Technology 3-31-2006

From the GDS Frontline

By: J.L. Erickson

Accelerating already fast-paced competition in the global distribution landscape, two traditionally competitive legacy GDS announced a deal to cooperate on airline fare access even as a global airline alliance pushed in a new direction with plans to launch an alternative distribution system later this year.

While the long-term impact of the recent announcements will take months to become clear, they are among the most significant movements so far in the evolution of travel distribution channels and raise the stakes for agencies vying to map a technology future.

Under pressure from airlines to cut contract costs and agencies to boost content, traditional GDS have moved to broaden offerings as new travel distributors also seek a piece of the market. In a move that could serve to ease the pressure, Sabre Holdings and Amadeus have partnered to provide agents essentially back-up booking ability across the two GDS for airlines that choose not to participate in one of the companies’ systems.

Sabre said the move does not affect its ongoing contract talks with airlines it also announced a new multi-year full content agreement with KLM Royal Dutch Airline but is designed to avoid service disruptions and ensure agents broad access to content.

But even as the traditionally competitive GDS announced the deal, Star Alliance announced that through partnerships with Farelogix and Lufthansa Systems, it plans this year to create and launch in Europe an alternative distribution channel to cut costs (see Q&A, right).

The new Alternative Content Access Platform will be designed to work independently or with agencies’ current operating systems.

“Our solid knowledge of core airline systems and the ability to connect these systems flexibly to any booking platform or distribution channel allows us to play a key role in shaping the ACAP platform of Star Alliance,” said Anselm Eggert, senior vice president, Passenger Airline Solutions, Lufthansa Systems.

Q&A: James Davidson, President and CEO, Farelogix Inc.


Seeking to cut global distribution system costs, Star Alliance announced last month that it is partnering with Farelogix Inc. and Lufthansa Systems to debut an alternative distribution channel later this year.

Jim Davidson, president and CEO of Farelogix Inc., which has been working with Lufthansa since last fall, spoke with TravelAge West about the announcement and the changing GDS landscape.

Q:What is the time frame for the rollout of the Alternative Content Access Platform?
A: Actually now we have to work with all the different airlines to develop it so it will depend on their readiness to do the connections. It also takes testing and will depend on market readiness to respond. But I suspect you could see some changes in the second half of this year.

Q:How does Farelogix fit into the GDS landscape?
A: We began working with Lufthansa last fall and already work with a variety of airlines in North America including Continental, Delta and Northwest, as well as travel agencies and suppliers, including Navigant and Globus and Cosmos. Now we’re aiming global. We cover the world in technology and support. We’re a relatively small company in North America but now with Lufthansa and Star Alliance we’ll have presence [internationally].

Q:How would you address the view that alternative distribution channels are contributing to the fragmentation of travel distribution?
A: Fragmentation is a way of life. The GDS already offer different content among them, and suppliers use various distribution channels already. The industry always will be fragmented. The key for this industry, in particular, is to embrace the technology to make it work on both the supply and sell sides.

Q:What thoughts do you have for agencies faced with a growing number of channel options?
A: The key is to get under the rhetoric and see what people have. That’s the real test, to get through the hype. Tell Brand A, B, C, ‘You come in here and tell me how to do things and I’ll judge from there.’ Agencies are not buying bad technology. We’re finding we have to do much more work in every sell. Agencies are increasingly savvy and that’s what they need to be.

Cruise Engine

Trisept Solutions, creator of VAX VacationAccess, recently unveiled VAX VacationAccess Cruise, aggregating 10 leading cruise lines into a single booking engine allowing agents to book sailings up to 18 months in advance and add air as an option.

Agents also can e-mail or print itineraries and ship content, including detailed deck plans and cabin photos to their clients. Also, an agency’s preferred rates and commissions pass through from the cruise vendor based on the agency’s office ID.

Cruise lines available on VAX VacationAccess Cruise include Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Windstar Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn.


SITA has launched AgentSelect, an end-to-end solution for agencies, tour operators and travel management companies to help organizations migrate from legacy networks to lower-cost IP networks.

Pricing is subscription-based with a fixed monthly fee offered on a lease contract that flexes based on customer need and offers 24-7 customer service.

The technology package offers low-cost, business-grade Internet services in over 120 countries including initial set-up and ongoing network management; an option to pre-install SITA’s multi-host software designed specifically to allow access to GDS; and a full XP Professional platform for end-user’s requiring access to office applications such as the Microsoft Office suite.

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