How do kayak, hipmunk and other websites work?

Groupon salesops
Sep 8 12 Comments

I'm not an engineer by background or training, however, I am very curious and interested in trying to understand how kayak, hipmunk and other such websites serve us the right travel options in the back end. Can someone with an engineering background please explain in layman terms how do they fetch these results and also where did these companies start when it comes to partnering with other airlines? Did the airlines have to integrate with kayak etc. and share their availability with them? Or are they simply scraping search results? If yes, how might that contract have played out and how would these aggregators (kayak, hipmunk et al) have convinced them to modify their code or build an integration to partner with them? What might the payment terms have been? What might MVP have looked like? Appreciate all thoughts from technical folks here. Thank you.

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TOP 12 Comments
  • New ILYw22
    There is what's called a GDS (global data system), which include Sabre, Amadeus, Galileo, to name a few. GDS' have been around for decades.

    Every airline (as well as trains, buses, car rentals, and I think now even most hotels) use these systems to make reservations available and to allow booking itineraries to happen.

    Travel agencies in the past (and still today) use these systems to look up availability and book reservations for their clients.

    Systems like Kayak, Expedia, Google Flights, etc are just a modern approach to Travel agencies. They use the GDS to look up availability and book through them directly just like travel agencies of the past.
    Sep 9 2
    • New ILYw22
      Also, these systems are what's responsible for generating a PNR (passenger name record) code. Whenever you book through say, Southwest airlines, and they give you a 6 character itinerary code...that's a PNR
      Sep 9
    • Microsoft UMbR31
      Yup this is the right answer
      Sep 9
  • Amazon ljgfdb
    kayak just opens a dozen popups searching other sites

    expedia gets partnership, hence you may see a flight sold out on expedia but available elsewhere; expedia used up its allotment
    Sep 8 3
    • Groupon salesops
      OP
      That makes sense. Thank you for responding!
      Sep 8
    • Expedia Group freeforall
      Not correct re Expedia (on the availability comment)
      Sep 9
    • Amazon göktürk
      gtfo expedia I seen the availability differences when booking
      Sep 9
  • Microsoft UMbR31
    Companies like Sabre aggregate bookings and expose them as an "Application Programming Interface" (API), the way to get different companies' software talk to each other.
    https://beta.developer.sabre.com/home

    Airlines are not modifying any code. The app builder (smaller Expedia? Smaller Kayak?) is writing code to plug into the airline's / Sabre's API. The really big apps (actual Expedia) might have a quota of seats with the airline, I don't know about that.

    No idea about payment terms, you find out and tell us.
    Sep 8 2
    • Groupon salesops
      OP
      Thank you for such a helpful explanation! I have a follow-up question: from what you said it means that if a Sabre were ever to shut down, Kayak (and other similar folks using Sabre) can no longer serve their customers and will also close down cause their business is reliant on Sabre? Does this also imply that Kayak et al came into existence because of Sabre?
      Sep 8
    • Microsoft UMbR31
      There are many like Sabre. I just gave you that example to look up. Nobody is fully reliant on any entity here.
      Sep 9
  • Panasonic Avionics / Sales
    Goldfoil

    Panasonic Avionics Sales

    BIO
    I do sales. I sell stuff. It’s what I do.
    Goldfoilmore
    Can anyone just hook into the GDS? Or is there a fee?
    Sep 9 1
    • New ILYw22
      Not just anyone can get access, There is some sort of licensing agreement and fee, as well as a bit more involved technically to use these systems
      Sep 9