It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of a decade, but 2020 is just around the corner. The last ten years have brought about a huge amount of change in the business travel industry – something we looked at extensively in our special 100th issue earlier this year – but the team at BBT thought it would be interesting to look back at the news that really hit a nerve with industry colleagues.
With that said, here are the top ten most read news articles of the last decade.
1 American Express GBT buys HRG
The news that American Express Global Business Travel had signed an agreement to acquire HRG came in miles ahead as the most-read article of the last ten years, proving it was a big deal for the industry. Amex GBT had been the third-largest TMC in the UK, while HRG was second, but their combined power has since taken the business right to the top of our annual Leading 50 TMCs this year. The company has been on the acquisition path since and recently received an investment boost in a recapitalisation, so only time will tell what it has its sights on for the future.
2 Special report: Budget hotel operator OYO has big plans for the UK
Considering Indian hotel company OYO was only founded in 2013, it’s impressive how quickly it has become a real talking point for the travel industry. The firm launched operations in the UK in October 2018 and grew exponentially within six months, so when BBT editor Matthew Parsons was given the chance to interview UK head Jeremy Sanders (founder of Italian fast food chain Coco di Mama), it was a no brainer. OYO is now present in the US and founder Ritesh Agarwal recently bought back US$2 billion in shares, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see the company popping up in other markets very soon.
3 Oman Air threatens switch to Airbus following Boeing Max grounding
The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max undeniably shook the world this year, but the mixed reaction from the travel industry carried its own implications. While some carriers portrayed optimism about how safe the aircraft will be when it returns to service, others, such as Oman Air, made no effort to hide their anger. The airline’s chief executive made a bold statement at an event to showcase new cabin crew uniforms, telling journalists the loss of the Max was having a “major financial impact” on it. He went so far as to threaten to give the airline’s business to Airbus if Boeing did not pull through with a recovery and support plan. With the Max still grounded and its CEO fired, many are wondering if Boeing has managed to patch up the relationship.
4 Flybe to stop using Embraer jets
This story’s appearance on the list is a reminder that Flybe will be rebranded to Virgin Connect in January after the struggling regional carrier was acquired by Virgin Atlantic by way of Connect Airways. Prior to the deal being finalised, Flybe made the decision to return its fleet of 118-seat Embraer jets to lessors following a comprehensive base review. Along with the aircraft, the carrier said goodbye to its bases at Cardiff and Doncaster. One can only hope that a change of branding and a new owner will allow Flybe to flourish once again.
5 Lufthansa to extend seat selection fee to long-haul
After introducing a fee for seat selection on short-haul flights in 2013, Lufthansa moved to apply the charge to long-haul services less than a year later. The fee only applies when choosing a seat more than 23 hours prior to departure, but the news was likely unwelcome in the eyes of travel buyers, who now faced the possibility of increased spend if travellers had their eye on a particular seat. Today, the fee is €35 for standard economy class seats, or €55 for premium economy, but can rise to upwards of €110 for extra legroom.
6 Emirates ‘unbundles’ business class fares
Fare segmentation, or unbundling, is a practice whereby airlines can sell a seat with virtually no extras such as checked baggage or a cancellation allowance. Carriers claim it is a way for passengers to pay for only the services they want to use, and it’s common to see unbundled “hand baggage only” or “light” economy fares. Emirates became the first to bring the practice to business class, meaning it now sells tickets without commonly included amenities such as lounge access, chauffeur transfers, points upgrades to first and a cancellation allowance. For travel managers, this means having to ensure travellers know exactly what they’re getting if they book one of the “Special” fares. Some industry experts believe this is just the beginning and that we’ll see more business class segmentation in the near future.
7 Lufthansa to offer lowest fares exclusively through NDC and direct channels
NDC is a topic that has been discussed throughout most of the last decade, but the last two years have seen perhaps the most important advancements in the new distribution standard. Lufthansa took a clear stance on the subject in 2015 with the introduction of a surcharge on Global Distribution System - a major electronic worldwide reservation system used by travel agents to book flights, hotels, car rental and other travel services. The major players in this area are Sab... bookings, but took it a step further by removing its cheapest fares from indirect and non-NDC channels in 2018. The airline has made real progress on New Distribution Capability - a new system of technology standards to allow the distribution of airfares and ancillaries through third parties which is being developed by airline association IATA with... through its API, but considering a BBT feature from 2014 entitled Just what exactly is New Distribution Capability - a new system of technology standards to allow the distribution of airfares and ancillaries through third parties which is being developed by airline association IATA with...? is still being read thousands of time every month, we’d say there’s still a way to go.
8 Russia increases visa processing times
Russia hit back at the UK for expelling 23 diplomats in 2018 by increasing processing times for visas from six days to 20 working days. The political move proved to be a pressing issue for travel managers, who are often times tasked with ensuring travellers comply with local immigration laws when travelling on business. The reaction to the announcement could be an indicator of who will take notice in the event Brexit impacts UK citizens’ right to move freely throughout the European Union and vice versa.
9 Clarity recruits entire Thomas Cook Sport division
The collapse of Thomas Cook was an event nobody wanted to see. As a 178-year-old stalwart of the British tourism sector, the firm’s failure seemed to cast a dark shadow over the travel industry – but only temporarily. Within days, other businesses were stepping up to the plate to lend a hand to the 22,000 people around the world who were at risk of losing their jobs – not least of which was Clarity. The Travel Management Company: An agency which manages business travel for a company. recruited the entire Thomas Cook Sports travel management team to create a whole new division, proving the industry will often band together in times of hardship to make the best of a bad situation.
10 Rail industry seeks fare reform
The UK is still waiting for the final report from former British Airways boss Keith Williams to be published following his independent review of the country’s railways. As part of the inquiry, Rail Delivery Group called for a massive overhaul of the fares system to make it easier for passengers to choose the best value ticket for their journey. Williams has hinted that his proposals will be a radical change from the way the railways are run today, but business travellers will be most interested in what stance the government will take on ticketing based on the report.
If we could predict what the next decade will bring, it’s safe to assume team BBT would be lounging on a beach on some far-off, exotic island by now with all of our lottery winnings. Alas, we can’t tell the future, but we did ask industry experts for some insights into some of the issues they foresee facing travel buyers in 2020, so we’ll leave you with this outlook report.
From all of us at BBT, we wish you a happy and safe Christmas and New Year.