Born and raised in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Brad has more than 20 years experience with the travel industry. He joined our team as Regional Director in 2016. Combining his study of engineering and technology with his travel expertise, Brad oversees systems, fraud mitigation, automation, distribution platforms, and the emerging NDC (New Distribution Capability). Brad is based in Valencia, Spain with his wife and two girls.
Travel Research Online (TRO): Hi, Brad. How are today?
Brad La Nasa (BL): I’m doing great. Thanks for the opportunity to chat today.
TRO: You’re now in Valencia, Spain, but originally from Minnesota. Did you move to Valencia for the weather?
BL: I’m not going to argue – it’s certainly a fringe benefit! But largely, it’s simply a great quality of life and a great time zone to work with our Sky Bird Travel and affiliated teams around the world – India, EU/UK and of course, North America.
TRO: You’ve been with Sky Bird Travel & Tours since 2016. Before that, you were the owner of Pangaea Travel, Inc for almost 10 years. How has being on the Sky Bird team been for you?
BL: I’d actually worked with Sky Bird Travel as my primary air supplier for more than 10 years, and I got to know the team in Chicago and Detroit very well during that time. The Sky Bird Travel team always took excellent care of me and my business. When the opportunity arose to join Sky Bird – I jumped on it.
TRO: In our last interview with Sky Bird, we talked to Neetu Singh about the award-winning booking engine WINGS. Neetu mentioned the arrival of the program which now adds Hotels, Cars, and Activities – on top of the flight consolidation already offered by Sky Bird. How is this program taking off with Travel Professionals?
BL: During these challenging times, we’ve received a lot of excellent feedback from our agency partners that our new WINGS platform gives agents the tools to increase their revenues across diversified channels and offer a more complete service to their clients, and not be ‘air-only’ service – or for many out – there a ‘cruise-only’ advisor. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as right now, more than ever, travel advisors need every advantage and tool to provide professional, efficient service to earn business.
TRO: The materials for WINGS mentions that advisors will have access to New Distribution Capability (NDC) content. What does this content entail, and how will it help Advisors serve their clients better?
BL: NDC has been in the works for many years. Sky Bird has taken a lead role in pushing this air distribution technology forward to ensure agencies have the best air content available, whether it be for leisure or corporate travel. There are many inherent advantages to NDC including additional fare price points, as well as customized packaged offers that cannot be found through other channels, in addition to instant fulfillment ticketing.
TRO: WINGS is also offering up reward points for using select suppliers. How do these reward systems work for Advisors?
BL: We’re rewarding our agency partners through a WINGS education and a certificate program. As they learn to use the platform, they will earn additional reward points. It’s modeled after a similar certification program offered by Marriott Fam-tastic. This allows advisors to maximize their knowledge of the platform and increase their commissions. We’ll be sharing a lot more about this program in the 1st quarter 2021.
TRO: One of the more recent add-ons to the WINGS service is the collaboration tools for Advisors, which lets the Advisor connect directly to the client. This is a game-changer in the time of COVID-19. Are these collaboration tools easy to use, and how does the connection work?
BL: This is a critical feature to the platform. It allows the agent to virtually “sit” with their client and work through a trip together. The advisor can offer suggestions for flight, hotel, car and provide proposals to the client. The client can then review those options, request to book the proposed, or search their own alternatives, using the custom link their advisor has provided them. The client can even invite their mom, cousin, Aunt Judy to the trip to plan it together. That creates additional clients/reach/networking opportunities for the agent, beyond the individual client.
TRO: As you once owned a travel agency named Pangaea Travel, for 10 years, you understand what Advisors require in their efforts to help the client have a great getaway. Combine this with engineering and technology skills, and you’ve got a great combination that can put that knowledge into effect. What core idea do you start with, when working on adding or updating a system?
BL: It all starts with the user. What are the challenges the advisors face in their day-to-day lives? Secondly, to offer a professional service, look/feel, and value to their clients as well as having the best content (airfares and hotel rates) available. Finally, to make a very complex process feel simple and easy.
TRO: Does Sky Bird have any other news coming up?
BL: Yes! We’ve just released branded airfare to the platform to allow agents to up-sell flight options to their clients. We have post-paid hotels on the way (we already have the best commissionable and net prepaid rates you’ll find anywhere) and travel insurance will be throughout all booking paths.
We’re most excited about lead generation features that will allow users to use social media to promote products and services from various providers — or their own unique content.
TRO: Brad, thank you for taking time out of your schedule. We hope that you, and Sky Bird, have a prosperous future.
BL: Thank you. It’s been fun.
For more information on Sky Bird Travel & Tours, and the WINGS Booking Engine.