Questioning the travel industry status quo, one blog post at a time

Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

447px-Western_Union_Office_between_1913_and_1917_2I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the last large telegraph system in the world will shut down next month. While telegrams served as a very useful, important, and efficient way of communication, they are now obsolete due to the technological innovations of the past thirty years.

So let’s raise a glass to telegrams and thank them for all their hard work. They did their job, and they did it well. And while we wish telegrams well in their retirement, let’s be thankful for innovation and the technological advancements that gave us things like the Internet, email, and, dare I say, texting. I am sure there are a few folks left that want telegrams to stick around because they are comfortable with them, or they have a business model built around them.  But we can’t hold on forever.  Because isn’t sending an email such a better way to do things?

See where I’m going with this…?

Just like when we were 8 and our goldfish died, most of us will, at some point, go through the 5 Stages of Grief. It’s a tough process, but once we manage our way through it, we end up being at peace with the situation. As it turns out, my experience has shown me that for some people, accepting new innovation generally follows a similar process. While there is certainly nothing funny about grief, I thought it might be fun to view the eventual acceptance of IATA’s new NDC (New Distribution Capability), otherwise known as Resolution 787, through the 5 Stages of Accepting Innovation.

© richardlyons -

© richardlyons –

As we know, the first stage is Denial. Pinkie the goldfish isn’t dead. He’s just resting. Upside down. When IATA first announced its NDC initiative, it seemed that several folks in the industry, including some of the more vocal opponents of change, reacted by simply denying NDC’s existence. Even though IATA was having a number of working groups in Geneva and Montreal with folks from airlines, tech companies, TMCs, and GDS, some still suggested that whole initiative was just a bunch of vaporware. Not surprising, as many initial reactions to innovation are to simply deny its existence and hope that it goes away.

But, like most good things, innovation doesn’t just go away. So what happens next? Enter Stage 2: Anger. I’m so mad at Pinkie! How could he do this me! In the 5 Stages of Accepting Innovation, this is probably the most interesting and unpredictable stage because it brings out what I call creative criticism of the innovation. Folks accuse it of just about every bad thing under the sun, even if the facts clearly point to the opposite. One thing I have learned is that in Stage 2 of Accepting Innovation, facts mean little or nothing. Remember, we’re MAD! So it is in this stage when a lot of people—particularly those individuals, companies, and coalitions very much invested in the old way of doing things—say incredulous things like IATA’s NDC is anti-competitive and represents the end of the world as we know it! Behold the end of comparison shopping! Stay away from that NDC thing, as it will require you to give out all precious personal information and take away your right to shop anonymously! (Actually, I am a bit surprised we didn’t hear NDC called unpatriotic. That‘s always a favorite during an outpouring of anger.) Of course, anyone who has read Resolution 787 in its entirety or been involved in any of the IATA NDC working groups knows that none of the above accusations about NDC are true. But hey, folks are mad, and they get to say stuff that isn’t true. It’s the rite of passage through Stage 2. Unfortunately, some tend to wallow in this stage a bit too long. Read the rest of this entry »

I truly love this industry, especially the airline industry, and most especially the airline distribution subset. It is chocked full of opportunity, drama, tension, and lots of industry panels talking about how things need to change and get better.

So, the other evening I put on my fuzzy-toed bunny PJs, microwaved some popcorn, and curled up with my laptop to watch a rerun stream of a panel about airline distribution that was held just a day before in Beijing, China during the annual IATA conference.

The panel included a full stage of industry execs from airlines, GDSs, and Google. Oh this is gonna be good….some notable heavyweights in the industry are poised to get it on! And get it on they did…in the form of a thought-provoking discussion focused largely on the 60 percent of airline distribution that goes through the travel agency channel. I thought I would attempt to characterize and share with you some major takeaways after 59 minutes. Here we go. Read the rest of this entry »

In case you missed our article in The Beat on Friday, here it is.


We read with interest the November 29 article in The Beat where [Sabre Travel Network president] Greg Webb stated, “Corporations and agencies have told me it’s a must-have to be able to display all content from all carriers flying a certain route in an easily understandable way.” He continued, “I can’t show Air Canada one way, WestJet another way and United a third way because it becomes an unusable user experience.”

With all due respect, if it was ever true that it was an unusable user experience it is certainly no longer the case. In fact, it has not been the case for quite some time now. As you may recall, Farelogix deployed a travel agency desktop platform in the Canadian market more than four years ago (which is still in use today) that does exactly what you say Sabre is unable to do. This agency desktop platform, on one screen and clearly “usable” by the travel agents, even has the Sabre GDS fully and transparently integrated. So a travel agency “usable” platform that meets the needs of both agencies and airlines is not only a reality, but has been for some time.

At Farelogix, we believe that real transparency means displaying fares and ancillary service information in a way that is both convenient for agents/consumers, and supportive of how each airline wants to showcase its products and services. Meeting these challenges—and ensuring all required information is transparently displayed—is why we have continued to invest in a modern and flexible travel agency desktop solution, SPRK. After all, if one airline has only one available fare, but another has five, do you only show one of each? Of course not. That would be uniformity, not transparency. As much as we as an industry may like uniformity and status quo, that mentality continues to do a huge disservice to agencies, consumers, airlines, and overall competition.

Albeit clearly self-serving, I have taken the liberty of including a sample SPRK screen shot from our test system that clearly shows how we do what you (Sabre) say you cannot. Sure, it’s hard to figure this stuff out, but it can be done and done well. Now, I am not saying that the SPRK product is for everyone, nor that it has everything any agency would need—I would not be so presumptuous. However, since SPRK and, more importantly, its free open source sibling, Hawkeye, are designed and engineered with a modern and flexible graphical user interface development approach, anyone (yes, even Sabre) is free to use it to create their optimal platform.

*test data may not reflect accurate availability and fares

Hey, I have a suggestion. Now I know that we have had our differences over the years, but maybe it’s time to “bury the hatchet” and work together to create a truly “agency usable” platform. Since Hawkeye is open source and the SPRK platform is free to anyone, it won’t even cost you a license fee. You could even hire us to do any new development work on this new platform and still take all the credit. Heck, you can even brand it Sabre and call it any color you want—red, green, yellow, blue, whatever!

What do you say? You know where to find us.


Bobblehead took the Thanksgiving holiday to study up on his poetry—Eliot, Emerson, Dickinson, you name it. In fact, he was so inspired, he wrote his own poem. Check it out:

Visit the YouTube link here.


No way. Never!

Yes, some may be trying to kill it, and that would be really bad for us all. Some folks continue to lobby for the abolishment of Direct Connect, and they feel like there is still a chance to see the demise of it. Wow, words like “abolishment” and “demise” are pretty strong, even when we are only talking about new and disruptive distribution technology. Of late, one would think we are talking about political unrest and a country in the midst of regime change. Nope. We’re only talking about the acceptance and adoption of a new distribution technology—Direct Connect. But those who want to “outlaw” Direct Connect are dead serious and are spending tons of money and effort to kill it.

Read the rest of this entry »

I must say, I’m quite astonished after reading a recent article by Charlie Leocha at Consumer Traveler. In “The New Airline Luddites,” Mr. Leocha is quite critical of the airlines and calls them, well, luddites. For those that don’t know the definition of “luddite” it is one who opposes technical or technological change.

Whoa. That’s a pretty hefty jab. I mean, airlines are pretty technologically advanced. After all, they do manage to get a 90-ton aircraft off the ground and keep it up in the sky (I still don’t get how that really works). So calling them luddites is, I think, quite false. Read the rest of this entry »

You can just imagine my delight when I read the Beat article titled, Travelport: Innovation Comes With A Price. I was almost giddy. A GDS finally discussing innovation investment! According to Travelport’s chief, a new world is coming “with Universal Desktop, Universal API, new types of content and so forth.” Yet, all this new content connectivity (music to my ears, by the way) “comes with a price.” Well, yeah, innovation ain’t free. We’ve been innovating for a number of years and our investors will certainly tell you “innovation comes with a price.” But I thought the principle of innovation was to make an investment up-front in order to reap the benefits on the back end. But anyway, I’m digressing. It’s just interesting to note where this particular GDS is saying this price for innovation will come from. It sounds like the travel agencies may be paying the GDS for innovative technology solutions. Read the rest of this entry »