TripAdvisor started displaying airline and online travel agencies' branding messages within its flight grid. Again, I'm not talking about ads served above or off to the side of flight-search results, but messaging within the flight grid.
When I searched for an LAX-JFK flight, TripAdvisor displayed a flight bookable on VirginAmerica.com, with the tag line, “This is How to Fly;” the same flight through Travelocity, with the tag line, “You’ll Never Roam Alone;” and the Virgin flight through Expedia, with the tag line, “Go With Confidence.”
With OTA booking fees tossed aside, at least for now, merchandising and differentiation is key.
That's because, as is par for the course, all three companies offered the flight for the same fare, $259.
But, at least, for the first time that I’ve seen, the airline and the two OTAs had a chance to get their branding message across.
Baby steps, but significant nonetheless.
So, I agree with what Yen Lee said in the UpTake Travel Industry Blog that there are still huge opportunities in metasearch and transforming metasearch tools into something that offers a better consumer-shopping experience is key.
And as Rick Seaney of FareCompare and Susan Black of Chimney RockPartners commented, it looks like unbundled, a la carte or standalone (you pick the word) airline products, from lounge access to Perrier Jouet, may be the next sweet spot for the airline.com channel.
It puts the onus on companies like TripAdvisor, Kayak, Travelzoo, Farecast, FareCompare and Mobissimo, to display these disparate offerings in a consumer-friendly manner.
Not easy, at all.