Via @Expertflyer, Tnooz has data on the most visited travel websites. Pretty interesting findings, some a bit unexpected at least by me.
Rank Website % of Visits 1 Expedia 13.35% 2 priceline.com 10.51% 3 Orbitz 6.87% 4 Yahoo! Travel 6.11% 5 Hotwire 6.02% 6 Travelocity 6.01% 7 CheapOair 4.71% 8 Kayak 4.28% 9 bookingbuddy 3.13% 10 Cheap Tickets 2.97%
Expedia makes the most sense. I find its booking interface to be the friendliest and easiest to use. Transactions there are just simple in my overall experience, at least compared to other travel website. Orbitz is far more powerful for cosntructing bookings segment-by-segment across multiple airlines, but it’s slower and the buying process more cumbersome. I’ve always found Travelocity to be clunky, and without many redeeming features, I’ve bought very few itineraries there over time. When not booking direct with an airline, Expedia is my preferred site (not least of which because of their new rewards program and the ability to earn cash back through sites like BigCrumbs). But I do use Orbitz for complicated itineraries. Travelocity, exceedingly rarely.
I was suprised to see how much traffic Priceline gets. Perhaps William Shatner is doing his job. Certainly the conventional wisdom is that’s the best place for deals, and people do like deals. Over time I’ve made outstanding use of their hotel bookings, and occasional use of conventional flight bookings. I’m glad, almost, that they’re no longer in the mortgage or gas businesses. I do recall when Priceline was worth more than the airlines whose seats they were selling, and when the shares of Priceline owned by some of those airlines made up the bulk of the domestic carriers’ equity. Those were the halcyon dot com days. It’s good to see them thriving, though I find that I use Priceline far less than I used to because the deals aren’t quite as striking (no more top-end hotels in San Francisco for $45 or less, or the Grand Hyatt in New York for $77), there are plenty of discount techniques booking directly through the major chains, and I’m far more tainted by loyalty program elite status than I was in my earlier days.
I am shocked to see Yahoo! Travel clock in at #4. People actually use that site?
The ranking of airline websites is also interesting:
Rank Website % of Visits 1 Southwest Airlines 22.36% 2 Delta Air Lines 13.58% 3 American Airlines 9.57% 4 JetBlue Airways 8.46% 5 Continental Airlines 6.62% 6 United Airlines 5.70% 7 US Airways 5.65% 8 AirTran Airways 4.47% 9 Spirit Airlines 3.31%
I suspect that many people don’t realize that Southwest carries more domestic passengers than any other airline (not me, at least since 1993). But that only hardly accounts for having twice the traffic as the number two airline site. Southwest has always been an online pioneer, I seem to recall that when they crossed a billion dollars in online sales about 11 years ago that they were one of the first five companies in any industry to do it. Their demographic presumably skews younger, their business model is simple and their website fairly clean. They’ve long managed to get a large chunk of their bookings done online. Though for some reason I still type iflyswa.com into my browser instead of Southwest.com.
I’m somewhat shocked to see the rest of the distribution, it doesn’t surprise me that JetBlue does well online relative to its size especially given its demographic like Southwest’s and also like Southwest that its historical participation in other online booking systems has been limited. But Delta having so much more online traffic than the rest of the legacy carriers? Granted, I mostly try to use their award booking portion of the site and that’s the most broken. And Delta has otherwise made large investments in IT — pimped out entertainment systems and on-board internet for instance. I’ve hardly been impressed by their website but they seem to be doing quite well there (this survey is based on traffic, not booking conversions so admittedly I don’t have a total picture).
It’s not at all surprising that United’s website “dot bomb” lags even the smaller Continental Airlines, and similarly not surprising that the combined entity is choosing to go with Continental’s web architecture. The United site just hasn’t had great functionality relative to their competitors, ever.
I supposed United.bomb is better than the US Airways website, however, they’ve only recently made actual investments there. It always seemed stuck in the year 2000, they pretty much stopped investing online when it looked like United was going to acquire them once upon a time. And then 9/11 hit and an economic downturn, a series of bankruptcies, and major IT investments were not in the offing. I’ve never once managed to get the US Airways website to e-mail me an award itinerary which includes partner airlines, and they don’t offer any functionality to search partner awards online. It’s at least more stable than it used to be and I can usually check in online!
Which airline and booking websites do you favor, and why in the world does Delta do so well online relative to the other legacy carriers?