While remaining critical of GDSs, IATA director general Tony Tyler sounded a somewhat less combative tone toward “our global distribution system partners” during his keynote speech at the IATA annual general meeting in Beijing.
IATA has in recent years relegated GDS companies to its “wall of shame.” Giovanni Bisignani, who retired as director general last year after 10 years in the post, made the GDS industry a frequent target of his famous “Basta!” moments over segment fees.
More recently, Tyler has excoriated GDS companies for what he called a failure to meet the changing needs of airlines as they adopt new merchandising methods.
Tyler said GDSs are partners…
But although he reiterated that view in his speech, Tyler also spoke of partnership.
“Our global distribution system partners help us to sell 60% of our tickets,” he said. “Beginning four decades ago, when these systems were created, their cutting-edge technology expanded our distribution horizons.”
…But are blocking innovation
But, he said, “XML standards and customer-friendly interfaces are the new cutting edge, facilitating revolutions in how the world does business. Airlines are missing out because GDSs, which are built on operating systems dating from the 1970s, have not been able to facilitate innovation like we have seen in other industries.”
Tyler said multimillion dollar airline product investments “cannot break free of product descriptions limited to booking classes like F, C, or Y and their derivatives. And personalized offers based on availability, customer needs, preferences or histories are effectively impractical.”
IATA working on new distribution standards
IATA is working on new distribution standards to enable airline product differentiation, he said.
Those standards are based on XML messaging schema adopted as “standard” by Open AXIS, the U.S. organization that promotes XML as the ideal technology connection linking airlines with distributors. The Open AXIS messages were in turn donated by Farelogix, the company that developed American Airlines’ Direct Connect technology.
Tyler said IATA will define the foundation standard this year. “And I am confident that the GDSs will join as partners because progress cannot wait,” he added.