Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending and presenting at the Department of Transportation’s Advisory Committee on Aviation Consumer Protection hearing. The objective of the day was for a hard-working advisory panel to get input from a variety of industry folks on whether or not to recommend some form of new regulation concerning the sale and distribution of airline ancillary products and services as it pertains to travel agencies—both traditional brick and mortar travel agencies as well as online travel agencies such as Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity. The lines were clearly drawn between those advocating a free market approach where innovative and competitive distribution technology solutions empower full consumer transparency, choice, and personalization versus a government-regulated approach that could easily end up dictating both technology requirements and a commercial model clearly favoring the status quo. I am sure you can guess which side I came out on….
What I found most interesting was a presentation by Sabre where they proclaimed to the panel that they have solved the problem of offering and selling airline ancillary services (or “fees” as they like to call them) through the Sabre travel agencies. They exclaimed, “The shelves are built!” They went on to say that all Sabre needed to “fill the shelves” of their travel agency selling software was for DOT to adopt a new regulation that would force the airlines to give them all of their ancillary data, in a format that matches up with the way Sabre chose to build their selling system. That’s right: if the airlines would just agree to sell their products the way Sabre wants them to, everything would be a piece of cake. Hmmm…whatever happened to the concept of building a better mousetrap instead of telling the mouse to just stand there while you trap it?
Anyway, back to that piece of cake. After measuring, mixing, and baking, Sabre was ready to pull that piece of cake out of the oven and put the icing on with a product demonstration. They initially positioned the demo to the panel as “here and ready for agency use.” Many of us in the audience had seen this presentation before, on YouTube and GBTA-sponsored webinars. Read the rest of this entry »