Travel agent opinion may be divided over direct connect issues. The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents — Canada (ARTA Canada) said that the "danger alert" levied by ASTA, ACTA, and BTC (and the Open Allies Group of GDSs and OTAs) regarding "direct connect" platforms was struck a serious blow to its credibility with the advent of theTravelport/Air Canada direct connect agreement
"The opponents of the direct connect platform sought by American Airlines contradicted themselves when they surprisingly dropped their opposition to similar initiatives at other airlines, including Southwest and, now, Air Canada. In fact, in the case of Air Canada, Travelport and ACTA welcomed the new arrangement, calling it a 'landmark agreement.' However, the connectivity which serves as the underpinning of the arrangement is the very type of carrier/GDS direct connect which AA has been attempting to negotiate with GDSs, OTAs, and other large scale distributors,” ARTA said in a statement.
Under the terms of the Travelport/Air Canada agreement, Travelport will connect to Air Canada using the carrier's "ac2u" platform, which "allows third party booking platforms to access Air Canada's full range of products and attributes, including Flight Pass and 'à la carte' pricing, in a simple, industry standard format, while maintaining the branded integrity of the product and ... will continue the growth of Air Canada’s direct distribution to both consumers and travel agents," according to Air Canada.
"Yet, despite all the hoopla from the opponents to 'direct connect,' the reality is that they selectively condone, encourage, and even applaud direct connect when access to content is critical to their own survival and expansion. Such was the case with Southwest Airlines, and now, Air Canada," ARTA said. “So what does this prove? Well, for one thing, Galileo in Canada (Travelport) has been involved with Air Canada direct connect since 2007, and the sky didn't fall then. With the advent of Travelport's Agencia restructured access to Air Canada direct connect in 2009, the sky didn't fall then either. Now, in 2011, Agencia, after being plagued with delays and deployment issues, is back in the news with another direct connect relationship with Air Canada, and, guess what? - the sky won't fall again either."
"Let's face it, the Travelport/Air Canada agreement proves that GDSs and airlines can live peacefully and effectively together in a direct connect environment. The arrangement assures full transparency, allows for continued multi-carrier displays and comparison shopping, and dispels the opponents' myth that direct connect is all about forcing primary one-to-one connections on travel agents and consumers. At the end of the day, the travel agent benefits from continued and fully transparent access to traditional shopping and booking mechanisms, with the added value of new products and services", said ARTA Canada President Bruce Bishins.
ARTA said that the opponents' argument is “really all about maintaining their out-of-scope, high segment fees, and protecting a legacy platform for all expect those carriers from which the opponents desperately want heretofore restricted content. Both Southwest and Air Canada had content and services which the GDSs obsessed over not having, and they were willing to do just about anything to get it, including exposing the myths of their opposition to direct connect.”
So why not AA, ARTA asks?
“Both AA and Air Canada use the same direct connect messaging standards as put forth by the Open AXIS Group. It may well be that AA shared most everything it had to offer travelers in most all distribution channels; very little left for the GDSs to thirst over," the association said.
A quote from a Jan. 12 article from the Wall Street Journal's "MarketWatch" site could explain it all, according to ARTA:
"Travelport and Orbitz still provide direct-connect service, just not to American Airlines. This week, Travelport announced an agreement with Air Canada that includes direct connect, similar to a deal the company signed in November with Southwest Airlines. American said it asked for the same type of deal, but Travelport refused, saying American had helped create the costly GDS 'beast' and should 'continue to live with it,' according to a lawsuit filed this week by the airline."