"Naysayers" Lose Credibility
as Travelport/Air Canada Deal Unfolds 

Open Allies' Fears Fall Flat as Direct Connect Proves Otherwise

Scottsdale, Arizona and Toronto, Ontario - 18 January 2011: The Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents - Canada (ARTA Canada)
advised today 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 the Travelport/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.

In the Travelport/Air Canada agreement, Travelport will connect to Air Canada using the carrier's "ac2u" platform, which Air Canada states:

"allows third party booking platforms to access Air Canada’s full range of products and attributes, including Flight Pass and ' 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".

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.

"It's really hard to take naysayers seriously when the very arguments they make in opposing direct connect are seemingly ignored when they serve their own purposes", said Sally Watkins, CTC, Vice Chairman of ARTA.

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, CTC.

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? 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. A quote from a 12 January 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal's "MarketWatch" may explain it all:

"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."

As ARTA and ARTA Canada have said from the very beginning, the GDSs' umbrage is all about money; nothing more. Sadly, they've snookered gullible travel agency groups like ASTA and ACTA into supporting their views. GDSs are key financial sponsors/partners of both ASTA and ACTA - revenue streams which both associations are not likely to upset.

About ARTA 

ARTA has always been at the forefront of those industry changes which have strengthened the agency community. Founded in 1963, and for the past 47 years, the Association of Retail Travel Agents is the largest non-profit association in North America that represents travel agents exclusively. 

ARTA is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona. ARTA is the strategic partner of Canadian-based ARTA Canada. For more information about ARTA, please contact Ms. Pat Funk, ARTA's Executive Director, at 1-866-369-8969 or by e-mail to postmaster@artaonline.com.

About ARTA Canada 

ARTA Canada is the largest non-profit federally incorporated professional association of travel retailers in Canada, the members of which consist exclusively of travel agencies and travel agents. In addition to advocating fair and equitable treatment of travel consumers, ARTA Canada represents the commercial and strategic interests of its member travel agencies and travel agents in a variety of national and provincial domains including regulatory and legislative matters, automation, technology, sales and marketing, and distribution.

ARTA Canada is based in Toronto and is the strategic partner in Canada of the U.S.-based Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA). ARTA Canada is the Canadian member of UFTAA, the United Federation of Travel Agents' Associations.

Complete details about ARTA Canada's new $99 membership campaign for 2011 and an online ARTA Canada membership application and secure payment are available on its web site at www.artacanada.ca/join.

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