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

Posts Tagged ‘display bias’

© antonbrand - Fotolia.com

© antonbrand – Fotolia.com

Jay, I found your recent commentary on AA’s Direct Connect initiative quite interesting. Frankly, I was hoping that it would have taken much longer before anyone found out that of the various Farelogix teams, the one working on the AA Direct Connect project is actually made up of zombies.

Although I am tempted to spend some time correcting the record on the parts of my quotes that were left out or taken out of context, I recognize that the piece was based on opinion, and not actual reporting. That said, I was surprised that you left out commentary on some very relevant issues, but maybe additional commentary from you is forthcoming. With that in mind, I wanted to offer the following possible topics for your consideration:

Perhaps in a future piece you could share your thoughts on why when our industry is clamoring for transparency (transparency purported to be available through the GDS, mind you), Sabre—a distribution intermediary with a large US market share that is trusted and paid by American Airlines and other airlines to distribute their product—was able to secretly bias travel agency displays against American Airlines in retaliation for its Direct Connect initiative. It would be great to hear your views on the state of our industry’s competitive landscape when it seems that some travel agencies were coerced to participate in this secret, Sabre-led boycott of American Airlines—a boycott that was detrimental to American Airlines, its corporate and leisure consumers, and its airline partners. According to alleged internal Sabre emails and documents, this boycott was specifically designed to punish American Airlines for its Direct Connect initiative. Maybe some Sabre executive will grant you an open interview on these topics… or at least respond to email questions.  Read the rest of this entry »

© 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.

 

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 »

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 »

GDSs and their coalitions worked so hard building the story to tell the world how airlines are deceiving consumers with hidden fees, and that airline direct connect will create a huge lack of transparency. Well, turns out the ones really biasing information and avoiding transparency may be, according to the DOT, the GDSs and some OTAs themselves. Ask the Question!