The other day a friend was telling me the story about how he purchased a long haul flight via an Online Travel Agent as the price was much cheaper than what he could find on the British Airways website. I found this a strange story, and I didn’t verify it myself, but this was the customer perception and the OTA got the business. In his view the OTA’s were a much better way to book and he had a very strong preference for using them over buying direct from an airline website for all of his travel purchases.
Then less than a day later I saw this interesting exchange on Tripadvisor involving a self proclaimed inexperienced traveller requesting advice on whether to book via Orbitz or Delta.com when the Orbitz fare was much cheaper.
Hi – Newbie looking for some help. I’m not a very experienced traveler, but I’m trying to learn as much as possible through these forums. One area I’m confused about is whether or not I can trust travel sites such as Expedia or Orbitz. Ideally, I would just book directly with the airline, but there is a significant gap in the price from Delta vs. Orbitz.
After much back and forth and various advice from different people, the user was shown how to get the same price on the Delta website by searching via schedule ranther than by price.
Thanks Tep2! I took your advice, and ran a multi-city search and was able to re-create the same itinerary for the same price on Delta.com that I saw on Orbitz. So, I booked it!
It got me thinking about how and why different people have such a strong preference for one channel over the other. I’ve mentioned the so called Expedia billboard effect before, but for a direct sales manager within an airline, the more interesting question is understanding why certain people have a preference for OTA’s and then devising strategies to counter that preference.
Foursquare recently celebrated their first birthday, and what a good twelve months it has been. Take a look at this great summary on their usage and stats from Hitwise. Recently they announced they had broken their record for the most check-ins in one day, exceeding 275,000. But does this type of product have any relevance for airlines, and what can an airline learn from the success of Foursquare that could be used to drive extra revenue? The money airlines could make if they got smart about mobile is nothing new, but today I’m taking it from a slightly different angle.
I see that the Swiss lounge at JFK is a Foursquare venue, but what was much more interesting was a post from Parker Smith titled Foursquare: Democratizing the Loyalty Program. And then even more relevant than that one was a story on Jaunted called How Foursquare Has the Ability to Change the Way We Travel.
The city of Chicago recently announced they will be using Foursquare to promote their city to tourists.
Cinema lovers can re-enact memorable scenes from films such as The Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Dark Knight, all of which were partly shot in Chicago. The US destination’s tourist board is the first to use Foursquare as a tool to promote restaurants, attractions and activities.
This example from Chicago is probably the most relevant to any airline looking to use social tools in order to grow ancillary revenue. Not that the airlines themselves have to develop an independent app, but given the low adoption of Foursquare outside of the US (as a percentage of total travellers), then there is also no reason to be tied into this platform. The reason I mention ancillary revenue is because the destination content promoted as part of the real life game experience could in selected cases be locations that pay a commission to the referrer. And that is just scratching the surface of incremental revenue potential. These types of deals are more suited to be contracted and managed by companies like Isango, Viator or Unaira (I’ve believed in destination content for a long time), but the airlines have the critical mass of customers going to that destination to strongly influence the success or failure of the game experience – a handful of users in a destination would make it is pretty boring game!
Where this gets even more interesting for an airline is if it is teamed with the mystery flight concept. Jet Blue ran an entire plane as a mystery flight, but I’ve never understood why airlines that in the past sold mystery flights directly no longer offer the product – to me it seemed like a good way to ensure unsold seats flew as RPK’s.
Matt Gross in the New York Times summed up Foursquare pretty well recently when he wrote, “It’s a little geeky, I guess, but if someone can create the ultimate frugal-traveling-social-networking-location-aware-smartphone-compliant application, I’ll be all over it.“
If social business is something that has you interested, and the fact that you have read this far almost certainly means the answer is yes, AND if you are in Sydney on Thursday March 25th, Headshift are running an event that I would strongly recommend trying to secure an invitation to. I was invited but unfortunately left Sydney a couple of weeks too early to be able to attend. They are calling it their Social Business Summit, and they have a great lineup, including Jeff Dachis fresh from the huge SXSW event in Austin, Texas. I was fortunate to catch up with Stephen Bartlett-Bragg (Executive Director, Headshift Australasia) recently and given his strong airline e-commerce credentials (EB2 IBE founder, since sold to Sabre) combined with the ability of Headshift’s Asia Pacific operations to match consulting with implementation and development, it is a real pity that I am unable to attend this event – I’ll have to plan my next trip to Australia a bit better!
Posted by Martin Collings under Uncategorized Comments Off
After a great holiday in Australia, it is back to reality today and back to work in Madrid. Caught up with a number of current and ex Qantas people whilst in Sydney, and there was no shortage of airline news happening whilst I was there. John Borghetti who missed on out on the QF CEO role recently when it went to Alan Joyce was announced as the new CEO of Virgin Blue. Darren Peasley departed QF and is headed to Etihad – a while ago he running the call centres in Sydney. And the highly regarded CFO Colin Storrie also announced his resignation from Qantas; both from his CFO role and from the board of directors.
Highlight of the trip (apart from the family wedding I attended) was going yachting on Sydney Harbour with a few ex Qantas execs and talking airline social networking and other hot topics whilst knocking back a few cans of Victoria Bitter. Now I’ve got a lot to catch up on over the next week, but it was great to see that search engine traffic to this blog and subscriber numbers stayed pretty static despite not posting anything for a long time – and nice also to a see a Spanish language blog picking up on one of my better posts of recent times. Always good to get the word on innovation in travel search out to a wider audience.