In yet another measure of how travel technology is going mobile, Sabre is beta-testing an app that brings its Sabre Red workspace to iPads. It plans to launch it in mid-November.
Sabre Red Mobile, as the app is known, is an on-the-go extension of Sabre Red. Pradeep Rao, Sabre's senior director of marketing for point-of-sale operations, said the app takes advantage of the touch screen and swipe capabilities of the iPad and enables mobile synchronization with the Sabre Red workspace.
Rao said that Sabre is currently offering the app just for the iPad's iOS platform but will consider other mobile operating systems down the road.
The app has a purpose-built, on-screen keyboard that includes both alpha and numeric characters, meaning agents don't have to toggle back and forth between the iPad's separate keyboards for the alphabet and numbers.
Its touch capabilities enable agents to swipe up and down through a passenger name record (PNR) or availability results rather than using "up" or "down" commands. It also has an integrated browser for accessing Sabre's Web-based services such as eServices and ClientBase Online. One beta-tester of the new app was enthusiastic.
"Everything is easy," said Brian Chapin, Ensemble Travel Group's senior director for air and travel solutions. Chapin said everything, including availability, search and display, selling air, car and hotels, modifying PNRs and ticketing, was easily done within the app.
He said he had used it in the office, at home, in taxis and at the airport and said that the app offered all the functionality an agent could want.
The Travelport solution
Sabre is the second GDS to come out with a mobile application; Travelport introduced Travelport Mobile Agent regionally in 2011 and globally in October 2012.
Travelport said its app has been installed more than 26,000 times. It supports all three of Travelport's GDSs, along with all of their features, content and operations. Users can customize how they use it on each device. Travelport spokeswoman Jill Brenner said the app can do all GDS operations from a mobile environment.
According to an informational video about Mobile Agent, users can start a booking in their office and finish it on their mobile device. Recent upgrades include timesavers for travel agencies, including mask support, linked commands and advanced Pkeys. All these functions automate frequent tasks or cut the time needed to enter complex commands.
A different route to mobile
Amadeus has taken a different tack, designing its platform to be able to support mobility. Its Amadeus Selling Platform is fully accessible on the Internet, and the company said it adjusts to whatever type of device the agent is using. It is now available on Internet Explorer and Firefox, with Chrome and Safari versions becoming available next month.
"This enables agents using a variety of devices to simply open their browser and start working, any time and from anywhere," said Debra Iannaci, a spokeswoman for Amadeus.
Many agents said they were hungry for GDS applications on their iPads.
"I am so excited about the launch of Sabre Mobile," said Stacy Small, founder of Elite Travel International in Los Angeles. "As someone who is constantly traveling and always has my iPad with me, it will be an invaluable tool."
Brenner said that Travelport charges less than $20 a month per user for Mobile Agent, and the price varies based on a number of factors. The bottom line, she said is that the fact it has been downloaded 26,000 times is evidence that agents consider the cost "nominal."
Still, Ann Waters, president of Travel Leaders in Fort Wayne, Ind., and a Travelport subscriber, said she does not use Mobile Agent simply because the extra cost does not deliver a return that makes it a worthwhile investment for her. If it were more affordable, she said, she has agents who definitely would use it.
"If we had agents out escorting groups and knew that there might be air issues, just to have that ability to on the fly work on air while they were escorting groups or doing meetings, that would be the main reason we would use the mobile app."
She said she constantly uses her own iPad.
"When I travel, I don't take my laptop, I take my iPad," she said. "And I see that with a lot of the owners that I'm around." She said it was logical for GDSs to make themselves available on mobile devices.
"I would love it," said Kim Caudill, owner of K&S Travel in Fort Wayne, Ind., when asked what she thought of having Sabre Red Mobile. "The iPad is so much easier to travel with vs. my laptop. I work on Sabre Red on my desktop all day long, so if I could make that mobile, I would be thrilled."
These agents exemplify the global trend toward mobile devices as both consumer products and work tools. The research firm International Data Corp. projected last summer that manufacturers will ship 229 million tablets this year, a 59% increase year over year, vs. 187 million laptops.
Sabre said that the fee for Sabre Red Mobile has yet to be determined.
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.