There’s nothing more awesome – in that, awe-inspiring way – than the big data of travel. Equal parts an aviation geek and technology junkie, I love helping travelers make heads or tails out of the combinations of routes and flights and fares that go into a perfect trip. People perform more than 5 billion flight searches on Expedia every year. And when you think about the combinations of dates, connections, fare classes and airports, there are over 65 million individual ways to get from Los Angeles to New York City in a year. That’s not big data…that’s huge data. With airlines introducing branded fares into the mix – where any one of these flight combinations could include refundable status, checked bags, paid seats, in-flight internet or any other of a number of ancillaries – it is easy to see how stressful this can be for shoppers.
Making it easy for travelers to see all of their options and to feel empowered to make the right decision for them is at the heart of the partnership that underlies the work we’re doing with Amadeus.
In the early days of commercial aviation, ancillaries did not exist because you expected everything to be included. Reality or not, air travel seemed to be more glamorous back then and recently has felt commoditized. The world of commodities is largely driven by price, and we all know where a price-driven airfare game nets out. In response, the industry wants to differentiate away from just price; we all want travelers to pay closer attention to features, not just how much money it will cost them. Increasingly, we are seeing savvy travelers do just that, but it is up to us to make the options easy to understand and compare.
Take, for example, someone flying on a short business trip. This traveler probably won’t care much about the checked baggage allowance if they only have a carry-on, but definitely welcome a speedy boarding and seat selection to ensure a quick exit from the plane. That same traveler, if flying on holiday with their kids, will instead want many suitcases checked-in, expects the whole family to sit together and will want entertainment to help make the flight more enjoyable for everyone.
In an ever-accelerating race to differentiate from the competition, airlines have started to offer travelers a wide range of unique branded fares and bundled ancillaries, with the goal of catering to the different wants and needs of travelers. These new options span from the basic, seat-only options to premium fares including flexible change and refund policies, as well as new features such as premium seating, checked bags and in-flight services.
This is where the big data of travel can turn into confusion for certain travelers. It has been very difficult for airlines to distribute through online travel agencies anything other than the lowest available fares, and it is almost impossible for a traveler to find an offer tailored to their needs, even if that offer actually existed.
This will all start to change in 2015, thanks to a new partnership between Expedia and Amadeus where we will offer the magic of branded fares, helping inform travelers so they feel empowered to choose the option that is best for them. Both companies, leaders of innovation in the travel industry, will deploy Amadeus Airline Fare Families and develop a standardized solution that will allow airlines to offer branded fares to travelers through Expedia.
Starting toward the end of next year, travelers will better understand the new options our airline partners are offering, with clear choices around all of the extras they might want or need, helping them to select the ticket that’s right for them for their specific trip. We are excited to work with each of you, our airline partners, to bring the best of what you are offering to millions of travelers all around the world.