The Star Alliances request for information titled Alternative Content Access Platform was sent to new-entrant and traditional GDSs alike.

The RFI, the first step in the alliances quest to establish a unified approach to distribution, is basically asking for GDS functionality at GNE pricing, according to a consultant who was asked to read it. Its supposed to be an RFI, but it looks like a GDS spec, said the consultant, who asked not to be identified.

It is a shame that they havent looked at the possibilities of creating a better distribution system rather than asking for replicating the same antiquated GDS methodology, the consultant said.

The alliance said in June that it had initiated a major cost-reduction effort by seeking other distribution channels to the current GDS and that the GDS new entrants, or GNEs, were becoming real alternatives.

It said Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines were at the forefront of this initiative on behalf of all member carriers, which also include Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, BMI, LOT, Spanair, TAP, Thai Airways, US Airways and Varig.

Last month, at the National Business Travel Associations annual conference, a Star Alliance spokesman confirmed that RFIs had been sent to at least three GNEs several weeks ago and expected replies by the end of September.

The consultant who read the RFI said its requirements will be difficult for the GNEs to meet at this point. But there are some pieces that even certain traditional GDSs may not be able to support, he said.

For example, not all GDSs can take the same feeds from all the fare providers at the same frequency, he said. The key charging principles identified in the RFI are firm in the alliances goal to slash costs:

· No incentives shall be paid or credits given to third parties of any kind whoever or however they are distributed.

· No annual or monthly minimum commitments in terms of cash or volume will be accepted.

· Providers should supply menu pricing for incremental agency services.

· Airlines shall not be charged for non-productive [e.g., passive segment] transactions of any type.