WASHINGTON — It was airlines vs. GDSs in the ongoing feud in airline distribution at a Department of Transportation advisory committee hearing on aviation consumer protection on Wednesday.
The current debate centers on whether the DOT should require airlines to list bookable ancillary services in the GDSs.
And at the end of a long day of contentious testimony, one corporate travel manager frustrated with the inability of airlines and GDSs to work out their differences said it had been an “interesting pissing contest” to watch.
Another told the battling parties to “just negotiate so we don’t have to regulate.”
Airlines don’t want the DOT to mandate the listing of their ancillary services in GDSs because they are afraid it will deprive airlines of leverage in contract negotiations.
Airlines, represented by trade association Airlines 4 America, continued their argument that GDSs provide outdated technology at inflated prices, and that there are more cost-effective and efficient alternatives available.
Despite that argument, some airlines have reached deals to sell certain ancillary products in the GDSs. For example, Delta has agreed to sell its premium economy seats in Amadeus and the Travelport GDSs (Worldspan, Apollo and Galileo).
The airlines argued that they provide consumers what they need on their own websites and can tailor offers to travelers more effectively through their own websites than they can through GDSs.
GDSs, represented by Chris Kroeger, Sabre Travel Network’s senior vice president of marketing, countered that GDSs supply the tools airlines need to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, while giving consumers the best place for comparison shopping.
Kroeger said that Sabre would not charge airlines extra for including ancillary services. He also said that the GDSs charge airlines far less than what online distributors charge suppliers in other industries.
He said GDS fees average 1% of airline expenses, and that eBay charges suppliers up to 10%, Amazon up to 15% and the Apple App store up to 30%.
Correction: Kroeger said GDS fees average 1% of airline expenses, not fares as previously reported.
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtraveleekly.