When Business Travel Contractors Corporation (BTCC) went public in 1994, it was attempting to attract the major airlines to negotiate mileage-based fares and work outside the agency commission system. By January of this year, though, BTCC and the corporations comprising it had thrown in the towel.
"With 70 percent load factors, it's been virtually impossible to convince the airlines to deal with a group [of corporations] rather than individual customers," says Kevin Mitchell, former president of the organization. "We found there was not a whole lot of value in continuing with it right now, although as load factors drop-and surely they will at some point-there's a model out there now that corporations could pick up on and take from there."
Despite the consortium's demise, Mitchell hasn't completely given up hope of changing airline policy-he's simply changed his focus. He is now putting his efforts into the Business Travel Coalition (BTC), based in Lafayette Hills, Pa. He is chairman of the organization.
A lobbying and advocacy operation, BTC was started in mid-1996 and Mitchell says most of his efforts in 1997 were geared to addressing airline predatory competition through those means.
At press time, Mitchell had just secured new funding from corporations to continue full time with BTC. "There is tremendous interest in this competition issue," says Mitchell. "It's front and center right now, so we're hopeful."
About his efforts to loosen federal restrictions on competition (which would allow competitive air services at LaGuardia, Kennedy, O'Hare, and Washington National), Mitchell says: "There's a real need for corporations to become involved in what's going on at the policy level in Washington, because in 20 years of deregulation, corporations have not had a seat at the table."