Sabre deal gives Eithad Air a new tech platform to boost passenger choices

A new contract between technology firm Sabre Corp. and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is the latest example of major disruption in the airline industry - changes that are bound to affect global air travel in a good way.

Etihad Airways recently signed an agreement to use Sabre Branded Fares, which will allow passengers to book different types of travel and select options for seating, baggage and the handling of airline miles or points.

"Etihad Airways is experiencing strong growth and has a clear strategy to provide its passengers with more choice when booking fares," Sabre Senior Vice President Harald Eisenaecher said in a press release. "We have been working with Etihad Airways to find new ways to further personalize its products and make the booking experience more seamless for passengers.”

By getting fares more tailored to a particular flyer’s needs, Etihad hopes that the new functionality will help the airline to continue to innovate in a rapidly advancing space.

Although these types of global air portals are significant advances in booking and flight handling, they also take place within a much greater context, where regional airlines have the potential to disrupt their whole operational model. 

“(Major airlines competing for passengers) have vast potential to disrupt themselves.” Jacob Ayres-Thomson, head of Data Science for JRP Group,  told the Gulf News Journal. “In the long run, data science has the potential to radically transform their business models. Think of the flying experience and all the interactions that take place from using the in-flight entertainment system to purchases and flight routes, class and eating habits etc.  This mass of customer data then opens up the 3 P’s of possibility: personalization, prediction and persuasion. The future, for example, of in-flight entertainment, is that it remembers you and tailors itself to your tastes, including of course any marketing or sales efforts.”

Ayres-Thomson, who also owns artificial intelligence firm Alchematics, said changing customer experience models is part of it, but not all.

“Another promising component of emerging technologies is predictively optimizing where to put staff, planes and other resources – so they are at the right place, at the right time," Ayres-Thomson said. 

For a large airline, this is an insanely complex task, but Ayres-Thomson saod this can be solved using a new science termed "machine learning."

“I’ve found answers to problems in 30 minutes on a computer that running the machine since the universe began using simple search methods would never have found - problems that are beyond the independent minds of man, machine or math are not beyond artificial intelligence – a science that powerfully fuses all three together," he said. 

To build global movement data, airlines can also entice customers to install an app that would then enable the airline to observe the customers once they stop interacting with the airline. 

Eventually, Ayres-Thomson said, “airlines will wind up with data assets that reveal a clear and detailed picture of what’s happening around the world ... .  If we look at the data - we could begin to build a world map of global or route-specific migration patterns – eventually a simulation engine that individually models every human on earth is not beyond the feasibility of modern processing power. That is incredibly valuable in this industry."


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