Expedia just reported a stellar 65% revenue increase vs. same quarter last year for their hotel metasearch Trivago, just after a wave of metasearch acquisitions by Ctrip (Skyscanner) and Priceline (Momondo). With a similar model Google Flights gets more airline content, more traction, and is now the default display when you ‘google’ for flights. Skyscanner is adding more airlines in their ‘instant booking’, making the booking experience so much better compared to ‘deep linking‘ into the airline website which remains predominant with most metasearch.
Metasearch promise what a traveler needs: one stop-shop for choice, user experience and what they heavily promote: ‘the best deal’.
Should I dare to make a projection for 2022? Why not! I foresee that by this time global metasearch companies would have taken over the lion share of the global online flight business: with consumers massively adopting mobile and voice assistants like Siri/Alexa/Google for flight booking, what will happen? Convenience or laziness, but shoppers will use only one app to search and purchase flights, not squeeze a dozen of airline apps on their mobile. No wonder airlines like British Airways, Lufthansa and others announce that metasearch distribution is a priority in their NDC program. An opportunity that all airlines should embrace if they want to balance their dependency on GDS channels.
But how to meet the challenge for brand differentiation if ‘price’ is the only criteria shown in a metasearch?
‘Best deals’ attract shoppers but do not reflect the value and differentiation an airline brand delivers in products and services… and, by the way, does not provide much profit either to sell only a ticket at the lowest price.
Enabling brand differentiation and maximizing upsell on the metasearch is the next frontier in airline distribution. So consumers should benefit from the same choice of branded fares and optional services on metasearch vs. the airline website.
Challenge: airlines must have the technology to distribute (and do it efficiently) their full Sales Offer to various metasearch partners: multiple branded fares with better consumer value (and more profitability), propose extra legroom, Wi-Fi and other services that passengers love to purchase to improve their travel experience.
And there is an additional complexity: unlike airline.com, metasearch require millions of searches, especially when you align many of them in parallel, and legacy systems are too expensive… and slow to answer so many complex requests.
However, in such complex travel environment solutions have emerged. They allow full Sales Offers distribution across any channel in a fraction of time, including managing the metasearch transactions without hitting the airline host. Solutions that allow upsell across any channel: e-commerce, call center, mobile and NDC connected agencies to maximize brand exposure.
Armed with such flexibility, airlines would allow their consumers to enjoy the best online purchase experience and in the end, boost revenues and drive brand loyalty.