Heathrow Express targets full GDS coverage to raise profile and bookings

Heathrow Express targets full GDS coverage to raise profile and bookings

Heathrow Express has plans to make its tickets bookable through all the major Global Distribution Systems.

The rail operator, which offers services to Heathrow every 15 minutes from London Paddington, went live with Travelport in the last two weeks.

Director Fraser Brown says the company is now in the development stage with Amadeus and talks will take place with Sabre in due course. He said the different GDSs have different strengths and different market shares.

“Our challenge and the challenge of other rail colleagues overseas is how to make customers aware of our product,” he said. “Customers pre-book things like car hire or hotels but not necessarily their train ticket.”

Brown said around 40% of Heathrow passengers want to travel into the capital. Of those, 11% use Heathrow Express, equating to between five and six million passengers.

Brown said the majority of the 14 million potential customers the firm does not reach, use taxis or the London Underground. A very small proportion travel by car.

“We make no secret of the fact we are not the only option available at Heathrow,” said Brown. “The benefit of introducing GDS distribution is we can make customers aware of us before they travel, rather than relying purely on point of sale.”

A single Heathrow Express ticket costs £21.50 – if bought at the ticket office or online – which is significantly more expensive than using the Underground.

Brown highlighted the main benefits of using Heathrow Express as being its frequency, its speed – it is up to four times faster than the tube – the dedicated areas for luggage and air conditioning.

“Heathrow Express is not as expensive as people think,” he said. “It is three or four times cheaper than a taxi.”

Screens have recently been installed at Terminal 2 showing passengers live price and journey time comparisons between taxis and Heathrow Express.

The screens, which the company claims are a world first, combine real-time traffic, weather and train service information into one ‘journey comparison generator,’ at the terminal’s baggage reclaim zone.

This summer the text will be translated into the main language of the passengers arriving on the flight. They will be rolled out to Terminals 3 and 4 later in the year.

Brown has introduced a ‘children under 16 travel free’ scheme and this summer there will be an online summer offer, whereby two adults can buy a return ticket for a total of £50.

He said at present there are no specific plans for how Heathrow Express will be working with travel agents and GDS country managers, but the company will be looking to work with them on “creating noise” around the offering.

“A main reason for us working with the GDSs is giving the travel consumer a better and more well-planned service,” he added.

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