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

Posts Tagged ‘Travelport’

As the proliferation of airline ancillary sales advances, selling in the travel agency channel continues to stand as the last bastion. Airline websites have long been capable of selling these value-based products and services, and airlines are making considerable headway at selling via kiosks, mobile apps, and call centers. Yet trying to sell these same services through the agency channel continues to be problematic (one only has to think of AA’s fare families being marketed and sold by either an odd or even number).

© Maksym Yemelyanov - Fotolia.com

© Maksym Yemelyanov – Fotolia.com

With advancements in distribution communications (especially now that NDC has DOT’s blessing), sending and receiving ancillary product and service information to/from the agency channel is less a technical problem, and more an issue of change management. The technical problem of displaying and transacting those ancillaries is one that companies like Travelport—with their investment in the travel agency desktop—are quickly working to solve. But what about that pesky change management issue?

One must not underestimate the foundational challenge facing the travel agency community.  The reality is that with NDC finally getting the okay, more and more airlines will adopt this distribution methodology of delivering their content – in real time – directly via their API to the GDS who in turn will aggregate it and deliver it to the agent desktop.  Read the rest of this entry »

The DOT’s approval of IATA Resolution 787 (NDC) marks an important milestone for the industry, as it removes any last remaining uncertainty that the nature of airline distribution is evolving for the good of all supply chain constituents. By embracing a modernized messaging standard, airlines are enabled to distribute new products and services efficiently and effectively to travel agencies and corporations, in much the same manner as they do on their websites today, using a standardized API. This is essential to closing the distribution gap between airline.com and the indirect channel.

In the years that this has been debated, innovation has continued to propel forward. Airlines are already investing in powerful new merchandising and distribution engines that enable them to create a wider range of offers, bundles, and services that are proving popular with consumers. GDS companies such as Travelport are already integrating with NDC-like XML APIs from Air Canada, American Airlines and WestJet. OTAs such as Priceline are selling premium seats using the same technology approach. Change is already happening.

We believe DOT’s approval of Resolution 787 will fuel even more innovation among players in the supply chain who are competing to creatively adopt and implement NDC and differentiate themselves in the process. On the airline side, those carriers that have been on the fence about investing in their own merchandising, distribution and APIs may now move forward. On the agency side, the pressure is on for GDS companies, TMCs and OTAs to enhance their user interfaces to ensure they can competitively consume new types of airline content delivered via the XML API, including rich media, bundles, personalized offers, and more. This is the new footrace to determine who will lead the way in terms of delivering on NDC.

© adrian_ilie825 - Fotolia.com

© adrian_ilie825 – Fotolia.com

Location, location, location. It’s the phrase we all know when buying or selling property.  Well in the game of online selling it’s all about the User Experience, or UX.  In our world, the reality is very few people make the physical trip down to the local travel agency to buy travel.  Take me for example, with the exception of the occasional trip to the grocery store (a bit obsessive about picking my own fruits and veggies), I avoid physical shopping at all costs.  Initially, I thought it was because I was suffering from a touch of agoraphobia, but after a few visits to my head doctor, I realized what I fear most about physical shopping is the actual experience.  The driving to/from (I tell my family it’s an environmental issue, but I drive an SUV), the waiting for the person ahead of me to finish writing a “check” (what the heck is that?), the putting stuff in bags and carrying it (I can’t tell you how many times I leave perishable groceries in the car, and remember I live in Miami)—it’s just all too much!

Generally I know what I want or need.  I am more functional than status-conscience, so for me the User Experience is pretty much everything.  So most of my purchasing is done via Amazon.  I love Prime and even pay the extra $3.99 to get it delivered the very next day just to satisfy my need for instant gratification. Waiting two days is not the experience I am looking for. I have a choice and believe I am in control, which is what the User Experience is all about.  Take it from me when I say never underestimate the power of consumer choice! Read the rest of this entry »

ZeusLast week’s PhoCusWright Conference in Hollywood, Florida, with its record-breaking attendance, had the theme “Cult of Context.” When prepping for the event I thought to myself, hey, it’s been quite some time since I have joined a cult and most of the scares and horrible nightmares have gone away from my last cult-joining experience, so what the heck, join the “Cult of Context.” How bad can it be? So I joined!

Session after session, innovator after innovator, offered up profound, or at least novel, examples of travel product personalization, content-relevancy generating algorithms, and example after example of delivering the right product to the right person at the right time. I’ll bet I heard that last expression 50 times throughout the Conference. By the way, as an aside, I thought the Conference was one of the better PCW Conferences I have attended. It was also Tony D’s coming out event as PCW’s new ring leader. Well done, circus-master TD, as you and the PCW team once again demonstrated how a thought-leader conference can be super-professionally run, inclusive of opinion and perspective, and even have a few streaks of fun. I suspect Mr. D will bring in a bit more of the latter, in his next PCW appearance.

Back to the “Cult of Context.” I had the wonderful opportunity of participating on a panel titled, “Flights of Fancy” with Kurt Ekert, COO of Travelport, and Bob Kupbens, VP Marketing and Digital Commerce at Delta. Tony D did his usual yeoman’s job of navigating us through thought-provoking questions about airline distribution, personalization, customer engagement, etc. We had a somewhat spirited discussion about the differences between Direct and Indirect airline distribution channels ending with what I thought to be a fairly profound general consensus that the lines need to blur and the gap needs to close between the two channels – even to the point of a suggesting that we (the industry we) lose altogether both the terminology and the notion that there is any difference between the two, at least from an airline’s customer engagement, brand differentiation, and product(s) delivery point of view. With the notable exception that travel agents or corporate booking tools may play a “proxy” role in product display and transaction delivery on behalf of the airline, thus adding their own value in the process but not impacting the actual airline offer for that particular customer or corporation. Read the rest of this entry »

© jkphoto69 - Fotolia.com

© jkphoto69 – Fotolia.com

I just got back from GBTA, where it was really nice to see some old friends and meet some new ones. Hearing Jewel’s story at lunch was absolutely fantastic, and she can still belt out the songs. The sessions I attended were fairly informative, but I will say it was interesting to see that all of the push back and anger that was once directed towards Direct Connect has found some additional new friends with Open Bookings and IATA’s NDC.

And on the topic of NDC, could Sabre and BTC be any more off the mark? Sabre was either intentionally misleading GBTA attendees or they have been reading their own NDC propaganda for so long that they actually believe it. In either case, the misinformation campaign against NDC was alive and well throughout the conference: Travelers will have to provide all their personal information! Bookings will all be made outside of the GDS! Trip servicing will be impossible! And by the way, BTC did go way too far in making their subtle yet pointed connection to NDC and terrorism. Haven’t we learned yet that fear mongering is just kind of shameful and bad for everyone?

Anyway, during one general session moderated by Philip Wolf (the PhoCusWright legend), he asked the audience—measured informally through applause—whether NDC will be good, indifferent, or bad for the industry. You can imagine after two days of various people pontificating on “the ills” of NDC, the overwhelming applause was for bad for the industry. At that point Philip stated that he conducted a similar poll back in 1995 about whether the Internet would be used for travel and got a similar response… Okay, so GBTA is not a good leading indicator of industry trends or technology. Read the rest of this entry »

American Airlines’ new fare bundles reflect the growing popularity of airlines competing for consumers’ business through more personalized and unique airline product offers. We consumers just love choice, so this is a welcome change from the one-size-fits-all, commoditized airline product based solely on fares and schedules. Consumers can now pick the product that best suits their needs for a particular trip. Nice, huh!

Okay, now for the nuts and bolts. American Airlines now displays its new products on AA.com and through its Direct Connect. They also state that it has made the bundles available to the GDSs. So far, so good. Both Sabre and Travelport say they now can display, sell, and ticket Americans’ new bundled products. Again, all good.

So let’s just see. No seriously, let’s see it! Lately we are all so focused on transparency, full disclosure, and no secrets. Okay, some in the industry like secrets—secret projects[1], secret boycotts[2], secret meetings[3]. But I say, no secrets! Let’s see how the selling of these bundles actually works in the Indirect Channel. So, we’ll show you ours—right here, right now. Here it is. Screenshots are below. Don’t like pictures? Check out our YouTube video of a fully transparent booking of American’s product bundles.

Okay, now let’s see yours…

SPRK1

SPRK2


[1] October 24th p35 lines 16-26 and p36 lines 1-11

[2] October 24th p 28 lines 1-2

[3] October 24th p49 lines 20-25 and p50 lines 1-17

It’s certainly no secret that while Farelogix doesn’t like to start fights, we seldom back away from a good one, especially one that threatens innovation, competition, or our business. It is also no secret that we have been embroiled in a number of airline/GDS lawsuits, a Department of Justice investigation into the possible antitrust activities of the GDSs, and a few rounds with the DOT. We, like many others, have the scars of ongoing business disruption and legal fees to show for it.

We continue to fight because we believe things are not right in the GDS-dominated indirect distribution channel and consumers, corporations, airlines, tech companies, and, yes, even travel agencies, are paying the price. With all the allegations and investigations going around, I wonder if the old saying is true: Where there is smoke, there’s fire.

In case you missed it, check out United States District Judge Terry R. Means’ Sealed (now unsealed) Order Denying Motions (by Travelport, Sabre, and Orbitz) to Dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed by American Airlines. Not only may you find it an interesting read, you can judge for yourself whether there really is some fire here.

As always, your comments are welcome.

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 »

Even though there is a lot of jabber about the GDSs outlining plans to charge travel agencies for their selling systems, I am not aware of anyone actually doing it— Wait, wait! Whoa! Stop the presses! Travelport seems to have thrown down the gauntlet. And I, for one, am not surprised. As I see it, it was only a matter of time.

© Yanik Chauvin - Fotolia.com

The GDSs are facing a very challenging situation when it comes to modern day selling of travel products and services. Their agent point-of-sale systems are obsolete, and they know it. GDS companies are staring into a pretty significant investment hole if they decide to attack the problem head on and not attempt an incremental facelift.

Sure, many travel agents will publicly say they like the current green screen systems, but a reality check says they like them because the agency ownership gets paid to use them, and the GDS green screen selling system is virtually the only game in town. And let’s be honest, using the GDS green screen product is complex, so there is also an element of job security for the agents currently using it. I get it. We all understand the economics and realities of the current situation. But that doesn’t mean we should simply sit back and accept it. Especially if you really think about it from an agent’s point-of-view.

Read the rest of this entry »