Travel Industry

Austrian, Lufthansa, SWISS and Brussels Airlines are leaving Sabre — so what options do travel agents have now?

Austrian, Lufthansa, SWISS and Brussels Airlines are leaving Sabre — so what options do travel agents have now?
Tim Rogers
Tim Rogers
12 May, 2020

Today, Lufthansa Group announced that flights from its airlines — Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS and Brussels Airlines — will no longer be available to travel agents using the Sabre GDS.

So what does this mean, and what are the options for travel sellers using Sabre who still want to sell flights from these airlines to their customers?

The announcement in full

Here’s the announcement in full — you can see a screenshot of the original email here:

In these times of uncertainty, it is important for us to inform you in a timely and transparent manner about current developments. Today we would like to communicate that the GDS Sabre (1S) has terminated the distribution agreement with the airlines of the Lufthansa Group (Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS and Brussels Airlines) with effect from 30 June 2020. This termination also affects the GDS Abacus (1B).

The Lufthansa Group is open to constructive, solution-oriented discussions and is engaged in amicable talks with Sabre in the interest of Sabre and Abacus users. Beyond that, however, the Lufthansa Group airlines continue to work on making the distribution of flight tickets more innovative, attractive and more customer-oriented — for you and our joint customers. Nevertheless, we are currently evaluating alternatives and will provide you with the best possible support.

Of course, we will keep you informed about further developments in the distribution channels of the Lufthansa Group airlines in the coming weeks.

What does this mean for Sabre users?

If you’re a travel agent using Sabre, then you won’t be able to book flights with Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa, SWISS or Brussels Airlines from 30th June.

It isn’t clear whether or how Sabre users will be able to cancel, refund and change their existing bookings after 30th June.

What are the options for travel sellers using Sabre?

If you use Sabre and you want to keep offering flights from the Lufthansa Group airlines to your customers, you have three options:

1. Wait 🙏

There’s a chance that Lufthansa Group and Sabre will come to a deal in the next month and a half, given that Lufthansa Group “is open to constructive, solution-oriented discussions and is engaged in amicable talks with Sabre”.

This wouldn’t be without precedent — at the start of this year, in the last few years, Air India pulled out of Amadeus and then came back with a new deal. But it’s a big risk to take if these airlines are important for your customers.

2. Book through a different GDS

Lufthansa Group’s inventory will still be available through Amadeus, Travelport and other GDSs.

But just like on Sabre:

  • You won’t get access to the airlines’ full range of fares (for example, the cheapest “Economy Light” fares aren’t available)
  • You’ll have to pay the Group’s additional Distribution Cost Charge of €16 (about £14 or $17.30) per ticket

If you’re not already using one of these other GDSs, you’ll need to train your staff on the new system and re-work your mid- and back-office processes.

3. Switch to NDC

Over the last few years, Lufthansa Group has invested heavily in NDC, a new technology which allows airlines to distribute their inventory to travel agents more effectively.

The Lufthansa Group airlines aren’t the only airlines driving NDC forward. 87 airlines are “NDC Certified” in IATA’s NDC Registry, and the 22 “Leaderboard Airlines” make up over 30% of global passenger volumes.

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The 22 NDC leaderboard airlines, as of May 2020

Many of these airlines — including the Lufthansa Group carriers — offer exclusive fares and extras through NDC. For example, with Lufthansa, you can:

  • avoid the Distribution Cost Charge (DCC), saving €16 per ticket
  • get access to the lowest “Economy Light” fares that aren’t available through GDSs (read more)
  • offer ancillaries like WiFi which aren’t available elsewhere

You can read about British Airways and Iberia’s similar NDC exclusives here.

How do I get access to Lufthansa’s NDC content?

There are three ways to get access to Lufthansa’s NDC content:

Use SPRK, Lufthansa’s browser-based agency tool

You can sign up for SPRK, Lufthansa’s browser-based tool for making and managing NDC bookings, on the Lufthansa Group website.

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Searching for flights using the Lufthansa Group SPRK tool

With SPRK, you can get started quickly, but your customers won’t be able to make or change bookings themselves, and your staff will have to learn a new tool if you want to access NDC content from other airlines.

Build your own integration with Lufthansa Group’s NDC API

If you have your own website or internal tools, you can build your own integration with Lufthansa’s NDC API.

With a custom integration, you can allow your customers to make and change bookings themselves, and have complete control over the experience.

However, building an integration requires significant IT resources — it’ll usually takes between 1 and 6 months, plus extra time for future changes and upgrades.

You’ll need to repeat this work for each NDC airline you want to work with, as each airline is different.

Work with a technology provider like Duffel

If you want to access NDC content, but you don’t want to learn a new tool for each airline or build and maintain many integrations, then working with an “aggregator” like Duffel, AirGateway or Travelfusion is a great option.

Working with an aggregator takes away the complexity of managing multiple airline integrations. Instead, you integrate with a single API or use a single agent tool.

With Duffel, you can get access to NDC content from more than 20 airlines through one platform.

We give you access to all of these airlines’ best fares and ancillaries, and bring them together into one API and one agent booking tool.

Getting started is super simple, and you can turn on new airlines in one click, without making any changes to your code or retraining your staff — so, for example, you can start with Lufthansa Group, and then turn on British Airways when you’re ready.

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Searching for flights in the Duffel dashboard

Want to try Duffel for yourself at no cost? You can sign up on our website and get instant access to our sandbox, a safe testing environment where you can try Duffel for yourself without spending any real money.

If you have any questions, just drop us an email at hello@duffel.com.

  • Tim Rogers
    Tim Rogers
    Head of Flights