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How to Take Flight: Accessing Airline Booking Capabilities to Sell Tickets

Profile image of post author Rob Ferry
Rob Ferry · May 2024

To start selling flights can be add incredible value to your customers. But getting this off the ground requires understanding how to tap into airline booking systems. In this blog, we'll guide you through the best ways to do just that and get access to airline booking content.

Essential Steps to Start Selling Flights

Step 1: Become an Accredited Travel Agent

Most countries require official accreditation before you can sell flights. This process varies by location, so be sure to thoroughly research requirements in your region. Alternatively, you can partner with an existing, accredited agency and or travel tech company like Duffel that is allowed to pass on its accreditation to their customers. The biggest known accreditation body are IATA, mainly used to sell international flights, further the ARC (Airlines Reporting Corporation) is similar but mainly used by US based travel agencies. Further most countries and or regions have their own travel industry bodies that in some cases also provide accreditation.

Step 2: Gaining Access to Airline Content

This is where the real magic happens. Here are the main ways to connect and start booking flights for your customers:

  • Traditional GDS (Global Distribution Systems): These complex systems (like Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport) provide access to an enormous array of flight inventory. However, they typically require substantial setup fees, technical expertise, and ongoing costs.
  • Modern Flight APIs: Companies like Duffel streamline the entire process. APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) allow you to easily integrate flight bookings directly into your own website or app. Startups and new travel businesses often find this route far more accessible. It is especially the perfect way into selling travel for businesses outside of the travel industry.
  • Direct Connections with Airlines: While possible, establishing direct connections with individual airlines is typically reserved for high-volume travel agencies. It can be time-consuming and complex.

Step 3: Managing Customer Bookings

Once you have those booking capabilities, you'll need reliable solutions to handle reservations, payments, customer communication, and potential changes or cancellations. A ballpark number is 15% of all travel bookings need somekind of change after booking, therefore it is better to be safe than sorry and have this all taken care of. While this can be more challenging with GDS providers, most modern flight API providers - such as Duffel - equip resellers with a dashboard.

This dashboard can manage most customer inquiries and change requests, but they also offers comprehensive outsourced intuitive traveler support.

Choosing the Right Path

If you're a tech-savvy startup or scale-up opting for a modern API-based solution like Duffel can be remarkably efficient. It lowers the technical barrier of entry and minimises setup costs. These businesses can also benefit from the configurability to make the flight booking capabilities fit their end user needs, like spend management solutions that want their customers be able reconcile all flight expenses automatically or (Neo)banks that want to up or cross sell travel insurance and or credit cards.

If you're a larger, established travel agency a traditional GDS systems might be the way to go, offering a greater depth of content and control, albeit with higher costs. Nevertheless adding airline content from solutions like Duffel can be a big advantage, for example gaining access to NDC content from airlines and be able to access the latest and greatest some of the major carriers have to offer.

Of course make sure you do market Research**.** Thoroughly research your target audience and the specific services you aim to provide. Are you aiming for budget travelers or those seeking luxury? Focus is key.

Also be sure to stay on top of any legal, tax, and regulatory requirements associated with selling flights in your region and last but not least, build a great user experience: Whether you have a website or an app, make the booking process intuitive and frictionless for your customers.

Ready for Takeoff!

Navigating the world of airline booking capabilities can seem daunting at first. By understanding the options, choosing the right path, and focusing on your customers' needs, you'll be well on your way to launching a successful flight-selling venture. Learn here everything about Duffel flights!

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