United and Concur announced their intention to launch a TripLink-enabled booking path on United.com by the first quarter of 2015. It will allow corporate travelers to obtain net-of-discount pricing, and have their reservations serviced online and by UAL’s reservation department.
Booking data will be automatically sent to the Concur platform, where it will be available to travel managers for further compliance monitoring and duty of care processing.
Folks, this is the hat trick of Open Booking – discounts, data and duty of care.
What’s not clear yet is how the TMC fits into this. In the vision that Evan Konwiser and I laid out two years ago, these corporate bookings on Brand.com can be seen and serviced by the account’s TMC. Commercial issues aside, this needs to be part of the long-term solution.
Look for Steve Sedgwick, now VP of Concur Platform Sales and Services at FROSCH Travel to weigh in on the TMC question, as he has been a strong advocate for getting TMCs to embrace rather than ignore the Open Booking trend.
So what does this mean for travel managers? The simple answer is lots of questions.
- Will United’s discounts be the same on United.com as via the GDS/TMC channel? For how long?
- Will these Open Bookings count toward market share goals? If not, why not?
- How good is the booking data coming from TripLink?
- Should the travel policy be changed to allow, encourage, or discourage this booking path?
- If Open Bookings on United.com draw a lot of travelers away from the buyer’s TMC channel, how will the TMC react commercially? What about the GDS?
- How will travelers be expected to shop – via their favorite leisure site where no discounted prices appear, or on the corporate booking tool where they do appear, or on United.com, where presumably UA’s prices will be net of discount but OA’s will not be?
Regardless of these and many more questions, what’s clear is that a major airline has backed the Open Booking premise with a major promise.
My quick take? United’s endorsement makes Open Booking a reality for travel managers, a credible choice for travelers, a non-trivial threat to TMCs and GDSs, and a technical challenge to other airlines.
All great ingredients in the soup called innovation. I love it.
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