Since I last posted about the battle between American Airlines and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), an even bigger player entered the mix. Sabre, the global distribution system (GDS) birth child of American in the 1960s, initially downgraded American’s flights in their displays and eliminated discounts to the carrier last week, but American won an injunction in court to postpone that disruption.
While they aren’t directly naming and claiming allegiance with the OTA fight, Sabre is critical of American’s Direct Connect technology and also claims they are withholding information necessary to pass through to consumers. Their contract with American expires in September, and before the court stopped them, had begun altering American’s availability displays in the system and eliminated American’s booking fee discount.
The situation with Orbitz and Expedia seemed to be more of an annoyance for American, and they simply issued the standard FAQ to satisfy public concern over the news arriving in the mainstream. They even went so far as to directly include the issue on Internet advertisements. Yes, they do have the responsibility to respond and issue statements and releases, but I guess I’m most amazed at the continued spin. And not just from American.
The heart of the matter is the fact that the industry is changing. The GDSs are threatened by new technology that will make them obsolete, and American just happens to be the first carrier to substantially challenge that history. Also, Sabre is the GDS market-leader around the world, and claims 31.5% of the market share here in the United States according to one recent survey. Likely too large of an impact to sales, the entrance of Sabre to the distribution battle got American running to the courts.
While I suppose this remains a relative behind-the-scenes battle to most, I am particularly fascinated with it and will continue to post developments in the coming days and weeks.