COMMENT on COMMENT: AA ‘Direct Connect’ Is A Walking Corpse

Jay, I found your recent commentary on AA's Direct Connect initiative quite interesting. Frankly, I was hoping that it would have taken much longer before anyone found out that of the various Farelogix teams, the one working on the AA Direct Connect project is actually made up of zombies.

Although I am tempted to spend some time correcting the record on the parts of my quotes that were left out or taken out of context, I recognize that the piece was based on opinion, and not actual reporting. That said, I was surprised that you left out commentary on some very relevant issues, but maybe additional commentary from you is forthcoming. With that in mind, I wanted to offer the following possible topics for your consideration:

Perhaps in a future piece you could share your thoughts on why when our industry is clamoring for transparency (transparency purported to be available through the GDS, mind you), Sabre__a distribution intermediary with a large US market share that is trusted and paid by American Airlines and other airlines to distribute their product__was able to secretly bias travel agency displays against American Airlines in retaliation for its Direct Connect initiative. It would be great to hear your views on the state of our industry's competitive landscape when it seems that some travel agencies were coerced to participate in this secret, Sabre-led boycott of American Airlines__a boycott that was detrimental to American Airlines, its corporate and leisure consumers, and its airline partners. According to alleged internal Sabre emails and documents, this boycott was specifically designed to punish American Airlines for its Direct Connect initiative. Maybe some Sabre executive will grant you an open interview on these topics... or at least respond to email questions.

You may also find it interesting to comment on how many OTAs, travel agencies, and third-party developers, including corporate booking tools, are allegedly prohibited from connecting to American Airlines' and other airline Direct Connects due to limitations, prohibition, and penalties in the Sabre developer and TMC agreements.

Or perhaps you could provide us with commentary on why American Airlines' only option to get their new fare bundles to corporate travelers and travel agencies through the GDS is to utilize a sub-optimal and outdated system that was never designed to handle such airline product concepts. From what we've heard this system requires travel agencies to actually remember and enter fictitious passenger type codes simply to get access to the AA bundle product. And, if this opaque, unproductive, and make-shift process is not enough, the travel agents still have to figure out and convey to their customers what is actually included in these fare options... assuming they remember where to look. I think your readers would appreciate some insight on the GDS/travel agency selling process and display flows, with screen shots and all, as we all seem to be riding high on our transparency horse.

Lastly, I think many would love to hear your commentary on the tipping point in which this industry finds itself today, where consumer and airline demands for a modernized airline commerce marketplace are propelling forward the very type of technology initiatives described in your piece as a "Walking Corpse." Here you could talk about how industry-wide movements such as IATA's New Distribution Capability, coupled with availability of new technologies from companies like Farelogix, Datalex, and others, are fueling new levels of competition among airlines for dynamic pricing and passenger-centric selling. You might even take a look at what Air Canada and Travelport are doing with the new Agencia platform – pretty cool stuff and certainly doesn't appear very zombie-like to me!

I realize comprehensively reporting on this topic is tough for a number of reasons: it's complex, it involves litigation, there are business and competitive influences and pressures flying all over the place, etc. And yes, clearly Farelogix has a vested interest in this, as does Sabre, the other GDSs, and various other industry constituents. But precisely for these reasons, when a trusted and respected industry trade publication like The Beat (not a third-party or blogger) chooses to publish its own "commentary," people sit up and take notice. I, for one, am hopeful that your commentary is the beginning of a longer series in which the readers will be provided with insights on these other issues that are also so important in our complex and changing industry.

In any case, don't forget, zombies are a resilient breed.

Thanks and regards.

This post is republished with permission from the Farelogix 'Ask The Question' blog.