In a guest column this week, Farelogix CEO Jim Davidson took aim at full content agreements between airlines and global distribution systems. Yapta CEO James Filsinger submitted the following letter in response:
Having recently read Jim Davidson’s article on the impending death of full content, the GDSs' anticompetitive behavior and the lack of innovation driven by full content, I felt compelled to respond. In full disclosure, I am a former Sabre executive, having spent over a dozen years with the Texas-based technology company. That said, I’ve been out for 10 years now and I believe there are two sides to every story.
Jim asserts that full content is bad for consumers and that most consumers don’t even know what a GDS is or even does. I’ll agree that the latter is correct, but the former is not. The GDSs behave like online stores for travel management companies, online travel agencies and other travel service providers. Consumers go to these service providers to procure travel. If these service providers don’t have access to content, how can they offer the best value for their customers? They can’t. And it’s unreasonable to believe these service providers will build direct connects to the various airlines and hoteliers. This direct connect approach may work with a subset of suppliers, but how can you truly offer the best alternatives to customers if you don’t have all the content? And if you play the direct connect scenario to its end game, a service provider or technology company that’s able to complete direct connects with all airlines, all hotels, all car companies, etc., begins ... to ... look ... suspiciously ... like a GDS.
The GDSs provide a valuable service to the travel industry, and having access to all content provided by suppliers ensures consumers and corporate travelers can effectively cross-shop, conduct price comparisons and have all key components of their travel in a single itinerary.
Think of the GDSs like Amazon. Sure, you could shop at hundreds and thousands of different online retail outlets to find that ski coat you want to buy. Or you can jump to Amazon, search for the coat and get a multitude of responses back from Amazon at various price points from various sellers. Now, some may contend that a ski coat and an airline seat do not make a good comparison, as a coat is a commodity and a seat on a plane is an experience. But let’s not kid ourselves. Within cabins, a seat is a seat is a seat. Deconstructing the components of air travel and calling it e-commerce or marketing is like putting lipstick on a pig. I actually see a time coming when airlines will return to an all-in approach to pricing instead of nickel and diming travelers for every conceivable "convenience."
Bottom line: Can the GDSs improve their outdated technology and present supplier content in a way that’s more valuable to the airlines and hoteliers, as well as consumers and business travelers? Absolutely! Should the GDSs continue to innovate and bring new technology and capabilities to market? Without a doubt! But paint them with the broad brush of anti-competitive evildoers? Nope, just can’t do that.
~ Yapta CEO James Filsinger