Unlocking New Routes: How Virtual Interlining Benefits Travellers and OTAs

April 24, 2024

Virtual Interlining (VI) is redefining the boundaries of airline travel, not only for travellers, but also for airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs). And this compelling travel industry disruption is made possible by new technologies, such as SmartFlights API. This article explores the benefits of VI and highlights the role of technology in enabling VI in every day itineraries that matter to budget-conscious travellers.

Traditional Interlining Partnerships and their Drawbacks

One traditional model of airline collaboration, interlining, enables passengers to book itineraries on multiple airlines on a single ticket, check in only once, and avoid the hassle of having to collect and drop off baggage at all transit airports. Also, by providing enhanced connectivity to more destinations, such airline partnerships also enable airlines and OTAs to attract more passengers.

These advantages notwithstanding, the interlining model also has several drawbacks.

  • Price: Interlining involves administrative hassle for airlines within an alliance since they must enter into many types of cooperative agreements with other carriers, including hefty setup costs, ticketing fees and baggage transfer fees. Such pricing structures can discourage low-cost carriers (LCCs), from entering into such partnerships. As a result, they - and OTAs - miss out on numerous revenue-generation opportunities. Passengers also miss out on accessing more flight options, enhanced connectivity, and cheaper fares.
  • Route Availability: Interlining agreements stand to increase the routes available amongst airline partners, however, in our increasingly globalized travel landscape, it is more important than ever to be able to fly from anywhere to anywhere. With only a handful or airline partners within an alliance, it is not possible to extend the availability of routes to everywhere travellers are searching.

Virtual interlining helps to mitigate challenges of traditional interlining by pairing airline partners without existing agreements to reduce itinerary costs and improve route availability.

Virtual Interlining: Creating Benefits for Travellers and OTAs

Virtual interlining is the next era of interlining. VI technology combines any airline into one itinerary with distinct PNRs, regardless of alliance, to create benefits for travellers and OTAs alike:  

  • Travellers: For savvy and budget conscious travellers who are willing to self-transfer to save significantly on their trip, or who need to travel on a route not serviced via traditionally interlined routes, VI can be a game-changer. VI enables flyers  to access more flight and connection options and provides the freedom to create customized itineraries to match their budget or preferences. More importantly, these itineraries are often much cheaper than other itineraries, enabling passengers to engage in cost-effective travel.
  • OTAs:  VI empowers OTAs to offer more choices, unique fare options, and lower prices on multiple flight routes. In doing so, OTAs can sell a wider variety of itineraries and thus attract more customers and earn higher revenues from flight sales. OTAs that publish or bid on metasearch itineraries can use a VI technology like SmartFlights API to construct itineraries that are significantly cheaper to convert on clicks. With SmartFlights VI, OTAs can present itineraries that are within comfortable risk boundaries and in line with their service expectations using Trip Ninja's unique Risk Management Profiles.

Virtual interlining is one travel industry disruption that’s here to stay, because when done right it can equally benefit travellers and OTAs. Trip Ninja empowers OTAs to effortlessly create complex itineraries and maximize revenues with our machine-learning driven SmartFlights VI.

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