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Airfare Shopping Could Soon Include Fees

Sabre Travel Network announced it will launch new technology, called Total Air Pricing, that displays full-fare prices including ancillary fees. In a statement, the company said, "travel agents worldwide can now view specific air ancillaries based on their customer’s preferences, provide a summary of ancillary fees and access ancillary charges based on a passenger’s frequent flier status.  This includes an all-inclusive price for air travel, including both the traditional fare as well as the charges for things such as checked baggage, seat selection, and lounge access." Total Air Pricing will roll out tomorrow.

Sabre Holdings owns Travelocity, and its Sabre Travel Network hosts and operates reservations systems for over 60 airlines, including American, JetBlue, and Frontier.

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But for now, Total Air Pricing will be for travel agents only—consumers won't be able to access the information directly. Sabre will release a web application that third-party services, including online travel agencies, can use to display ancillary fees directly to consumers. Dennis Schaal at Tnooz writes, "OTAs and other third parties powered by Sabre would have to use Sabre Web services and do the development work necessary to display the ancillary services."

I talked to Schaal, an online travel tech expert, and he said, "I expect that it will be quite some time before major online travel agencies will present this Sabre-gathered stuff to consumers. The online travel agencies will have to do a lot of development work to their websites if they want to use the Sabre-gathered data. It's one thing to have the data, but it is another story to figure out how to display all of this complex information in a way that provides a good user experience to the traveler."

Sabre will access the fees both from ATPCo, a fare tariff database where many airlines publish their ancillary fees, and by manually retrieving the fees. Schaal writes, "Sabre is taking this ancillary services feed, which may have many flaws and inaccuracies, and combining it with a manual process for accessing the ancillaries. [Sabre Travel Network vice president of product marketing Kyle Moore] said Sabre staff manually examined airline websites around the world and analyzed the carriers’ ancillary fees and plugged that information into algorithms used for Sabre’s low-fare search tools."

One of the immediate drawbacks of Total Air Pricing, however, is that travel agents cannot book fees through Sabre's system, though that is likely a future goal. In a statement, the company said, "In the coming months, Sabre Connected travel agents will be able to display, book and sell a wide variety of ancillary services, settling these through traditional processes or directly with the airline." But for now, the aim is simply to give travel agents a clear picture of what total costs will be after every little add-on is purchased.

Still, Total Air Pricing is a big step toward the sort of all-inclusive booking experience travelers have longed for since fees took over the industry.

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