As losses mount on the balance sheets of the six major carriers, airline execs are finally ready to listen. At least that’s the thinking behind the new Major Airline Customer Proposal Web Site, launched last week by the Business Travel Coalition, Radnor, Pa. The site invites corporate travel managers, meeting executives, and other airline customers to offer constructive suggestions to the airlines as they rethink their business models.
The BTC site is not sanctioned by the airlines, but BTC Chairman Kevin Mitchell is confident that they’re paying attention to it. "I absolutely believe they are," says Mitchell. "This is a time when the airlines’ focus is sharper. It’s a good time for them to listen to their best customers."
In the spirit of a focus group, the site asks for comment on five key questions: 1. When the economy rebounds, will business travelers be willing to pay $1,800 for an airline ticket once again, or are those days gone forever? 2. Do major airlines compete with low-fare airlines for the same business travelers, who are currently flocking to the low-fare segment, or are these travelers just temporarily "trading down" in a struggling economy? 3. How has the Internet brought transparency to major airlines’ pricing structures, to low-fare carrier offerings, and to the options of secondary airports—perhaps changing business travelers’ buying habits? 4. What features and benefits do business travelers seek in a major commercial airline product? 5. Where do airfare levels need to be for the business travel product on major airlines to see a robust rebound in demand?
Mitchell expects the site to run its course in about a month. At that point, he says, he’ll write an analysis of the commentary. To make your suggestion on how American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, and US Airways can stay afloat (each has its own forum), click here.