News from Qantas that it was investigating non-stop flights to London and NY by 2022 had us wondering what that would mean to meetings.

If you’re a sci-fi fan like me and you work in the travel business you can’t help but get excited when you hear talk about getting from A to B faster.

I recall as a pre-teen being excited when mum and dad bought the full set of World Book Encyclopaedias which I distinctly recall said that we’d all be getting to school with jetpacks in the not-too-distant future. Sadly, that never happened. And then there was Doctor Who who could teleport pretty much anywhere he wanted to in a phone box in a couple of seconds. Not to forget Star Trek’s fancy system for beaming their people off the ship and onto strange planets.

Sadly, the amazing world of futuristic movies don’t appear as if they’re going to mean a whole lot to us mere earthlings any time soon.

But Alan Joyce’s recent shout out to aircraft manufacturers for non-stop flights from Australia’s east coast to London and New York is pretty exciting stuff. We thought it wouldn’t hurt our business event sector. In fact, we thought that it could put an end to that age-old objection that many use far, far away – that Australia is “too far” to visit.

A flight to Australia from the US or UK in which there is no pesky stopover somewhere along the way has to be a good thing right?

We asked a few in the industry what they thought about the plans:

“All non-stop flights are preferable to flights that stop en route to your final destination,” ICMS Australasia chairman, Bryan Holliday, told us.

“No matter how modern and comfortable an airport might be, it’s less than enjoyable to wait around for a connecting flight. It’s exciting news about Qantas’ strategy.”

Having said that, Bryan points out that the sands have shifted in terms of where delegates come from. “From a business events perspective this is probably less of a game-changer than we might all imagine because an increasing number of delegates to world meetings are travelling from Asia, where the journey is much shorter.”

ICC Sydney CEO, Geoff Donaghy, agrees, telling us that corporate and incentive markets in Asia, combined with their relatively short haul accessibility, represent important growth potential for Australia and for the ICC Sydney.

“However, the great majority of international associations remain headquartered in Europe and North America and that is where destination decisions for this important segment are made. While still some years off, these non-stop initiatives from our national carrier will assist with both the perception and reality of the competitive disadvantage that results from our distance and the time to travel here. Anything that contributes to diminishing travel time can only assist us.”

ID Events Australia, which predominantly works in the incentive space, says distance is one of their major barriers when proposing Australia.

“So we absolutely welcome the news of non-stop services to key western markets,” says ID’s Karen Livermore. “That being said, I’m not entirely sure our clients will want to sit that long on one flight. From a personal perspective, it’s all mostly a mindset; practising meditation and mindfulness before boarding is worth considering… convenience will outstrip any negatives.”

And in that vein, World Corporate Travel’s Gary Bender, who definitely loves the concept of shorter flights, says additional thought will have to go into the comfort, space, seating and technology inside the aircraft for passengers.

“Economy fares to London are the same as they were 25 years ago and it took three stops to get there back then. They should look at offering better than premier economy seating with seat configurations of 2 x 2 x 2 rather than 2 x 4 x 2 with wider aisles and seats.

“They should also look at night time departures so you can sleep first, then work, and then get into London or New York in the afternoon so you don’t have to wait around for your room.”

Unlike now, Gary believes that the airline will have to make the entire travel trip an “experience” rather than a means to an end of getting from point A to point B.

Executive general manager of events at Tourism Australia, Penny Lion, told micenet that hearing about the plan to have 16-hour direct flights from the UK to Australia is very exciting.

“This would cut travel time considerably and offer potential travellers a very enticing option when choosing Australia,” she said.

We, like many, will be watching this space with baited breath.

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