American Airlines, which made major news late last year by announcing a hardline strategy for the travel management company community to adopt New Distribution Capability or lose access to AA’s content, sent a memo to its corporate partners today announcing a sales reorganization that will closely align its sales strategy to the carrier’s NDC and retailing strategy—as well as the new realities that are shaping the carrier’s business mix.
According to the memo, signed by VP of global sales Thomas Rajan, the re-org will support a new business environment in which an "increasing number" of customers seek "to interact directly with American, and others who have needs to engage with us through intermediaries"—i.e. TMCs or leisure travel agencies. It will, to quote the memo, support the carrier’s “modern retailing solutions, simplified products, streamlined processes and a connection to our premier travel rewards program.”
As the changes take place and new structures coalesce, American also will evaluate its account management configurations, wrote Rajan. The carrier said it will have more information in the coming weeks.
Hank Benedetti adds managing director to his global head of corporate sales title. He will continue to lead AA’s worldwide corporate sales portfolio and will add all contracted corporate accounts to his remit. Chief commercial officer Vasu Raja in a recent earnings call said the carrier had declining reliance on contracted corporate travel, which currently represented just a fraction of the carriers’ overall business travel. He estimated 25 percent of AA's business mix represented pure business travel, and among that group "only five to seven points" was contracted corporate business. The rest, he said, were “noncontracted, unmanaged” travelers.
To that point, Cynthia Barnes, former director of corporate sales for AA’s Eastern Division, will expand her role across U.S. markets and take a new title as director of market initiative and midmarket sales. She will lead the midmarket portfolio, which the memo indicated ‘has an exciting future ahead.’ Given Benedetti’s broader remit for all contracted business, Barnes would then focus primarily on the growing business of noncontracted, unmanaged business travel customers.
Neil Geurin remains managing director of airline retailing, but in addition to leading distribution, he will also take over relationship management for the TMC community, online travel agencies and other business and leisure intermediaries. His distribution and relationship functions now will fall under global sales.
Noel O’Connell, formerly managing director of sales strategy, will change his remit to managing director of sales operations and development. O’Connell will continue to lead B2B engagement, salesforce effectiveness and sales support teams, while AA centralizes customer enablement under him. The group will also hold responsibility for executing AA’s global sales strategic initiatives.
Jim Carter, long a familiar face among the travel management community as AA’s managing director of the Eastern Division, will retire from the company. Recent chief customer officer Alison Taylor announced her retirement from American in January, though she will continue to act as an advisor through 2023.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Alison Taylor as American Airlines' customer experience officer. BTN regrets the error.