LONDON - Fast-growing travel company Duffel has launched a self-serve version of its platform for businesses to help democratise travel and reduce integration time from months to just minutes – at a time when the industry has been shattered by the ongoing pandemic.
By removing many of the enormous cost and time barriers associated with launching a travel startup, or adding travel features to existing business models, Duffel is aiming to help the sector get back on its feet in 2021, while introducing a new package tier that lets startups experience the convenience of Duffel’s enhanced APIs for free.
Duffel’s software platform acts as a bridge between airlines and merchants of any size, enabling them to offer customers the best flight and paid extras deals online. It democratises travel by lowering the barriers to entry for anyone looking to start a travel business, or those in need of digitising their existing processes, reducing overheads and reaching new customers, particularly in the age of coronavirus.
The relaunched website and self-serve signup flow allow travel businesses to join the platform at unprecedented speed – minutes versus months – and without any assistance from Duffel. Merchants can join and start selling flights from more than 20 international airlines.
Travel agents and beyond: The benefits of Duffel’s new platform
Thanks to Duffel Content, one of the products offered on Duffel’s revolutionary self-serve platform, a new travel business – or any business looking to offer flights as part of their wider service offering – can get the power of a full-stack travel agency at their fingertips with just a single integration.
These new businesses don’t need to worry about the enormous time, costs and complexity of integrating with traditional flight distribution players or handling accreditation processes, either. For a small additional fee per order, users can access the fully managed Duffel Content service, which includes five points of sales (UK, US, FR, AU, IE) and content agreements with Duffel’s 20+ airlines. This means businesses can start selling from day one.
For instance, the Australian banking app for travellers Pelikin was among the first customers to use Duffel’s self-serve platform to prepare to offer users the ability to book flights from within its banking app.
“Offering flights via our app has been a feature we’ve been keen to add but getting all of the various accreditations and building a platform capable of doing it in a way that benefits our customers made it almost prohibitively difficult and time consuming,” explained Sam Brown, Pelikin’s CEO. “Not only does Duffel remove these barriers, its self-serve platform is incredibly intuitive. Each step is self-explanatory and we were pleasantly surprised by just how quickly we were able to offer this game-changing feature which we’ll soon be making available to our customers.”
The new self-serve product features will offer companies the ability to activate their accounts, track their spend, and fully service their tickets, all from one easy-to-use dashboard. Plus they’ll get access to best-in-class content from leading airlines. As new airlines join the platform, merchants will be able to turn on these airlines with just a single click of a button and begin accessing content from these airlines immediately.
The service will be offered free in 2021 through a starter package tier that will enable new travel businesses to experience the benefits of their distribution channel, without having to free up cash during one of the sharpest industry downturns in history. On top of this, Duffel will offer 1,000 free bookings to its entire customer base to help it build back better following the sharp downturn in flights, customer numbers, revenues and funding in the travel sector as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Figures from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) show that during January to December 2020, there was a 51% reduction in the number of seats offered by airlines and a loss of up to 2,890 million passengers worldwide. This equates to an estimated loss of $391bn of revenue for airlines. The ICAO forecasts that the sharp downturn in air travel trend is likely to continue into the first half of 2021 with demand for seats dropping by as much as 42% and a loss of 1,230 million passengers and $179 billion potential loss of revenue.
At the same time, funding in the travel sector has plummeted. The travel sector is expected to see 62% less capital invested in 2020 relative to 2019, with early-stage travel and hospitality startups being hit the hardest.
By removing the barriers to entry for new travel startups, and offering a way for existing travel companies to access better content at reduced fees, Duffel aims to both aid industry recovery and become the new software backbone of the travel industry.
This latest product launch is part of Duffel’s wider “Make travel effortless” mission. It wants to rid the travel industry of archaic, expensive and clunky systems and replace them with APIs that make it easy for travel sellers to pull rich, real-time flight offers, make bookings, reserve seats and sell paid extras like checked bags.
It also enables sellers to offer exclusive content and to drive additional revenue through the sale of ancillaries accessed via the airlines’ New Distribution Capability (NDC). This is particularly important as airlines begin to shift their focus away from traditional distribution and offer more content through NDC. British Airways, for instance, is already seeing more than 20% of bookings from NDC. “What’s amazing is that the passengers who book through NDC are a hundred times as likely to buy an ancillary as the passengers who booked through a GDS [global distribution system],” said Rogier Van Enk, BA’s Head of Distribution and Payments.
Duffel provides access to both NDC and non-NDC airlines and its partners include American Airlines, Lufthansa Group, British Airways, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Transavia, United Airlines, Air Canada and more.
“A frictionless, hassle-free experience is even more important and crucial to the future of the industry now,” said Duffel founder and CEO Steve Domin. “Travel has taken a substantial hit in 2020 and airlines and agents have had to cut hundreds of thousands of jobs around the world. Not surprisingly confidence among passengers is down, revenues have sharply declined and the industry urgently wants to recover. We hope our new platform, and our decision to offer it free for 12 months through the new starter tier, will help the industry build back better and give travel sellers who are considering new technology the confidence to make this move.”
“Duffel was already the fastest way for developers and travel merchants to build a seamless flight booking experience with access to exclusive content. Our new website and self-serve features take this speed, efficiency and intuitiveness to another level – moving the world a step closer to enabling any merchant to sell flights instantly,” said Duffel CTO Norberto Lopes. “We’ve built these tools with developers in mind. When airlines and agents are better connected, the entire travel industry benefits, from the corporate companies all the way down to the consumer.”
Kenny Totten, Co-Founder of Bacarai, the group travel marketplace said: “What took us more than three months to do with the legacy GDS players, we accomplished with Duffel in all of 30 minutes!"
Last year Duffel raised $51.5 million from investors, including premier venture capital firms Benchmark, Blossom Capital and Index Ventures, to continue these ambitious expansion plans. It will use this capital to finance the free services to agents. In 2020, the London-based company has quadrupled its team, tripled customer numbers, expanded to the US with its first US office in New York, and hired its first US employee, Tyler Trerotola.