ITALY (eTN) – Following a long period of bold independence, low-cost carriers (LCCs) are back to courting travel agents. It is in fact a known history that Ryanair, EasyJet, and Vueling were, until a few years ago, snubbing the traditional banking business, and for this reason were seen by travel agents as pulling “the wool over their eyes.” Now, here comes the surprise. At the recent Rimini B2B trade fair, these LCCs emerged ready to demonstrate a new marketing attitude: to open their collaboration with the travel trade -an absolute novelty of much comfort to the world of distribution. Repentance was greeted with satisfaction by the Italian travel agents, if only for the sheer caliber of the three LCCs – 81 million passengers carried by Ryanair in 2013, 61 million by EasyJet, and over 16 million by Vueling, amounting to a total of almost 160 million passengers.
Vueling, EasyJet, and Ryanair are aligned
At the Rimini press conference, Massimo Di Perna, Vueling country manager for Italy, claimed the birthright of this pro-travel agents strategy. He reminded that “since 2008, we tried to consolidate the sales channel of the travel agencies, and in particular with the use of GDS, simply because then as now, more than 40% of the airline tickets are issued through the GDS system.”
This declaration was echoed by Frances Ousley, Director of easyJet for Italy, stating: “Time has matured for the travel agents to be regarded important to implement customers’ travel segments and especially to strengthen that segment of the business traveler that has shown interest in our pricing policy and our presence throughout the market.”
Appreciated, finally, was the admission of John Alborante, Ryanair’s Marketing Manager for Italy, who recognized to have been the last to approach the world of distribution, but indicating that he met a real collaboration through the GDS, which can be productive for all, in the logic of a new evolution of air travel, in particular that relating to the business segment that is now worth about 30% of the total air ticketing and in which the share of transactions […] is still considerable.”
The New Capability Distribution (NDC) node yet to be resolved
The announcement of this sort of “holy alliance” between the low-cost carriers in the new course of relations with business travel, engages the issue related to NDC – New Capability Distribution – the procedure suggested by IATA a long time ago to be introduce in the world of intermediation. At present, there are three pilot projects under study in the world, with the involvement of the trade associations, which by the end of the year 2014 should give concrete answers on the timing and mode of application of these new standards. The issue is about the respect for privacy and the “heritage” of travel agencies – namely, the customer profile that is the only real “treasure” in the hands of intermediaries.