With the fundamentals covered, let’s take a closer look at what happens between the time of booking through a travel site and baggage reclaim at the destination airport. The entire traveler/airline contact can be broken down into a few basic steps:
I. flight search,
II. flight booking,
III. ancillary booking,
iv. using frequent flyer miles and points,
v. payment processing,
vii check-in and boarding, and
viii baggage handling and reclaim.
While OTAs and metasearch, engines are the preferred options for searching, the bulk of travelers book directly through airline websites. This is due to two major factors.
First, when purchasing seats directly from the airline, it will be easier, even from a technological standpoint, to amend or cancel the reservation. Second, travelers have access to a wider range of ancillaries than OTAs normally offer.
Regardless of the source of booking, the airline CRS must determine whether the flight product in issue is still available for reservation. The status code HK (“holding confirmed”) is then returned to the travel merchant. The alternative response is UN, which indicates that the carrier is unable to fulfill the request.
At this point, the CRS must also construct a PNR. During the booking process, a retailer — whether an OTA or airline website — obtains personal information such as a passenger’s name and contact information and sends it to the CRS. After collecting all mandatory information, the system generates a PNR number, which serves as an electronic address for the file in the database.
The desire to fly must eventually be backed up by money. In other words, travelers must pay the seat fare plus taxes and the cost of ancillaries (if any.)
Payment gateways — third-party services that not only handle transactions but also assure data security — can be used to facilitate financial transactions between passengers and low-cost carriers. However, when full-service airlines, GDSs, and OTAs are involved, the situation becomes much more difficult. In this situation, funds must pass through IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) or its American counterpart, Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC.)
Once the payment is verified, the traveler will receive an email with the flight itinerary and PNR number. That is sufficient to track the flight’s status, cancel the trip, or, in the case of a direct booking, adjust the future voyage and add ancillaries. People, however, require tickets to board the plane.
Ticketing and booking are distinct operations. Booking only secures a seat on the plane. Ticketing means that the passenger has paid for the seat and has the right to use it during the flight. Even if a traveler pays for the trip immediately, as most OTAs and LCCs require, there is a time lag between these processes. Verifying payment details and finalizing money transmission can take up to three business days.
The company must be certified by the aforementioned BSP and ARC in order to produce an e-ticket or individual electronic receipts linked to the PNR. This is not something that all air travel retailers can afford. Instead, they book flights through certified partners such as large OTAs, air consolidators, and host travel agents.
What if a journey includes multiple flights provided by different airlines? In such circumstances, carriers enter into a unique business agreement known as interlining and issue a single ticket covering the entire journey. In addition, the Super PNR is designed to connect segments of the voyage into a single record.
In any scenario, the e-ticket containing the passenger’s name and PNR number is finally emailed to the traveler. If the booking cannot be booked for any reason, the travel provider must provide an alternate flight or a full refund.
FEW ADDITIONAL WORDS ON FLIGHT BOOKING
Because there are no more ticket agents and you no longer need to call them to reserve a paper ticket, today’s flight booking process is said to be simpler than previously. However, a single booking necessitates a variety of distinct activities, all of which are interdependent. The majority of these operations are still overcomplicated by many linkages to various services, systems, and distribution channels. Even if airports and airlines are hesitant to adopt new technologies, there are still GDSs and numerous airline flight booking APIs to ensure a seat, ancillary, and rate distribution.
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
GDS: A computer network that connects travel agents to travel service providers. Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport are major GDSs.
PNR: A passenger name record (PNR) or booking file comprises traveler and itinerary information. Booking reference or record locator is each PNR’s unique code.
CRS: A central reservation system, also called an airline or computer reservation system, stores flight-related information such as schedules, rates, booking class rules, PNRs, and e-tickets, etc. It handles bookings and ticketing.
PSS: A set of software modules that enables carrier-customer interactions. Central or airline reservation systems are crucial components.
OTAs: Travel agencies online.