With the end in sight, it's safe to say that 2019 has been big. It's been a year of sky-high growth with 20-hour non-stop flights, and insights into what's to come with the power of artificial intelligence (AI). Take a moment and join us as we reflect on the year that was 2019 in business travel.
NDC is the hottest topic in the air
The hottest topic this year has no doubt been the new distribution capability (NDC). NDC is a new way of pricing and packaging airline content, including airfares, seats and other air-related products, and its set to shake up the industry. Once the technical requirements are all sorted across the world's airlines, travel management and global distribution system providers, and other tech companies, the outcome should be a smoother, more seamless buying experience for travellers, including those head off for work. But it's still a while off – we saw progress this year, but NDC isn't cleared for take-off just yet.
Check-in starts with 'Hey Google'
In a great example of how AI is helping to make the travel process simpler, Google Assistant announced it would start checking Android-using travellers into flights, just using voice commands.
Singapore Airlines takes early meal orders
In a first for flyers, Singapore Airlines enabled travellers to pre-order main meals from their flight menus. Initially offered across Suites, First and Business Classes throughout their whole global network, plans were also in place to extend the initiative to include Premium Economy.
Qantas Channel grows with FCTG
In a deal that benefits Corporate Traveller customers, Flight Centre Travel Group forged a partnership with Qantas to enable access to a full range of fares, information and new content via the airline’s Qantas Channel. This can only mean better deals for business travellers.
Hotel micro-communities on the rise
Early this year, we noticed the growing trend for transforming high-end hotel lobbies into micro-communities, where hotel guests and locals can enjoy a mix of goods and services beyond the traditional hotel offering. Already popular in other parts of the world, including New York and across Europe, having more options available within hotels is a real bonus for business travellers.
Women take control of world’s largest plane
To mark International Women’s Day, a crew made up of over 75 women from 25 nationalities serviced an Emirates flight from Dubai to San Francisco on the world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380. Dubbed the ‘Superwomen flight’, all aspects of the service, including the cockpit, technicians, engineers and security, were performed by women.
Thrifty joins SmartDRIVE
Rental car company Thrifty joined Corporate Traveller’s popular SmartDRIVE program, which provides exclusive benefits to customers, including double Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer Points, when booking through Corporate Traveller.
New head honcho at Corporate Traveller
A changing of the guard saw veteran of the travel industry Tom Walley take on the role of General Manager of Corporate Traveller Australia. Tom returns to Corporate Traveller after holding various senior positions in Flight Centre Travel Group across both leisure and corporate travel brands. Tom said his priorities were clients and his staff: "I'll be ensuring we are driving the right results for clients and creating a positive environment for our staff.”
$25k travel credit helps charity to help veterans
Charity organisation Mates4Mates were awarded a grant of $25k worth of Virgin Australia travel credit, thanks to a Corporate Traveller campaign. “This grant will help fund flights so that more veterans can access our programs, no matter where they live in Australia,” said Emily Halpin, Business Support Officer for Mates4Mates.
Art Series Hotels expands across the country
Accor’s Art Series Hotels expanded into Western Australia with the announcement that the brand’s ninth hotel would open in Perth in October. With properties already in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, Accor Chief Operating Officer Pacific, Simon McGrath said: “This announcement reflects the continued expansion and evolution of Australia’s only boutique hotel brand creating art inspired experiences for guests.”
World’s first landfill-free flight
A 49-minute flight from Sydney to Adelaide was the first in the world to be waste-free after guests onboard were served meals in containers made from sugar cane and cutlery made from crop starch, among other tactics to divert 34kilograms of waste from the flight away from landfill. The initiative was part of the airline’s The Bowerbird Project, which aims to eliminate 100 million pieces of single-use plastic from flights by the end of 2021.
At 32, Qantas Frequent Flyers got some work done
The most significant overhaul to Qantas' Frequent Flyer loyalty program in its 32-year history promised that members would pay significantly less fees for international reward flights, have access to more seats and enjoy more rewards for earning points on the ground.
We shone a light on SMEs, our favourite type of businesses
Corporate Traveller celebrated International SME Day by recognising the significant efforts and contributions that small and medium businesses make in Australia. “As a travel specialist in the SME sector, we know more than most that while SMEs make a huge contribution to our economy, they operate in a tough environment and need all the help they can get,” said Tom Whalley, General Manager of Corporate Traveller Australia.
New entry requirements for New Zealand
Across the ditch, New Zealand announced it would be implementing an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) as a new security and facilitation measure to help speed things up at the border. Australian citizens are exempt, but all air travellers from 60 visa waiver countries and all cruise travellers will need to hold an ETA before travelling to New Zealand from 1 October.
Qantas and American Airlines make it even more official
The existing codeshare partners made it even more official when a joint business arrangement was inked between the two major airlines and approved by the US Department of Transportation. The benefits for Qantas passengers include improved connectivity, a better experience and more perks when travelling between New Zealand, Australia and North America.
IHG switching to bulk size amenities to reduce waste
In one of the most significant moves toward sustainability by a hotel chain to date, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the world’s leading hotel companies, announced it would switch to bulk-size bathroom amenities in all of its 843,000 guest rooms across the globe. The process will take some time, with the transition expected to be completed during 2021.
Report proves what we all thought: economy fares have gone up
The annual 4D Focus Australia Aviation and Airfare Analysis was released by 4th Dimension, Flight Centre Travel Group’s Business Travel Consulting division. Among other stats, the report found that purchased Domestic economy corporate fares increased by 7% and Domestic economy leisure by 8%. And NSW was identified as Australia’s most frequently visited state by the 9.2 million inbound visitors to Australia during 2018, which was up 5% on 2017.
Virgin Australia gives nervous flyers a proverbial hug
In an attempt to help ease the stress of flying for the more than 10% of their guests that experience high levels of nervousness when travelling, Virgin Australia introduced a program that provides information and tools for travellers in the lead-up to travel, reassuring interactions on the day and steps to reduce unnecessary stress. Need some help to stay calm when travelling? Just identify as a nervous traveller when you book.
Sydney to Melbourne still 2nd busiest route…in the world
If you thought your flights were busy heading from Sydney to Melbourne, you were right. This month the route was named the second busiest domestic route in the world, with 54,102 flights operating annually by four carriers. Sydney to Brisbane proved busy too, coming in at 12th.
We’re one of AFR’s most innovative companies!
As one of Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate brands, we were celebrating after being named in The Australian Financial Review BOSS Most Innovative Companies list for 2019. The prestigious annual list, published by The Australian Financial Review and Boss Magazine, is based on a rigorous assessment process managed by Australia’s leading innovation consultancy, Inventium, in conjunction with a panel of industry expert judges.
The whos-who of business travel joined us at Illuminate 2019, Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate and specialist travel event. International and key-note speakers delved into trends and topics to watch, including artificial intelligence (AI) and technology innovation, new distribution channels and socially responsible policies. Sign up to Corporate Traveller’s email list to get the heads up on next year’s event.
We called travellers an Uber for Business
A unique partnership was launched between Uber for Business and Corporate Traveller, with business trips using the rideshare service fully integrated with booking, expense management systems and security policies used for corporate travel programs. “This results in significant time and cost savings in both the cost of the ride and processing expenses. And the traveller has an improved experience with no out of pocket expenses and Uber trips integrated into their travel itineraries,” said Ed Stalley, Head of Product for Corporate Brands at Flight Centre Travel Group.
Savi gets personal with a virtual travel assistant
Corporate Traveller’s online booking tool (OBT), Savi, stepped up its AI game with special software to create a virtual online service representative, appearing as a highly realistic face and featuring a lifelike voice. Launched by OBT partner Serko, users were promised a natural interaction experience, being able to talk and receive assistance in real-time.
Flights ban MacBook Pro over safety issues
Apple users were banned from packing MacBook Pro laptops in their checked luggage, meaning they'd have to carry them on board. But even then, the safety concerns about recalled batteries meant they had to stay switched off for the flight. The ban was enforced by Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar Airways.
Sustainability tops the travel agenda
As with many other industries, the corporate travel industry has seen sustainability and corporate social responsibility rise to be areas of critical importance, and it’s responding to business travel concern and demand. Companies are incorporating sustainability practices into their travel programs and putting pressure on suppliers to act responsibly as well. And we’re proud to be actively engaged in walking the talk.
Changes and choices coming to corporate car hire
Car hire companies detailed their efforts for greener, more connected and autonomous cars, which will benefit those business travellers that like options for their ground transport. From Hertz working with corporate customers to create personalised 'green' travel programs, to Avis leading the way in digital car offerings, and Thrifty’s parent company, NRMA, rolling out an electric vehicle charging network across New South Wales, there are big changes – and more options – coming.
Business travellers prove status is everything
October saw business travellers rush to enter the draw to win a Velocity Frequent Flyer status upgrade, proving that status is everything in business travel. Corporate Traveller partnered with Virgin Australia for the money-can’t-buy giveaway.
Fancy a 20-hour flight? Qantas makes it possible
Qantas completed the world’s longest research flight from London to Sydney after an unthinkable 19-and-a-half hours in the air. And this came after they became the first commercial airline to fly non-stop between New York and Sydney. But hot on their tail, Air New Zealand announced it would launch a non-stop service from Auckland to New York on its 787-9 Dreamliner from October 2020. These direct long-haul flights could prove to be game-changing for business travellers wanting to avoid stopovers.
Virgin Australia flies new path to Japan
Not to be outdone by international route announcements, Virgin Australia announced a new flight to Japan, with approval given to fly daily services between Brisbane and Haneda. The announcement came with fanfare, with Sir Richard Branson himself sharing his excitement from Brisbane’s International Airport. The airline also announced it was suspending some flights in the coming months, including Melbourne to Hong Kong, Sydney to Christchurch and both Canberra and Gold Coast to Perth.
The award for Best Cabin Crew goes to…
Virgin Australia was named Best Cabin Crew AND Best Economy Class in the world-renowned Airline Excellence Awards by AirlineRatings.com and were ranked among the top ten airlines in the world.
December traditionally sees business travel reduce and leisure travel ramp up. The working month is shorter, with many companies expected to wrap up business around 20th December and remain closed until the New Year.
The countdown to Christmas is lucrative
The year might be winding down, but Corporate Traveller is ramping up the cheer with our 12 Days of Christmas give-away. Incredible prizes are being given away each working day between 2 and 17 December, including $4,000 worth of prizes from Virgin Australia.
2020 and beyond
With so much change in the last few years, there is a lot of buzz around the biggest trends in corporate travel and what to expect from the industry in the future. AI will continue to grow and make the travel process more straightforward, while personalisation will still play a significant part in ensuring an enjoyable traveller experience.
So, what do we anticipate we’ll see in the world of corporate travel in 2020? More service, more savings, more technology and more options.
Bring on 2020!