Online booking systems rely on the ability to update files immediately thus preventing double-booking, etc., which could happen if the system response time is slow. Booking systems are used for transport (trains, buses and flights), cinema and theatres.
Let’s consider the example of a theatre booking system to understand how the whole things works. Here will assume that the customer has already logged on to the the theatre booking website:
IGCSE ICT Past Question: Describe theatre booking system
- the customer clicks on the performance they wish to see
- the date and time is typed in
- the required number of seats are also entered
- the seating display in the theatre is displayed on the screen
- the user selects their seat(s) by highlighting the actual seats on the screen display and then clicks CONFIRM to go to the next part of the process
- the database is then searched to check the availability of the selected seats
- if the seats are available, the total price is shown + the seat numbers, this shows on another screen on the web page
- if the customer is happy with this, he/she selects CONFIRM on the screen
- the seats are now temporarily set as NO LONGER AVAILABLE
- the customer then enters their personal details or indicates that they are a returning customer (in which case, the website will already have their details)
- the payment method is then selected and payment made
- the theatre seats are then booked in the customer’s name
- the final details are again shown on the screen
- an email is sent to the customer which they print out as their proof of purchase (this also acts as their printed ticket when they go to the theatre – an e-ticket)
- The database is finally updated with the transaction and the seats are no longer available to others.
Booking seats at the cinema involves a similar series of steps.
IGCSE ICT Past Question: Describe Flight Booking System
Flight booking systems work on the similar lines as theatre booking systems except that they are more complex as they ask for choosing the airports, time of the flights, whether one way ticket or round ticket, low cost airline or all, direct flights only or all, whether travel insurance is required.
Advantages of online booking systems
- Very often there are no printed tickets which saves postal costs and also allows ‘impulse’ bookings only a few hours in advance
- They prevent double-booking (which could happen in paper based systems which didn’t update the system fast enough).
- Online booking allows the use of modern smartphone and tablet apps technology; the customer is sent a QR code which contains all the booking information necessary (this QR code is stored on the smartphone or tablet and only needs to be scanned at the theatre or cinema on arrival). This removes the need to print out tickets (which can get lost) and also removes the possibility of forgeries.
- The customer can make bookings at any time of the day.
- The customer gets immediate feedback on the availability of seats and whether or not their booking has been successful.
- The customer’s email address allows the booking company to attach ‘special offers’ to them and inform them of such offers automatically.
- It is usually easier to browse the seating plans (particularly on flights) to choose the best seats available at the price.
- It is possible to ‘reserve’ a seat for a period of time – this allows a customer to ‘make up their mind’ before finalising the booking of the seat (this was difficult to do with the older paper based systems).
Disadvantages of online booking systems
- The setting up and maintenance of online booking systems is expensive.
- It is often more difficult to cancel the booking and get your money back using online systems.
- If the websites are not well designed, it can be difficult to make exactly the booking you want or can lead you to make mistakes, this is particular issue with flight bookings where correcting an error can cost the customer an additional fee.
- Booking online does not allow you to build a personal relationship with the travel agent who might offer free upgrades or special offers which may not be available to online bookings.
- All customers using this service need access to a computer and a reliable internet connection.
If the server is down for maintenance or if the system breaks down, it becomes impossible to book seats by any method (a temporary paper-based system can’t be used because of the risk of double booking occurring).