United boss accuses ‘oligopoly’ GDSs of ‘underinvestment’

The boss of US airline giant United Continental has questioned the cost of selling through global distribution systems.

Profiled in the Sunday Times, chief executive Jeff Smisek outlined plans by the carrier to further unbundle services while imposing charges for extras.

The latest initiative, originally pioneered by Continental as Farelock, is the ability for passengers to lock down a fare seen online for a price.

He was quoted as saying he wants the carrier to be “on every shelf where airlines are sold”, whether through travel agents GDSs or direct sales.

But he said: “What we don’t want is to pay a lot of money for traffic we can get ourselves. Also GDSs like Amadeus are global oligopolies that have underinvested in their product, as oligopolies always do.

“Our technology is more potent than theirs and we can’t wait for them to catch up.”

Smisek indicated that United Continental was being primarily aimed at business travellers.

“We need to be attractive to leisure passengers too but we are not a budget airline looking for them. We are a business airline that also flies them,” he said.

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