Sabre has announced a new, innovative virtual storefront that supports airline product differentiation, fare merchandising and customization options. Agencies who use the platform ‘Sabre Red 360’ will offer multiple branded fare types across various classes. These products enable customers to compare prices, conditions and fare types more efficiently. This new development will help the GDS (Global Distribution System) provider and travel agencies compete with the ever-changing online shopping environment.

OTA’s will gain a competitive advantage over price comparison sites

Price comparison sites have existed within travel for the best part of two decades. Since their inception, these websites have grown in popularity, informing customers of the lowest available fares on the market. According to a 2019 GlobalData tourism consumer survey, 32% of global respondents use price comparison sites such as Google Flights or Skyscanner to book their holiday. This statistic highlights the popularity of comparison sites within the travel market. While comparison sites drive traffic to other OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies), these sites have abolished customer loyalty due to the focus on buying the lowest available fare.

Ironically, it is not the most efficient way to book either. Once the customer has found a fare, they are redirected from the website – essentially going through two booking processes instead of one. More cautious customers who like to do their homework will feel the need to check the agency’s credentials and protection schemes, adding time to the booking experience. Furthermore, common complaints on fare expiration, hidden charges and credit card fees are not accounted for on the website. As an end-user, it can sometimes feel like ‘clickbait travel.’

Sabre’s new software enables travel agencies to shop and compare airline content, branding and fare types on one screen. Typically, price comparison sites provide customers with a high-level view of the fare, such as the basic flexibility conditions, price, fastest route and flight times. Sabre Red360 will be able to do all these things in addition to checking more airline-rich content such as change and refund charges, seat allocation, meals and luggage allowances at the quote stage. This development enhances the consumer shopping experience by making it more efficient and clarifying airline fare value.

Sabre’s technology will increase understanding of ‘fare families’

Fare families were developed by full-service carriers to compete with fare customization, pioneered by Southwest Airlines, Ryanair and easyJet. Customers can compare non-refundable, no baggage fares to more flexible conditions that include baggage and seat selection on one screen. As a result, the customer gains a better understanding of airfare value as well as cost. The strategy is effective because a common complaint from travellers is that low-cost airlines advertise fares without these benefits, only for the traveller booker to add these on later in the booking process at an extra cost.

Sabre partnered with OTA brands and and, following the successful trial, will be releasing the technology over the next few weeks. The ability to price and book fare families has been an ongoing topic for travel agencies and TMC’s (Travel Management Companies), with many now only available via NDC (New Distribution Capability) or available through traditional GDS purchasing workflows for an additional cost. The new technology will pull through both NDC and GDS content via an API link, ensuring customers can compare airline fare families.

Travel agencies that use this technology will gain a unique selling point, providing customers with a better overview of value rather than offering the cheapest fare. It means OTA’s are not just comparing airline prices but acting as a travel agent, providing an accurate overview of fare conditions and value to the customer. Ultimately, this will help put the balance of power back to travel agencies, which is required now more than ever due to layers of complexity in travel caused by the pandemic.

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