THE WEEK THAT WAS – Saturday 6th August 2022
by Bruce Piper, Publisher
Good morning and welcome to another weekly catch-up on some of the big stories in travel and tourism this week. One of the most intriguing updates came from Qantas and Jetstar, which announced with a fanfare that Jetstar flights are now available for booking through travel agent GDS platforms. This really took me aback, because despite paying lip service to third party distribution over the years Jetstar has always been firmly focused on direct bookings, with a somewhat clunky travel agent portal available for any agents who really needed to make reservations.
On top of that Qantas itself has been touting the benefits of its NDC-based Qantas Distribution Platform, imposing additional fees on segments booked outside the Qantas Channel. Admittedly QF NDC content is available within GDS depending on an agency’s technology partner, but the Jetstar move which allows GDS ticketing of JQ, 3K and GK content on Qantas 081 plates certainly seemed a bit of a “back to the future” moment. Could it be that, contrary to all indications over the last couple of years, Qantas and Jetstar are actually starting to value travel agency business? We shall see.
On a similar topic, the excitable update from Rex Airlines about its July surge in business was also an instructive development. The carrier’s Executive Chairman Lim Kim Hai attributed a doubling of passenger revenues on its Boeing 737 east coast capital city network to new agreements with Australia’s major travel agency groups, and such was his confidence in the prospects of further growth that he announced plans to add a further two aircraft to the fleet.
In cruise this week there was a watershed moment (get it?) when two P&O ships passed each other in Sydney Harbour – the first time there have been two passenger vessels in Australia’s marquee port since the early stages of the pandemic. A visit to the Overseas Passenger Terminal by P&O’s new Pacific Encounter was enough to bring a tear to the eye of any cruise lover, and was hopefully an indication that Australia’s cruise restart is well and truly on track. The reopening of the NZ maritime border at the start of the week was also a key marker in the industry’s recovery, and paves the way for the flotilla of ships from multiple brands which will be calling the region home over the upcoming summer.
Things are apparently not sailing so smoothly in Europe, where an exceptionally dry summer has led to very low water levels on major rivers including the Rhine. It’s predicted that some key passages of this mighty river will be as shallow as just 40cm this weekend – not enough room for river cruise ships to operate, and by all accounts operators are being forced to scramble to arrange alternate itineraries. Some cruise lines are offering compensation for the changes, but I have it on good authority that clients in some cases are furious at offers of just $100 per passenger to make up for a 15-day river cruise which ended up being a coach tour.
Finally, one of the big picture stories this week was the visit to Taiwan by US politician Nancy Pelosi. While the geopolitical implications of the controversial move have been dominating media, there were also significant and perhaps chilling flow-on effects for aviation, with airlines issued formal warnings by China about no-fly zones due to the danger of military exercises in the region. Aircraft operators have rerouted flights on longer trajectories, and are carrying extra fuel as a result – let’s hope these ominous developments are just a short-lived response to the sabre-rattling and posturing.
Well it’s another sparkling winter’s day in Sydney, so I’m going to get out there and make the most of it. I’ve got a little bit of shopping to do at Aldi – a dangerous thing to do on a Saturday when there are some new Special Buys on the shelves, and my family is hoping I don’t come home with a new welder and a violin along with the milk and veggies.
Have a great weekend