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Landscape Changing Rapidly
The evolution of change gathers pace at break neck speed across all walks of life. How we conduct our business and indeed how business is shaped changes almost by the hour, even if it may have spent the previous millennium bumbling along in perfect serenity. The travel industry is no different. If we think back just a short time, was it usual to have to pay extra to carry a suitcase on board an airplane? Was it an extra cost to request a certain seat number? Was it an extra cost to check in at the check in desk in the airport? The answer to all these was no, but invariably today it is a different answer. The landscape is about to change even further for all of us who travel within Europe; that includes most of the travel to/from Bulgaria.
Most airlines used to be able to make a profit from its short haul European flights; but not anymore. They are loss leaders that feed the profit making long haul flights. The problem now though is that these long haul flights are becoming unprofitable as airlines are squeezed out of the market by new entrants such as those airlines from the Middle East and Asia. In response, the European big three of BA, Lufthansa and Air France have again turned their focus onto their European operations and have slowly but deliberately commenced re-modeling their operations on hybrid business model that sits somewhere between their traditional styles and the new Low Cost airline offerings. Lufthansa were first out of the blocks as they move the bulk of their non connecting flights into the German wings brand and at the same time order 100 new planes for the short haul market. Air France followed suit with ‘HOP! Which will start to operate short haul flights from Paris Orly before no doubt advancing to Paris CDG Airport. Then BA announced that they will launch hand baggage fares only from London Gatwick Airport; again with every indication that this will eventually spread to flights in and out of Heathrow.
Put all this together and fast forward to March 2015 and travellers will find that booking a flight to Europe with any airline is only part of the equation. Extra bookings will have to be made for seats and baggage, maybe lounge access and pre-boarding, for meals and drinks and maybe even the toilet. Whilst to some extent the public have become accustomed to such practices, they are not unilateral across the industry nor across Europe: in two years they will be the norm and indeed unavoidable. There is also a secondary issue attached to all this and it is this; the industry has been backward in developing the technology to accommodate these forthcoming requirements and such technology usually revolved around airlines own booking sites. The majority of travel in Europe is not booked via an airlines own site although if this were the case, airlines would be in utopia as clarity on options would be reduced and airlines would be able to increase yields from a captive audience. Thus whilst technology is traditionally the enabler in an industry, the rate of change which airlines need to evolve means that technology in this instance is playing a game of ‘catch up’ up with the travel industry. Unless of course you take the cynical view that the less transparent a system is, the more profit can be made.