merican Airlines is credited with inventing, improving or perfecting many of the most successful airline marketing innovations of the last quarter-century, including the Super Saver, the frequent flyer program, yield management and the GDS.

Out of this tradition of leadership comes EveryFare, a plan whereby American will put its Web fares in the GDSs for those agents willing to pay a portion of the airline's GDS booking fee.

It may not become as successful as some of American's earlier innovations, but it shares with them several characteristics that are intrinsically "American:"

• If it works, it will give American an advantage over other airlines.

• It has the potential to fundamentally alter existing industry relationships and incentives.

• It is exceedingly clever.

• The more you think about it, the more you realize that there could be more going on here than meets the eye.

We would expect a negative reaction from many small and medium-size agencies that would understandably balk at the notion of helping to defray the GDS costs of an airline that pays no commission. But we also note that two substantial travel management companies have signed on, which suggests there are, for some, positive aspects to this thing, too.

Understanding all the implications of EveryFare is going to take some time, but before we pass judgment, we must say at the outset that American deserves some credit here.

It is true that American is seeking to shift some of its costs to agents. But as distasteful as that may be to some, it must be noted that American's program at least recognizes the importance of the GDSs to agents and puts the Web fares into the GDSs, where most agents say they want them. American also is pledging to give participating agents the option of booking Web fares directly through, avoiding the GDS booking fee entirely.

In this space we have recently criticized airlines for having bad ideas, or no ideas. American's latest idea is a lot of things. It is complicated, creative, provocative and it deserves some very serious analysis.

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America West's latest

orthy of praise from the outset is America West, for coming up with the adult notion of making fare waivers available to travel agents based on their performance.

Rather than saying "never," and then making ad hoc exceptions under the table, the airline simply came up with a plan to reward productive agencies with credits that can be redeemed for waivers, according to a plan written down for all to see.

We like it.

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