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

Archive for the ‘Sabre and Case #067-249214-10’ Category

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© Liaurinko – Fotolia.com

I found it quite interesting last week when a number of parties showed up in a Tarrant County courthouse to defend their motions to seal the documents from the recent American Airlines v. Sabre litigation. It’s not the process I found so interesting as motions to seal documents are not all that uncommon. What I found most interesting was that certain companies that filed motions to seal documents are the very same companies clamoring for more transparency and visibility when it comes to the airline industry. Oh, how important transparency is! But not here! Not this time! No way, no how!

In reading a few of the actual motions filed (they are public), the general theme was that trade secrets were at stake for the companies that submitted documents. They could not have confidential information revealed as it may cause a competitive disadvantage for them. I actually agree with that premise, but only if the information being protected is… well let’s just say… on the up-and-up. I definitely do not think we should be protecting things like the secret biasing of airline content to travel agencies and consumers, or participating in an illegal boycott, or threatening customers into not using a competitive product… you know, Sherman Act kind of stuff. We should know all about things like that. You would think that if consumers were negatively impacted, and they were, some of those consumer groups would be demanding to know what went on.  Nope.   Surely trade secret information could have been kept confidential while the rest of the furtive information was disclosed? But, alas, that’s not that case.

This whole episode has led me to coin a new phrase: Transpocrisy [trans-pok-ruh-see] – the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings as relates to transparency, especially in airline distribution.

Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? Transpocrisy…

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© ysk_hrsw_i – Fotolia.com

Well here we are in a new year and still no outrage! We reported over a month ago that, according to transcripts from the AA v. Sabre case, Sabre, through boycotts and biasing, might have seriously impacted those all along the travel supply chain.

According to the documents, airline partners of AA were allegedly subject to biasing. Consumers were allegedly denied transparent and unbiased flight information. Corporations with contractual obligations to American had, it appears in some cases, AA flights withheld completely from corporate travelers seeking to book. And let’s not forget that the transcripts suggest travel agencies unknowingly had their point-of-sale displays tampered with.

Are we the only ones who find it odd that such serious GDS actions—actions that apparently impacted parties across the entire supply chain—are not being met with outrage and demand for serious investigation by industry advocacy groups such as BTC, ITSA, GBTA and ACTE?

Or is our industry outrage really that selective…?

Somebody should Ask The Question.

 

Hey there, industry advocacy groups, corporate travel managers, and defenders of consumer rights, it’s been over a month since the AA-Sabre case settled. You’ve had plenty of time to read at least some of those trial transcripts. We certainly have, and we are among those in the industry wondering… where’s the outrage? Where’s the transparency battle cry? As we pointed out in a recent blog, there are plenty of things to be upset about and far heavier issues than false debate about “hidden” ancillary fees that still fly around in the press. The complete lack of attention to the meat of this case by those very groups charged with protecting consumers and corporations would almost make one question whether some of those advocates are really interested in protecting the consumer.

Back to the facts of the case: sworn testimony by Sabre employees suggests that Sabre was well aware that the alleged boycott and display biasing activities was having, or could have, an impact on far more people than its target, American Airlines. The list of those impacted include:

–      Airline partners (American interline airlines, American codeshare airlines, and oneworld alliance airlines) impacted and subject to biasing.

–      Consumers that were denied transparent and unbiased access to flight information.

–      Corporations with contractual obligations for preferred carriers such as AA, impacted at the corporate booking tool and agency level (in some cases AA flights didn’t even show up!).

–      Travel agencies that, in some cases, were unaware that their own selling displays and corresponding carrier sales volumes were being tampered with.

But don’t take our word for it. Read for yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

As more and more details emerge from the American Airlines v. Sabre trial, it is clear that Sabre made a concerted effort to neutralize AA’s Direct Connect strategy and the technology behind it. In case you need a refresher, Direct Connect is a technology that allows airlines to sell their products and services in a personalized and dynamic way to the indirect channel via a connection through a GDS (e.g., Travelport and Air Canada) or bypassing the GDS.

To Sabre’s credit, it appears from the court documents that they knew the industry was moving in this direction as far back as 2006. However, as it was deemed a threat to Sabre’s business model[1], a plan was put in place to make things so untenable for American that they would decide to drop the strategy.

According to the transcripts, in 2006, investors in Sabre had a plan, named Project Sovereign, to sell or go public with the company within the next five years[2]. But, doing so anticipated that potential competitors be “unlikely to be as viable next time around” and this meant doing “one thing: Delay or destroy American’s Direct Connect.”[3] How did Sabre plan to do this? Among other tactics—a secret boycott[4]. Read the rest of this entry »

There has definitely been a lot to think about after the AA v. Sabre case settled. In fact, as an interested party, I have taken to reading some of the now public transcripts from the case, and I tell you, the information revealed is pretty shocking. Not just for AA or Sabre, but for our industry as a whole.

As has been widely reported, American’s opening argument alleges a Sabre-organized and unlawful boycott of AA flights by major TMCs, and the uncovering of a secret Sabre initiative called Project 99. American notes right up front that it had hard evidence, obtained through the discovery process, (primarily emails and documents from Sabre executives and other employees) to show that Project 99 was designed “to target getting as many things as possible in place to neutralize AA market moves to disrupt the model.”   (For clarification purposes, let me say that the “model” that is being addressed here is the “GDS model”). Later, in sworn testimony, a Sabre employee explains in detail about how Sabre negatively biased AA flights—not just once, but through a series of iterations with each designed to ratchet-up its negative results. A series of emails and other Sabre documents show this was part of a larger plan designed to harm American Airlines.

I don’t know that it is a stretch for me to assume that any harm to American would, by extension, harm consumers, business travelers, and even travel agencies, but I leave that question for you readers to ponder as we delve further into the evidence presented at court.    Read the rest of this entry »