Q: I have read that in early April, American Airlines is going to pull about 40% of its fares from the GDSs and will make that content available only through NDC connections. Our GDS vendor is claiming that we will be able access that NDC content through the GDS, but as of today, I don’t see it in the GDS. Doesn’t that mean that we no longer have to pay the 80-cent “full-content” fee that we have been very reluctantly paying since 2006, since we aren’t getting “full content”?
A: If less than all of a carrier’s fares are available in the GDS, you are certainly not getting full content. Whether that excuses you from having to pay the GDS’s 80-cent fee for certain segments on that carrier depends on the exact language of your GDS contract.
For example, the newest standard Sabre contract states that you must pay 80 cents for each Efficient Access Solution (EAS) segment. The latest version of the standard Sabre contract defines EAS rather cagily as follows: “Efficient Access Solution means … availability of content, including web fares made generally available to the public via the carrier’s website or a third-party website as supplied to Sabre by Program Airlines.”
Notice that Sabre does not promise “full content.” So under this contract, as long as you can access some web fares that are also on Sabre’s website, Sabre is arguably complying with the criterion for charging the 80-cent fee.
The Sabre contract that I quoted is the one that Sabre rolled out last year, so most Sabre agencies are not yet subject to it. The older standard contract commits to more, as it defines EAS to include “availability of full published content, including web fares made generally available to the public via the carrier’s website or a third-party website as supplied to Sabre by Program Carriers.”
The difference between “availability of content” and “availability of full published content” is obviously significant. If you have the older standard contract, which most Sabre agencies still do, Sabre now has no justification for charging you the 80-cent fee for American segments or any other carrier’s content that you can no longer access through Sabre.
Travelport has the second-largest share of U.S. travel agencies among the GDSs. Its latest contract promises very little for the 80-cent full-content fee: the Content Continuity Program (or the Super Access Product if you are a Worldspan system user) means “the program through which Travelport provides Subscriber content and protection against service fees of designated Participating Airlines.”
So there is actually no promise of any content at all. As long as you aren’t charged a fee by the carriers directly for a GDS booking — as Lufthansa does, for example — Travelport can charge you the 80-cent fee for all segments on Participating Airlines.
Amadeus’ contract is even more noncommittal. There is an 80-cent fee for segments on carriers participating in the Amadeus Content Plus program, but the term is not defined in the contract.
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