Airlines rapped for distribution strategy shortcomings

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Airlines are limiting their growth by failing to implement proper distribution strategies, says the chief executive of travel distribution software supplier Datalex.

"I would argue that the majority of airlines do not have a coherent distribution strategy and I think without it... they're not really going to achieve an awful lot," said Aidan Brogan at Flightglobal's 2013 Technology and Innovation in Airline Distribution conference in London on 23 April.

He says that in "the majority of conversations at airline executive tables, 90% is about airline operations... In terms of dealing with the consumer and the passenger, there's not a lot."

Criticising airlines for struggling with the concept of a distribution strategy, Brogan says: "A fit-for-purpose distribution strategy allows you as a business to maximise your revenue capability with customers... The objective is to sell as much as you can and keep your customers as happy as you can make them."

American Airlines' managing director of distribution, Cory Garner says that when developing a distribution strategy, airlines, along with "everyone in the distribution channel, should be concerned about who is serving the customer better."

He adds: "Whoever provides the best service to the customer, they're the ones who are going to win ultimately."

EasyJet's distribution development manager, Jerry Dunn, says that where distribution is concerned, it is important for airlines to remain in control of their own destiny. While EasyJet, has sold tickets through GDS providers for over five years, it still sells around 90% of seats through its website, even if this figure is declining as the airline engages better with GDSs and other distribution channels.

"We choose to distribute all of our inventory through GDSs as their marketplace is high-value to us," he says, but adds that airlines and travel suppliers should be free to work with intermediaries in the way they choose: "They shouldn't be forced to distribute X number of content. It should be down to the business value they can bring... I think GDSs need to justify their value in their own terms without handcuffing or forcing airlines to sign up to strict agreements."