My post on the Tiger Airways booking flow was less than a week old, but recently when I looked at the most page views of any post in the past 30 days it came out on top (assuming you don’t count the home page).

Here is the list of the most popular posts by page views in the last 30 days.

1. Looking at the Tiger Airways online booking flow
2. Birth of the Bow Tie
3. Moment of truth – Did any of my 2009 predictions come true
4. 2010 Predictions
5. What percentage of emails convert into a sale

Just to show that I do sometimes listen to feedback, it is obvious that I should be writing more posts like the Tiger one, and less like the one on ticketing that I put up yesterday! So with that in mind, let’s revisit the topic of booking flows, and talk about what I consider to be the most innovative area in search today – search by attributes.

I should make it clear that I am using a pretty narrow view of search here. I’m not writing about all the interesting stuff happening with location based search, human answered travel search, or the plethora of other innovation happening in travel search that doesn’t directly manage air booking fulfilment. So with that narrow definition, it pretty much leaves airline websites and OTA’s within scope of this post.

With that in mind, I took a look at the Lufthansa implementation of Amadeus affinity shopper, Iberia’s development of similar functionality, and the search by attributes functionality on Travelocity.

Starting with Lufthansa, I would recommend visiting their UK site, as this feature hasn’t been rolled out across all sites yet. They might have just been awarded Best website for business travellers, but today I’m more interested in the leisure traveller. Look for the link named Trip Finder at the bottom of the page, or Budget Trip Finder in the right side panel. As it is my own employer building this product, any positive comments from me can sound a little hollow, so best if you take a look and judge for yourself.

Checking Availability

After choosing your destination airport you can see on a map all the flights within your price range. With the use of a slider you can adjust the price range accordingly. The user has the possibility to search by attributes other than price, such as diving destinations, but it is clear by the name LH have given affinity shopper, that price is really the attribute most people are expected to use. One feature I’ve never seen elsewhere is their wait screen shown here. It was displayed whilst moving from the map page to the actual availability page. I had selected a flight from London to Oslo, so whilst at first I thought it was similar to the Amazon “people who bought this book also bought these books” feature, it could be just a static screen advertising the fact that LH fly to Hong Hong and Korea. Interesting idea, but it would be really powerful if an airline implemented the sort of logic saying “of the other people on your flight, or flying to your destination, the following hotels were most frequently booked.”

Iberia built their own cache, initially to better populate landing pages to feature higher in organic search results, but have now extended it to offer a similar search by attributes functionality. The screen shot above shows a search using Madrid as the origin. Very nice touch to have the date flexibility options as part of the search, and also interesting that they try to upsell me flights slightly above the €120 that I entered as my limit. I’m not sure why the session times out using what appears to be the same parameters as set for the booking engine, as when displaying the map they wouldn’t be reserving inventory for a prospective customer due to the use of the cache. Therefore time outs seem unnecessary until you move into real-time availability, but maybe there are other valid reasons for doing this.

Next up was the the Travelocity implementation of their version of searching by attributes. I was alerted to this feature by a great post from Hudson Crossing. When I used it myself it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but I really like how they show content both with flight + hotels, and for flight only. Travelocity are calling their version of search by attributes Deals on a Map, and my first impressions of what they are trying to achieve were extremely favourable. But rather than do an in depth review of this site either, I’d prefer to focus on why search by attributes is important, and where I see it going.

But that topic will have to wait for another post, and a later date. In the meantime, take a look at the three sites mentioned above and decide what you like and dislike about each.

Part 2