British Midlands Airways Ltd.: First airline to sell its tickets over the World Wide Web

Following the discovery of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners Lee in 1989, the use of computers spread to the common man. The web enabled customers to communicate with machines like never before and the need for the travel agent was negated as Airlines rode this wave of efficiency to save costs and boost service times.

Most major airlines invested in  web-based ticket booking and flight information as a way to stay ahead of rivals and British Midlands Airways was the first of the bunch.

British Midlands 737
British Midlands International 737

This airlines operated from its base in London’s Heathrow Airport to destinations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America and Central Asia. It was also a member of the Star alliance from 1th July 2000 until its induction into British Airways in 27th October 2012.

Source: Computer World

The liberalisation of the booking process, through online travel agents, gave the customers the opportunity to explore discounts and rates of numerous airlines with the click of a mouse. This ended the era of loyalty to one’s national carriers as customers became more price conscious. A report by Mintel on “Long-haul Airlines” found that just 2.1% of responders were influenced by this factor. On the subject of cost, senior director of America West , Bill Spilman, said in December 1997 that the cost of generating a ticket was around $4 via the internet down from the $15 that companies had to shell out for passenger reservation by phone lines. The growth was rapid as people recognised its convenience – waiting time and phone communication was eliminated. In under two minutes, the customer could complete a transaction compared to 5-10 minutes on a traditional phone line not including the waiting time.


Computer World Dec 22th 1997


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