Sabre is the first global distribution system (GDS) to launch functionality aiming to streamline the booking of round-the-world airfares from any of the global airline alliances.
Sabre has made round-the-world (RTW) fares sold on SkyTeam, an alliance of 20 airlines that includes Air France and Delta, more easily bookable for the travel agencies worldwide that use its systems.
Existing Sabre Red Workspace users and API consumers have access to this enhanced functionality, as of late last week.
Sabre's move suggests that GDS systems are becoming much more flexible and adaptable to the sales of complex airline products. The company has also begun to offer similar "circle trip" airfares, which are itineraries that start and end in the same destination, but include more than one stopover.
Are the other two global airline alliances--One World and Star Alliance--next to be included? Neil Fyfe, vice president of product marketing, tells Tnooz:
“Yes, this is why we have created this new industry standard, which provides immense value to the airline and agency community.
In fact, as round-the-world and circle trip fares change it is now easier to modify fare filings and keep pace with changing business practices.
We are making necessary moves to involve other alliances in implementing this new industry standard.”
Kicking the tires
Sabre's new functionality is best for corporate travelers whose company rules require them to book round-the-world trips through SkyTeam.
Tnooz asked one travel agent with access to the new tool for their opinion of the product. The agent spoke anonymously because of commercial conflicts.
The agent said "the system works and is clever," which is praise not historically associated with GDSs and round-the-world ticketing.
"It streamlines the process for an agent to get validation of a passenger number record, something that was previously unavailable through a GDS."
But the agent questioned whether using SkyTeam itself was a good choice for many travelers, given the alliance's reputation for having a round-the-world ticket product that is wrapped up in more restrictions and expensive change fees than other options.
Another travel agency we spoke with was AirTreks, which specializes in round-the-world itineraries.
Its CEO Sean Keener happens to be circumnavigating the globe at this moment, traveling from Portland, Ore., to London to Singapore to Queenstown to Auckland to Portland again. Keener said:
"I'm stoked to see Skyteam and Sabre put out a product into the RTW marketplace. It's exciting to see them bring more options to travelers."
But Keener questions whether SkyTeam tickets are often the best value for customers.
"We frequently refer our friends and travelers to Skyteam and the other alliances when they have miles to spend. Otherwise, we don't see travelers often wanting to buy tickets from Skyteam or the other alliances."
"Here's a screenshot of me trying to make the trip I am on work within the context of SkyTeam's proprietary engine and rules, which generated a total price of $6,700."
Keener claims his company could put the same itinerary together outside of SkyTeam for $3,500, with fewer restrictions.
SkyTeam counters that ticketing is complex with changes on an hourly basis and that it offers tickets that are competitive with what's on the market. In Sabre's defense, the tool on Skyteam's website is different from the one on its own site. A skilled agent might be able to use Sabre's interface with better results.
Sabre tacking in the wind
This new offering from Sabre is part of a broader effort at upgrading its offerings.
Why update the round-the-world content now? Fyfe explains:
“There has been a demand within the market to simplify the booking of these fares, and we chose to align our product with new ATPCO developments to automate these fares. Other solutions are semi-automated.
We wanted to develop a fully automated solution in partnership with ATPCO.”
Do agents need to be trained to be able to use the Sabre GDS to book the new RTW fares?
“Agents who currently book these fares manually or in other systems will require no training to use the automated solution through Sabre.”
Is this available in the graphical user interface (GUI) for all agents on Sabre's system?
“We have not changed the interface apart from a slight modification to an existing command.”
The move is part of a broader change at the Texas-based company.
Last summer, the company adjusted its policy and became open to working with any airline interested in using next-generation technologies that are compatible with IATA's New Distribution Capability standards for communicating and selling dynamic air products.
Rivals Amadeus, Travelport, and TravelSky have similarly embraced the new technologies.