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Coalition Forms for Airfare TransparencyJanuary 6, 2011 By: George Dooley
In a timely move, a new coalition Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is being formed to address the problems of travel distribution and the ongoing crisis between airlines, GDS systems and agents.
“Open Allies will offer a commonsense, pro-consumer voice for all of the participants in the travel industry who depend on access to complete and full airfare data, including ancillary fees, to do their jobs,” said Andrew Weinstein, director of Open Allies for Airfare Transparency.
Weinstein is also affiliated with the Interactive Travel Services Association (ITSA) whose members include Sabre, Travelport and major online travel agencies.
“There has been an industry-wide backlash against the airlines' refusal to share ancillary fee information and against American, in particular, for trying to force travel agencies, corporate travel departments, TMCs and online travel companies to use its 'direct connect' system, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to compare American's fares against other airlines,” Weinstein said. “We've heard from a wide range of companies involved in the travel industry, including many travel agents and agencies, that there is a demand for a coalition that can represent their interests on this critical issue, so we're planning to launch a new coalition, called Open Allies for Airfare Transparency, that will fight for fee transparency and consumer choice.”
He urged potential members to contact him at [email protected]
In a one page summary of the group's principles, the Open Allies said:
"The Open Allies for Airfare Transparency (Open Allies) is a coalition of individuals, companies, and organizations who believe that all airline fares and fees should be transparent to the traveling public. They should not be “hidden in proprietary airline systems, buried deep in airline web sites, or obscured through channels that prevent comparison shopping and choice.
By joining the Open Allies coalition, members endorse a single, consumer-focused principle:
➢ All airlines should make their complete fare and ancillary fee information available through every distribution channel in which they choose to participate.
What does that mean in practice? It means that the coalition will:
➢ Advocate on behalf of recent proposals from the U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress to require airlines to disclose their ancillary fee information to TMCs, corporate travel departments, travel agencies, and online travel companies through the distribution systems in which they participate.
➢ Oppose efforts by airlines to create proprietary “direct connect” systems that circumvent existing distribution channels; prevent comparison shopping; limit competition and choice; and require TMCs, corporate travel departments, and travel agencies to invest in expensive and potentially incompatible new systems.
➢ Strongly oppose efforts by airlines to “strong-arm” TMCs, corporate travel departments, travel agencies, and online travel companies to use “direct connect” or any other booking systems or technologies that do not meet their clients’ needs.
The Open Allies coalition is not anti-airline, anti-fee, or anti-technology. The airlines are some of our closest partners, and we understand that the business model for air travel has changed, and ancillary fees are here to stay.
Instead, the Open Allies coalition simply believes that airlines have an obligation to listen to their best customers – the members of the coalition – and meet our needs. We will not be told what systems we have to use, nor blocked from comparing prices between airlines, nor prevented from designing the best flight options for our customers.
As a group, we will demand that the airlines embrace the principles of openness and transparency and lift the curtain behind which they have hidden their ancillary fees and fares.
In short, Open Allies will serve as a unified voice for thousands of TMCs, corporate travel departments, travel agencies, online travel companies, GDSs, and other participants in the travel industry in working to advance our clients’ interests, reduce costs, and protect the ability to comparison shop between airlines on an apples-to-apples basis."
Details of the new alliance including logistics, members, launch timing, and strategy will be announced, Weinstein said, urging interested organizations and agents to E-mail him for more information.