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

Archive for the ‘Transparency’ Category

headscratcherIn reviewing the various motions to seal in the American Airlines v. Sabre litigation, I was amused to find that part of BTC’s motion to seal was based on the premise that “BTC’s membership pricing is a trade secret,” and that “public disclosure of the pricing of a small business such as BTC will have significant detrimental ramifications on BTC’s ability to do business in the future.” Okay, fair enough. One small problem—that information is all on their website! Not much sleuthing required. It’s on the Membership Center of their website. Kudos to BTC for being so transparent… but then, what’s the secret?

© Liaurinko - Fotolia.com

© 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…

American Airlines’ new fare bundles reflect the growing popularity of airlines competing for consumers’ business through more personalized and unique airline product offers. We consumers just love choice, so this is a welcome change from the one-size-fits-all, commoditized airline product based solely on fares and schedules. Consumers can now pick the product that best suits their needs for a particular trip. Nice, huh!

Okay, now for the nuts and bolts. American Airlines now displays its new products on AA.com and through its Direct Connect. They also state that it has made the bundles available to the GDSs. So far, so good. Both Sabre and Travelport say they now can display, sell, and ticket Americans’ new bundled products. Again, all good.

So let’s just see. No seriously, let’s see it! Lately we are all so focused on transparency, full disclosure, and no secrets. Okay, some in the industry like secrets—secret projects[1], secret boycotts[2], secret meetings[3]. But I say, no secrets! Let’s see how the selling of these bundles actually works in the Indirect Channel. So, we’ll show you ours—right here, right now. Here it is. Screenshots are below. Don’t like pictures? Check out our YouTube video of a fully transparent booking of American’s product bundles.

Okay, now let’s see yours…

SPRK1

SPRK2


[1] October 24th p35 lines 16-26 and p36 lines 1-11

[2] October 24th p 28 lines 1-2

[3] October 24th p49 lines 20-25 and p50 lines 1-17

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While those among us in the industry may have plenty of disagreements, there certainly seems to be one thing we all agree is important: Transparency!

Read any industry article of late and chances are you’ll see a tremendous emphasis on Transparency from travel agencies, GDSs, airlines and other suppliers, ATPCo, ASTA, ACTE, GBTA, BTC, Open Allies for Airfare Transparency, ARTA, ETTSA, ITSA, IATA, ARC, the Department of Transportation, many others who support it, favor it, and even demand it.

What do we want? Transparency! When do we want it? Now! Transparency is essential. And hey, it looks like we finally have something we can all agree on. Or have we…?

Read the rest of this entry »

With the recent news about the hefty losses at JPMorgan Chase, I couldn’t help but yet again think about the old adage: Be careful of what you wish for. 

In the case of JPMorgan Chase, you have the down-to-earth and straight-shooting CEO who, until a few days ago, was the de facto poster child for anti-regulation of the financial industry. He was the king of “we know how to manage risk.” Again, until a few days ago.

© coramax - Fotolia.com

Now, I am certainly not one to advocate more government regulation. I’m a free and open market guy who still believes that innovation, competition, and the occasional shine of a bright light is the best approach to free enterprise and competitive opportunity. This is why I continue to be a bit baffled by the ongoing “lack of transparency” claims against the airlines by the GDSs and their advocates. We’ve iterated and reiterated that the transparency is there with airline web sites and new distribution technologies for travel agencies. Even the Department of Transportation has existing regulations (Consumer Rule 1 and Consumer Rule 2) to ensure that consumers have the information they need for their purchases in a timely and coherent manner. But some folks, like the GDSs, just don’t seem to get it and should probably take note: The sword one swings in the quest for transparency is sharp on both sides. Read the rest of this entry »

CC Attribution 2.0 / Roland

By now we’ve heard ad nauseam the drumbeat of those in the travel industry who, incorrectly, associate new technology (such as direct connections) with matters of airline fee transparency. As I and several others have repeatedly explained, these two things have nothing to do with one another – outside of the irony that direct connect technology actually makes it easier for airlines to communicate ancillary fee information to shoppers.

But rehashing the benefits of direct connect is not my focus here. Instead let’s talk about the entire notion of fee transparency itself that, I would argue, is an entirely false issue promoted by those who simply want airlines to revert to the days of commoditized, apples-to-apples shopping. Read the rest of this entry »