You’ve probably had such a situation at least once when buying a ticket online: you found a really good fare and are just about to book it when all of a sudden the system gives you an error telling that there’s no such ticket in the system at the moment. What follows next in most cases is that you book the same flight for a higher price just to get the flight in general. Such problems are not that rare and are actually one of the main reasons for customer complaints in the USA. But despite the common belief that it’s an intentional practice set up by airlines to make it impossible for you to buy cheap air tickets the root of the problem is a bit different and lies in the difference between the online and the actual booking networks that aren’t very well synchronized.
Types of air tickets booking networks
When you enter a site that carries airline tickets you are consulting with an online source that in turn has access to an international booking network carrying all the ticket details and the prices. The main problem is that while this international booking network works in real time the Internet doesn’t. As much as we love the web for its instantaneous access to any information it is still subject to a considerable lag that becomes rather apparent when dealing with real time systems such as the booking one. So it’s rather common for a ticket booking site to still feature information on a ticket that has already been sold in the actual booking system. Needless to say, such a state of affairs is rather annoying and there are increasing demands to review both the standards and the method operation to put these two kinds of databases into a perfect sync. But things aren’t as simple as they seem.
New initiative for booking standards
The International Air Transportation Association has come up with a new proposal entitled New Distribution Capability, which would impose new standards for air flight booking that would make it possible for all travelers to access real-time information on all flights and tickets. This initiative is still pending US Government review and approval but there are already voices speaking in favor and against the NDC. The proponents of the new set of standards are rather optimistic in regards to the possibilities the NDC will offer to both the airlines and the passengers. IATA state that by sharing some personal information with the system travelers will be able to choose from different airlines and flights in real time, while all airlines including the ones with weaker presence will make part of the real-time booking system and provide more intense competition that would allow for cheap air tickets to appear more often. However, the opponents to NDC in the form of Open Allies for Airline Transparency, which consist of technology experts and agents, have a different view on the possible outcomes of this new initiative.
The new proposal’s drawbacks
The OAAT coalition states that cheap air tickets will actually be harder to find since the system will lack flexibility and transparency. The fact that the customer will have to share his or her personal information with the airline implies a rather likely scenario that the company will only offer air ticket prices if you share your personal information and not a moment sooner. This means that you will have to do this over and over again with each airline while comparing airfares from different carriers in real-time will be impossible. Taking such criticism into account, the NDC initiative becomes more of a killer of cheap airline tickets than a savior. But it will only be clear once the US Government reviews and decides on this new proposal that is still pending.