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

Posts Tagged ‘corporate booking tools’

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 »

Did you see Friday’s Beat commentary by Joe Da Rosa from Balboa Travel, in which Joe voiced his strong opposition to the commoditization of travel agency services?

Now I’ve known Joe for ages—all the way back to my System One and Amadeus days. Anyone who meets Joe instantly knows he is a professional, a gentleman, and a leader… and from what I know of Joe, it takes quite a bit for him to “get his dander up.” So, knowing Joe, his agitation must be justified, and, in this case, I think he’s absolutely right.

Travel agencies invest in people and resources. They work very hard to compete for their business, and the last thing they need is for anyone to view their products and services as commodities. It is absurd, preposterous, outrageous… and if the holidays weren’t upon us, I would really go off here.

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In case you missed our article in The Beat on Friday, here it is.


We read with interest the November 29 article in The Beat where [Sabre Travel Network president] Greg Webb stated, “Corporations and agencies have told me it’s a must-have to be able to display all content from all carriers flying a certain route in an easily understandable way.” He continued, “I can’t show Air Canada one way, WestJet another way and United a third way because it becomes an unusable user experience.”

With all due respect, if it was ever true that it was an unusable user experience it is certainly no longer the case. In fact, it has not been the case for quite some time now. As you may recall, Farelogix deployed a travel agency desktop platform in the Canadian market more than four years ago (which is still in use today) that does exactly what you say Sabre is unable to do. This agency desktop platform, on one screen and clearly “usable” by the travel agents, even has the Sabre GDS fully and transparently integrated. So a travel agency “usable” platform that meets the needs of both agencies and airlines is not only a reality, but has been for some time.

At Farelogix, we believe that real transparency means displaying fares and ancillary service information in a way that is both convenient for agents/consumers, and supportive of how each airline wants to showcase its products and services. Meeting these challenges—and ensuring all required information is transparently displayed—is why we have continued to invest in a modern and flexible travel agency desktop solution, SPRK. After all, if one airline has only one available fare, but another has five, do you only show one of each? Of course not. That would be uniformity, not transparency. As much as we as an industry may like uniformity and status quo, that mentality continues to do a huge disservice to agencies, consumers, airlines, and overall competition.

Albeit clearly self-serving, I have taken the liberty of including a sample SPRK screen shot from our test system that clearly shows how we do what you (Sabre) say you cannot. Sure, it’s hard to figure this stuff out, but it can be done and done well. Now, I am not saying that the SPRK product is for everyone, nor that it has everything any agency would need—I would not be so presumptuous. However, since SPRK and, more importantly, its free open source sibling, Hawkeye, are designed and engineered with a modern and flexible graphical user interface development approach, anyone (yes, even Sabre) is free to use it to create their optimal platform.

*test data may not reflect accurate availability and fares

Hey, I have a suggestion. Now I know that we have had our differences over the years, but maybe it’s time to “bury the hatchet” and work together to create a truly “agency usable” platform. Since Hawkeye is open source and the SPRK platform is free to anyone, it won’t even cost you a license fee. You could even hire us to do any new development work on this new platform and still take all the credit. Heck, you can even brand it Sabre and call it any color you want—red, green, yellow, blue, whatever!

What do you say? You know where to find us.


I recently read with great interest two articles: “Airlines Could Triple Ancillary Fee Revenue by Working with Agents” and “Airlines Forfeit $67 Billion in Revenue by Ignoring Agents, Report Says.” They focused on the opportunities for airlines to sell ancillary products through travel agencies. It is great to see growing industry dialogue on this topic, and I am in full agreement that travel agencies represent a powerful channel to sell airline ancillary products and services. However, I do believe the articles, as well as the study from IdeaWorks mentioned in both, risk oversimplifying the real issue at hand as relates to what it will take for ancillary selling to really take off in the agency channel.
So let’s talk some turkey: the real challenge is not implementation of EMDs (Electronic Miscellaneous Documents). Sure, EMDs are essential and must be supported. A few airlines, along with Sabre, Amadeus, and Farelogix already support the issuance of EMDs. As you may recall American Airlines, Farelogix, and a US-based travel agency delivered the first ARC-certified EMD. But really, looking at the full picture here, getting EMDs in place is relatively “small potatoes” compared to overcoming the vast number of imposed technical and commercial barriers to ancillary product adoption in the agency channel.

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Rearden Aims to Limit Choice.” Whoa. When I read that Beat headline, it sounded like a bad thing. Don’t take away my choice! But it’s kind of like saying Amazon limits choice because it offers me recommendations when I log in. This “limited choice” is actually just personalization, which I think is a very good thing!

The only shock is that it’s taken the travel industry so long to come around. What Rearden has done is innovative and efficient. If I only stay at hotels with swimming pools, this tool will only return hotels with pools in the search results. No need to return results of hotels I’ll never stay at!

The amount of time saved is beneficial enough, but then add on the level of personalization provided and Rearden is really on to something.

So technically, yes, it limits the total number of choices, but the choices it’s eliminating are ones I don’t want anyway because this tool knows what I like! Relevant search… Brilliant!

Hey, did everyone note the news from CWT the other day? Maybe it slipped by. Or maybe you read it but didn’t catch the irony or impact. I read it but I can’t believe it.  Maybe someone should have called me before announcing it. I would have done my best to share a bit of my own experience — a bit of the pain and anguish that comes from trying to buck the status quo.

Lest we’ve all forgotten, let me remind everyone of what happened when we “debuted.”  They cancelled our developer agreements. They went to our existing and potential customers and partners and “advised them” to stay clear from us. Kept telling folks there was no need for “Non-GDS” anything. The GDS had it all… you know Full Content and all. Hey, I wonder if hotels have Full Content Agreements?

Anyway, they even said some unflattering things in the press about our products. We had to spend lots of money on lawyers and tons of time away from our core business to counter the countless negative allegations about our business and products… We even had to hire a bobblehead spokesperson… and you can’t even imagine how expensive and demanding they are. Absolute Prima Donna! Read the rest of this entry »

For someone who travels as much as I do, sleep is at a premium. Besides being a time for me to regain my strength, it’s also a time to escape the trials and tribulations of daily life. I mean, I love those dreams where I’m Indiana Jones. You know, chasing the bad guys, winning gunfights, and of course, recovering the gold. Or the ones where I’m a Pro Bowl quarterback throwing the game-winning touchdown, giving the postgame interview, then giving some kid my game ball as I tussle his hair on the way to my helicopter.

Now those are fun dreams. An escape. And let me tell you, there is nothing worse than dreaming about work. I’m awake worrying about work 16 hours a day. The last thing I want is for it to start permeating my dreams. But sure enough, the other night I had a dream about what the conversation must be like these days between a Corporate Travel Manager and a Travel Management Company. Yeah, I know, not nearly as exciting.

Luckily for us, I was able to film one of my dreams. Don’t you imagine the conversation between Ms. Corporate Travel Manager and Mr. TMC would go something like this:

A Bobblehead’s Corporate Travel Manager Dream

This morning, fortunately after my coffee, I stumbled across a piece written by David Jonas of The Beat. David felt compelled to comment on an article in Travel Weekly written by a “Washington-based lawyer specializing in travel law,” titled AA’s Misguided Approach Will Doom Rollout of Direct Connect.I must give David credit for calling out the very obvious inaccuracies in the article. And, frankly, I believe this needs to happen more, and I am not excluding my articles from this needed scrutiny. I am not going to rebut the inaccurate elements in the article, as David did an excellent job of shining a light on them. You can be the judge as I have, with permission, published David’s blog below.

Copyright Jenny Downing

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We all know that direct connects have many benefits: reduced distribution costs, pricing transparency, a more personalized shopping experience. But again, you already know all about those, so I want to talk to you today about a benefit many seem to be overlooking: EMD & Reporting.

Lately, I’ve been hearing an awful lot about the need for an accessible standard metric when it comes to the purchasing of ancillary services. It’s a corporate travel manager’s headache… having access to detailed purchase data. For years the travel industry has looked for the credit card industry to solve the problem. Stop looking, I say… if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not going to happen.

So back to the corporate travel manager. How does she know if Business Traveler Smith is charging a checked bag or an in-flight cocktail? Wi-Fi to do work or another bottle of Pinot? Business Traveler Smith has a bit of a reputation for over-serving himself at the Christmas party. How does the travel manager know that he’s not doing the same thing on the company dime every time he gets sent to Detroit? Okay, a bit of tongue and check here but in real corporate traveler manager life, corporations want the best ROI on their travel spending and that includes wanting to pay for necessities and agreed traveler convenience items and not, in this case, Business Traveler Smith’s love of white wine. Airline ancillaries are quickly becoming a way of life in corporate travel management, which is all well and good, but it’s no help if the corporations can’t track them. Read the rest of this entry »

You just gotta check this out. Over the past couple of days I have read a few Beat articles on which—for as much as I would like to just relax on a beautiful Sunday morning with my Metamucil, or Muesli, or whatever it is us “experienced” guys are supposed to take to keep us feeling spry—I simply must comment. I am referring to the articles where some large TMC execs (TMC is large, not the execs) have determined… let me get this right, “…should it [American Airlines] become unavailable in global distribution systems. CWT has indicated that because booking AA outside the GDSs drives up operational costs, the carrier’s exit would result in a $3 per-transaction “search” charge applied on all bookings for those clients wishing to include AA in their shopping. An additional $22 would be charged for bookings actually made with AA.”

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