Kirk Cassels' Weekly Wrap of User Comments: November 15-19

For the handful of you that have been reading the Weekly Wrap from week to week for the past few years, I'd like to say many thanks for your time to catch up on what readers have been saying. I'd also like to thank all of the readers who took time to share their comments (no matter how crazy), as I've learned a lot about the industry through what has been shared. At the end of the month, I'll be heading up to New Hampshire for a new position at Dartmouth College. It wasn't an easy decision to make, but nevertheless it was too good to pass. I will be training my replacement, Asher Fusco, next week before the holiday, as well as on my last day on Monday, November 29. But before we get all teary eyed, let's take a look at what readers and agents have been saying this week.

American, Orbitz and Travelport

An airline, an online travel agency (OTA) and a travel business services company walk into a bar, and the travel industry goes wild. One of the most controversial stories as of late has been the clashing amongst American Airlines (AA), Orbitz and Travelport about booking fees and processes. Needless to say, many agents are up in arms.

Teri Gilbert shared:

The airlines are no one's friend. Think back to the time of commissions from the airlines when we were considered a 'value' to them (the airlines). We had reps visiting us, we had flight incentives, we had reasons to push one airline over another.  When the airlines announced no more commissions did we all stand together? No. Did ASTA help? No. Did we begin a downward spiral for agents and agencies. Yes. If AA gets away with this latest move the rest of the airlines will follow and then where are we going to be, again, at the bottom of the barrel. Fight this. Write and call your legislators.  Write the airline and make your position clear. Most of all, take a position, don't just stand by and let the airlines stick it to us again!

Jeanne concurs, writing:

I agree with Teri, it is time agents stick together. I would hope nobody would sign on with AA's Direct Connect. Why should agencies make it any easier on the airlines that make our jobs harder every day? If agents would agree to stop ticketing for just a day or two the airlines might recognize our value.

And then there's Peeved who, well, is perturbed when commenting:

Bruce Bishions had it so right so many years ago. We didnt listen then. How can we expect to pull together now? We should have supported an agent run booking system and our sheer volume would have spoken for us. Shame on us.

Meanwhile, in response to AA's response to the scenario, Carol Feiner seems pretty down, writing:

Once again the small, independent agency is going to get the short end of the stick.

In recognition of Travel Agent's 80th anniversary, we cited this situation with AA as we looked back to the late 1980s, when the airline was promoting travel professionals in its in-flight publications. As one may expect, a reader was not in the mood to celebrate with us as Jack Gaffney wrote:


But AA isn't the only company under fire as of late, whether it pertains to the clash with Travelport or not. Orbitz, based on an unrelated story, is getting some attacks as well, primarily in light of a class action suit against the company. One reader is thrilled with the legal action, as delaide Folks shared:

Thank you for the update. Thumbs up to Mr Shea (Shea is the individual filing the suit)

But not everyone thinks too highly of Mr. Shea, as Sally points out:

Sorry to sound negative, but if Shea had booked his vacations with a reputable travel agent he would not have had this problem. He thought he could do it all on his own and without a travel agent, he is all on his own.

It will be interesting to see how the Orbitz suit and the battle with AA plays out over the next year. I won't be hear to write about it, but I surely will be browsing to get the latest update and look forward to reading your comments from a true "outsider's view" moving forward.

Kudos to Cruise Lines

In light of recent hubub over cruise line actions and movements (whether it's direct shots at NCL's Kevin Sheehan or discontent over NCL's sales through direct channels), it was a refreshing change of pace this week to see some readers voice their support for two cruise lines. First, there was Susan J. Young's analysis of the recent Carnival Splendor dilemma and her questioning as to whether the incident will mar the cruise industry. Joe Brandon responded quickly, commending a separate cruise line though, no doubt, endorsing the selling of cruise vacations, stating:

I am scheduled for my third cruise on the Sapphire Princess on Dec. 4th and am in no way worried. The crews on these ships are extremely well trained. As evidenced by this latest issue, they were able to confine an extremely bad situation to the engine room, put out the fires and carry on as best as possible. The fact that no one was injured is phenomenal.

Carnival and Princess have to be happy with that endorsement, probably as much as AMA Waterways must be pleased to read Beverly Rodriguez's comment on Susan J. Young's interview with the head of the cruise line. She wrote:

I have sailed with AMA Waterways several times and I have also sailed with other lines. I must say hands down that AMA Waterways has the best product out on the river. My clients thanked me over and over on what a great experience they had sailing with me in Europe with AMA Waterways. I just took a party of 10 this last August and my clients are still talking about what a great trip that was! I am putting another group together for late summer of 2012 with AMA Waterways. This line just knows how it should be done. I will always be thankful to Rudi for his kind offer to experience river cruising. On time and I was sold on this great way to see Europe.

It's nice to see that there are still plenty of cruise options for agents to proudly and comfortably do business with out there.

One Writer Virtually Responds to Another

Every week, our own Mike Browne writes an insightful column about recent trends in the travel industry. Recently, he analyzed the idea of virtual vacations, citing a book by author, futurist and technologist Barry Shuler. Not only was it a great read, but it received a response from Shuler himself, who wrote:

I just read your blog with interest. Your points are well taken. I address these and more in the book. I’ll grant that some people will favor a traditional physical travel experience, even when virtual travel is viable. But, as the virtual travel experience evolves, more people be astounded by how good it is. Eventually it will be so realistic and affordable, even for an extended leisure experience, it will become a preferred alternative.
The answer to your Nile cruise and Shanghai marketplace question is a resounding YES. I agree that being thousands of miles away from work is not doable virtually. But lying on that beach certainly is. Whether you get called back to work is between you and the boss.
In the book I say virtual business travel will mature within the next 10 years. But, you are right. The “as if you were there” virtual leisure travel experience will happen closer to the 30 year mark than 20. I hope to be around to get your reaction then.

That's pretty cool of Barry to take the time to respond. I hope Mike writes something back.

Get Training As Demand Rises

A recent study by ASTA shows that the demand for traditional travel agents remains strong. This is great news, and is celebrated by Jason Coleman (one of our top 25 agents of 2010), who commented:

As a student of economics, the law of supply and demand suggests that the price for those travel agents (who are in high demand) will go up since the supply is insufficient to meet demand. That's great news for agents on the salary front. Let's see if it comes true in next year's salary survey!

So how can agents stay ahead of the pack as demand increases? How about some better product training? Recently, we received a submission from Karen Dawson of Southlake Travel about what she thinks suppliers can do to better prepare agents to sell their product. Readers appear to agree with what she shared.

Bill Lyons shared:

I believe that Karen makes a valid point. Matching a client to a product will insure repeat business and referrals.

Joyce wrote:

I feel that product training helps us recognize who the potential client for that cruiseline is. If we can't figure it out by the product trainings we are getting then I am not sure you should be selling travel.

Seems like the pro-active agents who push for more from suppliers will develop better business amidst this potential increase in demand. Perhaps you shoudl as well?

So there's no "until next week" this time, but the staff of talented editors here at Travel Agent are going to keep their fingers on the pulse of what our readers are most interested in when it comes to travel. So keep the comments coming. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. Discuss all things travel in real time at AgentNation, the only social community online for all kinds of travel agents. Although I may not be citing your comments every week, anymore, I will certainly be checking back in to post some comments of my own (most of which will hopefully be constructive).

Happy Holidays and have a great 2011!

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