How Airlines Can Take Off With…

How Airlines Can Take Off With Online Bookers

Deep-Dive into Online Airline Activity in 2019

As we expect North Americans to spend an average of 17 nights away from home this year, it’s important for travel companies to leverage online insights to ensure they’re capturing as many of these trips as possible. With our recent US Travel report, the travel industry can digest some top-level trends and tips for converting more bookers online. For a more airline focused analysis, take a look at some key highlights captured here.

Airline visits were up in 2018, but since the start of the year, visits have remained flat on airline sites directly. In fact, the number of unique visitors declined by 5%. Meanwhile, metasearch visits are up 8% YoY, indicating that more price comparison and browsing on sites like Google Flights and Kayak is taking place.

Source: Hitwise, US Market

However, there are several airlines that were able to start the year off with traffic growth. Qatar Airways far surpassed all other airlines for most growth in total website visits in January. The Middle Eastern airline launched a #LikeNeverBefore campaign on Twitter during this month that directed viewers to register for the big reveal on their website. Traffic from Twitter directly to the Qatar Airways website doubled in January year on year, proving the success of this campaign online. Delta, one of the largest carriers in the US, experienced a 25% lift in visits, followed by British Airways, Air Canada and Sun Country.

Source: Hitwise, US Market

What can airlines struggling to boost online traffic do to combat this trend?

One option is to assess which destinations consumers are interested in traveling to from the US. The Caribbean is growing in popularity with searches for Puerto Rico and Cuba on the rise. Yet interest in far-reaching destinations, like Bora Bora, Cebu and Buenos Aires, are also gaining.

To go one layer deeper, airlines can analyze destinations by geographic audience at the DMA level. Further research shows that NYC residents are looking for “things to do in Geneva” and “flights to Amalfi Coast” while LA residents are interested in traveling to “Puerto Vallarta” or “Falmouth, Jamaica.”

Leveraging these preferences can help airlines ensure they are servicing U.S. passengers to these destinations themselves or through an alliance partner. Bidding on these keywords or advertising top destinations on the homepage can help drive results.

Location Keywords to Hitwise Travel 150
Searches in January 2019 YoY
Top Rising LocationsYoY
1. Puerto (Rico)
+49%
2. Bora (Bora)+39%
3. Buenos (Aires)+30%
4. Cuba+30%
5. Seoul+29%
6. Havana+27%
7. Cebu+25%
8. Singapore+22%
9. Lisbon+21%
10. Madrid+21%

With more travelers leveraging metasearch sites to compare flights, understanding where you’re losing customers in the booking funnel is essential to prevent further leakage. When comparing the booking funnel between Delta and American, the data shows that 51% of travelers looking at flights on Delta make it to the trip summary page, while only 39% of travelers exhibit the same behavior for American. However, 37% of travelers make it to the booking confirmation page from the trip summary for American versus 32% for Delta. Delta and American can diagnose if these drop-offs are associated with price, flight time or destination when they drill down further.

Source: Hitwise, US Market

Hitwise can help airlines and other travel companies get to granular insights on the online booking process and how that compares to others in the industry. For more high-level trends on other travel categories, check out our full 2019 US Travel Report.