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Tigerair CEO Rob Sharp (nearest engine intake) and team, keen to make buying easy.[/caption]
There is a 'back story' to the otherwise ho hum announcement that Tigerair and Flight Centre have teamed up in a three years strategic alliance.
Flight Centre is about high retail visibility at office hours lunchtimes in extremely well patronised shopping centres.
It is, like its competitors, a remarkable survivor and adapter in the post-internet travel retail jungle, one in which nimble pre-internet aggregators and sellers have outlived the naysayers that predicted as far back as 1995 that the web would kill them.
The capacity of big brand travel agents to survive reflects the buying and travel habits of young professionals, much more than the dying elderly web-wary demographic that some analysts claim is keeping bricks and mortar retailing alive.
If those platitudes about older travel buyers keeping shops alive were true, the physical retail sector would have died off even faster than those clients. The new generations of travellers, empowered by falling fares, have long been identified in the trade media as the major source of growth in air travel, at home and abroad.
And, the lunchtime or grocery buying 'escape' from office screens or family duties is clearly an opportunity to buy trips that are now a commonplace part of life for demographics that 20 or more years ago saw them as more costly and less frequent purchases.
A retail travel agent, like Flight Centre, can still headline at eyeball level a combination of trip price and inclusions for a weekend or week long trip with a convenience that for many reasons, seems to difficult to pull together on line. Crouching over a over a tablet on a train, or in an open office environment with variable tolerance for personal on-line usage, isn't always a travel purchase friendly environment.
Tiger is doing nothing more or less than getting professional retail help to capture more customers than it could if it relied exclusively on its own booking site. Flight Centre is getting more attention, courtesy the Tigerair brand, for deals it might package or associate with an airfare, whether it bundles them together or not.
There is a bit of history to keep in mind as well. The original Australian low cost airline, Bryan Grey's Compass ( 1 December 1990-20 December 1991) and its unrelated follow-up, Compass II (31 August 1992-4 March 1993) preceded the advent of the internet for consumers.
In those times you either bought a flight through a laborious call centre arrangement (with follow up visits to take delivery of real tickets and fashionable free branded travel bags) or did it all at a shop. The agents were paid around five percent commission by TAA and Ansett-ANA and, not to put too fine a point on it, locked the first two Compasses out.
(The original Compass ran out of money and Compass II had its money stolen by its founder and deputy chairman, Doug Reid, who was jailed for ten years in Victoria in 1997 after a jury trial on charges of theft and fraud brought by the Australian Securities Commission. )
There is no doubting that Flight Centre today is providing Tigerair with something that would have proven invaluable for Compass 1 and II when the retailing sector in general made sure lower fare competitors weren't sold over the counters.
If Tiger and Flight Centre have this right, they will sell more deals than they otherwise would to time poor and domestically harassed customers who will find this an easy way of picking up a bargain.