Today, when a traveler or a travel agent books a flight, they have a choice: Use either an indirect or direct booking channel. The first one includes OTAs, like Expedia or Priceline, GDS, if an agent books for the traveler, or metasearch engines, like Kayak or Skyscanner. The second option is a direct booking from an airline website. The choice of booking channel – indirect or direct – determines the slight difference in the process.
1. Flight search
Indirect channel: OTA, GDS, metasearch engine. A user looks for the right flight via a flight booking engine on a third-party website or via a GDS terminal. As the flight is chosen, a third-party sends the request to the GDS, which accesses the airline’s CRS.
Direct channel: Airline eCommerce website. If a traveler books directly from the provider, the process skips the whole GDS part and goes straight to the CRS.
2. Reservation management
CRS’ basic functions are inventory and reservation management, passenger name record (PNR) generation, payment gateway integration, customer information management, booking and cancellation management, refund management, and email notification. While booking a flight, a customer can select a seat right away, but as a rule, airlines charge an additional price for this. Otherwise, the seat can be selected during online check-in or be randomly assigned. After a user pays for the ticket, the system generates a passenger name record (PNR).
What is PNR (Passenger Name Record)?
Passenger name record (PNR) is a personal code that contains a traveler’s information and itinerary. Depending on the booking source, it’s created either by an airline’s CRS or a GDS. The PNR is generated based on a passenger’s personal information, contact details, ticket number, and itinerary. An airline uses a PNR to easily track the passenger’s record and exchange information between different airlines. We will discuss its use a little bit later.