Weekly Wrap – 4th February 2023

ANOTHER week has passed and boy it’s been busy – but for me it’s been somewhat tempered by working remotely on the glorious NSW South Coast – including a delightful visit from my now 15-month-old grandson (oh and his parents too).

Fortunately they haven’t proven too much of a distraction, because it’s been an absolutely massive few days of industry news – kicked off at the start of the week with Travel Daily‘s exclusive revelations of the AFTA submissions to the ACCC relating to three key applications for authorisation of anti-competitive conduct by Qantas and three of its airline partners.

As if that wasn’t enough, the following morning Flight Centre placed its shares into a trading halt, followed shortly thereafter by confirmation that it is purchasing London-based luxury tour operator Scott Dunn for about $211 million. Scott Dunn has about 200 staff and significant operations in the UK and USA, as well as a small presence in Asia. It’s the latest step in Flight Centre Travel Group’s ongoing push into the upmarket segment, with the company saying it will fast-track plans to create a luxury collection of travel brands. A fully underwritten share placement was taken up with gusto, and Flight Centre shares surged almost 15% in the wake of the announcement.

There was also lots of aviation news around this week – starting with the horrific flooding in Auckland which included TV images of knee-deep water rushing through the city’s airport terminals. Air New Zealand suffered huge disruption as a result, with its staff working heroically since to return flights to normal after being forced to cancel all of its international operations for a day or so.

Closer to home we saw the long-awaited debut of Australia’s newest airline, Bonza, with Anna from our team heading to the Sunshine Coast to take a seat on the inaugural flight. While there are plenty of doomsayers suggesting Australia cannot possibly support any more aviation capacity, the unique Bonza model is certainly breaking the mould and it will be fascinating to see how it works. It was also heartening to at least hear the Bonza team paying tribute to the contribution they expect travel agents to make – time will tell how significant this will be for the industry. But for regional destinations it’s a game-changer – for example one of the planned Bonza routes is from Melbourne to Tamworth, surely a boon for local tourism operators in the NSW north-west region.

Qantas also dominated much of the news cycle, with planned A380 flights set to operate daily to Hong Kong, a new non-stop Melbourne-Jakarta route and a fare sale – while an op-ed from CEO Alan Joyce spoke about the airline’s improved operational performance, explained why fares are so high and  addressed several recent “turn-back” incidents as a reflection of the airline’s unstinting safety culture. Qantas was also in the pages of Travel Daily for another reason – confirmation that American Express Global Business Travel will later this month start charging its corporate clients a 3% surcharge on Qantas fares – further evidence of the ongoing deterioration in relationships between the carrier and its distribution partners.

There was also lots of cruise news this week – most notably the much-anticipated release of itineraries and pricing for the phoenix-like Crystal Cruises which has risen from the ashes of Genting Hong Kong under its new A&K Travel Group ownership. Crystal’s new bosses have been unstinting in their investment in the brand and its two ships, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, which are relaunching with less capacity due to the consolidation of some smaller cabins to provide guests with even more space. The vessels will debut in Europe later this year, with Symphony making her way Down Under to visit Australia and New Zealand via Singapore in December.

P&O Australia was the latest cruise line to run afoul (pun intended) of the seeming incredibly strict new biosecurity regime in New Zealand, with a trans-Tasman Pacific Adventure voyage disrupted due an unexpected hull cleaning mandate, while P&O also confirmed the appointment of Katie Malone as its new Marketing Director, joining Kathryn Roberson who joined the team as Chief Commercial Officer back in November.

Oceania Cruises announced the name of its second Vista-class ship as Oceania Allura, Royal Caribbean International announced a partnership deal with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Regent Seven Seas’ Grandeur floated out and Cruise Lines International Association announced its 2023 Masters intake.

After all that, I need a good lie down! But don’t worry, we’ll be back and full of energy to report all of next week’s big news on Monday.

Until then, have a great weekend



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