Just when you thought direct-connect distribution from American Airlines, which is focusing on Chapter 11 reorganization, is dead in the water, there are signs of life.
Not signs of thriving life, but a heartbeat, at least.
There are three timely developments:
- American Airlines and Tourico Holidays announced that the global wholesaler has implemented American Airlines Direct Connect and accesses -- without global distribution system intervention -- the airline's net-rate pricing, including sales and promotions. Tourico gets the ability to offer American's Preferred Seats and its looming Main Cabin Extras, and confirms it will offer Preferred Seats "in the near future."
- Priceline and Vegas.com, both of which also use American Airlines Direct Connect, haven't offered any of the airline's ancillary services until now, but are believed to be close to serving them up to consumers. No online travel agencies currently offer Preferred Seats to consumers so this would give the pair a differentiator.
- All signs point to Amadeus technology being the missing link -- so to speak -- that would tie in Expedia.com and American Airlines Direct Connect. When American Airlines' flights returned to Expedia.com last year, both parties pledged to implement AA Direct Connect using "GDS aggregation technology." A spokesperson for American Airlines says he's "happy" with the progress being made toward that goal which, when realized, would replace a traditional GDS connection between American Airlines and Expedia.
Tourico Holidays currently is taking advantage of the American Airlines on TouricoHolidays.com and 1MinuteBooking.com
, a site for travel agents in North America.
"Tourico Holidays wanted to supplement our existing product lines with great air prices on American Airlines," says Tourico marketing director Lauren Volcheff. "This direct-connect enables us to do that with great efficiency."
Tourico gets net-fare pricing for American through the direct-connect, marks it up and passes "the majority of the savings onto our clients," Volcheff says.
The airline and Tourico, which operates in more than 100 countries, also say that the direct-connect provides the ability to make personalized offers based on the client.
On the Expedia-American Airlines issue, implementation of the promised direct-connect would be a blow to Sabre, Expedia's primary GDS, and also Travelport, both of which which have vociferously fought the airline's direct-connect initiative.
With implementation, two of the five major US OTAs would be using American Airlines direct-connect.
There is no danger in the short-term, however, that American Airlines direct-connect will be over-running the travel industry.
A spokesperson for American Airlines acknowledges that implementation with travel management companies, a key distribution channel, "has been slow."