Travel inspiration is often a mixed bag. It's not always simple and straightforward to explore potential trips without a fixed destination or specific date. Thankfully, Big Data is coming into the fold, powering new interfaces that offer alternative ways to search for travel — including simple ways to book travel according to elite-qualifying miles earned. Given that most frequent flier programs have moved to revenue-based models, there's an increasing incentive to manage status by booking the most affordable elite-qualifying miles. Basically, working to maintain status at the lowest possible price-per-mile flown.
These flexible tools make it easier to find trips around a specific theme (say a beach trip), a set budget range, or even around earning a certain number of elite-qualifying miles at a maximum price-per-mile. Escape is a Web app that centers the travel search experience on exactly these sorts of "soft qualities."
The app (explore it here) tailors the user experience by deploying Sabre APIs to into two search views: Flexible and Inspiration. Flexible is a fairly standard search between an origin and destination with flexible travel dates. Inspiration is a broader search from only the departure airport, showing all available flights from a specific city. This allows one to see potential travel experiences across the world.
After a destination city is selected — in this case PDX — a box with data-driven insights appears to the left. Alongside the fare history and overall lowest fare is a handy calculation of the lowest cost per mile. This is a handy calculation for both travel hackers and status chasers.
The concept driving Escape's interface is the user tendency towards "travel snacking," or using travel inspiration to fill small bits of time. This is less a directed search (going from A to B on this inflexible date) and more of an open-ended click-around of travel potential.
Julian Macagno, Director Developer Experience at Sabre Travel Network, emphasizes how this travel snacking behavior plays into the Escape app:
"These are the types of questions that travelers are asking today. We tailored this to those looking for the best bargain or an easy glance of travel options. And travel snacking is also about filling a minute or two, searching for inspiration, even without an intention to buy."
Searches can also be sorted according to additional options, such as the maximum fare, a preferred trip theme and the destination region. These factors personalize the map with only destinations meeting the specified criteria. By selecting "beach" for example, only those destinations near beaches are returned.
"Inspirational shopping isn't just about what great deals are out there but also about recommending a deal that's tailored to a subset of a type of destination that you want to go to. It could be a continent, theme, or budget."
The ability to search by "maximum price per mile" is also an interesting application. This criteria allows agents serving frequent fliers to search for the routes that provide the highest “miles earned” for their specific loyalties at a maximum price. So rather than having to do a rough calculation of price per mile, the app does it automatically.
This "miles earned" advantage extends beyond travel hackers to road warriors, allowing agents to quickly gauge elite-qualifying miles within a particular search. Business travelers are especially careful about earning enough miles to qualify for status on the right airlines and travel agents must consider this road warrior perk when delivering fare search services to clients. And for self-managed business travelers, this feature makes it far faster to determine how a particular flight impacts elite qualifying mileage earn.
Future iterations of the Escape app could include a fare alert messaging service, to ensure constant communication about fare drops, changes to saved searches and a bargain fare finder for agents. External developers and startups would then be able to leverage the source code to customize for clients as appropriate.
Escape is a prototype featured on Sabre's Innovation Hub, a collection of internal beta projects designed to leverage existing APIs and products into new adjacencies. Check out the full collection here.