A promo shot of a Polaris lounge from United Airlines. United

Skift Take: Business class is changing, but airlines need to stop overpromising and underdelivering on transformative experiences.

— Andrew Sheivachman

The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.

Over the last week we’ve been thinking about business class air travel quite a bit.

As the air travel experience has become almost universally worse in the last decade, airlines are now revisiting their premium products with an eye on the future.

We took a look at the benefits of business travel that airlines have neglected for some time, as well as the hokey aspirational marketing targeted towards business travelers that doesn’t quite match up with reality.

We also examine the effect of the new Air France surcharge on global distribution system content, along with the news that Sabre has reached a new agreement with IAG over its surcharge. The impact is big in corporate travel, and everyone should pay attention.

— Andrew Sheivachman, Senior Writer

Business of Buying

air france amadeus

One in Five Amadeus Bookings Subject to New Fees as Air France Adds Surcharge: Air France’s decision to join Lufthansa and British Airways in leveling surcharges means that 20 percent of the airplane tickets booked through Amadeus would be subject to the new fees. Expect Amadeus to try to undermine the effort with every muscle it has.

Qatar Airways Spends $662 Million on Stake in Cathay Pacific: Given Cathay Pacific’s recent struggles, airline investors had been pushing for a merger with rival (and shareholder) Air China. Qatar Airways’ surprise investment means Cathay’s independence will likely be preserved, at least in the short term.

Business Class Must-Haves That Airlines Neglect at Their Peril: As airlines double down on investment in business class, there are some experiential table stakes for customers paying the money to sit up front.

The Calculated Faux Marketing of Premium Air Travel: The lenses through which we view the travel ecosystem are often heavily distorted. The first step toward countering it is acknowledgement.

British Airways Surcharge Means Inferior Content for Travel Agents Through Sabre: Airlines have learned that standing up to the global distribution system giants can actually yield benefits. It has been a hard-earned victory.

Safety + Security

Uber Will Train 150 Agents on Sexual Assault Reports: The $5 million that Uber is pledging is a modest step, but the question is whether it amounts to a deep-seated commitment to combat sexual assault within its ridesharing service or whether this is window-dressing geared for some nice public relations.

Disruption + Innovation

CEOs of Expedia and Priceline Group — What Have You Done for Me Lately? The Priceline Group is in the catbird seat in online travel — for now — while Expedia is a much smaller company with so much ground to make up. Expedia’s Okerstrom is laudably talking tough about his ambitions to propel his company forward. But 2017, so far, has been anything but easy for the two newbie CEOs.

British Airways CEO Plots Return to a ‘Golden Era’: Alex Cruz is walking a fine line. On the one hand he wants British Airways to become a more cost-effective operation, but on the other he still wants to retain its reputation as a premium carrier.

Czech Website Creates Itineraries From Low-Cost and Legacy Carriers: The conventional wisdom is that major online travel agencies make it impossible for their smaller counterparts to break through. Kiwi.com is challenging that thesis, though it is very much early days.


Skift editors Hannah Sampson [hs@skift.com] and Andrew Sheivachman [as@skift.com] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

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