Payment Options in the Airline Industry

Buying flight tickets is an expensive decision at the best of times, but when economic conditions are tough, that much-needed holiday can be an even greater undertaking.

Consumers are always looking for more cost-effective options, often turning to flight comparison websites to find cheap flights without incurring extra service fees. However, anyone familiar with these platforms will appreciate that this isn’t always so simple, or cheap. Fundamental market forces still hold sway over the industry, and right now demand for plane tickets is high, which has led some airlines to hike the price of plane tickets.

However, there are further options available that eases the burden for consumers, without the need for vendors to lower prices: payment differentiation. If you’re looking for clarity about payment options for the next time you book your flights, or you’re a vendor reviewing your payment processing infrastructure, this article explains the current state of play for airline purchases. Find out how consumers can ensure the next flight doesn’t break the bank, and how and why airlines can offer the most modernised payment options available.

Can I pay for flights in instalments?

In many instances, yes. Consumers may have noticed the emerging options for retail purchases – payment service providers (PSPs) like Klarna, Clearpay and PayPal all have the functionality to make payments in instalments rather than all at once. This is facilitated by monthly payments split into equal amounts under the ‘book now, pay later’ option.

Which airline services offer flexible payment options?

An increasing number of airlines provide customers with the option to pay over time in a similar way to many other retail purchases, made possible through PSPs. British Airways, American Airlines, Delta, Lufthansa, Qatar and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines all permit this option in some shape or form, but within a varying range of time periods.

Other stipulations are also involved. For instance, British Airways offers a payment plan that lets customers buy now and pay later, but only for package purchases i.e. flight + hotel, and with a deposit. Qatar offers a pay later option, but only up to 72 hours after booking, and with a non-refundable fee. For many airline tickets, pay later options are dependent on the country in which customers are making the purchase.

PSPs can give users the option to pay later, offering a six-month window to pay the outstanding balance with no additional interest rate. Be aware though that these conditions require minimum monthly payments, and if payment is not received within the time period, the purchaser is charged interest calculated from the time of the original booking date. Klarna’s payment plan option is also dependent on the credit score of the customer, which is determined by whether they adhered to previous repayment schedules.

Do travel Agencies offer flexible booking?

The case for many people buying flights online is that they use certain websites, such as online travel agencies or flight comparison websites, to find the best price. Expedia, Thomas Cook , Virgin and Airfordable are agencies that offer monthly repayment plans in order to meet this need for cost-effective and flexible travel.

Travel agencies typically offer itineraries rather than standalone flights, but this is not always the case. Virgin Holidays allows customers to debit payments in varying chunks, so long as the full payment has been made 12 weeks prior to departure. Flight comparison sites are also allowing individuals to filter their travel search with this option. According to Alternative Airlines, “instalments can be paid back monthly, weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the payment provider and plan you choose”.

How can airlines adapt to travel payment options?

As consumer preferences and needs change, airlines are therefore tasked with updating their offerings while remaining flexible. The additional options outlined above will ensure that an airline stays competitive for online bookings, but that is only one part of the equation. The digital experience must remain as seamless as possible. Building a payment infrastructure that creates a cutting-edge customer experience can present challenges, but it’s also the top priority for any airline, especially when they want to offer the headline perk of monthly repayments after booking. PaymentOrchestration Platforms provide airlines with this capability, easing user experience and payment management in one go.

What are the main benefits of Payment Orchestration for airlines?

Airlines have access to a host of payment capabilities and partners, such as payment gateways, authentication layers, compliance platforms and more. A Payment Orchestration Platform uses front-end and back-end technology that integrates all these disparate functions under one umbrella, in order to create a seamless transaction process across every channel. This is achieved by streamlining data flows and automating automation, and it can result in a number of perks for merchants.

Frictionless processes

On the customer side, Payment Orchestration Platforms gives airlines greater control over their payment policy, allowing them to quickly build a custom arrangement of payment methods, acquirers and PSPs that maintains a seamless checkout process for the user.

The platform enables a smoother system and back-end processes for the vendor. Conventional payments are usually managed according to a specific need, with each function in the transaction process added manually, piece by piece – a time-consuming feature of traditional payment options. Payment Orchestration Platforms streamline this process to simultaneously manage multiple payment partners and unify these layers to let new payment capabilities be easily added.

These platforms can standardise the data formats from various partners and align them with alternative payment methods, while at the same time identifying potential issues and analysing chargeback requests. This simplifies the entire transaction process, leaving the airline’s back-end services untouched.

Enhanced security

For good reason, regulators often serve as obstacles to fast and efficient payments. By enhancing the compliance process, Payment Orchestration Platforms help customers meet the regulator rules, such as PCI-compliance. Airlines must meet PCI guidelines in all their channels and undergo an annual certification process, but a Payment Orchestration Platform lets an airline pass the burden and liability onto the Payment Orchestration partner, who is able to combine advanced pre-authorisation screening with numerous fraud systems.

Utilising smart, detailed consumer data, the platform can then boost fraud detection for every market, removing factors that slow down verification. Since this helps enhance the authorisation process, airlines can then accept more payments and convert more customers. This is especially useful when it comes to offering payment methods like split payments that customers prefer, and therefore boost conversion rates.

Reduced costs

Payment Orchestration Platforms deploy a local acquirer strategy, which leverages smart, dynamic transaction routing in order to quickly identify the best available acquirer at every location involved in the payment process. This way, interchange costs are reduced, along with cross-border transaction traffic.

The traditional payments system involved routing card transactions to a select few acquirers, which then incurred higher service fees and lower acceptance rates. The necessary (and costly) modifications to payment providers that are sometimes involved in conventional processes to overcome this issue are also removed by Payment Orchestration. Airlines can use the platform to provide a cheaper and more UX-friendly payment experience.

Enhanced value

With conventional payments, customer and transaction data is often fragmented across different channels and payment service providers. This presents difficulties for airlines who want to optimise processes, as disparate information is harder to analyse and manage in order to enhance the payment experience, for instance, through personalisation. A key perk of orchestration is that it provides airlines with a unified view of all their payment transactions – no matter the channel or partner involved – so they can choose the most suitable partner and level up this process.


Despite being in the tailwinds of a global pandemic, airline businesses are taking off – all puns aside. Nevertheless, airlines should not be complacent about the changing consumer landscape. Many businesses have already upgraded their complicated systems to meet new payment preferences. For those who understand that a smart and flexible payment infrastructure is a vital tool, Payment Orchestration has helped them optimise their processes to create the most secure and user-friendly transaction experience possible.

Adapting to evolving consumer preferences in order to stay competitive is no mean feat. In particular, airlines are required to offer more flexible payment options, raise authorisation rates and speed, while reconciling a multitude of payment sources across international borders. However, Payment Orchestration provides the crucial support firms need to build a seamless, safe payment ecosystem that executes all necessary processes for an optimal transaction.

Boost revenue and simplify operations with our Payment Orchestration solution

Elevate your business with our Payment Orchestration Platform. Streamline operations, access global providers, and optimise processing times. Benefit from intelligent routing, fraud prevention, and real-time analytics. Request a demo to revolutionise your payment systems.