It is always a risk mentioning a product of site without actually trying it, but when I first mentioned Bluenity, the social networking site from Air France / KLM, I neither praised nor criticised this venture. From what I could gather it only made sense to join the site if you had a flight booked on one of those carriers. So now that I have a booking on KLM, this week presented the perfect chance to join up, and from fiurst impressions the content is more compelling than I was expecting. I’ll write more on this later, as I will need to wait until after I’ve made the trip to Amsterdam to make a proper conclusion on the benefits of this site.

So instead, I focussed on the Manage my Booking page in the servicing flow of KLM.com; I also looked at the ancillary services offering, and then made a brief comparison with hotels from others sites. It is valuable exercise to look at a wide range of airline websites, as you often see little things that they are doing well, and likewise little things that could be improved – but it takes time (and often an actual booking), which means I don’t do it as often as I should. I decided to put some of the screen shots up here in order to share my views on some of what KLM and the others I visited have done. I captured these screen shots using Windows (Fn + Prt Sc) before a colleague told me that Super Screen Capture was a far superior product, so I’ll try that program next time.

SMS and email notification

SMS and email notification

The thing I liked most about the Manage my Booking page was the options for notification. Many airlines still assume that SMS is the best way to contact travellers when they are on their trip, but with so many business travellers now carrying a BlackBerry or similar, it really makes sense to ask the passenger for a preference. Personally I find that SMS messages sometimes do not get to me when I am roaming in certain countries, whereas I can always retrieve email – if I can’t get it on data roaming, then at least it still gets to my PC (not so useful for a delay announcement), but at least they never just disappear like an SMS. I recall being in New Zealand late last year and not getting a delay notification, but the airline involved told me later they only sent text messages to local mobile phones. Surprising given that I was a high tier frequent flyer, yet they did not consider me worthy of a text message or email (or even a personal call) just becuase I had a Spanish mobile. I’ll have to wait and see if the messages from KLM actually do arrive in my preferred format, but assuming they do, this is a very good service. Only criticism for this part of the page was that my email address and mobile phone number were not pre populated, even though I know they were present in the PNR. It would have been better for KLM to try and pre-fill them; I could then correct these if they were wrong or if I preferred to use a different email address.

manage-my-booking-ibis-offer

Image Linking to Ibis Hotel Offer

I still needed to book a hotel, as the colleague I am meeting in AMS and who is also travelling there, told me he was staying at the NH City Centre. Probably not the most upmarket hotel in AMS, but in these days of heightened cost consciousness I shouldn’t complain too much! The manage my booking page actually promotes the IBIS hotel in Amsterdam rather than showing me search panel. In a perfect world they probably would have seen I was travelling on a full economy fare and tried to push a more expensive hotel to me, but it wasn’t until I click on the link that I realize the reason for KLM pushing one hotel maybe is not quite as ingenious as I first gave them credit for. I assumed they would get an override or maybe have negotiated a paid advertising deal with the IBIS chain. Whilst this may be true, it is when you click on the link that you see the way they have integrated iseatz into a frame on KLM.com and it was here that I started to think there was maybe a different reason not to promote search. 

Poor Use of Screen Real Estate

Poor Use of Screen Real Estate

Unless I immediately purchase the hotel recommended, I find this display very difficult to navigate. I tried searching for NH hotels in AMS, but because you have a scroll bar within a frame it is extremely difficult to manage the searching process. I’ve added a red box to the image in order to demonstrate the screen space allocated to hotels. There is no doubt that Allen Darnell (CIO of iseatz) has a good understanding of ancillary revenue for airlines, as I spoke to him at length when we met in November 2008, but unfortunately for KLM, at this point I decided to search for and therefore book the hotel via a different internet site. I’ll continue this subject with another post later, adding some cursory observations on a few other sites I used, and how I ended up making the booking. Part of my  job involves maximising the ancillary revenue for airlines by working with whichever third party suppliers they have chosen to work with and I never personally get involved in the selection process if an airline is choosing one hotels offering over another; therefore it definintely was interesting this time to put my consumer hat on, and see how KLM had integrated iseatz, and then how other OLTA’s, metasearch and NH’s own website compared.

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