The Beat Live? Boy What A Blast

I have just been reading the agenda and speaker list and boy what a blast I would have if I were there! No folks, this is not an advertorial for this event, more a recognition that at last somebody in the travel world is getting together some smart guys to air critical issues. I hope they do not let us and themselves down by blowing the opportunity to sidetrack posturing and 'company speak' to thrash out some alternative arguments.
My time for speaking at such events has diminished either by the lack of an own company to provide travel logistics or concerns about just how forthright I have become since shedding company policy shackles. Either way it reduces wear and tear on my heart and liver but sometimes, rather like my scruffy old jeans, I miss them like this one.

I then started asking myself why I am so het up about not attending yet another industry conference. What would be the one question I would ask if I was there? What would I press speakers about? Why do I think it is so darn important? How much would I lose at the Blackjack table?! Before moving on I thought I would scribble down a few thoughts on the topic I would bring up if I had made it to Las Vegas. You never know, somebody might use part of my thinking within their own contribution.

I would ask airlines to explain the practicalities of how they make their strategic commercial/distribution decisions. Within that who the decision makers are? Who within their organisational management do they interface with (i.e. sales, marketing etc)? Do they factor in the impact and needs of their corporate customers and, if so how and through what channels? Do they consult the corporate customer and who/how?

I would want to know about their policies and priorities. Are their decision makers fully market aware? Do they think they need to be? Does their organisation feel any duty of care to the industry they work in or do they simply focus on their own needs and expect the supply chain to adjust with their changes?

I still find it extraordinary that after all this time even people of my years do not really truly know who makes the key decisions in the air supplier sector. Experience has made me pretty certain it is nobody less than twice removed from customer interface. In fact I am pretty certain that most sales divisions are low enough in the company pecking order not to have much input. If they are being honest they are mainly left to pick up the strategic pieces.

It does not need a brain surgeon to get to the point I am trying to make which is that I believe this market is supplier and not customer driven. This was (perhaps) OK in the past when the industry was heavily regulated but surely not now. Not only do they want to have their cake and eat it but they want somebody to wash up after them...for nothing!

The point of the question is to explore if there is any better way of receiving and giving true consultation between corporations, their TMCs and their supplier partners. I know it is a competitive world out there but surely there is a better modus operandi than the current system of making decisions without true understanding. You only have to look at some of the arguments coming out from AA regarding distribution to see that they either do not understand their customers wishes or choose to ignore them.

This post was republished with permission from the blog of former managing director of HRG UK Mike Platt.