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.

NDC certification? Checked.

ndc_certified-2Great news from IATA today. The API aggregation platform, which we have built to power our online marketplace, has just been ‘NDC-certified’. For those who have been following us closely during the past months, it shouldn’t come too much as a surprise as we made it very clear from day one that NDC were to be at the core of our technology and of our product.

Still, this new milestone is an excellent occasion to congratulate our great back-end development team in Budapest. In just a couple of months, they’ve built a fully-functional, NDC-compliant API aggregation platform that is capable of accommodating any NDC-based APIs, and normalising them to the latest version of NDC. So Mela, Daniel, Behrooz, Mikhail: well done, this certification is yours!

Big thanks also to our friends at Iberia who provided us with their (very well implemented!) NDC API to get our platform certified.

Problem solved: baggage fees

As we’re working on the prototype of our marketplace, our objective is to tackle, one by one, the deficiencies of online travel agencies or flight search engines. Some of these deficiencies result in minor drawbacks to the end-consumer, while others cause a great deal of annoyance.

One of the first issues we wanted to tackle is baggage fees, i.e. how to make them transparent to our users across many airlines, before they book their flights.

The key question was: should we limit the number of checked bags – and if yes, to how many – that our users can request when they search for flights, so they receive from our partner airlines products and fares inclusive of the cost for the requested number of checked bags.

20160912-flyiin-bags-selection

We contacted some of the airlines we currently work with to ask them about the maximum number of checked bags, which their customers can purchase online when they book flights through their own web site. And that’s when it started to be interesting. You’d think that baggage policy would be more or less aligned across airlines, especially with regards to the maximum number of bags that can be checked in, right?

Far from it. Literally every single airline we contacted has a unique way of dealing with that question. One would allow two pieces of baggage per passenger, another one three, while the next airline would define allowance per booking reference, not per passenger. In some cases, baggage policy is defined per unit on some routes, per weight on others. And obviously, these allowances would vary based on the type of fares, the travel class or your loyalty status.

For the traveller, this usually means spending hours and hours figuring out and comparing the real cost of flights including the number of bags she wants to take along, often enough using a pen and a notepad! And this is only one of the many aspects of the complexity we need to deal with when searching and booking flights.

The good news is: soon you will no longer have to waste your time dealing with such complexity. flyiin will make it easy for you to view and compare fares that are inclusive of the cost of checking in bags – and a whole lot of other services, too.

Simply highlight the number of bags you wish to check in, and we’ll do the math and return the right price, i.e. the total cost for each flight option. All you’ll have to do is select the flight that best meets our schedule, fare and service requirements, and you will be all set.

Stay tuned! We will bring transparency, simplicity and “customer focus” to online air travel. Because this is what flyiin is all about.

Meet the team!

The last few weeks have been really exciting. We have secured some initial funding, have launched the foundation work of our online marketplace product and… put together a great and highly skilled team of ‘builders’ and ‘designer’s from our partners Digital Natives and think moto


Meet the builders!

Daniel

Daniel is our lead developer… and our in-house NDC expert! He’s the brain behind the NDC-based API aggregation platform that powers our product, and is leading its development, testing and deployment.

Melinda

Melinda is our QA. Melinda plays an essential role in making sure that the NDC-based APIs from our partner airlines are fit for purpose, in other words preparing the path for their implementation into our aggregation platform.

Gustzi

Guszti is our front-end developer. Guszti is responsible for bringing to life the many crazy – and not so crazy – design and UX/UI directions and multiple subsequent iterations, which our product people are and will be coming up with.

behrooz

Behrooz is one of our back-end developers. Behrooz works on our API aggregation platform and ensures that the growing number of APIs we’re dealing with can be easily implemented in our platform, regardless of the NDC version they’re based on.

Mike

Mikhail is the latest addition to the team. As a back-end developer, Mikhail is working on the integration of our API distribution platform into our online marketplace, so it fully supports the brand new search and booking experience we’re designing.


Meet the designers!

Jessica

Jessica is our UX/UI designer. Together with our CPO and co-founder Marco, Jessica has a great and exciting challenge: rethink the experience of buying air travel online, by making simple, transparent and user-centric.

Markus

Markus is our visual designer. Markus is bringing the final and a key component into our product equation: excitement. His job is to make sure we get a great sense of what we should expect from our choice of airline, product and services, and fare.

Anna

Anna is our product manager. Her job is to make sure that we remain agile as our online marketplace grows in scope and complexity, and work as one team, on the right stuff at the right time.

Rafaela

Rafalea is our intern. Rafalea is helping our visual designer with the many product sketches that we’re and will be producing. She won’t be short of work, we can guarantee this!


Especially if you have registered through our main web page,  very soon you will be able to witness what this great team is capable of, and get a first glimpse at the prototype version of our online marketplace. 

So stay tuned for more exciting news!

 

flyiin featured as a case study

PAGE, Germany’s reference magazine for creative and design-related businesses, is featuring a 6 page article on flyiin in their September issue.

20160729 - flyiin - PAGE article screenshot

This is our first appearance in the news, needless to say that it is making us very happy and proud. It also confirms that our investment in building a meaningful consumer brand early on makes sense. It is helping us building that awareness that will be key in attracting early adopters towards the private beta version of our marketplace, to be released next March.

This article focuses on the concept of Minimum Viable Branding developed by our partner think moto and describes how our brand has been evolving as our company matured and established itself. If you wish to learn more about the evolution of our brand and company – and if you read German! – purchase your copy of PAGE’s September issue.

What’s next in our journey? The release of a fully functional prototype to search and shop for flights and selected associated services. Give us another twelve weeks, and you’ll be the first to see what we meant by “re-inventing online air travel”.

Minimum Viable Branding

20160615 - CXI_16 - 1Should early stage startups invest in their brand early on? Yes, they should. This was basically our key message to +500 brand managers, corporate branding agencies and students who attended this year’s CXI conference.

Discussing the concept of ‘Minimum Viable Branding’ with our partner think moto, we explained how working on our brand early on helped our young company refine our product vision, define our company culture and strengthen our relationships with airlines, investors and partners.

Our brand is our product-to-be

When flyiin emerged as a venture opportunity, all we had then was a promise, i.e. the promise of a digital product that will address the deficiencies of online travel agencies and travel meta-search engines, for the benefits of airlines and travelers.

As a marketplace, it was – and still is – essential to get airlines on-board. And that meant translating our promise into something tangible, something that could best convey the relevance of our planned product to airlines.We therefore asked think moto to design a number of product screens and based on those, develop a visual prototype of how our product could feel like.

And in order to make those screens and prototype credible, we needed a brand. think moto therefore took in the values to be associated to our product (transparency, simplicity and excitement), did some basic industry research and came up with our first corporate identity.

That was the first step in our Minimum Viable Brand journey: our brand was our product-to-be.

Our brand is our company-to-be

This first branding exercise helped us validate our product vision with airlines and bring some of them closer to flyiin. At that point, we were then ready to take on the next challenge: tell our story to the investment community.

flyiin - screen captureThat implied that we needed to be clearer on the type of company we wanted to be. Our co-founding team then got together and spent half a day defining our “brand persona” and “brand filters”, which interestingly enough ended up being closely aligned to our product values.

With those at hand, think moto was able to take a fresh look at our brand and come up with a corporate identity that best reflected who we were to be as a company: caring, clear and intriguing. The result are the logo and associated imagery you can now enjoy in our landing page, this blog page or twitter profile.

Our brand is our strength

20160615 - CXI_16 - 2The most interesting about this Minimum Viable Branding approach is that one will immediately feel whether or not her brand has reached the desired level of maturity. In our case, our new identity felt right from the day it was publicly released. Why? Simply because from that very day, we experienced a completely new and positive dynamic within our small company, which translated into a number of recent developments that will play an essential role in our future success.

Our key takeaway from this branding journey: as our brand expressed greater self-confidence and maturity, we as a company also became more assertive and established in the eyes of airlines, investors and partners.

Congratulations to the winners

Last weekend, our wonderful city of Berlin welcomed around 100 developers from around the globe, who took part in IATA’s 2nd hackathon dedicated to their latest distribution standard New Distribution Capability (NDC).

As per our earlier post, when the opportunity of mentoring the participants and being of one the sponsors, we didn’t hesitate for a second. At flyiin, we feel very strongly about the role NDC will play in modernizing the way air travel will be marketed to travellers, and therefore welcome this type of events.

27248648432_a932f9e98c_zReflecting on our takeaways from this event, first we have to say that we were impressed by the number of teams and people participating in the hackathon. For a company like ours whose growth will depend on the adoption of the standard by airlines, it is comforting to see that the developer community is investing time and energy on the topic of NDC. We hope this will trigger more and more airlines to follow the example of BA and others, and build their own NDC API.

Not surprisingly, many of these teams chose to follow the popular trend of “travel concierge/personal assistant”, which the travel distribution sector seems to be so found of these days. This said, the execution capabilities demonstrated by most teams were simply stunning. In less than 40 hours, or less, not only did they have to get accustomed to new APIs, but they also had to get a good grasp of the dynamics of business travel sector.

27248650682_e4984f2f94_zTake the winner of the ‘business traveler journey’ challenge for instance. Designed and built by Barcelona-based startup Caravelo, Nina can be described as a self-booking tool re-thought for today’s corporate travellers, i.e. those that make extensive use of slack or similar messenger services. Although I’d expect the app was in the works prior to the hackathon, Nina was a good example of a product that could be easily be commercialised tomorrow, as it is perfectly aligned to the key requirements of the entire business travel value chain: the travel management company, corporate travel managers, and obviously the corporate travellers.

26738987724_967b9e6aaa_zThe ‘travel data’ challenge also showed how some of the teams had identified key gaps in business travel. BudgetR, an app developed by a team of very talented developers, provides corporations with the opportunity to define how much each of its employees can spend on travel amenities and optional services, and let these employees purchase those on the spot. The app  also comes with an analytics module that helps corporations predict the future costs of flights, including the costs of optional services. Great idea, and again great execution, especially considering the fact that it was developed from scratch during the duration of the hackathon.

So congratulations to the two winners (and to Cicero, PTA and Flycal for winning the ‘developer’ and ‘take off’ prizes!)

Seven UX/UI design principles for better web & mobile apps

This weekend, around 100 developers will take part in IATA’s 2nd NDC Hackathon in Berlin. As highlighted in an earlier blog post, flyiin will be one of the event’s sponsors,

This morning, our co-founder and CPO Marco Spies led a webinar on the topic of UX/UI, during which he shared with the audience seven key UX/UI principles  to design and build better web and mobile applications.

If you’re one of the participants to the hackathon and couldn’t make it this morning, or simply interested in the topic, please feel free to check Marco’s presentation below.

We also have a PDF copy of the slide set, which you can download for your convenience.

flyiin and Digital Natives to build airline retailing

Because we aspire to radically rethink the way air travel is planned and purchased online, we are making a bold move. Instead of using the search and booking technology provided by one of the Global Distribution Systems (GDS), we have chosen to develop our own, proprietary, 100% NDC-compliant airline retailing platform.

Although such endeavour is now feasible, it is no small task. What we are talking about here is to substitute the proven, however now limited, distribution technology built by the GDS with a new, API-based, retailing technology. This new technology will leverage IATA’s NDC, as well as the airlines’ own retailing and order management capabilities… ultimately providing a much needed flexibility, especially with regards to the distribution of airlines’ à la carte services.

dina_logoThis is why we have joined forces with Digital Natives, a Budapest-based software development company. Digital Natives shares our belief that the time is right to build an alternative to GDS-based distribution technology that will make it easier for a new digital channel like flyiin to deliver the level of transparency and simplicity that the users of our air travel marketplace will expect and want.

While in Berlin we will concentrate on designing and building the most engaging online marketplace for air travel, our friends in Budapest will bring their exceptional technical skills to the design and development of our airline retailing platform, its connections to our partner airlines’ APIs, and finally to its constant enhancement as these airline APIs become richer and more diverse.

In case you wish to learn more about our partnership, feel free to get in touch.

Kristóf Bárdos
kristof@digitalnatives.hu

Stéphane Pingaud
spingaud@flyiin.com