Brexit is pushing down the agenda, industry leaders have been told. Ian Taylor reports

EasyJet just waiting on post-Brexit traffic rights

EasyJet ‘just needs confirmation of traffic rights between the UK and EU to be ready for Brexit chief Executive Johan Lundgren has insisted

Lundgren told the UK Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC): “We have prepared for all scenarios. We established an Austrian air operator’s certificate in 2017. Post-March 2019 we have an Austrian airline to do our intra- EU flying.

“We are transferring two to three aircraft a week – it’s the fastest-growing airline in Europe. It will have 129 aircraft by the end of March [and] we are transferring pilot and cabin crew licences – the Civil Aviation Authority has been extraordinarily helpful.

Lundgren told the GTMC domestic conference in London last week: “There is a tendency to say we have until March 29 to prepare – we don’t. But he said: “I spend a lot of time with politicians and I’m encouraged by the discussions I’ve had, even if an agreement does not happen. Everyone wants to continue flying. That is what the European Commission has said will happen.

“We’ve discussed a grace period, but we have done it all in advance. All we need is confirmation of traffic rights between the UK and EU. We just want the text in a legal document so we can get on with it.

Lundgren hailed easyJet’s recent full-year results, which saw the carrier report a pre-tax profit of £445 million for the 12 months to September. He said: “It was a record performance if you exclude Berlin, when some airlines have issued profit warnings and some smaller airlines have not made it.

Outlook positive as corporate travel heads into 2019

The corporate travel sector’s prospects for 2019 remain “positive despite the uncertainty around Brexit, according to Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) chief executive Adrian Parkes.

He told Travel Weekly: “The biggest problem is the uncertainty. Businesses want certainty whether they agree with Brexit or not. uncertainty is difficult to manage. We would prefer certainty and a sensibly managed transition.

Parkes noted “the potential impact on currency, on consumer spending and on corporate travel budgets of a no-deal exit from the EU, but he said: “We see growth in air, hotel and rail numbers. The top-line indicators on volume and revenues are very positive.

He added: “There is also great investment in the sector, [including] from outside the UK. It’s a really healthy sector. Parkes also suggested the fall-out from Brexit could highlight the value of TMCs, saying: “The TMC sector is there to assist corporate clients, to make sure they are buying as well as they can.

Concerns mount over ‘ambulance chasers’ in sector

The Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) has joined delay repay company Railguard in lobbying the government and rail industry to prevent ‘ambulance chasing’ claimscompensation companies entering the sector.

Railguard won the GTMC’s first Entrepreneur in Business Travel Award in June. The technology start-up monitors the rail travel of travel management company (TMC) clients and automatically processes repayments and compensation claims for delays.

The government has progressively rolled out delay repay compensation on the rail network. But Railguard founder and chief executive Matt Freckelton warned that payment protection insurance (PPI) companies are poised to switch wholesale into the sector, risking a repeat of the boom in bogus holiday-sickness claims in the leisure sector.

Freckelton said: “PPI companies are looking to pivot to different sectors. We know they are looking at delay repay and considering what their angle is.”

He said corporate clients and TMCs “want to know they are interfacing with a legitimate company, authorised by the Rail Delivery Group and working with the train-operating companies (TOCs).

“We are doing a lot with the GTMC with regard to lobbying, seeking a review of third-party delay repay companies, arguing for the setting up of an approved list to help prevent ambulance chasers entering the market. We know these PPI companies are looking to flip their business model.

Freckelton added: “We have signed with six TMCs since we won the award. Our aim is to process 10,000 claims a day by the end of next year, mostly in the corporate space. We are not marketing to consumers, although we have a growing base of season ticketholders. Our primary focus is B2B.”

He said: “Without the help of the GTMC we would not be where we are.”

The government has set a 15-minute delay threshold for the rail industry by 2025, yet train companies currently operate different delay thresholds.

Industry happy as NDC becomes clearer

Corporate travel leaders are increasingly “relaxed” about the introduction of Iata’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard now they “can see where things are heading”.

That is the view of Guild of Travel Management Companies chief executive Adrian Parkes, who told Travel Weekly: “The GDSs will be in a position to consume NDC content next year once the commercials are agreed. This year has been about getting the [NDC] plumbing [in place]. Many TMCs have developed or are well advanced in using third-party technology. A lot of the building blocks are now in place – we can see where things are heading. Next year will be transitional.”

Parkes said the key to the next stage of development “will be the ability to do things at scale. It is about being able to cope with multiple changes and requests. The application programme interfaces [APIs] the airlines develop will need to be able to handle traffic at an industrial scale.”

APIs facilitate the transfer of data between software programmes and will be the means by which agents and TMCs access fare offers from airlines using NDC technology. Parkes insisted: “We are relaxed about where we are currently.”