JetBlue wants to offer dynamic packaging to its passengers, and it is setting up direct links with hotels and other nonair suppliers to make that happen.

Because JetBlue is regarded as one of the airline industrys presumed trendsetters, our ears perked up when we heard some of JetBlues reasoning for the dynamic-packaging venture.

As a JetBlue official explained it, the carrier wants to bypass wholesale intermediaries so it can control the supplier relationship and control content. A key consideration is to steer the consumer to suppliers that match the JetBlue brand.

Its an interesting development that JetBlue wants to get into dynamic packaging. It is also interesting that JetBlue sees this as an occasion for protecting and enhancing its brand image.

But implicit in JetBlues explanation of its strategy is the idea that working in an intermediary channel is bad for the brand, bad for control.

Contrast this initiative with another piece of recent news from the airline sector: This week we report that Frontier has a new deal with Apple Vacations that gives the intermediary control over some inventory.

Although tour operators and vacation packagers get bulk space from airlines all the time, Frontier and Apple say their deal involves a prepurchase commitment and a revenue guarantee for the airline, meaning that Apple is taking inventory risk -- something that travel intermediaries rarely do.

JetBlue and Frontier are frequently mentioned in the same breath as examples of the new breed of user-friendly, techno-savvy airlines that will inherit the earth when the dinosaurs finally go away. Maybe they will. But they are choosing vastly different approaches to their involvement in packaging, and these differences suggest that there is more than one way to be a user-friendly, techno-savvy airline, just as theres more than one way to be a dinosaur.

This is not to say that either airline is getting it right or getting it wrong, but it is useful to remember that the dinosaurs got into the fix theyre in partly because they became control freaks and chose after deregulation to control their connecting traffic, their feeder airlines, their frequent travelers, their intermediaries, their distribution technology and even where their customers spent their Saturday nights.


Our Centerpiece feature in the March 28 issue looks at a welcome trend: The recognition by a broadening array of destinations and suppliers that its in their interests to get their marketing message to gay and lesbian travelers. Its a demographic with a proven track record of traveling more, spending more and staying loyal to suppliers, merchants and destinations that make them feel welcome.

In that respect, the gay traveler is just like any other traveler with money to spend, and history has shown that friendly outsells hostile every time.

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Look for additional details on this article in the March 28 issue of Travel Weekly.

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