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Flight Centre Becomes Largest Individual Shareholder in The Upside Travel Company

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: fool.com.au
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Flight Centre Group (ASX:FLT), continues to strengthen its rapidly growing global corporate travel business, today announcing a strategic investment in The Upside Travel Company (“Upside”), the corporate travel company launched in 2017 by Priceline founder Jay Walker.

FLT’s investment is for a 25% interest in Upside which will see it become the business’s largest individual shareholder providing access to Upside’s travel technology platform and software development resources. As part of the agreement, the parties also entered into a commercial deal that covers cooperation on various distribution initiatives that combine FLT’s deep understanding of the corporate travel space with Upside’s powerful technical assets.

With this deal, FLT improves its technology capabilities, specifically in the small-and-midsize corporate market. FLT plans to leverage Upside’s technology platform to continue the digital enablement of its Corporate Traveler business, pairing the proficiency of its people with cutting edge artificial intelligence and machine learning models. The investment also adds Washington, DC to the expanding global list of FLT “Lab” locations following the recent investment in Bangkok-based 30SecondsToFly, and the acquisition of the award-winning mobile app Sam :] in Barcelona last month.

“We have been impressed by the capability and flexibility of Upside’s technology and team to improve the business traveler experience. Its use of machine learning models to dynamically price business travel packages in real-time to save clients money while increasing traveler options is just one example of Upside’s best in class technology,” according to Dean Smith, President of FLT’s Americas operations.

For Upside, the deal substantially bolsters the company’s product offering to the small corporate market, where it will continue to operate under the Upside brand. Access to FLT’s supplier relationships and global reach expands Upside’s inventory and enhances its ongoing software development with a broader set of travel data inputs.

“FLT is the perfect partner for Upside as we get aggressive in serving small corporate clients. Not only does FLT’s global scale, content, and experience immediately make our product more complete, but FLT’s people and expertise also make us smarter, which is key as we accelerate into the future.” said Jay Walker, CEO of Upside.

The Upside product will soon take advantage of the emerging standards called Next-Generation Storefront, which are being developed by ATPCO in collaboration with airline and industry leaders. Incorporating the new standards for product display is a top post-investment priority for both parties and is expected to take place in Q2 of 2019. “It’s promising to see FLT and Upside work together on providing the best traveler experience possible by making NGS a priority so flight shoppers can compare like-type products on third party channels. We’re inspired to see so many channels taking a step forward to transform flight shopping” said Gianni Cataldo, Head of Research & Development, at ATPCO.

Jefferies LLC served as the sole financial advisor to Upside.

 

SOURCE Flight Centre Travel Group (Canada) Inc.

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Airlines/Aviation 

WestJet unveils refreshed on-board experience as part of Dreamliner launches

Betty Tűndik

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Business Cabin Amenity Kits featuring Matt & Nat and Province Apothecary (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Enhanced service offerings and products highlight WestJet’s Canadian roots across the airlines’ 
Business, Premium and Economy cabins

 

Following the successful launch of WestJet’s Dreamliners from Calgary to London (Gatwick), Paris and Dublin, guests travelling across WestJet’s global network can now experience the airline’s elevated amenities and on-board experience.

Tailored to showcase WestJet’s authentic Canadian story, enhanced service offerings and products are featured across WestJet’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, 767 and 737 transatlantic service. Guests can expect to see updates continue to roll across the WestJet fleet throughout 2019 and 2020.

“Our guests are going to love our uniquely Canadian products and we are proud to showcase our like-minded partners who share our passion for thoughtful, quality products created in Canada,” said Louis Saint-Cyr, WestJet’s Vice-President, Guest Experience. “WestJet continues our global transformation and these elevated products and services complement the award-winning onboard experience we are known for.”

The Boarding Sessions with Sean Jones
For the first time in Canadian music history, guests will hear a soundtrack of soulful music onboard an aircraft from Canadian Juno award-winning recording artist Sean Jones. During boarding guests are treated to original music and classic covers of iconic Canadian artists – like The Band, Sarah McLachlan and The Guess Who – that Jones drew inspiration from for his album. The album is available for download and the story behind The Boarding Sessions is available to watch onboard WestJet’s Dreamliners.

The Boarding Sessions with Sean Jones (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

Business Cabin Amenity Kits featuring Matt & Nat and Province Apothecary
Business cabin guests departing on European-bound transatlantic flights will receive tan-coloured amenity kits, designed by Montreal’s Matt & Nat, while guests departing to Canada receive navy-coloured kits. These beautiful kits feature organic skincare products from Toronto’s Province Apothecary that use only the highest quality ingredients sourced from provinces across Canada.

Business Cabin Amenity Kits featuring Matt & Nat (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

Canmore’s Rocky Mountain Soap Company Premium Cabin amenities
Guests flying on select flights in WestJet’s Premium cabin receive Rocky Mountain Soap Company kits that feature handmade products with simple, natural ingredients for healthy and beautiful skin. Rocky Mountain Soap Company lavatory products including foaming hand wash, hand cream and refreshing wellness sprays are also available throughout most of the airline’s Premium and Economy cabins.

Canmore’s Rocky Mountain Soap Company Premium Cabin amenities (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

To see detailed inspiration behind the products, click here.

Additional Quotes: 
“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished with Boarding Sessions and grateful to WestJet for bringing this music to life,” said Sean Jones. “Working on this project has been one of the highlights of my career and I’m excited to have built a playlist of my music that will be heard by people not just in Canada but across WestJet’s global network.”

“As a fellow Alberta-based company, we’re excited to be part of the new in-flight experience on the Dreamliner and the improved experience on other select WestJet Flights,” said Karina Birch, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, co-owner and CEO. “Influenced by the nature that surrounds us, we’re unwavering in our commitment to using only simple natural ingredients and to working with local partners.  We’re thrilled WestJet travellers can now take nature with them wherever they go.”

“We are so excited to be a part of the WestJet onboard experience by sharing our exclusive vegan and cruelty-free amenity kits with their guests,” said Manny Kohli, President and CEO of Matt & Nat. “Partnering with a fellow Canadian brand is an honour for us and a wonderful opportunity for travellers to discover our recycled vegan line of goods.”

“We are beyond excited to be bringing holistic skincare and wellness to WestJet’s onboard experience,” said Julie Clark, CEO and Founder of Province Apothecary. “As a Canadian brand focused on sustainable and high-quality products, it is an honour to be sharing this partnership with like-minded Canadian brand, Matt & Nat, and to be sharing our values with WestJet guests near and far.”

About WestJet
Together with WestJet’s regional airline, WestJet Encore, we offer scheduled service to more than 100 destinations in North AmericaCentral America, the Caribbean and Europe and to more than 175 destinations in over 20 countries through our airline partnerships. WestJet Vacations offers affordable, flexible vacations to more than 60 destinations and the choice of more than 800 hotels, resorts, condos and villas.  Members of the WestJet Rewards program earn WestJet dollars on flights, vacation packages and more. Members use WestJet dollars towards the purchase of flights and vacations packages to any WestJet destination with no blackout periods, and have access to Member Exclusive fares offering deals to WestJet destinations throughout our network and those of our partner airlines.

WestJet is proud to be recognized for three consecutive years as Best Airline in Canada (2017-19) and awarded among travellers’ favourite Mid-Sized Airlines in North America (2019). From 2017-2018, WestJet was also awarded among travellers’ favorite Mid-Sized and Low-Cost Airlines in North America. The airline was also recognized among the Economy Class winners in North America, 2018. All awards are based on authentic reviews from the travelling public on TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site. We are one of very few airlines globally that does not commercially overbook.

WestJet is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol WJA. For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com.

Recent recognition includes:
2019/2018/2017 Best Airline in Canada (TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for Airlines)
2019 Winner Among Mid-Sized Airlines in North America (TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for Airlines)
2018/2017 Winner Among Mid-Sized and Low Cost Airlines – North America(TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for Airlines)
2018 Winner – Economy, North America (TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards for Airlines)
2018 Number-One-Ranked Airline Credit Card in Canada (Rewards Canada)
2018 North America’s Best Low-Cost Airline (Skytrax)
2018/2017/2016 Canada’s Most Trusted Airline (Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria)

 

SOURCE: WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership

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Airlines/Aviation 

Unbabel supports easyJet to create international customer service ‘super agents’

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: opodo.co.uk
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Unbabel, the AI-powered, human-refined Translation-as-a-Service platform, has partnered with easyJet, Europe’s leading airline, to drive new efficiencies and improved service to its customers across multiple languages.

Unbabel is enabling the airline to offer near real-time translation of customer chat and enquiry tickets, in up to 29 languages, via its unique machine translation technology. This is opening up more languages to easyJet and increasing customer satisfaction within existing customer bases.

The translation platform is also equipping easyJet to deal effectively with a wider customer base ensuring their queries are handled quickly and efficiently without the need to wait for human translators or relying on internet translations.

Since late 2018, all of easyJet’s Dutch and German live chat has been handled by English speakers using the AI-powered platform and during that time customer satisfaction has increased 4.2% when compared to languages served by native speakers. Additionally, German rose from 5th to 2nd in terms of popularity of language within easyJet customer enquiries.

An initial pilot project ran over two months in 2017, coinciding with easyJet’s busiest annual period, and challenged Unbabel to provide near real-time translation of customer enquiries. Through adopting the translation-as-a-service platform, easyJet observed an improvement in average handling time for enquiries.

Karen Cox, Director of Ground Operations & Customer Management Centres, at easyJet, said: “Unbabel’s solution helps to maintain a high level of quality and customer satisfaction and provides us with flexibility during language spikes. Our Unbabel-powered ‘super agents’ are ensuring that we stay agile as a company and means that we are now able to offer everyone the same high-level customer journey. With a major drive to deliver value on behalf of the customer, we feel confident that Unbabel offers the best solution.”

Vasco Pedro, CEO of Unbabel, commented: “In 2019, more and more businesses are waking up to the fact that they are operating in an ever more multilingual market. When customer satisfaction is at the top of the business agenda, being able to serve customers immediately in their native language represents a great competitive advantage. We’re delighted to partner with easyJet, and have already seen a demonstrable impact on customer satisfaction and customer retention metrics.”

Cox added: “Knowing that Unbabel has the integrated AI and human platform to support the user journey really demonstrated the warmth and care we look for in our customer service.”

Looking to the future, Unbabel is set to help easyJet move into further new markets, with plans to accommodate customers from countries such as China and the Nordics. The airline will also invest in messaging to a far greater degree, serving customers through channels like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Apple Business Chat. As a result of Unbabel’s, easyJet customer advisers will continue their exposure to new geographies and markets, as well as building experience with disruptive new technologies like AI and Machine Learning.

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Airlines/Aviation 

Global Survey Shows Travellers Still Struggle With Lack of Information About Delayed and Cancelled Flights, Says Cirium

Vlad Poptamas

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Photo source: adobomagazine.com
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

  • New survey reveals well over a third of travellers have had to pay more to make alternative travel plans following a delayed flight
  • Nearly two thirds would be likely to use an app which alerted family, friends and work colleagues if their flight was disrupted
  • Cirium, the aviation data and analytics experts, say flight delays and cancellations cost airlines over US$30bn a year

Over a third of global travellers (36%) say they don’t get enough information about delayed and cancelled flights, according to aviation and data analytics experts at Cirium.

A new survey for Cirium reveals the impact of flight delays and cancellations and the need for better management of flight disruption, with more communication via proactive flight updates for affected passengers.

Almost two thirds (61%) of those surveyed said that they would be likely to use an app which alerted their friends, family or company about their delay.

In 2018, approximately 3.9 million flights – or 10,700 a day – were delayed by over 30 minutes or cancelled globally, affecting more than 470 million passenger journeys around the world.

Flight delays and cancellation cost airlines globally US$30bn a year in lost revenue, in addition to costs borne by their passengers.

Airline flight delays and cancellations are caused by a wide range of factors, such as technical issues with aircraft, bad weather, air traffic control problems, strikes, medical diversions and congested airports, among many others.

The global YouGov study conducted for Cirium in the UK, US, UAE and China, showed more than a third of travellers worldwide (35%) who had experienced a delayed or cancelled flight, did not find it easy to change their travel plans, with well over a third (40%) left out of pocket after being forced to pay more to make alternative travel plans.

Airlines also had to bear the massive cost of disruption with flight delays and cancellations costing the equivalent of US$7 for every departing passenger – slightly less than the airline’s net profit per person per departing flight.

Jeremy Bowen, Cirium Chief Executive Officer, said: Flight delays and cancellations are an unfortunate aspect of modern air travel and can have a big impact on travellers, whether flying for business or leisure. We recognize that the cost of disruption for airlines is also a significant problem. While our survey reveals well over a third of passengers still have to pay more for alternative travel plans, airlines can proactively issue flight alerts ahead of travel and re-allocate tickets without fees to take the sting out of flight disruption. We all want to travel stress free and get people to where they want to go, which is why at Cirium we work closely with airlines around the world on initiatives which reduce the impact of disrupted flights.”

The survey revealed nearly two thirds (57%) of those polled only found out about their flight delay or cancellation once they had reached the airport. When asked 29% said that they would prefer to be informed about a delay through a text alert with another two thirds (61%) saying they would use an app which alerted their friends, family or company about their delay.

More than double (48%) said that they would be most frustrated if their leisure flight was delayed or cancelled compared to the 21% who would be most frustrated if a business flight was cancelled.

Over a third of global travellers would be most sympathetic if a flight was disrupted due to bad weather (35%) followed by technical issues with their aircraft (30%). However, only a tiny 5% would be most sympathetic with delays or cancellations due to problems caused by air traffic control.

Cirium enables the wider travel industry to manage the impact of disruption with intelligent data and analytics solutions. For example, Cirium analyzes more than 70 million passenger journeys annually to provide meaningful insights and keep the travel industry in motion.

This data is used by a wide range of customers, such as airlines and airports, to improve the travel experience by smart devices and metasearch engines, like Google, Amazon and Expedia, to provide information directly to passengers, enabling them to make more informed choices when on the move.

Cirium’s data and analytics divisions have been the first to bring innovative solutions to market, such as the first to automate the ticket waiver process during times of flight delays and cancellations.

It employs over 400 technologists, analysts, data scientists and market experts in the UK, US, EuropeMiddle EastIndiaand Asia-Pacific.

The group has significantly grown in recent years with the acquisition of leading data intelligence companies, including Ascend, Innovata, Diio and FlightStats.

 

SOURCE Cirium

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