IRCTC has launched the much awaited flight booking feature in their website. The flight booking page can be accessed at www.air.irctc.co.in. For majority of the Indians, IRCTC means “train-booking-website” (though they have other products like hotel booking, car booking etc). Now, IRCTC has changed the equation of this game by launching “air product”. With the addition of flights, IRCTC now qualifies as a complete OTA and can be competitive to the major OTAs of India – MakeMyTrip, Yatra, ClearTrip, Expedia, Travelocity. In this post, we are reviewing the flight booking engine in IRCTC – the experience, usability, features, pros and cons, areas of improvement.
Customers will be able to book One-way and Round Trip (return) air tickets from a list of five airlines – Air India, Indigo, Kingfisher, Jet Airways, Jet Lite. Other major OTAs have option to select from 7 to 8 airlines. Only domestic flight booking is possible. No Multi-city booking option right now. We hope these are considered in Phase 2 of product deployment.
The time taken to search for flights and display search results was more or less the same time as other OTAs. Customers will be able to filter flights by – Price, Departure time, Number of stops, Airline. However, sorting feature isn’t present, example: If you want to sort by Price (High to Low) – this isn’t possible as of now.
Now, the most important factor – Pricing. We compared the price for the flight IT-2409 BLR-MAA for June 6 in IRCTC, MakeMyTrip and Yatra. Below is the price comparison screen.
IRCTC is slightly expensive than MakeMyTrip, but cheaper than Yatra. Not bad. But, the jackpot is – when customers select the flight and moves to the next page – there is a discount offered for 100 INR in IRCTC and finally the price is much cheaper than all OTAs searched. Refer the IRCTC screen below, 2835 INR is the least price among all OTAs. That’s cool. However, we are not sure why “Agent Service Tax” is charged for an online booking website (the whole concept of an OTA is being questioned here).
Once the flight is selected in search results page, customers are shown the fare breakup details. But, the Fare Rules aren’t displayed. We feel that Fare Rules have to be displayed for flight booking. Customers should definitely know whether the flight ticket is refundable, date change penalty, name change penalty, cancellation penalty, what are the baggage allowances, etc. This information is critical to show to customers.
Customers will be able to complete the booking by providing either their IRCTC login credentials or by logging in as a Guest. Finally, the “Guest” option is here. If the customer logs in by entering the IRCTC login credentials, then the system auto-populates all your information (Name, Email, Phone and Address that’s stored in your profile) in the next page for customers to quickly proceed to Payment section. Customers will be able to pay via the same set of payment gateways that’s seen in the IRCTC Train booking workflow.
Overall, the flight booking experience in IRCTC was good. It was simple, neat and basic. It works. The core functionality is live. There is significantly high scope for enhancing the usability, adding more widgets, rolling out enhancements like – cross sell, upsell, loyalty program, social media integration. We will stop here and not give out all ideas in public
If IRCTC really puts its bet into Flight booking improvements and cross-products integration, then its going to be seen as a tough competitor among the OTAs in India. A huge list of business usecase can be penned to completely transform the business, we will give one sample usecase below:
Amit Kumar, a customer of IRCTC tries to book a 3-AC train ticket from Bangalore to Mumbai in Tatkal at 8 AM. No luck, all 3-AC seats are sold out. Amit tries for 2-AC and 1-AC too because he definitely wants to travel to Mumbai to attend his friend’s wedding. But, no tickets. Now, IRCTC can show a popup – “Hey Amit, for just 400 INR more, do you want to book a Flight rather?”. Amit is convinced about the flight option and completes a flight booking.
What is going to be interesting is – Will the introduction of Flights in IRCTC going to hamper the website’s performance for Train bookings, especially Tatkal booking? It’s a wait and watch scenario.
Author: Karthick Prabu