Delta chief also sees day when travel agents will pay airlines

By Michael Fabey

Anderson, RichardTrekking down the same path as American CEO Gerard Arpey, Delta CEO Richard Anderson said he, too, sees a day when distributors will pay airlines to make bookings.

"Over time, the industry will evolve," Anderson told analysts on Tuesday during a conference call to report first-quarter financial results. "People will pay us for our content."

Anderson’s comments came after Arpey voiced a similar prediction, also in a quarterly call with analysts.

Anderson acknowledged that online travel agencies play a significant role in distribution, especially when it comes to corporate accounts.

But GDS costs, he said, will continue to come down. Ultimately, GDSs will pay for content, as is done for hotel bookings, Anderson said.

Later clarifying his comments about his views on distributor payments during the conference call segment with reporters on quarterly results, Arpey said, "I was simply making the observation that the paradigm in the airline business has been that historically we pay our distributors to sell our product. And that has been shifting over many years, because we have been able to cut domestic commissions, domestic overrides and booking fees.

"We’ve done that for a lot of reasons, but not the least of which is the fact that our own website, aa.com, has become our largest distribution venue, where our customers can come directly to American and book their ticket and do so without any intermediary."

Arpey said, "I wasn’t trying to lay out a specific plan or a program, except to express the view that if we manage our capacity sensibly in this business, that I could see a day where distributors who want access to our product are paying us instead of them. And that may not come in my working lifetime, but I could see a day where that would be the paradigm."

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