Whether you love to travel or just want to make a few extra dollars, you might be wondering how to start a flight booking website. These types of sites can be quite lucrative if you have the technical know-how to maintain them.
If you are already a licensed travel agent, the process should be smooth sailing for you. However, you can do this even without being an accredited travel agent.
Compared to years past, travel is still a booming industry in the United States. You can see the daily report from the TSA checkpoint travel numbers listed here.
With millions of people making their way through TSA, that means that millions are buying plane tickets.
Why not get in on the action?
In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about how to start a flight booking website. From GDS integration to gathering more traffic for your page, we will tell you exactly how to set yourself up for success.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
What are GDS Integration and API Integration?
Setting up the technical aspects of your flight booking website is arguably the hardest and most time-consuming stage of the project.
You must get your website up and in working order if you want customers to be able to find you – and that starts with GDS and API integration for your website.
These two important aspects of the technical features of your flight booking site work hand-in-hand for online travel agencies.
Let’s take a closer look at both to determine what your site needs the most.
The Global Distribution System (GDS) is available to online travel agencies. It contains information pertaining to the inventory of travel solutions that agents can supply to their customers.
This type of system includes the rates and any information the travel agent may need to help their client book a flight.
Keep in mind that you can only get approved when you are an ARC or BSP-accredited licensed travel agent.
Getting approved for GDS gives agents access to wholesale rates that they can use to buy services for their customers.
If you are a licensed travel agent who wants to display the GDS database on their new flight booking website, then you will need to do API integration.
API integration can get a little complicated for agents who want to learn how to start a flight booking website.
Much like GDS integration, there are several hoops that you may have to jump through to gain access to the necessary API integration.
You will likely need to be approved prior to hiring technical help to get your flight booking site up and running.
What exactly is API integration, though?
This type of integration allows you to display inventory on your site, even if that inventory is from another travel agency. It allows your new flight booking website to be a comprehensive platform that customers can consult whenever they want to book any type of vacation.
As you might imagine, API integration is a key component to booking flight tickets.
Most new site owners find that they have to hire someone to incorporate this into their site as it can sometimes be highly technical.
You may also need to pay for ongoing tech support to keep your site running smoothly, so be sure to factor this into your startup costs.
Affiliate Marketing for Flights
As a travel booking website, you could also diversify your income by getting involved in affiliate marketing.
This method comes in handy if you do not want to become a licensed travel agent who would have access to GDS and API integrations.
Instead, you would simply be promoting and reselling travel deals in exchange for a commission from the company that sponsored those trips.
Affiliate marketing gives you a cut of the sale and does not require any advanced coding or technical know-how to start selling these deals on your site.
Because there are fewer barriers to entry, affiliate marketing is the way many people get started when they learn how to start a flight booking website.
You may even have some assistance from the companies that you decide to become an affiliate for, including items to help you make more sales such as banners or white-label search engines.
This makes booking flights easier for your customers, whether they are headed to New York, Las Vegas, or somewhere in between.
How to Start a Flight Booking Website
Now that you know the first few basic ways you can make money with a flight booking website, it is time to dive into the gritty details of how to make your new venture a success.
What are the first steps you need to follow if you want to learn how to start a flight booking website?
The next few steps will be crucial to your success as a booking service!
Purchase Domain and Hosting
The first and perhaps most obvious step to create a site based on flight booking is to get your website up and running.
To do so, you will need to purchase a domain name and pay for hosting on the platform of your choice.
This branded domain name will be the way that your customers find you moving forward, so choose something that is relevant, catchy, and professional.
You want your customers to feel comfortable coming to your site to book their next flight.
Hosting is also an important component of flight booking. Your web host should be easy to use, have great customer service, and have good uptime scores.
If you plan to use WordPress to build your new site, here are some of the best WordPress hosting companies you can choose from:
By far, Bluehost offers some of the cheapest hosting around with prices starting at just $2.95 per month. They also come with a free domain for the first year ($12.99 value for the first year if you choose to go with a .com domain).
Bluehost also offers a one-click WordPress install so that you can get your site up and running quickly.
Design Tips for Your Flight Booking Website
If you are going to invest your time and money into learning how to start a flight booking website, then you also need to spend some time thinking about the aesthetics of your site.
The truth is that your customers are going to judge your site by its appearance.
Does it look professional and polished or does it look a little sketchy?
User experience is one of the most important aspects of running your online business. The interface should be one of the first things that you pay attention to when drafting your website. This refers to the way that customers will interact with your site.
You want it to be easy to use so that your new customers aren’t frustrated by the experience of trying to book flights on your site.
I would recommend going with a WordPress theme that is sleek and minimal. This allows users to focus on the content of your site instead of being distracted by flashy graphics.
Not to mention, your site may load faster without some of these elements which can boost your ranking in the search engine results pages.
Select from some of these popular WordPress themes to make creating your website a bit easier:
These themes will give you a great jumping-off point to help you create a well-designed website, even without the help of a web designer.
Sign Up with Affiliate Companies
As we mentioned earlier, affiliate sales are one of the largest sources of income for any type of travel site.
Flight booking can be a very profitable niche if you apply to some of the top affiliate programs out there.
Some of the best affiliate programs to consider when learning how to start a flight booking website include:
- Jet Radar (through Travel Payouts): 5%
- Momondo (through CJ) $0.45 to $0.65 CPA
- British Airways (through Partnerize): Variable
- Emirates (through CJ): 1.25% to 2.5%
- CheapOAir: $5 to $35 per sale
- Travelocity: 2-4%
- Kayak: 50% commission
As you can see, some of these top affiliate programs run through the same agency. This makes it easier than ever to sign up for one affiliate program and start using the custom links created for you and your customers on multiple sites.
For example, you can sign up with CJ and start as an affiliate marketer for both Momondo and Emirates.
Importance of a Call to Action
If you want to close lots of sales through your API integration or through affiliate marketing, you need to prompt your customers to make their move and book their flights.
Your page should make it extremely clear what they need to do to take advantage of an offer or what they should do next when on your site.
A call to action is an essential part of every business page.
Make it easy for customers to figure out what to do by installing buttons on the screen that prompt them to “buy a ticket now.” Add a timer to your website to show how long a deal is going to be good for to inspire some people to book right away.
The possibilities for how you can incorporate a call to action into your website are limitless, but you need to be clear with your customers about how to follow through on their search for the best cheap flights.
Online Bookings and Payments with Plugins
While some plugins such as Yoast SEO are crucial to skyrocket your bookings page to the top spot on Google, there are others you need to consider first.
Namely, you need to facilitate your online bookings and accept payments from your customers.
Here are two of the top WordPress plugins you may need:
WP Travel Engine
This plugin is used to create travel packages for many online agencies. Setup time is relatively minimal with most people spending less than five to ten minutes before they get started with this tool.
It allows you to build itineraries for trips, prepare translations, and more.
The plugin is free to use but you do get some additional benefits by choosing their premium version, valued at $99 per year for one site.
WP Travel Pro
Not to be confused with WP Travel Engine, this plugin offers many of the same features and tools such as:
- Trip details and itineraries
- Unlimited packages
- Great user interface for booking
- Ability to leave ratings and reviews
- Online payment system
Again, this plugin has a free version that you can use forever or you can upgrade to the personal plan for $99.99 annually (for just one site).
Tips to Increase Search Engine Traffic
You’ve learned all the basics of how to start a flight booking website. Now, it’s time to consider how your customers are going to find you.
In order for more people to find you (and for you to put more money in your pocket), you need to show up on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Navigating the waters of SEO can be difficult, but here are a few tips to help you get started on the right foot.
Keyword research is going to be absolutely essential to your business if you want to help people book cheap flights.
This refers to the idea of seeing what the search volume is for a specific set of words and then incorporating those words naturally into your content.
Bear in mind that you don’t want to overdo it with keywords, but they are quite useful in moderation.
The purpose of keywords is to let the search engines know what your page is all about.
In return, search engines like Google or Bing can identify the purpose of your page and present it to users who are searching for those exact items.
Make sure you select keywords relevant to your niche (such as “tropical vacations” or “cheap flights”). This makes it so that users don’t get too confused when they click onto your site.
If you use a keyword that is not actually related to your site’s purpose, they will quickly bounce away from your site which can damage your rankings.
Where can you go to learn more about which keywords your competitors are ranking for? These tools should help:
For a list of the best keyword research tools in both free and paid versions, be sure to see our detailed guide here.
Along with integrating keywords into your content to let people know what your website is all about, you also need to be focused on creating quality content.
Here is the definition of quality content from ActiveCampaign:
Content quality is how well your content achieves its goal(s). It refers to the depth of information and insight contained with a piece of content.
When your content is at its best, your customers are more likely to engage with your page. This popularity is favored in the search results because it shows that your webpage is relevant to the niche you are trying to target.
What are some ways you can create quality content? Consider adding some of these pages to your travel website:
- Blogs about popular travel destinations
- Blogs about itineraries or special deals you have going on
- Frequently asked questions page
- Detailed landing pages
Focus on creating high-quality content. If you aren’t a writer and that seems challenging to you, you can always hire someone to help with this aspect of starting a flight booking website.
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are great for finding freelance help at affordable rates.
Hire a Writer on Upwork Here:
How can you get your brand in front of more people or advertise special deals? Part of the reason many flight booking sites are competitive is because they have an active and engaged email list.
Revive your email list and start sending messages out on a regular basis. This is a great time to advertise limited-time offers or let your customers know what your site has to offer.
According to a survey by Contact Contact, the average email open rate is 28.8 percent across all industries.
Even better, the same survey reveals that travel and tourism has a slightly higher open rate of 30.42 percent!
This is proof that your business could thrive with a robust email marketing campaign. It will put your message in front of customers more regularly.
How to Start a Flight Booking Website the Easy Way
While the early stages of learning how to start a flight booking website can be a bit technical and complicated, the ongoing process of managing your site can be a lot of fun.
You can experiment with different marketing techniques such as growing your email list, incorporating keywords, and creating great content that will have customers coming back time and time again.
Whether you want to have API integration for your site or focus on affiliate marketing, this guide gives you everything you need to know to succeed.
What kind of website will you start?