Travel agencies, distributors endorse standards, but only a few airlines followNewsBy Dennis Schaal | May 11, 2010Share This article was originally published on Distribution-wise, travel agencies and GDSs turned up the pressure.An array of online travel agencies, travel management companies and global distribution systems endorsed standards for airline merchandising, but what will be the impact considering only a few airlines signed-on?The alliance of OTAs, GDSs and TMCs says it supports industry-wide technology standards -- including Airline Tariff Publishing Co. optional services (OC) fare-filing capabilities and pending ARC Electronic Miscellaneous Documents (EMDs) for settlement purposes -- to enable shopping, booking, settlement and tracking of ancillary services.The group "also endorses the development of common messaging standards for direct API solutions for those airlines that wish to manage the ancillary data directly with a GDS enabling the easy and efficient shopping, selling, payment and reporting of ancillaries."This call for standards isn't that surprising because it conforms with previous statements by the Business Travel Coalition, the Interactive Travel Services Association and the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) that airlines' merchandising efforts show flow through the GDSs.Some airlines, including American Airlines and Air Canada, for example, have argued that the GDSs can't handle the merchandising of airlines' ancillary services in the manner that the airlines choose to market them.The following companies signed a statement in support of the ATPCO standards: American Express Business Travel, BCD Travel, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Despegar, Expedia, Egencia, HRG, Opodo, Orbitz, Orbitz for Business, Travelocity, Travelocity Business, Amadeus, Sabre Travel Network and Travelport. Priceline wasn't listed, but says it's "not opposed to this initiative."In addition, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, LAN and WestJet say they "support the development of this capability as an option [my italics] for distributing new products and services," according to the group's statement. Air New Zealand is said to be working on OC and EMD projects to support ancillary services.Several of the above airlines, including British Airways, Delta, LAN and WestJet have their internal reservations systems hosted by a GDS or they have contracted to do so.The group's statement can be seen as a preemptive strike against those carriers who are going ahead with plans to merchandise outside of the GDSs through distributors such as Farelogix and others.Cory Garner, American's director of merchandising strategy, confirmed the airline intends to pursue its initiatives by going direct to major travel agencies."We are supportive of standards and are pleased to see that there is industry interest in creating XML standards," Garner says.He adds:" American was among the first airlines to announce its intention to implement EMDs in conjunction with Farelogix and ARC. We are not using the ATPCO Optional Services product, but will instead make our optional services available to travel agencies via our Direct Connect XML API."Reacting to the group's statement, Farelogix CEO Jim Davidson says standards make sense for settlement, but don't resolve the issue of how the airlines choose to price and display their optional services."We believe this will impose unreasonable restrictions on what a travel suppler can offer, how it is priced, when and to whom it is offered, and how it is presented," Davidson says. "Put another way: the choice of how a travel supplier wants to differentiate its product and how its customers want to buy the product(s) should be a two-way collaboration, not a dictated process by the distribution medium."The signatories to the statement supporting standards see it differently.Ignacio Martos, CEO of Opodo states: "To agree on the use of common industry standards in the merchandising of ancillary products is a crucial development for the travel industry. We are proud to be part of a move which will ultimately enhance consumer protection and trust."