News this week from New Media Age that Virgin Altantic are planning to launch some type of social networking site for travellers. Best analysis on this subject is coming from Alex Bainbridge who also compares this initiative with Metrotwin from British Airways. When it comes to BA and Metrotwin, the Times Newspaper wasn’t quite so kind. It is way to early to refer to 2009 predictions that are less than a month old, but I’m now wanting to up the probably I gave of only 20% that one airline will launch the Web 2.0 killer app this year. I talked earlier this week on the AF-KLM venture Bluenity, and I’ve previously mentioned the frequent flyer community that Qantas have started called Travel Insider.  

I came across this recent article talking about what Southwest, JetBlue, Delta and Virgin America are doing with social media, but the focus of that article is more on their involvement with Twitter, Youtube, Flikr and Facebook. My interest in this space is purely related to how an airline can use Web 2.0 to increase revenue in a profitable manner; mostly via the collection of extra ancillary revenue or additional direct sales of tickets, rather than indirectly attributable benefits like positive brand image. In order to do this, the airlines mentioned in the first paragraph are having a red hot go at owning this space, but there is still room for late entrants to win this game as none of them have got it 100% right just yet. I’m not even prepared to put money on a likely winner at this stage, but maybe in 6 months it will all become much clearer.

I’m convinced this is a space that eventually one large airline will own in Europe, one will own in Asia Pacific, and one will own in the Amercias. And it will most probably be a large airline. Whereas I am astounded on the rare occassions when a small airline tells me they are not sophisticated enough to chase ancillary revenue,  there is little doubt that the winner of the game to own the Travel 2.0 killer app/website will be a medium to large airline (if indeed it is an airline at all),  in their respective region. The size of the prize really is very large on this one.

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