TripStack, part of Etraveli Group, has named NokAir as the first carrier for its virtual interlining solution.
The technology, called Self Connect for Airlines, enables carriers to retain customers who come to an airline website seeking a destination that the airline does not serve.
TripStack has been developing virtual interlining technology since 2016 and already works with online travel agencies. It presented its solution for online travel agencies at The Phocuswright Conference in 2018.
“The super basic concept is that when customers come to an airline website and search for a destination that the airline may not travel to, instead of the customer going away because they don’t get what they need, we have partnered with Nok to provide virtual interlining or other itineraries to the customer where at least NokAir is part of that itinerary,” TripStack CEO Gabor Toth said.
TripStack also gives back to the airlines via a revenue share agreement, he said, which helps airlines to “further monetize the traffic on their websites. They get a booking, and we take all the risk.”
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Before the pandemic airlines were not really interested in virtual interlining, but now they recognize it as a revenue opportunity, said John Boguslawski, co-founder and head of business development at TripStack.
“There’s more consolidation in the OTA space than in the airline space, in my opinion,” he said. “There are new airlines starting up all the time, and every airline is buying more planes. So the opportunity is there, and more and more airlines want to act like OTAs, they understand ancillary revenue, they see this as another revenue driver.”
Toth added: “I think it’s an incredibly significant opportunity. There’s an interesting statistic that 85% of all bookings are still done direct on the airline’s website, so if you think of all the metas and OTAs, as big as they are, they still only represent 15% of overall flight bookings. So this is a way to tap into the other 85%.”
The company offers its TripStack guarantee to get customers rebooked or accommodate them overnight if a virtually interlined connection is missed.
TripStack shared internal data revealing that up to 7% of trips were virtually interlined in 2022, adding that this could grow to up to 15% by 2027 if “through baggage” is added.
The company is already working on a “through baggage” solution so that customers no longer have to pick up their luggage before heading for their connecting flight.
“If we have a solution for that, it is revolutionary, in my opinion,” Toth said. “If there’s one thing that is a bit of friction to this it is the baggage. Having said that, it’s also important to mention why do people buy virtual interlining and it’s because there are material savings. It’s 25% to 30% on average, depending on whether it’s international or domestic.”
Last year the company announced a partnership with airline technology provider Navitaire enabling carriers to create virtually interlined itineraries but redirecting customers to a white-label booking site. Now TripStack also hopes to integrate with Navitaire as part of its virtual interlining push and potentially present the content directly on an airline’s website.
Etraveli Group announced its acquisition of TripStack and Flight Network, an OTA, in June 2019.