The very public battle over travel data

Alongside the current war over distribution channels, GDSs and the airlines are actually locked in another battle over passenger information.

data field

As many Tnooz readers are frequent flyers, they generate data about their buying behavior, so this actually affects many of us.

The GDSs have a series of data analytic products:

  • BIDT (Billing Information Data Transfer) is specific to a single airline and is its billing data.
  • MIDT (Marketing Information Data Transfer), such as this product group from Sabre, is marketing data that can be obtained from a single GDS (or multiple ones) which provide buying behavior.

In the US and European Community, rules on customer information are different, so as a result data is regulated differently in each jurisdiction.

In recent years, the Air Transport Association (IATA), which also has access to similar data, but ticketing rather than details about reservations, has produced a series of products, known as Paxis.

The GDSs hate competition, and so they have gone down the route of suing to prevent someone from using “their” data. In the first round in 2009, Amadeus won against IATA.

However, the latest battle saw Sabre sued in a Canadian court over essentially the same situation. But this time, the GDSs lost.

There are two issues here we should consider.

The first one: is the data actually good enough data? With the GDSs collectively producing less than 50% of global airline ticketing, is the data good from a global or even specific basis? The lack of ubiquity of data is clearly an issue.

Secondly, the type of data becomes important. The data fields in question may not give you the information and knowledge you desire because it is post-sales activity. There is no customer search behavior included in this.

The world of data analytics have dramatically changed and the emphasis away from proxy and often post-sales activity has less information than business intelligence can give you from analyzing the data streams of websites.

Of course, another points to consider is whose data is it? Selling of analytics has been a practice for years. The GDSs have made a fair amount of money from selling the airlines back their own data.

IATA’s director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani, speaking at the 66th IATA Annual General Meeting and World Air Transport Summit Berlin, made this comment on the topic:

“And this year we have a special place on the wall for the Western GDSs. ….. On top of that, they sell you your data with a seven-digit price tag. That is pure profit. BASTA [enough]. We will break their monopoly on your data with a cost-effective solution.”

This one is going to run for a while.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInEmail to someone
Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

About the Writer :: Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

Timothy O'Neil-Dunne is the managing partner for venture firm VaultPAD Ventures– an accelerator devoted exclusively to Aviation Travel and Tourism.

VaultPAD also is the parent company for consulting firm, T2Impact. Timothy has been with tnooz since the beginning, writing in particular aviation, technology, startups and innovation.

One of the first companies to emerge from the accelerator is Air Black Box. a cloud-based software company providing airline connectivity solutions and in production with airlines in Asia Pacific.

Timothy was a founding management team member of the Expedia team, where he headed the international and ground transportation portfolios. He also spent time with Worldspan as the international head of technology, where he managed technology services from infrastructure to product.

He is also a permanent advisor to the World Economic Forum and writes as Professor Sabena. He sits on a number of advisory and executive boards



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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

    […] The very public battle over travel data [full story] […]

  2. Timothy O'Neil-Dunne

    Edd – thanks for this – I forgot about that one. This is a long running battle and one that will be with us for a long while yet. Of course whose data is it really? Oh the consumer… too bad we just forget about those nice people.

    Europe’s position on data is of course a lot stronger than the USA.


  3. Edd

    I’m surprised that IATA are the ones offering a ‘cost-effective’ solution! I’m guessing this means they want a 6 figure sum instead of 7?

    There’s also a case running in Holland of Travelport vs. IATA – preliminary judgement was in IATA’s favour. See:


Newsletter Subscription

Please subscribe now to Tnooz’s FREE daily newsletter.

This lively package of news and information from Tnooz’s web site provides a convenient digest of what’s happening in technology that drives the global travel, tourism and hospitality market.

  • Cancel