Airlines & Airports
Ryanair Wants to Become the Amazon.com of European Travel
Airline merchandising and a la carte pricing policies can be annoying to people who just want to get to their destination with a minimum amount of drama. Other fliers, however, are always on the lookout for a deal. They take pleasure in in-flight duty-free sales and in avoiding those pesky added-on fees with loyalty club memberships or airline-specific credit cards.
The Amazon of European travel
There are changes on the horizon that may be welcomed by both deal-seekers and leave-me-alone fliers. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary was recently quoted as saying “We want to become the Amazon.com of travel in Europe, with a whole load of additional services: price comparison, cut-rate hotels, discounted football tickets, concert tickets....”
Most people simply write off anything that the outspoken Irish airline exec says, but this particular statement may give an important hint about the future of airline merchandising. Whatever you think of O’Leary and Ryanair, they have changed the way the air travel game is played.
Cutting out the middleman
Low cost carriers like Ryanair, Southwest and AirAsia have been trying to reduce commission costs for a long time. They have done this by focusing their ticket booking activities on their own web sites. To get the lowest prices, fare shoppers have to use these official sites, not a third party booking portal.
Major booking engines like Expedia are still going strong, but Ryanair and its peers may start adopting practices that could syphon off budget-minded travelers from these major online travel agents. The “cut-rate hotels” that O’Leary mentioned could be a huge draw, especially if people are able to create their own personalized travel package using cheap flights and discounted hotels.
If shoppers could then fill out their itinerary with event tickets, Groupon-like restaurant vouchers and other things, they could do all their purchasing on one site. This could be a time saver for them and, obviously, a money maker for the airline.
Giving fliers more options
The other thing that could make airline web sites more Amazon-like is an increased number of fare choices. Instead of a la carte pricing, airlines are opting more and more for branded fares, which give fliers a package of perks for a set price. Southwest was one of the first airlines to do this with its “want to get away” fares (fliers trade flexibility and seat choice for super cheap flights). Other airlines have also been doing something similar, in a way, with Economy Plus or Premium Economy seats. These slight upgrades give passengers a little more leg room and slightly better food and entertainment for a higher price.
Branded fares, and similar pay-for-perks schemes, are not new. What could be on the horizon is a wider range of choices. Australian carrier Jetstar has been offering something that it calls fare bundling. Passengers pay for a very specific set of perks. For example, some routes have bundles that allow passengers to pick their own seat and earn Qantas frequent flier perks for the flight. Others couple extra leg room with the ability to get a full refund for a canceled or changed ticket.
More choices means more-personalized travel
Having more of these very specific choices would be a welcome trend because people could pay for their entire flight with one purchase rather than being hit with multiple a la carte charges as they go along. Also, with five, ten or even a dozen different branded fare choices, fliers won't not have to pay for things they don’t need or want.
The ideas of airline merchandising and branded fares are evolving. What is certain is that you will soon be able to make more travel-related purchases on airlines’ web sites, and you will have more choices when it comes to personalizing your flight experience and your travel budget.
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