GDSs Out for Delta Postings

Shift will intensify carrier’s focus on the Internet

By: Jerry Chandler

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 distribution investment.

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 (, 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 deal.

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 each other.

“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 dialogue.”

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 policy changes.

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.”


What’s so wondrous about getting policy updates via the Web? Delta spokesperson Janis Logue insisted there are real benefits.

“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 information.

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 and entering their ARC or IATA numbers.

Jerry Chandler