Against the background of a truce between American and Sabre, ARC processed the industry's first Electronic Miscellaneous Document transaction last month, using American's Direct Connect technology.

The $14 transaction, the sale of an American Airlines seat upgrade in coach on a flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to El Paso, Texas, occurred via the airline's direct-connect technology provider, Farelogix.

The transaction is a small indication that direct-connect technology, ultimately the issue at the heart of the GDS/airline battles, is being advanced by some travel agencies.

ARC said the transaction was the first sale of an air carrier's ancillary product by a travel agency using an EMD, which enables agencies to process fees for items such as checked baggage or seat upgrades.

EMD is an electronic document, analogous to an e-ticket, that is designed to eventually supercede the traditional Miscellaneous Charges Order, not only with ARC but with IATA's settlement systems worldwide.

ARC has been EMD-ready since 2010 and said it is able to accommodate various ancillary charges within a single transaction and link them to multiple legs of an airline ticket.

"When ARC anticipated the sale of ancillary products by travel agents a number of years ago, we triggered a rigorous process ensuring our settlement technology would be prepared for this event," ARC CEO Mike Premo said in a statement.

The transaction happened just as American and Sabre agreed to extend their current content agreement until 14 days after American's antitrust claims against Sabre are resolved.

Derek DeCross, American's vice president of global sales, said in a letter to corporate agencies that legal proceedings could last "well into 2012," with no trial date set yet in Texas state court.

Until the trial ends, he said, travel agencies and corporate customers will have full access to AA's content via the Sabre GDS, while "American continues to pursue an equitable resolution of our claims in the courts."

Sabre and American have been tussling over direct-connect issues for the last year.

The GDS has claimed in court papers that the airline is "unlawfully forcing travel agencies, travel management companies and corporations to take its Direct Connect product in order to access the airline's full fare information."

Sabre also alleged that American is attempting to eliminate the GDSs by "refusing to provide complete fare information to GDSs and by forcing travel agents to use AA's Direct Connect product instead of GDSs."

Farelogix CEO Jim Davidson said that direct-connect technology gives agencies access to a market they have been left out of.

"If you look at what the Americans, Deltas and the Uniteds are doing, they are unbundling, packaging," he said. "Now there is a very big group getting left out of that: the travel agencies.

"Part of it is because there is a lot of dependency on the GDS technology. ...[The GDSs] fell asleep listening to their airlines' customers over the past couple years."

Farelogix has been pitted against the GDS in the battle with the airlines. But as Davidson sees it, Farelogix is creating technology for the agents, and the processing of the EMD is an example of that, he said.

"It offers much more alignment with what the airlines are doing with their customers on their websites, and with what they want to be doing with their customers that are travel agencies," he said of the EMD capability. "At the end of the day, we will hopefully be left with smarter, more valuable agencies that can create more value for their customers."

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