1237 days ago

What is all the fuss? Sabre has hundreds of direct connections

With the latest direct-connect chess moves as a backdrop, Sabre is telling customers that it already has a “direct  connections” with American Airlines “and hundreds of other airlines globally.”

Of course, in an email to Sabre customers sent April 12, Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of marketing, is referring to traditional GDS Edifact connections to airlines, and not to the direct-connect XML tie-ins — sometimes bypassing GDSs — that American Airlines advocates.


American Airlines seeks to alter distribution economics and merchandising roles with XML direct-connects, and Sabre and Travelport, in particular, are vehemently seeking to block the initiative.

The trigger for the Kroeger email appears to be American Airlines’ direct-connect agreement with Expedia, which gets GDS services in the U.S. from Sabre.

“Expedia said it plans to access American’s fares, schedules and customized travel products and services via American’s direct-connect link by using aggregation technology provided by a GDS,” the Expedia-American announcement said.

Tnooz reported that Expedia has committed to establishing the direct-connect within 12 months.

The details of how Expedia will establish the direct-connect to American Airlines have not been disclosed.

Kroeger wrote to customers:

The most important thing to note in the Expedia/AA announcement is that GDS technology is and will be at the core of their arrangement, in the short-term and beyond. The companies’ joint press release makes clear that AA content has been restored to Expedia’s sites using GDS technology and that Expedia plans to access AA’s content using GDS technology in the future.

Sabre, of course, is a vehement opponent of AA Direct Connect, and finds itself in the awkward position of having a major customer, Expedia, pledging to establish a direct-connect with American Airlines. Kroeger says:

While we certainly can’t speak for Expedia, Sabre already has a direct connection in place with AA, just as we do with hundreds of other airlines globally. Using ‘aggregation technology’ to enable efficient comparison shopping, booking and fulfillment across hundreds of direct connections is at the heart of what a GDS does.

Of course, there are XML direct-connects which better accommodate airline merchandising, according to American Airlines, and “direct connections” GDS-style which confront major challenges and workarounds to do so.

Kroeger alleges in the email that American Airlines is threatening travel agencies with a Content Commitment Policy, which imposes a $5.50 per segment fee and offers less than full content for GDS bookings if agents fail to sign-up for Direct Connect.

Asked to comment on the Content Commitment Policy, Ryan Mikolasik, an American Airlines spokesman, says airline salespeople began visiting agency and corporate clients after “Sabre announced in January that it intended to remove American Airlines’ fares from its system” to inform them about their options should Sabre or another GDS disrupt the airline’s content distribution.

Mikolasik said salespeople also informed agencies and corporate customers that changes to American Airlines’ Booking Source Premium policies would take place this Summer to accommodate expected changes to GDS agreements.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith with Sabre and others to deliver the expanded content that our direct connect supports, and that a number of our agency and other travel partners are already using,” Mikolasik says.

Meanwhile, Kroeger says Sabre is ready to come to American Airlines’ assistance, holding no grudges. Kroeger writes:

Despite AA’s actions, Sabre remains ready to help AA broadly and rapidly deploy its new merchandising offers at zero incremental cost — just as we do already for a number of airlines around the world, including United Airlines, Aeromexico, Qantas and WestJet. For us, it’s simply part of doing business: helping airlines sell their full range of fares and providing agencies efficient access to full content.

Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  1. Travelport, Amadeus, Sabre, Abacus briefs - April 2011 | Tnooz

    [...] What is all the fuss? Sabre has hundreds of direct connections [full story] [...]

  2. Sloubi

    Agreed, they need to think about the future… AA too… but I still don’t understand why airlines are still talking about XML vs. Edifact etc… XML is more expensive, it’s not standard, and today strictly does not bring ANY added value.
    AA should start managing their distribution issues at the right angle: purely commercial… as the problem has never been technical.

  3. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    In my view Sabre is trying to hide the fact that it is not in a position to provide full access to all AA’s content from the basis of what is currently deemed to be full content and full functionality. The manner in which AA has determined it wants to deliver its content appears to be beyond the capabilities of Sabre’s GDS based channels. I say appear because Sabre does not offer these capabilities via any of its directly connected subscriber services today.

    In fairness to Sabre – not all of that is their fault but it is important not to over characterize the issue as being just a commercial dispute between the players. The airlines need to extend the functionality that is currently available to their directly connected consumers via the intermediary channel.

    AA has the right to determine the what/where/how/when its content will go into the distribution channels. Having read the AA complaint against Travelport which has some specific implications and direct reference to Sabre, I believe the conclusions can be drawn that the arguments AA is backing up the fight with very specific statements of where the GDS model cannot meet its requirements. With just 3 players controlling approx 99% of the intermediary traffic in the USA (including Amadeus with less than 10%) the impact of the two big boys – Travelport and of course Sabre (the significantly larger market player) and their behaviour on each individual airline cannot be understated. Downstream this impact on the Travel Agency community with little choice should give cause for the Feds to investigate the behemoths behaviour.

    Whether Sabre and Travelport have failed to comprehend AA’s needs or have deliberately thwarted them is not for the market to decide. That must either be a matter of inter company discussion or for an external “higher power”.

    It is really important in my view not to characterize the dispute as based on whether or not the airlines such as AA want to disintermediate the Travel Agency channel. The importance of the Agency channel is obvious. The battle of direct and indirect is a permanent draw because that is not the issue any more. It is whether the capability to sell an airline’s product is matched equally via the current two channels and Travel Agency.

    The emergence of many new options such as what Google will put into the market and the (in my view) misnamed Direct Connect based channels should prove to all of us that GDSs have not been able to keep up with the requirements of the market on both the demand as well as the supply side. Can the GDSs fix this? The agency community seems to side with the GDS as it recognizes that it will lose considerable funding if the segment incentives are eliminated or significantly reduced. Further the agencies will need to work harder to sell a more complicated product.

    The argument that someone should pay for that has some merit, but then consider if the product was soap powder. Would the supermarket then charge P&G extra for changing the form factors of the product?

    As someone who has a vested interest in the changing distribution model, I actually want the competition in the market to be open and fair. We should be able to compete on product attributes and fair commercial battlefields. That is not the case today. Monopoly behaviour is bad for everyone. We all lose.

    Those hundreds of Sabre Direct Connects – yes they are there. Are they fully functional, fully capable, fully realized on the agent’s desktop with all the product the supply chain wants to distribute via that channel? That answer by now should be obvious.


  4. GDS Wonder

    Interesting ‘spin’ by Sabre. They need to start looking at their 21st Century business model. We are no longer in 1960.


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