"We're very excited about this," Chacko told TTU. "We plan to focus on developing the right merchandise tools for airlines that want to unbundle or differentiate their products."
Worldspan announced its new agreement with Delta on Sept. 29. Delta, one of Worldspan's former owners, was the last of the major U.S. network carriers to sign a deal with the company. The agreement calls for Delta to participate in Worldspan's Super Access product, which provides agencies with full content from participating airlines in exchange for reduced incentive payments.
Like its agreements with the three other GDS companies, Delta's new Worldspan deal is a seven-year contract. The other network carriers have signed five-year agreements.
Chacko noted that Delta's previous agreement with Worldspan was not slated to expire until December.
"There were a number of topics to be addressed in getting to a long-term agreement," he said. While he would not disclose any differences between the Delta agreement and Worldspan's contracts with other airlines, he described the scope of the discussions with Delta as "necessarily broader." He also described the negotiations as "healthy."
"I don't think our relationship has had quite the same elements of the Sabre-American relationship," he said. Sabre also took a long time to reach a new agreement with American Airlines, its former owner, but the talks were accompanied by a bit of sniping in the trade press.
With the new contracts sewn up, Worldspan can focus on "making all of us more money," Chacko said. He noted that over the last 10 years, the Internet "has made travel much more of a commodity than it had ever been before."
"The tools are more oriented toward price comparison," he said. "As a result, the focus and emphasis has all been on price."
He said it is unrealistic to expect consumers to ignore the price issue, "but can there be other facets that step into the equation? Absolutely. If those facets are exposed to consumers or their travel agents at the right time, then there is a good opportunity to cross-sell or upsell."
Product differentiation became a hot issue earlier this year when Air Canada pulled its Tango fares from the GDSs. The fares, which are the carrier's lowest, can be increased if a customer wants to select a seat or lowered if the customer agrees not to change travel plans or check a bag.
Air Canada said GDSs currently cannot display those options appropriately. Chacko said he believes the cost of GDS participation is now a "non-issue" for low-cost carriers.
As for their desire to maintain control over how their products are displayed -- a key issue for Southwest Airlines in particular -- he said, "Technology is remarkably flexible, and it is able to expose those elements that a supplier would like to provide. Those are elements that we are working on now." As for the so-called GDS new entrants, Chacko said that "in various discussions that we've had with some suppliers about what role the limited distribution suppliers have going forward, the response has been that they have already served their purpose."
"Their major selling point was they had content that was not available in Worldspan," he said. "Clearly, that is no longer the case."