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The incoming American Airlines management team in July
appointed AA vet Derek DeCross to maintain his role as vice president of global
sales when the carrier consummates its merger with US Airways by the end of
September, pending regulatory review. Tasked to oversee agency and corporate
relationships for the "new" American, DeCross recently spoke with BTN
senior editor Jay Boehmer about day-one plans for the corporate market, the ongoing
integration planning process and key decisions that have yet to be made.
What are some early goals of the combined sales force?
Right now, we have members from both the US Airways and American global sales teams working together, as allowed by our legal departments. We're still competitors and very careful about what we can talk about. As part of that integration planning, we're working on a few key items. First, we plan on providing our corporate customers and agency partners with a single point of contact with the new American shortly following merger close. Secondly, our team will be responding to incoming RFPs as one company post-close, including our combined network and joint pricing terms. We're looking forward to selling our combined network. It's good for us, it's good for our customers. We're going to be spending a lot of effort understanding where the opportunities are for us and our customers. We'll be creating offers from there. So, immediate RFPs will be at the top of the list, and we expect customers to benefit quickly when the code share is implemented post-close. That's a great starting point. On the systems integration side, we have a team looking at integration planning, so that will allow us to more quickly hit the ground running with our performance and CRM data. Then finally, we'll be developing robust communication plans for our managed corporate and small and medium business customers as well our agency partners, just to make sure we're keeping them informed along the way because there will be a lot of moving parts in the weeks and months immediately following close.
Regarding RFPs, have you settled on a joint template or approach?
We can't really get into any specifics. Essentially, what we've done is we have established a clean room with a third party to start going through data and such, so that once we do close and once we can talk about all the pricing elements, we'll be able to sit down together and hit the ground running with the low-hanging fruit: Customers that are in RFP, that will be a great opportunity. I also suspect there will be customers that will specifically request that we give a joint deal to them as soon as we can. Then, for those who may not be in RFP or have current contracts, we'll have the ability to go out with addendums to perhaps open opportunities to utilize each other's networks via code share.
Will Prism data be a part of that initial process?
That's still one of the many things we're working through. We have some different approaches on various areas, and data is one of them. They have internal mechanisms and we utilize Prism. Should we move everything to Prism or should we not? We're going through that with various systems, including our other reporting systems: Do we utilize third parties? Do we have homegrown solutions? What are the training implications? What are the down-line system implications? That is something we're able to consider now, so that we'll be able to make those decisions by or shortly after close.
Is fielding RFPs and speaking with one voice a little more complicated for the joint business, considering US Airways will have to unwind the Star Alliance membership and transition to Oneworld?
All I can tell you is those conversations are ongoing as well. If you think through the joint business and bringing in a carrier the size of US Airways, we'll need to have those communications. There's the whole process of acceptance into Oneworld, and then you have the whole acceptance into the joint business as well.
Apart from sales, what else rolls up to you?
The only thing right now that was not announced was distribution. In our current structure, American has that responsibility under global sales and probably has for about the last seven or eight years. For US Airways, it's managed in the e-commerce group. So distribution is just one example of differences between the companies and how we're working together to best structure those roles. The decision on whether that resides in global sales or e-commerce or even somewhere else is still forthcoming. I expect resolution on that either shortly after or shortly before close.
We've discussed the concept of negotiated corporate fare bundles. Any progress?
I can't give you any timelines at all. I would just say it's something we continue to be very interested in. What we're doing with Travelport and Amadeus will make that much easier to deliver. They are both integrating with our direct connect, which enables that. First you have to have the ability to deliver from a technical perspective, then it just becomes a matter of negotiations [with clients]. We feel good about where we're heading with both of those GDSs.
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