Sabre's chief executive called on the U.S. Transporation Dept. "to advocate and even mandate" that airline ancillary services be available in all distribution channels, including GDSs.
Addressing the National Business Travel Association conference in Houston as he was introducing former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Sabre chairman and CEO Sam Gilliland noted that a provision in the pending FAA Reauthorization Act would require airlines to disclose fees for unbundled services on their own websites as well as in the GDSs.
Separately, Gilliland said, the DOT is taking comments on whether a new rule should require such steps toward fee transparency.
Sabre has teamed with the other major GDSs, travel management companies, online travel agencies and a few airlines to develop new XML standards for ancillary services distribution, Gilliland said.
"But in order for this whole process to remain transparent, you need to be very clear with your suppliers about making these services available through your preferred channels, which in the vast majority of cases are the GDS and travel management companies," Gilliland told the NBTA audience.
For consumers, this would mean that their travel agencies would be able to book the same unbundled services that lots of airlines offer exclusively on their websites or over the phone.
Gilliland's call for the DOT to mandate that ancillary services be distributed in the GDS channel presumably found a welcome audience among TMCs and corporations in attendance, but it likely doesn't sit well with some airlines.
Apart from it internal channels, American Airlines, for instance, was slated last month to begin distributing its ancillary services exclusively through AA Direct Connect via subcontractor Farelogix. American says the GDSs would have to come to terms with the airline during 2011 negotiations to be able to access these ancillary services, and it's American's position that the GDSs would have to connect to Farelogix to do so.
And, while the GDSs are developing their own XML standards for ancillary services, rival standards may be emerging from the newly formed and airline-controlled Open Axis Group. The GDSs are in the midst of deciding how to relate to the new group.
Gilliland also took a swipe at the airlines' current assortment of ancillary services, although he said, "Now, I'm not here to criticize airlines for adding fees."
He noted that unbundling has enabled airlines to increase traveler choice and drive incremental revenue, "although I will say most choices offered these days seem only to allow travelers to buy themselves out of an otherwise bad customer experience."
In other developments, Gilliland expressed disappointment about the U.S. Congress's delay in reauthorizing the FAA Reorganization Act, which contains a provision to speed the development of Next Gen Air Traffic Control.
"When fully operational, Next Gen ATC is estimated to decrease airline fuel consumption in the U.S. by 16% through more efficient routing of aircraft," Gilliland said. "This is an enormous savings."