Google-Sabre Deal Lets Travel Agents Check Carbon Emissions for Flights

Skift Take

Accessing carbon emissions data for flights will one day be standard fare across the travel industry. These implementations are a sign of more to come.

Dennis Schaal

Travel agents using Saber’s desktop software have begun receiving carbon emission data when they search for flights, and corporations that use the company’s booking tool for road warriors, GetThere, will get access later this year.

Access to this data about which flights are the biggest polluters and those that have a somewhat more benign environmental impact — relatively speaking — comes through a several-year-old Saber partnership with Google.

For example, the data might estimate that a JFK to London Heathrow evening departure on Virgin Atlantic has 29 percent lower carbon emissions than all flights on that route on average. The idea is to help environmentally conscious travelers make informed decisions.

“Integrating emissions data from Google’s Travel Impact Model is an important step in bringing sustainability information to the mainstream for corporate and leisure travelers,” said Kristin Hays, Saber’s corporate responsibility officer, as part of a Tuesday announcement. “As a technology company that sits at the core of the travel ecosystem, we believe we can play an important role in identifying emissions data to help travelers make more informed decisions when booking travel.”

Saber client corporations offer the GetThere tool to corporate employees doing their own bookings for company trips. Saber is making the carbon emission data available to all Get There clients, but companies have the option to turn it on or off.

Although offline travel agents got access to this carbon emissions data earlier this quarter, Saber’s online travel agency clients are not yet included. Saber provides back-end technology to online travel agencies through APIs, and the carbon emission data has not yet been integrated, although it is under consideration.

Google is enabling this data access via the search engine’s participation in the Prince Harry-founded Travalyst coalition. The coalition’s Travel Impact Model is the foundation for calculating flights’ carbon emissions.

Several Travalyst coalition members, including Skyscanner and sister company Trip.biz (Trip.com Group’s corporate travel unit), as well as Booking.com, already access this data, but Saber is the first company that is not a coalition member to get access . That is one of the fringe benefits of its partnership with Google.

Saber doesn’t explicitly state why it’s not part of the coalition, but it has several of its own sustainability solutions for travel agents, airlines and hotels, and is looking to enter into additional partnerships.

In the early days of their four-year-old partnership, Saber migrated its data centers to Google Cloud, and later the two companies collaborated on several AI-related features.

Texas-based Saber provides technology infrastructure around the world, and the company stated it manages roughly $260 billion worth of travel spend annually. So this Google-Sabre initiative could have an impact.

The carbon emissions data that Google provides to Saber will not tell the whole story on the environmental impact of flights — for example, it does not include the effect of contrails because Google and some scientists believe current tools to measure them are inadequate.

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