Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Copa Airlines Raises Global Distribution Surcharge to $18

11 months ago

Panama’s Copa Airlines is increasing its surcharge for tickets issued in Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport from $12 to $18 per direction.

The fee hike takes effect from April 3, 2023 — coinciding with when American Airlines removes 40 percent of its own airfares from these same retail channels

In both cases, the airlines are pushing travel agencies and other retailers to move towards so-called New Distribution Capability. This is a technology standard developed by the International Air Transport Association, and it aims to give airlines more control over their airfares, rather than rely on global distribution systems, such as Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport.

What’s interesting is that up until now, Europe’s airlines were the ones adding expensive fees to encourage adoption. Now it seems to be catching on in the Americas region.  

In March 2022, Copa Airlines said that Copa Connect would be the best way for travel agencies to access its fares, schedules, and other content. “Through Copa Connect, agencies will be able to provide their clients better offers in a more innovative and efficient way. Among the benefits are: access to better fares, exclusive sales promotions, access to ancillary products, and others,” it said.

Since September it has added a $12 Distribution Cost Recovery Surcharge. Reports on social media suggest the increase to $18 will apply April 3.

Copa Airlines’ website reflects that: “A fixed amount of $18 will be charged per direction (or each “one-way” of the trip) whenever Copa Airlines participates as the marketing carrier regardless of the operating or ticketing carrier,” says its FAQ document.

The American Society of Travel Advisors, which represents 160,000 travel agency workers, this month asked American Airlines to push back its move date to the end of the year. It argues that withholding such a substantial portion of its fares from “critical independent distribution channels” will have a negative impact on corporate travelers.

Copa Airlines recently expanded its direct connection partnership, through New Distribution Capability, with Envision Tecnologia, according to reports.

It’s currently one of the world’s most profitable carriers too, thanks in part to the location of its Panama City hub.

Travel Technology

Sabre to Make Former CWT Exec Kurt Ekert CEO

1 year ago

Travel technology giant Sabre said on Wednesday that Sean Menke, who has been CEO of the company since 2016, will become executive chair of its board on April 27, at which time its current president, Kurt Ekert, will become its CEO, too.

“It has been an honor and privilege to help lead Sabre over the last eight years,” Menke said. “I am proud of what our teams have accomplished and how we’ve served our customers during unprecedented times.”

Ekert joined the Southlake, Texas-based company in January 2022 as president and has since developed new growth strategies while reorganizing its largest business division. He had previously been president and CEO of the business travel management company CWT (Carlson Worldwide Travel) for five years. Ekert has also served at Continental Airlines, Cendant, and Sabre’s smaller rival Travelport.

Photo credit: Kurt Ekert, shown speaking when he was CEO and president of CWT. Source: CWT.

Last week, Skift highlighted Sabre’s strategy for 2023 and beyond.

Online Travel

Caesars Now Sells Flights and Vacation Packages

1 year ago

Caesars Entertainment is adding an online travel agency business model, as it launches a new website that lets guests books flights as well as their accommodation.

The resort operator’s new “Caesars Rewards Travel Bundle” venture, as reported by Skift’s Daily Lodging Report, is powered by Snowstorm Technologies.

To coincide with the new Caesars website (caesars.com/flights-hotels) Snowstorm has launched new division called yourWurld. It describes it as a “turnkey packaging technology solution combined with global content and fulfillment services.”

Snowstorm now wants to target other hotel groups so it can build packaging solutions for them as well.

Caesars claims it is the first time a major domestic casino company in the U.S. has added this type of model. It’s being rolled out in Las Vegas first, before onboarding its 50 other properties in the U.S. later this year. Car rental, dining and entertainment (through Ticketmaster) will be added at a later date.

It will only sell accommodation for its own properties.

Guests can earn Caesars Rewards credits when booking packages, and redeem them at its gaming destinations or online. The company says it has 60 million Caesars Rewards members in the U.S.

Travel Technology

Mastercard to Invest in Fintech Company Conferma Pay

1 year ago

Mastercard is planning to make a minority investment in Conferma Pay, a fintech company acquired earlier this year by Sabre Corporation.

The new partnership with Mastercard will allow Conferma Pay to expand the use of virtual cards for business-to-business travel payments.

Sabre acquired Conferma Pay for $72.5 million in August 2022, according to a filing in September with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

UK-based Conferma Pay provides software and commercial deals to help the travel industry move to virtual cards, through which account information is issued for one-time use in an effort to shield the buyer’s identity when making online purchases and prevent fraud. Virtual cards also allow travel buyers and suppliers to more easily track and reconcile payments. 

(Skift has covered this in its recent megatrend Travel Payments Find Path to Painless.)

Conferma Pay said it connects issuers to more than 700 travel management companies, all the major global distribution systems, and more than 100 online booking tools. The company said it is fully integrated with all the major card brands and works with more than 50 banking partners, allowing them to issue virtual cards in nearly 100 currencies.

Conferma Pay will continue to operate independently. Sabre’s Virtual Payments platform integrates the Conferma Pay services. 

“The payments industry is in the midst of a revolution and there is an increased need for travel companies to better manage the whole payment experience,” said Roshan Mendis, chief commercial officer for Sabre Travel Solutions, in a statement. “Companies in the travel space — including travel management companies, travel agencies, corporations, issuers, and technology partners — need sophisticated solutions and seamless connections. Sabre is taking strategic steps to fulfill the needs of our industry, beginning with the acquisition of Conferma Pay.”

Airlines

American Airlines Sues Sabre for 11 Years of Legal Fees

1 year ago

Following a legal battle that lasted 11 years, American Airlines Group wants to force defendant Sabre Corp to pay its legal fees. 

U.S. law firm O’Melveny & Myers filed a lawsuit on behalf of American Airlines on Friday, saying the Texas-based global distribution system should pay American’s fees.

Those fees could amount to at least tens of millions of dollars. The 11-year litigation included two trials and an appeal. The filing did not identify an amount, but a O’Melveny partner previously said in court that the fees were “very, very substantial.”

American Airlines was awarded $1 in May as the winner of an antitrust trial against Sabre.

The dispute was over practices Sabre used to force airlines to use its services, and prevent carriers from reaching out to travel agents and business travelers more directly. American inherited the case when it acquired US Airways in 2013. US Airways had sued Sabre in 2011.

The result in May found that Sabre’s practices did not cause American Airlines any financial harm.

Friday’s filing shows that the two companies tried to resolve the fee dispute without involving the court but did not reach an agreement.

Travel Technology

Former Sabre CEO Sam Gilliland Hired to Lead Airline Software Company Accelya

1 year ago

Sam Gilliland, who was the CEO of Sabre Corporation for 10 years, is taking the top role at Accelya.

The Spanish company, which makes software for the airline industry, said Monday that Gilliland has been hired as CEO. Gilliland replaces Jim Davidson, who is stepping into the role of vice chairman.

Accelya was acquired in 2019 by Vista Equity Partners, a software investment fund. Through that investment, Accelya bought Farelogix in 2020. Accelya has more than 250 airline clients and nearly 2,500 employees. 

Most recently, Gilliland was the CEO of Cherwell Software, a Colorado company owned by Ivanti that makes information technology software for corporations.

Gilliland had spent 25 years at Sabre, starting as a software engineer. He was named chairman and CEO of Sabre in 2003 and exited in the role in 2013. Skift had named him one of the highest paid executives in travel while he was there. He had led more than 10,000 employees in 60 countries. 

Business Travel

Sonder Adds Former CWT CEO Michelle Frymire to Its Board

1 year ago

In a further sign of its push into business travel, Sonder has added Michelle Frymire, the former CEO of corporate travel agency CWT, to its board of directors.

The next-generation hospitality company this month also announced it has a chain code, SS, in the Sabre and Amadeus global distribution systems, and earlier this year expanded its sales team to offer corporations negotiated rates and attract groups.

However, months after that expansion it restructured its operations, cutting 21 percent of corporate roles and seven percent of frontline roles, including its chief technology officer.

Frymire has experience on this front too, as during her 12 months at CWT she oversaw its financial restructuring and eventual exit from bankruptcy.

Manon Brouillette, executive vice president and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, is stepping down from Sonder’s board to focus on her current job at Verizon, the company said.

Business Travel

Sonder Gets a Chain Code in Sabre and Amadeus to Push Move Into Corporate Travel

1 year ago

Sonder has been trying to up its footprint in corporate travel, announced that it now has a chain code, SS, in the Sabre and Amadeus global distribution systems.

Airport with busy business travelers.
Business travelers at an airport. Source: Getty Images

When travel agents are looking to book corporate clients in Sonder properties, having that chain code makes it easier for them to search and find them, Sonder said Wednesday.

Sonder said it obtained the chain code through a partnership with RateGain, which uses a connectivity switch solution to process electronic hotel bookings.

Sonder, a property manager of short-term rentals and hotels, said in its most recent earnings call last month that it had nearly 400 corporate accounts, up from around 250 at the end of March.

Airlines

Sabre Sues Hawaiian Airlines for Alleged Breach of Contract

1 year ago

Global distribution system provider Sabre is alleging that beginning May 31 Hawaiian Airlines implemented a new distribution policy that prevented U.S.-based travel agents using Sabre from booking the airline’s inter-island flights, and also began levying U.S.-based travel agents a $7 per segment surcharge on all bookings of all other Hawaiian Airlines’ flights through Sabre.

Those breach-of-contract allegations are laid out in a federal lawsuit filed August 30 in the Southern District of New York.

Hawaiian Airlines
A Hawaiian Airlines aircraft in 2021. Source: Eric Salary, Wikipedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hawaiian_Airlines,Airbus_A330-243,_N395HASEA(18160775328).jpg

Hawaiian has an assortment of inter-island flights such as Maui to Oahu, for example.

Saying the pandemic shrunk the airline’s network by 13 percent compared to 2019, Hawaiian informed travel agents several months ago that all of its flights, including its inter-island schedule, would be available to U.S. travel agents without surcharges through alternative means, including  HA Connect, the Hawaiian Airlines Partner Portal, and HA Connect Approved Partners. These include: ATPCO, ClarityTTS, NuFlights, Thomalex, Tidesquare, Travelfusion, TravelNDC, and Verteil Technologies, according to the airline.

Hawaiian said these partners use the New Distribution Capability, and connect to travel agencies through API (application programming interface) technology as an alternative to global distribution systems.

“Hawaiian’s breaches have also put Sabre at a competitive disadvantage,” Sabre said in the lawsuit.

Hawaiian Airlines denied that it breached its contract with Sabre.

“We believe Sabre’s claims to be baseless and that we are acting well within our contractual rights as we implement a new distribution strategy replacing dated technology with the modern NDC standard,” the airline said in a statement. “We intend to vigorously defend against these claims.”

Sabre seeks a jury trial and to recover damages.

A significant portion of the lawsuit is redacted to protect contract details.

Sabre-lawsuit-against-Hawaiian

Travel Technology

Sabre Buys Payment Tech Firm Conferma Pay in Bet on Virtual Cards for Business Travel

2 years ago

Sabre acquired payments technology vendor Conferma Pay based in the UK, on August 3, the travel tech company confirmed in a statement to Skift. The travel technology company based in Southlake, Texas, didn’t reveal deal terms.

“Sabre has had a successful partnership with Conferma Pay for many years, and Conferma Pay is the basis upon which its Sabre Virtual Payments proposition is built,” a spokesperson said.

Conferma Pay provides software and commercial deals to help the travel industry move to virtual cards, where a business traveler buys each thing with a separate virtual number. So-called virtual cards can provide more secure authentication than traditional processes and more easily adapt to mobile wallets, such as India’s Paytm and China’s Alipay. (Skift has covered this in its recent megatrend Travel Payments Find Path to Painless.)

During the pandemic, Conferma Pay signed many deals and created integrations to help spread the adoption of virtual payments. In late 2020, it helped Visa launch Visa Commercial Pay, a suite of business-to-business payment solutions that strive to replace most manual processes.

Business Travel News Europe was the first to report on the acquisition.