28 January 2010

BTC+ITM Try to Rally Standards on AR

Normally I am a huge fan of standards. However I ALWAYS caveat it with "provided they don't get in the way."

BTC based in the USA and the UK's ITM are trying to rally the business user community to support an approach for standards in Ancillary Revenue (AR).

Ancilliary Revenues are clearly important to the supply side. There are too many moving parts for this to be left to standard's people. This is for the bold to take and run with it. However that said most of the major moving parts are pretty standardized.

- A piece of baggage is a piece of baggage. It has sizes and weights... there are standards for that.
- The financial fulfillment is set - MPD become EMD-A or EMD-S.
- ARC is ready
- BSP??? Hello????
- Credit Cards - well not quite - but increasingly so. Some already support the detail however most Visa and MC do not.
- GDS ready? Hardly
- Agencies ready - actually yes. Many of them already sell LCC carriers and this is not new news. Agencies who rely on GDS based solutions alone have seen share shift to those who are already deploying solutions where LCC carriers can be booked.
- Booking Tools - definitely not quite ready. So this is a challenge. But there are a lot of aid tools (for example Sabre has one) that have made the process a lot easier. Frankly you can find most things on the web.

From my point of view, trying to mandate standards - admirable as the effort is, can be something akin to a reader of books trying to tell Apple what should be in the iPad based on how people print books. (OK a little harsh but you get my point).

This is a major advancement in functionality. The sellers must just get used to it and start to service the customers accordingly. This is not new, it is now the scale of adoption on the supply side that will cause the agency community to have to sit up and pay attention and do something.

Failure is not an option. For the $25-$50 that corporations are paying for a manual booking - the agency needs to solve this. Self booking tools are hard at work to address the issue. Legacy GDSs are adopting the wait and see approach - much to the chagrin of the corporate execs who are having to do everything themselves.

Recently I spoke to a group of Corporate Execs on a delayed flight - 20 or so chaps sitting in the lounge chatting together. There was an interesting element that I had not considered before. The amount of post reservation work the corp traveler is doing on his own because either his booking tool or his agency is not providing the service. All 20 of them (different nationalities and different companies in the main with 6 different agencies between them) agreed with this. Not one said she/he DIDN'T do this and was happy with the service and everything was done for him. Actually one guy but he was a Chairman of a business and he didn't use a PC so he said - he had his admin do it for him!

That shocked me because while I knew that the corp traveller has to fend for himself, I didn't realize how little value the exec placed on the corp travel service provided. Agreed this is bar stool research but still - its an issue perhaps the Corp Travel providers need to consider further.

Failure is not an option here. Recently I have heard of several corporations who have fired their agencies and inside travel departments and let the budget control mechanism determine how travel is bought and sold. I would love to see if this is a trend and if not why not? Apparently the travellers love it... go figure.

Perhaps I just don't belong in the printing press business after all


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