Big news this week for keen watchers of the corporate travel sector as Paul English’s Lola has signed a partnership with American Express Global Business Travel to bring the service to more users.

Lola’s deal with American Express Global Business Travel is the logical conclusion following the startup’s bumpy road since its launch in 2016. Now the small company has the backing of the largest player in corporate travel and access to all the juicy travel content of its big benefactor.

It’s not a coincidence that the Lola team is now talking about selling billions in travel a week after TripActions announced investors are valuing their platform as a unicorn. For all the talk about disruptive technology and elegant solutions, it’s really all about the money. Forget millions, we’re talking billions here, people. So … has corporate travel suddenly become a sexy sector?

The outside world is catching on to the reality that corporate travel is big business. The giants of the sector are cagey about how profitable they really are, and they’re going to move to protect the lucrative business they’ve built over time. Technology has disempowered the gatekeepers, but only a little bit.

Speaking of big business, Sabre is buying Farelogix after spending years trying to kill off the company, which makes it easier for airlines to bypass the global distribution systems and their fees. In a world where the global distribution systems have to embrace new distribution capability and all the complexity that comes with it, the move makes a weird sort of sense too. If you can’t beat them, buy them.

Check out our coverage below. We’ve also got the latest on Airbnb’s growth slowdown, Lufthansa’s ambitious new software unit, and how airlines are auctioning off premium seats for big bucks. Oh, also, Uber and Lyft both finally announced their loyalty programs to keep frequent business travelers in the fold.

If you have any feedback about the newsletter or news tips, feel free to reach out via email at as@skift.com or tweet me @sheivach

— Andrew Sheivachman, Senior Editor

Airlines, Hotels and Innovation

Will Lola’s New Partnership With AmEx Revive the Struggling Startup? Lola was a good idea with solid execution that fell flat. By partnering with the biggest company in corporate travel, Lola will find out whether its service is actually a fit for businesses around the world. And if not, maybe the mobile-first future isn’t quite here yet.

Sabre to Buy Farelogix for $360 Million to Help Airlines Sell Better: Sabre allegedly tried to kill smaller rival Farelogix years ago. But now there’s peace in the valley. Farelogix’s merchandising and direct connection technology will plug a gap in Sabre’s offering and could accelerate the travel tech giant’s growth.

Lufthansa’s Digital Hub Launches Software Unit to Help Others Sell Travel Better: Lufthansa Group has responded to digital disruption by creating a company within a company, Yilu. The group’s low-cost carrier Eurowings has already begun using the subsidiary’s tools for cross-selling taxi rides.

Airbnb’s Growth Is Slowing Amid Increasing Competition From Booking and Expedia: If Airbnb is indeed seeing a slowdown of its business in more mature markets like Europe and the U.S., that’s all the more reason for the company to double down on its efforts in emerging markets like China, and to work on adding more professional inventory, ahem, hotels.

Frontier’s Pilots Reach Tentative Deal on New Contract Making a Strike Unlikely: No one wanted to see another airline strike. Good for Frontier and the pilots union for reaching an agreement. Passengers should hope it sticks.

Airlines Find Another Way to Wring Out Extra Revenue: Auctioning Unsold Premium Seats: Remember when airlines used to give away their best seats for free? Ha! The economy is strong, and airlines are offering fewer upgrades. Passengers who want to sit up front need to pay for it. But don’t worry. Another recession will come, and the good days (for upgraders, at least) should return.

The Future of Travel

Uber Launches Rewards Program for Most Loyal Customers: Uber’s launch of a loyalty program explains why Lyft appears to have rushed out a similar announcement earlier this week. Neither company is being generous with details, but at least Uber has committed to officially launching in nine cities this week.

Lyft Will Launch a New Loyalty Program Ahead of Sharing Rivals: Details are still sketchy but as of December, Lyft has officially committed to launching a broad consumer loyalty program.

WebBeds on Shopping Spree for Bedbanks: Should Hotelbeds Be Worried? The acquisition of Destinations of the World seals WebBeds as the second largest B2B bedbank player, but incumbent Hotelbeds need not worry — for a very long time.

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Skift Senior Editor Andrew Sheivachman [as@skift.com] curates the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

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Photo Credit: Lola COO Paul English, right, speaking at Skift Global Forum 2016. Skift