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Making flight searches better: multi-step, deadlines, filters, and offer conditions

Profile image of post author Jonny Blackler
Jonny Blackler · July 2022

Your customers are willing to wait a couple of seconds for search results. But what about 5 or 10 seconds – or even 30? It takes time for you to deliver flight offers and when every extra second increases the risk of a customer abandoning the booking, you need fast and robust search capabilities.

You can customise the search experience and get offers to your customers faster with our Flights API with multi-step search, airline deadlines, filters, and offer conditions.

One way you can speed up searches is by using multi-step search. This booking flow lets your customers search for one segment at a time: the outbound and then inbound flight, or consecutive segments in a multi-city journey. For example, if a customer is searching for a round trip from London to Tokyo, they choose a flight to Tokyo and then choose a return flight to London.

You can implement this booking flow using the partial offer requests in our Flights API. It means instead of searching and delivering up to 2,000 offers for a roundtrip, we return just a couple dozen offers per segment. Fewer results mean a faster search and your customers will get more relevant offers.

Multi-step search is an intuitive experience expected by your customers, currently available on the biggest flight search platforms including Google Flights and Expedia. Learn how to enable it in your booking tool with our multi-step search guide and in our developer documentation on creating partial offers.

Improve search times with custom offer filters

Another way to speed up search times and show more relevant offers is to use custom filters based on a customer’s request. Instead of you taking on the time-intensive responsibility of filtering all offers, you can request only filtered offers.

For example, if a customer is looking for a return flight from London to New York JFK that’s direct and departs after 10 AM on each leg, they’ll only see offers matching those criteria. The search will be faster as fewer offers are sent to you, and the customer only sees offers relevant to them.

When it can take you more than 30 seconds to receive offers for some searches, there’s a big opportunity to save time and improve the search experience. And when your customers know their search criteria, you can create a more tailored experience.

In our Flights API today, you can filter by max connections, departure time, and arrival time. In the example above, searching for all offers from London to New York JFK returns 524 offers. Once the filter is applied, you receive 138 offers. It’s much easier for your customers to make a buying decision based on fewer results.

Learn how to set order filters in our developer documentation: max connections, arrival time, and departure time.

Customise search times with airline deadlines

A flight search can return anywhere from 50KB to 50MB or more in offer data. This takes valuable time and processing power before the offers can be shown to your customers. The search time also varies drastically by airline and route: some consistently respond in under one second, others take over 10 seconds, and some exceed 30 seconds.

Waiting for all airlines to respond with offers before showing results is a common search experience for many online travel sellers, including large online travel sellers like Expedia; when a customer searches for a flight, they won’t see any results until all possible airlines and route combinations have been returned.

To cut down response times, you can choose custom deadlines for each search. So, for example, instead of waiting up to 30 seconds for all offers from all airlines, you can set a limit of 10 seconds. This means you’ll get offers from airlines that respond within 10 seconds and no offers from airlines that respond slower.

Custom search deadlines give you more control over your customers’ experience and mean you can set parameters that work for you: a shorter deadline might be better for your mobile app compared to your website on desktop devices where customers are willing to wait longer for results.

Learn how to set your own airline deadlines in our developer documentation on supplier timeouts.

Show offer conditions in search results

Getting search results to customers fast is only part of the puzzle. Customers increasingly want flexibility for their travel plans after suffering the pains of disruption through the pandemic.

Leisure and business travellers are paying more attention to the terms and conditions on their tickets: can a flight be changed or cancelled, are there any fees or restrictions on changes or cancellations, is seat selection free, is a checked-in bag included, etc.

As a travel seller, presenting this information clearly is a crucial part of your revenue strategy. Customers are more likely to buy when they know what they’re paying for upfront. For example, a customer may be willing to choose a more expensive fare if it means they can cancel for free at any time.

Offer conditions are often presented by airlines as pages of unstructured data or free text. We parse conditions from airlines and standardise the responses, making it easier for you to show in your booking tool. This information is available to you at the search stage of the booking flow and post-booking when customers are managing their orders.

Learn more in our guide on offer and order conditions.

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