Every two years Amadeus puts on a great airline conference called Horizons – if you missed it this time around, well, I’ll try and give you a feel for some of the things I got up to and the speakers that I found most interesting. I’m not intending to be as comprehensive as Dennis Schaal at Tnooz who also wrote about the conference. I’ll try to make this piece a bit more aimed at people working in direct channels, even though the conference was much bigger than this. 

First of all, I had some great conversations on e-Commerce trends with guys like Andy Newman from ba.com, John Lonergan from qantas.com, Nate Holm from usairways.com and Guido Van Til from AF/KLM online – plus a number of others including a few non e-Commerce specialists who nonetheless still wanted to engage in some wide ranging discussion on what the future might hold for airline online direct distribution, including mobile. Three of the four mentioned above have told me they read this blog occasionally, and the fourth is only new in the job, so we probably shouldn’t hold it against him! Always great to meet people in the industry reading what I write. Hopefully I’ll meet more of you at Phocuswright in Arizona in November.

The quote of the conference: ie. the one that was so good I even wanted to retell the story to people outside of the industry, came from outgoing Amadeus CEO David Jones. I’m paraphrasing extensively here, but basically he was asked on stage about his long time in the industry and the most profound technologies he had seen over this period. His initial answer got a crowd response that my jokes on stage could only dream of. He recounted the story of his first trip from London to the United States in the early 1960’s and how when he arrived stateside, the airport doors opened by themselves, and how this was such an amazing and profound technology he had never witnessed before. He later went on to talk about Amadeus getting into the airline IT business with new generation inventory, reservations and a departure control system, but the comment about the automatic doors was priceless.

Another great comment came from John Lonergan on stage when we did what he does best – cut through the hype to give an opinion that is not afraid to go against the majority. When the conversation got onto Facebook, he said something like: We see Facebook as similar to the pub or the cinema. Our customers are spending time there and we want to be part of the conversation they are having, but we don’t take bookings there, so why should we in Facebook?

One final observation I will make is on the running of a successful panel. I’ll leave it for others to pass judgment on the success of my panel where I interviewed John Lonergan from Qantas and Jason Wynn from Amex on the topic of airline ancillary services – but at least I have yet to recieve any negative feedback, even indirectly (feel free to be the first if you were in the room and believe something could have been done better!)

It was the first panel I’ve ever moderated, and it is tougher than you first think, but I watched other panels at the same conference and I’ve come to the conclusion that 3 guests plus a moderator can work, but once you get 4 or more guests on the panel it is so much more difficult for the moderator to really engage with all participants and make it a dynamic conversation – and there were some great moderators up there, but I’ve decided that if and when I am asked back next time, I’ll be setting three guests as the limit to any panel to which I agree to moderate – and if the guests are good enough (as I was fortunate to have), then you don’t need more than two. Just my opinion – maybe you’ve seen great panels with 5 or 6 guests on stage?

I was back in Chicago for two nights after Horizons but my Iberia flight is now boarding for Madrid and then Nice (I’m writing this from the airport lounge), so I move from a week where I spent a lot of time talking with airline customers to a week of internal meetings. Thanks for reading.