Travelport says it will ‘change the face of the GDS’ with merchandising update

Travel technology provider Travelport has claimed its new rich content and branding technology for airfare retailing will change the face of the GDS forever.

Last March the firm launched its air merchandising platform offering aggregated (mixed GDS ATPCO (Airline Tariff Publishing Company) and XML-based API feed) shopping and ancillary services.

However, its third arm – rich content and branding – remained in development and is now set to go live globally in April after a period in Alpha testing.

Ian Heywood, Travelport head of global supplier strategy, told the firm’s annual Evolve western Europe conference in Monaco this week that the development was vitally important.

“This is going to change the face of the GDS forever going forward – nothing is ever going to be the same again.

“It brings rich information – images, product descriptions, sales messages – to the agent at the time of booking to make their job a whole lot easier.”

Travelport says it believes it is leading the way in integrating this move to bring consumer web-style shopping to agent desktops while meeting the demands of its airline customers.

“We have looked at it from an agency point of view,” said Heywood. “How you can get hold of that content and book it in a normal workflow with normal key strokes knowing efficiencies are really key for you.

“We are enabling the airline to be flexible in the way they distribute their products through us. It means we can have meaningful discussion with the low-cost carriers (LCCs) which we could not before.

“We have a couple of big announcements coming up from our discussions with LCCs.”

“Now we are saying we are the flexible ones, you keep operating the way you want to. In a few years we will be talking about customer-centric selling and what traditional carriers can do.”

Heywood said the figures predicting ancillary sales growth and the continuing outstripping of traditional carriers by LCCs in terms of growth was good news for agents and an opportunity.

The additional functionality in the merchandising platform will allow airlines to input the content they have on their own websites into the agency selling system via a web portal.

One example of the flexible nature of the platform given by Heywood was West Jet, which has decided to take the lowest four fare types out of the traditional GDS and distribute those only through API connectivity.

Heywood said this enabled the carrier to be quicker at distributing fares and to compete better with the LCCs.

Following the initial launch last year, the merchandising platform has brought in 20 airlines selling 36 different types of ancillary, and Travelport will be working on introducing more this year, said Heywood.

“Airlines spend millions of dollars on product and we put them on the GDS and they end up in a single line on a green screen. We are offering them a platform where they can showcase their imagery and branding.”

Travelport also expects the new system to promote upselling by allowing agents to easily toddle between different fare types and see the attributes and the price differential.

Icons will be used to denote various types of ancillary and whether or not they are included in the fare or come at an additional payment.

The move to a mixed green screen and Graphical User Interface (GUI) agency selling platform is a key strategy for Travelport as it rolls out its Smartpoint agency interface.

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