Ujjwal Seghal, Director of Skylord Travel, talks about the agency’s partnership with Travelport, and how our technology has helped to both scale the business and to weather turbulent industry conditions.
Award-winning Skylord Travel is one of the largest travel companies in the UK. It has grown from issuing a few thousand airline tickets per year, to now issuing over 80,000 per year. The business operates as both:
- a B2B consolidator — wholesaling travel content to sub-agents across the UK
- a B2C travel agency — operating from brick & mortar retail outlets, call centers, and a website.
As a consolidator, Skylord’s challenge is to rapidly deliver the widest choice of travel products to sub-agents — empowering them to both sell offers on to the traveler and operate without the support of the Skylord team.
As a B2C agency, Skylord knows that today’s traveler has the know-how and the confidence to research and book trips by themselves. The agency’s value is helping people to find better and more personalized deals than they can independently.
The company’s capacity to grow successfully depends on fast, effective distribution, plus having access to the broadest range of travel products available. This is how Travelport delivered.
Helping Skylord grow
According to Ujjwal “Success for Skylord Travel — from a technology point of view — is being able to keep up with what the customer wants and expects. We knew where we needed to put the effort in, but it’s a matter of having the right tools to get us there.”
Here’s how Skylord Travel has used Travelport tools and technology to do things bigger, better, and faster:
B2B content distribution
Skylord Travel has taken a revolutionary route to growth. Unlike other travel agencies, it focuses on wholesaling airfares and ancillaries online through its B2B website instead of concentrating solely on a B2C booking engine.
Travelport technology made this possible. We connected Skylord’s sub-agents to the Travelport platform using a simple interface that functions as a standalone website. Sub-agents gained the power to check specific routes, fares, and availability so they could create custom quotes themselves, rather than going through Skylord’s internal team.
This was more efficient for everyone: sub-agents got access and autonomy — while Skylord was relieved of pressure to scale up operational support.
This innovation has doubled Skylord’s revenue and accelerated its growth without increasing staff numbers and simultaneously reduced pressure on their existing resources. Ujjwal said “When you don’t have to worry about the technology side of things, it just helps you to grow. We were early adopters of this technology, which has allowed us to wholesale prices to other travel agencies. Now these agents can log in to our website and book flights there.”
“When you don’t have to worry about the technology side of things, it just helps you to grow.”
API: more choice, faster search
From both a B2B and B2C perspective, Skylord Travel needs unparalleled access to routes and fare data — and the ability to distribute it at speed. The agency adopted a Travelport API, which gives everyone more data and more ways to find travelers the best itinerary.
This helped Skylord to expand its offering and grow the business without investing heavily in technology and development. Travelport’s one simple API connection also means simpler ways of working — and because it’s quick and easy to integrate Skylord were set up in no time. Ujjwal confirmed “It was a matter of weeks from the moment of saying ‘we want to start using the API’ to getting up and running. The implementation was easy compared to other solutions that we’ve tried to integrate.”
Skylord finds the Travelport API particularly useful for retailing short-haul European flights. Since adopting it, they have seen a 50% increase in volumes, depending on the destination and types of upsells available. Ujjwal added “Travelport has been really helpful in guiding us on how to use the API and answering our questions. The team has been great at advising us on further innovations that could help us with what’s around the corner too. Our experience with them has been excellent.”
Faster access to branded offers / fares and ancillaries
Skylord Travel uses the Travelport platform to grow by selling more ancillaries to their customers, like priority boarding, checked baggage, meals, or allocated seating. Our platform displays ‘branded’ content (including images, logos, and more) to help agents better visualize, understand, and compare the range of options available beyond price alone. This helps them to curate the best experience for the customer with just one tool.
The API delivers a high volume of this heavy-duty data, so it’s crucial that search response times remain lightning fast. Slow website response times risk customers navigating away — especially so for booking sites. To safeguard search response times, Travelport developed a proprietary data file solution and Skylord Travel was one of the first agencies to adopt it.
The data file works like a plugin, automatically updating the full breadth of airline offers on a daily basis rather than relying on manual API updates from individual airlines. It includes ATPCO brand codes, which means fares have a consistent look and feel across multiple GDS platforms, making it easier for agents to understand and sell these products.
The tool makes Skylord’s websites faster, while still offering the customer the same level of choice. Plus, it saves agents time and effort on the development side. It’s retail-friendly, as it can be programmed to prompt the agent with add-on options at a chosen point in the booking process. So instead of just showing the cheapest fares, it will illuminate upsell opportunities.
Ujjwal concluded “Travelport’s data file has really helped improve our service and enabled our customers to be more efficient and informed. It’s a win-win-win solution for Skylord, our travelers, and the airlines — and it ensures our customers will return to us for their next booking. This was smoothly integrated within two weeks. The data came through very quickly. And we were able to fine-tune it for the results we wanted.”
Partnership: for better or for worse
Skylord and Travelport’s partnership has helped the agency succeed in times of industry growth. And, in times of crisis, the value of a trusted technology partner is ever clearer. Having a genuine relationship makes the difference.
Tools and support during covid-19
During COVID-19, Skylord used Travelport’s new tools and services to manage changing customer needs and increased operational pressures.
The first obstacle was managing rapidly changing airline policies. When the pandemic first struck, Skylord’s agents had to search online or make phone calls to get answers on flight changes and cancellations. This added time-consuming complications during an already chaotic time.
Once Travelport’s COVID-19 hub became available, Skylord used it as a central resource to find and communicate information. Ujjwal said: “Travelport’s COVID-19 hub has been invaluable to us. Airline websites generally share information intended for customers, not travel agents. Travelport’s hub had more relevant information for us, which made life easier. Everything was in day-order, the latest information was always at the top. Our agents were able to find everything they required.”
Skylord also uses the hub to meet travelers’ new demands. With more people turning to travel agencies for information on airline safety measures, Skylord can also find this information on the microsite, with safety information available directly via the data file.
Finally, the agency can benchmark its recovery against competitors using the platform’s business analysis tool. This allows Skylord to compare its recovery progress against its peers, analyzing performance in various markets or destinations, and with different airlines.
The dream team
The close-knit relationship Travelport maintains with Skylord is what sets us apart. It’s also made implementing all of this technology easier and more enjoyable.
In a nutshell? It’s teamwork that gets things done.
“Travelport knows it’s not just about one element, it’s about the whole package. If I have a problem, I can pick up the phone and they’ll solve it for me. Having that personal touch is really important and Travelport has been really helpful all the way. I think there’s something ingrained within Travelport in that its people genuinely care — you don’t see that in every company.”