Under IATA’s ONE Order program, travelers are issued a single reference number for their trip that covers all flight and supplementary product documents, which have previously been handled separately.

Lufthansa is the first carrier to be certified by aviation industry trade organization IATA to assign its customers a single identification that can be shared by the airline and third-party travel business partners such as other airlines, and potentially, hotels, travel agents, car rental companies, and others. 

The certification follows Lufthansa’s year-long pilot program of ONE Order with JR Technologies under IATA's supervision. IATA hopes to promote further development of the “ONE Order” program as the “global industry standard” for fulfillment of bookings across all parts of a consumer’s travel experience.

To be clear, this is not about creating a single payment platform across airlines and other parts of the travel ecosystem. Rather, ONE Order is meant to allow travelers the choice of being able to synthesize and complete an order several related bookings.

The way most consumers make purchases on Amazon offers a basic analogy to what Lufthansa and IATA are trying to promote with ONE Order. When a shopper buys random, unrelated products from different merchants on Amazon, those purchases are considered to be a single order by that individual. They don't necessarily check out each item separately.

For airlines, often a traveler may book a flight on one airline and actually fly on another carrier's plane. They'll get two separate reference numbers, which, if an issue crops up, can cause a good deal of confusion as to which airline needs to address it. Or, sometimes, a consumer might book the flight with one credit card and pay for baggage with another. Here too, separate reference numbers are generated and for expense purposes, confusion can ensue.

Still another scenario might involve two people traveling together with one booking through their business account and their companion being added as a personal transaction. With ONE Order, these two different purchases can be classified as a single reservation.

Simplifying The Entire Booking Process 

In essence, ONE Order is an IATA initiative designed to advance its member airlines’ reservation fulfillment processes. ONE Order is intended to reflect consumers’ expectation of personalized, seamless services, while also promising to respect their privacy at the same time. It may be a tricky balance, given the often-conflicted nature of consumers’ dual value of frictionless purchases and fear that marketers have too much access to their purchase history and plans. Again, since ONE Order is not a payment platform, that is less of an issue with this specific program.

Still, IATA and Lufthansa believe that fliers will appreciate the ability to align products that more closely to travelers’ interests and needs for the purposes of simplifying the entire booking experience through beginning, middle, and end.  

“We are very pleased to have become the first airline in the world to obtain this ONE Order certification,” Christian Popp, the Lufthansa Group’s Head of Distribution and Revenue Management Strategy & Business Intelligence, told Kambr Media at the Aviation Festival Americas. “With the new ONE Order standard, we can even better address our customers’ needs, tap new potential and create added value together with our system partners within the travel market. This latest development is also further confirmation of the leading role that the Lufthansa Group continues to play in innovation terms, and marks another major step towards the airline sales of tomorrow.” 

How ONE Order Works 

Under the ONE Order method, individual consumers are issued a single reference number for their reservation. Known as their “Order ID,” the reference number covers all their flight and “supplementary product documents,” which have previously been handled separately.  

To reduce the cumbersome nature of managing a series of distinct orders for one trip step-by-step, ONE Order groups all travel products and services under a single umbrella – even those of other providers such as partner airlines or third parties such as hotels and car rental companies. 

“IATA’s ONE Order certification is for us the next logical step towards airline retailing because Lufthansa, as a group, has been on this path for several years,” Lufthansa’s Popp said. “We laid down a strategy and following up on this with significant technology invests since some years, combining revenue management capabilities with distribution opportunities.” 

“That investment was always about targeting the same goal: to ensure competition for the best technology in order to enable us to achieve a better retailing process and experience for our customers. We figured out, as all carriers did, that there are a great deal of legacy standards and mechanics that continue to hinder airlines to be proper retailers. ONE Order helps reduce those hindrances.” 

Lufthansa expects IATA’s ONE Order certification move the wider aviation sector beyond the old ways of transacting with consumers and partners. 

The adoption of ONE Order was begun under IATA’s New Distribution Capability (NDC) standard, which is intended to simplify the retail shopping experience across airlines, travel management companies, online travel agencies, corporate buyers, global distribution systems and other technology players.

In Lufthansa’s year-long testing of ONE Order, the objective was to conduct the entire product offer and booking process solely on the basis of the NDC and ONE Order standards. Feedback and findings were shared with both IATA and industry partners. 

A Step Toward An Industry Standard 

As Popp noted, Lufthansa (as have other major airlines) has attempted to reduce the complexity of the booking for years through its own NDC programs. But the company realized that if it wanted to spur change, it couldn’t do it on its own. 

“If we, as Lufthansa, approach our partners with a nice idea about how efficient the process can be, they would immediately say, ‘Okay, but we have 200 other airlines to connect to,’" Popp said. “That’s why a standard like IATA’s ONE Order is important.” 

After getting some traction within the industry with its own NDC movements, Lufthansa decided that IATA’s certification program was the natural next step.  

But it’s not just a concept on paper, Popp notes. In its year-long test, Lufthansa actually processed over 200 actual passenger reservations under the ONE Order standard. And it was all done without tickets, from booking to accounting.  

"We did this together with our partners of JR Technologies and Lufthansa Systems, who equally proved for being ready for innovation,” Popp said. 

“Just to give you some examples, our passengers get PNRs (Passenger Name Record), get electronic tickets and possibly EMDs (Electronic Miscellaneous Document) for ancillaries, internal processes even foresee extra accounting records,” Popp continued.  

At its heart, the ONE Order’s promise is to improve the user experience interplay for bookings between airlines and their partners. After the technology is there, and consumers expect their booking programs to interact the way their mobile devices and apps do.  

“You populate that experience with so many documents and numbers, and everyone gets confused,” Popp said. “The process is very complex and still doesn’t support important retailing cases like sales of 3rd party ancillaries. That's where IATA comes into play. We, as the network carrier, need to make sure that we're connected to the travel marketplace and to other airlines as well.”