Airline Distribution Soap Opera

If you like soap operas, you’ll love watching the battles between the major U.S. airlines and their creations, the GDSs. “It’s the house the airlines built,” says Bob Offutt, senior technology analyst with PhoCusWright. And in the past six months, what was already a contentious relationship has become a litigious one with three lawsuits involving airlines and GDSs. Basically, if the airlines and the GDSs were families, you wouldn’t want to spend Thanksgiving with them – unless you had a large bottle of Jim Beam to get you through the meal.

As is often the case in battling families, it’s a fight about money. In this instance, it’s a wrestling match over who is going to pay the cost of distribution as the airline distribution model evolves. American Airlines singlehandedly had been waging a battle for direct connections, which it says would save it money and let it do much more targeted marketing to its customers. It looked like a lonely battle, however, mainly because travel management companies (TMCs) stood united against it. Continue reading

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