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A change is coming Your Way

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Travelport is all set to revolutionse the way airlines deliver their products and the way those products are displayed to travel agents. As a result travel agents can now sell fares and ancillaries that were previously only available on an airline’s website. This makes Travelport the only GDS that allows its subscribers to shop, price and book fares from all carriers whether FSCs or LCCs in a common workflow, regardless of the technology used to aggregate that content. Agents normally have to abandon their usual workflow to access content hosted outside the GDS while airlines miss out on bookings because of the disruption to the workflow.

The new Travelport Merchandising Platform (TMP) enables airlines to differentiate and distribute their full suite of products and services including fares and ancillaries across all channels using whichever technology best suits their business model. This will help carriers maximise RoI by demonstrating differentiation from competition and increased ancillary sales. As for travel agents, TMP enables access to the full range of airline products including ancillaries doing it ‘their way’ in their familiar consolidated and integrated workflow and thus will help them to increase productivity and reduce training times. This will also enable them to offer better and efficient customer service.

Derek Sharp, managing director, global distribution sales, Travelport says, “TMP paves the way for significant change in the distribution landscape by enabling airlines to go to the market with all of their products in the right place, at the right time, in every channel. In other words, leveraging technology to drive value throughout the travel supply chain.”

Ian Heywood, head of global supplier strategy, Travelport says, “The vast majority of GDSs are doing what we want them to do, that is, distribute fares. But now airline models are constantly changing, and dramatically. Today, nearly 52 per cent of carriers in south east Asia are LCCs. By 2015 half of the sector servicing Japan will also be low cost. TMP has been developed to cater their needs giving them flexibility, choice and enhanced retailing capabilities combined with seamless connection into all distribution channels.” CAPA has identified nine LCCs which took to the skies in the first nine months of 2012 with a further 16 going live by the end of 2013. By 2015 LCCs will account for around one in three seats on a global basis.

In TMP even ancillaries are displayed in the same work flow. This is crucial because it is estimated that by 2015, the ancillaries market will be worth US$ 45 billion. Heywood says, “Even FSCs are starting to charge for ancillaries. The world is changing. Traditional carriers have got LCC competition. That is why you see a British Airways competing with easyJet in short haul markets.”

Steven Ratcliffe, senior product manager says, “This is not a pipe dream. It is not a vision or a marketing plan. We have launched an actual product that is the same but in a different pipeline. Asia Pacific has a lot of LCC content. LCCs do not want to incur costs or publish fares. TMP offers them the flexibility. We are soon starting a dialogue with them. We are saying to them, do not change your ways, we will change ours. We are reinventing the business.”

By incorporating airline Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and standards into a single display, LCCs can access the global reach of the agency community without sacrificing their airline.com model. LCCs can also sell their fare families and ancillary products, on their own terms, in a flexible and straightforward way. Ratcliffe adds, “As for travel agents, as their business grows, they will be encouraged to come to us, to enable us to give them better products.” Some airlines are now putting up content only on the GDS, content which is not available on their websites as they are targeting business travellers. Heywood comments, “Lot of corporate customers fly LCCs these days. We hope to include Asian carriers on this platform soon. This technology enables flexibility to work in emerging markets like China and India as both are regulated markets. With the thin margins airlines work on these days, they cannot afford to ignore the travel agent community. You cannot have fully access to a market if you don’t use all distribution channels and use only your website.”