Ancillary sales can help differentiate travel agents

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Travel agents can improve customer service and differentiate themselves from their competitors by selling more airline ancillary products, delegates at Travelport’s annual customer conference have been told.

In a panel discussion on the first morning of the Travelport Live 2016 event in Macau, which opened at the Studio City integrated resort on Wednesday, a panel of senior Travelport executives was asked by the audience why agents should sell airlines’ ancillaries, if they aren’t being paid commission on them.

Scott Hyden, global vice president of Travelport’s Enterprise Customer Group, replied that travel agents should use the sale of ancillary products – such as seat selection and extra baggage – to add value to their clients and, in doing so, differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Ian Heywood, the company’s global head of air commerce product & marketing, agreed. With the wealth of online information available to consumers nowadays, he stressed that agents need to demonstrate more expertise and offer clients comprehensive information about airline products, fare inclusions and ancillaries.

The roll out of Travelport’s Rich Content & Branding solution, Heywood said, allows travel agents to quickly see what an airfare includes, inform the customer and potentially upsell that client with ancillaries or to a higher fare category.

“Rich Content & Branding allows travel agents to become experts – it provides all the information [agents need] and allows them to do a much better job,” Heywood stated.

In response to the issue of whether airlines should pay agents commission on ancillary sales, Heywood – who worked with British Airways when it cut agent commissions – argued that he prefers “inventive payments”, based on the overall value an agent brings to an airline, than straight dollar-per-sale commission payments. And ancillary sales can increase an agent’s value to an airline, he said.

Travelport’s Rich Content & Branding solution, which has now been adopted by more than 160 airlines, allows carriers to improve how their products are visually displayed on GDS screens, and provides more information about airfare inclusions. This is one of Travelport’s unique points of difference, as it is not offered by any other GDS company.

Running under the theme “Redefining Success”, Travelport’s annual customer conference has gathered 360 industry delegates to Macau for three days of discussions, debates and demonstrations.

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