The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry, kicked off its first industry session at Center Stage with Charisse Jones of USA Today asking hard-hitting questions from Southwest Airlines’ Gary Kelly and Etihad Airlines’ James Hogan. The interviews focused on the future of airline competition, Open Skies, antitrust issues and the characteristics that each CEO felt set their airline apart.
“Nobody likes bait and switch. Nobody likes hidden fees,” said Kelly, Chairman of the Board, President & CEO of Southwest Airlines. “We want to be as simple and straightforward and pleasant to do business with as possible. We feel like we earn more customers by not charging the bag fees. We think we would lose a billion dollars in revenue after netting in the additional bag fees if we changed our policy. Who wouldn’t want to be the only competitors doing a certain thing? I think it’s a gift. I love our competitors for it.”
Next on Center Stage, Guy Langford of Deloitte & Touche LLP moderated a panel on differentiating branding in a sharing economy featuring two executives from more traditional companies, Enterprise Holdings and NH Hotel Group, and two executives from companies clearly playing in a sharing economy, Airbnb and Zipcar. A main takeaway from the panel was technology is becoming a cornerstone of delivering on the customer experience and companies can either disrupt or be disrupted as they strive to deliver on the three C’s: convenience, cost-savings and customer experience.
GBTA President and CEO Donna Kelliher announced the launch of GBTA’s All Access Membership which launched this week. All Access members can join their local chapter and GBTA in a single transaction. The new membership will integrate technology platforms, allowing for more efficient and effective communication and networking.
The final featured speaker was actor, director, and musician Kevin Bacon. Bacon entertained a packed crowd with stories about his career in the entertainment industry; the genesis of the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon game and his Six Degrees Foundation, which connects celebrities with deserving grass-roots charities. He concluded by talking about how travel creates “connections” among people and how he tries to live by the idea of “doing what [he] can with what [he’s] got.”