Have the dinosaurs returned?

JetBlue over the course of its short life has gone from being in no GDSs to being in all four. Southwest, after keeping its toe in the Sabre pool for several years, decided this year to get into the Galileo system and to venture into Worldspan's waters next year.

Now from Europe comes word that EasyJet is broadening its distribution strategy by participating in Europe's Big Two, Amadeus and Galileo.

From these events you might conclude that the GDS channel is making a comeback among the apostate low-fare carriers, at least for managed business travel.

You'd be half right.

This movement of low-fare carriers toward the GDSs reflects their improved appeal following the recent fee adjustments and restructurings. It also reflects, in the case of EasyJet, an improved technology for managing direct connections between low-fare carrier res systems and the GDS.

But we suspect that innovation on the GDS side is only part of the reason for these events. The other reason may be that the Web is old hat.

As the cyber consultants at PhoCusWright have phrased it, booking travel online is "becoming the norm."

Is there a more boring word than "norm?"

Not only is it a case of "The thrill is gone," to quote B.B. King, but shopping online is increasingly becoming a chore. In a recent report from Forrester Research, Henry Harteveldt warned online travel sellers that their Internet operations may not be as sleek as they think, as travelers "slog" through travel sites, "hashing through your mumbo jumbo."

For all its flaws and its allegedly high costs, the GDS channel has always had the ability to deliver valuable business to airlines, even when the airlines were preoccupied with low-hanging fruit.

For observers taking the long view, it's both interesting and ironic to see the low-cost airlines now turning to the GDS channel as a growth strategy, looking for new customers. 

A hundred bucks 

A hundred bucks used to be a big deal. Now it's a barrier to be broken, and everybody is pondering the implications of $100 oil.

Recent news events offer three ways of looking at a hundred bucks:

" Carnival Corp. has one of the most enviable profit margins in all of travel, but when it adds a fuel surcharge to cruises on 68 ships across six brands and makes it retroactive to business already on the books, you have to figure that oil prices are having an impact.

As for the airlines, all we can say is: Ouch! 

" Passports haven't broken the barrier yet. We have no idea how much it should cost to produce a passport, but we always thought the U.S. fee of $97 was a little steep.

Our suspicions seemed to be confirmed when a GAO report suggested that the State Department may have been overcharging us. The U.S. fee, however, is in line with the fee charged in Canada and is a bargain compared with the U.K., where a new passport costs 72 pounds, or $151. Ouch!

" "Average Daily Rate" is an important hotel industry benchmark. It came to about $97 last year and beat crude oil to the $100 mark earlier in 2007. It was hovering around $105 when November began and, like everything else, is probably heading north. Ouch again!   

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