Airbus launches A380-focused flight search engine

A new player is joining the online travel search engine business and it is a most unlikely candidate. Airbus will launch its iflya380 web site this week (it is expected to go live on 13 July), hoping to capitalize on what the airframer sees as strong customer preference for travel on the super jumbo A380 aircraft.

In advance of the launch, Airbus today provided a preview of the search engine’s portal to media at the Farnborough Airshow, demonstrated its capabilities and talked about the justification for the project.

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Airbus took the occasion of the Farnborough Airshow to launch its iflya380 search engine

The new site is not just about A380 routes or destinations, though those details drive its underlying operation. Selecting a flight in the search results brings up content that is focused on inflight amenities, in addition to the flight duration and price. Of course, the results are limited to routes that offer A380 service, either non-stop or via a connection.

“We have witnessed a true appetite for the [A380] aircraft. The silence and space of the cabin is making it unique for competing in the airline space for something that is not fare only, for the experience. We are answering passenger demand to make sure that they can select the cabin they want which is the A380 today,” explained Airbus digital transformation officer Marc Fontaine in today’s briefing.

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The iflya380 web site features A380 amenity content

For those travelers who feel a sense of wanderlust but do not have a specific destination in mind, the iflya380 site offers up what the company calls “inspirational information about each city” to go with the list of all the A380 routes and operators available. For those who prefer to fly with a specific airline, the site presents all 13 A380 operators and allows travelers to see the cabin amenities and routes available. And if it’s just aeroporn you’re after, there are photos from across social media channels with the #A380 hashtag on the site, too.

kontron newestUltimately Airbus does not particularly care which A380 route or airline a traveler chooses; it simply wants passengers to treat the aircraft type as their primary focus when shopping, a stiff challenge given that travelers typically pay attention to fare and schedule first. It is an uphill battle but the airframer is not alone in fighting for passengers to consider their comfort and overall #PaxEx first (and there is plenty of unscientific evidence to suggest that tech-savvy travelers are paying very close attention, and planning accordingly: see the comments section of this article on the 9-abreast 787).

Fortunately, even though travelers may be slow to adopt ‘aircraft-type first’ booking habits, Airbus was able to secure buy-in from its airline partners relatively easily. Stephane Dupont, the project lead, today described the offering as a “win-win for Airbus and the A380 operators”, and suggested that securing their participation was relatively easy.

We visited with the 13 operators and had the support of all of them. For Airbus it was new but for the airlines they are familiar with [metasearch engines]. For them it is an opportunity to showcase their product.

The underlying technology is built on the QPX search engine from Google’s ITA Software group. Bookings are handled directly through the operating airlines with deep-link click-through available on nine of the 13 carriers. Airbus is not looking to take a direct commission on the sales or otherwise participate financially in the process. The goal is simply to drive more A380 bookings and use that as a carrot to attract more airlines to the product while also helping passengers find those flights, something the airframer believes travelers are looking for and having trouble finding.

And, while it is possible for similar sites to be built for other aircraft types, Fontaine does not see that as likely, at least for now, noting, “We think that the A380 has a unique value proposition.”

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The website presents all 13 operators and allows travelers to see the cabin amenities and routes available

17 Comments

    • Seth Miller

      Getting a list of all the flights is one thing. Getting a price comparison and timetable plus direct links for booking is very different.

    • 😀 I tried that one. It uses the ITA search engine so things like that do not work. Also, cabotage would generally prevent selling that trip that way.

  1. Richard

    People might think they want to fly on the A380 (personally I don’t get the hype, it all comes down to seat configuration and service as to whether it’s comfortable or not) – but they’re not going to change their overall route or take extra flights just to go on it. People actually want direct, non-stop flights straight to their doorstep – this is so obvious it barely gets mentioned – and the A380 is the worst way to achieve that.

    • Seth Miller

      A couple things to consider:
      1) I absolutely agree that more direct is generally preferable, but the A380 offers 50+ destinations now including many of the world’s largest and busiest airports. That means getting “there” on a flight including an A380 is viable in many scenarios and also without necessarily adding significant extra travel time or connections, especially in major markets.

      2) Of course it is all about interior configs. But right now passengers on an A380 are far more likely to have a wider seat and more pitch than those on a 777 or 787. Because that’s the way the airlines have configured the planes. Blame whomever you want, but that’s the way the planes are set.

      • Richard

        50+ destinations is not very many out of what is available, and they have an even lower percentage of the routes. Using two smaller planes can allow an airlines to more easily fill two long similar routes and allow people to skip an airport. It happens that I often do fly on the busiest routes and have been on a number of A380s – but I’ve also flown plenty of less popular routes and would certainly not change to a more popular route in order to take an A380 most of the way. For example, when flying from the UK to the Caribbean, I probably could have taken an A380 to the US east coast, then flown down to the Caribbean – or I could have done what I did and flown straight there from London. I’m not saying that people may not prefer to fly an A380 if the option is available, I’m saying I can’t see them choosing their route or location based on it.

        As for config, I’m not just referring to seat pitch and width – but also the general design of the seats. Some airlines simply have more comfortable seats, and better service. Even at 6’3″ I prefer decent service, and I have no significant problem on – for example – any Qantas flight when it comes to leg room, whether it be the A380 or not because their seats now allow me to put my legs under the seat in front, which is true of the majority of airlines these days. Plus, if the airlines carry through with their idea of 11 seats across on an A380, it won’t have the advantage anymore. I agree I wouldn’t want to fly on a 787 with 9 seats, but that still comes back to ultimately the airline being more important than the aircraft. That’s why I find seat guru much more useful – I can find out the aircraft AND configuration.

        Anyway, clearly the airlines agree since Airbus are being forced to cut production and it’s probably going to be finished soon. I was sad with the demise of the 747 because it truly changed the aviation industry and proved itself and amazing and beautiful piece of engineering over more than 40 years. The A380 is a complete white elephant – expensive and too big. It’s also a hideously ugly plane.

        • Seth Miller

          I won’t argue the nonstop versus connection option. But if you’re flying where a connection is required anyways then having the more comfortable experience isn’t a bad thing. And there are plenty of destinations in the Caribbean you cannot get to nonstop from London but to which you can fly with a single connection in Miami. At that point would you rather the BA A380 or the AA 777 option? I’d take the A380.

          The 11-across thing is a red herring at this point.

          • Richard

            Honestly, on recent performance I would consider the AA 777 option. A couple of years ago it would definitely have been the other way around, but BA service has dropped so much I’m really not sure anymore. And that’s my point – personally for me the airline is much more important than the aircraft.

            To some extent, I’m playing devil’s advocate – I actually don’t mind the A380 and if I’m choosing a time of flight (so the route and airline are already chosen), I might be more likely to go for the route with the A380.

            But that comes back to my original point. Even if people do want to fly on an A380, it’s simply not the most important thing. Airline and route are more important. And because of that – the airlines have not bought many A380s, because it doesn’t work from a business perspective. If it did, they would have bought more of them.

          • Seth Miller

            Depends on the cabin, I suppose. If flying in economy the new AA 777s are 10-abreast, a notably tighter squeeze than any A380 coach seat flying today. And if you can score a window upstairs on the BA A380 I’d be all over that ahead of any AA 777, even the MCE section that is the “spacious” 3-3-3 layout.

            Service on board is great, but if you do not fit in the seat it doesn’t matter as much.

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