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How branded fares deliver benefits to travelers and airlines alike


Shopping for flights looks much different today than it did just a few years ago. The customer travel experience is no longer defined by advance purchase, minimum stay, and refundability.

While some sales channels are innovating shopping displays so they are no longer limited to just a price, a schedule, and an airline brand, there is certainly more work to do to truly transform to a modern flight shopping experience.

While the journey to de-commoditize the flight shopping experience has begun, the product, technology, and distribution investment decisions required to realize the full benefits of a modern flight shopping experience are complex and take time. These decisions cannot be taken lightly, but the process should not limit an airline’s ability to start benefiting today.

An immediate way to realize improved financial performance and customer satisfaction is the effective and efficient distribution of airline-branded fares. Most airlines offer some form of branded fare experience. Unfortunately, many airlines continue to miss out on revenue opportunities with every flight departure when customers are unable to easily understand the range of flight experiences available to them.

Industry research has repeatedly highlighted that consumers respond favorably to more transparency and visualization of airline offers. When fare options offered by an airline are not retailed effectively, consumer choice and transparency is diminished, consumer satisfaction declines, and airlines make less money.

In contrast, branded fares give flight shoppers more options, more transparency, and more choices that suit their flying needs.

What are branded fares and where did they come from?

In the early 2000s, the “unbundling” of fares began with the rise of low-cost carriers. At the same time, large mainstream carriers were rethinking how to reimagine the travel experience and offered their own products to stay competitive while providing the best flight purchasing options and experiences for customers.

In 2006, branded fares started appearing in the industry. Branded fares are when an airline bundles fares with various options, often giving them a “fare family” name and other criteria.

Branded fares support ancillary revenue development because they show flight shoppers the various options and features bundled into a ticket and travel experience. For example, an airline’s “Ruby” brand might include a lie-flat seat, while its “Emerald” brand might include lounge access.

To support the industry and enable the effective management and distribution of these emerging fare models and travel experiences, ATPCO established new branded fare standards. These standards have unlocked significant value for everyone involved in the distribution and purchase of branded fares, from airlines and GDSs to travel agencies and—most importantly—to consumers.

The number of airlines using ATPCO’s system to manage these brand names and tiers, fare families, and fare types has taken off in recent years. In August 2022, ATPCO had more than 210 airlines file branded fares data, compared to just 66 airlines in 2017—an increase of 218%.

More choices + more transparency = more benefits for flight shoppers

The beauty of branded fares is that flight shoppers receive more options today than they used to get with an all-inclusive ticket. Airlines display their fares with options and features like changeability, refundability, mileage accrual, pre-reserved seats, priority boarding, baggage allowances, and more to show customers exactly what is bundled into their ticket.

This gives flight shoppers more transparency into their purchase options and more choice and control over their travel experience. When a flight shopper can see clear and engaging displays that include infographics and comparison charts showcasing their options, it eases the decision-making process and helps them select the experience that’s going to best fit their flying preferences. Branded fares deliver these exact benefits.

Benefits to airlines

Airlines benefit from branded fares by providing more optionality, upsell potential, and better differentiation of their travel options compared to their competition. The added value of enhanced brand recognition cannot be underestimated. A customer saying, they are on a “Concierge” fare rather than an “ME7NR” is invaluable.

ATPCO has been a major—and largely unknown—player in the airline industry for the last 50+ years. As the industry’s leading source of pricing and retailing data, ATPCO built a framework for airlines to organize their fare families so that major sales channels could display the branded fares in the market.

Implement your branded fares strategy today if you want to:

  • Build brand recognition
  • Increase customer loyalty, retention, and trust
  • Improve customer satisfaction through a flight shopping experience by presenting offers that exceed expectations
  • Increase order value and boost conversion rates through thoughtfully curated and clearly displayed packages that can be cross-sold and up-sold
  • Increase revenue

Build your branded fares strategy with ATPCO experts today.

A version of this article first appeared on Travolution 31 August 2022.

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Chris Phillips

About Chris Phillips

Chris joined ATPCO in 2019. Leveraging more than 30 years of commercial airline and consulting experience, he assists ATPCO’s partners in achieving their financial objectives by optimizing their use of the ATPCO solution suite.

His background in supporting effective commercial strategies along with his passion to de-commoditize the airline shopping experience complement the airline pricing and retail models enabled by ATPCO.

Before joining ATPCO, Chris held leadership positions at Delta Air Lines and Four Corners Consulting Group.