Are Airlines Googling Demand?
- Why is Google one of the world’s most valuable companies? Because it knows everything about everyone, so much so that it can predict and sway people’s shopping behavior. And for that, companies — including airlines — will pay in gold. Carriers already pay big bucks to display their websites before the eyes of would-be fliers Googling travel information. Some advertise on Google’s YouTube platform as well. Some sell tickets via Google Flights.
But now, as Skift’s Dennis Schaal reports, airlines are turning to Google for help in deciding which grounded routes to restart. In normal times, airlines weighing whether to launch a new route from say, Toulouse to London, would look at economic and demographic data in both cities. They’d look at how many people were flying between those two cities via a connection. They might use booking or traffic data sold by global distribution systems or IATA. They’d look at competition in the market. They’d talk to key corporate customers in the prospective market. And so on.
But the Covid crisis renders much of this information useless, as easyJet mentioned with respect to its revenue management algorithms. Google, though, is now providing a product called Flight Demand Explorer. Launched in March, ahead of schedule in response to Covid-era needs, the tool provides carriers data on consumer intent based on travel searches. This indeed helps greatly in deciding which routes to restart. Dozens of airlines are now using the tool, Schaal writes, as are some online travel agencies (OTAs).
One final note about Google: Though it never itself became an official seller of airline tickets (to the relief of GDSs and OTAs), it did buy the airline pricing software company ITA in 2011. It thus still powers the flight shopping on about a dozen airline websites, including those of Air Canada, Delta, American, United, Iberia, Latam, Turkish Airlines, China Southern, and China Eastern.