Virtual Interlining FAQs: Meeting Consumer Demands with Affordable and Flexible Itineraries

May 15, 2024

Virtual interlining (VI) is emerging as a popular approach for online travel agencies (OTAs) to create and sell airline itineraries to their customers. This approach mitigates many of the issues that customers face with traditional interlining: poor experiences, fewer choices in airlines, and little or no personalization in itineraries.

This blog explores how VI addresses these issues. It answers some of the questions most frequently asked by OTAs around VI and shows how OTAs can leverage VI solutions like Trip Ninja to create affordable and flexible itineraries for budget travellers and in doing so, increase their own revenues and profits.


What is Virtual Interlining?

VI is an approach to connect flights and create itineraries using technology. A VI solution combines multiple flights from different non-allied airlines to present customers with a customized, affordable itinerary. By creating a new network of connections in real-time, VI enables passengers to access more flight options than they would be able to do with traditionally interlined itineraries. The tickets for each flight are separate and have distinct PNRs (passenger name records).


What is Difference between Traditional Interlining and Virtual Interlining?

The main difference between VI and traditional interlining is that VI does not require formal alliances between airlines. Rather, it relies on innovative technology solutions like Trip Ninja’s API to combine multiple flights on multiple airlines into one itinerary. Trip Ninja’s VI solution mixes and matches content from multiple carriers to create new connections and generate personalized, flexible, and low-cost itineraries that OTAs can then present to each of their customers.


What is the Link between Virtual Interlining and Self-Connecting Travel?

VI and self-connecting travel, or self-transfer, go hand in hand. Virtual Interlining technology helps to create a network of connections and generate itineraries that may not be available with traditional interline agreements. That said, since the airlines don’t have interline agreements, their flights operate independently, so passengers must complete a self-transfer at the midpoint. This transfer may involve re-claiming and checking baggage as well as additional security screenings.


How does Virtual Interlining Help Travellers to Save Money?

Traditional interlined itineraries enable flyers to enjoy seamless journeys, thanks to single-point check-in, baggage control, and the possibility of rebooking flights in the event of disruptions. However, these itineraries can also be prohibitive financially, as the complexity and costs of interline environments discourage low-cost carriers (LCCs) from engaging in interline alliances. Consequently, interlined itineraries generally cost more than virtually interlined itineraries, which is a significant drawback for price-conscious travellers.

VI allows OTAs to provide flyers with more and cheaper flight and transfer options between non-cooperating airlines. The itineraries can be customized to match a customer’s budget. Also, it can include LCC flights, further reducing its cost and allowing customers to save even more money on their trip.

How does Virtual Interlining Help OTAs to Make Money?

VI technology enables OTAs to expand their inventory and provide more travel options to customers. By leveraging machine-learning driven API solutions like Trip Ninja, OTAs can generate and deliver customized itineraries in real time that are i) cheaper than traditional interlined itineraries and ii) are within specific risk tolerances set by the OTA, including % probability of mis-connection, and more. To learn more about how Trip Ninja manages risk, check out our previous blog here.

Composing Vi itineraries within set parameters helps OTAs satisfy customer needs, enhance customer experiences, and serve a wider range of travellers. In doing so, they can attract more customers, increase conversions, and increase their revenues, profits, and market share.

OTAs can increase their conversions, revenues, and market share with VI by building a custom VI solution. However, this requires a large investment of time, money, and resources, which not all OTAs can make.

Another option is to leverage another company’s API that provides access to LCCs and VI fares. But it can be difficult to be difficult to implement, maintain, and organize such APIs, especially for smaller OTAs. Also, some APIs may not work with an OTA’s existing infrastructure, or they may be too expensive to fit the OTA’s IT budget.

Trip Ninja’s VI API offers a user-friendly, low-cost way for OTAs to directly connect with multiple data sources and thus create new combinations of flight connections at cheaper rates. These combinations would not be available under a single alliance generated from GDSs and other content sources.

Trip Ninja uses machine learning algorithms to identify the most efficient queries and an OTA’s content configurations, so the OTA can use their existing content sources in a smarter, more profitable way. Moreover, OTAs can set their preferred minimum connecting times to offer itineraries that align with their risk tolerance and customer service, thus mitigating the risk of missed connections and improving customer experiences.

Discover how Trip Ninja helps OTAs to offer more flight options and cheaper flight options to increase bookings and markups. Schedule a free demo.

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