U.S. fliers are now more likely to book tickets directly through an airline’s website than an online travel agency. How did airlines change consumer behavior in just a year?
More U.S. fliers are booking flights through airline websites than through online travel agencies—a first for the industry, according to a survey by travel research firm PhoCusWright .
According to the study, 36 percent of travelers said they used an airline website to book flights, while 33 percent said they booked through an online travel agency (OTA). Just a year ago, the statistics favored OTAs by roughly the same margin. The survey also found that supplier websites experienced a 5 percent bump among fliers ages 18–44, landing a third of their business.
PhoCusWright called the shift in behavior an “epic change,” given consumers’ “longstanding tendency to value price, an array of choices, and convenience over brand loyalty.” The research firm lists several reasons for the shift: OTAs devoting more attention to building out their hotel offerings, airlines creating a better mobile experience to attract younger travelers, and suppliers rewarding travelers with better add-ons and promotions.
News reports cited Frontier Airlines’ efforts as a prime example of the more aggressive marketing and promotion that airlines are engaging in to get consumers to their websites. Frontier announced that it would now be charging $25 to $100 for carry-on baggage and that rewards will count for 25 percent of miles flown, down from 50 percent. However, if fliers book through FlyFrontier.com, they will not be charged for carry-ons or see a change in how reward miles accrue.
“It’s simple math,” said Rick Seaney, chief executive of Farecompare.com, in a news report. “If it costs you, the airline, $16 to sell a ticket somewhere else and $2 on your own site, you have some money to play with.”