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.
Hotelbeds Group has a huge market coverage allowing you to distribute accommodations, activities, and transfers in 185 countries. It has a few APIs but all with the same integration process, so we’ll walk you through it.
- Register for a test key. This will create an account in Mashery – an API database that powers Hotelbeds and many other APIs in different industries.
- After receiving a confirmation email, generate your API key, which will give you access to documentation and the Sandbox. At this stage, you’ll also need to choose at least one Hotelbeds API that you’re planning to choose. There are three: Booking API, Content API, and Cache API. Read a brief explanation here.
- Be prepared for integration. You will be contacted by a Hotelbeds representative.
Sabre is one of three main global distribution systems (GDSs) on the market, along with Amadeus and Travelport. GDS is a database of travel data pulled from various service providers that connect travel agents with hotels, airlines, car rentals, cruises, and railways. What used to be a manual system with each reservation taking up to 3 hours is now a global network. Sabre was the first of such GDSs. Basically, you can’t make the reservation process automatic without connection to this system.
You can use just one GDS – Sabre, for example – or a combination of a few, but if you specialize in only cruises or railways, research which GDS gives you a better shot at covering all providers. As you can see from the image below, Amadeus is an undisputed leader in everything but hotels, and with Sabre you’ll receive an average number of companies, only if you don’t want to cover all the cruises.
The TripAdvisor Content API allows you to display detailed information about accommodations, restaurants, and attractions on your website. Integrating TripAdvisor Content API is fairly easy.
- Of course, first review the display requirements because it should be approved before the launch on your website.
- Submit an application form. Note, that access to the API is limited and it may take a while to receive a confirmation or rejection email.
- In the last section, you’ll have to describe how the API will be displayed, which is where you need to know the requirements from the step one.
Galileo is one of three GDSs along with Apollo and Worldspan that comprise Travelport GDS. Travelport has a pretty straightforward workflow to get started with product.
- Request trial access to Galileo APIs and submit a form on Travelport’s website. There, you’ll have to choose your preferred GDS from the three (Galileo in your case). This is free, and you will receive a key to Galileo in a few minutes. Here’s a link to documentation to help you.
- When you’re done with testing, contact an Account Manager from your profile or Travelport itself, and they will supply you with authorization.
- After you are authorized, contract finalization and certification will start. This is called the Pre-Production stage. Travelport asks you to complete a Universal API Requirements Questionnaire [.docx] to evaluate your capacity needs. After completion, you should request a sales representative call to review your questionnaire and finalize certification.
- When you receive your API certification, you enter the Production system. Make sure your developers and systems comply with Travelport’s requirements. You will receive further instructions from your account manager.
Skyscanner is a large metasearch engine that provides a set of info APIs totally free. This means you can source their data, but you won’t be able to set booking on your website. You have to redirect users to either Skyscanner or straight to a supplier. But, you can earn a commission once you generate more than about $1300 worth of revenue per month. To do that, you must first get API access as Skyscanner vets candidates and not all of them are rewarded with access. Once you reach the $1300 threshold, you can sign a contract with Skyscanner and directly negotiate your commission.
- Skyscanner is a well-recognized metasearch business that has been on the market since 2001 and currently accesses about 1200 providers worldwide.
- They keep their tech and documentation up to date. It’s transparent: You can always ask questions and solve problems.
- They use RESTful API with both JSON and XML available.
- You get access to both cached and live data. For instance, you can use cached data (that updates up to every 14 days for unpopular routes and more often for popular ones) to make flex search comparison of flight fares and retrieve live quotes for specific dates that a user requests.
- You can enroll in a partnership for free. And once you start generating more than £1000 or ~$1300, you can start earning.
- The main problem is that not just any business gets accepted by Skyscanner. Even though theoretically everyone can get access, they’ll vet your company to make sure that you are capable of generating revenue and attracting users.
- No surprise, there are limits. If you’re looking for live prices, you can make up to 100 calls per minute.
- Skyscanner forbids caching on your side. In other words, you can’t store old prices to build, say, a flex-fare search based on previous user requests. You still have to use their cache, which is limited to 500 fares per minute.
- You have to make sure that all your customers know that your app is powered by Skyscanner by adding a message to that effect. Theoretically, you can negotiate something else, but you must refer to them by default.
There are mainly two types of use cases for integrating Booking.com APIs.
Accommodation booking by travel providers. The model is quite simple. You enroll in the affiliate program and then use the Booking.com API and other affiliate products to either sell rooms from their inventory for a part of a commission or redirect users to Booking.com. The example of the former integration is Aegean Air, a Greek airline that allows travelers to book rooms in addition to flights. The latter is Rome2Rio.com, an itinerary planning and travel search platform. While Aegean uses full Booking.com functionality under its brand, Rome2Rio suggests accommodations, ratings, and pricing with range filters coming from the Booking.com inventory.
APIs for channel managers. Another major API package is Connectivity. It suggests channel managers and other connectivity providers integrating Booking.com as one of the sales channels. Examples for integration are all the popular accommodation channel managers that you can think of (SiteMinder, Dhisco, DerbySoft, etc.) Also keep in mind that Booking.com doesn’t allow properties to connect directly. If you’re a hotel owner, you must connect via a channel manager only. You can set your property management page on the Booking.com portal and pick your channel manager from there.
While they are subsidiaries of the same holding company, there are some differences both in terms of business models and the ways they partner with affiliates.
Booking.com is an online travel agency, meaning that travelers pay a hotel directly for a stay including a fee to an affiliate and Booking itself. They use a progressive approach to affiliate earnings. In other words, the more checkouts per month you generate, the higher your earning rate is. For instance, if you bring only 0-50 customers, your rate will be 25 percent. If you make 501 or more, you get 40 percent. Booking provides an API. You can also place branded banners and widgets on your website or integrate a search box.
Agoda combines a travel agency model (similar to Booking.com) with that of a wholesaler. The latter means that at some hotels they purchase an inventory in advance to sell at a higher rate. Agoda also suggests a progressive approach, but in this case, you can get 35-60 percent in commission earnings. You can use an API, Agoda ads, links to integrate with the portal, and some other tools.
As you’ve guessed, Booking is a more robust and complex product than Agoda. And it deals with a lot more customers daily, being the largest accommodation OTA in the world. It’s also a more trusted one. On the other hand, with Agoda you have the potential of earning a higher commission per checkout.
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.
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?