ITT 2008: ‘Trade must help improve air travel’

Agents and tour operators ­often moan about their clients’ airport experiences but fail to interact with airport chiefs who need their input to help make changes.

Operators were accused at the Institute of Travel and Tourism Conference in Cyprus this week of not being proactive enough in influencing often stressful pre and post flight customer experiences.

The call followed a session by John Grant, managing director of airport strategy consultancy ASM, during which the influence of low-cost carriers on determining routes was called into question.

Addressing delegates, Grant asked: “Why isn’t your sector of the industry taking a more proactive role in this process? Your collective mission, should you choose to accept it, is to boldly go where few tour operators go…into discussion with both airports and airlines on the subject of new air service and route development.”

Destinations, routes and the airport experience are being influenced by the low-cost carriers and legacy airlines such as British Airways, he argued.

He said trade associations should take a lead in this area and ensure the voice of the travel trade is heard. This is especially important when the experience at airports can be stressful and unappealing to the customer.

Manchester airport managing director Andrew Cornish admitted the airport experience for customers has been less than perfect, with security issues and stress for the consumer.

Advantage chief executive John McEwan backed calls for agents to be more proactive in determining new airline routes. He said agents should feed back information on customer needs and experiences to operators, airports and airlines.

“Agents should be able to anticipate the new destinations that people want to go to. They are closest to the customer. Airports should become part of that process but not lead the way.”

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