20 July 2007

Is the EC trying some wizardry to appease Amadeus?

On the eve of the release of the Harry Potter final installment - perhaps we are seeing some signs and clues as to how the EC will define its long awaited changes to the GDS regulations. Up until now we have all assumed that the focus would be on the relaxation of the rules along the lines of the US deregulation of the GDS marketplace. But no - it would appear the bureaucrats in Brussels have other plans in store for us. The final chapter in this saga looks like it is going to have a few interesting plot twists and in the end The GDS/Harry character may not be killed off.

The issue it seems in the somewhat single tasking mode of the EC is that they are responding to some obvious pressure from the Amadeus lobbying efforts. They are now opening the door to the definition of "Parent" carrier. The origins of the "Parent" carrier term come from the 1980s when the battle was initially between the "Have" airlines - i.e. those who owned a part of a GDS vs. the "Have Not" carriers. Since this was clear at the time no one needed to have much definition. All EU based major airlines were all by definition "Parent" carriers by dint of the ownership stakes in either Galileo or Amadeus.

Fast forward to today and with the major airlines in the Galileo group all now non "Parent" carriers and even SAS is not an owner - then in Euro speak the definition is moot.

But I offer two other thoughts for consideration. The definitions of "Control" and "Distribution" should also be on the table for interpretation. Why?

Let’s start with "Distribution" the lines are now clearly drawn differently as we have fragmented distribution. With Amadeus focus now on airline IT it is not hard to see that actually distribution control can be effectively managed through the Airlines' PSS (Passenger Sales and Service aka internal Res Systems). So PSS systems are today doing much of what the GDS did before. If PSS systems were added into the loose definition of GDS in a redefined term of Distribution Platform then Amadeus would fail in my opinion the test of dominant control. Specifically we believe at T2 that the System User agreement should be examined in the same context as the "neutral" GDS agreements.

Now let’s consider the term "Control". The 3 participating owner carriers (and I choose my words carefully hear) are indeed much stronger than they were in the late 1980s and 1990s when the regulations were drawn up. Further the US share of the Transatlantic market has fallen significantly in actual passenger counts. The concentration of control among the 3 is pretty compelling.

However take both terms together - Control AND Distribution - and add ALL system users, CTP (Star Alliance - Common Technology Platform) users, all ALTEA users in the EU together and there is clearly a dominance and concentration of market power the likes of which we have NEVER seen before.

It was our hope that the EC would enact the new legislation for the protection of the consumer and the smaller EC airlines to prevent abuse of the monopolistic power concentration that can occur in situations such as these. Unlike the US market - the EC has the power of judge jury and executioner. They can both write and implement legislation. There is no check of the legislature at this level. Appeal to the judiciary is such a laborious process that it is effectively mute in all but the most high profile of cases. AND it takes many years of significant expense to challenge.

The story is not yet over and there will be many more plot twists. The EC has been known for using some of the Black Arts to conjure up dark forces cloaked in respectability. Let’s hope that
Olivier Onidi doesn’t turn out to be the real Voldermort.

For further reading we recommend going to the EC's Transportation section, Air Transport Portal: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air_portal/index_en.htm.%20Specifically look a the comments on "Possible revision of Regulation 2299/89 on a Code of Conduct for computerized reservation systems (CRS)" http://ec.europa.eu/transport/air_portal/consultation/2007_04_27_en.htm
Note that the EC uses the older term CRS Computer Reservation System - rather than the more common GDS, Global Distribution System. Perhaps this different wording has an impact on the actual spells used.

OK so I carried the Harry Potter metaphor a bit far but my comments are valid. You have been warned. I have experienced first hand the power of the EC in this regard and how they listen to the "home team" of Amadeus lobbyists.

Other resources I suggest are to go to the BTC's website. http://businesstravelcoalition.com/



Timothy J O'Neil-Dunne
Managing Partner - T2Impact Ltd
Global Travel eBusiness
Tel (US) +1 425 836 4770
Mobile (US) +1 425 785 4457
Mobile (International) +44 7770 33 81 75
Fax +1 815 377 1583

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