CHICAGO: Orbitz, a travel Web site funded by five major airlines, is preparing to hire an agency for its upcoming launch - a job that could be worth in the seven-figure range.
CHICAGO: Orbitz, a travel Web site funded by five major airlines,
is preparing to hire an agency for its upcoming launch - a job that
could be worth in the seven-figure range.
Responses to an RFP recently issued by the company are due August
Orbitz is backed by American Airlines, United, Delta, Continental and
While Orbitz VP of corporate communications Carol Jouzaitis declined to
name the firms in the mix for the assignment, she stressed that agency
size will not be a major factor in her decision. ’We want a breakthrough
event for the launch,’ she said. ’Creativity matters more than size.’
She added that PR spending for the assignment could reach seven
While Orbitz has not announced its formal launch date, industry watchers
expect a September or early October debut so that the company can go
after late-year holiday travel business. Much of the company’s young
life has been spent responding to issues in Washington: travel agents
and other travel Web sites are concerned that Orbitz will offer fares
not available elsewhere, thus giving it a huge edge over
The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has filed a formal
complaint about the site with the Justice Department. The Department of
Transportation and the Senate Commerce Committee are also scrutinizing
the company, according to Paul Ruden, ASTA’s SVP for legal and industry
affairs. ’We want to see (Orbitz) go away,’ he said.
Jouzaitis acknowledged that Orbitz is facing an ’issues management
challenge’ that could prompt the company to take on government affairs
help in DC.
She plans to use PR to counter ’misinformation’ efforts by the company’s
detractors, and will run a national media-outreach effort targeted at
travel writers and the consumer press. ’The message will be that Orbitz
plans to offer completely neutral travel information. We’re running our
own company,’ Jouzaitis explained.
But opponents said that PR alone cannot dispel their misgivings about
the site. ’A lot of customers are getting more and more unhappy with the
airlines in a number of different venues,’ said Ed Rothschild, who
oversees PR for the Interactive Travel Service Association, a trade
group of travel sites. ’(Orbitz) contributes to the closer scrutiny that
the industry is going to get.’
Orbitz has been using Kemper Lesnick Communications for PR, hiring
Jouzaitis away from the agency last month. Kemper Lesnick will continue
to work with the company.