Executive Conversations: Building Resiliency with Jim Davidson Chief Product Officer, Accelya
Jim Davidson Chief Product Officer of Accelya (Former CEO of Farelogix) joins Judy Pitchford, AWS’ Head of Worldwide Travel, for a broad-ranging discussion about the recent disruption faced by travel and hospitality companies – and his company’s response to that disruption. Accelya recently acquired Farelogix, where Davidson served as CEO. Farelogix is a recognized leader in the travel industry with groundbreaking technology that continues to modernize the airline commerce and distribution landscape
This Executive Conversation is one of a series of discussions held with industry leaders, where we seek to learn more about their resiliency, tenacity, and capacity for innovation. The series follows the publication of the AWS Travel and Hospitality E-book: “Building Resilience For The Long Run.” Filled with strategic observations, hints, and tips, the E-book provides guidance for building a more resilient organization, potentially serving as a useful resource as travel and hospitality companies address both current challenges and those yet to come.
Judy Pitchford: While your business is recognized publicly by many, what’s one unique characteristic or feature that is either lesser known or understood about your company?
Jim Davidson: Many folks will recognize the name Farelogix and associate it with IATA NDC, but people are often surprised by the size of our industry footprint. Yes, Farelogix is an NDC pioneer, but some folks don’t know that we serve over 25 of the world’s major airlines, supporting over 300 technical partners – including GDSs – that consume Farelogix-powered NDC APIs. Similarly, while we are generally known for helping airlines with the merchandising of ancillaries like seats, on-board meals, security fast-track, bundles, and more, the Farelogix offering is, in fact, much more than that. We have a full suite of offer/order management solutions that enable airlines to control how they create and sell all their products across all channels. Lastly, many don’t know that Farelogix was recently acquired Accelya, a company that provides a host of market-leading solutions for airline financial departments, back-office settlement, and revenue management. Farelogix and Accelya’s combined offering will provide airlines a next-generation, end-to-end, Offer-to-Settlement platform for airline commerce. It’s a game-changer!
JP: Many travel companies have been managing through a period of unprecedented disruption. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced during this recent period and how have you managed through them?
JD: Our biggest challenges are the ones our airline customers are facing: plummeting revenues, pressure on cash, and prolonged uncertainty. Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with the global airline business, and the financial pain for airlines cannot be overstated. Thankfully, Farelogix and Accelya’s shared commitment to delivering pro-airline solutions that can help airlines drive cost savings and operational efficiencies has stood us in good stead during these difficult times.
Our passion for innovation, supported by flexible technology, means we’ve been able to quickly come to our customers’ aid in their time of crisis. For example, at Farelogix, when ticket change and refund requests flooded airline call centers, we delivered solutions to our airline customers that enabled the servicing of bookings more efficiently by automating change fee waivers and refund processes. We even developed a solution to enable flexible in-flight social distancing.
Airlines come to us and invest in our technology because it enables them to make more revenue, reduce costs, and grow customer loyalty. Given Farelogix and Accelya technologies’ value, airlines generally see our projects as strategic imperatives for business growth. As a result, we have thankfully retained all pre-pandemic customer relationships. We are most certainly proud of that.
JP: As we all prepare for the next phase of traveler demand, what are some of the changes your company has taken (or plans on taking) to adjust to the current operating environment?
JD: The next phase of customer demand will be unpredictable, and airlines will need to adapt if they are to navigate the future successfully. As a staunchly “pro-airline” company, our customers’ imperative is our imperative, so we are investing to support our customers wherever and whenever we can. As a result, our product roadmap includes many enhancements designed to help airlines reduce costs and maintain a high degree of flexibility with their technology footprint. As an example, enhanced capabilities of FLX Shop and Price will enable self-servicing of existing itineraries, in any channel, in just two easy steps, without involving the airline call centre. Over the coming months, we will also be working tirelessly on unlocking unique value from the Accelya acquisition of Farelogix and innovating at each step of the airline workflow, from offer to settlement.
JP: The travel and hospitality industry is incredibly resilient. As you look toward recovery, what role does technology play for your company moving forward? How do you see technology enhancing the customer experience and improving operational efficiency?
JD: I believe that digital transformation is the future of all traditional industries, including the airlines. Technology allows companies to replace legacy processes that no longer make sense, drive costs from the business, and boost efficiency. For example, technology can enable travelers to self-service their itineraries online, regardless of where the tickets were initially purchased. It can also allow airlines to experiment and innovate with fares, bundles, and ancillaries to pursue new approaches to revenue management and dynamic offers.
Technology enables airlines to create new ways of generating revenue, whether it be with new product innovation, dynamic pricing strategies, or the optimization of distribution channels. Many airlines, particularly full-service carriers, see a large chunk of their business coming through indirect channels. Simply allowing travel agents to sell seats and other ancillaries will open up a profitable revenue stream to support airline growth.
Then there’s flexibility. Technology will enable airlines to better adjust to the “new normal” and take advantage of new opportunities. For example, with booking volumes decimated, the historical data used in Revenue Management (RM) modeling has been rendered nearly useless. It has become the albatross around the neck of the RM discipline. Technology will enable airlines to look at new ways to estimate demand and take advantage of changing customer need as we emerge from the crisis.
JP: There’s much talk at the moment about how the travel experience has changed and that there will be a “new normal” going forward. What does this “new normal” look like to you, and how do you think the travel experience will look three years from now?
JD: No one can predict the future, although I am sure that we will be in a continual state of change for some time. I am also confident that in the medium-term, Accelya will deliver airlines a new choice in end-to-end airline commerce platforms spanning the entire life-cycle from offer to settlement. From an airline perspective, that means more competition and more significant innovation, and for travelers, it means an improved, modern experience under the airline brand.
JP: What makes you excited for the future of travel and hospitality? As a traveler or guest, where are you looking forward to visiting next?
JD: I’m excited about getting back to sitting across from a customer and talking shop. So anywhere there is a customer is the place I want to be.
Learn more about the new Travel and Hospitality E-book: “Building Resilience For The Long Run.”
See more Executive Conversations and industry insights on the AWS Travel and Hospitality Blog.
Jim Davidson is Chief Product Officer at Accelya Group and is responsible for the organization’s commercial and financial solutions portfolio. Prior to its acquisition by Accelya, Jim was CEO of Farelogix, a recognized disruptor and leader in airline distribution and commerce technology. Jim has been immersed in the travel industry for more than 25 years. Prior to 2005, he was President and CEO of NTE, an Internet-based supply chain technology company. He also held several senior leadership roles, including President and CEO of Amadeus Global Travel, North America and Vice President of Marketing at Reed Travel Group/OAG.