Travel agents are the front-line advocates for travelers, and those agents – from mom-and-pop travel agencies to the largest travel companies in the world – are overwhelmingly opposed to hidden fares or any system that reduces price transparency, said Paul Ruden, Senior Vice President of ASTA as 115 powerhouse travel agents and companies joined with ASTA to officially launched the Open Allies for Airfare Transparency.
“Our members are some of the airlines’ closest partners. We hope the airlines reconsider the more fragmented direct connect approach and work with us to make all of their fares and fees available to all travelers through the systems the travelers themselves choose to use,” Ruden said. Members of the new alliance include the nation’s largest travel companies and organizations.
The Open Allies for Airfare Transparency is an industry-wide effort to urge major airlines to share all of their fare and ancillary fee information through the distribution systems they currently use and not to circumvent those systems through new, untested, and potentially costly “direct connect” approaches.
Founding members of the Open Allies coalition include many of the nation’s largest travel agencies, travel management companies, corporate travel departments, online travel agencies, global distribution systems, and travel trade organizations.
Among the founding members are:
· Many of the nation’s largest travel sellers, including 20 of the 53 companies with annual sales of more than $100 million.
· Corporate travel departments for many of the world’s largest companies, including Oracle, Dell, News Corp., Logitech, Sapient, Sodexo, and Textron, among others.
· Trade associations representing broad segments of the travel industry, including the American Society of Travel Agents, Business Travel Coalition, European Technology and Travel Services Association, Interactive Travel Services Association, and the Scottish Passenger Agents Association.
“Hidden fees and closed airline systems are forcing millions of consumers to ‘fly blind’ when making their travel arrangements,” said Andrew Weinstein, director of the Open Allies coalition. “When you can’t see the full price of tickets or compare them among airlines, you lose the greatest benefit of our modern travel system and the benefits of price competition among the airlines. Some airlines want to turn back the clock to the days of proprietary reservation systems, silos of closed data, and one-off displays without price comparisons. Consumers deserve the ability to compare prices across airlines, and Open Allies will work to ensure they continue to have it.”
The coalition plans to work with stakeholders across the travel industry to advocate on behalf of price transparency and full access to airline pricing and fee information.
“Untested, incomplete and costly direct connect systems are not a good idea,” said Kevin Mitchell, Chairman of the Business Travel Coalition. “Through Open Allies, travel industry organizations, individual distribution system participants and corporate travel managers are providing the leadership and analysis that indicates direct connect will not usher in better, cheaper, faster travel solutions, but rather will reduce price competition and reintroduce to the industry and consumers the inefficiencies and opaqueness of the 1970s air ticket purchasing environment.”
As part of its educational efforts, Open Allies released the first in a series of “white papers” on the technological, financial, and policy issues involved. That analysis, “Customized Services and Comparison Shopping: Preserving Price Transparency in the Age of ‘Unbundled’ Airline Services,” is available on the Open Allies website.