Sabre this month and next
will launch in installments its "Air Total Pricing" system for air
transactions, which it said would enable travel agents and other bookers to see
the true cost of an airline itinerary, inclusive of any applicable add-on
fees—from baggage fees to seat assignments—before booking a flight.
Sabre said the developments aim
to solve many of the comparison-shopping problems that have frustrated travel
buyers, but the booking and fulfillment portion of the equation isn't likely to
be solved until later this year.
price, schedule and citypair remain dominant air shopping criteria, the proliferation
of ancillary fees has clouded the experience, said Sabre vice president of
marketing Kyle Moore, much as taxes, fees or other add-ons prompted similar "Total Pricing"
initiatives for rental car and hotel, released by Sabre in the past decade.
The first installment of
total air pricing is slated for later this month, giving agents the option to
access information in the booking path on "which ancillaries airlines
offer on the flights and how much they cost," Moore said. "It will
give much more clarity in the way that a traditional agent shops, in the
ancillaries that are available."
By the end of August, Sabre
expects to make that functionality slightly more robust, enabling travelers to
"express their needs to the agent, who then will be able to use the system
to ask for the lowest fares, inclusive of those ancillaries for that
itinerary," Moore said. That way, a traveler can see if airline X is still
the lowest available fare if he or she were to check a bag or upgrade to an
Still to come, Moore said,
is a capability that would allow the system to automatically pull from profiles
to see if a traveler is a top-tier frequent flyer member and therefore exempt
from such charges as bag fees. "Our intent is to allow it to be pulled
from the profile," Moore said. "That won't be the case on day one,
but that's absolutely the intent."
In addition to bringing the
new Air Total Pricing features in front of travel agents, Sabre said it would
enable the new functionality via XML, which Moore said would allow third-party
booking tools and online travel agencies to adopt the new capabilities.
"That is not to say that they will be immediately consumed by those points
of sale," Moore cautioned, noting the investment and interface changes
those parties would have to make.
"Whether it's GetThere,
Expedia or Travelocity, all of those guys have to wrestle with, Do I pay some
money to change my interface today, not knowing that data will be there, or do
I wait until I know that data will be there?" Moore said. "I don't
believe that as this thing is introduced next month that it will be resident in
a large number of online travel agency environments. We are working with some,
but I don’t believe it will be out there en masse. It will be out there en masse
to the traditional travel agency environment."
Moore said solving issues
related to ancillary airline fees is, for Sabre, more of "a technology
question" than a content question, as some have surmised, and Sabre
therefore would not have to modify air contracts to enable shopping, booking
and fulfilling ancillary fees.
"Our view would be that
our contracts already govern this content and that we would simply need to
figure out the appropriate technological way to introduce it to our booking
path." Moore added, "Just because the airlines have unbundled their
products doesn't mean we have to."
Though Sabre's Total Pricing
initiative would solve some problems for travel buyers when it comes to
comparison shopping, Moore said Sabre is on pace to deliver the next, and more
complicated, step of enabling booking, payment, settlement and fulfillment
through the global distribution system channel by year-end, a similar timeframe
shared by other GDSs. "We're rapidly moving down the path of enabling all
of the payment and fulfillment of all of the ancillaries as well," Moore
said. "ARC and all of the BSPs around the world are moving toward 4Q 2010
timeframes for introduction of EMD settlement. We intend to get our EMD
capabilities out there to the agency community in roughly the same
Moore added, "The
booking capabilities are moving down toward a fourth-quarter delivery as well,
and that would be across multiple ancillary types. We absolutely expect that to
happen in the travel agency channel beginning this year."