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Two deals announced Wednesday will have slow-reaching implications for airlines, travel agents, and online travel agencies when it comes to how they sell flights. But the immediate impact of the deals is that it’s a flashing signal to the industry that airlines have finally reached an inflection point in how they distribute airfares and related products and services.
Amadeus and Sabre, the world’s two largest travel technology companies, have signed a deal with ATPCO, the airfare clearinghouse formerly known as the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, to use airlines’ so-called rich content — such as photos of, say, first-class seats. Besides providing photos and videos, airlines can also call out how much legroom will come with any given ticket and list other fare benefits and restrictions, such as how much baggage is included.
For their parts, Amadeus and Sabre will funnel the data into their systems and pass it along to hundreds of thousands of agencies and travel buyers.
Several airlines have agitated for smarter e-commerce for years. But some still have work to do on their own side. About 300 airlines provide amenity information via ATPCO. Yet some still don’t or do so only haphazardly. Meanwhile, many airlines have been slow to supply photos and videos. They’ve done so for only about roughly half of transpacific routes, for example. However, now that carriers have pipes to pump their data to agencies, they may be more enthusiastic.
The deals also give a new lease on life to the airfare clearinghouse. As airlines file fewer fares publicly and create more offers semi-privately, APTCO will have a new role in, among other things, keeping an eye on the accuracy of the rich content and making sure information is presented in consistent and updated ways.
“It’s going to be, as you can imagine, a huge technological undertaking for us to integrate all of Routehappy’s rich content into the different interfaces that we offer for travel agencies and for travelers,” said Ludo Verheggen, director of global air content adoption strategy in Amadeus’s Travel Channels division.
The content will first roll out on Amadeus’s cloud-based desktops for agents, called Selling Platform Connect.
Next year, the content will appear in other channels via its APIs [application programming interfaces] as part of the Amadeus Travel Platform, Verheggen said. Amadeus debuted the platform last year as part of a broader airline retailing strategy led by Decius Valmorbida, president travel channels.
Sabre cut a similar deal. The company will add the rich content to its air shopping data feed and its direct airline shopping and merchandising services. While Sabre had sampled some of the rich content before, the deal accelerates the rate at which the Texas-based tech company will integrate the descriptive and visual information.
“It’s an overnight success that’s taken nearly ten years,” said Robert Albert, executive vice president for retailing at ATPCO. “We faced a classic chicken-and-egg problem in that rich content is more valuable to channels the more airlines we have participating, and vice versa. But we finally have all sides of the industry on-board.”
The deal is a validation for Routehappy, a company Albert founded in 2011 and that has for years tried to persuade airlines to create rich content. In February 2018, ATPCO acquired Routehappy, which sped up the industry adoption of its concepts and services.