In Part 1 of this post, I focussed on the new improved booking flow from KLM as it related to flights, so now I want to discuss the actual conversation I had with Kenneth Purcell and Allan Darnell of iSeatz, as they are responsible for the ancillary revenue part of the booking flow that happens post flight selection.

Before I start, let me say that KLM has forced me to rethink a bit the way I define how an airline incorporates ancillary revenue into their website. If at one extreme end we have true dynamic packaging, then in the middle we have websites selling hotels and cars during the booking flow (easyJet were one of the early ones doing this), and then you have the flights-plus model which is about making the sale of the air segment and from the confirmation page and onwards trying to sell the ancillary content. In a sense, the new KLM retail model incorporating the iSeatz shopping basket is an enhancement of the middle option, but it almost feels more like a variation on this model that maybe deserves a new class of its own.

Main reason why I am not convinced which category it falls into is that after hitting the “add to your order” button, you are presented with what looks similar to the confirmation page on many other airline websites, but you have not actually paid at this point – you are in the shopping basket, so to speak.

Here is what I really like about this page – the ease with which I can buy a car. I didn’t take a screen shot, but on this page I am presented with four very clear offers of different cars from Avis, and with one click I have just added my chosen car to my shopping basket along with the selected flight. One one hand I’ve always personally preferred websites that show more than one rental car company, but I’d need to see the customer research on this tactic, as I don’t really know whether passengers are less likely to buy if only shown offers from one company. Having four offers on the page with the option of one click to buy or click elsewhere to see more offers from Avis is nicely done.

I’m surprised they haven’t used the same approach with hotels and destination content, especially hotels. Obviously iSeatz have spent a bit of money on this In-Path technology, so anything an airline can do to make it easy for passengers to pile things into the shopping basket and proceed quickly to the checkout should be a good thing. I’m not sure how long it takes before a user session times out and the shopping basket is lost, but this is one of the benefits of the flights-plus model referred to earlier in that you already have the money for the air in the bank (let’s forget about chargebacks to keep it simple) so if the white label hotel or car site ends up having problems, you don’t lose the flight segment. The shopping basket definintely puts more pressure on iSeatz to deliver.

The hotels via KLM have a logo apparent but by clicking “search on a map” you can see via the URL that the map is coming from iSeatz (although I suspect they are reusing whatever has). I actually found the flow of searching for a hotel not that intuitive, as different windows/tabs opened at various times. Then again, I would encourage you to make your own investigations on this as doing a proper analysis of a hotel booking flows requires more time than I am able to commit to right now. Maybe I am just biased becuase I was really hoping for a short list of hotels that I could select from and then buy with one click!

Kenneth and Allan were telling me that iSeatz have a number of staff sitting in the KLM Amsterdam call centre, one reason being the need for Dutch speakers to service the bookings. They work on different models with different customers, with some airlines directing calls to iSeatz own call centre. The car and hotel segments are not actually booked as segments within the KLM PNR but are added into the iSeatz system using what Allan called a “psuedo super PNR.” This is what the iSeatz staff sitting in Amsterdam use, and it is this record which the KLM website calls via an API to populate the manage my booking page.

One very interesting comment from Kenneth was that iSeatz are very close to launch with 2 new customers, both US carriers. One will be launching only with hotels, the other with the full iSeatz offering, and both should be live by early August – pity though that he was remaining tightlipped on giving me any names.   

I don’t intend to discuss the destination content offer on the KLM website, but I did discuss briefly the topic of this category in general with Kenneth Purcell. Regular readers will know my belief in destination content, so it was interesting to hear this was Kenneth’s background as well and that iSeatz had actually grown from this humble origin. They already have some of their own contracted destination content, but without telling me who (I’m guessing Viator) they said they were about to add a new source of destination content into the iSeatz mix – as he said, “our sweetspot is aggregating aggregators.” In fact, Kenneth made a comment that could have come from my own mouth when in reference to destination content and travel inspiration he said there are “ways to use that product to stimulate travel.” Always nice to talk to someone that shares my belief that we haven’t even scratched the surface yet in what is possible for airlines with ancillary revenue. 

There is no doubt shopping basket technology is an interesting addition to the airline e-commerce landscape, and one that airlines have been requesting for years. I always hear people over-simlifying the issue by asking why can’t airline websites be more like Amazon. Well we may not be there yet, but clearly what iSeatz are doing with KLM is a step in the right direction.