Emirates is moving to entirely cut the global distribution systems (GDS) powering travel agencies worldwide from its ticket selling operations within the next five years, the airline's president Sir Tim Clark has said.
GDS are the primary travel commerce platforms which travel agents use to sell airline tickets. Dissatisfaction with what used to be an industry standard way of selling tickets is growing; Air France-KLM announced last month it would place surcharges on GDS bookings from April 1, 2018, adding it to a list of other airlines including Lufthansa and British Airways parent IAG, that have also announced their own fees.
"I don't see a place for them in five years," Clark said in an interview with Aviation Business last week. "There's a storm coming and I've been saying for a long time to these guys. What they do and the value they bring was fine 15 years ago, but that's no longer the case, because we can actually do what they do better than they could ever do."
With new technology and knowledge AIs Emirates is getting better at "creating a raft of products that you can hyperpersonalise online," said Tim Clark. "We have 1.2 million people flying with us every week. We have the data to know what travellers want, when they want it, why they want it, and what they're going to do with it."
"We're B2C and have to deal with B2B with the intermediaries. But they have a contra-rotating agenda of lining their own pockets first and ours somewhere down the line wherever that may be," added Clark.
Growth in the number of search engine bookings facilitators is leading to a phenomenon that analysts describe as the 'commoditisation' of travel as GDS' lose ground to online bookings. However, Clark was quick to say Emirates wouldn't let them have their way either.
"There are some people who are saying they are going to commoditise air travel, the Google's of the world. That they'll make us a supplier of seats from A to B. Wrong," said Clark. "This is Emirates you're talking about and we will never be commoditised, subsumed or subjugated by any overarching global brand."
You can watch the interview at https://goo.gl/Ju3k1V