A new software solution gives airlines the ability to use
their own websites to selectively display the flight offerings of competitors.
France-based digital software provider Travelaer has signed
up Israel's El Al as its primary pilot airline for the Right Flight platform.
Icelandair is also using the software. "With that said, we are talking
with many airlines, but I cannot comment on which ones publicly yet," said
Mike Slone, Travelaer's chief experience officer.
With Right Flight, airlines have the choice of responding to
a flight search by displaying both their available itineraries and those of
competitors. That's not dissimilar from what one expects when visiting a
metasearch site like Kayak or an OTA such as Expedia. But there's a key
difference. The airline can selectively display results from competitors. For
example, said Slone, an airline may choose not to display competitors' flights
if those flights are a certain percentage less expensive than their own
The consumer advocacy organizations Air Travel Fairness
Coalition and Travelers United expressed alarm about the Right Flight model.
"Already, airlines are deciding which online travel
sites are allowed to present their prices and availability," Travelers
United chairman Charlie Leocha said. "Now, within their own sites airlines
will be able to cherry-pick comparison flights that will make their offerings
look better. This is totally unacceptable and could be considered unfair and
deceptive by [the Department of Transportation.]
The displays can also be used to give travel shoppers the
ability to compare the legroom and schedules of the airline they are searching
with the offerings of competitors.
Slone said Right Flight "improves the airline's
conversion rate, provides critical data and saves them money."
Richard Harris, CEO of Intent Media, a data science company
for travel sites, said that as a software solution, Right Flight is part of a
growing trend in the travel space in which the line between traditional search
sites, such as metasearch engines and Google, is being blurred with e-commerce
sites, such as airline websites and OTAs.
"If I give my user the right relevant information, then
the rewards will ultimately come back to me. And that's why you're seeing these
things like metasearch on airline sites," Harris said.
Travelaer promises to increase airline conversion rates, not
only by offering extra information to travel shoppers, but also by helping
airlines make use of data.
For example, if an airline sets a parameter not to display
cheaper flights from competitors, it can then track how often Flight Right
displays competitors' flights on a given route and how often it doesn't,
providing it with valuable information.