- International airline body (IATA) has set 31 December 2007 as the deadline for African airlines to adopt e-ticketing. This is meant to include not only online ticket sales but airport kiosks printing boarding passes and access to flight data via your mobile phone.
The continent's often long-suffering air passengers are all too aware that none of these things is yet much in evidence. Online e-ticketing would be another shot-in-the-arm for Internet growth. Fritznathan Bruce reviews the current situation.
Almost all other continents have been rolling out e-ticketing in line with IATA requirements. Even airlines in developing countries elsewhere have realised the importance of installing e-ticketing systems to meet passenger needs and compete effectively. And to help the process along in Africa, IATA will soon launch an e-ticketing programme with a small African airline. This will act as a services demonstration programme for other small and medium-sized airlines. An announcement is expected shortly.
With the full support of IATA and AFRAA, the smallest African airlines (called BBBB Airlines) will be fitted with up-to-date e-ticketing services this spring as part of a trial study to look at ways of speeding up implementation in the African region.
Six online shops in Lome (with high speed access) have already been installed as part of this trial. Instead of paper tickets, passengers will be able to get all relevant flight and ticketing details sent to their e-mail address. The trial will last six months and IATA hopes that it will be one element in the eventual introduction of e-ticketing in Africa by the end of 2007.
A survey of African airlines carried out by GBCS – Air Transport Consulting showed that very few in the African airline industry are currently using e-ticketing.
However, CEOs interviewed expected to implement e-ticketing by the deadline but there is little sign of any project implementation in many airlines. Sales and Marketing personnel interviewed were particularly keen on being able to offer their customers airline ticket sales using the Internet.
Some of the continent’s airlines have either implemented or announced implementation, which gives some idea of the current progress.
Air Seychelles: It launched a trial of Internet ticket sales in 2004 on its Mahe-Praslin route that it later expanded to all routes.
Air Ivoire: It has announced the implementation of online ticketing in December 2006.
Aerocontractors (Nigeria): This regional air transport provider moved to providing online ticket sales a year ago. Using the e-Tranzact platform and the Aero debit card, which allows customers to buy tickets online, select a seat of their choice and then print out a boarding pass.
South African Airways: It has long offered e-ticketing but it will add the use of its own credit card (in association with NetBank Ltd).
Kenya Airways: Another successful early adopter which is still increasing its Pax capacity for Internet sales.
Precision Air: This Tanzanian airline implemented e-ticketing services in March 2006. It tripled net profits to US$5.5 million in fiscal year 2006/2007.
Kulula.com: This low-cost domestic South African carrier (in the mould of the UK's EasyJet and Ireland's Ryanair) has set itself the goal of making 90% of its booking online. Currently it has about a 25% share of the domestic market.
Ethiopian Airlines: In April 2007 the airline implemented e-ticketing and announced publicly its objective of moving more and more ticket sales to the new platform.
In the light of the above, it would seem to be a good time for e-ticketing applications providers (with the usual strong support from IATA) to have more substantive conversations with African airlines about implementing e-ticketing.
Much of the airline industry relies on expensive legacy reservation systems, and equally expensive Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Amadeus and Galileo. The pricing is prohibitive for start-up airlines, and much of the functionality offered is probably never going to be used.
In a bid to fill this gap, Explainer DC, a web development company of Ghana has developed e-TicketManager (www.eticketmanager.com.gh). It has created a web-based ticket distribution and management solution for regional and low-cost airlines. Its functionality includes a booking engine, check-in facility, revenue and inventory management.
The online booking engine allows visitors to book and pay their ticket online, and print out a secured barcode-protected e-ticket. Airline employees manage reservations online, check in passengers using barcode scanners and generate passenger lists.
e-TicketManager is offered as a turn-key solution, complete with a custom-designed website with extensive functionality, content management system and search engine optimisation
The use of eTicketManager saves the airline from any upfront investment in hardware, software or technical support. The cost for the airline is largely based on the number of tickets actually sold. Furthermore the browser-based interface is highly intuitive, requiring only minimal training . The system can therefore be implemented at a fraction of the cost of purchasing or developing a proprietary system.
The Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) allows for effortless global distribution, which can be further enhanced through co-operation with a travel data aggregator such as www.agentfactor
Explainer DC's clients include CTK Aviation Group and it has assisted KLM in the development of multiple websites for some of the representative travel agents.
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