British Airways this month replaced Prism Group Inc. with TRX Inc. as its provider for the next three years of data consolidation for corporate and agency deals, following a five-month selection process that initially had nine contenders.
The field of vendors, which was narrowed to five in April, included the incumbent. BA in 1996 was the launch airline customer for Albuquerque-based Prism, which recently signed its fourth major U.S. airline customer in Delta (BTN, Dec. 9, 2002)
. Prism executives for years have anticipated competition in the field.
BA manager of dealing and pricing Jack Harvey equated the selection process to any corporate purchasing initiative, which he said is "just an opportunity to reevaluate." Harvey said BA "worked really well with Prism over the years" and had no problems with Prism's service. "Overall, we simply felt TRX offered the best value."
In addition to the change in vendors, BA no longer is asking clients to provide ticket price information, which BA determined it doesn't need. "That data is contentious because it has the potential to expose relationships that agencies and/or corporations have with other airlines," Harvey said. "Even if we stayed with Prism, we would have dropped it. That was part of the RFP." Prism's Airline Data Transfer Protocol allows airlines to see unmasked data on ticket prices.
TRX president and CEO Trip Davis trumpeted the relaxed requirements as offering "more privacy for the corporate client as the first deal to be completed under Data Advisory Board standards." The Data Advisory Board, spearheaded last year by TRX and Hi-Mark Software (BTN, June 20, 2002)
, outlined the following as key data elements: origin, destination, class of service, specified carrier segments, all carriers' segments, specified carrier spend and all carriers' spend. Harvey described what BA next month will begin getting from TRX as including "origin, destination, class of service, BA bodies and seats and all other carriers' bodies and seats."
"Because we've been collecting marketshare data for seven or eight years, we know where the pressure points are, and some have to stay there," said Harvey when asked whether corporate clients were consulted on what data they are comfortable sharing. "But I think corporations appreciate that. They know we have to push the envelope a bit because we have to ascertain marketshare, so the raw data goes through a neutral third party."
BA becomes the first such client for TRX, which said it allows agencies to submit data in any format they choose. "We're in discussions with additional airlines," Davis said. The company's only prior airline work involved ticketing fulfillment services.