Open AXIS board rejects dedicated seat for GDSsNewsBy Dennis Schaal | September 22, 2010Share This article was originally published on The Open AXIS Group board rejected a move to offer the GDSs a dedicated board seat that would rotate among them periodically.Open AXIS Group Executive Director Jim Young, who outlined the decision to Travelport GDS , Amadeus and Sabre representatives in a conference call this afternoon, says the move would have required a change in the standard body's board structure and bylaws.The board includes founding airlines Air Canada, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways, as well as founding allied member ATPCO.There is room, under the bylaws, for one more allied member on the board, and Young says he invited the GDSs to join Open AXIS Group and vie for the open slot, as any allied member can.Young said he would love to have a GDS representative on the board, but board members decided they wouldn't create a different membership category and change bylaws to accommodate the GDSs.He argued that a board seat isn't the end-all and be-all, noting that most of the action will take place at the group's Contributor Council level, and workgroups will flow out of the council.Young said the GDSs indicated during the conference call that they would mull whether to join Open AXIS, and he urged them to decide quickly so the group can get on with its work."We will move forward whether the GDSs will move forward or not," Young said.One issue that also came up during the call, which an ATPCO representative also participated in, was whether Open AXIS Group will promote a form of GDS bypass.For example, American Airlines, an Open AXIS founder, is soliciting travel agencies to participate in AA Direct Connect.By direct-connect, American means GDSs would have to hook up to American Airlines' subcontractor Farelogix or to another approved third-party distributor to access the airline's content.There would be no direct-connect between American and the GDSs, and that's a sticking point for at least some of the GDSs.UPDATE: American Airlines states the airline licensed Farelogix technology to serve as American's direct connect, and "it is still as much a part of our internal systems architecture as any other software that we license from third parties.""Farelogix does not distribute content on American’s behalf," the airline states. "They provide technology that American uses distribute to travel agencies and/or their technology providers."Young said he told the GDSs during the call that American's approach is just one transaction model and that the new XML standards which Open AXIS will work on won't dictate how airlines and their distribution partners do business with one another.Before today's conference call, the GDSs and Open AXIS had been sparring behind the scenes over a relationship and one option under consideration would have been to give the GDSs a seat on the Open AXIS board. The seat would have periodically rotated among the GDSs."We are aware that a rotating GDS seat has been considered by Open AXIS and we would be open to this approach," said Fergal Kelly, Travelport's portfolio director, content, before the decision came down. "What's key for us is that all the necessary industry participants are able to actively engage in the debate on how products are distributed and sold across the channels."Kelly added: "We believe the GDSs have an important role to play in representing the distribution and buy side needs of the industry and this shouldn't be overlooked."The question of a GDS role in the Open AXIS Group may cut to the heart of what the new airline XML standards body is all about.Is Open AXIS, for instance, an airline-run group designed to develop XML standards for merchandising in a speedy fashion without all of the red tape that might be involved if the GDSs get brought into the inner sanctum?After all, Open AXIS stated it needed to form an airlines standards group because OpenTravel allegedly took too long to get anything done.With the option of having a dedicated GDS board seat in Open AXIS now rejected, it is possible that the GDSs will keep their distance from the organization, although none of the GDSs was immediately detailing next steps.Meanwhile, American Airlines, which indicated at a ProMedia conference in Chicago this week that no travel management companies have signed contracts for AA Direct Connect, argued earlier in the week that some travel agencies fear GDS "retribution" if they publicize enrolling.Asked about it, a Sabre spokeswoman says: "There would be no 'retribution.' It's their choice."But, Sabre believes American is going down an unwise path."Unfortunately, AA is attempting to create a different process that ignores what travel buyers need and disrupts the workflow efficiency they value, which would be completely counter to achieving rapid and broad distribution of its ancillary services," the Sabre spokeswoman says.Travel attorney Mark Pestronk says he doubts that GDSs would try to punish agencies if they sign up for AA Direct Connect.Pestronk says things usually only get nasty when agencies or corporations switch GDS providers."Sabre and Travelport seek retribution only when a competitor becomes the agency's primary system," Pestronk says. "Sabre and Travelport have no problem with agencies contracting with other vendors where the other vendors will be secondary or tertiary."-----Note: Kevin May contributed reporting to this story.