It’s overwhelming how much technology transforms the way we travel. Mobile check-ins increase customer satisfaction tenfold, content from travel brands helps travelers make a final decision about destinations, and the whole 83 percent of millennials don’t bother about personal data sharing as long as it gives them the desired personalization. AR tours, data-driven flight shopping, Alexa in hotel rooms – this is just the tip of the TravelTech iceberg. Here, on Techtalks, you can discover new opportunities for your travel business, ask about the integration of certain technology, and of course – help others by sharing your experiences and reviews. Let’s grow the TravelTech community together.
There’s also some support at online travel agencies (Skyscanner, Priceline, etc). To access those, you normally must use affiliate partner contacts. Finally, one of the largest car rental suppliers, Avis, has a public API.
Besides APIs, many suppliers support affiliate links and banners, if that works for you. You may check car rental connectivity options in our article in more detail.
Thank you for the question.
Airlines used to pay commissions to travel agencies for reselling their tickets but they rarely do it today. Commission cuts started in the 2000s and these days they’ve been brought down almost to zero. Though, airlines still give agencies a productivity-linked incentive of two percent on average.
If not commissions than what?
These days, OTAs rather make money by topping the flight price with markups. OTA’s commission engine adjusts markup sizes depending on a number of factors like current demand, competition, season, etc.
Agencies have other income streams like service fees, consultation or planning fees, insurance costs. In addition, OTAs provide other services like hotels or car rentals where the commission situation is more favorable.
Besides that, OTAs have agreements with some airlines that allow them to negotiate more favorable terms for selling their tickets. Usually, it means aligning with a host agency or consortium.
We totally understand your desire to tap into the cruise line industry, as it’s a rapidly growing sector within the global tourism market. However, it’s not that simple. You must have noticed that there are significantly fewer APIs for cruises than for flights, hotels, and car rentals as it’s a quite reserved space. Still, we’re not agitating for web scraping as it’s a quite unreliable way to aggregate data.
Out of all global distribution systems, only Amadeus provides APIs to access 53 connected lines. Have a look at their SOAP Enterprise Cruise APIs. Their Fare Availability API can respond with available prices from a particular cruise provider on a certain date. You can ask Amadeus for access to try it out.
Also, there are technology partners in the distribution of cruises. They offer cruise aggregation platforms you can connect to and have access to the integrated suppliers (e.g. Travelopro, Traveltek, Trawex, IST). But of course, none of them are free.
You can also go your own way of partnering and making XML connections with each cruise supplier separately. For example, MSC Cruises offers its partners an API Technology allowing for prices, availability, and bookings. Alternatively, they have a catalog with their routes and rates suitable for a "search tool" and a "quick request function", as they claim. It’s called Flat File and you’ll need to download it daily from their database. But not many cruise lines are as integration-friendly as MSC. If you're interested in any specific integrations, contact our sales team and we can advise you on the best approach.
There are almost no absolutely free APIs in the travel industry. One way or another, you have to pay for product use. That said, you may enroll in affiliate programs to share commission fees with a provider or just try sandbox versions for your MVP. Here are some popular APIs that you can get kinda free or with shared fees.
Travel Innovation Sandbox by Amadeus
Sandbox APIs include: flights, hotels, cars, trains, and points of interest.
How? Just register, get your API key, and you’re good to go.
Limitations: No commercial use. No more than 5 concurrent transactions and no more than 5,000 calls per user per month.
Use cases: PoC, testing, student works.
API Explorer by Sabre
Flights, hotels, ground transportation, and cruises. Additionally, fare ranges, low fare forecasts and history, top flight destinations, and air travel seasonality.
How? After you fill out the test API form, the Sabre account manager will contact you and provide you with a token.
Limitations. No commercial use. You get access to REST APIs only, while Sabre also suggests a set of SOAP APIs. Depending on your profile, some APIs may not be available at all.
Use cases: PoC, testing.
The API includes info on flights. As soon as you generate over about $1300 worth of revenue per month, you can start earning.
How? You directly request API access from Skyscanner.
Limitations. Only info sourcing with no booking. They’ll vet you. Live flights calls are limited to 100 per minute, flights cache up to 500 per minute, car hire up to 100 per minute.
Use cases: Metasearch startups.
You get real-time flight and aircraft info.
How? It’s open and can be used right away.
Limitations. Noncommercial use.
Use cases. PoC, student works, nonprofit projects.
The API is mostly aimed at accommodations. You become their affiliate partner and receive part of the booking fee.
How? Apply for an affiliate program and receive your API access.
Limitations. Booking will vet you. Some APIs may not be available and no more than 20 simultaneous API connections are allowed.
Use cases. Accommodation booking.
Very similar terms are available at Agoda Affiliate Program as they belong to Booking Holdings.
Expedia Rapid APIs
The APIs are also aimed at accommodations. As with Booking.com, you get an affiliate fee.
How? Apply for the affiliate program and receive your API access.
Limitations. Each API has its limits of updates per message. Consult the FAQ at each API documentation for specifics.
Use cases. Accommodation booking.
Ticketmaster provides info about and ticket reservations for concerts and sport events. They have two open APIs that are free to use.
How? You have to create an account on the developer portal.
Limitations. Up to 5000 API calls per day.
Use cases. Tour and attraction services.
Other suggestions to try?
Yes, ATPCO would be the first place to go to get fare classes. Unfortunately, we haven’t worked with their API directly. Also, have you checked Kiwi API? They provide fare basis, fare family, and fare class info.
Thanks for asking.
In the API integration, there are two parties. So how you establish the connection will depend on what you are attempting to achieve and the API you pick.
First, you. What’s your flight website? Do you want to enable booking or only provide flight-related information to your users? Are you targeting specific regions or want to service worldwide? Not in the last place are such constraints as budget and resources. Based on these facts you’ll be choosing an API with the corresponding capabilities and coverage.
Whether you choose to integrate with a GDS, a tech service provider, an OTA, or a metasearch, the process will differ. For instance, GDS will feed you pools of raw airline data, while OTAs and metasearch have it sorted out but in their own way. If you haven’t settled on the API provider yet, read our article about flight booking APIs.
Once you know the platform you’d like to pull data from, go through its API documentation and play around with its test version, if it’s available. You’ll need an HTTP client to make calls to the API.
Now that you’re sure your website will benefit from using this API, obtain the API key for access and find out if the provider assists with integration or offers a pre-built API connection. If not, you may involve a third-party integrator. Prior to the release, make sure to validate the API responses from your side.
We at AltexSoft specialize in travel APIs integration. Only recently, we’ve rebuilt an OTA’s booking engine integrating Amadeus GDS into it. So you can specify your situation to us and we can give you more tailored advice.
We can tell you’ve done quite a research on this topic. And we feel you.
The functionality of Amadeus’ self-service API has a number of limitations. But the reality is that it’s the only self-service API available among the global distribution systems. Other GDS solutions are truly legacy cumbersome systems. And that’s one of the key hindrances to smooth airline distribution.
As for Skyscanner, you’re right. On a case by case basis they accept only those businesses capable of generating traffic and attracting users. So if you’re only setting your foot in the travel industry, chances are you might not hear from them soon, if at all. In addition, Skyscanner API won’t allow for facilitating bookings as it’s a metasearch.
Now, regarding ATPCO, the main fares provider. In terms of the traditional flight distribution, ATPCO is an intermediary that transmits tariffs from an airline to a GDS.
ATPCO’s JSON Routehappy API has direct connections with GDSs and some airlines. Akin to Skyscanner, they won’t enable booking capabilities. The API access involves monthly payments starting from $2,500, which may not fit into the budget.
If your distribution market isn’t too big, you may try connecting to each airline directly avoiding GDS. If you decide to follow this path, you’ll need to adopt the New Distribution Capability XML standard.
As you can see, many scenarios are possible in your case. As we have extensive experience in building OTAs, we surely can give you good advice, to say the least. But for this purpose, we’ll need to dive deeper into your situation. So why don’t we keep our communication in DMs? Contact our sales team and they’ll sync you with our best experts.
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut for building a price comparison tool.
You may think of web scraping - extracting prices using crawlers. But be aware that it will entail a lot of headache such as inventory consistency and even lawsuits.
A legal way of doing so is to get OTAs’ permission to source their prices. By partnering with Expedia, you’ll get access to its EPS Rapid Shopping API that returns available rooms with live rates and other details like promos, rate refundability, cancellation penalties, etc.
As for Booking.com, they offer Demand API that allows for retrieving live rates and availability. However, they prohibit the affiliates to use their property content for price comparison. But maybe you’ll manage to find a way around that through the direct communication with the OTA.
After you’ve affiliated with these hospitality giants, next comes inventory mapping. And here hotel mapping providers may be of help to you. They’ll take care that the prices are correct and all the hotel-related data is aligned eliminating any duplicates.
Once you connect to a hotel’s channel manager and the OTAs via their APIs from one side, and to a hotel mapping provider’s API from the other side, you’re all set to build your price comparison widget. Alternatively, you can turn to a tech company like AltexSoft, so that we can do it for you.
White label and an API are two different solutions which serve a similar purpose - communication between the two platforms.
White label is a ready-made unbranded template that you can deploy on your website and it will link you to the provider of certain services. So now your customers won’t need to leave your site as they can access what they need from your page. Additionally, you can tailor a white label to match your brand. This way your customers won’t tell that it’s not a part of your website but a third-party template.
An example of a travel white labeled product is a template solution by Expedia that allows for adding their accommodation bookings to your website. You can read more about it in our article about Expedia Partner Solutions.
Working in the back end, an API pulls out the requested data from external servers and displays it on your side in your way. This means that you design your own interface and use the data only. When deciding on a travel API, you can check our article with the major APIs on the travel market.
Of two options, API involves a more sophisticated integration but at the same time, it’s more adjustable. Prior to getting at it, answer yourself whether you do need an API for this specific product. Oftentimes it turns out that a white label solution will do for you. And with minimal tech resources (the company you take the white label from, does the work for you) you can quickly include a travel solution in your platform.
Unfortunately, as of January 23rd, SAP Concur terminated this travel metasearch turning down its co-founders’ buyback offer. While there might be some efforts taken to revive the brand, in the meantime, we suggest looking at some other alternatives.
The first substitutes that come to mind are Skyscanner and Kayak. Both offer flights, hotels, and car rental APIs while Kayak also distributes trains and package tours data.
But getting access to these APIs might be hard for small businesses. Kayak doesn’t permit integration unless your platform has more than 100,000 monthly visitors. In case of no response, we advise considering APIs of Global Distribution Systems like Amadeus. Their self-service air and hotel APIs are free for test environments, while fees apply when you exceed the number of free calls.
You may find more providers to consider in our extensive article on travel APIs.
It depends. There’s no single best flight API. Your choice depends on the specific problem you’re trying to solve (e.g. enable flight and fare search, or track flight status with departure and arrival times, or enable flight booking). Generally, there are two basic options: source data from global distribution systems (or GDSs, the major, worldwide flight aggregators) or directly from airlines. In some cases, you can check APIs by tech providers like FlightStats.
If you need the widest airline coverage and you want to implement flight booking, check GDS APIs by Sabre, Travelport, and Amadeus. Each of them covers about 400 active airlines. They search for flights and low fares, and do booking and ticketing. The problem with this approach is that some airlines like Lufthansa set surcharges for booking through GDSs because they want to encourage direct booking or direct cooperation with resellers.
So, the option is to integrate and partner directly with each airline you need. That, however, presents an even larger number of problems as there are only about 40 airlines that have standardized XML-based APIs and each of them is slightly different. So, the engineering effort may be enormous. On the bright side, with direct connections, you get the widest ancillary booking support, seat selection, baggage customization options, etc. The most balanced approach to flight search and booking is to combine GDSs with some direct integrations.
If your goal is general info without booking capabilities, you may not need GDS or direct integration. The first place to go for fresh flight fare data is ATPCO, the main fare distribution provider. The largest pool for timetables, routes, and connections is provided by Innovata, a travel tech company. Also check FlightStats and Flightradar24 for flight and airport details like delay indexes, arrivals and departures, aircraft equipment, airport FIDS, flight status, etc.
If you need something simple and don’t want to go through raw airline data, you may contact OTAs or metasearch platforms to integrate their APIs. The key provider here is Skyscanner, but also consider Expedia or Kiwi.
For more details, have a look at our travel API's articles.
Yes, generally it’s better to become a travel agent, more expensive, but if you get returns they will be way higher than those of an affiliate. As an agent you’ll must be able to do all customer service (e.g. cancellation management), which isn’t the case for an affiliate.
You can start off with contacting wholesalers (or bed banks) if you plan on working with hotels. Check Hotelbeds, WebBeds, and there are a whole lot of other niche wholesalers. They provide access to content, availability, pricing, and booking capability. And it’s easier for newcomers to work with hotels rather than flights as usually you get higher commissions and can test your hypothesis and marketing strategy.
Then you can try flights using either the affiliate model or by working with flight consolidators. In fact, there are very few ways you can start selling flights and ticketing them without the IATA agent certification.
Yes, Travelpayouts looks like a nice option. Rome2Rio doesn’t have booking capability. It has search only.
If you’re fine with affiliate programs, also check Skyscanner, Allmyles, and KIWI. You may also consider Booking.com and Expedia affiliate programs, but they mostly address accommodation booking.
Amadeus has two API packages: Web Services and Travel Innovation Sandbox. The former is created for students or startups, as an exploration stage before the actual production. Amadeus Web Services also has two sets of APIs: Self-Service and Enterprise.
Self-Service is also a testing-only environment, but the production usage promises to be available soon. To try it out, review Amadeus’ catalog of REST/JSON APIs and then create an account in the Developers portal. In your personal profile, you will automatically get an API key that allows you to start testing APIs right away.
Enterprise APIs require requesting an access. The approval takes longer to receive, but you will get access to the full Amadeus API catalog. You can read about each API in the Enterprise stack here.
As for examples, see Aladdin Travel – a travel management company that uses Amadeus GDS to organize corporate and student travel. There’s also Titan Travel that specializes in escorted and solo tours. It switched to Amadeus exclusively after unsuccessfully trying to handle Galileo systems also.
Booking.com-owned OTA, Priceline has Partner Network’s API set for retrieving dynamic rates and availability as well as booking hotels, cars for rent, flights, and bundle packaging. You don’t have to integrate everything but can opt for a certain product. Besides the HTTPS-based API, Priceline partners can also get an adaptable private label solution. Note that they only consider partners who produce no less than five bookings per day. You’ll also have to tell about your company, its target customers, and make predictions as to your bookings growth. So if you meet the entry requirements and would like to make use of the Priceline API, fill out their contact form.
You can enroll in their affiliate program and then use a RESTful API. Useful info can be found here. Basically, you apply and, if approved, you get all needed credentials and can find the key in their Partner Portal.
Then you can enter a testing environment to try you requests and configure the integration.
The final step is to ensure that your site meets Expedia requirements. You’ll undergo their review prior to going live and then you’ll start working with end-users.
Hotelbeds is the leading wholesaler on the market with proven technology support and rich inventory. So, it’s definitely the first place to try. HotelsPro is much smaller, but it’s also worth checking out as they claim to have content mapping technology. If you get hotels from multiple sources, content mapping is a need-to-have feature. But keep in mind that you can also get content mapping from tech companies that specialize in it, like Giata or Gimmonix.
Besides the technical part of it, your choice boils down to specific deals that you can negotiate with wholesalers. If you can get better rates at HotelsPro, it may be the best option for you.
Also, check out our article on hotel APIs for more detail.