Sabre Travel Network president John Stow spelled out some of the key elements of his company's new deals at the recent TravelCom conference in New York: full content; parity with other vendors; the flexibility for agents to select their product platform; the ability to use agency incentives when and where they are appropriate, and protection from certain airline service fees.
Stow spoke just a few days before Sabre announced it had signed Delta Air Lines to a seven-year full-content agreement, exceeding the five-year standard that has emerged in the current round of GDS negotiations.
Delta also signed a new marketing agreement with Travelocity and a participation agreement with Travelocity's Site59 unit.
Sabre also signed a five-year agreement with United Airlines. United signed a "concurrent" five-year agreement with Travelocity and a "long-term" contract with Site59. United now has agreements with all four GDS companies. Galileo International, meanwhile, signed US Airways to a five-year, full-content contract.
At the TravelCom conference, Christopher Phillips, Delta's director of business development and strategic planning, said Delta has "gone live" via G2 SwitchWorks with a large travel management company.
During a panel discussion of distribution issues, Phillips said he regretted the hype that was generated when United famously introduced the "GDS new entrants" to travel management companies in late 2004. "They were not ready for prime time," he said. The premature hoopla made G2 "look bad." But there have been "significant enhancements" to G2's product since then, he said.
Meanwhile, Worldspan still has not disclosed the nature of the "new products" it plans to introduce to the marketplace.
"Rumors abound," said Peter von Moltke, senior vice president of Amadeus North America's Airline Business Group, who also participated in the distribution panel. Most center on "opt-in, opt-out" models, he said.
Von Moltke took note of the diversification going on in the GDS industry. "Some are moving into the retail side, some are becoming technology providers." In an apparent reference to Worldspan, he said, "Some are seemingly trying to make a buck by making deals left and right that make the airlines very happy."
American and Continental are among those "happy" airlines and have praised, but not disclosed, Worldspan's approach. They also have been the most vocal carriers in their opposition to the deal struck by Sabre and Amadeus that would provide access to a carrier's inventory through one GDS if the carrier dropped out of the other.