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Streamlining the Online Shopping ExperienceNovember 12, 2007 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor Travel Agent
Technology companies are aiming to streamline the online shopping experience with the goal of helping agents make more informed decisions when booking air travel. Here’s a look at some recent developments:
Consolidator web site Centrav (www.centrav.com) upgraded its booking engine so agents can view side-by-side comparisons of net and published fares. “Our fares are generally supposed to be lower than what the agent can get from a global distribution system, but that’s not always the case these days,” says Greg Rholl, vice president of pricing and distribution for Centrav. “Today it can vary, so it’s really important for the agent to do their homework and shop the consolidator and the published fare.”
Which is why Centrav, which works with roughly 30 international airlines and a few thousand agents, decided to load published fares onto its site. “Agents can see which one is the cheapest and hit the availability button,” Rholl explains, adding that agents can earn a commission of 15 to 15 percent, depending on the market, when booking through Centrav. Alternatively, “if the agent likes to book in their own GDS they can just flip over to their GDS,” he notes.
In November, Centrav will launch consolidated hotel booking capabilities with about 100 properties. “Our deals will be more in Europe, Asia and South America,” Rholl says. “We don’t really sell domestic air, so this will go together really well for a one-stop shopping experience.”
Travel technology company Revelex (www.revelex.com) this summer unveiled a host of air enhancements to its Power Agent booking engine, most notable giving agents the ability to search for fares based on various qualifiers, from city pairs to meal choices.
“We have built a rules-driven booking engine,” says James Horvath, Revelex’s chief technology officer. “Agents can put in a large ‘if…then’ statement that allows them to drive bookings.” Power Agent also recently saw the addition of seat maps, fare-based searches and customer loyalty program point redemption, all aimed at providing an agent with tailored results.
Coming early next year, Revelex plans to debut what it calls a true “super” passenger name record. “We started with cruises, where if a change is made anywhere within the booking, the vendor or the passenger can see it in real time,” explains Horvath. “Now, we’re going right to the airlines to see what time they think the flight will leave, not what time its scheduled to leave. Agents can then go back to the client and say, ‘Your flight is arriving an hour late, which might create an issue with your car service,’ and help them fix it, because in the end, you need to be able to service the client.”