American Airlines visiting travel agents with direct-connect contract push
American Airlines employees have been visiting travel agents in several states over the last few weeks carrying several documents — nondisclosure agreements about their discussions and direct-connect licensing contracts.
The airline apparently is making a big push now to get travel agents to sign the direct-connect contracts because of a looming big day on the calendar, June 1.
On June 1, if Sabre and American Airlines have not reached an agreement on a full-content contract to replace the one expiring Aug. 31, then their temporary truce on the legal front will have expired.
By late January, after Sabre had biased American Airlines’ displays and hiked the airline’s GDS fees, and American had filed suit against Sabre and Travelport, Sabre and American agreed to put the legal battle on hold and to put the displays and fees back to normal while the two sides attempted to negotiate a new agreement.
Barring an extension in their ongoing talks, the landscape may change June 1 as the two sides have the option to go back to court.
Sabre is telling agencies that it will not remove American Airlines content starting June 1, but there has been no word on whether it might again begin biasing American Airlines’ flights or increase the airline’s GDS fees again.
Ryan Mikolasik, a spokesman for American Airlines, said May 11:
If Sabre dramatically increases our fees, as they attempted to in January, we will need to explore all legal and commercial options, including possibly holding agencies that choose to use Sabre responsible for the added costs imposed by Sabre.
If Sabre does not take any retaliatory actions, then American Airlines has “no plans to impose the Booking Source Premium after June 1,” Mikolasik says.
The most recent time American Airlines charged a Booking Source Premium, it was $5.50 per segment.
The approaching June 1 watershed day and the visits by American Airlines representatives have left some travel agents angry — or at least confused.
One travel agent said an American Airlines employee visited the office a few weeks ago and informed the agent that it would be best to sign a direct-connect licensing agreement before June 1 to avoid surcharges, which would come via invoice from American Airlines.
This travel agent, along with two others interviewed for this story, declined to be identified.
The American Airlines sales staffer indicated that the direct-connect link could be “installed in a few minutes and would be up and running,” said the travel agent, who has yet to sign the licensing contract but is considering doing so.
Another travel agent got a similar face-to-face meeting and was asked to sign the licensing agreement to use technology from Farelogix, which is American Airlines’ direct-connect subcontractor.
The American Airlines representative explained that agent should sign the licensing agreement in the event there is no agreement with Sabre by June 1 and Sabre removes American Airlines’ content, a scenario which Sabre is on record as saying it won’t do.
A third travel agent in a different state took a meeting with an American Airlines employee and discussed a direct-connect contract, but didn’t even read it and has refused to sign.
The American Airlines’ employee told the agent that the agent’s ability to book American in Sabre may be gone starting in June, although nothing is definite, the agent said.
The travel agent, who obviously is not a direct-connect afficionado, said he hopes no travel agents sign the agreement because if they do “it’s leverage for the airlines.”
All of the agents said they believe that American and Sabre will eventually reach an agreement.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.