airport sceneONLINE Travel Agency airline bookings in Australia have soared by 26% while aviation sales though traditional agents slumped 12% in the year to April. Airline bookings were down overall with Europe hardest-hit, off by 25%. The only bright spot was the Middle East, which attracted 8% more Australian visitors. “These are some very sobering figures for the Australian travel industry,” said David Brett, President Amadeus Asia Pacific, at a briefing in Sydney.

The sharpest declines were recorded in business class with the shift to economy sending demand plummeting 36%. Trans-Tasman traffic fell 21%. “We are seeing some signs of hope with long-haul travel numbers improving slightly in April. However, the picture remains pretty bleak.” Amadeus Australia Managing Director Tim Russell said OTAs were benefitting from the belief that everything is cheaper on the web. It’s also likely that travellers are increasingly booking point-to-point destinations closer to home.

Philippe Chereque, Executive Vice President, Commercial, said Amadeus is currently forecasting the global aviation market to rebound back to 2007 levels by the middle of next year. But he warned that the industry would rebound much slower than it did after 911 and the Iraq War. “I believe there is a structural impact … that will change the shape of the travel pattern.”

Chereque, who is effectively the global number two at Amadeus, is based in Europe where he said the aviation landscape is changing dramatically. “You are seeing more and more ties in economy class.” As a result there’s a lot of merger talk in Europe with still powerful carriers such as Lufthansa looking to buy weaker rivals.

Deeper alliances are also on the cards, a strategic shift that could make it easier for consumers to book direct as carriers develop truly global networks. Another airline focus is to develop start selling extra services for premium passengers at check-in.

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