A New Sabre: Southlake Tech Travel Giant Realigns Business, Implements Remote Work Program, and Cuts Staff

Sabre is preparing itself for a post-coronavirus travel industry. That involves combining airline and agency-focused businesses, adopting a "work from anywhere" policy, and laying off 800 globally.

Sabre Corporation, the Southlake-based global leader in travel software and technology, has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a series of moves it says will position the company for long-term growth.

When coronavirus began to rapidly spread, travel came to a screeching halt. Many in the industry began to iterate and adapt to the unprecedented challenges, while others shuttered. Everyone took a hit—airlines, hotels, agencies, and more. But travel is a segment that has evolved for decades, especially when it comes to technology, and that will likely continue into the future.

Sabre wants to be at the forefront of that.

The travel giant has announced a strategic alignment, which builds on roots planted in 2018. Management is dubbing the transformation a new Sabre: Airline and agency-focused businesses are being retooled, while other measures are being taken when it comes to its organizational structure. 

“We began this transformational journey over two years ago with the unveiling of our SabreNext strategy and the creation of our Travel Solutions organization,” Sean Menke, Sabre’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Our leadership team has completed plans to strategically realign and fully combine Sabre’s airline and agency-focused businesses to provide a stronger, more seamless experience for our customers.”

All actions are expected to be substantially complete by the third quarter of this year.

A new Sabre

Sabre said the changes being made are meant to build a foundation for a growth-filled future.

The strategy is focused on three key areas, all intended to better serve customers and generate success: ensuring the security, stability, and health of tech products and services; enhancing collaboration across business segments to accelerate end-to-end solutions; and building a leadership team for the next phase into becoming the trusted technology partner of the travel industry.

Menke acknowledges that certain initiatives and investments had to be put on hold during the pandemic. But, he says, Sabre remains strong in its commitment to helping customers operate more efficiently, driving revenue, and offering personalized travel experiences.

Sabre’s solutions benefit travelers, travel suppliers, and agencies—Menke calls it “mission-critical to the travel ecosystem.”

“We have taken this opportunity to accelerate the organizational changes we began in 2018 to address the changing travel landscape,” he said. “Sabre’s new organization is built upon the premise that the retailing, distribution and fulfillment of travel will continue to evolve over the next decade and each of these elements will become even more interconnected and interdependent.”

A step toward “One Sabre”

In changing its approach to a collective lens, Sabre aims to better serve airline and agency customers and retail, distribute, and fulfill travel. Long-term, Sabre says its vision is to create a new market for personalized travel through a platform that would be “the center of the business of travel.”

Sabre outlined individual steps it plans to take:

• Focus on creating personalized offers with IT capabilities, processes, and intelligence so suppliers can retail them through all channels. There will be a specific focus on delivering experiences that “today’s travelers” want, which adds more value on board.
• Drive the future of distribution, including New Distribution Capability (NDC), by adding to supplier offers and the Global Distribution System (GDS). This should allow an airline to provide personalized offers through its marketplace and direct channels.
• Unlock growth potential in the Low Cost Carrier (LCC) market by creating more ways to retail and distribute content and scaling the offerings of Radixx, which was recently acquired.
• Deliver a full-service property management system to better serve hotels by collaborating with Accor. The system will combine Sabre’s central reservation and state-of-the-art limited service property management systems within a unified cloud platform designed for hoteliers of all kinds. Sabre calls this “a milestone in the global travel industry.”
• Transform its technology through a 10-year partnership with Google. This includes migrating Sabre’s IT infrastructure to Google Cloud’s services, using Google’s data analytics tools, and designing a broader innovation framework with Google that optimizes the talent and assets of both companies.

A leaner workforce

Lastly, Sabre announced it’s making significant changes to its global workforce.

That starts with around 800 layoffs across 43 office locations to “right-size” the company. About 400 people in Sabre’s voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement programs will also be affected.

Team members that were furloughed will return to work on or before July 6. Also by that time, Sabre says it will end all pay reductions, restoring employee compensation back to 100 percent of base pay.

And, like many huge companies across the world—Twitter, Facebook, Shopify—Sabre is implementing a permanently flexible, remote work program. Similar to Sabre’s North Texas neighbors at Bottle Rocket, the company is adopting a “work from anywhere” policy to the extent of local laws.

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