Most travellers think in terms of reservations, tickets, boarding passes – but what makes this possible is in fact the Passenger Name Record (PNR) that gets created at the time of booking. It is not an understatement to say that PNR’s are the lifeblood of air travel, because they hold the complete details of a passenger’s booking, including itinerary, contact details, payment details, special requests, flying history, etc. PNRs along with shopping searches are pieces of the puzzle for airlines to get to know their customers better.
In IATA’s NDC-enabled world, when buying airline tickets (and associated travel products), what the traveller is looking for (often via an agent) gets translated into offers by the airline and if acceptable into purchases by the consumer. At this point, a reservation is secured and the PNR is created either by the travel agent, or by the airline directly. In simple terms, the ‘OfferID’ deals with the product the airline is selling, while the PNR combines the purchase with all the details of who the offer being is being sold to. This record is and remains the all-important record that holds all the relevant data for the passenger and the trip, including any amendments along the way. Historically, the GDSs were the creators and keepers of PNR data on behalf of airlines – but in a bid to regain control of the sale of their inventory, airlines will increasingly be the owners of this treasure trove. For PNRs are indeed nuggets of gold in forming that sustainable relationship with the end customer – the person sitting in the seat on the selected flight.
The PNR is the primary ‘data bucket’ created and retained by the airlines. It’s been around in the airline world a very long time and NDC is not changing the way it is created, or the kind of information it stores, at least not yet. Ultimately for NDC to succeed in offering the consumer more price comparison and greater personalisation of offers, fare updating and packaging needs to become more dynamic and flexible than the current practice of feeding industry fare databases with price updates.
No airline can fly everywhere, so NDC has to be built around the hub and spoke business models that have been created. Think alliances and code-sharing and of course interlining. To facilitate GDSs being able to continue to service agents (and their customers), especially with complex itineraries, they will also retain a copy of the PNR, which will be synchronised with that of the airline. The crucial point behind NDC is that airlines will now have access to this customer data at the time of the offer stage, and will therefore be in a better position to use customer context and data to make more relevant and targeted offers to the passenger than they were able to before, opening the door to a whole range of personalisation and personalised pricing in the future.
PNR Data Analysis
Since the PNR is a crucial ‘data bucket’ it stands to reason that the PNR is a rich source of analytics which can help airline marketing, sales, revenue and distribution departments identify efficiencies and opportunities.
The data ammunition for analysis includes:
- Passenger identification – name, frequent flyer ID, etc
- Travel itinerary – flight number, date, leg/sector, origin & destination, etc
- Flight booking details – including, special handling requests, etc
- Non-flight booking details if applicable such as – car rental, hotel,
- Ticketing details – fare basis, taxes & surcharges
- Sales related information – travel agency, booking channel & form of payment.
Other information, such as a timestamp and the agency’s Pseudo-City Code (PCC), are automatically added. PCCs are useful in identifying a particular travel agent office, and not just their head office. Very useful indeed in understanding the respective contributions from different sales channels.
Additional information such as passport details, nationality and date of birth are information requests often mandated by Governments for security reasons. Known separately as Advanced Passenger Information (an unfortunate usurping of the acronym API), this also becomes an integral part of the PNR.
Not only does the PNR capture all the reservation details but crucially it also feeds other important airline functions such as revenue management and the airline’s Departure Control System (DCS). It is also the source for keeping the airline’s frequent flyer records up to date, if the traveller is a member.
Search and Booking (PNR) Intelligence
With all this mandatory information available in today’s e-ticketing world, airlines have considerable access to passenger demographics and travelling profiles, which can give them huge insights into their customers and markets
- Passengers – leisure, business, loyalty, family, groups, etc.
- Itinerary – Origin & Destination and Connection points plus dates and times
- Sales / Booking Value — by agent / channels to determine third party distribution performance
- Special requests and ancillaries (both flight related and travel related such as hotels and cars)
Some typical analytical business questions that can be addressed by real-time search and booking analysis:
What is the conversion rate of the numbers that are looking for the routes you serve and the number of passengers that make the purchase?
- What is the associated revenue of these bookings – and an assessment of the potential losses not being converted into bookings? Perhaps also split down by flight, by sector, by date, by class, by discount level?
- What is the number of searches and corresponding bookings made by frequent flyer members by flight, date, class, upgrades, etc versus the casual flyer with no recorded flying history with the ariline? Can insights be used to incentivise the casual flyer to become more loyal?
- What are the top 5 or 10 Origin and Destinations (O/D) being searched for, and converted? Such insight is useful for future route planning, code sharing and interlining arrangements.
- Which ancillaries are popular attributes of searches that can be used to make offers more relevant or price attractive?
These Q&As are just a flavour. Airlines already have a history of analysing actual bookings to manage their revenues. The missing piece for airlines is analysing search traffic to be able to respond more intelligently to those searches. Search analysis will certainly help the marketers and distributers make their products more relevant and NDC will enable them to take more control of what is displayed. Airlines already enjoy lower Look to Book ratios than the hotel industry, and search data can help marketing departments in their A/B testing to work out which approaches or offers bring it even lower.
To take advantage of NDC data standards and processes, airlines have the opportunity to use analytics get a level playing field across all distribution channels. Being in a position to analyse in detail search request data as well as reply data in the shape of offers and bookings gives airlines operating in the NDC enabled world a rich layer of critical information that helps the airline in its tactical & strategic goals. Ranging from passenger insight to understanding market dynamics the benefits of this analysis can be extensive and profitable.