United CEO: Things Have Changed

Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at what United’s CEO thinks about the state of the industry, car rental companies’ very good year, and a new booking site for cruisers.

Good morning from Skift. It’s Thursday, January 19. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby blasted the U.S. airline industry on Wednesday, arguing that it’s being damaged by its refusal to accept profound structural changes over the last four years, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift brand.

Kirby said during United’s fourth-quarter earnings call that airlines will fail if they run their businesses like they did in 2019, with Russell noting the industry has been plagued by pilot shortages and increasingly outdated technology, among other difficulties. United estimates that it needs 10 percent more pilots than it had pre-pandemic to operate the same schedule. Kirby also urged the U.S. government to invest more in the country’s air traffic control system. A recent system outage disrupted more than 11,000 flights earlier this month.

Meanwhile, United recorded a $843 million net profit during the fourth quarter. The Chicago-based carrier saw revenues jump 14 percent from the same period in 2019.

Next, a group of online travel agency veterans, including a former Booking Holdings CEO, are teaming up at a startup that aims to facilitate online cruise bookings, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal in this week’s Online Travel Briefing.

Schaal reports that New York-based Cruisebound announced a $10 million funding round led by ex-Booking Holdings chief Jeffery Boyd and investment firm Par Capital Ventures. Tripadvisor co-founder Steve Kaufer is also an investor in Cruisebound, which Schaal writes appears to be emphasizing mobile bookings and targeting travelers new to cruises. Most cruise bookings are done offline, with online travel agencies that offer cruises largely using call center agents to make reservations.

Finally, car rental reservations worldwide skyrocketed during the recent year-end holiday period, hitting more than three times the number of bookings compared to 2019 levels, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons.

Global car rental comparison site DiscoverCars found that more than 12,000 seven-day reservations were made over the holiday season. Parsons notes a week tends to be the most common length for vacations. Three Portuguese destinations — Lisbon, Porto and the Madeira Islands — finished in the top 10 of DiscoverCars’ list of the most popular for car rentals, which Parsons attributed to the country’s popularity with tourists over the past two years.

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