Of equal concern is the erosion of service that carriers offer to organisers of C&I programmes. One of the primary goals for incentive travel is to deliver the best possible quality. Over the years we have worked closely with suppliers to ensure services support clients' expectations.
The airlines have been an important part of that process and many rose to the challenge with pre-assigned seat blocks, off-airport check-ins and enhanced in-flight services for groups. But the world has changed and these same airlines are not only cutting back on services, but are also disembowelling their group departments.
At Virgin, the C&I contact has been replaced by a call centre. BA has had three different account managers over the past 12 months. Those reps still with jobs chase high-volume, low-margin business.
And this is the root of the problem. The airline business model has been changed. Now even the big carriers are wooing passengers happy with a reduced service if it is cheap enough. It seems that as carriers cut costs they are also eliminating the services that helped deliver enhanced experiences for our travellers.
Sadly, it seems little can be done to reverse the trend. Our meeting last October with BA's director of sales has still not taken place.
Other airlines are no more receptive. The new reality is that air travel is now a commodity not a service industry.