The changing world of the airline sector dominated much of the panel debate between the industry’s leaders at the TTNG conference in Split last weekend.
Looking at the changing tactics of Ryanair, which has recently started being sold through GDS systems, TTNG group commercial director Martin Andrew questioned whether a panel of industry leaders believed this bid to woo the trade was a short-term ploy.
“I don’t think so,” replied Simon Ferguson, UK and Ireland managing director of Travelport. “Who would have thought they would come back and embrace travel agents? But with the airline orders they have in place for the future, Ryanair will need to attract a different type of passenger than they have done before.
“If they take a short-term view, they’ll get a short-term response,” he added.
“EasyJet has changed its model – more than 20% of its customers are business travellers, and Norwegian Air is trying to make the low-cost model work on long-haul – the market is changing.”
"With the airline orders they have in place, Ryanair will need to attract a different type of passenger"
He also said that agents would be needed more than ever to fill the ever-increasing capacity created by the airlines, amid predictions that there could be up to 33,000 new planes in the sky within the next 30 years. “We’re going to need travel agents to fill these seats,” he added.
Jo Rzymowska, UK and Ireland managing director of Celebrity Cruises, also said the company was keen to work with as many airlines as possible to transport passengers out to ships.
“We’ve done a lot of research among our target audience who are very happy to get on a plane to get to the ship [rather than just sailing ex-UK]. We’re working with all the airlines very strongly to make sure we have got the right level of capacity to get them to the destination.”
Meanwhile Ferguson noted the changing model of airlines that have started charging customers for seat numbers and hold baggage.
“The airline industry has predicted they will make $45 billion in selling seats and bags as extras – that’s almost the annual gross domestic product of Croatia, which is $53 billion. Surely there is a space for travel agents to tap into this market?”