“All the customers
are the same. There
is a 95 percent
the customers I dealt
with for hotel and
After building a long sales career on the lodging side, Alison Taylor last year joined American Airlines. She held that same role at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and also
spent several years in leadership roles in the
Asia/Pacific region for Starwood. At American, Taylor is building up the carrier’s sales
team, and executives say corporate market
share has been growing. She spoke with
BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker.
HOW IS YOUR MOVE FROM THE HOTEL SIDE TO THE
AIRLINE SIDE GOING?
It’s been five months now. After being with a
company that I loved for so long before, with
Starwood, I feel quite amazed that I feel so
strongly in such a short time about American Airlines. I don’t say that lightly. They are
just really good people. [CEO Doug Parker]
is such a good man and is quite a visionary.
That just filters through the whole organization. Where he wants American to go after
a successful three-year integration I’m really
impressed with. I had such a welcome. They
are very genuine. There is nothing cavalier or
political. Everything is about getting it right
for the customer. We have a long way to go
in some areas, but they’re so internally honest
about where we are and where we need to go,
and it’s so refreshing. I’ve been given a very
warm and inclusive welcome, given my Aussie
accent, coming from the hotel world and not
being from aviation.
WHAT DOES YOUR HOTEL EXPERIENCE BRING TO
AMERICAN THAT AN AVIATION INSIDER MIGHT
NOT HAVE HAD?
They wanted someone with rich, robust sales
expertise. At Starwood, we had 4,500 sales associates globally, so I’m used to working globally. I’m used to working with large, remote sales
teams that need to make the most of all points of
sale. And all the customers are the same. There
is a 95 percent correlation between the customers I dealt with for hotel and these ones. I also
bring the hospitality and service. We live and die
by our training in the hotel world, and that is
something rich to bring into American Airlines.
It does correlate with where we’re going with the
AS WITH SO MANY OTHER INDUSTRIES, WOMEN
ARE STILL LARGELY UNREPRESENTED IN TOP
LEADERSHIP IN THE AIRLINE INDUSTRY. WILL
Absolutely. At American, it has already
changed. We have three females in senior
executive roles: Elise Eberwein is executive
vice president, people and communications;
Beverly Goulet is executive vice president and
chief integration officer and Maya Leibman is
executive vice president and chief informa-
YOUR CAREER HAS COVERED SEVERAL GEOGRAPHIES.
WHAT DOES THAT BRING TO YOUR ROLE TODAY?
My global experience throughout my career
helped me to develop a keen understanding of
how to work with multiple cultures. Immersing
yourself in understanding the world’s many cultures through a global lens allows me to show
empathy, care and understanding toward others. I’m able to work effectively across borders
and understand growth opportunities internally
WHAT FIRST MADE YOU CHOOSE THE TRAVEL
I traveled a lot growing up, so I guess it was always meant to be. Traveling was always exciting
and staying in wonderful hotels. It’s because of
my travel experience that I received my business
degree in hotel management and marketing. So in
a way, travel chose me very early.
IF YOU COULD NOW GIVE YOURSELF ADVICE AS
YOU WERE JUST STARTING YOUR CAREER, WHAT
WOULD THAT BE?
Don’t feel the need to always be the one with
all the answers, and delegate more to the team.
Always being the go-to person doesn’t empower
very capable team members to make decisions
and solve issues independently. Develop active
listening at a younger age. This is key in building better relationships with people. Don’t work
long hours; set boundaries that allow quality time
for yourself and family, particularly when children
ARC promoted Lauri Reishus to SVP and
COO in March. She joined the company in
2005 and brought with her a dedication to
customer relationships and service that
has fundamentally changed the organization. Reishus spoke with BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN TRAVEL?
I worked in reservations at American Airlines
in the middle of the night. I was a single
mother of two very young children. I realized
that was just unsustainable from a daycare-providing perspective, you know, life-sanity
perspective. I was talking to a colleague who
said, “Well, you could go be a travel agent.”
“Part of the win
for me was proving
to doubters within
that ARC could
raise its profile in
the industry and
not just exist in a
background role to
AMERICAN AIRLINES SVP
OF GLOBAL SALES