Hi, Richard !
Australian companies tend not to write a positioning statement in
quite the way outlined by the interesting article you found at
Techyvent, but digging around does make their position clear.
Flight Centre is not merely an online booking agent but has a very
well established bricks-and-mortar presence, from long before the days
when Internet booking became common. There are twelve stores in the
Sydney CBD alone, and fifty two listed in suburban Sydney. Note that
their web page is actually designed to get you to telephone one of
these stores, with Internet Specials being only a small section.
They have a presence also in New Zealand and consultants in the USA,
UK, Canada and South Africa.
A speech given by their CEO Graham Turner on March 11 2002 at the
Australian Financial Review Boss Club goes a long way towards defining
how Flight Centre perceive themselves. It can be found at:
He outlines the history of the company since its start in 1981. Among
other things he says:
"Believe it or not, in 1979 you could be put in jail for discounting
airfares, in Australia. That was under Malcolm Fraser. Fraser actually
repealed that legislation, but you know, it is not that long ago when
discounting of flights was highly illegal. So we knew that there would
be an opportunity. That was the interesting thing, we got in at the
right time. People say you make your own life, but I think we were
extremely lucky to come into our market at the right time. We very
much specialised in discount flights. (We're like) Macdonald's - they
are a hamburger specialist, but they make most of the money out of the
add-ons, like Coke and chips and that sort of thing. We are a flight
specialist, but we probably make most of our money on the add-ons, I
won't tell you what they are . . . "
He goes on to say:
"We have 10 key philosophies that are up in every shop. The first one
is that the customer is paramount. But what we mean by this, and what
is important is that, if you want the people, or if you want to look
after your customers, the first people you look after is yourself. And
as an organisation we have put a lot of effort into helping people
look after themselves too. If people can look after themselves in
their own health and well-being, they tend to look after their
We are a team-based organisation, and the team leaders have to be able
to look after themselves first, because they have got to have their
act together if they want to be able to look after their team, their
team has got to have the right to be able to look after customers
He then explains the support programmes in place for team leaders, and
the incentives which allow them part ownership in the stores. From
there he goes on to say:
"The last thing is our belief in profits. Now, you know some people
think that profits tends to be a bit of a dirty word. Well, in our
organisation we believe that making profits is the best indication of
whether the community values what you are giving them. "
More on this is available on their "About Us" page:
Here we learn:
"Our major asset in Flight Centre is our staff, 95% of our staff are
tertiary educated, extensively travelled, and well trained through our
in-house training college."
So in a very real sense Flight Centre see themselves as providing good
customer service through good staff support, and staff ownership in
individual stores, and this is one reason why all the online promotion
is designed to get the customer to contact one of their stores, rather
than book online. How that serves the Australian consumer is better
seen on their site.
On their site their position is best summarised by the statement that
appears in the title bar of the Microsoft Explorer Browser (right up
the top) on their home page: "Lowest Airfares Guaranteed":
This is expanded on the page itself:
*We guarantee to BEAT any available quoted airfare, even INTERNET
This is expanded further on the guarantee page itself at:
Here you will find what is essentially a "mission statement" or
"positioning statement". In part it reads:
Our Lowest Airfare commitment is more than a marketing promise, it's
our GUARANTEE to you.
...... With our bulk buying power we negotiate better airfare deals
than other travel retailers and in turn offer you the advantage of
these discounts. As part of this lowest airfare commitment Flight
Centre guarantee to BEAT any genuine current quoted airfare!
If you happen to find a cheaper airfare, simply visit a Flight Centre
store with your written quote ......
Internet airfares? ..... If you find any airfare on an Australian
internet site which is available for sale in Australia, VISIT ANY
FLIGHT CENTRE STORE and we guarantee to BEAT IT BY AT LEAST $5!
For further information about Lowest Airfares Guaranteed, visit your
nearest store or call 133 133."
Note that the emphasis throughout is on visiting the store, not on
booking on-line. If they are to maintain their commitment to their in
store team leaders that is a must. However, that's a very attractive
offer, and the stores are numerous and easy to find - certainly
travellers who feel reassured by dealing with a knowledgeable human
being face to face will find this attractive.
Investigating international airfares at Flight Centre will bring you
to an on-line email enquiry form, not an internet booking service, as
opposed to domestic flights which can be booked online and eticketed.
Personally I started doing most of my hotel bookings via email some
years ago, but I still feel slightly unnerved by eticketing, which
gives me no more than a confirmation number to secure my flight. I'm
happy to use this for domestic flights - just - but I wouldn't feel
comfortable with eticketing for International flights, especially in
third world countries.
Although the initial emphasis of Flight Centre is on low airfares,
they now supply a range of other travel agency services as well - but
the image to the customer is very much "we also offer these services"
whatever the CEO said (above) about the profits from add-ons. Hotels
can be booked on line through them, and they supply package holidays
and other specialist services. They also badge themselves as "World's
No. 1 Discount Flight Specialists."
If we take the position statement - as far as the traveller is
concerned - to be embodied in the phrase "lowest airfares guaranteed"
then it suits the budget conscious traveller down to the ground. Even
the traveller who is used to researching and purchasing on line, can
be tempted to scout out the best fares, and then challenge their local
(and easy to find) Flight Centre store to better it - initially by
phone. It's very hard to beat a guaranteed best price.
Their TV and newspaper advertising follows the same line.
For your interest, for a long time Flight Centre's direct rivals were
Just Flights, who basically did exactly what the name implies -
specialise in flights only. But typing in:
now transfers you to the site for Travel dot com.au at:
A comparison of the sites - layout, offers and focus - tells you that
Travel are aiming for a younger market, and put more emphasis on
online booking. They have recently (thank goodness) redesigned their
site from a very gaudy colour scheme with exceedingly tiny fonts, but
you will notice that they are still using a small typeface, which
obliges us older people to hunt for our reading glasses. By the time
I've done that, I'm not buying. Flight Centre does not make that
I hope this is useful.
"Flight Centre Travel"
Sydney White Pages (physical).
Going to the links you recommended.
Personal knowledge, having booked flights with them, and researched
flights through them and travel.com
Clarification of Answer by
16 Mar 2003 21:56 PST
Hi, Richard !
I am not sure quite how close your "assumed" figures are to real net
usage in Australia, but the best way to approach this is probably to
compare the figures for net usage with the figures relating to
The 2001 census figures on net usage are Caslon Analytic's site at:
"The 2001 count was the first Australian Census to seek information on
the use of personal computers at home and information on internet use.
It indicates that in the week preceding the count some 7,881,983
people (42% of the overall population) had used a personal computer at
· 2,663,168 people (14%) aged 0-19 years
· 3,359,214 (18%) aged 20-44 years
· 1,628,051 (8.7%) aged 45-64 years
· 231,550 (1.2%) aged 65 years and over. "
Another good source of statistics regarding net usage can be found at
the Western Australia Ecommerce Centre site at:
Here you will find a wide range of relevant articles.
Statistics on travellers are also available online. for example,
seniors, especially self-funded retirees, are already a significant
proportion of the travel market and this group is growing as the baby
boomers reach retirement age. Although many are happy using the web,
others are still more comfortable dealing with a person when planning
a holiday, and Flight Centres combination of on-line information and
personal service must seem appealing to this age-group. So too the
guarantee of best price must be a drawcard to these budget minded
A very good article on senior travellers, with charts and figures, is
to be found at:
This is a pdf file from which I cannot cut and paste.
A great article of "Surfing with Seniors and Boomers" can be found at
It implies that around 20% of this demographic are online. It goes on
"..... a SeniorNet survey that found that 61 percent of respondents
researched computer software or hardware online to purchase offline,
followed by travel packages, plane tickets, rental cars, etc. at 55
Some of that travel research apparently gets converted to purchases,
as the Travel Industry of America found that Baby Boomers generated
the highest travel volume in the U.S. in 2001 registering more than
248 million trips, more than any other age group and they were more
likely to stay in a hotel or motel (59 percent), use travel agents (43
percent), travel for business (33 percent) and to fly (24 percent).
Boomers spend more on their trips than other age groups, averaging
$489 per trip, excluding transportation to their destination. "
Note that the purchase of tickets is not necessarily made online.
More information on this consumer group can be found at
"While most adults age 50 or above are more likely to be intermediate
Internet users testing the waters of the Internet, their heavy online
habits have set them on a fast track to become fully accustomed to the
medium. Compared to 18- to 24-year olds, they spend on average 6.3
more days per month on the Internet, stay logged on 235.7 minutes
longer and view 178.7 more unique pages per month. " These are US
Young travellers would find Flight Centre's special services appealing
since they offer help for young people wishing to take advantage of
the various international schemes and working holidays.
Fully Independent travellers (FIT) who "make all their own
arrangements via phone, Fax or Internet directly with suppliers"
instead of buying packages, represent only a small proportion of the
market, according to a market profile study done for BC in Canada.
New Media Review has an official site for the European Travel
They say: "Over half of regular Australian Internet users have used
the Internet to research travel.
According to amrinteractive, approximately half of the Australian
population over 15 go online regularly. Of those, amrinteractive
· 7% research travel once a week.
· over half have used the Internet to research travel at some point.
(Australia.internet.com, February 2003)"
AMRInteractive are a market research firm. Following the link to
Australia Internet finds a long article comparing four Australian
travel companies with only an online presence Travel.com.au, ZUJI,
WebJet and AirfareMarket.
"ZUJI quote research by PhoCusWright. 'The Asia Pacific online travel
market expected to grow AU$4.6 billion (US$2.7 billion) in 2002 to
AU$13.5 billion (US$8 billion in 2004) and from 3.5 percent of the
total travel market to 9.5 percent over the same period,' "
Clearly that leaves 90.5% of the market still using bricks and mortar
stores, so Flight Centre's focus on using the Web to pull customers
into their physical stores is not misplaced. Flight Centre seem to me
to have made a very deliberate decision to use their web presence to
reinforce their local store presence, rather than compete directly
with the Internet only suppliers. Their corporate culture with their
very high commitment to their staff would reinforce this.
Thank you for an interesting question.
Australian travellers demographics
Australian net use demographics