Flybe is creating an XML-based web services option that will allow third parties to directly access its pricing and booking engine without the need for them to resort to so-called ‘screen-scraping’ activity.This is a move designed
to protect its main website booking engine and confirms the carrier’s active support of, and
commitment to, those online retailers that provide a valued revenue stream.
The airline’s website, www.flybe.com, is renowned for being strongly supported by a mature and
innovative IT capability that is able to keep abreast of industry trends.
Stephen Hobday, Flybe’s Head of Sales comments: “By taking seats directly from our website, online
agencies provide a valued revenue stream at minimal distribution cost. As technology continues to
evolve, it will be inevitable that demand from web-based platforms such as those used by flight
aggregators, dot coms and providers of travel agent and corporate booking tools, will increase.
“To make the process more robust and appropriate to the expectations of our partners, Flybe are in
the latter stages of developing and testing Web Services allowing online agents to connect to its
API (Application Programming Interface). By providing a direct feed from our inventory to the online
retailer there will be significant benefit to both the customer and the airline.”
Mr Hobday goes on to explain that the current method of ‘screen-scraping’, whereby the customer
extracts information from Flybe’s website, has the limitation of not being able to
automatically identify any enhancements that the airline makes to the booking process. “This can
create varying amounts of ‘down time’ whilst both parties re-define code to reflect the changes,”
“This can result in a loss of revenue all round and an associated resource cost. However, with Web
Services, the online agency will be connected to our outgoing feed so will no longer need to go via
our website and will benefit from all of Flybe’s product development.
“Undoubtedly, as volume increases from Screen Scrapers, particularly during peak periods or when
our schedules launch, there is the potential that the speed of our public website may be affected.
However, Web Services takes the process away from the main booking engine and ensures that the
procedure is not compromised.”
Concludes Mr Hobday, “In the online environment, Web Services is becoming the de-facto
messaging standard. The onus is on us to integrate this in to our strategy and continue to work with
our partners in what can only be viewed as a win-win situation for everyone.”