Questioning the travel industry status quo, one blog post at a time




This past weekend, the IATA NDC Hackathon took place in Dubai. This was the first hackathon I have attended and I have to say I was impressed. Over 100 young and enthusiastic developers, representing 24 teams in size from one person to eight (Amadeus had the 8-person team), converged on the Emirates HQ in Dubai. For 28 hours, these teams worked away innovating and creating travel-related applications utilizing the available NDC APIs. Farelogix was present with some technical engineers to support and help out those teams developing against the Emirates and/or American Airlines APIs.

Unlike the teams participating in the hackathon, I admit that I did not spend the night, opting instead to head back to the JW for my cushy bed and pillows, selflessly not wanting to deprive the deserving developers of one of the oversized futon cushions scattered throughout.

I did make it back on Saturday in time for the team demonstrations. 20 of the 24 teams qualified to demonstrate. A quick four minutes for presentation and demo, and one minute of questions from the judges. This part was absolutely great. Certified geeks from high school, college, and small startups, all jumping on stage to show off their work. Some awkward with a microphone, some running out of time before getting to their demos, and even a few technical glitches.

But here is what I saw. Passion and drive. Unencumbered belief that they could find a niche or vein of opportunity within an industry that has generally been less than open to innovation and outsiders. I saw fresh blood and it made me feel really good. I saw this group of innovators crack the code of ancillary delivery without the self-imposed hurdles of our status quo.  Kudos to the IATA team for a job well done!

I also saw Team Amadeus blow everyone else away. Their team of eight, which I have no doubt was comprised of seasoned developers, put on a show and it was a very cool concept and app. They clearly worked hard and it looked like they had fun. But, I have to admit that I was surprised to see Amadeus participating in an IATA NDC API hackathon.

The idea behind a hackathon is to recruit fresh talent, encourage industry innovation by a new generation of developers creating new apps in an unreasonably short timeframe, and of course, there is always great prize money and other incentives for the winner.

What surprised me about Amadeus (or any other well-established company for that matter) competing in this event is that they are already the 800 pound gorilla in the industry. In my eyes, hackathons are about finding those needle-in-the-haystack innovators – the ones that fly under the radar and are mostly hidden away from the rest of an industry, yet have some brilliant ideas that everyone should know about. It was kind of like Google participating in a hackathon on consumer search and then winning the competition with their Google developer team.

Look, I am not trying to take away anything from the Amadeus folks that worked so hard through the night. They did a great job. I am simply saying that IATA, through this outstanding NDC API hackathon initiative, is attempting to stimulate innovation and competition in our generally otherwise stagnant industry that long ago abandoned the stewardship role and encouragement of new entrants. Ours is an industry in need of fresh and innovative new ideas, and I don’t see how a $6,000 prize pack and product incubation period being awarded to Amadeus is going to encourage the next generation of travel industry developers to participate in future events, especially if there is absolutely no chance they can ever win against the 800lb gorilla’s “A” Team.

As we have never been a company to point out a problem without offering a solution, Farelogix plans to donate $5,000 to IATA to either award to a new co-winner or apply it to the next NDC API Hackathon.

Looking forward to the next IATA NDC API Hackathon.


*Hackathon first place prize money was $5,000, which was awarded by IATA, and a $1,000 Amazon gift card from SITA.


Although the year is almost over, it is never too late to develop, modify or enhance the merchandising strategy for your airline. Farelogix’s final master class of 2016 boasts an impressive line up of speakers who will share strategies and tools to help airlines differentiate their brands, delight their customers, and grow revenue and loyalty.

Attending the NDC in Action: Best Practices in Airline Merchandising & Digital Commerce Master Class will help you create more revenue and happy customers.

At this event, we will tackle the full, end-to-end process of merchandising and personalization, including how to differentiate your product and brand, creating and optimizing the best offer, leveraging NDC, and understanding what technologies can help your airline stand apart while increasing revenue per passenger.

Attendees will:

  • Hear from industry thought-leaders Henry Harteveldt (founder of Atmosphere Research Group) and Jim Davidson (CEO of Farelogix).
  • Learn how leading airlines, United and Air Canada, have successfully designed and deployed omni-channel merchandising.
  • Experience hands-on technology demonstrations from industry leading companies Switchfly and Routehappy.

Space is limited and time is running out, so register now.

Also, please be sure to attend Airline Information’s Loyalty, Ancillary Revenue & Travel Co-Brand Cards – 7th Mega Event. This conference will bring together industry stakeholders responsible for ancillary revenue generation to discuss the latest trends, best practices, actionable strategies, and insights.

If you would like to set up a personalized meeting in Toronto, please contact us via email at

We look forward to seeing you in Toronto.



“The Offer” is now the airline’s biggest asset.

Sound silly? Hard to believe? I mean come on… airline’s biggest asset…it must be the people, right? Or the fleet of new airplanes? Or maybe those fancy remodeled lounges…. Oh wait, no, the biggest asset must be that new seating configuration or the stand-up bar in the back of the plane. Right? Wrong. All of those things are important…but they are not the airline’s biggest asset when it comes to competitive advantage and earning More Revenue and Happy Customers.

No, the airline’s biggest asset is, without a doubt, the offer it makes to potential customers literally millions of times per day through its various sales channels. Because at the end of the day, if potential customers don’t turn into real live customers, all those other “hard” assets mentioned above become extremely burdensome for any airline. The airline’s ability to monetize those assets essentially comes down to the offer it makes to its potential customers via its web site, call center, mobile app, corporate booking tool, or travel agency, including OTAs and meta search.

Yet, most airlines today put the creation of their offer – and control of their biggest asset – in the hands of strangers! Bizarre, isn’t it? OK, maybe 3rd parties like the PSS and GDS are not strangers, but it’s safe to say the offer is not their biggest asset…and that those companies cannot possibly understand what is the best offer creation methodology for you, the airline. Worse yet, some of these 3rd parties may not even have your best interests at heart when it comes to what drives their business model.

So, what to do if you are an airline seeking to take greater care of, and invest in, your biggest asset? First off, Ask the Question. Then take action! By action, I mean grab back control of your ability to Create, Control, and Deliver your offer to your sales channels – using technology that is fully scalable and under YOUR control. In other words, become the “Single Source of Truth” and don’t look back!

 More on how to do that coming up.


I recently attended T2RL’s New Generation of Airline PSS conference held in London. The audience included several of the world’s top airlines as well as a slew of companies representing the hungry crowd of vendors just waiting to get their bite of this lucrative PSS market.

Observation #1: The PSS market has massive opportunity…

…well not really. In Richard Clarke’s opening remarks, he put up a slide of the top 28 PSS providers. That’s right – twenty-eight technology companies, most of which had representatives in the audience. The problem is that once you get to number 4 on the list, you are pretty much done in terms of real opportunity. If you take TravelSky out (as that market is a bit tied up at the moment), and put Navitaire in its rightful category (under Amadeus) then voila… the list is down to two – Amadeus and Sabre, dominating the world’s PSS provider market share. Yet, bless their hearts, 24 other PSS provider companies are still giving it a go, hoping against all hope that they will land “the big one”!

This Notable Quote is from Cormac Whelan, CEO of Mercator and a man I look up to and probably always will: “The perceived technology challenges facing the PSS are not technical at all. They are commercial. The technology is already here.”

Observation #2: The airlines that attend a New Generation PSS conference are looking for a change…

…well again, not really. When the general audience was asked by a panelist “how many airlines are looking for change to happen in the PSS industry?” I could count the number of airlines raising their hands on one of my hands. Seriously! And of those airline hand raising rabble-rousers, Farelogix already has a commercial relationship with most. Which begs the question, why did we come to this event? Why did those other airlines bother showing up? My advice to those non-hand raising airlines – stay home next year. Save your money; you’ll probably need it to pay your rising PSS bill.

Notable Quotes: “I look at the PSS as I am standing on the bank of a rushing river of money flowing out of the airline to the PSS.” And on what a PSS migration does to an airline: “It constipates them; they can’t do anything for years.” ~ Tim Catling, PSS Program Manager at Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Another Notable Quote: “The people that made the mechanical diggers all sat back and laughed at the people making the hydraulic diggers because they were big and expensive and no one wanted them…until they were no longer big and expensive and everyone wanted a hydraulic digger and no one wanted a mechanical digger.” ~ Tim Hartford, Columnist and Author, Financial Times.

Final observation: The PSS business seems to be a really good model for the PSS companies, well at least two. But what’s in it for the airlines?

There you have it. Maybe I’ll be a reporter in my next life, because sooner or later someone needs to Ask the Question!


What’s the real story with Amadeus and its Fare Families?

On September 23, 2016, an article was published by Tnooz with the following headline:

“Amadeus admits fare families are not working for all its airlines”

That same day, the headline from the story was changed as follows:

 “Amadeus says fare families work well for some airlines but not all [UPDATED]”

So what is all this about? Why the different headlines? In my book, it’s called editorial influence and it is usually quite rare to update an article with a different title, but we’ll leave that for what it is.

The real story is not the change of headlines, or even that some (or all) of the airlines that invested in the Amadeus merchandising offering are not getting the results they expected. The real story, if you are an airline, is getting a better understanding of the technology tools available so you don’t make costly mistakes that will significantly limit your airline’s future when implementing one of the most revolutionizing aspects in ensuring Happy Customers, and More Revenue.

Is the Amadeus offering a true merchandising engine? Perhaps you should Ask the Question. In my view, it’s actually just a merchandising “program” that airlines sign up for and Amadeus, rather than the airline, sets up and determines how the airlines will participate. If my thinking is correct, then frankly, it’s no surprise that the results can be sub-optimal. Any attempt to utilize existing GDS and PSS systems and industry processes – that were never designed for anything close to airline merchandising – to implement an airline merchandising program is bound to be fraught with difficulties.

From the Farelogix point of view, our FLX Merchandise airline merchandising engine was created from scratch, and designed as a “built-for-purpose” technology solution for airline merchandising. It was created with input from the airlines so that it addressed their particular needs. Our technology solution is designed to be integrated into the airline’s actual technology stack servicing all distribution channels. This is a fundamentally different approach and yields fundamentally different results. Just ask our FLX Merchandise customers*.

We’ll spend some more time in the near future providing more details of the different approaches to building and delivering airline merchandising solutions. And, of course, we will continue to Ask the Question.


* Skift published the following headline…and only once:

United Generates More Ancillary Revenue Than Any Other Airline – Brian Sumers, Skift – Sep 21, 2016 6:30 am

It’s beeOptical fibern a long time coming, but it’s incredibly rewarding to finally see NDC connectivity to the Sabre GDS enabling airline product differentiation, personalization, and improved profitability.

If you missed the news, I’ll recap it for you. American Airlines recently announced its GDS integration to Sabre using the airlines’ NDC-style API. It’s no secret that Farelogix built and powers the AA direct connect API, and that we are incredibly proud of the work that has been done with the airline to date. Connecting a full-service airline’s API to a GDS is no easy feat – at least doing it the first time – but all three companies (Sabre, AA, and Farelogix) worked hard and cooperatively to make this happen. But, believe it or not, that’s not the real story here.

The real story is what this connectivity to Sabre means for an industry that has basically been “stuck” in third party distribution limbo for years. This announcement just changed the status quo for everyone, and it’s a win-win situation for all. No one loses.

Airlines win by being able to offer differentiated content, which can increase loyalty and generate new revenue. The TMCs/OTAs win by having the most up-to-date and relevant airline content, helping to secure their value proposition to their customers. The GDSs win by being able to deliver (and ultimately display and sell) new airline services to their users (i.e., airlines, TMCs, and corporate booking tools). Consumers and corporate travelers win by getting access to the airline content and product choices they have been clamoring for, with minimal process change.

Given our history with Sabre, I was skeptical about ever seeing this level of win-win situation in airline distribution in my lifetime. But there it is, staring us right in the face. And although there is still much more work that has to be done to bring the entire industry in line with NDC, for once we are all moving forward in the right direction. New airline connectivity to GDSs is here, and it is reloading the value proposition for what was always viewed as a tired, outdated, and over-priced distribution channel. Plus, any future GDS integrations with our other airline customers will be almost automatic since 90 percent of the integration work is reusable with any GDS, thanks to an NDC-aligned integration standard.

How great is that? And in my lifetime too!

An effective airline merchandising program showcases your brand, delights your customers, and grows both revenue and loyalty.  But effective airline merchandising is not easy to accomplish.  Embracing value-added services, personalization, and New Distribution Capability (NDC) requires innovation on many levels, from strategy to technology.


Farelogix is pleased to announce Dan McKone of L.E.K. Consulting and Jeff Hong of Hawaiian Airlines will both speak at the Ancillary Master Class on August 31st, 2015. Dan McKone is a Managing Director with L.E.K. Consulting, as well as a Partner and member of L.E.K.’s Global Leadership Team.  He currently heads the firm’s Retail Sector and Head of Travel/Lodging in the Americas.  He has directed more than 300 projects spanning corporate strategy, new concept development, and channel strategy, pricing and positioning.

Jeff Hong is currently the Director of Commercial Applications with Hawaiian Airlines.  After a successful tour-of-duty with the United States Army, a period working with a technology startup, and working with Microsoft, he returned to his home state of Hawaii.  At Hawaiian he specializes in delivering cutting edge solutions for the airline.

It is not too late to sign up for the Merchandising Master Class.  For more information, please click here.  If you would like to register for the event, please click here.

After attending the Merchandising Master Class, please be sure to attend Airline Information’s 2nd Annual Mega Event Asia Pacific 2015.  This conference will bring together industry stakeholders responsible for merchandising to discuss the latest trends, best practices, actionable strategies and insights.

Last month, Farelogix hosted its Merchandising Master Class as part of Airline Information’s (AI) Mega Event in Barcelona, Spain. Farelogix representatives brought together industry thought leaders, top airline performers, and technology solution providers to discuss merchandising with the standing-room-only crowd. These Master Class events, which have become a staple of AI’s Mega Event series, have been conducted all over the world – from Singapore to New Orleans.

Recognizing that designing and implementing an effective airline merchandising program requires innovation on many levels, the Barcelona workshop explored the entire end-to-end process with a focus on taking action – from strategy to execution. Real case studies and hands-on technology approaches were used to tackle the full spectrum of successful merchandising including: differentiating your product and brand; tips to create and optimize the best offer; and insights on New Distribution Capability (NDC) and related technologies that can help you get to market quickly with the highest flexibility, efficiency and revenue per passenger.

Jim Davidson, President of Farelogix, kicked off the event with his presentation: “Merchandising Call to Action: Are You Leaving $15 Per Passenger On The Table?” Read the rest of this entry »

FLX-M Use Case Challenge

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, spring is here! The temperature is warming, and the snow is finally melting. It was a great winter if you love skiing and sledding, but it was quite miserable for airlines trying to run on schedule. The delays and cancellations added up quickly, leaving passengers frustrated and airlines stretched to accommodate everyone. And while the good news is that the weather is getting better, there will still be storms, equipment troubles, and a myriad reasons why flights get delayed and canceled.

As an airline there’s often nothing you can do about such troubles, but your customers usually don’t see it that way. You can however make the rebooking and re-accommodation process as simple and pain-free as possible. This is exactly where FLX Merchandise can help.

Today, most airlines send emails and/or text messages to impacted travelers and those messages are usually limited to two choices for the travelers: 1) go with the auto-rebook on another flight (chosen by default by the airline), or 2) please call customer service.

But with the power of FLX Merchandise and personalization, a “Recovery Package” can be offered to the traveler that can turn a negative, frustrating situation into a positive experience with the airline—and we all know how word-of-mouth can impact customers’ feelings towards an airline. Read the rest of this entry »

An effective airline merchandising program showcases your brand, delights your customers, and grows both revenue and loyalty.  But effective airline merchandising is not easy to accomplish.  Embracing value-added services, personalization, and New Distribution Capability (NDC) requires innovation on many levels, from strategy to technology.


We invite you to attend a one-of-a-kind master class, dedicated to exploring what it takes to successfully grow happy customers and more revenue through effective merchandising and value-added services.

At Merchandising and NDC: The Path to Happy Customers and More Revenue, we will tackle the full, end-to-end process of merchandising and personalization, including how to differentiate your product and brand, creating and optimizing the best offer, leveraging NDC, and understanding what technologies can help your airline stand apart while increasing revenue per passenger. Read the rest of this entry »