Codeshare info tool could be helpful to travel advisors

|
Slides help shoppers see that they are booking a codeshare.
Slides help shoppers see that they are booking a codeshare.

Travel advisors and their clients alike could benefit from a new solution designed to reduce the confusion that can result from booking codeshare itineraries. 

Phocuswright senior technology analyst Bob Offutt said the solution is unique to the market, to the best of his knowledge. 

"Something like this relieves confusion," Offutt said. "It can only make it better for the traveler."

Atmosphere Research Group founder Henry Harteveldt predicted, "It will help the traveler to understand not only which airline will operate the flight but what the onboard experience will be."

The partnership of United, Lufthansa Group and Air Canada introduced the tool on the Travix family of OTAs (Budget Air, Vayama, Cheaptickets.nl, Vliegwinkel.nl and FlugLaden) last month. Megan Beardsley, vice president of client integration for developer Routehappy by ATPCO, said she expects the carriers to eventually extend the integration into their own websites and perhaps into other OTAs and metasearch engines. 

Beardsley also said Routehappy is in the process of implementing the codeshare solution for two other airlines, though she declined to reveal which ones.  

Research conducted by Routehappy ahead of development reinforced what the company already suspected -- namely, that many average travelers don't understand codeshares.

In an informal Survey Monkey questionnaire sent to 60 respondents who flew multiple times in 2018, more than 40% were unsure what a codeshare flight is.

Even the ones who know the term don't necessarily understand how booking a codeshare will impact them in terms of loyalty point accrual, baggage transfers and other issues. As a result, flyers often end up in situations where they book a codeshare flight under the marketing of one carrier only to be surprised when arriving at the airport that they are actually flying on a partner airline's plane.

The new Routehappy solution -- which Beardsley said the company developed at the behest of, and in concert with, the transatlantic joint venture of Star Alliance members United, Lufthansa Group and Air Canada -- uses slideshows both to alert shoppers to exactly who the operating carrier (or carriers) is on an itinerary and to provide deeper context as to the experience and amenities that the operating airlines will offer.

The slideshows, known in industry parlance as Universal Product Attributes (UPAs), aren't new to search result displays for United or Air Canada or the Lufthansa airlines Austrian, Lufthansa and Swiss. They are available on the Travix OTAs as well as on a variety of other channels. But integrating the UPAs across codeshares is new.

Routehappy said theirs is the first airline industry distribution solution to provide such transparency when it comes to codeshare booking.

So exactly how does the solution help shoppers understand that they are buying a codeshare ticket? Here's an example:

A Vayama search for flights from Houston to Halifax, Nova Scotia, turns up in its first result as a United-marketed itinerary with the price, departure time and other bare details. The result also notes that the itinerary includes a codeshare, but only in small print at the bottom.

However, a click on that result brings up a more visible pop-up window showing that the shopper is actually looking at a two-leg itinerary combining a United Express regional flight to Toronto with an Air Canada-operated flight to Halifax marketed under a United flight number.

The pop-up has slideshows, or UPAs, that can be clicked for each of the two flights. Slides for the first flight give information on United service offerings. The slideshow for the second flight is all about Air Canada. More than that, it includes one slide stating that the flight is a codeshare and explaining that flyers will earn miles across the codeshare alliance.

Though the tool for now is only available in direct-to-consumer channels, travel advisors could still benefit from it, Offutt said. 

"It's helpful in that it relieves the burden of having to explain to their customers what to expect," Offutt said.

Harteveldt said he'd like to see it deployed in the traditional agent channel.

"What I'm hoping is Routehappy and the Star Alliance will extend this to GDSs, which remain at the forefront of how the travel agency community accesses airline content," he said.

Within the GDS universe, Beardsley said she thinks the codesharing tool could be of special interest for the Sabre Red Workspace. 

The Routehappy vice president expressed confidence about the product's overall market prospects.

"I think it is going to sell itself, to be honest," Beardsley said. "I think there is a hunger for this type of solution. That's the sense I've gotten talking to other airlines."

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI