Easy Comparison Shopping with New Airline Storefront APIs
Ashley Burk | March 2021
When shopping for air travel today, it’s time-consuming to scroll through pages and pages of fares to find the best offer. With airlines increasingly using branded fares and ancillaries to differentiate their offers, the number of options just keeps getting bigger.
To solve this problem, Sabre recently launched the new airline storefront – an industry-first retailing experience that makes comparison shopping easy. The storefront provides a framework on which travel sellers can display content side-by-side to drive more informed decisions.
We sat down with Natalia Paysse, product manager for the new airline storefront at Sabre, to learn more about the newly launched storefront APIs.
Q: How does the new airline storefront enable easy comparison shopping?
A: The new airline storefront introduces a new way of shopping and upselling. With market and traveler demands trending towards transparency of attributes (the value-add elements of an offer), comparison shopping is no longer about the cabin or brand name alone. Travelers want to know what they get when they purchase air travel. Will the ticket include a free bag or free seat selection? Can I exchange or refund the ticket?
The storefront delivers enhanced capabilities to Bargain Finder Max and Revalidate Itinerary that enable travel sellers to display offers using a like-for-like “shelf” framework and encourage upsell in an organized way. Results can be presented with the most relevant information at the initial shop to help increase conversion of higher brands and offers.
Q: How is a "shelf" defined, and what attributes are considered?
A: A “shelf” is a grouping of comparable offers that share similar ticket and flight attributes. There are multiple shelves in the storefront, each defined by specific data attributes that qualify the product for placement on a shelf. The Sabre model considers key attributes like exchangeability, refundability, and baggage allowance. Definitions are adapted to each market, depending on country pair and cabin preferences.
In the future, Sabre plans to introduce more flexibility to the pre-defined shelves, giving agencies the ability to customize shelves based on their business needs.
Q: How is machine learning used to refine shelf definition?
A: Sabre has a team of dedicated data scientists that work to optimize and redefine shelf definitions using a variety of machine learning models. We do this work behind the scenes to ensure our shelf definitions can adapt and evolve over time. This means once the best combination of attributes is determined, we publish them for a given market pair. COVID-19, for example, has changed the exchangeability and refundability of many offers to meet needs for greater traveler flexibility. This flexible approach ensures definitions don’t become stale over time and gives our customers the ability to introduce new attributes to shelf definitions.
Q: Which APIs support the new airline storefront capability? Should a customer consider updating their customer experience and workflow for air shopping and upsell?
A: New airline storefront APIs are an expansion of Sabre’s well-known shopping products, Bargain Finder Max, and Revalidate Itinerary. We have included the new airline storefront elements in the latest 1Q 2021 release for both JSON and XML schema.
Updating workflows is reliant on the traveler experience a customer wants to provide. We have customers who want all of the content in the initial shop and others who are offering upsell at itinerary selection. The good news is, either path fully supports the ability to seamlessly integrate more offers for comparison and booking opportunities.
Sample BFM JSON Request (snippet):
New airline storefront in Sabre Red 360:
Q: What value does the storefront deliver over other Bargain Finder Max capabilities like multiple fares per itinerary and branded fares?
A: The storefront is powered by the latest generation of Sabre shopping APIs. While branded fares promote upsell, they are based on branded fare naming, making it hard to accurately compare across airlines. The multiple fares per itinerary capability provide multiple price points across airline offers based on search definition. The results, however, do not provide upfront visibility into the products and services included in the price.
While not a replacement for existing capabilities, the new airline storefront is cabin- and brand-agnostic, providing more transparency around the travel experience. Its embedded machine learning models allow for continuous refinement of shelf definitions and take the responsibility off the agency to standardize content.
Ultimately, the new airline storefront is a more standardized, organized, and transparent way of comparing offers.
Want to learn more? Register now for the Virtual Developer Bench call on April 19 at 10:00 a.m. CDT where Natalia will be joined by other Sabre experts to discuss innovations in the new airline storefront. Read the Bargain Finder Max for more information on the APIs and workflows.