Sabre and Lufthansa Group reach 'landmark' deal

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Lufthansa Group includes the eponymous German carrier as well as Swiss, Austrian, Brussels and Air Dolomiti.
Lufthansa Group includes the eponymous German carrier as well as Swiss, Austrian, Brussels and Air Dolomiti. Photo Credit: Ingrid Fried/Lufthansa

Sabre and the Lufthansa Group have entered into what one executive of Lufthansa Group airline Swiss is calling a "landmark deal for airline distribution."

Under the agreement, travel agencies will be able to access Lufthansa content through the Sabre GDS via legacy technology or via one of two new NDC-supported commercial models. The agreement applies to content from the eponymous Lufthansa airline itself as well as to inventory from Swiss and Lufthansa Group carriers Austrian, Brussels and the Italian regional carrier Air Dolomiti. 

The deal ends protracted negotiations between the two travel industry stalwarts that at times were antagonistic. In late May, Lufthansa emailed travel agencies to inform them that Sabre had terminated their distribution agreement effective June 30 and that Lufthansa Group content would be withdrawn from the platform at that time. Ultimately, the companies agreed to maintain the content while discussions continued. 

Under the new arrangement, Lufthansa will be able to push its long-standing strategy to broaden its content and pricing offerings through NDC-supported technology into the Sabre marketplace. At the same time, the carrier will continue to offer less dynamic content to travel agencies that subscribe to the Sabre GDS but do not have an NDC program. For that group, Lufthansa will continue its GDS surcharge of $23 maximum per ticket through the end of 2021, said Sabre spokeswoman Heidi Castle.

Lufthansa plans to launch its Sabre NDC program in 2021. The program will offer agencies two distinct commercial models to choose from, though the company did not provide details on those models in its Wednesday announcement. The NDC program will include Lufthansa's newly developed continuous pricing solution, under which the carrier can generate a broader range of fare offers than the 26 fare buckets that have historically been available to airlines under the legacy fare filing system.

Lufthansa said it will provide more specificity on the go-live plan for its Sabre NDC program during the first half of the year. Details about whether the program will include a distribution surcharge will also be provided during the first half of 2021, Castle said.

Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst for Atmosphere Research, said that the agreement gives Lufthansa far more power and marketing control within Sabre than it has had in the past. But he also said the deal is a major endorsement for Sabre's NDC development efforts. 

"In a way, this is Sabre's NDC coming out party," Harteveldt said. "They were late to the game. They clearly have a much stronger platform than they did."

Travel advisors in general should benefit from the revamped Sabre-Lufthansa deal, Harteveldt added. 

"The two parties realized they can do more together," he said. "And Lufthansa realized that Sabre provides them important access to key market segments, including travel management companies, and key geographies."

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