Cornerstone In, Others Out of Sabre Authorized Developer Program

Cornerstone Information Systems signed a new deal with Sabre Travel Network that "reaffirms Cornerstone's status as a Sabre Authorized Developer," according to a Sabre announcement. Sabre claimed agreements "with over 100 third-party development companies worldwide," but was not able to clarify how many of those had agreed to the newest authorization program terms.

Some technology vendors have not, citing the cost of participating in the new program and their views that Sabre is attempting to supplant independent technology vendors.

Sabre's new strategy for working with third-party developers began to emerge in 2005 along with a policy limiting the use of passive segments. The authorization program started taking shape in the second half of 2006 and by this past January, Sabre conveyed plans "to simplify the number and types" of third-party developer relationships. Its rationale is to recoup the costs associated with--and charge for the value created by--other companies interfacing with the Sabre system.

"Sabre's approach to working with third-party product providers makes a lot of sense to us," according to a prepared statement from Cornerstone vice president of marketing Alan Minton. "You want to make sure you work with companies that are providing products and services that enable your customers to work more effectively and in turn better serve their customers."

Chris Kroeger, senior vice president for Sabre Travel Network in North America, said Cornerstone is one of the companies "that share our vision of enabling best in class travel procurement results for travel management companies."

TravelMaster Technologies, which provides data aggregation and analysis software for corporate travel clients, also confirmed its participation in the Sabre Authorized Developer program, after finalizing a contract this spring.

TRX supports the initiative and currently is working through contract terms, according to a spokesperson. The concept "is in play in many other industries outside of travel," the official wrote in an email to The Beat, and "should serve to help raise the bar for travel application development and deployment--while increasing the consistency."

A Sabre spokesperson acknowledged that the "100" relationships quoted in the Cornerstone announcement represent "a combination" of renewed partnerships and those that would come up for renewal as part of a "natural progression."

At least a few tech providers have declined to participate.

Portaga, which provides a calendar-based online booking tool to suppliers and intermediaries, now is moving to Farelogix and Galileo from Sabre. According to Portaga COO Evan Newman, "That is Sabre-driven. Sabre has told all third-party developers that they would no longer support them and are currently only supporting four large IT houses. Before the offer was made to opt back in, now that they have pressure put on them, they were saying, 'Well, we have our own tool and we don't want the small agencies to use another tool.' "

After legal threats from BookingBuilder Technologies and deadlines set by Sabre for BookingBuilder to comply or face a blockade into its system, BookingBuilder released an updated version of its software that "no longer interacts with Sabre," according to founder Seth Perelman. "It is still more efficient and more capable than anything else in the marketplace."

Requesting anonymity, another source told The Beat that Sabre's fees for joining the program "are a little steep, although no steeper than what Amadeus is charging for something similar." [An Amadeus spokesperson did not immediately respond to a voicemail requesting comment.]

"I really feel for any development company that invested some number of millions [in products that interface with Sabre's system] but Sabre cut them off," the anonymous source continued. "This will reduce independent development which is unfortunate, because some of the best development in the industry these days is coming from independent developers."

A Sabre spokesperson said the company's intent is not to cut out the developers that agencies value but to prevent unauthorized access. The spokesperson also said that authorized developer pricing--covering both an annual fee and a per-booking fee--is "consistent with all developers" and that the annual fee "works out to be $5 per user per month." Developers whose tools are used by more travel agents, for example, would pay a steeper annual fee.

"We do not expect large amounts of bookings through the developer tools since the cases where bookings cannot be made in Sabre are a very small percentage," the spokesperson said. "What we have found is that quite often, the main reason agencies are using these tools is purely as a requirement from the corporations to verify they are getting the best deals."