Weekly wrap – 30 September

Associate Editor MYLES STEDMAN wraps the week in the travel industry.

TEMPERATURES in Sydney soared this week, as the thermostat also cranked up in the Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s decision to block flights from Qatar Airways.

The inquiry heard how large a loss Australia will suffer if the government fails to reverse its decision to disallow Qatar to double its capacity into the country, which the airline totalled at $3 billion.

The claim was made by Senior Vice President Global Sales Matt Raos, who added that extra Qatar flights would see a $1 billion improvement in inbound tourism – largely from Europe – as well as a material reduction in airfares in the vicinity of 7-10%.

Raos admitted Qatar was “surprised and shocked” by the decision to block its expansion without reason, adding while other airlines turned their back on Australia during the pandemic, travellers turned to QR.

Qantas also received a grilling at the inquiry this week, and in response, announced a material increase to investment in customer improvements.

The Group will invest a further $80 million across the 2024 fiscal year, in addition to the $150 million previously budgeted, which will be funded from the monster profits it announced earlier this year.

This additional investment is aimed at addressing a number of customer “pain points” through improvements such as better contact centre resourcing & training, an increase in the number seats that can be redeemed with Frequent Flyer points, more generous recovery support when operational issues arise, a review of longstanding policies for fairness, and improvements to the quality of inflight catering.

Qantas is also working to accelerate some initiatives which are already underway, such as the re-platforming of the airline’s application, with more detail to be shared in coming weeks.

It was also a big week for Bonza, which was represented in Senate by its Chief Executive Officer Tim Jordan.

Bonza’s founder suggested eight million more Australians would be able to benefit from low-cost airfares if the federal government was to review the way slots are awarded at Sydney Airport.

When asked if Bonza had access to enough slots on busy routes, Jordan replied “absolutely not”, revealing the airline has not even bothered formally applying for slots in Sydney because he was told such a request would never be approved.

“We were told [by Sydney Airport] we would not get the necessary slots to base our aircraft, hence we didn’t enter the process knowing it would not be worthwhile,” he conceded.

Jordan added the only slots available would be in the middle of the day which would “not be optimal” for operations.

Bonza’s appearance in front of the senate was backdropped by the announcement of its tailored holiday packages to all of its 21 destinations.

The airline’s passengers can now book tailored packaged holidays via the Fly Bonza application through a two-phased launch process, with flights, accommodation, and travel insurance all available now.

Car hire, activities, and attractions will all be launched next year, with Bonza calling on businesses from all sectors of the travel industry to get involved.

Bonza’s offering includes a 23kg checked bag, 8kg hand luggage, and seat selection included in every package, as well as a price match guarantee.

Bonza Holidays is fully integrated into the airline’s existing application, and is powered by Melbourne-based travel-tech start up Awai.

Also this week, this year’s National Travel Industry Awards finalists (NTIA) for voted and individual categories were announced, following weeks of polling, and assessment by university-level intendent judges.

The Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) acknowledged the high calibre of submissions received this year, with as many as five finalists announced in some categories.

This year’s NTIAs received more than 8,000 votes across all voted categories, with Abercrombie & Kent, APT, Contiki, G Adventures, Intrepid, Trafalgar, Adventure World, Entire, Expedia, The Travel Junction, and Viva Holidays some of the major finalists.

Accor, Club Med, Hyatt, IHG, and The Ascott all made the final cut in the Most Popular Accommodation Group/Chain category, and in the cruise world, Norwegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Viking, APT, Avalon, Scenic, and Uniworld all got a nod.

The finalists in business categories will be announced next week – for a full list, click here.

As temperatures in Sydney climb even higher this weekend, I think it’s time to head to the water for a swim!

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