April 23, 2024

Remember when…

To mark the 100th issue of The Business Traveller Magazine, join us on a trip down memory lane...

It’s the future…almost 

Issue 1: November 2006 

If only they had let their imaginations run a tiny bit wilder, those clever techies at Amadeus would have got it spot on when they outlined their “vision of the business travel future” in our very first issue. 

They predicted that online booking tools would be reduced to a “piece of kit the size of a mobile phone”, otherwise known as a “universal access handset”. They even had a video of a traveller unlocking his hire car and getting into his hotel room by waving his “mobile phone lookalike”, but still didn’t quite make the leap. To be fair, the best phone around at that time was The Blackberry Pearl.

Issue 1 of The Business Travel Magazine

Turning green 

Issue 3: March 2007

It’s good to see that even as far back as our third issue, we were dedicating our cover lines and countless column inches to the important issue of sustainable business travel. Sadly, though, in 2007 it wasn’t quite the major industry focus it is today.

According to our Editor’s welcome, at that year’s Business Travel Show (when it was still at Earl’s Court – oh, wasn’t it so much easier then?) it appears there wasn’t yet much of an appetite for sustainability-related discussions.

A session entitled ‘Green taxation in aviation – who should pay?’ was cancelled, and another session exploring the benefits of video conferencing as a travel alternative was attended by just five people. 

Thankfully, now, the subject has risen to the top of the agenda and entire conferences – and entire issues of our magazine – are now devoted to finding sustainable solutions. It’s going to be a long and difficult journey but we’ll get there.

“I’m on a plane”

Issue 8: January 2008

All we can say is thank goodness this one didn’t take off. Well, not yet anyway.

At the start of 2008, we reported that Air France was “blazing a trail in Europe that others are set to follow” when it began to test a new in-flight mobile phone service in partership with OnAir that allowed passenger to make in-flight calls.

Needless to say, the pilot scheme didn’t go too smoothly, with one onboard journalist reporting “a not entirely happy planeload of passengers”. Those taking part in the trial complained that the call quality wasn’t great, with one sounding “like a small robot”, and other calls went straight through to voicemail. Meanwhile, passengers sitting nearby weren’t entirely pleased with the idea of having to listen in.

At that time, no UK airline had applied for a licence amendment for in-flight calls and, according to the CAA, today only a small number of aircraft are equipped to allow calls. On the rest, a mobile phone signal can’t be received once the plane reaches about a few thousand feet anyway.

In the European Union, however, the arrival of 5G has prompted changes in legislation which mean passengers will no longer be required to put their phone on airplane mode. And the CAA is watching closely. 

“We are working with Ofcom and the Ministry of Defence to make sure that the deployment of 5G in the UK does not cause any technical problems for aircraft and are keeping our position under constant review,” a spokeswoman told us.

Enjoy the peace and quiet while you still can.

Terminal fiasco

Issue 10: May 2008  

It led to the loss of 15,000 bags, the cancellation of 250 flights and the prosecution of a super model – who can forget the disastrous opening of Heathrow Terminal 5?

Despite 20 years of planning and an investment of £4.3 billion, a catalogue of technical and organisational errors led to what was described by Alistair Carmichael, a Member of Parliament, as “a national disgrace, a national humiliation”.

But, while the tabloids had a field day, we kept our readers firmly in mind and instead of wallowing in the chaos we shared helpful advice. We ran a feature on the subsequent reshuffle at Heathrow’s terminals, where British Airways’ relocation allowed Star Alliance airlines to move into T1 and Skyteam to move into T4, and so on.

We also shared advice from the FCO about keeping important documents online using a “secure online storage site”, in case of any more bags going missing.

And, with “the black comedy” of the Heathrow opening “a timely reminder that air travel today is not all champagne and canapés”, we also featured a news story about the latest video conferencing technology as a viable alternative.

Dubbed the “Volvo of virtual meetings”, Datacom’s new system allowed up to nine participants to meet online and “even share documents or presentations”. 

“If laptops and PCs are not modern enough to come with a camera and speakers, £35 or so spent on a plug-and-play equipment will do,” says the article. Plus, there was a £70 fee for the software and £75 a month running cost, per person. No wonder it didn’t properly catch on until more than a decade later.

Look on the bright side

Issue 19: February 2009 

We know from more recent events that our industry is resilient and resourceful, so we weren’t altogether surprised to see the headline “Reasons to be Cheerful” in a feature about business travel as the UK began to emerge from the 2008 recession. 

It was based on the experiences and opinions of five travel buyers, who were relishing the fact that, with the C-suite now on board, they could “actually fulfill the job
they are charged to do”. 

One buyer remarked: “Policy is king now and we don’t have much leakage as a result.” Another noted: “Non-compliant reports are now being looked at and people will be challenged.” 

Of course, the post-recession compliance was short lived and those disobedient travellers were soon up to their old tricks again.

It seems that some traveller traits never change, as some of the other buyer comments demonstrate. “They still want five-star hotels but want to pay two-star prices,” said one, while another nicely summed up every travel buyer’s frustration: “As long as you travel, you’re a travel manager – or you think you are.”

TMCs to the rescue

Issue 22: May 2010

Even those of us who can remember it happening won’t remember how to pronounce it, let alone spell it.

The eruption of Iceland’s tongue-twister Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April and May 2010 caused the biggest air traffic shut down since World War II, with an estimated 107,000 flights grounded over eight days, impacting the travel plans of a staggering 10 million passengers.

IATA put the losses for the airline industry at approximately £1.3 billion, airports lost another £80 million and goodness knows how many hours sleep were lost by travel managers and TMCs trying to deal with the fall-out.

As we’ve seen time and time again – whether it’s volcanic ash, storms, snow, cabin crew strikes, pesky drones, airline financial failures or terror attacks – TMCs come into their own in a crisis.

Just weeks after the bedlam, we ran an in-depth feature on TMCs, which read: “Until April 14th, hardly anyone in the UK had even heard of it. That quickly changed when the distant volcano belched into action, spewing ash high into the atmosphere to drift slowly over Europe and, perversely, give travel management companies the chance to shine.”

The editorial that followed was eerily similar to what we ran during the Covid pandemic. As one TMC chief said on the first day of the ash cloud shut down: “Some people question the cost of TMCs but on days like today a TMC pays for itself tenfold.”

Half way point

Issue 50: January 2015

This was our 50th issue and, naturally, we celebrated it. It wasn’t in such a big way as we’re celebrating our 100th, but we dedicated a few pages to look back at some of the main news headlines and we also discussed some of the terms that hadn’t even been on the horizon when we first launched.

By 2015, phrases ‘travel management 2.0’, ‘mobile booking’ and… wait for it…’New Distribution Capacity (NDC)’ had joined the business travel vocabulary. In fact, for the latter, we ran a Beginner’s Guide.

The guide explained that some parties were concerned about NDC in relation to transparency, the potential to do away with price comparison, the need for, and the cost of, developing the required technology, and the protection of consumer data. 

A survey that year showed that almost two-thirds of travel managers in Europe didn’t feel they knew enough about NDC and how it might affect them to be able to decide whether it’s a good thing or not.

Nearly a decade later and we’re not sure the sentiment is that much different.

Election promises

Issue 51: March 2015

With an election looming, we carried a news story outlining the election manifesto of the Business Travel Association (BTA), then known as the GTMC (Guild of Travel Management Companies) and not many of you will be surprised to learn that it was all a bit of a waste of the guild members’ time.

There were four key demands from the organisation, on behalf of the industry: 

– an immediate decision from the Government on additional airport capacity “with spades in the ground by 2020”

– the financing and construction of HS2 and HS3 rail links and better domestic air links to address the north/south divide

– the abolishment of Air Passenger Duty

– free Wi-Fi available on all trains. 

In a shock election result, the Conservative Government won with a slim majority and failed to listen on all fronts. 

The mystery illness

Issue 81: April 2020

Due to our publication schedules, most of the April 2020 issue of our magazine would have gone to press before the full impact of Covid-19 was felt in the UK.

At that time, it was still a “mystery illness” emerging in Wuhan, a place most of us had to search on Google, along with the word ‘coronovirus’.

Our ironically-timed feature on travel risk spoke of the vital role of security experts, who had intelligence on the ground in China and had helped put “safety and security procedures firmly in place” so that the potential threat to travellers had been “identified, communicated, acted upon and largely avoided”.

We recognised the enormity of it all in our Editor’s Welcome: “It has brought economic turmoil and travel restrictions that few would ever have imagined possible,” it read.

But little did we know then that we were about to endure a long period of strict lockdowns a bit closer to home, that all but essential international and domestic travel would come to a complete halt, that many of us would be furloughed and the rest would be downloading Teams or Zoom and frantically trying to get to grips with the mute button, while home-schooling the kids and baking banana bread.

For the first time since its launch, The Business Travel Magazine skipped a few issues and instead we kept you up to date with developments online through our website and weekly newsletter.

Who can forget those weekly press conferences from No. 10, the ever-stricter lockdown rules, the ever-shifting FCO travel advice, and the ever-changing colour of the dreaded traffic lights – green, red, amber, amber plus – often announced via Twitter at 10pm.

The highlight of our week was seeing our very own Clive Wratten or Julia Lo Bue-Said on the television, urging the Government to get its act together. They tried their best to explain the devastating impact it was having on our industry, and the wider economy, but in the end we just had to ride it out.

In safe hands

Issue 82: September 2020 

‘In safe hands. Restoring travel confidence in an uncertain world’ was the cover line of our September 2020 issue as we began to emerge from the first round of pandemic lockdowns, only to be quickly locked away again.  

It was a surreal time of mask-wearing, social distancing, webinars and virtual conferences. Even our legendary Business Travel People Awards were announced virtually, the presenters standing two metres apart in the recording studio.

But there was a real sense of togetherness and collaboration as we “pulled together to tackle the new challenges, sharing advice and information openly and freely, even with rivals”.

“From the messages of support on LinkedIn for those who have been displaced to the industry-wide lobbying and campaigning, the sense of community is stronger than ever,” we observed. 

As a magazine devoted to business travel, we like to think we’ve helped to nurture that community spirit over the years, and will continue to do so for as long as you’ll carry on reading…

See The Business Travel Magazine special 100th issue