Sabre's Airline Breakthrough Could Cost Agents

The Sabre Travel Network says it has figured out a way to keep major U.S. airlines from withholding flights from its GDS network—but it's going to cost agents who want into the program. The company announced its Efficient Access Solution Wednesday, a program that will allow agents to retain access to U.S. carriers' full flight schedule in return for accepting a reduced portion of the booking fee collected by Sabre from U.S. airlines and then re-distributed to agencies as part of their revenue-sharing agreements. The program begins Aug. 1. Sabre officials refused to comment on how big the bite would be for agents who sign on. "We cannot and will not comment on specific financial arrangements," says Chris Kroeger, senior vice president, North America, for the Sabre Travel Network. "We are discussing right now what those terms are going to be for our agency partners." Agencies that sign on get an additional benefit: protection from the imposition of service fees by airlines. The threat of such fees has loomed over the industry for some time now, officials said. To date, six U.S. carriers have bought into the program: Continental, United, US Airways, Northwest, and AirTran. It's unclear exactly how the Efficient Access Solution will play out, according to Kroeger. It could create a scenario where agencies participating in the program would have access to certain flights through their Sabre system, while those who did not sign on would not.

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