Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
Amon Cohen wraps his personal awards round a housebrick and chucks it through business travel’s window AS I WRITE THIS, it’s only a few days to the most glittering social occasion of the business travel year – BBT’s very own Business Travel Awards. I shall be there in the same dinner jacket I picked up at a jumble sale when I was 17, plus almost-matching trousers. I used to kid myself that I resembled a sort of Jewish James Bond when I put it all on, but these days I look more like a doddery old wine waiter.Anyway, by way of an hors d'oeuvre to the main course on January 21, let me once again offer up my own annual awards: the Gongs in Travel, better known as The Gits. As usual, the Gits were determined in an entirely scientific, rigorously objective manner – to wit, me spending an entire lunchtime in the adjacent Horsepond Inn, warming up some half-baked ideas over a couple of pints of Butcombe and a pickled egg.
The Jonny Wilkinson Award For Kicking Into The Long GrassWinner: The UK GovernmentWhether you think the south-east should have a runway at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or Boris Island, or shouldn’t have a runway at all, what everyone does agree is that we need a decision, and we need it now. So how does the coalition respond? It sets up a commission to investigate the options and orders it not to report back until 2015, thus sparing the awkwardness of having to make any pronouncements before the next election. A special honorary Teflon-coated frying pan is bestowed on the head of aviation minister Rt Hon Simon Burns MP for effortlessly winding up the entire audience at the Guild of Travel Management Companies’ autumn conference by avoiding taking any position on anything whatsoever during his 45 minutes of stage time.The Steve Brookstein Here Today, Gone Tomorrow TrophyWinner: Hong Kong AirlinesHistory teaches us two lessons. Number one: don’t invade Afghanistan; number two: unless you are a flag-carrier, don’t launch a business class-only service. Hong Kong Airlines forgot lesson number two and launched all-premium flights to Gatwick in March 2012. By September, the service had been pulled.The Jam Off The Cohen Family Dining Table Award For Services No Longer Rendered To Business Travel Journalism (Sponsor: Tiptree)Winners: American Airlines and SabreAfter years of arguing, AA and Sabre finally reached a legal settlement over their long-standing dispute in October 2012, thus depriving hacks of a rich source of stories that had kept us gainfully employed for years (although for the last 12 months or so most of us had become so confused over what they were actually arguing about that we had stopped writing about it anyway).The Jam Back On The Cohen Family Dining Table Award For Services Newly Rendered To Business Travel Journalism (Sponsor: Hartley’s)Winner: Managed Travel 2.0 aka consumerisation, aka ‘Rogue Is Vogue’Should travel managers abandon conventionally managed travel programmes and let their travellers book how and where they want? I don’t know, but what I do know is that an awful lot of people have commissioned me to try and answer that question for them, including another 2,000 words in this issue of BBT alone (see p72).The Duke Of Edinburgh Award For Biggest Gaffe On A Foreign Business TripWinner: Mitt RomneyOf course, no one comes anywhere near the good duke himself (an example – asking a group of Aborigines: “Do you still throw spears at each other?” while touring Australia). However, Mitt Romney did not exactly endear himself on the eve of the London Olympics by casting doubt over whether the Games would be a success, saying preparations had been “disconcerting” and “not encouraging”. Didn’t the failed presidential candidate realise that pouring cold water on major UK-hosted global events is the prerogative of the British people, not his?Fyffes Banana Skins Cup For Biggest Transport Cock-Up Of The Year – UK SectionWinner: Department for Transport for West Coast Main Line Franchise Tendering ProcessLack of transparency, inconsistent treatment of different bidders, failure to follow guidelines, flawed assessment models...you wouldn’t trust this shower to project-manage procuring a bottle of pop from the nearest corner shop.
Runner-Up: Immigration queues at HeathrowMaking visitors wait for up to three miserable hours just for the privilege of entering our country didn’t exactly oil the UK’s wheels of commerce during 2012. But who should collect the award: the UK Border Agency, which is supposed to do this job; the government for under-resourcing the agency; or Her Majesty’s press for jumping on the agency’s back when it sensibly tried to reduce anticipated queues by relaxing some immigration checks?The Gerald Ratner Biting The Hand That Feeds You Memorial PlateWinner: Michael O’leary, RyanairIt’s been a quiet year by the Irish motor-mouth’s standards, but there can only ever be one winner in this category. Choice quotes for 2012 included labelling Europe’s aviation safety authorities “plonkers” for their tiresome insistence that passengers must wear seat belts, and describing customers who fail to print their own boarding passes, even when abroad, as “idiots”.
The Raised Pint Pot For Absent FriendsWinner: BmiMourned especially in Scotland, dear old British Midland had a proud heritage stretching back to the 1930s. Arguably, its heyday was the late 1980s and early 1990s, when it provided rare and robust short-haul competition to BA and other European flag-carriers before the low-cost airlines changed everything. It gave us one last laugh in October 2012, when the Civil Aviation Authority awarded BMI’s former Moscow route to Easyjet – Virgin Atlantic had fully expected to win that one, sending Beardy Branson off into yet another of his hissy fits.