09 May 2009

GDSs Glorify Their Fare Performance! But Can You Trust Them?

You can tell I have been contemplating the issue of Trust.

As some of you may know there is much debate around the “who gets the lowest fare really” question.
Sabre is touting its Topaz based study. Now it has even gone to the expense of creating a website devoted to the achievements.

I make no judgment of the study or its methodology. However in our private studies – we can assure you that there are differences – frequently significant – between the results of the GDSs, the results of the OTAs and the results of the Airline.com sites. The results vary significantly market by market. (And don't get me started on the meta-search companies). Now we also see that as caching is being used more frequently we see difference that are frequently driven by the caching. The “look in one place book in another” only works when it comes with a performance guarantee from the inventory owner. This has been one of my gripes about meta searches. Quality measurements in the performance area is always going to be interesting and probably never coming. Obfuscation is still the order of the day. But I do think there is a glimmer of hope in that less and less people are relying on the GDS as the source of the fares and as a result (particularly outside North America) the issue of a trusted fare is being understood.

Inside the GDS the guarantee of a seat and fare via the PCA (participating carrier agreement) is passed onto the travel intermediary through the subscriber contract. Now that the GDS infrastructure cannot handle the sheer volume of searches on an economic basis – the current answer is to use Cached fares+availability such as via ITA’s engine. However by the time it gets handed off to another source for booking the cache may be out of date or just plain wrong. In the GDS world this is handled somewhat. But in the new world of open access this commercial coverage is still not quite there yet. However it will have to be.

Anyone willing to forward a solution to this problem and its very complex set of issues? (and no I am not accepting that everyone has to use the GDS as the answer).

Answers on a post card or the back of an envelope please….


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