DRCT Aims to Bridge Airline, TMC Connections


Viktor Nekrylov

DRCT’s Viktor Nekrylov discusses:

  • An “Uber” model for airlines
  • Why corporate travelers are the key target
  • Opportunities with African carriers

Airline content aggregator startup DRCT is positioning itself as a “neo-airline,” connecting its airline partners directly to travel sellers with AI technology to optimize demand and pricing, including New Distribution Capability content. So far, DRCT has built up connections with more than 30 airlines, including the three major European carriers, United Airlines and Emirates. DRCT managing partner and cofounder Viktor Nekrylov spoke with BTN executive editor Michael B. Baker during the recent UATP Airline Distribution conference in Lisbon about DRCT’s model, growth trajectory and plans for partnerships with travel management companies.

BTN: What is DRCT’s distribution model?

Viktor Nekrylov: From the very beginning, we understood it’s a good business model, because we have almost no expenditures on our own content. We are competing with guys life Duffel, TPConnects and even Amadeus and Travelport. We will be competing on the prices of transactions. The price from Amadeus, they charge airlines an average of $8 per segment, and we can provide airlines with a better price, one [dollar] or even less in many cases. 

We wanted to build a new experience for the passengers because we understand there are a lot of challenges in airline distribution. One is that airlines don’t understand the passenger. Even if they have information about the passenger, they have nothing to do with them, because they already have the prices prepared before the request. Being the intermediary, as we are, we can grab the information from the [online travel agencies] and work with that, which means we can utilize the demand better than airlines. 

It’s the same that Uber does. They’re not operating the fleets, but they understand the passengers and can give the passengers a seamless experience. They build their model when they understand the passenger, they know how to deal with that, and they are creating the prices for you. They’re not asking the drivers; they just create the prices. That’s what we want to do with airline distribution. 

It’s the same situation with airlines. Three days ago, I went to Morocco, and I don’t know who flies Morocco, so the only option for me is to go to Skyscanner and to compare the prices. And even that is not a guarantee that I will find the right option. We understand the passenger demand, what you want. OTAs are eager to sell us this information, and we can deal with that and create our own added-value content. We just need to buy the seats from the airline.

BTN: How do you determine what to buy?

Nekrylov: What we are doing now, we are redeeming the seats from them because we understand an OTA has demand on a flight from London to Paris, let’s say, and they are selling 200 tickets every three days. We know they are selling these tickets at this price to this type of passenger. We can rely on this information and redeem the seats from the airlines and resell that on our own routes and prices. For the airline, it means they are getting money in advance, and they will sell more than they will sell by themselves. One of the main values we can use is that we understand when you, for example, are searching on Kayak or any OTA, when [the OTA receives] the request from Paris to London, they are sending this request to different channels. When they get the answers, they should show it to you. What we are offering to the OTA [is to give the traveler] you something special, a unique offer you would not get from the airline. If we understand you, we understand the competitors on the market, and we can give the perfect offer. It’s like an online revenue management system, based on the real data, which is based on real demand. Our main idea is that we can deal with data better and individualize demand better than the airlines.

BTN: How has your growth trajectory looked in terms of bookings?

Nekrylov: We are growing 10 to 15 percent per month. We’re a startup. We’re growing rapidly. We have difficult times during the pandemic, but of course, it was a nightmare when it started, but we were trying to find the opportunities [in] markets like the African markets and Latin American markets. When Europe was absolutely closed, Africans didn’t care about that, and it was quite impressive when we started working with small, local African airlines. You can make a lot of money with them, because they have higher margins and are super niche. 

BTN: Are you targeting corporate travelers?

Nekrylov: One of the main ideas of business travelers is the service, so it is quite interesting that travel management companies are the guys selling the most expensive tickets and have the most valuable clients, because these are the clients for whom the corporations are paying. They don’t want to book the cheapest fares. The corporate traveler needs service, they expect some benefits, and travel management companies in most cases know a lot about this traveler. They have travel policies, they have profiles of each client, so in terms of dealing with corporate travel, we can grab a lot of information about them, and it is quite valuable because the passengers are valuable.

BTN: So, are you working with the TMCs?

Nekrylov: From the very beginning, it was our main focus. We were focused on corporate travel and TMCs. [DRCT claims use by “more than 1,100 sellers from over 200 TMCs, OTAs and other travel agencies in Europe, the U.K. and the U.S.] They have difficult clients, because they are the clients who want good service, and what it means for the travel management company is that they need to be ready to support this client with changes and cancellations and so on. The tool they used to use for many years is the GDS. 

When the airlines come to such clients and say you can find flights on Air France-KLM in this booking tool cheaper by €16, for a travel management company, that means when I am searching for Air France-KLM I should go to that tool, too. [Travel agents] have to remember the passwords and how to deal with that, and it should be somehow synchronized with [the] mid-office and back-office systems, which means [they] will never do that. They have the GDS marketplace, and everything is working properly and working good with their mid-office and back-office system, and that’s a problem for the airlines, because they understand those are the most valued client, and they need to reach them, and it was impossible. We are delivering the price from the airlines directly to the GDSs, so that means TMCs don’t need to switch from the GDS to any other interface. We are just delivering the prices to the GDSs, so when the TMC is searching for the ticket in the GDS, he will see the alternative option from us, from the airline directly, and they don’t need to switch between the interfaces. 

BTN: Do you ever envision connecting directly to corporate travelers?

Nekrylov: We are not dealing with the passengers directly, and we are not willing to. We believe everyone should be focused on their core business. TMCs are creating their own value. We don’t want to compete with them. Metasearches are doing good with the traffic. They know how to get the passengers and deliver them the value of comparing the prices, and we don’t want to compete with them. We want to be a part of them. 

We are competing with the GDSs but in the future. We want to use the GDS platform to distribute our own content. Sometimes you are competing, but in the modern world you see this collaboration: Gucci is collaborating with Prada. Five years ago, it was hard to imagine, but now they are finding synergy. That is the future, when you are not trying to make everything by themselves. This is what airlines shouldn’t do. They want to be the retailer, IT company and operate the fleet, but they do nothing properly. 



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Airline hack: Employee shares ultimate suitcase to take on trip – tips | Travel News | Travel


This is why Megan recommended purchasing an “expandable” case.

“You never know what you’re going to pick up on a trip and need to fit in your suitcase home.”

The employee’s fifth travel “hot take” was that travellers don’t necessarily need to spend lots of money on the “most expensive luggage”.

Megan’s tips were popular on TikTok, and have amassed a huge 73,000 likes and more than 4,000 saves.





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Airline travel back to levels we saw around Thanksgiving – Boston 25 News


BOSTON — We are less than two weeks from Memorial Day weekend, and airports are once again packed with travelers.

According to the TSA, officers screened 2,395,894 passengers Sunday at airport security checkpoints across the country. That’s the highest number of screenings in a single day since Nov. 28, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

“We’ve traveled a few times in the last few weeks and we’ve absolutely seen a pick-up,” said passenger Rick Brosseau.

“I think people are definitely more comfortable to get out of their house and travel,” said traveler Beonka Jones.

The TSA is anticipating crowds of more than 3 million on the busiest travel days this summer. Terry Strauss with the Dedham Travel Agency said there’s a few things you can do to prepare:

BUY YOUR PLANE TICKET AS EARLY AS YOU CAN

Because of rising costs, Strauss is advising her clients to book their flights as far in advance as possible. To illustrate her point, Strauss said a coach seat to Antigua just cost her $1,200. Compare that to before the pandemic, when she said a first-class ticket cost her around $1,500.

“The price of flights [are increasing] due to the cost of fuel– and we all know that from the gas pump—the prices are just astronomical,” Strauss said.

PAY EXTRA FOR TSA PRE-CHECK.

If you can afford it, Strass say to not only spend the $85 on TSA PreCheck, but also the extra $100 for the Global Entry program. This will help avoid long waits at security checkpoints.

LEAVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME

Strauss said she’s advising clients to get to airports 2-3 hours ahead of time.

“Be ready to wait in line and be ready to be bumped,” Strauss said.

Wes Jansen travels frequently for work and said he’s already budgeting in more time.

“It’s kind of back to normal, so same type of idea, coming to the airport a little bit earlier than you would if you were flying during the pandemic,” Jansen said.

GET A RIDE TO THE AIRPORT

If Economy Parking isn’t available, the spots at Logan Airport can get pretty pricey, starting at $76 the first day and $38 each additional.

“That starts adding up when you go on an eight day-seven night cruise and that’s just your parking,” Straus said. “If it’s a holiday weekend you may not even get to park in a space. It might be full.”

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These Are the Best Airline Credit Cards for Travelers




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Star Alliance celebrates 25th anniversary as world's first and leading airline alliance – Breaking Travel News



Star Alliance celebrates 25th anniversary as world’s first and leading airline alliance  Breaking Travel News



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Delaware Loses Last Commercial Airline


The good news is that the state of Delaware is small and has relative proximity to major airports in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.

Nonetheless, Delaware just became the only state in the union without commercial airline service.

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Frontier Airlines told the Delaware Journal on Friday it is leaving New Castle Airport following its last flight on Monday, June 6.

“Sufficient demand did not materialize to support the service,” Frontier spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz said in a statement. “We are continually evaluating our routes and (the New Castle Airport) will certainly remain in the consideration set for potential service in the future.”

It’s not the first time Frontier has tried New Castle. It serviced the airport for two years from 2013 to 2015 before leaving. Frontier returned in 2021 with twice-weekly flights to Orlando. But it lasted less than two years before ending its service again.

Delaware River and Bay Authority spokesperson Jim Salmon said in a statement that he hopes Frontier’s upcoming merger with Spirit Airlines and the expected expansion will convince the airline to return to New Castle.

“We are hopeful that as it rationalizes current and future resources in anticipation of its proposed merger, the airline will choose to strategically restore service in Delaware,” he said.

“The airport’s excellent location along the busy I-95 corridor, along with the lowest cost operating environment of any airport in the U.S., offers customers the opportunity to forego the stress and expense of a big city airport.”





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CT Residents See Rising Gas Prices, Airline Fares Heading Into Busy Travel Season – NBC Connecticut


Whether driving or flying, the cost to travel continues to rise. Airline fares saw a record increase in April.

With warmer weather arriving, many of us are dreaming about summer vacations.

“I might be taking a trip up to Maine or New Hampshire, do a little bit of hiking, do a little bit of biking,” said Christopher Kempf of Windsor.

Kempf said he’s not going to let the cost of gasoline get in the way of traveling.

“It’s just a few gallons of gas to get up there, so I’m not too concerned. I’ve got a Prius, so things could be worse,” said Kempf.

With many making plans, gas prices only seem to be going up.

AAA said the average price of a gallon of regular gas in the state is $4.40. That’s up from $4.23 a week ago. Last year at this time, drivers were paying far less at $3.04.

“It doesn’t matter to me because I need to go,” said Nhan Ma of Windsor Locks.

Ma will travel by plane this summer, and rising costs are hitting that industry, too.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported airline fares rose sharply by nearly 19% in April – that’s a one-month increase record.

“The airfare has been going up for the last few weeks, and I’m afraid it will go up even more significantly in the next few months,” said Quinnipiac University International Business Professor Dr. Mohammad Elahee.

Elahee said there are two factors behind the surge: the demand for travel and the increase in costs for labor and jet fuel.

He said many families increased the amount in their savings account during the pandemic by staying home and getting stimulus money from the government, and their desire to travel now will mean consumer demand will still be there even with the higher prices.

“I think more people will be traveling internationally, more people will be traveling domestically,” Elahee said.

Elahee believes the higher prices we’re seeing are going to be here until at least September.



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Where Airline Passenger Satisfaction Stands Ahead of Summer Travel


Air travelers are growing increasingly less satisfied with their experience, according to the J.D. Power 2022 North America Airline Satisfaction Study released on Wednesday.

After North American airlines achieved record highs amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year, overall passenger satisfaction across all three study segments, including first/business, premium economy and economy/basic economy came in at just 798 on the 1,000-point scale, which is down more than 20 points from 2021. What’s more, passenger satisfaction with cost, flight crews and aircraft all declined in this year’s study.

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Despite the dropoff, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines were among the big winners this year. JetBlue ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the first/business segment with a score of 878, edging out Alaska Airlines (876) and third-ranked Delta Air Lines (862). JetBlue also ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the premium economy segment with a top score of 851. Delta (837) and Alaska (825) swapped spots in this segment, ranking second and third, respectively.

Meanwhile, Southwest ranks highest in customer satisfaction in the economy/basic economy segment with a score of 849. JetBlue (828) ranks second and Delta (813) rounds out the top three for 2022.

J.D. Power also found that premium passengers still want their free drinks and that cost continues to be a driving factor in satisfaction as climbing fuel prices and increased demand has resulted in a 20 percent increase in average airfares through March 2022. Food and beverage satisfaction scores declined 38 points in the premium economy segment and 12 points in the first/business segment. However, food and beverage satisfaction scores increased by seven points in the economy/basic economy segment.

Overall satisfaction with cost and fees declined in the premium economy segment by 66 points, fell 33 points in the economy/basic economy segment and dropped by 21 points in the first/business segment.

“Customer satisfaction with North American airlines climbed to unprecedented highs for all of the wrong reasons during the past two years,” Michael Taylor, travel intelligence lead at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Fewer passengers meant more space on airplanes, less waiting in line and more attention from flight attendants. But that business model was simply not sustainable. Now, with volumes surging and some remnants of pandemic-era constraints still in place, passenger satisfaction is in decline—but that’s not really bad news. If airlines can find ways to manage these growing volumes while making some small adjustments to help passengers feel more valued, they should be able to manage this return to ‘normal.'”

The study is based on performance in eight factors, including aircraft; baggage; boarding; check-in; cost and fees; flight crew; in-flight services and reservation and is based on responses from 7,004 passengers who flew on a major North American airline within the past month as of March 2022.

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The Airline Updates You Won’t Want To Miss For International Summer Travel


When you take to the skies this summer, there are some new amenities, routes, initiatives and perks to look out for when booking your tickets. Vacation deals, whether at your favorite resort or aboard the newest cruise ships, abound this summer, despite prices climbing higher due to skyrocketing demand. Whether it’s a tasty chef-inspired meal, free cocktails for everyone or a new route with discounted fares, here is some of the latest airline news to keep top of mind.

KLM launches new menus in business class

Passengers departing Amsterdam on KLM in World Business Class can now enjoy a new menu by Dutch star chef Jonnie Boer and sommelier Thérèse Boer of restaurant De Librije. Also new this year is a redesign of the tableware from the Dutch designer Marcel Wanders used on board. The rotating menus will change every three months and feature dishes like chicken thigh in a star anise gravy, baked salmon with broccolini and a traditional vegetarian stew with roasted bell peppers, compote of braised onion and tomato. Starters will include grilled zucchini in a cream of tahini, chickpea salad, garlic feta and nut salad. A new wine selection will also be added.

SkyTeam launches “sustainable flight challenge”

KLM kicked off this alliance-wide, eco-friendly effort by encouraging other airlines to participate in a “sustainable flight challenge.” Seventeen of the alliance’s 19 members will participate by operating a particular flight in the most sustainable manner possible. As part of the challenge, Air France flew an Airbus A350-900 flight from Paris to Montreal and KLM flew a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner flight from Amsterdam to Edmonton. The flight to Montreal was fueled with 16% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). This non-fossil fuel is made from biomass such as used cooking oil and led to a 45% reduction in the carbon footprint of the flight. The knowledge, findings and innovations gathered from these flights will be used to create more efficient operations across the airline alliance.

Qatar Airways adds Diptyque business class amenity kits

In the airline’s premium cabins, Qatar Airways now offers new male and female amenity kits packed with elegant Diptyque products. They include body lotion, essential face cream, nourishing lip balm and an eau de toilette fragrance. The kits are being rolled out on the oneworld airline’s medium and long-haul flights to and from its Doha hub, which will host the FIFA World Cup later this year. Qatar is the only airline in the world to partner with Diptyque for inflight amenity kits. It also offers the upscale line of toiletries in its lounges and onboard lavatories.

LATAM opens largest airline lounge in South America

Departing passengers from Santiago’s terminal two now have a new airline lounge to look forward to when traveling in the premium cabin or holding elite status. In addition to complimentary food and drinks, the lounge serves as an art gallery featuring work from emerging South American artists. Designers kept sustainability top of mind using recycled or sustainably sourced materials in the furnishings. It also relies on 80% renewable energy for its operation. The lounge has a children’s play area, rest area, showers, work stations and clothes pressing service.

Alaska Airlines adds another Disneyland livery plane

This is the seventh in Alaska’s series of Disneyland Resort planes and is named “Star Wars Transport to the Disneyland Resort.” Painted by a Disney designer and unveiled earlier this week in Seattle, the Boeing 737-800 took used nearly 228 gallons of paint and took 27 days to complete. The plane has the iconic Millennium Falcon on the tail as well as 4 TIE Fighters on each side. The winglets feature Porgs (the creatures from Luke Skywalker’s remote island) looking back at passengers and next to the main boarding door.

United offers complimentary spritzes on Italy flights

This summer, United Airlines is partnering with Spritz Society to offer premium sparkling cocktails onboard certain flights to Italy. From Chicago to Milan and Newark to Rome, United is serving free Spritz Society cocktails in economy and premium economy classes (already included in Polaris business class). Spritz drinks were born in the Veneto region of Italy and are a summertime favorite, which means that this partnership is a special way to celebrate the season. The canned drinks include only six ingredients or fewer in every can in tasty flavors like blood orange and grapefruit. Interested United Club members, no matter where they are flying, can purchase Spritz Society cocktails for $2 each this summer in Chicago and Newark lounges during part of May and June.

French bee adds Paris-Los Angeles flight

Opening its third U.S. destination, low fare carrier French bee began flying between Paris Orly and Los Angeles last week. Fares start at $321 one-way. The airline also flies Newark to Paris, San Francisco to Paris and San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti with domestic codeshares available on Alaska Airlines.

Turkish Airlines adds 12th U.S. gateway

Star Alliance-member Turkish Airlines is adding new service from Istanbul to Seattle/Tacoma later this month. The airline already flies to more countries than any other airline, and this new flight will allow Pacific Northwest customers the opportunity to connect to the carrier’s expansive route map across five continents. The airline will use a 300-seat Boeing 787-9 for the new route.

Cathay Pacific launches sustainable aviation fuel program

A first for Asia, Cathay Pacific launched a corporate sustainable aviation fuel program targeting business and cargo customers. They can choose to reduce their carbon footprint from business travel or air freight when they do business with the carrier. In honor of the eco-friendly program, the airline offset carbon emissions from every ticket sold on its website during the last week of April. The Hong Kong-based airline has committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Tailwind Air connects Manhattan with more New England cities

Connecting to or from an international flight and headed to New England? Tailwind Air has some good news for you. The seaplane carrier is starting flights from Manhattan to Provincetown via Boston Harbor. It takes only 35 minutes from dock to dock, and a free water taxi takes passengers to and from the aircraft. There are also nonstop and one-stop flights from Manhattan’s Skyport Marina at East 23rd Street to Provincetown Harbor starting May 25. This is also great news for those traveling between Manhattan and other parts of the northeast.

Unclaimed Baggage Roadshow to visit every state this summer

If you have lost your bag on a recent trip, you may just be reunited with its contents thanks to the “Unclaimed Baggage” roadshow. The Alabama-based outlet collects unclaimed bags that could not be reunited with their owners after a period of time and sells them both online and in their store. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, they’re hitting the road and visiting every state in the nation. The 14-week trip just started with pop-up shops and bag-opening experiences from its 1965 Chevy truck.



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New airline gets ready to fly in South Florida ahead of busy travel season


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A low cost carrier will soon be the only airline to fly directly to Europe from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport ahead of the busiest travel season of the year.

“We have already seen that we have massive interests from America and Europe to fly between Norway and Fort Lauderdale. We have a lot of bookings on both routes,” Norse Atlantic Airways CEO Bjorn Larsen said.

Norse Atlantic Airways, the start-up company, is entering the market on the heels of a busy summer travel season where demand is expected to outweigh capacity in terms of available seats across the airline industry. Experts say that can cause problems.

According to the travel detective, Peter Greenburg, there’s a shortage of air traffic controllers.

“The whole system is short staffed and they’re gonna have to work thorough that and much more challenging now is we’re heading into the summer,” Greenburg said.

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That issue mixed in with bad weather and various space launches by NASA has the routes planes fly severely reduced, and that’s led to mass cancellations, causing more frustrated flyers than in the past.

After meeting this week with top airline executives, the FAA says it will, “Increase the ability for airlines to keep aircraft moving during these events by using alternate routes and altitudes when possible, increase the number of authorized staff at Jacksonville Center and evaluate other Florida facilities.”

“The airspace that they’re adding is at lower altitudes, which means they burn more fuel so your trip will take longer,” Greenburg said.

Norse is welcoming the challenge with open arms.

“In case of disruptions, we will of course take care of customers and we are equipped as anybody else to do that, and actually maybe a bit more than most long haul airlines because we have an abundance of aircraft right now, ”Larsen said.

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The FAA is looking to hire good, dedicated air traffic controllers to curb this shortage problem, but experts say you can reduce the possibility of delays if you catch the first flight out on any given day.

Norse Atlantic Airways will begin operating at FLL, and flights to and from Norway will begin next month. They plan to expand to places like Paris and London in the future.

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