Flight Centre CEO Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner has paid homage to the impact of former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, telling travelBulletin this week it was an unfortunate ending for the long-standing aviation chief, who departed the business early amid a flurry of negative headlines.
“Alan led Qantas through the most challenging government restrictions period the industry has ever faced and also helped pioneer initiatives that will benefit travellers long into the future, including ultra long-haul sunrise flights,” Turner said.
“While there has inevitably been some turbulence along the way and we have not always agreed with the decisions he has made, [Flight Centre] maintained a close and positive relationship with Alan and his people throughout his tenure.
“We are sad to see him stand down ahead of his intended schedule but understand his reasoning as Qantas prepares for the dawn of a new era of success under Vanessa Hudson’s leadership,” Turner added.
And it’s funny how things can time out, with Joyce’s shock early departure following hot on the heels of Flight Centre running an ad blitz questioning a Federal Government decision to favour Qantas over Qatar Airways regarding a major capacity application.
Turner said that conflicts between airlines and travel sellers were simply part and parcel of the travel sector, and that ultimately it is a symbiotic relationship needed for all parties to be successful.
“There’s always tension between agents and airlines, particularly airlines who are home carriers like Qantas, and from Flight Centre Travel Group’s point of view, we do have a very good relationship with the senior people at Qantas – including Alan,” Turner reflected.
“From a personal point of view our people got on well with his people and commercially we would have liked to have done better, there’s absolutely no doubt about that.”
When asked about what changes in the relationship might be afoot now that Vanessa Hudson has formally taken control of Qantas’ cockpit, Turner suggested that while it’s difficult to predict change, whatever course changes there are moving forward, they are unlikely to be seismic.
“I don’t think things will change too much in the short-term and as travel agents we need to show that we can offer advantages for better commercial arrangements, and that’s really what we are focusing on now,” he said.
“The main thing is that the relationships at the senior level remain positive and that we can continue to talk to each other and work with each other…and you get the personal interactions right, it will improve and both parties will be winners – this hasn’t always been the case,” Turner added.
On the topic of commissions, Turner poured cold water on any possible backflip from Qantas reinstating more generous bonuses for travel agents, however he is confident there are opportunities to improve margins through avenues like NDC.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, I don’t think the team at Qantas will change the strategy from what Alan had in place in the short-term…but there is an opportunity there for a win-win,” he said.
“We produce better volumes for airlines and it’s not only about remuneration but a cooperative working together is needed so it becomes a win-win…we have common interests and we want to produce results for both parties,” he added.