Weekly wrap – 9th September 2023

BRUCE PIPER wraps up the week that was...

GREETINGS all, well this wrap is coming after what must have been one of the most tumultuous weeks in Australian aviation for quite some time. I won’t rehash the details covered in our travelBulletin editorial earlier this week, but suffice it to say the abrupt departure of Alan Joyce as CEO of Qantas marks a somewhat ignominious end to what has truly been an amazing career.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as furious as anyone about the behaviour of our national carrier in recent years, in particular its disdain for those who distribute its products, not to mention the travelling public. But someone this week told me that Joyce has certainly reached stellar heights for someone with his background – the first person in his village in Ireland to even finish high school, let alone to gain a university degree and ultimately become the head of a major corporation. It’s a shame all that success has now been tempered with a cold, hard dose of reality.

And unfortunately the furore for Qantas still isn’t over, with the management team and Board set to face further fury in the next couple of weeks when Joyce’s final payout is revealed. (I’m really looking forward to writing our next annual Million Dollar Club feature where we dig into the pay packets of those who lead our publicly listed travel and tourism companies). There’s also an upcoming Senate Inquiry into the whole Qatar Airways air rights scandal and Qantas’ involvement – which late yesterday escalated further to include the lucrative Qantas Frequent Flyer program, and the extreme difficulty people have actually redeeming points for flights that they would like to take.

Also in aviation, beleaguered Federal Transport Minister Catherine King released a Green Paper this week, which suggested the desirability of introducing an Open Skies regime while at the same time not suggesting any sort of timeline or mechanism for such a move. And having strenuously denied any connection between the denial of Qatar Airways’ application for additional flights and the airline’s invasive searches of Aussie women on the tarmac in 2020, King now admits that was indeed a factor.

There was also lots of cruise news this week, mostly centred around the highly successful CLIA Australasia Cruise360 conference in Brisbane on Thursday. About 650 travel advisors and cruise suppliers gathered to celebrate the renaissance of the sector which is recovering much faster than anyone initially expected. We’ll have a special edition of Cruise Weekly summarising all the C360 action on Monday, so watch your inbox for that. Overnight after the conference Virgin Voyages also announced a second season for Australia in 2024/25, as well as a delivery delay for its upcoming Brilliant Lady due to supply chain issues. It’s also no wonder Virgin is boosting its Aussie presence, with Australian Nirmal Saverimuttu named as the line’s new CEO following the retirement of incumbent Tim McAlpin.

Also in cruise this week we saw Helloworld’s Cruiseco go through a true “back to the future” move with the launch of a new invitation-only Platinum Club, initially comprising Phil Hoffmann Travel, Hunter Travel Group and Clean Cruising. This powerhouse trio will curate exclusive fly-packages, secure cruise allocations and promote offers from their cruise line partners – kind of what Cruiseco did right at the start when it was founded by Phil Hoffmann alongside Kevin Dale and Steve Lloyd in the early 2000s.

Of course the move follows last week’s revelation of the new CruiseHQ wholesale operation announced by Flight Centre Travel Group. Flight Centre this week also announced that Darren Lloyd will lead Cruiseabout and also confirmed the appointment of several former Creative Cruising staffers within CruiseHQ, with Cruise360 swirling with speculation as to who will be leading the business.

Other Helloworld news this week included the departure of Andre Moten, head of the Helloworld Business Travel and Magellan Travel Group brands. Just a year after combining the networks his role is once again being split into two, with Kellie Stanbury taking on Helloworld Business Travel while Iain Summers will now lead Magellan. It hasn’t yet been revealed where Moten is going, but his new role is expected to be revealed sometime next week.

Other stories this week included a huge 2023 for Wendy Wu Tours as China reopens, the addition of almost 25 new agencies to the ranks of Flight Centre Independent, confirmation of a huge jump in consumer travel advertising, the return of LATAM Airlines to Melbourne, the scrapping of COVID visas, new Aussie owners for Vanuatu’s iconic Iririki Island Resort, and finally yesterday’s shock withdrawal of funding from travel-focused lay-by provider PlanPay. It’s unclear what this means for the future of the financial technology company, but I suspect it’s not too bright.

After all that I’m going to leave it there; I’m looking forward to just a little bit of down time so enjoy your weekend!


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