A real-time online booking system is a simple piece of computer technology that allows customers to instantly book and pay for product over the internet, without any intervention on companies part.
An Internet booking engine (IBE) is an application which helps the travel and tourism industry support reservation through internet. It helps consumers to hotels, book flights, insurance, holiday packages, and other services online. This is a high needed application for aviation industry as it has become one of the fastest growing sales channels. IBEs were necessary as legacy systems were unable to cater economically for the large number of shopping transactions and the speed of development required by the customers. In most cases the underlying systems were not designed for direct exposure to consumers.
Working of IBE:
An IBE is installed on the home page to enable easy access for customers. When shoppers enter their preferences the IBE contacts the GDS or Computer Reservations System to receive the relevant information which is then shown to the user in an appropriate interface. Services and fares may differ according to type of customer accessing the IBE. For example corporate members or frequent flyers may have access to discounted fares or will enjoy privileges such as redemption of loyalty points against the airfare.
With the Super Passenger Name Record (Super PNR) function an IBE offers the capability of booking non-air elements such as hotels, cars, holidays and insurance.
After the customer has finished selecting their preferred flights they must choose a payment method. There are several options to choose from; credit card payment (often referred to as online payment), offline payment by transfers or cash, loyalty program such as a frequent flyer program (FFP) which allows the customer to redeem points for airfare, and discount vouchers. If a customer chooses an online payment an E-ticket will be issued. The E-ticket contains a PNR where important information is saved regarding the travel. If a customer wishes to make the payment offline they will need to visit an airline office and purchase a ticket.
As the IBE is an online booking system the interface is often in HTML. With the growth of broadband, technologies such as Ajax or Flash are now used to support the change of the user’s interactivity. An IBE has real time connectivity to a credit card clearance agency as most payments are made through credit card. Some IBEs offer multi-lingual and multi-currency support for customer convenience. A good security system which supports authentication and authorization is a necessary for an IBE.
When implemented the right way, online booking tools enable companies to generate significant savings while offering travelers convenient service features. Significant benefits include:
- Lower transaction costs. Transaction costs typically represent 3-5 percent of total spend. Within this budget, simple, touch less online transactions generally cost half as much to process as manual offline bookings, while the cost of assisted bookings comes about halfway between online and offline transactions.
- Improved compliance with the travel policy, bringing savings: Over half of customers agree that booking online forces them to be more compliant with the travel policy, and previous research5 also shows that companies using OBTs have higher levels of compliance with preferred airline policy and a greater share of restricted fares than other companies. Improvements in both these areas can bring substantial savings. This is true both in mandated and non-mandated policy environments, as online booking tools can be configured to display preferred options, flag out-of-policy alternatives, provide policy reminders or refuse non-compliant bookings.
- Efficient booking processes. OBTs can save customers’ time when booking through standardized, well-designed processes, and can add convenience by being available 24/7 and offering relevant information (e.g., on travel options that comply with the travel policy).