You may have heard of the Google Bypass campaign from OnHolidayGroup in the UK, but here is a new one specifically relevant to airline websites – I’m calling it the TMC Bypass.

I was on a flight home yesterday from Madrid to Chicago and got talking to the gentleman sitting next to me. The original discussion was about in-flight entertainment systems as I saw he was watching a movie on the small screen he had brought with him, but when I told him about my job, he asked which airline websites I thought were the best.

That question did remind me of the recent study which I have been meaning to mention here. It was from Spyre Studios and looked at Delta, Virgin America, Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines – a post they titled 5 Leading Airline Booking Forms Tested for Usability. I’ve actually got a couple of half written website booking flow reviews of my own that I hope to post here in the coming weeks, but in the meantime here are the key takeaways as per the Spyre Studios analysis

  • The best booking processes aren’t by necessity the shortest
  • Page load times have to be fast as possible. Use a free tool like GTmetrix.com to score your website for speed and get a breakdown of what to fix.
  • Don’t forget to address your customers pain-points during the booking stages. Don’t assume they can do it without help.
  • Its not all about nuts and bolts of great design and usability. Use promotional wording and images to draw the customers through to the payment page.
  • Don’t confuse customers about what stage they are at in the booking process. If they know that there’s only 1 – 2 more steps to go before they confirm a booking then they are more likely to complete the booking.
  • Ideally customer support via click to chat to answer questions.
  • Take your opportunity to up-sell your customers into loyalty programs or extra items.

But rather than my opinion (or that of Spyre Studios), what I was much more interested in the opinion of the man sitting next to me yesterday and which airline websites he preferred – here is where the TMC bypass line in the title comes from.

According to this frequent traveler working for a well known large corporation, he told me that the flight charges booked via his employer’s chosen travel management company appear on his company issued credit card statement and then he submits this through his expense claim. Now I am one of the least knowledgeable people on the ins and outs of the TMC business, but I personally never see the cost of flights on my credit card as they are charged directly to my employer. So what he told me next would not apply to me personally if I wanted to try his idea, but I wonder how widespread the issue really is?

He told me that he really likes American Airlines as if he books via AA.com then the charge on his credit card statement looks identical to if he had booked through the TMC, whereas if he books on Delta.com, the credit card statement makes it clear that he booked directly on the airline website as the merchant is shown as Delta.com and therefore it is clear that he violated corporate travel policy.

I heard Evan Konwiser from Flight Caster talk recently on the topic of corporate travelers using whatever technology they preferrered and futility of corporations trying to restrict this (I’m not sure the audience of largely TMCs and corporate travel managers was quite as enthusiastic about the message as Evan), but clearly if TMC bypass is indeed a substantial market, then airline website executives need to be aware of whether they are friendly or unfriendly to this gray market,  thereby ensuring that their own websites are not missing out on new high ticket value sales opportunities.

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