2019-03-01 Global Traveler

(Jacob Rumans) #1

20 globaltravelerusa.com MARCH 2019

one on one | CEO SERIES

Name: Rob Gurney
Title: CEO
Company, city: oneworld; New York, New York 
Number of employees: The central oneworld team numbers around
30, but oneworld member airlines collectively employ 400,000.
Recent project: I don’t think of things as projects but as a stream of
initiatives to make the customer experience better. In that vein, we’re
updating technology, growing revenue by making it easier to do busi-
ness with us and reimagining our brand.
First job: Unpaid, I ran errands for my grandfather; he owned multiple
businesses, from jewelry to betting shops. In the travel industry, I
started as a management trainee with Qantas.
Little-known fact about you: I’m a long-time surfer. It’s not as easy to
surf in NYC as it has been in some of my other postings.

What innovations/initiatives do you foresee in the industry over the
next years? Capabilities rapidly enabled by technology are the driving
force of the future, from serving customers to aircraft technology. In
order to exploit the full potential, we need to make a more effective,
efficient use of space and infrastructure. Developments are under-
way, but we have to use technology without compromising safety and
Best career advice you’ve received: I’ve received no shortage of advice,
but one piece that stuck with me is never to think any experience or
knowledge is wasted. Even lateral career moves can be massively use-
ful in building a broader skillset and understanding.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the field? This
isn’t an industry for everybody; it’s a field with a much broader purpose.
That should be part of your ethos in order to succeed.


Favorite travel memory or story: While at a café in Italy, I
noticed a missing-dog poster. Later, while walking, I noticed
a dehydrated dog lying under a bush. It was the dog from
the poster. I gave him some water and carried him back to
the café, where he was reunited with his owners.
One travel tip you cannot live without: Steam your shirts
in the bathroom. It’s useful with today’s baggage restric-
Best advice for business travelers: Just take carry-on. It’s
convenient, you can move more quickly, and it’s better for
the environment. And fly with a oneworld carrier! 

In celebration of oneworld’s 20th anniversary, the al-
liance plans to roll out branded lounges. Tell us more.
Airport co-location and branded lounges are focused projects with
longer lead times. We want to create a great customer experience, so
we are looking for our airlines to move together at airports where it
makes sense and where opportunities allow. We are committed to this
idea, and we’ve identified several airports to look at closely. We’re well-
advanced in the process, but it is still a work in progress.

What was the inspiration behind oneworld’s new brand position-
ing as it turns 20? It’s hard to relaunch a well-recognized brand. Our
new slogan, “Travel Bright,” has a few connotations; we’re becoming a
more human brand and telling our story in a more compelling, modern
way. Our focus groups largely comprised our target business travelers
flying on more than one airline to make sure we deliver products and
services of use to them.

Tell us about the digital initiatives behind oneworld’s milestone. We
are investing in technology to deliver the promise of seamless travel
on alliance carriers digitally. Each member airline’s app and website will
offer the opportunity first to check in for a connecting flight on a one-
world partner airline, with more services and facilities to come later.
This will also offer a better infrastructure for disruption management.
We want to be able to do things in a more agile way.

Share a fact you want our readers to know as oneworld turns 20.
Our member airlines tell us, “We may not be the biggest alliance, but
we have the most fun.” The special chemistry of the oneworld alliance
was on display during a meeting with our first and new oneworld con-
nect partner, Fiji Airways. When one observes the chemistry in the room
among all the partners, it’s something you want to be part of.


CEO, oneworld


Rob Gurney (front left, holding sign) at the oneworld 20th-
anniversary press event with CEOs and other executives from
member airlines
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