Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at Yotel’s expansion from airports to city centers, Southwest’s business travel-friendly move, and a day in the life of a travel agent.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Monday, August 1 in New York City. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Airlines’ brutal summer — marked by massive flight cancellations — has further complicated work for travel agents already having to serve growing numbers of travelers. So what is a typical summer day like for agents amidst the chaos? It’s enormously frantic, reports Editorial Assistant Rashaad Jorden in a look at travel agent Dannielle Jasper’s world.

Jasper, who’s worked at Cincinnati-based agency Prestige Travel for 25 years, said she’s never had such a hectic summer before. A lot of the chaos this summer, she believes, stems from airline staffing shortages. Jasper described calling the airlines a disaster since it can take hours to actually speak to a representative. She added that the understaffed agency usually has multiple agents on the phone trying to reach airlines, which makes serving customers eager to book trips very difficult.

Jasper also said travel disruptions have forced her to work longer hours, stating that agents have to deal with flight cancellations and changes immediately instead of putting them off until the next day.

Next, Southwest Airlines has taken a major — and costly — step to encourage more business travel bookings. The carrier announced last week it’s eliminating all expiration dates on flight credits, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons.

The move applies to flight credits that hadn’t expired by July 28 as well ones created on or after that date. Parsons writes Southwest’s decision will be popular with its business travelers since it removes the pressure to rebook flights by a certain date. That flexibility, he adds, should help Southwest boost its business travel recovery. The company reported during its second quarter earnings call that business travel revenues were down 24 percent compared to pre-Covid levels.

But removing flight credit expiration dates will be a significant hit to Southwest’s third quarter revenues — to the tune of possibly $300 million. However, Dave Harvey, the vice president of Southwest Business, said the company believes it’s only taking a one-time hit.

Finally, London-based hotel chain Yotel was, prior to the pandemic, best known for operating tiny hotel rooms at airports. But the company is shifting away from its longtime business model, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill in this week’s Early Check-In.

Yotel believes its development pipeline is vibrant, O’Neill writes, and the company has 36 properties — largely away from airports — signed or under contract. Yotel also launched a brand called YotelPad, which it calls extended-stay residences, and it started franchising recently — having opened franchises in Park City, Utah, Manchester, England, and London.

O’Neill writes the pandemic reinvigorated Yotel instead of undermining it, with the company strengthening its revenue management and digital marketing teams during the crisis. In addition, CEO Hubert Viriot credited the company’s ability to break even at low occupancy rates as a reason it’s been attractive to potential investors.

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Tags: skift podcast, southwest airlines, travel agents, yotel