A rather big and messy storm of a story has taken another twist in Europe after IATA was found in breach of flight data regulations on its PaxIS product.
The global airline representative body was informed by the European Commission on November 25 (but details and confirmation have only emerged this week) that it had breached the CRS Code of Conduct and all European travel agent data must be removed from the PaxIS tool.
PaxIS is a product developed by IATA to provide airline passenger market intelligence and real-time data, covering ticket information on over 400 airlines and captured using the the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP).
Included in the data is passenger and ticket information from agencies such as fare value, point of origin, connection and destination airport, category or class or seat, etc.
The system, however, rivals the existing MIDT (Marketing Information Data Transfer) platform used by the GDSs, a tool which essentially does the same thing, allowing for in-depth forecasting, planning and revenue management and, once again, uses data from agents.
But herein lies the problem and source of the latest shenanigans.
MIDT, by virtue of it being run by the GDSs, has always come under the auspices of the European Code of Conduct which regulates the role and operations of Amadeus, Travelport and Sabre. This meant that agencies needed to give the GDSs permission to use the data within the system.
IATA did not have to ask permission when it launched PaxIS, namely because it isn't a GDS and is using the data from within its own BSP system.
The European Commission has now decided otherwise.
The latest twist, however, ends (for the time beging) what has been a two-year investigation by European officials into whether PaxIS (and, by extension, IATA) should be included in the GDS Code of Conduct, a probe which started in June 2009 when the GDS formed a joint complaint, with an additional complaint from some agencies in September 2009.
Following the EC decision in November, IATA has been told to remove data relating to all passengers from European travel agents.
IATA still claims the volume of tickets in the PaxIS database will not be reduced and geographical identification of European ticket sales will remain in the system. The detailed passenger information will be out.
An official says:
"We continue to believe that the European CRS Code of Conduct should not apply to IATA (a trade association) or to its PaxIS product (which derives its data through the BSP system).
"IATA is now working with the European Commission to clarify IATA’s views. Obviously, IATA will comply with all regulations in the jurisdictions within which it operates. IATA is acting in good faith and currently exploring what steps need to be taken for compliance in the short-term.
"In the longer-term we are looking to solutions that will allow PaxIS to be restored to its full capability."
And, perhaps, most telling:
"IATA remains committed to providing a competitive option to MIDT data so that the market for such products is not monopolized by GDSs."
Squabbles between IATA and the GDSs over PaxIS are not exclusive to Europe, with Sabre and IATA locking horns in the courts in recent years and Amadeus appearing before an International Chamber of Commerce tribunal and successfully extracting its own ticketing data from PaxIS.
The European Code of Conduct element to the wider PaxIS story comes as European officials debate whether to overhaul the Code of Conduct in 2012.
The GDSs have so far declined to comment.
NB:Image via Shutterstock.