Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic IT chiefs urge airlines to collaborate

By Sooraj Shah
25 Jun 2012 View Comments
easyjet

There needs to be more collaboration within the airline industry to combat the stranglehold of global distribution system (GDS) providers, according to the IT chiefs of EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic.

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GDSs have been used as a single point of access for reserving airline seats and other travel items that are provided by travel agents and online travel sites.

But Virgin Atlantic Airways IT director David Bulman told Computing that GDSs have restrictions as they were not built for the role that they are now fulfilling.

"The GDSs as they exist today are an absolute barrier to innovation. We cannot today sell value-added services through the GDSs.

"How you try to sell ancillary sales through it is really complicated; they were not built to do this, they were built to sell airline tickets," he argued.

EasyJet CIO Trevor Didcock agreed that airlines had to move away from GDS but told Computing that he is sceptical about the timeframe that the likes of EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic have to make such a move.

"The way forward is to get away from VDI-based technology. The challenge is that the GDS players have a bit of a stranglehold on the industry and so for [a move] to really be effective would mean that GDS providers can move with the airlines.

"The airlines can try to circumvent the GDS players but when there are tens of thousands of travel agents with the vast majority of them using GDS systems it is going to take a very long time to move away from that. So ideally the likes of [airline IT providers] Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport should work closely with the airlines to find ways of bringing the technology they use up to date. EasyJet are having these conversations with GDS players at the moment," he said.

In addition to co-operating with GDS vendors, airlines should be co-operating with each other, according to Bulman.

"Every airline currently has its own application. We need to interconnect these things, we have to come up with open-source standards so that [the technology] can take a little bit of [the functionality] of an app from Heathrow, from Gatwick, from JFK Airport and make a very rich app that provides information about where my customers are going next time. And airports need their own app to flow that information too," he said.

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