Close Your Eyes and Take One Giant Step Back

You just gotta check this out. Over the past couple of days I have read a few Beat articles on which--for as much as I would like to just relax on a beautiful Sunday morning with my Metamucil, or Muesli, or whatever it is us "experienced" guys are supposed to take to keep us feeling spry--I simply must comment. [more] I am referring to the articles where some large TMC execs (TMC is large, not the execs) have determined ... let me get this right, "... should it [American Airlines] become unavailable in global distribution systems. CWT has indicated that because booking AA outside the GDSs drives up operational costs, the carrier's exit would result in a $3 per-transaction "search" charge applied on all bookings for those clients wishing to include AA in their shopping. An additional $22 would be charged for bookings actually made with AA."

Now remember, from the best I can tell, American Airlines and a growing number of less vocal airlines want the GDSs to simply replace the way the GDSs and other third parties connect to their reservations systems ... standardized XML vs. EDIFACT. American, in particular, has been quite vocal about wanting its distribution partners to take its new, more content-robust, standardized XML Direct Connect link. But for some reason, certainly not a technical one as they state, the GDS continue to resist these requests.

So now one large TMC has apparently been able to quantify the cost it will pass on to their corporate customers if the GDSs choose not to take the American Airlines (and others) XML direct connect--$3 for everyone and $22 for bookings with AA. I can only presume other airlines that may not be in the GDSs such as Southwest, EasyJet, Allegiant, etc. would be subject to the same charge, or maybe it is just AA. That part was not clear. I was a bit confused, even when I read another Beat article where Jay Campbell and the TMC executive attempted to clarify how this new fee structure will actually work. (By the way, am I the only one who finds it odd that a large TMC would publicly announce a new fee structure to corporations? Seems to me that disclosing a new fee structure in this highly competitive TMC market might put one at a competitive disadvantage as other TMCs now know my pricing strategy and may want to lure my customers away with more competitive products and services.) Maybe there was some other motivation behind the public disclosing of a new fee structure ... but let's move on.

Reading these articles jogged my memory and I remembered (maybe it's all the Muesli) some public announcements from a while back about large TMCs investing tens of millions of dollars in systems that would reduce costs to their corporate customers, eliminate dependencies on GDS-only content and systems, and lead to full "TMC independence" from any one technology provider. I took a few seconds to search The Beat archives and if we look back to just a few years ago, we see a very different industry discussion*:

CWT's Koetting: GDS Changes Halve Agency Profits

WRAP: The Beat Live, Part Three


* Access to the above content links requires subscription to The Beat

Where are these systems now, and what happened to the TMC move for independent technology? As part of that wave, even the GDS themselves made public announcements about new platforms that efficiently and cost-effectively aggregate that pesky non-GDS content. (You can do your own searches for Sabre Red, Amadeus One, and Travelport's Universal Desktop). So what happened to these systems that were intended to solve, once and for all, matters of disparate content? More importantly, I think, why now the change of tone by these same providers who now claim that any new content connections will disrupt the world as we know it?

The thing is, it really does seem that plenty of workable technology exists out there. Just last week I was looking at a bunch (ok, 13 to be exact) of agency and corporate products that appeared to seamlessly handle content from many sources ... and most of these products are already being used by corporations and TMCs today. Even Farelogix has a content aggregation platform system, and although it may not be the best for everyone, it is certainly workable. Part of it is even open source and it's all free.

So, what am I missing?

All the talk about new operational inefficiencies that will be created if particular airlines are out of a GDS is simply false. Airlines, even big ones, have been out of the GDSs for decades, and TMCs and others have dealt with them without making big public announcements about new fees, process break-downs, hidden fees, loss of comparison shopping, one-off direct connects, latency issues, and many more complaints I'm sure I'm missing.

Now, thanks to all the attention from the mainstream media and the Department of Justice, everyone knows, and yes I mean everyone, that the main issue is about protecting a distribution business model and yes, sorry to say, an outdated technology system. Period. End of Story. We either accept it and move on, or continue to fight for something that may end up making many look a bit silly in the end.

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