A global airline merchandising survey by Travelport shows strong support among travel agencies to assist airlines in selling ancillary services through the GDS. The survey also highlights the challenges travel agents face in the selling of these services, amid their own pressures to grow revenues, reduce costs and increase productivity.
Travelport’s Merchandising Survey was conducted with 610 travel agencies in 12 countries across Asia Pacific, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.
The unbundling of fares and services in recent years has seen the growth of ancillary products such as checked baggage, meals, lounge passes and upgrades. Agency respondents were asked to specify how this change has impacted on their businesses. Top impacts included confusion around what services were offered by each airline, productivity and the need to offer these services to remain a full-service agency. Only 16% of respondents saw unbundling as an opportunity to charge or increase fees and 44% said they did not impose additional charges for booking optional services.
Travelport found that agencies would be more interested in selling optional services if the process was more efficient. Respondents indicated that booking optional services currently required approximately 29% more time. Presently some services are available through the GDS while others are sold via airline websites or by phone. The findings indicated a strong demand for a single aggregated source of information and sales capability and the GDS was listed as the most preferred channel to book and sell optional services by 70% of respondents.
The GDS also ranked highly with agents when asked if they were interested in having the GDS assist them in accommodating the offering of unbundled services, with 84% of respondents saying it would be a considerable benefit. The top two reasons cited were time savings and improved service for customers.
The majority of agencies (77%) are currently booking additional services for their customers compared to just 8% who said they didn’t offer these services. Reasons cited for not offering these services varied, with agents in Europe reporting that ‘it doesn’t generate any additional revenues’ (41%), whereas in the Americas 33% of agents said ‘most services are not available for agency booking’.
Respondents were also asked to define the value they place on having branded fares available for sale via the GDS. Branded fares are fares that are bundled together with optional services, such as preferred seat assignments and checked baggage fee. Agents indicated that branded fares would enable them to offer a full service to clients, as well as allow them to stay competitive with airline websites.
“This research offers valuable insights on how travel agencies view and sell airline ancillary services,” said Fergal Kelly, Travelport’s Vice President, Content. “Agents understand that as the airline product continues to evolve and ancillaries form an increasingly significant role in the purchase decision and buying process, travel customers continue to look to agents to support them in purchasing itinerary solutions.
“Travelport is continuing its work with airlines and other travel providers on a wide range of merchandising capabilities to support the evolution of new products and strategies for distribution through the GDS. This has included the investment and development of products such as Travelport Universal Desktop and Travelport Universal API, which enable the sale of ancillary products and services through an integrated, simple and uniform platform.”