THE WEEK THAT WAS – 16 July 2022
By Bruce Piper, Publisher
Some in the mainstream media must have been frustrated this week at their inability to whip up a lather of panic over COVID-19 cases aboard the Coral Princess. I was initially unaware of the “crisis” before receiving an excitable phone call at 6am on Tuesday from a Channel 7 producer, which led to an appearance on Sunrise to comment on the “escalating outbreak” later that morning. Thanks to the now well-established protocols in place, the situation was absolutely a storm in a teacup, with about 100 crew, clearly having caught the virus from a passenger, isolating in their cabins with minimal symptoms – but that didn’t stop reporters bailing up disembarking passengers in Eden and later Sydney desperate for negative comments about what was going on.
It was almost laughable to listen to the cruisers wax lyrical about the situation on board, telling the sensation-mongers about how delightful it was to be at sea once again – and thanks to the deft management of the situation by Princess Cruises, the only vaguely negative story I could find was about a “loophole” in the procedures because some completely asymptomatic passengers hadn’t had their non-infectious RAT tests verified by health officials before disembarking. It was great to see CLIA on the front foot too, with MD Joel Katz reassuring the industry in an exclusive opinion piece for Cruise Weekly.
In other news, it will be intriguing to see how the Regional Express acquisition of the National Jet Express FIFO business owned by Cobham aviation plays out. It’s a sizeable deal for Rex, giving it a footprint in a business which turned over about $142 million last year – about half of Rex’s total pre-pandemic TTV. Rex appears to have all the ingredients for fast growth, but with the addition of FIFO to its well established regional portfolio and fledgling mainstream Boeing 737 jet operation, bringing all of these disparate elements together is going to require effective management.
The new partnership between Aeronology and Journey Beyond is also an intriguing development. The addition of the Journey Beyond experiential tourism range into the system is a no-brainer, but the other half of the deal is also interesting, seeing Journey Beyond use the system for its own in-house reservations staff. It’s a resounding endorsement for the Australian-developed platform, and with Journey Beyond’s new ownership by the US-based Hornblower Group which surely has similar requirements, I’m sure that Aeronology co-founder Russell Carstensen is hopeful this could lead to bigger things.
Another major story this week was the shock news that Qantas and Emirates have both withdrawn from the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA). The peak body, which had been led by Barry Abrams for almost a decade before his replacement this month by industry veteran Stephen Pearse, is likely to have its influence significantly impacted as a result. Although Qantas confirmed its withdrawal with a one-line statement, other players in the drama including Emirates, Abrams and BARA itself have declined to comment at this stage.
And while we’re on the subject of Emirates, the carrier’s push-back against caps imposed by London Heathrow Airport saw the normally polite, mild-mannered carrier let rip on airport management, in a tirade for the ages. It’s going to be fascinating to watch this battle of wills play out, with EK adamant it will continue to operate a full schedule in defiance of LHR’s threats of legal action.
Finally, probably the most significant news this week in terms of the industry’s future is the establishment of the Government’s new Jet Zero Council, supporting the local aviation sector’s efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050. My colleague Adam Bishop is digging into the bigger picture implications of this move, with an expose planned for an upcoming feature in travelBulletin so keep your eyes out for that one.
Well the weekend beckons once again, so I’m going to sign off now. If you have a spare five minutes over the next couple of days why not nominate a colleague or industry business (or yourself!) for the National Travel Industry Awards. After all, you’ve got to be in it to win it!