Sean Menke, Sabre
"We are taking a stand against this military conflict. We are complying, and will continue to comply, with sanctions imposed against Russia."
Quote from Sean Menke, CEO at Sabre, in a story on PhocusWire this week about the removal of Aeroflot fares from global distribution systems.
Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered by PhocusWire that week.
Until just over a week ago, Russia was fertile ground for travel technology companies to operate in as they attempt to expand their services and tools.
The three main global distribution systems all had third-party ticket booking agreements with state-owned Aeroflot, as well as other private carriers such as Ural and S7.
Some would have other services that they offered to Russia-based travel brands and, as Amadeus hinted at in a statement this week, other commercial projects are also in the planning phase.
The invasion by Russian forces into Ukraine last week has geopolitical, social, cultural and economic consequences that are reverberating around the world.
Most importantly, humanitarian issues (refugees, safety of civilians that are still in the country) are paramount, with governments and companies mobilizing varying degrees of sanctions and assistance to attempt to halt military action and help Ukrainian citizens on the ground.
The three GDSs pulled Aeroflot's fares from their platforms in the middle of this week, six days after many countries had already banned the arrival of Russia-based aircraft to their airports and from their wider airspaces.
Consumer-facing brands such as Expedia and Airbnb have also curtailed services in Russia and Belarus (the latter brand, in a smart move, is allowing consumers to book rooms and properties in Ukraine so that the hosts still receive some money even though the stay would not be used).
This move is an obvious one to have taken but Sabre, as host of Aeroflot's passenger service system (reservations, check-in and departure control), has not taken the final step to pull the plug on such a critical platform for operations.
Restricting third-party sales of tickets from agencies and other booking services for the carrier might dent the airline financially but it is still operating, mostly in its domestic market and to Russia-friendly countries such as Belarus.
The decision not to cut Aeroflot's connection to the SabreSonic system has drawn criticism even from its own customers.
The CEO of Scottish airline Loganair, Jonathan Hinkles, wrote on LinkedIn: "If Sabre really wanted to take decisive action, it would have terminated the PSS agreement. In my view, they've completely half-arsed this at a time when half-measures just are not adequate.
"On the one hand, they're earning income from Aeroflot and on the other hand, giving money to the Polish Red Cross. That doesn't sit comfortably with me."
Sabre, presumably, weighed up the consquences and requirements needed to switch off Aeroflot's PSS - a move, which some argue would've essentially grounded the Russian goverment majority-owned airline.
The company has yet to explain why the SabreSonic system remains operational, so it's purely speculation at this stage.
There may be commercial or contractual grounds ("who cares?" some may say), or it might be a purely technical reason that is in play. It can often take months to get an airline switched over to a new PSS, so perhaps the reverse is not so simple to do.
Perhaps there is a safety or passenger security consideration that has come into Sabre's thinking.
Whatever the rationale behind the decision, Sabre has made a calculated move that it will have to face head-on from the industry and its partners, or change in the coming days and weeks.
Conflicts are when people, governments and companies often try to come together for the sake of a common good (as they have during the COVID-19 pandemic) and take action to help save lives and curtail violence.
There will be many who argue that, as numerous measures have been put in place to restrict operations on Russian financial institutions or companies alongside other sanctions - in a bid to put a stranglehold on the country's economy - both a symbolic and potentially crippling further step could've have been the least that Sabre could do.
PhocusWire's editorials examine a trend or development highlighted in an article during the week.