Consumer VOICE

E-Ticketing

E-Ticketing
For a Convenient (and Cheaper) Travel Experience

If you are one of those Internet search freaks who keep finding and sharing amazing information, you will agree that almost every day some new advancement in technology happens and it leaves us, well, amazed. Many of these advancements are focused at adding convenience, speed and leisure in our lives. One of the best technological advancements in this century is arguably the Internet and we need no explanation to justify the same. Here, in this article, we are discussing e-ticketing, which is a miniscule part of e-commerce and yet perhaps the most attractive feature of the Internet in India—after search engines, emails and social media, of course.

The idea of putting together this article is to build your confidence in buying your tickets online and also to share some interesting facts on how it all began and where it is probably headed. The CV team ventured into the e-ticketing space and spoke to companies that run major ticketing portals, and came back with insights to make us understand this space better. E-Ticketing For a Convenient (and Cheaper) Travel Experience

Scene India

In a recent report on e-commerce, Milan Sheth, Partner and Technology Industry Leader, Ernst & Young, India, said, ‘Internet has become an integral part of this growing population segment for remaining connected with friends, accessing emails, buying movie tickets and ordering food. The changing lifestyles of the country’s urban population have also led to many people relying on the Internet for their shopping needs. The convenience of shopping from the comfort of one’s home and having a wide product assortment to choose from has brought about increased reliance on the online medium.’

This is testimony to the growing importance of e-commerce in our daily lives. One of the most astounding facts about e-commerce is its ability to save time and human resource efforts. Until a few years ago it would have been mindboggling to think that the applications of e-commerce would make such a range of activities – from paying utility bills to booking movie or travel tickets to buying almost anything – so convenient. Just login, do some click, click, click, and it will be done in a few minutes, without you having to pull out the wallet or sign cheques.

Interestingly, the first monetary transactions that revolutionized the Indian e-commerce space have been for buying travel tickets. The travel e-ticketing space – the fastest growing e-commerce business in India – is gaining from intense competition and reduced prices of domestic air tickets.

What Is It and How It All Began

The e-ticketing business or what it means is quite self-explanatory – it is about choosing the best mode of conveyance and the best suited fare, and reserving your seat instantly via the agent’s website.

The first e-ticketing experience dates back to the last decade when print air tickets in the United States were transformed into e-tickets. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) website confirms, ‘United Airlines was the first airline to issue electronic tickets, back in 1994. A decade later, however, only 20 per cent of all airline tickets were electronic. The industry was missing out on an opportunity to save costs and make travel for passengers easier. In June 2004, IATA set an industry target of 100 per cent electronic tickets in four years. At that time, many believed this was an unrealistic goal. Evolving standards, uncertainty about the return on investment and scepticism about the customer acceptance of paper in parts of the world were some of the reasons why e-ticketing had not taken off.’

The website further claims, ‘But, soon on 1 June 2008, the industry moved to 100 per cent electronic ticketing and the paper ticket became a thing of the past. Apart from substantial cost savings for the industry of up to US$3bilion per year, electronic ticket is also more convenient for passengers who no longer have to worry about losing tickets and can make changes to itineraries more easily.’

Behind-the-Scene Model

Many of you would not know how multiple websites are able to sell tickets of almost all airlines and reserve hotels across the country. How do these websites manage to get so many stakeholders together to give you a one-stop-shop type of service?

Well, the system works in partnerships wherein the portal, the agencies and the hotels come together and share revenues on sales. According to a Ernst & Young report, ‘Rebirth of e-Commerce in India’, in the online travel segment global distribution systems (GDS), online travel agencies (OTA), airlines and hotels are engaged in providing information on tickets, hotel room inventory and tour packages. Revenue models depend on partnerships among these players. Airlines either sell their tickets directly to customers or through GDSs and OTAs. GDSs offer air and railway tickets, car rental information and hotel rooms. This makes it compelling for OTAs to partner with them.

The report further says, ‘OTAs also directly partner with airlines, hotels, railways and bus services. Meta search engines partner with airlines and hotels to provide customers with a common portal that encompasses information from all OTAs and airline portals. This helps their customers obtain information on the best prices available on a single website.’

This is how it works for the travel and tourism industry, which claims the maximum percentage in terms of e-commerce-generated revenue, followed by the entertainment industry – now catching up with e-ticketing for movies and events.

Things to Look at When Booking a Flight Online

Your booking sites may not highlight all these points

Compare price:  Online booking sites versus airlines
You can book a flight through a booking site but it is recommended to check the fare of the same flight on the airline’s website too. It has been noted that booking directly with the airline sometimes turns out to be cheaper and offers more security. Having said this, online booking sites do come handy since you can use them to compare airfare deals and find vacation packages.

Number of stops : Looking at the price difference versus the number of stops on an itinerary is a good way to look at the value of a ticket. Is it worth it for you to have to connect two times before getting to your destination, just to save a few bucks? It might be for some people and it might not be for others.

Baggage allowance : As airlines continue to find additional streams of income to manage their costs, more and more airlines are charging fees for heavy baggage or even for every single piece of luggage. If you are travelling to exhibit at a trade show, you’ll probably have some material, banners and brochures that could fill several extra pieces of luggage. In this case, going for a slightly more expensive fare that includes more baggage allowance could end up being more cost-effective overall.

Flight time :  If you are not a morning person, then be prepared to pay more, as is generally seen in price trends in India. Always keep the flight times in mind when picking an airfare, although in many cases, as a result of bad weather conditions, there could be flight delays that would change those times for you. Also factor in the connecting time if you have to switch planes.

Entering the wrong details while booking : It may be an obvious one, but one of the mistakes to avoid when booking a flight online is to enter the wrong personal information and flight details. In case you did not know, you have to pay a ridiculous sum to some international airlines for getting corrected a simple mistake like a misspelled surname.

Avoid last-minute bookings : Two or three weeks may seem like a lot of time before booking a flight but it is definitely not advisable since you can get much cheaper flight tickets when booking at least eight to nine weeks in advance.

Using a credit card : Another mistake to avoid when booking a flight online is using your credit card. Using your credit card to pay for your vacation may be tempting, but if you really don’t want to be overcharged astronomically you’ll be wise not to use a credit card (use a debit card instead).

Credit cards are not a great idea because airlines typically charge anything between 0.5 per cent and 5 per cent per booking. It may not sound like a lot when booking a domestic flight, but 5 per cent per booking on a Rs 50,000 flight ticket means you are losing Rs 2,500.

Asad Waseem from Consumer Voice in a brief conversation with Rajeev Magow, CEO, MakeMyTrip. com

Q. Why should consumers book online? Do you think it is a better option as compared to going via a brick-and-mortar agency?

Online is convenient, it offers choice, and there is transparency in the transaction. What you see is what you get. The payment is also completely secure. Today all you need is a smartphone and a variety of e-commerce experiences, and the entire planning, researching and booking process can be completed online. Our travel-booking apps not only enable customers to search and book flights, hotels and bus on the move, but also offer value-added services such as booking cancellation, tracking the status of refunds, retrieving e-tickets and vouchers, checking flight status and looking for alternate arrangements in case of last-minute delays.

They also provide geo-targeted search results, allowing users to easily find dining options that are near their current location. The information is delivered through an intuitive and interactive interface. MakeMyTrip offers the widest and most secure set of payment options. Customers can also pay via IVR and post a transaction via EasyPay facility.

To cater to feature-phone users without a data connection, we have built an assortment of travel solutions that are available on SMS, including flight search and India’s first SMS-based bus-ticket booking service. This enables feature/entry-level phone users to harness the power of the mobile by booking bus tickets with an SMS.

Q. What does your consumer research/survey say about consumers’ perceptions while booking online?

One out of eight air tickets bought in India is bought through MakeMyTrip.com. This is a clear indicator of how comfortable people are about searching and booking online to get the best airfares. The propensity to search and book travel online is expanding to other product categories as well. The convenience, choice and transparency of online bookings will continue to attract and retain more travellers.

Internet penetration and robustness of network are the key concern areas in non-metros. From an awareness point, people are quite confident that they will find the best airfares online. Online payment options are among the most secure options available to the customer with data privacy virtually guaranteed compared to offline credit card payments.

While customers are confident making high-value purchases on fashion and lifestyle websites, categories such as hotels and holiday packages have taken time to migrate online. The research happens online but the purchase and transaction is usually offline. Things are changing, though, and we see more and more customers getting comfortable in booking hotels as well as holidays online.

Q. Can there be a cash-on-delivery model for tickets too?

We experimented with it but there are certain challenges here. Airline inventory is dynamic and the price of ticket fluctuates as per availability and travel date. So, for flight tickets this model is not satisfactory. We do offer this service for international flight tickets.

We do have a Pay@Hotel model wherein the customer can book a hotel by paying a token amount of five rupees on the website and then pay the rest of the money at the hotel itself after checking the room and ensuring it is to their preference.

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