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How GDSs are embracing apps

September 16, 2012

(Published in TTG 29.08.12)

Putting greater control – literally – into the hands of customers is fast becoming a key area of competition for TMCs. Fortunately, the GDSs are only too happy to help. Matthew Parsons rounds up the latest apps

Global distribution systems are now catching up with their consumer counterparts, and joining the mobile party. From providing itinerary updates and city guides to location-specific alerts and self-booking tools, Sabre, Amadeus and Travelport are making apps a priority.

And with predictions that one in five trips will be booked on a mobile device by 2015 (Global Business Travel Association) and that smart-phones will outnumber PCs by 2013 (Gartner), who’s to blame them?

The fact that GDSs are opening up development to outside parties, such as the Travelport Developer Network, means innovation is guaranteed. Here’s a rundown of what each GDS is offering…

Tripcase Tools

Tripcase Tools

Sabre – TripCase web and mobile app

TripCase does not allow bookings to be made on a mobile device, by either the traveller or agent, but Vanessa Beasley, director of accounts management at TMC Business Travel Direct, says it is still an invaluable tool with which to win new customers.

Beasley, who has 11 years’ experience at BTD, has in fact worked with Sabre on developing the free app. “More and more of our clients are in media or communications, and the average age of our travellers is going down, so it’s important for us to be able to recommend these tools,” she says.

“The app provides travellers with an easy way to view their itinerary, rather than wading through dozens of emails. You can also store old trips, so it’s useful to see previous hotels.”

Other features include driving directions and alternative schedules, as TripCase automatically keeps users updated of any changes such as flight time or gate changes. “It’s information rather than booking – it’s an information app,” she adds. Sabre encourages development of new ideas for apps via its equivalent of an app store, at www.sabreredappcentre.com

Amadeus Mobile Partner

The Amadeus Mobile Partner, which agents can use in conjunction with Amadeus e-Travel Management, allows travellers to see the travel plans that have been made.

However, Amadeus told TTG that it will soon launch the Amadeus Mobile Extension. This will let consumers book travel, and make amendments to their plans, which they can’t currently do on the Amadeus Mobile Partner.

It will be available on the Apple and Android mobile platforms, with Blackberry and Windows variations confirmed for later in 2013. The app will sync completely with the online Amadeus booking platform, to maintain consistency in corporate travel policy, and allow corporate travellers to search for flights and European trains, and book themselves.

It will also take in information from the user’s calendar, so a traveller knows what their other commitments are when making travel plans, and can condense all “purchase conditions” into one paragraph.

Travelport's TMA

Travelport’s TMA

Travelport Mobile Agent

Travelport, meanwhile, has managed to make mobile bookings a reality. One of the most recent products to come to market, Travelport Mobile Agent (TMA) was launched on July 25, and the company claims it is the first GDS app that lets agents book while on-the-go, in exactly the same way they would using the desktop version, including the same username and password.

The app follows its ViewTrip Mobile tool, which gave users itinerary information, based on bookings across its Worldspan, Galileo or Apollo systems. TMA works, for now, just for Galileo.

Marco Ferreira, chief executive at Aviateam, was one of the first to trial the tool, which was created by Travel Technology & Solution for Travelport. Portugal-based Aviateam, a general sales agent that works with 160 airlines, has licences for three of its13 staff.

“We’ve tried it for several months,” says Ferreira. “It’s a great tool, as I’m travelling lots – I look after 16 countries. It’s a 24/7 service. We are delighted to see Travelport offering innovative mobile solutions that let us enhance the service we offer to our customers.”

One drawback, however, is that the view is not the same, and you always have to “double check the figures” if they appear small, but you can zoom in on the screen, according to Ferreira. And previous bugs, such as losing data if you lose the signal, have been fixed, he adds.

For Travelport’s UK boss Simon Ferguson, TMA is the perfect way for agents to keep up with their increasingly mobile-savvy customers.  “We are now giving agents the power to modify anytime, anywhere,” he concludes.

For example, a customer might be on a night flight to New York, and urgently need to alter a connecting flight. Making amendments out-of-hours might not be ideal from the agent’s point of view, but as Ferguson points out, “corporates put their faith in TMCs, so travel agents have to be wherever and whenever they’re needed”.

Prices for the app vary, and it is available from Apple’s App store:

www.itunes.apple.com/gb/app/tripcase/id309620151

www.itunes.apple.com/gb/app/amadeus-mobile-partner/id404149822

www.itunes.apple.com/gb/app/travelport-mobile-agent/id447792568

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