Business Travel Glossary

business travel glossary

According to Deloitte’s recent study on corporate travel, travel spend is expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2023. As corporate travel costs are under more and more scrutiny, it’s more important than ever to know how to interpret the data — and the lingo.

We’ve created a glossary to break down some of the most common business travel terminology, from acronyms to key players and even some technical standards.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between booking and ticketing or need a refresher on the different IATA codes (or what IATA even stands for…), you’re in the right place.

Booking Terms

Booking: Booking is a confirmation that the request has been received by the travel service provider, holding the seat on the plane or a room at a hotel. 

Booking does not actually confirm the flight or hotel has been allocated to you, and the inventory has been removed from visibility to other travelers or agents. 

Booking is generally referred to in three ways — Direct Booking, Online Booking, Offline Booking (see each entry for definitions).

Ticketing: When a booking for a travel service has been officially secured for the traveler and the inventory is no longer visible to other buyers, agencies, or services. 

Specific examples: 

  • For airlines, ticketing means that the seat has been paid for and the airline has issued a unique “ticket number” for that passenger’s seat on that specific flight
  • For hotels, it means that availability has been confirmed, removed from available inventory, and either secured with a credit card or fully paid for in advance.

Offline Booking: A form of “agent-assisted booking,” offline booking describes a process where an employee communicates travel requirements to a corporate travel agent who plans and books the trip. 

Communication is typically through a TMS (see TMS – Travel Management Software), but can also be done via email or phone. It is the TMC agent’s responsibility to put together the most efficient and cost effective itinerary that fits the employee’s requirements and preferences, as well as company travel policies.

Online Booking: A form of “agent-assisted booking”, online booking refers to when an employee uses a corporate OBT (online booking tool) to book, track, and modify a trip. The goal of an OBT is to provide simple, effective and hassle-free travel booking that’s compliant with company travel policies. 

The OBT then communicates via GDS integration, directly via the travel service provider via NDC (see NDC – New Distribution Capability) or via the company’s travel agent who submits the booking for ticketing. Ticket confirmations can be shared via the OBT, where they are typically stored as part of the trip itinerary, or directly from the travel service provider.

Direct Booking: Direct booking describes when a person or employee makes their own travel bookings directly, through either a consumer booking tool (like an OTA or aggregator) or with the travel service provider (e.g. Delta, Amtrak, Hilton). 

This is strongly discouraged at companies with managed travel programs. Direct booking is by definition not “agent-assisted booking.”

AAB (Agent-Assisted Booking): Agent-assisted booking. Primarily Offline booking, but can refer to offline or online booking performed through a TMC/agency.

Booking & Management Services Terms

TMC (Travel Management Company): Travel management company, such as American Express Business Travel. More detail here. A TMC is a travel agency which manages an organization’s corporate travel programs. 

TMCs may provide an end-user online booking tool, mobile application, and program management, as well as consulting teams, executive travel services, meeting and event support, reporting functionality, duty of care, and more.

TMS (Travel Management System/Software): Software that allows companies to manage all aspects of travel, from policy management to booking and expense reporting. Typically it includes an OBT, and is often also used by a corporate travel agent as the primary communication channel to travelers. 

Examples: SAP Concur, Atriis 

White-Glove Travel Agency: A white-glove travel service tailored to select individual VIPs. Adapts to whatever the client needs with extremely personalized service. 

OTA (Online Travel Agency): Digital system where travelers can access a range of travel services, including hotels, flights, car rentals, tours, activities etc. Users can directly book through OTAs. Travelocity was the first OTA. 

Examples: Travelocity,, Priceline, etc. 

OBT (Online Booking Tool): An online booking tool (sometimes referred to as an OBT) is an internet-based system that allows you to book flights, rail, hotels and more. The goal of an OBT is to provide simple, effective and hassle-free travel booking that’s compliant with company travel policies. 

LCA (Low Cost Aggregator): Similar to GDS, but focused only on low cost carrier inventory. Low cost aggregators primarily provide inventory visibility, and may not facilitate booking. They may use another service, like an NDC or link out to the LCC directly. 

Managed Travel: A business travel program in which employees book travel within the guidelines of a strategic company travel policy designed to control spend and ensure travelers’ safety and security. 

Unmanaged Travel: An “open booking” business travel program in which employees independently manage their own travel arrangements without the structure and guidelines provided by a travel policy.

Inventory Suppliers & Aggregator Terms

CRS (Central Reservation System): A central reservation system is an automated reservation system that today is used primarily for hotel booking. Similar to a GDS, it allows inventory and pricing to be distributed to other systems, but is specifically designed to manage rooms and rates. 

GDS (Global Distribution System): A global distribution system is a digital reservation system that connects travel agencies to a wide range of travel service providers with access to real-time availability, price and offers of flight tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, cruises, ferry reservations, trains and other services.

Megasearch Engine: See Travel Aggregator. 

Travel Aggregator: Travel aggregators are websites that consolidate the travel supply (e.g. flights) and prices from multiple sources all in one place (e.g. Kayak). Users can compare more options in one place, and then book based on their priorities (e.g. cost, departure times, airline, etc.).

Primarily focused on saving travelers money, aggregators make it easy for travelers to know that they are booking at the lowest price possible. You can’t book through the aggregator. They will forward you to the travel service provider (e.g. airline or hotel).

Examples:, RailEurope, 

NDC (New Distribution Capability): New Distribution Capability (NDC) refers to the ability to access and book inventory directly from airlines. For example, a prospect might ask, “What NDCs do you have?” 

Technically, “New Distribution Capabilities” is an IATA-managed technical standard that allows airlines to create and distribute inventory/offers directly to buyers via any distribution channel (B2B or B2C). 

CRS (Central Reservation System): A computer reservation system or a central reservation system (CRS) is a web-based software used by travel agencies and travel management companies to retrieve and conduct transactions related to air travel, hotels, car rental, or other activities.

Originally designed to be used by airlines, it was later extended to be used by travel agencies and Global Distribution Systems (GDS) to book and sell tickets for multiple airlines.

Important Terms and Acronyms

CNR (Corporate Negotiated Rate): When a company goes directly to a travel service provider (like Marriott or Southwest Airlines) and negotiates a discounted rate for use by their employees. The discount is often tied to volume (how many services a company will book with that provider is a year). 

If a company does not have full visibility across their whole spend, usually due to leakage (when employees book their own travel directly from vendors outside the corporate online booking tool), they are unable to negotiate the best rates possible. 

Leakage: Leakage is invisible travel spending that takes place outside of an approved channel. This “out-of-contract” spending typically does not show up in reporting provided by an organization’s travel management company (TMC). 

A lot of leakage in a managed travel program can lead to missed cost-savings opportunities (like CNRs) and weaken duty of care capabilities. 

Duty of Care: Duty of Care is an organization’s legal obligation to protect employees from harm. For instance, when employees travel for work, it’s critical that businesses take all reasonable measures to ensure that people remain safe on the road. This includes knowing where they are at all times.

PNR (Passenger Name Record): A passenger name record (PNR) is a record in the database of any digital reservation/booking system that contains the itinerary for a passenger or a group of passengers traveling together.

IATA and ATA have defined standards for interline messaging of PNR and other data through the “ATA/IATA Reservations Interline Message Procedures – Passenger” (AIRIMP). 

There is no general industry standard for the layout and content of a PNR. In practice, each CRS or hosting system has its own proprietary standards, although common industry needs, including the need to map PNR data easily to AIRIMP messages, has resulted in many general similarities in data content and format between all of the major systems. 

CDF (Customer Data Field): Customer data fields, used to collect specific company information such as an employee’s role and department. This information will pull into your travel data view.

Trade Organization Terms

A4A (Airlines for America): Airlines for America (A4A), formerly known as Air Transport Association of America (ATA), is an American trade association and lobbying group based in Washington, D.C. that represents major North American airlines since 1936. 

The A4A is frequently involved in US government decisions regarding the aviation industry including the creation of the Civil Aeronautics Board, establishment of the air traffic control system and airline deregulation. 

In its lobbying efforts, A4A publicly promotes air transport as safe and efficient, and it advocates for favorable regulations on taxation, competition, and environmental standards. 

ARC (Airlines Reporting Corporation): The Airlines Reporting Corporation is responsible for supervising payments from travel agencies to airlines, and the process of issuing tickets to consumers. They are also responsible for fining travel agencies when violations are made. 

ATA (Airlines for America): Air Transport Association of America (ATA), now known as Airlines for America (A4A). See A4A.

IATA (International Air Transport Association): The International Air Transport Association, a trade association for many of the world’s airlines.

  • IATA defines the standards of air transportation. 
  • IATA creates a fair competition among airline companies.
  • IATA designates the cargo transportation procedures. 
  • IATA defines the standards for terminal designs and its management 
  • IATA takes up a role in the standardization process of the utilized equipment. 

IATAN (The International Airline Travel Agent Network): The International Airline Travel Agent Network, administers the IATAN card, the only widely accepted form of legitimate travel agent identification.

General Terms

Adoption Rate: The percentage of bookings made through a company-approved online booking system; a high adoption rate is key for capturing trip itinerary information and travel spend.

“Bleisure”: The practice of combining business travel and leisure travel in one trip. 

Land Arrangements: All non-flying reservations upon arrival such as car rental, hotel and tourist reservations.

Preferred Supplier: A company such as a hotel or airline that has a contract with an organization to extend a preferred rate or additional preferential conditions in exchange for a certain volume of business. 

IROP (Irregular Operations): Irregular operations refers to flight disruptions such as delays or cancellations due to weather, acts of God, equipment changes or rest for the crew.

IATA Designator Code: Those companies assigned an IATA Airline Designator Code are to use such designators for reservations, schedules, timetables, telecommunications, ticketing, cargo documentation, legal, tariffs and/or other commercial/traffic purposes. Requirements are explained in the IATA Designator Code Requirements document (pdf). 

IATA Location Code: The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Location Identifier is a unique 3-letter code (also commonly known as IATA code) used in aviation and also in logistics to identify an airport, (e.g. JFK, LAX, etc.). 

Airlines may request the assignment of a unique three-letter code to identify a location like an airport. Bus or ferry stations may be eligible for an IATA location identifier if these locations are involved in intermodal airline travel. 

Record Locator: The number assigned to a reservation in the airlines’ number. This number is unique and will never be assigned again.

Now that you’re up to date on travel business lingo, it’s time to equip your business with a travel management solution that meets your global needs, stops leakage, and provides full visibility into exactly where and how money is spent on corporate travel.

Mesh Travel provides online and offline booking, multi-entity and multi-travel agency support, duty of care and much more – all with fully integrated expense management and corporate cards. 

To learn more, schedule a demo.

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