ATPCO: Striving to find more solutions for its partners
Chris Phillips, the Airline Tariff Publishing Company’s (ATPCO) head of global sales and accounts, talks to Canadian Travel Press about some of the solutions his organization is putting in place to help its industry partners going forward.
Is ATPCO developing solutions to respond to these challenges? And if it is, can you explain what they are and how they work to help solve these challenges?
Absolutely. Everything we do is driven by the priorities of our airline owners and distribution partners. In early March, ATPCO was already deeply engaged with the market to understand the emerging challenges and what innovation would be needed to support their response to the crisis.
We immediately re-prioritized our 2020 development plans to deliver enhancements focused on addressing their immediate needs.
We rapidly delivered a few notable industry solutions, including:
- Emergency Flexibility functionality enabling airlines to automate the processing of flight changes and refunds for previously issued tickets. This dramatically reduced manual ticket changes, call time and ultimately supported customer satisfaction improvements under very challenging conditions.
- Reassurance UPAs, to increase customer confidence in air travel by presenting critical health and safety information upfront in the customer shopping path. This new retailing content was delivered to the market in early April and now covers nearly all of the global flight schedule. The value of these UPAs is already proving to be significant as travel agency partners are reporting higher conversion rates when they display Reassurance UPAs versus when they are not. ATPCO proactively assumed responsibility for the development and distribution of this vital content and elected to publish at no additional cost to the industry to contribute to the airline recovery efforts.
- US government tax holiday enhancements to ensure airlines benefit from the policy change. Under aggressive timelines, we facilitated coordination with IATA, A4A, and airlines to ensure airlines would immediate access to functionality on the effective date.
- Rapid Fare Update to help airlines manage their fare strategies more effectively. Airlines are dealing with reduced work hours, fewer staff and rapidly changing market conditions. The legacy workflows of many carriers could not accommodate all this disruption. This solution has improved airline responsiveness under these challenging conditions. Similar to the Reassurance UPA’s there is no additional cost to participate in this solution.
While these were significant developments, we continue to look for ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our members. We also launched a new customer portal, My ATPCO, with more intelligent search functionality and new, digital friendly opportunities to share industry feedback.
To address the significant loss of industry pricing knowledge and experience, we made our virtual training and e-learning courses free and increased the meeting frequency of our ATPCO Advisory Council to provide stronger feedback loops.
We aren’t stopping here and continue to strive for more innovation to help our airline and industry partners in the coming months and into 2021.
I’m just wondering what ATPCO is doing for travel agencies? Does it have programs in place to help them during these difficult times? And, if it does, can you talk a bit about them and how they can help agencies?
While we do work directly with some travel agencies, our greatest contribution to the agency community is delivering efficiency and global reach to their daily activity.
Our core function is collecting content from over 400 global airlines and distributing it across all available channels providing seamless, hourly updates to our global community.
We partner with over 200 technology partners to ensure travel agencies have real-time access to the most accurate fare content for any itinerary search they may have.
We want our travel agency partners focused on delivering superior customer service to their clients, not worried about whether they have access to the most accurate fare information.
We believe this is an invaluable contribution to the agency community.
What about the future? From ATPCO’s point of view, how do you see the global pandemic changing the airline and travel industry going forward?
It’s clear we are going to emerge as a smaller industry.
The industry has been fortunate over the past 5+ years to produce record profitability allowing many airlines to invest in proprietary product and technology solutions to advance their strategies.
This has resulted in improved customer experiences and ultimately, improved customer satisfaction.
It is going to be some time before we realize this level of profitability again, but we cannot stop investing in the industry. I think this will lead to more reliance on community solutions to enable their strategies.
This does not mean a commoditization of the industry, but rather joint investment in common platforms that participating carriers can leverage to achieve their goals. Every single airline is in the same boat, so a sense of “we’re all in this together” and working together to find solutions will flourish.
We are all forced to reevaluate our priorities — how can we do more with less, meet growing customer needs for health and safety, and figure out how to stay agile operationally and commercially to manage whatever this crisis throws at us next.
Last question. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Why?
We are facing some really challenging days over the next 3-6 months as we try and find some momentum, but long-term I am very optimistic.
The airline industry is highly volatile, but ultimately one of the most resilient. Each challenge we face appears bigger than the one before it, but we ultimately find a path to recover and emerge stronger and more determined.
The hangover from this one is going to take longer to recover from, but I believe the demand for both leisure and business travel will return.