At the urging of his airline representative, Dave Orr, owner of Ticket to Ride Travel in Chicago, signed up 10 to 15 clients for American Airlines` incentive program for corporate clients.
Orr said those days are over.
He is incensed, as many agents are, that American urged retailers to register corporate clients for the program, dubbed Business ExtrAA, only to have the carrier send the clients an offer via e-mail that bypasses agents.
“One of my clients forwarded the e-mail promotion to me with comments about how underhanded and low-class it appeared to her,” Orr said. “I shouldn`t be surprised. The words `airline` and `trust` don`t go together. I`m through with Business ExtrAA.”
American sent the e-mail promotion to business travelers whose companies are enrolled in Business ExtrAA, a program that enables small and midsize companies to accumulate points and redeem them for rewards.
The message said, “As a special thank-you for providing us with your e-mail address, we are sending you a special promotion code which entitles you to a discount of up to 5% off the base fare on qualified bookings made on line at www.aa.com.”
Ticket To Ride, an agency with $3.5 million in annual sales, is a “high producer” for American, said Orr. The agency now intends to swing more market share toward United.
TSG Travel International in Great Neck, N.Y., signed up a client for Business ExtrAA two weeks before American sent out the promotion, said Alan Cygielman, director of sales and operations for the agency.
Cygielman said, “When I called American, the person I talked to made it sound like, `That`s the way it is, I`m sorry and that`s it.` ”
Cygielman said his $25 million agency has enrolled clients in a similar incentive program run by United.
“United`s been completely aboveboard with its program,” he said. “I`m certainly not going to sign up any other accounts with American`s.”
American confirmed that it sent out the Web-only offer to travelers registered with Business ExtrAA.
When asked if American deceived travel agents by encouraging them to enroll companies in Business ExtrAA and then sending registered travelers an offer that bypasses agents, an airline spokesman said, “Our feeling is that travel agents are a valued partner in getting our product out to the public.
“In no way, shape or form are we going to undermine our agency partners.”