Expedia, Priceline and Orbitz are the three major global players for flight bookings and all compete aggressively by constantly acquiring partner companies and launching promotional campaigns. In Pakistan, Checkin.pk, which was launched in 2014 is one of the very few local companies to provide such a service.
According to Yousaf Rizvi, CEO, Checkin.pk, “We identified a trend and saw that there were no Pakistani players in this field.” He adds that although the company does offer hotel bookings and tour packages, the focus is on flight bookings.
Visitors can search for flight availability on all major airlines, and book via credit card. Like other airline booking sites, Checkin.pk uses Global Distribution System (GDS), which provides access to an airline’s inventory and allows third parties (such as travel agents) to conduct transactions with the airline. Checkin.pk lists all available seats on a requested day, as well as those available three days prior and after. According to Rizvi, the fact that the processing is automated and done within seconds is a distinct advantage over offline travel agents who do this manually. However, Checkin.pk does not offer any competitive advantage over other international flight booking websites. Checkin.pk charges customers a service fee on every flight booked from the site. In addition, revenue is also generated from advertising on the website, although Rizvi says this is not significant.
In Rizvi’s opinion, although airlines such as Shaheen Air and Air Blue are popular on the domestic routes, they do not make their inventory available online via GDS, and this deprives them of a significant number of customers. He adds that although Checkin.pk is in talks with both airlines, nothing has materialised so far and that “unless these airlines open up to us, and realise how booking mechanisms are changing, the online travel industry in Pakistan will not reach its full potential.”