Open Booking Takes Off With United

The corporate travel industry today took a big step toward making Open Booking a practical choice for travelers and travel managers.

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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This entry was posted in Managed Travel 2.0, Travel Management and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Open Booking Takes Off With United

  1. Jennifer Steinke says:

    This is an excellent step forward for our industry. I am interested to see if discount structures change to reduce distribution costs for UA and potentially all carriers. My only concern is will UA provide this outside of Triplink. I support the open ecosystem concept, but as an industry we need to have alternatives to obtaining the data and not have it sit in just one house.

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      The discount question is fascinating. The easiest answer is to make the discounts the same through both channels. But that doesn’t make the most economic sense.

      Jennifer, You’re right about the reduction in distribution costs for bookings that go through Brand.com – so the airline could afford to increase the discount a bit to further incent corporate travelers to book there.

      But – and this is a big one – an airline may believe that it was going to get the Open Bookings anyway, and since they don’t have visibility of the OA Open Bookings (aka direct, or brand.com bookings), the airline can’t be sure about paying discounts for what may not be incremental share shift. In this light, I could see an airline paying a smaller discount.

      • Steve Sedgwick says:

        The United Airlines guidance update (Sept 19th 2013) outlines this Initiative which is to reduce 100m in distribution cost and increase yields per direct bookings. Yields from direct bookings adds 75% more income that allows the airline to customize their direct offerings. The revamped web site will likely include OAL to provide comparison shopping or pricing and will likely include all bookings made to achieve market share goals. Soft dollar accounts may be targeted as efficiencies will be achieved and directed offerings made to increase value received.

        One thing for certain is it was the airlines that invented E-commerce and now looking very eager to take back control of distribution.
        “We only can see what we know and base our perception on the past, the future is sure to bring challenges but the opportunities become endless” Translation don’t under estimate what the ” revamped UA web site can do.

        As a Concur Preferred Partner FROSCH is well prepared to assist its customers with managing travel regardless of distribution channel and provide the core services our clients, Travel Managers expect to have. Today begins a new era in Travel Management
        one that is certain to bring change and new innovations for our clients today and the future.

  2. Bradley Seitz says:

    Oh look the announcement of something that is fiction, and in the future. Well there will be no study this year.

    Bradley Seitz President and CEO Topaz International

    • Scott Gillespie says:

      Brad, I’ll bite…why are you skeptical about this coming to reality?

      • Bruce Finch says:

        Maybe a Travel Manager could weight in on this…last week, I booked a free ticket using mileage on united.com via my personal smart phone. I was in a taxi cab at the time. Brilliant. I knew exactly what flight I wanted and went for it. Great for a leisure or personal booking. However, the reality is, just like SWABIZ and other airline only.com accounts, there is no comparative analysis on the costs of these flights. Clearly, if it wasn’t a free ticket, I would have gone to a GDS-type platform to check on the lowest fare.
        Assuming I did that, then the .com platform will have my booking. Are they going to service it when a snowstorm causes 200 flights (including mine) to be cancelled? As a corporate traveler, is it acceptable to me to have a few hundred people ahead of me to speak to the ONE agent at the customer service desk? Or, would I want to contact my agency in order to have them service my reservation.

        Clearly, there are currently some benefits to an open booking platform and for some companies, this is a good thing. However, the majority of major corporations want their travelers time to be spent selling, developing, building relationships and not spending time fixing a flight reservation. Until the paradigm becomes more in line with what corporations will benefit from and less about travel companies who themselves have something to sell (and to benefit) then I’ll pay more attention…having one airline join one travel platform (who themselves have an ROI to capture on their software investment) does not an industry “hat trick” make in my opinion.

        The changes in distribution are happening, but at the moment, most of the cards are stacked in favor of one or two major players who have the most to benefit from the change. As an “antiquated” industry dinosaur, I’d like a bit more selection in tools to chose from and at least a few more major companies that can metrically “prove” the system works, before I risk my companies multi-million dollar T&E spend on a relatively new theory. Things will change, of that I have no doubt, but being on the bleeding edge isn’t always the best place for career advancement. Just my $.02.

  3. Steve Sedgwick says:

    All the tools to manage travel will be Transparent, Connected and Effortless. Today we are prepared to manage an Open Platform of Procurement providing Duty of Care, visibility into Concur Travel, real time reporting that captures 100% of a companies travel data. The ability to manage the core services including Travel Policy compliance, Pre-Trip auditing, Post ticketing audits, and assisting the travelers when the Perfect Trip changes will only add value to a manage travel program.

    Today we see UA signal the future and we can be assured several more domestic and international carriers will follow.

    “We only can see what we know and base our perception on the past, the future is sure to bring challenges but the opportunities become endless”

  4. Pingback: Open Booking erhält Rückenwind von United Airlines der travelBrain GmbH

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