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40 years of Flight Centre: Skroo reflects on the past, present and future

It was in 1982 that Flight Centre opened its first shop in Australia. Forty years on, 2022 marks a massive milestone for the Flight Centre Travel Group, not only in Australia but in suburban strips, shopping malls and high streets worldwide where the iconic red and white brand is represented.

It was in 1982 that Flight Centre opened its first shop in Australia. Forty years on, 2022 marks a massive milestone for the Flight Centre Travel Group, not only in Australia but in suburban strips, shopping malls and high streets worldwide where the iconic red and white brand is represented.

Today Flight Centre is represented by 3,000 people in 450 shops globally, having weathered natural disasters, pandemics, and aviation crises.

To reflect on the four-decade journey, Flight Centre co-founder and global CEO Skroo Turner has shared his thoughts on the past, present and what comes next for travel and the global travel megabrand.

Over to you, Skroo…

Skroo Turner, Flight Centre co-founder and global CEO

“Our 40th birthday milestone is an acknowledgement of our Australian roots and the birth of a brand that became the catalyst for all of our success and brand diversification to follow.

“More than 40 years ago, I flew to London as a uni grad and had a hair-brained idea that buying a run-down double-decker bus would be a cheap but effective, way to drive around Europe.

“A few friends liked the idea too, and pretty soon, we worked out people would actually be willing to pay to come along with us on some of our fun.

“That was the start of Top Deck Travel and became the catalyst for the birth of Flight Centre in Australia.

“It’s been a privilege to watch the growth of the travel industry, both in Australia and globally, over the past 40 years. It’s safe to say I’ve done my fair share of travel, but this is the most incredible journey I’ve been on.

“To our customers, who have let us play a part in their travel memories, and to our people, past and present, who have contributed to the company’s enduring success over the past 40 years, thank you.

“Here’s to the next 40.”

1. Air travel – Sydney to London in less than 6 hours

Virgin Galactic’s Mach 3 Supersonic Airliner

“Over the next 40 years, I think the most significant change for long haul travel will be flight times.

“Using a new generation of high speed (Mach3) intercontinental aircraft, travellers will be able to get from Sydney to somewhere like London or New York in less than 6 hours.

“The planes are powered by liquid Hydrogen processed by renewables. The fuel cost is about double relative to the cost of kero in 2022.”

2. Coach touring – immersive cultural experiences

Topdeck Europe
Topdeck Europe

“Back in the 80s, European coach camping tours were marketed at 18-25-year-olds, and the most common itineraries were around the 10-week mark.

“Travellers would stay in tents or converted Double Deckers (favoured by our own Top Deck brand) and come home with tales of seeing many new countries and experiencing a taste of what they have to offer.

“Over the next 40 years, touring will focus on more intimate, experiential memories in smaller groups (25 max).

“Instead of building larger 10-week itineraries covering multiple countries, tourers will spend about three weeks in a single region, staying in hostels as a more experiential way to immerse yourself in a destination.”

3. Cruising – riding big waves

Viking Cruises
Viking Torgil in the Douro River Valley in Portugal.

“Over the past 40 years, cruising has been largely contained to popular ocean cruising in large ships, but we’ve seen riverboat cruising and smaller expedition ship journeys grow in the lead up to Covid.

“I predict cruising of all sorts will see a resurgence over the next 40 years as ocean, river and expeditions grow in popularity dramatically as an industry in all three sectors.”

4. Hotels: the rise of the boutique brand

QLD_Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers, Spicers Peak Lodge, Main Range National Park_649225-56
Queensland Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers, Spicers Peak Lodge

“Big, branded hotel chains have dominated accommodation preferences for 40 years, but I anticipate smaller, boutique brands will become more popular as travellers seek a unique stay to complement their in-destination experience.

“Our own (Turner-family owned) Spicers boutique offering continues to grow in line with pandemic-driven demand for tranquil, nature-based getaways.”

And the secret to Flight Centre’s success? “The Flight Centre people are our biggest asset and our biggest differentiator in the global market,” says Skroo.

“This is the essential difference between us and our competitors in the online travel agency space.”

“We’ve been the catalyst for millions of amazing travel experiences over the past 40 years. We look forward to organising many more million flights and trips, both with our customers and our consultants truly co-captaining the Flight Centre journey together for the first time.”

As part of the 40th birthday celebrations, Flight Centre Travel Group recently released their bold plans for Flight Centre Brand 4.0.

Guess who?

Yours truly Matt Leedham, running the presentations at FC Global 2000, Gala Awards night in Sydney

As a former ‘Flightie’ who worked in both Brisbane and Auckland head offices (Artworks) for six years, I feel incredibly proud to have played a small role in Flight Centre’s 40-year journey.

This is me at my first Flight Centre Global in Sydney 2000, behind the scenes running the award presentations at The Gala Ball.

It would soon be the Sydney Olympics (Go Cathy Freeman!) and as a relative newbie at the time, the scale and energy of that event literally blew my mind. Needless to say, it wasn’t an early night.

Eighteen years on since I left the business, I still count so many of my former colleagues as good friends for who I have the utmost respect with so many fond memories of shared experiences and good times.

A very Happy 40th birthday to everyone at Flight Centre Travel Group, past and present, and as Skroo says, “Here’s to the next 40.”