ASATA USA Trip report back

ASATA CEO Otto de Vries has just returned from a whirlwind trip to San Diego to attend the WTAAA, PAPGJC, the Airline Distribution Stakeholders Forum and World Passenger Symposium.

In addition to being elected deputy chairperson of the WTAAA, Otto reports that most of the focus at the PAPGJC meeting was to prepare various submissions to PAConf, including:

  • Processing review requests from an Agent or Applicant in terms of resolution 820 – reviews by the Travel Agency Commissioner
  • Review of Resolution 890 allowing Travel Agents to use cards issued in the name of the Agent to be used in connection with the sale of a traffic document.

The outcome of discussions was unfortunately that amendments to Resolution 890 in any form were defeated. ASATA and its partners are currently preparing additional amendments that may satisfy the airlines and we hope to submit again with a mail vote.

Amendments to Resolution 820 passed the conference floor without any amendment.

Otto was also invited to participate in a panel discussion in the open plenary session of the World Passenger Symposium entitled ‘100 years of aviation and beyond, the lens of the customer’.

The discussion looked at what the value proposition to customers should be in 2030 and does the industry vision match customers’ expectations. Some of the key takeaways at this panel included:

  • With the introduction of LCCs the airlines have commoditised their own offering, with a race to the bottom in terms of price and offering.
  • Cost savings are impacting on the passenger experience.
  • Marketing is not honest. The customer sees the business- and first-class offering and gets something else, leaving them disappointed.
  • The average person spends four hours searching for the best airline deal and are generally overwhelmed by this task which is a huge marketing opportunity for the travel agent).
  • When asked about airlines acting as retailers, the sense was that nobody really cares if they do, but that they should focus on the flying and customer service delivery, not only in the air but also on the ground.   Airlines were said to be constantly failing their customers when things went wrong.

Says Otto: ”When one of the panelists noted how useful it would be if there was a concierge or private club type service that could handle the entire end-to-end offering, I had to chuckle. In my panel discussion I commented that this service has existed for a very long time in fact. We call them travel agents!

“Our panel gave me a chance to highlight the travel agents value, the end-to-end offering, the time saving and to note how the airline component was only part of the total offering and value of the travel agent. I highlighted the future of the travel agent was bright and that we would continue to add value to the customer and the supply chain.”