'Live with GBTA' Kicks Off Record Breaking 2011 GBTA Convention

Aug 22, 2011, 09:13 ET from Global Business Travel Association

Welcome Session 'Live with GBTA' hosts TSA Administrator John Pistole and United Airlines' Jeff Smisek in Discussion of What's Next in Air Travel

DENVER, Aug. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) – the voice of the global business travel industry – kicked off a record breaking 2011 GBTA Convention in Denver, Colorado hosting TSA Administrator John Pistole and United Continental Holdings, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Smisek to the stage in a welcome session to be remembered. Over 1,200 travel buyers are attending the 2011 GBTA Convention with nearly 6,000 attendees total, making this one of the largest GBTA Conventions in history and one of the largest gatherings of travel professionals in the world.

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GBTA Executive Director Michael W. McCormick welcomed the crowd of attendees for the opening panel on Sunday night which was in a talk-show style format. The first guest to the stage was TSA Administrator John Pistole who shared his perspectives on air security with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming up. Pistole shared with the audience the work TSA is doing to protect travelers, noting intelligence is the best way to stay ahead of tomorrow's threats.

"Since 9/11, both the Department of Homeland Security and TSA have taken significant steps to keep Americans safe and our transportation network is more secure today than it was a decade ago," said TSA Administrator John Pistole. "These steps include establishing and enhancing our layered approach to transportation security by continuously deploying new technology, evolving our processes, and applying intelligence analysis to our security measures in real time."

Administrator Pistole also discussed the TSA pilot of a trusted or known traveler program, which he described as a risk-based approach to security with the bottom line goal being to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible. Administrator Pistole said the program has the potential to be a game-changer that could strengthen aviation security while significantly enhancing the overall travel experience.

The next guest to the stage was Jeff Smisek, the CEO of United Continental, who made news with the announcement of a $550 million investment in the fleet, installing flat bed seats, more premium economy seating, streaming wireless, and refurbished interiors. Smisek told attendees United is focused on good service to their customers.

During the talk-show portion, the question of what's broken in Washington was posed. Smisek replied the U.S. doesn't have a comprehensive aviation policy and it would benefit from one. Smisek also stated aviation is important to the exchange of people, cargo and ideas and that the air traffic control system needs updating. According to Smisek, the use of better technology in air traffic control would save ten percent of United's fuel costs and save time in air travel.

Said Smisek, who discussed some of the intricacies of the merger between United and Continental, "Integrating two airlines takes time and effort, we need to invest in more technology and certain facilities and bring workers together to create the right culture. And we're up for the task." He noted being the world's largest airline doesn't matter as much as being the world's leading airline.

About the Global Business Travel Association

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is the world's premier business travel and meetings organization. Collectively, GBTA's 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers, as well as travel service providers, with networking events, news, education & professional development, research, and advocacy.  For more information, visit gbta.org.

SOURCE Global Business Travel Association