E-ticketing sets airlines on a digital path that will reach another milestone in ONE Order.

Customer needs and behaviors are changing. A modern passenger might well fly to a major hub and then use a short-haul low-cost service to a regional airport, buying a variety of ancillary services from the airline along the way, such as lounge access or a rental car.

If any part of the itinerary that is contracted with the airline needs confirmation during travel, or a query arises, that modern passenger expects a single access point for all aspects of service provision. In essence, they would want one version of the truth, a single reference travel document that covers all service provision. This is ONE Order.

What ONE Order means for aviation partners

ONE Order will facilitate product delivery and settlement between airlines and their partners through a simplified and standardized order management process.

Travelers will no longer need to juggle between different reference numbers and documents. With a single reference number, they will be easily recognized by all service providers.

Travel agents, meanwhile, will be able to follow an identical process to book flights and products from airlines, regardless of an airline’s business model or technology capability. And airlines, in turn, benefit by avoiding timely and expensive reconciliation exercises between different references.

First step

The initiative’s roots stretch back a decade, when airlines switched over to an e-ticketing system and consigned the paper ticket to history. This was an important first step in the industry’s digital transformation and has rightly become a landmark moment for aviation.

But it was only that; a first step. The project essentially turned a paper process into an electronic one. Even so, it was enough to set the seed for future advances. The New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard, for example, has been able to build on this electronic backbone and enables airlines to offer the customer a full suite of choices from a rich product base, no matter the channel being used.

ONE Order—like NDC, essentially an industry standard rather than a system—takes the next logical step. When an airline customer makes a purchase—regardless of what is bought and who ultimately supplies the goods or service—just one record is created, easily tracked by customer and suppliers alike.

Many more pilots are planned, and the proper certification is being pursued. The aim is to have pioneer airlines using ONE Order—or at least a limited version—in a live environment by 2020

The initiative replaces the multiple and rigid booking, ticketing, delivery and accounting methods used by airlines and aviation partners by deploying the data communications advances made possible by the implementation of NDC.

Through ONE Order, aviation stakeholders will be able to exchange real-time information on travelers, and their travel purchases, enhancing data consistency and accelerating reporting.

Multiple reservation records as well as e-ticket and electronic miscellaneous document (EMD) concepts will be phased out. In their place will be a standardized and expandable reference that will become the single access point for customer orders by third parties, including interline partners, distribution channels, ground handling agents and airport staff.

“ONE Order represents a significant simplification of airline back-office processes,” says Sebastien Touraine, IATA’s Head of the ONE Order program. “It will make airlines more efficient and provide customers with a superior service proposition.”

Organic development

Reducing complexity won’t be easy, however. Over the years, airlines have developed bespoke IT ecosystems, replete with their own jargon. The passenger name record (PNR), containing the traveler’s identity and itinerary or services entitled sends information to a departure control system and so forth, while the e-ticket functions as a record of payment and as a mechanism to track services delivery.

This organic development is entirely understandable in the context of the industry but has run its course, says Touraine. The internet has enabled universal connectivity and airlines must take advantage if they are to offer customers the service they expect.

“Aviation needs to talk in internet e-commerce retailing terms,” Touraine advises. “The jargon that is so familiar to industry insiders has limited airlines commercially. Airlines need more efficient processes if they are to operate as better retailers and run their back-office like a normal business.”

Use cases

The ONE Order standard is now in testing. One pilot involves Amadeus and British Airways and will examine both the operational and the financial side of ONE Order, from offer creation up to the financials. Feedback from this pilot will be shared with IATA and other industry players to contribute to the development of the standard.

A 2018 pilot, meanwhile, combines the expertise of the International Airlines Group and SAP. The project has developed a proof of concept using ONE Order.

The four-month project relied on the SAP Commerce to deliver the order management capabilities and SAP Sales Revenue Billing for the order accounting.

The pilot delivered eight separate use cases that covered basic end-to-end booking and accounting flows for card and frequent flyer miles payment, flight and ancillary products and voluntary and involuntary change scenarios.

Many more pilots are planned, and the proper certification is being pursued. The aim is to have pioneer airlines using ONE Order—or at least a limited version—in a live environment by 2020.

Nothing has yet been formally decided regarding targets post-2020, but obviously more airlines and more transactions will be at the core of future endeavors.

“If airlines want to be better retailers, selling more than flights, then ONE Order is essential,” Touraine sums up. “It is the obvious way to go. But this is a major industry project and every stakeholder has plenty to do in the next few years.”