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American Airlines (AA) has refused to publicise which travel agents are using its controversial Direct Connect fare distribution system.
The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) wants to speak with agencies in Europe that are using the new technology, to inform its members about how it works, but has so far been unsuccessful.
Paul Tilstone, managing director of GBTA Europe, said AA had told the industry body it could provide “real life examples” of the technology.
Direct Connect allows travel agencies and corporates to bypass the GDS when making a booking, which means the airline does not have to pay the GDS fees and benefits from direct relationships.
“The issue is extremely complex,” said Tilstone, so “we jumped at the chance to investigate further and check what the real implications were for comparative shopping and data collection.”
According to Tilstone, agents are concerned that the airline’s new system will make it difficult to compare fares, and to collect management information.
A spokeswoman for AA told ABTN that while the airline “is able” to ask agencies using Direct Connect to discuss their experiences, “many may be unwilling to do so publicly”.
She said that agencies were reluctant to go public due to “competitive reasons and fear of GDS retribution”.
“American itself has confidentiality commitments to the agencies involved,” she added, “so is unable to provide any further details and it will be up to any individual agency to make contact with GBTA.”
Tilstone has reassured the airline that any details that could identify an agency would remain confidential.
He said: “I really hope American Airlines will help to facilitate the contact with these agencies rather than leave it to chance.
“To not use the opportunity will further create suspicions that direct connect technology undermines managed programmes.”
Tilstone admitted that the association does not currently support airlines’ use of direct connect technology.
“We do collectively believe the GDS is presently the most efficient channel to support managed travel programmes,” he said.
“Until we see evidence otherwise we will continue to challenge the value direct connect technology brings.”
He urged any business travel agencies using the technology to share their knowledge “in the interests of clarity for our industry”, as many questions remain unanswered.