London-based travel tech startup Duffel raises €27 million for its airline booking platform

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London-based travel tech company Duffel enables travel agencies to plug in directly to airlines’ reservation systems through an API so that they can find real-time flight offers, make bookings, access live seat availability and buy extra services.

Founded in 2017, Duffel has now raised €27 million from investors to launch its booking platform and work with some of the world’s biggest airlines – including American Airlines, British Airways, Lufthansa Group, Aegean Airlines, Vueling and Iberia.

Duffel will use the new funds to hire more engineers and other staff. It’s focus is on expanding in North America and Europe, with its first customers drawn from the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Spain.

Up to now, new digital and mobile travel agencies – Duffel’s target market – have been forced to put up with long lead times and high costs to access flight booking systems, legacy APIs and outdated screens. By giving agents a way to connect instantly with airlines, Duffel represents the biggest shakeup of the travel sector since the launch of budget air travel.

Index Ventures led the Series B round, with participation from existing investors Benchmark Capital and Blossom Capital.

Just as fintech companies are connecting the fragmented world of payments and finance, Duffel brings together airlines so travel agents can swiftly assemble an end-to-end experience for their clients. Online and mobile travel companies, including corporate travel bookers, are able to see live seat availability from the world’s biggest airlines, as well as additional offers on in-flight meals or luggage allocations.

“A new breed of online agencies want to access reservation systems quickly and seamlessly,” said Steve Domin, co-founder and CEO of Duffel. “By reinventing the underwiring between online agents and airlines we can transform the world of travel booking and reduce barriers to entry for innovative new companies that are offering travellers a whole new way of creating a holiday or trip.”

Travel and tourism accounted for more than 10% of all global economic activity in 2018, and the sector is also the second largest spending category for companies after payroll. However, the booking experience hasn’t improved since the first wave of travel startups such as Expedia and Kayak.

New online travel agents have been emerging to make the process of booking a trip less fragmented. But it remains difficult for them to access airline data, navigate the regulatory landscape and create packages that meet their clients’ expectations – mostly because of the inadequate APIs that they currently have to work with. Duffel enables agents to build their integration in just a few hours and sell flights to consumers the next day.

“We are incredibly impressed by the Duffel team, who we have supported since the days of their seed funding,” said Jan Hammer, partner at Index Ventures. “There is an opportunity here to transform the booking experience for travellers and ease many of the pain points in the industry. From the launch of budget airlines to sharing economy businesses like Airbnb, travel has changed and Duffel will provide the tools, built from the ground up, that make the next wave of innovation possible.”

“One of the objectives of the NDC standard is to foster innovation and competition in the distribution landscape,” said Olivier Hours, Head Industry Distribution Programs Adoption, IATA. “Duffel represents both, and we identified them as a key player in the marketplace as they can contribute to accelerate volume growth, in particular by connecting new types of sellers.”

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