Courtesy of BNET Travel, I’ve discovered that United have removed from their website the ability to place a PNR on hold. One goal of any airline website should be eliminating benefits the consumer receives from booking via a travel agent and clearly the ability to place a PNR on hold is one such benefit.

One justification given by United was that over half the on hold bookings were not converting into sales. I know of one European airline where approximately 90% of their bookings on hold resulted in sales. And this was without a deposit. I’m working today with airlines to fully automate their on-hold bookings. Getting a small deposit from the customer is a great way to ensure only serious buyers put PNRs on hold. This enables the passenger to fully benefit from the actual time limit applying to the fare, thereby reducing a benefit travel agencies have over the direct channel. The passenger can then ensure a suitable hotel booking or other travel arrangements can be made before committing the full amount and finalizing the purchase of the air ticket. 

I was in Nice just over a week ago talking to a Middle Eastern carrier very interested in offering a similar model to their customers. The ability to fully automate the process of a reminder email when the TTL was approaching and then cancelling the segments if the remainder of the ticket wasn’t paid seemed to be a very appealing business benefit for them given their aggressive growth plans for the online channel. I don’t understand why other airline websites would think any differently.  

Actually, on second thoughts, did United spokewoman Robin Urbanski really say over half did not complete?

“The majority of tickets that were held on were often not purchased”  

I doubt she is getting that tricky with the word often, but technically she could be saying: “The majority of tickets [51%] that were held on were often [51%] not purchased” meaning that maybe it was really as little as 0.51 x 0.51 = 26%. I doubt it, but sometimes PR people can be very creative, as I highlighted with a beautiful example once before. Maybe I’m just looking too deeply for hidden meanings in innocent statements, and next I’ll be joining the conspiracy theorists of this world – I sure hope not!