SITA has announced the airline industry’s first next-generation payments platform, which allows airlines to strengthen their direct channel sales. With SITA’s new Horizon PaymentServices airlines can access, through one standardised interface, multiple payment service providers (PSPs), acquiring banks and payment schemes. This provides flexibility and control over the widest possible range of global and local payment methods. SITA is providing horizon PaymentServices on a community basis, making it available to all airlines whether or not they are existing horizon users.

Accepting a broader range of payment types is an effective way for airlines to increase direct sales and drive down distribution costs. The 2011 Airline IT Trends Survey reports that airlines continue to increase direct sales to passengers and that in 2011 direct sales may overtake indirect distribution for the first time, rising to 58% of tickets being sold directly by 2014.

Speaking at the air transport IT summit in Brussels, Brian Cook, SITA vice president, airline and passenger solutions, said: “To increase direct sales, airlines need to accept the broadest range of payment options appropriate to each market they serve and to do so across multiple distribution channels – web, mobile, call centres, even at convenience stores.

“Multi-payment strategies can get very complex but with Horizon PaymentServices the various service providers are consolidated to a single interface. This simplifies direct payments to the airline and reduces the cost of distribution.”

Alternative forms of online, offline and mobile payments help extend the airline’s market reach globally, as well as to diverse market segments such as corporate bookers, lower-income households and older travellers.

Horizon PaymentServices allows airlines access to all standard credit card schemes (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club, UATP, Discover, JCB) and multiple PSPs such as Wirecard Bank, GlobalCollect, PayPal and PayGate, supporting global and local requirements. Alternative payment methods such as local debit cards, e-wallets, bank direct, and cash options (e.g. Western Union) can also be accessed, improving the ability to make cost-effective direct sales.

Sophisticated fraud screening is embedded in the system while a flexible business rules engine controls which transactions, currencies and forms of payment are to be offered in any distribution channel. These sophisticated settings, combined with advanced reporting systems, give airlines the maximum control in this complex sales environment.

SITA is providing horizon PaymentServices on a community basis, making it available to all airlines whether or not they are existing Horizon users. Universal Air Travel Plan(UATP), the airline industry low cost payment network, already uses Horizon PaymentServices as part of its payment system, which annually processes transactions worth more than $12bn.

For 25 years SITA has been providing a payment service for over 180 airlines, processing more than 30 million transactions, worth over $10bn a year. Horizon PaymentServices is the next generation service that provides additional payment methods as well as ancillary services such as fraud management tools and dynamic currency conversion to strengthen airlines ability to sell directly to their customers.