Friday, March 02, 2007

The long and winding road

The first thing we at Travolution ought to do is send British Airways' chief executive Willie Walsh and the GDSs a bill for our long distance phone calls, such is the global significance of their current predicament.

BA's supposed reluctance to sign new distribution contracts with its former GDS partners portends the beginning of a new era in airline distribution, where corporate and leisure travel agents and ultimately their customers will bear more of the costs.

We here at Travolution have been ringing our sources around the world to find out exactly what BA has up its sleeve in an effort to determine how the future distribution landscape will look.

Our efforts to bring you the latest news on the negotiations have zigzagged their way across the globe.

Mr Orange was on the piste somewhere in the Continent.

Mr White was in the States suffering from a horrible cold and we politely interrupted Mr Pink during an important meeting in Asia. (Admittedly we actually communicated with Mr Pink via text, so that will have to be accounted for the in phone bill)

Ok, enough of the Reservoir Dogs analogy.

We just thought you might like to know that the editorial staff here at Travolution were not down the pub whilst countless travel agents and corporations were sweating over their futures.

Whilst we were waiting for our countless calls, emails and texts to be returned, we thought we'd look up the dictionary definition of "negotiation".

From the Latin negotiationem, a negotiation is defined as a "mutual discussion and arrangement of the terms of a transaction or agreement".

Based on that definition and everything we've been told by our trusty sources, we can hardly call the current round of GDS talks a negotiation.

Walsh has a point. The airlines, for a long time, have been gouged by the GDSs and the distribution of wealth definitely needs to be re-evaluated.

And maybe, just maybe, his hardball tactics will pay off in the long run and will not be at the expense of everyone else.

But is asking for a 100% discount on distribution fees, a demand BA allegedly made at the beginning of the talks (according to Mr Pink) really the way forward when people's livelihoods are at stake?

Is agreeing to pay nearly double GDS fees a good idea? Have we suddenly been cast into the bolier room bartering stalls of Cairo? Surely there is a better, more intelligent, way for BA to move forward.

Let's hope Walsh and the GDSs find some clarity over the weekend.

Tricia Holly Davis, chief writer, Travolution

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