Ai Editorial: 6 examples of how travel e-commerce is counting on API strategy

First Published on 22nd March, 2019

The role of APIs in running a progressive organization is increasingly coming to the fore. Ai’s Ritesh Gupta assesses 6 ways in which APIs are helping travel e-commerce companies.


Be it for overcoming the issue of siloed backend systems and integrating data to improve the passenger experience or letting cross-functional collaborate and focus on incremental delivery of capabilities, the efficacy of APIs and API-oriented connectivity can’t be undermined.

Here we assess how certain travel companies are taking lead and moving ahead to make the most of their APIs:

  1. Evolving business model: The travel industry is taking notice of Airbnb’s end-to-end travel platform. This is reflective of the fact that Airbnb is gradually moving from its focus on “where to stay” and “what to do” to “how to get there”. For this, the expertise of engineering and data science in coming into play. The objective is to optimize the value of context i. e. to ensure content served or inventory presented clicks with the user.  Airbnb has been refining its knowledge graph to classify its inventory and contextualize the entire platform. One of the highlights of the graph is the presence of nodes (could be entities such as restaurants, experiences etc.) and edges (the sort of relationships that exist between the entities). To build on this, the company possesses a flexible API to query for neighbors connected by certain types of relationships and can index its inventory items by the unique identifiers of their corresponding representation in the knowledge graph. Airbnb asserts that this is a solid foundation to understand what one’s trip possible could be all about. 
  1. Expanding reach: The openness of an API, which is a mechanism to allows two applications to interact with each other, isn’t a restricting factor anymore. An established carrier, in an interview with Ai, acknowledged that their open API could be used in several foreign markets including China, except the booking capability which is being only trialled in a certain market. This restricted approach in China, for instance not introducing booking capability via open API isn’t surprising considering the hurdles - there is a language barrier, a broad domestic ecosystem of potential API users that follow different approaches when developing digital platforms and end-consumers with China-specific consumption characteristics. “Although travel is a global game, we do not believe in simply extending existing offerings made in our local market, but in thoughtful tailoring to the local needs with our distribution colleagues that have a substantial knowledge of this important market,” shared a senior executive working with the same airline.
  1. Sublime CX: Specialists like MuleSoft recommend that retailers need to rely on modern APIs (follow standards that are developer-friendly and easily accessible, and are treated more like products than code) to connect their customer behavior data through API-led connectivity. Eventually retailers are able to assimilate their customer data from distinct sources and capture the value of that data to foster better personalization on their own platforms. Overall, if agile organizations manage to connect, analyze, and use data from multiple applications and systems , then API-led connectivity is the key. Travel companies, including airlines, are already counting on APIs to capitalize on real-time information and improving the passenger’s experience.
  1. Featuring early in the booking funnel: Travellers shop for their trip on several channels, and the “dreaming/ inspiration” phase happens outside the airline domain. How can airlines jump into a moment when a consumer is liking a picture or a video on a 3rd party app? As shown by easyJet, the airline worked on a new feature for its app that leverages advanced image recognition technology to identify the location and leverages Microsoft Azure APIs to match the photo to easyJet destination. This feature helps users find out where an Instagram photo was taken and which flights users need to book to get there. So this way APIs are helping airlines to get passengers to add value and book with airlines directly. Destination discovery and associated experiences is one area where airlines haven’t excelled in a big way. But this way, by counting on mobile technology, social media and APIs, airlines can play their part in shortening the research phase of leisure travellers. 
  1. Development new projects faster: The payment infrastructure and internal alignment paves way for payment optimization at KLM. One of the core strengths of the group has proven to be the agile environment and the cross-functional expertise, involving the front-end, back-end API teams and payments team that helps in working on new projects faster.
  1. Distribution + data processing: As for those airlines trying to support distribution via their own APIs, one shouldn’t underestimate what it takes to adopt and execute on a strategy of NDC API distribution. They need to sharpen their data processing capabilities in order to process in real-time the potentially huge volumes of valuable search data from NDC APIs.  


How is your API strategy coming along?

Hear from senior industry executives about APIs at this year’s Ancillary Merchandising Conference, scheduled to take place in London, UK (9-11 April, 2019).

For more info about Ancillary Merchandising Conference, click here

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