Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at United’s earnings, a Barcelona tourism shakeup, and the pending JetBlue-Spirit merger.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Thursday, October 20. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

United Airlines admits the airline industry still faces economic headwinds amid business travel’s ongoing struggles to recover to pre-Covid levels, but the company isn’t worried about leisure travel demand continuing to be strong. Why? The company believes that increasingly popular hybrid work will drive future travel demand for the company, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.

United CEO Scott Kirby said during the carrier’s third quarter earnings call on Wednesday it’s seen a permanent change in leisure demand, citing the flexibility of hybrid work as a driving force. In addition, Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella noted shifting work patterns would change how United operates, enabling the company to run schedules with fewer peaks throughout the year. Nocella also said he believes more consistent flight schedules would help United operate more efficiently.

United generated $942 billion in net profit during the third quarter, almost twice the figure from the same period last year.

We go to Barcelona next. The city, long plagued by overtourism, recently fired its top tourism official Marian Muro partly because of her poor relationship with its main tourism stakeholder group. Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes her dismissal underscores the importance of engaging local communities in tourism.

Barcelona’s tourism consortium fired Muro less than two years after it appointed her as its chief executive. Habtemariam notes the relationship between Muro and Barcelona’s Tourism Council and City, a group made up of residents and city stakeholders across various sectors, had deteriorated. Muro reportedly had limited engagement with council members, choosing to favor an approach to tourism largely centered on promoting the city.

Habtemariam adds tension between Barcelona’s residents and its tourism industry isn’t new. A 2022 Skift megatrend about greater community involvement in tourism touched on the often fragile relationship between tourism authorities and local communities.

Finally, the merger between JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines, which would create the fifth largest airline in the U.S., is one step closer to reality. Spirit’s shareholders approved the deal on Wednesday, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift brand.

More than 50 percent of Sprit’s investors voted to back the $3.8 billion deal. However, shareholder approval is not the final step in the merger since JetBlue and Spirit need to secure regulatory approval from the U.S. Justice Department. Russell writes that’s far from a certainty, with the Biden administration coming out against consolidation in major industries.

JetBlue and Spirit aim to close their merger by the first half of 2024. Spirit announced in July it had chosen to join forces with JetBlue instead of merging with Frontier Airlines. Frontier and Spirit had unveiled merger plans in February before JetBlue launched repeated attempts to buy Spirit.

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Tags: barcelona, skift podcast, tourism, united airlines

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