[UPDATE, March 8, 2017: Amadeus-connected travel agencies in Canada and the United States now can “seamlessly access and book” Air Canada’s Preferred and Advance paid seats, according to the global distribution system operator. Agents within their standard workflow can use seat maps furnished by Amadeus to sell the paid seat options at the time of initial booking or after the ticket is issued.]
Amid handwringing over the Lufthansa distribution program, the significance of a new deal announced today between Amadeus and Air Canada could be lost. Along with the gradual growth in global distribution system participation by discount carriers in recent years and the systems’ significant efforts to add hotel content, any success by GDSs in drawing a renegade like Air Canada back into the fold looks like a major win.
Air Canada and Amadeus announced a multiyear agreement to provide agencies with access to “all” of the carrier’s fares, seat availability and merchandising content. Though there still is work to do, the deal is effective immediately and ends a 10-year full-content drought for Amadeus agencies. Air Canada had been distributing via Amadeus before this new deal, but not all products and services.
Now, Air Canada will work with Amadeus to make available everything it sells. In exchange, the airline secured more favorable pricing from the Spain-based distributor, meaning lower fees than before for each of its flight segments booked in an Amadeus GDS channel.
Since its subscribers will access all the carrier’s content through all Amadeus outlets — offline channels and online ones, including the e-Travel Management corporate booking tool — Amadeus appears to have a leg up on rivals in distributing Air Canada.
Travelport agencies can get at Air Canada’s full content, but must toggle over to the Agencia system connected to the carrier’s AC2U API. Sabre has no full-content deal in place.
“We’re in discussions with our friends at Sabre and we’re eager to get a deal done,” said Air Canada global sales vice president Duncan Bureau. A Sabre spokesperson did not reply to inquiries.
Jeffrey Verman, CEO at Toronto-area Uniglobe Plus Travel Group, is relieved. Though he said some agencies accept the Travelport Agencia system — it’s better than punching out to an Air Canada website — Verman views it as “a hybrid solution,” short of full content in GDSs “without any toggling games.”
“It’s been more than a decade of what has been something of a war, with the collateral fallout squarely falling on the travel agency community, which in turn has been forced to pass on the extra associated expenses either out of their own wallets or onto the consumer,” Verman told The Company Dime. He said that Air Canada during the past year “has gradually put basic content into the GDS. We still find discrepancies between channels, but we hope these discrepancies become fewer.”
Verman expects it to take some time before Amadeus offers all the agreed-upon content. Air Canada’s Corporate Rewards, Flight Passes and Promotion Codes “are unique programs and Air Canada has kept them outside of the GDSs with the exception of Travelport,” he noted. “The ball is more than ever in Amadeus’ court right now to actually deliver on this content.”
Bureau said that “today we have the vast majority of content in” Amadeus channels, and now will work with the distributor on the rest “so that they can consume and merchandize that inventory.”
To display its content to all Amadeus users, Air Canada will use the Amadeus Fare Families and Ancillary Services products. The parties will establish XML connectivity to integrate content. Air Canada uses Farelogix technology for merchandising across all channels.
“This deal is really about content and having the right economics,” Bureau said. “It is about merchandising and it is about consuming Air Canada content from an ancillary perspective. To really compete in the marketplace we need some flexibility that historically we did not have. The vast majority of growth is international, right into markets where Amadeus is very strong. Both organizations made some pretty big steps to remove those historic sacred cows, whether it was on content, flexibility or economics.”
He wouldn’t address economic arrangements between Amadeus and its agency customers, but Bureau said “the economics from an Air Canada perspective on a [GDS] segment basis is certainly much more attractive to us than it was historically.” The airline “is not contemplating” following Lufthansa with a GDS surcharge.
Balboa Travel is an Amadeus subscriber and welcomed the news. “We use the combination of an agent desktop web-aggregator and the direct connects over online providers, which is common in the industry,” according to COO John Cruse. “Having the content in Amadeus will remove the additional cost for Balboa Travel and therefore our clients by making fulfillment and servicing more efficient. I’m excited to see how Amadeus will merchandise the Air Canada Fare Families and how easy the distribution of ancillary services will be.”
Amadeus executives were not available today to provide additional information.