In December Air China and Expedia put out a press release announcing their hotels partnership:

Air China has signed an exclusive partnership with the Expedia Affiliate Network (EAN). More than 100,000 EAN products will now be available to Air China customers across 27 overseas markets.

The product is in production and I saw the Airline World blog doing a quick review on the launch, so I took a look at it myself. I was in China back in September, and the team at AirChina.com were very hospitable – it is always great to meet an airline with rapid online growth and an appetite to really improve the way they sell via the internet. Congratulations to Borden and the rest of the team there on taking another step forward in their online growth.

The homepage of Air China is a fairly standard hotels search interface implementation. What I was more interested in was the flow once I am handed off to Expedia, and whether it is sticky enough to see Air China make some decent commission revenue. I really want to see these guys being successful, and in order to get good conversion rates on the hotel product and thereby earn some ancillary revenue, it looks like they are going to need to gently lean on their supplier just a little more.

Nothing that should be too difficult to fix, but I would have thought one quick way to turn off prospective buyers is to show prices with a caveat on the page saying All Displayed Prices Exclude Tax Recovery Charges and Service Fees. I saw this first on a search for Beijing hotels, so I switched to search on Sydney, but it must be a standard warning displayed across all properties. The concerning thing here is that I then decided to do the same search on Expedia’s own Australian site, and found the exact opposite. I saw identical hotels at identical prices, but at the very bottom of the page I saw the text, Expedia Special Rate totals include: taxes, service fees, and extra guest charges.

Assuming I do actually get past the warning on the Air China version of Expedia’s  white label site at travel.ian.com and then proceed to payment, I am redirected to a new URL at http://www.travelnow.com to commence the payment process. I know that payment pages are often hosted at a different site, but making it so obvious to the user can be disconcerting for some people. A much bigger point of confusion came from the fact that despite being told on numerous occasions on the previous two pages that my price for the Travelodge Hotel Sydney was AUD$105 plus taxes etc for the night, on this page I am now told the following.

Total Charges A$105.00 AUD (including tax recovery charges and service fees)

In some ways a nice surprise, but I wonder how many people have dropped out of the hotel booking flow before reaching this point, or how many drop out now feeling like they really don’t know what they are buying or from whom. As I said earlier, these shortcomings should not be difficult to fix, and in my opinion making these few small changes, along with enhancing the timing of the offer, will have a noticeable positive impact on hotel sales via Air China’s website.

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