It should come as no surprise to the travel agent community that
major airlines -- in this instance, United, Delta, Northwest and
Continental -- have joined forces to plan a unified and potentially
dominant presence on the Internet.
The intention of the airlines -- and many other suppliers, as
well -- to obviate the role of the trade by maximizing the
reciprocal link between seller and buyer through the Web has been
clear for some time.
Although the four carriers apparently plan to maintain their
individual Net sites, they say their joint venture -- targeted to
begin operating in the first half of next year -- will offer
consumers the opportunity to comparison shop for Web-only discount
fares and travel packages in concert with cooperating hotel, car
rental and cruise companies.
All this, please note, under one virtual roof.
With such traditional Net travel sites as Expedia, Travelocity
and Priceline (by "traditional" we mean they've been around since
yesterday) already competing for your clients' attention, it is a
foregone conclusion that this new entity will be supported by an
advertising budget of federal proportions.
Perhaps that is where the immediate threat to the trade
Just the other day, in fact, consumer press reporters told
delegates to the PhoCusWright Live99 conference in Miami that their
readers distrust and are confused by the jumble of travel sites on
And now we have another player looming on the horizon, one
comprising entities with deep enough pockets and big enough brand
names to cut through the clutter.
How long, we wonder, can the buying public resist the
blandishments of well-heeled suppliers spending zillions on TV,
radio and print advertising -- all of it cleverly orchestrated to
separate consumers from their dollars and you from your