A new order management process is going to radically change how corporate customers buy flights
Do you know what One Order is? I’ll give you three guesses. If you think One Order may be a super-group formed by crossing boy band heartthrobs One Direction with sulky Mancunian indie cult heroes New Order, you’re wrong. If you think it’s a dodgy European far-right organisation whose memes have been retweeted by President Trump, you’re wrong again.
If, on the other hand, you believe it’s the next big idea from IATA, and considered by some pundits way more significant for corporate travel than the much-trumpeted New Distribution Capability, you’re bang on.
Today, when you book a flight, at least two documents are created in the distribution process: a passenger name record (the booking record) and the ticket (which acts as both proof of payment and the accounting document). If you buy an ancillary benefit, such as preferred seating or a meal, a third is created: an electronic miscellaneous document (EMD).
One Order replaces these several records with a single order management process similar to what you see when you buy on Amazon or pretty well any other retail website. Therefore, from the time the booking is made all the way through to accounting – pretrip, on-trip or post-trip – it’s all there in one coordinated record. Fans of the new technology, such as IAG (International Airlines Group), have already piloted One Order and it’s likely to be introduced over the next three to four years.
The efficiency boost from an interoperable process that any authorised party can tap into is immediately obvious. If a flight is delayed, for example, the airline, ground handler and travel management company can all access the information using the same unique reference. If one of those parties updates the record – say by rebooking the passenger to a later flight – everyone can see the alteration. That doesn’t always happen today.
But once you start to think about One Order, what becomes really exciting is the jettisoning of decades-old practices peculiar to aviation and replacing them with a way of working that’s just like the rest of the ecommerce world.
For corporate clients, potential implications to name but three could be real-time air spend data that is truly pro-rated (showing how much money went to each carrier on a trip involving more than one carrier); clearer insight into airline delivery against the priced contract; and an opportunity to pay airlines by invoice just as you would any other supplier.
One Order also raises the intriguing possibility of intermediaries from outside travel moving into selling airline seats. Digital commerce software provider SAP Hybris is already carrying out trials. But what about an online purchasing platform such as SAP Ariba, or indeed an Amazon Business Travel, stepping in? Is that how corporate customers might buy their flights in future?
A bit of verbal
As a middle-aged male I am pretty much contractually obliged to get grumpy about matters of little consequence. So here goes.
The latest verbal nail screeching down my internal blackboard is the word ‘accommodations’. Quite what has initiated this development, principally in the US, is beyond me, but suddenly it’s popping up everywhere in business travel discourse.
“When it comes to accommodations...” begins a sentence from one well-known TMC. Why? I could swear that a few years ago it would have been ‘accommodation’ in the singular. The word ‘accommodation’ in this context is already a collective noun, implying a plurality of properties, so why add a superfluous ‘s’? What next? Aviations? Car hires? We might as well stick an ‘s’ on the end of everythings.
Also I give fair warning that I fully intend to garotte the next journalist who regurgitates the contemporary clichés “Who knew?” (as in “Ants love yoghurt. Who knew?”) or “whip-smart”. No court in the land would convict.
Speaking of language and corporate travel, I am co-producer of the conference programme for the Business Travel Show. When we drafted in a TMC exec as a late speaker for the recent event, I asked for the gentleman’s job title. ‘Head of land product’ came the response. I wrote back suggesting that made him sound like a purveyor of manure. A week later they reconsidered and changed his title to head of hotel supplier relations.