GBTA kicked off its Welcome Session with GBTA President & CEO Donna Kelliher ringing the official opening bell this morning before Bill Glenn, president and CEO, American Express Global Business Travel took the stage.
GBTA Executive Director and COO, Michael W. McCormick interviewed Glenn about American Express’ newly announced American Express Global Business Travel joint venture. The joint venture is with an investor group lead by Certares, resulting in the single largest investment in a travel management company to date with a $900 million capital infusion.
Glenn told the crowd he is excited about this opportunity. His focus will be to capitalize on the great customer service that American Express is known for and is at the heart of what they do. He told the crowd that this new company will allow them to be creative, innovative, nimble and fast to market. McCormick asked how the money will be spent to which Glenn responded that it will be spent on technology and expanding their global reach through partnerships.
Following Bill Glenn, Jeff Smisek, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of United Airlines, took the stage to be interviewed by McCormick. This is the second appearance Smisek has made at the GBTA Convention. His first interview was at the GBTA Convention in Denver 2011. Today, Smisek told the crowd that safety and security is the base of their business.
When talking about being a leading airline versus being the largest airline he noted that what is important is having a very attractive network with reliable service and a competitive product.
McCormick asked about the increasing competition from Middle East Airlines. Smisek said that Middle East carriers have an advantage with no unions, no labor costs and a government that is in favor of aviation unlike the U.S. government, which treats the U.S. carriers as an ATM machine with numerous taxes and fees.
As the morning session wrapped up attendees headed off to education sessions and eagerly awaited the afternoon lunch session with Kevin Spacey.