The latest Farelogix Ask the Question video says airline optional services are good, that transparency issues are overblown and that the issues involved come down to the fact that the global distribution systems have declined to modernize.
Here's Ask the Question 6:
In the YouTube video, the Jim Davidson bobblehead dismisses consumer concerns about a lack of fee transparency, calling it a myth, and applauds airlines for the strides they've made in displaying optional services on their websites.
All of that commotion in Washington, D.C., over a Dept. of Transportation rule to require airlines to display and distribute optional services?
From Ask the Question 6, you'd think the DOT was making something out of nothing.
The endorsement of optional services as a wonderful development gives short shrift to developments such as Continental's announcement this week that it will begin charging passengers for meals in coach, for instance.
Following Davidson's logic, this development should be viewed as a positive thing because now travelers can decide on their own whether or not they'd like to eat during their travels.
Bag fees that used to be included in the fare? Oh, bring them on and the more the merrier, goes the thinking.
Davidson then slips in a plug for the Farelogix Sprk desktop and shows examples of how travel agents can hook up to it and see transparent displays of Continental and American optional services.
These are optional services, of course, that travel agents connected to Amadeus, Travelport GDS and Sabre Travel Network can't view on their desktops because most airlines aren't distributing them through the GDSs.
The real issue, Davidson says, is fee transparency for travel agents and the fact that the GDSs have decided not to modernize to handle it.
There definitely is some truth to this because the GDSs to some extent are protecting their substantial investments in older, EDIFACT messaging, although they are capable of and do work with XML.
A key bone of contention is whether the GDSs have the merchandising engines capable of marketing to travelers in the almost one-on-one way that some airlines desire.
But, in addition to the very real technological issues involved, the current standoff between airlines and GDSs over optional services has much to do with commercial negotiations and a game-changing power struggle over who will control efforts to merchandise to airline passengers.
This topic would be great fodder for Ask the Question 7.
But, will it be addressed?