Skift Take

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? ATPCO's first acquisition in its 53-year history shows that rich content will play a huge role in the air distribution marketplace.

In a move designed to shake up the airline distribution marketplace, the old stalwart Airline Tariff Publishing Co. (ATPCO) acquired relative newcomer Routehappy on Wednesday to add a suite of rich content services to its offerings.

The parties didn’t disclose the terms of the deal. Routehappy will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of ATPCO and will be rebranded as Routehappy by ATPCO.

ATPCO collects fare information from airlines and distributes it to travel agencies and corporations around the world, making it a key player in the complex world of fares and flight distribution.

Upon its launch in 2011, Routehappy planned to be a metasearch company with a flight and amenity rating system, but pivoted to providing rich airline content for flight shopping. This includes images, detailed information on in-flight features from Wi-Fi to seat pitch and power plugs, and ancillary services that many booking sites may not offer.

Routehappy raised $8.3 million in funding since launching in 2011 and now has 19 full-time employees. Along the way it entered into partnerships with ATPCO, Airbus, Farelogix, OpenJaw, IATA, Expedia, and corporate booking tool Zeno among others.

This acquisition makes all the sense in the world for ATPCO as it looks to modernize itself in an age of digital distribution. Despite its role as a key player in the filing and distribution of airfares, its old-fashioned roots and technology have hindered its evolution in the wider air distribution space.

“It started when we signed a letter of intent to integrate ATPCO and Routehappy products [in mid-2017],” said Rolf Purzer, ATPCO president and CEO. “There is a big opportunity to unite the organizational levels of ATPCO and Routehappy and serve a very important need of the industry…

“We have started to change the culture of the company… we have realized that with he changing business environment, ATPCO had to change to fulfill our ambitious. vision. The acquisition of Routehappy is actually a good fit; it is a lean and agile company, a tech company, and we hope that we will try to integrate not just product and software but to learn from them as well.”

The bigger picture is bringing unity between fare and product information, and ATPCO will now be able to offer clients both fare data and various rich content offerings to help them better market and merchandize their products. The creation of a centralized platform for all of these airline and distributor needs could be a solid value proposition for ATPCO going forward.

As rich content becomes the norm, having Routehappy in tow will make ATPCO a more effective player in the marketplace.

“It’ll be Routehappy on steroids,” said Robert Albert, Routehappy founder and CEO, on what the acquisition means for his company. “We will be a wholly owned subsidiary as of today, based in New York, and continue to build and  refine our products. The difference is were doing it with the full backing of tools and support of ATPCO… we get to remain nimble and innovative to help airline distributors solve the differentiation problem.”

Albert said his company has experience more than 100 percent growth per year over the last few years, and received plenty of acquisition interest, as well.

“It gets better and more comprehensive; we immediately start talking to the pricing people at airlines and start to connect the dots between rich content and pricing,” said Albert. “Airlines are very engaged and feel they have ownership of data they buy from ATPCO so a lot of things will change.”

Albert feels that things are lining up to further innovation.

“What’s been interesting from the rich content perspective is that the industry has been talking about it for a long time, and now the players in the industry are finally ready to do it.”

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Tags: ATPCO, routehappy

Photo credit: Routehappy CEO Robert Albert at Skift Global Forum 2016 in New York City. Routehappy was acquired by ATPCO this week. Skift

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