This Letter to the Editor was sent in by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous.
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It’s been very difficult to be a TMC and upmarket retail travel business over the past few years, which clearly is an understatement – although the ‘difficult’ unfortunately is not finished. Of course, everyone who has survived the three year ‘Black Out’ knows that.
The amazing travel people who have moved on to retirement or other more stable employment will probably not bother or get a chance to read this letter, but I will still say, “My respect to you”. Thank you for your years of hard work, stress, and friendship, especially your wonderful GDS and destination technical and travel nuance expertise.
Oh my God, I miss that Sabre expertise, it was like the heart and knowledge of my travel businesses. All gone, and probably never to be replaced with such abundance of knowledge that used to be out there.
Like most other small and mid-size business owners, I have a mortgage (those damn mortgages!). Like others who more than likely have increased debt because of COVID (those damn banks!). And now with increased interest rates (yep, the RBA stinks!).
With all of that, what do I have left? Well it’s hard to write, but I still have a wonderful business, amazing and adaptable employees, and mostly female warriors who continue to fight the good fight. Respect to them, and I embrace their resilience, their families, and their mortgage repayments!
I’ve made my business bed, my bad now, but not always. Most importantly, I too am a warrior. I am a woman, and as a woman we are eighty percent of the travel industry workers. Never ever forget that, and we are NOT going away.
I’m here, in the travel industry, and I will not be taken down….easily. All I ask for is respect for the value of my worth, the acknowledgement of me, and my team’s hard work, and the foundation stone of my business’s values in this highly manual service and supply chain of the travel industry.
We are valuable and we provide value, lots of it and mostly unpaid.
So, I hope I’ve now set the scene.
The past three years have been life-jolting to the extreme, and I’m not the lone warrior here. COVID, near bankruptcy, loss of great employees. Depression, bad thoughts of taking ‘the’, you know what I mean, the family stress, and my family has been my rock. That’s only the personal stuff.
Now for the business stuff.
While we were trying to survive through COVID, our customers who had prepaid, quite rightly wanted their money back…and guess what…many of our suppliers refused to return our calls. The messenger and booker were shot…and attacked. To those suppliers, well, not much happened because of their nastiness. They kept the money and probably will make more money from ‘breakages’ than the product.
We all know who they are.
Like most, I was nearly broken. But I’m still breathing.
Then while they say ‘always take advantage of a crisis’, obviously it’s nearly impossible for us. Some suppliers did, and they also know who they are. I wouldn’t and couldn’t do that. Airline commissions were reduced but our workload increased. We ended up being the unpaid servants of airlines for our ‘CLIENTS’ and servicing our clients’ needs. Note the word ‘CLIENTS’, it is different to the word ‘CUSTOMERS’. There is a very big difference between the two words and how they are engaged. Let me get to that important difference later.
The next BIG change was ‘NDC’. WTF is that? It’s a New Distribution Capability. There you are, ‘NDC’, a new acronym, like we need another. NDC empowered by IATA, weaponized by airlines. Our GDS’s has no idea of the issues around servicing NDC bookings via their service. We are getting it from all directions.
Now, not only am I being skinned alive by my GDS, but I’ve also been drawn and quartered by the NDC airline.
Passive segments, yeah right, at $3.50 per PNR. My Mid-Office, who most use, and is owned by our competitor, demands we do ‘Passive’ segments on top of their outrageous licence fees.
Has my heart stopped? Nearly. Am I broke? Probably.
Should I keep going after 15 years of running a great business, a business which my clients love and adore, or do I give up? To my travel friends reading this, we possibly should have given up, who would have thought nearly three years of nothing but servicing our clients, and mostly friends. Our ‘glutton for punishment’ ways after investing our lives, our family, and our finances… how could we? Stupid is…
So, why write a ‘letter to the editor’ now?
Well, travel is roaring back, business is booming, our hours are now twice as long, and we are losing staff because over-work is worse, and we aren’t making that much money.
What changed? It was this:
Like most travel people we all read the Australian Financial Review last week, the article on Alan Joyce. Well, unlike others, I didn’t have an opinion of Joyce one way or another, until I read the article written by the journalist Joe Aston. Well, if you haven’t read it, please do. It sums up what’s wrong with Qantas, and they aren’t the only ones. QF, and other travel businesses have been personality driven for way too long.
Then this happened a few weeks ago:
Here is the scenario. One of my corporate clients, note ‘my client’, was invited without my knowledge to what was advertised as the ‘Qantas Distribution Program’, QDP on LinkedIn, and told my ‘Client’ NDC was the future of Qantas’ retail strategy. Thanks for telling me.
The lack of due respect to me and my client was appalling. I would not have any issue if I was advised of the invitation, but Qantas believes they own this ‘CUSTOMER’. My ‘CLIENT’ and this Qantas ‘CUSTOMER’ came back to me and told me I must provide their business with Qantas NDC products. You all know the answer to this question to me was this: “But how?”
Let me say this, Qantas flyers are only the ‘customers’ when they fly with Qantas, that’s fair. The issue is, my clients don’t always fly Qantas and, after many years of appalling service from Qantas, my clients are taking my advice on who to use for other flights. A pretty easy sell. So, to any airline, if your customer doesn’t fly exclusively with you, they are my ‘clients’ and my ‘customers’. Never ever forget that.
Now the disappointing issue with Qantas. Note, I have many Qantas friends, as we all do.
Qantas Group, via Qantas Loyalty, that side business apparently creates forty percent of the profits driven to the Qantas Group. That’s massive.
This is what I’ve read via Travel Daily recently: Qantas Loyalty has the management of Qantas Holidays, TripADeal and other businesses. But wait for it, they aren’t even IATA – they do their ticketing with an outside ticket consolidator. I know people in that business, because I use them sometimes. If that is the case, and they aren’t IATA, then that means Qantas doesn’t even use the Qantas QDP products in their own businesses. OMG, how can this be?
Think about that: while they go to our ‘Clients’, and their supposed customers, to tell those customers to force all of us on to their NDC platform, that we can’t get access to. It’s hard to stomach that Qantas’ fully owned companies probably don’t even use their NDC. Now think about that.
They put pressure on businesses while they can’t manage their own. How appalling, how hypocritical, how tough on us.
I’m now dying by a thousand cuts.