Our evolution

We are not an overnight success story. Our success happened over many years of persistence and hard work by a lot of people. Over the past 40 years, we’ve celebrated many important milestones turning points, major stuff ups and breakthroughs in our evolution.

Today, we are Australia’s largest travel retailer.

How it all started

40 years of history is hard to recap but in a nutshell, here’s the short version of our story to date. We’ll refer to “Skroo” throughout this – he’s our founder and Global Managing Director, Graham Turner. He got his nickname from the Turner brand of screwdriver. He’s a trained vet so if his early aspirations of changing the Australian travel industry hadn’t actually happened, he’d probably be saving the lives of animals great and small.

The 1970s – the early Top Deck Days
Get on board, Argas

In 1973, Skroo and a friend (Geoff “Spy” Lomas) buy a double-decker bus and call it “Argas”. They name their tour company Argas Persicus Travel (after the turkey tick – vet humour…) and set off on their first tour to SpainPortugal and Morocco. By 1975 the company is renamed Top Deck Travel and the following year the guys open Top Deck Travel’s first Australian office at 333 Queen Street in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 

By 1978, the company operates 26 buses and the crew is having the time of their lives…essentially partying and touring around Europe! 

 

Coming in to land near you

In 1980Skroo returns to Australia as Top Deck Travel director. With airline deregulation, he sees Australia as ‘ripe for the picking’. In 1981, the company expands Top Deck operations to the USA and the following year, opens the first Sydney Flight Centre retail shop (March), followed by Melbourne (April) and then Brisbane (June).  By the end of 1982, there are 9 Flight Centre shops in Australia and roughly 50 employees.  

The brand launches in London in 1984 and by the end of the decade, has introduced The Captain and its “Lowest Airfares Guaranteed” slogan to marketing. There are 345 people working for the brand with 63 shops across the country.  

A turning point...

Up until 1991, Flight Centre consultants didn’t sell domestic holidays...it took the same amount of time to make a domestic booking as it did an international booking but with less commission at the end. Once the Gulf War starts in early 1991, understandably, people are scared to fly. Enquiry dries up, but we turn to our philosophy of not externalising and taking responsibility...we start selling domestically.

1995 was a pivotal year. Our total profits pass $10m for the first time and we go public and list Flight Centre Limited on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The 90s sees the launch of a number of new brands – Great Holiday EscapesFlight Centre Corporate (now known as Corporate Traveller)Stage and Screen, Student Flights and Travel AssociatesWe also go global and start operations in South Africa, Canada, UK and the USA.

Where we are today

The early 2000s proved to be a bumpy ride with some of the most significant events to impact our industry all happening in this decade – the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the GFC namely. We look at challengeas opportunities and stick to our mantra of change, growth and profit.

By 2016, Flight Centre Canada is part of FCTG The Americas with the USA and Mexico. The opportunities are huge across corporate, leisure and student travel markets. In fact, USA was our first leisure market to return to profit following the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, FCTG is one of the world’s largest travel retailers and corporate travel managers. We have company-owned leisure and corporate travel businesses in 23 countries, spanning Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Europe, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Asia.

Our global FCM corporate travel management network extends to more than 90 countries through company-owned businesses and independent licensees. We’re pretty excited to see what the next chapter holds for us.

Looking back from my perspective today, I can see a broad theme for each decade in our story to date. In our first 10 years, we learn the basic principles of business and develop an understanding of how people want to work and to belong. Over the coming 10 years, our focus is continuing to grow the many aspects of our business successfully."

Graham “Skroo” Turner
Flight Centre
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