Michael was born and raised in the south suburbs of Chicago. He attended Northern Illinois University where he received a BS in Biological Sciences. It didn’t take him long to realize the routine of scientific testing work didn’t match with his personality.
Following a 29-year career working for the airlines in increasing sales roles, Michael joined Sky Bird Travel & Tours in 2015 as Sky Bird’s first Business Development Manager. As the sales team grew, Michael took on the role of Director as well as overseeing the Customer Service division. He is often the face of Sky Bird at industry events and the voice of Sky Bird on webinars featuring our WINGS booking engine.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi Michael, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. How are you?
Michael Dunne (MD): I am well Joseph. I’m holding on to the last vestiges of summer.
TRO: You grew up and live in Chicago. What are your favorite things about the windy city?
MD: Chicago is one of the greatest “walking cities.” Many people think of walking and shopping; I just think of walking. It’s also a great patchwork of the countries of the world. There are so many cultural neighborhoods, separated but not isolated or unwelcoming. Did I mention food? Best hot dogs, beef sandwiches and pizza anywhere.
TRO: 33 years is a long time in any industry. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in the travel industry within this time?
MD: Early in my career, a seasoned agent told me that the industry changes so quickly – that I could actually surpass his knowledge in a short period of time. From that advice, I really tried to learn as much as possible.
I also learned quickly that it is important not to burn bridges. Being respectful in disagreement goes a long way.
TRO: You represent Sky Bird when it comes to events and webinars, an important ambassador-like role. What do you keep in mind when interacting with agents, and other travel professionals during these times?
MD: For webinars, I always keep in mind that the travel business never stops. Everyone who is listening has something going on at the same time. Their time is so valuable; I don’t want to waste it. For events, I am usually on the lookout for new-to-the-industry agents. It may be 33 years, but it seems like yesterday. I want to encourage them in their new career. Hosts do a good job of educating, but it is difficult for them to encourage individual agents.
TRO: Was there a clear moment that you knew that you better suited for the Travel Industry, instead of Biological Sciences?
MD: There were signs I should have heeded earlier. My endocrinology prof told me I would get bored with routine, and I needed to do research (which I was doing with him at the time). He was right. Selling insurance and mutual funds, wasn’t any better. I had always loved aviation, so the airline industry just made sense as a starting point. It’s hard to sell something you’re not excited about.
TRO: What are your current destinations that you love to travel to, when you’ve got a little time to yourself?
MD: Trick question. I’m not much of a vacation traveler. When I go, I enjoy myself. Given the option, I prefer not to travel. Definitely NOT beach destinations; I’m a “playa hater”. Given the chance, I would go to Israel or Antarctica. How’s that for a spread?
TRO: The WINGS Booking Engine is a great way for agents to book fares for clients. What makes it stand out from other booking engines, and how does an agent acquire it?
MD: Every agent who registers with Sky Bird Travel has access to the WINGS booking engine. We require agents to register to avoid working with the public. We verify their agency information first. Many great companies sell to the public, and that is ok. We do not.
WINGS has been around for a long time, but it was relaunched in 2018. We tried to make it as simple as possible, but agents wanted more and more so we went with easy – instead of simple. We have given agents unrestricted access to our tour nets, which helps the agent close the sale. This is better than sending their clients to the internet to make air bookings. In addition, we’ve made it easy for agents to see all their bookings on the website. They can check to see if it is ticketed, or if additional information is needed. They can communicate directly with out ticket teams right from the website.
TRO: Sky Bird also offers up pre-planned and customizable vacation packages, along with group trips. How does Sky Bird work with agents on these offers?
MD: I would say the requests fall into two categories: Agents who don’t have time to find a program with another tour operator, and agents whose clients want something they (the agent) have never done before. If an agent gives us a budget and information about the client, we will create the entire program, down to meal planning, and present it to them. They only have to add their commission and we do the rest.
TRO: Does Sky Bird have any upcoming developments or news that our readers would love to hear?
MD: Agents can look for us to continue adding functionality to WINGS. Agents who use a GDS will also see new capabilities that will make their job easier.
TRO: Michael, thank you for your time. We wish you the best.
MD: Thank you, Joseph. Thanks for the great job that TRO does to bring great information to the agency community.