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

Posts Tagged ‘BTC’

© jkphoto69 - Fotolia.com

© jkphoto69 – Fotolia.com

I just got back from GBTA, where it was really nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. Hearing Jewel’s story at lunch was absolutely fantastic, and she can still belt out the songs. The sessions I attended were fairly informative, but I will say it was interesting to see that all of the push back and anger that was once directed towards Direct Connect has found some additional new friends with Open Bookings and IATA’s NDC.

And on the topic of NDC, could Sabre and BTC be any more off the mark? Sabre was either intentionally misleading GBTA attendees or they have been reading their own NDC propaganda for so long that they actually believe it. In either case, the misinformation campaign against NDC was alive and well throughout the conference: Travelers will have to provide all their personal information! Bookings will all be made outside of the GDS! Trip servicing will be impossible! And by the way, BTC did go way too far in making their subtle yet pointed connection to NDC and terrorism. Haven’t we learned yet that fear mongering is just kind of shameful and bad for everyone?

Anyway, during one general session moderated by Philip Wolf (the PhoCusWright legend), he asked the audience—measured informally through applause—whether NDC will be good, indifferent, or bad for the industry. You can imagine after two days of various people pontificating on “the ills” of NDC, the overwhelming applause was for bad for the industry. At that point Philip stated that he conducted a similar poll back in 1995 about whether the Internet would be used for travel and got a similar response… Okay, so GBTA is not a good leading indicator of industry trends or technology. Read the rest of this entry »

Empty_Box_Person_Looking_InOk, sometimes I am easily confused, but this one is taking the cake. I am totally confounded because in the last several months practically everyone I have spoken to—travel agencies, corporate travel managers, and even GDSs (well, Sabre and Farelogix aren’t really on speaking terms lately, so not all GDSs)—has expressed interest in having viewable, transparent, and bookable access to the various airline merchandising and ancillary services many airlines have on their websites. Everyone wants it, which makes perfect sense. Having access to more options that are relevant, up-to-the-minute, accurate, and maybe even personalized for the individual traveler making the request is clearly good for consumers, corporate travelers, corporations, travel agencies, OTAs, and GDSs. It’s good for everybody!

Enter IATA. IATA, through its standards-setting body, has developed its optional NDC initiative. This standards initiative was developed with input from various travel supply chain players. They worked long and hard to define a technology integration and workflow standard that enables an airline to deliver relevant, up-to-the-minute, accurate, and maybe even personalized offers to travel agencies, consumers, corporate travelers, corporations, OTAs, and GDSs. So, essentially IATA is enabling more airline content to be delivered and more is good, right?  Read the rest of this entry »

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…

© ysk_hrsw_i - Fotolia.com

© 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.

© govicinity - Fotolia.com

© govicinity – Fotolia.com

It was recently reported that the Business Travel Coalition’s We the People petition—advocating for needless government regulation of airline ancillary products—failed to garner the required signatures. The petition was just over 20,000 short of the required 25,000… not a very stellar performance. Still, we give BTC credit for attempting to raise awareness about the importance of transparency in our industry and wanted to take the opportunity to offer some feedback and even a suggested next step.

As we see it, here was the problem with the BTC petition: it was focused on a false transparency problem and ignored a real transparency problem. Let’s face it, it’s time to let go of the illogical premise that airlines are withholding ancillary information from travel agencies as part of a master plot to bilk the consumer. Not true! The real problem is that the GDSs lack the technical prowess to sell airline ancillaries in the flexible and dynamic way the airlines want to sell them while protecting their brand—just like any retailer would want. And by blocking new technology entrants in the world of distribution, the GDSs seemingly have no real incentive to improve their technologies in a way that would solve these challenges and allow for the sale of ancillary products in the personalized, dynamic way sought by airlines and consumers. Read the rest of this entry »

© Pixel Embargo – Fotolia.com

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 »

© Christos Georghiou – Fotolia.com

In some ways we (the industry we) are so predictable. I am referring to the very recent breaking news from Abu Dhabi that the IATA membership has directionally endorsed and approved that the organization is moving ahead with its NDC initiative. For those of you not familiar with this particular acronym, it stands for New Distribution Capabilities.

And, as quickly as those voting for the NDC initiative to move forward could drop their hands back into their laps, we see two industry groups—ASTA and Business Travel Coalition (BTC)—publically coming out against NDC. It’s almost as if this reaction was planned ahead of time… (Let’s see, the vote was Thursday morning, October 18, Abu Dhabi time, that’s 9 hours ahead of EST. Tnooz published on October 18 at 8:24 am ET and The Beat published its story at 7:24 pm ET, so if I carry the 1, I get… I don’t know. I was always bad a math. But the point is, this denunciation of NDC was all ready to go before it was even voted on.

For those of you that didn’t have the chance to read the articles, allow me to summarize (in my own words, of course)… “NDC is bad, we don’t really know what it is, but we know it is bad, so stop doing this bad thing!” Read the rest of this entry »

Great article exposing ulterior motives behind the Open Allies lobbying effort and the overall DOT fight. It is refreshing to see some bold reporting in the travel space!

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Virtually everyone agrees that travelers need to be able to compare the true cost of airfares, plus baggage fees and seat selections, in a transparent manner without getting gouged along the way with hidden extras.

Open Allies for Airfare Transparency, a coalition of industry associations, corporations and travel agencies, advocates that the Department of Transportation step in to ensure that airlines distribute all of their seat and bag-fee information through the GDSs. Open Allies is making much of a Harris Interactive 2012 traveler experiences survey that found that 94% of the 2,310 adults queried who booked summer travel using an online travel agency endorsed the notion that “all airline fee information should be available to travel agents and online travel websites.”

The online survey, conducted September 4 to 6 by Harris Interactive, was commissioned by a founding member of Open Allies, the Interactive Travel Services Association, whose members include global distribution systems such as Sabre, Travelport, and Amadeus, and their OTA clients, including Expedia, Orbitz Worldwide, Priceline, and Travelocity.

Lots of allies doing the GDSs’ bidding

Founded in early 2011, Open Allies, too, despite its roster of nearly 400 trade associations, travel agencies and corporations, has been spearheaded by the GDSs, the American Society of Travel Agents, and the Business Travel Coalition, all of which have collaborated before on similar lobbying efforts. The stakeholders’ primary interest is making sure that the current methods of airline ticket distribution remain the same and that airlines do not sell direct to consumers — even if that lowers prices for consumers.

Read the rest of the post at skift.com.

To borrow a line from almost every late night talk show host, “I couldn’t make this stuff up.” But I can blog it!

I’ve been accused from time to time of being a purveyor of black magic, a spellbinder of XML incantations, an agitator, a snake oil salesperson, an innovation bigot, and a man with a bobblehead’s brain. But one thing I’ve never been called is a “flip-flopper.” I tend to stick with my basic belief that through a combination of innovation, creativity, great people and a competitive landscape, valuable and far-reaching strides are happening in airline distribution… all to the benefit of airlines, travel agencies, and consumers. I wish I could say the same about some other folks in the industry.

Glass Concept Home by Santambrogiomilano

Anyone not living in a cave is aware of the tremendous distraction taking place in our industry by cries that airlines are “hiding fees.” It’s getting so bad that a huge lobbying effort is taking place to get the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to mandate new onerous regulations on disclosure and transparency… all under that guise that it’s to “protect consumers.” There seems to be a virtual swinging door at DOT headquarters with pleas from ITSA, ASTA, BTC, and the GDSs to force, through regulations, the airlines to be more transparent and disclose all airline optional services and related fees.

Of course, this is all in the name of “consumer protection.”

Read the rest of this entry »