A familiar scenario as Sabre severs access for Farelogix users

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Making good on its notification several weeks ago, Sabre ended its authorized-developer agreement with Farelogix on March 1. The action means that customers of Farelogix, including several major travel management companies, will have to use their own means of retrieving Sabre content instead of doing so in the way they might prefer: through Farelogix's multisource FLX Platform.

The industry has seen these sorts of tactics before, and although they might be in Sabre's narrow interests and understandable on a certain level, there are plenty of voices noting that the real victim in these sorts of scenarios is innovation in the travel industry.

Sabre's actions might sound familiar. In 2007, Sabre ended BookingBuilder's authorized-developer agreement, curtailing access to Sabre content. The BookingBuilder tool, which aggregates GDS and non-GDS content, including Southwest, was popular with Sabre-connected agents. At that time, Sabre launched a rival tool to cash in on some of BookingBuilder's inroads.

Today, Farelogix is the last man standing of the three new-entrant distributors, including ITA Software and G2 SwitchWorks, in terms of providing a vehicle for travel management companies to hedge their reliance on Sabre, Worldspan, Galileo and Amadeus. ITA now focuses on airfare search and airline hosting, and Travelport acquired G2.

Farelogix is an innovator in the distribution realm. In one manifestation of that, it is proceeding apace with its Project Hawkeye, a bid to provide an open-source platform for the travel industry in terms of point-of-sale applications. The launch date is March 26, when Farelogix is slated to make available code related to air-transaction processing, with the hope that a community will emerge to tap the industry's software talent.

Farelogix and Sabre wouldn't elaborate on their dispute other than to note that their agreement, which dates to 2007, has been terminated and "Sabre and Farelogix are working together with our mutual customers to ensure no operational or service disruptions."

Although Farelogix wouldn't expound on the issues, one of its customers did.

"In this economy, travel companies need all the help they can get," the source said. "Innovation is what is going to get the industry through this difficult time, and innovation is almost exclusively the domain of smaller companies. Farelogix will continue to innovate and serve its customers, while Sabre is going to be left behind.

"A recent [Travel Weekly] article mentioned that Amadeus and Travelport are using modern technologies to connect with travel suppliers, while Sabre is going to continue to rely upon Edifact. Amadeus and Travelport understand that they are intermediaries in a rapidly 'disintermediating' world, and so are interested in getting content regardless of the format, then making it available worldwide. Sabre is fighting tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. One only has to look back at IBM in the early '90s to see what happens to technology companies that don't embrace change.

"Sabre is sending a message to its travel agency customers that it is no longer looking out for their best interests. Those travel agencies looking for innovation and a GDS partner that understands it can't be all things to all customers are going to look beyond Sabre. And today, all travel agencies are looking for innovation and a partner willing to embrace it."

Sabre, of course, doesn't see it that way, and points to its own innovations, including its work to make airlines' optional services available within its GDS.

About Farelogix, Sabre was tight-lipped, but issued a statement several weeks ago outlining its thinking on developers' agreements: "When determining the third parties with which we have an Authorized Developer relationship, we consider a number of factors. These include whether the developer provides significant value to a critical mass of Sabre customers, and whether the third party's business interests are aligned with those of our agency and corporate customers -- and our own. We have determined that Farelogix does not meet these criteria."

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