Hi everyone! I’m writing this at Sydney Airport just before heading off to South America for my first ever trip to Antarctica, thanks to Viking Cruises. It’s so great to be travelling again, with members of our team also currently in Doha – not for the upcoming FIFA World Cup but instead for the naming ceremony for MSC’s new World Europa.
But in the meantime the news at home sure hasn’t stopped this week either, with probably the most momentous announcement being the sale of Qantas’ long-held stake in Helloworld Travel Limited. Offloaded via an underwritten bookbuild to institutional investors, the shareholding garnered $1.72 per share or a total of $33 million – about a 12% discount to the pre-sale trading price – and that’s where HLO shares have stayed since then. The move seems to be yet another indication of Qantas’ view of the value of travel resellers, with the airline having for some time been putting its relationship with the industry to death by a thousand cuts. The rhetoric from QF’s Vanessa Hudson was damning in its faint praise for the longstanding pact, noting the airline would continue to have a very strong relationship with Helloworld as a trade partner, while non-commitally adding that “travel agencies in general remain an important pillar of how millions of trips are booked every year”.
Singapore Airlines was also in the news a few times this week, mostly in relation to its partnership strategy which included a reboot of its pre-COVID agreement with Virgin Australia, as well as a mooted significant ramp-up of its ACCC-approved pact with the Lufthansa group of airlines. With the OK given earlier this year to expanded cooperation between Lufthansa, Austrian, Swiss and Singapore Airlines covering a much wider range of European destinations, we can expect a bunch of new fare products, including more options for leisure travellers and potential open-jaw cruise fares. We also saw tech innovator Aeronology further expand its offering via a new direct connection to SIA’s low-cost offshoot Scoot. While Scoot fares are also available on GDS, the new Aeronology offering comes with the same prices as Scoot’s web fares, which in some cases are $200 cheaper than via conventional CRS platforms.
And yesterday Qantas took a big leap forward in its decarbonisation plans with the debut of a new corporate program. The Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) Coalition aims to demonstrate that demand exists for a local SAF industry in Australia, with participating businesses to pay a premium to reduce their air carbon emissions by contributing to the incremental cost of SAF – rather than using traditional carbon offsets. Also in sustainable aviation news came confirmation that Alice Springs-based Northern Territory Aviation Services is seeking to implement a new all-electric fleet of nine-passenger aircraft.
In cruise we continued to see the resurgence of the industry both locally and across the Pacific, with a host of cruise lines arriving back Down Under for their first post-pandemic local deployments. That included huge excitement around the inaugural Brisbane cruise for the new Carnival Luminosa, as well as P&O arrivals in Noumea and Vanuatu, while Holland America Line’s Westerdam also made a welcome return this week.
Still on cruise, the week ended with the somewhat surprising confirmation that Brisbane’s Portside Wharf – popular with (and heavily booked by) operators of smaller ships such as Regent, Oceania, Viking and Silversea – has been closed, despite a full roster of upcoming bookings. Apparently the cruise companies were informed of the shutdown just six weeks ago, forcing a scramble to adjust itineraries. Nobody’s commenting on the move – least of all Tourism and Events Queensland which will understandably be a little miffed at long-planned and promoted port calls being shifted interstate.
Anwyay my boarding call just came up on the indicator board so I’ll wrap it up there. Watch our issues of Travel Daily and Cruise Weekly over the coming days for all of our Antarctic action – as well as all the latest news of course!
Have a great weekend.