Not really; but it made you look, right? Relax, Taylor Swift is still on tour and has no plans to begin writing for us. But the point I want to make is that at best, a headline can be deceiving. At worst, it can be damaging to an entire industry. And a few weeks back, Forbes magazine proved that in spades.
Delta at war with travel agents. It was a pretty bold headline, considering I had not heard any grumblings in the industry. Was Delta going to lead the charge and start charging travel agents to book their product (note: this would not surprise me terribly)? Were they going to block agents from their inventory?
As it turned out, it was a stupid article written by someone with little to no knowledge of the travel industry. But the panache of Forbes magazine has given him instant credibility, and worse, a huge audience.
Did you know that The Hipmunk and TripAdvisor were travel agents? Neither did I! The crux of the story is that Delta had an issue with the way their fares were being displayed and decided to not play well with THOSE TWO SITES. All airlines have been doing this forever with aggregators like those and agents alike. You need to get approval (plates) to ticket carriers and they can (and do) pull them routinely. But these sites are not even travel agents—online or otherwise.
The story cites that Delta is jealous of how Southwest has garnered a loyal following that books directly with the airline. Absolute truth! Incorrectly it says that travel agents could not book Southwest. Well, they made it difficult; but this industry is a survivor and we figured it out.
The author claims that carriers do not want their fares displayed side by side with other carriers. Again true, but this is not the impetus for a “war.” Since day one, travel agents have been giving their clients comparisons. Technology has assisted it for sure, and we are now an industry essentially driven by the consumer, but I do not believe any carrier believes that they should be exclusive on any domain other than their own. It’s all about competition, and competition keeps them all honest—or so we are told.
All facts aside, a larger issue for our industry is that the author is misleading the readers of Forbes—and it is a large audience to be sure. After reading this, might a Delta frequent flier opt to go to Delta directly than to his travel agent or to an online pricing aggregator?
I am not sure what the answer might be, but it is clear that the travel industry still has a long way to go in advocating for ourselves. Unfortunately, for every small voice we have on the local level, there seems to be a louder (more inaccurate) one on a larger international level. I left a comment on this article and while we have ASTA and others fighting for us, I suggest we all do it for ourselves and when we see inaccuracies, take the time to correct them.