BCD Shakes Up Industry

*Southwest Adds Denver Flights
*Signature Adds On
*And More

BCD Holdings N.V., the Dutch family-owned company that is the parent of WorldTravel BTI, has agreed to purchase TUI’s business travel subsidiary and an ownership interest in the Travel Co., a U.K.-based company.

BCD Holdings will combine WorldTravel BTI, TUI Business Travel and the Travel Co. into a new, as-yet-unnamed global travel management company with $8 billion in annual sales and 10,000 employees.

WorldTravel BTI CEO Mike Buckman will become the global CEO of the new company.

The launch of the new corporate travel company comes as BCD Holdings and the U.K.’s Hogg Robinson, 50-50 owners of Business Travel International (BTI), agreed to go-it-alone strategies. The companies said they will continue to serve mutual customers under the BTI brand and will honor all contracts.

Hogg Robinson said it will continue to operate under the BTI brand through its wholly owned or majority-controlled companies throughout the world. In North America, Hogg Robinson owns Sea Gate Travel and BTI Canada.

At the same time, Navigant International and TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holdings (whose parent is TUI) said they terminated their global joint venture. Navigant will retain TQ3’s global brand rights and trademark. Under the agreement, TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holdings will transfer its 50 percent stake in TQ3 Travel Solutions to Navigant.

Navigant’s split with its joint venture partner means that TQ3 Travel Solutions Management Holdings and its subsidiaries will rebrand their corporate travel operations by the end of June. Navigant, meanwhile, will manage the remaining international TQ3 offices, including those in Latin America and Asia Pacific, under the TQ3 brand.

BCD Holdings said it expects to close on the TUI Business Travel transaction in March. The companies declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement.

Southwest Adds Denver Flights

Southwest Airlines has silently begun selling tickets for nonstop flights from Denver to Oakland, Calif., and San Diego in addition to other new routes, the Denver Post reported.

Southwest announced in October that it would offer flights from Denver to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Chicago’s Midway airport starting early this month. But the airline’s Web site shows a route map that also includes Oakland, Calif., and San Diego. Come Feb. 11, the airline will offer one nonstop flight to each of these cities, officials said.

It’s unclear how long the flights on those routes will continue, Berg said, which is why the company hasn’t announced them. Currently, the flights can be booked on Southwest’s Web site through March 11.

The end date is not firm. Berg said schedulers may continue the routes “if it’s working fine and we don’t have any other place we need [the planes].”

Southwest has planes available for use on Saturdays that during the week are used on business-heavy routes. It has been operating similar Saturday-only flights to other cities without announcing them for six or seven years, Berg said.

Starting flights on new routes without announcing them is not a widespread industry practice.

Whether the flights last or not, the move does show Southwest’s interest in flights from Denver to Oakland and San Diego. Southwest has a large presence in California, with flights out of Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Burbank, Ontario, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.

Is Great American Going Under?

River cruise operator Great American Journeys appears to have shut down.

The company’s toll-free booking number is disconnected; calls to its main office by agents and ARTA officials were not answered; and the company has not paid commissions to several retailers, according to ARTA’s administrative director Pat Funk.

But in an article in the Seattle Times, it seems the company is still going. According to the paper, Great American is waiting for refinancing and has put off commission payments to agents and laid-off staff.

Owner Douglas Toms told the Times that decisions on 2006 sailings would be made soon.


Signature Adds On

United Vacations announced that it will be a preferred provider for the Signature Travel Network.

According to United Vacations’ vice president and general manager Rick Karnes, Signature’s volume of retailers and “members who aggressively market using technology” made joining Signature very appealing.

Frosch International Travel, Inc., a Houston-based travel company has also announced that it will join forces with Signature. According to president Bryan Leibman, the move comes at a time when Frosch Travel has “achieved a new level of success in the industry.”

Maupintour Leaves USTOA

Maupintour has officially withdrawn its USTOA membership and will no longer participate in the USTOA Travelers Assistance Program, which includes the organization’s $1 million Consumer Protection Bond according to the USTOA.

Bob Whitley, president of the organization, said that purchases made before Dec. 13, 2005, were fully covered but that client payments thereafter are not.

According to Whitley, since Maupintour had been sold, the company no longer qualified for USTOA membership.

“We have enjoyed having Maupintour as a USTOA member, and we hope that the company will apply for membership in the future,” Whitley said.