Travel suppliers as buyers

November 24, 2014

I often field questions and comments from friends and family about my job and what it’s like working for a global company engaged in helping airlines and travel providers alike. And as Head of Airline Retail for Datalex, I do have incredible opportunities to travel, as well as to experience first-hand what our software can do, live and in person. Having flown over 35 airlines (it took me awhile to figure that number out), I would like to think I have learned a thing or two about air travel and how it all works. However, I am consistently humbled by just how much air travel keeps changing, or at least the value and pricing propositions.

While you’d expect employees of a travel company to actually travel, the big question is, do we actually buy any of the ancillaries we are presented? And if we do or do not, what’s behind the decision-making process? It may surprise you to know some of what we put into our platform actually comes from our own personal experiences buying travel. So, in truth, Datalex is not just a travel technology provider; we are also a company full of travel buyers who purchase tickets and are offered merchandising opportunities just like everyone else. But like most companies, Datalex has travel policies in place to ensure we are purchasing the best-value and most logical fare for an itinerary. We also have a corporate booking tool in place to help make choices clearer in terms of policy.

But what about ancillaries? What about all those services and products Datalex enables airlines to sell—do we actually buy them? The answer is yes. The ability to purchase products and services we as travelers find most valuable is extremely important. For example, since much of our travel is long-haul, seating is key, while baggage is not since I don’t usually check any. And to that end, since my baggage is carry-on, priority boarding is tremendously valuable in terms of obtaining overhead space. And since airplanes tend to be an extension of my workspace, onboard Wi-Fi keeps me productive when I might otherwise be out-of-touch for several hours. For this reason, Wi-Fi offers tend to catch my attention right away. And while I’m interested in subscriptions to Wi-Fi (have yet to pull the trigger), what about bundles with priority boarding and seating? For a long-haul flight, I’d definitely buy it, but I don’t seem to see many bundled packages for sale as of yet. And for that matter, I don’t see very many presented in the corporate booking paths either (which, by the way, Datalex can help an airline do).

And how about premium meals? This is an area that remains relatively untouched by most airlines, so the opportunity to purchase a premium meal in economy class doesn’t happen all that often (keeping in mind there’s a difference between a premium meal and a special meal). But when a premium meal is offered (as in the case when flying Aer Lingus), I absolutely partake for two reasons. One, there are usually healthy choices, like salmon. And two, that same meal, if purchased in the airport, would cost a lot more. The choice is easy, considering it’s better for my body and for my expense report.

And speaking of premium, what about upgrades? The ability to offer upgrades in a consistent and fair manner can be challenging. This is particularly true when there are frequent fliers to keep happy. However, the gap between Economy and Premium Economy seems to be getting smaller, at least in terms of price, which is really good news for travelers. It’s also interesting to note, I’ve never been offered a chance to purchase an upgrade, proactively pushed to my mobile, while waiting at the gate. Doing something like this would help on occasions when I’ve not had the presence of mind to purchase offers during the booking process. And not just upgrades, how about Wi-Fi or a meal?

So, if you’ve ever wondered about things like: Do car salesman drive the cars they sell? Do bakers eat the cakes they make? Or, in our case, do employees of a travel software company actually buy the ancillaries sold via their solution? The answer is that we buy what we help sell, without a doubt.

 

Brian Borg

Head of Airline Retail at Datalex

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