Air Canada bets on flyiin.

B787-8-tailFollowing the steps of its Star Alliance partners from the Lufthansa Group, Air Canada will be the first North American airline to connect to our marketplace, and commercialise its flights and services to travellers in Europe when we go live next year.

By choosing to participate in our beta phase, the airline will be able to experience and measure first hand the benefits of a new sales channel model that will deliver true merchandising opportunities, full distribution control and extensive user data to airlines.

For all the air travellers out there that will use our marketplace to search and book their flights, this will mean a wide range of flight options from Europe to North American destinations with an airline renowned for the quality of its product and attention to the customer experience.

Thank you, Air Canada, for joining our journey. We look forward to build a great sales channel together.

New kid on the block

This is how IATA introduced us at their World Passenger Symposium conference in Barcelona this week, as we were getting ready to jump on stage and present flyiin as part of their Distribution and Payment track.

WPS2017

The concept of “kid” might be premature as we have yet to ship the first, beta version of our marketplace for air travel. So I guess “baby on the block” would be more appropriate.

Since we thought that those of you who didn’t have the chance to attend the conference, might be interested in hearing what we had to say about our experience so far as a new online travel company that is trying to make its own way into a crowded and competitive market.

HOW HAS OUR JOURNEY BEEN LIKE SO FAR?

To the question about how our journey had been so far, we summarised it with three words: long, sometimes, frustrating, nevertheless exhilarating.

Long because:

  1. First, putting the right co-founding team in place, i.e. one with a complementary skill set, a total alignment on the vision, and the same level of resilience often requires several attempts;
  2. Convincing people, and more specifically investors, to join such a bold and ambitious journey takes time, lots of it;
  3. And finally, getting access to airline APIs that support our user-centric flight search and booking flow can also be a lengthy process.

We knew it would take time to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together. Still, when everyone to whom you’ve exposed your vision and proof-of-concept says: “it’s make so much sense”, you wish you could move much faster and bring your product online with a snap of a finger. And this can be frustrating.

This said, this journey has been, and will continue to be, exhilarating and rewarding. Every week brings its loads of small steps and achievements, all of which are very tangible. A new connection to an airline API, a new mention in the press or a new design sprint etc. are clear and welcome indicators that things are moving… and in the right direction.

HOW DO WE FEEL ABOUT AIRLINE APIs?

Because WPS gathered people who have a joint interest in the latest developments in airline distribution, we took advantage of our chat to also share our views on the current state of airline APIs, most of which are based on IATA’s latest distribution standard, NDC.

Having got his hands dirty with a good number of those APIs during the past fourteen months, our CTO Dániel Vámosi was best positioned to address this topic. His conclusion was crystal clear: at this stage, the bulk of the airlines’ efforts with regards to their API is to ensure that they conform to NDC, from a format perspective.

They have yet to go in-depth through their existing distribution processes and evaluate how to best make their flights, ancillary services and other relevant content available through their API in a user-centric manner. That means making it very easy for consumers to search – and compare – flight options and costs, inclusive of all the services that are important to them.

But, these API are improving. Helped by the latest version of NDC (17.2), airlines and their API partners are getting better and better at understanding what needs to be done in order to facilitate sales of additional services through their API, whether those are included in a fare bundle, or not. And that’s great news because it means that new digital channels like flyiin finally get the “content flexibility” required to re-think in-depth the way we search and book air travel online.

THANK YOU, IATA.

A final note to my friends at IATA and most specifically the NDC team: thanks so much for giving us a chance to present flyiin to such a remarkable and knowledgeable audience. We hope everyone found it valuable.

Meet our new ‘service selector’.

As we’re progressing towards the release of our private beta, we wanted to give you a sneak preview of our ‘service selector’, a feature that will enable you to select – with just a few clicks and on one single screen – the services to be included with your flights, and then get an extensive list of flight options and fares, inclusive of the costs of your requested services.

20170703 - flyiin - Services selector (screen capture)

Comparing the total cost of a flight across multiple airlines – regardless of the way each airline packages and markets its fares suddenly becomes so easy… and quick. And for our partner airlines, selling higher value fares and services becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Right now, our service selector currently covers the three most common and essential services: number of bags for check-in, advanced seat selection and fare flexibility, and has been implemented with five of our connected airlines so far.

Former Amadeus Distribution boss joins our advisory board.

HolgerTaubmannWe’re delighted to announce that former Amadeus Distribution boss Holger Taubmann has joined our advisory board.

Together with our other advisor Montie Brewer, Holger will play an essential role in helping us transition flyiin from an emerging startup to a growth company, and establish our marketplace model as the next big thing in online travel.

Holger spent the past twenty years at Amadeus, leading him to become the head of the €2.9 billion Distribution business at the travel tech giant, after being in charge of the group’s operations in its largest market, Germany.

Holger brings to flyiin a solid and recognized expertise in general management and strategy, which we will be able to leverage in order to successfully address the many challenges that will come with growing flyiin into a leading brand in online air travel. Not to forget his wide industry network, especially in Germany where we will launch and validate our marketplace channel during the next eighteen months.

Dear Holger, welcome to our journey. We’re really glad to have you on-board.

 

airberlin joins the show.

Logo_airberlinWe couldn’t have started the month in a better way, with the decision by airberlin to join our beta phase, planned for launch this summer.

After Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines, airberlin is the latest airline to jump in. As pilot airline, airberlin will take an active role in establishing our online marketplace as a superior, higher yield channel, and in defining the most appropriate business model for this channel.

Technically, this collaboration provides us with the opportunity to further demonstrate the power of our API aggregation platform as it will transform airberlin’s API into a NDC-capable API. By doing so, our online marketplace can easily interact with all our partner airlines, regardless of the standard (proprietary, OTA or NDC) based on which they have built their respective API.

“Partnering with flyiin will enable us to commercialise our entire product offering, including our growing range of ancillary services, without the limitations inherent to existing distribution channels… and without the need to overhaul our current API setup.”

Lars Denlew, Head of Business Development and Distribution

 

Welcome on-board airberlin. As fellow Berliners, we’re delighted to join forces and build an online marketplace that will be popular with airlines and travellers alike.

 

Glad to have you on board, Lufthansa Group.

Excellent news this week, as Lufthansa Group confirmed its commitment to flyiin and becomes the first airline group to participate in the beta-version of our online marketplace that will go live during the second quarter.

From day one, our beta users will be able to get fares and book all flights AND services directly with Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Brussels Airlines. And with other pilot announcements in the pipeline, our beta-version will deliver great airline content early on, especially to those based in our home and target market, Germany.

Below is a copy of the press release announcing this collaboration.

Thank you, Lufthansa Group, for coming on-board and showing the way to the industry.

 

PRESS RELEASE

flyiin, a new marketplace offering travelers fares and services directly from airlines, links with Lufthansa Group

Europe’s largest airline group signs pilot agreement with flyiin to disrupt online flight search and booking

COLOGNE, Germany and BERLIN, Germany, March 09, 2017 —
flyiin today announced it has signed a pilot agreement with Lufthansa Group to take part in the beta phase of its groundbreaking online marketplace for air travel. flyiin has built a superior alternative to online travel agencies and travel meta-search engines. Cutting out these middle men, flyiin offers travellers greater transparency regarding airlines’ entire product offering—including ancillary services like checked baggage or preferred seating—as well as up-to-the-minute fare information directly from partner airlines.

During the beta phase, flyiin will commercialize Lufthansa Group’s flights, including bundled fares and ancillary services. To better serve travelers, flyiin will provide Lufthansa Group airlines with detailed information about how they interact with their products and recommendations on how to retail and market their entire portfolio of flights and services.

“Lufthansa Group has long been at the forefront of innovation in airline distribution,” commented Arber Deva, Head of Direct Distribution Solutions, Lufthansa Group. “flyiin’s online marketplace is based on the International Air Transport Association’s latest distribution standard, known as New Distribution Capability (NDC). We believe partnering with flyiin’s technologically advanced, NDC-based distribution model will improve our ability to retail the full spectrum of fares and services we can offer, and enable us to gain greater insight into travellers’ needs.”

We believe partnering with flyiin’s technologically advanced, NDC-based distribution model will improve our ability to retail the full spectrum of fares and services we can offer, and enable us to gain greater insight into travellers’ needs.”

 

By embracing NDC, Lufthansa Group and flyiin aim to increase transparency for anyone booking a flight. They are working together to ensure that this new standard fulfills its promise of making the flight booking experience simpler and more straightforward, whilst improving retailing opportunities for airlines.

“Lufthansa Group is the ideal partner for our beta-phase and we are thrilled to have them on board,” commented Stéphane Pingaud, CEO, flyiin. “By supporting a new sales channel that will bring them closer to new and existing customers, they are leading the way for the rest of the industry. We look forward to launching the beta-version of our online marketplace during the second quarter of this year.”

About flyiin

Founded in 2016 by travel tech industry veteran Stéphane Pingaud and digital experience expert Marco Spies, flyiin is an online marketplace enabling travellers to search for and purchase flights and related services directly from airlines. By working closely with airlines to re-define the very concept of online flight search and booking, flyiin makes it easier for travellers to find the right flight experience at the right price. The beta-version of flyiin’s online marketplace will go live during the second quarter of 2017.

Secret weapon.

Secret? I guess not anymore, as we’re about to tell you about an essential piece of our technical infrastructure that is making our life as API aggregator so much easier.

As some of you may already know, one of the aspects that makes our company unique is that we don’t rely on GDS technology to power our consumer-facing marketplace for air travel. Instead, we chose to develop our search and booking technology, leveraging and aggregating the APIs from the airlines.

Those among you who have experience working with airline APIs, will know that it isn’t as straight-forward as it may seem. In most instances, every airline has developed their API based on a different XML standard (NDC, OpenTravel or own) and makes a different interpretation of these standards. Therefore, aggregating multiple airline APIs requires the “normalisation” of these APIs into a single version, which in our case is IATA’s latest version of their NDC standard (16.2).

The challenge is to ensure that this normalisation process has a minimal impact on the content and functionality made available by airlines through their APIs and the performance of our platform in processing requests and responses messages to/from these airlines. Meanwhile, on our end we must maintain the highest level of conformity of our aggregation platform to the NDC standard.

This led us to develop in-house our own monitoring tool, dubbed NDC Gatekeeper (see picture below), which since its implementation has helped us address that very challenge effectively.

NDC Gatekeeper4

For every search and booking message, our NDC Gatekeeper records the normalisation process that these messages go through, i.e. the transformation of our request messages from NDC version 16.2. (the version, which our marketplace is based on) to the version/interpretation of the airline, and the subsequent transformation of the airline’s response message to NDC 16.2.

By recording these transformation processes, we can easily identify any issue and as importantly, closely monitor the time required for these processes (see picture below). And so far, we must say that we’re very pleased with the performance of our API aggregation platform.

NDC Gatekeeper1

Today, this platform is able to normalise the APIs from 6 airlines, which are based on different versions of NDC (1.1.3, 15.2 and 16.1) and on other standards, into a single, flyiin-powered NDC 16.2-based API. Thanks to this single API, we can design a an airline-driven, yet easy-to-use, service-focusing flight search and booking experience, which puts the traveller at the heart of the trip planning, purchasing and servicing process.

Intrigued? Curious? Interested? If you are, shoot us an email at contact@flyiin.com.

You don’t know what to do with your “rich content”? We do.

As airlines spend millions in buying new airplanes, in re-designing the customer experience both at the front and back of the cabin, and in expanding their services at the airport, these airlines increasingly expect to be able to showcase their investments in all their sales channels, by pushing a combination of photos, videos and detailed product descriptions through these channels.

Sure, they can display such “rich content” through their own web sites and mobile apps. However they simply can’t do it through any other online channels, including online travel agencies and flight search engines.

It is essential for travellers to easily determine which airline will deliver the most attractive experience and the most comprehensive range of amenities.

When we started to think about our marketplace product, it was clear that this rich content would play a central role in our design and user experience. Why? Because we feel it is essential for travellers to easily determine which airline will deliver the most attractive experience and the most comprehensive range of amenities, when the fares returned by several airlines are within the same price range.

Today, we’re glad to announce that our marketplace is now able to display any photos, videos and product descriptions that any airline is to make available through their Application Programming Interfaces (API), dynamically and in real-time. As you’ll note from the two screenshots below, our product provides airlines with significant shelf space, so they can market the very best of their product and services as soon as we go live.

blog-post-rich-content-1

Whether they wish to highlight a special promotion, or give a first sense of the on-board experience, airlines have the opportunity to associate selected images to each flight offer they will return in response to search requests from travellers.

blog-post-rich-content-2

Travellers will have to option to view a full page that describes the experience and the services delivered during that specific flights, based on the proposed fare, directly from each individual search result.

 

Although the examples above are based on content extracted from the featured airlines’ web sites, our product is now ready to support the dynamic provision of rich content by airlines, and easily integrate that content into the search flow.  In other words, we are now able to differentiate and display visual and text content, based on destinations, cabin class, even down to individual flights, fare families and fares.

For instance, in the case of Condor below, our marketplace can now display dynamically visuals related to their Economy product, which we have sourced directly from the airline, through their API.

blog-post-rich-content-3

At this stage, we have been able to insert only images into our dynamically-built page template, as Condor doesn’t provide yet detailed descriptions about their experience and services on their flights. The space for detailed descriptions of their product and services is however ready to be filled, dynamically.

 

Conclusion of this post:

If you are an airline, are investing in rich content distribution capabilities and are looking to test these capabilities in sales channels other than your own, please get in touch. We have plenty of ideas on how to best showcase airline products and services online, and are looking for “guinea pigs”!

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.

flyiin-search-results

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.

WPS confirmed our potential as industry game changer

29945814814_45ccdb52ff_zEarlier this month, we had the chance to attend IATA’s Word Passenger Symposium in Dubai. As now usual since it was launched three years ago, an entire track was dedicated their New Distribution Capability (NDC) program. One more reason for us to be there and hear where the industry stands in terms of adoption.

THE QUESTION ABOUT NDC IS NO LONGER ABOUT ‘IF’, BUT ‘WHEN’

The first good news is that airline distribution is finally transitioning towards an API-based ecosystem, something we had been advocating for a couple of years already. Finnair’s announcement of their NDC API project with Amadeus, other airlines’ statements with regards to their own investment in this area,  and our own conversations with several airlines all confirmed that trend.

29943631413_f7127acdff_zWith Amadeus (Altéa) now building APIs on behalf of its hosted airlines, we can expect a large number of airlines ready to deploy their NDC-capable APIs earlier than later, and start distributing their product through new digital channels like flyiin.

OUR CONCEPT OF MARKETPLACE IS NOW RECOGNISED AND VALUED.

We were also delighted to hear more and more references to the concept of ‘marketplace’, as a concept that  OTAs and metasearch engines shall embrace in order to deliver more value to airlines and to travellers. That further proves the relevance of our vision, i.e. that established players no longer respond to the needs of the two communities and will be replaced by an airline-driven, user-centric marketplace, which we are currently building.

30489634411_b13d0048ba_zSpeaking of which, we were able to present  a proof-of-concept of our marketplace product to quite a few airlines, all of whom really loved it. They were particularly pleased to see how our marketplace is able to source flights and ancillary services directly from airlines and make them easily comparable for travellers, while reinforcing the uniqueness and richness of their individual products.

THE TOPIC OF BUSINESS MODEL HAS YET TO BE ADDRESSED.

As part of the distribution track, a panel was specifically dedicated to discussing some of the existing barriers to the deployment of NDC APIs by airlines. Interestingly, although recognised as an issue, not much was said about possible alternative business models for airline distribution.

To us, it is clear that the business model shall be revised in order to reflect the enhanced capabilities of these APIs. In our views, a new business model will emerge between airlines and their preferred 3rd party sales channels, where those will be rewarded based on the ability to generate higher yield sales rather bookings only.

I guess that’s another reason why more and more airlines are following flyiin closely, as we will soon be able to provide them with a long-expected opportunity to discuss and define a more balanced, yield-driven business model for airline distribution.