Booking a flight ticket online is that easy. Starting from process one, wherein you check for the availability of tickets on a particular date and at an affordable price. If the tickets are available, you have the confirmation of your tickets through email and SMS. The entire process of flight booking took just a few minutes on a smartphone or a laptop.
Nevertheless, it was not easy to book an airline ticket for business travel or family vacation 70 or 80 years ago. How did the airline company and travel agent go through the process without the Internet? It was complete chaos, for it was difficult to keep an account of the seats booked, canceled, and available. Here are a few aspects that had an influence on air ticket booking before the Internet.
Sky-High Air Travel
Air travel grew in demand in the US as it became more accessible after World War II. Nevertheless, flying an airline was a luxury. Booking tickets was an ordeal as each airline opened its own flight booking office. There were a large number of reservation agents who received calls from travel agents and customers for flight booking.
The seat reservation was done by consulting the availability board and using light bulbs to confirm the ticket availability. The increase in reservations caused confusion, wherein the agents took the assistance of a separate file to book tickets for flights in the future. However, issuing personalized tickets, which was done then and there, and making last-minute changes and cancellations of tickets were never recorded. All these caused a lot of ticketing errors.
An electromechanical terminal was developed and introduced by American Airlines to deal with this situation and to try to automate inventory to speed up the flight booking process. Called the Reservisor, it required little manual work and was not completely flawless.
What was the process?
The Reservoir was a replacement for the large availability board, which had a highly complex process. The new terminal had several units connected to switches by cables. The adjacent room, with several switches and cables, was called the ‘Brain’. It recorded each flight booking and updated it. The Reservisor could process as many as 200 additional passengers every day, with the help of a hand-delivered note and telephone calls.
The electromechanical terminal was successful in regulating inventory, but the communication aspect was missing. The index card was still used to record the names of the passengers and sent from one desk to another desk in the reservation office.
It’s time to renew
The Reservisor called for updating owing to increasing flight loads and the need to improve customer experience. For the second time, the system was named Magnetronic Reservisor, and it was placed at the LaGuardia Airport in New York in 1952. The new system did not require any agent to be present in the building, where the terminal is installed. Instead, an agent in New York could make a flight booking for the customer by feeding the information into his or her local unit, which sent the information to the Magnetronic Reservisor. The agent gets the information by flipping the switches on the keyboard, and the lights flash in a few seconds providing the booking availability data on a particular flight.
The updated terminal could store ‘10,000 units of flight memory’, which is about ‘1000 flight legs every day over 12 days. For the first time, it was shown that electronic processing could be combined with electronic communications, which was demonstrated by a central computer reliably processing information in real-time.
The SABRE, or Semi-Automated Business Research Environment, caused disruption in the sector
Inspired by the ground-control environment of the US Air Force, SAGE, and using its expertise, IBM created SABRE for American Airlines. SABRE allowed the two powerhouses to work together. SABRE or Semi-Automated Business Research Environment was the first computerized reservation system. It took almost seven years to complete this innovative project in the aviation industry, and it was established in 1964. SABRE could make about 7,000 reservations with little or no error.
Bookings went much more smoothly because this was one of the first technologies to save passenger information. Even though American Airlines invested over $40 million in this technology, SABRE assisted the airline in reaching new heights. The airline was quickly emerging as a market leader and disruptor in the aviation industry.
The future of aviation
Air travel became a popular means of traveling quickly and luxuriously. The number of people taking to the sky increased as airlines kept on adding new destinations both within and outside the country.
The introduction of the Internet and its use in the aviation industry made flight bookings more efficient, easier, and quicker. It has helped open the door of opportunities for people to explore the world of air travel by checking flight availability, comparing the fares, selecting the preferred seat, and booking tickets, all in one go.