GDS companies and their representative associations are lashing out at IATA for spreading what they call “false representations and mischaracterizations” in an article in the IATA magazine, Airlines International.
A similar opinion piece by IATA director general Tony Tyler appeared in Air Transport World, a magazine for airline managers.
“Although GDSs have made an invaluable contribution to the industry and made global distribution possible, a GDS screen today looks much like a screen from the 1970s,” the Airlines International article states. “They are unable to handle the rapidly increasing range of product offerings from airlines.”
GDSs a bottleneck?
The article, titled “Distribution – Sum of the Parts,” points out that airlines want to distribute differentiated ancillary products and services to customers. It quotes former Air Canada chief executive Montie Brewer, a long-time critic of GDSs and a proponent of direct connections between airlines and travel management companies:
“However, we see a bottleneck in getting the two parties — customers and airlines — together. There is a real challenge in getting these new products and services to the customers in the way they now want to purchase them while legacy carriers are still using the old structures and networks they relied on in the past.”
Associations fire back
In response, the Interactive Travel Services Association (ITSA) and the European Technology & Travel Services Association (ETTSA) sent a joint letter to Tyler, saying, “We find it unacceptable that the GDS distribution channel is being called outdated when it is that same GDS channel that is today the most cost-effective tool for buyers of business travel to manage the complexity of supply, and in fact many airlines utilize the technology and products of the GDSs to run their websites.”
The letter was signed by Christoph Klenner, secretary general of ETTSA, and Joe Rubin, president of ITSA. Both organizations represent GDS companies and online travel agencies.
In a separate letter to Tyler, Chris Kroeger, senior vice president of Sabre Travel Network, addressed the claim that GDS technology is old and outdated.
“Speaking for Sabre, nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “Our technology environment includes over 8,000 open system servers with an average age of less than three years, processing over a billion web-service and XML transactions a day with sub-second response time.”
As for the “green screen,” Kroeger said, the Sabre Red Workspace, Sabre’s standard desktop for travel agencies, is “a modern, graphical-enabled agent interface built on the same, open source Eclipse Rich Client platform used by eBay and NASA.”