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BTC Battles to Protect Agents' Data PrivacyJune 1, 2009 By: George Dooley
The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) welcomed the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) confirmation that it will comply with the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration ruling. The ruling ordered IATA to cease and desist using data from global distribution system (GDS) firm Amadeus (AMA) in its Passenger Intelligence Services (PaxIS) product. At issue is data privacy rights of agents and corporations.
The BTC is now calling on IATA to comply with its obligations under the recently revised European Community (EC) Code of Conduct to mask the identity of travel agencies and corporate purchasers for data derived from all GDSs.
“The time has come for IATA to conform its business practices to all applicable European laws and regulations,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of BTC. “The arbitration panel decision will be the first of many brick walls IATA will slam into head first if it doesn’t immediately start respecting the legally protected data privacy rights of travel agents and corporations.
“In announcing its intention to comply with the arbitration ruling, IATA also curiously claimed that the decision had no relevance to its obligations under the CRS Code of Conduct, suggesting that while it would respect the EU Database Directive, it might continue to thumb its nose at the EC’s CRS Code,” Mitchell continued. “This is unacceptable, and BTC calls on DG-TREN, the arm of the EC that administers the CRS Code, to make what is already a clear point to the rest of the industry unambiguous to IATA.”
The BTC argues that what makes PaxIS an especially intrusive and troubling data product is that, unlike any other data product, PaxIS shows a subscribing airline the average price of tickets sold by class of service on specific routes on airline competitors by specific travel agencies. According to the BTC, this allows the subscribing airline to identify and punish travel agents and corporations for paying lower prices for its tickets compared with prices paid for its competitors’ tickets, and is "blatant espionage" into private pricing arrangements.
“As a result of the arbitration decision which strips Amadeus data out of PaxIS, IATA has now lost access to 40 percent to 50 percent of its data in non-U.S. markets," the BTC said in a statement. "Many observers are currently questioning how PaxIS can survive given its claim that it will provide airline customers with a comprehensive view of ticketing activity worldwide, an aspiration it now does not appear to be able to meet."
“It’s akin to marketing a phone directory to consumers with half the pages ripped out,” said Mitchell. “And many more pages will hit the floor when, at a minimum, non-consenting agents exercise their right to prevent IATA from exploiting their data.”