NASHVILLE — Chuck Imhof, Delta Air Lines’ vice president of sales for the Eastern region, sharply contrasted Delta’s approach to NDC with that of American Airlines, without mentioning his competitor.
He didn’t have to. The audience of 1,400 travel advisors attending Travel Leaders Network’s Edge conference noticeably quieted as soon as he said the word “distribution.”
“Our approach to customer-driven innovation is diametrically opposed from some of our competitors,” Imhof began.
“We’ve applied our ‘listen, act, listen’ approach to NDC and sought feedback from our corporate and agency customers, and that’s informed our strategy.”
Addressing the most common complaints about American’s approach, he added, “Here’s what our customers tell us is most important: Respecting their travel programs, understanding that servicing in the corporate space is critical and delivering innovation through the GDS.”
He further hammered at his unnamed competitor by contrasting Delta’s approach to American’s. “We are committed to collaborative innovation that … elevates the entire corporate travel ecosystem. We believe new technology should be introduced to the market when it’s mature enough to maximize benefit and minimize risk.”
And, addressing travel advisors’ complaints that they don’t even know who to call at American, he added, “It is critically important to not only have modern displays and booking capabilities, but also the necessary servicing capabilities.”
His comments were warmly received and he concluded, “Delta stands with our industry partners, and our customers can be assured that our actions will be guided by their best interests.”
Later, at a press conference, Travel Leaders Group president John Lovell, appeared to take Imhof at his word. “I think Delta is firmly committed to working with the travel advisor distribution system,” he said.
When asked whether United Air Lines was, as well, he said, “Pretty much,” and noted that Southwest “keeps making comments about wanting to work with travel management companies more.”
As to the motivation for American’s approach to NDC, he said only, “I could guess, but I’m not going to speculate.”
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