Why can't an airline sell a ticket at the airport within 24 hours of departure? - TTG Asia - Leader in Hotel, Airlines, Tourism and Travel Trade News
Saturday . October 10 . 2015
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Why can't an airline sell a ticket at the airport within 24 hours of departure?

Dear David

I thought of the time I was quite stressed out when buying airline tickets online. This was when my mother passed away suddenly in Manila, and I went online to buy a ticket from Cebu Pacific.


My credit card was rejected, which I found strange. I tried one credit card after another - even my husband's - I think I must have tried about five different cards! Every time I did this, I had to go through the whole exercise, only to be told at the end that my credit card was not accepted.


Finally, I decided to take a taxi directly to the airport, and at the Cebu Pacific counter, was told that one cannot buy a ticket less than 24 hours ahead of the flight.


If such is the case, why can't the computer system immediately say so when a passenger keys in the date on the website, instead of making us go through the whole process, and then rejecting with a stupid reason like "your credit card is not acceptable" or something like that? I imagine that this should be technically possible and quite simple to do.


Also, why can't passengers book tickets within 24 hours of departure? I would imagine that airlines want to sell their seats!


- Sef Lam, Director of Via Vai Travel, Hong Kong



David: Generally speaking, airlines begin executing processes some number of hours before flight departure, which impacts the airline’s ability to provide services through particular channels.


Some airline reservation systems have separate systems for inventory/booking and departure control, so at a defined time point during pre-departure, there is a hand-off of information from one to the other.


This explains why online check-in may no longer be available a few hours before a flight – the passenger name list may already have been transmitted to the departure control system and under operational control at the airport. 


This doesn’t, however, explain why an airline wouldn’t be able to sell a ticket at the airport within 24 hours of departure. There could be several reasons for this, including system limitations at the airport, limitations with credit card processing or constraints around the time required for fraud checks, government/security requirements, or the airline’s business rules and policies.


Airlines are generally able to sell tickets up close to the time of departure, and they are certainly motivated to do so. So in this case, there must have been some constraint preventing them from doing so.


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