Just as I was preparing questions to ask Bridget Blaise-Shamai of American Airlines next Wednesday at The Beat Live
, as she occupies our Hot Seat, I received notification that AA has taken to blogging about its distribution mission
with a new Distribution Update Web page. We'll be quizzing Blaise-Shamai, AA's managing director for distribution and merchandising strategy, about the carrier's distribution plans and philosophies. And since I haven't checked in with the AA folks in a while, I was looking forward to learning something new on the blog. I didn't.
I had heard about the site because the airline's people were gracious enough to contact us for permission to link to our coverage, which appears along with that of other news organizations in the News section. (I'm thinking this post might not end up being listed, but maybe they'll surprise me.) You can also find on the site presentations of AA's Direct Connect initiative, first reported by The Beat in Oct. 2009
, but those do not appear to have been updated. A year after the original version, the presentation still indicates: "We cannot share the specific services that will be available or the timing of their rollout." Nor is there any mention of the economics. Meanwhile, the site also has a page where you can submit a question of the distribution team, and another where you can find out "about us."
If AA is trying to drum up interest in the direct connect with this new blog, it looks like it will be the blog posts themselves that do the piquing. AA director of merchandising strategy Cory Garner authored the first post. Here's a bunch of it: "We see it as our responsibility to educate you, the travel agency professionals and corporate travel managers, as to the reasoning, logistics and benefits of joining us on this journey to structure airline distribution to be more efficient and responsive for airlines, travel agents, and consumers. We have created this blog in a spirit of partnership with our best travel agency supporters and corporate customers.
"We know that these changes will have important implications for you, and we want to ensure that you have all the facts necessary to understand the reasons for, and the benefits of, these changes. We hope that by giving you full transparency into our thinking, you will support these improvements to existing practices and will engage in conversations with us about how to make it happen.
"It will not be quick or easy. It will take time and hard work. There will be entities out there with a vested interest to hamper, interrupt, and/or kill progress. Our resolve to bring change to airline distribution for the benefit of the customer and for a more healthy, competitive travel distribution technology market will not falter. We will be here with you every step of the way, announcing and explaining our actions, listening to your feedback, and clarifying anything that requires clarification."
How is it that an airline company which employs a large sales force that has one-on-one relationships with hundreds (or more?) of corporate accounts and hundreds of travel management companies needs a public blog to be more
transparent with them? I think most of them get the plan and are just waiting to hear if AA will throw some financial incentives behind it that would soften the blow of lost GDS incentives or added technology and process costs. I'd love to hear if anyone can report otherwise!
So, the blog didn't contain new details. Oh well, maybe AA is saving the best for The Beat Live
... in which case ... please ignore all of the above and, um, thAAnks!