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COLIN J. STEWART In Person With...

Selling Long Haul’s Alan Orbell talks to Colin J. Stewart, Air Europa’s general manager UK, about the airline's prospects for 2012 and its valued relationship with agents

COLIN J. STEWART General manager UK Air Europa

What are your main job responsibilities? As the airline's general manager I am responsible for all the commercial aspects of the airline in the UK. I manage a team of 10 people that includes sales, marketing and PR, reservations/call centre, airport operations, administration and finance, human resources – and I also occasionally find the time to pick up the milk from M&S! Air Europa currently offers long-haul

flights from Gatwick, via Madrid, to Buenos Aires, Caracas, Lima, Salvador de Bahia (Brasil), Cancun, Havana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo.

Update us on Air Europa’s (UX’s) product news and route developments We have one of the most modern fleets of aircraft in the airline industry with an average age of just three and a half years, something we are very proud of. Our fleet consists of A330s for our long haul operation and B737s and Embraer 195s for the short haul. Over the next few years we will add to

our long-haul fleet with the introduction of the new B787 Dreamliners. Our focus for 2012 will be on

increasing frequency and capacity to our key destinations such as Buenos Aires, Lima and Salvador de Bahia. We will also look to utilise the B737 on our twice- daily Gatwick to Madrid service. This will provide the additional capacity we feel we will need for next year.

How is UX doing this year and how do bookings look into 2012? Last year (2011) was an interesting year; we saw sales across the company increase compared to the previous year and that is very pleasing. Looking forward to 2012 I think it is fair to assume it will be a tough year for the industry but as the ultimate optimist I am looking forward to the challenge. Our focus will be in continuing to deliver excellent value for money and outstanding customer service – two of the main USPs I believe Air Europa offers.

How have rising taxes and APD affected travel to Latin America? Clearly, any increase in the cost of purchasing a ticket has an impact. Whether you are filling your car with petrol or buying new clothes parting with our hard-earned cash is never easy. It was most disappointing to see the government proceed as planned with the APD increase considering all the efforts and arguments put forward by the travel industry – I think only time will tell the real impact of this decision.

Do you see Air Europa as a trade- friendly airline? One of the most! I say that not to be flippant but to demonstrate the importance of the trade to Air Europa. When entering the market back in

2009 it was fair to say we had very little – if any – awareness in the mind of the trade. Over the past three years we have worked hard to build trust and confidence in our product and services and as a result we are now seeing the benefits. We will work hard to ensure this continues throughout 2012.

What trade initiatives, such as fams, training, etc, did Air Europa partner on in 2011? Last year was a busy year; we held a number of FAM trips to places such as Buenos Aires (pictured), Havana, Lima and our hub in Madrid. I feel this is the most important way we can sell Air Europa to the trade as it allows them to experience the product first hand. We

"We have worked hard to build trust and confidence in our product and services and are now seeing the benefits"

also launched our on-line training platform in 2011 (www. and over 1000 agents completed our three modules – the offer of free flights might have helped! I have a fantastic commercial team

which is dedicated to help make Air Europa a household name amongst our trade partners and regular training sessions with our partners have and will continue to help us achieve our aim.

Do you think travel agents have a future when it comes to selling long-haul travel? Air Europa offers flights to some of the world’s most diverse and exciting locations, destinations that are not simply a ‘last minute’ decision. As a result there is and will without question continue to be a need for destination and travel experts. However, I will say that this can

never be taken for granted; the consumer is becoming a lot more web savvy and adventurous so as with all of us the travel agent will need to demonstrate their value to the customer – this may not always mean cheaper but if something is perceived as a benefit people will pay for it.

What is your idea of a perfect holiday? As a parent of four young children (all under eight yrs old) I am tempted say a two-week lie on the beach holiday alone with my wife.... but any location that caters for children and adults – I have found that this can sometimes be a difficult balance for resorts to get right.

Top: Air Europa will continue to court the trade in 2012; Opposite: Colour in La Boca, Buenos Aires, a key destination for the airline • January 2012 41

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