The airlines are producing more policy changes than ever these
days, and travel agents who aren’t up to speed on the latest
postings operate at their own peril inviting dreaded debit memos.
But the airlines have to pay to post critical changes on the GDS
systems, and they aren’t in the mood to pay for much of anything
anymore. Delta displayed its frugality when it decided to stop
putting policy changes on GDS DRS pages as of Jan. 1, 2003.
Although Delta’s move may appear nitpicky, it remains consistent
with the airlines’ contention that the Internet will be their main
Delta declined to say how much money the move will save,
according to spokesperson Janis Logue.
When ASTA officials got wind of Delta’s decision to ditch the
GDS as a posting portal, they were livid.
“We read it to mean they were just going to post the stuff on
their Web site,” said Paul Ruden, ASTA’s senior vice president for
legal and industry affairs.
That’s when a dialogue began with Delta the carrier that in 1995
first introduced travel agents to commission caps and cutbacks.
Ruden said ASTA told DL that travel agents hoped the airline would
not adopt a policy of “just dumping this stuff onto some other
location and telling agents, ‘Go find it.’
“The point we made is that you cannot just adopt another passive
approach to conveying this information,” Ruden said. “Delta came
back to us and said, ‘We’re going to reach out to agents.’”
Specifically, the carrier said it would promulgate policy
changes via GDS direct access to Delta’s internal system, including
the Web (www.delta.com/travel-agency), e-mail and fax.
“They will be posting on their own host system,” said John
Pittman, ASTA’s director of industry affairs. “Agents can access
that through a direct connection.”
Ruden indicated that Delta had planned to be proactive all
along, and that ASTA’s initial reaction was predicated on the
notion that policy-change communications would soon be a Web-only
Communication among carriers and the travel-agency community
have been less than ideal in recent years, a fact Ruden is quick to
concede. But that doesn’t mean ASTA and the airlines don’t talk to
“We have several special communications relationships that we
maintain through John [Pittman] that enable us, from time to time,
to communicate constructively,” Ruden said.
But, he cautioned, “Don’t get carried away with this notion of
While ASTA may not be involved in deep dialogue with Delta, it
does appear to somewhat grudgingly praise the carrier for adopting
a proactive, comprehensive approach to putting out the word on
Ruden said Continental and Northwest, like Delta, apprise agents
of policy changes via e-mail. Hoping that other carriers will
follow suit, he said, “It’s the only way to intelligently do this.
It will save a lot of trouble in the end.”
ONLINE TECHNOLOGY VS. GDS TECHNOLOGY
What’s so wondrous about getting policy updates via the Web?
Delta spokesperson Janis Logue insisted there are real
“The difference between online technology and GDS technology is
just immense,” she said. “With the GDS, you don’t have a search
tool. You have cumbersome entries.”
Another reason to use the carrier’s Online Agency Service
Center, she said, is that it’s a central, consistent source of
The Online Agency Service Center has been up and running for the
past two and one-half years. Travel agents can gain access by
visiting www.delta.com/travel-agency and entering their ARC or IATA