Why the days of direct booking versus third party airline distribution are over?

Published on : Thursday, March 23, 2017

skyscannerSkyscanner has launched a White Paper setting out its vision for the future of airline distribution and the changing role of metasearch within this.



The paper, authored by the metasearch engine’s CEO and Co-Founder Gareth Williams, sets out Skyscanner’s intention to transition towards becoming a marketplace in which travellers can shop for a rich array of air fares with a seamless process from start to finish across any device.



Williams argues that the evolving technology landscape, with the increasing consumer preference for mobile, and evolving click-tap platforms such as chat bots, has blurred the lines between what can be considered a ‘direct’ air ticket purchase. In this evolving environment, the former line between direct and third party intermediaries has blurred while the need for a frictionless shopping experience and for rich and dynamic airline products to stand out has increased.



Skyscanner hopes to lead the field when it comes to distributing carriers’ products by creating an airline marketplace offering carrier ‘store-fronts’ which are virtually indistinguishable from airlines’ own booking sites. This marketplace would give greater branding control to suppliers while allowing them to tap into Skyscanner’s wide audience of travellers across a range of devices – from apps through to chat bots. Many airlines still have limited mobile booking options on their own sites, while the vast majority of carriers have yet to embrace newer emerging technologies such as bots.



Williams states, “Our vision for the future is collaborating with airlines in delivering our version of the supplier managed marketplace to travellers worldwide. We want to bring airline products on our site as close to the direct experience as possible, with carriers controlling their products and brand while benefitting from our traffic, and audience, across a range of devices.



“This means offering a form of airline store-front.  For travellers, the experience on Skyscanner is then virtually indistinguishable from the experience on airline.com – yet has the advantage of being available on desktop, app, or any device. Airlines must have the opportunity to stand out in the next generation of distribution, particularly as travellers increasingly expect to be able to transact on smaller screen sizes with shorter purchasing journeys which offer a seamless booking process.”



IATA has recognised Skyscanner for its initial pioneering approach towards evolving distribution. Yanik Hoyles, Director of the NDC Program comments as part of the paper, “The pace of innovation and change is accelerating, prompted by worldwide access to the Internet and the rapid development of mobile, among many others factors…in this sense, Skyscanner is leading the way by having achieved the highest level of NDC Certification as an aggregator, allowing its partner airlines to offer their entire range of products – including upsells and ancillaries- when displaying their content through Skyscanner.”



Skyscanner offers the most robust and advanced direct facilitated booking platform available in the metasearch space, having last month introduced pioneering features such as seat selection, fare families which have produced upticks in average conversion rates for carriers of up to 50% for mobile bookings and 100% on ancillary upsell. Several airlines have integrated on the platform already, including Finnair, British Airways and Scoot, with a strong pipeline of carriers going live in the near future.


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