An Open Appeal To All Airlines

With newspaper headlines blaring about the planned acquisition of AirTran by Southwest Airlines, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to say the following:     

Many of you know that my career background has a long stretch of experience working in airline sales. The last carrier I worked for before crossing over to the corporate purchasing side was Northwest/KLM. 

I’ve also witnessed the airlines go from actively soliciting Meetings, Conventions & Incentive (MCI) sales to cost-cutting and elimination of this specialty sales area.  Recently JetBlue gave up on this sales category due to lack of interest.  Many airlines understandably cut head count and reduced operational costs due to the global recession and other financial pressures and most eliminated MCI sales people and programs; relegating all sales activities into their corporate business discount programs.

Now that both the transient and meetings business is rebounding, a few of the smarter airlines are realizing that:

a)    MCI business is higher yield revenue;
b)    There’s a dearth of competition for this business;
c)    Sourcing for MCI has become more automatic and robust.

My challenge and hope for 2011 is that at least one of these airlines is willing to think outside the box and re-establish an MCI sales process based on the "new normal" and industry environment.  It’s time for the airline industry, which is traditionally bound by the “follow the leader” mentality versus good bottom line-driven thought leadership, to stop the denial about the meetings industry and wake up to its revenue potential. 

Let’s see who leads on this challenge, and you have my contact information if you want some ideas…

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.