The National Business Travel Association (NBTA), representing 5,000 members in 30 nations, weighted in on Sabre’s announcement on American Airlines. The NBTA questioned any changes in the current system for business travel procurement that could threaten transparency, access and competition. NBTA says it expects higher costs and that business travelers will foot the bill.
“Today’s news from Sabre represents a serious escalation of the growing conflict around airline-mandated 'direct connects,'" said Mike McCormick, executive director and COO of NBTA. "Business travel buyers will ultimately foot the bill for marketplace fragmentation caused by airline initiatives that push the travel distribution marketplace in the wrong direction – away from transparency and competitiveness and toward confusion and higher costs.”
NBTA believes that “direct connect” proposals will lead to higher costs for two main reasons:
1.) Airline mandated “direct connects” that bypass the existing distribution systems could result in a significant increase in capital expenditure that business travel buyers will eventually bear. Travel management companies and agencies will need to build new systems to capture these "direct connect" fares on behalf of their business travel clients, resulting in higher costs overall.
2.) Businesses that rely on clear and transparent fare information to negotiate for and maintain airline discount programs will find it far more difficult to track volume and enforce travel policies in a fragmented market. This could ultimately result in higher costs for business travel buyers.
“The current system for business travel procurement is marked by transparency, access and competition,” said McCormick. “Any changes to this system must continue to provide business travel purchasers with the information they need to make informed travel investment decisions. NBTA calls on all airlines with an interest in the business travel market to ensure their fares are made widely available to buyers through commonly-used distribution channels.”