A new solution that has gone live for the partnership of United, Lufthansa Group and Air Canada on the Travix family of OTAs seeks to prevent the confusion that often comes with the booking of a codeshare flight. 

The tool, said Megan Beardsley, vice president of client integration for Routehappy by ATPCO, "is really a way to create context for the shopper."

Research conducted by Routehappy ahead of development confirmed what the company already suspected -- namely that many average travelers don't know what a codeshare is. Even the ones who do don't necessarily understand how booking a codeshare will impact them in terms of loyalty point accrual, baggage transfers and other services. As a result, flyers often end up in situations in which they book a codeshare flight under the marketing of one carrier, only to be surprised at the airport that they are actually flying on an aircraft operated by a partner airline. 

The new Routehappy solution, which Beardsley said the company developed at the behest of, and in concert with, the United/Lufthansa Group/Air Canada joint venture, uses slideshows both to alert shoppers exactly who the operating carrier (or carriers) are on an itinerary and to provide deeper context as to the experience and amenities that the operating airlines will offer. 

The slideshows, known in industry parlance as Universal Product Attributes (UPAs), aren't new to search result displays for United, Air Canada or the Lufthansa airlines of Austrian, Lufthansa and Swiss. They are available on the Travix OTAs, (Budget Air, Vayama, Cheaptickets.nl, Vliegwinkel.nl and FlugLaden) as well as in a variety of other channels. But integration of the UPAs across codeshares are new. 

Beardsley said she expects the carriers to eventually extend the integration into their own websites, and perhaps into other OTAs and metasearch engines. 

"That would make sense to me," she said. 

She also said Routehappy is in the process of developing a UPA codeshare solution for two other airlines.

So how does the solution help shoppers understand that they are buying a codeshare ticket? Here's an example. A Budgetair search of an itinerary from Houston to Halifax, Nova Scotia turns up as its first result a United-marketed itinerary with the price, departure time and other bare details. But a click on that result brings up a pop-up window showing that the shopper is actually looking at a two-leg itinerary combining a United Express regional flight to Toronto with an Air Canada-operated codeshare flight to Halifax marketed under a United flight number. 

In addition, the pop-up has slide shows, or UPAs, that can be clicked for each of the two flights. Slides for the first flight give information on United service offerings. 

The slideshow for the second flight is all about Air Canada. More than that, it includes one slide discussing that the flight is a codeshare and explaining that flyers will earn miles across the codeshare alliance. 

Routehappy says that theirs is the first airline industry distribution solution to provide such transparency when it comes to codeshare booking. Bob Offutt, senior technology analyst for Phocuswright, and Atmosphere Research Group founder Henry Harteveldt, also said that the solution is unique to the market to the best of their knowledge. Both said they expect it to be helpful for travelers.

"Something like this relieves confusion. It can only make it better for the traveler," Offutt said.

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