Bernie Baldwin

Commercial solutions advisor Patrick Edmond explains the thinking behind managed interlining.

Self-connecting on two different low-fare airlines – separate tickets, re-checking for passenger and luggage, re-booking out of the passenger’s own pocket if a connection is missed. Yet people do it because it can often reduce the overall fare versus that of a full-service carrier with interline agreements.

Edmond observes: “Traditional interlining is effective and works for large carriers. Low-cost carriers don’t want that complexity. Virtual interlining is available, but while this provides insurance, the airlines involved are not working with passengers or other carriers in the itinerary. The PNR is not integrated and each airline cannot see the other sectors during the full journey.” He also notes that poor connections could damage brands.

Managed interlining is Air Black Box’s solution. “It means a lightweight relationship between the airlines; a master PNR lets each see information about the whole journey. So if there’s a delay on Leg 1, other airlines can see what’s happening,” Edmond explains. Another feature of the Air Black Box application is that it is GDSagnostic, which enables an airline to cross-sell inventory and ancillaries on partners’ flights. “This facility is not even available in the
major alliances,” Edmond emphasises. “Airlines still own the customer relationship, but it is an efficient, cost-effective way to establish new airline partnerships.”

The Air Black Box Travel Connection Platform is already in use with Value Alliance, the six airline-strong group in Asia offering 160 routes. “It’s a “one-stop-shop” booking engine, allowing carriers to cross-sell ancillaries with alliance partners or non-aligned carriers in a seamless fashion. The API interface integrates into the selling carrier’s booking flow; the back end offers flexible revenue accounting and settlement options,” Edmond confirms.

The ‘holy grail’ for low-fare airlines in managed interlining is the transfer of checked bags between any two airlines. “With Air Black Box ThruBag, that will become a reality later this year,” Edmond declares. “It will be available at booking or through an API interface after booking. ThruBag will let passengers on separate PNRs check their bags through to their final destination. A traveller can remain airside (where airport flow permits), so it’s good for airports too, as the passenger has more time to spend in the shops of food and beverage outlets.“Also, ThruBag works even without an codeshare or interline agreement between airlines,” Edmond concludes.