Sydney to London or NYC in 6 hours: Graham Turner

In May last year, Qantas announced it would reduce upfront commissions paid to travel agents on international tickets to 1% from 5% – in line with overseas airlines – with a reduction from July.

Not that Flight Center hasn’t responded to its share of controversy.

In 2018, the travel center group was fined $12.5 million for trying to coax three international airlines into price-fixing deals between 2005 and 2009.

Flight Center also faced criticism and eventually backed down from customer reimbursement issues when COVID-19 hit in 2020. The company recently won a case brought by former employees for underpayment claims.

London? Just six hours away

Mr Turner made his comments to reporters at Hubert’s restaurant in Sydney on May 10, an event organized by Flight Center to mark the 40th anniversary. In his presentation, he shared predictions and lessons.

His most intriguing prediction was that over the next 40 years, next-generation (Mach3) high-speed intercontinental aircraft will allow travelers to get from Sydney to a long-haul city like London or New York in less than six time.

“The planes are powered by liquid hydrogen processed by renewables,” Turner said, adding airfares might not be attractive given the cost of fuel is about “twice the cost.” jet fuel in 2022,” Turner said.

“Over the past 40 years, Flight Center has survived a lot, including two Gulf Wars, 9/11, and the 2008 recession, but COVID has been the most traumatic two years we’ve ever had,” he said. -he declares.

Today, 11,000 of its workforce are back (around 50% of pre-COVID-19 levels) and the company is recruiting at least 1,000 workers.

“COVID is a thing of the past, but it’s still here,” Turner said, adding that he hopes Flight Center will finally make “a little profit” for March/April. It will be a welcome change given that the company halved its number of stores and employees when the pandemic hit and had lost $507 million in 2020 alone.

The pandemic has triggered “a big overreaction from governments around the world”, he said, adding that “China is going to suffer a lot more”, referring to President Xi Jinping’s zero tolerance policy against to COVID-19.

Mr Turner entertained the crowd with stories from 40 years of being a travel disrupter.

The Flight Center story began when Turner went to the UK in 1972 to work as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, and soon began organizing regular group trips to Europe for friends and friends of friends in a disused double-decker bus.

Profitable wherever it operates

“We weren’t interested in business, it was about having a good time and picking up a few girls,” Mr Turner said.

At the time it was operating as a viable business, one of the selling points was that at £365 per person for a five month overland journey from London to Europe, it was cheaper to live ‘on the decks’ as they were nicknamed as paying rent to the City.

When Turner returned to Australia and started Flight Centre, he ended up in Brisbane because the bank wouldn’t give him a home loan, which meant he couldn’t afford a house in Sydney. Australia’s first flight center was opened by co-founder Bill James at Martin Place.

Turner explained that 2011 was the first year the company became profitable in every country in which it operates.

Global managing director Andrew Stark, who moved to Brisbane from South Africa, said the key future strategy was “omni-retail”, bringing together all channels for customers to access the business, including an in-store, mobile or desktop experience, “over the phone” and the Flight Center app.

“With our new omni-retail model, the company will grow online sales to 40% of total transaction value by 2025,” Stark said.

“Already, 85% of our customers start their journey on a mobile device, so this is a fast-growing sector. In recent years, the company has seen the volume of business done online increase from 5% to 20%.

The company is also looking to enter new geographic markets beyond its traditional heavy weighting to English-speaking “Anglo” countries.

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