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Tough times for travel agencies – Flight Centre GM Australia Kelly Spencer is interviewed by John Alwyn-Jones.

October 9, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Without doubt, recently appointed Flight Centre General Manager Australia, Kelly Spencer is enjoying what appears from my chat with her this week, to be a very well deserved and stellar career.

In just ten years before being appointed to her current role in June 2020, Kelly has quickly progressed in Flight Centre, having been Operations Leader – Flight Centre Australia, General Manager – Travel Money Group, General Manager – First Class Education Group, National Business Leader – Flight Centre Business School, National Business Leader BOS – Flight Centre and back in 2010 Senior Financial Adviser – Flight Centre.

During my chat with Kelly, I asked her some tough questions, including that with the travel agency world going through a pretty tough time right now and with Flight Centre among other agency groups having announced some very significant declines in business through COVID-19, refunding around $1 billion to its clients, with a raft of branch closures, about 4,000 Aussie staff made redundant, the announcement last week of 90 more branches to close, where is the agency world and in particular Flight Centre going firstly and in particular where is the traditional bricks and mortar agency world going…and does all this herald the end of bricks and mortar agencies?

You can check Kelly’s responses to all my questions by clicking on the eGlobal Travel Media box below.

The interview progressed with me asking what Kelly what she thought the impact on travel agencies will be with many reports of clients finding online travel companies very difficult to deal and communicate with in terms of COVID-19, cancellations, refunds, etc, and traditional bricks and mortar agencies at least having someone to talk to and sort things out?

In that context I also asked her whether will we see a new Flight Centre emerge post COVID-19 and will the emphasis change from bricks and mortar to on line and that in the past some have said that some Flight Centre agents are merely order takers and not interested in anything more than their commission with once they think they might not sell giving the client some brochures and losing interest, so how can Flight Centre reassure clients this is not the case in the “new” Flight Centre?

Clearly, the border closures and international travel bans have devastated Flight Centre and other travel agency businesses so I asked Kelly did Flight Centre accept or even agree they were necessary with all their consequences, but if not, could other actions have been taken and if so what might they have been?

I mentioned to Kelly about what appeared to be a part of the new emerging Flight Centre with an initiative I had heard talk about called Book with Flex, which she said now gives Flight Centre clients room to move, without the fear of fees which Kelly explained further in that it offers a range of travel products that allow customers to cancel and change without penalty, with for the time being, the focus solely on the domestic market, with the intent to expand internationally once borders reopen.

In closing, I asked Kelly what could have been the most difficult question, in that with Flight Centre’s net loss of around $662 million for the 12 months to June 30 after COVID-19 travel restrictions slowed its revenue to a trickle in the last three months of the year, the company undertook a $700 million capital raising and took on $200 million in fresh debt in April to boost its liquidity, so it could make it through the extended pandemic shut down.

So, my question was, “Is Flight Centre secure and is it a company that as we emerge from COVID-19 and before then for domestic and bubble bookings,

Australians and others globally can be happy and secure booking with Flight Centre?

 To check out her answers to this and all my questions, click on the Global Travel Media box below!

John Alwyn-Jones

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