UA Sales Reps Fading Away

Once vital to a travel agency's business, airline workers now considered unimportant

By: Jerry Chandler

For some travel agents, things have gotten so bad that they can’t tell their UA sales rep without a “Hello, My Name Is!” badge hanging around her neck.

“Our sales rep who had been calling on us for about five years was let go from the airline in December,” said Gerald Greenberg, president of Baldwin Travel Bureau in Los Angeles.

The replacement lasted four months, then he transferred to New York. Greenberg said he thinks another rep has been appointed, but he hasn’t heard from him.

Three United reps in five months. “I think a lot of people are in the same boat,” he said.

A United spokesman, Juan Carlos Cruz, said the changes were just part of a reorganization. The LA sales staff is “very customer-oriented, and we’re getting good customer response,” he said.

Whatever the genesis of the LA changes, Greenberg said they haven’t affected his ability to negotiate override agreements and the situation is nowhere near what it would have been a few years back.

Sales reps once were powerbrokers who could grant favors or special arrangements.

Now, “They can’t really clear inventory. Their hands are tied. There’s not a lot they can do anymore,” said Eric Maryanov, president of West Los Angeles-based AllTravel.

However, Maryanov doesn’t believe that the experience described by many LA Basin agents is indicative of what’s happening overall at the Chapter 11 carrier.

In contrast, Navigant International, the mega-agency based in Denver, has had the same United sales representative “for the past two years,” said Paul Shamon, vice president of marketing and corporate communications.

Like Greenberg, Maryanov said has not seen an impact on the negotiation or the payment of overrides.

“The renewal they gave us was comparable to a contract we had prior to bankruptcy,” said Maryanov. “I was actually quite pleased with that. It makes an awful strong statement that, whether the airlines publicly want to admit it or not, we do bring value to them.”