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

Posts Tagged ‘Sabre’

It’s beeOptical fibern a long time coming, but it’s incredibly rewarding to finally see NDC connectivity to the Sabre GDS enabling airline product differentiation, personalization, and improved profitability.

If you missed the news, I’ll recap it for you. American Airlines recently announced its GDS integration to Sabre using the airlines’ NDC-style API. It’s no secret that Farelogix built and powers the AA direct connect API, and that we are incredibly proud of the work that has been done with the airline to date. Connecting a full-service airline’s API to a GDS is no easy feat – at least doing it the first time – but all three companies (Sabre, AA, and Farelogix) worked hard and cooperatively to make this happen. But, believe it or not, that’s not the real story here.

The real story is what this connectivity to Sabre means for an industry that has basically been “stuck” in third party distribution limbo for years. This announcement just changed the status quo for everyone, and it’s a win-win situation for all. No one loses.

Airlines win by being able to offer differentiated content, which can increase loyalty and generate new revenue. The TMCs/OTAs win by having the most up-to-date and relevant airline content, helping to secure their value proposition to their customers. The GDSs win by being able to deliver (and ultimately display and sell) new airline services to their users (i.e., airlines, TMCs, and corporate booking tools). Consumers and corporate travelers win by getting access to the airline content and product choices they have been clamoring for, with minimal process change.

Given our history with Sabre, I was skeptical about ever seeing this level of win-win situation in airline distribution in my lifetime. But there it is, staring us right in the face. And although there is still much more work that has to be done to bring the entire industry in line with NDC, for once we are all moving forward in the right direction. New airline connectivity to GDSs is here, and it is reloading the value proposition for what was always viewed as a tired, outdated, and over-priced distribution channel. Plus, any future GDS integrations with our other airline customers will be almost automatic since 90 percent of the integration work is reusable with any GDS, thanks to an NDC-aligned integration standard.

How great is that? And in my lifetime too!

Farelogix’ Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Edna Lopez, recently had an article published in ABA Transportation Committee Quarterly. We have republished the article below. You can learn more about the ABA’s Transportation Committee here.

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Fighting Against Market ‘Disruption’

I spent all day trying to figure out how to take American [Airlines] down.1 This one statement captures the very heart of the struggle by Sabre to maintain control of the airline ticket distribution industry and is just one of many excerpts from internal company emails that came to light during the antitrust trial brought by American Airlines against Sabre in October 2012.2 A key factor that elicited such a strong comment was apparently Sabre’s view that AA [American] remains the one disruptive force in the [ticket distribution] industry”3 and that this ‘disruption’ was rooted in American’s desire to utilize alternative ticket distribution technology.4

Although the trial lasted only five days before the parties settled, the details that emerged in testimony and other documents shed an unprecedented, some would say shocking, light into the internal strategies and tactics of some of the most powerful companies in the airline ticket distribution industry. At the very least, the testimony and documents demonstrate an awareness of the dawning of a new age in distribution, a fear of what that new age might bring to those in power, and a desire to maintain the status quo—at all costs—for as long as possible.5 Read the rest of this entry »

© 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 »

Did you see it?  Last week there was a “leak” and The Beat got ahold of Sabre’s top secret plans for their future development around airline distribution, specifically as it relates to airline ancillary products and services.  You may remember a number of weeks ago Sabre filed comments with the Department of Transportation urging the Department to stop IATA’s NDC initiative.  A section of the Sabre filing contained information about Sabre’s future plans for airline distribution that would basically negate the need for NDC.  Unfortunately when the comment was first filed, Sabre redacted much of the information about their secret future plans.  Thus Sabre’s future development plans that would negate the need for a common airline connectivity XML messaging standard remained a secret… until last week.

We are now finally able to get a glimpse into the future vision of the great and all-powerful Sabre. Unveiled for all to see!  I couldn’t believe what I was reading…

Sabre’s first revealed “secret” was later this year it would activate its “next generation of present day seat maps,” enabling carriers to charge “varying fees for seats in the same cabin.”  OK, good idea as a number of airlines are already doing this on their web sites (and have been for some time), but hey, kudos for the attempt to catch up.  But is this a trade secret worth redacting?  I’m not so sure.  And lucky for Sabre, this technical capability is already being addressed in the IATA NDC schema and will have the desired effect of not only enabling airlines the ability to charge varying amounts for seats in the same cabin, but will also add the ability to dynamically adjust seat charges based on traveler status.  Might look something like this:

Seat_Prices-blur

Another Sabre “secret” was that they were going to come up with standard display icons so travel agency users could more easily identify and compare airline services offered.  I can only assume Sabre’s intention is to invent service icons like these icons that have been used by a number of airlines and technology companies for about a decade and have been used in our SPRK travel agency product since its inception.  Again, kudos for keeping pace, but is it worthy of a trade secret redaction?

My view is if you got it, flaunt it!

 

I reread Sabre’s DOT comment on IATA’s Resolution 787, and what I really think it boils down to is them saying there is no need for a new standard because they can already do everything the airlines are asking for! Seems like they believe the world revolves around them. What about all those other aggregators, GDSs, and airline distribution partners that would benefit from having an airline connectivity standard?

According to Sabre, it appears like the only thing airlines have to do is purchase (I’m assuming they won’t give it away for free) some route-based advertising in Sabre Red’s “Graphical PromoSpot” and boom—product differentiation completed. Don’t worry airlines, you can also get a Text PromoSpot for agents still using the cryptic screen. Funny thing is, we believe airlines want more than just highlighting amenities and services. It’s about transacting dynamic, personalized, and relevant offers at time of search and throughout the travel process, like many airlines already deliver on their website.

At any rate, Sabre sums up their position well here, “That assertion [Resolution 787] is that new technical standards, to be jointly agreed and jointly controlled by airlines under the auspices of IATA, are needed because, it is claimed, GDSs, such as Sabre, will not otherwise be able to support efforts by airlines to highlight their amenities and services and to make “personalized” offers to consumers. This assertion is not true.”[1] Read the rest of this entry »

I have now read in its entirety the Sabre comment filed with the DOT. Wow! Seventy-seven pages of Sabre showing PowerPoint slides and screenshots of what’s to come… at some point… in the future… eventually. The part I found the most interesting was —————redact————————, especially when they discussed the future development of —————————————redact————————. They have really nailed it because I would have thought that taking the approach of —————redact————————————– would have yielded a better return on their technology investment. But hey, good for them.

Well, since Sabre has clearly presented their technology and product plans for the future of new-world distribution technology, I feel compelled to do the same. So here it is, The Farelogix Technology and Product Strategy for the Future: We are mainly investing in —————redact———————— to the tune of $—————redact———–. This will also us to revolutionize the way the airline industry performs —————redact————————————————-. We will be incorporating new and advanced fusion-based accelerator ———————————————redact———————— which will yield a significant reduction in cost of operations for airlines and travel agencies and by utilizing —————redact———————— will generate transaction response times of less than 2 milliseconds. Now that is a strategy!

So, there it is. Clear as day… or at least clear as Sabre’s strategy.

As always, your comments welcome.

© HaywireMedia - Fotolia.com

© HaywireMedia – Fotolia.com

I started reading Sabre’s comment to the DOT regarding IATA’s Resolution 787 (NDC) on the airplane the other day.  It only took a few paragraphs for me to realize that their comment was not really about NDC, but rather a defensive commentary insisting they can—or will at some point in the future be able to—do everything when it comes to providing airlines with the distribution technology airlines and travel agencies desire.  OK, but “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

So Sabre, in its comment to DOT, rather than commenting on the merits or shortcomings of Resolution 787 like everyone else did, submitted a voluminous 77-page document outlining how they can—whoops, I mean, will at some point in the future be able to—do everything the airlines, travel agencies, corporations, and consumers want. It makes me think of petulant 5-year-olds arguing on the playground. “Can not!” “Can too!”

Much of their comment includes screenshots. Hey, I like pictures as much as the next guy, and we even submitted some pictures in our DOT comment, but in the end it is not about pictures or even demos.  It’s about real product capabilities and value creation. In their comment, Sabre referenced a demo they gave at the DOT’s Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection as proof that they already have all these great distribution capabilities. I was at that particular meeting at the DOT and witnessed the Sabre demo.  Now, I know Sabre likes to call Farelogix products that have been in production for years mock-ups, so I won’t use that term, but words like prototype, untested, and unproven did come to mind as I was viewing that Sabre demo in DC.  So, Sabre, I will take your assertions with a grain of salt—a big, giant saltlick-sized grain of salt. Read the rest of this entry »

© 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…

As many of you may know, we held a media day event down here in Miami a few weeks back. A bunch of media turned out, and overall I felt like the event was a success. A few days later, we started reading the coverage of our event, and it was all pretty positive, including a piece written by Cranky Flier. He even titled the piece Farelogix Shows How Booking a Flight Should Work, and It’s Excellent.

Well, somewhere in a lair in Texas, a beast was roused. Two days later, Cranky Flier started off an unrelated post saying that shortly after his previous post ran, he received a note from Sabre stating that, “Much of what was ‘mocked up’ by Farelogix is already being done today by Sabre.”

What?! How did they know?!  Who told them?! I sure hope they don’t tell all our airline customers that all those tickets and ancillary services we help them sell to consumers are just “mocked up.”

Seriously, ”mocked up?” Not digitally enhanced? Not graphically engineered? Not dynamically visually generated? Nope, just “mocked up!” What are they, Mad Men?

Oh yeah, I forgot…

Anyway, I remember being at all of our media day events, and for the life of me I do not remember anyone from Sabre being there. Now, certainly there could have been an imposter. Maybe someone from Sabre was wearing a very convincing mask of one of the reporters, but I just don’t think so.

Ok, so Sabre was not at the event and did not see any of the production-proven technology we presented, yet they managed to publicly confirm to the media, some of whom were actually at the event and saw first-hand what we presented, that what we did was “mocked up.” Sure… For the record, all of what we showed was live and most of it is in production. In fact, if anyone wants to swing by our office, we’ll happily show you how live it is.

All I can say is that I remember a day not so long ago when Farelogix was saying, “Hey, we can do everything for airlines the GDS do.” My, my how the tables have turned.

As always, your comments are welcome.