Tuesday, April 03, 2007

GDS deregulation debate rears its head again

"Open Letters" always sound very dramatic - but the message in this particular letter is one that pops up from time to time and is doing the rounds elsewhere.

The European Commission is once again soliciting comments from the industry regarding deregulation of the GDSs.

The debate has not changed: one side says all airline owernship in Amadeus must be divested before full deregulation is allowed, lest the threat of biased disaplay, as indicated in the letter below.

The other side claims biased display is not a reality and cites several reasons, as outlined continuously over the year.


Dear editor,

The travel industry is one of continual evolution and change. Keeping up with the events that can fundamentally affect our business from day to day is a challenge. However, there is one issue that I would like to bring to your attention, as it could impact our industry and change the way many of us do business.

Recently, the European Commission (EC) began soliciting public comment on possible revisions to the Code of Conduct for Computerized Reservation Systems (CRS), also known as global distribution systems (GDS), and will accept comments through the 27th of April.

The last round of discussions and debate on the subject of CRS deregulation took place in 2004. Arguments focused on the "Brattle Report," which was commissioned by the EC from the Brattle Group in October of 2003 to provide an objective point of view on the regulatory environment around CRSs in Europe and to make concrete recommendations with regards to total or partial deregulation. (The 15-page executive summary is well worth the read.) The EC ultimately postponed decision-making. However, the current public consultation means it is again time to act.

It is not my objective to promulgate a particular point of view. I wish simply to call your attention to some of the fundamental questions that have been asked in the past and for which the EC will need to provide answers via a legislative decision that could take place later this year.

When an airline has ownership in a CRS, should this raise competitive concerns for consumers, business travelers and their companies? If the playing field in Europe risks being biased in favor of CRS-owning airlines and their distribution channels, would access to full content be impacted?

If the content in the CRSs is not available on an equal basis and is, in addition, fragmented across several distribution channels, how would this affect efficiency and the cost of distribution, as well as travel?

As a consumer and an actor in the travel industry, I would encourage you to take advantage of this unique opportunity and make your opinion known to the EC by no later than the 27 of April at one of the following addresses:

European Commission
Directorate-General for Energy and Transport
Office DM24 5/98
B-1049 Brussels, Belgium


For further information on this important issue, please visit C-fare.org

Richard Lovell, chief operating officer, EMEA and Latin America, Carlson Wagonlit Travel

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