A little over a month ago I interviewed Marcos Issac regarding a recent research report on using third parties to drive new revenues for travel industry participants. One of the topics in that report was the rise of the media model for airlines. As I wrote at the time:

One of the predictions coming out of the report is that in future “Airlines becomes digital marketing and media firms.” This is the so called media model – OTAs have gone down this path, and some airlines are starting to think in this direction but will the airline website of the future be plastered with third party ads?

What does this really mean? As with so many things e-commerce related, one need to look no further than Amazon to get a clue on what other merchants are likely to adopt in future. Below is a screen shot from a recent search on Amazon for luggage, but look closely and you can see Amazon is actually selling space on the site to retailers outside of amazon.com.

 

Peter Hammer at United Airlines has been appointed to run an area that is tasked with making the media model a reality at the airline that is currently in the process of merging with Continental.

United Airlines quietly created a new in-house media operation a few months back that’s designed to sell potential marketers integrated, multiplatform ad campaigns throughout its fleet of planes and terminal locations. The effort is similar to what Walmart and other giant retailers have done with the use of TV monitors and aisle displays to convert their stores into media outlets for hawking products and providing consumers with some content as they shop.

 

And in one of the emails I did not unsubscribe from recently, I saw this example today from Qantas pushing an ad for mens suits in the same email promoting flight offers.

The media model is here to stay, but I’m sure it will not be an easy model for most airlines to implement. There will always be the conflict of balancing how much space to give to flight related information, how much to give to trip related third party ancillary revenue partners, how to implement a media model that does not damage the airline brand or distract potential flight segment sales within the booking path, plus a host of other challenging factors to manage.

How long before we see an airline as bold as Amazon actually putting third party links within the booking flow? Implement that one incorrectly and the knives will be out in no time.

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