Sabre: GDSs and airlines making progress under the radar

By Johanna Jainchill

SOUTHLAKE, Texas — Media reports about the conflicts between GDSs and airlines have overshadowed the productive efforts between the two groups to make airlines' ancillary products available via GDS to travel agents, Sabre executives said this week.

At Sabre’s headquarters here, Chris Kroeger, Sabre Travel Network’s senior vice president of marketing, said that Sabre’s dispute with American Airlines “is an isolated situation that is not happening broadly in the marketplace.”

“Airlines have a similar set of goals as we do, to grow revenue and optimize costs and get close to their travelers,” Kroeger said.

Shelly Terry, Sabre’s senior director of airline merchandising, said that the news about the conflict “gets eyeballs away from productive stuff going on.”

Terry said Sabre is talking with many airlines, including Delta, about distribution of their ancillary products through the Sabre GDS.

“Most [airlines] are by and large very excited to embrace these capabilities,” she said. “They want to get their product into as many channels as possible and on as many shelves as possible.”

Terry is “confident” that Sabre will one day be able to distribute Delta’s premium economy seats.

“Their intention was always to launch it in the direct channel first and then bring it to the indirect channel,” Terry said.

Sabre has distribution agreements in place with Delta, British Airways and Qantas, and “we have and we continue to discuss with them our readiness to help them grow new revenues by distributing their ancillary products. There is no formal plan in place, so no formal announcement.”

Sabre has agreements in place with several airlines that make ancillary services available in their system, including United and WestJet for premium seats and with Air New Zealand, for prepaid bags with fulfillment via Electronic Miscellaneous Document (EMD). This week, Sabre added three more airlines to that list: Alitalia, Finnair and South African Airways.

Terry said that US Airways and Virgin America have contracts in place to offer ancillaries through Sabre, a capability that will be implemented in the coming months. (View a video of Terry explaining how Sabre users can book a premium seat on a United flight through the Sabre GDS below.)

Follow Johanna Jainchill on Twitter @jjainchilltw. 

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