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

Archive for the ‘Ancillary Services’ Category

FLX Ancillary AwardGuess what? Our friends at United Airlines nominated the FLX Merchandise product in the Airline Information 2014 Mega Event Awards for Innovation of the Year – and we won! This is news our entire company is thankful for as we head into the holiday season!

We were nominated in the Ancillary Revenue and Merchandising category based on United’s cross-channel use of our Farelogix FLX Merchandise product. United set the stage for us to win by highlighting how we’ve helped them achieve their lofty goal of increasing ancillary revenue by 11% per passenger in Q3 2014, and generating revenues of $3 billion in 2014 from ancillary sales of a variety of products and services, including Economy Plus seats, priority boarding, bags, and various subscriptions.

United hosts the FLX Merchandise product and has integrated it directly into their technology stack. This allows them to quickly and efficiently update product pricing, add new products and services, and continuously optimize their offers. FLX Merchandise also generates offers for United’s Economy Plus seats across channels including through the GDS, allowing travel management partners and travel agencies to seamlessly book extra legroom seats. Read the rest of this entry »

This week, I thought I’d toss out a question to all of you airline marketers:

Can you imagine a situation in which you invite one of your technology vendors to choose which color to paint your new fleet of planes? Or perhaps invite an outsider to decide how to structure and market your new loyalty program… or maybe even dictate what other companies you are allowed to partner with? Whoa OK, OK, I can hear you answering all the way from here – your answer is (correctly) a resounding no! Of course, your airline brand, your products, and your partners are core elements of your strategy and marketplace identity. Of course you would never turn over the control to a third party!  OK, I guess it was a silly question.

© buchachon

© buchachon

Well if that’s so silly, then maybe try to answer this: Why, in today’s world of merchandising and multi-channel customer engagement, do some airlines allow third parties to dictate what products the airline is allowed to sell and where, largely due to technology limitations and delays? Yes, this happens! “We just don’t know anyone who can help us sell seats the way we really want to so we just do what they can do and try to live with what they can do.” That is a real quote from an airline I met with just two weeks ago!  Or this, recently shared by a major international carrier: “NDC sounds promising because we do so much through the agency channel and we want to extend our merchandising there…but our PSS provider says realistically it will be years before it is possible, so I guess we’ll have to wait.” What? And you accept that answer? When in fact the decision of “should we offer it?” should never be dictated by what a particular technology provider can do. To accept that is to limit your potential right out of the gate!  It’s like your provider telling you to dream big…but only in black and white. Read the rest of this entry »

I had the privilege of presenting to the fine folks of the FBTA last week. This is not my first time with the group, and knowing they can be a little feisty at times, I came prepared to bare all. There is no holding back with this group. They remind me a lot of the group from LABTA.

My presentation was all about airline ancillary services and the impact these might have on corporate travel managers and their travelers. Whether it’s a new bundled airline product freshly negotiated by savvy travel managers or a set of company-authorized a-la-carte optional services based on trip type or duration, a whole new world has opened up for today’s corporate travel managers… if they want it that is. I bet most will, but I suspect some will run for the hills because navigating in this new world where the corporate travel managers are negotiating the travel experience is new territory. The days of simply negotiating a discount in return for volume are long gone.  And simply getting your travelers an entry-level frequent flyer status just won’t cut it.

As is typical with this group, presenters only get through their first three slides before the “Hands of Challenge” arise. No different this day, but I expected and prepared for it. In reality, this is really what I love about this group—dialogue! Ok, maybe more like pointed questions, but I love it anyway. At first they seemed very school-like by raising their hands and politely waiting their turn to ask, but that only lasted a few minutes. We talked about how airlines are working hard to create an “experience” for their travelers rather than just a trip, and how travel managers now have the ability to influence their travelers experience by engaging airlines to customize product bundles based on type of travel—say a training venue versus a sales trip halfway around the world for the top salespeople in the organization.  Read the rest of this entry »

Empty_Box_Person_Looking_InOk, sometimes I am easily confused, but this one is taking the cake. I am totally confounded because in the last several months practically everyone I have spoken to—travel agencies, corporate travel managers, and even GDSs (well, Sabre and Farelogix aren’t really on speaking terms lately, so not all GDSs)—has expressed interest in having viewable, transparent, and bookable access to the various airline merchandising and ancillary services many airlines have on their websites. Everyone wants it, which makes perfect sense. Having access to more options that are relevant, up-to-the-minute, accurate, and maybe even personalized for the individual traveler making the request is clearly good for consumers, corporate travelers, corporations, travel agencies, OTAs, and GDSs. It’s good for everybody!

Enter IATA. IATA, through its standards-setting body, has developed its optional NDC initiative. This standards initiative was developed with input from various travel supply chain players. They worked long and hard to define a technology integration and workflow standard that enables an airline to deliver relevant, up-to-the-minute, accurate, and maybe even personalized offers to travel agencies, consumers, corporate travelers, corporations, OTAs, and GDSs. So, essentially IATA is enabling more airline content to be delivered and more is good, right?  Read the rest of this entry »

© rangizzz – Fotolia.com

It’s hard to go a day without reading an article about how airlines are “nickel-and-diming” travelers with new fees. It’s a popular sound bite. But what is the real impact of these “fees” on passengers?

Believe it or not some passengers today are opting to pay additional charges for things like checked baggage, premium seating, and priority boarding to add value to their trip experience. Other travelers enjoy these services—called ancillary products and services—complimentary based on frequent flyer status, affinity credit card usage, and other variables. Some of these services used to be included in the price of a fare, such as checked bags, while some of these services didn’t even exist ten years ago, such as onboard Wi-Fi. Undoubtedly, some travelers feel that the airlines are squeezing every last penny out of them, and they are paying more for air travel than they used to. However, the numbers suggest that travelers are seeing considerable savings as compared a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you know travel agents are working around the GDS to meet customer demand for booking airline ancillary products and services? In fact, “nine in 10 corporate agents and more than 70% of leisure retail agents have booked air ancillaries over the past year.”

Wait. That quote can’t be right. I must have read it wrong. Due to technological limitations that restrict the meaningful display of ancillaries in the GDS, almost no airline ancillaries are available for sale through GDSs. I know because the GDSs and their allies are trying to push for government regulation to require airlines to distribute and display their ancillary products and services through the… well, let’s just say the less-than-modern GDS channel.

But no, I read this recent Travel Weekly article three times and that’s what the quote says. The article reports on a PhoCusWright study that states, among other things, “Agents’ willingness to book [ancillary products] without compensation implies that the demand for handling ancillaries as part of the flight reservation is customer-driven.” So there we have it! Despite these agencies getting no help from their GDS, they are finding ways to sell ancillaries. It’s really no surprise when you think about it. Travelers, like all consumers, want choices and options, and travel agents are once again demonstrating resilience when it comes to meeting the needs of their customers!

© shotsstudio - Fotolia.com

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Articles about travel agents and ancillaries have been all over the web lately. First I read this one. Then I read this. And then this. I felt like I was reading the same article over and over and over. Then it hit me — Groundhog Day.

No, I’m not talking about the day when we pull Punxsutawney Phil from his burrow in Pennsylvania to see if he’ll see his shadow or not. I’m talking about the hilarious movie Groundhog Day (yes, the movie takes place on Punxsutawney Phil’s special day). In the movie Bill Murray keeps living the same day over and over… and over. And it seems to me that the conversation surrounding travel agents and ancillaries is stuck in a similar pattern. Read the rest of this entry »