Rearden Commerce CEO Patrick Grady said he is “nothing if
not consistent.” But even he
would probably admit that
persistent is more accurate.
And so it must have been
eminently satisfying to him
when in 2010, Rearden
lined up two partnerships
that put more money where
his mouth had been.
Ever since the fits and starts of Rearden’s early
years, Grady has stated that the days of the corporate booking tool as we knew it were numbered, and
that online commerce technology really is about platforms rather than tools. Deals last year with Carlson
Wagonlit Travel and Travelport, in which the former
sunset its existing booking tool and the latter essentially acknowledged its tool’s limitations, added to
the list of major corporate travel distributors buying
into Rearden’s platform and helped further validate
Topping the list of Rearden’s previous major partners is American Express. After a year in which the
card and TMC giant deepened its relationship with
Concur, one might have thought that Rearden (like
Concur, part-owned by American Express) had become the lesser child. However, not only was Grady
able in 2010 to partner with Amex’s largest TMC
rival—then make statements about how great CWT
is, getting him into a bit of hot water with Amex and
resulting in a follow-up commentary espousing the
merits of the Blue Box—but Rearden also deepened
its partnership with Amex, which included Rearden’s
booking tool-agnostic mobile services in its major
Meanwhile, at a time when airlines and global distribution systems battled over the cost and processes
of distribution, Rearden in 2010 landed a direct connection with Southwest Airlines and lined up to process American Airlines bookings through Farelogix
should client demand warrant it. It separately partnered with IBM for end-to-end travel and expense
management, even though Rearden also owns an expense solution.
Grady thinks Rearden’s acquisition of procurement platform Ketera Technologies, near the end of
2010, also will prove prescient as travel technology
and procurement technology converge.
You may not like what he has to say. Actually, if you are a corporate travel buyer or travel management company official—and if polls among your peers about change in airline distribution are to be believed—you almost definitely do not. But even Jim Davidson’s
opponents have to admit that the Farelogix CEO and former GDS company executive is pretty
creative in how he says what he says, not to mention voluminous in how much.
No one in the industry during 2010 was more effective than Davidson and his team in using social media and riding Internet memes to carry their message. That message, if you haven’t heard, is that airlines
need substantial technological change in distribution to capture potentially billions in ancillary revenue.
Yet with all those guest columns, blog posts, online videos and slick presentations comes a little risk. The inclusion
of Farelogix in the FairSearch.org lobbying group, which calls for the government to challenge Google’s proposed
acquisition of ITA Software, just weeks after Davidson in a September column in BTN sister publication The Beat
slammed calls for new airfare and fee regulations raised an eyebrow. He had picked on people for playing the G-card
of government intervention, then turned around and did it himself. Hypocritical?
“It would be a bit hypocritical,” according to Davidson, “if we simply stayed on the sidelines and only spoke out
when events had direct impact on Farelogix. On the surface, it sure looks like we are keeping some strange bedfellows
by supporting FairSearch, and frankly I even have to smile when I see Sabre and Farelogix agreeing. But Farelogix has
always been vocal about maintaining system openness and product choice, and fostering innovation throughout the
travel industry. And when we see a trend, merger or significant industry event that may limit or restrict those core
industry requirements, we need to voice our opinion.”
Davidson fully admits that he wants the media campaign he has waged to mean greater use of Farelogix’s “pipes.”
Farelogix last year added to its roster of airlines that use its application programming interface, launched a new agent
desktop—now in use, testing and development by a small number of agencies—and freely offered its XML schema to
power the new Open Axis airline association. Open Axis itself gave carriers disillusioned with the Open Travel Alli-
ance an alternative, and the follow-on to that was the launch this month of the ASTA-, BTC- and GDS-backed Open
Allies for Airfare Transparency, which Davidson of course immediately mocked.
While most buyers still prefer fixed, negotiated hotel rates to dynamic pricing models in which a negotiated discount is applied to the best available rate, many now are more open to the idea thanks in large part
to a comprehensive sales effort developed by InterContinental Hotels Group.
After aggressively pushing dynamic pricing in the Asia/Pacific region two years
ago, IHG began an effort to urge large-market buyers to adopt the model. That effort was led by senior vice president of worldwide sales Stephen Powell, who told
BTN that the goal was to put dynamic pricing “in the proper box, wrap it up and
put a bow on it.” The approach included training for the sales team and buyer education regarding the potential
advantages of adopting dynamic rates.
IHG this month still is finalizing agreements, but Powell said he expects the company will reach its goal of
converting 20 percent of corporate buyer contracts to some form of dynamic pricing.
At the same time, IHG’s strategy helped contribute to an overall shift in buyer attitudes toward dynamic pricing. Five years ago, the model was enormously unpopular among buyers, especially as some hotel companies
took an all-or-nothing approach. Now, even among buyers who do not adopt dynamic pricing—and Powell
concedes that the model will not work for every buyer—many at least are willing to consider it, he said.
“Where we originally were, people wanted to shut the door and didn’t even want to breach the subject at all,”
Powell said. “Now, whether they’re converting to dynamic pricing, we are seeing a turnaround in the interest.”
MICHAEL B. BAKER
SENIOR VICE PRESIDEN T OF WORLDWIDE SALES
IN TERCON TINEN TAL HOTELS GROUP
DEPU T Y ASSIS TAN T SECRE TARY FOR TRANSPORTATION AFFAIRS
U. S. S TATE DEPARTMEN T
By the time he re- tired from the U.S. State Department in October last year,
John Byerly had played a
role in negotiating about
three-quarters of the
roughly 100 Open Skies agreements the United States
now holds with other nations. Capping off more than a
decade of influence in the aviation industry as deputy
assistant secretary for transportation affairs, Byerly in
2010 oversaw the conclusion of two of the most fruitful and challenging negotiations of his career: the
Open Skies agreements with Japan, signed in October,
and the finalization of the two-stage agreement with
the European Union.
In addition to cementing 2007’s first-stage agree-
ment with the EU, a pact that helped launch a new era
of joint ventures now dominating airline transatlantic
competition, Byerly in March 2010 initialed the second-
stage deal. That pact, among other things, gave U.S.
airlines greater night-flying rights in Europe and lifted
some restrictions imposed by the U.S. Fly America Act,
which had limited the carriers government contractors
could use. The deal, officially signed and enacted in
June, changed neither U.S. foreign ownership rules nor
prohibitions on European airlines serving intra-U.S.
routes, a disappointment to some in Europe.
Byerly passed the reins as chief aviation negotiator
for the United States to Kris Urs “right in the middle of an administration when there’s not a political
transition going on.” After completing two landmark
deals, it was a good time to move on, he said. “We just
finished the second-stage EU talks and signed that
in June, and I was in Tokyo on Oct.
25 [when] our ambassador and the
Japanese transport minister signed
the U.S.-Japan Open Skies agreement, which was sort of a miracle of
an agreement,” Byerly said. “No one,
including me, thought that was going to happen any
time soon, but the commercial reality is airlines want
to position themselves for a global future. That’s really
what set the stage for negotiations, which were tough.
That was a neat way to go out.”
EXECUTIVES OF 2010