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Username: USTAR
Date/Time: Sun, October 22, 2000 at 3:55 PM GMT (Sun, October 22, 2000 at 11:55 AM EDT)
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer V5.01 using Windows 98
Score: 5
Subject: IATA Airlines Do Not Partner Well with Outsiders - Control is the Goal


Dear IATA Dot-Travel Team:

In your post, you state: "Moreover, the IATA application makes clear that IATA is seeking partnerships with other entities from throughout the travel industry, including travel agent associations, who would be encouraged to act as registrars for the TLD, would serve on the ".travel" Advisory Board and the IATA-Registrars Forum, and thus would have a direct role in setting policies for the TLD."

Perhaps the best, most recent example of a similar standards-setting initiative was the airlines' organization of the "Open Travel Alliance" (OTA) in 1999, an endeavor to progress XML data-interchange protocols and standards for the travel industry as a whole. While IATA was not directly involved in the organization per se, five of IATA's largest member airlines were founding proponents: United Airlines, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, U.S. Airways, and Continental Airlines.

Much to the chagrin of the attendees at the first general meeting of the OTA in Atlanta in May 1999, the nearly 200 participants were shocked to learn that the airlines had carved for themselves 5 of the 11 seats on the OTA board of directors, and furthermore, that all meetings of the "Air Working Group" would be closed-door sessions, restricted to airline personnel only.

Outrage raised primarily by travel agency organizations, shared by other travel and technology industry groups, and sharp criticism in the travel trade press, eventually were successful in persuading the OTA to open all of its working groups to all participants and reduced the airline board seats to a less dominant position.

This is but one example of the airlines' never-ending thirst for dominant control. IATA has a long history of exemption from anti-trust and general competition laws, almost always meeting in secrecy, and promulgating a wide range of self-serving operating policies. As an airline cartel, IATA serves its members exceedingly well, and no one disputes IATA's many accomplishments in setting airline standards, procedures, and recommended trade practices. However, in the broad context of IATA's application to manage the .travel TLD, IATA is too focused on the primary needs of the airline industry; often with the objective of controlling and regulating industry sectors which rely on access to airline services or even have limited interface with airline initiatives.

If IATA were truly attempting to be as inclusionary as it purports to be, why were literally most all major travel sectors taken by surprise with IATA's application and subsequent announcement? What efforts did IATA pursue to gain wider non-airline recognition and support for its application? What travel agency associations did IATA consult with in the formation of its plan to include travel agencies in any advisory or governance role?

USTAR believes that a .travel TLD is an excellent idea. We are only concerned that it be managed by a neutral third party or a collective of industry organizations where no one sector in the industry has any greater benefit or standing than another.

USTAR thanks IATA for this opportunity to comment on its reply.


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