New Sabre solution – useful or not?

Today I read the following news on ATW Online:

Sabre Travel Network is on the verge of rolling out a new product that will enable it to house a “mirror image” of a carrier’s inventory within its system to provide a more accurate picture of the airline’s availability. Kyle Moore, vice president of product marketing, said the growth of air fare shopping options has led many airlines to introduce caching of their air fares to minimize the volume of messages that hit their inventory systems.

“Caching is great for driving down message costs,” he said, “but the down side is that it is a picture of availability at a point in time, and at some point it is no longer accurate.” In the “proxy scenario,” Sabre duplicates the response that a carrier’s inventory system would give to a query, “almost duplicating the logic of their inventory management,” he said.

The carrier must “help us understand the logic and foundational rules about what is opened and what is closed and how to interpret it correctly so that we don’t have to rely on a cache,” Moore said. “A proxy is not perfect, but very nearly,” he added. “It allows the airline to have a better answer at the point of sale.”

Moore said Sabre’s launch customer is currently testing the system.

In the next few weeks, Sabre also will introduce a new XML connectivity option for airlines whose internal reservations systems don’t support Edifact, the traditional communication protocol used for GDS connectivity. Its launch customer is AirTran Airways.

It will enable travel agency subscribers to view the carrier’s seat maps for advance seat selection and enter frequent flyer information. “Even if it’s just 1% of an agency’s sales, we want to make it available to them,” Brian Houser, vice president of sales strategy, said.

I have had a long and endless fight with GDSs’ product developers, this time I take the chance and write an open question to Sabre’s managers. I hope they will help us understand their strategies. We would be grateful if they left a comment to this article in the blog.

Dear Sirs,

first of all I could not find this press release anywhere on your website. The last update was in June. As I could not get a clear picture of this product, just some hints from this press release, these are just first reactions. In the following let me comment this new feature form the view of an airline.

– GDS providers are interested in transaction costs. So whenever a GDS provider comes out with a tool that helps decreasing transaction costs, it is always suspicious. So is the situation in this case. I will explain it later, why.

– for an airline the biggest number of request transactions is coming from its website, not from the agents. Therefore we can say those clients coming from the website are not travel professionals. There is no way an airline can explain any customer that although the system shows available seats, it comes from cache, so the seats for that very nice, cheap price are not there anymore. Besides that you as a merchant have a price obligation that once you gave an offer to a customer for a certain price, you have to provide that product on that exact price. So whenever we at Malev considered caching, we immediately disclosed it from our development strategy. We had to decide so also because other airlines who used it had very bad experiences with it.

– Airlines will not reduce their costs dramatically, because (and I don’t know the price of your product) what they can loose on not hitting the inventory directly, they will pay for this product and customer claims.

– What does it mean that airlines have to teach you their logic and foundational rules of what is open and what is not and how they apply their revenue management? First of all: what is closed and what is not, it is absolutely clear in every airline’s inventory. I am sure you have seen such thing already. For caching or mirroring a complete partition of an inventory there is no need for you to know the airline’s revenue management strategy. Besides that this is one of the biggest secrets at airlines. They will give you information on their security or fleet strategy earlier than on their revenue management strategy. You just cannot expect such thing from an airline.

– The only useful thing for an airline I could read in your press release was the XML connection. This can really help reducing communication costs as EDIFACT is the most expensive communication technology, so by replacing it with XML, the airlines can really save on communication costs. This feature could have been introduced much earlier. It would have brought you some income.

– I would even not like to comment on the last paragraph in the article, because I think it is just a mistake.

– If you would really like to help airlines reduce their communication costs (and it is kind of a requirement from IATA), I recommend you to take a deeper look at their e-commerce strategies and develop more efficient pricing solutions, because that is their biggest suffer and that is the point where they have to pay the biggest amount of communication fees.

The above comments are not just for Sabre Airline solutions. This time it was them who came up with a new solution that airlines would dislike, but what I could see as an airline manager and later as a consultant was that none of the GDS providers take the effort to better understand the daily problems of airlines and develop their products in co-operation with them, although it is the clearest interest of both parties. IATA also has a role that this gap between airlines and their IT providers is deepening. I hope this gap will be soon closed by heavy discussions between the parties.

By Szafi


1 Response to “New Sabre solution – useful or not?”

  1. 1 balint01 August 1, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    My understanding (based on the press release as the only source) about this mirroring and why Sabre would like to learn the inventory methodology of each airline is to enable them to use that exact same logic in their mirror database in the time periods between the synchronizations. In other words to minimize the differences at the next synchronization transaction and to minimize those unhappy passengers who thought have a cheap ticket, but they actually don’t have it anymore…
    Maybe it’s also a good way to gain knowledge about airlines’ inventory methodologies before starting to develop a new inventory system. 😉

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