Airlines for America, a group representing major airlines in the U.S., is apparently worried that the U.S. Department of Transportation is going to mandate that airlines distribute their fares and other services through global distribution systems (GDSs).
Right now, there is no such mandate. Most airlines have been selling their fares through the GDSs for the past half century; the GDSs have long been the marketplace for shopping and buying airfares. Many airlines are also selling their tickets through direct channels. They’re in the GDSs by choice -- although they complain about working with GDSs a lot, as evidenced by the ongoing content battles between airlines and the GDSs.
But now airlines are charging for a broad range of ancillary fees -- fees for checked baggage, extra legroom, and a plethora of other options, some new, some once included in the price of an airline ticket. A lot of these are not in the GDSs, which is a problem for travel agencies, be they traditional, corporate travel management companies or online travel agencies. It means that customers who buy airline tickets from them have to book their ticket in one place but pay for their checked bag or other additional services on the airline’s website or when they check in.
A group called the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is lobbying to have all of those ancillary fees in the GDSs along with the fares. The DOT has said it will release a proposed rule dealing with this issue in August. The A4A on Friday publicized a letter it sent to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, lobbying against any mandate that would force airlines to distribute all content and service through the GDS. The letter isn’t clear if it’s about opposing having to include ancillary fees in any of the optional GDS filings airlines make, or if it’s implying that there is a move afoot to require airlines to be in the GDSs, rather that having it remain the airline’s choice, as it is today.
Any airline in the GDS today is there by choice. And one major group lobbying to have ancillary fee information available in the GDSs isn’t asking the DOT to mandate that airlines participate in the GDSs. They’re just saying, if an airline decides to put its fares in the GDS, it should put information about other products it offers along with those fares in the GDSs as well.
“We say, once you make that choice, you shouldn’t be able to withhold the ancillary fees,” said Paul Ruden, senior vice president of legal and industry affairsfor ASTA, one of the members of the coalition, which has more than 350 members, including OTAs, corporate travel management companies, travel organizations, travel agencies, technology companies and others. “If consumers, want to do business with a third party, they will want to do the whole transaction there, they shouldn’t have to divide into two transactions,” he said.