Airline Flight Booking APIs: GDSs, Specialized Data Providers, OTAs, and Metasearch Engines

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IATA’s recent passenger survey reports reveal interesting data about traveler preferences: International travel accounts for 64 percent of all airline traffic with Asia-Pacific, African, Latin American, and Middle Eastern regions experiencing a rise in demand. Besides that, passengers are expecting advanced booking functionalities, including bag tracking, notifications, flight status updates, and info about leg space. So, if you’re building an OTA, a booking app, or website, you should consider giving your customers access to as much useful information as possible and looking for tools that enable these integrations. If you’ve researched travel connectivity for a while, you might have seen our huge overview of travel APIs. However, in this article and an accompanying infographic, we’ll focus on sources for flight data and describe only flight distribution APIs.

How does airline distribution work?

This information is collected and stored in a GDS, a third-party network with real-time access to such information. GDSs first appeared in 1978 and have been providing the opportunity to check the information about inventory and book seats for a particular flight. To aggregate this data, GDSs connect to an airline computer reservation system (CRS) on one side. On the other side, a GDS connects to a travel agent’s terminal, an OTA, app, or a website via API.

How GDS distribution works

The three leading GDSs are Sabre, Amadeus, and Travelport. Also there are smaller regional GDSs like Travelsky (China), KIU System (Latin America), Sirena-Travel (Russia), Axess and Infini from Japan, and more.

When a travel agency or a flight search app requires a GDS connection, they need a solution to connect their software with it. For this purpose, Application Programming Interface or API exists. An API is a medium between different software products, which links them without interfering with the source code. Besides flight APIs, there are car rental or hotel booking APIs that can be integrated into a website so that the visitors could connect to third-party services without switching between websites. Flight APIs works the same way: You can integrate them into your website or app for a fee and provide your users with the opportunity to book flights and access different flight data.

We can divide flight distribution APIs into three groups depending on their providers: GDSs, tech providers, and metasearch engines or OTAs. These providers have different business models and sets of features that we’ll discuss in the next sections of the article.

GDS APIs for full booking capabilities: Amadeus, Sabre, Travelport, and others

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Main GDSs

Amadeus APIs

Via its GDS, Amadeus provides an application for business booking Amadeus cytric Travel & Expense, an app that allows users to search and book flights via mobile, and Amadeus Air-Rail Display for real-time booking for both rail and air travel. As the world’s largest GDS, Amadeus provides a huge number of booking APIs that are available in two sets: Enterprise and Self-service.

Enterprise APIs provide all transportation types, hotels, and ancillary services reservation, as well as the payments. This set of APIs is available for production needs. Enterprise APIs work in REST/JSON and SOAP/XML formats. The flight API allows users to:

Also these APIs have customer profiles and queue management solutions. There also are several APIs for every type of distribution, either for booking or information retrieval — suitable only for displaying flight schedules and the lowest fares. The pricing of Enterprise APIs is available on request and depends upon client’s needs.

Self-Service APIs serve for testing and production purposes. These APIs provide access to cached information on flights, schedules, fares, hotels, and points of interest at the destination. The last feature was developed recently and displays ranked data about the places of interest. Self-Service APIs use REST/JSON messaging standards.

This set offers a limited number of free requests in a testing environment. If APIs are used in the production environment, each request is charged from approximately €0.0025 to €0.030.

Pyton Flight Portal API

Pyton Flight Portal API/XML is a solution focused on low-cost carriers. It provides direct connections to 100+ low-cost airlines worldwide. The functions of the API are:

Pyton Leisure Portal API/XML is also available as a white label with integration to a website, call center, or a travel agency module. This API is available as a custom solution. This module has the following functionality:

Unlike Amadeus API, it provides no travel insurance bookings and has no scheduling functionality.

Sabre APIs

Sabre is the second largest GDS and has an API set similar to Amadeus’ without offering insurance and airport transfers. Sabre APIs use SOAP/REST messaging formats. The APIs enable data retrieval and booking. They cover:

  • Flight schedules and availability
  • Fares
  • Queue activity
  • PRN records
  • Itineraries
  • Mileage count
  • Transactions
  • Flight details
  • Ancillary booking
  • Low-fare history
  • Low-fare forecast (available in a beta version)
  • Passenger details
  • Seat map

The price of Sabre API is available on request.

Travelport API

Since 2012 Travelport has cooperated with AXESS International Network, a leading Japanese GDS network, created and owned by Japanese Airlines (JAL), which uses Travelport API for flight distribution. Recently the companies announced the launch of a new joint venture company that’s expected to be formed by the June 1, 2019.

Travelport provides access to all its GDSs via a single Travelport Universal API. This API uses XML messaging format. It books flights from American, European, African, Asian, and Middle Eastern airlines. The Travelport Universal API booking functionality of covers:

  • Flights (branded fares and schedules)
  • Connected routes (air and rail)
  • Ancillary services booking

Ancillary services available for booking differ depending on airlines. but include baggage, meals, and travel insurance. Travelport charges an annual fee for Universal API use. The fee is available on request.

Mystifly API

Mystifly offers MyFareBox OnePointAPI integration that connects to several GDSs and distributes flight data in XML messaging format. The main focus of Mystifly API is the low-cost carrier data. The functionality of this API covers:

KIU API

Sirena-Travel API

  • Search for one-way flights
  • Search for two-way flights
  • Search for flights by city or airport
  • Search by departure time, airline, class, for direct and multicity flights
  • Flight search results filtered by price, air carrier, flight duration, number of changes
  • Rate terms
  • Air ticket orders by ticket number, passenger name, air carrier
  • Frequent Flyer Program (FFP) cards

TravelSky API

Infini API

Tech service provider APIs for flight booking: ATPCO, Orysis Infotech, eTravos, HitchHiker, and more

ATPCO API

  • Fares
  • Boarding priority
  • Leg searches
  • Ancillary booking (baggage, meals, entertainment)
  • Flight amenities (layout, entertainment, Wi-Fi, food and beverages)
  • Seat width and legroom
  • Universal Product Attributes: aircraft photos, videos, virtual tours

Orysis Infotech Flight GDS and XML API Integration Service

  • Access to the list of GDS flights
  • Ability to see the trip details (flight name and number, arrival and departure data, number of stops if the flight is not direct)
  • Use filter search
  • Select seats
  • See fare details (fees, taxes, rates)
  • Access baggage information
  • Check PNR status

eTravos Flight booking API

Flight booking API provides connection to 11 NDC adopters, over 750 airlines, including full-service carriers (FSC) and 225 low-cost carriers. The API’s features are:

Also eTravos offers separate GDS API integration. These APIs serve to connect with Amadeus, Sabre, and Travelport. Depending on the GDS connected, reservation functionality can include tour and cruise booking. The solution integrates with web and mobile apps, Desktop Agency application integration, and an online-booking tool — Flight Booking Engine (FBE) with corporate booking support.

The HitchHiker Flight API

The API doesn’t cover scheduling information. The solution can be customized according to client’s needs with customer support.

Tech service providers’ APIs for flight information: SITA, Innovata, OAG, and more

SITA APIs

  • Airport services
  • Flight tracking and schedules
  • NDC distribution
  • Beacon service
  • Baggage tracking
  • Boarding priority
  • Weather
  • Wait time in airports

Innovata APIs

  • Flight schedules
  • Routing connection
  • Airline and airport IATA codes

OAG APIs

FlightStats APIs

FlightStats Flex APIs provides real-time flight data including:

  • Historical flight status
  • Connections
  • Schedules
  • Airlines and airports
  • Flight Information Display System connection
  • Alerts
  • Delays
  • Flight ratings
  • Weather

FlightStats Trip Data APIs provide push services for monitoring flight information and sending trip alerts to travelers and travel agents, as well as flight status.

And, FlightStats has one more product, Travel Waiver Services, which automates refund of ticket cost if the problem was caused by strikes, natural disasters, or extreme weather.

OpenFlights Airports Database API

FlightGlobal APIs

Metasearch and OTA APIs for smaller booking providers: Skyscanner, momondo, Kiwi and Travelfusion

Skyscanner APIs

Browse Flight Prices API shows the following cached information from their suppliers:

  • Cheapest prices
  • Outbound and inbound flights
  • Destinations
  • Dates in a calendar format

Notice that this API doesn’t update the content live. If you need live data, use Live Flight Prices API, which updates the information mentioned above and retrieves it for price comparison for particular dates and itineraries.

To use Skyscanner API, enroll in their affiliate program and get access to the free set of APIs. Skyscanner API is subscription-free and has no query-driven payments. Later, the provider charges users with a commission based on traffic.

Travelfusion APIs

  • Branded fares
  • Supported card types
  • Multilingual terms & conditions
  • Multilingual email confirmation
  • Card verification
  • Flight extras
  • Speedy boarding
  • Booking cancelation and change
  • Frequent flyer number
  • Seat preferences and options
  • Luggage requirements

Recently Travelfusion launched Fast API for pre-packaged vacations, flight, and hotel booking. This API is easier to integrate and aims at widgets, mobile services, and web platforms. The price of integration depends upon the purpose and business type and is available on request.

Kiwi APIs

  • Fare classes
  • Aircraft equipment
  • Bag limit and prices
  • Currency and currency rate
  • Return duration
  • Distance
  • Length of stopover
  • Multicity flights

momondo API

To access this API, you have to become a part of their Affiliate Network programs.

Final word: What to consider before flight booking API integration?

Scope of functionality. Do you need only schedules and fares, or do you want to give your users an extended booking opportunity? Or maybe you want to enable your users to purchase travel insurance?

Region. If you are targeting Europe, consider APIs that integrate with Amadeus GDS; if you want to reach Latin America, consider KIU GDS integration, and so on.

Business model. As a rule, direct GDS APIs charge per request — not the cheapest option. Choosing a tech provider that charges for the first connection or even gives you access to the database right away is much more preferable. And last but not least, pay attention to airlines your API connects to. If you are going to include low-cost carriers, make sure that your API integrates with them.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

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Being a Technology & Solution Consulting company, AltexSoft co-builds technology products to help companies accelerate growth.

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