• Stéphane Pingaud

Who needs GDS technology to search flights? We don’t.

When we started flyiin, we made the decision to develop our own flight search and booking technology to power our marketplace for air travel, rather than use the 25+ year, legacy technology from the Global Distribution Systems (GDS), as online travel newcomers do. Why? Because we wanted to build a new digital product that would radically improve the shopping experience for travellers, and the distribution experience for the airlines. Something that GDS technology in its current state would not enable us to do.

For the past few months, we have been working on a proof-of-concept of that technology, and are now able to say that GDS technology is no longer a prerequisite to be able to buy/sell air travel online. Here is a screenshot that shows how our marketplace sources flights and fares directly from multiple airlines, and display flights offers from these airlines to our users.

What makes our technology superior?

Our flight search and booking technology is based on the aggregation of the distribution APIs of the airlines, most of which are based on IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC). This means that when you search and book flights and other services through our marketplace, you do it directly with the airlines.

Now, for those who are familiar about APIs and NDC, you’re certainly aware that these APIs can be very different from one airline to another, depending on the version of the NDC used by these airlines, or even the “interpretation” each airline makes of IATA’s latest distribution standard. What makes our API aggregation platform superior is that it normalises these APIs to the latest version of NDC.

For instance, when one of our users initiates a flight search in our marketplace, our API aggregation platform transforms her search request into the various versions of NDC used by each airline operating the requested route, i.e. it sends these requests to all airlines in the versions they each “understand”.

Once they have put together their flight offers (flight information, fares, services included etc.), their responses go through the opposite transformation process, so we can easily display these to our marketplace’s users. The same normalisation logic applies to the ordering process and any subsequent servicing transactions.

What's in it for the traveller?

Looking at the screenshot above, some of you may think: “Ok, nice… but so what? It looks a lot like the OTAs that I use to search and book my flights.” Just think about the number of times you saw a fare, which ended being either incorrect, not available or simply not bookable. The reason why this happens is that GDS technology relies on external fare databases to build the flight offers that their OTA partners display. The issue is that often, these fare databases are not completely up-to-date.

When you use our marketplace, flight data, fares and any other fees (for checked bags, seat selection etc.) come from the airlines, who respond directly to your search requests, in real time. The chances that these fares are incorrect or not available are basically nil. Plus, if you have logged in, the airlines will be able to know who you are from the moment you start your flight search, and be able to present you with customised offers if they want to.

What's in it for the airline?

For the airlines, our marketplace channel is opening the doors to more and higher value sales opportunities. By connecting directly to travellers who may not yet be regular customers, they have the chance to provide them with welcome offers. For those who already are regular customers, but have chosen to use our marketplace product for their air travel needs, airlines can return fares that take into the level of their relationship and/or their history with each individual traveller, and increase their loyalty.

For the first time, airlines have a third party channel through which they can deliver the level of customisation, personalisation and service that travellers expect.

And that’s only the beginning. By being 100% API-based, our marketplace – and supporting search and booking technology – will transform relationships between airlines and their customers.

For the first time, airlines have a third party channel through which they can deliver the level of customisation, personalisation and service that travellers expect and this throughout the entire purchasing and post-sales process. As a result, travellers will finally be able to get flight offers that are relevant to them, directly from their preferred airlines.

Keen to know more about our technology? Get in touch.

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