Sabre Corporation (NASDAQ: SABR), a leading technology provider to the global travel industry, celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its Airline Solutions business in Asia Pacific this month and marked a reinvigorated investment in the region.
In the three years since its 2014 IPO, Sabre’s Airline Solutions team’s work with airline customers in APAC has tripled in size, now extending across 19 markets, and the number of staff in its Bengaluru and Shanghai technology development centres has doubled to over 1,500 employees. This growth comes in line with the Company’s global results, which saw Sabre’s Airline and Hospitality Solutions businesses surpass the US$1 billion revenue benchmark for the first time in 2016.
Asia Pacific is the world’s largest travel market and is expected to be the source of more than half of all new global air passenger traffic over the next 20 years, projected to reach 7 billion[i].
“Strong regional economic growth, a rapidly expanding emerging market middle class and market openness will continue to fuel a travel and aviation boom. But as well as high growth, challenges in the market remain – intense competition, cost pressures, unstable currency markets, resource-constrained infrastructure and volatile weather conditions are all at play. We are also seeing an extremely dynamic marketplace in Asia Pacific,” notes Dasha Kuksenko, vice president & regional general manager for Sabre Airline Solutions Asia Pacific.
Very few routes to, from or within the APAC region are “static” year on year. Between 2016 and 2017, Sabre data shows that less than 20 per cent of continuing routes to, from or within the Asia Pacific region maintained the same frequency year-over-year; while a change in capacity was recorded on more than half of all routes[ii].
“Airlines are looking for more flexibility to choose a technology suite that adapts to this fast changing and challenging, yet high growth, marketplace configured exactly to their nuanced requirements,” concludes Kuksenko. “For example in 2016 we commenced a deployment project of an extensible suite of technologies for Garuda Indonesia that focuses very specifically on airline operations and crew management tools, designed to support its international growth strategy.”
Of the 31 new solutions Sabre brought to market globally last year, many have pilot customers from within the Asia Pacific region.
As well as developing a broader solutions portfolio, Sabre has been growing its Airline Solutions Consulting Practice, which now has local teams in Australia, China, India and Singapore to support and advise airlines on all aspects of their business operation.
“Using a wide base of network and traffic data Sabre is bringing a deeper insight-driven approach to the way we review and enhance our operations, helping us drive network optimization from the core. Sabre’s assistance with the design of an optimal network and schedule structure, together with some recommended fleet improvements, contributed to better results.” commented Chaiyong Ratanapaisalsuk, Thai Airways vice president of Network and Fleet Management Department.
Another focus of Sabre’s APAC business investment has been the establishment of a strong presence in China, including the continued growth of an Airline Solutions Delivery and Operational Research Centre in Shanghai, which currently has over 60 staff. This centre complements customer management operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Chengdu, which provide localised business support to Chinese carriers using Sabre technologies.
Peter Wu, recently appointed General Manager for Sabre Airline Solutions in Greater China, remarks: “China’s aviation industry has taken off at a rapid pace in recent years following sector liberalisation, and incentives like reduced airport charges and simplified approval processes have been a catalyst for more entrants joining the market. But, with this, Chinese airlines face an increasingly challenging operating environment characterised by intense domestic competition and cost pressures.
“We’re working closely with both the big state-owned airlines and privately owned carriers to use technology to create efficiencies and shape future growth.”
Sabre introduced four major new strategic airline solutions to Asia Pacific last year which are being rolled out to customers in 2017, spanning revenue optimisation, commercial analytics, e-commerce and crew management. The introduction of advanced data and analytics tools is also driving better operations management, reducing costs and stimulating more seamless delivery to customers.