What is all the fuss? Sabre has hundreds of direct connections
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 was North American editor for Tnooz.