited news the federal government is finally acting on Sydney’s slot scheme was confirmed, with Minister for Transport Catherine King committing to increased transparency about how take-off and landing rights are allocated.

Airlines will be required to provide regular information on how they use their slots, King said, such as reasons for cancellations or major delays, with this information to be published regularly.

The government also committed to maintaining community protections such as curfew or movement caps, as neighbourhoods under Sydney’s flight paths keep a close eye on reform at the airport.

Wednesday, February 22, 10:53 – Qantas Airways announced new Chair

The Australian flag-carrier waited little more than a quarter of an hour following the Sydney Airport news to announce its new Chair, John Mullen.

The current Telstra, Toll, and Brambles Chair will add Qantas to his responsibilities from October, ahead of the airline’s annual general meeting, when the much-maligned Richard Goyder will retire.

Mullen will join the board from July, alongside Westpac and Origin Director Nora Scheinkestel, who will join from next Friday.

Wednesday, February 22, 12:30 – American Queen Voyages ceases operations

The United States-based cruise line cancelled all its future voyages, following on from a range of issues, such as several large travel agencies suspending sales of its cruises following commission and customer service problems.

A source close to the issue confirmed the news to Cruise Weekly, following disquiet from a number of Facebook groups about American Queen.

Parent company Hornblower Group has itself been the centre of much speculation in the past 12 months, with the cruise line’s sister brand Journey Beyond also reportedly up for sale.

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