Happy new year! It’s hard to believe that it’s already 2019, but before we get too far into the new year, I thought I would take a glimpse back on the year that was to reflect on the travel industry’s successes, challenges, and a few surprises that came our way.
Success: The introduction of IATA’s NDC 20/20.
I call this initiative out as an important milestone in the NDC journey, and perhaps a resounding rallying cry. The initiative represents an unprecedented level of commitment to NDC adoption from airlines and technology players big and small. Among our many competitors, I suspect 2019 may be the year of “My NDC is Better than Yours.”
Challenge: AI and the passenger experience.
The industry invested $150 million in Artificial Intelligence (AI) this year, and it’s predicted this will exceed $2 billion by 2025. Clearly, AI is the Next Big Frontier for personalizing and improving the passenger experience and crafting the “optimal offer”. Rising to take full advantage this opportunity has been and will continue to be a challenge for airline revenue executives and technology providers alike. It’s also a challenge we at Farelogix are particularly excited about.
Surprise: American Airline’s Cory Garner.
Many of us will remember feeling stunned at the news that industry icon, and my friend Cory Garner, was to leave American Airlines. Only to be bowled over by the announcement that he would stay on, to help lead industry change from within the aviation leviathan. Like many of us, Cory realizes there is still much left to do, and I for one am thrilled that he’s back in the driving seat where he belongs.
Speaking of Farelogix, we had our own fill of successes, challenges, and surprises in 2018. Like the elements of any good story, all of these were interrelated.
2018 saw Farelogix experiencing unprecedented growth. While NDC transaction volumes were quickly rising, our existing customer enhancement backlog wasn’t getting any smaller. We experienced exceptional new customer demand from all corners of the globe. Through an amazing partnership with Florida International University (FIU), we worked to further the application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) to airline commerce, and incorporated data science to enhance our products. Furthermore, we grew our headcount by over 35% to satisfy the demands of this growth. Acceleration @Scale became our mantra for success.
Needless to say, this level of growth doesn’t come without growing pains, and addressing these was our challenge. We confronted the need to accelerate growth and industry change while minimizing any adverse impact – and I’m not talking about growing in a little way. We acknowledged the need for full scale global delivery and support @Scale; distributed cloud and hosting footprint @Scale; and global talent acquisition @Scale. How else would we achieve what we set out to do all those years ago – to modernize air commerce to benefit all?
Now, a successful company will always have its fair share of suitors and Farelogix is no exception. Against the back drop of growth, challenges, and a hunger for not only doing more but doing it better and faster, we met an admirer in Sabre.
There was something inspiring about the Sabre team we met, and we learned that the “new Sabre” shared a similar mantra around Acceleration. However unlikely the initial meeting seemed at the time, we were genuinely won over by the new Sabre folks’ commitment to accelerating innovation, NDC adoption, PSS/GDS agnostic technology and new generation offer management. Unsurprisingly, Sabre had the “@scale” bit down to a science!
The opportunity of working together with Sabre to bring to life a shared vision was unique and utterly compelling. The herculean effort on both sides to get the deal done was worth it. To many, the proposal was nothing short of astonishing. But hats off to my friend Henry Harteveldt, who summed it up when he said that the Farelogix / Sabre deal was like Prince Harry marrying Megan…so unexpected, but it just works.
Well, that is my brief look back at 2018. What a year it was. And as we look ahead, here’s to innovation, happy customers, and Acceleration @Scale!