As OBT Air Displays Evolve, Disputes Remain


As carriers increase merchandising capabilities, displaying that content quickly, fairly and accurately proves challenging


The question of how best to display air content within online booking tools has been in dispute since the technology’s introduction, and arguments remain today. As carriers increased their merchandizing capabilities and evolved their fare and service-class offerings over the years, displaying that content in a manner that detailed the offerings while fairly and accurately comparing fare options among multiple airlines proved challenging. 

In recent years, ATPCO, the company that collects and distributes from airlines travel fares and associated data, developed what it called the Next Generation Storefront, in which flight search results are arranged in columns of “shelves” of comparable but competing airline offers. The goal, according to ATPCO, was to “ensure like-type products are consistently presented on the same shelf.” 

ATPCO last year decided to move away from assigning shelving placement, but the NGS concept drew some supporters, including Sabre, which developed its own New Airline Storefront display, and Delta Air Lines. 

Delta pushed the NGS concept as a method to show the fare brands, bundles and products airlines offer. According to BTN portfolio mate The Beat, these displays have been a point of emphasis in Delta’s relationships with booking tools. Delta in 2019 pulled content from travel management company TripActions, only to restore access after it adopted Delta-approved displays. Smaller corporate booking tech providers have characterized acquiescence to Delta’s display preferences as a prerequisite to list the carrier.

A December report in The Beat characterized Delta’s frustration with SAP’s Concur Travel, the corporate booking tool with the largest share of the global market, over its display philosophy.

“We all know that there’s one large booking tool that a lot of this entire ecosystem is dependent on, and we’d love to see some modernization taking place with that booking tool,” Delta managing director of global distribution Jeff Lobl said in November during a Delta-sponsored BTN Group webinar. “We’ve had discussions with them. I think it’s starting to resonate that there’s an opportunity to better service customers. And so we’re hopeful that things will evolve. But even before it does, there’s other booking tools out there making real investments and bringing better products and better displays to travelers.”

Other major corporate booking tools are “making the right investments,” Lobl said in a follow-up call with The Beat.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions with Concur,” Lobl told The Beat. “At points in time, they say the right thing, but their ability to turn words into action is where the problem is. I think they get it now, but they’re not putting their money where their mouth is like many others are.”

Mike Koetting, at the time SAP Concur’s solution area leader and senior vice president in a statement offered: “We are actively adding engineering resources dedicated to the re-platforming of Concur Travel, and look forward to launching new shopping experiences in 2022.”

Koetting’s statement also referenced the sizable market SAP Concur commands. “Concur Travel and Expense remain the world’s most widely adopted corporate T&E solutions, with 51.5 percent market share according to IDC,” according to his statement. Koetting departed SAP on Feb. 15.

During the BTN webinar, Lobl said, “Even in today’s world, there’s a lot more available to customers than can be seen in most of the online booking tools.” These include “offers that are out there for a higher level of service—sitting in more premium products, extra legroom, bigger seats and the like,” he said, adding such products “are priced to sell” and “many of those are well within travel policy. You just can’t see them.”

This article was adapted from one that originally ran in BTN’s portfolio mate, The Beat. You can subscribe to The Beat @