Airline “Direct Connects” Create Concerns for Business Travel Buyers

A new survey of 244 business travel buyers conducted by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) Foundation revealed that a majority of respondents (89 percent) expect an increase in travel costs if the airline industry moves to a "direct connect" model that bypasses the existing travel distribution system. 

Almost three-quarters (72 percent) believe a shift to a direct connect-type system would have a negative impact on the business travel industry, and over half (59 percent) of travel managers said they would be "very concerned" if other airlines pursue similar distribution strategies.

"Business travel buyers have spoken and they overwhelmingly indicate that the "direct connect" approach for airfare distribution is a pricey strategy that will result in higher costs for companies and negatively impact the business travel industry as a whole," said Mike McCormick, executive director and COO of NBTA.

"Since this issue began, we have focused on ensuring that the voice of the business travel buyer is heard and included in this discussion. These findings underscore the gravity of the issue for travel buyers and the need to push for the values most important to NBTA members and fundamental to the business travel marketplace: transparency and competition," continued McCormick. "NBTA will continue to listen to our membership and advocate for travel buyers on this issue."

The survey also found that nine in 10 travel managers (90 percent) are aware of the dispute between American Airlines and Travelport regarding American's use of the direct connect booking system. Highlighting travel managers' concerns about the dispute, less than half of respondents (48 percent) feel it is likely that American and Travelport will be able to resolve this friction and retain a working relationship. 

The online survey of travel managers in the U.S. was conducted on January 25-26, 2011. 

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