Airline CEOs Talk Safety & Security, Airfare Transparency and Increasing Global Competition
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) kicked off the first day of the annual GBTA Convention with a welcome session featuring Bill Glenn, president and CEO, American Express Global Business Travel and Jeff Smisek, chairman of the board; president and CEO, United Airlines in separate one-on-one interviews with GBTA Executive Director and COO Michael W. McCormick. Glenn discussed the newly closed American Express Global Business Travel joint venture with an investor group led by Certares, resulting in the single largest investment in a travel management company to date with a $900M capital infusion.
Glenn told the crowd that his focus will be to capitalize on the great customer service that American Express is known for. He told attendees that the joint venture will allow them to be more creative, more innovative and faster to market with new products.
Following Glenn, Jeff Smisek, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of United Airlines, discussed increasing competition from the Middle East airlines. Smisek said that the 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 U.S. carriers as ATMs with numerous taxes and fees that are not reinvested back into the industry.
In an afternoon session, CBS Travel Editor, Peter Greenberg interviewed Richard Anderson, Delta Air Lines, CEO. Anderson discussed transparency in airfares, safety and security in light of recent events and Delta’s loyalty program. When discussing the business operations at Delta, he told attendees, “We want to be in a position to offer a high quality product for every traveler at every price point.”
The Executive Leadership Panel: A View Across the Distribution Landscape was moderated by Michelle “Mick” Lee, founder and CEO, WINiT—WomenInTravel; managing director, global head of general services and travel, Citi. She was joined on stage by Donna Kelliher, GBTA president and CEO, travel and corporate services, Dominion; Pam Codispoti, executive vice president and GM, American Express; Cindy Allen, vice president, TMC Services, Concur; Leslie Hunziker, senior vice president, investor relations, Hertz Global Holdings; and, Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president, Best Western. The prominent industry executive leaders shared their views on the challenges and opportunities facing the travel distribution landscape today.
The final featured speaker was two time Academy Award winner, Kevin Spacey. Spacey entertained the packed room with celebrity impersonations, stories about his unconventional path to success and the importance of taking risks. Spacey spoke eloquently about the value of perseverance and urged attendees to follow their dreams and take risks despite what others may say. He concluded by telling the business travel industry that they “were the unsung heroes of a billion different journeys.”
In addition to the featured speakers, attendees took part in numerous education sessions and experienced the latest in travel technology and products on the more than 400-company expo floor. Day two will feature Doug Parker, CEO, American Airlines Group and American Airlines; Steve Singh, CEO for Concur; and Biz Stone, Co-founder and Co-inventor of Twitter.
About the Global Business Travel Association
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world’s premier business travel and meetings trade organization headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents. GBTA’s 7,000-plus members manage more than $345 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA and the GBTA Foundation deliver world-class education, events, research, advocacy and media to a growing global network of more than 28,000 travel professionals and 125,000 active contacts. To learn how business travel drives business growth, visit www.gbta.org.
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