Airfare Fulfilment Systems and Platforms

Chapter 2

Airfare Fulfilment Systems and Platforms

The last chapter discussed the various sales channels. We will now focus on the systems and processes in place to facilitate the booking of a seat from an airline’s ‘inventory’ to the traveler.  

Airline Alliances

An airline alliance is when multiple airlines form an alliance to work together. This helps reduce costs and provides numerous traveler benefits – such as: More destinations, a larger network of airport lounges, integrated mileage rewards, more departure times, etc.

There are 3 major alliances in the industry:
Oneworld, Star Alliance, and Sky Team.

Airline alliances usually collaborate using a codeshare agreement. Under a codeshare agreement, two or more airlines can actually share the same flight. For instance, you can purchase a seat from one airline for a flight on another airline, and under a different flight number!

(Codeshare is similar, but not the same as interlining. Interline simply means that they will allow you to be on the same itinerary and transfer your bags between the two carriers. However, they usually do not have the capability to issue boarding passes for each other.)

What’s a CRS?

A computer reservation system or central reservation system (CRS) is a computerized system used by airlines (as well as hotels, car rentals, and other travel related companies) to conduct and keep track of all their transactions. This includes ‘inventory’ of available seats, as well as the system used to book and manage them.


A passenger name record (PNR) is a record in a CRS that consists of a unique record locator number, the personal information and itinerary details of the passenger, or a group of passengers travelling together. The concept of a PNR was introduced by airlines that needed to exchange reservation information in case passengers required flights on multiple airlines to reach their destination (via codeshare or interlining). There is no general industry standard for the layout and content of a PNR. In practice, each CRS or hosting system has its own proprietary standards, although common industry needs have resulted in many general similarities in data content and format between all of the major systems.

How It Used to Work

As recently as the late 1970s, each airline worked exclusively within their own CRS. There were no central booking engines, and in order to find all the available flight options for their clients, travel agents would need to contact each airline individually.

The drawbacks to this system were huge:

  1. Agents would need to make multiple calls and spend enormous amounts of time and resources.
  2. Even after all the calls, the travel options were still limited to the few airlines they had called and researched.
  3. Often by the time the passenger was ready to book, the flight or seat options were no longer available.

Chapter 2 Takeaways…

  • Three major alliances: Oneworld, Star Alliance, and Sky Team
  • Alliances collaborate via a codeshare agreement
  • A CRS is an airline’s computerized system
  • A PNR is a record in a CRS that consists of a unique record locator number, the personal information and itinerary details