Travel agents recognise the need to sell ancillary products when booking flights but find the process frustrating and time-consuming, according to business services provider Travelport.
It said a global airline merchandising survey revealed agents would sell more products such as checked baggage, inflight meals and lounge passes if they were all available through global distribution systems.
When asked how the unbundling of fares and services had impacted their businesses, agents said they were confused about what each airline offered.
Although respondents said it took them 29% longer to add optional extras to flight bookings, 44% said they didn't charge customers for the service. Travelport's survey found agents would be more interested in selling ancillary products if the process was more efficient.
It said there was strong demand for a single aggregated source of information and sales capability, with global distribution systems the preferred booking channel of 70% of respondents.
Presently some services are available through the GDS while others are sold via airline websites or by phone.
Travelport's survey of 610 agencies in 12 countries also found strong demand for branded fares, which bundle together the flight with ancillary products such as assigned seats or checked baggage. It said agents felt these would help them to provide clients with a full service and compete with airline websites.
"This research offers valuable insights on how travel agencies view and sell airline ancillary services," said Travelport vice president content Fergal Kelly. "Agents understand that as the airline product continues to evolve and ancillaries form an increasingly significant role in the purchase decision and buying process, travel customers continue to look to agents to support them in purchasing itinerary solutions."
By Linsey McNeill
Thursday, February 2, 2012