The noise around alternate distribution is getting louder. The United Airlines meeting last week has triggered a new urgency to look at new distribution alternatives, but many TMCs face significant challenges in this march toward GDS bypass. There are a number of issues this trend has surfaced:
(1) One crucial question is whether these new platforms from ITA Software, G2Switchworks and Farelogix can provide the same productivity achieved through current GDS script enabled “green screens”. TMCs cannot afford to add new costs to their operations by embracing point and click interfaces that traditional agents may reject. I have been involved with many travel agent point of sale (POS) projects over the years and I have found that customization is generally required to meet specific agency requirements.
(2) Even with the $5 payment offered by UA and others, the loss of GDS revenue to TMCs could significantly impact their bottom line.
A more realistic view is a gradual adoption of these tools, targeting specific corporate accounts and agents.
One point not raised by the UA meeting is the need for TMCs to embrace multi-source content that includes multi-GDS connectivity. The impact of deregulation is just beginning to be felt and even those agencies that reject UA’s offer will need to insure that their agents are accessing total content. Given current market uncertainties, the ability for a TMC to access all four GDSs may become a real business need in the very near term.