Sabre Takes UpSell to the Skies

SABRE WILL INTRODUCE AN AIRFARE VERSION OF UPSELL LATER THIS MONTH, Travel Agent has learned exclusively. UpSell, which allows agents to offer a higher-value product at the point of sale, is currently a feature of Sabre Hotels. The new air version is being integrated into MySabre, the company's primary travel agent interface, and Australia's Qantas Airways (www.qantas.com.au) will be the launch partner. UpSell's air component allows agents to view and compare various fare families while shopping for fares online, which helps them suggest appropriate ticket upgrades to their clients

The Unbundling Trend

As airlines have continued to unbundle fares, Sabre (www.sabretravelnetwork.com) felt the UpSell capability was increasingly important so agents could suggest ticket upgrades where appropriate. Kyle Moore, vice president of product marketing for Sabre, estimates that several dozen airlines are taking part in this unbundling trend, which consists of airlines abandoning pricing strictly by cabin class and instead charging customers for premiums like seat selection, more legroom and ticket refundability.

"Every airline in the world is at least thinking about this as a strategy," Moore says, though it remains to be seen whether the majority will adopt it.

UpSell's air component allows agents to view various fare families during the booking process. "Once agents select an itinerary, we message back to the agent right in the workflow suggesting to upgrade the ticket to get certain benefits," Moore explains. "Sometimes an upgrade won't make sense, because travel plans are firm or lounge access doesn't matter to the client, but either way it's a win-win-win situation: The traveler is given information that they would value, the airline enjoys higher yields, and the agent is providing a service that is valued by the traveler."

For Sabre, the key concern was integrating the capability into the agent's workflow. "It is absolutely critical that it happens in the way the agent shops in their traditional workflow, because if it doesn't, the likelihood of being able to see all the options will be diminished," Moore says.

The unbundling concept will likely be confusing to consumers, but Moore believes that such a structure can only benefit travel agents. "Travelers will have to deal with more decisions and they'll need someone to help sift through the noise," he says.

"Complexity is a friend of the travel industry channel, because consumers are going to have a harder time sifting through all the gray areas. It's an empowerment to the travel agency."