Corporate and leisure travel agencies can expect more technology to help them sell airline ancillaries after a global survey found high levels of support for this service through GDSs.
A Travelport Merchandising Research Paper published this week sought the views of agents on the new era of airline ancillary and optional extras.
While 70% of respondents said GDSs were their preferred channel for the sale of these services, 84% said they were interested in their GDS helping them to offer optional services.
However, the study found there was widespread ignorance of the new emerging ancillary sales technology, electronic miscellaneous documents (EMDs).Overall 42% of agents said they had never heard of EMDs, while 27% said they had heard about it but didn’t understand what it was.
Most agents (77%) said they would be more interested in selling ancillaries if the process was more simple and made efficient by integrating it into their normal workflows.
The paper reported “a strong desire was expressed for everything to be seamless and easy to understand.”
Over three quarters of agents said they currently book optional services for customers and just 8% do not offer the services.
Asked why they currently do not sell optional extras 41% of European agents said because it did not generate additional revenues, 21% because customers were not requesting it.
Among UIS agents, the most common reason was that the services were not available to be booked by agents (33%) followed by not generating additional revenues (21%).
Of the optional extras currently available and sold by agents, preferred seating arrangements was the most common, followed by travel insurance, checked baggage fees and upgrades.
Fergal Kelly, Travelport vice president, content, said: “This research offers valuable insights into how travel agencies view and sell airline ancillary services.
“Agents understand that as the airline product continues to evolve and ancillaries form an increasingly significant role in the purchase decision and buying process, travel customers continue to look to agents to support them in purchasing itinerary solutions.
“Travelport is continuing to work with airline and other travel providers on a wide range of merchandising capabilities to support the evolution of new products and strategies for distribution through GDSs.
“This has included the investment and development of products such as Travelport Universal Desktop and Travelport Universal API which enable the sale of ancillary products and services through an integrated, simple and uniform platform.”
The Travelport paper found confusion among agents about the optional services offered by different airlines and merchandising terms, including EMDs.
The paper states: “EMD functionality is the new industry standard method of enabling all types of miscellaneous documents to distribute, sell, process and collect payments or numerous airline services across all business channels, including the global distribution system.”
In response to the survey, 75% of agents said the ability to offer branded fares – seats bundled with other optional services – was valuable in that it would enable them to offer full service to clients.
The second most popular advantage of being able to offer branded fares was that they would help agents remain competitive with airlines’ own websites.
Only 16% of agents saw offering additional services as an opportunity to levy increased charges or fees and 44% said they currently do not impose additional charges for this service.
The Merchandising Research Paper survey was conducted among 610 agents in 12 countries. The countries with the highest number of respondent were the US (18%), the UK (13%) and Australia (11%).