ATPCO: Delivering end-to-end solutions in a time of crisis
Chris Phillips doesn’t hedge, telling Canadian Travel Press that “this is by far the worst crisis we have had to face, and its uncertainty, randomness and market volatility is a massive challenge.” However, in the first of a two-part piece, the head of global sales and accounts for the Airline Tariff Publishing Company (or ATPCO) points out that initiatives are already in place to help the industry and “we aren’t stopping here and will continue to strive for more innovation to help our airline and industry partners in the coming months and into 2021.”
So, maybe you could start by talking a bit about ATPCO. What it does? And whether or how the global pandemic has impacted on its business; or has changed its role?
Certainly – for over 50 years, ATPCO has served as a foundation of airline flight shopping playing a key role in content creation, distribution, offer creation, retailing, and ultimately settlement. We ensure each of these components work seamlessly across new and traditional technologies by delivering end-to-end solutions supporting all airlines, regardless of their strategy or commercial processes. We provide mission critical pricing and retailing infrastructure focused on industry collaboration that elevates the effectiveness and efficiency of the entire ecosystem.
Given our unique role and being airline owned, the pandemic has materially impacted our business, but also, anchored our indispensability to the industry. The value of industry driven solutions and the rapid response to changing airline priorities has reinforced the airline community’s focus on ATPCO to help solve problems.
Despite the challenges of this crisis, we are experiencing record engagement in governance meetings, airline activation of new solutions, and participation in ATPCO hosted events – we received over 600 registrations for our virtual event scheduled for the week of Sept. 28, surpassing any level of digital engagement we have ever experienced.
From ATPCO’s point of view, what are some of the challenges that COVID-19 has created for the airline and the travel industry – both the obvious ones and the not so obvious ones.
COVID-19 upended the positive momentum our industry carried into 2020. At a macro level, the industry was experiencing record profitability, contributing to significant investment in the customer experience and ultimately driving improved operational reliability and customer satisfaction.
This is by far the worst crisis we have had to face, and its uncertainty, randomness and market volatility is a massive challenge.
The obvious ones are tied to where is there enough demand to operate my schedule, how do I deliver the health and safety protocols to meet government regulations and to improve customer confidence in air travel and how to manage cash flow to keep the airline viable.
The less obvious ones include how to identify and leverage new leading indicators for effective and nimble decision making, how to retain the massive amount of industry knowledge and experience being lost through furloughs and redundancy and where to place my reinvestment bets that will contribute most effectively to recovery.
The stakes for all these decisions has increased and the margin for error is as low as it has ever been.
So, how has COVID-19 changed airline revenue management and fare pricing?
This crisis has added significant challenges to an already complex process. The industry has done an excellent job building analytical models and automation to help optimize airline revenue.
Unfortunately, the legacy supply and demand modelling is no longer relevant. Airlines are having to identify new trends and leading indicators to inform their decision making. They have also had to accelerate their decision making and execution to react to constantly changing market conditions.
On top of this, they have to manage it all with fewer resources.
How has this impacted on the airlines and how has it impacted on the travel agency distribution network?
One trend we have seen on the airline side is that pre-crisis, the industry would make millions of daily fare changes through very surgical, focused adjustments. Post-crisis, we are managing more global fare content than we ever have, but the daily changes are less surgical and more blunt, as the airlines figure out how to optimize their market conditions.
While the volatility does create challenges for the industry, ATPCO continues to ensure the travel agency community has the most up-to-date fare content by maintaining its 99.9% operational reliability.
The agencies can trust that the fare changes are getting efficiently published through their appropriate distribution channels, so they have the most accurate fare information available.
NEXT WEEK: Phillips talks about some of the solutions that ATPCO is putting in place to help its partners in the coming months.