THE ASH CLOUD, STRIKES and the whimpering economic recovery meant there was no shortage of copy for us hacks last year. The threat of industrial action still lingers, as the Unite union is due to ballot its British Airways cabin crew members early this month, with Easter earmarked as the likely strike period. But with the new annum comes a fresh set of challenges for corporate travel, and our journalists have their pencils sharpened. Gathering momentum, already, are concerns about air fare distribution costs.
As we went to press, American Airlines (AA) was locked in a legal dispute with travel technology firm Travelport, owner of the Galileo and Worldspan global distribution systems (GDSs – the booking systems used by most travel management companies in the UK and Ireland) about the cost of selling seats on planes. Travelport accuses AA of breaching a full-content agreement, and trying to push bookers towards its Direct Connect booking technology, while AA claims the GDS charges are so excessive that it is being forced to levy a surcharge on all of Travelport’s non-US and non-Caribbean subscribers to mitigate the cost.
BA calls the GDSs “quasi-monopolies”, and fully supports AA in the dispute. And if the US airline comes out on top, it could lead to the break-up of the distribution model as we know it. Other airlines will be watching closely.
Whatever the outcome, TMCs and corporates in our region are naturally worried about who will absorb the cost. And inevitably, it’ll be the end user.
martin ferguson, editor