Sabre downgrades AA flights in its displays

GDS says Direct Connect is “attempt to impose costly, unproven and unnecessary system”

Sabre has joined the battle against American Airlines’ efforts to impose its ‘Direct Connect’ strategy. The GDS has downgraded information on the airline in most of its displays – though not those in the European Union due to the EU’s different GDS regulations – and has eliminated discounts on booking fees. “We have provided AA notice that accelerates the termination date of our current agreement to the extent possible, culminating in early August,” reads a message from Sabre to its subscribers posted this morning.

“We are seeking a new agreement with AA that provides our customers long-term assurances of efficient comparison shopping.” The letter advises agents that “AA’s stated plans regarding its Direct Connect strategy, backed up by its recent actions, are an attempt to impose a costly, unproven and unnecessary system that would make it harder and more costly for you to operate your business.” American Airlines responded to Sabre’s move during the afternoon: “Sabre has taken a set of punitive actions against the airline and its customers, despite the fact that American has met all its obligations and continues to work in good faith with Sabre.

The actions, which include biasing its shopping displays, are anti-consumer, anti-competitive and harmful to its subscribing agents.” The chairman of the Business Travel Coalition commented that Sabre’s decision underlines that the battle which began with AA’s initial assault on Orbitz was not part of a conflict with online travel agencies but “an all-out war for the future of both airline and all travel distribution in the US and around the world.” American won a court decision against Orbitz towards the end of December.

It then removed its fares from the agency saying that Orbitz’s distribution technology was inefficient and outdated. Expedia removed AA’s fares altogether on January 1, saying that the airline’s direct-connect distribution strategy was “anti-consumer and anti-choice.”

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