Sabre has introduced a "new airline storefront" (NAS) it says will help travel agencies better compare airline fares for multiple airlines simultaneously, lessening the time spent trying to understand fare differences and ultimately furthering its mission of increased personalization for travelers.

According to Kathy Morgan, Sabre Travel Solutions vice president of offer sourcing, the NAS is an "industry first" in standardizing airfare displays in a normalized fashion.

During a media briefing this week, Morgan said the NAS is a framework that delivers easily comparable offers from airlines. Essentially, Sabre receives airline offers from multiple sources; behind the scenes, Sabre uses "product normalization" to categorize fare information, then standardizes it into "shelves" so shoppers can easily compare what a fare includes and its overall value. (NAS will launch with traditional sources but will support NDC and content from low-cost carriers in the future.)

The "shelves" used to display airline content are defined by specific attributes, including baggage allowance, refundability and exchangeability. A team of Sabre data scientists has worked to optimize shelf definitions with the help of various machine learning models, Morgan said. The definitions can evolve over time and are monitored using machine learning.

For an example of how the NAS works, think of visiting the website for FlyXYZ. The airline offers three fares: basic, economy and flex. When you search for flights on the site, the results you will see are broken out into those three fares, usually with icons indicating what's available for each; you won't, however, see any other airlines' fares. If you visit a third-party site, you'll see FlyXYZ fares, but they will be mixed with other airlines' fares, based on price and schedule. There will be no differentiators between the fares besides those two categories. On Sabre's NAS, you would see FlyXYZ fares compared with other like fares -- similar to how you would see them on the FlyXYZ website, but with multiple airlines' fares in one place.

"When you think about the way content has begun to fragment across different technology capabilities, the ability to take content regardless of source and do this normalization is inherent and critical to being able to continue to secure the confidence of content accessibility and availability inside the GDS marketplace," Morgan said.

According to Morgan, the NAS will evolve over time and expand beyond air. Additional attributes related to air will be added, as well, such as seat comfort -- defined by seat width, pitch and legroom.

Additionally, travel agents will be able to customize shelves based on their business needs, Morgan said. Sabre will support "shop by" functionality, enabling agents to include product preferences in their upfront request for fares. Fares will be returned in order of the attributes most important to the advisor's clients.

In the direct channel, when a customer is shopping from an airline website, the airline has full control over the presentation of fares and product offerings, Morgan said. It's usually easy for a consumer to see how those fares are differentiated. But the consumers cannot compare those offers with others available.

In the indirect channel, consumers have the ability to comparison shop, but the comparison is typically based on price and schedule, not the overall value of a fare (including things like ancillaries), Morgan said.

That, she said, is where Sabre's NAS comes into play, enabling agents and, ultimately, travelers to have easy access to more information than a fare's price.

The NAS is available on Sabre's application programming interfaces, or APIs, today. It will roll out to its agent workspace, Sabre Red 360, starting this week. In the future, it will be available to corporations using GetThere, Sabre's online booking technology.


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