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February 27, 2018

Air Travel: AA, Qantas Attempt Another Link + Airbnb Flights?

Another proposal for an association between American Airlines and Qantas and Airbnb's talk of a push into air travel lead this week's air travel news in the meetings and events industry. 

American, Qantas Again Seeking to Form Joint Business

American Airlines (AA) has issued a news release reporting that the carrier, along with Qantas, has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) seeking approval to form a joint business serving customers flying between North America and Australia/New Zealand.

According to Reuters, the pair’s application for a joint venture covering the United States, Australia and New Zealand was rejected in 2016 under the Obama administration amid opposition from rival carriers Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways

But this time, it appears as though the pair is threatening to cut service if rejected.

“Critically, if the joint business is not approved, American and Qantas will have no choice but to further reduce codesharing on their networks,” according to the AA release. “This will jeopardize the number of services and routes each carrier flies between the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand.”

Qantas may be forced to reduce the frequency of, downgrade or potentially cancel its A380 service between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth, and American may further reduce its services between Los Angeles and Sydney and Auckland, according to the AA release.

“These routes rely on codeshare support from each airline’s feeder network via their respective hub cities to be economically viable,” according to American.

According to the AA release, the proposed joint business will “significantly improve service, stimulate demand and unlock more than $300 million annually in consumer benefits that are not achievable through any other form of cooperation, including up to $221 million in value from expanding codesharing between American and Qantas – opening more connections to more destinations.”

Another consumer benefit, according to an American Airlines news release, is up to $89 million in value by offering a wider range of fare classes across each other’s networks, including lower fares and discounts. 

The joint business will also give American and Qantas the opportunity to launch additional routes between the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand, including new flights to city pairs currently not served by either carrier. All these benefits will stimulate significant demand for new travel – generating up to 180,000 new trips between the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand every year, according to the American Airlines release.

Airbnb Still Eyeing Air Travel

Airbnb may have just unveiled a big expansion into luxury and business travel, but the company might not stop there. As reported in our partner publication Luxury Travel Advisor, in a recent interview with the Sunday Times (registration required), Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky said that the company has “seriously considered” expanding into aviation with the goal of becoming a “one-stop shop for travel.”

In the interview Chesky compared the approach to that of another tech giant, Amazon, which has grown from an online book-selling business into a complete end-to-end retail experience.

This isn’t the first time the company has teased an expansion into air travel. As far back as December 2016, Bloomberg reported a rumor that the company was considering a move into flight bookings. That was just after the company launched its Trips platform, which marked its expansion beyond vacation rentals into broader, “Live Like a Local”-style vacation experiences.

Airbnb also just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and as part of the event Chesky unveiled a 10-year “roadmap” that will see the company expand into luxury travel with its new Beyond by Airbnb tier, as well as an Airbnb Plus tier that will involve the company personally vetting individual properties. The company is also rolling out a number of collections aimed at niche markets like family travel, business travel, social stays, weddings, honeymoons, group getaways and dinner parties, and launching its own loyalty program, in competition with loyalty programs from major hotel companies.

Munich Airport, Lufthansa Test "Pepper" Robot

In technology news, this week Munich Airport and Lufthansa began testing “Josie Pepper,” a humanoid robot who can assist passengers by answering questions and offering directions, in Terminal 2. “Josie,” which is currently in its testing phase, marks the first-ever test of a humanoid robot equipped with artificial intelligence at a German airport, Munich Airport and Lufthansa said. The robot, which speaks English, will await passengers at the top of the ramp leading to the shuttle connecting the main terminal to the satellite building. The robot is powered by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence cloud. The aim of this testing phase is to determine whether the robot is accepted by passengers.


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