It was just about a month ago in this space that we bemoaned the fact that the Open Travel Alliance (OTA) -- that's the group developing a universal Internet protocol for the transmission of travel data -- had restricted the retail trade's access to it. Now comes word that OTA has reassessed the situation and made some organizational changes that will enable travel agents to participate more effectively in its decision-making process.

Although it is far from clear what impact the trade ultimately will have on OTA's actions (its new board structure remains dominated by suppliers), it is expected that under the new setup, agents will make their presence felt throughout a wider swath of the alliance's working groups than they could before.

While we welcome OTA's move, only time will tell whether its new inclusiveness truly heralds the advent of a meaningful vendor-agent alliance. We'll see.

Load factor

We were struck the other day when the National Business Travel Association failed to acknowledge the role of the trade when it called upon the airlines to load discounted, Web-only fares onto the major CRSs. After all, who else for the foreseeable future will meet the arcane demands of the reservations systems on behalf of their corporate clients but retail travel agents? An unintentional snub? We hope so.

Nevertheless, we enthusiastically endorse NBTA's request, which was included in a letter sent to the airlines by Mark Johnson, president of the group. Not only do the inducements of Web-only pricing strain the integrity of negotiated fare discounts and confound corporate travel policies, they invite consumers -- both business and leisure travelers -- to bypass the trade in hopes of obtaining bargains. Companies should have access to Web fares, and so should their agencies.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI