Airlines And GDSs Going To Court Only Created Smoke, Mirrors

It's been five months since American Airlines and Sabre reached an agreement. Last month the carrier reached another deal with Travelport, in which the distributor will link to its Direct Connect. It seems that that the travel-booking battle is getting somewhere.

But the question is, what did we get?

Behind the fight over who would control distribution of flight information lays an attempt by airlines to move away from the traditional and expensive GDS-dependent model. After its conflict with Sabre, American indicated it would continue its Direct Connect initiative. Then American announced it would connect the Direct Connect to Travelport.

What's the change? How direct is a connection that goes from airline to GDS to TMC?

The airline company got to impose a new commercial model, but besides hundreds of millions of dollars changing pockets, did anything change for the customer? All parties claimed to be willing to protect customer interests. But there has been little change on how travel bookings are made, we have not seen big innovation in the market and pressures on third parties about direct connections did not decrease.

Direct connects are now accepted by (at least one) GDS, but in the meantime contracts with third-party developers became so strict that for sure we won't see an innovative third party developer marketing direct connect content on the same screen with GDS content anytime soon__unless there is another benefit or concession involved. If Travelport allows mixed content in its own products, it will be hard to explain why it would block the same for third parties.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have been looking into these cases. Other than hearings, has anybody heard anything from them?

So, it remains to be seen when a traveler will be able to shop for the best air travel experience in accordance with preferences, corporate policies, mileage level and product attributes.

Michael Strauss is CEO and worldwide director of travel at Pass Consulting Corp.