Travelport's response to the pandemic shows that purpose can defy skeptics. But uncertainty around the fate of its eNett sale may last for months.
The pandemic has been a seismic moment for the travel technology sector, and Travelport has been looking to regain its footing since.
Travelport announced in June it had gotten access to a half-billion dollars in fresh financing from its private equity owners, Siris Capital Group and the Elliott Management-affiliated Evergreen Coast Capital. Travelport already had access to about $500 million in liquidity and has drawn about $220 million from that.
Travelport needed the cash, having spent down its revolving credit facility, ratings agency Fitch said last month.
Travelport had expected to receive this month the first payouts from a proposed $1.7 billion sale of its stakes in payments tech company eNett. In May, Wex pulled out of a promise to buy eNett and its related brand Optal. A UK court this month set a September 21 trial date to settle the dispute.
Travelport executives said they still plan to pursue a strategic plan that CEO Greg Webb outlined to Skift in February, which involves folding its Worldspan, Galileo, and Apollo reservation systems into a single “next-generation platform.”
Webb has been streamlining some parts of the company. Travelport this month said it had sold corporate booking tech platform Locomote back to its founders. It didn’t reveal the terms of the sale. Travelport had wholly acquired Locomote after an initial 2014 investment. As Skift noted in an article last year, “Travelport Has Had Mixed Success as a Public Company,” the company struggled to make profits with Locomote.
Travelport has also had a mix of furloughs and layoffs.
Travelport Claims Early Wins
The pandemic created a need for airlines to quickly adjust the data they communicate to travelers, such as by adding insights on new health and safety procedures at check-in, on the plane, and checking baggage.
Travelport executives tout that their systems enabled airlines to highlight new pandemic-related information to travelers in ways it claims have been quicker than what rival tech providers have offered.
A notable potential win for Travelport is Skyscanner, a travel price-comparison search brand.
Skyscanner had tried to build an instant booking solution in-house to connect with airlines, but earlier this year, it chose to pilot a method run by Travelport instead. Skyscanner needed to streamline data from multiple sources to display ticket prices as bundles of seats with amenities, called “fare families.”
“We transformed this idea into a true capability within three months,” a Travelport spokesperson said.
Unlike traditional online travel agencies, Skyscanner provides price-comparison, which has a different workflow. So Skyscanner has required an alternative way of sourcing content. It’s the first such metasearch brand to use Travelport’s 360 Fares product.
The company has said its 360 Fares product delivers accurate prices, rather than showing fares that are no longer up-to-date due to time lags or mistakes as it has claimed the products of some of its rivals do.
Winning Agency Customers
Travelport touted on July 7 that Southwest Airlines had made its fares fully available on Travelport’s Apollo and Worldspan global distribution systems. The deal lets corporate travel buyers and travel management companies change — or service — reservations , whereas before they could only book or cancel a ticket through the systems.
Travelport says that since May “a number of” agencies have signed up to get access to Southwest’s fares,” which was something Webb had hoped when laying out his strategy in February.
Travelport also debuted this week a “confidence index” that aims to reflect actual traveler activity, rather than sentiment as polled in survey questions, for corporate travel managers trying to plan for a recovery.
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Photo credit: Southwest Airlines operations during the coronavirus outbreak in April 2020. Southwest added participation in Travelport's reservation systems this year. Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines