The benefits of Sabre’s transition approach

With a strong focus on flexibility, our approach ensures airlines can direct their own progress. We’re here to help revolutionize travel retailing while safeguarding against potential challenges.

Sabre’s approach provides flexibility while mitigating risk

Digital transformation in the travel industry will be a multi-year journey. Airlines will have control over their own path, pace and sequencing of change, but the interdependencies across the airline industry will mean that backwards compatibility is a fundamental requirement for almost all airlines. Key interdependencies may include existing alliance and interline partners, technology providers and other third-party vendor relationships, travel agencies and corporate customers. Backwards compatibility refers to the need for technical interoperability between existing systems (notably the Passenger Service System, or PSS, and its surrounding systems) and the new offer and order platform. The ability for airlines to continue to communicate with partners who may be on a different transition timeline is paramount to ensuring a smooth transition – one that balances the need for forward progress with the reality of maintaining a day-to-day revenue-generating airline operation.

Flexibility throughout the phases

Flexibility will allow airlines to adapt their transition sequence based on the transition readiness of individual components across their entire ecosystem, including their own systems and processes, their IT providers, their employees, customers and partners.

To achieve this, we’re introducing a rules-based solution within the Order Management System that gives airlines control and flexibility over how the steps in their migration are configured. This rules engine allows airlines to decide for which use cases synchronization with the PSS is required. Some examples of the use cases include making synchronization decisions based on markets, points of sale, types of content and partners. As a result, based on what is in the ‘order create’ or ‘order change’ message, the Order Management System will know if the transaction should be fully on offers and orders, or if there is still a need to create or update a PNR or other legacy record in the PSS.

This approach enables Sabre and our airline partners to apply more granularity to the transition path, including the timing and scope, based on end-to-end airline readiness. 

Flexibility in practice

Airlines can choose their starting options and transition sequence based on their strategic objectives.

The airline may opt to start with NDC, which would require limited work on the part of the airline and would deliver an omni-channel experience and distribute all dynamic content.

Another option could be to start with the airline’s own internet booking engine. This would support more complex retailing and enable advanced experimentation while also increasing self-servicing capabilities.

A third option could be to incorporate 3rd party content from the outset, and thereby realize the full scope of the retailing opportunity.

Risk mitigation

Sabre has identified potential risks associated with transitioning airlines into the world of offers and orders – and we’ve developed plans to mitigate those risks. Examples include:

Prolonged investment in retrofits

It’s critical to strike the right balance between investing to retrofit existing applications versus directing those same resources towards the offer and order end-state. There will come a point when it is no longer prudent to seek full backwards compatibility. We’ll work with our customers to analyze the use cases based on business impact and invest to solve for what’s most important.

Efficiently managing two systems

Sabre knows there is risk in not achieving complete industry-wide synchronization as we move towards 100% offers and orders. Transitioning airlines will be challenged if/when others in their ecosystem do not transition at the same time. The solution for how to maintain backwards compatibility lies in our translation layer that will enable peer-to-peer communications irrespective of transition status for as long as deemed cost-effective and efficient for the transitioning airline.   

Sabre’s approach to offer- and order-based product development has been centered around minimizing transition-related disruption. Our Retail Intelligence product suite was developed from day one with offers and orders in mind. It uses the same API-first, cloud-native, modular infrastructure as our retail travel marketplace and forms a key part of the phase 01 ‘bridge’ between the traditional PSS and the new offer- and order-based retailing platform.

Open access to APIs and documentation

The risk associated with not having this access and documentation is that the solutions will have to be handled through workaround solutions that may not be optimal for the airline. The importance that IATA and their Modern Airline Retailing Consortium are placing on this, and their continued advocacy and clear expectations of all of the IT vendors as part of ‘standard-setting’ activities will be the best way to mitigate this risk.

What about legacy tech?

Legacy technologies – which encompass traditional constructs such as the PSS, PNR, eTicket and EDIFACT – were developed decades ago to meet the needs of an airline industry that looked very different to the one we have today. They were fit-for-purpose at the time they were created, and in many ways remain fit-for-purpose today. The reality is that every organization older than a few years will operate with one or more legacy technologies.

Just a few of the advantages of legacy airline technologies include:

  • They are very efficient for specific day-to-day operational tasks
  • They are designed for maximum capacity, and are proven to be reliable and durable
  • They ensure business continuity
  • They are familiar to users
  • They provide for a smooth (if overly complex) workflow

In short, legacy technology continues to play a key role for airlines and will do so throughout the industry transformation to offer- and order-based modern retailing. It’s only during the final phase of transition that legacy systems will be decommissioned, and that is likely to be many years from now. Airlines should feel confident in the role that legacy tech will play during transition; it offers stability, reliability and continuity irrespective of an individual airline’s transition progress.

Explore the path to offers and orders

The value creation opportunity unlocked by transitioning to a modern retailing model is significant, but it demands a new way of thinking. It will require airlines to think and act holistically, considering not just technological requirements but also the strategic and organizational changes needed to operate efficiently in a world of offer- and order-enabled modern retailing.

Progressive airlines are looking to unlock the huge opportunity that transformation presents by preparing now, building their transition-readiness and prioritizing progress over perfection. At Sabre, we are ready willing and able to embark on the journey alongside you.