ATPCO Interviews Danny Finkel: Customers and Travelers Just Want More Choice
Danny Finkel is no stranger to the airline industry. Danny helped drive strategic initiatives for Expedia over five years and is now flexing his experience and vision at TripActions, the fastest growing end-to-end business travel management program. As VP of Booking Experience and Supplier Strategy, Danny’s helping to lead the company into the revolutionary concept of the Next Generation Storefront (NGS). ATPCO sat down with Danny to get his views on NGS, why the world of corporate travel needs it, and where the airline industry is trending because of it.
ATPCO: Thank you so much for talking with us today, Danny. TripActions became the first company to release an NGS-inspired shopping display. What led to TripActions releasing this new display?
Danny: For starters, over the past several decades, online shopping has made air travel a commodity product. It’s created a price-led market where all you see about a flight, typically, is the price and duration, the airline, and the airport. Compare that to the traveler experience when searching for a hotel and it’s completely different. Using a hotel shopping engine, travelers can see really rich and robust content that allows them to make more informed decisions about which hotel is best for them.
So airlines need to focus more on presenting rich content for potential travelers?
Exactly. Airlines used to have only three cabins, then moved to four. But now with branded fares, multiple fare types, various ancillaries and fare attributes that are included in an individual airfare, it’s really hard to get a true comparison of what’s included in each individual offering. Meanwhile, customers and travelers just want more choice, and they want information to really help them pick the best fit, right? Now with NGS we’re actually putting forward information that allows travelers to choose the flight that makes sense for them.
How about an example?
Sure, a great example is if a traveler is looking for a trans-con flight from San Francisco to New York. They can choose between a first or business class fare. We’re ingrained to believe that first is better than business, so the traveler chooses the first-class fare. But on this particular route, business class is a much better deal than the first class fare. It’s really hard for a traveler to understand that without visuals. This is why TripActions created a shelf structure with NGS — travelers are able to truly compare products against each other in a way they weren’t allowed to before. So for us it’s truly about providing travelers the best and most comprehensive storefront available to pick the best fit flight for them. NGS has provided a nice package for us to do that.
TripActions just recently participated in the ATPCO NGS Working Group for the first time. How was that experience?
Attending the working group really held two benefits. On one hand, we were able to share knowledge of what we’ve learned by going to market with NGS with others. On the other hand, we’re able to learn and listen to feedback from all the carriers that participated.
You know, as a first mover, I think we’re pushing industry boundaries, but for us it’s extremely important to work with the industry, airlines and our partners, not against. We’re disruptors, and we’re okay with that, but we want to innovate respectfully and in a way that makes sense for everybody. Participating in ATPCO’s NGS Working Group allows us to be a part of the conversation in a really positive way.
So it’s fair to say that the working group serves as a good community mechanism to get airlines and channels speaking? In TripActions’ case, to talk to your airline customers and ensure they’re aware of what you’re doing.
Absolutely, yes. It provides a really good two-way conversation. Like you said, it allows them to see what we’re doing in reality, and allows us to get real-time feedback. Plus, the working group gives us a different perspective than we’re used to. Typically our conversations with airlines are almost always one-on-one, so feedback gets very specific. The working group provides a very structured conversation on the specifics of the storefront, and really robust dialogue that we don’t necessarily get in that one-to-one conversation. This different perspective from the working group really adds value. We’re looking forward to working with our industry partners at the next NGS Working Group meeting in June.
Can you share any of the feedback you received?
At the aggregate level, customers are really happy with the new storefront because for the first time, they’re able to really see the information that’s available. Again, our driver is to give the traveler choice, armed with information to pick the best fit flight for them. We’re putting the power with the traveler, with the company, and providing expectations up front so travelers know exactly what they’re getting. Our storefront allows us to showcase this information in a way that’s never been done before. I am happy to report TripActions’ bookings grew substantially after we launched back in February.
That’s excellent to hear. Just one last question before we let you go. How does TripActions plan on standing out against other storefront options?
I think what’s super interesting about TripActions is the way that we’re thinking about the consumerization of corporate travel and building the most customer-centric product that exists in corporate travel. We’re looking at it from two customers; the travel managers and procurement officers, the ones that are actually leveraging the system from the corporation side, and the traveler perspective. The traveler perspective is almost even more important because if a traveler doesn’t want to use the solution, then it doesn’t benefit the corporation at all. Our storefront is a very customer-forward product. And we always keep in mind our air, lodging, rental, and other partners. It’s really fun to be in a world where we’re trying to create value for all sides of the equation.