Born into the travel industry, Akshay Shah is the vice president of marketing for Sky Bird Travel & Tours, Inc. He is currently the president of United States airline consolidation Association and is on several boards of advisors for different organizations.
TRO: The term “consolidator” seems to mean any number of things in today’s industry. Can you please explain what it means for Sky Bird?
AS: For Sky Bird the term consolidator means an agency that works strictly with other travel agents to provide opportunities to earn revenue by selling international airfare. In addition, we listen to our travel partners and take their concerns to the airlines and create a win-win scenario in selling international destinations.
It is unfortunate that, within the travel industry, agencies use this term for marketing purposes only. They may even call themselves a consolidator despite the fact they don’t issue the tickets themselves. This is why Sky Bird is a proud member of USACA, which helps the industry understand exactly who consolidators are.
TRO: Is this different from the many other ways to purchase airline tickets? Please explain why.
AS: I would say it is a better experience because our agents will ensure that the best itinerary and fares are quoted to the travel agent. We consider ourselves the international rate desk for the travel agent community. Many times we have found that travel agents who are on their own booking international flights may not be able to see all the options. This is why, for over 35 years, we have been in business helping travel agents with such requests.
TRO: Please explain Sky Bird’s relationships with travel agents.
AS: For over 35 years Sky Bird Travel has assisted travel agents across the US and now in Canada by offering net and commissionable fares. These fares allow the travel agents to profit from selling international air. In addition, it provides discounts to passengers traveling for visiting friends/families, educational/religious reasons and leisure. Each travel agent operates within a community. They listen to the community and understand its travel needs. In turn the travel agents communicate the same to Sky Bird who then does its best to inform the airlines of the same. In essence Sky Bird strives to be the voice of the travel agents to the airlines.
TRO: Why should travel agents book with Sky Bird?
AS: There are many reasons for travel agents to book with Sky Bird. The first and most important reason is because of our staff. Our staff’s average years of employment are over seven years with Sky Bird. The number of years they have been in the travel industry is probably double. This assures a travel agent calling Sky Bird that they will receive the best service and experience with their international fare requests.
Sky Bird has over 80 airlines it has negotiated deals with within the US and over 30 airlines in Canada. This makes Sky Bird a one-stop shop for all international requests.
Lastly, Sky Bird’s accounting department ensures that all commissions are paid on a weekly basis and that refunds are handled in a timely manner. Travel agents can focus on selling rather than following up on missing commissions from Sky Bird.
TRO: Since the majority of your business is centered on airline operations, how have you been affected by the many recent FAA issues and legislation?
AS: This really has not affected Sky Bird. It is always been our goal to get accurate and complete information to both airlines and travel agents to ensure the most straightforward process possible.
TRO: What inspired you to work in the travel industry?
AS: My father started this company over 35 years ago. I have been coming to the office ever since I can remember. The fascination with airplanes along with the stories that come with each transaction of someone traveling somewhere has and continues to inspire me to work in travel.
TRO: When it is your turn to take a vacation where do you like to go?
AS: For short vacations we usually travel domestically to visit our family. This is usually traveling to New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Otherwise, Fort Lauderdale is where we like to get away. For longer trips it is definitely India.
TRO: Are there any destinations on your “bucket list”?
AS: Selling international air for so long my bucket list is quite extensive. To name the top few it would have to be Machu Picchu, Phuket and all places that claim to be called “Shangri La.”
TRO: Is there anything new on the horizon for Sky Bird that you would like to share with the travel agent community?
AS: Sky Bird has developed its own proprietary booking engine. We are currently requesting travel agents to utilize it and give us their feedback as we are developing it with their input. All of Sky Bird’s airline content is displayed in this booking engine and future versions will incorporate hotels and cars. In addition, we are developing an incentive program for our travel agent partners.
Travel agents can visit Sky Bird Travel and Tours and its many programs for travel professionals at www.skybirdtravel.com.