With American Airlines battling Orbitz and Expedia over the airline’s insistence that they access the airline’s flights through direct-connects, what kind of traction is the fledgling AA Direct Connect getting?
It’s a difficult question to answer because American isn’t providing client names and specifics as some companies understandably fear that signing up will put a target on their backs.
American is saying publicly that online and traditional travel agencies in the U.S., Europe and Asia have signed up for AA Direct Connect, but is unclear how many actually are using the new tie-in.
In theory, the ranks will increase if — or when — the airline begins to exclusively distribute its ancillary services through direct-connect, giving travel agencies and corporations much more of a reason to link to AA Direct Connect.
In an effort to assess the traction to date, Tnooz attempted to contact the 18 companies listed as providers of AA Direct Connect in the American Airlines Technology Pavilion [pdf]. The airline says these companies are in various stages of integrating AA Direct Connect for their customers.
Of the seven companies willing to talk, five indicated they have no customers hooked up to AA Direct Connect, with several noting that there hasn’t been any demand for the solution.
Lute Technologies stated that AERTiCKET in Germany has been in production with AA Direct Connect since March 2009, and Farelogix declined to provide specifics, but indicated “yes,” some of its customers are using AA Direct Connect.
All the Technology Pavilion providers were asked if any of their customers were hooked up to them to access AA Direct Connect. Who are the companies and what has the experience been like?
Following is some more detail from their responses.
Greg Dahlke, vice president of technology, BookingBuilder Technologies: “Not¬†yet. ¬†We are currently in discussion with¬†AA¬†and other third-party technology vendors on how we may provide this content to our customers.”
Alan Minton, senior vice president, marketing,¬†Cornerstone Information Systems: “I am unaware of any Cornerstone customer using AA Direct Connect in conjunction with our iQCX or iBank platforms.” Minton cited apprehension about GDS reactions and a lack of clarity about the benefits of AA Direct Connect as possible factors.
Sue Carter, vice president, product marketing, Farelogix: “Yes, as technology provider for¬†AA, Farelogix (more specifically our technology) is used by companies connecting to¬†AA¬†Direct¬†Connect. We cannot disclose details regarding¬†AA‚Äôs customers, both for confidentiality reasons and because in many cases the customers prefer to keep things quiet due to fear of GDS retaliation.”
Carter adds: “As a general statement: Users of the FLX-powered airline¬†direct¬†connects are naturally travel sellers, which can be anything from traditional agencies to OTAs to third-party booking providers. The precise mix will vary based on market and the airline‚Äôs distribution strategy.”
Graham Irvine, president, Global Matrix: “Global Matrix does not have a¬†AA¬†Direct¬†Connect¬†link.¬† At this point in time we have had no demand from our customers so we do not anticipate building it.”
Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, CTO and acting CEO, LUTE Technologies:¬†The one we can reveal is AERTiCKET in Germany, which has been in production since March.¬†So for LUTE Technologies, we have these and many other airlines already connected and being distributed via both B2C and B2B.¬†In Germany (which is what I can talk about), we offer agents access to¬†AA¬†using published and consolidator fares. They do this using the normal day to day services of AER. We have more than 4000 agents connected in this way. We don‚Äôt release actual booking numbers.”
O’Neil-Dunne continued: “For the B2C websites there are quite a few of them ‚Äď they book¬†AA¬†via the website with the customer seamlessly getting the service. So if you go, for example, to one of these sites and you select¬†AA, then you are purchasing the ticket via¬†AA¬†Direct¬†Connect.”
Asked what benefits agencies get out of AA Direct Connect, O’Neil-Dunne said: “The answer depends on a wide variety of things. The exact nature of the value is dependent on private arrangements between AA¬†and the agency. Something to which I am not a party.”
Michael Strauss, CEO and director of travel, Pass Consulting: “No customers using AA Direct Connect.¬† As we earn our money with connectivity to the GDSs, in this volatile market, it is challenging for us to promote¬†direct¬†connects — at least for so long until steam has settled down in this ‚Äėbattle‚Äô between airlines and GDSs. Also our clients might have contracts that prevent them from doing so.”
Strauss continues: “So here we are in a world where technology is ready to be implemented but progress and innovation are slowed down by political forces. It is as if have this brand-new airplane that produces 50% less atmospheric pollution, but you are not allowed to use it as the revenue stream of the oil lobby would be cut in half as well.”
Theo Szymanski, director of sales, Trondent Development Corp: “We have had several discussions with American Airlines regarding our ability to interface with their¬†Direct¬†Connect platform. After reviewing¬†AA‚Äôs technical specifications, Trondent has determined that, with some development effort, we would be able to fully support any customers that utilize¬†AA‚Äôs¬†Direct¬†Connect¬†technology.¬† However, at this time, Trondent has not received any official requests from its customers to¬†direct¬†connect¬†to¬†AA.”
Szymanski continues: “Our direct-connect capability does come up from time to time in conversations we have with existing and prospective clients. However, it‚Äôs more of a ‘‚Ä¶ if we choose to direct connect, does Trondent ultimately have the ability to support it?,’ which we ultimately can.”